Life matters…

Our relationship with this world is a strange paradox. The same can be said for our relationship with social media.  It can bring friends from around the world into one place – as small as the palm of your hand. Sharing stories, major life events, participating with peers in all of the up and downs that life dishes out. Celebrating the victories with a retweet or like, bemoaning a crisis through a comment.  We have distilled life into bite-sized pieces of 140 characters or less.

distorted magnified imageYet, the frailties of our humanity are magnified. A headline from the Toronto Star on Saturday decried “Death by Social Media.” As a social media person, I read these stories with an avid interest, searching my own motives and agendas about being online.  This, unfortunately, is not the first tragedy of its kind.  A friend recently posted about a similar situation on his blog, reminding us that we need to remember to humanize our social media.

Every post is a person.  Behind those avatars, profile pictures, and cover shots is a real live breathing human person with a soul and a story.  Each post, tweet, blog, and instagram is the reflection of a moment of life. And every life matters.  They matter to God, and as a Christian, they should matter to me.  Whether it is a life barely begun in the womb of a woman, a life that is malnourished because of poverty, one that is at risk of being trafficked as a slave or sex-object, or one that just somehow fell through the cracks of nets that government and society have set up – they are important.

God sees them. Even if we don’t.  He invites us to participate in His Kingdom by “hollowing out a great space in the hearts of those who will risk this loving and compassionate life-style.”  To extravagantly love others is to risk hurt, rejection, and pain. To experience the sufferings of Christ. As I search myself, I hope I find a soul hollowed out to be filled with love, rather than one fits “the world’s mold that will leave us misshapen in our souls.”

**italicized quotes from “Tent Revival Homecoming” presented by Bill Gaither © 2011

A tribute…

I had the amazing opportunity to be able to share some thoughts at my grandmothers funeral service today.  I consider myself to blessed, honored, and privileged to be able to call myself the granddaughter of Doris Marie Gurley… Because I believe what she stood for is lacking in our world today, I’ve decided to post my thoughts here for all of you.  If we continue to celebrate these positive attributes, then we can help to make sure another generation will know what it means to truly live out the servant-Christian life. Thank you Gramma for being my example and mentor, for your life well lived.

“There will be several themes that you will hear repeated today regarding Gramma’s life – she was a lady, her caring nature, her love of music.  Music was a large part of her life – even from when she was a child and she passed that down to us.  In fact, I don’t think, if asked, that I could pick just one song that says “Gramma” to me.

Going back to my childhood, there was nothing like arriving at 20 Graydon Hall Dr – and looking up from the parking lot and seeing Gramma waving from her balcony on the 8th floor.  Then it was the elevator ride up, and then running pell-mell down the hall where she was waiting arms open wide for hugs.  Ask any of her grandchildren or great-grands and I’m sure they’ll agree that there is nothing like a hug from Gramma, tight, one-armed while she held her glasses off to the side. My memories flit from sitting in the rocking chair listening to her sing “You Are My Sunshine” or “I love you, a bushel and a peck” to singing silly songs, like “Mairzy Doats” or “There’s a hole in the bottom of the sea” while doing dishes. Yes, I do believe Gramma could have given Larry the Cucumber a run for his money when it comes to singing silly songs.

Many of you will share my memories of the singing with Sister Moore & her accordion before Sunday School classes.  There was “the woo song” which to this day I cannot remember the real title of or “My God is So Big”, “It’s Bubbling”, “1,2,3 Jesus Loves Me” and her original song on the fruits of the spirit – “Love brings the Joybells”.  As my first Sunday School teacher, she had a very big impact on what I first remember about Jesus.  Its those songs I go to now when I’m teaching children, or trying to make sure I recall all 9 fruits of the Spirit.

As I got older, there was a greater influence of the harmonies of the hymns and southern gospel songs that truly spoke to what mattered most to Gramma – Jesus and His people.  I’m sure there are people here today who have fond recollections of the trio singing at various church services and functions.  “Gentle Shepherd”, “Sweeter”, “Step Into the Water”, “Wherever I am” … these songs indelibly wrote upon my heart and soul the truth of the gospel and who Jesus is.  These are the songs that play in my heart when I’m wrestling through something, listening to a message, or during prayer.

I cannot separate Gramma from music, anymore than I can separate her from myself.  In fact it is during these difficult days that the songs carry me through the hurt and pain of loss.   I am grateful for the lessons I learned at my grandmother’s knee.  I am thankful for the legacy that she has left behind.  Because of her influence, I’ve learned to love Jesus, His people, and have a sense of style while doing it. Thank you Gramma for helping me learn that no matter what – “Jesus Loves Me”.”

Gramma & Miss Em

Gramma & her youngest great-grandchild (2009)

Jail break!

unleash bannerI’ve written before about my desire to live ‘out loud’ and my refusal to have a ‘beige life’. (If you’re new to the blog, you can read that here, and here).  And those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter have probably seen my recent posts about Perry Noble’s new book “Unleash!” I have to say, I really love that the subtitle is ‘Breaking Free from Normalcy” – because as we all know, as the sage of Americana Erma Bombeck said “Normal is just a setting on the dryer”.

I’m a huge reader, and I like to mark-up my books so I can go back to those passages that stood out to me. Thus, my e-book is now full of highlighted passages like

“The unleashing of our lives begins when we refuse to believe it’s too late for us, when we reject the idea that we’re too damaged for God to do anything with, when we stop being obsessed with ourselves… “Who is the Lord, and what does He want to do through me?”*

and “Believing that lie held me hostage to what can be one of the most damaging enemies of the unleashed life: religion… In doing so, I ceased to live for the things that really matter to God and began to hyper-focus on the things that mattered to me!”*

My high school English teachers were big on instructing us to find themes in books. In reading through Unleash!, there was a theme that kept resounding like an unrelenting klaxon – we live in the prisons of our own making yet Christ came to set us free.  The door isopen cell door unlocked, we just have to try the handle and walk out!   WHY do we stay inside, peering through the window, feeling left out, alone and abandoned, resigned to the vanilla-ness of it all?  Now don’t get me wrong, I love vanilla, but I like it best when its dressed up a bit with some chocolate! We accept the bland, boring and banality of a less-than life, when God promises us abundance, a veritable hot-fudge banana split.  Why do we keep pushing it away?

Perry points out several reasons. The performance trap, trauma and tragedy from our past, unforgiveness, and our passivity to take the next step caused by both fear and disobedience.  Written like that, it can seem like the usual trite religious tirade of “Try harder, do more”.  However, I agree with Perry that though we can point out these issues, we cannot handle them on our own and its impossible to gain victory in any of these areas until we learn the limitless unleashing grace of God.

“God wants good things for you. That’s what He wants for all His children. He wants us to experience the life, joy, and peace found in Christ— everything that comes with living an unleashed life.”* 

I’ve got more reading and thinking to do. Between Unleash! and the Bonhoeffer biography, my head is swimming with things that are challenging my status quo. That’s a good thing, because that’ll help keep things interesting.  I don’t want to stay inside when all I have to do is just turn the knob.**

*All noted passages from Noble, Perry (2012-09-20). Unleash! Tyndale House Publishers. Kindle Edition. Want your own copy? Go to unleashbook.com/buy

**for a fun illustration about just opening the door, you can listen to Pastor Craig Groeshel’s message “Soul Detox part 2” on the Elevation Church podcast

Not Fair!

“No fair! No fair! No fair!” my inner crimson-cheeked, tear-stained inner preschool wails and throws a fit. “This isn’t FAIR!”

And the truth is – it isn’t fair that plans get cancelled and dreams don’t always come true.  It’s not fair that I’m no longer planning a wedding, pinning my dreams on Pinterest, preparing for a marriage and family.  It’s not fair – but it is life.

Life is not fair as our mothers oft told us in our younger days.  It is not fair, balanced, and organized.  Rather, I believe instead, it is more like managed chaos with moments of crises and excitement thrown in just to keep it interesting.  So I can either choose to sulk and pout and pitch a fit about the unfairness of it all OR I can suck it up, put on my big girl pants, and look for the new opportunities that are in front of me now.

It is never too late to start over as my friends The Afters keep blaring in my earbuds.  Consequently I will – even at the old advanced mature age of 35. The possibilities before me are quite varied – and hard to believe – God trusts me to hear Him and choose.

SO – anyone want to hire a 35 year old administrative, organizational aspiring writer who likes to travel, enjoys new experiences, and wants to make a difference in the world?

Seriously – if you know of something, email me.  Thanks!

A preponderance of thoughts…

A busy mind is a terrible thing to waste.mind maze

Ever have those days where your head is so full of various thoughts, words, emotions, that you just don’t know where to start to put it down… Just as you think you have a clear direction on one topic, something else grabs your ears, and yells “Pay attention to me!!” So off you go – putting oil on the proverbial squeaky wheel, until you lost the immediacy and original passion for the first idea, but not entirely, so it sits there, percolating, simmering until a new perspective on that idea bursts and drags your mind to muddle that through.

There and back again… 

Back and forth, hither and thither, up and down – my imagination has wandered to the reformation, before creation, and into the light of eternity this week. From Germany, Narnia, New York, Jerusalem and the golden streets of the heavenly realms. Theology, dogma, the doctrines of sacrificial love, preparing for coming crises, the acceleration of change in our culture…

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?

Thoughts can be so elusive sometimes.  Is it possible to pull the ephemeral from the air and make it something physical, the solidity of black and white words?  If the possibility exists, tell me, will someone else understand it?  For what good is it to put the thoughts out there, to tell the message, if no one can comprehend what is being said?

In the stillness… 

In quiet and tranquility , if we wait long enough, and ponder a thought sufficiently, it will eventually settle. It will solidify, and clarify.  Thoughts must be sifted out of fiction, filtered through experience, and tried by the fire of truth before being declared in the public forums. Once processed, a true thought will come out, understood by the soul, heart, and mind, transparent not only to oneself but also by the audience.

 

So, I will continue to wrestle my focus between a variety of thoughts, ideas and concepts – noodle them through, and once I understand my perspective on the ideas, I will share them – or not, if they should happen to fail the tests of truth and time.

The landscape has changed

barren landscapeLife is a journey.

Have you ever been on a long road trip, taken a nap while another person was driving, and you were totally disoriented when you woke up because the landscape around you had changed and you were now in unfamiliar territory?

When this happens in life what do you do?  Suddenly, the future before you has changed.  You’re not sure what to do.  What had seemed a certainty is now gone, instead of a few possible choices, anything is a possibility. While choice is great, too many choices are overwhelming.

Having a game-plan doesn’t ensure success.

Personally, I’m the type who prefers to always have a game-plan, and usually with a few back-up plans just in case Plan A falls apart.  Unfortunately, sometimes my plans turn into an epic fail.  And even though I’ve said I’d rather take the risk to either succeed spectacularly or fail epically, its really no fun to feel like you’ve failed.  Success is always preferred.

Right now my heart hurts, my brain is on overload, and my emotions are all over the map.  How do I make sense of this? Where is God in all of this?  Did I miss something? Where did I go wrong? Is my judgement really that off? How could I have possibly messed this up so badly? Can I really trust myself again? These are the thoughts that plague me in the quietness of the night hours. Nothing makes sense to me anymore. Even listening to my iTunes can be dangerous if the wrong song plays in the shuffle.

What’s a girl to do?

“Be still and know that I am God.” Still.  Do I know how to be still?  Not very well.  In fact out culture pretty much shuns stillness.  Between books, internet and social media, television, movies, smartphones, and tablet devices we have an multitude variety of things to keep our minds and brains so entertained that we forget how to be still and just listen.  Sometimes we’re afraid of our own thoughts – but are those really what we need to be listening to?  I’ve heard it said that to get to true stillness we need to:

Quiet our actions so we can hear our voice

Quiet our voice so we can hear our thoughts

Quiet our thoughts so we can hear our breathing

Quiet our breathing so we can hear our heartbeat

Quiet our heartbeat so we can hear our soul

Quiet our soul so we can hear the Voice of God (paraphrased)

The landscape has changed.

So, here in this new place, which seems so barren, I’m allowing myself to be still. To be okay with being in the ‘in-between’.  And  while I’m being still and quiet He will heal me and then He will whisper to me which way I’m supposed to go.

I’m okay with that.

if its scary quote

The art of writing – taking the essence of life and committing it into letters, words, sentences and paragraphs. Sometimes elegant and refined, though more often clumsy and contrived. Yet those of us who love words will continue to pursue the elusiveness of truly capturing thoughts and ideas so that others may read. Thanks to annaldavis.net and Invisible Ink…

Anna L. Davis

You’re sitting in front of a computer, fingers poised over the keyboard. Ideas swirl in your mind, words flash in your subconscious, and you feel yourself mentally writing a sentence. But it’s not on the screen.

Then something happens. The ideas become words that shoot their way across your neurons into the muscles of your fingers. And you begin to type.

It’s a magical moment, that point at which the unseen thoughts in your mind become seen. And any writer will tell you, in hushed tones as if embarrassed, that it is indeed a deep magic.

Sure, we can easily explain the physical act of writing. While we still know little about the brain, we do know enough about neurobiology and linguistics to understand how ideas become words and convey meaning to each other. We know enough about anatomy to track the electrochemical impulses across the brain and down the…

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