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A short story some will identify with. Be aware of the stranger in your midst~ I didn't really want to go, but I knew I should. Even knowing I should make the effort, I immediately began to make excuses. I did not have the right thing to wear--my closet-though stuffed-was filled with all the wrong things. Of course, it would also require effort on getting ready to make an appearance. I could not go without adequate preparation. A little make up and some effort to make my hair half way decent were a must. I kept thinking, this is so much trouble--it would be easier to stay at home--all alone. Slowly I began to half way get it together, all the time knowing I would not look right, would stick out like a sore thumb, and others would stare. It is always mortifying to walk into a strange place where you know no one and have the entire room turn and look. Surely they all know I don't belong there, I am a stranger in their midst. Surely they know my past, and my present--all disqualifies me from entering the room. This is so hard---why am I doing this? It would be easier to be all alone. I finally manage to get myself in my car for the short trip. The next obstacle will be parking and getting in the door. Where is the right place to park, will I be the only person walking in alone? Finally I make the trip, park the car (hopefully not in some one's permanent parking place,) and slowly walk toward the door. There are people holding the door open and they greet me as I enter in the midst of a crowd. Now to figure out which way to go. Following the crowd usually works well, but what if the crowd is going to a different event? What if I get lost? It really is easier to be all alone. Finally I enter the room where I am supposed to be. It has dim lights and people scattered throughout the room. What if I sit in the wrong spot? What if I get some one's seat? What was I thinking coming here? I take a chance and plop down in a seat toward the back of the room. Hoping to be inconspicuous, but longing for a kind word. I sit on a row of seats, with only a few joining me. Slowly the room fills, and the chatter starts. The row I have chosen slowly fills and groups of friends and families are chattering away among themselves. I sit and observe feeling absolutely all alone. The lights dim and the music starts, perhaps when we are now focused toward the front, I will not feel so out of place. Surely if all eyes are forward I am not sticking out all alone in my spot. The introductions are brief and then we are told to greet one another. BUT I KNOW NO ONE! There is the polite "Good Morning" from those right by my side, but they quickly turn to those they are familiar with, so now everyone realizes I am all alone. Finally we get back to the point of the meeting, and everyone is gazing toward the front. This is the most comfortable I have been since I walked through the door. Finally it is over, and I follow the crowds as they head for the exit. Plans are being made all around for being together, as I try my best to just get out the door. Bolting for my car, I slowly edge my way out of the parking lot and back to my home and the comfort within those walls. I did the right thing, I went to be with those who are like me, but do not see me. Often I suspect this is the loneliest time of the week for many--being surrounded by the good people with a common cause. A sad reminder of being alone while in a crowd was all around as I headed for home. Why make the effort, why try, when it really is easier and less painful to just be all alone.
16Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted.
This past week I had lunch with an old friend I had not seen for some time. I came away reminded of a wide spread epidemic in today's world~Loneliness. We have evolved into a technologically driven world with every modern convenience at our fingertips~and perhaps we are more alone than ever.
Loneliness has no boundaries--it afflicts both sexes, all economic classes, all ages, all education levels, every nationality~in fact every social group you can come up with. We have slowly evolved into an isolated society with phones in our hands, eyes cast down, continually scanning our screens for what we might need to know while the world moves around us. We seem to have lost the ability to interact face to face except in brief forced spurts where we grasp for something to talk about. Often we end up talking about what we have seen on social media in those desperate grasps for conversation. A deep fog of isolation and the quiet stillness of separation fill our days and nights.
My friend spoke of the good advice to keep busy from well meaning friends. Unfortunately busyness can be achieved in the midst of being alone. There is only one cure for loneliness and it always involves others. Somehow-someway we have to break through our shells, step away from our media devices, and seek the companionship of our fellow man.
The blame certainly does not fall completely on those who are lonely. Loneliness drives us to seek companionship and when all else fails we take any measures necessary to end our isolation-even staring at our devices. The road which leads to companionship is a two way street. We must seek others and be open to the approach of those who seek us out. Well, My Friends, it is one thing to write about this and another to step up to the plate and do something about the lonely ones placed in our paths. What do I intend to do? What do you intend to do? It's time to work to end this epidemic and live as God created us--in communion with one another.
I made a flying trip to South LA this past weekend. NO--I did not go to the LSU ballgame--had a really great seat on the couch for that showdown. I went to a concert by these two~
OH~what a glorious evening of worship! Another day--another topic--my yearning for hymns of the faith. The weekend included many hours of deep discussion of topics of eternal consequence. My soul has been refreshed with a respite from my busyness and time for talk. One of the topics we dove in to was the tendency we all have to live in our bubbles. It would seem our lean toward polarization has reached an all time high. The lines include many social layers--including the HOT topic --politics. A couple of weeks ago, Ellen DeGeneres made this statement following her appearance at a football game sitting by George Bush~
The responses I have viewed seem to indicate that a large number of the masses agree with Ellen. I know I do. I am really weary of the attacks back and forth ~both sides are guilty~over political differences. When will we learn it is really not a personal threat for someone to disagree with our political philosophies. When will it finally be alright to civilly disagree and walk away without vilifying anyone who is not on board with our thoughts? We all tend to focus on the differences we have--instead of the similarities. We ostracize and polarize for many reasons--race has long been one of those boundaries, but it is not the only boundary. Social class, politics, religion, morals, education levels, and on and on~we tend to look for the differences and throw up boundaries because of our differences. We seek those who are like us and put fences up to keep out those who are different. Why can we not focus on the similarities? Love of family, need for relationships, desire to see the good in others, compassion, love of country, wonder over the beauty of nature, and on and on. Why can't we all be like Ellen and George and come together to watch the game--even when we are rooting for opposing teams and enjoy the give and take of a friendly game? Well it turns out we can--football stadiums are filled every week at all levels of the game with thousands upon thousands of lovers of the game. Though we might be pulling for different teams, we all love the game and enjoy the experience of rooting for our team. We will not change our passion for our home team, just because we sit by someone rooting for the other team. It will take a pointed effort to break the seal on our bubbles. The effort begins with one---us. When we finally realize it is okay to step out of our comfort zone and recognize the very ones we think are so different are really very similar to us is the first step to be taken. When we all step into the presence of Jesus, the crowd will be amazing--and it will be filled with a grand mixture of all nationalities, races, and political philosophies. God will allow all of us sinners into His presence because of the shed blood of His Son for us ALL. Not the democrats, not the republicans, not the whites, not those of color, but each and every person who has called upon the name of Jesus. No more they--no more them---just a whole lot of us.
I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
We all have been following this story. This young man publicly forgave the woman who killed his brother. Many of us are willing to forgive~with stipulation. If you admit your wrong to me and apologize, I will forgive you. If you repay me what you stole from me, I will forgive you. If you come home, Prodigal, and admit your wrong, I will throw a party for you. If you fall into line with how I think this should look, we will once again be friends. There is no grace when forgiveness comes with stipulation. Grace is a gift freely given and undeserved~no strings attached. My number one rule of gift giving is it is only a gift if it has no strings attached. Once I have passed ownership to another, I also have conceded control or it is not a gift. When we insist upon maintaining stipulations over any gift, it ceases to be a gift. Of course the young man's actions of forgiving the woman has sparked controversy. His gift of forgiveness was grace. She certainly did not ask for his forgiveness nor deserve it. Though he stated his desire for her to turn to Jesus, he did not say, I will not forgive you unless you make a profession of faith. He simply said, "I forgive you." That flies in the face of our need for justice.
The thing about grace is it is a free gift and undeserved. We extend grace by deciding we have forgiven another who has wronged us and absorbing the cost. When we decide to forgive, it is not always one and done. Sometimes, we have to remind ourselves we have forgiven when anger or revenge rears its ugly head. The winner when we forgive is not necessarily the one who has wronged us~we are always a winner when we release the hold of our need for justice. Forgiveness may well come with a cost of never knowing justice has been served. We may never see the consequences lived out. We are extending grace when we forgive without expectation and bear the loss. What is the cost of grace? Jesus paid with His life, so that we might live. Could we ever equal that cost? Though grace is freely given, it can come with a huge cost to the one extending it. May we all be willing to extend grace without thought of the cost.
“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
These people recently came for a visit to HOT North Louisiana. In case you wondered, yes, it would appear one has the other in a head hold. NEVER a dull moment!
While they were here, we watched a movie before bed each night. We picked a real winner--although made a dozen years ago, it spoke volumes. I looked at their mother and told her, "This will preach!"
"Evan Almighty" appears to be a modern day "Noah" story. God appears to Evan and begins to make ridiculous demands of him. Build an ark, Evan---WHAT??? The movie builds on The Ark theme, but what I came away with is "Am I willing to say, God spoke to me?" Am I willing to appear ridiculous to the world in obedience to God?
Would I be willing to wear a sackcloth robe, carry a staff, grow my hair and beard(NO comments) and have it turn white overnight? NOW it could turn white, but Mrs Clairol would have to fade away first. If God were to call me and ask me to do what I knew everyone would think was ridiculous, would I be willing to do it? AND FURTHERMORE, would I be willing to tell everyone God told me to?
I once heard of a Teacher who told a group he was teaching, "If God asks me to stand on the street corner of downtown Ruston and howl at the moon, I will do it." This causes us all to pause and question how deeply are we committed to God. Would you build an ark? Would you chance the ridicule of man to be obedient to God? Would you howl at the moon in the face of man's disapproval? In today's world, some of the things He has called us to do in His Word, are going to cause question in The World. When we are called to get into our pocketbook, give of our time and talents, and stand for truth, man is going to laugh and call you foolish.
Now, I seriously doubt God is going to ask us to build an ark. And though there is some howling going on around the fraternity houses at the university, so far He has not asked anyone to howl at the moon. He HAS asked us to take up our cross and follow Him. He has asked that we proclaim Him and not deny Him. I would NEVER deny Him! Denying can also be failure to acknowledge. When the question of God/Jesus comes up, do you always stand and proclaim Who He is to you? It's a great movie---thought provoking--watch it!
Then Jesus told his disciples, “If anyone would come after me,
let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.
For whoever wants to save their own life will lose it,
but whoever loses their life for my sake will save it.
It hit me right between the eyes, and I immediately thought I need to write about this, for you see, I have lived this. Time passed and life happened---I am busy as a bee with volunteering and family this fall. For some reason (as if I didn't understand Who), this very blog has kept reappearing in my social media stream. I have rolled it round and round. I have made a full circle from where I originally intended to go. The HS is teaching me some really important things about my fellow man.
As the blog states, divorce is the death of a marriage. I would not wish it on anyone, but there are times when divorce is the best answer. Mourning the loss of someone while they are still alive is an experience I hope none of you ever have to endure. There is no ghost to haunt you, but instead the real thing is still living and breathing. When I first began to think this over, I was reminded of the feelings I had in those early years after my marriage ended of the abandonment by the church. The truth is, The Church just does not know quite what to do for us or with those of us who have experienced broken marriages. The best they can come up with is to offer classes for those of us who feel broken. Perhaps we are a reminder, this could happen to you. I certainly never expected my marriage to end, and just as sure as I was blind-sided, so were all those in our circle of family and friends. Maybe I am a reminder that there are no guarantees in life. Who wants to be reminded your world might fall apart?
Though I grieved deeply, there was no funeral to attend, no visitation to express sorrow, and no flowers and cards sent and nary a casserole~not one! During these few weeks of thinking this over, I have come to understand that though most did not know what to say and avoided the subject and me, there was a core group of friends and family who pulled tightly around me and helped me grieve. They were as devastated as I was. Even though originally I thought The Church had failed me, I have come to understand in these past few weeks, those who unfailingly stood by my side were The Church to me. They loved me, grieved with me, listened to me, and even cried with me. They were God's gift to me in those early years and I am so thankful for each and everyone who loved me well. No, they didn't bring casseroles, but they did something even better--they sat and ate with me. The truth still stands today--that as a divorcee, I sometimes feel as if I am treated differently. WHAT should the church do with divorced members? Love us. Treat us like you treat everyone else. Don't ostracize us. One church I attended in Texas had a Sunday School class for divorcees. THAT is NOT where I want to attend. We all want you to treat us the same way you treat your married friends~the same way you did before our marriage ended. The most wonderful small group I was ever a part of had members from all walks of life~married, widowed, divorced, and single. It was a beautiful representation of the world and we all loved each other and were a wonderful example of the early church. We came together with one purpose--worshiping and pursuing the One True God.
After weeks of pondering, I have come to this conclusion~we don't know what to do with those who are different. Not all of us are divorced, thankfully, but most of us have something that makes us different. Most of us suffer from or have family members who suffer from addictions, mental illness, terrible secrets, abuse, anger issues, cancer and other life altering illnesses and the list could go on and on. Different--socially, economically, physically, emotionally~any kind of different. We are tentative and apprehensive about approaching those who are not the same. That wonderful book, Same Kind of Different as Me, does a great job of explaining not our differences, but how we are the same. We all have a God shaped vacuum, we all want to be loved, and we were all created to be in relationships. I am praying for the courage to step out of my box and explore the similarities and embrace the differences. I am praying to love others as God loves me--
And now I give you a new commandment: love one another.
As I have loved you, so you must love one another.