Just Show Up!

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My grandmother had a huge influence on me, and my personality.  She was a registered nurse, who began her nursing career in the Army.  She had a very no nonsense way about her, when it came to things like being ill or hurt.  I could express it in a single sentence:  Suck it up, you do what you have to do.  There was no wallowing or lamenting with my grandmother.  Stitches needed, stitches given.  Broken bones get casts and physical therapy.  If you need surgery, no need to be scared, just get it done and over with. 

Because of her influence, I must admit that I don’t handle these things like I should.  When someone tells me they are sick or seriously injured, I lack compassion.  It isn’t that I have never been hurt or faced crisis myself, but I was trained to face it headstrong.  You do, what you have to do.  Period.  No sense in crying or getting depressed.  My shoulders have not held many faces, nor caught many tears.  I haven’t grasped hands, silently praying, or even giving reassuring words.

This response is not even toward others, but to myself.  In 2003 I was pregnant with our second when precancerous cells were found in my cervix and my uterus.  It brought with it a lot of concerns for my pregnancy.  I remember keeping so very much of it to myself, because I didn’t want to worry people.  I didn’t want people fawning over me with concern.  It was something that needed to be dealt with, simple as that.  I recall staring out our window one day, teary eyed, when my husband tried to reassure me that the baby would be fine.  I took a sigh, and responded that her conception may have been a gift to save my life… and that may have been her only purpose.  It wasn’t cold and callous, I loved her so much already.  It was just part of how I was raised to view things. 

There was a difference between this and other health scenarios, in that I was a believer now.  My prayers to God were that any treatments I would need could be held off until she was born.  I didn’t want my illness to affect her chances.  In the many years since, I am often haunted by concerns that those precancerous cells come back.  I rarely find myself struck with terror until the tests come back clear. But I do pray to God that if I must deal with this again, that it can wait until my children are adults.   I know that sounds strange, but in truth I personally don’t fear death.  I only have concern for those whom I would leave behind.

So, once again, this doesn’t exactly make me the best person to lean on when you find yourself in facing crisis head on.  It isn’t that I don’t care, or that I am ok with bad things happening to amazing people.  Far from.  I just don’t know how to process it like I should, I don’t know how to be the friend you need in that moment.  I have gotten the news that a friend’s child has been diagnosed with a terminal illness.  I have received the funeral information for a person who unexpectedly dies leaving a family in mourning.  My phone has rang in the wee hours because someone is in the hospital, or missing.

I’ve realized that in these moments, I thought I was not the right person for compassion.  And, that is probably still right.  However, I have also begun to learn that I am the right person for action.  I will get in my car and drive the streets looking for your child.  I will do the talking when you can’t, I will pick out the dress and the shoes, I will fill out forms, I can make decisions.  I will call the family members for you, or contact the church to make arrangements. Perhaps there is a blessing to being a person who doesn’t lean into emotion and instead steps up to the tasks ahead.

I believe, however, that there is a time when both of those attributes can come together and work beautifully.  When a friend was facing cancer, she was worried and anxious.  She also had moved and I couldn’t be there for her to help.  My only way to “act” was to have compassion and empathy for her situation.  This was something really hard for me to do, but I knew her battle was going to be harder.  I resolved that I was going to send her a card every single day until we got through the testing and results process.  I honestly have no idea how many cards I sent her… but I did it.  Every single day.  I went to the scripture, found verses regarding health and healing, used my artistic talents to create individual cards, and inscribed them with the selected verses.

To this day, she still has at least some of the cards.  Occasionally I get a text or note from her where she mentions them.  When I realized how that little step on my part meant so much to her, I began to see how I could take action and bring it to compassion.  In the years since, I have done similar things for others when they need encouragement, compassion, empathy, or even just a thinking of you.  I’m learning more and more that being present is enough.

This winter, I had the opportunity to read the book “Just Show Up” which was co-authored by friends Kara Tippetts and Jill  Lynn Buteyn.  This was a unique opportunity with Family Christian to do a review, because the opportunity wasn’t limited to a select number of bloggers.  And, I couldn’t be happier that so many people were given the opportunity to read this book and share it.  This book is simply put, super important.

You may be the person who has a lot of compassion, no one cries alone with you.  You may be the person who doesn’t know what to do in those situations.  Or, you may be the person who is going through a crisis and you hear the offers of help and support… but you don’t know what to do with it all.   In other words, if you are a person who cares about others in your life… READ THIS BOOK!

Just Show Up, brings us into the reality of walking through life with your friends when they are in the midst of suffering.  Author Kara Tippetts was actively battling cancer and Co-Author Jill Lynn Buteyn was the friend walking alongside her.  In this book you get to see both sides of the coin, from the perspective of the person who is in crisis and the friends who are trying to be there, supporting and encouraging.  This dual perspective helps us all see what this journey looks like for those involved, they share their struggles, they share what they learned in the process. 

We learn that there is a time to be a silent presence, how to give and receive, and how to be that friend who just shows up … even when she doesn’t know what to do, or say.  In fact this book, in my opinion, is one that goes beyond enduring suffering as friends.  It opens our eyes to what real,  godly, loving, and committed friendship looks like.  In the good, and the bad.  When life is going great, when life is changing, and when life takes an unexpected turn.

One of the blessings I received from the book is the “Comfort In, Dump Out” circle, where it tangibly helps us identify who we can speak to during the times of crisis in a helpful way.  For example, it is not my place to dump on my friend’s spouse how her illness is affecting me.   I need to be a comfort to him, and he can dump out on me.  BUT, I can speak to my personal friends.  They are the people whom I can dump out on, and will comfort me.

This is a book that is going to create radical, fierce friendships… the kinds we long for and God wants for us.  Let’s do life together, even when it is hard.  When you don’t know how, go to those who are willing to share.  Put this book on your 2016 must read list, keep it in mind for gifts.  When you friend confides her crisis, this is a great book.  When another friend is expressing her sadness because someone in her life is going through something difficult & she doesn’t know what to do… gift or at least recommend this book.

Just Show Up is a book that is insightful to what really happens in relationships during times of tragedy, difficulty, crisis, and suffering.  I would also recommend this book to Women’s Ministry Leaders who may be counseling women through tough seasons or tragic circumstances.

 

Official Family Christian Blogger

BOOK REVIEW: BEFORE AMEN (Max Lucado)

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I am a huge fan of Max Lucado.  In fact, one of the very first books I read when I became a Christian was “He Chose the Nails”.  As a parent, I would introduce my kids to Max Lucado through “Hermie & Friends”.  I was also very excited to see Max Lucado speak at my local Women of Faith event, several years back.

When Family Christian gave me the opportunity to read “Before Amen”, I jumped at the opportunity.  I admit it, I am biased.  I new I’d love it, because I have always found Max Lucado’s writing credible, honest, easy to read & understand, and poignant to season in my life I am reading it.  Now that I have finished the book, I totally understand why it was chosen Book of the Year.

I’m going to let you in on a secret, that I have hidden from my kids, I write in books.  Yes, the very thing I tell them not to do… I do it.  Endlessly.  Without shame.

My bible…

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My books….

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As I was reading through “Before Amen”, my pen was being put to serious use.  In fact, I am pretty sure if the book had been about 10 pages longer, I’d have run out of ink.

A new Christian may find themselves in that awkward moment, where they want to talk to God… they know they should pray.  However, they don’t know how.   How do I begin?  What do I say?  How do I end?  How long should it be?  And, truthfully, if you google prayer formats, you can find quite a few suggestions.  Start with this, follow with this, etc.  Yet they are still confusing to a new believer.   For example, the A.C.T.S.  format (Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication) … a new believer will have no clue what “supplication” means.  They find themselves needing a dictionary just to understand how to pray.

When the Council at Jerusalem met, one thing they concluded is that we shouldn’t make faith difficult for new believers.  (ACTS 15:19)

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New believers, they need a simple prayer.

Perhaps though, you are a seasoned believer.  You have been praying all your life, but you find yourself in a moment of crisis, disaster, and you can’t find the words.  Your heart, your soul, LONGS to pray… but the words escape you.  Pain & confusion fill your mind, and your sorrow falls with your tears onto your pillow.  Others have the words to encourage you, the scriptures you should cling to.  Yet, you are unable to speak them or read them.  The tears fall, a silent prayer, when words escape us.

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Seasoned believers, need a simple prayer.

That is what “Before Amen” helps us all, new and seasoned believers, to find.  That simple prayer, when we don’t know what to say, or how to say it.  A prayer that acknowledges our God as our father, who loves us.  A prayer that says “Daddy, I need you”.  A prayer that say, “They need you”.  A prayer that says “Thank you” even when we are in our moments of doubt, lack of understanding, and pain.  A prayer that calls on the authority of the Heavens, on our behalf.

It is here, in my car, I have my conversations with God.

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They don’t always start out with “Dear God” and don’t always end with “In Jesus Name”, but they are moments where I pour out my heart to God about things I can’t grapple with.  This isn’t my formal prayer time, but it is sacred time to me.  It’s an uninterrupted time to wrap my head around the things going on around me.  I know God is there with me, but surely He’d prefer me to be quiet more, and listen more.  This conversation, that may last 15 minutes or 1 hour, isn’t enough.  It isn’t a simple prayer.

It is here, in this corner, where I was broken… beyond words…. crying out to God.   Tears staining my cheek, fingers wrenched around my cardigan, words escaped me.  But, I needed God

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I needed a simple prayer.

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In moments like these, even words like those above elude us.  The good news is that in “Before Amen”, Max Lucado points us not only toward a simple prayer, that has an enormous amount of power, but teaches us the importance of each sentence.  It’s a prayer we can write down on a card to display in our bathrooms, tuck into our purse to access throughout the day, or to share with our friends and loved ones.  A simple prayer that acknowledges our Father, and calls on the authority of Jesus.

In the scriptures, Max Lucado points out, the only thing that the disciples actually asked for a tutorial on… is how to pray.  That is how important prayer is; not only did they want to know how, but that Jesus took the time to teach them.   He set the best example on prayer life.  How, when and where.

“Before Amen” introduces us to this simple prayer, and the chapters that follow expand on each sentence of the prayer.  Why is this portion important?  How do we do it?  How does it help us?  Others?  Everything pivoting on our personal relationship with our Father God, it is a pure and sincere prayer that isn’t congested with fancy words, platitudes, illustrations and ideas.

We get an opportunity to explore how God answers prayers, and how to work through those prayers that are seemingly unanswered.  All of our prayers are important and answered by Him, but in His timing; our prayers for healing, forgiveness, safety, understanding, peace… the joyous and the tear stained.

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Within the final chapters of “Before Amen”, we are left with a very special gift….  A STUDY GUIDE!   Whether for your own purposes, for use in a small group, with friends or even with your spouse; these pages contain practical application questions, scripture reading promptings and guidance to help you span the gap between prayer in theory & prayer in practice.

The study guide in “Before Amen”, is well written and can be explored in a few sittings or spread out over time; to allow you to really reflect on the questions & suggestions.  It also helps us to identify our strengths in prayer, directs us to Bible Prayer Heroes that we can relate to, and gives us suggestions on how to strengthen in other areas of prayer.

Some great quotes, from the book “Before Amen”:

“When we invite God into our world, he walks in.  He brings a host of gifts:  joy, patience, resilience.  Anxieties come, but they don’t stick.  Fears surface and then depart.  Regrets land on the windshield, but then comes the wiper of prayer.  The devil hands me stones of guilt, but I turn and give them to Christ.”   (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

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“Travel to the Wailing Wall if you want.  But prayers at your backyard fence is just as effective.  The One who hears your prayers is your Daddy.  You needn’t woo him with location.”   (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

“Prayer changes things because prayer appeals to the top power in the universe… It is the yes to God’s invitation to invoke his name.”  (Max Lucado, Before Amen)

We are all running the good race, together.  We may find ourselves in those last few yard praying… Daddy, you are good to me.  I know you can.  So please, help me.  Help them.  Thank you. In Jesus name, AMEN.  

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And then we fall into his arms, because He was running with us the whole time. 

If you are looking for a good book to pick up, to start 2015 out right, I highly recommend “Before Amen”Too many books give us a complicated how to, that seem bigger than we can handle.  “Before Amen”  keeps it simple, to the point; it offers tangible and realistic steps that will transform your prayer life, and in doing so will transform you & the world around you.

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