FYI: Pity Parties and Praises Don’t Go Together

FYI:  Pity Parties and Praises Don’t Go Together

There are times (for everyone!) when you’re just tired of the way things are going in your life. Those are the times when, whatever the tipping point or reason, you are just ready to throw in the towel and walk away for a break. It doesn’t have to be a long one and it certainly doesn’t mean that you’re ready to walk away permanently, but you just NEED A BREAK from the problem, circumstance, people or attitudes (maybe even YOUR own attitudes!) in your life. You may not even know WHY you need the break…you just know that you do. So what then?

Well, I’m not an expert on your life, but I’m gradually gaining some experience with my own (ha!), so I’ve found that if I can just change the environment a little, it will help. I know this because I had it happen just this morning.

I love my life. I love the people in it and I’m very aware of how blessed I am to have the life I have…and yet…this morning, I was ready for some major venting. I was pitiful and it wasn’t really pretty. Fortunately, I managed to keep it all between me and God (well, until now, of course!) and I got myself ready to go to church this morning because I knew I needed to be there.

Oh, I wanted to be there, too, of course! Due to circumstances beyond my control, it’s been several weeks since we were able to be there for Sunday School and Worship time and I’ve missed it something fierce. I’m well aware that God is always with me and that His Word is never far from my fingertips or my ability to see it on a screen, but there is something life-altering about being involved in corporate worship with others who need it just as badly as you do.

My problem (well, one of them, anyway!) was that I wanted to do corporate worship all by myself. Yes, I know. It isn’t possible. That didn’t matter to me at all. I still wanted what I wanted. I wanted the life and vitality of corporate worship while I sat in a bubble and soaked it in and participated without having to consider what anyone else thought or wondered or wanted or needed for a little while or be intruded upon or…or…or…(you’re seeing the trend here, too, right?) It was all about me…and worship isn’t that at all.

ANYWAY! I took me and my pitiful attitude to church this morning and then God showed up and reminded me that it wasn’t about me at all by having my pastor preach on…the poor. Yes. Score one for God and Pastor Chris. If ever there was a sermon I needed to hear this morning, it was this one. I needed the reminder to look outside myself. I needed that reminder that there are people who live with a whole lot less than I have on my worst day. I needed that reminder that when it comes to serving Christ, I bring nothing to the table that will save me and the only thing I truly have worth sharing is HIM. I needed that. I needed that jubilant worship that filled our sanctuary and the knowledge that we gather in comfort while so many in the world don’t even have the luxuries of intact structures and indoor plumbing and freedom from the fear of where the next mouthful of food will come. I needed that reminder to LOOK OUTSIDE MYSELF. (And yes, I do know that I wrote that sentence twice in one paragraph—I really needed to be reminded of that…and maybe you do, too.)

I also needed the reminder that being poor in spirit does NOT apply to being pitiful and that my ever-gracious God who knows it all and still loves me anyway will still love me even when I lose my mind and forget how very blessed I am…even if for just a short time.

All praises to God for reminding us that we are not as pitiful as we feel some days and that we are, instead, most abundantly and amazingly blessed to be who we are, where we are, when we are, how we are and for giving us those with whom we share our lives every day. From pity party to praises…HE can do that for you, too.

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Banging the drum you’ve been given…

I am determined to be more “present” (no pun intended!) during this year’s Christmas season. For some reason, it just seems more personal and important this year.  To do that, we’re making deliberate decisions to celebrate the season. As part of that, we’ve been to a wonderful Christmas program by the Griffin Choral Arts group here in our area, I’ve driven by the city’s Christmas light display (multiple times), we’ve celebrated each nearby small town’s lights as they’ve gone up on the poles, smiled as the neighbors have begun to light up their homes and yards, discussed the pros and cons of a real “live tree” to our mix this year (we’re a “yes!” on that), and cleared the regular house music selections to play only Christmas carols.

This morning, I woke up early and watched the last part of a sweetly sappy Hallmark Christmas movie, got the laundry going and then turned on the carols as my fabulous husband worked noisily away in the kitchen to prepare us breakfast…and I was grateful. That word actually sounds so very small for all that flooded my heart and rolled liquid down my face.  Grateful.  It’s a lot bigger deal than it sounds.  You have to choose it sometimes and I think that makes it even more of a big deal.

As I savored my hot breakfast in a bowl and listened to the carols (Kenny G, this morning), I was once again struck by the song entitled, “The Little Drummer Boy”, composed by Katherine K. Davis, Henry Onorati and Harry Simeone. I have to admit that it’s never made my top 10 (or even, perhaps, my top 20!) favorite carols list, but this year has been different. God just keeps putting this one in my ear and every time He does that, I find myself worshiping in a brand new wave of appreciation.

I think the part that’s sticking with me the most this year is the idea that, while we may not feel that have a lot to contribute at times, we can make the decision to give the best that we do have to those we love…and to God. It reminds me a lot of my friend Judy, who is lovingly gifting me with some of her handmade kitchen washcloths this year.

I didn’t actually intend for her to do that. I’ve had two of her washcloths for some time now and there’s something wonderfully substantial about the feel of them in my hand that just makes me like the process of cleaning the kitchen a little bit more…and seriously, if you can do that, you’re golden, right?! Anyway, I’ve absolutely loved them and so I decided that I would get rid of the “cheapies” in the drawer and give myself the gift of a whole stack of these wonderful little things. I called her the other day to see if I could place an order…and she wouldn’t let me. She insisted that she wanted to make them a gift—and wouldn’t even hear of me paying the postage! (Yes, I know! I DO have really cool friends!!)

Judy’s reasoning was that she wanted to “contribute something to people I love so much and no one ever lets me do that.” I didn’t want to argue with her, but the truth of the matter is that Judy gives to every single person who knows her. She’s been an incredible example of loving mother, devoted wife and caretaker, cheerful friend and contributor to the Kingdom of God her whole life. She has donated countless hours of time, effort, talent, energy and cheerfulness to every church she’s ever been a part of and she’s shared the bounty of her blueberry bushes, tomatoes and the happiness of her home with me on multiple occasions. She prays for people and she lives a life that is the very essence of the grace of Christ and His faithfulness. She inspires me more than she has any idea about—and I’m not alone in thinking that. (Right now, when she’s reading this, she’s probably bawling and saying something about how I shouldn’t have done this and how she hasn’t really done very much at all.) I know her, so I know this will probably make her cringe just a bit, but she is actually pretty amazing– she doesn’t always give herself credit for that.

And now, before I embarrass her so much she never gets over it, I’ll move on to the point of this blog post:  God isn’t asking for monumental sacrifices every day. He just wants all of you…and all of me. He wants us to go about our regular schedules and live lives that resonate Him into the hearts of those around us by the way we live. He wants us to bang the drums He’s given to us and let Him orchestrate the rhythms that come out of it. For some of us, that means serving as missionaries in foreign countries, loving on babies in a preschool or creating beautiful art to inspire those who wish they could draw/paint/sing/dance/sculpt/garden/decorate/cook like that. Some will feed and clothe the hungry in the neighborhood or around the world and others will make a grocery run for a shut-in or cut the grass for a neighbor whose schedule is too tightly packed these days.  (Thank you for that blessing, dear neighbor!) For others of us, it means helping the vertically-challenged  people at the grocery store reach the items on the top shelves, doing our work cheerfully and being respectful of the lives God has placed around us. Some of us will administrate large financial legacies and others will show up to do the too-often-thankless and under-paid tasks of educating children and protecting the public. Some will do surgery or change soiled bedding and some will crochet amazing dishcloths and send them to friends. Some will pay for the coffee or the meal of the person behind them in line and others will take center stage and sing beautifully for all the community to hear as we celebrate this season dedicated to the birth of our Savior…

and the truth of the matter is that no matter what drum we’re banging today, we need to make sure we take time out to do it deliberately for HIM.

 

“The Little Drummer Boy”

Come they told me, pa rum pum pum pum
A new born King to see, pa rum pum pum pum
Our finest gifts we bring, pa rum pum pum pum
To lay before the King, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

So to honour Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
When we come.

Little Baby, pa rum pum pum pum
I am a poor boy too, pa rum pum pum pum
I have no gift to bring, pa rum pum pum pum
That’s fit to give a king, pa rum pum pum
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Shall I play for you, pa rum pum pum pum,
On my drum?

Mary nodded, pa rum pum pum pum
The ox and lamb kept time, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my drum for Him, pa rum pum pum pum
I played my best for Him, pa rum pum pum pum,
rum pum pum pum, rum pum pum pum,

Then He smiled at me, pa rum pum pum pum
Me and my drum.

What will you do to make Him smile today?

Common ground

I am blessed to have a long list of friends from around the world. They come in every size and shape and color and creed. Here are just a few of the things we might have in common: size, shape, height, color, creed, educational experience, professional backgrounds, shared friendships, shared interests, political opinions, family histories,cultural expectations, location affiliations, school affiliations, cheering for the same teams, hobbies, talents, Scriptural understandings, sense of humor, loyalties, stubbornness, favorite colors, favorite seasons, aversions to higher mathematics, family pets, appreciation for the arts, love of reading and words, similar life choices, similar life struggles, our humanity, lack of perfection, the determination to correct that previous one, civic responsibilities, citizenship, goals, food preferences, entertainment choices, allergies, life choices…

IMG_20130810_075558_396In sharp contrast, here are a few things we might also NOT have in common:  size, shape, height, color, creed, educational experience, professional backgrounds, shared friendships, shared interests, political opinions, family histories, cultural expectations, location affiliations, school affiliations, cheering for the same teams, hobbies, talents, Scriptural understandings, sense of humor, loyalties, stubbornness, favorite colors, favorite seasons, aversions to higher mathematics, family pets, appreciation for the arts, love of reading and words, similar life choices, similar life struggles, our humanity, lack of perfection, the determination to correct that previous one, civic responsibilities, citizenship, goals, food preferences, entertainment choices, allergies, life choices…

Isn’t that amazing? Sometimes the very things that unite us are also some of the very things that divide us. These differences are never what we focus on when my friends and I are together. Our focus is always on those things we have in common. In fact, if I waited until I found only those people who look, think, live, choose and believe exactly like I do to make friends, then my friend list would be decidedly blank–and so would yours. So what if we decided to choose to do that with others around us this year? We just might expand our friendship base, our knowledge, our experiences of new and exciting opportunities or–oh my goodness!--our influence.

That doesn’t mean that we give up our belief systems or what is important to us. Just the opposite! It means that we choose to find the common ground so we can build relationships. It means the start of some hard conversations and, perhaps, difficult examinations of our beliefs. In short, it means work. It means we model CHRIST!

Uh-oh. Now I’ve gone to meddling, right?

Here’s the deal:  If we’re really serious about living HIM in the coming year, it means we’re going to have to choose to step up our game! It means we need to know WHAT we believe and WHY…and here’s the kicker:  if it doesn’t line up with what GOD says in His Word about what we’re supposed to believe or do, then it simply has to go. When we know those things, we can choose to find the common ground and we’ll be ready to share Christ with those around us in ways that will resonate with them.

If my number one goal is to be like Christ and your number one goal is to be like Christ, we may still have things that we have to agree to disagree about, but when our main goals are the same, we can leave it up to God to sort out the differences and lead us all into the deeper truths we can find in Him.

Nothing resonates with people like loving them the way God loves them. Now, what do we need to do to show them HIM today?