Chronicling 40: Day 44 of 365

sprite

I experienced a moment today, that reminded me of the story of the woman who gave two mites:

Luke 21:1-4 And He looked up and saw the rich putting their gifts into the treasury, and He saw also a certain poor widow putting in two mites. So He said, “Truly I say to you that this poor widow has put in more than all; for all these out of their abundance have put in offerings for God,[a] but she out of her poverty put in all the livelihood that she had.”

I ran to the store today to pick up some things for our family, and I had a set budget. I decided whatever I didn’t spend on our needs, I’d put into grabbing supplies for Hurricane Harvey relief and drop off with D-DEY Response Group.

As I was standing there amazed at all that was collected, a man rode up in the rain on his bike. From a small cinch sack he pulled out a 12 pack of sprite, it was the only thing in there and protected from the rain. He was there but just a minute. Then off on his way.

I am fairly certain that this man gave what he had purchase for himself.  Riding home with his purchase, he saw a need greater than his own.

Lord that we could all give so generously.

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Chronicling 40: Day 38 of 365

james3

James 3:13-18

How do you show wisdom?

  • a good life
  • deeds done in humility
  • not envious
  • not having selfish ambition
  • pure
  • peace-loving
  • considerate
  • submissive
  • full of mercy
  • good fruit bearing
  • impartial
  • sincerity
  • peacemaking

#BeAPeacemaker

 

Chronicling 40: Day 35 of 365

STAGE

I’m going to tell you something you may not know about me… I have a background in acting.  I’ve been on major movie sets to small theaters.  That is part of my history, one that I believe the Lord intended to use to build up a skill for another use than entertainment.  I’ve learned to hold myself on stage, pace my speech, articulate and enunciate, project my voice, and speak with passion and purpose.  I’ve learned to embrace the value of the perfectly placed pause, strong emphasis, and quiet attentiveness.  I understand what it means to “know your audience”, I can memorize two hours worth of dialogue. 

I recall one of my acting teachers (yes, I’ve studied with acting teachers and coaches since I was in the 7th grade) being very direct in class one day.  The question was “why are you here?”.  He was really asking why do you want to be an actor.  Answers varied.  “I love the attention.”   “I like being able to be other people, to try on someone else’s life for awhile.”   “I want to be famous.”

The student who wanted to be famous was asked to leave.

I’ve mentioned that before, in a previous post.  It came to mind again today.  On Facebook this morning I posted this:

stage1

Over the last year, I can think of several very specific moments where someone told me that they saw themselves up on stage sharing their story. 

I think it is wonderful that there is a spirit of hope, in any person, that wants to share their history with others.   I can even understand the draw of the stage, because there you can share with many at one time.  It is inspiring to think about.   We must understand our motives for being on stage, however.  When I previously talked on this subject, and mentioned the kid getting thrown out of class because he wanted to be famous… that was a motive check.  See, he didn’t love the art.  He wasn’t being honest about being the personality who craves attention.  He wanted fame, with fame is usually a desire for wealth… status… notoriety… and adoration.  It is more than asking the world to just look at you, but goes deeper.  Fame is asking the world to validate you.  You look for your value and worth in how others admire you.

That is one reason that I will usually dig a bit deeper and challenge someone who tells me they see themselves on a stage… we must check our motivation.  But, there is a second reason I’ll challenge that vision for yourself.  Being on stage is incredibly impersonal, and it allows you to shut yourself off from individuals.  Let me explain.

When I am on stage, there are a few things that are happening.  First, I am entirely prepared for the moment.  I have made very purposeful decisions on everything from how I styled my hair to the words that flow from my mouth.  Every step of it is calculated, each gesture and hand motion has been practiced numerous times.  Second, I am disconnected from those whom I am speaking to.  You can not see most (if any at all) of the faces you are speaking to.  The lights in the room are down, and lights are pointed right at you.  You may only see the faces of the people in the first few rows, and that really depends on how close the rows are set the stage.  You may see no one, which means you connect with no one.  Three, my time is calculated to the second.  Before speaking, you are prepping in the back.  During speaking you are actively disengaged.  But afterwards you are ushered to a book signing table, where you very quickly work through the line.  Or, if it’s a big conference, you may get a few seconds of meet and greet before being ushered off to your next workshop space or before the audience has to move on to the next speaker.  This means that even when you get the opportunity engage, it is superficial.

It is incredibly impersonal.  You are not forced to look another person in the eye and be vulnerable.  Nor, do you have to deal with the emotional responses of those who relate or can learn from your story.  You don’t have the time to invest in hearing their connection because you have to move on, and have guarded yourself from getting too close to someone else and their issues.  It is a way to keep people at an arms reach.  Even when they have compassion for what trials you went through, as you share your well crafted version of the story, you are still able to keep people at a distance.

This does not mean you don’t care, on the contrary… if your motives are right in the first place… it probably means you can care too much.  Do you know that for most speakers it easier to tell their most horrific stories to a room of 10,000 than to an audience of 1?  That they could write a book and share details with the masses that they couldn’t sit down and share with their own mother?  It’s true.  Even though there are 10,000 people in the audience, there is anonymity in that.

I can tell you the most horrible things about me, that God has worked on in my life, giving Him the glory… because I won’t see you face to face, and I won’t see you again.  The most vulnerable moments are the ones when I share my story face to face, with the people I live in community with.  When I reveal this dark part of my history, and know that I have to look you in the eye again next week.

When you are in a room full of people who don’t know you, it is much easier to not care what they think about you.  Speak in front of people you know well, and you will worry.  Do they judge me for this blip in my past?  Will they treat me differently?  Will this affect our friendship?  Are they going to tell other people in church/community/organization about this?  What if they say something to their children… who then say something to my children?  What if this affects how people treat my family?

Jesus got personal with those whom he encountered.  He got into the pit with the woman who was going to be stoned for adultery.  His feet were dried by the hair of the woman who anointed him with oil and perfume.  He called the children near to him.  He walked out of his way to encounter just one person.  Yes, Jesus also spoke before the multitudes of people but he also took precious moments for face to face encounters. 

Too many are waiting for the platform to tell their story.  They are waiting for the stage spotlight to fall on them, or they are waiting for the publishers to ask for their manuscripts.  Do not wait for the masses to show up before you are open to telling your story.  Start now.  Be willing to go out of your way.  Encounter the one, and then let the Lord handle the rest.

Chronicling 40: Day 33 of 365

A continuation of thought…

FRIENDSHIPSI had not planned to continue talking about friendships, but coincidence brings us back to the subject.

After posting yesterday, I ended up engaging in a conversation about ministry friendships within a networking group of leaders that is nationwide.  I didn’t start the conversation, but it was nothing I had not heard before.  Let’s face it church, we are broken in terms of relationships within the church.  We really need to lean in and listen to what is being said by leaders in the church, and figure out how to fix it.

The comments can be categorized into 4 points.

  1.  I was advised by an older, seasoned, leader not to make friends in the church.
  2.  My greatest hurt has been caused by people in the church I considered friends.
  3.  These friendships have been unequally yoked, where I was more invested in the relationship and they were more interested in position/information.
  4. I have struggled to make lasting, deep, friendships in the church.

The first point reflects the experiences of women who were given this advice as they entered into ministry leadership.  Leaders who had already walked this hard road forewarned these leaders that real friendships would be hard to come by, and it was easier to make friends outside of the church in which they serve (these friends can include ministry leaders in other churches).

The second point reflected the experiences of people, like me, where the relationships we expected to be the most honest, faithful, and trusting… were far from.  Causing these leaders to guard their hearts more in the future, and keep a safe distance.   Friendships in the church were far more superficial.  People who expressed this second point, were most likely to give the advice in the first point… avoid friendships in the church you serve.

The third point revealed what many feared were friendships built for the wrong reasons.  The persons were not as concerned about a real relationship, but rather positioning to the Pastor or ministry leader.  Or, they were really interested in being part of the “in the know” crowd and so it was important to them to foster a good relationship with the Pastor, his wife, and other ministry leaders.  These were manipulative relationships.  Again, those who experienced this may be part of the seasoned leaders advising against close relationships in the church.

The fourth were those who were hurt by rejection.  Even though they were leaders in the church, they just couldn’t seem to break in the cliques of the church.  They felt like outsiders in their own church home.  These women would happily take the risk to foster relationships in the church, but unfortunately the church members are the ones holding their arms extended to create distance.

Church.  What is going on?

How is it that a place where we should feel like a family, we feel outcast?  How is it that it has come to be that our leaders are AFRAID of making friendships in the church because they know the sting of rejection and hurt?  Why is this happening.  I have been pondering it ever since.

Then, to my surprise, I awoke today to find the conversation among the leaders had not stopped while I slept.  A surge of women shared how we must not give up, we must be willing to take the risk of being hurt, and try to build community in our own churches.  These leaders spoke truth, about the enemy trying to isolate us and break up the community in our churches.  They spoke of division, reconciliation, forgiveness, not having a spirit of fear, etc.  All the right things.

So, I pondered a bit more. Here are my conclusions…

  1.  We own one of the chips in this broken vessel.  It is entirely possible that because we are in church with other Christians, leading with other Christians, we were expecting more of them.  We expected they would treat friendship differently than the world, we forgot that they too are imperfect sinners.  But, since we elevated our expectations of them… perhaps we trusted too much, too quickly.  When the hurt came, it hurt more deeply because we were not cautious from the start.  We must use discernment in selection whom we trust, and with what we trust them with.
  2.   We must have friends outside of the church too.  Let’s face it, if there is turmoil in the church, the last thing I need to do is bring that up during Wednesday night small group.  I don’t need to air the church’s dirty laundry to the other members.  But, I may need one or two ministry leading friends whom I can trust to pray for our church/ministry with me.  It is good to have friends IN and OUT of the church in which we serve. 
  3.  The church body is also accountable for some of the chips in this broken vessel.  Relationships are two way streets, both equally committed.  Church members and other leaders need to check their motives in these friendships.  They need to own up and accept responsibility when they mess up.  They, too, need to do a better job at being a friend.  More open.  More receptive.  More honest.  We must all be the kind of friend that we want to have. 
  4. Lazy discipleship is part of the problem.  The church has gotten lazy about discipleship.  We count on warm bodies willing to press play on the DVD player to lead our small groups and Bible studies.  We don’t disciple our leaders, who in turn do not disciple those whom they lead.  We have not taught people how Christian friendships and relationships should differ, because we are not truly discipling them. 

So what do we do?  How do we restore the type of community that we should have among our family of believers?

BUILD COMMUNITY:  We need real community.  Not Sunday fellowship, and Wednesday small group.  A full, robust, church calendar gives ample opportunities for us to meet new faces, connect with people who have similar interests, and get to enjoy one another personally.  Through connecting to one another personally, we can find our “tribe” of friends.

DISCIPLE PEOPLE:  We need to really invest in the spiritual growth of those under our charge. We can not expect them to behave a certain way in relationships if we have not made the effort to show them the way.  Mentoring partners, discipleship partners, is huge in helping to develop others to a spiritual maturity that includes what Biblical friendship and relationships look like.  Perhaps they do not know how because they have not been pointed to those areas of the scriptures.

BE WISE AND GENTLE:  Even sheep can bite, even the best sheep can take a nip occasionally.  There are wolves among the sheep, so we must be wise to discern who to bring into our inner circle.  But, that doesn’t mean to ostracize ourselves from others.  When we are wise and gentle to those around us, we can sense when even the best of people will need boundaries (sometimes just temporarily).

BE WILLING:  We can’t share our desire for close friends in the church while we run away from them.  Some of us, those who are wounded, may need to step into those waters a bit more cautiously.  But be willing to take those steps.

BE PATIENT:  For those who have been trying to make friends, recognize that you may be dealing with a person who is gun shy from prior hurt.  Be patient, move the relationship along slowly.  For those who have been hurt, be patient with yourself.  Not all healing takes place instantly.  For some it is a process, that serves a purpose often greater than we realize at the moment.

I think we can find good, healthy, strong, and deep friendships within the church that we serve.  But, clearly there is some brokenness we need to tend to. 

Chronicling 40: Day 32 of 365

FRIENDSHIPS

Friendships are a very precarious relationship as we become adults.  As kids, it seemed so much easier.   We just said what we thought, if our feelings got hurt it lasted a day or two until friendship was resumed over a shared cookie or pink crayon.  Age brought complication to friendships.  I expected that, we all have life experiences that will affect how we respond to others and perceive friendships.   Some of us have learned to be less trusting, others have learned to be more discerning of who they bring into their inner circle.

We may find that a person wasn’t really our friend, but just using us for information or status, some sort of gain. We may find that they are just fickle, and move from friendship to friendship with ease, as they enjoy the excitement of the newness.  Friends move away, some are here for a season or a reason.  And in some cases, we learn a very tough lesson…

For me, this was the friend who will favor self preservation over truth.  In other words, they are a great friend until push comes to shove.  If it’s their head on the chopping block they’ll throw you under the bus to save themselves.  They probably hope that you will not know, or that you will understand and forgive them.  They may even think that the friendship can be resumed.  But ultimately, they are saving their own skin.

This happened to me a few years ago, and had a significant affect on how I pursue friendships today.  I am far more guarded than I once was.  Part of this was my fault, I made an assumption that since these were Christian women serving in ministry that I didn’t have to worry about this.  When the situation occurred, I thought for sure they would each speak truthfully.  It turned out the women were not honest, or they were silent.  This caused fingers of accusation to land on me, and I was stunned.  The only person who was being honest, and the one being hung out to dry.

Ultimately I had two choices, take the hit to my credibility or return the favor and throw the women under the bus with me.  I could have played voice mail messages, handed over emails, shared text messages, named names.  But, I chose not to.  I took the higher ground and I took the pain that came with it.  Not just the pain of false accusation, but the pain of being let down by people whom I considered my friends.

I was most hurt by one particular person who could have stepped up to my defense.  She bore witness to every incident, she knew what I was saying was truth.  Instead of speaking up, she chose to “stay out of it”.  She let me take the heat, when she could have stopped the whole thing. 

I now tread into friendship far more cautiously.  I remind myself often that even the best of women are not perfect, and will make mistakes.  But it is hard for me to take friendships past a very superficial level, because I now have trust issues. This is not to say that I can’t get to a place of deep honesty and trust, it just takes me longer.

I’m not sure if these women will ever understand the deep hurt I experienced at that moment, or how it affected me ever since.  I have forgiven, I have moved on, I have learned to create better boundaries.  I’m ok with what happened, but changed.  Yet, I do remain hopeful that the Lord has the tribe for me.  Those whom I can let down my guard with, and have the most precious of friendships.

Chronicling 40: Day 30 of 365

letterfire

This picture serves as a reminder for me, it represents hurt and release.  It also reminds me to be proactive about protecting my own heart and mind.

It represents hurt, because it contains papers filled with things that cut deeply, probably one of the most hurtful moments of my life.

It represents release, because I knew that if I kept it around… I’d keep reading it.  Any forgiveness or progress toward reconciliation would be thwarted by these words lingering about.

Which is also why it reminds me to be proactive about protecting my heart and mind.  I need to discard anything that steals my peace, that makes me question my value, that causes me pain.

I can no longer read the words that are on those pages, burning away.  I can’t replay them in my mind.  I can’t dwell on them.  I have cast them away from me.

You might ask why keep the picture, doesn’t it bring up negative feelings?

On the contrary, it brings me so much peace knowing that I have the strength to let go and move on.

Chronicling 40: Day 28 of 365

100points

This is a picture of my to-do list.  This list is not for my whole life, but the ministry in which I work.  Some items are crossed off, I continually add items to it.  I imagine a 114 point to do list probably seems daunting, particularly when I already shared that I still regularly add to it.

So why is my to-do list so long, and will I ever finish it?

There are goals in life that are finite.   Set a goal to travel to England, accomplish the steps to get to that goal, and viola… it’s done.  Finished.  Toss the list away and move on.

There are goals in life that are infinite, meaning always in motion.  Set a goal to build a corporate empire?  I hate to bear the news, but there will never be a day where you sit back and pat yourself on the back for a job well done.  Even if there is no where left to grow, there is always maintenance and fine tuning.  You may have a staff that does 75% of the work for you, but 25% of your efforts are still in strategy mode.

An infinite goal is going to have a growing to-do list.

I also choose to not write out broad term goals, but instead action steps to get to that goal.   Which means a single goal could have multiple actions steps listed to get from point A to point B.

I keep this list, and add to it for two reasons…

  1.  It has the complete vision of my goal.  Everything I want to do, need to do… now and in the future.  Some things may take years to get crossed out, others mere minutes.  You might even question why bother writing it down if I can knock it out quickly.  The answer is point 2.
  2. It is a measurable accounting of my time, efforts, and successes.  I not only see what needs to be done, but what has been done.  When I feel like things are moving slowly, I am reassured when I can look back on all that has been done.  When I look through the list of crossed off items, I can see where and how I spent my time.  It becomes almost a business journal of bullet points to reflect on.  I know what tactics I have tried, and what I haven’t.  I can review what worked and what didn’t.  I am looking at my work in a full view of past, present, and future.

Don’t just make a quick list of goals.  Break it down into real actionable steps.

Don’t throw away completed lists.  Keep them, this is the documented evolution of your dreams and goals!