Transforming Friendship

mp,550x550,matte,ffffff,t.3u2I closed my eyes during communion, which isn’t unusual, and I heard the guitar notes a bit differently. They resonated within and through me. Much of the time, I don’t notice the music quietly playing during communion meditation, but today was different, because I knew the hands who played would only be with me for a short time.

I thought about all I will miss when Shelby is gone but also all I have gained.

She came on staff when I was on staff, too, and despite our age difference (I could easily be her mom), we quickly developed a friendship. We found conversation to be comfortable and easy. We were both part-time, so we weren’t always at the church on the same days, but we were together on Tuesdays. We shared an office the design ministry team made to be cozy and comfortable, functional with a flair of trendiness. It became our “girls’ office.” We shared space, stories, challenges, Starbucks, and more.

I know we’ll keep in touch, but I will miss her being close.

I will also miss worshiping with her. Shelby led worship with intentionality and purity. Her goal was always to provide a worship experience of excellence, yet she didn’t get caught in perfectionism. She wanted to provide an environment for people to be transformed by God. In order to do that, she knew she had to allow herself to be transformed. The more she yielded, the more completely she led well.

Shelby and I shared a season of transformation. Both our lives went through shifts while we served together. I know her move to another ministry is part of her transformation,  and I am proud of her for trusting God into the uncertainty.  I have watched and encouraged her to grow, and she has done the same for me.

There are  people in our lives who are only physically alongside us for a brief season, but we can be thankful for the time together.

I will miss Shelby, yet I am glad for what we’ve had and excited about what is ahead of her. Sometimes we feel conflicted about transitions, but when we know God’s transformation is part of it, we have peace and anticipation of what is to come.

Spend some time this weekend with someone you are doing life with right now. Instead of setting your own agenda, invite God to be a part of the relationship and trust him to transform you. Sometimes you can’t see what’s happening in the midst of it all, but when you intentionally yield, you’ll grow. It’s worth the time and effort.

Thanks, Shelby.

Online and Offline

vladislav-klapin-316711I live my life in front of others, both online and offline. Most of us do.

Oh, I know we have limits. Some of us interact more on social media than others. Some definitely share more details than others. Personally, my goal is to live in an authentic way that encourages and equips other people, whether it’s online or offline. I don’t want to overshare and cause someone more hurt than is necessary, just as I don’t want to pretend everything is ice cream and sprinkles.

When we’re living life in front of others online and offline, there is no time that we are “off” everyday life. No matter if we’re in a crowd or by ourselves, we need authenticity. We need to be engaged, if not directly with people, with ourselves and, most importantly, with God.

Engaging with God and others is where our healing, joy, and peace happen. As much as we can rationalize our need to keep some things in the dark – referring to privacy when we’re really dealing with secrecy, and the two are very different – unhealthy growth happens in the dark. We certainly don’t need share everything with everyone; that’s not a healthy choice either. But authenticity isn’t about our own preference, sharing only with people who will affirm us, people give us enough space to hide our problems, people who will never ask us the tough questions and hold us accountable. We need honesty and compassion and forgiveness and confrontation.

Be engaged. It’s where life happens, and it changes us.

Fitting Out Of Place

photo-1500281781950-6cd80847ebcdSeveral of us were already working out when he walked into the gym. He looked out of place – his clothes, his posture, his demeanor. I was on a treadmill toward the back of the room. I know I was surprised to see him, and then I noticed how others were responding.

It made me sad to see the glances and stares others gave him – sad for him but also sorry for the times I know I’ve looked at people in similar ways. He got on a treadmill and began to slowly walk. But at least he was walking! I began to think about all the people who might not come to the gym because they’re embarrassed. They don’t have the body they want, the clothes they think they should have, the strength and ability they long for. But they are in process. Isn’t that why most people are at the gym?

And the gym isn’t the only place we expect a certain “type” of people to be and are surprised when someone outside our expectations shows up. Think about how we stereotype professions, ages, genders, or religions.

About an hour after the man showed up, everyone but him and me had left the cardio room. Another man walked through and paused, scanning the room and pondering  (I assume) whether he should leave me alone with the new man on the treadmill. I smiled to reassure him. He reluctantly left, looking over his shoulder a couple times.

As I left a bit later, I made sure to make eye contact with the man, and he seemed surprised. I told him to have a good night, hoping perhaps a friendly face would help him feel welcome to return. Over the following days and weeks, if I was there at the same time as he was, I tried to exchange a few words, and I learned a bit about him. He still looks out of place and a bit uncomfortable, but he smiles and his face lights up when he sees a few of us. He has found a place to belong even if others or himself don’t think he fits in well.

Just because we don’t feel as if we fit in doesn’t mean we don’t. Just because we think others don’t fit in doesn’t mean they don’t.

Be friendly. You never know the burden someone carries.

The Law of Respect

RespectWe all do it at some point: complain about a law and justify how wrong the law is, typically not because of a widespread injustice but, more often, because of a personal infringement. When we’re in a hurry, we complain about the speed limits. When we pay taxes, we complain about the government taking what is ours. We complain about what we don’t like or what is uncomfortable. We still choose to speed even when we know the consequences, and we still get jobs and buy houses and shop even though we know we’ll be charged taxes.

I’m not saying I like every law or even that every law is just. There is a time for fighting a law in the name of justice. However, I think we need to stop to think about our motivations. How often do we complain about something because of the personal cost or inconvenience it has on us instead of looking at the broader application and the motivation for the law in the first place? How often do we think about the “what if” ramifications of changing the law? Likely, as many if not more people will be negatively impacted with a significant change. How often are we willing to say, “This is pretty inconvenient for me, but I understand how it benefits a lot of people other than me. It’s a small sacrifice for me to make for the broader community.”

We too often want what we want no matter the cost. We want what benefits us. And we complain about what doesn’t benefit us.

It’s time to take a step back. Consider others. Set yourself aside. Look at justice with a broader stroke. Respect the law instead of complaining about it (except in the case of gross misjustice when something should and must be done, and then, take the respectful approach). We might not like some of the consequences of our choices, but calling foul just because of our discomfort doesn’t mean a foul was actually committed except for our  own disregard or disrespect of the law.

It’s not just about following the rules; it’s about thinking about others, getting outside your own perspective and preferences. It’s about honesty, humility, and respect.

Humble Strength

65f484e6a5615893cc224f2f63cb5403There is a relationship between God’s strength and our humility.

God’s strength is a constant, but what we have access to is related to our humility. And humility is an odd thing. As soon as we begin to dwell on our humility or expect something from it, we diminish it. It doesn’t mean we fail or no longer have access to God’s strength, as if one pinpoint of pride drains everything God has given us. He is better than that.

We can’t completely figure out the formula between God’s strength and our humility.  Humility trusts even without understanding. To put conditions on it as if we could control it diminishes it. Yet humility doesn’t cancel out our inquisitiveness. In fact, humility involves a lot of curiosity. It’s a leaning into. It’s a journey that involves one choice at a time, taking us places we could not imagine or would not choose if we had only seen from a distance.

Humility involves vulnerability, which is uncomfortable, but ironically, humility comes with a sense of peace and purpose because of its relationship with God’s strength. But just like our inability to capture humility with a strategy, we cannot manipulate our access to God’s strength. We don’t always get what we expect or feel we need. That doesn’t mean we don’t have access to what we need.


Count The Cost

032713_1852_isitworthit1What is the cost of your soul?

No matter the price you put on it or the reason you decide to relinquish it, you will never sell your soul for enough to buy back your peace of mind.

It’s a dangerous deal, although it won’t seem that way at the time. It will seem like the right choice or perhaps the only choice. You’ll think it will be the only way to happiness or contentment or success or something else that seems appealing to you at the time. You’ll have people who love you try to warn you of what’s coming, but you won’t want to listen. You’ll think they’re trying to rob you of something. You’ll be convinced they just don’t understand. After all, you know yourself best, right? So we isolate ourselves from people whose viewpoints differ from ours. We don’t want to be around people who challenge us. We’d rather be affirmed.

We think we know ourselves best but can deceive ourselves the most and get ourselves into the deepest trouble.

We are the ones who make the choice to relinquish our soul to something. Count the costs. Some costs have immeasurable worth. Others have woeful consequences.