Homeless and Us – Survivors Together

Homeless-Camp-Huntsville

Buck (not his real name) and I are engaged in a conversation. It’s about the government. It’s getting heated, not because we disagree but because the subject gets him riled up.

I’m getting uncomfortable. Maybe I should change the subject to something less volatile.

But then Buck says something that shakes me.

If the world as we know it ever comes to a halt, whether it be by our own government (Buck’s presumption) or by outside forces, he says he knows who the survivors will be: his kind.

His people—the homeless—know how to survive.

I believe him. They prove it in my city every day.

They are survivors. How else could they live day after day with the substandard food they eat, the poor sanitation they have, the diabetes and cancer and alcoholism and drug addictions and mental illnesses that many endure?

Some do die, of course. And eventually all die. As do we.

But many of the homeless live long. They’re survivors.

Sometimes I’m not sure whose world is the real one: theirs or ours.

My world feels comfortably real on my air-conditioned drive on the Parkway overpass, singing worship tunes bluetoothed in from my iPhone, bottled water in my cup holder, a full wallet by my side.

But underneath that same overpass is their world, a different world. It houses tents, a fire for cooking, and people with few possessions.

Their world feels brutally real as I stand among them that Saturday morning outside their garbage bags of belongings and chat with Buck as the loud train roars nearby.

But we return to our church van and drive back to our church building. This is the world I know best. We close ranks, hold hands, and Norm words a prayer from all of us, for all of them—the survivors.

We thank God for the lessons those survivors teach us. If they can keep on going, so can we.

I want Buck and his friends—many are now my friends, too—on my side if the worlds we both know ever come to an end.

Because eventually, all our worlds get shaken up. 

So for now, I’ll keep stepping into Buck’s world and pray it makes mine a little less plastic and a lot more authentic. That it makes his a little less lonely and a lot more loved.

Our previous separate worlds will improve and merge at the intersection. It becomes less about our differences and more about our similarities.

The same God put both Buck and me in this same world.

And we are survivors together.

* * *

Please share in the comments.

revised from the archives

sharing with Susan, DawnCarmen, Debbie,
BrendaHolley, Kristin


Celebrate This First

Celebration brings joy

“Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything: This day is holy to God. Don’t feel bad. The joy of GOD is your strength!”
Nehemiah 8:10 (The Message)

Is this an American thing or just a human thing?

  • A high school senior is about to graduate. The main question everyone asks her is, “So what are you going to do next?
  • A young man and woman have been dating a year. Their friends want to know, “When are you going to get married?
  • They get married. “When are you going to have a baby?
  • They have a baby. “When are you going to have another baby?

On and on.

When Gretchen Rubin’s book, The Happiness Project, debuted at #2 on the best-seller’s list, the first reaction to her from a close friend was, “I bet next week you’ll be #1!

But instead of being encouraged by that, Gretchen was deflated.

Why?

Because we want to celebrate our wins before we move on the next competition.

It’s discouraging to finally reach a goal, only to learn that the bar is still higher. That what you were reaching for is no longer enough. That there’s more to do.

And, yes, there is always more to do.

But we don’t have to do it right away.

Let’s celebrate this victory first. Linger here for a moment. Hit pause before you “encourage” someone to move on to the next goal, even if you intend it as motivation.

Practice contentment by enjoying today’s grace.

The fruit of victory is celebration and contentment. Take a break before you push forward again. Stop raising the bar prematurely.

Gretchen’s book did reach #1 the next week. But what if it hadn’t? Wasn’t it enough to be any number on the best seller’s list?

If the high school graduate doesn’t choose college, or the young couple breaks up, or the married couple delays babyhood, can’t we still celebrate with them their graduation, their courtship, their wedding—when each happens naturally?

Yes, keep standards high. Keep goals in sight.

But celebrate THIS win first.

* * *

Do you “raise the bar” too quickly? How do you celebrate a win in your family? Please share in the comments.

Listen to Grethen Rubin talk about “Raising the Bar” on her podcast, Happier with Gretchen Rubin. The segment begins around 18:35 and ends around 24:55.

Raise-the-Bar-Gretchen-Rubin

sharing with DebDawnJennifer,
Char, KellyBarbie, Lori, Terri, Anita


People to Be Loved – Book Review

Put-down-our-guns_Preston-Sprinkle

“I believe that every single Christian needs to think deeply about this issue. And since it is not an issue, but people, every Christian needs to listen to the stories of LGBT people.”
– Preston Sprinkle

Why do we listen? Why do we read?

Sometimes we do it to affirm a position we already believe. We like being right; we enjoy hearing others agree with us.

But sometimes we need to listen to others to see if what we’re believing is wrong.

I picked up People to Be Loved: Why Homosexuality Is Not Just an Issue because I appreciated the title. I didn’t know which way the book would lean.

So I read on. I hope you will, too.

People-To-Be-Loved_Preston-Sprinkle

Not an Issue

Christians often have a bad relationship with the LGBT community (unfortunately, often earned), for treating others as an issue instead of as a person.

Sprinkle says,

“Here’s the thing: most people who are attracted to the same sex don’t end up leaving the church because they were told that same-sex behavior is wrong. They leave because they were dehumanized, ridiculed, and treated like an ‘other.’

If you’re straight, talk to your own friends, family members, coworkers, and fellow church-goers who are gay. Ask how they’ve been treated by Christians. Many gay people turn away from believers instead of toward them because they feel more hate than love.

“Teens who experience same-sex attraction are two to seven times more likely to attempt suicide than teens who don’t. And unfortunately, the teens who seek help from religious leaders are more likely to kill themselves than those who seek help from nonreligious counselors.”

We also hurt God’s reputation to outsiders because of our attitudes and even our own infighting when we can’t peacefully disagree. Sprinkle doesn’t say believers have to give up their convictions, but they need to work on their kindness.

“It’s not too much truth but too little love that’s driving gay and straight people away from the bride of Christ.”

But we can change this.

Learn Something New

First, Sprinkle wants to educate. He writes at length on six passages in the Bible about same-sex relationships, about origins of Hebrew and Greek words, and about sexual practices of early cultures.

On his section translating 1 Corinthians 6:9 and 1 Timothy 1:10, he values study to this degree (you may agree or disagree with him):

“If you’re not willing to perch up in your chair, roll up your sleeves, and turn your phone off for a couple hours to study these two words [malakoi and arsenokoites], then I’d say you should not form a strong opinion about homosexuality. When asked what you think, at least be honest and say, ‘I’m not too sure, since I don’t want to take the time to understand what the New Testament actually means.’”

While Sprinkle ultimately sides with the non-affirming position that homosexuality is wrong, he still lays out arguments for the affirming position, and often warns readers not to jump to conclusions on either side when they interpret scripture.

He’s careful not to say, “I’m right and you’re wrong,” but makes statements like this throughout the book:

“Like you, I am on a journey. Maybe in five, ten, or fifteen years, I will have a better answer, or maybe I will have changed my mind on the answers I give in this book.”

But Sprinkle did more than spend time researching books and words to write this book. He used the other half of his time in the lives of gay people.

“And my life will never be the same. I have made many unexpected friends whose stories have seeped down into my bones.”

What to Do

Sprinkle then offers multiple suggestions for how we can improve our relationships, regardless of how we interpret the Bible, including these three actions.

  1. Practice humility.

Cultivate an inviting environment for others to talk.

“The Christian church needs to get past the ‘us’ (straight people) versus ‘them’ (gay people) mindset.”

Don’t assume you already know somebody’s story or their beliefs or motives. Also, don’t assume that your interpretation of scripture is totally correct and their interpretation is wrong. Keep an open mind.

“I still think there is room for dialogue and fellowship with those who hold different views on this topic.”

  1. Listen to the stories.

Listen to people face-to-face. Listen to books on all sides of the issue (not just ones you agree with). Listen to stories online.

Listening doesn’t mean you have to agree (with anybody on anything), but it does show that you care.

“The fact is, most LGBT people I know didn’t leave the church because their behavior wasn’t affirmed—‘I want to sleep with people of the same sex, and if you don’t affirm this I’m gone.’ It was because their humanity wasn’t affirmed.”

  1. Stop homophobia.

Speak out against gay jokes, belittling slang, incorrect information. You don’t have to be argumentative about it, but with compassion and respect help make the world a kinder place.

“Homophobia refers to the dislike of or prejudice against LGBT people. When an LGBT person grows up in the church, they usually encounter homophobia—feeling that they are disgusting in the eyes of the Christian God because they have been treated this way by his people. We need to put homophobia to death.”

Here to Love

If we can love people—all people—as Jesus did, we will be a truer representation of Christ in the world. We will have improved relationships with our friends who are gay. We will have a more compassionate reputation among non-believers.

And we will be more honoring to our Father, the one who made us to love each other, not to fight amongst ourselves.

In the end, I don’t agree with all of Sprinkle’s biblical interpretations. But I know I don’t have to fight him over it. He’s someone I could meet for lunch and have an invigorating discussion but still walk away as friends. His tone is gentle and grace-filled.

We all can agree on this: It is critically important to maintain an attitude of respect toward all people. We need to demonstrate loving behavior, whether we believe the same things or not.

We need to stop being part of the problem and start being part of the solution.

As Sprinkle so beautifully states:

We can put down our guns and care for the wounded.”

People-To-Be-Loved

* * *

Who listens best to you when you need to talk? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

Related Reading

sharing with Susan, Laura, Dawn,
CarmenBrenda, DebbieKristin, HolleyShari

My thanks to NetGalley
for the review copy of this book


Hear the Silence? The Deaf Movers

Tiffany’s boxes were packed. Her beds were stripped. Her closets emptied.

Now we waited for the movers to arrive.

It was Friday morning. The two men finally drove up. But they didn’t say a word.

Instead, they showed us a pad of paper that said, “Good morning.”

They were both deaf.

[click here if you can’t see the video]

Without Your Senses

I don’t want to lose any of my senses. The one I’d miss the most (I think) is sight, but the second is hearing.

  • Without hearing, wouldn’t it be harder to do your job, whatever that job is?
  • Wouldn’t you miss out on ordinary conversations among friends?
  • Wouldn’t your life feel off, without bird whistles and worship music and baby gurgles?

Different, yes.

But poorer? Not necessarily.

Because aren’t we all deaf in some ways?

There are things you hear that I don’t, and things I hear that you don’t. Either through cultural backgrounds or selective listening or innate deficiencies—or because God knows we just can’t bear it yet—we all hear some things but not others. (Example: Where do you get your news? Fox? CNN? Facebook?)

But we all survive with our hearing deficiencies.

Like the deaf movers, we learn work-arounds when we can’t hear. They used their hands for sign language with each other and gestures and facial expressions with us. We made it fine communicating without having to use words.

By sharpening our other senses, we discover that deaf doesn’t mean dead. Even with hearing impairments, we can still listen to each other through the silence.

Can’t Hear God?

And when we can’t hear God?

  • We can pay closer attention to the things we see God doing.
  • We can believe his presence is with us even when we’re not talking.
  • We can grow more courageous as we walk by faith.

Ultimately, our joy isn’t dependent on having all our senses at top notch ability every day.

God is alive and present, in and around us, all the time, whether we hear him or not. (See “3 Spiritual Practices for Paying Closer Attention to God.”)

  • He is still good.
  • Our relationship is still strong.
  • And hope remains present.

Silence Speaks

We discovered last Friday that the deaf movers were very capable of doing their jobs despite not being able to hear. They were joyful men, hard workers, and excellent movers.

Not only did they get the job done quickly and efficiently, their ability to do so with what we might label a deficiency inspired us even more.

Our time with them wasn’t lessened by their lack; it actually was enriched. Not because they were deaf per se, but because they showed us a spirit of resiliency and possibility in the midst of silence.

Their silence spoke loudly.

* * *

Have you experienced a loss of your senses? How did you adapt? Please share in the comments.

sharing with Lyli, DebDawnJennifer,
CharKellyBarbie, Lori, Terri, Carol


“God Bless My School” – Book Review

Nobody wants to think about it in July. But in less than a month, on August 2, children in my area will be back in school.

While my own children are now grown and out of school, I keep my ties to the local school year because my youngest daughter Jenna teaches elementary school.

She’s switching schools and grades this year. Instead of teaching Kindergarten in a public Title 1 school, she’ll be teaching 1st grade in a private school for students zoned to public Title I schools, each the recipient of a scholarship based on need.

While the children’s backgrounds will be much the same as her previous school, this year she’ll be able to mention aloud the name of Jesus to the children, pray with them, and have conversations together about God.

One book I’m donating to her class is God Bless My School by Hannah C. Hall, beautifully illustrated by Steve Whitlow.

God-Bless-My-School

It’s a padded board book with four rhyming lines to a page about young animals preparing for exciting new adventures at school, knowing God goes with them.

The book ends with this rhyme:

We’ve learned so much and made good friends.
We’ve worked hard and we’ve played.
The day is done—it’s been such fun!
“God bless my school,” we say!

So in this month when teachers are working hard to prepare for school—and parents are working hard to prepare their children—now is the time we all can pray, whether we have students or not, for:

  • students everywhere,
  • their families,
  • and the adults who will be with them many of their waking hours in the  upcoming 9 months.

Whether public, private, or homeschool, may God bless everyone’s school.

* * *

Do you have children who will be returning to school soon? How do you prepare for it? Please share in the comments.

My thanks to BookLook Bloggers
for the review copy of this book

sharing with CharlotteLaura


Links, Books, and Things I Love – July 2017

Here are favorites from June and what I’m looking forward to in July. We share once a month at Leigh’s.

1 Second Everyday

[If you can’t see the 1 Second Everyday video, click here]

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Around the Web

• You’re (Probably) Saying It Wrong

Fifteen words you might be mispronouncing. Includes primer, conch, solder, and cupboard.

victuals

~ * ~

• 9 Ways to Move Away from Privilege
by Branden Henry

“Here are 9 ways we can begin carrying a larger portion of the burden of inherent bias, racism, oppression, bigotry and discrimination that weigh on our minority brothers and sisters.”

thomas-ashlock

~ * ~

• Here’s How Much Businesses Pay To Get On Those Big Blue Exit Signs

Here’s who decides which businesses make it on the signs, and how much it all costs.

interstate-logos

~ * ~

Why Your Car Thermometer Is Probably Wrong
by Greg Porter

I understand a little better. But it’s still close enough for me and I love it.

car-thermometer

~ * ~

• Why Do Men Harass Women?
New Study Sheds Light On Motivations of Street Harassment
by Malaka Gharib, NPR

What’s fun to men isn’t necessarily fun to women, especially when they don’t see the consequences.

why-men-harass-women

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Books and Podcasts

• Story Podcast: Episode 38 – The Enneagram

Great insight into all nine numbers of the Enneagram with guest Ian Morgan Cron.

Story-Podcast-Enneagram

~ * ~

The Liturgists Podcast: Christian Violence

Regardless of what you think about violence, this will make you think a little deeper.

liturgists-christian-violence

~ * ~

TED Radio Hour Podcast: A Better You

TED Radio Hour-a-better-you

~ * ~

What’s Your Reading Personality?

A fun little quiz at Modern Mrs. Darcy’s site. My type is “The Explorer.”

quiz-reading-personality

~ * ~

Infographic: Surprising Book Facts

Ugh. I hope some of these facts aren’t true.

surprising book facts

~ * ~

• 4 Books I Recommend
Here are 4 books I enjoyed this month, including the convicting novel Small Great Things and the nonfiction book, 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You.

4-Books-I-Recommend-June-2017_LisaNotes

~ * ~

Books I’m Currently Reading

  1. The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt
  2. The Better Angels of Our Nature
    Why Violence Has Declined
    by Steven Pinker
  3. This Fight Is Our Fight
    The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class
    by Elizabeth Warren
  4. Born to Run
    A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
    by Christopher McDougall
  5. Mindset
    The New Psychology of Success
    by Carol S. Dweck
  6. Glory in the Ordinary
    Why Your Work in the Home Matters to God
    by Courtney Reissig

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Things I Love

My Baby Girls

We made a quick trip to see Morgan on her birthday weekend. They may not look like little girls in your minds’ eye, but they’ll always be my baby girls.

morgan-jenna-2017-06

~ * ~

• Roadside America

Jeff loves roadside attractions. So we usually google RoadsideAmerica.com to find unusual things near our route on road trips.

A few weeks ago on our way to Kansas, we stopped at the Golden Driller: Titanic Oil Man. It’s 75 feet tall, one of the 5 tallest statues in the U.S.

Golden-Driller

~ * ~

A Day in the Salt Mines

Literally. In Hutchinson, Kansas, we toured an understand salt museum, Strataca. Very interesting! It’s the only salt mine accessible to tourists. It began operating in 1923 as Carey Salt Company.

salt-mine-kansas

~ * ~

Oklahoma City National Memorial

This was a sobering visit. The Memorial and Museum is so well-done. It honorably remembers the victims and rescuers after the April 19, 1995 bombing. 168 people died. The fence outside is still full of memorabilia in remembrance.

Oklahoma-City-National-Memorial

~ * ~

Beach Instagram Selfie

This just makes me laugh. If we could see the whole picture of the beautiful selfies we see online, what would we discover?

beach-selfie

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

On the Blog

I did a 4-part series in June on my 4 Agreements with God.

# 1 – Give the benefit of the doubt.

Do You Assume the Best or the Worst? And a Barking Lady
We rarely know the whole story. How can we learn to give others the benefit of the doubt? 5 ways to assume the best.

# 2 – Let go of being right.

Let Go of Being Right – When Being Right Is Wrong (and Dangerous)
When is being right, wrong? Here are 3 dangers to being right and how to let go of them.

# 3 – Don’t take it personally.

Don’t Take This Personally
Do we make too much of life about us? Everyone is the star in their own movie. Don’t take it personally.

# 4 – Just show up.

You’re Not Ready? Show Up Anyway
Even when you’re not prepared, just show up anyway. God will show up, too.

See all 4 agreements (click on individual infographics)

1-Benefit-Doubt 2-Being-Right 3-Take-Personal 4-Show-Up

image map infographics

* * *

What was one of your highlights from June? What are you looking forward to in July? Please share in the comments.

previous Links and Books

sharing with Susan, Dawn, LyliDeb,
DawnBrenda, Carmen, DebbieShari,
HolleyJenniferCharBarbie, Lori, Terri


Sometimes You Interfere

elie-wiesel-world-world-2

1945 – Buchenwald Concentration Camp Wiesel – 2nd row from bottom, 7th from left

“And that is why I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation.

We must take sides.

Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.

Sometimes we must interfere.”
– Elie Wiesel, Night

Sometimes it’s hard to know.

Speak up or be silent?

I’ve sometimes spoken up when I should have kept silent.
And sometimes I’ve kept silent when I should have spoken up.

It’s almost been one year since Elie Wiesel died. He would have been 87 years old had he not died one year ago on July 2, 2016.

During World War II, Wiesel was a victim of the Holocaust, a slave laborer in Auschwitz, Buna, and the Buchenwald concentration camps. (If you have yet to read his book Night about his time in the Nazi death camps, now is a good time.)

Night-Elie-Wiesel-book

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Because we need to get this better – this knowing when to stand up.
This knowing when to interfere.

“The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”

May the Lord grant us wisdom to know.

And grant us courage to do.

For everything there is a season, 
and a time for every matter under heaven.
Ecclesiastes 3:1

Elie-Wiesel-Video-Obit

obit video at NYTimes.com

* * *

Is there something you need to speak out about?

How do you decide when to speak up and when to be silent? Please share in the comments.

sharing with DawnSusanDawn,
CrystalDebbie, Carmen, Brenda

revised from the archives


4 Books I Recommend – June 2017

4 Books I Recommend June 2017_LisaNotes

Here are four books I recommend from what I read in June. Once a month we gather at Jennifer’s to share what we’ve been reading.

Books I Recommend

1. Small Great Things
by Jodi Picoult

small-great-things

What a compelling and relevant novel! I hope this book is widely read. It begins with an African-American nurse prohibited to tend to a white supremacists’ baby (at the parents’ request). Both the plot and emotions run high from there forward. The author Jodi Picoult is an experienced novelist and it shows.

2. 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You
by Tony Reinke

12-Ways-Your-Phone-Is-Changing-You

We don’t just use our phones; our phones use us. We’d be wise to pay attention to how that works and what kind of changes are happening to us because of our phones. This is a balanced book; Reinke doesn’t recommend throwing away our phones, but he does encourage us to set up reasonable boundaries.

My book review of 12 Ways Your Phone Is Changing You

3. The Nightingale
by Kristin Hannah

The-Nightingale

This beautiful novel is set mainly in France in World War 2 (although it dips occasionally into America in our times) and chronicles how the war affects two sisters and their country. It moved me to tears several times. The author does a wonderful job drawing you into the individual stories as she weaves them together back and forth.

4. Flee, Be Silent, Pray
An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer
by Ed Cyzewski

Flee-Be-Silent-Pray

If you ever feel guilty or anxious that your prayer life is beyond saving, Ed Cyzewski gives you hope in this book that there is another way to pray. He provides a great overview of contemplative prayer practices, without the guilt or anxiety. I love all Ed’s books, including this one.

My book review of Flee, Be Silent, Pray

Reading Now

  • The Better Angels of Our Nature
    Why Violence Has Declined
    by Steven Pinker
  • This Fight Is Our Fight
    The Battle to Save America’s Middle Class
    by Elizabeth Warren
  • Born to Run
    A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
    by Christopher McDougall
  • The Goldfinch
    by Donna Tartt

* * *

What good book have you read lately? Please share in the comments.

Whats-on-Your-Nightstand-at-_5-minut

My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists

sharing with Kristin, Book Date

 


You’re Not Ready? Show Up Anyway

Get your body in place.

I have a few recurring nightmares.

  • Seeing a tornado coming
  • Navigating home from my grandparents’ house in Mississippi on various ill-equipped vehicles at night (tricycle, running, etc.)
  • Needing to take a shower but they’re all full

And being unprepared for a test at school. (They say 1 in 4 people have exam dreams. You? See 8 most common nightmares.)

I’ve been out of school for 30+ years, but I still dream that it’s test day, and I never even went to class or cracked a book all semester.  Which is NOT how I ever was in real life.

I like being prepared (actually, I prefer overprepared). I want to be ready for whatever is to come.

But life isn’t that way.

It often calls on us to do things outside of the time we have available or the skills we have learned or the comfort zone we’ve created.

What do we do when we’re not ready, but it’s time to go?

I’ve been sharing my Four Agreements with God this month. Today is the last one, and it’s possibly my favorite and most useful:

# 4. Just show up.

3-Ways-to-Just-Show-Up-LisaNotes

3 Ways to Just Show Up

1. Show up imperfect.

I don’t like being called on to do something I’m bad at. (I quit bowling years ago because it was no fun getting gutter balls.) Not having the skills or knowledge or preparation can make us not want to show up at all. Perfectionism can shut us down before we get to yes.

But what better way to learn something new than to show up with your inadequacy?

Want to learn carpentry skills? Show up with CASA to build a wheelchair ramp; other volunteers will be glad to show you the ropes. Want to be a better mom? Spend time with a mom you admire and see how she does it. Want to change job positions? Visit your HR office and listen to what they say.

  • You don’t have to know the full plan.
  • You don’t have to have every answer.
  • You don’t have to be the most skilled.

You just have to be available.

You can love people without being perfect. Actually, you might love them even better when you lead with humility.

When we show up with our weaknesses, so does God’s strength.

Don’t underestimate the power of your presence.

2. Show up scared.

Ugh. I’m scared of a lot of things: looking stupid, getting hurt, even being bored. But being afraid isn’t a good reason to not show up.

I’m learning this more and more: If I’ll just get my body in place, my spirit will follow.

I’ve bargained with God on many occasions: If I agree to show up, you have to show up, too. And he always does.

God shows up before we get there, and he stays long after we’re gone.

But he wants to work through our bodies and personalities to show out. Relying less on ourselves, we rely more on God.

When we show up scared, we leave with more faith.

3. Show up empty.

Do you ever talk yourself out of showing up because you’re not “important” enough?

  • They don’t need me anyway.
  • Nobody will know if I’m there or not.
  • I won’t make a difference.
  • God can do it without me.

While, yes, God can accomplish what he wants to with or without us, he prefers to partner with us.

Not just for his sake. But for our sake, too.

When we show up empty, we’re more like Christ than we realize. He emptied himself out to put on human flesh (Philippians 2:6-8).

He didn’t lay aside his worth—he was still God—but he showed up for us here in a limited human body.

And through that emptiness, he served us with his fullness.

When we feel too unimportant to be of use, let’s remind ourselves that we, too, are chosen and holy, beloved by God, to be God’s love to other people. When we have nothing to prove, we are more flexible to help however we’re needed.

As Richard Rohr says, “It seems that we Christians have been worshipping Jesus’ journey instead of doing his journey.”

When we show up to serve others, we are following Christ.

Pass the Test

When I dream about being late for school or forgetting the combination to my locker, I usually wake up before I actually get to the classroom to take the test.

That’s okay for a dream, but I don’t want an incomplete in real life.

  • Even though I may make a mess when I get there, I want to show up and grow.
  • Even though I may have missed many classes, I want to take the test anyway.
  • And even though I may be the least important person in the room, I want to be there with the most important—God.

That’s more than enough reason to show up.

* * *

Do you have a recurring nightmare? When have you hesitated to show up, but were glad you did? Please share in the comments.

See all 4 agreements (click on individual infographics)

1-Benefit-Doubt 2-Being-Right 3-Take-Personal 4-Show-Up

image map infographics

1-Give the benefit of the doubt | 2-Let go of being right | 3-Don’t take it personally | 4-Just show up

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When You’re Anxious about Praying – Book Review of “Flee, Be Silent, Pray”

Be-Present-for-God

How’s your spiritual life going?

Do you think you don’t do enough? Don’t read your Bible enough? Don’t even pray enough?

And if you get in the quantity, is your quality good enough?

These issues can haunt us as Christians.

  • When a church near my house put “Centering Prayer—Wednesday Mornings” on their front billboard, I wondered if it would be a good thing for me to join or too weird?
  • When a local monastery offered a Silent Prayer Retreat, I wondered if I could do that or would it drive me crazy?
  • And when I read about mindfulness practices, I wondered if it was possible to do that 20 minutes a day with my Christian faith without being a Buddhist?

Ed Cyzewski addresses those kinds of questions in his latest book, Flee, Be Silent, Pray: An Anxious Evangelical Finds Peace with God through Contemplative Prayer, based on Henri Nouwen’s three actions in The Way of the Heart.

Flee-Be-Silent-Pray_Ed-Cyzewski

Ed pulls from a variety of sources (inspiring me to read more Thomas Merton books).

But he also shares very personally, drawing from his own background after a grudge (he resolves) with a restrictive Catholic Church and then a fight (he resolves this too) against an evangelical angst of doing things “right.”

While he doesn’t intend this book to be a how-to guide for prayer—he doesn’t want to add to a to-do list—he does offer many tangible suggestions on how we can pray more by praying differently.

“Evangelical anxiety focuses on results and progress, but God is more concerned about loving presence.”

Get Out of Your Own Way

Here are just a few of Ed’s suggestions on praying more contemplatively taken from his book.

  1. Let go of your own words

We don’t always have to use our own words. We can still convey our own thoughts through the words of others. Too often we think God only wants our “freestyle” prayers, but he can be just as pleased when we pray a Psalm, for example.

  • Pray with scripture.
  • Use words Jesus prayed.
  • Pray through others’ words written through the years.

We have nothing to prove, to defend, or to fight for when we pray with the scriptures. We are only devoting ourselves to God. We aren’t in charge of producing results.”

~ * ~

“We don’t read the Bible in order to know ‘the Bible’ or to improve ourselves spiritually. We read the Bible in order to be present with God.”

~ * ~

“[Enter] into prayer with the foundational truth that God loves us. Prayer is the practice of becoming present for that love. We cannot impress God with our many words or few words.”

  1. Examine your thoughts

Ed highly recommends using the Examen, a spiritual practice from St. Ignatius in the 1500’s.

  • 1-Become aware of God’s presence.
  • 2-Review the day with gratitude.
  • 3-Pay attention to your emotions.
  • 4-Choose one feature of the day and pray from it.
  • 5-Look toward tomorrow.

Because of Ed’s passion  for practicing the Examen (after three months it “completely blew his mind”), I reloaded on my phone the Examine app that he recommends.

https://examineapp.wordpress.com/

I also bookmarked the Divine Hours online after he suggested it. (See it here at Vineyard Church Ann Arbor.)

Divine-Hours

Praying through the Examen and the Divine Hours are ways to be present to God that Protestants don’t often use. But they are valuable, especially when they help us release our expectations of getting “results” from prayer.

  1. Go quiet altogether

Try silence. Contemplative prayer invites us to let go of our words altogether. Our own words are often one of our biggest distractions.

“I have learned that while silence is something we can learn to value and even crave, it doesn’t happen by accident. It calls for intention and discipline supported by simple spiritual practices.”

Centering Prayer is one form of silent prayer that Ed explains as a “simple way to be lovingly present for God.”

Why Contemplative Prayer?

It realigns our expectations of what prayer can be.

“God’s Spirit is already in us, and we can’t improve on God’s presence. We can only improve on being present for God, turning away from our distractions.”

It’s not meant to necessarily replace other disciplines or forms of prayer, but as an addition to any spiritual practice.

“One evangelical generation after another earnestly studies the scriptures in search of Jesus, trying to get past the fact that Jesus said studying the scriptures is not the same thing as pursuing him.  Contemplative prayer gives us that path to pursue Jesus and Jesus alone.”

And my wonderings about the Centering Prayer group, the retreat at Sacred Heart Monastery, and the meditation practice?

I gave them all a try. And loved each one.

None were a slippery slope to anywhere except into more awareness of the presence of God.

A greater awareness of God is where I want to end up anyway.

“Each time I pause to become aware of God, face my thoughts, and look for the ways that God has been at work in my day, I open myself to God’s power and presence.”

I’m looking forward next to more mindfulness practice beginning Monday with my in-person book club. We’ll begin discussing The Power of Now, one of my favorites.

By trusting God with the present moment we’re in, we become more peaceful. We receive his grace more freely. We worry less about the past or about the future.

And that’s what I hear Ed affirming to us in his book about contemplative prayer.

“We have to train our minds to sit still and learn how to be fully present for God in the now. We won’t find God by dwelling on the regrets of the past or worrying about the future. If we want to find God, we must train ourselves to be in the present moment.”

Rest in the presence of God—there we find peace, transformation, and love.

* * *

Have you wondered about contemplative prayer also? Have you experimented with it? Please share in the comments.

You can connect with Ed at edcyzewski.com.

Read some of Ed’s blog posts about contemplative prayer:

Ed’s other books are also great faith resources. I’ve benefited by all I’ve read. Here are just a few that I’ve shared about.

Thanks to Ed for letting me read an advance copy.
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DebLyli, Susan, Dawn


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