What support looks like

I’ve been thinking …

Have you ever signed up for an event and had no expectations?

Have you ever attended an event and had no expectations?

On Friday, I did both.

JOT Writer’s Conference is a low-key meet-up that meets-up a couple times every year at Baker Books in Grand Rapids, Michigan. In that sentence is wrapped the whole bundle of what I knew before I arrived.

As I entered, my thoughts turned to journals – but first coffee. In that sentence is wrapped the whole bundle of what I do as a writer. Isn’t that what writers do? Write in journals, coffee by their side? You see, I’m not really a writer – but I love to write … and therein lies the dilemma. If I have no aspirations to write a book or monetize my blog, can I be a writer?

At the JOT Conference I was impressed by the authors I met, who are serious about their craft. I met a poet, an editor, a few published authors, a project manager and felt the overwhelming support they had for each other and for men and women within writing communities. As I chose a seat near the front of the venue, I looked around and discovered friends from my past and friends from my present beside me, behind me, and before me.

As the speakers took the stage to talk about their parts of authoring, editing, and publishing, the bond was obvious. They talked about how they supported each other through the writer’s drought and blank page panic. They shared their experiences with supporting budding and seasoned authors through the jungle of edits, rewrites, and design.

I’m not a writer – but if I were a writer, I would search out fellow writers to support me and talk me off the ledge when I wanted to quit.

Anyway … that’s what I was thinking.

This is a 5-minute Friday article. The word for this week is SUPPORT and I wrote for 5 minutes, no edits, not over thinking – just shoot from the hip prose.
Are you a writer? Join the 5-Minute Friday group and get support even before you need it. http://fiveminutefriday.com/

 

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Today and Every Day

miliatrt wallToday is November 11th, the day all across America we celebrate Veterans Day. In case you’re curious here’s the canned definition of how it came to be: “Veterans Day was originally established to honor Americans who had served in World War I. The national holiday is celebrated on November 11, the anniversary of the day World War I ended in 1918. Today Veterans Day honors veterans of all wars for their patriotism and willingness to serve in the military and sacrifice for our country.”  This article From the Denver Post fully describes the unfolding of what started out as Armistice Day and has become Veterans Day.

I’m not overly sentimental, but there are times when my heart empties itself and I am overcome with emotion.  Maybe some of these have the same affect on you. Hearing the Star Spangled Banner, watching parades where veterans lead standing tall as they march, the car with Gold Star moms whose hearts were broken at the loss of a child who died while serving our country, listening to active duty men and women talk proudly of why they serve, hearing Taps played at the end of a military ceremony, reading quotes by military leaders who understand the sacrifices behind the words “freedom is not free”.

I sometimes think we romanticize the military, seeing it as all Dress Blues, clean CamoWear, and emotionless facial expressions. Right? It’s not like that. Being in the military means separation from family and friends, not for a few days but for many long months. Say good bye to sleeping in and lounging around in your jammies while watching cartoons or reruns of Seinfeld. Forget the freedom to jump in the car and go shopping or to the movies on a whim. That soft, comfy bed you sleep in at night? None will be found in the military.  The fluid schedule we love as civilians is traded for a stiffly regimented agenda. Most of all, for those who serve in any one of the five branches of the military, they have to be ready to detach from the familiar and go places where safety is non-existent and security evaporates with the ravages of a war that’s real.  That paragraph is a minimalist description and doesn’t come close to defining what it really means to serve in the military.

Today and everyday – be thankful for men and women willing to give up years of their life to assure the freedom of our country. If you know someone in the military, personally thank them for what they are doing for all who live in the United States. It’s never too late to write a card or email and send it to someone who craves the familiar of home but is immersed in the foreign.  Support is more than standing up for a parade or holding your breath through the stanzas of God Bless America. The next time we are at a ceremony where they pay tribute to each branch of the service, let’s stand and promise to honor, respect, and support our active duty service women and men. Then let’s find tangible ways to do that. If you need ideas, put a comment in the space provided and I will reply with a source to get you started.

The song for today Proud to be an American – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LVhnaVAQeTo

Today is a good day to be thankful

I’ve never done this before, incorporated several days of musings into one post, but I’m thankful … and I want you to be thankful too.  When you hear someone say, “There’s always something!” isn’t it always with a growling undertone? Well this is not about that. To me, “There’s always something … ” is the beginning of a string of “…to be thankful for.”  So here are my last few days of musing on being thankful.

November 6, 2015

Today I am thankful for young people. I’m not going to qualify ‘young’, but I am thankful for the youth in our communities. I live close to the high school, middle school, and elementary schools. I love seeing kids walking home from school, congregating at the gas station, playing basketball at the outdoor court, and baseball at the nearby ball diamond. The track team runs on the street in front of my house, always smiling – well, usually smiling. Most days I go to the Middle School to chauffeur one granddaughter and her friend home. Not because I have to, but because I love to be in the crowd of preteens and I love to listen to their chatter about their day and hear what’s important to them. Psalm 144:12 says “Let our sons in their youth grow like strong trees. Let our daughters be like the decorated stones in the Temple.” These kids are growing, learning, and relational. I could be wrong, but I think even when kids seem nonchalant about adult presence, they appreciate being noticed. They’re human after all.

I’m thankful for the time spent in childhood and all the stages of growth as children become teens who become adults. Yesterday my granddaughter’s graduation picture was posted on Facebook and last week my grandson changed his profile picture. I was reminded all over again of the impact parents and other adults have on kids as they mature. If you’re an adult, there are young people in your life who need your support. They need to know someone loves them no matter what. Being kind is free. Saying, “I love you” sincerely costs you nothing, but the paybacks are infinite. Think about 1Timothy 4:12 “You are young, but do not let anyone treat you as if you were not important.” As the adults – let’s not treat our youth like they are unimportant.

Last night, because I’m a senior citizen, I was privileged to attend the dress rehearsal of the TK High School play. There was a reception prior to the play where the cast members could talk with family and friends who came to watch them – support them – cheer them on. I was with a friend Gaye who had been the Sunday School teacher for a few of the kids. They surrounded her, hugged her, wanted to tell her all about what was happening in their lives since 3rd grade. Adults, never think what you do doesn’t matter. Children become adults. What you do is making an impact on them today that will affect how they live tomorrow.

The TK kids (photo below) did a remarkable job on the production of Our Town. If you remember the story, it comes in 3 Acts of life. Birth, Mid-life, and Death. The final scene tugs – no pulls – at every emotion. Grown men a few rows back were crying. They were once the youth of their day.

Job 12:12 has the right idea. “Older people are supposed to be wise. Long life is supposed to bring understanding.” Next time you wonder why that kid doesn’t ‘grow up’ remember that you, the older person, is supposed to be wise and understanding.

November 6: Today I am thankful for young people. Be thankful too. 1 Peter 4:8 “Most importantly, love each other deeply. Love has a way of not looking at others’ offenses.”

November 5

Today I am thankful for prayer.

Prayer is talking to God like he is your best friend, sitting next to you, while you pour out your heart with words you could never say to anyone else. I assure you that God doesn’t have mood swings. Psalm 55:19 says, “God, who is enthroned from of old, who does not change…” Not even when I question him, argue my point, and keep asking.

God is not a magician. Prayer is not a magic potion. Prayer is acknowledging God as power and controller of all things. Prayer honors God. Prayer is relationship with Holy God, Sovereign Lord, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Prayer is saying, God, you are my king, Lord of my life.

When we pray, so often we are asking. God, please fix this. Heal her father, Remove his cancer. Make his wife well. Take the pain from her mom. Lord, time is nothing to you but it’s everything to me right now, please solve this problem now. God just says, my child, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Corinthians 12:9 Naturally, that’s never good enough for me, so I keep telling God he is powerful enough to change things and appeal to him to say yes to what I’ve asked for over … and over … and over.

You know? When I pray and ask God to listen to my requests, it doesn’t mean that he now has fewer resources to listen to you. When I ask God for a miracle, His power to give you your miracle too is not depleted. God is God. Psalm 147:5 “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.” Pray. Get others to pray. “God gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.” Isaiah 40:29

I haven’t always been willing to remove situations from my dragonlike clutches and give them to God. I like to be in control – but have learned that I can strategize, debate, bargain, and beg, but the truth is, God gets to decide. I realize that peace comes when I relinquish my hold on circumstances and just say, God please take this. I’m at the end of me.

On Monday, I posted a picture of my Joy Jar. When the pages of my prayer journal are blank, they look like this. Nothing special to look at, but the words I write there are special to God. Every word I breathe, every word I write is heard by the Lord of the Universe. When I pray I know that God is listening. He isn’t going to wave a magic wand and make everything OK. God is going to do what is best. How do I know? Because I have faith in his sovereign power. “As for God, his way is perfect: The Lord’s word is flawless; he shields all who take refuge in him.” Psalm 18:30

November 5: Prayer changes things. I’m thankful for prayer.‪#‎30daysofthanks‬

 

November 4

Today I am thankful for forgiveness. I try to be careful and not make mistakes. I try to say the right things. I try to treat others the way I want to be treated. I try to say nice things. I try to be the flexible one. I can be a trying person.

It’s hard to say, “I was wrong. Please forgive me.” It’s harder yet to notice a ripple in a normally smooth relationship and wonder, do I need to apologize for something? Did my behavior cause tension? Behavior is what we do. Attitude is what we project onto behavior. For every time I mess up on my behavior, I don’t want my attitude to be messed up too. That would mean my bad behavior was intentional. I wouldn’t intentionally hurt someone and you wouldn’t either.

Perfect is a word, it’s not a state of being. I will never be perfect. I’m going to do something that is misunderstood. I’m going to make mistakes and fail to measure up to expectations. I’m going to disappoint someone. I’m going to be late, forget, misunderstand, and frustrate people I care about. You will too. The last time I checked nobody living on the planet was flawless.

I need forgiveness. I need to be forgiving. You need forgiveness and to be forgiving. That’s how we experience peace; that’s how we find harmony while inhabiting the same space. That’s how we stay positive in a negative world. November 4: Today, I am thankful for forgiveness. Nehemiah 9:17 says But, our God, you are merciful and quick to forgive; you are loving, kind, and very patient. So you never turned away from them—

Treat yourself to joy today. You have to go find it because it won’t come find you. Let’s get out there.

November 4: I am thankful for forgiveness.

November 3

Today I am thankful for friends. All. Friends.

Yesterday, I had a list of things I was going to do. Today, everything on that list is still there, not one item checked off – and I’m thankful. Not because I had no victory over my long list of tasks, but because I had victory in what really mattered. First thing in the morning, I met friends at Moms In Prayer where we pray for people and families, our communities, schools, and churches. A friend from my past surprised me with a text message inviting me to lunch. Afterward I was driving by Carveth Village, an assisted living facility, and wondered – should I go in on the spur of the moment and offer to take a friend I know from church out for a drive? I contemplated. I had a lot of stuff on my list back home. Two hours later, after a long leisurely drive through the country, it was time to pick Katelyn up from school. Whew! Home and ready to dig into my list – but wait. A personal email to write. A card to send. A phone call and a voice saying, let’s go to dinner together tonight. An open opportunity to catch up with a long time friend.

November 3: I am thankful for friends of the past and friends of the present. I’m thankful for relationships and a sense of when people are more important than priorities. In case you’re wondering, my list is still stuck to my monitor. It didn’t go anywhere.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do.

#‎30daysofthanks‬

November 2

Today I am thankful for this season of thankfulness. I’m celebrating my favorite holiday early. Happy Thanksgiving! Every day, I write at least one thing I am thankful for on a piece of paper and tuck it into my Joy Jar with a prayer. Sometimes it’s an occasion, or an experience, or an item. Many times it’s a person. Your name could be in my Joy Jar. Remember Paul? Philippians 1:3 he says, ” Every time I think of you, I thank my God.”Joy Jar November 2 2015

November 2 – Today I am thankful for online social media platforms because I can share joy and hope with a hundred people, most of whom i will never have a chance to meet in person. I’m kind of a joy junkie. If I start running low on joy I go back to the source and refuel. It’s no secret. You can have it too. God breathed these words and Paul wrote, Philippians 4:8 “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of respect, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if something is excellent or praiseworthy, think about these things.”

Bookend your days, not with what’s on your favorite news channel, but with what is true, pure, lovely, commendable, and worthy of respect. Ready? Let’s get out there.

 

United in Mind and Thought

I’m not sure why, but I can’t enter a Christmas season without celebrating the Peanuts gang and Charlie Brown!

I learned a life lesson from a cartoon awhile back – remember Lucy and Linus? Let’s observe Lucy today and come back tomorrow when we talk about Linus.

Who would think that attending the production of ‘You’re a Good Man Charlie Brown’ at Cornerstone University would leave an impression, other than a persistent smile? You would have recognized the personalities of all the characters. Happy-go-lucky Sally, Contented Linus with his famous Blue Blanket, Opinionated, Loudmouth Lucy, Philosophical Schroeder, Self-possessed Snoopy, and of course Perplexed but Optimistic Charlie Brown.  The cast members played their parts with such authenticity, Charles M. Schultz would have given his endorsement.  This congregated group could have been like the early church described in Ephesians 4. “…some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, that is, to build up the body of Christ, attaining maturity and  unity of the faith through knowledge of the Son of God”

During one scene of the play Lucy was persuaded to examine her crabby attitude and consider changing it to something more mellow in nature. Being confronted with a dose of someone else’s perception, was Lucy convinced of her acerbic behavior? What do you think? Would   over-confident Lucy believe the assessment that she was crabby? I was surprised at her reaction.  She set out to prove the judgment wrong.  Lucy went from colleague to colleague asking for a candid evaluation of her personality. “On a scale of 1 to 100 how would you rate my crabbiness?” Kindly, but constructively each friend told the truth –without sugar coating.  They were supportive in their truth. The result? Lucy was able to gauge the consequences of her attitude.  In that moment, Lucy realized the course of her destiny could be altered by changing her attitude.  Did she forever want to be remembered for being crabby;  or for being amiable? And manipulative! Please – not manipulative!  Back in Ephesians 4:14 Lucy realized she wanted to be nothing like those people from Ephesus  “…tossed back and forth by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes.”  Lucy could be perceived as cordial or hostile.

The storyline portrayed through years of the Peanuts cartoon will always need a Lucy because life is full of Lucy’s. They are loud and argumentative, rarely receptive to ideas of others. On a good day they are unpleasant; on a bad day intimidating.  Loud Lucys!  In the play, Lucy opened her mind to the probability that she had some work to do on her personality.  What I learned from Lucy and what you can learn is instructed in Ephesians 4:15 “Practicing the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into Christ, who is the head.”  Lucy also learned that her friends were supporting her by being truthful about what they observed.  Did you know that the word ‘support’ literally means to ‘increase the potential of another’?  Here are a couple other Lessons from Lucy.

Wisdom – Lucy didn’t pridefully ignore the opinion of her friends when their consensus was obvious. Maybe Lucy prayed for wisdom because it’s difficult to know what to do when it means changing something that is part of who we are.  She could have asked for wisdom like Solomon did 2 Chronicles 1:10 “Now give me wisdom and discernment so I can effectively lead this nation. Otherwise no one is able to make judicial decisions for this great nation of yours.” She could have.  Or maybe she prayed for wisdom like we are all invited to do in James 1:5 “If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you.” And reading further in James 3: 13 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.” And there is even greater benefit when we live it like James 3:17 “But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

We are not all like Lucy with an audacious, brash personality.  But there are other traits in our behavior we can modify so we can be effective team members, productive employees, understanding parents, patient grandparents, and peacemaking citizens. I love this idea from Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:10 “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.”

United in mind and thought – I think it would be perfect for Lucy to stop by right now and shout that one out!