Just Get Moving

I had my purple bucket in hand. I walked down to the lake. My impatiens were thirsty and I wanted to water them.

I didn’t notice that Mama Duck and her six ducklings were by the water’s edge.

mallard-ducklings

But as soon as I dipped my bucket into the water, I heard a flurry of activity. Mama and her babies were swimming away from me as fast as their little legs could flap.

They didn’t know they could trust me. They just knew that they had to go.

Sometimes dangers are on land. Other times, turtles in the water are their biggest enemy.

We used to raise ducklings when our daughters were tweens. We’d buy little yellow fur balls in the spring. Little by little we’d let them first play in the brook, then go out a little further into the lake, often rescuing one if they wandered too far away or began floundering.

But in order to keep growing, the ducklings had to keep moving, whether on land or in water.

Often we don’t know which way to go next ourselves. We don’t know who to trust. We can become paralyzed by indecision and just stay stuck in our corner.

But often the best move is just to make one. Just show up. Do the next thing. Trust that God will be beside you, whether to the right or the left.

God is honored when we move forward in faith.

And if we choose the wrong path? He’ll correct our course in due time and set things right again.

I wish these wild ducks had known my danger level to them was zero. I find baby mallards adorable. I’d never hurt them.

But not knowing that, they did the next right thing: they got moving.

May we get moving, too.

* * *

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

sharing with Holley, RosilindJennifer,

Holly, KellyBarbie, Anita, Terri, Lori


Is Christian Meditation Okay?

Sit-together-in-silence-LisaNotes

A Doctor’s Visit

This isn’t why I meditate.

But this happened.

I was sitting across from my doctor in his office. We were discussing a small medical issue. He suggested a biopsy, just to rule out cancer.

But the procedure is very painful, he said.

I said okay anyway, thinking I’d schedule something in a few weeks.

Until he stood up and said, “I’ll see you in a few minutes.”

Oh! You mean do it right now?

I had no time to mentally prepare. To pray about it, research it, discuss it with Jeff.

It would be me and God on the fly.

I quickly slipped into meditation mode, an awareness of God’s presence in this moment, in this situation, inside of me.

And surprisingly, the very painful procedure was only minimally painful. I endured it much easier than they expected me to. (And, praise God, no cancer!)

I joked with the doctor afterwards:

Years of meditating have finally paid off!

But that’s not why I meditate.

Is Meditation Okay?

I used to think meditation was bad. I associated it with Eastern religions and saw no use for it in my Christian faith. I had been warned that emptying the mind is dangerous because it leaves the door open for bad things to enter in.

Then I learned about Centering Prayer; i.e., meditation. For 20 minutes a day, the practice is to close your eyes, be still, and just sit with God.

  • Is it okay to take a break from thinking about problems, from being productive?
  • Is it okay to be in the presence of God without seeking something from God?
  • Is it okay to just sit with God awhile without straining to hear his words or to speak your own?

I find it perfectly okay . . . to sit quietly, surrounded by God’s love, with no agenda.

Thoughts come in those 20 minutes—always—but they don’t have to be held onto (I rarely succeed at totally letting go, but that’s okay).

It’s not about becoming empty, but about becoming quiet.

It’s about being still to know that God is God.

All About His Presence

Now I see meditation as respecting God’s presence as more important than anything on my to-do list. It’s one way I show him I value his company.

Can’t we also be aware of his presence while we’re on the go? Of course! And in the other 23 hours, 40 minutes, of the day, we can practice that. Centering prayer or meditation is a supplement to, not a replacement of, our running conversations and activities with God.

But for 20 minutes a day (or so—I rarely make it 4 days in a row—I’m always a beginner), I need to remind myself that God is in control and that the world won’t stop spinning if I just sit with him to refresh my spirit. It slows me down and restores my soul.

And for those times in a doctor’s room or elsewhere when pain surprises me unexpectedly or when circumstances begin spinning out of control?

I can escape to calmness, even if just a little and for only a minute, into that spiritual space that I hold open for just me and God.

Genuine friendship belongs to those who can sit together in silence and still feel love.

* * *

My favorite book on Centering Prayer: The Path of Centering Prayer by David Frenette

path-of-centering-prayer

My favorite meditation app: Insight Timer

insight-timer

More Reading:

Please share your thoughts in the comments.

sharing with Susan, Deb, DawnDebbie,
CharlotteLyliCrystalRosilind, Holley


Where’s Your Phone Right Now?

miss-half-experiences-cellphone

Where’s your phone?

Most of us know where our phone is. At all times. Because usually it is right beside us.

What do you check most often? Email? Facebook? Surf the internet?

We’re addicted.

  • We turn to our phones when we’re bored.
  • When we want to know something immediately.
  • When we need affirmation that we’re heard.

But our phones can’t give us what we really want.

They can, however, take it away.

True connection doesn’t come through a device. It comes through conversations and looks and gestures and meals and silence and tone and touch.

Used wisely, our devices can facilitate those things.

But more often, our phones take us away from true connection, not lead us to it.

They steal away our presence from the moment we’re in.

The Power of Off

See if you relate to this scenario by Nancy Colier in The Power of Off:

“These days, the instant something happens, we are immediately on our devices, texting everyone we know to tell the story of who we are, the story of our lives.

After the personal texts have gone out, we start posting on social media.

As soon as we are finished getting it out to the world, we start checking to see the responses coming in about it.

In a sense, the whole event, our life, takes place outside of us and on the screen; life is not something we live directly but rather something we use to establish our self-image and existence.”

Are we living life directly, or buffered by a screen?

How is this changing us and our relationships?

I’m bothered enough that I’m trying to change. I’m putting more distance between me and my phone. I’m leaving it in other rooms or keeping it off or refusing to check it as soon as I hear a beep.

It’s not easy. But it’s important.

Collier says:

“Paradoxically, leaving ourselves endlessly available results in our being unavailable to others and to life.”

I do want to be available to those who need me via my device.

But not at the expense of those who need me in person.

* * *

Where is your phone right now? How connected are you to it? How often do you disconnect? Please share in the comments.

sharing with LauraJenniferHolly, Kelly,
Terri, Barbie, Carol


Why Don’t We Share Our Good News? 3 Myths to Debunk

Myths-Telling-Good-News_DoNotDepart

God wants stories told about His Son.

Four writers gave narratives of Jesus’s life through the gospels (literally, “good news”). We know them as the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

But now God wants to hear your words.

Immediately we make our excuses. We each have our own reasons for not sharing the good news.

Could Luke also have had reasons not to tell the story? Perhaps. Yet he told anyway. We can, too. Here’s how.

Read it all here:
Debunking 3 Myths about Sharing Our Good News

* * *

Do you have a favorite New Testament Gospel book? We’re exploring New Testament writers at DoNotDepart this month.

Will you join me there


Is Life Dangerous? Or Safe?

“The need to be loved, to belong, is at the very core of our wiring; it is our most primal requirement for safety.

Thus, allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is no small affair.”
– Nancy Colier

slip-up-danger-careless-slippery

It happens again. My knee is red. Stop the bleeding.

But it’s no biggie. I cut myself shaving. It happens.

This world is not a safe place.

God is “not a tame lion.” (Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for that imagery.)

  • My feelings get hurt by an offhand comment.
  • I get stuck in the slowest line at Publix.
  • My stomach aches after I eat barbecue.

We don’t live in a bubble, gifted with perfect protection just because we believe in Jesus.

But what we get is safer?

Yes. Even though we don’t always realize it. I’m still growing into understanding.

What we get is what we want the most. In our deepest, often unaware, moments.

  • Radical forgiveness
  • Supernatural love
  • Spiritual might

Larry Crabb explains it in The Pressure’s Off:

What then is our greatest need? We need . . .

radical forgiveness that makes it possible for unholy people to come near to a holy God and live;

supernatural love that empowers naturally selfish people to care more about someone else other than themselves, thus revealing God;

spiritual might that actually changes bad people into good people, not good merely by society’s standards—we have plenty of folks like that—but good like God, good enough to value ultimate goodness.”

Left to ourselves, we’re dangerous. So says John,

  • We want our own way.
  • We want everything for ourselves.
  • We want to appear important.

. . . things that have “nothing to do with the Father. It just isolates me from him” (1 John 2:16, The Message). Those things make us unstable.

But in Christ, our weaknesses are covered.

We’re safer than we feel.

Safe from condemnation, from meaninglessness, from ourselves.

We’ll still get headaches. We’ll still be too sensitive to a snippety glance. We’ll still be too selfish for our own good. (And I’ll still likely knick my legs while shaving.)

These things leave marks on us. They bruise. Sometimes they cut.

But to be embraced by God in the midst of it all?

That’s the good life.
The life of freedom.
The saved life.

my-life-is-safe-psalm-118-17

* * *

What makes you feel in danger? What makes you feel safe? Please share in the comments.

Related:

revised from the archives


Meet the Answer to Your Prayer

face-to-face-psalm-17-15

It doesn’t happen often.

But when it does happen, you don’t forget it.

Several weeks ago we knock on AG’s door. We don’t know her well. She is rarely able to answer our knocks.

But this week AG is troubled enough in spirit and well enough in body to open the door.

We chat. Then ask if we can pray before we leave. Her situation is dire. She says please.

We pray.

We leave.

God doesn’t leave.

Weeks pass. Each week knocking, each week no answer.

Until last week. The door opens again. But it’s not AG.

It’s a lady in scrubs. She smiles and we peek in to see AG in the corner. AG doesn’t look well in body, but she looks happy in spirit.

Remember when you prayed for me?” AG asks.

Yes, I remember.”

Then she points to the lady in scrubs: “Meet the answer.”

I turn to the lady. We all smile. “What a beautiful answer.”

Sometimes we pray and God seems to delay. So we pray again. And again.

And maybe we’re still waiting.

But other times we ask and God answers quickly. AG said God answered our prayer the next day.

God had hung around. He made things happen.

He sent the lady in scrubs to AG.

He answered in human flesh.

He sometimes answers that way. He likes working through physical bodies, yes (John 1:14)?

  • We can see those answers.
  • We can touch them.
  • We can talk with them.

I like those answers.

We don’t always meet a face-to-face answer to prayer.

But when we do, it’s a beautiful thing.

* * *

What’s a recent prayer you’ve had answered? Please share in the comments.


Links, Books, and Things I Love – May 2017

Here are favorites from April and what I’m looking forward to in May. 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

• How to Be an Encouraging Friend in Times of Pain by Patti Brown
When we want to help our friends, but don’t know how.

~ * ~

10 Bands Meme
No offense if you’ve done the 10 Bands meme on Facebook. This article by AJ Willingham, CNN, makes me laugh, especially #6.

10 bands

~ * ~

• Animal Expressions
Who says animals don’t show emotion? These are great pictures from The Big Picture.

orangutan-the-big-picture

~ * ~

Just Talk to Each Other
It’s amazing what happens when we’ll just talk to each other. This Heineken ad puts sets of strangers together with opposite views.

heineken ad

~ * ~

• How Is Your Phone Changing You? 
A powerful infographic at Crossway about what are smartphones may be doing to us. Lots of information in this.

smartphone-infographic

~ * ~ * ~

On Books and Reading

 Amazon’s Real Bookstore 
Not the virtual one. A real one. I haven’t been. But my favorite thing? All covers are face forward!

Amazon-Books

 How eBooks Lost Their Shine
‘Kindles now look clunky and unhip.’
Well, I still love my Kindle. But I never gave up on traditional books either. What’s behind the resurgence in real books?

 300 New Words
Dictionary.com has added 300 new words, including:

  • alt-right
  • friendiversary
  • hangry
  • man bun
  • mic drop
  • struggle bus

(Now if we can just get auto-correct to catch up.)

 7 Books I Recommend 
Here are 7 books I enjoyed this month, including Deep Work, some Richard Rohr, and a true life prison story.

Books-Recommend-April-2017_Lisanotes

Books I’m Currently Reading

  1. The Time Traveler’s Wife
    by Audrey Niffenegger
  2. The Power of Off
    The Mindful Way to Stay Sane in a Virtual World
    by Nancy Colier
  3. Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
    Informal Talks on Zen Meditation and Practice
    by Shunryu Suzuki
  4. A More Beautiful Question
    The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
    by Warren Berger
  5. The New Jim Crow
    Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
    by Michelle Alexander

~ * ~ * ~

Things I Love

New Memory Challenge
This is week 1 of our new memory challenge. I’m settling into Colossians 3:1-17 for a few months with the Hide His Word community at Do Not Depart. I’m excited to have Katie Orr’s study guide, Everyday Obedience, to go along with it.

Colossians-3-Memory

~ * ~

60th Anniversary
60 years? That’s a long time. My aunt and uncle recently celebrated their wedding anniversary. What a blessing to honor them on their special day.

60-anniversary

~ * ~

The Skimm Newsletter
This has been a fun eNewsletter to catch me up on the news each morning.

The-Skimm

~ * ~

Boy or Girl?
Some of our sweet friends had their gender reveal party yesterday. We’re so excited they’re getting to be parents!

gender-reveal

~ * ~

We’re REALLY Empty Nesters Now
Even the dog has grown up and left home. Now that Jenna and Trey have a house, Jenna has taken Kandie back to live with her. Kandie is living the dream. It’s a win-win for everyone.

kandie

~ * ~ * ~

On the Blog

When You Want to Pray WITH, Not Just FOR Others
Praying is personal. We often pray for our friends. But how often do we pray WITH them? Free printable.

Who Do You Quote?
Some people quote great poets. What lines do you remember?

Don’t Stop Looking for God
Do you ever look right over the thing you’re looking for? I do that sometimes with God.

Encounter Another Human Being
I feel bad for Joe. He recently lost both neighbors. And he knew them both.

* * *

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

previous Links and Books


Grace Behind Bars – Bo’s Prison Journey

He never dreamed this would happen to him. He walked into prison.

A prison official emptied the trash bag of belongings he brought. They allowed him to keep his glasses, radio, Bible, tennis shoes, t-shirts, stationery. They took away his baseball cap.

They left him to sit in the Cold Room for hours.

Next he entered the cell block and the doors clicked behind him.

“Clutching my trash bag, I stepped in. There I faced another set of bars. Behind me the first door rolled again and banged shut. A voice came from a speaker in the ceiling. ‘One in the trap!’ it said.”

He kept thinking, “I don’t belong here.”

When we’re younger, rarely do any of us imagine a life of imprisonment. Of any kind. Whether it be to appetites or money or substances, we don’t picture prisons in our future. We start out with visions of a free life.

But somewhere along the way, we, too, can get caught in a trap. And find ourselves locked away.

Bo, a strong Christian leader for years, realized that his first prison had been his thirst for success and performance.

He was a high achiever and was accomplished in everything he tried. He’d played minor league baseball for the St. Louis Cardinals farm team; had a beautiful wife and two children; started a successful church in his community; was a businessman and chaplain for the Denver Nuggets.

He wanted to please others. And he did that well. So when a friend asked him to sign a loan for him, he did. But there were things he didn’t know.

Years later, the FBI began asking questions, even after the loan had been paid back in full. Bo volunteered answers, not knowing he would end up being charged with a crime and sentenced to a federal prison.

He’s now telling his story in a book, Grace Behind Bars: An Unexpected Path to True Freedom.

grace-behind-bars-bo-mitchell

His story is unusual and well-told. It draws you in.

  • You want to know how Bo will handle prison life;
  • how his wife and teenage son and daughter will cope with their husband and dad behind bars;
  • what will happen when he’s finally released.

Thankfully the book starts at the beginning and gives you a real ending so you aren’t left wondering.

And along the way, Bo shares stories and lessons he learned in prison that are applicable not only to him, but to anyone reading the book.

“One shift I wanted to make was to stop being reckless. Too often I’d been climbing to the top of the temple and jumping off —putting God to a foolish test. I promised Gari I’d be more cautious. There’d be no more hurried, 10-minute meetings where I signed papers as I had for the ‘straw borrowing’ loans.

So I put together a ‘personal protection team’ I’d consult before doing anything in business. It included Gari, an attorney, an accountant, a bookkeeper, and two friends who’d given me wise counsel.”

He learned to be more dependent on God and on others. He had to surrender to things that were out of his control. He began asking more questions before he made decisions. He had to move slower.

He learned to trust that God could use anything—even prison—for his good.

“If I’d known that even one day in prison was a possibility, I would have fought the government tooth and nail. I probably would have walked free. If so, I would have missed all the lessons I learned in prison. It had to go exactly the way it went.”

Freedom for Bo—both internally and externally—came from submitting to the process, walking with God, and allowing God to transform him into a different man.

He learned to receive God’s grace.

He provides hope that the readers can receive God’s grace, too. Even for those in literal prisons. Freedom is available. Keep your hands open for God’s gifts. Even the ones in unusual packages.

* * *

Do you feel imprisoned by anything? How can you get to freedom? Please share in the comments.

Thanks to Tyndale House
for the review copy of this book


A Real Presence – Pope Francis’s TED Talk

Single-Individual-Pope-Francis

One of my childhood neighbors died this week. Faye was only 47 years old. She had been battling a brain tumor for the past three years.

I don’t like these things. 

  • Why does one person get cancer and another doesn’t?
  • Why is one person born into wealth and another into poverty?
  • Why does a car accident destroy one life but another person walks away?

I wish bad things didn’t happen to anybody.

I listened yesterday to Pope Francis’s TED Talk (yes, Pope Francis did a TED talk!). He addresses the “why them and not me” question.

“As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: ‘Why them and not me?’ 

I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today’s “discarded” people. 

And that’s why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: “Why them and not me?”

He says these questions remind us that we all need other people. No one goes alone. Everything is connected.

Each person matters.

“Let us help each other, all together, to remember that the other is not a statistic or a number. The other has a face. The ‘you’ is always a real presence, a person to take care of.”

Despite sickness and heartaches and disasters, our presence in each other’s lives gives us reason to hope and move forward.

Faye was a real presence. Her light will be missed, especially by her son and her parents and her sister and her nieces.

But Faye will never be forgotten.

“Each and every one of us is irreplaceable in the eyes of God. Through the darkness of today’s conflicts, each and every one of us can become a bright candle, a reminder that light will overcome darkness, and never the other way around.”

Watch Pope Francis’s TED talk here. Or read the transcript.

pope-francis-ted-talk-2017

* * *

Update:
Last week I told you about Joe. Yesterday I was shocked to hear that Joe had been taken to the hospital, fighting for his life. Please pray.

Please share your thoughts here.


7 Books I Recommend – April 2017

Books-Recommend-April-2017_Lisanotes

Here are seven books I recommend from what I finished reading in April. Each month we share what we’ve been reading at Jennifer’s.

7 Books I Recommend

1. Deep Work
Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World
by Cal Newport

Deep-Work

Can you focus for long periods of time without getting distracted? If not, Deep Work might be a book for you. The author stresses that we’re losing our prolonged abilities to concentrate, and the world is suffering by that lack.

It’s not the most ground-breaking book I’ve read, but because it gives many tips and steps, it’s worth reading.

2. Grace Behind Bars
An Unexpected Path to True Freedom
by Dudley Mitchell

Grace-Behind-Bars

An inspiring real life story. This excellently-told narrative is by Bo Mitchell, businessman and chaplain for the Denver Nuggets, who ends up in federal prison for a white collar crime he was unaware he committed. His wife, Gari, also shares her perspective sprinkled throughout the book.

The book will encourage you in your Christian faith, and also make you more appreciative of your freedom. I first heard Bo and Gary on a Focus on the Family podcast here. I recommend both the book and the podcast, in either order.

My review here of Grace Behind Bars

3. Democracy in Black
How Race Still Enslaves the American Soul
by Eddie S. Glaude Jr.

Democracy-in-Black

This book will enlighten you on both the history and the present of black lives and politics in America. Author Eddie Glaude made me think of things I hadn’t considered, and challenged me to go forward in more productive ways.

My review here of Democracy in Black

4. Invisible Influence
The Hidden Forces that Shape Behavior
by Jonah Berger

Invisible-Influence

A very intriguing and well-written book. If we think we make only rational, independent decisions about our lives, we’re wrong.

We’re influenced by more factors than we’re conscious of (and it’s more than just which news channel we watch). This book reveals many of these influences. Awareness is powerful.

5. Disrupted
My Misadventure in the Start-Up Bubble
by Dan Lyons

Disrupted

I started this book because it was funny. I laughed out loud over and over at this true story. Dan Lyons was a top writer in his early fifties when he was suddenly laid off from Newsweek. The next job he can get is at the tech start-up, HubSpot. (If you saw The Intern with Robert De Niro, you realize how funny this scenario can be, an older man working with all younger people.) Except this time it’s not fiction.

As the story progresses, it turns a little dark. But it provides interesting insights on both age discrimination and young companies.

6. Practicing the Power
Welcoming the Gifts of the Holy Spirit in Your Life
by Sam Storms

Practicing-the-Power

Are the gifts of the Spirit still active today? Sam Storms says yes. He uses this book to show how the Spirit can work in a church and other settings. Another thought-provoking book. And one to pray about for action.

My review here of Practicing the Power

7. The Naked Now
Learning to See as the Mystics See
by Richard Rohr

The-Naked-Now

I already know I need to read this again. It’s too much to get in one reading. Rohr explores what it means to live in the present and to let go of dualistic thinking.

2 Novels I Don’t Recommend

The Good Father
by Noah Hawley

The premise is good: a father’s son is accused of assassinating a presidential candidate, and the father goes on a quest to acquit him. But it didn’t progress enough for me. It’s okay, but I like Hawley’s novel Before the Fall much better.

Thirteen Reasons Why
by Jay Asher

The topic of teen suicide definitely needs to be talked about. But I didn’t like the “let’s-blame-everybody-else” approach that the main character uses in this book, especially blaming other teenagers who are struggling, too. The tone of the book just rubbed me wrong. I’ll skip the Netflix series since I didn’t like the book (and since I don’t have Netflix).

Reading Now

  • A More Beautiful Question
    The Power of Inquiry to Spark Breakthrough Ideas
    by Warren Berger
  • When Everything Changed
    The Amazing Journey of American Women from 1960 to the Present
    by Gail Collins
  • The New Jim Crow
    Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness
    by Michelle Alexander
  • The Versions of Us
    by Laura Barnett

* * *

What good book have you read lately? Please share here.

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

My books on Goodreads
Previous reading lists


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