My life today is nothing compared to what it was even five years ago, let alone 30 years ago when I began my Christian journey. God planted a seed of change; however, it took almost 20 years to stop living according to my rules and listen to his desires for me.
We are in a new era of forced isolation. There is no telling how long this will last. For those in their late-50s and older, “social-distancing” could become the new norm for us because doctors can’t say if the Coronavirus, or an offshoot of it, may come back next year. For an age group that is already trying to stay physically fit and actively engaged, this is like a slow death sentence. Melanie Joosten, a researcher at the National Ageing Research Institute (NARI) wrote that aging women especially experience a growing sense of becoming invisible. This feeling could become more of a reality as we carefully choose our external activities and social/work relationships to protect our health.
Women feel this sense of social isolation and lack of relevance much more than do men, according to coach Dr. Louise Mahler. In a 2016 NY TimesDr. Dhruv Khullar wrote: “About one-third of Americans older than 65 now live alone, and half of those over 85 do. People in poorer health — especially those with mood disorders like anxiety and depression — are more likely to feel lonely. ” He continues to explain that social separation is bad for our physical, cognitive, and mental health and that those who are isolated from society tend to die within seven years.
The need to be seen as relevant and as a contributing member of society matters for those entering their ” twilight years.” Regular social contact and involvement is key. Dr Khullar quoted one senior as saying: “Your world dies before you do.” For our older population that is even more real today than ever before. As I have spoken with seniors in my community the past few days, I am finding that while their faith is keeping their spirits up, they desperately miss even the little bit of friendly contact that came from socializing in the grocery store. No longer is the store, the coffee shop, the neighborhood diner, or their place of worship a available to them to get out of the house and interact with friends and family.
For many seniors, participation in their ministries and charitable organizations has been a lifeline and provides a sustained a sense of purpose and contribution to society. Religious organizations bring a sense of spirituality and connection with community. For those who continue to work, they have the opportunity to share their experience while learning new skills and keeping their minds sharp and engaged. Take that away and loneliness, isolation, and depression are likely to set in. This is even more true for older adults living alone who today are unable to meet family, see grandchildren,or venture to their communities and jobs.
‘You shall rise up before the gray headed and honor the aged, and you shall revere your God; I am the LORD.
Technology has helped to bridge some of the gaps older adults are feeling during social distancing. Once they get the hang of all the processes available to them to video chat and participate in streaming religious services or exercise classes, they may feel a momentary sense of connection and belonging. However, the crucial piece is to help them find relevance and purpose. If all they do is take in information they still lack an ability to contribute to society. This could lead to a greater level of social anxiety, depression, or other mental health concerns, according to Good Therapy. These factors tend to be more prominent in women; however, because of their tendency toward transparency in expressing loneliness. This again goes back to a societal response that respects maturing men over aging women and the notion that men still have something to contribute despite their age.
So what can we do in this period of forced isolation? Reach out on a regular basis to your older friends and family. Find a video platform that they are comfortable using because it helps to actually see the faces of our friends and family. Find some way for them to help. Maybe they can write letters or make phone calls to people in their religious and charitable organizations. Visit them from a safe social distance. Give them tasks to complete for which they are responsible. Acknowledge their skills and contributions, no matter how minor. Help our senior citizens feel that they are respected, needed, and connected and they will come through this crisis stronger and more engaged then ever before.
Let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds, not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another–and all the more as you see the day approaching. Hebrews 10
This past week I witnessed an amazing outpouring of love and generosity toward a young woman and her children, who without warning, lost their husband and father. I don’t know anything about them or their family other than that they are close friends of someone I know. What I do know is that this broken-hearted family was, and is, surrounded by friends from all over the globe. Not only have they raised an enormous amount of money to help them rethink their futures, this incredible group of friends has loved them in the way a family should—never leaving them and ensuring them that they will not be walking forward alone. I have been blessed and inspired as this story continues to unfold.
As someone living as a single with virtually no family ties, I worry about my own adult daughter and how she will do when my time comes. She has no family to fall back on. I know I am not the only single parent who thinks about these things. We boomers think about it even more, especially if we have children who haven’t quite made it on their own yet and may still be living at home with us. The 2011 US Census reports that 27 percent of American children under 18 live with one parent of which 87 percent live with their mother. Another four percent do not live with parents of which 57 percent live with a grandparent. Additionally, the number of adults from 25 to 34 living at home has risen, and continues to rise.
Singleness looks and feels different for all of us. The only common thread is that we don’t have a spouse or partner with whom we share our life. Some of us have found a way to be content and vibrant in our singleness, while others struggle with self-doubt and feelings of loneliness and discouragement. I would venture to say that even the most actively involved of us have a downside moment to living alone. That said, we probably are no different than most people who are stressed and distressed by their circumstances, except we may not have someone with whom we can share our burdens and who will help to carry those burdens with us.
Singleness can be defined as simply “living without a spouse.” We are single for many different reason—some by choice and some through circumstances. One thing I have found to be true with many of the singles I have spoken with, is that single does not have to mean lonely or that we are living without purpose. Just because we do not have a spouse or partner does not mean that we have to be trolling the bars looking for love or sitting home alone with nothing to do.
We come to our singleness from many pathways. We are the young who have yet to meet that first true lasting love of our life. We are the never-marrieds who are desperately hoping that God will provide a mate for us. We are the divorced, weather by our choice or by someone else’s actions. We are the widowed who love our spouses and are content that we had that “one great love.” And some of us are single by choice—the ones who have dedicated their lives in service to others with no strings attached.
This weekend we remember those who gave their lives in the service of our country. The brave men and women who stepped forward with the knowledge that they might sacrifice their very existence for a cause they came to support. Some came forward with excitement and willingness and some were volunteered into a service that would cost them everything. I am humbled and thankful to all the men and women who went into battle to ensure I would have the freedom to say what I want and to worship as I would want and to live without fear of my losing everything. I so very much appreciate their sacrificial giving.
The kind of giving in which we are called to give our lives doesn’t come along too often. Perhaps we hear stories of the firefighter who lost his or her life saving a child in a burning building. Perhaps we hear about the parent who lost their life rescuing their child in an emergency situation. We have heard stories of men pushing women and children into safety in plane and train crashes, giving away the time to save themselves. These stories are rare enough that we are amazed and brought to tears that one would give their life for another in such a dramatic way.
It’s interesting that when I went to look for Bible verses about “giving” that I was referred to “service.” So I dug a little deeper to better understand the meaning of this weekend. Dictonary.com defines service as “an act of a helpful activity; help; aid.” They define giving as “to present voluntarily and without expecting compensation; bestow.” And sacrifice can be understood to “surrender or give up, or permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else.” When you look at the meaning behind the terms we will throw around this weekend, we begin to see something rare and special. Something that many have accepted as their calling and something others of us are humbled by.
Many of us will never feel the call to military duty while others of us will feel a call to ministry or service to others. As we remember the sacrifice of those who were willing to surrender their lives and their futures for the sake of our freedoms, I challenge you to seek ways to honor them in the service of others. Where can you sacrificially give your time to help another? Who can you reach out to and offer a helping hand with no expectation of compensation or reward? What can you do to change the life of someone else by freely and willingly giving yourself that they may benefit and grow? Please share your ideas in the comment section or on my Facebook post that others might be motivated into action.
I leave you with the Prayer of St. Francis, one who truly understood unconditional sacrificial giving:
The prayer of St. Francis
Lord, make me an instrument of your peace,
Where there is hatred,
Let me sow love;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy;
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
To be understood as to understand; to be loved as to love.
For it is in giving that we receive;
Tt is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
Thank you to the many who have given the most and to their families for your sacrifice as well. God Bless you.
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/
Every year I get hooked on Hallmark Channel Christmas movies. I love the ones where the Christmas spirit changes a person’s heart and everyone lives happily ever after. Ok, I admit, I especially love the movies where the star says they will never love again because somewhere along the way their heart was broken. And yet, in a few brief days (TV hours) they meet the perfect person and find love again—and live happily ever after. Healing and moving forward happens quickly in these movies. Lives are fixed and tied up in a neat bow in record time.
Unfortunately, life isn’t a Hallmark movie. Healing our wounded hearts and souls usually requires more than a few nicely placed words of encouragement. For some of us, healing may take years of counseling and support from family and friends before we see a breakthrough. For others, full healing never really comes. For some of us it may be years after we were hurt that we are even willing to acknowledge our hurt. We hang on for dear life, put on a Sunday smile, and make believe that all is well. Before we can have a healthy relationship, we need to be healthy ourselves through that process we will better understand what we are looking for in a life-long relationship with another.
I think that we are all seeking purpose in our lives and most of us are hoping to share that purposeful life with another person. It doesn’t matter if we are young and seeking our first romance or trying to get over our first love. It doesn’t matter if we have lived long and divorced or lost a spouse to illness or an accident. It doesn’t matter if we have never had a true loving relationship and don’t know what that looks like. We as humans seek relationship with others and most of us are looking for that person who shares our passions and will support us in fulfilling our dreams.
So how do you have your Hallmark moment? I suggest you start by praying about what God wants for you today and in the future. Seek out a counselor, spiritual director, or life coach who can help you discern what that is for you. If there are hurts that need healing—seek healing first. Then build your life around your purpose. Be where like-minded people are likely to be. Volunteer where your gifts can be used and meet other people who are using their gifts in a similar way. Turn off the movie, get off the couch, and head out the door.
Will you find your life partner there? I don’t know. I can tell you that if you truly seek God’s call on your life and you put your energy into areas that support your life mission; you will find people with whom you can share your life. You see, it may not be about finding the perfect partner but about finding the best way to live your life and finding people who support you on that journey. And maybe, just maybe, you will cross paths with the person of your dreams and maybe, given time, you will find your Hallmark ending.
“Trust in the Lord and do good. Then you will live in the land and enjoy its food. Find your delight in the Lord. Then he will give you everything your heart really wants. Psalm 37:3-4
There are a lot of things in this world that look like they would be good for us. There are things that may seem to work for others and bring them contentment that entice us to look deeper. There are a lot of different pathways that tout spiritual and self-fulfillment that take us away from a personal relationship with God rather than enriching our relationship with him. There are new gimmicks everyday with promises of quick and lasting change, that fall short of bringing positive personal transformation. We listen to product and celebrity endorsements to see what works for someone else in hopes that it might work for us too. We are a society that looks for the easier, softer, and quicker way to feel better about ourselves.
Transformation is hard work. It takes long-term investment and commitment. It is painful and when done right, will bring a lifelong change toward purposeful living.
I want my life to have purpose. I want that purpose to be for the good of others. I want my life to be an example of how my faith and trust in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit inspired me to transform my behaviors and lifestyle from a life focused on me to one focused on him and on others. I want to be the vessel through which others naturally see something different and desire that in their lives too.
So where has this God believing thing gotten me? First and foremost it got me out of thinking about my needs first. It healed my acting out over sexual abuse. It healed my ties to a “religion” or spiritual life in Scientology that I was paying to experience. It healed the wounds of an abortion and the failed dreams of a perfect marriage. It healed the anger and resentment of my upbringing and a family that thinks the worst of me. It gave me a reason to live. Nothing else I tried did all this! I am done looking for a better faster way. I want a forever change that I don’t have to sell or convince others of—one that people see and want for themselves as well.
This Jesus believing thing changed my life and gave me self-respect and a thirst to know him more and an excitement for a future I never dreamed was possible.
What is holding you back today from asking Jesus into your life? What scientific or spiritual practice do you have that is a wall between seeing who God is and how Jesus loves you? What brokenness do you need to give to him to take so that you can get on with your life? Who can you reach out to today for help on your journey? How can you become a better example of Jesus living in your life that others will want what you have?
Message me here if that will help. Together we can find the path forward.
“And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ.” (Paul’s words to believers in Philippi while he was imprisoned for his beliefs, Philippians 1:14)
My search for something meaningful or purposeful about my life led me down many paths, and not all of them were roads I should have traveled. I tried devoting myself to work and taking jobs that I thought would make me feel important or relevant. I tried relationships that I thought would meet all my needs but they never filled all the gaps. I tried a different sort of ‘religion’ in Scientology, and that only confused my life more. I tried drinking and drugging in my younger days to fit in and that was all pretend living too. I tried just being “spiritual” but failed to find any real direction and ended up listening to my own messed up self for guidance. It took me several tries over the years to come to a new point in my life:
“God blesses those who realize their need for him” (Matthew 5: 3—The Beatitudes, NLT)
I was looking in all the wrong places! The NIV version says “Blessed are the poor in spirit” while the Message says, “You’re blessed when you feel you’re at the end of your rope. With less of you there is more of God and his rule.” I was like a beggar trying every new spiritual movement out there in the hopes of feeling fulfilled in my life. I knew Jesus. I grew up with Jesus. I just didn’t think he was enough for me and I hungered for something more to make me feel relevant in this universe.
I didn’t need to be one with the universe—the same universe that God created. I needed to be one with the creator. I didn’t need to empty my head; I needed to breathe in the Holy Spirit and divine inspiration. I didn’t need to draw energy from another human; I needed to draw inspiration from God’s word to us and through a quiet time of prayer with him. I didn’t need a new religion, I needed to grow in my own faith—the one passed down through generations of believers. My dedication to hearing God’s word spoken for me led me to a spiritual awakening like no other.
I need God in my life. I need Jesus in my life. I need prayer and meditation in my life. I came to the end of my rope and God was waiting for me. Waiting to pick me up, dust me off, forgive me, and set me on a new course. For me, there is one God in whom I trust. Today I only look for ways to grow in that relationship and if work, relationships, spiritual groups, or things I put in my body don’t lead me in that direction, then I don’t need them.
Do you need something more in your life—something other than your own voice in your head? Are you looking for a new spiritual life? Do you want to experience a transformation that brings you peace and joy? Are you ready to step into the light and feel the warmth of the Holy Spirit? I encourage you to reach out to someone today that can guide you in that direction. Find a life coach, counselor or religious leader and tell them you are ready to start exploring this kind of spiritual life. I promise you will never be the same.