Monthly Archives: September 2015

Rejoicing

In our scripture reading this morning, I noticed a delightful phrase that described when the children of Israel dedicated the second temple in Jerusalem. Most of them came from families that had been forced out of their homes and held captive in a foreign land for 70 years or more. A benevolent foreign leader had allowed them to return to their homeland and rebuild the center of their worship – the house of God. This second temple was not as large nor as precious in building materials, but they were seeking to honor God in their homeland and they were overjoyed when the temple was completed.

Are you ready for the verse? How did they express their joy? Wait for it…..

“The sound of rejoicing in Jerusalem could be heard far away.” (Nehemiah 12:43b, NIV)

Have you ever rejoiced to the point that people far away could hear it? I have!! Some of the conversations, just before the singing and dancing, went a little like this:

– “He’s home; safely back from the war zone.”

– “The cancer is gone. The treatments worked.”

  • Close up view of fireworks against a dark sky
  • – “The Royals won the World Series!” (Sorry, that one is from my dream world!)

– “She gave her heart to the Lord.”

– “We found it.”

– “He got a job.”

– “They called last night.”

– “The suffering is over. She went home early this morning.”

– “We paid off the mortgage.”

– “The judge commuted his sentence. He’ll be home in a few days.”

– “God is giving us a little one.”

– “My chains are gone. My heart is free.”

I have no idea who is reading these words. But, be assured that I have prayed for you. May there be shouting in heaven and on earth, celebrating your faithfulness to the path that God has for you.

With God, you can do this!!

Networking

“Networking 101” was a great topic for our second uncommon gathering. Too many times we have defined “networking” as being applicable only to business transactions. But, at uncommon, our discussion was based on a freer definition of networking: “cultivating positive relationships.”

We have so many relationships in our lives beyond the business world. Which of those needs to be expanded, deepened, enriched? What about that family member? Or, the friendship that has grown cold and distant? Maybe you are involved in a not-for-profit or ministry endeavor. Would cultivating relationships make a difference there?

“Cultivation” doesn’t mean you have to dig into the dirt, although farming is a great model of relationship building. We begin by deciding what it is we want to grow.

– What is the purpose of your networking? Why do you want to grow a specific relationship?

The second act of farming is to plant seed. I have been a pretty good demonstration of what not to do in starting new relationships. At times I have come off too distant and other times I have probably appeared to be stalker-like. I’m getting better at having a balanced approach, but it is still awkward for me. Unfortunately, the best way to improve a skill is to study and to practice it. And, because the end result of the networking is important, I work to improve.

– Have you made that phone call or proffered that invitation to coffee yet? How about starting gently with “likes” on Facebook?

The third step, and this is the tricky one, is to nourish and tend the relationship. For some situations, this is easy and, for others, not so much. You’re on your own here. My suggestion is that more contact is better than less. And, frequent non-threatening encounters and conversations are worth more than you might imagine. Just keep at it. Even when you think that the other person is not being responsive, there may be walls coming down that you cannot see. Keep cultivating. Keep encouraging.

Then, there is the harvest; fruit appears and then increases.  Everyone benefits.

Networking is deliberate and purposeful. It doesn’t happen by chance. It takes time and energy and a tough skin at times. But, oh, are the benefits worth the effort!!

“The sweet smell of incense can make you feel good, but true friendship is better still.” (Proverbs 27:9)

flagThis week was the first “gathering” of uncommon. And, I feel lighter and heavier all at the same time. Uncommon has captured my attention and this first meeting reminded me of both the opportunities and hard work ahead.

For some time, I have taught a Wednesday morning Bible study. That group of ladies and those weekly sessions have been such a blessing to me. But, earlier this year, it became clear to me that I needed to start a new path. This Wednesday, instead of our usual Bible study of ladies, we opened our hearts and our schedules to a new thing – uncommon.

The word “uncommon” means “out of the ordinary” or “rare.” I want to live an uncommon life. I want to make a difference for Christ. When my time on this earth is ended, I want the world to be better for my granddaughters and their families. It is time for me to step up and to step out.

My goal is to provide a weekly session, focused on a secular topic, rich with content and information that fosters and promotes networking and local businesses and service people. Uncommon is Christian but it isn’t church and it isn’t a club. It is a community, a gathering, a safe place. It is open to anyone and everyone. We want to inform, to inspire, to unite, to encourage and to motivate.

This week, our topic at uncommon was “9/11 and Friends.” Do you remember our nation right after 9/11? We watched as every available member of Congress met on the steps of the Capital building, said the Pledge of Allegience and sang “God Bless America.” We watched our President stand on top of a flattened fire truck and reassure us that America stood strong. We took care to thank members of our police forces and fire stations and armed forces. And, we watched out for each other. I remember feeling safer than I had felt in my life. Those days were truly uncommon.

And, during this week’s uncommon gathering, we listened as RADM Gary and Tammy Jones told their uncommon story of 9/11. It was such a blessing to learn of those who stood up for America; a human shield of protection around our U.S. military bases half-way around the world from New York and Washington DC and Pennsylvania. My eyes tear up even now as I think of their story.

So, who has stood up for you? Who has taken your side? Who has put themselves at risk to make sure that you are safe, that you were protected, that you continue to walk on this earth? This week, a sweet 12 year old told me about bullies at her school. I reminded her of Jesus’ life – how He stood up for those who had no one else. And, I thought of my choice: to be a bully (through action or silence) or to stand up for others. My 12 year old friend has a choice and so do I.

Live an uncommon life – Take a stand – Make a difference.

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Then I heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Whom shall I send? And who will go for us?” And I said, “Here am I. Send me!” (Isaiah 6:8)

Scars

It was pretty embarrassing. We had just sat down at our table in the restaurant when our server pointed to my arm and said, “Ma’am, it looks like you have been hurt.” I looked and there, running down my forearm, was a stream of blood. Paper napkins were pushed my way and I tried to clean up without attracting any more attention.

The “wound” wasn’t a big deal. A thorny vine had scratched me while working in the yard; and, I had taken some extra aspirin earlier that afternoon. A little bump irritated the scratch and the bleeding started.

But, it reminded me that it is time for me to start wearing long sleeves to church. I love working outside and we have lots of vines with thorns; I usually have several long scratches on my arms after a couple of hours fighting vines. Often, people will see one of those “wounds” and get concerned. It is pretty pitiful to hear me try to explain that my lack of expertise coupled with my unbridled enthusiasm at fighting vines caused the bloodletting. Covering up is just easier.

Some scars I don’t bother to cover, but I don’t call attention to them either. My four scars from shoulder surgeries are easily seen. It is interesting to identify those who have had similar surgeries as they look at the scars and then nod with an understanding smile.

It is unusual for someone to point out their scar to you. But, when that happens, it is often something to celebrate. I loved seeing the “zipper” on a friend’s chest; that scar was the result of heart surgery that gave my friend so many more precious days on this earth. And, the young children who show off their boo-boo’s are adorable.

Sometimes people show us their scars from hurts long ago. You know what I mean – that dear one who goes out of their way to share how they were hurt by someone years ago. In spite of the time that has passed, their scar is raw, bleeding, and painful. There may be nothing that we can do to foster healing. And we are tempted, like Job’s friends, to speak words out of frustration and our desire to “sort things out” or to “fix it.” Or, we may be tempted to try to cover up the wound, to silence the stories, to put a bandage on the bleed.   But, our words and our attempts to cover the scar do nothing to end the pain. We may achieve the silence we desire, but that dear one is still hurting.

Consider following the example of Jeremiah who said: “I am hurt because my people are hurt. I am filled with sorrow, and fear has taken hold of me.” (Jeremiah 8:24)

When dealing with the scars of others, maybe just being there for them, hurting with them, listening to them and loving them, are the best things we can do.