Writer, Teacher, Planner, Dreamer

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Losing My Religion

2020 has been a year like no other in our history.  The COVID-19 pandemic has turned our world upside down.  Racial unrest and systemic racism is at the forefront of our attention.  As if that isn’t enough – let’s go ahead and throw in an especially tense and divisive election into the mix. I am sure every single person has been affected in some way by the things that we are experiencing right now. I know for certain that all of these things have significantly impacted me… and not just on a surface level.  They have shaken me to the core – the very being of who I am.  They have caused me to ask deep questions about who I am, what I believe  and what I stand for.  They have  led me to question the people and places that I have used to represent who I am.  For me, 2020 will go down in my autobiography as the year of losing my religion.  

I may be showing my age, but those words – losing my religion – may be familiar if you are my age.  The words of that REM song from the early 1990s have played in my head over an over again throughout this season.  If you were in the space I was in when that song was popular – head deep in the evangelical world – that song was not one that you could include on your mix tape of favorite songs.  The song was interpreted by many to be a rejection of the institution of the church. Interestingly, I have done some research and that is not a correct interpretation. The phrase from that song….“Losing my religion” is based on an old southern expression that means “being at the end of your rope, the moment when politeness gives way to anger.”  Humm…..that is a pretty accurate description of where the events of 2020 have led me – I have found myself at the end of my rope and my anger over what is going on in the world and my community  have superseded my normally polite demeanor. I have felt lost and disconnected as I no longer align with the people and groups that I have in the past. These feelings didn’t emanate from the events of 2020, but they have definitely magnified them and brought them to the surface where I could no longer deny them.

 The attitudes expressed and the reactions of some to this pandemic have moved me from being apprehensive about the virus to being angry.  The number of people that have refused to wear a mask and the outright defiance against our leaders when we were told to stay at home and not to gather together in person for worship has boggled my mind and left me angry for the ways that we have put our own wants above the good of the whole.  I have felt overwhelmed by the self-centeredness that has been displayed so prevalently and unapologetically.

Then, In May our country was enraged by the news footage of the death of George Floyd by police officers in Minneapolis.  Around the same time, the protests began in my city – Louisville, Kentucky – over the death of Breonna Taylor when police raided her home on a no knock warrant a couple of months earlier. While many were sympathetic to the cries for justice and took a stand through participating in protests, marches and prayer vigils. The silence of the majority of my friends was deafening.  Even worse than the silence were some of the statements that I heard: 

 “That’s what happens when you do something illegal.”  

“That’s what you get when you socialize with a known drug dealer.” 

“All Iives matter.”  

With each statement made, they cemented their stance – unwilling to hear or believe that these incidents happen disproportionately to Black members of our community.  

These two issues have left our country extremely polarized. This polarization was like gasoline being added to a fire that was already burning out of control and engulfed our recent presidential election. People took strong stands on one side or the other – no one seemed neutral this year regarding the election.  I moved from being heartbroken to being angry when I realized the number of people that I had held in high respect took a firm stand in support of Trump for a second term.  Despite his lack of regard for humanity that he had displayed.  Despite his refusal to seriously address the pandemic and the thousands of people that have died and continue to die.  Despite his unwillingness to admit to and address the systemic racism across our community.  Despite all of that, the election result were close. 

The past 8 months have been a lonely time as I have realized that the people and groups that have defined me and that I trusted for so long, no longer represent or stand for who I am and who I want to be.  This realization has caused me to lean in and do some deep dives.  Evaluating what friendships I want to build up and cultivate and which ones I want to release.  Considering what groups I want to be identified with and which ones I will reject because I no longer align with them. Digging deep into my theology and re-evaluating what I believe that scripture says and how Jesus would respond to what is going on in our world.  

While this has been a difficult season for me, I have learned some valuable, life changing lessons. First, is that I must offer grace and forgiveness to others and work on my own self-centeredness instead of being focused on others. Understand, I’m not saying that grace and forgiveness means turning a blind eye, but it does mean not holding a grudge because they refuse to see what I see.  Second, is that sometimes we outgrow spaces and places that we previously thrived in. When that happens, it’s okay to take a stand – and it’s okay and necessary to walk away sometimes. Finally, I don’t always have to be polite. It’s okay to get angry.  Jesus wasn’t always polite.  He turned over the tables in the temple. He called out hypocrisy.  He called the Pharisees a brood of vipers.  Jesus was more concerned with truth and justice than he was about being polite.  That is what I want my life to be about too.  

I may have lost my religion in 2020, but I believe I found God and myself as a result.  Just like that song back in the day, some may refuse to accept me because they don’t understand what I mean. However, I have come to a place where I am okay with that.  As I have started listening more closely, I am finding others who are humming that song along with me –  and this journey isn’t as lonely as I originally thought.

Photo by munshots on Unsplash

Seasons

Image used with permission

I love October. It is my favorite month of the year. It signals the arrival of Fall – my favorite season. I love the changing colors of the trees and the reds and oranges that fill the landscape. I enjoy the sound of leaves crunching under my feet and the cool, crispness of the air. I prefer sweaters and boots over shorts and flip flops any day. I wish I could say that I love everything about Fall, however that would be a lie. This is the most difficult time of year for me mentally. I definitely struggle with some seasonal depression that starts to nag at me around this time of year. Some days I would like to pull the covers over my head and let the entire day pass me by.

Some may wonder how this can be my favorite time of year when I have some of my most difficult days during this season. The reason is because I choose it. I have a choice every day when I wake up whether I am going to focus on the good things or focus on the difficult things. When I decide that I am going to focus on the good things, it makes it easier to face the day. Choosing to focus on the things that I love does not change the depression that I feel, but it does affects my ability to deal with it.

We are currently in a season in which most of us are unfamiliar. COVID-19 is still affecting us and how we live our lives. The fight against injustice is visible daily in many of our communities – something many have us have not been confronted with until now. We get to choose how we are going to deal with this season as well. We can choose to focus on the bad things – events being cancelled, jobs lost, sickness, death, riots and destruction. Or, we can choose to focus on the good that is coming out of this season – families spending more time together, neighbors helping each other, bias and racism being identified, and hearts being changed.

1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 tells us how we should respond regardless of the season we are in. “Be cheerful no matter what; pray all the time; thank God no matter what happens. This is the way God wants you who belong to Christ Jesus to live.” (MSG).

What good things are you seeing during this season? Will you choose to focus on those things?

Ensure Justice

Here it is the middle of September and this is my first post of the year. I don’t have to tell you how crazy this year has been. About 6 months ago, COVID-19 hit and turned all of our worlds upside down. Back in March, everyone in my organization was sent to work from home. My husband started working from home at that time, too – until he lost his job a few weeks back due to COVID layoffs. Church was no longer able to meet in person. These were good things if for no other reason than we needed the extra time that we gained not having to commute to hunt for toilet paper which was is short supply and high demand. Everything considered nonessential closed around us. Friday date night moved from dinner and a movie to car picnics and whatever we could find on Netflix. To say that these have been crazy times would be an understatement.

Photo by Tai’s Captures on Unsplash

In the midst of everything going on with COVID-19, we have also seen an awakening in our community and across the country to the racial injustice that is so prevalent. The recent events are nothing new. These things have been going on forever, but it seems like more people are willing to speak up, stand up and fight for change. I have experienced emotions all across the board over this. I have felt heartbreak for my Black friends who are hurting and continue to be hurt. I have felt anger over those in my community, especially those close to me, who refuse to admit that there is race issue in our country. I have felt shame for times when I have not spoken up as I should have over injustice that I have witnessed.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Both of these issues have caused me to notice a great divide among people. Some people are for closing things and wearing masks. Others refuse to obey the mandates and feel the government shouldn’t be able to tell them what to do. Some agree with the protestors and are fighting for justice and against systemic racism. Others refuse to admit there is a problem at all. One thing that this year has given me is a lot of is time to think. I have done a lot of evaluating not only about what is going on around me but what is going on in my own heart. One of the conclusions that I have made is that too often I have stayed quiet to keep my life peaceful.

As Christians we are not called to stay silent in order to keep peace. We are called to speak up. Proverbs 31:8, states: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed.” (NLT). There are a lot of people around us who cannot speak up for themselves. It is our job to use our voices and our power to speak up for them. We have power with our actions and our means – things such as money and status. For me, this means that I will wear a mask without complaining because I am pro all life. I will proclaim that black lives matter because they are my brothers and sisters and deserve the same privileges that I have. And, I will also share my toilet paper with you if you need it because it is simply the right thing to do.

Self-Care and Grief

Losing someone you love is hard. It effects every part of you – physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually. Grief can feel different for each loss and sometimes it’s difficult to know that what you are experiencing is a result of grief. I have learned that it is important to do what you can to care for yourself after a loss. Some self-care activities are pretty common. Make sure you are eating well. Get enough sleep and exercising to care for your body. Today, I am going to share some other self-care tips that could perhaps benefit you.

Self-care are things that you have control over. They are deliberate things that you can do to care for yourself. That being said, my first tip is not to allow yourself to get stuck on something you have no control over. When my first husband passed, our last conversation was not a good one. I was upset with him and had let him know that I was angry. I allowed that one conversation to torment me for years. It cycled over and over in my mind and convinced me that my husband died thinking that I did not love him or care about him. I could not change that last conversation that we had, but I could control what thoughts I chose to play on repeat in my mind.

One way that you can keep your thoughts in check is by journaling. Writing your thoughts down can help get them out of your head and allow you to rationally process your feelings. Gratitude journaling is popular right now. Consider starting a gratitude journal specific to the person that you have lost. Write down things that you loved about that person and experiences that you had together for which you are thankful. Making a scrapbook can also help with this. Sorting through pictures and writing down memories about those photos can help you remember good times rather than dwelling on one specific instance.

Second, spend time doing something you enjoy or discover a new activity. There were many times after each of my husbands passed that all I wanted to do was lay on the couch and watch mindless tv or sleep. It’s okay to do that sometimes but be mindful that you aren’t sliding into depression (and if you are, get help!). One thing that I did was sign up to take an art class. Trust me —  I am not an artist! However, that two hour class once a week was extremely therapeutic. One added benefit, I didn’t know anyone in the class. None of them knew my story nor were they asking me how I was doing every week. Consider picking back up a hobby or activity that you enjoyed in the past. If you spent time as a caregiver before your loved one passed then it was likely rare that you had time to do those things. Check with your local library, churches, or parks and recreation departments. Most have activities open to the community and you may find a new hobby!

Third, surround yourself with life. When my first husband passed away, I was in that phase of life where all of my friends were having babies, so I did plenty of babysitting during that time. That was a very healing activity for me. There was something about a baby laying on my chest — feeling its heartbeat against mine and the warm breath against my cheek as I rocked him or her to sleep that seemed to make my heartache and fear disappear – even if for only a short period of time. In that moment I was reminded that not only does life go on, but that life is filled with good gifts. Kids may not be your thing. My mother-in-law has adopted three cats since my father-in-law passed. Life can also be found by spending time in nature or by volunteering your time to serve others.  

Finally, laughter really is good medicine and is great for self care. Prior to my second husband passing, my mom, uncle and I had made plans to go and watch an old movie at the Louisville Palace. My Michael passed away the week before, and my mom suggested that we didn’t have to go. I told her I was looking forward to it. We went to dinner and then to watch the old Alfred Hitchcock movie, Psycho. I had never seen the movie before. I know you are probably thinking, “where does laughter come in with a scary movie?” Sitting in the middle of that old theater dating back to the 1920’s, I was in a daze through most of the movie. During the big reveal at the end when they realize that Norman is dressing as his mother and killing everyone and the police officer shouts that he is a transvestite, I got so tickled that I seriously thought I was going to have to get up and leave the theater. That laughter was a healing moment for me. So my last tip is find things that make you laugh. Maybe its watching a comedy with your family or having lunch with that one friend with a great sense of humor. Whatever it is that makes you laugh, spend time doing those things.

These are just a few things that brought me health and healing during grief. Find the things that work for you and take the time to do them! And please share with me any self-self care things that help you in your grief.

The Grass is Greener

One of my goals for 2019 is to work on my public speaking skills. In order to do this I joined Toastmasters. The first speech that you give at Toastmasters is your icebreaker speech. It is a 4-6 minute speech that introduces yourself to the group. this was a difficult speech for me to write as I hate talking about myself. I spent several weeks working on this speech to share at my meeting. I am including it here so I can keep a record of it and also to use to introduce myself to my readers. Enjoy!

The Grass Is Greener

Two years ago, I was sitting a little office in a session with a practitioner.  I had been telling him about my fears and the inner turmoil that it was causing.  He looked at me and said: “Amanda, do you realize how many people would love to have your life?”  I didn’t know how to respond to him. You see, I had lived most of my life believing that the grass is greener on the other side. I thought that my life would be so much better if my life looked like the perfect picture I had imagined in my head.  However, in so many ways, my life did not match that image.

I got married the first time right after college.  I married a man that had some physical disabilities that I was aware of before we got married, but I  learned afterwards that he also had some pretty serious mental illnesses and addictions as well. I became his caregiver for 7 years while also working full time as I was the main source of income after he lost his job.  He passed away unexpectedly after 7 years of marriage.

A couple of years later, I met and started dating another man. We got engaged and planned our wedding for that October.  He had survived cancer a few years back. He was scheduled to do his yearly scan around the time of the wedding . He decided to move that up a couple of months so he could get the all clear and not have to worry about it during the craziness of the wedding. The only problem was that everything wasn’t all clear.  The scan came back and showed that the cancer had returned and this time it was in his lungs and his lymph nodes. He had such faith that God was going to heal him and he was going to beat this cancer again. We got married, went on our honeymoon and then started cancer treatments all in the same month. After about a year and half, the treatments had taken a toll on his body.  At one point, he was experiencing such bad side effects from the medication, he decided he wanted to take a break. He had been doing well and the doctor thought it would be okay to take a break from the medication for a month to let his body heal. Two weeks into the break, he started feeling really ill, we went to the hospital and he was there for about a week. He never came back home from the hospital.  I was devastated. I was under the age of 40 and had been widowed twice. I struggled so much with carrying that title. I worried about what others thought of me. I wrestled with an enormous amount of fear.

I also felt like my career wasn’t anything to be jealous of.  I had a master’s degree and I was working a part time job as an administrative assistant. Why had I worked so hard for a masters degree if all I was going to do was be someone’s secretary?  

Even though my career was not hugely successful, that was okay.  My current husband and I had decided we were going to start a family.  Yes, if you are counting, that is husband number 3. We had been trying to get pregnant for two years but had not been successful.  The fact that month after month the tests were negative also made working that crappy part time job unbearable. Every time I would have a frustrating day, the same thing would play over and over in my head—you wouldn’t have to be here if you had a baby already.  

Going back to that session I mentioned at the beginning, when that practitioner said do you know how many people would love to have your life, something clicked and changed in me.  The more I thought about that, the more I realized how true his statement was.

Yes, I have been married 3 times and gone through the grief of losing two.  However I have many single girlfriends that would love to be married just once.  Not to mention, my current husband is amazing. He’s smart, funny, works hard and He encourages me and loves me.  I feel like we have a wonderful marriage because of the things that I learned through my past relationships and loss.  

We still don’t have kids and it’s unlikely that we will, but we do have things that a lot of my friends with kids would love to have – we have the ability to go out to dinner and see a movie anytime we want and we do! – without having to find a babysitter.  We both have the luxury of getting a full 8 hours of sleep when we want. Also, we both have the time and freedom to pursue our passions without feeling like we are taking time away from our family.

My part time job back then gave me plenty of time to pursue my real passion –  which is writing. I was hired to do freelance jobs and also wrote for my own personal fulfillment.  I am continuing to pursue my passion of being a gifted communicator. That is the reason I am here at Toastmasters at this time is to improve my speaking skills. I want to be prepared and confident when opportunities to speak present themselves.  

In conclusion, that practitioners statement  made me realize how wonderful my life is just the way it is.  I have been given some amazing opportunities and experiences in life and I plan to make the most of every single one.  I no longer live believing that the grass is greener on the other side, but instead I live knowing that the grass is greenest on my side!  

The God of Hope

Our church had a community worship night a couple of weeks ago. I love worship. It is one of my most favorite things. If you have ever had to sit next to me during church or a concert or gone on a road trip with me, then you know that I love to sing. You also know that I am totally no good at it. I am completely tone deaf. However, that does not stop me. I am gonna sing loud and proud with my entire being. Singing is one of the few areas where my perfectionist nature doesn’t step in and paralyze me. I know I am a bad singer. There isn’t much I can do about it, but I love it too much to not do it. So, I just embrace my imperfection and belt it out – no apologies – if you don’t like it, sit somewhere else.  🙂  God often speaks to me and reveals things to me during worship and this night was no different.

Many of the people there that night came with heavy hearts. Our pastor was in the hospital and had recently been diagnosed with a form of leukemia. We were worried about our friend and it was especially painful knowing that he has a family with young kids and another one on the way. There were lots of questions and unknowns that night. Our hearts were hurting for what our friends were having to go through. However, we gathered together that night for worship. We all lifted our voices as we sang praises praise to God. How could we sing with hearts that were hurting and filled with uncertainty? The answer? Because of our hope.  I told my husband that night that I honestly do not know how people go through difficult times without hope.

As Christians, we do not grieve like others do who have no hope (1 Thessalonians 4:13). Hope is trusting in God’s great plan. Nothing that happens to us here on earth has the final say, God gets the final word. Psalm 103:6 in The Message says: “God makes everything come out right.”  EVERYTHING! We can trust God with whatever is going on in our lives. We do not need to fear uncertainty because we can be certain of God. Because of this, we can lift our hands in praise to God and sing out to Him regardless of what we are going through.

What are you facing right now that is overwhelming to you? What situations are you uncertain about? Be assured that you can trust God with whatever that is.  There is nothing too big for Him nor is He unsure about anything. You can lay down whatever that thing is and put your hope in Him. Romans 15:13 tells us that our God is a God of hope and He fills us with all joy and peace as we trust in Him, and as a result we overflow with hope. The concept of overflowing is really cool if you think about it. When something overflows, it runs over drenches whatever is around it. When we are overflowing with hope in our lives that hope can reach others around us that need hope. It you are going through a difficult time, take some time to turn up some music and sing as loud as you can to the God of hope.

Living in the Morning After

The blog has been silent for a while. I apologize for that. Life has been rather busy lately, and I have been trying to adjust to lots of changes! I had a job change. We bought a house! I have also been dealing with an issue with my arm – I have been saving my energy reserves and tolerance for doing things with my left hand for work.

Honestly, I have also struggled with wanting to write. Most of my writing has been a way of processing and dealing with my grief in its various forms. The problem is that I am not living in that place anymore, and it’s hard for me to want to return there to write about it.

I love the words of Psalm 30:1-5, NIV:

I will exalt you, Lord
for you lifted me out of the depths
and did not let my enemies gloat over me.
Lord my God, I called to you for help,
and you healed me.                       
You, Lord, brought me up from the realm of the dead;
you spared me from going down to the pit.
 Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people;
praise his holy name.
For his anger lasts only a moment,
but his favor lasts a lifetime;
weeping may stay for the night,
but rejoicing comes in the morning.

My night of weeping lasted for a long time and in the midst of it, I felt like it was going to be that way forever. Fortunately, my feeling was incorrect. I feel like I am living in the morning after. After living in a place of grief for so long, I think it is easier sometimes to live a life of rejoicing. I know how fragile life is and how easily it can be changed and taken away. I hear so many people gripe and complain over the most ridiculous things. I have been in that place people-and it is exhausting! There were plenty of days that I woke up dreading going through the motions of another day. Friends who let me down irritated me. Long lines I had to wait in inconvenienced me. People who were incompetent frustrated me. I have learned that part of how we act and react to life is our circumstances, but the bigger part is our mindset and our attitude. I used to be exhausted before I even set foot out of the bed! Now, I live in eager expectation as I start my day. Instead of dread and fear, I start my day with wonder and anticipation.

What is God going to do today?

How can I serve others today?

Who needs my grace and how can I express it?

Some of my circumstances have changed but others have not. The biggest change is that I realize that I get to control how I will react. I get to choose how I am going to react when my husband is in a funk. I get to choose how I’m going to respond when I have to wait in a long line at the grocery after a long day. Every day I get the choice to react in anger and be irritated or to respond in love and grace.  The choice that I make for that day – makes all the difference.

 

 

photo credit:  monteregina Last Cabins – Dernières cabines via photopin (license)

Out of Control

I have a confession to make. I am a control freak.   If you know me well then this confession comes as no surprise to you. However, it’s hard for me to admit it. I like to think that I have faith and trust in God completely, but my unwillingness to loosen my tight grip on control shows that is not the case.

My control freak nature has surfaced most recently in my attempts to get pregnant. After a year of being unsuccessful, I decided I would need to take matters into my own hands. I lost weight. I switched to organic foods. I reduced the number of chemicals I use in our home, and that I put on my body. When that didn’t work, I moved on to trying supplements and other alternatives.   I would like to say that I was just trying to make healthier choices but that would be a lie. These were all ways of me trying to take control. Unfortunately, these attempts made no difference. Every month the painful punch in the gut was there to remind me of my failure.

Other people like to think you are in control too. They will try to tell you what to do and how to do it. My favorites are the one that like to question whether you are doing what you have to do to get pregnant. I feel like looking at them and saying: “Yes, I know we need to be having sex. Don’t you worry, we are having lots of sex!” Let’s be honest, that is really what they are asking, right? I know they are trying to be helpful, but they feed into that thought that I must be doing something wrong—and if I just did the right thing—the outcome would change.

I am slowly starting to realize how little control I really have in life. One would think that with losing two husbands I would have already realized this – but apparently I am a slow learner.  Matthew 19:26 says that “nothing is impossible with God”.   I truly believe this, but the thing I need to learn is that he doesn’t need our help. Romans 8:28 tells me that “in all things God works for the good of those who love him“. I am not guaranteed what I want, but I am promised that what does happen is for my good and is God’s plan.

So, what does this mean for my life?   It means that I can let go of this false sense of control I think I have and this feeling that I need to help God out, and instead I can cling to hope. Hope does not disappoint. I serve a God that is able to do the impossible and that wants only the best for me.  I don’t have to worry that I have done something wrong that it has completely ruined God’s plan for my life.

It also means I can keep using my essential oils, but I don’t have to keep using my crappy homemade laundry detergent. It means I can choose not to wear makeup, but I can still get my nails done occasionally. It means I can buy organic when I can, but I can still have ice cream with my husband.

Which reminds me….I think there is some chocolate fudge brownie in the freezer waiting for me.

photo credit: Kanko* chocolate ice via photopin (license)

Football and Faith

I am going to share a secret with you. I don’t really like sports. I know—very un-American of me. It has nothing to do with the sports themselves or even the teams. I like to watch IU basketball and go to baseball games with my husband. The truth is, I don’t like the fans. Teams would be in big trouble if they were penalized for their fans unsportsmanlike conduct. I saw lots of examples of this recently during the Super Bowl. Honestly, my favorite part of the game was after the Patriots made an epic comeback and won, there was a shot of one of the Falcons players congratulating Tom Brady.  

Unfortunately, a lot of the fans were not as gracious as the players. I get it. You may not like the team that won. You feel bad and take it personally when your team loses. There were lots of comments on Facebook alluding to the fact that the only way they could have won was to cheat. There were other statements from those who didn’t like the fact that the fans booed the commissioner. After thinking on it for a while I realized that my reason for not liking sports is the same reason a lot of people don’t like church. I believe the way we as followers of Jesus act and react does more to shape what others think about church and religion than any other factor, so when we act like bad sports fans it puts people off.

My husband is a pastor’s kid. He saw a lot of the bad side of church and quit going for a while when he became an adult. He didn’t  come back for several years. When I asked him why, he said it had nothing to do with God but that it had everything to do with the church – the people. He said that in general, churchgoers are quick to pass judgement on others based on their past, and they always feel the need to give their input thinking they know what is best.  He got tired of dealing with it and he didn’t want to be associated with people that justified being mean.

He came back to the church eventually, but his experience is all too common. The world is watching how we treat each other. When we choose to wear the title Christian, we need to understand the seriousness of that. People are going to determine what they think about Christianity and God based on what we do and say. John 13:35 states: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” What does it mean to love one other? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 gives us a clear definition of what love is-this is not some grey area. Love is: patient, kind, does not envy, does not boast, not proud, does not dishonor others,  not self-seeking, not easily angered, keeps no records of wrong, does not delight in evil, rejoices with the truth, always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.  the first verse of that chapter says that if we do not speak with love we are “only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal”. I know a lot of people who are proclaiming the word of God, but all people hear is a bunch of racket because they aren’t showing love to others.

Kyle Idleman writes in his book Not a Fan, “The biggest threat to the church today is fans who call themselves Christians  but aren’t actually interested in following Christ.” The church tends to think that liberals, gay rights activists, feminists – fill in the blank with whatever is on the news today –  are the biggest threat to the church, but that’s not true. Our biggest threat are those who choose to wear the title Christ follower but aren’t actually willing to lay down their thoughts, feelings and judgements of others and love like Christ did.  

photo credit: furanda Football via photopin (license)

Reality Check

VIVE Sign
playing

Anyone who knows my husband knows that he is into virtual reality.  His goal is to write music programs where people can experience music in VR.  Several companies are going to be releasing vr machines this year.  So, he is super stoked about that.  A couple of weeks ago we drove up to Cincinnati to the Microsoft store that had a free demonstration/trial of these machines.

The VR machine consists of a large headset – a mask-like device that straps around your head and fits over your eyes, some large headphones and two controllers – one for each hand.  There are also two black boxes that are mounted to the ceiling that are used to track your movements.  Once you are “suited up” you can then enter the world of virtual reality.  I also did the free trial, and I will admit that was pretty cool!

It puts you right in the middle of the game or activity that you are doing.  The first demo looked like you were on a ship in the bottom of the ocean.  You could walk around and explore all around the ship.  You could lean over the boat rail and see the sandy ocean floor.  There was a shark swimming around that looked like you could reach out and touch it!  Another demo was an art program.  You had the ability to paint all around you using your controllers and you were right in the middle of your masterpiece!  It was a lot cooler than I can describe, so you will just have to take my word for it – until Andy gets his machine and you can come over and play with ours.  😉

 

 

At one point, Andy was doing the art demo.  He was walking around and painting.  He was less than two feet away from me standing face to face.  I could have reached out and touched him.  However, He was completely unaware.  I snapped the picture below.  It looks like he is posing, but he had no clue I was right there in front of him!

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This was the most awkward feeling for me. I felt invisible.  It was such a lonely feeling.  I began to think about how often we do this in real life.  How often have we looked right past the people who are right in front of us?  One might think we only do this only in crowds, but the sad thing is we often do it to those who are sitting right in front of us.  How many times do we look over someone’s shoulder or get distracted by other things? It may not seem like a big deal, but it can send subtle messages to others that there is something else more important than them, that they are insignificant.

Paul E. Miller writes about how Jesus had a one-person focus.  “When Jesus interacts with people he narrows his focus down to one person….When Jesus is with someone, that person is the only person in the room.  Jesus slows down and concentrates on one person at a time…..This one-person focus is how love works.  Love incarnates by slowing down and focusing on just the beloved. We don’t love in general; we love one person at a time.” (A Praying Life)

Who do we need to slow down and concentrate on?  Who needs our complete attention?

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