God Sends No One Alone

graduates

Their little eyes look around for their people. The ones who came to see them. Their mamas, daddies, siblings, relatives.

The girls are wearing colorful dresses, hair fixed neatly. The boys also are dressed in their finest, with vests and suit jackets and pocket squares. Sunday shoes laced tightly. Mama’s voices in their heads: Don’t get dirty.

Except for one little boy.

It is Kindergarten Graduation Day.

kindergarten graduation

graduating

After the school program in the cafeteria, we filter back into the classroom.

Parents take photos of their students. They flip through folders of their child’s work from the year. They look at their art and they smile and they laugh.

diploma

Except for one little boy.

I hear whimpering in the Legos corner. There sits Caleb (not his real name). In tears.

And in tatters. He has no church clothes. His black pants are ripped in both legs, and the wrong size anyway. His face is tear-stained. His shoes are the only “normal” piece of his outfit—only because his teacher (my Jenna) had earlier asked if he wanted to switch from his regular shoes to his special school shoes (donated and kept in the classroom just for him).

Of course it’s not unusual for a kindergartener to be crying about something. Maybe a friend took their crayon. Or somebody accidentally (or on purpose) bumped them. Or they’re just tired and need a nap.

But when I ask Caleb why he is so sad, today he answers, “My mama didn’t come.” And he cries some more.

And a part of me cries on the inside, too.

He sees that other kids have parents here, loving on them, giving them attention, proud of them.

Who came for him?

I give him a hug and tell him he will see his mama later. That she loves him. That she’s proud of him.

Granted, I know none of these things. But surely it is true? I want to believe as much as he does.

Perhaps his mother told him earlier that she couldn’t come today because she had to work or was sick. Maybe she said her heart would be there with him anyway.

But maybe she didn’t.

Maybe she is in a hotel room (or wherever “home” is this week) getting a fix or sleeping off a hangover. I don’t know.

This is what I do know: it matters whether or not someone shows up for us.

Not just to 6-year-old boys. Also to 80-year-old spouses at an anniversary party. And to families at reunions. And to patients in hospitals and brides in weddings and grieving friends at funeral homes.

And to new graduates of kindergarten.

It’s time for me to leave the classroom and I hate to say good-bye to these babies I’ve grown to love through only one visit a week. Most I’ll never see again except through photos.

And Caleb? What will happen to little Caleb?

Only God knows. I beg Him—please keep sending people to show up for Caleb.

It may or may not be his mama that comes for him. But it will always be someone, somewhere. This year, it was my daughter. Next year, it will be more schoolteachers, maybe a social worker, an uncle or a grandma.

jenna-teacher

God sends no one out here alone.

Not even one raggedy, but oh so special, little boy on his kindergarten graduation day.

* * *

Who can you show up for this week? Who has shown up for you? Please share in the comments.

sharing at Thankful Thursdays, 100 Happy Days,
Thought-Provoking Thursday, Coffee for Your Heart,
A Little R&R, Women with Intention


It Matters If You Win, Too

Boys-in-the-Boat

It’s not just about me.
It’s not just about you.

It has to matter to us that it’s also about others.

It’s a God-concept.

And it’s also what I’m hearing in The Boys in the Boat as I read through. It’s the story of the nine boys-to-men from the University of Washington as they entered the 1936 Olympics in Berlin.

Listen to author Daniel James Brown:

“What mattered more than how hard a man rowed was how well everything he did in the boat harmonized with what the other fellows were doing. And a man couldn’t harmonize with his crewmates unless he opened his heart to them. He had to care about his crew. It wasn’t just the rowing but his crewmates that he had to give himself up to, even if it meant getting his feelings hurt.

Pocock paused and looked up at Joe. ‘If you don’t like some fellow in the boat, Joe, you have to learn to like him. It has to matter to you whether he wins the race, not just whether you do.’”

Isn’t this true for Jesus-followers?

If we don’t like some fellow disciple in the boat, we have to learn to like them anyway, enough to care about their well-being, their journey, their heart.

It has to matter to us whether others win the race, not just whether we do.

It’s what Jesus does for us. It’s what he asks us to do for others.

“Let me give you a new command: Love one another. In the same way I loved you, you love one another. This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for each other.”
John 13:34-35

We have to care about our crew.

* * *

Are there people in your boat that get on your nerves? How do you handle it? Please share in the comments.

sharing at Tell His Story, Testimony Tuesday,
Purposeful Faith, Intentional Tuesday,
Moments of Hope,
 Good Morning Mondays, Small Wonder


The Blessing of Humility – Book Review

life of humility

Humility. We know we need it. Lots of it.

But we don’t often know how to get it.

With the words of the late Jerry Bridges, The Blessing of Humility has been published to help answer the how of humility.

According to Bridges, humility ranks second only to love as the most frequently taught trait in the New Testament.

“I regard these two traits as the foundational stones of Christian character. All other character traits, in one way or another, are built upon love and humility.”

The Blessing of Humility works through the eight Beatitudes from Jesus as the foundation for each chapter on humility.

For example, in the Poor in Spirit chapter (“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” Matthew 5:3), Bridges makes the connection between poverty of spirit and humility in this way:

“Believers who are growing continue to see more sin in their lives. It is not that they are sinning more; rather they are becoming more aware of and more sensitive to the sin that has been there all along.”

In Chapter 4, “Meek” (“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” Matthew 5:5), Bridges says,

“As I reflect on our evangelical community to the extent I am aware of it, it seems we are more knowers of the Word than doers of the Word. . . .

We do not receive with meekness the implanted Word of God (James 1:21). Instead we too often use the Scriptures not as a means of judging ourselves, but as a means of judging others, especially those whose sins are more flagrant than ours.”

And Bridges continues with:

It takes humility to not murmur or complain about the difficult and painful events in life, but instead to see them as God’s work of growing us more and more into the likeness of Christ. It takes humility to bear with and forgive those who hurt us in some way. And it certainly takes humility to repay evil with good.”

Bridges closes the book in Chapter 10, “Humility and the Gospel,” with this challenge:

“As we have gone through the Beatitudes, we have found that the truly humble person is poor in spirit, mourns over their sin, is meek toward God and other people, hungers and thirsts for righteousness, is merciful toward other people, is pure in heart, is a peacemaker, and considers themselves blessed when persecuted or reviled for righteousness’ sake. This is a formidable list, one that none of us will ever perfectly attain to.

That is why we need the gospel every day. It is the gospel that will keep us from becoming discouraged and will instead motivate us to keep pursuing humility, even when we fail so often.

We also need to daily realize our dependence on the work and power of the Holy Spirit to pursue the various expressions of humility.”

This isn’t my favorite Jerry Bridges’ book (I rank The Discipline of Grace, Trusting God and True Community higher), partly because of my aversion to Bridges’ elevation of the Bible itself as an item almost to be worshiped. However, with disclaimer noted, this book is still worthy of your reading time.

I appreciate Bridges’ spiritual growth philosophy that echoes throughout his books, including this one, “the principle of dependent responsibility.” Paraphrasing Bridges, I sum it up like this:

Want more humility?
Become more aware of your dependence on the Holy Spirit to get it.

* * *

Who can claim they have enough humility? None of us. Please share your thoughts in the comments.

My thanks to Tyndale
for the review copy of this book


Do You Tell Everything? Three Questions to Ask

words-we-write-down

I keep a box in the top of my closet.

It’s full of notebooks of intensely private journals, words meant for no one but me and God.

But since 2008, blogging has become my main writing avenue. I process my thoughts and my faith here. (Many bloggers of the present were once journalers in their past, yes?)

Yet these words are public.

Maybe you blog, too, or write Facebook updates or send out tweets.

If so, you’ve probably wondered about what you’re publicly sharing:

  • Is this too personal to post?
  • Not personal enough?
  • Am I self-promoting?
  • Will my words be misunderstood as too harsh?
  • Too soft?
  • Too trite?
  • Too boring?

It’s hard to put into words exactly what we’re thinking. And not all that we’re thinking needs to be put into words. 

So how do we decide what to keep to ourselves versus what to share with others?

Three Questions to Ask Yourself

Here are three questions to ask ourselves to determine how much to tell.

1. Will it benefit someone else?

If your experience or information or questions would help another person learn something, be comforted, avoid the same mistakes, grow in relationship with God and others, or just be pleasantly entertained, do share.

2. Will it help you to share it?

Sometimes you need to confess or to testify or to say something for your own healing. When telling others will help mend your own soul and won’t take others down in the process, let it out.

3. Will it honor God?

This question may be the trickiest because what one person views as God-honoring, another may view as God-defaming. Thankfully, God knows your heart’s motives. And if your goal is to write truthfully and lovingly—even in your struggles and doubts—your words can bring grace and reflect God’s goodness.

Benefits of Writing

Showing others what we have seen brings blessings with it.

When we give away our words, it works . . .

  • To deepen relationships
  • To provoke conversation
  • To clarify thoughts
  • To validate feelings
  • To witness to God’s faithfulness
  • To promote community
  • To strengthen love
  • To extend grace
  • To spread good news

And in the end, whether we keep our written words private or go public with them, the writing itself is worth the effort. Tristine Rainer says it beautifully:

Even if you never share a sentence of your diary with anyone else, you will share it through your life. Its existence will touch other people by the way it changes you and permits you to develop in self-awareness, directness, and honesty.”

Words we write down are words we can return to.

Remembering how faithful God has been in the past gives us hope for how good he’ll be in the future.

* * *

Do you share your writings with others? Keep a journal for yourself? I’d love to hear your thoughts on writing.

sharing at Faith Filled Fridays, Faith ‘n Friends,
Thought-Provoking Thursday,
Thankful ThursdaysA Little R&R Wednesday,
Give Me Grace


What Never Changes?

God-alone-suffices-teresa-of-avila

I’ve been wanting to read this book for a long whileInterior Castle. It’s very old, written in 1577 by a Carmelite nun and mystic, St. Teresa of  Ávila.

But, oh. It’s not coming easily.

  • Sometimes books (especially old ones) are like that—they don’t come easily.
  • Sometimes truths are like that.
  • Sometimes life is like that.

We think we want it; we think we’re ready. So we dive in, only to discover we’re in over our heads.

So I’m slowing down in Interior Castle and picking up alongside it, Entering the Castle, a contemporary book that follows the classic.

Castle-books

Reading one chapter at a time in each, I hope the newer book will help me better understand the former.

  • Because sometimes we need fresh words to explain old concepts.
  • Sometimes we need new containers to hold old truths.
  • Sometimes we need changing things to unravel unchanging ones.

St. Teresa wrote The Interior Castle only to her fellow sisters. She wanted to guide them to a deeper spiritual life through a vision she had been given. She had seen the soul as a diamond in the shape of a castle with seven mansions, each one getting closer and closer to union with God.

“He who bids me write this, tells me that the nuns of these convents of our Lady of Carmel need some one to solve their difficulties about prayer: he thinks that women understand one another’s language best and that my sisters’ affection for me would make them pay special attention to my words, therefore it is important for me to explain the subject clearly to them.

Thus I am writing only to my sisters; the idea that any one else could benefit by what I say would be absurd.”

But she was wrong to think her book would benefit no one else. 

Almost 440 years later, we are still reading her words, interpreting them anew for our own lives and times.

Another set of her words has also proven to be a classic. This following prayer was originally discovered in St. Teresa’s prayer book after she died in 1582. Often referred to now as St. Teresa’s Bookmark, it says,

Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing;
God only is changeless.
Patience gains all things.
Who has God wants nothing.
God alone suffices.
— St. Teresa of  Ávila

So as I attempt to read the harder, old book with the easier, new book by its side, I ask God to reveal the common thread in them both, the constant foundation that regardless of how much shifts in our world, in our lives, in our hearts, there is One who never changes, who always remains faithful in love and grace, regardless of the year, the culture, the individual.

Only God.

As St. Teresa says in Interior Castle (this much I understand),

“Believe me, by God’s help, we shall advance more by contemplating the Divinity than by keeping our eyes fixed on ourselves, poor creatures of earth that we are.”

I’m glad this never changes. 

* * *

What older classic have you struggled to read? What older book would you recommend to others? Please share in the comments.

sharing at Tell His Story, Testimony Tuesday,
Intentional Tuesday, Purposeful Faith, 
Literary Musing, Moments of Hope,
Small Wonder, Good Morning Mondays


Do you want to be poor?

Where-is-God-in-poverty

Does anyone ever aim to be poor?

It’s not usually our goal . . . even if Jesus did say:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”
Matthew 5:3

We typically want more (of whatever), not less.

I sat in a metal chair underneath a tent last Saturday morning for Outdoor Church. It’s a once-a-month service for the homeless and poor in our community, followed by a free meal. One of my friends, Brenda, sat beside me.

Read the rest here

* * *

I’m writing today at Do Not Depart for our #WhereIsGod series. 

Will you join me there for the rest of the story?

where-is-god

sharing at Faith Filled Friday,
Thought-Provoking Thursday,
 Thankful Thursdays, Women with Intention


Use Your Hands to Touch a Heart

Butterbean-Band

The laundry door cracked open.

I could see her inside the room, tenderly folding each piece of clothing more gingerly than I fold my own family’s clothes. When she had put them all in the basket, she tiptoed out of the room, not disturbing the concert in progress in the activity room.

It’s a high touch position.
No need to apply if you’re afraid to get close.

I was only there as a spectator. My daughter was singing with her grandfather’s Butterbean Band at this assisted living facility. It housed a family friend so we had double reasons to attend this day’s performance.

I can’t help but watch the workers when I visit homes for the elderly like this.  

It may be the patients and family who pay the money, but it’s the everyday-worker who keeps things humming.  

  • It’s the young nurse who makes rounds with her little cups of pills specific to each resident.
  • It’s the aide who pushes the elderly gentleman’s wheelchair into line so he can listen to the band with the gathering crowd.
  • It’s the activity director who breezes in and out to joke with the residents, distributing hugs, and ensuring everyone is having fun.

And it’s the girl who goes into each room to empty individual hampers, then washes, dries and separates each article of clothing, tiptoeing back into rooms to return each piece to the right drawer and closet where it belongs.

You can’t hold down these jobs without using your hands—to move, to work, to love.

Without the human touch, it’d be an empty place.

To touch hearts, sometimes you have to use your hands.

* * *

How can you use your hands this week to touch a heart? Please share in the comments.

revised from the archives

sharing at Small Wonder,
Good Morning MondaysSharing His Beauty,
Give Me Grace, Let Us Grow


Don’t Save “Amen” Until the End of Your Prayer

If-you-asked-David_Frenette

Amen.

It’s not just an ending for prayers.

Amen literally means “so be it” or “let it be.” We often use it to close our prayers.

  • But what if we opened our prayers with amen?
  • What if we met each morning with amen on our lips?
  • What if we lived daily moments breathing in and out, amen and amen?

Listen to David Frenette explain this “so be it” attitude in The Path of Centering Prayer.

“If you asked me how you could meditate, how you should relate to God, how you might pray, I would whisper, ‘Amen.’ If I remember only one simple thing at the end of my own life, I hope it will be amen.

~ * ~ * ~

“After any petition or prayer, ‘amen’ is the so be it, the let it be that releases that prayer or petition into God, with a radical trust that nothing more needs to be said, nothing else needs to be done.”

We say amen to fully agree with . . .

  • acknowledging God’s presence
  • accepting his will
  • believing his truths

“At some point, all contemplative practices end with the attitude of amen—so be it, let it be—radical consent to receiving God. That is the reward of the interiority, the secrecy, the living relationship with God of which Jesus spoke.”

Picture this imagery from Frenette. Our lives are feature films, and God is the background screen upon which these stories are held.

“God’s presence in awareness is like the cinema screen upon which all of a film’s images are projected. At the movies, we normally are quite caught up in its drama and not aware of the screen.

At the end of the movie, if we stay long enough, we will finally see the screen that was there all along, silently, secretly holding the film.

Similarly, at the end of your own movie, your own life’s story, you will experience the reality that silently, secretly held you throughout your whole life: God’s presence. Why not realize this presence during life? Then, you can be aware of God at the same time as you live your ordinary life. You can be at one with the screen and the movie at the same time.”

end-of-the-movie-david-frenette

Unity with God involves opening our hands to receive what he gives, while releasing our grip on everything else.

“Contemplative practice is not something you do to find God. Contemplation involves being found by God.

May it be so.

Amen.

* * *

Is it hard or easy for you to live amen? Please share in the comments.

sharing at Faith Filled Friday,
Faith ‘n Friends, Grace & Truth,
Thought-Provoking Thursday,
 100 Happy DaysThankful Thursdays


When “I don’t know” is good

In-our-uncertainty_LisaNotes

Does this ever happen to you?

I couldn’t decide what to eat for lunch. I was already hungry so I didn’t want to invest time in cooking. But nothing ready-made sounded good either. So I delayed.

And got hungrier. Maybe go get something? The drive didn’t seem worth it.

So I got even hungrier. And grouchier. Until I finally started eating junk food, whatever was in the pantry front and center.

Uncertainty Hurts

Being paralyzed by uncertainty can be painful. In small cases, it’s no big deal. (I could have missed lunch altogether and really been fine.)

But with bigger things, it chokes out true living.

I like to know my facts before I make a decision. Consider the options. I’m an information junkie, which is not always helpful when information is infinite. There’s simply not enough time to read every interesting book or watch every tutorial or gather all the opinions.

So what to do?

Welcome, Uncertainty

I’m on a yearlong quest to “Welcome life as God gives it.

Welcome-OneWord2016-LisaNotes

For the month of May, I’m welcoming uncertainty. I’ve been pursuing it for awhile already.

It’s always good timing to make peace with uncertainty because there’s always uncertainty . . .

  • in our country’s future,
  • in our individual communities, churches, families,
  • and even within ourselves—our emotions, our health, our beliefs.

But uncertainty isn’t all bad.

The Good Side of Uncertainty

Uncertainty opens up room for . . .

  • Faith
  • Growth
  • Humility

When we’re uncertain, we’re more teachable, more tolerant, and more adaptable.

In our uncertainty, we give God something to work with.

We learn to trust that he’ll keep teaching us and making things right as long as we’ll keep showing up and moving along with him, even when we’re unsure.

Brené Brown says in The Gifts of Imperfection that when we’re anxious about uncertainty, repeat the serenity prayer to ourselves:

Serenity-Prayer-God-Grant-Me

With that wisdom, we can accept that we’ll never have all the answers. And that’s okay.

  • Make decisions anyway.
  • Take risks anyway.
  • Do something anyway.

For lunch today I already know what I’ll be eating. I like the certainty. But for supper? It’s anybody’s guess.

* * *

How do you handle uncertainty? Please share in the comments.

sharing at Coffee for Your Heart, A Little R&R,
Women with Intention, Intentional Tuesday,
RaRaLinkup, Testimony Tuesday


Links, Books, and Other Things I Love – May 2016

1 Second Everyday 

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

~ * ~ * ~

Around the Web

Candidate vs Candidate
This handy tool lets you compare any two Presidential candidates on their views on these 5 issues: immigration, gun control, the war on terror, trade, and abortion.

Where-they-stand-candidates

Evernote tips
Do you use Evernote? I have for awhile, but not well. Here’s a helpful video to learn more.

Evernote tips

Journalism isn’t dying, but it’s changing WAY faster than people understand
Do you read the newspaper anymore? I still read my local newspaper (at least on the 3 days a week it comes out). Interesting article here on the the “what” basket, the “so what” basket and the “now what” basket of journalism.

Journalism-isn't-dying-but-changing

Snapchat Tutorial
I’ve found where my kids hang out the most! Snapchat. But the app is NOT intuitive to me. So Cliff Ravenscraft caught me up a few nights ago. Now I’m probably driving Morgan and Jenna crazy with all my snaps and stories.

Snapchat-tutorial-CLIFF RAVENSCRAFT

~ * ~ * ~

On Reading

What Should I Read Next? by Modern Mrs. Darcy (Anne Bogel)
I should never have found this podcast. If you want to wreak havoc with your to-read list, don’t listen either. But if you can’t help yourself, you’ll love the awesome book suggestions like I do.

what-should-i-read-next-podcast

Podcast Interviews with Rob Bell
I love when my favorite authors meet up, in this case, Rob Bell and Richard Rohr (Episode 86), and Rob Bell and Krista Tippett (Episode 89) of NPR’s On Being. Both interviews are fascinating and have me wanting to read more of Richard Rohr’s books and Krista Tippet’s, Becoming Wise.

RobCast

9 Books Every Content Marketer Should Read
I’m not a content marketer (I’m not sure what one is). But I love books like this anyway of timeliness principles. (And I especially love any list that includes one of my all-time favorite books, Made to Stick.

• Books I recommend from April’s reading
 including Writing My Wrongs and The Contemplative Writer

book-recommend-april

• Currently reading 

  1. Beyond Fundamentalism
    Confronting Religion Extremism in the Age of Globalization
    by Rez Aslan
  2. The Wisdom of the Enneagram
    by Don Richard Riso, Russ Hudson
  3. Entering the Castle
    An Inner Path to God and Your Soul
    by Caroline Myss
  4. Interior Castle
    by Teresa of Avila
  5. Zealot
    The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth
    by Rez Aslan
  6. Persuasion
    by Jane Austen
  7. The Boys in the Boat
    Nine Americans and Their Epic Quest for God at the 1936 Berlin Olympics
    by Daniel James Brown

~ * ~ * ~

Things I Love

 Lil’ Timmy the Turtle
This baby turtle crawled into our garage two weeks ago, so I took him to Jenna’s Kindergarten class. Lil’ Tim is now the class pet.

Lil-Tim-Turtle

The Greatest Save
Our city had its first dinner and auction for The Greatest Save, a Major League Basement charity that works to stop exploitation of children. Here is Jeff with MLB great Oscar Gamble.

jeff-Oscar-Gamble

• Photo Project
Do you print photos anymore? I still like to have a few hardcopies to put in photo albums, but I am SO behind. But I’ve recently printed several from 2015. Next, 2014. (I’m working backwards.)

photo-project

Comcast Cares Day
We were excited that Comcast chose Jenna’s elementary school for their Comcast Cares Day to give back to the community. Over 200 Comcast employees and school employees/friends planted flowers, painted bike racks, and beautified the school grounds.

lisa-jeff-comcast-cares

~ * ~ * ~

On the Blog

Stop the humiliation; Restore the dignity
There’s a whole population of people who are often treated as animals every day. No one deserves degradation. Plus book quotes from Writing My Wrongs.

Is Greek life for you? It’s not what you think
A special kind of life—zoe—is unlike any others.

Were they really the “good old days”?
It depends on who you ask. Plus book quotes from Between the World and Me. 

The circumstance isn’t the problem
“People are not disturbed by things, but by the views they take of them.”
– Epictetus

* * *

What are you looking forward to in May? Please share in the comments.

Linking at Leigh Kramer’s
My previous posts

sharing at Small Wonder, Sharing His Beauty


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