Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Need for Silence in Conversation

How do you respond in conversations when there are moments of silence? Do you look for something to fill the silence? Or do you wait it out?

We all have different reactions to silence in groups - whether it be just us and one other person, or a larger group of people. Some are uncomfortable with it and will desperately seek to fill it. Others will just fill the silence and not even realize they're doing it. Still others are comfortable with it and will just wait it out.

There is one group of people, who sees silence as completely necessary. Without it, they just won't say anything. It might seem counter-intuitive to others, but these people need it.

As one of these people who needs silence in conversation to participate fully in it, I can say that it is sometimes hard to explain this to people and have them understand. Without silence to allow me to form my thoughts and then put them into words for others, I just won't say anything.

There is a need to silence sometimes. I know not everyone needs the same thing. Some people don't handle silence well. But, some people need it.

When I take a bit of time to answer your question, I'm putting my thoughts into words to communicate it with you. I need the silence to do that. I realize sometimes it's awkward when I take that time. I take as little time as possible to put it all together. But, I need the time to do so.

I'll give you lots of room to talk. I'll happily listen. But, if you fill all the quiet places, I'll never say a thing. I'm asking for some grace from you, in those moments when I need some time to put my words together.

Part of learning to do life together is learning to work with each other in all our differences. That means I'm learning to not get annoyed when others keep talking and avoid the silence. It also means, I'm asking that others learn to work with my need for silence in the midst of conversation.

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Living Truly Free

What do you think of when you think of freedom? What does freedom mean to you?

No rules. No boundaries. Getting to do whatever we want without consequences.

That's what I often think of when I think of freedom. And that's what our society would tell us freedom is. It sounds like that would be fun.

But, then we read words like the ones Peter wrote in 1 Peter 2:16, "Live as free people,but do not sue your freedom as a cover-up for evil; live as God's slaves." These words challenge our society's common understanding of freedom. They make me think again about how I define freedom. They change what it means to live truly free.

It's no longer about having no rules or boundaries. It's no longer about being able to do whatever I want without consequences. That's not really freedom anyways.

God has freed us from the power of sin and darkness in our lives. He is continuing to free us from the places Satan has gained some ground in our lives. As long as we are willing to let Him work.

God offers true freedom as a gift. His endless love, mercy, grace, and forgiveness make true freedom possible. We have the choice of accepting the gift or not.

God's freedom means we're no longer bound by rules, by things we should do or not do. Peter's words in this verse remind us that God's freedom means we always have a choice. We can choose to things that please God or we can choose to do evil.

We run into problems when we begin to see God's freedom as an excuse to evil; when we justify doing things we know are wrong by saying that we're free from rules and that God will always forgive us when we ask.

We're not wrong in saying we're not bound to long lists of things we can and cannot do. Or in saying God will always forgive us. Both of those things are true.

But, if we use them as excuses to do what we know is wrong, we've missed what the freedom God offers us really is. We've missed the heart of what it is God desires for us.

True freedom births in us a desire to live lives that please Him - that bring Him honour and glory. This is what Peter is talking about when he says we should live as God's slaves. We are no longer required to live by a certain list of anything, but we choose to live by what God says because of how much He has given us.

We begin to realize the extent of God's loves, mercy, grace, and forgiveness for us and it makes us want to live the way He says is best. We don't have to - we choose to. That is true freedom.

Friday, May 22, 2015

In The Storm

Last weekend as I sat in a canoe on a perfectly smooth lake watching the sun dip behind the mountains, God began to remind me of how He works. For now, the sky was clear and the lake was smooth, the sun reflected off the lake and the fish were jumping. Nothing spoke of the storm that was coming in a few hours.

Life can be like that sometimes. Everything can be calm and peaceful and going well. A few hours later, the storm comes and nothing is right anymore. We had no warning, no indication it was coming until it was on top of us.

When the rain come last weekend, it poured. There was no way not to get wet. The surface of the lake was now pock-marked by rain drops. The sky was dark and full of clouds. No starts or moon to be seen.

Sometimes life gets dark. The storm brings the darkness in. We can't see what is coming next, or where to take the next step. We have to choose to just hold on and trust. Grab hold of God and not let go.

Mid-morning the next day the rain finally stopped. The clouds parted to reveal the sun. Once again the surface of the lake became like glass. The storm had passed.

Puddles remained. Lush green grass. The water bringing life and nourishing growth.

We usually don't being to see it until we get to the other side. The storm may be difficult when we're in the midst of it and just trying to survive. But, when we get through to the other side, we start to see where the storm fed growth and brought life to areas that were dry and dying.

We may not enjoy walking through the storm. (Camping in a rain storm is not exactly enjoyable.) We may wish it was over sooner. But, God brings good out of the storm.

He uses them to teach us, to grow us, to make us into who He wants us to be. The storms are a part of life that God has plans to use.

Philippians 1:6 says, "Being confident of this, that He Who began a good work in you will carry it onto completion until the day of Christ Jesus." God is doing His work in us. And He uses the things He allows in our lives, including the storms, to complete His good work in us.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Trust Me

Trust Me
Take that step
Put your foot down
I know you can't see
The ground is solid there
Trust Me

Trust Me
I know it's right
I know the good
I have a plan
It's for your good
Trust Me

Trust Me
I'll never leave you
I won't let go
I'm holding you
You're not alone
Trust Me

Trust Me
The way is dark
The brush is thick
The path is hidden
But I know the way
Trust Me

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

When Pride Gets in the Way

A bit of story-type writing to start this one off...

She'd held it all together for so long. She was proud that she could do so. Looking from the outside no one knew that storm that was brewing deep inside. She wasn't even completely aware of it either; she'd pushed it so deep inside.

Life just kept going. Work. Family time. Responsibilities at home. Church commitments. Time with friends. It didn't stop with the challenges of life. The outside looked the same no matter what.

But life inside was not the same. Change and uncertainty. Unexpected loss. She had no control over most of it. But she kept on going, doing all the same things.

She shared snippets of the inside with a few people. But no one knew the full story. She kept it to herself.

Until one day she couldn't. It just became too much. She could no longer keep the storm deep inside. It came to the surface and interrupted her carefully planned life. Things just couldn't keep going the same anymore.

The strong one wasn't anymore. The one everyone else depended on wasn't there to be depended on anymore.

Life came tumbling down. Or, at least, the false one that had been presented to others did.

The truth is, she was kind of glad it did. The pressure of the pretending and pushing through had been exhausting. There was a freedom she didn't realize she could find in admitting she didn't have it all perfectly together all the time - in admitting she needed help right now.


That story is one that has been true of me at different times in life. And maybe has been true of you as well.

So often we go through life pretending we have it all together. Pretending we're all fine. When the truth is anything but that. And eventually we find ourselves at the end of all we can do and our perfectly constructed world comes crashing down around us.

I've been thinking lately about why we're so often reluctant to admit we don't have it all together all the time. The truth I've come to is a hard one to swallow. But sometimes the truth is - even when it's also helpful and something we need.

We don't admit it's not all perfect because of pride. Our pride gets in the way of our being honest.

We may even have people around us who would care and help if we asked, but our pride still keeps us from asking. Our pride keeps distance between us and those God has placed in our lives.

Scripture warns us of the dangers of pride. The way it sets us up to fall. The way it isolates us from others and from God.

We have to deal with our pride before it deals with us. When we do, we learn to ask for help from others and from God before we find our carefully constructed world crumbling around us.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

My Love It and Struggle with it Relationship with Mother's Day

Today is a day on the calendar that can be a difficult day sometimes.

Mother's Day.

Not because I don't appreciate my Mom. I do. I'm convinced I have the best Mom in the world.

Not because I don't think Moms should be celebrated. I do. I know so many who do a great job at what they have been given to do.

I struggle with Mother's Day sometimes because I'm not one and I wish I was. If my life had gone according to my plan for it, I would be. But, God has had something different in store for me than I had planned.

I have a great life. I am blessed beyond anything I could have asked for. I get to do so much that I enjoy and to spend time with people I can't imagine my life without.

But, there are still moments when I struggle with feeling like something I've dreamed about and desired hasn't happened. Mother's Day is one of those days. One of those times when I struggle with feeling like that part of what I've desired hasn't happened yet.

In the last few days, I've seen links to many and read a few of the posts others have written that talk about how we shouldn't make a big deal out of Mother's Day in church because of women who desire to be mothers and aren't for any number of reasons. I don't want this to be that kind of a post. I believe that we need to celebrate our mothers and all that they do. They deserve it.

But, that doesn't change the fact that when Mother's Day comes each year, while I'm celebrating my Mom, I'm also struggling with the reality that I'm not one yet and I wish I was. It makes it hard sometimes.

I'm learning that we can be content with the life that we have - the life that God has given to us. But, at the same time, we can still have desires for something different. It all comes down to what consumes us. I can let my desire for what I don't have consume me, or I can acknowledge it's there and still seek to live my life to the full with what God has for me right now.

In those moments when it's hard . . . In those moments when the reality of that part of my plans for my life not happening yet is on my mind and taking up space it usually doesn't in my head . . . Those the times when I'm grateful for a God who cares and for family and friends who care.

When it comes to Mother's Day . . . we need to celebrate it . . . even in the church . . . maybe especially in the church with the way the family is under attack in our culture. But, we also need to be aware that for some people it is a difficult day . . . for any number of reasons. Reasons as diverse as the people who struggle with it.

We need to learn how to celebrate some and how to care for those who are struggling at the same time. That's what the church should be. That's what we were called to be. It may not be easy. We may not do it well all the time. But, I believe that is what God desires for us.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

When You're Barely Hanging On

Sometimes life can leave us feeling like we're barely holding on. One event or a series of events occurs and we don't know if we can keep going. We feel lost, alone, tired, scared, or maybe we don't feel anything at all.

That's when God can begin to seem far away - like He doesn't here our cries. We can begin to doubt His goodness and His love for us.

Sometimes in our frantic struggle to keep hanging on we're actually missing out on God being right there with us in the middle of our struggle. We get so focused on trying to do what we need to do that we miss God right there. He will catch us if we just stop fighting, if we just let go of what we're trying so hard to hold onto.

Psalm 139 reminds us that we can never escape from God's presence:
Where can I go from your Spirit?
     Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
     if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
     if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
     your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, "Surely the darkness will hide me,
     and the light become night around me,"
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
     the night will shine like the day,
     for darkness is as light to you." (verses 7-12)
If there's no where we can go to escape from God's presence, then even in those moments where life has left us feeling like we're barely holding on, He is still there. We don't have to try to frantically do the right things to get a better grip.

When life has left us feeling like we're barely holding on, our best choice is usually to let go. And when we let go, we find ourselves held in God's arms - exactly the place we need to be.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Broken Pieces

Broken pieces
Shattered on the floor
Scattered to the corners
Impossible to gather
Some pieces too small
Sharp edges to watch for
Slivers that go in too deep

The precious vase is gone
A million pieces on the floor
Pieces to be carefully gathered
And placed back together
By the patient, gentle hands
Of the Master Creator

The broken becomes whole
Pieces placed, cracks filled
Somehow the treasure restored
Is more precious than before

The cracks reveal the beauty
That comes from being loved
A love that patiently restores
All the broken pieces
To make it whole again