Farewell 2011!

Well if ever there’s been a year that felt like a roller-coaster ride, 2011 would be it.

A year of losses…

A year of gains…

A year of new burdens to bear…

A year of change.

There is no doubt that I exited 2011 a completely different woman, in a completely different season of life and with completely new thought patterns than when I entered it.

I could probably write 10,000 words or more about what all has changed (but if I did that I’d end up with even fewer readers that I have now – so I’m not going to do that).

The one thing that is very obvious to me as 2011 has closed and I step foot in 2012 is that the meaning of the words I use is suddenly very important to me.

I’m super guilty of exaggerating things and I’m even guilty of saying I’m going to do things but never following through on the commitment. And I’ve also been on the other end of the exaggeration or broken commitment, so I know the distrust those types of things cause in relationships with people.

The other thing is that there are so many idioms and cliches in our speech today that you can’t take a lot of things people say literally.  So, between exaggerations, flippantly-made commitments, and idioms – can you really trust what people tell you?

Well, 2011 has certainly given me my fair share (though sometimes I’ve thought it was a very unfair share) of situations that broke my trust in what people I loved told me.  And as I said earlier, I don’t doubt that people’s trust in me has been broken too, but recently it has become important to me that I do not use my words and people’s trust recklessly.

Some of the things that I have been keenly aware of recently is how much we use “absolute” words – like “always” or “never” or “no one” – words that indicate that there are no exceptions to what you are talking about.

Are you sure you ALWAYS think/say/feel that way?

Are you sure you’d NEVER do/say/think that?

Are you sure that NO ONE has ever…..

Are you sure?  Cuz I’m not…. not anymore.  I probably used to be (or at least think I was) sure, but things that I was so sure that always/never happened began to show that they weren’t always/never so.

Something else that I have found myself doing (and almost to a fault, just ask Ken) is clarifying my own words, because I want my words to say what I intend them to mean, without any confusion or ambiguity.

For example, there’s a show on TV (I have no idea what it’s called or what channel it comes on) that has a therapist walking people through overcoming their phobias.  The one we saw part of the other day had 3 people – one with a fear of bats, one with a fear of mice, and one with a fear of roaches.  And Ken made a comment like “I’m not a fan of those things and I don’t like them in my house, but I’m not scared of them.”  And as I’m thinking about what he said and processing whether or not I agree and remembering calling a friend to come kill a roach in my house and me jumping 7 feet across the room when it crawled out of a hole in the wall, I came to a conclusion:

“Those things do not instill fear in me, though to encounter any one of them would startle me.” And then I went into clarification mode to explain how someone would say “that scared me”, but really there is not a fear in them concerning that thing, they were just startled, but people use “scared” and “startled” as the same thing, but they are really not the same thing.

Ken’s response was “Ok, I get it.  I knew what you meant.”

And he’s probably not the only one who has thought that, but I would rather you tell me “ok, I get it” rather than me assume you got it and then you go on thinking that I meant something that I really didn’t mean.

So, with that, you can probably expect blogs from me that follow that clarifying trend.  And I hope you’ll be able to say “ok, I get it”.

Happy New Year!

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A Life Stolen

Lately I’ve wished I didn’t own a tv or a computer or a cell phone.

I know, it’s counterintuitive that I’m writing this on my iPad. And yes, I’ve started using my Wii to exercise.

I could make a long list of electronics, but the list is not the point.

When did we reach the point that we can’t live without them?
What would you do if you had to live without them again?
Read more
Write more
Go outside more
Play music more
Be with people more

When did we get convinced that electronics help us have relationships?
To build a relationship, you used to have to talk to people
Relationships were based on having things in common
And spending time together
Now we use electronics to get dates
And plan dates
And then we can’t go on dates without them
Like a security blanket
Or a threesome

When did electronics become our lifeline?
We’ve been convinced that they make relationships better
They let you “poke” or “like” or retweet or @reply your “friends”
You try to hang out with these people in person
But it’s awkward
So you go home and IM or email or voice chat or Skype with them
And somehow that’s better?

Family used to be our life force
The reason you got up in the morning
The reason you came home at night
The ones you waited expectantly for
Now they’re the last object of your affection
Instead of the first and ultimate

TV used to bring families together
There used to be no such thing as 24-hour programming
Now there’s a lot of useless things
And inappropriate things on TV

There used to be a thing called pillow talk
Now there’s Internet chat rooms and web-surfing
Just as useless and inappropriate

People used to play boardgames
Now there’s gaming networks
They connect you with players all over the world
But what has that done to the family that lives in your house?

Have you ever counted up your investment in your electronics?
We invest our money
In the biggest and the brightest
We invest our emotions
In reality tv, in daytime dramas, nighttime dramas, SportsCenter, fantasy worlds
We invest our time
In “there’s nothing on” or “no new messages”

And what do you have to show for it?
A thinner wallet
An emotionally drained life
Or maybe an overreactive life
And no time to do the things that matter

Have you ever felt like your life is being stolen away?
A generation is being lied to
And having their life force and imagination stolen away
Right under their noses
And I’m afraid I’m a part of that generation
But I’m putting my foot down

A famous author and business guru once spoke of something profound
I think it was Seth Godin
He called it white space days
Days where you purposefully schedule to go off-line
You purposefully decide to do things on purpose
That stir your up your purpose and passions
With people who do the same

Days where you choose to go old school
Use pen and paper
Or markers or crayons or sidewalk chalk
Instead of a QWERTY keyboard
Use a piano or a guitar or a Fischer Price xylophone
Instead of iPods, iTunes, or mp3’s

What would happen if we chose to steal our life back?
Reignite our creativity
Our imagination
Our passion
Our joy in relationships
Real, face-to-face, hand-in-hand, nose-to-nose, and toe-to-toe relationships
Starting with the people we live with
The people we love most?

What kind of life would that be?

Breakup Behavior

I’m not sure about anybody else, but I never experienced a “clean” breakup.  I had all kinds of friends who would say “oh yeah, we broke up but we stayed friends.”  I can’t even start to imagine what that would be like – “you know, we may not be compatible for the long haul, but we still get along and have stuff in common.”

(Just a note, I’m using a breakup analogy here because it’s the only type of painful separation I can relate to.)

After the breakup, at least for me, a big clean-up followed.  Getting rid of pictures, notes, playlists, gifts, phone numbers – all the things in my space that had a connection to that person.  Then in public, the goal was to be stuck up – if I happened to encounter them or walk past them, acting like I didn’t notice them or only giving a brief glance as to say “you’re not important to me anymore” or “I’m not hurt by you.”

I’m guilty of this behavior, but I’ve also been the recipient of this behavior.

I’ve recently gone through a painful separation – you could call it a “breakup”.  And I noticed this pattern of behavior coming out of me.  And the blog I wrote several weeks ago, was me recognizing what was happening – you can read it here.

“Here’s all your stuff back.”  “I want all my stuff back.”  The places where we would gather were cleaned, so that you couldn’t even tell that anyone used to be there.  Stuff was thrown out, box up, and moved out of sight.

What used to be continuous, warm interactions suddenly became cold and in some instances non-existent.

Can you see the pattern?  Breakup – clean up – stuck up.  Why is that?  Why don’t more breakups “remain friends”?

I have two conclusions, and it’s very possible they are both true.

1) I don’t want to be transparent enough to say “you hurt me”.  And I don’t trust God enough to  forgive 100%.  I’ve heard it said that “hurting people hurt people” and that is certainly true about breakups.  Separation hurts, and because of that hurt, we tend to try to hurt back the people that hurt us first (whether it’s conscious or unconscious).  But if we don’t release the hurt and forgive, the hurt we hold onto will eventually cause us to hurt people who weren’t even involved in the beginning.

2) I don’t have a clue how to have a real relationship.  Yes, relationships require transparency and forgiveness, but it’s much more than that too.  Through all of this, I’ve learned that a lot of my relationships were based on what someone could offer me or based on what I thought I could offer them.  And that’s just a horrible way to have relationships.  I’m not saying that we can’t reap the benefits of each others strengths, but if your strength is the only reason I have you around, that is shallow and heartless.

In no way am I expecting that all parties involved should go back to “life as normal”, because normal now isn’t going to be anywhere near what normal used to be.  But complete forgiveness is my goal and maybe one day the “we still get along and have stuff in common” scenario will be true.

Grammar and the Bible

Luke 18:27 – And he said, The things which are impossible with men are possible with God.

Grammar is a funny thing.  In elementary school, we learn proper English grammar.  We learn the parts of speech and what order they’re supposed to go in to form a complete sentence.  Then as we got older, we used what we learned to write that A+ (well, maybe B) papers for anyone who required it.  And once school is over, we don’t care much about the form of sentences just as long as the people we are talking to get the point.

One of the parts of speech that really wreaked havoc on my writing life was prepositions – and all because of the rule “don’t end a sentence with a preposition.”  (And since I’m writing about it, I’m very subconscious now about what I’m typing.)

I had an enlightening moment with the verse above, all thanks to prepositions.  Wherever I was and however it happened (I really don’t know), I learned this verse with the wrong preposition.  I quoted that verse this way: “That which is impossible for men are possible for God.”  And while there is some truth in the way I learned it, it has a completely different meaning.  The best way I can define “for” in this situation is “intention”.  So it basically makes the verse say “the things which men intend to do that are impossible, are possible when God intends to do them.”  So, when men can’t, God can.  There’s some truth there, right?

But the verse doesn’t say “for”, it says “with”.  “With” had a “accompanying, relating, togetherness” definition.  Here’s the verse again: the things which are impossible with men are possible with God. So, the things men and I do together that are impossible, are possible when God and I do them together.  See the difference?

It’s not about saying “okay God, it’s impossible for me, so go ahead, do your thing,” and then sitting back to watch God turn the impossible into the possible.  It’s about grace (God’s ability to do through you and for you – and shall I say – with you, what you can’t do for yourself).  He sent the Holy Spirit to be our helper, not our errand-boy.

It changes my view on so many of the things I do – how I do church, how I do work, how I do marriage, how I do relationships, how i do communication – how I do all the things I believe God had called me to do.  Am I trying to do them all on my own?  Am I trying to do it only with the intellect of “great” me? Am I trying to do it with the religious “expertise” I think I have?

Or am I doing it with God?  In the grace of God.  Where I keep God close at hand during every move I make, instead of him being the far away consultant that I only call when I’m stuck and don’t know what to do next.

So, how are you trying to accomplish the impossible – with men or with God?

What’s the cuss all about?

The other day, I was listening to a podcast from one of the Believer’s Convention services that Kenneth Copeland Ministries puts on each year.  Gloria Copeland was the speaker and she was saying something about instead of letting the devil beat you up with doubt, you should use your faith and beat him up.  The she came out with “kick the devil’s toe!”  My brain went *tilt* – his toe?  What?!  Is Gloria Copeland trying to talk all tough?

She then explained that at her home, she has a device on her TV that will substitute cuss words in live TV with other “normal” words.  And the word that replaces “ass” most of the time on her TV is “toe”.  So, when she watches a Bruce Lee movie at home, they “kick toe”.  I thought it was hilarious!  (I tested out this substitute in my last blog, y’all let me know how you like it).

It got funnier when Creflo Dollar got up to speak and he made “kickin’ toe” sound all street, saying Goliath might be a big giant and you feel like a little David, but with God you can kick toe!

I didn’t grow up around people that cussed.  My mama wouldn’t let me say suck, screw, or freakin’.  I had a biology teacher in the 10th grade that would make students write sentences if they said “suck” in her classroom.  My best friend came up with a new phrase – “that rots” – so we started saying it. Since it was all biological and stuff, the teacher liked it and let us keep it.

Soon after we moved into our new house last fall, we changed some of our movie channels and started getting HBO.  During the evening on most week nights, they have a show called “In Treatment”.  Each episode is basically someone’s therapy session with their psychiatrist.  When you have to deal with people and you have no idea what it is that makes them tick, but you still have to learn to work and relate with them, this show gives you an inside look at a wide variety of people.  I was very intrigued by it when I first started watching it.

One of the first episodes I watched was a session with a 16 year-old boy who’s mom gave him up and he doesn’t know why.  He’s disclosed that he is gay and would sneak into gay bars to hang out with older guys because they make him feel needed and protected.  Previous to this session, he had done well with taking his meds right and not skipping school, until the day of the session.  During that session, the therapist tries to dig into why he “backslid” so suddenly.  Turns out, his birth mom left him a voicemail that she wanted to meet with him.  He traced her number and found out that she lived in Manhattan (aka she’s rich).  During this episode, he also uses the “F” word a lot (I know, it’s HBO, what do you expect) – but it was very strategic because he admitted to trying to make the therapist uncomfortable.

Then the therapist said something very profound: “Why would that word make me uncomfortable?  I want you to express how all this makes you feel, and if that’s the best word to communicate those feelings to me, then you’ve done exactly what I’ve asked.” (Now, what if I had watched that episode at Gloria Copeland’s house?  Would it have had the same profoundness as the original?)

After that episode, I said to Ken, “what if we took that approach with the teens we minister to and even all the people we encounter?  Would it make them communicate more openly with us?  Feel less judged?”

I’m not saying cussing is okay.  God tells us that we should bless and not curse and that the power of life and death is in the tongue.  He wants us to choose and speak life.  And yes I’m supposed to guard my heart (and my eyes and my ears) because what’s in my heart will come out of my mouth.  So, I’m settled that I don’t need to cuss and that I should protect myself and not have to hear it all the time.

But what if that 16 year old boy walked into your church or your office or your classroom… would he be able to accurately communicate his feelings to you without needing a “word substituter” or being judged by our “thou shalt not cuss” religiosity?

Humans will be Humans

Throughout my life, I’ve heard preachers talk about Moses and how he dealt with the Israelites.  And somewhere before it’s all over they say something like “even after 1000’s of years, church people haven’t changed.”

Well, it’s true…

…but it’s not just church people.

During the 1000’s of years between the Fall and now, Sin hasn’t changed.

There is something about Sin that causes people to defy authority and instructions – it’s Sin’s nature.

When God promises to provide manna for the people to eat every day, he says to gather only enough for today, because if you try to save it for tomorrow, it will be rotten.  But on the 6th day, you should gather enough for the Sabbath because manna won’t be available on the Sabbath.  Sounds easy right?

Well, there were still people who tried to save up and reaped the consequences of rotten manna.  And there were other people who tried to go gather manna on the Sabbath, and had to go hungry for the day because it wasn’t there.

Yes, the people were complainers and whiners.

When the 12 spies came back from their scouting mission, Joshua and Caleb believed God.  The other 10 spread rumors and instilled fear in the people.  God said go take the land, the people said no.  Then God told Moses that they would have to wander around until all the doubters died out and the next generation would take the land.  The next morning, Moses wakes up and goes outside and sees the people prepared for war and they got their “toe” kicked.

Every time God said “don’t send your daughters to marry their sons and don’t bring in their daughters to marry your sons” – all because He knew they were take on their idolatry and customs – they did it anyway, and fell into the problems that God said they would.

So, in Sin, you’re destined to stay in a cycle 1) get instructions/law 2) say “ok” 3) disobey/break the law 4) pay consequences 5) repent 6) start over.  If they obeyed God, they had the blessing and protection of God.  If they disobeyed God, they were on their own.

It wasn’t until Jesus came and became the sacrifice for all that we were able to break out of the cycle and have a nature that didn’t inherently disobey.

So, without Jesus, humans would just be (and stay) Human.

Moses had a rod

As I’ve reached the end of Moses in my reading plan, I had a grand realization of the power that God gave him as he freed and led the Israelites…

Moses is like Gandalf!

Yeah, you heard me right…

As God instructed Moses and proved Himself to Moses, He gave Moses a tool… a rod (aka a staff)!

God has Moses use his rod for many of the miracles performed on the Israelites’ behalf.

The rod became a snake.

He waved the rod over the water and it turned to blood.

He waved the rod over the water and the frogs came out.

He lifted the rod into the air and hail  and fire started to fall.

He waved the rod over the land and the wind brought in the locust.

He lifted the rod and parted the Red Sea.

He hit the rock with the rod and water came out (even when he wasn’t instructed to).

He held up the rod (and as long as he did, even with help), Israel won the battle.

Going back to my Felt People days, just like Abraham, Moses was portrayed as a decrepit old man who needed that rod to help him walk rather than perform miracles from God.  Then God wrote the law on 2 stone tablets for Moses to bring back to the people.  Either God wrote in 1.5 pt font or Moses was a pretty strong dude to haul those tablets down the mountain.  Does that sound like a guy who was so old he needed a stick to help him walk?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Now, as I think about Moses, I picture him as Gandalf – he still has a beard, and he still has a stick – but he’s a man who is strong, and wise in God, with a stick that represents the power God demonstrated through him.