This has been the summer I fully embraced the community of my church family. The one where I attend services and the one that has connected me with some life-long friends and acquaintances. It has been a summer of gathering together socially and spiritually. Mostly, it has been the best time I have had in years and I am beyond grateful.
Change starts with me, with my thinking and my actions. My childhood memories include people close to me using the “N-word’ and making disparaging comments about people of color while bragging that they have black friends so that shows they aren’t prejudice. I remember fear and concern from my parents when I dated black men or my sister and brother married people from other cultures. We were crossing a line they would never have dreamed of doing.
I grew up with the civil rights movement. It was difficult for our elders. They learned to adjust to a new way of living. It was, however, always veiled in a element of fear. A fear they passed on to the next generation as we pushed for equality. We opened our neighborhoods to people who didn’t look like us and we became friends with people our parents might never have had an opportunity to meet in an equal setting. It was a small beginning that seemed radical and unsettling for them.
I like to think that my generation raised a new generation with less prejudice and that we have done a better job at inclusion and equality. The truth that we haven’t done enough is evident in recent events that have led to wide-spread protests. As a child I watched the demonstrations for civil rights. I watched the demonstrations to end the war. They were violent at times. Those voices were heard. Steps were taken in the right direction because of those brave souls. Today’s generation has picked up the ball we dropped and are again pushing it up the hill of change. It is time we helped them with this fight.
This past year I was exposed to some studies and engaged in some conversations about inequality from those who live it. I have begun to understand the concept of white privilege as I realize the daily fears people of color live with that I will never experience. The inequality I have experienced in the work place as a white woman is nothing compared to the challenges of an African American women. My fears when I am pulled over for a traffic violation is nothing compared to a man of color who fears for his life in the same situation. I have experienced wolf calls or sick comments from sexist men and still it doesn’t compare to what non-white people in this country hear on a nearly daily basis.
…we do not have the excuse of ignorance, everything – and I do mean everything – connected with that old way of life has to go. It’s rotten through and through. Get rid of it! And then take on an entirely new way of life – a God-fashioned life, a life renewed from the inside and working itself into your conduct as God accurately reproduces his character in you. Ephesians 4:22-24
The oppressed need to be heard. The advantages need to be leveled. The reaction needs to improve. The thinking needs to change. We need to stand and hold up those who have grown weary of holding themselves up. We need to change the character of ourselves and call out others to do the same. We need to stop turning a blind eye to inequality, step down from our pedestals, and ask “how do I help?”
I admit I have more questions than I have answers. That makes me sad. I pray from my home and write as God moves me to write. I am talking more with friends and family. I can’t be silent out of fear some will disregard me because the fear that nothing will change is greater. I will keep taking the steps I can until God moves me in a new direction.
Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. Proverbs 31
I’m a rules person. I try not to drive more then the ‘acceptable’ five miles an hour over the speed limit. I try be on time (meaning early) for my appointments. I don’t lie about my age to get a cheaper rate; nor did I ever do that for with my child. I want people to think well of me and see me a ‘virtuous’ or ‘law-abiding.’
I’m also a horrific sinner. Yup, me the ‘rules girl’ have broken all the rules, one way or another. And for many years I have carried the guilt and shame of my past with me. Yes, I have confessed most of those lapses in following the rules and as open as I have been about God’s forgiveness of my actions, I still let them define me. I still stopped short of embracing my ministry because someone might unearth and reveal my sins for the world.
Fear can be so crippling. If we let it, it will run our lives. It will cause us to do things out of emotional blackmail and often drive us to make poor decisions, or worse yet, no decision. It can stop us from stepping into the life God intends for us (a calling) because we think we aren’t good enough, not worthy to stand, or that our past has left us irreparably damaged.
A dear friend keeps reminding me of that adage that says people will make time to do what they want to do and will spend money on what is most important to them. It has been eating at me for days because I thought that I was not in sync with what I believe I have been hearing from God.
I love to write. I love writing this blog.
I love encouraging people, espcially people in recovery or searching for healing.
I love my church and the women I have come to know in the wider Christian community.
I love ice hockey and I love writing for our hockey blog, Friends in Cold Places, and I love the Washington Capitals and the hockey community.
And I have struggled trying to balance it all in the course of a day or the week.
I am coming to realize that God opens doors that I don’t expect and I need to keep walking through them even if I don’t understand what is happening. God may send me in a different direction as I walk along the pathway of life
I have a wonderful opportunity to write and I need to find the right balance for my writing passions. God is introducing me to people and community opportunities I never imagined I would be a part of a year ago. God is helping me to find the sweet spot in my life in ways I never expected.
Sometimes we need to remember that God’s vision can be a whole lot bigger than we can imagine. As my life has become busy again, I cut out the one thing I should never have cut out of my schedule–my time with God. And once I realized that and became open to his will, I also found that extra hour because God has woke me up earlier than my alarm. Funny how once I found myself back in a routine of spending time with God everything fell into place.
I encourage you to seek out your passion(s) and to trust the Lord to lead you to open doors and the perfect way to use your time.
You will know that God’s power is very great for us who believe. Ephesians 1:19
I am struck this morning by Jesus’ command to love our neighbors as ourselves and the words of his followers about loving one another, especially fellow believers. I can personally attest to the way in which my life was changed by the love of people in the Christian community. I also know that there were those who would rather I not be around and who did not think I belonged in their group. They were the ones who looked down on me because of my circumstances and thought I was of less value than they because of my situation. It breaks my heart when I see that today.
Refugee. Displaced. Escapee. Fleeing from danger. Running in fear. Lost. Alone. Desperate.
Those words came to me this morning as I read Jesus’ and the disciple’s words about love. As I read about loving those in the body, I wondered about those refugees coming to strange lands with no hope. I wondered about the fear I am reading that many here in America have about what this change means for them. I wondered how it is we as Christians can believe in Jesus and have read the stories of his outreach to strangers, and yet we are not rushing to embrace these people.
The man I follow crossed the road for the despicable, for the untouchable, and for the criminal. His only agenda was to touch them, love them, and give them an opportunity to know that they are worthy of God’s love. They were all valuable in his eyes, even the loathsome sinner. This Jesus went into areas of the world where no Jew was to go to show us that there are no boundaries or borders to God’s love for man. And by his actions they came to know God the father and Jesus the savior and their lives were transformed.
Why then as Christians are we not overjoyed at the arrival a people in need of God’s love? Why are we not rushing to them with arms full of clothes and food and jobs? Why are we not sharing God’s love with them rather than pushing them away as the untouchable? Why are we letting the fear that Jesus told us to let go of run us? Why are we not taking this time to give them an opportunity to become part of the body of Christ?
Where is the love?
I am not a political person. I don’t write a political blog. I am just a believer and follower of Jesus Christ who tries to live out his message in all that I do. Maybe this is radical thinking for some of my readers and I hope it gives you pause to pray about the neighbors who share your streets and will compel you to cross the road to say “hello” and build a new relationship with them. Maybe this will encourage you to adopt a refugee or immigrant in your midst and share the love of Jesus with them. Maybe we who follow a God of love and second chances will be gracious enough to offer the same to a stranger. I pray that today God will present you with the opportunity to do that and I pray that we as the body of Christ will find a way to love the hurt and broken he is sending to us. HE IS SENDING TO US! The broken have come to our shores and there couldn’t be any easier way than that for us to share Christ’s love than in this moment.
He makes the whole body to fit together perfectly. As each part does its own special work, it helps the other parts grow, so that the whole body is healthy and growing and full of love. Ephesians 4
Image by The Refugee Art Project
It has been a few years now since I was married. I have grown accustomed to picking which side of the bed I want to sleep on because there is no one on the other side. I have gone through the phase of curling up with a body pillow or laying long-ways across the bed so it doesn’t feel so empty. I have nearly forgotten what it is like to nudge someone in their sleep because they are snoring or to curl up with them when I get cold. That doesn’t mean I don’t miss it at times. It means I have adapted to sleeping alone and I am more comfortable with it today than I was some ten years ago.
I have spoken with many people about the dramatic change in their lives when a spouse dies or they find themselves alone after a divorce. Even those who have never married have that sense of longing for an intimate relationship with someone. So we find ways to fill the hours of our day with work, friends, family, and busy things. But there can be so much more if we look.
I am a firm believer in seeking our mission and living out a life of purpose. I am also aware that for many of us singles, a purpose-filled life doesn’t always eliminate the sense of aloneness we have at the end of the day. It doesn’t replace the sense that we are home alone reading a book or watching TV. More importantly, I also know that living with purpose changes everything and makes my time alone more palatable.
Purposeful living brings a sense of joy and peace and in some cases, a reason for getting out of bed. There is nothing worse than a day of emptiness that leads to a night alone and the anxiety of a gloomy morning. James wrote that in the midst of our troubles we have the opportunity to find joy. (James 1:2) I believe that opportunity comes in the shape of service to others. The psalmist cried out in his distress and emptiness in Psalm 102 and in the midst of his sadness he realized that God is with him. He is never truly alone. No matter what happens, he can find peace in that promise. When we can identify our mission and turn our attention to the needs of others, we can experience God’s love in a profound way. We can change our perspective from the sadness of what we don’t have to one of joy in knowing that we are living for God—even if we are living alone.
Now we can close our eyes at night, comfortable in knowing that God is watching us and that we will waken in the morning with a sense of celebration that God has given us another day to worship and serve him. While the bed may still be empty, I believe our hearts can be full. Even as we grab our extra pillow at night, we can quietly end our day in conversation with God about his reason for our circumstance and ask that the morning bring new purpose and a greater sense of belonging. It is the same conversation we should have every night, regardless of our marital situation. You see, my fellow singles, this relationship is far better than any other relationship for which we could ever wish to have and we are fortunate that we can give all our attention to enriching our relationship with the Lord.
I spent a good portion of my life searching for meaning and understanding about my life and the world in which I live. I tried everything—sex, drugs, rock & roll, with a trip into the cultic world of Scientology. I would like to think I was a ‘free spirit’ but in reality, I was simply lost. I grew up feeling invisible and kept hoping I would be noticed. Only problem with that kind of search is that I was noticed by all the wrong people in all the wrong ways.
In the business world I searched for some measure of success. Initially I just wanted a job to pay for my car and to get out of my parent’s house. I wanted to find some credibility after my California years of living free—except for the trapped in Scientology part! I went to work where I was told to work and I made a decent living, met a husband, and a few lovers along the way. Sex, drinking, and party party became the new mantra.
It is easy to get stuck in the past and to carry the heavy load of our hurts, our failures, and our struggles with us into the new day. They can become like old familiar friends that, in our minds, define who we are and how we live. We can even become dependent on these burdens we carry to see us through. Some become our addictions and our excuses for not moving forward. I can’t lose weight. Drinking makes me feel better. You don’t know what happened to me. No one understands what I have been through and why my life is so hard.
Have you said those things? Are these the things that are keeping you from experiencing joy today? Are you afraid of what your life might look like if you don’t’ have those friends with you anymore?
Did you know that you are God’s masterpiece? I used to scoff at that notion given my lifestyle. But Paul said that all of us screw up at some point in our lives and God still wants us in his life and he wants to give us a fresh start that will allow us to live lives of purposes. (Ephesians 2: 1-10) Even as God is calling us to walk with him and to change; we must be seeking him to escape from our past (Laminations 3). He is there, waiting for us to build a life-long relationship with him, one in which we will receive his gift of love and forgiveness and new empowerment to change. We can find our true selves in God’s love.
I do believe that a relationship with God, with Jesus, and with the Holy Spirit is the “silver bullet” to healing. I know from personal experience that I needed the help of a gifted treatment program and gifted counselors to make the breakthroughs in my transformation. I also know that it was not until I was willing to see God smack dab in the middle of my life, that I found healing. I know that he wants a renewed life for me to live. I know that he has plans for my life. I know that I have purpose in sharing what he has done in my life. I know that I am no longer alone or abandoned—my relationship with Jesus brings me a sense of belonging and wholeness I never found in any man or woman.
What is keeping you stuck where you are today? What is keeping you from feeling joy? What first step can you take today that will bring you out of your pain and start you on a path of purpose? What is keeping you from saying, “yes” to freedom and new life? What is stopping you from first asking God to walk with you?
“You turned my mourning into joyful dancing. You have taken away my clothes of mourning and clothed me with joy, that I might sing praises to you and not be silent.” Psalm 30 New Living Translation
Painting by: https://donnalynyates.wordpress.com/
I hate that word
Used Abused Prey
Still means victim
Spent Harmed Target
The pain erased
See me as I am today
In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory.
Ephesians 1:11-12 (New International Version)