Chronicling 40: Days 119-121

swinging

Over the past few days, I have been involved in judging some theatre competitions, which I absolutely love.  I get notice of the pieces so I can familiarize myself with any that I don’t know.  I enjoy watching the live performances, and on the scoring sheets we get an opportunity to share notes on the performance so that they can improve for future competitions.

This past weekend was for High School students.  It’s an interesting space to judge because they are old enough to be more frank and direct (especially the seniors heading to college), but I am often reminded that they are in fact students.  They’ve had maybe 1-2 teachers influencing them, probably not workshops on the weekends and intensives over the summer.

I’ve judged these competitions in various districts over the state, but this weekend was in a new district and I was eager to meet new faces (judges) and see a new group of students.  Hands down, every district I have attended has had some of the most friendly judges.  Those who have been doing it for a while are happy to help the newer judges through the process.  It’s always been a fun space to be apart of, people who are not just judging but really care about helping these students hone their craft.

This weekend, it was different.

I was the first judge there, sipping on my coffee.  When she entered the space, she walked with such confidence as if this was old hat to her.  To my surprise it was her first time judging this particular district.  She rattled off big, impressive words.  I’m not sure if the purpose was to qualify herself to me… or set the tone that she was a professional regardless of who I was.

The second judge entered, like a diva onto a stage.  She was a queen. She was running the show.  As we watched the performers, we were not allowed to speak to the performers, but in the technical portions we could.  Immediately it became time to impress the teachers, students, and parents in the space with their knowledge and expertise.  There I sat, just listening and looking.  One was intent on pointing out flaws.  The other was insistent about teaching from her experience.  Their questions to the students were set up to trip the student up and give the judge platform to teach versus to listen to how the student came to their conclusions and decisions.

It was interesting to me, as an observer of this.  If these were college students, or professionals entering some sort of competition, then you have an expectation of excellence … and certainly at this juncture you would want to share your experience and wisdom with them.  For a group of high school students, who many were 9th graders competing for the first time, there is a gentler approach.  Instead of shouting the wisdom of the sages at them, asking them the right questions to get their minds thinking is going to go much further.

I thought about this in relations to conferences and retreats.   Sometimes the speakers come in, and because they’ve been given the platform, they elevate themselves.  They use big words and concepts, trying to establish the providence that they deserve to be in that spot.  When sometimes, what they really need to do is speak plainly to the heart of those who are listening.  Jesus knew how to put His message to the crowds in terms they would understand, that they were familiar with.  They didn’t get hung up on fancy words or ideas, but rather could soak in the words that were plain and simple.

I think of the Pharisees with their long prayers set out to impress the people with their knowledge and godliness… that fell flat because of it’s lack of humility.

If God has given me a platform, I shouldn’t have to prove that I earned it.  Why?  Because I am there to give the spotlight to God, not myself.  I should have a willingness to share my vulnerabilities and iniquities as an evidence to a God who equips the called… and sometimes those he called are coming from a mess.  But what is seems like a hurdle today can be used for God’s glory tomorrow.  When I am willing to share my humbled self, God gets to be on full display.

When a woman comes to me for counsel, this is not the opportunity to puff myself up and make it appear like I have it all together.  An attempt to stand on a platform of the “Perfect Wife”, “Perfect Parent”, “Perfect Christian”, etc.; as if I am some sort of expert.  When instead of listening with the intent of figuring out how I am going to respond, advise, direct, or sell my own self… I should be listening to ask the questions that will cause them to think and come to answers on their own.  Advising and directing as God leads and prompts.

 

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Chronicling 40: Day 117 of 365

Women Bow And Pray

Have you ever had a day that was so tough, you just wanted to go home and climb back into bed?  You were either seeking the comfort of your warm blankets and soft pillow, looking for a refuge to hide from the world, or perhaps you were looking for do over… a new beginning, a new start.

This is how I feel about the Word.  When my day is wearing, I run to it. Looking for a word that comforts my pain.  A refuge and shelter from the storms of the world.  It gives me a fresh perspective, fresh outlook, a new beginning to tackle the coming day.  There is a comfort and peace in the pages that unfold His promises to us.

To find the comfort, I need to return home, and pull back the covers.

To find peace, I need to return to His presence, and turn open the cover of The Word.

 

 

Chronicling 40: Day 116 of 365

Sonset

Do you have ever those days where you are just begging for Jesus to come already.  You are weary.  You are tired of the fight.  You are ready for peace.  You just want the King to come and restore everything to how it should be.

That is how it was before Jesus came.  They were watching for a Messiah who was going to come and establish His kingdom.  They would be out of bondage, restored.  However, their vision of what their King would look like and what arrived was very different.  They were awaiting on conquering King not a swaddled baby.  Not a man nailed to a cross.

They were watching for the Son, but couldn’t see Him… even when He stood right in front of their faces.

In the last 40 years, I have learned through hindsight how present God was in every step of the way.  In the days where I didn’t know Him yet, unable to recognize His face.  He was there.  In the days where I longed to feel His presence because He felt so far.  He was there.  In the days when He doesn’t show up in the ways I expect, but none the less He is there.

All of this has brought me to a place where now even when I can’t… I know.  I know He is there, present, listening, watching, working, moving, guiding.  I seek Him differently, because I am so confidence of His presence in the first place.  Like a child looking for her father’s hand in a dark room… when the days are long and weary, I watch for Him.  I reach for him.

While I may still yearn for Jesus to return and put an end to the turmoil on this earth, I also find comfort in knowing that He dwells within me and the hearts of those whom He calls His own.  And in the struggle… I find peace.  My King has already come, victory is already His.

Chronicling 40: Days 113-115 of 365

143

The past few days have been a distraction with a mixture of struggle.  Big things are happening, lots of things being added to the calendar … and I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed.  Even though these are all good things, they are a lot… and some are big steps for my ministry work.  Add in the pending holidays and I wonder… can I really do all of this?  Am I taking on too much?

In my devotion a few days ago, the main point of the passage was that even there, in the hardest or most difficult times God can do miraculous things in you, and through you, for His glory.

I’ve been clinging to that each day.  His timing and purposes are always right and as long as I’m in alignment with His will… I can do hard things.  I can do big things.  I can do intimidating things.

I can because HE can.  He loves me, and you, so much.  Why would I doubt His ability to carry me though what ever it is He has laid before me?  Why would I doubt His provision, when I answered the call … “Who will go…”?

If it is in His will… then it is in His strength.  His provision.  His power.  His timing.  His pathway.  I know He will steer me in the right direction, because He is right and good.  If God is within me, I shall not fall.

Chronicling 40: Days 106-109 of 365

hope

I have so many words today.  It has been a busy few days, we had company visiting … which meant prepping the house, then we were taking a day out of town ourselves for some family time.   So many things have happened in those days, so much I want to speak about.

I had so many things to do, that I literally made a spreadsheet to keep track of everything.  My days were scheduled to the second.  There was no margin.  Normal things (like posting daily) were cast aside for no other reason than the fact that I could without the world ending.

I was trying to decided if I was really going to try and recap all of my thoughts over these last 4 days into one post.  Would it make any sense?  Would it be all over the place?  Would I write one single piece or make 4 dated journal entries?  I created a graphic on canva to us for the post.  No matter how many times I tried to upload it into wordpress, it wouldn’t.  Error.  Error.  Error.   Was the enemy trying to thwart my words today?

Bound and determined, I was not giving up and decided to scroll through the graphics I’ve used in the past which sit in the wordpress media library.  It caught my eye…

HOPE.

All of these things I felt compelled to talk about are scenarios I have no control over, I can’t comprehend them, I can’t explain them.  From my own short temperedness to the shooting at a small church in Texas.  I could throw words at this screen, but what would they mean … how would they help?  They don’t.  You don’t need my words, you need the words of Hope.

1 Timothy 1:1 tells us that Christ is our hope, and hope is an anchor to our soul (Hebrews 6:19).

Matthew 12:21 tells us that we put our hope and trust in Christ, because he is a better hope than anything else (Hebrews 7:19)

2 Thessalonians 2:16 tells us that we have been given hope through grace, and purified by that hope (1 John 3:3).

1 Timothy 4:10 tells us that our hope is fixed on God, and is in God (1 Peter 1:21).

Titus 1:2 encourages us that it is an eternal hope, and we hold to that hope (Hebrews 6:18).

1 Timothy 5:5 tells us of the widow, who despite her circumstances is fixed on her hope in God… praying day and night.  Hope is active pursuit of Him.

Yes, we are in trying times.  Life is difficult.  Sometimes we feel like Job.  Our calling isn’t comfortable.  We may feel more like Jonah.  Shame weighs us down.  We connect with the Samaritan Woman.  The word is fallen, and we feel like the Israelites calling out to God to save us from our own messes.

The days are hard…

But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. (1 Thessalonians  5:8)

And people will look to us, because we have hope and wonder how we can find peace in the midst of chaos…

but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence (1 Peter 3:15)

We will praise Him in the storms, because we have hope…

to the end that we who were the first to hope in Christ would be to the praise of His glory.  (Ephesians 1:12)

Will not act as the world expects, but we will be…

rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, (Romans 12:12)

So that we can find peace for today, and days to come…

Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

 

Chronicling 40: Day 102 of 365

listenvshear

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. Most people listen with the intent to reply.”  ~Stephen R Covey

The other day, I was having a discussion with a friend.  I was attempting to make a point, but first I needed to establish the context of my point.  Before I could even get to the actual point I was trying to make, she interrupted me and began to dissect the context.

This is a classic example of listening to reply versus to understand.  It was as if she was scanning every word I said looking for the opportunity to respond, instead of listening to my full point before responding.  Before I knew it, we were off on a tangent and I never even got to my initial point.

In years past, I had always considered this idea of listening to respond as something that only reared up in unhealthy relationships without boundaries.  My belief was that for a person to behave in such a way meant that they thought themselves better than me, superior in some way (experience, intelligence, etc.) or that the person was controlling (interrupting to control the flow of conversation back toward themselves).

This particular instance set that notion into a full stop, as this was a person I have a great relationship with.  I began to wonder if this behavior is more prevalent than I thought… and even question if I was also culpable.  Do I listen to respond when I should be listening to understand?

It can be said that listening is an automatic thing that happens, unless you are hearing impaired.  It is simply the picking up of sound being made.  Hearing is where we actually pay attention to what the sound is.  If you’ve ever zoned out when someone is talking to you, or fallen asleep watching television, you’ll understand what simply listening is.  I can hear the sounds, I know that noise is being made, but I can’t tell you any details about the sound.  I may know someone is speaking to me, but unable to recall what they said.  I may know that I am in a noisy room, but couldn’t tell you who or what the noises are originating from.

Hearing is a conscious decision to listen to the details, so that I know who is speaking, what is being said, what the noises are.

If you are planning your response while the other person is talking, you can’t actually hear the other person.  Why?  Because at some point you cut off hearing the other person and instead focused on the argument or comment you want to make.  As you are formulating your response, you can’t hear what else is being said.  In the situation with my friend, I believe this to be true.  The reason she couldn’t hear my main point was because she was hung up on the detail that she wanted to respond to.

If we start day dreaming or doing other tasks, it means we are disinterested.  If we don’t want to hear what the person is saying we can literally shut down our reception of the information, or we can lean into selective listening/hearing… where we only hear what we want to hear.  Management consultant Bryan Golden says:  “To make it yet more challenging, even when listening intently, you tend to filter what someone is saying through your own biases. You may assume you know what someone means because you jump to conclusions before they finish talking.”

All of these come down to the same bottom line, bad or poor communication skills.

The more I looked into the topic, the more I realized that we are all complicit in poor communication in some way, shape, or form.  Perhaps we would all do well to be quick to listen and slow to speak (James 1:19), then we’d be less apt to be angry.

Chronicling 40: Day 101 of 365

Failure

I remember as a child, my mother only saw my grades twice per 9 weeks.  The first was the mid term progress report, the second was the end of term report card.  Other than that, unless a teacher called her for some reason, she had no idea what my grades looked like.  She had no clue if I had homework that night, nor if I had remembered to complete projects and turn them in on time.  Today, I can log onto my kids’ school site and pull up their grades in a matter of seconds.  I know every test score, every missed assignment, and even some of the ones coming down the road.

Because of this, it is nearly impossible for my kids to every fail a subject. If I was a parent who didn’t care, I could avoid looking at the site.  I could just let cards fall where they may.  As a parent who cares, I can now see the impending failure and begin negotiations.  Do we need to hire a tutor?  Should we ground our child from electronics until grades are up?  Shall I contact the teacher to create some sort of extra credit assignment to make up for missing grades, or find a way to turn in forgotten work even for partial credits?

As far back as I can recall, failure has not been cast in a positive light.  If our children fail at school, we ground them until they can become “more responsible” or hire in tutors to fill in education gaps.  If our children fail at a sport, we tell them to increase their practice times and dissect their plays to find out where improvements can be made.  We do things for them without even asking them to try because we determined what they can and can’t do.  And, we reward them for simply trying versus letting them feel the sting of defeat.

We tell kids when they fall to get back up and try again, focusing on continuing to work for success.  What about talking about what we learned from failure?  Why do we not allow our children to learn the consequences of failing a grade or subject?  Why do we take away the magnitude of lessons learned by making mistakes or failing to achieve their goal versus being content to walk away with a participation grade or trophy?

I have learned far more in the moments when I failed at something than when I hit gold right out the gate.  When I try something and it doesn’t work out, I must engage my critical thinking skills.  Why didn’t this work?  What was missing?  Did I make a mistake?  Was I using the wrong materials or did I miss a step in the process?  Or, is there simply a better way?  The more I engage my critical thinking skills the better off my next endeavors will turn out.  I’ll take those answers and apply them not just to the current project at hand but also in the future.

Don’t be afraid of failure, but learn from it.

When it comes to my children, I would much prefer their failures and mistakes to happen while they are in my home and I can help them grow from it.  Too many handle everything for their kids, send them off to college or out into the real world and they don’t understand how to cope with failure.  A failed class will result in teaching your children how to better prioritize their time.  A failing grade that pulls your child off of the team teaches them about consequences and how to be mindful of the requirements of participation.  A repeated grade teaches your children that mom and dad can’t fix everything, and sometimes they have to go through it to grow from it.   And, instead of coming to their rescue, it can help our children learn to navigate these issues on their own.  My asking the teacher for extra credit opportunities is a lot different than if my kids come up with the idea on their own.

In life failure teaches us what not to do again.  It teaches us processes and ways of thoughts that don’t work.  It helps us find our way to success.

If I am not failing, I’m not trying enough.

Failure can be a beautiful gift.