Monthly Archives: March 2009

Connected For Life

Do you find yourself pulling away from others, especially if you’ve experienced a crisis or deep disappointment?  We need other people, and we’ll never thrive as human beings in isolation.

I have a tendency to isolate myself.  I am a complete and total introvert so, though I like being around people, it wears me out.  It’s hard for me sometimes to find a balance between finding the downtime I need to recharge, and retreating into myself.  I have had a lot of people interaction this week.  It has been fun, but I am exhausted today.  I am looking forward to some time alone to recharge.  But I realize my need for that people interaction.  I know how I can get when I have been alone for too long.  As tired as I am right now, I would not have traded this last week for anything.  I would rather be exhausted and looking forward to some alone time than be alone, fighting my thoughts, as I search for some sort of human contact.

I am reminded of a story I heard a while back…

A man who lost his wife to cancer found himself wanting to be alone.  In time he dropped out of his worshipping community and curtailed all of the activities he and his wife had shared for so many years.  He increasingly kept to himself.  He quit socializing at work and returned straight home to an empty house.  His leisure time was now spent watching television or working in his shop in the basement.

His contact with people dwindled until friends became alarmed that he might live out his life as a recluse.  One came by to visit and to invite him over for supper the next evening.  The two old friends sat in comfortable chairs by a warm fireplace.  The visitor extended the invitation and encouraged him to allow others to share his pain.  The man responded that he figured that he was better off without being around other people, who seemed to remind him of all he had lost.  And besides, it was just too difficult to get out anymore.

They sat in silence for a while, watching the wood burn in the fireplace.  Then the visitor did an unusual thing.  He took the tongs from the rack, reached into the fire, pulled out a flaming ember, and laid it down by itself on the hearth.  He still said nothing.  Both men silently watched the red-hot ember lose its glow and turn slowly into a crusty, black lump.  After some moments, the man turned to his companion and said, “I get the message, my friend.  I’ll be over tomorrow evening.”

We cannot survive in any healthy way by ourselves.  The leaf needs the branch.  The branch needs the trunk.  The trunk needs the roots.  And the roots need the rest of the tree.  We are connected.  And in that connection we find life.

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Paint Brush

This is my all time favorite poem.  It’s such a cool picture of how I, and many others, live so long behind the picture of who others expect us to be, and the journey to live as God created us instead.

I keep my paint brush with me
Wherever I may go,
In case I need to cover up
So the real me doesn’t show.
I’m so afraid to show you me,
Afraid of what you’ll do
That you might laugh or say mean things.
I’m afraid I might lose you.

I’d like to remove all my paint coats
To show you the real, true me,
But I want you to try and understand,
I need you to accept what you see.
So if you’ll be patient and close your eyes,
I’ll strip off all my coats real slow.
Please understand how much it hurts
To let the real me show.

Now my coats are all stripped off.
I feel naked, bare, and cold,
And if you still love me with all that you see,
You are my friend, as pure as gold.

I need to sae my paint brush, though,
And hold it in my hand.
I want to keep it handy
In case somebody doesn’t understand.
So please protect me, my dear friend,
And thanks for loving me true,
But please let me keep my paint brush with me
Until I love me too.
– Bettie B Young

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Will You Jump

I have major trust issues.  There are so many factors that contribute to those issues, I could probably write a book just on that subject.  I am currently in a bad place in my life, and I am starting to realize that I am not trusting anyone.  There are real struggles and pain that I am dealing with right now, but I’m starting to see my trust issues getting in the way of me moving forward.  It’s not the only thing, but definitely a contributing factor. 

The following story is one of my favorites.  It is something that I received in an email one day about five years ago.  It was a time that God was asking me to make a major change in my life, but I wasn’t sure exactly what it was going to be.  This story is a continual reminder to me that I have to choose to trust.  There are definitely reasons to not trust someone, but it still boils down to my choice.  Right now, my choice has been not to trust – not because I truly feel that the person is not worthy of trust, but because of my fear.  This story was brought to mind yet again… 

You are trapped at the window of a building that is on fire.  You hear a man’s voice through the smoke below you shouting, “Jump!”  Will you jump?  Will you leave the known, as dangerous as it is, and plunge into the unknown?

The answer will likely depend on two factors.  The first has to do with how much you know about the person who is shouting to you.  Is he reliable?  Will he let you fall to the ground or can he be depended upon to support your weight?

So it is with all of our relationships.  What do we know about the people we would like to trust?  Are they reliable?  Will they be there tomorrow?  Will they stand by you when circumstances change?  Can you depend on them to support you?  Do you know them to be trustworthy?

It’s like a woman who once purchased two watches from a street salesman on London’s Oxford Street.  When she asked if the street vendor could furnish her guarantees, he said, “Certainly, madam.  I can give you five-year, ten-year, or even lifetime guarantess.”  Then he added, “The only thing I can’t guarantee is that I will be here this time next Monday morning.”

So the first part of trust is BELIEF.  Do you believe the other person to be worthy of your trust?

Then there is a second factor that is equally important, and that is ACTION.  Will you jump?  It matters little how much you believe you trust someone if you are unwilling finally to jump.  Will you take the leap into the relationship, business venture or unknown future?  Will you allow others to hold you up?  Will you demonstrate your trust for them by jumping?

“If my people understand me,” said Cavett Robert, “I’ll get their attention.  But if my people trust me, I’ll get their action.”  People will respond by jumping if they believe you to be reliable.  Will you risk the fall by trusting others?

You may be deciding to make a jump.  Staying in the burning building is always an option…but not one you’ll want to make for long.  And though it feels risky to leap into the smoke, you may discover there a safe and secure landing.  You may also discover that there are those who can be trusted – those who can be relied upon to stand by, to keep an eye out for you or to cushion your fall.  You may discover how to trust.

And you may discover that it was worth the jump.

Are you wondering if it is worth the jump?  Trust with me today.

“When you come to the edge of all the light you know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, faith is knowing one of two things will happen: there will be something solid to stand on or you will be taught how to fly.”

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Is Anyone Really Listening

“All people want is someone to listen.”

I find it interesting how something we all desire as humans is something that is so difficult for most people to do.  I’ve met so few true listeners in my life.  Is it because listening requires us to relinquish our ‘it’s all about me’ mentality?  Or is it just because we don’t understand what listening really means?

Over the course of my life, I’ve been told that I am a good listener.  I consider that to be a huge compliment.  Recently, though, I’ve started to wonder why good listening seems like a ‘unique’ skill.  I enjoy listening to people, and I don’t feel like I do anything that special.  But as I sit here writing, I am struggling with feeling like no one is listening to me.

I am wired differently than most people.  First of all, I am an extreme introvert.  Not everyone knows what that means.  It doesn’t mean that I don’t like to talk.  Added to that, I am a very deep thinker and feeler – to an extreme.  In fact, finding middle ground between extremes has always been one of my biggest internal struggles.  As far as external struggles, I have never really felt understood.  I don’t think everything about me is that complicated so why is it that I feel so misunderstood?  The answer is simple – no one is really listening.

I grew up being told that I shouldn’t feel anything, and it wasn’t okay to think differently than anyone else.  My questions remained unasked, which meant they remained unanswered.  My emotions were stuffed so far down that I didn’t even know they were there.

As I’ve journeyed in my faith, I’ve been told several times that I need to let God heal me.  That He would help me to work through my questions and heal my hurts.  If I would just pray and believe, God would take care of me.  I’ve begun to wonder if people say that to make themselves feel ‘off the hook’ for not taking any action.  I believe that God wants to heal my heart.  I believe that He created me the way that I am for a reason, and that He wants to show me how to use my wiring to glorify Him.  I may not know exactly what all of that will end up looking like, but I am sure of one thing – God wants to use others in my healing process.  I have been sure of that for a while now, and I have been watching to see how God would use others.  I have also actively taken steps to put myself in a position to receive that healing.

Getting connected has always been a very difficult thing for me.  I fight battles daily with the voices that tell me it’s my fault that I am so isolated and alone – that I don’t deserve to be connected.  Through that, though, I have occasionally found the strength to take a step toward connection.  But when I do, I never feel supported in that.  So I hear that I need to do it on my own, but when I try, I run into a wall.  When I express that, I get told that there are people around me who want to help.  I’m struggling with what help they’re really offering.  I hear people say that they’ll pray for me.  That’s great.  I appreciate the prayers.  But at what point does that become just something said so one doesn’t have to act?

All I really want is someone to listen.  Listening involves more than just hearing someone talk.  I can talk and talk and talk, but not feel listened to.  In fact, I have.  I feel like I’m talking to myself.  No one else seems to be listening.  How can God use others to heal my heart if no one is there, willing to be used?  Galatians says, “Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.”

Sometimes, bearing one another’s burdens can consume a large amount of your resources – a great sacrifice.  Sometimes, it’s just listening…

We all need it.  It is something we all want to receive.  So why is it so hard to give?

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What is Healing?

The dictionary states that to heal means to make whole and healthy; to cure; to remedy, repair; to grow sound.

At first glance, one could infer that to heal means to take away all pain; to be happy; to not suffer; to not be broken.  I think that’s how a lot of us view healing.  I know it’s how I have.  But is it how God views healing?

I have been asking for healing.  I’m tired of the pain.  I’m at a place in my life where I just don’t want to hurt anymore.  My prayer has been for God to take the pain away – to heal my heart.

But that’s not really what God considers healing.  He doesn’t just take away the pain.  He wants us to live through it.  He wants our hearts to be broken.  He fills the broken parts of our hearts.  Without being broken, our hearts would have no room for Him.

I’ve spent most of my life building walls around my heart to protect myself from pain.  I chose numbness instead of feeling the hurt and pain.  In the last few years, the walls around my heart have come down.  I’ve resisted connecting with the pain, though.  There are days that I wish that the wall was still there – that I could not feel.

But God wants us to feel – the good and the bad.  He suffered the pain of our punishment, and He wants us to feel and know His pain and the pain of others so we can act under His guidance to heal and deliver.  Feeling the pains/brokenness of others seemed easy to me.  If I bore the burdens of others, maybe I could avoid my own.  But walking with someone through times of pain and facing their brokenness with them had a very different effect on me than I had hoped.  Instead of avoiding my own pain and brokenness, it brought me face to face with it.  I never really had a good model of how to deal with emotions of any kind so I am still struggling with the intensity of what I have been feeling.

We have to go through the pain and brokenness to be whole, healthy, and sound.  That is God’s true healing process.  In connecting with our own pain, we become more connected with God through the pain Jesus suffered on the cross, and we become more connected with others through the universal brokenness of the human race.

Maybe instead of praying for the pain to be taken away, I should be praying that God fill the broken places of my heart.

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