What’s So Great About Tolerance?

ghandi-on-toleranceI am choosing not to celebrate Valentine’s Day in the usual sense this year; let’s face it, I don’t need more chocolate, and cut flowers (while pretty) only last a few days.  I know that there are many industries that get a surge in sales this time of year –thanks to savvy marketing.  I certainly don’t blame then for taking advantage of the traditions and trying to grow their business, but it can be challenging for the average consumer who gets sucked into the idea that true love can only be expressed with cards, date nights, or expensive gifts.  While these things can be delightful for both the recipient and the giver, they do not replace what should be the primary focus of this day and every other– We are here to LOVE and be loved.  It’s both that simple and that difficult.

See our culture thinks the grand objective is tolerance– that with tolerance for all, peace will reign.  I don’t buy it.

Tolerance says, “I’ll put up with you.”  Love says, “I’ll put you first.”

Tolerance says, “I’ll go along with whatever you do or say, even if I think it’s stupid.” Love says, “I won’t compromise my values just to agree with you, but I will always respect your right to your beliefs.”

Tolerance says, “Even if I see you struggle and I know you are causing harm to yourself, I will keep silent.  Go ahead and live your life as long as it doesn’t interfere with mine.” Love says, “I will not be afraid to lovingly share truth when you are struggling.  Your life matters as much as mine.”

Do you really just want to be tolerated?

God LOVES us– warts and all.  The more we can accept His love, the more we can love others, and the more we will have true peace in our lives.  That’s the goal.  May we shoot for nothing less.

On this Valentine’s Day why not create a new (better) tradition for yourself?  Why not focus on LOVE itself, rather than the candy, flowers, or spa certificate? 🙂 Are you available, REALLY available for the people in your world?  When was the last time you brought a sick friend dinner, took an extra shift for a co-worker, or mowed a neighbor’s lawn when they were away?  Are you fully present and aware when people around you are lonely? hurting? weary?  Sometimes a smile, a listening ear, a compassionate shoulder are the best gifts you could ever give.

With love for this day and throughout the year–

 

 

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A Different Kind of Christmas Gift

tree-2013 The other day I met a woman using one of those medical scooters to help her get around; she wore a cast from toes to the top of her calf, thanks to a recently broken ankle.  I commented on how fortunate she was to have one of these things (30 years ago when I destroyed my knee I spent 4 months on crutches–ouch!), but she didn’t want to hear my positive spin…

“It’s been awful… I’ve been stuck in the house. I haven’t been able to finish my Christmas shopping or do any of the things I usually do for my family!  My daughter will be so disappointed…”

I look across the room at a bright-eyed, beaming 10-year-old girl holding her mother’s crutches.  “Do you mean your daughter over there?” I ask gently.

“Yes,” the woman whines. “I want her to know how special she is, and I’ve always given her at least one amazing gift. It’s not fair that she won’t have a wonderful Christmas because my ankle is broken.”

“It looks like she’s enjoying helping you”, I say.

“Oh yes, she’s been a big help”, the mom agrees, “She carries my crutches when we’re out.  She brings me things when we’re at home.  She even baked the Christmas cookies and helped me package them up for the first time.”

“What a wonderful gift you’ve given her already!” I blurt.  (What can I say?  I’m a fountain when it comes to encouragement 🙂 ) The woman stops and looks at me.

“She will always remember this year for being able to genuinely help her mom.” Sentimental me begins to well up with tears as I continue,  “Look at her smile; this Christmas she has a real purpose.”

–In the midst of your tragedies, always look for the blessings–

I wouldn’t be surprised if this special (but different) Christmas gift is the one that little girl will always remember 🙂

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Living “FOR”, Not “AGAINST”

heart designWhy is it when times are tough and there’s a lot of stress, most people end up mired in the things they are Against, rather than living out the things they are For?

Let’s say, for example, you have a core value of loving people.  That means Everybody.  Every messy, beautiful, dangerous, gentile, arrogant, broken person on the planet.

Do you live your FOR when someone hurts you or a loved one?  Or are you stuck in the AGAINST mode– seeking retaliation, gossiping, complaining, withholding your love from them?  Sadly, sometimes it’s easier to love strangers than your own friends and family members. If your value is Love, a life of FOR must include forgiveness!

And what about when it’s inconvenient?  Are you living your FOR when you’re exhausted and you’ve used up your resources, and STILL you have to carry the burden of caring for a sick child, an elderly parent, or a disabled spouse?  Circumstances may veer wildly out of control, but that doesn’t mean you have to slide into the depths of AGAINST– living a life marked by resentment, guilt, and fear.  Living your FOR is about commitment (not perfection).  It’s about loving even when there is no miracle, no happy ending on this side of heaven.

Do you live your FOR in relation to yourself, or are you regularly AGAINST yourself– beating yourself up, unfavorably comparing yourself to others, or practicing self-sabotage?  Love is for YOU too!

Finally, do you live your FOR in community when others actively oppose anyone that disagrees with one of their thoughts or beliefs?  Seriously, sometimes I am astounded by the level of hate speech, intolerance, and rudeness spewed out through social media. Just because we may disagree doesn’t mean we should be disrespectful!   In a time when we already experience the pain and suffering that leads to civil unrest, I find myself wondering about what might occur this November.  It’s very sobering to be living in a country in which so many people plan to vote NOT For the next President, but Against the other candidate.  (and btw, if your value IS Love, are you practicing love for these beleaguered souls?)

Living For ___ takes effort, but it’s doable and so worth it!  I know from personal experiences and principles of recovery– the more we focus on our problems, the bigger they seem, and the smaller our God ( with His Hope, Wholeness, Peace).  Conversely, the more attention we place on the hope, wholeness, and peace of healing, the greater our God, and the smaller our problems.

There’s one more FOR that I don’t often speak of here, (too many AGAINST, you see 🙂 ) but life is short.  We’ve all lost loved ones unexpectedly and it hurts profoundly.  But if I didn’t have the hope of heaven, I don’t know how I would get through these times… If you’re someone “on the fence” about your faith, and you think you have all the time in the world to check out this Jesus- thing, please take the time TODAY to reach out to someone you trust, a person with true faith, and start asking questions.  Free choice is God’s gift to humankind, but there are limits to His long-suffering response to a world who mocks Him. God’s word tells us that by not choosing Him– by not being FOR Him– you are effectively choosing to be Against Him.

Praying that we all may live For what matters

 

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Do YOU Know What’s Best?

father knows bestWhile I haven’t been as active on my blog this year as usual, I have spent a large amount of time in quiet reflection on a thematic word the Holy Spirit gave me.  My word for the year is “Wisdom”, and I have had MUCH to process.  I have always been pretty quick to learn things as head knowledge, but deeper heart understanding can only come about through a genuine effort to spend time with God. And in our fast-paced culture where we want to drive the ship and control all the outcomes, this kind of time with an “invisible” Spirit seems pretty pointless to most of us, doesn’t it?  No wonder so many prefer to think of God being far away from us, “up in heaven”, so that We can go on with our daily lives. If this is you, I would urge you to spend some time considering who or what is directing your thinking, your behaviors, your life.  CAN YOU TRUST THIS LEADERSHIP TO TRULY KNOW WHAT’S BEST FOR YOU?

I confess I have always loved family sitcoms on T.V.  Oh sure, sometimes the child actors are a bit too precious, the situations ridiculously unbelievable, or the dialogue cheapened by unnecessary profanity or sexual innuendo. (Such programs are quickly removed from my audience viewing time.)  But overall, they have provided hours of relatively wholesome entertainment.  Now while I didn’t grow up with the Anderson family from “Father Knows Best”, I did see some reruns and I could tell this was classic 50’s Americana– the idealized family where Mother was both sympathetic and stylish, the children had affectionate nicknames like “Kitten” and “Bud”, and Father was always warm and wise –capable of settling any problem within 22 minutes.  The fathers pictured in family sitcoms during my childhood and teen years were equally wonderful advisers– from Pa on “Little House on the Prairie” to Mr. C on “Happy Days”.  With love and integrity, they always knew what was Best, and how to lead their children to do the right thing.

Today’s television father figures are more fitting with the times when we have become more open with our problems.  Created to reflect a modern awareness that no one is perfect, we see the mistakes, the flaws, and the weaknesses of contemporary television characters.  We all may love Phil from “Modern Family”, but would we really expect him to always guide us in making the wise choices?  It turns out your choice of the Father to follow makes all the difference. 🙂

Now, maybe you’re wondering why you shouldn’t just lead yourself… Afterall, don’t YOU know what’s best for you?  This was me for years.  My own dad walked out on our family a week after my 14th birthday, and so I became fiercely independent.  I prized my initiative and I believed I earned every opportunity that came my way.  Independence… we value it in this country, but it can so quickly turn into foolish pride!  The thing is, we don’t know the big picture.  Most of the time we don’t even understand the good things that are happening all around us because we’re expecting something different.  Since becoming a Christ follower, I have seen example after example of how God’s unique appointments, His favor, and even the trials He allows provides such a BETTER plan for me than any I could imagine.

Recently an announcer on a radio station was talking about the importance of listening for God’s leadership and the analogy he came up with has really stuck with me.  If you were to meet the Prodigal Son today and he was homeless and eating out of a garbage can, you would probably think it would be good to buy him some lunch.  BUT, by doing that you would actually deter him from going home to his loving father.  Do YOU know what’s BEST?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.  In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight– PRV 3:5-6

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Not Just a Waiting Game–getting to the heart of the matter

journals 7 yearsSometimes life races along and then– BAM! Out of the blue and without warning, a crisis hits and you are thrown directly into an entirely new season of life. In such cases there is no time to wonder, or worry, or even wait… It’s all about putting one foot in front of the other and getting through one day at a time.

At other times you can see the shift coming.  Maybe you have a long winding down period…  such as when your company announces a projected layoff and you know your job will come to an end in a few months.  Ormaybe you have been given a period to prepare for exciting new changes… like with the anticipated arrival of a first baby or grandchild.

This little series of blog posts however have been based on finding meaning in transitions of a different kind.  These are the ones with little or no indication of what’s coming next, and it’s the not-knowing, that can be so difficult. Moreover, what do you do when there seems to be no end to this “in-between” time?  When the waiting feels interminable?Transitions like this can last weeks, months, and yes, even years!  But life ALWAYS has something important to teach us– even when it feels like we’re just in a holding pattern.

Purpose in Transition #5 – Realignment

The key thing to remember when facing any uncertainty, or big change on the horizon, is that our always Loving and Faithful Heavenly Father has sanctioned this time for YOU, because He can see the GREATER GOOD.  When I find myself waiting, it gives me huge comfort knowing I am waiting on His BEST for me. Whether the season is one of stretching, restoration, rest, or service, it is also foremost one of realigning with God.  (Because let’s be real… How easy is it for us to get so busy and distracted living life, that we put God in a box and only really focus on Him on Sundays or when we need something?)

Imagine a transition period  that actually fills you with awe instead of dread… If you choose to spend time intentionally seeking God and HIS plans for you, intimacy and connection really can happen!  Now that’s waiting “actively”.  And as your faith grows–nurtured by gratitude and an ongoing commitment to pay attention to His presence– you are blessed by the peace and joy that you need to help you get through the waiting period!  (Funny how that works, hmm? 😉 )

Realigning with God’s best intentions will also often require an honest self-evaluation and a willingness to look at other areas in your life that may need some attention.  Now, Please hear me on this one– too many people think they have to have it all together to come to God, and then they look around at the broken messy people who call themselves Christians and they get confused.  God doesn’t care if you’re all cleaned up; He’s looking for hearts that want a relationship with Him. period.  He’s not about shaming you to make you feel small and worthless… You are His precious child!  But we all have baggage; we all have areas where our thinking may have become distorted, or an old habit has reappeared. Transitions provide valuable opportunities to check in, to rediscover a little more about our Abba and how HE sees us, and to make needed adjustments in our daily life.

If you’re currently in limbo (another fun term for the transitional seasons of life) I encourage you to join me and look for the gifts.  Be open to learning and growth. Don’t be surprised if unexpected chance meetings or opportunities start popping up. And as much as possible, trust that God is FOR you, not against you.  There is a special, beautiful purpose for all of this– You will come through to the other side, BETTER than you were before.  (Isn’t THAT worth the wait? 🙂 )

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Not Just a Waiting Game– looking beyond yourself

c testimonyWHAT IF–  it’s not about you…

I’ve been talking about transitions– those frequently frightening, sometimes lengthy– periods of “between times” that alert us: one major season of life is ending and another is on its way.  Transitions mark changes coming… BIG changes.  Yet before we are thrust into the new reality, we are often left wondering what we’re supposed to be doing with ourselves?  What’s coming next for me?  But suppose you are just the sign post, the vessel by which someone else’s life will be impacted in a far more meaningful way?  What if this disruption to your normal way of life is actually just a backdrop to a much bigger story?

Purpose in Transition #4- Service

As much as some of us will try to isolate ourselves, especially in times of trouble or pain, the fact is, we are ALL interconnected. Remember the degrees of separation game when people discovered it didn’t take very many relationship circles– a friend of one of your friends’ friends– to reach a celebrity? (In the 90’s we were all “connected” to Kevin Bacon 🙂 )  This is actually really good news for us; it means your life matters– despite any feelings of shame, insecurity, or unworthiness.  Even if only because you are connected to others, and therefore your very existence will have impact on their lives, You MATTER.  It also means, regardless of anything you are going through, someone else has gone through it before you– You Are Not ALONE.

So doesn’t it stand to reason that while you are experiencing life change and in the muddy waters of transition, stories shared of your experiences can actually help others see a future of hope and healing?

Doesn’t it make sense that while some life changes are the result of relationships that end, this transition could be all about restoring dead relationships back to life? It could be a season of forgiveness and love… A time for building new, stronger, healthier relationships with and for people who have never experienced that level of mutual respect and intimacy.

And doesn’t it sound like our Loving Father to ground us when we’re not sure where we’re going next, by bringing opportunities to serve, and people who need us? I’ve already talked about the holes that sometimes open up in our schedules during transition times– Maybe they are invitations to look around and see how you might volunteer somewhere…  Maybe it’s a time for you to mentor someone going through a challenge that you’ve already survived…  Maybe the whole point of this “between time” is for you to sacrifice your time, talents, and resources to improve the life of someone else?

Now, before you start worrying about a difficult commitment, remember– we make sacrifices all the time without even thinking about it– for our kids, for our parents, for our close friends.  When I’m talking about “service” here, it doesn’t have to be this monumental thing.  It’s really just about listening and responding to the needs of others for awhile.  It’s about your availability.  Added Bonus:  When your focus is on helping others, you’ll spend a lot less time feeling confused and frustrated by the lack of clarity in your life.  I guarantee it. 🙂

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Not Just a Waiting Game– a little “r and r”

soakingTransitions  make  us nervous.  We rely on a sense of permanence for our security and we become upset when we find ourselves in temporary conditions–floating somewhere between endings and new beginnings.

We are also largely a people who have bought into the lie that slowing down is a sign of weakness, or laziness.  How many of you have ever felt guilty for taking a break?  We falsely believe that if we’re not constantly running, maybe we’re not very important, or popular, or worthy…  And so, whether we’re in a season of corporate climbing, or parenting young children, when we’re in the thick of it, most of us scurry through our days without any margin for spontaneity.  We are scheduled, driven, BUSY.  No wonder transitions shake us to the core!  When change is on the horizon and a hole appears in the “normal routine”, we become so uncomfortable with the lack of clear direction, most of us scramble to fill the hole any way we can. We cover it, deny it, medicate it. However, though the busy bees among us crumble at the thought of gaps in our schedules,  sometimes that forced “stop” is THE REASON  for this transition!

Purpose in Transition #3 – Rest

God gave mankind a Sabbath rest for our own good.  He knows– left to our own devices– most of us will literally drive ourselves into the ground.  Maybe transitions between the seasons of our lives are one of His greatest gifts!

For me there was one year when several life-altering changes came so fast and furious there wasn’t any time for transitions.  It was all about surviving– sinking or swimming–  How I would have relished the chance to just doggy- paddle for awhile before the next wave hit…

  • That was the year my husband’s company was sold and our entire world turned upside down.  My husband was suddenly working in a different company with different people.  I left my teaching job,  our church and family friends to join him as we moved out of state.
  • That was the year my mother moved out of our home and into an Alzheimer’s facility; my mother-in-law moved in with us following cancer treatments, and our two sons were uprooted from everything that was familiar in their young lives.
  • It was a very hard year which culminated in tragedy– Our entire country was rocked by 9-11, and then our own mothers both passed away within a month of each other.

In His Goodness, my loving Heavenly Father gave me lots of time later to slow down and process all that happened.  Believe me though, today I view transition periods that give a little heads up of coming changes as a welcome friend!

Although in my last two “Not Just a Waiting Game” posts I spoke of learning and growing by doing things during the “between times” periods, please hear me on this one: You might not be called to fill the gaps that you see with busy activities at all.  Take the time to REST (whatever that may look like for you)…  PLAY (really, life is not all about work or being productive)… RECHARGE your batteries.  That’s not a selfish act, or about being lazy.  If you’re invited to put your feet up for awhile, take it, without guilt.

You just may need a greater supply of energy in life’s next big season. 🙂

 

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