Snapshot Moments, Video Life

240_F_16248506_F05h1oUKwBIIm8dsgrii07O3wIByUZxa.jpgIf someone showed you snapshots of my life, you’d assume a variety of things about me.

I’m not talking about the actual photographs stored in boxes and computers. I’m talking about moments of my life that might seem like isolated incidences…until studied in a photo.

Has anyone said to you, “Remember the time you…,” then they proceed to bring up one of those not-so-proud-of-it-so-why-d0-you-have-to-remember moments? Our families are good at it.

But we all change. We need to take videos, not snapshots.

Sure, snapshots are good for fun, silly, even bittersweet memories, but for capturing our lives, we need to be willing to consider a series of snapshots over time. We need to string moments and situations together. We need to refuse to keep someone in a time capsule, when they’ve clearly grown up.

 

Give people room and grace. See how they change. Acknowledge growth to encourage more – in both yourself and others.

The Rest of Sabbath

128983854_8963f7d9fcAbout a month ago, I had a fuller-than-usual Sunday planned.
I try to set aside as much time as possible on Sundays. It’s not about a legalistic practice for me (although there have been some times in my life that was true). It’s about rest, a retreat, a Sabbath, a set aside time to intentionally steep in God’s presence, letting Him recharge me and prepare me for whatever is next.
But sometimes, I have responsibilities that need my attention on a Sunday. This was one of those days. The commitment took a three-hour block out of the middle of the afternoon, but I had peace about serving. It was important, not just to me, but to others. It was a sacrifice I was willing to make.
I still focused on rest as much as I could every minute that wasn’t scheduled. And at the end of the day, I glanced back and realized the vast amount of rest, reading, and journalling that would normally not fit into a day if I had nothing else scheduled, let along fitting it between this and that.
A Sunday overflowing with Sabbath. Even in the midst of some busyness.
Only God.
He meets us in the chaos when we’re willing to still ourselves.

Slipping Away from Church

exit_wall_close_gr_wIt happens often. I run into someone I haven’t seen in church for months and give a flippant comment about how we must be going to different services, to find out it really has been months since they’ve been there. No big reason, except life. Busyness. Out of the habit.

Sometimes they’re ready to come back, and other times, they’re honest enough to admit weekly worship services just don’t fit in their schedules anymore. I try to be encouraging (just in general, not necessarily targeting church attendance as the main goal of life). It’s interesting to me how those brief encounters in a restaurant or (usually) grocery store can spur another contact not long after. And through the Facebook messages or texts that follow, I’ve noticed a common experience.

Often times, those first few skipped Sundays are preceded by discouragement or distraction. It might be church-related or life-in-general-related. But the disconnect begins. They begin sitting on the back row or somewhere easy to slip in a bit late and slip out quickly. Other involvement in the church (or people in it) subsides. (Or sometimes, groups of people retreat at the same time. They see each other at ball games or school functions and feel those brief contacts with “church people” are a strong enough dose of church that they can do without the larger, more structured gatherings.)

It’s as if they’re looking for an open door, a way out. And they take one step, then another, then another. Then they look up and wonder, “How did I get here? And where are all the people from the church?” (I’ve seen more than a few people get mad at “church people” who didn’t pursue them, even though their departure was so gradual, it was virtually unnoticeable, especially since they gave logical reasons for not being at church when anyone asked.)

Some people slam the door on their way out. Others slip away.

I’m not saying one way is better than another, but we need to be honest with ourselves and take responsibility. We’re adults. We get to choose, and most the time, we love that power. We like that we set our own schedules and do what we want. Yet we also feel victimized by those very schedules. We claim we don’t get to do what we want. We can’t have it both ways.

It’s not just about church, but in general, if we isolate ourselves, we can’t get too angry when people leave us alone or aren’t aware of the issues we’re facing. If we engage with others, we can’t get too defensive when people ask questions, encourage us, and follow up to try to help us.

Engaging has costs. Disengaging has costs.

Be intentional.

Response to Emotions

jesus-weptJesus wept. (John 11:35)

His friend Lazarus had died. Jesus wasn’t caught off guard. His emotions weren’t out of control. He simply wept. He felt. He expressed those feelings.

And so did the people around him after he wept. They certainly had a variety of responses:

  • The Jews said, “See how He loved him!” (John 11:36)
  • Some of them said, “Couldn’t He who opened the blind man’s eyes also have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:37)
  • Martha, the dead man’s sister, told Him, “Lord, he’s already decaying. It’s been four days.” (John 11:39, following Jesus commanding the stone of the tomb be removed)

We respond differently to situations, as well as to the way others respond to those same situations. We declare people are too sensitive or justified. We’re surprised by how well or poorly we think they’re handling something. We have our own emotions to sift through, and our emotions affect our response to others’ emotions.

Be careful. Emotions are great companions but terrible leaders. They enhance life, but they don’t run life. Don’t give them the power and control they don’t deserve, either in your own life or your assessment of others.

Reconciling Correctly

balancingcheckbookI don’t like reconciling bank accounts. I don’t find it difficult, just tedious. I’d rather deal with words than numbers. Perhaps it’s because I can use my creativity. There’s not much creativity to matching pennies.

But reconciling needs to be done. And it needs to be done correctly. I recently encountered some discrepancies on an account at work. I had to talk to someone at the bank to get it straightened out. There’s a right way and a wrong way to reconcile.

I have to reconcile what I have with the bank. I don’t walk in and demand they correct their entries to match mine. (Yes, banks can make errors, too, but my guess is that people’s errors far outnumber bank errors.)

We have to reconcile with the bank, not the other way around.

It’s ridiculous for us to think that we are always right. Yet that’s what we do much of the time. I wonder which is more common: for people to reconcile their lives to God’s standards or project their own standards onto Him for their personal approval? Or perhaps ignore Him altogether? I know people who do that when reconciling with the bank. They believe what they think is in their account based on their own record keeping. Or they look at the bank balance and don’t consider what discrepancies might exist because of outstanding expenditures. Sometimes, we want to believe what we want to believe, and we don’t want anyone telling us we need to make adjustments.

But we need to make adjustments. Constantly. Each and every one of us. We need to check our balance. We need to acknowledge Someone might be more accurate and trustworthy than we are.

 

So Many Assume

I saw a sign at the coffee shop:

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Indeed. How often do we make an assumption of someone without knowing the truth of their experiences, struggles, and dreams?

Maybe you’re assuming something right now. Such as, “Isn’t she a writer? Doesn’t she know this isn’t proper English?” Yes. Yes, I do. But it’s the quote I saw at the coffee shop. If I change it, it’s not a quote. (And by the way, it’s attributed to Anonymous, so I didn’t fail to give someone credit. I simply don’t know who gets the credit. Maybe the person didn’t want to take credit because of the poor English usage. Oh, wait. There I go, assuming.)

Assuming helps us make sense of the world. It’s a useful tool for helping us categorize all the sensory information we come in contact with every day. But a tool can be misused. We can be wrong.

The disheveled child coming to school doesn’t necessarily have a neglectful parent. Some kids can look pretty rough by their own efforts in the short ride to school. And maybe a family member is in the hospital and someone who doesn’t have much experience with kids’ hair helped out in the middle-of-the-night crisis. And the clothes they threw in a bag were the dirty ones the kid threw into the clean clothes pile the day before (because we don’t always fold clothes when we take them out of the dryer). And the kid had an emotional meltdown when told to wash her face after the chocolately breakfast cereal mishap, and who wants to make a kid even more upset after the rough night she’s had, and…

You get the point. You don’t know the story of the couple at the grocery store, or the new co-worker, or the clerk at the convenience store. You just don’t know.

Of course, some assumptions help us help others. We reach out with a smile or a helpful hand or a question as to whether or not they want us to call for help, because their body language tells us something isn’t right. But we’re not always helpful because of our assumptions. Sometimes we’re judgmental.

We assume. We assume we know. But we don’t know.

And we can’t always know. We won’t always know. But we also don’t have to let our assumptions run wild. We need to keep them in check and refrain from sharing them except in situations that might help someone.

Otherwise, our assumptions will likely hurt someone, including ourselves.

Well-Loved, Part Two

If you’ve followed my blog for several years, you might remember when I shared before and after photos of my oldest daughter’s teddy bear, who had been slightly damaged by a dog when she was staying at someone’s house.

Fast forward six years, and my youngest daughter had a similar issue. Only it was her stuffed elephant Fanta, and the damage (accomplished by her own dog), was a bit more than “slight.”

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©2017 PurePurpose.org

Yes, that’s an elephant, and those are the pieces she brought me in a plastic bag, asking if I could fix him. She was laughing, assuming he was beyond repair. But I did my best:

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©2017 PurePurpose.org

He has a few replacement parts and fresh stuffing (and I didn’t replace his button eyes in case they were too much of a distraction for the dog), but overall, he looks pretty good.

He’s well-loved, just like my oldest daughter’s Alfred, and my Raggedy Ann and Polar Pop.

Well-loved sometimes means thread-bare and disheveled.

I’ve always liked the book The Velveteen Rabbit. Love makes us all a bit more real. Yes, I’m aware stuffed animals aren’t real like people, but love seems to make people a bit more real. Maybe a little disheveled and worn, too, but well-loved. And well-loving. The two go together – the love we get and the love we give.

God is love. (1 John 4:8) He’s glad to give it. He’s glad to receive it. And when we give and receive it, we’re well-loved and a bit more real.