Finding Community

When I stop in at my favorite local coffee shop I see a group of women huddled over the newspaper working the daily crossword puzzle together. While searching for words they share stories and coffee. Their laughter is sweet music. Their focus on each other blesses me. So I finally stopped enjoying them from afar and went to their table.

“Hi. My name is Tina. I write about the things I see, and I have watched you each time I come in. And I want you to know how much you bless me by faithfully meeting together. May I take your picture? And would you mind if I wrote about your little coffee shop community?”

They agreed on all accounts.

During Super Bowl LIV, Facebook paid the big bucks and had a commercial highlighting their different groups:

Why is Facebook and all the other social media sites (Instagram, Twitter, SnapChat, et al) thriving? Probably for the same reason it’s sometimes hard to get a seat at one of our local coffee shops, or why McDonalds is packed out before the sun comes up with seniors drinking coffee and chatting—and trust me it’s not about the coffee!

Whether it’s coffee, beer, or the daily crossword, we all crave a sense of community: we want to feel like we belong. We need to know that if we reach out someone will be there. That someone will care.

Now before the introvert and hermit crowd get all in a huff, and mumble something about not needing anyone: the bottom line is we really do need each other. Even introverts need people…just in small, controlled, selective doses. 

I believe that human beings were created by a loving God to be in relationship: relationship with the creator…and with each other. That’s why in the manual for living (aka, the Bible) there are so many instructions to work on the relationship with the creator (Love God), and to love one another. It’s both and. Love God—vertical relationship. Love each other—horizontal relationships.

So I’m wondering, how are you, how are we, doing at creating and maintaining healthy relationships, holy connections?

More thoughts on this will follow…let’s stay connected. 

Book Review: Undetected

Book Review Undetected
Dee Henderson
May 22, 2014

I hadn’t read a Dee Henderson book for several years. I eagerly anticipated this one and was not disappointed.

This author does an amazing job at developing her characters for her readers. They are relatable and likeable. They grow as the pages turn. This is particularly true of this book.

I lead a Bible study for the Widows Support Group at our church and I could definitely see reading this book together and discussing the process of dating and remarriage that Commander Mark Bishop goes through. But the struggle that Gina faces as she deals with her broken heart and then having to choose between two suitors would be healing and encouraging for anyone in the dating journey. This is a novel filled with valuable and usable lessons.

It is also a novel with some interesting science. I found myself wanting to learn more about the genius ideas that Gina was discovering. The way Mark encourages Gina to live into her gift is a message that could inspire many. I found it very encouraging that the “genius” was a woman, and that her area of expertise was science. I wish I could have found something like this when my daughters were younger to encourage them as they considered life careers.

The conversation that Mark has with Gina regarding contentedness is worth the price of the book.

The ending isn’t sad, but I was sad that it was ending. I highly recommend this book and am proud to have it on my shelf.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Advent 8: Reindeer Games

This morning I was singing along with the radio when the Rudolph song came on. And I got stuck on how the other reindeers wouldn’t let Rudolph play because he was different…weird.

I get Rudolph. I get how that must have hurt.

I am in Arizona visiting my mom. While we are together we play Scrabble practically non-stop. In the week that I have been here we have played over 50 games. We laugh and talk, philosophize, and try to solve the ills of mankind.

We often say that you can learn a lot about life from the game of Scrabble. You have to wait your turn. It helps to be flexible when someone takes the place you were about to play your hundred point word. There are times when you win and there are times you lose–but it’s all about playing the game.

I play Scrabble because I enjoy it. That’s why I play any of the games I play. It’s for fun. But it isn’t that way for everyone.

You know the kind of folks I’m talking about. Their face has probably popped into your mind’s eye. They are cut-throat. They can’t loose. They sandbag. They count cards. Winning is everything. It’s like a drug for them. And the worst thing is that they make you feel less than worthless when you lose.

Worse than Rudolph.

So what do games have to do with Advent…other than they make for a great Christmas gift?

It has a lot to do with how we treat people. In one of my favorite books, The Red Sea Rules, one of the lessons from the account of the Hebrews crossing the Red Sea is that it’s not always about us. God put them in that place, in that time, for his glory to be revealed. Jesus picks up on this when he raises Lazurus.

It’s not always about us.

One time I had the joy of playing Scrabble with my former choir director. She was in an assisted living situation and her memory was not what it once was. I could have easily ran the score up–but what purpose would it have served? What mattered was the time we could share together.

It is so easy to get focused on ourselves: where we need to be, what we need to do, and what is important and urgent for us. To say this affects how we “play the game” of life is quite an understatement.

Take stock of your attitude and relationality. A wise mentor gave me a good guide to go by for this: would you rather be right or related? Can you let someone else win the game?

Advent 4: Family

One of the things that has always bothered me about the Christmas story is the whole “no room in the inn” thing.

Because of the census, Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem. The image I always got was that they arrived after dark. I had this image of a family pulling into a town on vacation needing a place to stay.

Then one Christmas it dawned on me: Joseph took Mary to his hometown, the town where his family originated. So if you go to the town where family is why would you be looking for an inn? Wouldn’t you just go to cousin Samuel’s house and bunk down there? I mean, come on. Picture it: Joseph and his obviously very pregnant wife roll into town–you would think that someone would at least let them crash in a corner of the living room.

But no. And I began to wonder why. And then I wondered if it was because of his very expectant wife. Joseph could have dismissed Mary and probably should have in the eyes of his family. He got himself into this mess, let him take care of it.

Family. We do some pretty odd and even hurtful things to one another. There is so much talk about dysfunctional families these days that I sometimes wonder what a functional family really looks like.

As I have read the story of God’s people in the Word, I have found many stories of fractured families. I think of Moses, Abraham, Joseph and his brothers, Jacob and Esau, David and his brothers, and then David and his children. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.

Throughout each of these situations I see God working to try and restore relationships. We were created for relationship–with God and with each other.

What a gift it would be and what joy we could find if in this season of Advent we would mind the heart of God and seek to restore broken relationships, whether they are in our family or amongst our friends. Or maybe in the family we call the church.

No one should have to sleep in a barn when family is nearby. Let’s allow the God’s love and grace to remove the dysfunction so we can better function relationally and bring honor and glory to him.