The power of connection

God seems intent on teaching me about the power of connection. Recent Bible study materials, texts, comments, and personal experiences are all aligning in such a way that it’s been difficult to ignore.

I love it when God does that.

He knows I can be obtuse…or…or…hyper-focused on other things. (Yeah, yeah, I like the way that second one sounds better than the first one…although that first one might actually be more accurate. Hmph…sigh…)

Either way, God seems to be intent on making me aware of something. Once again, it isn’t something monumental, and yet, it is: the power of a simple, heartfelt hug.

I grew up in a family that hugged, but didn’t really extend that outside of family lines. I remember our car being surrounded every time we arrived at my Grandmother’s house by people who joyously grabbed us for big hugs and exclamations over how glad they were to see us again.

I also remember my first meal at MUW (or Mississippi University for Women, for those who aren’t familiar). As I found a seat and began to eat I was suddenly struck by the number of people who were jumping up to hug and exclaim over one another just like my family did, but these people weren’t related…by blood. I remember thinking–and saying–“That’s not going to happen to me. I do not know these people and I can’t imagine being that excited by people who aren’t family.”

That lasted less than half a semester. People can become your family whether or not God gave you a common bloodline. Those women did. They still are. Even those I haven’t seen or hugged in years.

Lately, I’ve been noticing that some people seem surprised when I hug them, and then they seem inordinately pleased–some, even enough to write to me or comment on it later. Maybe I haven’t been doing it enough. Maybe no one else has, either. Perhaps, if we were all hugging enough, some of the truly horrible things that sometimes happen in our world wouldn’t, or maybe, they’d just be easier to deal with when they happen.

What I do know is this: God has been nudging me to make an effort to hug more lately, to express my appreciation more freely, to pray on the spot for people more, offer deliberate attention, to connect more, and to be intentional about doing so in His Name. In short, He’s calling me to do more of the things He’s always told us to do: to be Jesus with skin on to those we meet whether we’re related by blood, by relationship, by experiences, by time and place, or simply by our mutual humanity.

As an introvert, this stretches me sometimes. As a Christ-follower, it challenges me and it changes me. Always. It’s a little monumental thing and it’s worth a try on your end, too.

(side note: As always, I looked up a Scripture to go with my post. What I found was Romans 16:16. Most translations say, “Greet one another with a holy kiss…” Hmmm…I’m honestly not sure I’m ready to be that connected. (ha!) I think I’ll choose the NLT version that says, “Greet one another in Christian love…” for now and we’ll see if God needs me to go any further. LOL! Y’all have fun with this!–and start with a HUG, people!)

Grace and Peace!

 

 

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Have you done your part?

“Because he bends down to listen, I will pray as long as I have breath!” Psalm 116:2 (NLT)

In this week of national tragedy, worldwide mayhem, and personally, a growing list of prayer needs, this verse gives me comfort. despite the noise and the questions about “WHY? HOW?–and WHY?!” (yes, we all ask that last one more than once, don’t we?), God is still with us. He is listening. He is grieving. He is comforting. He is answering. He is still WITH US…and yes, THAT needed to be stated more than once, as well.

How do I know these things? He’s already said so in His love letter to us. Hebrews 13:5b tells us this:

“…for He has said, “I will never [under any circumstances] desert you [nor give you up nor leave you without support, nor will I in any degree leave you helpless], nor will I forsake or let you down or relax My hold on you [assuredly not]!”

I chose the Amplified Bible’s version of that verse on purpose for all of the emphatic statement that it contains. I believe it is necessary for some of you to see all of that today.

I think we may actually need to see it every day…until we start believing it and living like it and being bolder for Him because of it! Jesus was very clear while He was here on earth. He’s already told us that this life will not be easy. He was specific about that: “In this world you will have trouble…”

But look at the whole picture:

Look: An hour is coming, and has come, when each of you will be scattered to his own home, and you will leave Me alone. Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with Me. I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.” John 16:32-33 (HCSB)

Looks like we might have done our part in this verse, alright…we’ve left Him alone. We’ve decided that our ways are best. We’ve chosen to be on our own. WE, as individuals and as a human race, have decided that we would rather do this without all of the “constraints” of being in relationship with God, under His authority, …and under His care.

So, maybe that’s the WHY.

But there is still hope for us. There is still time to make that personal decision to be in a close relationship with God, to CHOOSE to be His and walk out this life in the protection and comfort–and yes, the obedience!–required by that decision.

All it takes is for us to choose Him. He’s already chosen us!

He’s ready and willing…and bending down to listen…

Are you praying?

 

Beauty regimen

Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
Be acceptable in Your sight,
Lord, my strength and my Redeemer.” Psalm 19:14 (NKJV)

I found a graphic on Pinterest awhile back and haven’t been able to shake it. My mama had a saying: “Beauty is as beauty does.”  (I’d guess all the mamas I knew while I was growing up had that saying!) It took me quite awhile to fully appreciate the truth of it, but these days seems more on-target than ever.

In this world where we are more likely to share our lives online with more people than we actually see in person, our lines of right and wrong, our filters for kindness and civility,  and our boundaries of what is real and what is virtual have a taken quite a hit.

Freedom of speech is such a precious gift! What a shame that we’ve used it to cheapen ourselves by sharing our deepest hurts and joys along side photos of what we’re having for supper and attacking others for having the temerity to use that shared freedom of expression to disagree with our political opinions. It makes all of those things seem equally important…and they are most definitely not.

Earlier this month, those of us in the United States celebrated our nation’s independence. The formation of a single nation created specifically to harness the power of each individual’s right to think for themselves and express those thoughts and beliefs without fear of reprisal:  That’s an anomaly in this world…and an important one. Using the very freedom of expression granted to us by the first amendment of our Constitution to denigrate others with opposing viewpoints instead of using that power to educate, encourage, or entice them to see the merits of your own seems to indicate a lack of character–and that is far more damaging to our society than we can afford. Why wound and belittle when you could bridge gaps and find common ground for a common good? Why not become a person of influence for unity rather than one who divides and derides? We don’t have to agree on everything to cooperate on a lot of things!

I don’t mind people disagreeing with me. In fact, there are days I relish it. I’ve even been known to argue the side of the opposition just for the fun of it. The ability to see both sides of an issue helps me make better choices and it helps me to pray more specifically as I seek to do what God wants me to do.

More than ever I find that He asks me to speak words of encouragement. He asks me to look for the positive. Sometimes, He just asks me to be silent and extend grace…and grace is never easy…except when you’ve found that you’ve needed so much of it yourself.

I love the black and white of an issue and I love “being right” (who doesn’t?!) and I love that we have been gifted with both words and the ability to share our thoughts. This is not about being silent when we need to defend. I wonder about this though…and I think I want to be beautiful.

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Something to look forward to

My husband and I have been noticing a common denominator in the majority of our friends and family lately:  they’ve been going on trips and taking significant time off to enjoy themselves. We’ve been pleased to see photos of people loving life as they traipse across Europe, screaming with joy while rafting down white-watered rivers, and enjoying their time at concerts, beaches, and theme parks. Good for them! It’s summertime in the South and lots of people wait all year for those kinds of things.

We are not those kind of people.

SONY DSCWe are much more inclined to head to the top of a mountain or go wandering through the country-side in search of beautiful scenery and enjoying each other’s company. We tend to do these things in the middle of a week if he can get a half-day off early or whenever we can be pretty sure that most other people will be doing something else. We enjoy the solitude and the quiet of the uninhabited. We get excited about things like actually having blueberries in our own yard this year! (Finally!) We talked about it the other night, though, and decided that we’re ready to start planning our next big trip. We’re trying to decide if it will be one of our typical adventures with an eye toward the restful or if we’re ready to head back to New York City, Washington, Boston, or some other place we’ve loved and have an actual “doing” vacation–or even an actual vacation instead of just a long weekend. It’s been a long time since we did one of those. As my husband said, we’re ready to have something to look forward to.

We’re really big fans of that. Planning ahead for something special gives us the joy of anticipation that pays off way before the actual trip. It helps keep us focused financially and actually eliminates quite a bit of wasteful spending because we have a goal in mind…a target, if you will. Speaking of targets, my husband just walked into the house with a new toy. He’s been talking about it for a little bit and, after much deliberation, decided that today was the day and this was the prize. He asked me if it made me happy. (He’s sweet like that; always wanting to make sure I’m happy.) My response was that what really made me happy was seeing him be happy.

Despite the appearance of so many smiles in those vacation photos we’ve been seeing, the whole world isn’t really filled with a lot of happiness right now…or at least that’s what you’re probably thinking if you watch the news every day (which is why I do not!). What I do watch for everyday is to see where God is going to show up next. I look for Him to show up in the beauty of nature and in the faces of friends. I see Him at work in the jobs (both paid and unpaid!) that we’re doing right now and in the provision of beautiful/fun things that might otherwise go unnoticed…like that barred owl that has taken to hunting in our back yard every night for the past few weeks, or that stray black-eyed Susan plant coming up between the bricks in the back walkway and that blueberry that is actually PINK!–or the way our friends and neighbors rushed to our rescue in a time of crisis a few weeks ago. I even see Him in the multiple prayer requests that have been coming my way lately because each one is an opportunity to talk with Him and, in turn, encourage others around me.

This morning, my own encouragement came in the form of an email from my Sunday School teacher, Althea. She’s a powerhouse packed in miniature and she is absolutely fabulous. She’s got more energy than I may have had in my entire life. She wears me out with her serving and her loving of everyone around her…but I’m ever so glad I’m one of the ones around her. Today she sent us this on the heels of another difficult request for prayer:

“When they are diminished and brought low through oppression, evil, and sorrow, he pours contempt on princes and makes them wander in trackless wastes; but he raises up the needy out of affliction and makes their families like flocks. The upright see it and are glad, and all the wickedness shuts its mouth.”  Psalm 107:39-42 (ESV)

It’s easy to look at that and think it reads like the news right now: depressing and hard to get through, but look at that last part! “…and all the wickedness shuts its mouth.”

Wow.

Wouldn’t we all love to see that? Just imagine how quiet it would get! Imagine how much room there would be to hear all of the good things that are happening then! Imagine how much room there would be for people to see what God is doing and hear from those He is blessing!

So what’s stopping us from sharing that now?! Shouldn’t we–the upright ones, the blessed ones, the loved ones, the saved ones, get busy sharing all of that makes us those things despite the noise created by all of the wickedness in the world?! Shouldn’t we battle that cacophony of evil with the truth about God’s grace and His mercy and the difference it makes in and for each of us?

I’d like to see us do that. I’d love to see us overcome the din of negativity with praise and adoration of the One who can raise the needy out of affliction and make their families like flocks (unified, cared for, multiplying and at peace) and, as a bonus, shut the mouth of wickedness.

Now, THAT is something to look forward to!

How will you help make it a reality where you live today? What praises will you sing? What prayers will you pray? What hand will you hold for comfort or reach out to give an upward boost? That’s something to look forward to, as well–and it’s something we can actually do right now wherever we are.

Grace & Peace!

Waiting

Waiting rooms aren’t much fun. I know. I’m in one right now. There are few seats left in this one and yet more and more arrivals.

I hear the sounds of lots of cheerful conversation going on around me as I type.

A quick scanning of the faces tells me that not everyone is cheerful. Some of these faces are worried. Some are thoughtful or introspective in appearance. There are a lot of cell phones out for updates and games, emails, work…but mainly, they’re out for distraction.

No one likes to wait. Even when you’re used to it. No one.

My own odd entertainment comes as I type this and receive a text from a friend in another state–and another hospital!–to me know that they are prepped…and waiting. (Insert a very small wry grin here!) God is funny that way sometimes​.

We’re all waiting for something. Whether you’re in a hospital or not doesn’t make much of a difference in that. Answers to emails, phone calls, or prayers; waiting for the weekend, the vacation, or just for the coffee to make or the microwave ding, waiting happens to all of us.

So, what do we do with that? What can we learn and share? What can we accomplish while we wait? The answers are as varied as the individual.

I choose to pray and be reminded of this:

“But those who wait on the Lord
Shall renew their strength;
They shall mount up with wings like eagles,
They shall run and not be weary,
They shall walk and not faint.” Isaiah 40:31 (NKJV)

Grace and Peace while you wait today!

Saturday morning

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“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls…'” Jeremiah 6:16a

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Rest for your souls…doesn’t​ that sound lovely? Make room for some soul rest this weekend. There’s room on the porch…

Grace and Peace!

This day…

Father God,

Thank you for THIS day:

  • the one with the problems I don’t have solutions for,
  • the one with the questions with no answers,
  • the one with the wearied spirit I don’t always talk about,
  • the one with the people-shaped problems,
  • the one with the needs I can’t meet and the issues that are WAY over my head,
  • the one with the hurts that haven’t healed and the frustrations that didn’t even make this list.

Thank You for THIS day–

  • the one with all the beauty I might have seen, but not commented on because I was in a rush,
  • the one with all the people I love, but haven’t told today,
  • the one with all of the blessings I overlooked because I was too focused on the blessings I’m still asking for, and
  • the one with the difficulties I might have allowed to loom larger than even You.

Help me to reset and refocus my vision on You, the Giver of all life and the Source of all strength. Help me to seek You first and walk in the way You have prepared for me and choose You and Your way even when it might seem strange or at odds with conventional wisdom and, perhaps, even against the advice of my most trusted ones. Give me the eyes  to see You even when I might feel overwhelmed by the doubt and darkness in the world around me. Help me to bless and not curse my own life by choosing to be less than You have called me to be. Give me courage to choose the God-thing over the good thing and give me the opportunity to speak Your name in praise as I do so. Soften my heart and sharpen my desire for Your Word. Grant me deeper understanding so I can share more of You as I move through Your world and help me to use the resources You’ve provided just as You have intended. Grant me peace, Father, and help me to rest in You and give You praise for all my questions because You are all my answers.

Thank you for this day, Father God. Thank you for Your grace in THIS day.