Empty Halls

Empty Halls

I have found myself on more than one occasion meandering through empty halls and empty buildings.  When I was in high school, I had a summer job working at a public school that was preparing to open in the fall.  I assisted the principal by taking documents from other schools and rewriting them with the information for the new school.  I would walk with him among the empty corridors as he listed off notes for me to take.  His voice would echo in the emptiness of the school, void of students.  Not only did it feel cold and empty, but the school seemed enormous.  In just a few months it would be teeming with life, as middle school students filled these empty halls and classrooms with energy and excitement. 

A few years later, I was assigned to help open up a brand new flagship store for the company I worked for.  This massive building set in an vast empty parking lot, was a blank slate.  White walls, white floor tiles, white shelves.  It was new, clean, and almost antiseptic feeling.  You could smell the fumes of the fresh paint and the cleaners we used to wipe down the surfaces.   Voices carried across the building only stopped by the few walls that portioned off the management offices, restroom, and breakroom.  In a matter of weeks, this building was filled with color and movement.  New employees being trained and prepared for opening day, products filling the shelves, and boxes of employee shirts being distributed brought color and vibrancy to the static white walls.  Opening day would unleash a tidal wave of customers ready to undo all of our hard work as they filled their carts with merchandise.

When our second daughter was born, our church was in the midst of a building project.  We had outgrown the small chapel on the church grounds and it was time to build a new sanctuary.  As a member of the ministry leadership, I had the opportunity to tour the building throughout the process.  A brilliant new stage, gorgeous stadium seating, warm inviting colors, and an architecturally beautiful building were just the by-product of the building’s purpose.  For years we had broken our body into four services to fit everyone and yet we were still growing.  We needed the space.  But, even more so, it was the desire of the Pastors to bring the body back into ONE congregation.  Spanning four services in a single morning, we found that few people from the first service knew the people from fourth service.  We were a church family that could only know one fourth of it’s members.  It was time to unite the body.  As leadership, we would walk through that building filled with hope.

We hoped that the new children’s ministry rooms would be able to hold all of the babies that were being born into our church.  We prayed that the classrooms would serve our study groups well.  We talked about new ministry opportunities that the building would allow us to meet.  We dreamed about the future of this seventy five year old church, and the new generations that would call it home and family.  Our dreams were that of a church so indwelled in our community, that our church would be like a home to the orphan, the widow, the poor, and the stranger.  Providing more seats at the table, and doors that welcomed them in to become part of our church family. 

I remember lunches on the church lawn after service, fall festivals, Christmas musicals, and Easter egg hunts on the grounds.  We offered our old chapel to a local Haitian Church, and occasionally they would invite our church to fellowship meals after their services.  Family dinners, Women’s brunches, Men’s breakfasts, recovery groups, youth group nights, Awanas, etc. filled our church calendar.  We built a wonderful community that has left a pivotal mark on my mind and heart on what a church should be and should feel like.  In fact, when we moved it became the litmus to my heart. 

This is what church family is, this is what our hearts long for when we come together and corporately worship.  Not a fast food injection of a momentary handshake, quick side hug, or kind words shared at the coffee station.  Rather, deep conversations over a dinner table while breaking bread.  Laughter and tears shed, as we gathered for studies and fellowship with our family of faith.  There is something in our bodies that craves the community of the early church that has been lost as we pop in and out for our quick nibble off the Bread of Life.  We show up on Sunday morning, take in the Word, and head home for our football games and midday nap sessions.  Quick to rush home versus taking the time to linger and chat.  However, there are times were we attempt to linger but are ushered out of the doors as the lights are turned off and the doors locked.  You don’t have to go home, but you can’t stay here.

I’ve witnessed people standing in the heat of the Florida summer sun, talking in the parking lot long after the church doors have been locked.  They are having a conversation that should be able to happen in the safe space of the church.  Too fragile of a conversation to be moved to the local coffee shop or lunch spot.  Instead, when the heat finally overcomes them, they slip into a car and put on the air conditioner to finish out their thoughts.  Why is this so?  Why have we locked our doors so quickly?  Why do we flip over the welcome mat at the front doors, and put up the closed for business signs on our doors?

I’ve watched movies, where in big cities, people would pour into the neighborhood church at all hours.  It could be one in the morning, and the doors were open for the wayward and the lost.  Welcome.  You are safe here.  How can we serve you?  We don’t tend to our sheep like that anymore.  Sure, you can call the Pastor at his home, or someone from the prayer chain… but will they answer?  I remember once struggling in the middle the of the night, and I wanted nothing more than to walk into a church and just sit in the sanctuary… in His house.  But, the doors were locked.  No one was home.  Our churches have business hours, you’ll need to make an appointment.

I’ve been told to cancel a small group because enough participants didn’t sign up to make it worth opening up the church.  Jesus went out of his way for the one, and we can’t open the doors for the five.   I’ve been told that we can’t have “too many” activities on the calendar.  What is “too many” activities for a body that craves community, and desires to spend time with one another?  I’ve driven by churches that sit empty 4-5 days of the week, and wondered is this how we are supposed to be stewarding the House of the Lord?  Are the doors supposed to be locked?  We put so much money into huge beautiful buildings that are never used to their fullest capacity, and I admit I wrestle with why.

Should it not be erupting with the squeals and giggles of children?  Echoing with the sobs of the broken?  Shaking with the songs of those who praise Him?  Rooms filled with men and women studying the Scriptures?  Testimonies and healing in rooms full of those who are recovering?  The hushed murmuring from the prayers of our warriors going to battle on their knees?  A building full of life versus desolate, empty halls…

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The Writing is on the Wall

The Writingis onthe Wall

It is Mental Health Awareness month, with a slew of Social Media posts sharing Suicide Prevention Hotline numbers, reminders to let people know you care, etc.  Then in a week’s time two celebrities died from suicide, Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain.  Coupled with the loss of Robin Williams last year, we have learned that depression and suicide reach over the barriers of influence, wealth, success, and the appearance of having it all. Depression, mental illness, mental health issues, addiction, and suicide do not discriminate.  They do not care about the amount of money in your bank account, your resume, the color of your skin, your history, your religion, your gender, your sexuality, or your age.

Just two weeks ago, I took my youngest daughter in for her middle school physical.  It’s been 4 years since our last appointment.  This time, not only was I handed a clipboard to verify all of our information was still accurate and note any changes since her last visit… but I was given a clipboard for her.  It was a survey to assess depression in my 11 year old.  Questioning if she ever felt like the world was better off with out her, if she ever felt alone despite having friends, if she slept too much, if she didn’t feel like playing or participating in activities, if she had ever thought about hurting herself or others, or if she had ever tried to harm or kill herself ever (and a follow up question asking if that was within the last year).  I was taken back by the addition of this survey.

We entered into the exam room, and as part of the physical we discussed the survey.  That was when I was hit with a bombshell.  Our pediatrician said:

“Suicide is the number two cause of death among children.”

I’ll wait while you let that sink in a moment, or google it to verify for yourself.   I know I was stunned to hear it.

We are a family marked by depression and suicide.  Depression runs on my husband’s side of our family.  He lost a sister when she was just a teenager.  I lost a friend in high school.  Another when I was in college.  I wish I could say that was the end of our experience with it, but it has not been the case. When you are the surviving friends and family of suicide, you see things differently and become more keenly aware.  I watch my children constantly looking for signs and clues in order to have early intervention.  This is part of our life.  We don’t allow our kids to make any sort of joke, off hand comment, or recite a quote/cliche phrase related to suicide.  It’s too real for us to ever take it lightly.

Despite our own experiences with it, I was still stunned to hear those words from the doctor.  NUMBER TWO for children ages 10+.

  1. Unintentional injury
  2. Suicide
  3. Malignant Neoplasm (cancerous tumors)
  4. Homicide
  5. Congenital Disease

It is absolutely beyond my comprehension that more children die by their own choice and volition than those who have been taken at the hands of others.  I can’t wrap my head around it.  It breaks my heart every time I hear about it on the news and yet I still didn’t grasp the scope of it.

It is #2 for children ages 10-14.

It is #2 for ages 15 – 23.

It is #2 for ages 24-34.

With that ranking, how can we even begin to think that suicide isn’t lurking around the corner hunting someone we love.  We can’t discount the reach of depression and mental illness.  Which is why we must be proactive about our mental health.  This means paying attention to our loved ones, so that we are not only aware that depression or anxiety is happening… but also to encourage the person to seek out help.  We must never create an environment where others do not feel that they must suffer alone vs. reaching out for help.  We must drop any stigma we hold or express about treating mental health.  Whether it is a judgement over people who are prioritizing “self care” or disparaging talk related to medication as a form of treatment, it needs to stop.

Especially for those of us who are among the community of faith believers.

I do believe in the power of prayer.  I have known people that have been miraculously cured of conditions that Doctors can’t explain. I’ve known people miraculously delivered from addictions.  I’ve known people who have been delivered from depression, anger, anxiety, past traumas, etc.  Miraculous stories full of hope and wonder.

I also know people of faith who have earnestly prayed for healing, and it has not come.  I know people who despite their prayers have continued a constant struggle with sobriety.  I watched a faithful church pray every Sunday for the miraculous healing of a severely handicapped girl, that 20 years later still has not happened.  I’ve heard people share how they were told that their prayers were not answered because they were not faithful enough.  My friend Jay, shared this on her Facebook page a few days ago…

“Stop telling people that they don’t know God if they’re having suicidal thoughts. Sometimes God is the ONLY thing they are holding on to.”Jay Sharpe

This is the harsh truth.  It is absolutely irresponsible of us to question or condemn someone’s faith because they struggle with mental health issues, mental illness, or contemplate suicide.  Irresponsible.

God has given us plants that have created medicines to combat these issues.  He has given scientists the education, tools, and resources to develop synthetic medications.  He as given doctors and counselors the wisdom to detect for early intervention, the ability to help someone get through the storms when they are in the midst of it, and the skills to teach them how to create coping mechanisms when they are in a stable state of mind.  These are GIFTS and CALLINGS that God has put on their lives to be tangible help in a world that seems so dark.

In 2 Corinthians 12, Paul describes how three times he cried out for the Lord to remove the thorn from his flesh, but the Lord did not.  Paul was a faithful believer, persecuted on behalf of his faith.  If the Lord sought not to remove that thorn from Paul’s flesh, even with his earnest prayers…  it is entirely possible for ANYONE to have a solid faith and yet the Lord will choose to let their thorn remain.  We may not understand His reason for doing so, but we know in the end He will be glorified through it.

It was eight years ago when I was diagnosed with a chronic illness.  In the beginning I was told that the medication I was prescribed would help me to feel better.  It didn’t.  I tried diet changes, supplements, hired a nutritionist, worked with a personal trainer, read all the books I could get my hands on.  I cried out for the Lord to heal me on more occasions than I could count.  He chose not to.   I kept feeling worse.  This illness was stealing away my life and my joy.  I remember sitting on my floor one night contemplating how I could continue to exist like this.  Was it fair to me?  Was it fair to my husband and children?  What good would I be?  It was only a few years ago, that the Lord provided a pathway for my healing.  Was I instantly cured?  No.  However each day I grow stronger, each day I am healthier, and I owe that the people and treatments God continually puts in my path.

I know people who have my condition where depression is one of their symptoms, for others the physical symptoms become so unbearable that they couldn’t take it anymore, men and women who suffered in silence because no one could understand the private hell they were suffering through because they “look ok” to the rest of the world.  I read posts in the support groups where many people shared they wished they had cancer because at least then people would believe them.  I can understand the desperation for the person battling mental illness, a storm raging inside that no one else can see, feeling alone, and desperate to make it stop.

Yes, there are those who suffer from depression and you can see it all over their lives.  They sleep all day, they struggle with every day life expectations, they are open and share about how down they feel… how lost… and how hopeless.  Many more suffer in silence.  They fear condemnation, judgement, and shaming… especially for those who appear to have it all.  The perfect body.  Perfect home.  Perfect marriage.  Stacked bank account.  Trips all over the world.  Celebrity status.

Do you know how hard it is to confess to the world that you feel like nothing when they think you have everything?

What do you have to be depressed about?  As if depression is defined by circumstance.  Or anxiety is something we can simply choose to turn on and off.  The thought that mental illness is something we can just get over or “walk it off”.  If climbing out of the pit was as easy as deciding to, don’t you think people would? 

It is as if the person has been blindfolded and placed in a pit with a ladder.  Everyone around watching sees the ladder, they know how easy it would be to just get out of that pit.  However, the blind fold of depression or mental illness makes it hard to see the ladder.  It clouds judgement.  It can change perception so that the pit feels like a canyon.  The voices from outside are shouting directions and encouragement, but the voices are muddled and indistinguishable, and it may feel they add to the chaos.  They need someone who is willing to walk into the pit with them and guide them out through counseling, medication to remove that blindfold.

And that is OK, and we need to stop telling the world that it’s not.

No more posting about how ADD and ADHD medication are just for lazy parents, unethical doctors, or big pharm trying to drug our children in to compliance.  Until you walk the shoes of an ADD/ADHD/OCD/ODD/et’al parent and child… you have no idea how these disorders impact our child and our family, or how often anxiety and depression accompany them.

No more chastising about how people use a diagnosis as an excuse for their weight gain, lack of motivation, fatigue, or other physical/mental/emotional ailments.  Until you walk in the shoes of a person with a chronic illness… you have no idea how they are struggling to stay afloat in a disease that is trying to pull them down.  Every day becomes a battle, and mentally it is exhausting and can lead to depression and anxiety.

No more assumptions that just because someone is blessed with wealth, physical health, or opportunity that they do not suffer in silence.  Just because a person doesn’t share their struggle publicly doesn’t mean that their life is easy and carefree… you have no idea the demons they battle every single day.

No more can we thrust our will or our opinions on how someone else needs to deal or cope with life.  We can not expect people to heal the way we heal, or cope the way we cope.  Instead, we become champions for their health.  Encouraging them to seek help, supporting them through diagnosis processes, medication dosing, and understanding that the more they try to push you away… the more they need you to stay (even if you are just lingering in their peripheral vision).

If you know someone who needs help, talk with them.  If it is a child or teen, talk with their parents.  Give them phone numbers to resources where they can get help, and let them know they are not alone in this.  Be there.  Be understanding.  Be helpful.  Be supportive.  Be encouraging.  Be present.  Do what you can.  And, recognize that you are not called to be their Savior.

The writing is on the wall when it comes to mental health in the US.  We can’t ignore it.  We have to fight it, for ourselves and the ones we love.  We need to stand in the gap and stand up for those who can’t stand up for themselves.

Check on your friends.  The strong ones.  The single ones.  The parents.  The military vets.  The creative types.  The loners.  The wealthy ones.  The extroverts.  The happy ones.  The struggling ones.  Those with illnesses.  Those who seem to have it all.

If you’d like to read more about being Christian and suffering from depression and anxiety,  Brant Hansen and Carlos Whitaker have both written about their own struggles.  Just google search their name with the word depression added to the search, you will find plenty to read.

Local churches may have a list of Christian Counselors and Crisis Resource numbers that can help you get immediate help.

Or reach out to the Suicide Prevention Lifeline that has a # you can call or people available to chat with you online.   https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

Gossip Veiled in Prayers

Pushingyourselfto thelimit isworth it.

If you have been a reader of mine for any length of time, today’s blog post is going to seem a bit harsh.  Generally speaking I don’t come at a topic full throttle.  My friend Aimee uses the term “velvet hammer” to describe a gentle approach to a hard truth.  I tend to lean toward yielding a velvet hammer.  I believe coming at a topic full throttle puts people on the defensive, and people who are on the defensive can very rarely hear truth… they are in fight or flight mode.  I do my best to lay things out in a way that prompts others to think for themselves, putting them in a position of willing to listen, and then letting God do the rest. 

However, there is a topic I’ve been wanting to write on for quite some time.  I’m not sure that I can bring out the velvet hammer on this one.  I also want to put the cards out on the table that I’m as much talking to myself as others.  I know I have in the past been guilty of this (even if I didn’t realize it at the time) and now that I’m aware of it… it sticks out like a sore thumb.  I catch myself.  And, I catch others.  To the point in which I will call them on it before they finish speaking.

We, as women, tend to be the worst at it… veiling gossip as a prayer request.  We, as women, also seem to be the most oblivious to it.  I think I know why.

First we have to set the parameters on gossip.  Many people assume that gossip is full of slander and lies.  Gossip can be 100% truth.  The definition of gossip is: casual or unconstrained conversation or reports about other people.   Casual.  Unconstrained. 

Second, we have to look at the fuzzy lines between GOSSIP, VENTING, and PRAYER REQUESTS.  

Gossip is about other people, and purposeful gossiping is about changing the way others see a particular person.  It can be an outright attack on their character in order to bring them down, or it can be a little more subtle with the intention of raising ourselves above.  Sometimes gossip makes us feel important because we have information that others do not have.  And, sometimes gossip is just a way to stay relevant to the conversation.  It gives us something to add when there is a lull in the conversation or we feel left out.  The one thing that is clear is that whatever we are speaking is about other people.  Gossip is also opposite to the Fruit of the Spirit of “self control”.  Note the definition used the word “unconstrained”, which means it has no boundaries.

An example of gossip:  “Did you hear that Margie’s husband is having an affair?  I can’t believe it!  She always seemed like everything was great in her life.”

Venting, is sometimes a good thing that can go really poorly.  Venting is where we are under so much weight from life that we are going to just explode unless we can talk about it with others.  The problem with venting is that it can very much turn into gossip, if we are not careful.  How does this happen?  One of two ways.  First, it can happen because we are trying to provide context for what happened or who hurt us in order to make the person we are confiding in understand why we are upset. 

Second, we are sharing information in order to justify why we are upset.  Venting becomes a mixture of reporting on another person and explaining how it affected us.  Venting can also become unconstrained, because it can be like turning on a faucet and the knob breaking off.  Once you get going, you almost can’t stop.  Before you know it you are accounting for all of the wrongs this person ever committed against you, or all the terrible things that have happened to you over the course of your life that have culminated to this one moment.  Unconstrained. 

An example of venting:  “I am so angry with my Mother in Law.  She’s never been nice to me. <insert 16 years worth of laundry list of wrongs>.  I finally had enough and I snapped at her by saying…. “

Venting can be coupled with a prayer request by starting off the vent with a prayer request.  Which is why we need to understand the difference between gossiping and a prayer request.

A genuine Prayer Request should be as simple as seeking our sisters and brothers to Christ to go before throne with us over an issue/person.  Prayer requests can also slip into the realm of gossip.  First, we can use a prayer request as a way to share information about a person that is out right gossip but sounds like a prayer request:

At small group, prayer request time:  “I think we should pray for Margie, she just found about her husband has been cheating on her.”

Second, we can set up the prayer request by providing context in order to justify the urgency or importance of the prayer request.  

Example:   “We need to pray for my neighbor’s son’s friend Christopher.  He has been in and out of trouble his whole life.  He’s been in jail.  Gone through rehab multiple times and failed. <insert sordid details> Now, his girlfriend who is also a drug user, is pregnant…”

In even our best of intentions, we are thinking that others will not take our prayer request seriously enough unless we describe all the gnarly details.  Then, we hope, they will see how dire the situations is and how much those prayers are needed.  Yet, they don’t realize they are actively gossiping.

Gossiping is a messy thing, and when you gossip about others (even in a prayer request) we become known as untrustworthy.  We learn who not to trust with our important stuff because of who we hear sharing news that they shouldn’t be.

Recently, I received a phone call from someone alerting me to a tragic scenario & a family in need of prayer.  I had not heard, because I really wasn’t in contact with that family any longer.  When I explained this to the woman, she still continued to speak out the horrifying details of what happened.  I went so far as to say to her “I really don’t need to know that information, and I don’t want to know that information”.  That didn’t stop her from continuing her train of thought… it didn’t stop her gossiping.  I had to call a spade, a spade.  That is always an awkward conversation.

James 1:26 is about as straight forward as it gets.  If you think you are a godly person, and you gossip in the guise of a prayer request, your religion is worthless.  You are not guarding your words, you are not reigning in your tongue.  You are sinning. 

So how do we do better?

In the first example, we just need to stop.  Just because we KNOW information doesn’t give us the right to SHARE information.  I use the following question as my guiding principle…

Have I been given permission by the person to share this information?  If I have not been given permission to speak about a situation by those whom are directly involved (not just one person, but all involved) then I need to keep my mouth shut.  It is not my story to tell, it is not my place to speak about it… even if it is 100% true.  In fact, I’d go so far as to say especially if it is true.  Without their permission to speak about it, it is gossip.  There is no debate our exception.  If you do not have expressed permission to share, you are gossiping. Period.  End of story.

In the second example, about venting, I’m learning that for it to be a true release… I do not need to share every gory detail.  In fact, the story should be less about the person and the situation and more about ME and how I am handling it.  I can speak in generalities (we don’t ever seem to agree, we rub each other the wrong way, etc.) without giving the laundry list of every slight.  But I need to focus more on how I am responding.  Even if the person hurt me and is totally wrong, I can be just as wrong in how I responded.  I use the following question as my guiding principle with venting…

Am I trying to find a solution or relief, or am I trying to justify my own feelings and behavior?  If I am venting with the intention of gaining people on my side by listing all the dirty details, I am gossiping.  If I am setting a general context, then focusing more on my own response and my desire to have a better relationship or better circumstance… I’m looking for restoration and reconciliation.  It also means, even thought I am venting, I have a willingness to hear that I am wrong and what I could do to make the situation better.

In the third example, it is much simpler.  I simply make a prayers request like, “Please pray for my friend Margie.”  Guess what?  God already knows what Margie is going through.  God doesn’t need me to inform Him of the details.  And, those who are praying with you, they don’t need to know the details in order to pray.   I’ve learned over the years that we never know who is in the room with us that may know the people we are praying about.  We may be speaking details related to a situation that is not public knowledge and unknowingly shared information to someone who was not to know or who may go back to our friend/family member about what we have shared.  For prayer requests, I use the following three questions as my guiding principle…

Have I asked permission to share this prayer request with my group?  Have I asked the person how much information I can share in the request?  Does this group of prayer warriors need to know the details in order to pray?  If the answer to any of these questions is no… then that is a prayer request that I need to either keep to myself, or keep in the most general terms.  This is why I am a HUGE fan of the “raise your hand if you have any unspoken requests” time in prayer groups.   It is the opportunity to corporately lift up what is on your heart without sharing the details with others.

I do believe in some situations the prayer requests are genuine, and that the heart behind sharing so many details is to establish the urgency of praying.  It isn’t uncommon to say we will pray for something and ultimately forget.  By creating urgency, we hope that it will cause the person to take the request seriously & not forget… perhaps even stop in the moment to pray about it, or keep praying about over a length of time.

However, if we do not have permission… we are gossiping.   We are not reigning in our tongue.  We are sharing information without constraint and without consideration.

It really is as simple as filtering your words through that first question… Have I asked permission to share this with others?

If you don’t have permission…

If you didn’t ask for permission…

Don’t say a word.  Stop gossiping.

Chronicling 40: Day 183 of 365

Increase

I actually struggled between the word “Intentional” and “Increase” for today.  I love the word intentional, because I believe in being far more intentional about things… like intentionally setting study time and prayer time, being intentional about spending time with important people, being intentional about setting good habits… being intentional is part of decision making… a choice.

But, I’ve written a lot about making positive choices.  So, I decided to hone in on the word “increase”.  Most often I see this word chosen due to its relation to career performance and outcomes.  I want to increase my reach.  I want to increase my income.  I want to increase my sales.  I want to increase my customer base.  I want to increase my product line.

Next, it will fall into our personal lives.  Increasing health.  Increasing time with loved ones.  Increasing our time spent resting, traveling, etc.

I’d like to suggest we consider the scriptures:

John 3:30

“He must become greater; I must become less.”

Perhaps the greatest increase is when I decrease.

Chronicling 40: Day 157 of 365

skeptic

This spring we said goodbye to our elderly dog.  She had been with us for seventeen years and it was incredibly hard.  We learned very quickly that our younger dog had never been taught to alert us to go outside to use the restroom.  Because he was brought into our home with an existing, experienced dog… and one that was aging and using the restroom more often…

He had become dependent on our routine for going outside. 

He never learned to alert us because he never needed to.  She would bark, or we would let her out on our normal schedules… and he would follow. The first day after she passed, he went to the bathroom in the house.  It was nearly 8pm.  The poor thing hadn’t been out since early that morning.  It wasn’t that we forgot about him.  We interacted with him throughout the day.  He never alerted to needing to go, and we too had become dependent on her routine.

Once we realized that he had never learned, we realized we needed a new routine.  It’s about five months and he has just finally begun to let us know that he needs to use the restroom.  If I am sitting near the door, he will walk over and paw at the door.  He still doesn’t alert, but this is a huge deal.  I’m thankful my desk space is near the back door.

This experience with our dog has made realize how easy it is to just go with the flow of things, to get into habits (good or bad), and how long it can take to change those habits.  We have extended this little dog so much grace, as he is learning.  I wonder if I extend that same amount of grace to others who are faced with new circumstances…

… learning a new trade, skill, talent…

… breaking an old habit …

I also wonder if I am extending the same grace to myself, as I am trying to learn and grow.

Chronicling 40: Day 144 of 365

wrong.png

Not that long ago, I wrote a series that surrounded the theme of “Never Confuse a Deborah with a Jezebel”.   Today, I want to spend just a moment and add to that thought with:

Never confuse a broken woman with a Jezebel.

When she first appeared on the scene, she was shy and timid.  Gifted.  Talented.  Hard worker.  Quiet.   I figured it would take a bit for her to become comfortable around us and then she’d come out of her shell.

In just a matter of a few encounters later, what I saw was a completely different woman.  Unhinged.  Out of control.  Loud.  Boisterous.  I was so struck by her behavior, that I thought to myself that this woman must have been under the influence of something.

By the end of the evening I thought I had encountered a Jezebel.  Perhaps her reserved nature was simply as way to slink into the group, to get people to like her… before her true nature and intentions would be exposed.

Truth be told, my instincts were right… something was off.  But, my interpretation of those instincts was off the mark as well.  This wasn’t a Jezebel, this was a broken woman.  She was wounded.  She was treading water.  She was trying to keep it all together, and it was falling apart at her feet.  Grasping to maintain a sense of normalcy, building up a wall to keep people from seeing how badly she was hurting.

She was like one of those viral videos you see where the animal is trapped in an icy lake, and even though there is a person trying to rescue the poor beast… it thrashes and flails.  Screeching out in terror, winging its limbs about, and even becoming a danger to the very thing that is trying to rescue it.

This animal is already in a bad situation, fight or flight has set in… there is no logic or reason.  We watch from the outside thinking… “if you would just stop fighting, let yourself be saved”.  We can see the hero coming to the rescue.  We know that even though it’s probably even a bit painful in the way the animal is being round up, it is for it’s own good.  But none the less, the animal is panic stricken.  It doesn’t know.

We don’t always know, when we are in the thick of things, those who are actually trying to help us.   As believers we know that God is with us, but we don’t always have the clear discernment of knowing who He has sent to help and who is out to harm.  Our fight or flight has already been set into motion.  We see threat everywhere, and we respond by fighting… yelling… flailing about… even to the point of making the situation harder for ourselves and those who are trying to help us.

We must be wise.  But that is hard when we lack clarity.

I’ve never been so glad to find out that I was wrong about a person.   Now, instead of seeing a person I needed to be wary of, I saw her differently.  I responded differently. It also served as a lesson to me about being to quick to judge circumstances at a superficial level.  Had I gone to the Lord first, perhaps He would have opened my eyes to her pain and brokenness sooner.

Every day I learn more and more about the wounded people that walk my city streets every day.  I realize that not ever “disgruntled spirit” is someone who is out to hurt or destroy.  They are not all Jezebels.  They are the woman at the well.  They are the woman accused of adultery.  They are the woman who had just two coins to her name.  They are broken women, wounded men.  They need to not be cast aside as Jezebels, but instead introduced to the Savior.  Even, if they are kicking and flailing as He mends their heart.

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!