"For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead..." Romans 1:20

Friday, June 29, 2012

Communication

Alan Cohen says an archery target is a good way to map out the quality of communication....


He starts with the outer-most ring and works his way inward:


•   "News and gossip...which requires no personal
     disclosure or investment and moves attention
     away from the speakers."


•    "Opinions and judgments...in which we
      reveal a little bit of ourselves, but restrict 
      our communication to intellectual chatter."


•    "Feelings...at this level we begin to bring into
      the light what is going on unseen within us."


•     "Most vulnerable feelings and experiences...
       which are the most difficult (and most
       rewarding) to share, as we make ourselves
       naked in our pain and ecstasy."


And finally the bulls-eye...


•      "Unspeakable unity...we feel so joined with
        our partner that words would only detract
        from the golden beauty of the moment."


I recently toured Tasha Tudor's house and garden led by family members. Those who may not know who she was can read about her here.  Those who do know about her know that she died in 2008 leaving a contested will--three of her four children against the fourth who received the bulk of her estate.  He and his family had lived next door for 36 years and cared for her during the illness that claimed her life at age 92.  On the tour I spoke with that son and his wife about the house and to her grandson about the garden.  What I wanted to talk about was their family and whether they'd reconciled after the estate challenge and how they felt about it all.  I wanted to go to the heart of the matter.  But, of course, I didn't.  I was not a close friend.  I was a paying "guest".  


Being an introvert I find the outer ring--the news and gossip level--the most challenging.  Such conversation doesn't interest me and therefore I have nothing to contribute to it and thereby feel out of place in most social settings.  I found this definition of introvert.  It doesn't explain why, however, an introvert is drained by being around people.  It was obviously written by an extrovert who doesn't understand how chit-chat can drain a person who'd rather talk about what really matters to them.  I've also learned as I've grown older to keep my opinions and judgments to myself.  They do nothing to endear me to others since they are usually different.  The third level--feelings--is where I usually dwell in my "introvertedness".  This is where I want to start my conversations but have also learned as I've grown older it does not serve me well in most circles either.  It makes people uncomfortable.  The next two levels aren't even to be considered as you can guess by now!


So when do we get down to those last three levels of communication?  Hopefully, we all have someone(s) in our lives we feel close enough to, and they to us, to share this kind of intimacy.  In light of the hundreds of "social media" friendships we maintain today we may have little room for real relationships where we can build the kind of trust necessary to open ourselves to one another.  Do we not all have (at least women do) a girlfriend from our childhood we told a secret to and then were betrayed when there was a falling out?  So, trust can be a real issue for some.


Mr. Cohen ends his essay by saying, "To create more fulfilling lives, we must speak to each other with more intimacy."  He says the way to achieve this is to let others see more into you--the word "intimacy" is built on "into me see."  


I use to browse the Web and look at other people's Blogs and wonder why they took the time to do it.  Now that I have my Blogs I understand--it is a way to let others see more into me.  I Blog not because I'm an extrovert, but because I'm not!


Father, thank you for this insight.  I hope I've helped someone else to understand their need to connect in real ways to other people.  But ultimately, Father, I know we have a Friend in Jesus who loves us and sees into our hearts and desires us to let Him in.


Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/revelation/3-20.htm


Take action:  What a Friend We Have in Jesus



Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fatherhood


"I am convinced that all children would be genuinely religious if they had someone to lead them rightly to God, to whom they belong....."  Rufus Jones, 1926

A decade ago when my two oldest sons were already grown, I put together the picture/writings in this frame....

The photo had been taken years before.  It is my favorite because it captures the essence of my children in their early years of bonding.  The youngest had finally come along to complete our family and all 3 were a cohesive unit as much as 3 brothers that age can be.  I didn't want them to grow up...
Click on photo to enlarge

But then I came across this from a woman who lived in the 1700's....
Click on photo to enlarge

I put it next to my bed where I would see it in the morning when I did my devotionals as a reminder that my children are not mine to keep.  They grow up, have minds and hearts of their own, lives to live, and places to go.  

We celebrate fathers tomorrow because being a father is not an easy task, if it's done well, and they deserve all the honor the day affords.  Fatherhood requires a lot of patience and wisdom....which young men haven't acquired yet by the very fact of their age.  So mistakes will be made, but if there's enough love, everything usually resolves itself by the time the child grows up.  And in today's world where fathers (and now mothers as well) spend so much time away from home the opportunity to teach by example is rare.  Gone are the days when it was the norm for children to help with the chores on the farm or in the shop alongside their parents or took on some other responsibility that contributed to the family's welfare.  A sense of belonging is often missing in today's family.  

And with less and less emphasis on the spiritual life in our society, children are often not even told about God and Jesus let alone taught to read scripture.  Fathers, and mothers, need to be paying attention to this.  They may know all the Bible stories from when they were children and not realize their own children don't know the story of Jonah and the whale or Jesus feeding the 5,000 with the little boy's five loaves and two fishes, or all the other Sunday School lessons they learned when they were little.

As Psalm 127:3 says...

Our sons, and daughters, are a heritage of the Lord--His legacy to us.  We must treat the privilege of having them for such a short time with care, so that when they are grown they will carry on in God's will.

Father, thank you for the fathers that take their responsibility seriously and who are often called upon to make sacrifices for their children, in order that they grow up to be men and women of God.


Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Unwelcomed Guests

I have a Welcome Sign next to my front door....


Since the 1980's when we lived very close to the church we attended I extended a "stop by anytime as you cross over the mountain" invitations since everybody had to drive within a mile of my house to go into town.  I even stopped wearing a watch because I realized how much I looked at it even when people were talking to me and how rude it must look.  I, amazingly, have developed a sense of time usually within 15 minutes, and often within a couple minutes.  My desire to be hospitable extended to opening my home for Bible studies, prayer meetings, and other social events.  But I must say, I do not welcome ALL guests.


We have a birdhouse attached to the house next to the front porch that my oldest son made for me....


Unfortunately, I've yet to see a bird in it.  


It's just as well because recently there was an unwelcomed guest that I'm sure would have terrified any birds living there....


That, my friends, is a 3-foot (at least!) Northern Black Racer Snake.  We'd seen it a couple days before below the wall in the driveway...


I know why it's called a "racer".  Ken tried to "encourage" it to head for the woods, obviously without success because later we heard our dog, Gabriel, barking wildly at the ceiling of the porch, but we could'n see what he was barking at.  A little later he was barking at the other side of the porch.  I realized the snake had come back and crossed in the gutter because now it was in the Clematis....


It was two days later we discovered it in the bird house.  It was not there this morning.   It's probably lurking in one of my flower beds waiting to startle me....so if you hear a loud scream you'll know what it is!


As I think about it, the snake is not harmful to us (other than how it  hides and startles me in the process) so why not welcome it into my garden.  Likewise, I've entertained people that I never would have invited personally because of my particular likes and dislikes, but I've grown because I was "encouraged" to get to know them better just because they were in my home.  


Jesus tells us to love our neighbor as ourselves.  This is what hospitality is all about:  opening our lives and homes to others.  Some people worry that their dishes don't match or that their house isn't clean enough or that the food isn't fancy enough.  I know this can be hard to overcome.  The solution?  Clean only the bathroom and the rooms your guests will be in (enlist help), unmatched dishes are called "eclectic" (a decorating style), and make your invitation a Potluck Dinner.  What people really care about is the fellowship--not whether you're Martha Stewart's clone.


Who knows, you may be entertaining angels unawares!


Father, thank you for always opening your heart and arms to me.  May I always extend the same to others.


Link to scripture: http://mlbible.com/hebrews/13-2.htm


Take action: 5 Ways to Be Hospitable

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Conscience

Out in our woods there is a huge tree that the boys use to play in.  They nailed pieces of wood to the trunk, whose circumference is at least 8 feet, in order to climb up into it's fork where they tied a rope to swing from to the ground.  Over the years the large branch grew around that rope.  The tree was a stunning reminder of how time passes.  You hardly see growth while it's happening, but go back after a few years and it is noticeable.  In this case, it was undeniable.  


This past weekend we had a severe thunderstorm accompanied by tornado warnings here on Braddock Mountain--a part of the Catoctin Mountains which are the foothills of the Appalachian.  Ken was out looking for downed branches when he came across this....




...the boys' tree!  You can see their swinging rope lying on the ground now.  This is where the branch broke off...




A closer investigation revealed this....




It's obvious now how such a huge branch could break off from the base of such a large tree--there is a hole in the tree!


This reminds me of our conscience when we choose to ignore it.  At first we may tell ourselves I will just allow this thing this one time.  It may be a piece of cake when we've been trying to lose weight, a glass of beer when we're trying to stop drinking, keeping the too-much change returned, or a "small" lie in order to avoid a confrontation.  That's how it starts.  The next time, with a little more rationalization, we do it again....maybe this time a larger piece, a second drink, not reporting the undercharge for an item, a "bigger" lie.  This is how searing the conscience happens.  We do something we know is wrong, rationalize it or promise ourselves it won't happen again so we can have some peace with our thoughts, and eventually it becomes easier each time to do the thing, or justify it so we can do it again--each time upping the ante.  


Then one day a storm blows through our lives and before we know, the huge hole in our conscience which has weakened us, allows our lives to topple.  It's in the newspapers everyday--the adultery that ends a marriage and a career, the shady financial deal that ends in prison, the murder that is committed in a "fit of passion".  


But it doesn't always take a huge storm.  It can be by degrees.  Once a tree is weakened it is more susceptible to disease that slowly destroys the life of the tree because the nutrients can't reach all the vital parts.  In our lives, this happens as well.  That's why scripture warns us to be careful, lest we fall.  


When we ignore our conscience we will begin to feel guilty.  Our guilt then causes us to find ways to deaden it.  Some use alcohol and drugs.  Others physical pleasure.  Still others use depression.  But God has provided the answer in his Son who provides the forgiveness we need in order to begin again.  


Stop beating yourself up.  That's not what God wants.  He wants to forgive you.  He has, in fact.  You just need accept it (confess) and move on (repent) with His help (the Holy Spirit) to live a life free from self-serving sin.


Father, thank You for being patient--for waiting for me to come to the end of myself (time and again), so I can draw on Your Strength to do what is right.


Link to scripture: http://bible.cc/hebrews/10-22.htm


Take action: How to have a clear conscience