Conspiracy

It’s an irritating thing. Made more annoying by the fact it’s happened a few times over the last few months. At least this time, I was somewhat forewarned.

It’s one of those things about being married to the pastor.

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I’m not a big talker. I think things through, analyze them before most things come out of my mouth. I’m more apt to write about something than talk about it.

Fridays are my husband’s day off. Sunday is a work day. Fridays are a time to regroup. It’s one of the only times through the week, we can have uninterrupted conversations while the boys are at school. A few times over the last few months, I’ve been telling him about a couple of struggles I’ve been having. He listened, offered encouragement but he’s not one to tell you what to do.

And then it happened. On Sunday morning, he gets up to preach and the words coming out of his mouth have to do with exactly what I’d been venting about, on Friday!

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What?!! I’m getting uncomfortable sitting there. Because he didn’t mention, not once, on Friday this was what he was preaching on, on Sunday!  Not. Once. He wasn’t using any personal illustrations. It wasn’t that. It was the fact that he knew what he was speaking on, and didn’t utter a word. Not. One.

I don’t usually know ahead of time what he’s preaching on, unless I ask. Most times I like to be surprised. I don’t have any input on his sermon topics nor do I ever want to, in case you’re wondering.

Needless to say, when he got home after the service the first time it happened, he was met with a few questions! And a somewhat irritated wife. Like you couldn’t have mentioned that this is what you were speaking on? No. Apparently not.
His response was he wanted me to hear it through the word. He knows me too well. I’d blow him off. He knew this would be much more effective. It was. I heard it. Loud and clear.

As I’ve mentioned this didn’t happen only once, but several times over a matter of weeks. You think I would have kept my mouth shut. Then it happened again this weekend. At least this time, I knew about it beforehand.

On Saturday, he asked me to help him with some wording. He had to tell me what the sermon was about for me to have any idea on how to help. When I heard the topic, I said I thought I’d skip the service. I meant it too. He said no, I should be there. Of course he did. Because I had just vented to him the day before about that very thing.

It’s a conspiracy. Seriously.

You’d think I’d get the point, sit up and take notice. Take stock. I don’t even have to let my mind think about it. I know the why, the what, etc.

Why is listening so hard? James talks about how sin is conceived first in our thoughts. You think it enough, you’ll believe it or do it. The same can be said of obedience and victory. It has to be the way we think first and then it becomes actions. The first part of that is listening, especially when the same message constantly replays over and over. Yes, it’s definitely a conspiracy. To bring us back to the One who truly loves us. Who paid the price for our victory. Who is cheering us on.

I’m not preaching at you. More like I’m trying to convince myself. I don’t always want to listen. I want to do what I want to do. Don’t you? We like being in charge of our own lives. We like control. Some days we like our sinful natures way too much but we don’t like to readily admit it. I just want to pout or be mad. Sometimes I like my rebellion to be frank. Because if we listen then we might have to make some changes. We might have to take a good long look at the One who is calling to us, asking us to hear His voice and make a choice. It’s easy to say that, to write it, to know it. At times and seasons in our lives, it’s so hard to do.

Like I said, I write things out to understand them. We all have things in our lives that we need to get a handle on. Once you get a handle on that thing, another one will pop up. We need…I need…, to be listening to the Voice who can help us through it. The victorious life is a journey not a quick overnight fix, but the pay off is worth it.

“You must be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” James 1:19

“But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves.” James 1:22

The Art of Rest

I recently had the opportunity to go away on a retreat for five whole days. It was a week away with some fellow writer friends. The plan was to get away to a cottage and write. No distractions. No other people to worry about and care for. Just us and our writing projects. I had never done anything like it. I was excited for it. The timing was perfect.

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It’s been a couple of busy months. I had had a couple of speaking engagements which was new for me. It was fun but tiring. My creativity was tapped out. My brain tired. I needed a rest with no guilt attached to it. Ever feel that way? We try to rest but our houses need cleaning, laundry is waiting to be folded or dinner time is fast approaching. No rest for the weary or maybe it’s the wicked. Perhaps both.

Whatever, rest is put off or if we do take a few minutes, any enjoyment is strangled by the nagging guilt of something else that needs our attention. So a getaway to a cottage with a couple other writer friends sounded like heaven.

It was. If you are creative, you will appreciate how important it is to give your mind the space to just let it wander and think, imagine. Staring off into space can get you some weird stares sometimes. Not at our little retreat. It was perfectly normal.
It was also a time to engage other creative outlets.

I read. Drank coffee – yes it’s an art form too, especially brewing that perfect cup!  Sketched.

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Went for walks and read cooking mags and PEOPLE. We watched movies at night and I read some more. I sat by the water even though it was a tad chilly. Walked along the beach. Watched the sunset. Took a plethora of photos.

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The one thing I did not do, which I previously would have, was force myself to write the first couple of days. Or feel guilty about it. Was I not at a writing retreat? Why didn’t I write? I’m learning you can’t force it. At least for me the process requires a time to sit. I call it “baking”, it needs to bake in my brain. And sometimes I need to talk it out with someone, which my fellow writers helped me with mid-week. They asked a few key questions and I was able to get back at it. Focused.

In the recent past I would have fretted over the fact I wasn’t writing and felt guilty and basically killed any creativity that was left or was on the verge of returning. Not this time. I let it go. I took the opportunity provided to not just write but rest and give my mind and spirit what it needed. To fill the creative bank with fun things I love. It was highly restorative. And surprise! I did meet my writing goals for the week. This idea that if we work ourselves to the bone we will be more productive is a lie. I took time and rest to rejuvenate and unwind and I still produced and got done what I wanted.

Perhaps the key really is balance. Work, play and rest. Monday-Saturday and then Sabbath. Work all the time certainly does make us dull. It dulls our senses and we forget to engage in life. We miss the signs of love, beauty, and kindness all around us, whether it’s from God or our families and friends. If we give ourselves time to rest, to play, suddenly the world becomes a much livelier place. A more beautiful place. More peaceful.

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We all know this but still, we get sucked into the “we need to work or the world will fall apart” vortex. In reality, if we stop working every once in a while, it actually helps to pull our world together not apart.  Because work, play and rest work together to make us stronger.  When one dominates, it makes us weaker.  What area do you need to work on to have more balance and enjoy life?

The Power of Encouragement

Have you ever watched a playoff game where it’s been a nail biter and now it’s tied? The situation is tense. Both sides are collectively holding their breath.

What I love most at this moment is the reaction of the crowd if the home team scores. One minute everything is dead silent and still. The next, the place is erupting with cheers, yells, and movement. Fans are jumping up and down, hi-fiving it with their buds, clapping.  It’s a domino effect.  It’s so much fun to watch. Or even better, be a participant. Having fans or a cheering section is half the fun of sports, whether you’re a player or an observer. It’s enriches not just sport but life.

Do you have a cheerleader in your life? Who is it? I have benefitted and been blessed by a few people, both men and women, who have encouraged and supported me as I have pursued my dreams and visions. I was reminded again recently how thankful I am for these people. How they bless me.

I confess I’m not always great at this myself. It’s something I need to work on. Some people are enviably gifted at encouragement, cheerleading. If that’s you, don’t take this gift lightly. It’s an amazing and beautiful gift you have. I know some of us, who benefit from it, take it for granted sometimes. I’m sorry. Because it is priceless.

I am realizing that we all need to be encouragers. We can’t leave it up to only those who do it well. We all need to learn to encourage, support and uplift others. Even encouragers get discouraged. Who cheers them on? Everyone needs a dose of “You can do it! I believe in you” every now and then.

Having someone believe in you can turn a bad day on its head. It can change a negative attitude or perspective into a positive one. It can make something happen that maybe was on the cusp of being abandoned. A word, a hug or a smile might be the one thing that changes history because it gave someone hope, the ability to try one more time. To not give up.

It takes a brave person to cheer someone else on. It means forgetting yourself and your own agenda and placing another’s need, dream, desire before your own.

It may mean cheering them on about something that we want for ourselves. That takes humility. Being happy for someone pursuing the dream you want, takes not only humility but genuine love. A divine love that often times we can’t muster up on our own. The kind that casts out all fear because love can’t coexist with fear.

Cheering someone else on with love means that we aren’t worried about not getting our own way. We aren’t concerned someone else is going to win. Take home the prize. Because it is not about the prize. It’s about the person.

Every time someone cheers us on, we feel like we matter to that person. They understand our desires and visions but their concern is us. Their love, support and encouragement give us the confidence to go out and do what we were called to do. It really does take a village. Behind every success, is a long line of people who cheered, sacrificed, and loved that person on.

The tasks fade as do the applause and accolades. The relationships, the friendships do not. I want to be as equally invested in my friends’ lives as they are in me. I want to cultivate encouraging others to dream, to dare to try and let them know they have a cheering section right behind them. That I believe in them too.

I’m a big believer in thanking people. You never regret saying it. A thank you or a “I believe in you” never has an expiry date. It’s always relevant. Who can you encourage or say thank you for encouraging you, today?

Parenting, Gifts and Free Choice: How It’s All Connected

“Parents are always giving things that are not taken.” Reached by Ally Condie

The quote is ironically, from a young adult novel. I don’t think until you become a parent, a mentor or some kind of authority figure in a young person’s life, that you realize how true this statement is. I think for most of us, we want to spare our children from pain, poor choices, unsafe situations, or a myriad of other things. So we offer wisdom (we hope), we offer advice. We tell stories about our own experiences. Sometimes we offer physical help whether it be a helping hand or a place to stay.  Money.  Most parents would give their lives for their children literally.

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Figuratively, that’s what we do, don’t we? We sacrifice our time, our talents, our money, anything and everything to build into our children, the hope of tomorrow. Many times, much to our chagrin and sadness, the offered gift is ignored, rejected or despised. We’ve all been there.

It can start early. The toddler not wanting the helping hand as they learn to walk. The preschooler saying, “No! I do.” The high schooler, rolling their eyes at you again. Looking at you like you are the weirdest person they know. It hurts. Because our own experience and those of others, has taught us how cruel life can be. How unfair. How listening to a wise piece of advice or letting someone come alongside to help you, can dramatically change a life. But we can’t make our kids understand or accept the gift.

Free choice. It drives me crazy.

Do you think it drives God crazy?

I imagine Him hitting his head against some golden wall in heaven, because it’s less painful than watching us trying to do it ourselves and messing it up. Again. I think the words “I told you so” would feel good to utter, just once, to some Old Testament Israelite…or me.

These are just my own imaginings. I don’t think He’s really like that. I might have at some point but He’s proving me wrong on that score. He is the God of Heaven and Earth and He is good. Give thanks to the LORD, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (Psalm 136:1 NASB) He’s not vindictive. He doesn’t give us what we deserve.  Instead He loves us.  Oh there are consequences for our actions.  Like any good parent, God doesn’t remove them.  But He doesn’t leave us alone in them.  He’s there, we just have to acknowledge Him.

I do think He grieves like any parent when the gifts He offers are ignored, rejected and despised. Again these are just my own thoughts. Especially His Son. A priceless gift who is rejected daily, both by those who profess to believe and follow Him and those who don’t. We reject Him when we disobey Him. When we try to manipulate circumstances and worship our own agendas. When we think our sin is too big for Him to handle. When we put someone else or something else on His rightful throne.

Our Heavenly Father is always giving us things that are we don’t take. Like a sunny day after months of cold. A smile on a bad day. The little things that brighten our daily lives are all gifts from above. But so often we ignore them or reject them. They pass us by in our busyness. When our minds are full of ourselves, our circumstances and our problems.

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God gets this parenting thing. He created it. He is our Heavenly Father.  He loves us as His own.  As parents and moreover as His children, God offers us His love, His power and His wisdom. That’s just a start of His many gifts, freely given to us.

Are we ready to take them?

So, my very dear friends, don’t get thrown off course. Every desirable and beneficial gift comes out of heaven. The gifts are rivers of light cascading down from the Father of Light. There is nothing deceitful in God, nothing two-faced, nothing fickle. He brought us to life using the true Word, showing us off as the crown of all his creatures.  (James 1:16-18 The Message)