Getting Built by Encouragement

There is so much to learn.  It comes from deep.  It comes from wide.  Learning comes from choosing compassion, connection and sometimes pain.  It comes from being humble, bold and brave.  I am constantly encouraged and inspired by great men and women around me.  I hope to become more of who I am by God’s truth and by the path others are walking.  I am getting built by Encouragement.

What I Learned as a Friend: It feels like the stars have come out when you share with your closest friend what God puts on your heart for this season of her life.

What I Learned as a Parent: It is essential to treat your kids equally and to teach them the value of equality.  That way, they will know that nothing is impossible by their own experience and by definition.  Inspired by my own mother and Nobel Peace Prize Recipient Malala Yousafzai.

Verse:   Therefore encourage one another and build each other up just as in fact you are doing.  1 Thessalonians 5:11 

Deep Thought: Driving on the expressway a few weeks ago, I pushed back on making a phone call.  I finally made a deal with myself that I would make the call when I got to my exit.  The call stretched me and caused a certain amount of relational tension.  Later, I see that change does not happen without connecting.  Without bringing about a certain amount of tension with the eyes of compassion. Change does not happen without being bold and brave.  Thanks in part to Seth Godin’s keynote message at Leadercast 2015.

Quote: You don’t have to be an extrovert or fearless to be a bold leader.  You don’t have to have a specific gift or talent.  You don’t have to be ultra smart or resourced.  You need clarity around an unreasonable commitment to what should beParaphrase from Andy Stanley’s keynote message at Leadercast 2015.

Book(s)/Blog(s)/People that Shape Me: Roarke Denver, US Navy Seal Commander, I love the way he speaks about his family with gentleness, shares his combat experiences with humanity and the way he defines the path to bravery.

My Prayer to You: I pray that we would trust the way God speaks to us and that we would share His insight when He calls us to.  I pray that there would be no sweeter moment than putting words into God’s Book of Remembrance.  I pray that we would remember that all of us are conduits of bravery and capable shaking fear.  I pray that we would remember the call on humanity to equality.  And, that there is no greater cause than laying down your life for your friend.  In Jesus’ name, Amen.

The Power of Impossibility

By Sasha Katz

If you think about all of the times in your life that you were down, crushed, broken or hopeless, there is always a strain, grain or thread of impossibility.  Even when you force your hurt or beat up self to be practical, problem solving or option seeking, impossibility eventually strikes your potential plan and you are back to square one.  Like a deer in headlights, you stop when you come against impossibility.  There are circumstances in this life where change feels impossible.

We all have been there.  Impossibility comes in the form of lack of funds.  When I was heading back to law school for year two, my grandma wasn’t able to help me out anymore.  I had no ideas and no funds to cover the deficiency.  I was already working and my loans were maxed.  I had no more human capacity to make up the difference.  I sat with the financial aid counselor (who I had no idea was a believer) and she said that a man had left a trust fund to my school for scenarios like mine and she had the authority to give me what I needed for the year.  And, then she said – – Your Father knows what you need.  God blew out what I viewed as impossibility.

Impossibility comes in the form of relationships.  It was not that long ago that I determined that my husband and I would not see eye to eye on tithing to our church.  We had been fighting about it for more than a year.  My prayers seemed useless because our battle just heightened each time we went to war on the issue.  I think it was in the middle of one of our furious matches on the issue, that I was sitting at the dining room table, and a resolution occurred to me.  I probably yelled the resolution instead of suggested it the way the Holy Spirit had gently put it into my mind.  But, in any case, my husband yelled back, FINE (or whatever form his agreement came in).  Resolved.  Years of fighting pretty much resolved in one Holy Spirit moment.

Impossibility comes in the form of loss.  I didn’t know this pain until my dad died just before Christmas of 2009.  We spent some time talking about legacy at our couples bible study this week.  It brought me right back to my dad and my memories of losing him.  Right now, I see his clear blues eyes looking into my eyes of the same color, not just on the day he walked home to the Lord, but on every intimate occasion throughout my life.  There were moments during the first year after his arrival to heaven that stopping the radical tears and pain seemed to be an impossibility.  His blue eyes and the healing of the loss of them took the gentle hand of the Lord washing over me, the wise counsel of my mom and time.

I don’t know exactly what impossibility looks like for you.  I have impossibility even right now.  It stops us in our tracks and pushes back the mind and heart as you search for ways around and through impossibility.  I also don’t know what your break through looks like.  I don’t know what mine looks like either.  However, I have learned that it is beyond me to know how it is that the Lord plans to make possible what is humanly impossible.  And, really, it doesn’t matter how many times in a life that we face impossibility – – when it appears, it is real.

We certainly have the option to believe that He does impossible things rather than the hopeless alternative.  We have the option to let those close to us pray for us and minister to us.  We have the alternative to talk to the God of impossible things.  And, even if our prayer seems feeble, useless or powerless, if our prayers sound insufficient, small minded or limited, they are worthwhile and received by the God who planned from the beginning of time to take you to the other side of impossible.

lucado 2

 

Part 1: Boundaries

A wise woman knows that beauty accumulates through loving and sharing in trusting relationships.  A wise woman adds to her beauty by giving many gifts to others.  Her giving is wise.  It is thoughtful.  It is blessing.  She knows that her gifts are not up for auction or for grabbing from all sides.  Her garden offers fruit and friendship with a sensible, compassionate heart.

This type of wisdom in giving was not gained without many casualties – – primarily through many deaths of herself.  If you ask her, she will tell you that her past is splattered with falls down stairs, wipe outs and thoughts of insane asylums.  She learned disappointment as she tumbled down stairs that she thought would lead to faithful fellowship.  As she lay flat faced on the hard floor, she learned that unbalanced relationships can wipe you out.  She genuinely thought she was going nuts when her gifts were received with scorn and rejection.

She has learned that not all giving makes you beautiful.  The truth is that you cannot be a wise giver if you haven’t had a few slaps in the face.  If fact, you are not a wise giver in your relationships unless you have had your world turned upside down.  Upside down is a hard series of lessons to learn.  But, a woman like you takes her life lessons in seriousness and in stride.

Upside down means that you cannot be grateful, accommodating, agreeable, encouraging and hospitable without also setting in place wise boundaries around your garden.  If you have a well-kept, sturdy fence in your yard, you see the value of your labor.  You know what it takes to develop roots that take hold far below the soil.  You know that your garden’s rest under the stars prepares it for the rising sun at dawn.  You know that, if not for food and water, the blazing sun would harm your garden’s fruit and flowers.  You know that, without careful planning for the seasons, your garden may not produce fruit at the right time.  You know the value on your labor.

A wise woman knows when to open the gate of her garden’s fence.  She is thoughtful and mindful of the needs around her.  She is thoughtful and mindful of the hearts set before her.  She sees her brothers and sisters coming from a mile away.  And, she knows well her collection of treasures from the fruits of her garden.  She picks just the right fruit to give at just the right time.  This is true giving.  This is beautiful.

Getting from “Me Vs. Him” to “Us”

By Bindu Adai-Mathew

If you had asked me years ago the primary ingredients for a successful relationship/marriage, I would have immediately replied love and chemistry.

Fastforward a few months after I got married, and my response would have been forgiveness, kindness, and compromise.

Yesterday Jmathis challenged us to analyze some of our relationships to see how we responded during times of tension and conflict. My biggest challenge during times of tension is to check my ego and selfishness in at the door. When I’m angry or hurt, it’s all about what he did wrong. What he said to offend me or how he acted so selfishly. It’s all about my needs and how they are unmet.

 Often the way I respond to times of conflict has nothing to do with “us.” Because when I think of us, it’s no longer just about me…it’s about how we both need to change or improve. It’s not about me being right…it’s about what both of us need to do to make this partnership successful and meaningful.

There is a reason why God described marriage as “two becoming one.” But isn’t it ironic that while we vow to uphold that tenant in marriage, it’s often the first one we break when we are hurt or upset?

Challenge yourself to look at your conflict in terms of the partnership that it really is rather than a scene out of a spaghetti Western. Rather than addressing your conflict with guns blazing like you’re at the Okay Corral, look at it terms of the way God intended marriage to be:

The man said, ‘This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called “woman,” for she was taken out of man.’ For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Genesis 2:23-24

 

Delving Into Relationship

By JMathis

We live in a web of interconnected relationships.

Relationships with significant others. Relationships with co-workers. Relationships with friends. Relationships with family.

In the unavoidability of relationships, there is conflict.

Conflict with significant others. Conflict with co-workers. Conflict with friends. Conflict with family.

With conflict comes tension, and tension demands a response.

The problem is, our tendency is to either run from giving a response (“What’s the point of working this out with him? I’m just going to shut up–again–and bury it deep down inside.”), or run too quickly to respond (“I just can’t wait to give her a piece of my mind! She is such an idiot!”).

In both cases, we fall short.

In the world’s way of responding to tension and conflict in our relationships (defensiveness, passive-aggressiveness, self-righteousness, anger and blame), we inflict upon ourselves a slow death by a million paper-cuts.

Paper cuts from significant others. Paper cuts from co-workers. Paper cuts from friends. Paper cuts from family.

If all of this bleeding is inevitable, why even bother with relationships? After all, isn’t life too short? Too short to be jabbed time and again by a million paper-cuts?

Because in relationships, there is life.

Because in relationships, there is love.

Because in relationships, there is growth.

Because in relationships, there is God.

In God’s way of responding to tension and conflict in our relationships, you still have to confront and respond to tension and conflict. After all, tension and conflict are natural by-products of living in earthly relationships.

But in God’s way of responding to tension and conflict, you confront and respond:

• without condemning

• with love and respect

• through the eyes of faith

The eyes of faith can’t see the other’s faults and weaknesses. The eyes of faith can only see what God sees. And all God sees is a child of God, worthy of love and respect, brimming with all of God’s potential and righteousness.

Delve into relationships. Delve into the tension. Delve into the conflict.

But in all things, delve in with God.

For where there is God, there is life, love and growth. For where there is God, there is relationship.

Delve in. Paper cuts and all.

Questions:

When you last confronted tension and conflict in your relationship, how did you respond? In anger and blame? Or, love and respect? When you last responded to tension and conflict, was it in sorrow and repentance, or defensiveness and passive-aggressiveness? Are too many of your relationships simmering in past regrets, rather than restoration and healing? What could you have done differently in your last experience with tension and conflict?

2 Corinthians 7: 2-16 (The Message):

…Don’t think I’m finding fault with you. I told you earlier that I’m with you all the way, no matter what. I have, in fact, the greatest confidence in you. If only you knew how proud I am of you! I am overwhelmed with joy despite all our troubles…

I know I distressed you greatly with my letter. Although I felt awful at the time, I don’t feel at all bad now that I see how it turned out…Now I’m glad—not that you were upset, but that you were jarred into turning things around. You let the distress bring you to God, not drive you from him. The result was all gain, no loss. Distress that drives us to God does that. It turns us around. It gets us back in the way of salvation. We never regret that kind of pain. But those who let distress drive them away from God are full of regrets, end up on a deathbed of regrets.

And now, isn’t it wonderful all the ways in which this distress has goaded you closer to God? You’re more alive, more concerned, more sensitive, more reverent, more human, more passionate, more responsible. Looked at from any angle, you’ve come out of this with purity of heart. And that is what I was hoping for in the first place when I wrote the letter. My primary concern was not for the one who did the wrong or even the one wronged, but for you—that you would realize and act upon the deep, deep ties between us before God. That’s what happened—and we felt just great…

Titus saw for himself that everything I had said about you was true. He can’t quit talking about it, going over again and again the story of your prompt obedience, and the dignity and sensitivity of your hospitality. He was quite overwhelmed by it all! And I couldn’t be more pleased—I’m so confident and proud of you…

The Rose

Go to fullsize imageBy Bindu Adai-Mathew

When most of us look back at our youth, particularly our teens and our twenties, it is often the great loves in our life that come to mind…that first playground crush in elementary school. That first love in high school whom you spent Friday nights with at Pizza Hut after the football game. The scruffy haired college boyfriend who had a penchant for cafés and Nietzsche. And that first serious “real world” boyfriend who had a “real” job and took you to “real” restaurants, always insisting that you never ever pay even though you offered.

For me, I met my first love at 30 and married him at 31. While my youth and twenties were spotted with unrequited crushes, those are not the relationships that come to mind when I think of my past.

But I, too, had some serious loves in my life. 7 to be exact.  Yep, lucky 7.

You read about the first one last week…Becky Dunn. She moved away after 6th grade. But our story didn’t end there. We wrote to each other pretty regularly even after she moved. In fact, we wrote to each other throughout our junior high and high school years. True, our letters decreased with each passing year, but distance hadn’t changed our friendship. Any time we spoke, it was like no time had passed. Like the sign of any good friendship, we’d pick up right where we had left off. And then one day, those months turned into years. But even then, we somehow managed to “catch up” on each other’s lives. Until slowly one day, I got the distinct feeling she no longer wanted to keep it up anymore. There were subtle hints, like I’d always be the one initiating contact…and she’d be slow to respond…until one day, she didn’t return my phone call. And when I followed up a few weeks later, she had moved with no forwarding phone number or address for me to reach her. And in a blink of an eye, a 20+ year friendship was seemingly over.

And then there was Noemi Dominguez. If Becky was my childhood, Noemi was my adolescence. From 7th grade on, we became fast friends. Fellow French horn players, we also played on the school tennis team and shared a wicked sense of humor coupled with a wicked love of romance novels. She is the reason I know every important line of the original Star Wars trilogy. She is the reason I had a crush on Davy Jones and watched every episode of The Monkees. We had a secret language that often required nothing more than a look and a giggle…and after taking shorthand together in high school, we could also literally write notes “in code” to each other.  We were best friends until the day she was murdered in 1999. Another friendship over before its time.

And then there was the best friend I made my freshman year in college. Naturally very shy and introverted, she opened up to me and clung to me like life support all four years of college. When I started my first job, she’d often call me at work on the days she was off. Sometimes we’d meet up for dinner or happy hour after work. And since these were the days before cell phones were so prevalent, by the time I got home, she’d call me again… “just to talk…” I loved to talk and I had nothing better to do, so at the time I didn’t mind. Neither did I mind when I moved away for grad school, and the following year she also moved into my apartment complex and started grad school at another nearby college. It almost sounds very SWF (Single White Female), but it was innocent enough. We both came from strict Indian families and faced similar family dynamics and pressures regarding marriage, career, etc. Neither of us had ever had boyfriends or any luck with boys being interested in us. So for 8 years we probably talked almost every day. Until one day, her parents set her up with someone. Two weeks after meeting him, the phone calls decreased dramatically. One weekend she didn’t even bother returning any of my phone calls. When I later asked her about it, she said she wanted to call me back but had “forgotten my phone number…” Yeah, except that this was the same number she had been calling for 8 years. When I reminded her of that, she laughed and said, “You know what a bad memory I have…”  Apparently so…she hadn’t just forgotten my number but apparently also 8 solid years of friendship.

And then there was M.  Another college friend. We became close my senior year in college. She was also Indian, faced similar pressures regarding marriage and career, but she was what I would call the rebel. She was the bohemian hippy who lived by her own rules. She eschewed tradition and embraced her own ideals. But despite my conservatism and her anti-traditional Indian views, we somehow also became good friends. Our friendship waned briefly when I moved away for grad school, but once I was back in town, our friendship was on like Donkey Kong! Shopping, eating out all the time, movies—all the things good friends do…we were full-force right through the day I said my “I do’s” and moved away. And then suddenly my friendship with her hit a brick wall. Then she, too, avoided my phone calls. No fighting. No falling out. Just another 10+ year friendship…gone with the wind.

Not all of my friendships have ended so dramatically, of course…but most of them have changed in intensity. Some of it is natural, of course. Most of us are now married, and most of us have children. (Except maybe M.) But between work, kids, spouses, and everything in between, keeping up friendships can be challenging even if the heart is willing.

There was a time when I was bitter about my lost friendships. I had invested so much energy, so much time into them that to have them end at all, was upsetting. For a long time I couldn’t understand how my friends who once said things like, “You’re the sister I never had…” or “I’m closer to you than my own sisters…” could later treat me like some casual acquaintance they had barely known. But in that way, I’ve learned, friendships are like romantic relationships…for them to work, both people have to want them. Both people have to want to put the time in.

I think one of the reasons that the show Sex and the City always appealed so strongly to me was not the crazy, outrageous risqué topics that were discussed on the show. Nor was it the beautiful clothes and shoes. Nor was it the chic clubs and restaurants featured. For me, it was always about the friendships. The fashion, the men, and even New York City, were nothing more than accessories and backdrops to the main feature—the beauty and power of female friendships. Even though the men often never lasted, there was a beauty in knowing that at the end of the day, the four of them had each other. That was all I had ever wanted from any of my own friendships…and until my mid to late 20s, that’s all I had ever known.

But I’m no longer in my twenties, and I’ve learned the hard way that not all friendships are meant to last. Like every season in our lives, all we can do is cherish them for how they blessed us at the time. Yes, there are those die-hard friends, the ones who will truly stick to you like glue. No matter what, till death do you part. Yes, some friendships are meant to ride off into the sunset together. But there are other friendships that bloomed once so beautifully, so fragrantly, but are now nothing more than a dried up rose, a reminder of what once was.  True, we must lay them to rest and let them lie where they belong…in the Past. But that doesn’t mean we have to forget. Like a dried flower in a book, those memories can still be preserved. At any given time, we can pick them up, savoring the Sweetness that once was…the Beauty it once had….the Joy it once gave… Reminiscing. Remembering. Reliving. But never Regretting.

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