10/15/15 Morning Musing: Happiness is Enjoyed Most When Shared

A few years ago, Stan told me about getting to judge a baking contest at work. There were several interesting entries but one, in particular, stood out to him as something that I would really like. (I love shortbread, sugar cookies, and butter cookies and this particular cookie reminded him of those.) After the contest, he told the woman who baked the cookies about me and asked for the recipe. That is when the woman told him that they were not cookies, they were tea cakes and that she would never share the recipe because it was her dead grand-mother’s recipe. It was awkward and uncomfortable and I was really proud of Stan for biting his tongue because his immediate thought was to add some levity by saying “Keeping secrets is a killer.”  
I’ve thought about that story many times over the years and it still bothers me. I do not understand the idea of something being so wonderful that you withhold it from others. (Within reason of course. Clearly there are exceptions: For example, sex with your spouse is something that you with-hold from others because sharing that with others would also depreciate what is special and intimate about it.) But in this case, I keep asking myself questions from the woman’s point of view: Would sharing this recipe somehow dishonor Grandma? Would someone else enjoying these “cookies” take away from my enjoyment of them? Do I want this wonderful thing to die with me? How did I find out about this recipe if not for Grandma sharing it with me?  
I keep asking different questions and just don’t get to a satisfactory answer for any of them and I realized that my objection isn’t about the cookies at all (shocker!)…it’s about the withholding…exclusion. While this wasn’t a rejection from the “cool club,” I still see an underlying problem. Why withhold? Why would you not want someone to enjoy something? Is it possible that what you are really enjoying is the act of excluding someone?  
Why am I telling you about cookies and being left out of the group of “cool kids?” Well, as you have probably guessed, I’m really talking about sharing our experiences and emotions. I’m not suggesting that you put all your “stuff” out there like I do. (I know that most people are not wired the way that I am and, honestly, your “stuff” can be tender and require being handled gently.) But I am suggesting that you share your “stuff” with people. You have experiences and gifts that others simply do not have…but those people would benefit from hearing your story or observing you use your gifts. It seems to me that if we love people, we will share things with them. (Isn’t that what the gospel is about? Sharing the good news?) It seems to me that we have gotten to a place where we reverse a lot of things: We share our time with people every day but we withhold our stories…our essence. We share our bodies with strangers but withhold our hearts. We share our money with every conceivable company out there but withhold it from God. We share our attention with a million different people but withhold it from our children.  
How are you doing with this? Are you withholding something from someone that you should be sharing? Even if it is a burden, sharing that with someone who you love can allow intimacy to grow. What about who you are? Are you sharing who you really are with people or do you have a persona that you wear like a mask? In an attempt to appear perfect, are you losing sight of who you are? Do you even know that the person that you are (under the makeup…the appearances…the bravado) is a person worth knowing? Worth loving? Worth sharing?  
My prayer today is that we would take a good look at ourselves, begin breaking down walls that we have erected, choose to accept what we see in the mirror, and share our stories…because as image-bearers of God, we are each a reflection of a really amazing love story to the world…and it would be a shame if the story went untold. Much love friends,

9/29/15 Morning Musing: Messy

My lovely niece, Abigail, received something worrisome the other day in the mail. Without going into too much detail, it was a bill from an institution for a late cancellation fee. The problem? That same institution was the reason for the late cancellation. I helped her write an appeal letter and they denied it and said that they don’t make exceptions at all (Then what is the point of the appeal process? It’s like someone telling you “No…but ask me again.” and when you do…”No!” That drives me crazy…I digress.)  

The other day, I received a call from a woman who is in a dangerous relationship. She is living in a shelter with her daughter and she was considering returning to her home with her husband. She had made a clear expectation of what she would require from him in order to feel safe enough to return home and he had not met that expectation. But she was itching to go home…she didn’t like the inconvenience and she had started blurring the boundaries for safety she had drawn in her own mind.  
Last week, Michaela was upset about a poor performance on a test in school and was getting pink-faced and blurry-eyed about it. I held her and comforted her but she was struggling with her own disappointment in herself.
Interestingly, I told each lady the same thing: “The best thing you can do right now, is be obedient to God right now.” (Yes, I recycle my advice…ha!) This was on the tip of my tongue with each lady because it is what I have personally been hearing from God for some time now. I’m reading a book called “Strengthening the Soul of Your Leadership: Seeking God in the Crucible of Ministry” and at the very beginning, she draws an analogy: 
 “But one of the things I know for sure is that those who are looking to us for spiritual sustenance need us first and foremost to be spiritual seekers ourselves. They need us to keep searching for the bread of life that feeds our own souls so that we can guide them to places of sustenance for their own souls. Then, rather than offering the cold stone of past devotionals, regurgitated apologetics or someone else’s musings about the spiritual life, we will have bread to offer that is warm from the oven of our intimacy with God.”
Other than the words about “musings” bothering me (Ha!) this really resonated with me. How many times have I been struggling with something only to find that, what I am offered by those trying to help me, are simply platitudes…cliches? That has never lightened my burden. It has only added weight to the load that I was already carrying (and of course allowed them to wash their hands of the situation without entering into the mess) because it requires mental energy and time to address the “truth” that was just shared with me. For example, when I was going through treatment from the poisoning aftermath, there were those who made that hell all the more difficult with comments like, “If you think more positively, you’ll get better.” (translation: you are in charge of how you feel so you are choosing to be sick.) “Your treatment seems too extreme, I think you should find a new doctor.” (translation: if I undermine your doctor or treatment, then I can believe that what you are experiencing is not as severe as you let on.) (or my favorite “The pain is probably all in your mind.” (translation: crazy, whacko, nut job! You are already struggling with this…let me just add a good dose of self-doubt to the mix and see what happens.) Bottom line? They were making it clear to me that they were not safe people for me.
What is the point? I’m getting there. I think that we are called to be an assistance to the wounded who are around us…help carry the burden with them…enter in…get messy. But before we can do that well, we have to be willing to sit in our own mess and be real with God. We have to shut up and hear what he is telling us so that we can share that truth with other people when we enter into their broken places with them. To do otherwise is a disservice and only adds to their burden.
So how are you doing with this? Do people turn to you for help? What are you offering them? Warm bread or stale cracker? Who do you turn to when you need wise counsel? How can we do this better? How are we showing Jesus to the world?  

My prayer today is that we would invest more in our people and in our time with God. I’m praying that we would get comfortable being uncomfortable and messy and that we would love God deeply, be loved by God deeply, and respond in the only appropriate way: by loving people deeply.
Much love friends,