Boston and the not-so-goodness of man

As the sun broke the horizon Sunday morning, I was driving east on I-90 toward the Riverside MBTA station.  I stood on the platform with legging-clad runners, their bright sneakers and pinned numbers a stark contrast to the stained rough concrete.  As we sat next to each other they discussed techniques for training and recovery, their plans for the BIG race the next day.  Wrapped up in my world, I was previously oblivious to the fact that it was marathon weekend.  Quietly I listened to them and compared my plans for the day.  I was going into Boston to volunteer at a convention, to be inside the entire day, talking, smelling, tasting coffee.  Sales and marketing, foamed milk and water pressure.  It was about the fun of combining a little work with something I love.

36 hours my attention would be drawn back to Boston.  Smoke, blasts, shattered glass and buildings.  What is the truth? What happened?  Who do I know that may be affected? Are the people I love safe?  Collectively we were all asking those questions.  There weren’t always good answers.  Lives will now be defined by that instant. Before and after.

Embracing my role as a social media manager to make sure that we put out correct information, and weeded out erroneous stories, I stopped personally processing.  It was business – get the word out, pass on the information, help others make sense, stop the scheduled info and focus on the moment.  Watching Twitter and Facebook feeds, listening to live news reports, my existence was entirely about being online.

Today is different.  The immediacy has passed.  News agencies have been briefed and are more aware of the situation.  Social Media and Community managers have, for the most part, gone on to their regularly scheduled programs, of course adding in the apropos informative links and blog posts regarding the incident.  And I’m stuck.

Downside to being a single, I don’t have anyone at home with whom I can verbally wrestle through an issue.  So dear readers, blurkers, and others it spills out to you.  So many times yesterday I saw memes, tweets, and quotes talking about the ‘good in humanity.’  I have a problem with that.  You see, humankind is not inherently good.  In fact left to our own devices we can be extremely cruel and evil.  Without the redemptive work of faith in our lives, and employing God’s gift of self-control so we can choose to do the right thing, we would be lost.

We ask “How could God let this happen?” while in the same breath we say “I want it my way”.  These thoughts cannot co-exist.  Either we want free will, which includes the choice to do evil, or we want a dictatorship with the Creator calling the shots.  It is not possible to bake the proverbial cake while consuming it.

As a loving God, He allows us to choose.  Being a righteous God, He requires consequences for those choices.  Graciously and mercifully He has provided a way to be excused from the judgement for the choices we make in our moments, but we accept that gift and the parameters that He gives with it – do to others what you would have them do to you; turn the other cheek; make disciples; read the Word and do what it says; love Him above all; live out that love towards those that hate you… (cf Matthew 5-7, 22: 37-39, 28:19-10 NLT)

I will never be able to understand why someone chose to carry out a terrorist attack yesterday.  I applaud the choices of the first responders who chose to run toward danger to save lives.  I grieve with those who must face the repercussions of one person’s actions and now must put lives back together with missing pieces.  And I pray to God that somehow we would all choose to look to Him to gain a measure of peace in the middle of a chaotic world.  To choose to live according to the prescription He has given to live a life that honors Him and serves others.

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The Crux of the matter is… The Heart

I’m just barely getting this in on time… its the last day of the month.  February almost went by without a post. UGH.  I feel like I should have done better, done more, and yet if I look back at what I have accomplished this month, its nothing to sneeze at.  In the last six weeks I have:

  • moved to a new town
  • set up house in my new apartment
  • started a new job
  • organized two fairly sizable events for said job
  • joined a weekly tweetchat to help organizations get social media exposure
  • agreed to be on the board for a new not-for-profit
  • found a local Jesus community
  • re-connected with old friends
  • started meeting new people… and
  • most recently I’ve started a new business endeavor with Pampered Chef.

Whew – ok, I’m not the slacker my inner “Do-More” tells me I am.

photo credit

So why do I still have that inner diatribe yelling at me?  What is it that isn’t satisfied? Because in all that busy-ness I wonder if I really am making a difference.  February is Heart-health awareness month – especially for women.  Fitting seeing as the middle of the month is Valentine’s Day and its practically decorated to the hilt with hearts.  And all of this leads to my introspection of my emotional heart health… Why do we do what we do?  What is this thing that drives us?  I believe it’s because we want to see a better world around us.

This shows up every week in the tweetchat.  We worked with an 11 year old girl who wanted to give soldiers a piece of home to show them that we appreciate their sacrifices.  Who knew it would blow up into a viral social media showdown, but her point was always the same.  To honor those who sacrifice for our freedom.  That’s the heart.

Health issues be it for women, those reconciling with scars from treatments, the late-term effects from cancer treatments, or Alzheimer’s and dementia are filling the twitter feed. Why do people care about it? Because it has impacted them and trying to help people either avoid unnecessary trauma (emotional, mental, or physical) is the goal.  To help and give support and encourage. That’s the heart.

Did you know that a real feminist is a wonderful person to be around?  She acknowledges the right of every woman to make her own choices – and we don’t all have to look the same.  Whether you choose to work or stay at home with your kids or to not have children at all.  We are not better than men, men are not better than women.  True equality is in acknowledge and celebrating differences rather than being defensive about them and tearing down others.  Why is this important? Because as the quote says, ‘Comparison is the thief of joy’.  And I believe that if that is true, then logically  acceptance of one’s identity in Christ is the source of joy. To know, believe in, and own your true identity.  That’s the heart.

Unless we truly know our heart behind all the things we “do” we will continue being redundant, and run in circles like the proverbial rodent in a wheel, always busy but never accomplishing anything.  A recent twitter follower, when questioned about why he chose to follow referred to my bio and said “I think it was the wanna be world changer – I think the world can be changed, but it takes focus”  And he’s right.  It DOES take focus, knowing the heart.

What is the heart behind your actions? I hope you take some time to know your heart today.

New Year… New life

I’ve been silent dear readers.  Why? I’ve been finding my new life.  Truly.  I moved back to North America from Africa in October.  Spent a month in Toronto with family helping with my late grandmother’s estate, then moved into Mom & Dad’s in November to contemplate what my life would look like since the big change in August.  Well, the waiting is over – here are some details of my new life…

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My sunny spot

New Home – a sweet and cozy little one bedroom apartment in a sleepy South-Central Massachusetts hamlet.  I’m trying to find where everything belongs and in the mean-time I’m living with the boxes…

New Job – I’m refocusing my organizational passions in the medium of radio.  I’m the Office Manager for The Q 90.1 FM.  We went on the air in early December 2012, and I came on board in mid-January.  I’m excited about the possibilities of sharing a message of hope in this region.  I still get to use all my knowledge of social media, organization, and meeting and sharing life with people.

New Life – so with a new home and a new job, is this really a new life?  Not exactly.  You see, with all the things that have changed me over the last couple of years, it is now the intention to have a renewed focus on being true to my God-given identity.  What is that?  As I put on my instagram bio “Girl. Jesus-follower. Wanna-be world changer”

You see, we are created by God with a destiny.  Not only that, but we are given the passion to pursue His purpose for us if we will be honest with ourselves and connect with our Creator.  If I’ve learned anything from the grief process, it’s that in the end, it’s not the things (new home) or paycheck (new job) which give merit to our lives, for in reality our physical selves will decay and become dust.

What truly matters is the impact we make on people.  The lives that have influenced us, the hearts we have loved, the souls that we touch as each of us passionately pursue our divine purpose

A Monkey’s Meditation

I’ve been staying with relatives the last three weeks as I help sort through my grandmother’s remaining possessions that were in storage whilst she was in the nursing home after her stroke.  By times its been just sorting & tossing, while other times tears have coursed down my cheeks as I dawdle down memory lane and wish I could have more time.

Most of the things that have triggered weepy moments, have been things that she wrote or cut out of a magazine, or something we read together – words.  Words are powerful, they are able to go around the world and convey images and experiences so that we can all share them.

Here’s one poem that she saved in a bible, that made me laugh, and think – all at the same time.

 

A Monkey’s Meditationmonkey not listening

A monkey musing in his cage

Upon the progress of the age,

Half-whispered as I happened by,

“This evolution is a lie.”

 

Surprised to hear him speak so plain.

I paused profounder truths to gain.

Unconscious I was there to heed,

He thus continues with his creed:

 

“For mortal man to try to trace

Descent from our illustrious race

Is rank injustice to our clan,

The monkey much surpasses man.

 

“In bloody wars, men butcher men;

They slander both with tongue and pen.

They cheat, they lie, they swear, they steal;

And wild with wine, they rock and reel.

 

“They trample justice in the dust;

They loll in luxury and lust.

Their men, their women  young and old.

They sell their very lives for gold,

 

“They laugh at law, they twist their truth,

They crucify the dreams of youth.

Their hearts are hard as solid stone,

They worship God with lips alone.

 

“Man thus has left a trail of crime,

Too foul to sanctify with time.

The record of the human race

Brings flaming blushes to my face.

 

“The monkey leads the simple life,

Is loyal to his wedded wife.

No lady monkey yet, of course,

Has ever sought or won divorce!

 

“The monkey home is still serene,

The father, king; the mother, queen.

The little monkeys, too, obey

Their parents in the good old way

 

“We have no haunts of sin and shame.

No racketeers our ranks defame.

Our record stands an open book

At which the world has leave to look.

 

“No self-respecting monkey can

Admit himself akin to man.

According to the Word from on High

This evolution is a lie.”

~ D.E. Guyton

 

From a tract published by Osterhus Pub. House

4500 W. Broadway

Minneapolis, MN

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