Monthly Archives: November 2013

Where has Thanksgiving gone?

 

Tureky

Turkey, rolls, stuffing, cranberries, rolls, green-bean casserole, rolls, pie.  The table is practically bending in the middle with the weight of all the food that has been placed on it.  And by the end of the meal, you will be uncomfortably stuffed from all this wonderful deliciousness.   And it’s tradition.  And it’s community.  And it’s expected.  And it’s amazing food.  And it’s communion with friends and family.

And yet…..

Can someone explain to me how a day that has come to represent over-indulgence, a day that precedes a whole season of over-indulgence, be called “Thanksgiving”?  If we are truly thankful, we wouldn’t be focused on ourselves, would we?   We wouldn’t be stuffing ourselves with food, than rushing off to get the best gadgets that same evening and following day.  Nothing about that sounds very Thankful to me.

Thanksgiving means we recognize that we are given so much more than we are worthy of.  Thanksgiving means remembering where our health, our food, our relationships, our houses and all the stuff in them, where all that comes from.  Thanksgiving should be a gathering of family and friends to, as a community, give thanks to God for what He’s done.

But I don’t see that really happening in our culture.  Sure – in pockets – little glimpses here and there – but not over all.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m all for celebrations.  And yes, it is good to sit down with friends and family and eat together.  There is something spiritual and holy about it – or should be.  But if the meal wasn’t about us, but about giving thanks to God for what He has done throughout the year (because that was the original point hundreds of years ago) than shouldn’t it look different?

catching fire

I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just grumpy this morning.  But then, that scene from Catching Fire keeps circling around my mind.  (No spoilers if you haven’t seen it.  Promise. ) There is a scene where Peeta and Katniss are at the Palace, in the celebration of the culmination of their victory tour – they are eating, and stuffed.  When they mention this, one of their stylists hands Peeta a glass of pink liquid (I’m sure it’s named in the books, but I don’t remember), which, apparently, allows you to throw up so that you can go eat more.  Peeta politely refuses the drink, and whispers to Katniss, “People are starving back home, but here, they’re throwing up food”.  Or something like that.

And I wonder.  We’re thankful, and eating too much, but out there, beyond where you can see them, people are starving.  Literally.  In The United States of America, kids are starving. In Haiti, in Peru, in South Africa, in Germany, in China, in The Philippines, in India – people are literally starving to death.  The ache in their bellies is not from eating too much – but from not having enough to eat.

Shouldn’t, in our thankfulness of what God has done for us this year, we somehow remember those who are less fortunate?   Shouldn’t our thankfulness lead to action?  Shouldn’t we share our bounty – in whatever way we can?  Whether that’s donating time and money to a local food bank or homeless shelter, or inviting someone to your meal who doesn’t have anyone else to eat with, or even simply smiling at the bell-ringer outside the grocery store, or forgetting all the doubts you have about how the man at the corner with the sign would spend your money, and giving him a five anyway, but making sure you look in his eyes and tell him “God bless” before handing it over.  Wouldn’t that be the grateful thing to do?  Or maybe even just being more intentional with how much food we eat, not abusing His graciousness?  I don’t know.

This isn’t what I intended to write about, it was a much cheerier subject.  This is just what came out.  Sorry if it’s a downer.  I don’t mean to sound judgmental or anything along those lines.  I just… I guess I feel like something about this holiday has gone horribly wrong, and maybe we should do something about it.

 Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!

1 Chronicles 16:34

Turkey Pic Cred

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Speak Up, Man!

i-hate-talking-on-the-phone

I once dated a young man who loved The Simpsons.  We worked together, and throughout the day he would come up to me and spout random quotes.  One of his favorites was, “The problem in the world today is communication.  Too much communication.”  And then he would walk off.  Yep.

I just entered that weird phase that NO ONE WARNS YOU ABOUT where you’re old and young all at the same time.  But, I’ve lived long enough to firmly believe that most relationship (friends, family, romantic) issues could be worked out if people actually had the courage to communicate…and maybe the insight as to when and how to communicate.

Bringing up a deep topic, or something that’s really bothering you, while the other person is tired, or frustrated, or distracted with their phone, or, well, generally not listening – that’s NOT communication.  You gotta pick your time carefully.

So, you might need some patience, and a lot of prayer.  But, even if you have to wait two days, or two weeks, it’s still important to talk about whatever was bugging you at the time.  Simply “forgetting about it” (in my experience, no one can truly “forget about” something – it’s down there  … lingering  ….festering …. ) never helps anyone.  You need to talk it out.

I know it’s uncomfortable.  I know it’s painful.  I know it was so long ago.  You still need to – generally.

Now, saying that, I should add, that I’m a pretty huge hypocrite in this area.  There are several conversations I’m never going to have with several people in my life that maybe I should.  There are words I am never going to say.  Because I’m convinced that those words aren’t going to do any good.  Due to the character of one of these people, speaking to him would do more harm than good.  Sometimes that happens.  And because of that ,I have a lot of hard work to do on my own – working through stuff.  But it’s important to work through the pain and anger; if I’d just ignore it, well, that’s when I allow bitterness to settle in.  And bitterness is the great unspoken sin.  It’s a couple steps away from hatred.  Don’t go there.

I’m not going to talk about some of the hurts and pain I’ve been given from another friend because they happened years and years ago, and I know she wouldn’t remember them.  She’s a different person now.  I’ve had to do the hard work to see that, to work past long-ignored pain that was blinding me to the woman she is now.  And I’ve promised myself that from now on, now that I realize how important it is, as other stuff comes up in our friendship (because, in a true friendship, stuff occasionally comes up) I will talk to her about it.

See, it’s important to work out our pain.  It’s one of the ways we let it go, one of the ways we release it.  It’s vital that we talk about it with the person who hurt us – in the right time, the right place, the right attitude.  I cannot stress how important the right time, place and attitude are!!!  They are key, vital, imperative, crucial…you get the point.  So, pray about it.  Pray as you’re in that moment, knees bent, wound freshly bleeding.  Pray for God to give you the words to say to help the other person understand things from your point of view.  Pray for God to restore the relationship.

But, whatever you do, don’t pretend that it doesn’t matter.  Or that you’ll get over it.  In fact, we’re commanded to not ignore this stuff.  Ephesians says to not let the sun go down on our anger.  Talk it out, or if the time and place (or attitude) isn’t “right” yet – write it down, journal about it.  Or draw a picture about it.  Go for a walk and write a note that you need to talk about it.  Pray about it until you have peace.  But don’t go to bed still hurt and angry.  It doesn’t make for very restful sleep.  Believe me.

I’m convinced that many of the abandoned relationships that lay shattered on the ground all around us could have been saved had people just talked about stuff – before the hurt got too deep, or there got to be too many of “not big deal” wounds.

Relationships are important, people are important.  And guess what, relationships can’t really have any sort of depth without communication – in whatever form that looks like for you.  You HAVE to talk – about the good stuff, the fun stuff, the everyday stuff, the painful stuff, the angery-ifying stuff, the scary stuff.  Real friendship means telling the other person the stuff that never makes it to Facebook, or Instagram, or Twitter.  It means being very open with each other.  It means trusting the other person.  Lots and lots of trust – and forgiveness.  It has to happen, or else the relationship becomes unhealthy.  And well, unhealthy relationships don’t tend to last.

They are two of the few things (if not the only two) that you get to take with you to heaven.  So make sure you take care of them.   Talk stuff out, don’t pretend it doesn’t matter.   It does.  You know it, and so do they.

And while I actually do believe there is such a thing as “Too much communication”, I believe that has more to do with focusing on the something, and never allowing yourself to grow. Or you’re telling the world facts that hurt another person.  I’m sure there are examples, but they’re not the point of this particular blog.  For the most part, in real, deep, lasting relationships, there is NO SUCH THING as “too much communication.”

                So – go communicate people!  Even if it means awkwardness, or a red face, or a shredding a napkin while you’re trying to get the words out.

Pic cred 

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The thin boundary between worlds

Bear with me here.  I’m processing this.  This has been on my mind for months, and this is the closest I’ve come to getting it out.  Please feel free to respond and put in your two cents.

There is a repeated theme in fantasy literature that there are places where the boundaries between the supernatural world and the physical world are thinner, where our actions in the physical world can affect the supernatural world, and visa versa.

I know it’s not always the best idea to get your theology, or even world view, from fantasy literature, but sometimes it speaks truth in a way that no other sort of story (or text book) can.  Hence C. S. Lewis writing The Chronicles of Narnia, or J.R.R. Tolkien writing The Lord of The Rings.  Actually, the truth in mythology is a big reason why C. S. Lewis became a Christian (or so legend says).

The thing is, this principle isn’t just in my favorite fantasy literature; it’s all over the Bible.  Look at Job: Satan talked to God – in the spiritual realm – and then Job’s physical world came shattering down around him.  Look most of the last third of Moses’ life, as he led the Israelites around the desert.  Look at the miracles Elijah and Elisha performed.  Look at Jesus.

There is an overlap.

And maybe this is because we are not just physical beings, but spiritual as well.  We live in a culture that currently believes that Science and Logic will always have the last word.  And yet there are so many unanswered questions in our lives that Science and Logic will never be able to answer.  So many heart longings that make absolutely no sense, but that make us miserable until we pursue them.  We are spiritual beings.

And so, as both spiritual and physical beings, sometimes what we do in the physical world echoes into the spiritual – our actions, our words.  Not always, but sometimes.

This is the part I’m not sure about.  I don’t know where the overlap is.  Is it everything?  Is it only the important stuff?  Is it in the quiet moments?  I’m willing to bet ceremonies like weddings and baptisms are a few of those times.  And those moments when you inexplicably feel loved.  Or when you just know that you know that you need to do something, or say something to someone, even if it doesn’t make any sense to you.

I don’t know exactly what the implications are.  I know there are some.  I know there is some sort of important life application here, but other than just becoming more aware of the consequences of your physical actions, and learning to listen to the spiritual side of you (um, otherwise known as the conscience the Holy Spirit has put in you…or the Holy Spirit Himself), which are both HUGE things, I don’t know.

But I know it’s important.

So, talk to me.

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Baptism

under water

 

“What we do in life echoes in eternity”

I couldn’t understand why I had to do it; I just knew I needed to.  But there was no way I was going to do what I needed to do before I knew WHY I needed to do it.

That sounds confusing.  Let’s back up.

When I was ten, I watched my babysitter get baptized, and something in me longed to do the same.  When I told Mom that I wanted to do that too, she said I should wait until I was older, when I knew what that action meant.   Years passed and while the desire would come back when I watched others get baptized, somehow it was never the “right” moment for me.

The summer I was twenty-six, I had been back from Bahrain for a full year, and I had just begun healing.  My church had a baptism, and as I watched some of my youth group kids get baptized, the old longing returned.  I knew next year, at next summer’s church picnic, I would get baptized.

I never doubted that this was going to happen, but I instantly wanted to know WHY I needed to be baptized.   After all, I had said the prayer seventeen years before.  If a simple prayer saves you (I’m not convinced of this, by the way) than I’d been saved for seventeen years.  Everyone who knew me knew I was a Christian.  If the point of baptism, as it appeared to be in the Bible, was simply declare my faith, why did I need to go through the actions?  It wasn’t necessary.  My salvation was not dependant on my baptism, so why?

No one could really answer my question other than, “Well, Jesus did it.  And we’re supposed to imitate Jesus.  So, you need to do it. It’s an obedience thing.”

But that didn’t really explain anything for me.  WHY?  WHY was this ceremony, were these specific actions, necessary?

So, since no one could explain it to me, I took my Bible and journal to a coffee shop, and had it out with God.  I told him I wanted to do this, but I also wanted to know what I was doing.  I wanted to understand the significance of these actions.

And I sat there in silence, staring off into space, waiting, listening, for a good chunk of time.

And gently, quietly, a picture of a wedding worked its way into my consciousness.  As I looked at the bride and groom in the picture, I realized they could have asked a similar question.  The wedding ceremony didn’t change how they felt about each other.  It didn’t change their commitment level to each other.  The wedding was simply a public declaration to the world of what was already in their hearts, and it was the bride and groom’s asking the congregation to be part of their story.  To celebrate with them in the joyous moments, to cry with them in the unbearable moments, and to help them push through in the moments when all they would want to do is run in the opposite direction.    And there was something about the ceremony that made the commitment more solid, harder to break.  Maybe it was the ceremony itself that changed the commitment into a covenant.

And the same was true of me getting baptized.  It was me declaring my love and obedience to my Lord and Savior.  It was me inviting others into my story, asking them to keep me accountable, to help me out, to rejoice with me.  It was an intentional public display of affection.

The quiet sploosh of me being dunked beneath the water, will forever be one of the most holy sounds I ever hear.   In that moment, my physical body echoed what my spirit had long ago done, and it was about time the two were unified and in agreement.

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No Great Expectations

He’ll notice the non-existent tear in the corner of your eye, and ask what’s wrong.   She’ll have your favorite dinner, perfectly prepared, waiting, steaming hot on the table when you come home.  He’ll intuitively know when to bring you a rose for no reason.  She’ll know the perfect words to say to remind you of the man you are.  She’ll always be beautiful.  He’ll always be able to fix the leaky sink.
She’ll know when to take you out for coffee and just listen, and she’ll know when to interrupt.  He’ll know when to get you to come over and play X-Box and to let you kick his butt.
She’ll know when to hug you and put a band-aide on your owy.  He’ll know when he needs to call you Princess and scare the teenage boy cowering behind you – mostly because he wants both you and the boy to know how very special you are.
She’ll glare at you whenever you pass in the hallway.  He’ll call you names behind your back.
He’ll ask you why you didn’t try harder on the test…again.  She’ll give you slack because she always does, and let you get by with it again…this time.
He’ll take care of everything, make sure the world runs smoothly, make sure none of the children go hungry or get hurt.

I once had a friend tell me that he was working at not having any expectations in his relationships.  And I thought he was crazy. You need expectations, right?  Otherwise people will walk all over you; otherwise people will use you.  Otherwise you’re the only one giving in relationships.  Otherwise you’re directionless.

But, the longer I live, and the more relationship experience I have, the more I realize how wise my friend is.  Expectations in relationships – romantic, friends, parents or simply someone in your social circle, or even of God  – are incredibly damaging.

When we think we know how someone should react, or what they should do, we limit them to our standards.  No, seriously, think about it.  If you have a certain idea of how your best friend is supposed to treat you, when she doesn’t it, it’s incredibly painful for you.  And you probably get angry, because she didn’t do what you needed to do; she didn’t do her job as best friend.  Shouldn’t she know better?  So you punish her (get angry, pout, stop talking, or simply hold it against her until you can’t hold it in any longer) until she gets the hint and starts acting the way YOU want her to.
And when you carry those ideas around with you, you’re really hurting your friendship.  You’re not allowing her to be her*.  And, you’re saying that she has to act a certain way, when maybe she never thought of that, or maybe she was trying to do something better for you, or, well who knows.  The point being, you had expectations of her, and now that she didn’t follow through, some part of you that was banking on her doing that, is incredibly hurt.

See, the thing is, our expectations are one way we exercise control over people.  We expect them to be, or do, or look a certain way.  And we get hurt and furious when they don’t.

The same is true of God.  When we have expectations of who He is, or what He’s like, or what He should or can do, we limit Him, and we try to control Him.  Our expectations dictate what we think His actions should be.  But the crazy thing is – He’s GOD.  As Job found out – who are we to say what He’s like, what He should do, or question His letting children in Africa go hungry?  I know, I sound super shallow saying that.  I sound like callous, like I don’t care.  But I do.  So I do everything a poor, broke white girl in the US can do.  But I don’t get angry at God.  He’s God.  He is GOOD.  He has a plan.  My expectations of Him only damage our relationship.
So I let God do what God does best – be God.  I trust that He’s going to stick with who He is, the solid truths I know about Him.  And so I’m just along for the ride.

The thing is, we think that we can’t give up those expectations.  That somehow releasing those expectations of the people around us will allow them to be less than who we need them to be.  Or that the need that they sorta-almost-kinda fill will be completely neglected in us.  And it’s painful.  It’s harmful.  But the thing I’ve discovered is that holding grudges for expectations not met, for keeping those expectations when it’s obvious that person is NEVER going to live up to them, is actually incredibly more painful and harmful than if we were to let them go.
If you let them go – if you let the expectations go – than you allow that person to be who they really are.  You’ve given them freedom.  And who knows but that in their freedom they now have the room to be who you needed them to be – even if you didn’t realize you needed them to be that.  And somehow, in your release of your expectations of them – you allow God to step in and fill the spots that your friend or family couldn’t.   And that’s when healing begins.

We all have expectations.  Boyfriends and girlfriends have expectations of each other.  Husbands and wives have expectations of each other.  Daughters have expectations of their daddies.  Best friends have expectations of each other.  We all (whether or not we realize it) have expectations of God.  Let them go.

Let them go.  See what your relationships look like if you allow that person (or God) to simply be who they are.  See what your relationships look like if you allow God to fill the needs in you that right now, you’re expecting someone else to fill (and they’re failing miserably at).

I’m betting your pain will be dramatically less, and the relationship, over time, will get healthier than you’ve ever imagined.   Granted, it will be incredibly hard.  It’s natural for humans to have expectations of each other. It’s just what we do.  It’s part of how we make sense of the world around us.  And it’s part of how we kill each other.

So now I’m striving to live as my friend does –  relationships with No Expectations.

*Now, there are times we need to confront (gulp) our friends or family or even God when they really aren’t doing something we need them to do (or are doing something we need them NOT to do).  But if we hold expectations of how they should act – that confrontation is an angry confrontation.  While, if we didn’t have those expectations, that confrontation is a gentle one, one of humility and need.

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