Listen Up

 

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Don’t talk to me.

Yes, you read that right. Don’t talk to me. When I give you my time, don’t waste it. Don’t try to tell me what I need to do. Don’t tell me what might be helpful. Don’t pretend that you want to enjoy my company.

Just stop.

Stop the long held belief that in order to love someone you have to fix their problems. Stop sharing information with others that was only meant to be shared with you. Stop showing up to the relationship like we are living in the past.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say.

Don’t talk to me, oh no, listen.

Listen, with all that you are. Listen with as little preconceived ideas as possible. Listen, and seek, to understand. It’s a quality long lost in this instant social media, texting world. I’d rather sit with you over a cup of tea and hear your heart, while you hear mine – rather than text you all hours of the day. Slow down. Let’s not share information, let’s share conversation. Let’s unite by loving one another and hearing our stories. Not talking, but listening.

Of all the examples of Jesus life and how he interacted with people, this one I gravitate to the most. Read with me.

“… He came into Sychar, a Samaritan village that bordered the field Jacob had given his son Joseph. Jacob’s well was still there. Jesus, worn out by the trip, sat down at the well. It was noon.

A woman, a Samaritan, came to draw water. Jesus said, “Would you give me a drink of water?” (His disciples had gone to the village to buy food for lunch.)

 The Samaritan woman, taken aback, asked, “How come you, a Jew, are asking me, a Samaritan woman, for a drink?” (Jews in those days wouldn’t be caught dead talking to Samaritans.)

 Jesus answered, “If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

The woman said, “Sir, you don’t even have a bucket to draw with, and this well is deep. So how are you going to get this ‘living water’? Are you a better man than our ancestor Jacob, who dug this well and drank from it, he and his sons and livestock, and passed it down to us?”

Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks this water will get thirsty again and again. Anyone who drinks the water I give will never thirst—not ever. The water I give will be an artesian spring within, gushing fountains of endless life.”

The woman said, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!”
 He said, “Go call your husband and then come back.”

 “I have no husband,” she said.

“That’s nicely put: ‘I have no husband.’ You’ve had five husbands, and the man you’re living with now isn’t even your husband. You spoke the truth there, sure enough.”

“Oh, so you’re a prophet! Well, tell me this: Our ancestors worshiped God at this mountain, but you Jews insist that Jerusalem is the only place for worship, right?”

 “Believe me, woman, the time is coming when you Samaritans will worship the Father neither here at this mountain nor there in Jerusalem. You worship guessing in the dark; we Jews worship in the clear light of day. God’s way of salvation is made available through the Jews. But the time is coming—it has, in fact, come—when what you’re called will not matter and where you go to worship will not matter.

 “It’s who you are and the way you live that count before God. Your worship must engage your spirit in the pursuit of truth. That’s the kind of people the Father is out looking for: those who are simply and honestly themselves before him in their worship. God is sheer being itself—Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration.”
The woman said, “I don’t know about that. I do know that the Messiah is coming. When he arrives, we’ll get the whole story.”

 “I am he,” said Jesus. “You don’t have to wait any longer or look any further.”

Just then his disciples came back. They were shocked. They couldn’t believe he was talking with that kind of a woman. No one said what they were all thinking, but their faces showed it.
 The woman took the hint and left. In her confusion she left her water pot. Back in the village she told the people, “Come see a man who knew all about the things I did, who knows me inside and out. Do you think this could be the Messiah?” And they went out to see for themselves.” (John 4: 4-30, The Message)

Oh, I am that woman.

The woman who hides herself away from the crowds at midday in shame. The woman who suffers in isolation and loneliness. The woman who understands that for this man to greet her, speak to her and acknowledge her presence in such way – is a voice validating who she is.

She matters.

Think I am reading too much into the text? Think again. The context reveals that this woman was so isolated that she chose to go to that well midday, in the heat of the sun, to gather water to drink. Often gathering water was done very early in the morning or very late in the daytime due to the extreme heat. Why not gather water with others? Wouldn’t having others there mean someone could help her carry the water jars back to town? Why not go at the same time as the other women gathering water?

Fear. Crowds. Damage control.

What makes sense to us on the outside, looking in, makes absolutely no sense to the one who is alone. She found solace in the midday sun, for it was there in the quiet she could avoid the talk of the crowds. The nonstop chatter of their voices as they spoke about her life and the things she had done. The whispers of gossip cloaked as righteousness, “Oh, you should pray for her.” How often we deceive ourselves into thinking that with our talking we are helping the other person and seeking their good.

Are we?

Just reread her encounter with Jesus Christ. Jesus begins by asking for a cup of water. A simple request. He invites conversation by indicating his need, he’s thirsty. Can she help?  The Samaritan woman was immediately taken aback by His request. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t even supposed to acknowledge her presence. It was just the two of them at that well – she a Samaritan and He a Jew. He had every religious right to ignore her. He was obligated to. He was righteous. He had opportunity. Yet, rather than invoke his religiosity, he embraced the grace, compassion and generosity of God.

“If you knew the generosity of God and who I am, you would be asking me for a drink, and I would give you fresh, living water.”

Jesus knew immediately that He had an opportunity and he harnessed it. He chose to draw upon the generosity of God as He asked this woman to draw that water for Him to drink. He was thirsty and He could have drawn some water Himself, rather He begins a conversation with a woman who had been abandoned by society, choosing instead to say to her, “I see you.”

I see you.

I see you as you hide here at this well. I am here. Let’s talk – no, you talk, I will listen.  I asked for water but what I really want is to give you living water. I didn’t really need the water. I needed you to see that you are worth listening to. I don’t care about the customs of this day, I care about you. Now. Today. Always.

Drink.

Oh, how she wanted to drink. She asks Jesus, “Sir, give me this water so I won’t ever get thirsty, won’t ever have to come back to this well again!” Perhaps she was only thinking physically at this point – wanting this living water that welled up so that she would never thirst again. Never taste that dry, cottony mouth we get when we are parched. Perhaps she didn’t want to travel this road ever again – never having to place herself at this well where the local woman gathered. She already felt this place of scorn and shame as an outsider. “Give it to me,” she asked, but Jesus replied, “Go call your husband and then come back.

Ah. Yeah. My husband.  “I have no husband.”

Oh. Truth. They spoke such truth to one another. Stop. You’ve heard this story a hundred times. Listen with fresh ears. They spoke such truth to one another. Total strangers, yet deeply honest with one another. Jesus went on from this moment of raw truth and spoke life into her heart. He used this moment as a turning point, saying once again. I see you. No matter one, or 5 men, whom are not your husband, I am here – with you now.

I see you.

As this woman begins to wrestle with the uncertainty of this stranger – you can almost sense her heart on her sleeve. Exposed with the truth of her deepest soul, her sins and her shame – rather than run from it, she embraces it. Let that sink in. She didn’t deny all the men she had been with, rather she accepts the truth. Ownership.She grasps the utter humanity of this moment- and speaks. Real talk.

Not cloaked in righteous indignation or proclamation. Not professed concern passively masquerading as love. Not a well intended, “I will pray for you” spoken as we move quickly back into our own life and it’s circle. Don’t be like those disciples who questioned why Jesus would be with “that kind” of woman. No. Jesus never talked to people this way. He stepped in when most of our footsteps may tread in another direction. He moved towards those in need. He comforted them. He listened. He loved.

Don’t you want that too?

To be heard. To be comforted. To have your most deepest longings accepted. Jesus had every societal, religious and moral right to ignore this woman. Culturally, that’s how it was at this time. Yet, Jesus didn’t let religious pressure, or cultural norms or even His disciples determine His path – He let God lead Him. Jesus Christ paved a new path.

Be Jesus. 

Listen to the hearts of those around us. Go to their wells. Hear what’s really going on in their life. Share their suffering. Comfort these losses. Empathize. Drink in their experiences and see life through their eyes.

Don’t talk to me.

Don’t talk to me not unless you plan on having an honest conversation. Don’t talk to me one way and speak another way behind my back. Don’t talk to me with your criticism and your judgement.

I don’t invite you into my space to have you tell me how to think. I don’t open my heart to you so that you can share it with others with no regard.  I don’t make time to see you to have you talk right over me and ignore what I have to say. Just stop.

Listen up.

 

A New Year?

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2017.

Just like that, the clock ticks, the bell chimes and the new year slips right in. Not with loud fan fair, or much celebration – but another moment in time. Another hour, another day, another year. Just when I was sweeping up the memories, both happy and sad, of 2016 – 2017 just waltzed right in.

How did that happen?

You might be ready to be rid of 2016. Perhaps it included loss, pain and  unfulfilled dreams – for you that door can’t close fast enough on the year, can it? I know. I know that sense of closure needed to move forward and beyond what was, hoping for what’s to come. I’ve had many years where I slammed that door shut myself.

So, here we stand, on the cusp of a year not yet lived. What do you long for in this year? I know what I do. I can speak it faster than you process your own thoughts. I’ve been kicking around stones on a new path, following it, even as it’s windy roads keep me in circles sometimes. I am ready. So ready – for 2017.

How about you?

Are ready to breathe in new life into your own? Are you ready to lay aside your pain, your anxiety and sense of hopelessness? Taking a hard look at who you are and how you live your life. Knowing with strength and certainty that you are worth each moment that this year will bring you.

If there is one truth to grab ahold of as you start this new year, it’s that you are worth every moment you give to yourself. Don’t doubt it. Don’t deny it. Don’t hesitate. Love. Love yourself. As you love yourself, or perhaps learn to love yourself, love springs from within you to share with others. If it seems trite to you, don’t take my word for it.

Jesus Christ was asked once,

“Which is most important of all the commandments?”

Jesus said, “The first in importance is, ‘Listen, Israel: The Lord your God is one; so love the Lord God with all your passion and prayer and intelligence and energy.’ And here is the second: ‘Love others as well as you love yourself.’ There is no other commandment that ranks with these.” (Mark 12:28b – 31  The Message)

Did you ever stop to realize that loving God means loving yourself?

Jesus asks us to love God with all our passion, prayer, intelligence and energy. Then He proceeds to instruct us to do the same to our very hearts. How often do you love yourself passionately? Really? Me neither.

It takes great effort to think about myself. I spend so much of my time thinking of others, of what needs have to be met, of what things have to be done – that somewhere along the way, I get lost. It’s not a new phenomenon, it’s a raw reality of my life. I’ve allowed myself to be loved less, and in the process, believed I am unlovable.

The greatest gift I hope to give myself in 2017, is love.

Loving myself. Accepting the desires that are within me as gifts from the Heavenly Father and live them in my daily life.  Some may profess that’s not a Christian attitude, well.. I use to believe that myself. God has had to teach me through years of suffering that loving myself is how I honor and love Him. It’s not what I do that makes me a follower of Jesus. It’s who I am, and who lives in me. God’s Spirit resides in me.

Read that again.

God’s Spirit lives in me! If you are a Christian reading this, then He lives in you too. Have I spent my time, wasting time, putting myself in a position I was never meant to be in? Am I putting down the Almighty God Himself when I reject His life within me? When I repeat long held negatively tucked deep away in my spirit. When I insist on focusing on what I do, rather than who He created me to be – I am choking the Spirit’s ability to reign fully in my heart and lead.

We must let go, and love, ourself.

So, as you kick off this New Year, I ask you to join me. Stand in the front of the mirror of your heart and listen to your soul and hear it’s cries. Listen. Don’t turn away. Don’t get busy. Be still. Get quiet. When the thoughts come of what you really love, find a way to use that passion for good, and for God. Allow the Holy Spirit to open your mind and your heart into a new direction, His. Don’t quench the Spirit of God, let Him love you. And in doing so, you love yourself.

2017, bring it on.

Happy New Year?

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It’s a few days past from all the Happy New Year wishes, the resolutions, the goals being set and the reality of the true new year sets it.

It’s just another day isn’t it? Any step along the road you trod. A walk along the journey of your life where you are privileged to be – you. With each new year there is this sense of a new beginning, a fresh start, a chance to be made new. Dreams are remembered and hopes are set before you once again as you try to prioritize and discern the essence of who you are and where you are headed.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you could just plan it all out and it would fall into place?

Yeah – right! I know, I know, but please just stick with me for a minute. For years I lived my life thinking I could organize this shelf, pick up that room, move the clutter about and somehow it would dethrone the anxiety off the seat of my heart. If things had a system,  if I could manage paperwork, errands, shopping – oh the list could go on and on! Mine certainly could, how about yours? With the start of a new year, there is this yearning within me to gather my thoughts together and order them on paper. Somehow stream them into a nice, neat and orderly list. I can write to-do lists, organize clutter in closets, clean out things not worn in over a year. It may take some time as the things have stacked up, but sure, I can do that.

But the heart, just how do you gather that?

It’s like somehow believing you could heal yourself as you reflect upon broken lives, unfulfilled promises and shattered dreams. How do you reign in and order, chaos? It’s not with lists written on paper with pen and ink that transform our thinking. It’s not with resolutions that we muster strength for obtaining goals in our lives. It’s not with unfailing strength that we fortify ourselves against painful experiences.

No.

That would be trusting in yourself. While it’s true, there is beauty and freedom in finding who you truly are and have been created to be. There is a sense of purpose and of dignity as you gain hope not in lists or in items scratched off. No. There is freedom in releasing yourself from the expectation of measuring who you are against such a list. Each moment you strive to better yourself or to unlearn a behavior you are in fact, accepting that perhaps the way you have handled it all along may not have the best. But handle it you did.

It’s with our mistakes, it’s in our brokenness and with these unfulfilled lives that we become seekers. Searching out purpose and meaning. It’s these moments in our lives that we find ourselves asking questions we didn’t even know we wanted the answers for, that we begin to see light in the darkness.

We see, even when we didn’t know it was dark.

As you begin your new year and the resolutions you penned in ink are dry, yet they are ablaze within your heart. They kindle like a burning ember reaching down to deepest part of who you are. I encourage you today, this moment, to seek out and not depend on your own understanding, oh no.

“Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track.
Don’t assume that you know it all.
Run to God! Run from evil!” Proverbs 3:4-5

God is real. He is true. He will be there for you. You can trust Him.

There is peace in not figuring it all out on your own. There is hope in knowing you can trust that if the dreams do shatter  – God can pick up that shard and graft it into piece of art taking away the sharp painful edges and make you a new creation. He is a transformational, renewing and redeeming God.

In this new year, let Him make YOU new.

Suffering

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“We must learn to regard people less in the light of what they do or omit to do, and more in the light of what they suffer.” ― Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Suffering.  It knows no bounds – people of all ages, all races, all sexes – endure physical pain, undergo emotional trauma and combat spiritual darkness.

I mean, really, let’s be honest. Who wants to admit, or face the fact, that suffering not only happens, but thrives at times? We fight against it with all we are. We exercise our bodies, our minds, our decision making so that we overcome, move on, let go – yet in the end. That which we strive to overcome, can swallow us up.

We tend to think about what  we are suffering, how we are suffering and why we are suffering. Our very focus is on how to end our suffering. To stop the pain, ebb the flow and remove the ache. Our feelings are constant reminders of our failure – guilt, shame, depression, anxiety, anger, insecurities, despair. These keep us grounded in our suffering, they become our friends as we suffer. Friends which don’t challenge us to rethink our minds or walk us through the pain.  Rather than help us lift our eyes off the suffering ~ we become consumed.

There we are, caught in the mire of our suffering. We shake our very fists as we are awash again in anxiety. We lift up our feet to step out of the muck of depression and anger. We twist and turn, trying to get the shackles of guilt and shame off our backs.  Hurting, aching, longing to end this constant suffering.  All these ways we hope, we plead and we want ~ to overcome. Yet, here we are.

Again…

All we desire is to be free! We seek out forgiveness, we search out hope and we want redemption.  How many times do we yearn for a taste of freedom but our hearts remain darkened? So, we suffer.

Freedom.

Ah, just the sound of it. Freedom!  The shackles on our back become unbound,  our feet are firmly planted on the ground and our fists loosen their grip on our hearts. Rather than shaking in despair, they open in anticipation. Rather than held tight in anger, they fold in prayer. Somehow the act of contrition on our physical body transforms our emotional and spiritual self.

We yield.

See, suffering will not cease. Yes, I should repeat that. Suffering will not cease. But our hope is not in what we do, how we behave or how others treat us. Oh no. Far from it! Our hope, is freedom. Freedom is found as we face our suffering. Freedom is found in walking through the suffering. Freedom is found opening our hearts to love.

Love.

“There is no room in love for fear. Well-formed love banishes fear. Since fear is crippling, a fearful life—fear of death, fear of judgment—is one not yet fully formed in love.” 1John 4:18

See that, love – it casts out our fear. It lightens our steps as we walk. It gives us eyes of compassion. It envelopes us in calmness. Grants us hearts growing in mercy. Allows us to see others as someone who suffers. Oh love!

I can’t promise your suffering will ever cease. No, I don’t think it will. But I can certainly acclaim that love conquers fear. Do not fear your suffering, welcome it, invite it in.

As you do, you invite love to reign.

Ah, freedom!

Reaching

Reaching

Reaching.

Upward, onward, forward and often, backward. This constant process of reaching, of moving and of trying. A never ceasing, unending, constant sense of chaos. Looking for answers to long asked questions. Ever searching.

Like the cattails that sway in the breeze and never sit still. Are our hearts as we search them in the midst of pain.

Pain.

I rarely talk about it. In fact I was reminded as I shared with a precious friend just this weekend how little I do talk and contemplate the turns in life that have come my way. It’s not that I haven’t let them mold me, challenge me, grow me. But, have I spoken to free myself from the fear? Have I spoken so that maybe someone else might gain strength? Have I spoken to find my own voice?

Have I spoken?

I live with daily pain, the kind that takes your breath away so immediately your chest feels like it’s caving in. It hurts to breathe. Yes, read that again. It hurts to breathe. The very thing we take for granted, that sustains our life, brings me pain. That’s the thing about pain. We surprise ourselves on what we can truly endure.

This can also bring me much fear. Not fear in the sense of I can’t catch my breath (although I’ve had a few of those moments), but fear in losing time. Once you have tasted the sweetness of the brevity of life, oh how you want to rewrite the story! I desperately yearn to be reaching.

For more.

Reaching inward, yes. Rearranging my daily activities, responsibilities and priorities so that I honor this life I was blessed with, again.

Reaching outward, yes. Seeking to build a holistic support system around me, calling out for help when I need it.

Reaching upward. To the God who allowed this all to happen in the first place? Not so much. It’s a constant tension to reach out. There’s a cycle of doubt which creeps in, fear takes over and I cave. Like the breathe caught in my chest, is the love I offer my God.

Painful.

Rather than look up, I look backward at what could have been, should have been, on what I had planned. The “if only’s” choke out and I gasp for air again. This time, not because of a clot in my lung, but a clot in the relationship I have with my Father.

I reach. I grasp. I struggle to see His face, to hold His Hand. As I reach out, I find it empty, soaked with tears of grief. Of moments put on hold, memories missed and time lost. There I am, reaching backward once again. I know this path.

What will it take until I learn to no longer look backwards?

Perhaps that’s the point of the pain in the first place.

To trust.

To embrace this clinging, breathing, calming, moment by moment life of rest. That’s where my Father is, waiting for me, in our relationship together. Calling me to come.

Be.

Then the breeze blows, the wind moves and I feel His touch again.

This time, I reach up.