How to know if your life made a difference

IMG_0570A week ago tomorrow I attended the funeral of my grandma, Dorothy Summerville. Now a lot of people may have counted her out long ago. She was 95 and as Americans we have the tendency to discount those who are older among us. But my grandmother was not to be discounted. In the days leading up to her death my mom and aunt sat by her bed side at the hospital, where so many people came by that they had to give her, her own room. One by one and two by two people would come in, hold grandma’s hand and thank her for her influence in their lives. One couple cried as they thanked her for literally saving their marriage, other’s thanked her for being a second mom and others just sat, held her hand and cried.

At her memorial service over 25 grandchildren and great grandchildren took the stage and sang “Give me Jesus.” This was my grandma’s heart. She wanted Jesus. She wanted others to know Jesus. We stepped down and a long time friend and pastor took the stage and started some open sharing time where people would get to share their memories and thoughts about this 95 year old woman. He began with a story, “The church had just switched to a worship band from the organ and piano. There was a drum kit and the drummer played loudly. Dorothy came up to me one day after service and said, ‘I don’t like the drums too much, but I’ve prayed too long for the youth of this community to come to know the Lord that I can not help complain. I’ll just turn my hearing aid off!” And she did. Next a rancher told the story of ranching for my grandma, he spoke of her warmth and love and the integrity she and her late husband had. Another man stood up and said, “Dorothy always took in young boy hoodlums. I am one of those boys and I came to know Jesus because of Dorothy.” Another man shared about when he was 10 and his appendix ruptured. Grandma had called an emergency prayer time at the church and together they prayed, and he lived. A woman stood up and spoke of her rough demeanor as an adolescent. Grandma had taken her in too. She came to know Jesus through grandma. Another woman shared of her afternoons with Dorothy. Can you imagine young 20somethings choosing to spend time with an 85 year old woman, just for fun. My grandma loved people. She loved Jesus more. For over an hour people shared stories of Grandma’s prayers, her kindness, her smile, her laugh, her honesty and the love that oozed from her.

Grandma knew Jesus. She lived a life full of his love and gave that love away to everyone she encountered. It was like breathing to her.

I think when we know Jesus, love comes a bit more naturally. It is my hope that I too would know Jesus and love him so deeply that if I make it to 95, I would not be found alone counting down my days in self-pity and loneliness, but that my hospital room with be filled with those I loved and prayed for daily until the very end.

(In total my grandma prayed for nearly 1500 people a week, by name, and with purpose. Since her leaving us, I know of several people who have decided that they needed to start praying more and pick up where she left off. Her death is actually increasing prayer all over the world!)

What kind of stories will you leave behind? How do your every day choices make a Kingdom difference? Share a story of a person you know who’s life left stories of Kingdom good.

Be you, rabbit trailing and the Kingdom of God

Just-Be-YouToday I sat at my normal table at Solid Grounds where I have set up an ad-hoc office. Through out the day I was interrupted by several people. One woman who also frequents the shop came and checked in. I told her a bit of the goings on of my last week and she wanted me to meet her husband. He and I talked and she mentioned, “tell Larry about your car.” I proceed to tell Larry the story and his demeanor changes when I mention Salina, UT. He proceeds to tell me of similar stories in his life that have take place in the exact spot of my break down. A small part of the story, but an immediate connection was made.

Secondly a young woman who works at the shop stops by my table. She and I talk a bit. She shares a bit of her story and I speak some of the things I’m learning lately. Man, I can be wordy. I say, “We may not get to choose our circumstances, but we always get to choose our response.” Immediately her demeanor changes and tears surface. She mentioned how she needed to hear those words. A random, passing thought, that has come from the past week of my life and just going with my train of thought I was able to encourage another. A sentence, but courage was given.

Lastly a man came and joined me. We started talking about life and such. I was talking with the best of them. All kinds of stories of God’s faithfulness and choosing to risk and trust. I realized I had been talking more than listening and paused for a moment. I said, “That was a lot of talking.” He agreed. Jokingly I said, “Yeah, maybe you sat at the wrong table.” He again paused and said, “maybe I sat at the right one.” He went into his head as he was mulling over all that was discussed. He didn’t speak much, but something happened for him. I don’t know if he needed to be reminded of something or if he was invited into faith in a new way, but we had a holy moment in the middle of the coffee shop. A story or two, and God prompted thoughts of growth and invited us both into deeper dependence.

The mundane of life is never mundane to our Creator. He is strategic, even to the point of allowing my rabbit trails to be words that encourage others, invite others, connect with others. I wonder if rabbit trails and a talkative nature can be gifts of the Spirit? The very thing I would like to be able to change about me, God uses to connect, give hope through, give courage away through.

I’m strangely encouraged today. I feel as though I’ve sat with Jesus and have been able to see others through his eyes. I feel as though we were conspirators today. Conspirators to give hope, courage and life to others through me being…. well… me.

Be you.

As you root yourself in Jesus and entrust him with your very life, be you.

Be completely you.

Be completely solely you, connected to your Savior and watch how God uses all of you for His Kingdom purposes.

A table, a questions and a lesson

dinner-tableLast night my family sat around a table when the question was asked, “What would you like to do in 2013?” It seemed like a fairly mundane question. The kind of question we all ask ourselves this time of year. Each person was given a turn to answer the question as  it made its way around the table. My 6 year old nephew wants to play monster golf, an idea which terrifies my 4 year old nephew. My 4 year old nephew wants to go swimming. . My 9 year old nephew wants to go to Jumpstreet. My 10 year old niece would like a sister. My 95 year old grandmother wants to live one day at a time. Each person had a goal that seemed to fit them well. Finally the question made its way to me. Before I could speak answers started being shouted from around the table. Apparently my family has a lot of ideas about what I should do in 2013.

I eventually answered the question. But I had to wade my way through their thoughts before I could share my own. The same situation carried over to my sister. Ideas and suggestions for 2013 were being yelled at her, as though her year was up for grabs.  She ended up saying, “well, you’ve said it all so I guess I don’t have much to say.” After some prodding she did answer the question for her self.

I sat amazed at the power of suggestion and how sharing our ideas about a person’s future can actually get in the way of that person having a voice, sharing their own ideas and giving them space to discover. We often speak for others. We often let others speak for us. We say what we think without being asked and we give our value based, “objective” ideas without leaving room for individuals to own their own lives and stories.

I’ve learned, and am continuing to learn there is injustice when I speak on behalf of others or give unsolicited advice or tell people what I really think, when I don’t have the permission to do so. Last night, my sister and I almost let others speak goals for us. If  I wasn’t so stubborn and my sister didn’t have people ask over and again to give her own answer, we could have simply let the thoughts of others cover the truth of what we really wanted to see out of this year.

I desire to be a person who listens first, who asks good questions and who seeks to hear the thoughts of another before I speak. (If I speak) I believe listening is a great practice of the Kingdom of God and I desire to become one who listens well.

What have you learned from the practice of listening?

 

Marvelous Things

Listen

Meanwhile a large crowd of Jews found out that Jesus was there and came, not only because of him but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. John 12:9

When I do marvelous things there is no other response than amazement. When you drive through the mountains, walk along the sea, travel down rivers and watch the sun set in glorious splendor; your only response is amazement.

When you feel your heart beat, hold a tiny newborn, watch athletes run swift and learn of the great intricacies of the human body; there is no other response than to be amazed.

When you walk through the most difficult of circumstances, when your heart is mended, when you were kept from trouble, when you barely escaped death’s door; you can only stand in awe.

When you stand in the valley of the shadow of death, you know my presence, for I am your protection and your footing. When you walk through the raging waters and do not drown or walk through the fire and do not burn. You can only be amazed.

When you’ve gone through the worst. When all is lost. When the darkness feels so overwhelmingly dark; my promise to you is that the darkness is not dark to me, in fact the darkness shines like the day. When you find breath and moments of peace as you walk this road; you can only see my hand and be amazed for I’ve not abandoned you.

My name is made famous in your life. Share the stories of my hand and as you remember you will be amazed just as all who hear.

Pray

I pray that you will share the stories of God’s miraculous intervention in your life.

I pray that you will know His hand is on you in the most dark of times and in the times of rescue, creation and mystery.

I pray that the name of God will be made famous in your life and that many may come to him as a result of His miraculous work in your story.

Live

Think of a time when you were in awe of God.

Take a short moment to thank God for His work and then think of a friend who could use some encouragement. Take them out and share your story with them.

The art of relationship: things I’ve learned from making and cultivating friendship

There are seemingly a million ways to keep up with people these days. Things like facebook, twitter, text messages, email, cell phones and the like connect the world in ways that I couldn’t have even imagined as a child. Yet, in the midst of all of these forms of communication, I fear we may have lost the art of relationship and I believe it is time to find it once again.

I am not saying that I think technology has been the demise of human relationship. In my world, these things have actually been quite helpful. But what I am saying is that I’ve noticed that people long for real relationship and yet don’t seem to know how to be in covenant, transformative relationships. These tools for relating seems to become the solution to relationships on the go, as well as simply for keeping up, but they are not filling the void of meaningful relationships that are needed.

Mother Theresa once said that the most poverty stricken people she’s ever encountered were those found in America who suffered from the poverty of loneliness. This I have seen. We fill our lives with noise, activity, social gatherings, and social networks to fill the loneliness without often developing transformative friendships that actually feed into the relational needs we each posses.

Throughout the years I’ve learned a few things about relationships that I think are important as you and I seek to fill our relational reservoir.

I’ve learned that relationships take time. They often mess with our schedules. And, that we must allow for interruptions in our lives and generosity with our time as we experience relationship with others.

I’ve learned that relationships grow through conflict. Conflict is not something to be avoided but it is something that when addressed, worked through and resolution is found that the intimacy level of that relationship is deepened.

I’ve learned that relationships that are transformative are relationships that are vulnerable. Each of us carries with us both an area of poverty and an area of abundance. We must be willing to receive in our area of poverty and give out of our area of abundance. Through this exchange there is a natural and healthy need that is developed and our inclination to be strictly independent is challenged.

I’ve learned that good questions lead to deeper knowing. I’ve learned that conversation that stretches beyond to do lists and have done lists engage the heart building bonds that are surprisingly intimate. I’ve learned that idea sharing and dreaming create a sense of movement and purpose in relationship.

I’ve learned that we at times must celebrate with friends when we want to mourn and we must mourn with friends at times when we would rather be celebrating. I’ve learned that this happens when we look at ourselves with sober judgement. Take a look at Romans 12 to get a picture of how this works.

I’ve learned that in transformative relationships there is mutual submission. When I submit to a friend, I am showing that person that I trust their love for me and visa versa.

I’ve learned that love that is described in 1 Corinthians 13 is not only for newly weds, but is very important for me as I seek to be a good friend. Love is patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, is not rude, is not self-seeking, does not keep record of wrong, it trusts, hopes, protects and perseveres.

I’ve learned that in relationships communication is key. Not necessarily how much we communicate, but what we choose to communicate. I can talk to a person every day and still not know them. I may know a lot of their schedule or what frustrates them of what they think of the person at work, but I may not know them in a capacity that speaks against loneliness.

I’ve learned that in relationships that fill me, there are often shared experiences where we risk, play, recreate, or live well together.  I’ve learned that an experience can sometimes speak for itself. And, at time being quiet is often as powerful, if not more so, than talking.

I’ve learned that transformative relationships take work, time, risk, and challenge our innate sense of self- centeredness. It is out of such relationships that we experience a depth and richness that speaks against the loneliness most of us carry.

I’ve learned too, that relationships do not fill me completely. I was created with longings and desires that people are not meant to fill alone. Thus, I’ve learned that when I seek to make a relationship, or idea of community be the thing that I rise and fall on for my sense of being okay, I will always come up short or disappointed.

I’ve learned that God designed us with longings that lead us to deeper relationship with Him and others. These longings are cravings and cravings do not have an instant fix, but with each experience of the craving being filled, the craving grows.  I’ve learned we often don’t recognize the craving as something good and seek to isolate or idolize the craving, rather than using it as a guide to draw us closer to God and thus to others in our lives.

I’ve learned that I have a lot to learn about relationships and people and I desire to love well and invite others to experience a life rescued from the poverty of loneliness.

What do you think?

What have you learned about transformative relationships?