Are You Half-Baked?

I heard a story recently about a professor who was teaching his class how to survive under pressure.  He held up a glass of water and asked, “How heavy is this glass of water?”  He went on to demonstrate that it doesn’t really matter how heavy the glass of water is, but how long you have to hold it.

If you have to hold it for an hour it will become wearisome.  If you have to hold it for a day, it becomes bothersome.  But if you have to hold it with your arm extended, it becomes downright painful – even a dixie cup with a few drops of water is too heavy to bear under those circumstances.  You will simply have to put it down.

But what if your calling is to hold that dixie cup?  What then?  Do you just put it down to relieve the ache?

In Exodus we see this exact thing played out:

Then Amalek came and fought with Israel at Rephidim.  So Moses said to Joshua, “Choose for us men, and go out and fight with Amalek. Tomorrow I will stand on the top of the hill with the staff of God in my hand.”  So Joshua did as Moses told him, and fought with Amalek, while Moses, Aaron, and Hur went up to the top of the hill.  Whenever Moses held up his hand, Israel prevailed, and whenever he lowered his hand, Amalek prevailed.  But Moses’ hands grew weary, so they took a stone and put it under him, and he sat on it, while Aaron and Hur held up his hands, one on one side, and the other on the other side. So his hands were steady until the going down of the sun.  And Joshua overwhelmed Amalek and his people with the sword.

Exodus 17:8-13

Without friends coming alongside of Moses and literally holding up his arms, he would not have been able to do what God called him to do.  We’re talking about MOSES here.  Red-Sea-parting-plagues-in-Egypt Moses.

I’m thinking: if he needed the help of human friends, why do I think I won’t?  And why do I think my contribution into the lives of others is insignificant?

Honestly, we don’t hear a lot else about Hur in the Bible, but in Exodus 17 we see him faithfully accepting the job of holding up some old guy’s arm for the day.  It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but what if he didn’t do it because it seemed silly to think Moses would need help?  What if he didn’t think he was important enough to come alongside Moses. Or that he was too important to support someone’s arm?

Accept the Help God SendsWhat about you?  Where are you standing today?

Are there people facing battles around you?  Is there anyone who needs your help to find victory?

Or do you need to accept the help offered by the people God has placed in your life? Is there someone offering to help you hold your dixie cup, and you are too insulted or embarrassed to accept their help?

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.  For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!  Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?  And though a man might prevail against one who is alone, two will withstand him—a threefold cord is not quickly broken.

Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

I wrote the other day about how disastrous it would be to try to make bread without any tools.  In the same way, our relationships are vital to our ability to do what we are called to do.  Your friendships were given to you by God to help you do what he asks of you.  Somebody is your mixing bowl.  And you are somebody’s oven.  In other words, without friends, you are half baked. 🙂

Maybe I Don’t Like You

I had a conversation with that person the other day.  The person who fills the air with uninteresting data and simultaneously changes everything I try to talk about into something about themselves and manages to insult me in a host of ways with the constant stream of verbiage.

No, I was not talking to myself, but I think I may be that person sometimes.

And here I am, the Pastor’s Wife, supposed to love everybody.  And I do.  But I don’t actually like everybody.

There’s this line by Lucy Maude Montgomery in Anne of Green Gables.  Aunt Josephine says, 

I like people who make me like them. Saves me so much trouble forcing myself to like them.

I live in that place, sometimes.  I simply don’t like everyone.

Do you?

The thing is, even that person is made in the image of God.

Even That Person Is Made in God's Image

And when I pause to think about that person as the image-bearer of God, it changes my perspective – just a little.

If I look for how that person reflects the character of God, I can find something to value, to appreciate, to enjoy.

I don’t do this because I am the Pastor’s Wife.  I do this because it is my calling in Christ.

C. S. Lewis said:

It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruptions such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.

There are no ordinary people.  You have never talked to a mere mortal.

… it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit – immortal horrors or everlasting splendors.  This does not mean we are to be perpetually be solemn.  We must play.  But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously – no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption.

Recognizing the image of God present in every person – and understanding they will exist eternally in one of only two places – gives me the heart to be gracious in my conversations, to overlook offenses (really overlook, not just stuff it down until I explode), and to approach others with a desire for reconciliation rather than restitution when hurt happens.

Bob Marley, a reggae musician, accurately states,

The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you.  You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.

And Christ, by coming to earth to save the unlovely, defines “the ones worth suffering for” as all people – broken people – who are made in the image of God.

He loves that person, even when it’s me.

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Photo Credit:
By Lies Thru a Lens  (I Dont Know What to Call This… Uploaded by tm) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Dribble, Pass, Shoot, Score!

This past winter my littlest girl was an Upward cheerleader for basketball.  She learned twenty or more cheers and a couple of pyramids over the course of the season.  There were cheers for when the team was on offense, cheers for when they played defense, cheers to encourage them before the game, and even a cute little cheer for when the game was over.  And some of the cheers directed the crowd’s cheers, too.

The cheers all distilled the fundamentals of the game into simple, sometimes rhyming, statements.

Dribble it.  Pass it.  We want a basket.

Or,

Arms up.  Arms down. Drive the ball to the ground.

Slam Dunk!When we are playing sports – or cheering for them – the goal seems simple.  Executing it is a bit harder.

Have you ever thought of your friendships that way?  Do your relationships have a goal?

Some months ago I saw a tweet from John Piper on a friend of a friend’s Facebook page.  (Social media does have its place.)

Anyway, John Piper tweeted, “Christian relationships have this as their goal: to help each other stay satisfied in God.”

When I clicked on the  link in the tweet, he went on to say how it gets worked out in practice:

It comes down to whether we taste and see that the Lord is good.  I have said this to the church and I have said to pastors, and I have said to my wife:  What I want from you, Noel, what I want from my staff, is for them to be happy in Jesus.  The greatest ministry you can have to me is for you to enjoy Christ.  And so I think when we turn that around and say, ‘Now how can I be the greatest blessing to the people around me?’ the answer is: Get up in the morning.  Go to the word of God, and like George Mueller said, ‘Get your heart happy in God before you meet other people.'”  — John Piper

This sort of changes the playing field when you think about relationships.

If we are committed to loving God in such a way that we love others into loving him more, it will color our relationships with each other.

Love God, love others is a simply stated goal.  Executing the goal is a bit harder.  But knowing what we are trying to do, helps a lot.  Focusing on the goal increases the likelihood of arriving at it.

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Photo Credit:
Slam Dunk by Celtic 89 (Original text : Sören Bach) [Public domain]

Stir the Pot

My daughter was making toffee yesterday.  {Reason #1015 I love homeschooling.  🙂 }

Toffee is simply butter and sugar (and nuts if you choose to add them).  But it’s butter and sugar which have undergone a chemical reaction that has to occur at a specific rate at a specific temperature for a specific period of time under specific conditions.  Toffee made on an extremely humid day or on a day when it will cool too quickly will fail.

Stir the PotOh, and you have to stir the pot.  You cannot simply set it to boil and walk away.  Unless you want a disaster. (No, my daughter did not create a disaster.  Her toffee was awesome!)

Friendships are like toffee.  Sweet to the last morsel.  But they are forged under a variety of conditions, they require certain ingredients, regulated temperature, and time.  Lots of time.

And you have to stir the pot. 🙂

We were made – and redeemed – for relationships.  First with God, then with others.

Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.

Hebrews 10:19-22

We can enter the holy places because of our friendship with Christ.  Our relationship was secured by a spiritual reaction – something eternally changed in us as a result of his bearing the heat of the consequences of our sin over time under specific conditions. His blood forged our friendship.  His sacrifice produced sweet fellowship.

And he calls us into fellowship with others.  He calls us to stir the pot of each others’ lives.

Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.

Hebrews 10:23-25

As we see in Hebrews and throughout the Bible, “meeting together” is important to God.  It is how we stir the pot.

E-friends don’t see your piles of laundry or hear you yelling at your kids just before they knock on the door.  They can’t come keep you company while you paint the tiles on your kitchen wall.  They don’t hear you grunt angrily at the sewing machine when the thread gets all tangled or the bobbin runs out just inches from a finished project.  E-friends can’t call me on my sin, especially if I hide it behind a Minion-decorated-twinkie post.

There’s nothing wrong with minion twinkies.  There’s nothing wrong with augmenting friendship with social media.  Social media is great in moderation, but digitized “connections” can’t substitute for real-life relationships.  The Bible says it, and even science has stumbled upon it.

E-friends have a hard time stirring us up “to love and good works,” not because they aren’t genuine, but because their spoon is in a different kitchen.

Wooden Stirring Spoon

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Photo Credit:  Woman Stirring by War Office official photographer, Wooldridge (Sgt) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Wooden Stirring Spoon by Kåre Thor Olsen (Own work) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html), CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/) or CC-BY-SA-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

How to Save $97,265 per Year

Cost of Relationship Graphic

We were created with a need for friends – to be “relationship-ers.” Yet, so often we find ourselves rushing through our days with little time for arm-in-arm connections.  As women we need to seek Jesus first, but we also need to reach out to others so we can have (and be) a close friend.

One of my favorite contemporary authors, Renee Swope, once said, “I am created for real-life connections.  I need to fill that lonely place in my heart with friends I can share life with — in person.”

The world has noticed this, too.  Daniel Gilbert, Harvard Happiness Expert (how would you like that title?!?), identified friends as one of the biggest sources of joy in our lives.

Studies show seeing friends and family is actually worth about $97,265 per year.  According to this study, an individual who only sees (actually sees, not texts) his or her friends or relatives once a month or less would require almost $100,000 per year to be “just as satisfied” with life as an individual who sees his or her friends or relatives on most days.

$100,000.00

How many coupons would you have to cut to find that kind of savings in your family budget?

Science is discovering what God designed.  Sometimes just what we need is in-person, heart-to-heart, eye-to-eye connection and conversation.

We need the mascara-running-down-our-cheeks interactions. We need to see the eyes that crinkle in the corners when we say something funny, or the slight change of the eyebrow that indicates warning.  We need to see “the look.”

Your mom had it, remember?  I’m sure she did!  With my mom it was a certain position of one eyebrow – not a discernible change for anyone else, but we kids knew it and what it meant when we got back to the car if we didn’t stop.  Pronto.

You can’t see that eye-brow flicker in a text or e-mail or Facebook message or Instagram photo.

And when we post only the good parts, or fill in only the backstory we want to share, and blog “transparently” with carefully crafted and edited words, we miss out on the richness of sweet and genuine fellowship.

Face-To-Face relationships take time, I get that.  And we are already so pressed for time.  But if we counted the minutes we spend posting to Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest… if we tallied the moments spent writing blogs, e-mails, and texts… wouldn’t we find we are already spending a lot of time on relationships?  But it’s like eating a candy bar full of empty calories instead of steak and salad.

At this point, most authors/bloggers/speakers suggest a Social Media fast.  Perhaps we don’t need a Social Media fast as much as a little bit of calorie-consciousness… and we might find the extra minutes needed for an in-person cup of cocoa/coffee/cranberry juice.