Christian Life

Welcoming Spaces

Who among us hasn’t felt like the odd person out in a social setting? How many have felt like they had to pry open doors? How many of us once inside those doors, found out that it wasn’t everything it promised to be?

Much like this photo that was taken after someone used a crowbar to enter my property, people have often used force to get into places that would not prove to be welcoming to them. In some cases, it was for a positive outcome and was absolutely necessary. In other cases the exact opposite is true.

But what about the times and places where we must take the lead to create a welcoming space for others, when they are so fatigued and distressed that they are relying on us to create what they absolutely require to have any hope?

I participated in a training last week that focused on creating welcoming spaces in relation to both staff and clients. It made me think, how do we strive each day, to be approachable and create an environment for our friends, neighbors, clients / the public, et cetera to interact in a comfortable way and have their voices heard and validated? In the behavioral health world, it’s really the concept of the recovery model.

It’s the idea of partnering with and not powering over those around us who depend on us for some level of support in a given situation. It’s truly the opposite of the medical model and can be frightening rather in a professional or personal situation, depending on one’s training, personality and other factors.

I think that the more we learn to listen and assume positive intention until proven otherwise, we will produce much better outcomes and better relationships will be formed that benefit everyone involved in a particular endeavor.

Even when we know that a particular circumstance is not in the best interest of others, for example a parent seeing things that a teenage child cannot see from their vantage point, how do we create a welcoming space of conversation and expression?

If it is something as practical as a lobby in a professional building, what messages are being sent from the first moment they are greeted or ignored? What types of written messages may adorn walls?

I once worked in an atmosphere that had very high rates of clients not showing for services. As a colleague and I were discussing why this might be, my colleague simply stated that we are mirroring the dysfunction that they are experiencing in their personal lives and posited the question of why would they want to come, given the circumstance.

So what do we bring to the table? Do we bring possibility and hope, a safe space for dreaming and activation or simply a mirror that taunts them with the distress in which they are already swimming?

If you create the experience, you create the memory, good or bad.

Christian Life

The Tangle and the Morph

Working out in my yard again today, I saw three different plants and trees tangled at the root. As I was trying to get at the branches, the roots and the trunks with my tools, it was just a thick mess and very difficult to see the origination point. I had to begin cutting at the top slowly detangling and making multiple cuts to get to the base of the growth.

It made me think of how life is and that when we try to make some changes, sometimes it is slow going. We think it will be quick and easy and we find that there are more steps and things to consider as we make changes. I used to really fear change; and now it’s generally the opposite. I pursue it, sometimes doggedly and hurriedly.

While that can be very exciting and even liberating initially; if you don’t take certain steps, you may end up frustrated and with different results than you wanted.

If I had insisted on just trying to get to the literal root of the situation, it would have taken me much longer as I would have been frustrated with a big tangled ball of three different growths. It was much more efficient to take the onion peel approach and just go layer-by-layer, step by step.

There are times to move swiftly and times to be more circumspect. It is very important to use wisdom, the Godly kind, to know which type of situation we are in at any given moment.

There is a certain satisfaction in working a process and clearing out the dead growth that is no longer functional and is in fact just extra bulk and weight. This is true in the yard as well as in so many mental and emotional processes that we must go through as human beings.

When we shy away from tending to the literal or the metaphorical yard or garden in or of our lives, there will be a price to pay. Rather that is in the form of bringing in an expensive dumpster, buying many tools and sowing countless hours as an investment to clear out the chaos or spending time in prayer, study of the Bible, seeing a therapist or seeking out Godly counsel from friends, to do something well, will cost.

I have this tree in front of my house that started out as a bush. However, left unattended, it morphed and kept growing and growing and growing to the point that it will cost more in time, energy and money to remove it. Had those that were here before me tended to it and had I had the right tools sooner, I might not be facing this issue. So too with the maintenance of our relationships and the garden of our hearts and minds. If we don’t tend to these precious items, we end up with what on the surface may look very beautiful but may prove to be very costly and or unhealthy in the end. The juniper on its own some may find beautiful. I find that the ivy looks lovely; and the tree is magnificent. However, without each of them being tended to, they created a horrible tangled mess and the ivy was trying to choke the tree to death.

It’s not like the ivy can intentionally do such a thing. Yet, the end result is the same as someone or something who either intentionally or mindlessly does something that is of detriment. I think it is so critical to live with a greater level of intentionality each day because all of our choices not only shape us but all of those around us.

Intentionality for the good is not always easy or fun as it requires discipline; but the results are so much better than a life lived haphazardly or from a place of lethargy.

What is your intentional? What’s the basis of the strength for being able to follow through?…

Christian Life

We’re God’s Children…Not His Adults

As I was scrolling through my photos, I came across this gift from my child for my last birthday. It caused me to think of what Reverend Jesse Duplantis says, “We’re God’s children, ladies and gentlemen, not his adults.”

As I looked at what types of gifts I was offered on this piece of paper, I saw a combination of options that offered time together and those of service or tasks to be completed. It made me reflect on something that I am currently in the process of getting better at…being…and not having such a laser focus on doing.

Of course faith without works is dead. Yet, it is also true that if we don’t spend time getting to know our Heavenly Father and how to become His restful children, we miss the mark greatly! Being a recovering type A personality, I tend to find significance in performance or execution and completion of tasks. In school, it was always my goal to make an ‘A’ grade.

But lately, listening to many wise men of God and the message He is sending through them, people such as Dr. Bruce Allen, the message has been very clear that it is critical to learn to rest in God as these end times are upon us. If we don’t rely on him and we look to ourselves, we will be let down, as we are not strong enough or wise enough on our own to navigate. That is not merely my opinion. The Bible tells us that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than our own and that if we lack wisdom we should ask because He will freely give it to us. If we didn’t need his help he wouldn’t offer it.

I also think that we rob God of being the Father who wants to show His love through providing and guiding. When our children just allow us to bless them, we find great joy and passion in that. However, when it’s a struggle and they want to do everything on their own because they know everything, it brings about sorrow and disappointment in the parent’s heart. I am determined to learn to rest. Sometimes I want to scream out because it is so uncomfortable to just sit in His presence and feel His love, as distraction and self-affirming performance can become quite intoxicating.

But just as I’ve been learning that forgiveness and healing can sometimes need daily focus and that there is no shame in that, I believe that learning to get into and remain at rest will be the same way for me and probably many others like me; and that is okay.

I think one of the greatest tools that Satan uses is distraction. If we are running around with our heads busy, our hearts disturbed and our bodies fatigued, what a victory for him because we have lost focus on connection with the Source of Our Strength and Very Breath.

To truly believe that He loves us, sings songs over us, and delights in us just hanging out with Him will bring victory beyond what we can expect or imagine.

Let’s learn to play and revel in time with our Father. Really, that is what matters. When we learn these things, our perspectives will be His perspectives. We will see with His eyes, hear with His ears and have the heart of compassion that is critical for changing the world for eternal good. All the while, we are less stressed, healthier, more joyful, at peace and happy. I don’t see the downside here.

Blessings, my friends!

Christian Life

Healing

I was enriched and encouraged today to read, Full Circle, by Athena Dean Holtz (Redemption Press, 2017). It is virtually unheard of for me to sit and read an entire book in one day; but having watched her in an online video and spoken with her, I was beyond intrigued. So affirming is her story of God’s redemption.

I found too that we share some of the same personality traits and the difficulties inherent therewith. God blessed me with inspiration and understanding that my Achilles heel may always be there and to not be discouraged or think that I’m less than because of this reality. I also received deeper healing and revelation in key areas.

Healing, like forgiveness, may be a multi-faceted and day after day journey; or it may come in a moment. For me, it’s often not been the latter. The wonderful news is that God brings the right circumstances and people together when I’m able to receive and give; and He’s never surprised by how long it takes.

When we stop trying to do everything to perfection and in our own strength, we can take our rightful place and stop trying to usurp that of the Almighty. He doesn’t need our help, nor does He ask for it, in the way our behaviors suggest.

How restful it is when we surrender and allow Him to reveal not only where we need healing but also to trust that He is a good Father who is interested in our wholeness. If I believe, really and truly believe, that He is Love, then I’m left with the knowledge that He wants me to exist in a state of being healed, healthy and whole.

Nothing is impossible with God. He is the Healer of the Broken and Rest for the Weary.

I can say from experience that the times I’m at rest, allowing His healing to take place and fleeing the distractions, life is much more livable. I choose life to the fullest tonight as I prepare to rest.

May you choose to live in the realm of His rest and healing in this very moment!

Christian Life

The Danger in Looking Back

I recently was discussing with a dear friend a common experience from our pasts. We both were struggling with stopping conversations in our minds and reviewing actual occurrences that had been quite painful and brought us feelings of sorrow and being disrespected. We both thought of Lot’s wife from the Bible who was turned into a pillar of salt when she turned back to look at her home city which was destroyed by fire falling from heaven due to the immorality of the inhabitants.

I would imagine that both Sodom and Gomorrah didn’t start out so immoral and that Lot’s family and other families had some very fond memories of the towns that had been home to their children, their traditions and many of the friends that were left behind to face destruction, so also for my friend and I. We shared some very fond memories of some people still in the common place and some who have moved on. We shared the pain of judgment, neglect and abuse by fellow human beings.

However, my friend and I both have a shared perspective of the sowing of seeds and the reaping of a harvest. Some seeds that were sown were very good and some very poor quality. Understanding that you are only responsible for both the good and bad which you can choose to plant and not looking back on those left behind, the good harvest or the bad, can be a challenge. One is inclined to want to return to happy times and may feel compelled, much like a firefighter to rush into the figurative burning building to save the innocent. Yet wisdom and the Word of God teach us in Ecclesiastes and many other passages that there truly is a season for each row in the garden of life. We spent a season crusading for others as we were led to do.

As we sow and reap in each row, we have the opportunity to harvest seed in the form of friendships that bond us together and make us a stronger unit for the force of good in the world. We also have the responsibility to not spread seed that yields a subpar, sickly or even poisonous harvest. Choice is a constant companion, also a weighty blessing. As Jesus said, ” I set before you life and death; choose life.”

While my friend bears the mark of the past, an extension of purpose in ministry has been found for God’s glory. To be bitter, would be to let the enemy find a door in and allow him victory. My friend and I are blessed with a laser focus and a tenacity that can only come from the Holy Spirit.

As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another as the Word also says. I am so blessed by those that sharpen me and also by those who have proved a growing compound in the garden of my life that has at times seemed like it was poured out by the wheelbarrow full and was extremely heavy and at the time painful but enriched the soil of my soul.

Who are the planters in your garden? Who or what has been in the wheelbarrow that was dumped on the ground of your soul? Who loves you enough to sharpen you with the truth and comfort you with the same? Do you recognize when one season has passed and you are being birthed into the next?