If I Were You…

301742_328847527189296_126894987384552_755324_885186947_nHowever, if I were you, I would appeal to God and would present my case to Him. (Job 5:8)

How many times do we say, “If I were you…”? The truth is: we are not. Other translations say, “As for me…” Perhaps that’s more truthful, admitting we’re really just giving the advice we most want to follow. But we’re not actually in the other person’s shoes. We don’t bring with us the same experiences, lessons, priorities, and so on.

Yet we can still give sound advice: “appeal to God.”

How can we go wrong? How can we advise wrong?

Telling people how we’d respond is selfish, but pointing them to God is not. One is self-centered; the other is God-centered. We can still support, listen, reflect, ask, and more. We don’t send people on their own way and never follow up. We continue to invest in people’s lives. But we let God do the most investing.

Because we’re not Him.

Intentionally Invest

388107931bd96d2eca51386759dd4c45What can you do to help others grow, no matter where they are?

Intentionally invest in them.

We need each other. God makes connecting with others prominent throughout Scripture. He created us to be different, and sometimes those differences cause conflict, confusion, and frustration, yet He also uses those differences to sharpen and nourish us. We don’t understand others. We don’t struggle with the same things. We don’t approach opportunities and problems in the same ways. We aren’t motivated by the same things. Yet we need each other.

No matter what the situation, you can intentionally invest in people, not with your own standards and priorities but by God’s. He knows what other people need, and He knows what we need through the process, too. He knows when we need to give space, confront, apologize, forgive, be patient, be bold, and be still. In all things, we need to be humble. Even if we are right, we must be humble in God’s authority, letting Him guide, because He will surprise us. He will challenge us. He will grow us. And He will bless us.

He is intentionally investing in you. You can trust Him. Pass it on.

Are We Neutral, or Do We Not Care?

Sometimes being neutral is just apathy. We claim neutrality, because we don’t want to take the time or effort to care. We don’t want to find out too much, because knowledge comes with responsibility. We’ve seen how information has impacted others. We’ve seen anger, stubbornness, and what seems to be futile arguments, and we don’t want any part of it. But when we avoid the negativity that can come with familiarity with an issue or situation, we also miss out on possible compassion.

We can’t be invested in every single issue, but when we’re faced with it, we need to explore it with honesty and sensitivity. We will always be able to find someone who knows more or is more passionate about an issue than we are, but that doesn’t mean we refuse to ask questions and make a difference in a small way.

As we pursue truth and justice, we might see a couple different perspectives, and we feel we’re neutral, but perhaps it’s just that we stand on some shared ground. We still care. We still listen. We’re not apathetic. We need to check out motivation behind claiming neutrality. If it’s the easy way out, we’re not taking responsibility. Apathy is dangerous, unstable ground on which to stand.

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When Eye-to-Eye Seems Odd

I looked around the room and realized I was the only one with my phone out.

I’m sure others had their phones close by, but I couldn’t see them. They had set aside their phones to have conversations. They were engaged with one another. It was actually an odd thing to see. Not that I never see people set aside their phones and authentically talk with one another. It just seemed odd because seemed to be a cultural thing. It wasn’t something that was forced upon them, as if someone had them place their phones in a box when they arrived at the event. It wasn’t as if people kept their phones in their hands and glanced at them from time to time. It wasn’t as if a few were consumed in games, texts, emails, Facebook, and photos, while others ignored the same things. There were no ring tones, vibrations and beeps that interrupted the multitude of conversations going on throughout the large room.

There was only chatter.

And eye contact.

With a phone, we can avoid eye contact. We often don’t have to look down at our own phones; we think we avoid many awkward moments because someone else is on her phone. We’re often grateful we don’t have to bridge that strange silence and figure out what the right thing to say or do might be.

We might avoid some awkwardness, but we also miss out on connections and possibilities. We miss out on challenging conversations that help us grow. We miss out on opportunities to help and encourage people. We miss out on the simple complexities of eye contact and facial expressions, reminding us we are not alone in the world.

Across that room, I saw people engaged in each others lives. They didn’t all know each other, but they shared that moment in time, then another and another and another. They asked questions, shared stories, discussed issues and topics, and encouraged and helped each other. They met each other where they were in moments that would have been missed if eye contact had been averted because of the phone in the way.

We engage with whatever we focus upon. Wherever our eyes go, our mind and feet follow. We can’t focus on too many things at once, and we can’t go more than one place and engage with many people all at once.

Phones are wonderful tools, but not at the expense of people.

Choose well.

Is Sensitivity a Fault?

BoxTurtle2I was being hard on myself.

Why did I let other people’s tones, attitudes, and issues affect my own? Was I being overly sensitive? Was my sensitivity a bad thing? Was I letting close relationships impact me too much?

Deep breath.

Yes, sensitivity can be a fault. If I’m sensitive to the extent that I let everyone else influence, and even determine, my response, I’m not strong to stand firmly. I have a foundation issue, letting other people build, shake, and destroy, instead of trusting God to guide me in securely placing each stone, brick, board, and nail.

Therefore, everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them will be like a sensible man who built his house on the rock. The rain fell, the rivers rose, and the winds blew and pounded that house. Yet it didn’t collapse, because its foundation was on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of Mine and doesn’t act on them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. The rain fell, the rivers rose, the winds blew and pounded that house, and it collapsed. And its collapse was great! (Matthew 7:24-27)

But I’m not leaving my sensitivity in the rubble. Just because it can be a weakness, it can also be a strength. In fact, it’s an important building block of the foundation God wants me to have. It’s part of who He is.

Without sensitivity, I cannot have compassion for others.

Without sensitivity, I cannot listen well.

Without sensitivity, I cannot authentically invest in relationships.

Without sensitivity, I cannot seek and trust God to lead my life.

Without sensitivity, I might avoid getting hurt, but what I would lose without sensitivity isn’t worth the cost. I don’t want to miss out on deeply investing in people’s lives, regardless of their messiness.

I certainly don’t want to miss out on the presence of God. God is never without sensitivity. When I willingly seek and follow Him, neither am I.

Reach Out

helpYou don’t have to weather the storm by yourself. Reach out to someone and let her know you’re struggling. You don’t have to be going through a major crisis to need support. Many times, the day-to-day details can wear on you.

I had one of those days recently. I couldn’t put my finger on what was wrong, but I just felt weary. I got frustrated and discouraged easily. I didn’t have much patience or motivation. I didn’t want to be around anyone, because…well, why make someone else’s day miserable, too? I cried out to God, and He reminded me I’m not alone.

Not only is He with me at all times, but I have really great friends who care about me no matter what. They know the best and worst of me. I have dozens more that would pray for me at a moment’s notice, but there’s something about revealing your weaknesses to someone who already knows them without having to go into details. Someone you meet with on a regular basis to do life with…face to face so that they know your expressions, hesitations, and idiosyncrasies. Someone who doesn’t let you off the hook easily when you’re starting to veer off the straight and narrow path. Someone who gets as excited as you do when something great happens, almost as if it’s actually happening to her personally.

When you do life with someone on a regular basis, you do a lot of sharing along the way, so that when the tough times come, she understands without needing a long explanation. And that’s a good thing, because if we’re honest, sometimes we don’t really have the explanation in the middle of the struggle. If we try to take the pulse of what’s going on, we can’t slow down enough for an accurate read, so we just spin and process and overthink until we’re making matters worse instead of better.

But shutting our mouths to avoid the explanation and trying to deal with it ourselves isn’t smart either, because we just try to explain it to ourselves instead. That rarely works out well. If you’re angry, you’ll often end up more angry. If you’re upset, you’ll often end up more upset. I’m not talking about the situations that just bump up against you, and you briefly struggle but keep moving through. I’m talking about those more rare moments when there’s a traffic jam of emotions and situations, then one small tap creates a chain reaction of collisions, resulting in a tangled mess that brings everything to a standstill.

I don’t know what you’re going through today, but I know God has placed someone alongside you to walk with you. She’s not there to solve all your problems. She’s not there to unconditionally support everything you do with no accountability. She’s there to do life with you…the triumphs and the messes. Maybe you’re not sure who that person is. Maybe you aren’t really struggling right now anyway. Fantastic! It’s a great time to look around and invest in someone. Make a coffee date. Begin to share life. It won’t happen overnight. It might not actually be the person you want or expect it to be, and you will probably have to go outside your comfort zone.

Investing in friendships is totally worth the time and effort. I know.

A man with many friends may be harmed, but there is a friend who stays closer than a brother. (Proverbs 18:24)

“To Mother” Day

flowersMother is most commonly used as a noun. It’s a name, an identity, a role. But it’s more…and less. The noun isn’t required as much as the verb is. I’ve seen a lot of women mother, some who could technically claim to be a mother and some who couldn’t. Look around and notice the mothering going on around you. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve noticed. Thank you to those who mother.

To mother is to mourn the loss of the child you were supposed to adopt while consistently praying for him…and the mom who changed her mind.

To mother is to celebrate the life of your child regardless of how long you got to hold her…or even if you never got to hold her.

To mother is to wait and wait and wait, enduring months and years of scrutiny and paperwork, just for the opportunity to adopt.

To mother is to sleep beside a child…or lie awake beside a child…as you make sure tubes, needles, and other medical equipment does its job.

To mother is to say goodbye too soon, knowing a part of your heart will never return, yet trusting God’s purpose in the beautiful life you shared.

To mother is investing in the life of someone who calls someone else “mom” but longs for someone who loves with compassion and discipline.

To mother is to consistently learn about someone as she grows, not keeping her in a stage where she no longer is.

To mother is to question, listen, and speak only when necessary, trusting God to know when each of those moments and situations are.

To mother is to take care of someone, regardless of the age and expectations of the relationship.

To mother is to share…because none of us can do it all, and God never intended it that way.

To mother is to accept you don’t have all the answers. You’re learning and growing right alongside those you are mothering.

Each of us only has one biological mother, but if we’re limiting ourselves to be mothered by only one woman, we’re missing out. And if we’re only mothering those who can biologically claim we are their mothers, we are missing out, as are the people around us.

Celebrate this Mothers Day by mothering. Transform Mothers Day into Mothering Day. Relationships are worth the effort.