Category Archives: community

Close your mouth and open your heart

See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. Vector illustration. three monkeysWhen I was a child, I liked to talk. To say that I liked the sound of my own voice would not be an exaggeration. My dad likened my verbosity to a torn pocket flapping in the breeze…and it was always flapping.

My mother would be trying to tell me something and I’m chatting away as if the only person in the room worth listening to was me. She would raise her voice to get my attention and tell me, “Elizabeth Rita, close your mouth and open your ears!”

I am happy to report that after 40+ years, I have learned to close my mouth and open my ears. Through the often loving and sometimes stern coaching of many a mentor, I have become a much better listener. I have come to really enjoy listening to people, their stories, their struggles, their lives. I love helping people connect to their purpose, to each other and to their calling. You can’t do that without listening, but you have to do it with more than your ears.

Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Luke 5:15-16

Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed. Jesus didn’t make a move, a decision without consulting with His Father. They were one, of the same mind and heart because they were in constant communication. And not just casual, ‘”hey how ya doin”, conversation but real in-depth, relational conversation.

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone. Matthew 14:22-23

It is when we are in real communication with The Father that we best hear His voice, share His heart. It is very difficult to do that in the midst of the hustle and bustle of our daily routines. We need to be intentional about our time with God, asking the Holy Spirit to help calm our hearts and minds to hear His still small voice.  If we aren’t making time to spend with Him how can we have a relationship?

How did your best friend become your best friend? Was it through quick 5 minute conversations between meetings or getting the kids out the door? No, it was through spending long hours of intimate conversation and shared experiences, growing together over time.

My best friend and I have known each other since we were 16 years old. We can finish each other sentences, our kids are friends, we vacation together. Did I mention over the long years of our relationship, we only lived in the same state for 2 years. We made our relationship a priority, we were intentional with our communication. Now 30 years later I can pick up the phone and have a conversation with her as if we lived next door and no time  had passed.

Very early in the morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house and went off to a solitary place, where he prayed. Mark 1:35

If we make time for our family and friends, can’t we make time for God? I know it seems like a simple statement, however in application it’s not easy. We need to be willing to MAKE time for Him, real time, in a place where we can quiet our hearts and minds to focus on Him. Not so easy in today’s world. I am married (17 years), we have 4 children, I work full time at my day job and part-time at my church. MAKING time to be with Jesus can prove challenging in my schedule.

One of those days Jesus went out to a mountainside to pray, and spent the night praying to God. Luke 6:12

I am a morning person, I love getting up early and starting my day before the rest of the house is awake. This summer I challenged myself to give my first morning hour to God. I get up, go outside and sit in my backyard reading my Bible and praying. I can’t begin to tell you the difference it makes in my day. So much so that when I don’t make that time for God each day, it is so evident. I can feel it in my heart, thoughts and actions. Giving that time to God to build my relationship with Him, getting to know His Son Jesus and listening to the Holy Spirit has made a tremendous difference.

Now when I listen to the words of others I am listening with my heart, His heart and speaking with His words though the power of the Holy Spirit. This is only possible as we make time to be with God each day, closing out mouths and listening with our hearts.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

 

Out of the mouth of Marcus

ED00393x_Eqyptian_Gods-EDMarcus is my 7-year old son (almost 8). He is bright, energetic (to put it mildly), intuitive and quite often very insightful. Right now, he is into watching bible movies, and to be honest, I’m loving every minute.

Last weekend we watched the animated story of  Joseph the King of Dreams and Moses back to back. While watching these movies, Marcus noticed that the Egyptian gods didn’t look quite human.

“Mom, did the Egyptian gods actually look like animals?” he asked. “I mean, in real life were they part animal, did they actually look like that?”

To which I replied, “no son, they didn’t look like that in real life. The Egyptians fashioned their gods out of a combination of human and natural/ animal characteristics.”

Marcus lifted one eyebrow (which I LOVE that he can do), and said the most amazing thing…”if the Egyptians made them, then how can they be god?” A pretty deep yet accurate question for my 7-year old.

I find myself lately in more and more conversations with individuals who seem to have a sincere desire to experience God, however they are incredibly uncomfortable with committing. They tell me that they believe in a supreme power but think that there is a lot of “truth” in all religions. They begin to fashion for themselves a ‘god’ that aligns with their wold view; part Buddha, part Christ, part Native American or New Age, whatever fits into their perception of a reality they craft for themselves. Then they are unsatisfied that this ‘god’ they have created doesn’t fulfill their desire to connect to the divine.

Exodus 20:2-4, “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. You shall have no other gods before Me. You shall not make for yourself an idol, or any likeness of what is in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the water under the earth…”

If you can create it, it’s not a creator. If you can chose it’s name, it’s name has no power.

John 1:1-4, In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through Him all things were made, without Him nothing was made that has been made. In Him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind.

We create our idols/gods as a result of an innate desire to connect to the divine,  that desire is from God. But out of our fear, we design a version of god that doesn’t challenge us, or hold us accountable or to whom we must be accountable. A god that allows us to continue with the status quo, not telling us what to do or how to do it. Never expecting us to be more than what we are. We create an idol to say we believe in something, then become disgruntled when that idol does not fulfill our deepest need to connect.

Then we talk about how, “we tried religion” or “we gave God a shot, but it didn’t work out for us”. Did we really give God a chance? More likely than not we were too afraid of what He’d ask of us so we backed off, created our own version of truth and when that didn’t fulfill us, blamed it on our own man made macaroni sculpture.

Matthew 11:28-30, “Come to Me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light…”

God doesn’t want to ruin or control your life. He wants you to come to him of your own free will. He doesn’t want you to settle for less that the very best He has for you. Choosing Jesus is choosing a life of love, abundance, peace, joy, fellowship and fulfillment. It isn’t a choice to make lightly as it will change your life. Consider the alternative, a life with your favorite macaroni sculpture and endless one sided conversations or a life fulfilled with a loving God, personally involved in your life every day.

I saw a sign on social media recently, it simply stated, “If you are right and there is no God then I’ve wasted my life, if you are wrong and there is a God then you’ve wasted your eternity.” (unknown author so I ask for forgiveness if I’ve misquoted).

I chose eternity, and apparently so does Marcus.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

It’s not about the bread!

bradIn Matthew 4 we find Jesus being “led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” We know that he fasted for forty days and nights, and that the bible clearly states (as I checked this against 5 different versions) that, “He was hungry.”  Forty days and forty nights, yea, he’d be hungry. He’d have a hunger inside of him that would literally make him sick, weak, faint and at this moment of weakness what should happen… The tempter came. “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.” Remember how hungry He must have been… his reply?

Matthew 4:4 – But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.'”.

I don’t know how many times I’ve read this part of scripture, but when I was reading it this weekend something struck me, one word, shall.

Just last night, I was having dinner with my parents at an Italian restaurant and of course there was bread, I love bread. Mom asked me, “would you like a piece of bread?” Of course I’d like a piece of bread, but you know man can not live on bread alone. Yup, that’s what I said. It’s what I’ve heard and I’m sure you’ve heard, lots of people say. “You know what the bible says…man can not live on bread alone.”

WAIT! The scripture says, man SHALL not live by bread alone. BIG DIFFERENCE FRIENDS! I thought to myself when I read this again last night… how did I miss it? So I went searching through every version of the Bible I have in my house, and do you know what I found? They all say the same thing.

King James: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.

New International Version: Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.

Revised Standard Version: Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.

New Living Translation: People do not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the Mouth of God.

The Message: It takes more than bread to stay alive. It takes a steady stream of words from God’s mouth.

Yes, I am telling you that man can live on bread alone, it’s not healthy, and I don’t recommend it. Bread may feed our bodies but not our souls. Only the word that proceeds from the mouth of God can feed our souls, make us whole, bring freedom, forgiveness and salvation. Bread may keep your body alive but will not give you life.

One of the definitions of the word ‘shall’; expressing an instruction or command, “Man shall not live by bread alone”, Jesus is quoting Deuteronomy 8:2-3 where Moses is exhorting the people of Israel to remember how God cared for them in the desert for 40 years stating in verse 3, “So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your father know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the Lord.”

It’s not about the bread! It’s about living by the word of God. His promises are many and cover ALL our needs. We don’t need to focus on the immediate hungers of the flesh, we need to keep our eyes, hearts and hopes on him. Everything else is just a distraction and will keep us from fully living the life He has planned for us.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Things we should say and don’t…things we shouldn’t say but do.

2597e13ae8beb05daa2348bff8123428.jpgA grade school teacher sent a note home to all parents on the first day of school. It read:
“If you promise not to believe everything your child says happens at school, I’ll promise not to believe everything your child says happens at home.”

~Ken Crockett

 

All too often we tend to leave the things that should be said…unsaid and proclaim for all to hear those things that are probably best left unsaid.

What we should say, but don’t:

  • “Weren’t you hungry?” “Yes why?” “Because you left half of your salad in your teeth.”
  • Is that toilet paper on your shoe or are you giving your heels a train?
  • No that dress doesn’t make you look fat, it doesn’t make you look thin either.
  • Yes you really do sound like that on the phone, but only sometimes in person.
  • Were you singing off key? Well, I don’t know, I guess it depends on what key you were aiming for?

Why is it so difficult for us to be honest with one another? We are so afraid of hurting someones feelings, offending someone or creating some kind of scene, that we allow our sisters to walk around with food in their teeth, wearing unflattering dresses with toilet paper stuck to their shoes while climbing into the choir loft. We feel more comfortable with hiding the truth, ignoring the truth or lying about the truth then we do speaking the truth.

In Ephesians 4:14-16 Paul begins to touch on how we are supposed to speak to one another, “Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of people in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will grow to become in every respect the mature body of him who is the head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.”

How many of you have a best friend? The one person, above all others, here on earth, that you trust with your life, your children, your deepest darkest secrets? The one person you can be completely yourself with and you don’t have to pretend with. They will tell you when you have lettuce in your teeth, if your singing off key and if the dress makes you…well not look thin?

If you have been blessed with someone like that you are indeed lucky. Cherish that person for that kind of love is worth more than gold. The truth be told, that is how it should be with all our sisters in Christ (yes and brothers too but today it’s about us ladies, sorry guys). My best friend would have not problem telling me when I’m being stupid (and has on more than one occasion) and I’ll listen to her, because she has shown me love and acceptance for decades.

That is where it all begins, Val and I have made intentional, emotional deposits into each others lives for decades. In our culture today, it’s rare that we have time, or make time to have more than a 5 minute conversation; followed by texts, emails, Facebook tags, Instagram picts and Snapchat memes. We think that’s enough to form a strong lasting relationship, then we wonder why, when times get tough, no one is there to answer the phone?

I have had the unhappy experience of seeing first hand what harsh words spoken in haste can do. How swift judgments and unsolicited ‘prayer requests’ can lead to devastating consequences for those both involved and included.

James gives us a very descriptive image of the damage an unbridled tongue (gossip) can do. (James 3)  However, I feel Ephesians gives the best example of why we should be more careful not only of what we say and say it too, but also of who we listen too.

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you”. Ephesians 4:29-32

If we were to focus on just two things from this passage, “only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs”, and “forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” I believe the words that come out of our mouths would be very different.

If we spent more time building each other up and making positive emotional investments into each others lives, then speaking the truth in love would not only be easier, it would also be received with the same love and honor it was given. Imagine what our conversations would be like then, our relationships? Wow!

“To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” Titus 3:2

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

Why?

Why

Over the past few weeks I have been joining a group of friends praying for one of their relatives. A young woman, who through extenuating circumstances was in an unrecoverable state, comatose, on life support and declared brain dead. I joined the saints praying for her, for her family and preparing for the inevitable. Although I did not know her personally, I do know her family, and having been in a similar situation where I had to make the decision for my own daughter, felt deeply for everyone involved.

While we prayed, my heart prepared for what I believed would happen, what I think everyone believed would happen. She was taken off of life support, and while her family stood by, waiting for the end, she opened her eyes. Yes, she started breathing on her own and began to speak. As her family prayed God moved.

Yes it would be easy to attribute this ‘miracle’ to medical means. Perhaps she wasn’t really brain dead, perhaps she was about to come out of the coma herself, perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. I am not a medical professional, I am believer that miracles happen every day; in big and small ways. As I was contemplating what had just occurred and watched the tears, the emails and the text messages fly, I had one question in my heart…why?

Why was this woman worthy of miraculous intervention and my own innocent 13-year old daughter, not? Why did I have to sit and listen to her heart slowly stop beating when taken off life support and not her voice saying “mom I love you”? In the midst of my emotional struggle I remembered something very important.

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the Lord. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:8-9

First, as my creator, God does not owe me an explanation. Second, I can’t begin to understand all that is the universe and the plans that He has made for each of us. Plans He made long before each of us was born, plans to grow and perfect us, plans to bring us closer to Him and to bring Him glory.

I remember, years ago after Alex had passed, when we were going through the process to be licensed as foster parents. It was a rigorous process (as it should be) and one night after our class, I prayed. I asked God that whatever His plan was for our family that He would make it so out of our comfort zone that we would know it was His will. Never in a million years would Chris or I have imagined we would, in just two short years, adopt not one but three children.

Our daughter Alex had serious health issues, outside of her liver transplant there was significant cognitive challenges brought about through years of progressive brain damage. She would have lived with us for the rest of our lives, which we knew and embraced. However, we would probably never have considered adding to our family by adopting. Would I chose them over her, or her over them…no, I could never make that decision. His thoughts are not my thoughts and His ways not my ways. He can see the whole picture from the beginning of time through to the end. He can design that which I cannot begin to comprehend.

He doesn’t owe me an explanation, because chances are I wouldn’t understand it any way. And you know what, I’m OK with that. The God and creator of the whole universe has my best interest at heart. He wants only the best for me, as attested in scripture by his promises and experienced in my every day life.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future”. Jeremiah 29:11

Time after time God has shown His love for me; He provides, saves, redeems and restores. Jesus forgives, defends, and heals. I have never been given occasion to doubt or question, although I still do, usually when I don’t get my way.

If you have ever struggled with the question of why; why me or why not me, don’t despair. This is a question we all meet at some point. The answer is both easy and terribly hard. We don’t need to know why, we need to trust that God, the creator and designer of everything has a plan, and nothing, nothing can keep Gods plans from being fulfilled.

“As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; the mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Instead of the thornbush will grow the juniper, and instead of briers the myrtle will grow. This will be for the Lord’s renown, for an everlasting sign, that will endure forever.” Isaiah 55:10-13

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Doing Life Together (DLT)…Pray for each other!

download“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

Praying for each other should be as easy and often as breathing, drinking water and saying hello. Prayers don’t need to be scripted or practiced oration. It is simply a conversation with your father. Praying for others should be the same; a child going to his father about the needs of his friends.

I can’t remember how many times I went to my dad about a friend who had hurt me, hurt themselves, were sick, were hungry, were sad, got in a fight or had no place to go. My dad always had an answer, it wasn’t always what I wanted but it was what was needed. Sometimes it was a kind word to me, sometimes it was a phone call, sometimes it was a walk down to my friends house, or even an impromptu trip to the grocery store. It wasn’t always his actions that impacted me however, it was the simple fact that he listened.

I knew I could always depend on my dad for a solution, it might not always be the solution I wanted but it was always what was best.

“Which of you, if your son asks for bread, will give him a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will give him a snake? If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!” Matthew 7:9-11

In a previous blog, I mentioned that part of doing life together is putting the needs of others first. I know several wonderful Godly brothers and sisters in Christ who ALWAYS makes time to pray. These are the people that I reach out to when I have a concern or need a prayer. I can’t ask for them to pray for me and expect that to be the end of it. Let me just say I’ve gotten very used to praying on the phone. Or if I mention something when I see them, they are going to pray with me right then and there, they aren’t going to let me leave without standing with me and going before the throne together.

When Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” 1 Thess 5:16-18, he didn’t say pray when it’s convenient, or when you’re alone, or when you have time; NO, he said to pray without ceasing. The Latin root of ceasing is cessare which means ‘stop’. He is telling us to pray without stopping.

I am guilty of a friend coming to me with their concerns and asking me to pray for them. I say, “of course I will”, fully intending to do so during my prayer time later that day. Feeling proud of myself and with the best of intentions I leave my friend…do I pray later, sometimes yes, sometimes I get distracted by life, kids, work, laundry, etc. and forget too. It’s funny, if I had done it when asked, I wouldn’t have to remember to do it later.

I know it’s not always comfortable to pray right then and there, you may be in a grocery store, or at a party, or work, or wherever. It really shouldn’t matter. Praying for someone in need shouldn’t be the exception but the rule. We shouldn’t be afraid of offending a passer by or someone overhearing our conversation with God. Just Do It!

I have been trying very hard to pray as requests are made. Sometimes I’m met with surprise, “what, you want to pray right now, right here?” and sometime with refusal, “no it’s fine you can do it later”. Either way, I stop then and there to pray, if they pray with me FANTASTIC, if not, that’s ok too. I’m keeping my word to hold them up to the Father with their needs. That is what I’m called to do, that is what we’re all called to do…perhaps it’s time we all started? Imagine what could happen?

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Doing Life Together…Helping Others

Philippians 2“Keep a close watch on all you do and think. Stay true to what is right and God will bless you and use you to help others.” 1 Timothy 4:16

These words from Paul to Timothy ring true for each of us. Keep a close watch on all you do and think, and then stay true to what is right. If we do this God will bless us and use us to help others…wow.

I shared earlier how important it is to keep our thoughts focused on what is good. We can’t let our sinful nature take up residence in our thoughts and never leave. Our thoughts often hold us hostage to the point that we are paralyzed, rendered useless not only to ourselves but to others. We are so caught up in our own issues and troubles that we stop looking around us.

“Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.” Philippians 2:4

I suffer from night terrors. (Now that’s an awesome way to start a blog.) It’s not something that I like to share as they make me feel like a helpless child unable to overcome my silly fears. They started the summer before I began my freshman year of high school. It was during the summer and my father was traveling quite a bit. The anticipation of which would throw me totally out of whack. My dad made me feel safe, secure and basically untouchable. When he wasn’t there, I was a wreck.

This particular summer my night terrors began. I couldn’t sleep alone, I would sneak down the hall to my parents room and sleep on the floor at the foot of the bed. When my dad was away I would sleep with my mom. The thought of being alone in my room would cause me such anxiety that I would physically shake in fear. This went on all summer and finally my parents had to draw a line. I was terrified, I cried, shook, had a hard time breathing but they were standing firm. This couldn’t go on. I sat on my bed wrapped in several blankets with the light on…I grabbed a book to take my mind off and started to read. Yup…I took my mind off  of my fears and anxieties, and started to read. I read till I fell asleep.

Fast forward A LOT of years to present day. Now as a grown up with my oldest starting high school, guess what happened…yup night terrors. I will wake up in a sweat shaking in fear about anything and everything. Did you ever realize how much worse things seem in the dark, when you’re tired and uncertain. It has been awful! I felt like I was tired all the time, I couldn’t focus, I couldn’t function. I was trying to fall asleep with the TV on hoping that the light and distraction would help. Sometimes it did, often it did not.

About a month ago, while I was lying awake in my bed, trying to pray myself out of this ridiculous fear, I remembered something one of the youth had said about something going on in their life that was causing them anxiety. So, I began to pray for them, that they would feel God’s peace and love. That led me to the struggles of another one of my youth, then a friend I had prayed for at church and a woman in my small group. The more I prayed for OTHERS the more Christ’s peace rested in me.

“And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4:7

I truly wish I could express the experience! Focusing on someone else brought me peace and freedom like nothing I had experienced before. I was allowing my anxieties, and the fears in my head to holding me hostage. The moment I turned away from MY fears and toward the Holy Spirit’s leading I was rescued from my anxiety. Now whenever I find my thoughts creeping to places that they shouldn’t, or old fears creeping in, I focus on others, specifically I pray. I listen to who the Spirit brings to my heart and I lift them up. The fears fade and Christ’s peace fills my heart.

It may not be this way for everyone. Each of us have a call on our lives. I know many people who have been called to minister to the poor, sit by a bedside in a hospital, work with individuals struggling with addiction, or evangelizing on the streets. In each of these I recognize a similar peace that comes from an altered focus. A shift of perspective from oneself to others.

Doing life together means that we are constantly and consistently holding each other up. We are seeking out opportunities to put others before ourselves, to come along side and link arms and move forward together. We weren’t created to exist on a desert island, we were created to be in community, working together to share the good news and to glorify God.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

 

 

Doing life together

Eph4“If one of us bleeds, we all bleed.” I was reminded recently by an amazing woman whom I love as part of my family, what it means to be part of the Church. In Acts 2 we get a very good look of what it was like to be part of Christ’s Church where the believers, “had all things in common.”

While I was in college, I stumbled (and I do mean stumbled) onto a group of people who introduced me to Inter Varsity Christian Fellowship. This family of like minded college students taught me, really for the first time, what it meant to live in Christian fellowship. We didn’t lock our doors, we ate each other’s food , we showed up uninvited and loved just being together. When one of us was in trouble, we were all there and stayed there till the problem was resolved. There was no need to small, or Goliath too big for this group to come together and pray out of existence.

This experience shaped my view of what Church is supposed to look like, what it means to be a family of believers, and to do life together. When I first moved to Tucson, I was additionally fortunate to find a church family, a church that became my second family. When my daughter got sick and was in the hospital (which was often) they were there in force, within hours. They’d bring food, they’d take turns each day giving me time to get home, shower and change clothes. They called, texted, emailed and annoyed the snot out of me…but I never felt alone, even when I was by myself.

I remember one particularly long hospital stay, I was about at a breaking point when I called my pastor and asked desperately if they could just, “pray Alex out of that hospital”. You know what happened…yup, within a few hours the elders of my church were there, Pastor Matt leading the way. I had gone downstairs for some coffee and when I came back up, her room was full of people, my people, holding hands around her bed praying.

When I saw them all there I was dumbfounded, and I actually asked, “what are you doing here”, Matt looked at me and quoted James 5:14, “Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord.” Alex went home the next day.

Scripture is very clear on how we should live life together, it’s more than clear, it’s specific; we however, complicate it. We want to fit our church lives into our ‘real’ lives. We chose our small groups and fellowship times around our social schedules. We serve when it’s convenient, we pray when we have time and we give according to our available budgets. What happened to going where we’re called, and praying without ceasing, and giving to God the first and best?

This week a friend of mine had an emergency. I received the call that she was on her way to the hospital…and then crickets. I was trying to figure out what to do when my dear friend reminded me that, when one of us bleeds we all bleed. I began to make arrangements for someone to pick up my daughter so I could go to the hospital, who was coming with me, who was calling everyone else to get them praying. One of us had a need, so we all needed to take action. For some it will be to pray, for others to make food, and others to help arrange schedules and provide respite. The fact is we each have a role to play in this thing we call life, and each role is equally important to the body.

This Sunday, pastor was preaching on Ephesians 4 and the gifts that God has given to each of His believers. Gifts that were given so that the body of Christ would be built up. “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” Ephesians 4:16

Each of us has a role to play in the lives of one another. A role that God created specifically for us to play. Not everyone is equipped to sit by a bedside, believe me I know, but everyone is equipped for something. Not being certain of your spiritual gift does not give you a pass; everyone can pray, anyone can prepare a meal or hold a hand. We are on this road together, and road trips are always better with family, because when trouble comes…and it will, I’d rather have my family around than be out there alone.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

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I feel the need to take a break from my normal rants to share a burden I feel. Recently I read about a young pastor in California who committed suicide. He was in his 30’s I believe, a husband and father; a beautiful family photo accompanied the article. I was dumbfounded. How is this possible? How can a man, that man in the photo, a man who dedicated his life to serving God, chose to end his life?

I am well acquainted with the hardships and trials of this world; having lost both a husband in a tragic car accident and a daughter after a long and painful battle with cancer. You can’t go through life without experiencing some form of pain and loss; however I don’t believe it’s the pain and loss that is causing so many people in our world to choose to end their suffering…it’s the loneliness.

I get to work with a group of wonderful youth, and they have had more than their fair share of struggles. I watch in amazement as they pull themselves up and continue to move forward each day, it’s truly incredible the resilience they have. However, as they get older what I see is an increased sense of isolation. The more ‘connected’ they are, the less connected they feel. They have 438 friends on Facebook, 397 followers on Twitter and Instagram, but no one to pick up the phone and talk to when they need a listening ear. They post, text, snapchcat and tweet and dozens if not hundreds of people will give a thumbs up or a smiley face, but none are a familiar voice, hug, smile or shoulder.

As we continue to age and move into the ‘real world’ the isolation increases in corresponding measure to the pressures of life; succeed, make an impact, increase profits, and look like we walked off the cover of a fashion magazine. We need to have the right college degree, the right job, make enough money to drive the right car, live in the right neighborhood, etc., etc., etc. Now this is not a middle class issue, at all socioeconomic levels of our country there’s an isolation factor. We don’t want our neighbors to know we can’t afford groceries or that our child struggles with an eating disorder. We don’t want the school to put us on the list for donated clothes or to know that we don’t have a cell phone.

“Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.” 1Thessalonians 5:11

This concept that no matter who we are, or what we do, we’ll never be enough is driving our nation crazy, quite literally. I read recently that children of this generation (Millennial) experience the same level of mental stress as adults did in the 1950’s who were being institutionalized! WHAT!!!

The pressure we put ourselves and our children under is much higher than it’s ever been before. However, I still believe that it’s the isolation that causes us to break. Humans are social beings we crave interaction, intimacy and human contact. We seem to be missing these in our culture right now; in a world where we can instantaneously contact someone, send a message get an immediate response back; communication has become transactional not relational.

This vibrant young man reminded me of recent conversations I’ve had with several friends; some at church and some at work. Each of them have struggles that they don’t feel comfortable sharing. Some of them because of their position at work, some of them because they fear the reaction of those around them, and some because of the stigma attached. I myself struggle with several of these, all of which isolate me from most of the people in my life.

“If one member suffers, all suffer together; if one member is honored, all rejoice together.” 1Corinthians 12:26

I can’t tell you how many times I longed for a breakfast table with a cup of coffee and a friend just to share my thoughts with, and I know it’s not just me. I know there are literally millions of people in the world whose lives would be exponentially better because of a phone call, a drop by, or a surprise pumpkin spice latte (had to put that in there).

If each of us took just a few extra minutes during the day, let’s say 10, (everyone can find 10 minutes) to reach out to someone in our circle and let them know how important they are, that you are there for them, that they are loved and valued…you may be surprised at the result. You may be surprised to find one of your friends thanking you, because that was exactly what they needed to hear…you may be surprised to find you saved someone’s life.

“So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, …” Philippians 2:1-7

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

Why did you make me like this???

images“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?'” Romans 9:20

Have you ever asked God this question? Why do I look this way, why am I shy, why do I have such a hard time with math, why am I weak, slow, tall, brown, blind? Why did He make me like this?

I know in my life, it often seems like the individual struggles I experience are a result of character ‘flaws’ I was born with. It’s not like I chose the way I look or the individual characteristics that form my personality. But, here I am, tall and awkward and a bit too energetic and zealous for my own good. I wish I wasn’t so tall, I wish I was smarter and had more patience, I wish I was more like the kind of people God could use…

Like Peter… an illiterate fisherman with more passion than common sense, or Paul a brilliant theologian who couldn’t see the forest for the trees, or perhaps King David, the youngest son and shepherd and adulterer. I often have to remind myself that God doesn’t make junk, He makes each of us exactly as He intended with all our rough edges and soft morals. He has a plan for each of us, that includes those ‘flaws’ that we all too often focus on. In fact, it’s our flaws that allow Him to be glorified. Because if we were perfect, How could God take credit for all that He accomplishes through us?

I have to laugh a little, to think that God made me the way that I am. I’m not sure why He made me with two left feet, how does being clumsy accomplish His purpose? I’m not sure I’m any more effective at 5′ 10″ than I would have been at 5’8″?  Or perhaps I could be more effective or useful if I were perhaps more athletic or a better student? However, He does use me, just as I am. Through my imperfections God’s perfection is made apparent. He chooses to use the least, lost and most unlikely to fulfill His purpose.

God uses the imperfect to demonstrate His Sovereignty, His Perfection. He designed me to fulfill a role in His plan and that role included all of my ‘flaws’ those areas in my life where God could demonstrate who He is through me. I may not be the bravest but He has given me the strength to endure hardships like the death of my husband and my oldest daughter thus enabling me to speak in to the lives of others who are hurting. I am not the smartest however, God has shown me great favor through incredible opportunities and people who have helped me to learn and grow professionally allowing me to do the same for others.

I have been beaten, and abused. I have been told over and over everything that is wrong with me, why I can’t succeed, how I’ll never amount to much. Well, God’s plan’s are bigger, way bigger than other peoples expectations and assumptions. He can use ANYONE and when I say anyone, I actually mean anyone. He also has a soft spot for the lost and the broken. He love the opportunity to showcase His love and grace and mercy to those who feel they least deserve it, raising them up for the world to see Him!

It has taken me the better part of 4 decades to like what I see in the mirror. I don’t really mean my image, although that too. I mean who I am…who He created me to be, an imperfect work in progress, perfectly designed to fill a role specifically created for me.

I’d love to hear from you. Come back and visit at “Connectthedotblog”.

 

 

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