Saturday, November 19, 2016

Getting Personal With Your Pen-Pal

Did you ever have a pen pal?

I read a blog post by Lyli Dunbar of 3-D Lessons for Life the other day about creating space to connect with our Creator (you can read it here). Carving out time to sit at His feet to renew your passion and purpose.

One of her suggestions was to "Make God your pen-pal. Write God a love letter. Pour out your heart to the One who mends the brokenhearted."

I love the idea of making God my pen-pal.

When I was in grammar school--maybe fourth grade--we were assigned pen pals. We were able to choose the gender and the country we desired our mysterious new friend to hail from. Without computers to calculate fancy algorithms, I'm not sure how this was accomplished, but I was thrilled with my choice.

I still remember her name and address. Josephine Larkin from Ireland. I thought it odd that her address didn't include a house number and street.

I was genuinely interested in her life, especially because it was vastly different from mine. She lived on a farm, where everyone in the family worked. She didn't have a lot of money. And there were so many people in her family photo! I loved that picture and I think we kept in contact for years until we just stopped.

What would it be like if I treated God like a pen pal? 

Like someone I was genuinely interested in knowing about instead of just telling him about my life and my problems. What if I remembered my manners and asked questions about Him?

For a little fun, I've put together our exchange.

Dear God,
My name is Mary. I'm well over fifty. I enjoy reading, hiking, singing, traveling, and making people laugh. Running, not so much, but I do it anyway for my health. I'm married to a wonderful man and I have two great children. Everyone says those things about their family, but mine is actually true. But enough about me. I want to know about you.

Tell me about your family.
What are your interests, hobbies and skills?
What is it like where you live? I admit, I've heard of Heaven, but I don't know much about it.

I'd seal it, send it off, and check my mailbox each day for a response.

I imagine Him chuckling, and saying to Saint Peter, "Do you have a pen on you? I've got to write a letter to this adorable child."

Petey would pat his robe, and say, "I had one, but it ran out of ink, and I haven't been able to get out to Staples yet." 

God would wave him off and say, "Never mind, I'll just use my finger."

Dear Mary,
Thank you for your letter. I am thrilled to learn all about you. It may surprise you to know that I already know everything about you. No, I haven't been stalking you. I created you, and I've watched you over the years. But I still love to receive your letters. Please don't stop writing. I'd hate to lose the connection we have.

In answer to your questions:

My family is small--just three of us, but we're so close, we're like One. On the other hand, my extended family is enormous. Many people call me Father and if you feel comfortable, I welcome you to as well.

My interests are my people--my family. I enjoy giving gifts and lavishing love. Spreading joy. Instilling wonder. 

Fashioning new life is a favorite hobby, and I must admit, I'm quite skilled in this area. I've never duplicated my efforts. Not once! Every life I create is unique. Isn't that the coolest?

Much of the time, those lives I create encounter hurt and hatred and fear and anxiety and a host of other things I am not the father of. These lives become broken and their relationships become fragmented. My passion is in healing those shattered lives and rebuilding those fractured relationships. Lots of times, I ask members of my extended family on earth to help. I might even ask you someday!

My home is Heaven, yes. Oh, how to describe it? 

The colors are like nothing you have ever seen on earth. The weather is always perfect. There is never darkness, but always light. 

And the music? Wow...there are no words to adequately describe the sounds. You know how there's always that one dear, sweet soul who stands next to you in choir or behind you in the pew at church and sings just a tad off-key, so it throws you off? Not here. Everyone has perfect pitch, and exquisite harmonies. We sing a lot up here. Because you mentioned you like to sing, you'd really enjoy it. 

I'd invite you for a visit, but no one who visits ever wants to return, and you're still needed there on earth. Someday, you'll come for good. I have a little grass hut on the clearest water you've ever seen picked out with your name on it. Since you like to travel, I think you'll love it!

Oh, you mentioned your health. You won't have to run for better health when you get here, so leave your sneakers there. In fact, leave it all. You won't need anything.

Which leads me to leave you with this one last thought:

Don't waste time trying to accumulate wealth, knowledge, or tangible goods. Those commodities are all very noble and admirable and good, but when it becomes excessive, you might be in danger of losing sight of what is really important. You can't bring any of that to where I live--which is your true Home. 

Since we just met, I won't tell you what to do, but as our relationship grows, I believe you'll look to me for guidance. At least, that is my hope. With that in mind, may I suggest that you fix your interests not on the things of your world, but on the people in it, like I do? I think you'll find great pleasure in doing so.

Thank you for taking such an interest in me. I'm looking forward to many years of communication. Write soon!

Imagine my excitement when I open my mailbox and see that letter finally sitting quietly in there. I would read it with great delight and be filled with exhilaration and joy at the idea of having not just a wonderful new pen-pal, but what I think will be a life-long friend, confidante, and advisor.

Then I'd grab a pen and another sheet of paper--no, two. 

I have so many more questions!

Blessings Along the Path,

sharing with some of these lovelies 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Tap Into Your Potential

Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart.
Psalm 37:4

I love watching shows that showcase untapped talent. You just never know what will come out of people!

I found a few videos from these shows recently and was truly amazed. 

A fourteen year old girl who had never sung in front of a large audience was so shy that the judges (X Factor, I believe) were nervous for her! They reminded her that she would be singing in front of a lot of people and asked her if she was sure she knew what she was doing. I suppose they didn't want her to embarrass herself. She blew them away. You can view it here.

When Beau Dermott told the coaches of Britain's Got Talent she would be singing Defying Gravity, Simon rolled his eyes or gave some sort of snarky smirk, as if to say, "That's a tough one. Good luck."

It was flawless. She was rewarded with the golden button or whatever it is that takes you directly to the finals. Watch it here. She'll give you goosebumps.

One of my favorites was Panda Ross from the X Factor. She explained that her mother was in jail when she gave birth and her cell mate was white. Somehow, the name Panda came out of that. Funny? Maybe. She got a laugh. But when she opened her mouth? Wow. I searched my brain for the right word to describe her voice, and Simon nailed it--legend. She sounds like a legend. Watch the video here.

Then there's We (sorry, there doesn't seem to be a way to add an accent on the 'e'; it's pronounced "way.") McDonald from this season's The Voice. A girl from my state--New Jersey, who was bullied all her life for her looks and high, squeaky voice. I don't know how it's even possible, but she has a low, sultry singing voice. Bet those bullies are singing a different tune now. She is by far my favorite. Watch her blind audition here.

What's inside of you that might surprise people? Maybe you can't sing like these women, but each one of us has something planted by God that the world needs to hear, see, and experience. And like these women--unknown to the world but no surprise to God--we just need someone to believe in us to make it grow, flourish, and bloom. 

What is crying for release in you? What makes your heart sing? Search inside yourself to discover what needs to be heard. Delight yourself in God while you do it. Ask Him to show you if you're not sure, and trust that He will.

Then sing it. Write it. Speak it. Paint it. Play it. Teach it. Build it. Organize it. Sell it.

Go long. Go wide. Go deep. But go. Even if you start out with baby steps. GO!

Don't pay attention to the rolling eyeballs. Those who scoff, "Good luck with THAT!" People who think because you look or sound a certain way, you couldn't possibly possess what it takes. All the more reason to go--to prove them wrong! 

Don't listen to the voices--whether they be your inner critic, the enemy of your soul, or bitter people who never realized their dreams and project that failure onto you. 

Surround yourself with those who will encourage, support, and nurture your dream, your desire.

Not everyone is born with natural talent that needs no fine tuning. In fact, most aren't. We often see or hear the product of years of training and think, "I could never do that."

Yes, you can! Maybe not like they can, because you're not them. You are capable of doing it like you can, because you're you. Your dream is uniquely yours, and the world needs your voice, your story.

Start small. Take a class. Buy a book. Research. Observe others who are doing what you want to do. Ask them to help you realize your potential. After all, that's part of the cycle. We all need to invest what we've learned in others who are longing to be taught. If they're unwilling, find someone who is. But don't give up.

Will you have setbacks? Probably.
Will you fail? Maybe.
Will you doubt yourself? Most likely.
Will it be scary? Absolutely!

But if you allow that untapped talent to go to waste, you're doing a disservice to yourself, the world around you, and God.

Yes, God.

He is the one who put the desire and the talent in you. You're the one who turned it into a dream, and you're the one who decides whether to let it blossom or be squelched. 

The more you delight in God, the more those heart desires grow, and the more they grow, the more you'll delight in God, until His is the only voice you'll hear.

Don't be content to just follow your dream. 

Chase your dream if it moves too fast. 
Pull it along if it's resistant. 
Coax it if it's hidden. 

But don't let it die. Don't let it be squelched. 

And don't let ANYONE tell you it's wrong, bad, or stupid. 

If it's in you, it's yours, and it's good. Because when God made you, He said, "It's very good."

Go show the world.

Blessings Along the Path,

sharing with some of these lovelies

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Feeling Blue and Seeing Red? Me Too.

I'm usually quiet on political matters, partly because I don't debate well, but largely because of my political ignorance.

With this election, I couldn't play that card. I am neither Republican nor Democrat. So, with an open mind, I watched all the debates, listened painstakingly to each candidate, and did my research. 

They both came up short for me. So what was my reason for keeping quiet?

Voting is a deeply personal choice. Who we choose is a reflection of what we believe--our core values, our moral compass and what seems right to us based on those things. Hopefully, one of the candidates validates that.

I decided to break my silence because I'm angry. And I'm grieving too. But not for the same reasons most people are.

I went reluctantly to the polls. I would have preferred not to vote at all. I seriously considered it, then changed my mind. I live in a blue state, so it really doesn't matter anyway. 

I won't go into the reasons why I voted the way I did, but suffice it to say that I did not vote for the person running.

I voted for Trump. I am neither a White-Supremist nor a racist. But based on the angry posts I've seen on Facebook, it's been implied that I am both...and worse. Homophobic. Islamophobic. Sexist. Uneducated. 

I don't like the man. I didn't like the woman either. Making a choice wasn't easy for me.

For the record, I never liked Obama either. I thought he was a great speaker, but a bad president. But I wasn't allowed to say that, because I was labeled a racist. Except that my reasons had nothing to do with the color of his skin. 

I understand that half the country is disillusioned, scared, and deeply upset because their candidate didn't win. I get it. You asked me to try to understand your grief. But what about mine? 

I've been belittled by Trump-haters. I've been bullied into feeling ashamed or guilty for not voting for Clinton. I've sat in rooms where people just assume that I support her. And I'm tired of being quiet and taking it. I don't see a difference between the venomous anti-Trump posts and the bully you claim Trump to be. Belittling and bullying take many forms. I may not be a minority, but I can still feel belittled and bullied. And I have. I still have feelings. And mine matter as much as yours.

Let's imagine a different scenario:
Secretary Clinton has just won the race. The next day on Facebook, all her fans are rejoicing, posting comments about how great our country is, how wonderful she is, and how they knew, they just knew that the people would vote for the "right" things, the right candidate. But still, half the country is disillusioned, scared, and upset because the other candidate didn't win. 

My guess is that the Trump supporters' posts would say that the election was rigged, and Clinton's supporters would say, "Oh, get over it. She won. Accept it. Move on."

But I'm not allowed to say that to those who are grieving their loss right now. And truthfully, I wouldn't. I do care. 

But I ask you this: Would you have the same compassion for those of us who voted differently from you that you deeply desire us to have for you now? Maybe some would. But sadly, I really believe that most people would be too overjoyed to care about the rest of us. Because that despicable man didn't get in, and that alone is cause for celebration. You'd still be a Trump-hater.

As long as we still live in America, we are all entitled to vote as we choose. None of us should feel bullied or belittled because we voted a certain way. I didn't insult you for voting your conscience. Don't insult me for voting mine.

This is why I'm seeing red and feeling blue. This is why I'm grieving. This is why I'm angry. But no one sees that. They only see the misguided woman who didn't vote for a woman. They only see a traitor who voted for an idiotic bigot.

There is a story in the Bible about a man named Balaam, a man who wouldn't listen to God, so God spoke to Balaam through his donkey.

The way I look at it, God spoke through an ass once. If He did it once, He can use an ass again.

If Secretary Clinton can move on, if President Obama wishes President-Elect Donald Trump well, and promises to help him make a smooth transition, then ought we not do the same? Can we allow each other to grieve in our own way without casting stones and making assumptions and judgments?

Can we PLEASE stop the hate?

Don't wait for someone else to make it stop. 
Make it personal. 
I'll go first.

Blessings Along the Path,

PS: Feel free to attack me, but don't expect me to engage. Since I've shared my feelings, I really don't feel the need to defend them any further. Thank you for respecting me and my blog.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Evangelism Through Showing

Good fiction writing is all about showing and not telling. Showing readers what is unfolding in the scene through dialog and description keeps them engaged in the story. Simply informing them of the events in a timeline fashion has the feel of a newspaper article. It states the facts with no emotion. Telling runs the risk of losing the reader.

I think sharing Jesus is a lot like that.

I'm not good at evangelizing. I once volunteered as a counselor at a huge outreach concert (keyword: once). We were trained with a "formula" and told to just grab onto kids as they came forward and were herded into a back room. I ended up with four teenage girls in my group who had no idea why they left their seats. They just followed the crowd. The formula didn't work. I scared these poor girls into thinking they could die on the way home from the concert and end up in hell. And I left believing I was a disappointment to God.

It was a case of telling, not showing. But in all fairness, I was told, "This is how you lead someone to Christ," and not shown another way.

Needless to say, I lost my readers. All four of them.

Obviously, my gift is not evangelism.

What I am good at is encouraging. Loving. Validating. 

When I show the love of Christ to someone through a word of encouragement, providing a meal, or just taking the time to listen and not judge, I gain access to their lives and earn the privilege of sharing the gospel in a natural and practical way. 

Everyone has been hurt, and some wounds run deeper than others. And many hold on to that pain. They don't want to be hit over the head with the gospel, or a step-by-step formula to Jesus. Sometimes they don't even want to hear about God.

To me, that's where real evangelism begins. Will we stick around and live the gospel even if we're not invited to discuss it? 

People don't want to be told what they need. They need to be shown what they're missing.

If I can raise the hopes of a friend through an encouraging word, see a glimmer of joy in the eyes of a stranger by an act of kindness, or watch a smile spread across the face of a wounded soul after having validated their pain, then I have succeeded in showing the love of Jesus.

And maybe, just maybe, I've kept them engaged in the story.

Blessings Along the Path,

Ruby's Thanksgiving issue is here! So grab a "cuppa," prop your feet up and enjoy!

sharing with some of these lovelies