Monday Mindset: Generosity

I am challenged today to think about my giving.  I have at least two friends I am aware of who have donated one of their kidneys to a family member. One gave his to his wife’s aunt.  Talk about generosity!

Today I probably won’t be donating a kidney to anyone, unless I’m dead, and then everything gets donated.  So what can or will I give?  I can give a hug to the woman who just lost her husband.  I can share a smile with the cashier who just doesn’t think anyone really notices her.  I can send a card to that shut-in who feels all alone.  I can respond to the list of needs for a family that just lost everything in a fire.

Giving can cost all or nothing at all.  As I considered this concept of generosity, I was reminded of the Macedonian church. They gave to an offering Paul was gathering for the needy.  Even though they were experiencing severe trial, they gave beyond their ability to give.  You can find this story in 2 Corinthians 9.  In verse 8 their call to giving is described this way:  “test the sincerity of your love by comparing it with the earnestness of others.”  I had never noticed that before! So often we’re counseled away from comparing ourselves to others. But that’s Paul’s instruction to the Corinthians. It reminds me of the Old Testament challenge to try and out give God (see Malachi 3:10ff). 

I am humbled today by the generosity of my friends.  And I’m challenged.  I don’t want to be found short when it comes to being generous.  I want to be earnest and sincere.   How about you?

Hopefully Devoted: Rhythm

(A repost of a former thought…relevant for me today)

Rhythm.  I never spell that word right.  Perhaps if I were a heart specialist spending my days examining and checking rhythms,  or a professor of music, pounding out rhythms to students, I would find the word more natural to use and spell.  As hard, though, as it is to wrap my brain around spelling it, it’s even harder for me to wrap my spirit around it.

As I reflected upon rhythm, I was reminded of the movie, “Kate and Leopold.”  In the movie a man from the past is transported to modern day.  His presence changes the life of a marketing executive who is all push and drive.  Late in the movie, when Kate finally believes who Leo is, she asks him what he misses from his time.  He tells her he misses the pace and rhythm of life.

When Jesus looked out on the crowd, he was moved with compassion.  He saw how horribly out of sync they were with the Father and he told them: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” (Matthew 11:28-30, The Message)

I’m a pairs junkie.  I love to watch great partners dance.  I am easily sucked into watching pairs figure skating.  I don’t think they televise nearly enough pairs/doubles tennis.  I love to see how two become one.  It’s as if they transcend anticipating the other’s moves and begin to beat as one.  I think that’s what Jesus was inviting the people, inviting us, to do. 

Last night when I got home from work, I was spent.  I had put in three twelve hour days in a row.  I wanted to crash, but my three year old grandson was here.  I love him.  He is the funnest thing on earth.  His favorite thing to do is chase.  We run through the house like race cars.  Last night he was lapping me because I just didn’t have the energy to keep up.  After his mommy picked him, I sat down to type this devotional.  I had written most of it earlier in the day.  I had felt good about being ahead.  When I went to save what I had typed, I hit no.  And just that quickly, it was all gone.  I sat in my chair, staring at the blank computer screen in disbelief.  I was so tired that I erased everything.  That’s physical weariness.

We can become just as weary spiritually by keeping a pace that we were not designed for. Think about it.  Back in the Garden, what did God and Adam do?  They weren’t practicing for a marathon.  They walked together.  Enoch walked with God, and was no more.  Jesus walked with the two on the Emmaus Road.  It seems that God’s pace is very different from our own.  And when we might expect God to walk, he ran.  He ran out to meet the wayward Prodigal Son and welcome him home.

Unforced rhythms of grace.  I love that phrase.  As I think about it, I am aware of the rhythmic ticking of the grandfather clock across the room.  Its beat is so natural and reassuring.  It’s very unlike the beat at work.  To keep people working out at a healthy clip, the music at Curves has to be within a specific beat—fast.  Some of the remakes of songs make me laugh, because those songs were never intended to be sung as fast as our beat requires.  Think about “O Holy Night” or “Word of God Speak” at 180 beats per minute.  Ludicrous.  Ridiculous.  Unnatural.

So is much of our living.  The problem is this: sometimes we are called to a fast paced life.  The demands require much of us.  I would never presume to say we need to return to the pace of the Amish (though recently, the thought held some intrigue for me).  I would, however, suggest that we need to check ourselves.  Can we honestly say with Paul, “’For in him we live and move and have our being (Acts 17:28, NIV)”?  That’s what Jesus was inviting us to.  When we live life at our pace, we are out of sync with the Creator of life, and we will always feel out of step. 

If we are tired of being tired, perhaps the solution is to find those unforced rhythms of grace and learn how they will work in our lives.

Rhythm Postscript and A Random Thought

Rhythm Postscript: After posting a devotional on rhythm, I should have anticipated facing challenges to my rhythm.  But I didn’t.  Somehow as I was preparing for work , I found myself behind schedule.  I hadn’t eaten breakfast.  I had my tea, but I knew I’d need more than just a banana.  I decided to grab an egg biscuit at Burger King.  It’s on the way, there’s usually no one in line, and it’s under a buck.

I pulled into BK and there were two vehicles in front of me.  Sigh.  This is going to put me way behind.  The first vehicle is a van.  I can see the driver in his side view mirror.  He’s arguing with someone on a cell phone and tying to place an order at the same time.  While he’s doing that I catch a glimpse of the woman in the car in front of me.  She’s using her side mirror to help her put on her mascara.  The two cars behind me probably wondered about the crazy lady laughing hysterically in the blue Jeep Liberty.  

I read this quote from Thoreau this week: If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.

What beat are you hearing?  The Father is hoping you’re keeping pace!

And one more thought:  Part of the trouble I have with spelling RHYTHM is that I want to spell it RHYTHYM…It’s never good to have too many Why’s….

Monday Mindset: Misfit, Don’t Fit, Unfit?

Right now…I’m not feeling like “anything.”

When I was an angsty teenager, I was encouraged by the most influencial adult in my life to never give up. I absolutely tattooed that on my heart and mind. I was never going to be a quitter!

The problem was I never felt like I fit in. I related far more to the toys on Misfit Island.

No matter how hard I tried, I wasn’t very good at much. Just sort of mediocre. I watched my peers and my family apply themselves and succeed. Just like my experience with the Miss Teenage Columbus Pageant: I never won…but congratulations, you’re fourth runner up.

Most of the time I was able to paste on a smile, and pretend that it was ok. It wasn’t the losing I minded as much as I just wanted to know why I didn’t feel like I succeeded.

I decided to do a little research. My SEO question was: can an ESFP be a writer? ESFP is my Myers Briggs Personality Type: Extroverted, Sensing, Feeling, and Perceiving. I found a blog and an excellent post that helped me move from under-the-basement-discouragement to serandipitous joy! (So I feel more like the little guy in the next picture.

Bottom line: I needed to be reminded that I don’t have to try and squeeze into someone else’s box or expectation or definition.

I am a communicator. Sometimes I write, but I also speak. I get to the message, but I don’t have to take the same route as others do. I wouldn’t require someone else to meander down my oft times disjointed and crazy path…so I need to be aware of trying to fit into someone else’s box.

Golly, I feel so free right now. That should be our mindset, too. Figure out how we best achieve our goals and go for them. Others may be able to discipline themselves into success, but you’ll probably find me skipping down the road to mine. I won’t get there fast…but that’s okay by me.

Hopefully Devoted: Starts and Finishes

I’m a good starter.  I attribute that to the gift I believe God gave me: I see possibilities.  My MBTI personality profile supports this theory.  I walk into a room or a work space and immediately start thinking of ways to improve the process.  I thrive in work situations where I can think of new ways to do the job.  Working this way plays to my strength of starting, but reveals all too quickly my boredom with following through.

While this can be a strength at work, my “gift” has a tendency to make my husband moan and roll his eyes at home.  Every now and then I’ll get a creative bug in my bonnet and I’ll start some project.  Currently, it’s a cross-stitch I started a few months ago for my brother’s birthday next month. Yes, I am aware how quickly I’m running out of time. I carry it with me everywhere I go just in case  I have a few spare minutes to work toward completion.  It’s almost done.  I just need to bring myself to complete it.

Most of us are good at starting things.  How many books have we started but never finished?  How many have started college but never completed the degree?  How many craft projects sit in bins waiting to be finished?  How many diets have we started and given up on?

In his letter to Timothy, Paul declares, “I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race.”  I believe Paul’s message holds the key to why we tend to give up and not finish what we start.  It’s all in the word FIGHT.  As soon as the going gets tough, we’re done.  This applies to classes, diets, jobs, and relationships.  When what we’re doing starts to feel like work, we walk away. When the newness wears off, we lose interest.

I have a friend who has always been an inspiration to me, but I’m not sure she knows how much.  She’s a doctor, professor, wife, mother, friend, and sister.  Oh, and she’s also a quilter.  She crafts the most beautiful quilts.  If you’ve ever tried your hand at quilting you know how exacting and exhausting it can be.  Her life has been spent on others, in work and “recreation.”  There just doesn’t seem to be any quit in her.

As I think through my friends, there are many people who are inspirational.  They face down illness, their own and the illnesses of loved ones.  They open their homes to troubled children.  They pour out their lives in thankless jobs.  They stand by discouraged mates and face down their own fears.  The list could go on and on.  

I love a quote that is attributed to Emily Dickinson: “I dwell in possibilities.”  I can relate.  But I also want to finish.  I want to finish craft projects.  I want to finish jobs.  I want to go the distance in my relationships.  Most of all, I want to finish the race of faith.

So, excuse me while I step away from the computer and pick up my needle.  Maybe I can get this cross-stitch done before my brother’s next birthday.

Monday Mindset: Laugh

(I can barely type…I’m still laughing at myself)

I got up this morning around 6am. I like being up before everyone and getting ready while it’s still dark and quiet. I give the dogs their morning dental stick and head to the bathroom.

For me, this was a “dropsy” morning. I can’t seem to get a grip on anything. I’m dropping everything. Knocking things over. Spilling. And I’m not going to go into how awful my hair turned out.

I pressed on. Unamused and on the verge of frustration.

Then it was time to feed the dogs. Two of them get a cup of dry crunchy food with a packet of Moist and Meaty yumminess on top. I turned to fill the third dog’s bowl and kicked the water bucket as I was reaching for her healthy Moist and Meaty alternative for senior dogs.

As the water splashed I said, “Will you stop being such a Monday morning!” As I finished the request, I started to tear open Bella’s packet of less than yummy food. Instead of falling neatly into the bowl it exploded sending little cubes of food all over the kitchen floor.

As I knelt down to retrieve the food, my husband came to the door to question what he thought he heard me just say. He found me on the floor laughing uncontrollably. Bella walked over, too. Gave me a quick look and proceeded to clean up my mess. I thanked her for her help.

Monday mornings do not have sole rights to interruptions and bad starts. Any day can start out deviating from plan. Or it might go haywire in the middle. Or just before bed when we’re completely spent. Interruptions, devestation, and plan destruction do not care about our calendars. They do not ask permission for deviation.

There are lots of ways to handle this. Having a plan B (through Z) is wise. But for me, the best solution is laughter.

When we had foster kids, one of the hardest lessons for them to learn was to laugh at themselves. They would either melt down and shut down, or come out swinging at anyone or anything in front of them when things didn’t go the way they wanted. I always invited them to consider laughter. Some of them did and found it better way to cope, while others couldn’t ever seem to move beyond crisis mode.

I know not everything can be laughed at. There are things that occur that require serious means of management. But when you can…laugh. Monday morning will keep on being Monday morning whether we like it or not. And sometimes the dog food will end up all over the floor. How will you handle it? I’m going to laugh!

I’ll get a grip later.

Hopefully Devoted: The Right Fit

In my life I’ve had one pair of shoes that fit perfectly—or as close as one can get without having the shoes made specifically for them. It happened over twenty years ago. I was in a discount chain store that was popular then and I happened upon a pair of tennis shoes that weren’t made to be a pair. I was ecstatic with my find! The left foot was an 8 ½ and the right was an 8. Someone had created this “perfect pair” because they had the opposite need from my own. You see, the second toe on my left foot is just long enough to make wearing an 8 a bit painful, while an 8 ½ is too big for my right foot.

Have you ever wondered who or how they created the sizing industry? Have you noticed that clothing in more expensive stores is larger than in discount stores? Have you ever tried to fit into “One Size Fits All”? Have seen how they’ve tried to make that more politically correct by printing the tag with “One Size Fits Most.” Actually, I think it’s more like “One Size Fits Very Few.” In days gone by shoes were cobbled to fit the person just as clothes were tailored individually. These days it seems like the only shoes that are individually made are for people with specific orthopedic or medical needs and they’re incredibly expensive. Tailoring is the way to go to get clothes that fit—but try to find a tailor!

Tucked away in one of my favorite passages is a reassurance to me that God understands my frustration. Jesus looks out at the crowd that has gathered around him and he is moved with compassion, and he utters the familiar and oft quoted, Matthew 11:28-30: “Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”

In one of the earliest sermons I ever preached I referred to this passage and the process of tailor-making the yokes for the oxen that the farmer in Jesus’ day would have used. The process was exacting because the farmer wanted to be sure that the yoke fit perfectly so that the oxen would be able to get the job done without the annoyance of an Ill-fitting yoke.

It is a very freeing thing to realize that God has created and gifted us all individually and uniquely and then placed us exactly where he needs us to be. He not only tailor makes us, he orchestrates the mix of gifts within families, congregations, communities.

Unfortunately, it is our tendency to lean toward frustration when we understand what God is doing. We feel we’re not being used because we don’t see the picture from God’s perspective. We get out of sync when we feel we are being underused or overburdened, when the truth is if we allow God, he will make things just right. He wants to show us. He wants us to catch his rhythm. 

That same excitement I found when I discovered my “perfect pair” of shoes is what God offers me, and you every day. He has made this day perfectly for you. If you walk through it in his rhythm you will find out how perfectly it fits. Will you watch him? Will you learn from him? Will you see it through his eyes instead of your frustration? Surrender your expectation that one size day fits all and find his perfect fit for you.

Weekly Mindset: Joy

One of the things I loved about working out at Curves was the fun we had getting fit.  While we were sweating and stretching ourselves we were also laughing.  I remember a time when we seemed to be enjoying each other more than usual.  In the middle of our laughter one of the ladies quipped, “If my husband knew how much fun I was having he wouldn’t let me come here.”  In the moment I laughed it off, but the more I thought about it, the more it bothered me.  Reflecting on it now, I think I’m beginning to understand why.

This woman’s husband seems a bit like a parishioner in the last church I pastored.  He was of the mindset that there was no room for laughter in church.  This typically put us at odds.  I’m a giggler.  I laugh a lot.  I laugh loudly.  I snicker.  I love to make people laugh.  I’ve been told that laughter is good medicine, so the people around me should be healthier.  

I think that Jesus had a very intense personality.  I think the scriptures portray him with very real emotions.  This same Jesus who overturned the tables of the money changers wept with his friends and with the widow whose son had died.  Jesus was moved with compassion when he looked out over the crowds.  He felt their helplessness and hopelessness.  But he was also invited to weddings and dinner parties.  People wanted to be around Jesus.  He knew how to be with children.  

I believe Jesus laughed.  I love the pictures of Jesus where he is smiling and laughing.  There are far more pictures of Jesus looking solemn and serious and some think that’s the only way he should be portrayed.  Salvation is serious business after all.  And I couldn’t agree more, it is serious, but did you know that there are over 240 references to joy in the Bible?  Job speaks of laughter being restored.  David prayed that God would restore the joy of his salvation.  Jesus reminded his disciples that he had come to make their joy complete.  James picks up on this and tells us to count it ALL joy!  Good and bad, pain and pleasure, win or lose.  The joy of the Lord is my strength.  

There is room for joy in your journey.  There is room for laughter at church.  You can enjoy your relationship with God.  Go ahead and celebrate life.  It doesn’t make the bad things go away, but it does take away their power over you.  It’s a little like working out at Curves.  Laughter doesn’t mean we won’t sweat, but while we do we will find reason to laugh, to rejoice, to enjoy.  So thank God for laughter today and make sure to share some with someone you love.

Hopefully Devoted: Accountability

In my quiet time this morning, thinking Lenten type thoughts on confession and accountability, I remembered a quote made by Dr. Charles Munson in my first seminary preaching course. I was pastoring my first church and felt like such an absolute rookie, but I was also a sponge: absorbing everything thrown at me. Dr. Munson said this: “There are no secret disciples.  Either the disciple will kill the secret, or the secret will kill the disciple.”  

There are no secret disciples, because disciples can’t be secret—they’re accountable…to someone.

Not long ago, I was reading my “Writer’s Digest” magazine and I came upon information regarding their spring writing contests. I thought to myself: I could do that. The longer I thought, the clearer it became that I was probably was going to do it. Then I did a little more research, gave it a little more thought, and by evening I told my husband about my intention. Now I’m locked in. He won’t let me forget. And that’s exactly why I told him: he will hold my feet to the fire of accountability.

Back when I began my Christian journey, I was taught the ABC’s of faith: accept, believe, and confess. We can do the first two privately, but the third sends us straight into accountability. Do you see that as good or bad? When I was still working as a family counselor, I worked with an agency that had several therapists at varying levels of experience and licensure. One of the counselors who had achieved “Independent” licensure status chaffed at the thought of being supervised like a ‘rookie.’  She felt she was beyond that and resented someone looking over her shoulder.   I was a rookie at the time, so I was used to having my work scrutinized. I learned as I moved up the ladder that not being supervised was not in my best interest.

I  believe Jesus understood just how much his followers would need to be accountable to each other—then and now. After the Resurrection, just before he ascended, Jesus instructed his followers to stay in the Upper Room until Pentecost.  Imagine the scene.  These people had to learn how to be together.  There were so many different kinds of folks.  Trust was the furthest thing from their minds or experiences.  Zealots, tax collectors, ex-prostitutes, and fishermen had to learn to get along.  Miraculously, it worked.  They were able to connect and when they did a power came on them like one this world had never seen.  

What happened in that room?  I think they learned to tell their story, the story of what Jesus had done for them, done in them.  And they learned to listen.  They talked about their dreams and what they hoped to accomplish with their lives for God and for the Kingdom.  They told their secrets and became accountable to one another.  And it changed the world.

What secret desires has God been wanting to unwrap and unleash in your life?  Tell someone.  Get accountable.  Allow God to work.  You may be surprised at what power you free up to blow through your life and the lives around you! 

Monday Mindset

This is what I have today. Just a very simple Poohism. Remember no one can stay your joy. You can only give it away.

Today I will breathe deeply. Smile hugely. And laugh much. Not because there is more in my life that will encourage or make that possible. I could look at the negative all day long, end up discouraged, disillusioned, and depressed.


I will notice the crocus and think on its promise of Spring.

I will observe a kindness shared and share one myself as a result and revel in the joy it brings another.

I will discover that the coffee establishment I have a gift card to is now featuring my favorite flavored cold brew and I will relish each sip.

These and so many more.

How will you enjoy today?

Hopefully Devoted: Words and Thoughts

May these words of my mouth and this meditation of my heart
    be pleasing in your sight,
    Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer. (Psalms 19:14, NIV)

I had an interesting conversation recently. Instead of sitting at my desk and writing, I went and had coffee with another pastor. As we were finishing our time, he asked me for ideas on how to handle a situation. He prefaced his question by saying he didn’t really expect me to have an immediate answer, but…Then he went on to ask me about how to help a youth change a behavior.

To his surprise I came up with that unexpected immediate answer based on my training and experience. I harkened back to a principle that an organization I worked with used with their youth: 4 to 1. For each 1x a correction is given there needs to be 4 positives made about the youth reaching that target behavior. It is a very intentional teaching method, that can at times seem exhausting.

After our meeting, I ran an errand and stopped in at the church to make a phone call and use the bathroom. All in all I was out and about for almost an hour and a half. The entire time I mulled over the final moments of our conversation.

The more I thought, the more I began to talk to God…or listen as I heard my words coming back at me regarding my own self-talk.

I don’t know about you, but I don’t always speak kindly to myself. I’m pretty good at scolding myself, putting myself down, and berating me. I know I don’t use the 4/1 method on myself. But why not?

What might happen if instead replaying the negative thoughts tape, we caught ourselves doing well? Spoke more words of encouragement. Celebrated more moments of success…with ourselves.

I’m sure there are those who vehemently caution against such nonsense. Warning that it would only lead to pride, and self-aggrandizement. (Insert sad sigh here.)

I’m not advocating for arrogance. I would speak against any attitude that keeps us from being aware of our brokenness before God. Our verse today is not merely about the thoughts and words we have for others. I wonder how pleased God is with how we speak to ourselves. Think about these statements from I’ve mulled on from Psalms:

Who am I that you (the creator and sustainer of the universe) should be aware of me? Among all the amazing things you have created and loved I (that’s you and me) am one. (see Psalm. 8)

This body you made is amazing God. Your human creation is incredibly made, fashioned and functioning–differently but diversity is part of the plan. (read Psalm 139)

So today, I invite you (and me) to listen to what we say to ourselves. Make sure that your words and thoughts, actions and attitudes are pleasing to God. Shoot for the goal of 4 positives for every negative/correction. Be your best encourager.

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