Saturday, September 29, 2012

Walks of Blessings

   "Really? You are walking all that way by yourself?" I asked my daughter's little friend.

    "Yep. I do every day. I'm used to it." She replied with a proud smile.

     How had I missed this? How did I not notice that this tiny little first grader was walking alone?

     For one thing, I am a little slow: I don't pick up on hints right away or make keen observations. God often has to set something right in front of my face multiple times before I understand the task he is asking me to do. It's like he was saying to me, "Amy, this little girl needs to be walked home."

     "Okay, I will walk her," my thoughts replied. I really didn't think I could make the time (20 minutes a day) to take on the responsibility. The next day, I asked her, "Are you walking home alone?"

     "Yep, but it's okay," she said. I knew what I should do, and I mustered up a good attitude as I walked her home again and again, questions now floating through my mind. What is going on here? Something seemed amiss. Something wasn't right. What was it?

     Within weeks, I knew that her mom had cancer, and was desperately sick from treatment. Her older siblings were taking care of the preschoolers at home. Dad was working two full time jobs. Suddenly ashamed of myself for not simply obeying, I THANKED God for the opportunity to help this family by walking their little girl home.

     When I met her older sister, I sensed the stress that encompassed the family. They were all so appreciative. That was a year ago, and now we walk with her and her younger sister. We love them and they love us. We make up games and play them on the way home, and they make me laugh every day. Yesterday, these two girls invited some kids on the sidewalk to my house for a girl party. Our family has been infinitely blessed by getting to know these twenty minutes a day.

     I have passed up and missed many opportunities to reach out to people in the love of Jesus, but the next time God puts a job in front of me, I think I will more quickly obey without questioning.

     "Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers." Galatians 6:10

     Have you ever begrudgingly started a task, only to realize later what a blessing it was?

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Free Self Defense Class

     Am I qualified to offer these? Definitely. I have a black belt in self defense. I defend myself against all kinds of pain and sorrow on a daily basis. It's taken me an entire lifetime to hone these skills, and though the process is not impenetrable, you too can shield your heart from the hurts of this earth. However, if you are looking for Martial Arts classes, this is the wrong web address.

Martial Arts over water~safer than attempting on land
     The heart and the brain work together during tragedy to shield us from damage and prevent further traumas from harming us. This begins in childhood and continues into our adult lives. It is one of the miraculous ways that our Maker designed us to self protect. We can even forget our traumas (repressed memories) and remember them later in life when our adult selves are better able to maturely process our pain.

     Thing is.....I like it. I like that I can escape not only some of my own pain, but also the pain of others. Here are some ways we might help along the guarding of our hearts:

  1.  When confronted with the pain of others, try to love them through it without becoming emotionally involved. Though they may feel the shallowness and lack of heart, you will be safe from experiencing their pain.
  2.  Avoid situations in which you may be sucked into experiencing their pain by getting too close relationally. 
  3.  Occupy yourself with every distraction possible, so that you don't have much time to put yourself in the shoes of the hurting.
     While this is certainly not an exhaustive list, these are some of the things I have done to shield myself from the suffering of others. I struggle with the desire to block pain from getting in, while holding my hand out in the love of Christ. It does not work the way God intended. Unless we are willing to take off the body armor and feel the hurts of others, there is no true communication of the gospel we claim to follow.

     I have been working on this. I know that God has put me in situations he knows I relate to and can be helpful with. I dislike the reminders of my own hurts from long ago, though the pain lessens each time I experience it. I feel like my body armor is loosening, and I have a white knuckled hold on it. Now if God will just help me to put it down, so that my effectiveness in ministry improves.

  Matthew 26:35-36,40 "For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.....I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me."

    Do you ever try to avoid some situations because of the pain involved? Is the empathy you feel for the hurting ever overwhelming?


Sunday, September 16, 2012

Dirty Little Secrets

     We all have know, those pesky things we stuff down deep into our toes and pile stuff on top of to keep them from ever surfacing. Maybe they are things I wish weren't there, stuff I'd rather didn't happen, regrets I wish with all of my being that I could go back and repair.

     How do we learn to keep secrets, especially damaging ones? Is it the shame associated with disclosure? Trying to make the pain go away by acting like it isn't there? 

     I had a recurring dream when I was a kid. I was on a walk with my mom and my uncle, which we did frequently. I was straggling behind, when a Volkswagen pulled up and a man pulled me inside. Try as I may, my voice wouldn't make a peep. I opened my mouth as widely as it would go, screaming, but still sound. My mom and my uncle walked on, oblivious to the kidnapping happening behind them.

     That is the kind of effect secrets can have. They make you feel alone and stifled, keeping you at arms' length from those you love. When the secret is sin, it serves as a barrier between you and God.

    In life, there are no do-overs. We live with the consequences of our own actions and the consequences imposed upon us by others' decisions. We then become responsible for how we respond. And then life goes on. And on.

     There in the shadows.....can you see them? Those are mine. Sure, they've sort of piled up, but I will get to them. They will be brought into the light as soon as I can figure out how to word them in such a way that will be honoring to God.

     Secrets can become so overwhelming that they start defining who we are. It doesn't take much to feel like you are actually just a walking, talking secret. I have allowed secrets to control me at different times in my life. They have accused, insulted, and depressed me. I tried praying away secrets to avoid having to deal with them, but ultimately if healing is to take place, they must be dealt with.

     Freedom comes when a secret is properly shared. Preferably with God, then a very trustworthy confidante. Even if it has been tucked away for years, just the release that comes with acknowledging to someone else what you have hidden (or tried to hide) is a huge relief. The power of a secret is quickly removed when it is revealed.

      "Praise be to the name of God for ever and ever; wisdom and power are his. He changes times and seasons; he sets up kings and deposes them. He gives wisdom to the wise and knowledge to the discerning. He reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what lies in darkness, and light dwells with him." Dan. 2:20-22 (NIV)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Somebody's Watching You

     Our society in recent years has been inundated with cameras....on stoplights, at ATM machines, in banks, and virtually every store. One false move, and it's recorded. If officials wanted to, they could complete a study of your schedule, habits, and mannerisms just by putting together and studying the camera footage.

     That's not my focus, however. It's hard to get around without realizing the extent that we are being watched. But perhaps a positive side effect is the constant reminder that others are seeing and making judgments to see if we are who we say we are, if we live the way we claim to believe.

     Yesterday, while walking the kids home from school, a little girl turned around and blurted, "So I heard you are Christians."

     One of my daughters replied, "Yep. We are," and that was the end of the conversation.

     I don't know for sure how this neighborhood girl happened to hear that our family is Christian, or from whom, but one thing is certain. People are paying attention, watching what we say and do. It's come up in conversation amongst our neighbors, and regardless of what they think of our lifestyle, we are responsible to God for what we portray.

     That responsibility makes me somewhat nervous. We definitely don't live perfectly, but hopefully perfection is not what people are looking for.

     "Nothing in all creation is hidden from God's sight. Everything is uncovered and laid bare before the eyes of him to whom we must give account." Hebrews 4:13

     When have you noticed that people are watching?