Keep it Smaller and Change the World

This weekend was a busy one for me.  On Saturday I attended an all-day women’s event at my church.  Then yesterday morning my husband and I attended services at church and then a class after church.  Last night we attended a home group meeting.  The amazing thing about all of these events was that each event discussed essentially the same topic, which was not something that was planned to be that way.  The women’s event was IF Gathering (IF Gathering website) and was pre-recorded at a recent, nationally-broadcast live event.  Our pastor preached on the next chapter of Acts in a series of sermons based on that book.  The class Sunday afternoon was an informational class about our church as we are fairly new and considering membership.  And our home group has been discussing the same book for months now….last night was just a continuation of that.  None of it was connected except for the fact that it was all centered around our church.  It all was connected because of the theme that just kept making itself known.

The great big word that sums up the theme is “Evangelism.”  It is a word that has come to mean such big things in our culture, and to those who are not believers it has come to mean scary, pushy things.  When one hears evangelist or evangelize, it is easy to conjure pictures of Jimmy Swaggert, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker, and even more modern-day folks like Benny Hinn or even pastors like Joel Osteen.  I’m not trashing these people, so please bear with me here.  These people and their ministries are known for going really big…for having a lot of people and TV shows and a lot of opinions that they freely shared with the world.  I am not commenting on their righteousness or their correctness, I am commenting on their showy methods that attract followers.  So many of our local churches today put on a big show, try to do it up really big to attract people.  People feel like church should be entertaining…a show!  Again, I am not putting anyone down here.  I have been a member of or visited many churches who do it big who love the Lord a whole lot and who are trying to reach people for Jesus.

What I learned about this weekend is a version of evangelism that is quiet.  That is more personal.  That involves cookies and milk, coffee, time spent talking and being with someone.  Time building a relationship with someone, quietly, and sharing who you really are is more valuable than anything in making a difference in someone’s life.  When I think back over my life to the moments that have made a difference to me, the things that come to mind are moments with people, quietly loving on me and listening to me.  I can’t think of one big splashy moment that meant anything to me that didn’t involve the intimate interaction of another person.

I learned that my offering people a ride, or going to lunch, or inviting someone over to just hang with us and spending time being real is what I can do to change the world.  Showing love and consideration for others, sharing who I am, sharing my faith and what makes me who I am can help someone else to change.  It can influence someone else to love, to be authentic, and even to find faith.  I don’t have to wait until I can do something big to change the world.  I can care, and change the world that is right around me.  Like a pebble thrown into a pond, the ripples will grow and spread and make a huge wave of difference.

 

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Social Media Relation…

Social media is often criticized for fostering unrealistic connections and relationships.  Often it is easy to be lured into a false sense of intimacy and safety in the promise of “friendship” on sites such as Facebook and Instagram.  It’s funny, it is possible to know what someone had for dinner and where someone is at any given time, but that same person may be going through some difficult stuff that no one is even aware of.  Isolation within the illusion of relationship.

It’s interesting, however, when something happens to defy this norm.  I have a few friends that I met way back when yahoo groups was popular.  We all joined a group for moms with preschoolers.  There were only a hand-full of us, but over the years we built a relationship of sorts.  I love these women, and I know that they love me.  In 14 years, I have only met one of these women face-to-face.  Yet this group of ladies have been a support to me through some very challenging times in my life.  I have been able to do the same for these ladies.

This kind of connection is rare within social media.  It almost never happens.  Building a lasting relationship is difficult at best when a person can spend time with another.  Social media makes it so much harder because it is all too easy to only share the good and positive, the unimportant, and to keep what really makes up life to oneself.  It is easy to not share heartaches and hurts, and to only present picture-perfect versions of self.

I am very lucky to have this group of ladies within my network of relationships, but I am also lucky that these are not the only support system I have.  Real-life connection, the ability to hug and be hugged, cannot be replaced by any online relationship, no matter how good that relationship is.  The one lady that I have actually met feels much closer to me as a friend.  I feel connected to her, much more so than the other ladies, because I have spent time laughing with her and hugging her and even crying with her.  I even attended her wedding.  It makes a difference.

Just a thought about social media and relationships.

Words

All speech…is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer-Robert Louis Stevenson

A lot of people say a lot of things.  Some say more than others, and some do not know how to shut their mouths at all.  This can especially be true when an opportunity arises to help someone through a problem.  Whether in the context of friendship or in a more formal counseling setting, the temptation is there to talk instead of listen.  If there is one thing I have learned in my 42 years on this earth, it is that words are just words until two people really connect. 

It is important to build a relationship based on trust and on respect before advice will be taken seriously.  Personally, I will not hear what anyone says to me unless I feel like they care and they are being real with me.  If I feel a person is acting like they know everything and like they are better than me, then even if their advice is sound I probably am not going to hear it. 

It is true that unless a person feels love her ears do not work!  Until a person feels cared for she cannot hear and begin to rethink any stinking thinking that is holding her back.  Until a person feels that his concerns are not falling on deaf ears, he is unable to hear any words spoken, no matter how well-intentioned.  Being a know-it-all will not incite me to hear your words or act on your advice. 

 

Friends

I got a surprise visit today from a friend from high school.  I have gotten to see her much more than usual lately because of her job, but she is going to be changing jobs very soon and will not be traveling anymore.  Her schedule opened up today and so she came to me.

This friend and I have been friends for 25 years now.  We haven’t been in constant touch, but when we did talk it was as if no time had passed.  This friend is one of the few people who knows me inside and out.  She knows the good, the bad, and the pretty darn ugly and loves me anyway.  There are so few people who fit this description.  And the two or three people who do fit it have been my friend for most of my life.

Friendship is a funny thing.  There are different kinds of friends.  There are people like this friend who came to visit, people who have been there forever and will be there forever.  People who are family.  Then there are the people who I love, who I have known for a while, but who I am not in constant contact with.  I still consider them friends and we still talk, but they belong more to my past then my present.  And then there are the friends who I see more often in my everyday life, people I am still getting to know and love.  People who I have come to treasure.   There are people who used to be friends but who I really don’t know anymore.  So many different types of friends who have helped to make me who I am.  Who I have loved and shared with.  Who have given a piece of themselves into my heart for safe-keeping.

What a blessing friends are!  Especially friends like the one who came to see me today.

 

For Nigel…

Today I received the sad news that my friend has died.  This friend was diagnosed with cancer 2 1/2 years ago.  He has fought a good battle, but now that battle is over.  Even thought we knew in the past weeks that this moment was coming, I still wasn’t prepared to receive thaIt news.  I just can’t quite process that Nigel is no longer here in this world with us.

There was nothing extraordinary about Nigel.  He wasn’t perfect.  He wasn’t rich.  He didn’t have great influence or power.  There was nothing that really set him apart from other men.  Except that he was different than other men.  Nigel was a believer in Christ.  He loved like Christ.  If someone was hurting, he was there.  Even in the midst of cancer treatments and bad news and the struggles his diagnosis caused his family, he was there for those who needed a friend.  I can remember him having Russ and I over to his house one day when we were facing a very difficult circumstance.  He cooked for us and hung out with us and listened.  He and his wife gave up their whole day to be there for us.  He didn’t think twice about it.  You see, people are important to God so people were important to Nigel.

One birthday a few years ago, Nigel made me my own flan.  That seems like such a small thing!  But he knew that I really loved his flan and so he made it for me.  He liked to serve that way.  He liked to make people feel special like that.

He was one of the few people who my husband could talk to and open up to.  They went out for coffee or a bite to eat a few times.  They talked in church.  They talked on the phone.  Nigel and Russ lived very different lives and careers, but there was a real acceptance and love there between them.  He was trustworthy and faithful to pray and to listen.

Today I’ve been reading what others have had to say about Nigel.  I am overwhelmed with the number of people he touched and the number of ways he touched them.  Such a quiet man who lived his life for him family and for Christ ended up influencing so many people for Christ!  And Christ was what set Nigel apart.  It is what made him so special to so many.

He didn’t like that he had cancer.  He struggled with the things he faced in these last years.  But Christ carried him through.  Because of his faith, his attitude was always one of victory not defeat.  Until the end, he trusted Christ and he showed it.  He embodied Christ and his love.  That is what set him apart.

This ordinary man lived an extraordinary life that will not be forgotten.  I am so thankful for the privilege to have known him and to have been able to call him friend.  In his honor, I hope to show Christ to others in the same way he did.  I hope to make a difference!

Sarcasm or Ugly…

Sarcasm. One of my favorite things! There is nothing like hanging with my most sarcastic friends or family! Laughter can be endless. I just discovered something, however. There is a real difference between being sarcastic and being ugly.

I have an acquaintance who is a Facebook friend. Every time this friend posts or replies to a post, she is dripping in sarcasm. Something about it always bugs me, though I didn’t know why until this morning. This friend isn’t just sarcastic, she is bitter and negative. She expects the worst and behaves as if that is all she will receive! She has lost her tact and her ability to be kind. She is no longer seeing the humor in life, she is battling life. The people she interacts with are the collateral damage.

As you can imagine, no one is able to meet her expectations. And recently I noticed that not many people try anymore. She is becoming unpopular among her friends. I have heard her blame everyone but herself for this. In her mind, it just figures. I’ve heard her ask “Why am I surrounded by idiots?” There was nothing sarcastic or funny about her tone and attitude. She can’t even conceive of the idea that maybe her attitude turns people off. Maybe some effort on her part would make a difference.

The content of her character shows a bitter and un-likable person. It is very hard to handle this kind of person on a daily basis. I can see why her circle is shrinking.

We are responsible for who we are. We make choices every day how we will react to life and to our unmet expectations. We can let life make us bitter and ugly and push the blame off on others. Or we can choose to laugh at life and to make adjustments in our expectations. We can become happy and free to participate in relationships and we can change things we aren’t happy about. When we take responsibility in our lives, we might be surprised at the good things that come our way.

I wish this person, and others like her, would learn this lesson. They would be much happier, and much easier to be around.

Self-Description

In responding to a comment made by her husband, a Facebook friend responded that she didn’t “self-describe” as pretty or motherly.  That comment got me to thinking.  You see, I think my friend is beautiful inside and out…not just pretty.  And she is motherly as in she loves her kids, foster kids, and other people’s kids and speaks positive things into these kids lives!  My own two children have benefited greatly from her motherly love!  It is interesting that my friend sees herself so differently than other people see her.

I started thinking about how I see myself versus what other people see when they look at me.  How do I self-describe?  Is it an accurate picture of me, or is it affected by my own insecurities?  I usually try to avoid any sort of self-description because I don’t always like myself.  I struggle with my weight, I cannot exercise the way I want to because of my Fibromyalgia, and I still feel somewhat awkward in my own skin.  I know that I am intelligent but I have difficulty in contributing to conversation because I feel like I can’t accurately vocalize my thoughts.  My self-view is very much tainted by my insecurities.  I know this.  I am working on this.  I have been making a lot of changes in the past couple of years, and have grown stronger and more confident, but I know I still have a long way to go!

What do others see when they look at me?  This one is harder.  I know my husband sees me as beautiful and sexy, whether I feel that way or not.  My daughter says I am pretty.  I hear people say I am funny, sensitive, caring, smart…all good and positive things!  I’m not always sure how to respond to this, though, because it often takes me by surprise!  I guess we are our own worst critics.

I was commenting to my husband last night about the need for affirmation in life.  I had received some very affirming comments from fellow students on an introduction post for our class.   Their words lifted my heart in many ways, even though these people are not a part of my inner circle.  I told my husband that I receive more criticism than affirmation, if I receive anything at all, from people regarding my goals and calling.  It’s not a mean thing or anything like that.  It is just life.  I am realizing how much words of affirmation can affect my self-perception. 

I am thinking I need to be more purposeful in my affirmation of my family and friends.  I think maybe letting them know what I see as positive qualities may be an encouragement and help them to see themselves in a more positive light.  I think I also need to accept the positive comments from family and friends and allow their feedback encourage me to see myself in a more realistic light.