Are You The Glue?

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Have you heard the expression before? You’re the glue in this family.

You’re the glue in this organization?

You’re the glue that held us together with this project?

Glue is that sticky substance that through some scientific means bonds things together. Keeps them close. Holds things in place.

Are you the glue?

Being the glue isn’t something that one gets assigned, rather it’s something that just happens. Certain personalities tend to be the glue.  This is not something they try to be, they are created with this ability to bond.  For unknown reasons they seem to be the one that others look to for direction or information; to feel connected with and welcomed.  Glue people somehow have a way of understanding what’s going on, even when they don’t know all the details.  Their welcome mat is out and they live with availability. They are the glue that hold people together.

I’ll ask again. Are you the glue?

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Maybe a better question would be, are you sticky? 

Sticky substances have a way of holding onto all kinds of things, good and bad. Now we can all relate to that, right? Each of us has a tendency to hold onto good and bad. But if you’re a glue person, like me, it’s important to recognize a few things:

  1. Not everyone acts like a glue person. Don’t be angry when others don’t care the way you do.
  2. The gift of bonding and holding others close is a matter of the heart.  Caring always costs you and enriches you at the same time.
  3. When you find that you aren’t able to “glue” like usual, it may be because too many prohibiting things have stuck to you. Examine your life. What is stuck to you that doesn’t belong? That empty’s your body and soul? That makes you sad?

I’ve been reading the gospel of Mark.  I’m only 3 chapters in but have identified somethings that have made me think about my ability to care for others. Even if we are not a glue person by nature, each of us takes on the role of a glue person in various seasons of life. We all can relate to the responsibility of caring for others whether it’s a child, disabled loved one, an elderly neighbor, foster child, sick or injured co-worker who doesn’t have family support, a family you know of who has great financial, emotional, relational or physical need, etc. There are a thousand different scenarios where we are asked to care for others.

Jesus is just beginning His journey in ministry.  People are getting to know Him.  He is speaking publicly and healing all kinds of people. People are drawn to Him. Jesus welcomes them.  He entertains their problems and questions.  He walks for miles and miles with them (as that is how people got around). Jesus was a glue person.

There were moments along the way where Jesus went away from the crowds.  He needed to sleep, to pray, to rest.  His closest friends were frantic when He wasn’t being the “glue” all the time. When you develop a reputation for being the glue, others will come to depend on you to hold things together. But Jesus did not let the lure of being needed dictate His schedule or His own need.

Jesus gives clear perspective:

  1. You will burn out if you don’t find a rhythm that allows you to step away from the needs of others. It’s simple, you cannot be a glue person if your stickiness wears off.
  2. You have to let go from time to time.  Stop dwelling on how you can help or assist.  This sounds very un-Jesus-y. But glue people tend to get a little obsessed with how they can carry others.  Jesus teaches us there is a time to rest from this never ending work.  There is a time to lay it down and fill our minds and hearts with other things.
  3. Remind yourself that your identity doesn’t come from being a glue person. Holding people together is what you do not who you are. When we confuse this we tend to become people pleasers and that is a burden glue people cannot afford to carry. We have to maintain the ability to say no at the right time so we are able to say yes at the precise time.

Are you a glue person? Are you in a season of life where you have to be a glue person?

If you are, your work is too important to ignore.  Through you others feel welcomed and invited.  Through you others find a listening ear or a new perspective. Through you others belong. Through you others become grounded and learn they matter.

We would do well my fellow glue persons to learn from Jesus, the Ultimate Glue Person.  You never know when you’ll be asked to be a glue person.

 

 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.  – Ephesians 2:10

 

One Word

2017 has made a splash!  It is well under way.  I’ve long forgotten Christmas and New Years.  This always happens.  Celebrations short-lived and routine returns to a cold and gray January.

A few weeks ago I read some thoughts by a writer.  She does not do resolutions because they don’t seem to stick. I can relate, can’t you?  Instead chooses a new word that she wants to live into for the year.  A word that resonates with her and gives focus and imagination for life.  I like that idea.

So I thought about it for a while and finally landed on my word.

Curious

It seems to encompass the thoughts and feelings inside of me as 2017 begins.   I’m curious about this year, what it will hold?

The world is a noisy place right now.  So many opinions, ideas and perspectives and I wonder how we’ll all get along?

My family has grown another year older. The cusp of new frontiers await.   Where will it take us?

I think about possibility all the time.  “What if” kind of thinking.  What if I can go to….., what if I can experience….., what if I can have….., what if I can create….?

This word curious works for me. A framework which to wrap my day to day.  A filter through which I pass the stuff of my life.

  • When my mind is thick with worry or doubt, I will become curious about how God will help me?
  • When unexpected delays slow me down, I will wonder how to build myself for endurance?
  • When faced with others need, I will ask how I may help?
  • When God talks, I will wonder why He speaks at all?
  • When creation overwhelms me with its’ beauty and power, I’ll wonder why have we been given such a gift?
  • When seasons change and time feels rapid, I’ll ask how gratitude can enrich the transition?
  • When fear is present, I’ll ask its’ name and if it has power over me?
  • When examining the contents of my heart and hands, I’ll wonder what would change if I say yes to inspiration?
  • When God seems silent, I will ask how I may quiet my soul and trust?
  • When mankind isn’t kind at all, I will be curious about what prayers, words or deeds are mine to respond?
  • When I’m stained with guilt, I will inquire about the mysteries of forgiveness?
  • When life shines like the sun and I feel full and free, I’ll ponder the sweetness of happiness and ask how I may hold it in?
  • When the brilliance of humanity or the magnificence of a child take my breath away, I’ll be curious how much wonder can a heart hold?

When I become curious possibility opens. Possibility fuels imagination. Imagination brightens. Enlightens.

What about you?

What word would you choose to help shape your 2017?

I’d love to hear about it.

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Listening to My Brothers

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I found this painting I made years ago in a stack of old work today.  It’s a whimsical characterization of my brothers.  They both played football for many seasons of their life.

I grew up in a sports loving home.  Meaning, my dad loves sports and so that’s what was on TV when he was around.  His love for sports was infectious and it all impacted us differently.  We all have an enthusiasm and respect for “organized” games but my brothers had the good fortune of being able to play a sport for a very long time.

I pulled this painting out because I wanted to evaluate the canvas size and possibly paint over it.  I hung it in the intended spot and began assessing.

And then, well, it spoke.

At first I laughed when it pointed out the oddly shaped feet paired with the tiny helmet heads. My art is whimsy and conceptual…mostly because that is all I can create.

Then I stepped back and heard something else. Each figure frozen in a pose.  One entering the field with his teammates bursting with pride, celebrating their shared beliefs and  hopes for their collective endeavor.  The other  focused on one job, using his might to protect his quarterback from the opponent that sought to stop him. It whispered brotherhood.

My brother once told me that the brotherhood he experienced during football was unlike anything else he’s known.  It’s where teammates fought with each other because they were fighting for each other.  Each person responsible for his own unique contribution because the success of someone else depended on it. They won and lost as a team no matter how well an individual may have played. Every moving part demanding full attention and intention for collective redemption.  And collective gains were always the goal, not individual accomplishment because collective gains were for all, not just one.

Individual effort and investment is powerful when it’s intended for community benefit.

I thought to myself, what if?

What if each of us applied this principle in our lives?

What if we viewed our strengths, talents and interests in light of a team that needed us to play in order for all to win? That complacency was not an option? Investing in our unique selves so as to contribute to a collective whole?

What if each of us would be willing to enter the tension with another, because we were fighting for the other?

What would marriage and parenting be like?

What could happen at work?

Would we figure out how to neighbor in a way that perhaps we aren’t right now?

Would community and global problems be impacted differently?

I know, I’m asking a lot of questions.  But I’m writing as quickly as this painting is speaking.

What about you?

What do you think?

What if you applied the principle of brotherhood (sisterhood…fill in the blank-hood) in one area of your life?

Would you be willing to try?

P.S. I probably won’t be painting over this canvas anytime soon.

P.S.S. If you think it’s weird that paintings are talking to me…well let’s face it…it is weird.

Celebrate That! Part Four

I love a good mystery.  Give me a movie with a puzzling storyline or a big twist delivered right at a crucial point and I’m hooked. The unexpected fascinates me. The story in this fourth and final post of the “Celebrate That!” series, does not disappoint.

Maybe you know the Christmas story? The virgin Mary conceives a Baby by the Spirit of God. Her fiance decides to stay with her because he has bought into the idea that angels give out assignments and unscripted events change life plans. Now we are in the final scene.  Joseph and Mary were hunkered down in some obscure place. Then the Baby comes.

In the very next moment we are out in a distant field with shepherds and their flocks. (Read about it here.)

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Plot twist.

What? Where did they come from? What do they have to do with anything?

The main event was back in a crowded place and now we are outside of the city, in a field, at night. There were a lot of predators in the area who would love to come and nab one of the sheep for a midnight snack. So the shepherds had keep a careful watch to make sure that didn’t happen. It was another day at the office for them. They were used to this.  It was part of the job. They were on the lookout for signs of trouble.

Until then.

Suddenly the sky and fields were transformed. Ok, it doesn’t really say that but it must of happened.  An angel shows up, remember, angels always come at Christmastime. This time he comes with glory. Whatever glory is, it was everywhere.  The exact words are, and the glory of the Lord shone all around them. So I’m pretty sure it was spectacular and unsettling. The things of God usually are.

The shepherds were afraid. I can’t imagine what the flocks did?  The angel said he had good news that will cause great joy for all people. He tells them about the Baby that was born back in the city. I imagine there was more than one baby born that day so the angel describes where to find the Baby of good news.

Heaven came down and put on a show.

Right as he was talking a huge gathering of heavenly beings appeared. They were singing.  An outdoor concert. The night sky, a holy cathedral.

Sacred sounds.

Glory dancing.

The moon and stars paled in comparison. Ordinary night becomes extraordinary. Mundane to exquisite. No longer mere shepherds doing their job but mesmerized, frightened souls coming undone by what was happening.

Christmas had come and made them human. Christmas had come and showed them they were more than a job. Christmas had come and told them their one life held a bigger story.

Christmas had come! 
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These shepherds and their flocks were in the right place at the right time. Of course they were.

And that’s the thing. The angel knew where to find them. A dark and ordinary night in a field; at a temple where a priest was praying, in the dream of an anxious groom-to-be and before a young girl.  Heaven always knows where to find us.

Shepherds and their flocks pushed into the wilderness looking for food. Fearing the danger. No one goes there because they really want to. Some wildernesses really can’t be avoided. But there they are. The place God decides to be discovered.

Sometimes I wonder if God pushes me into the wilderness?

Sometimes I wonder if the wilderness is the place He wants me to discover Him?

Sometimes I wonder if the wilderness teaches me how to move on, with God?

Wilderness Christmas.

And isn’t that Christmas? God knowing where we are and coming to be with us? Coming to tell us we are wonderfully human and make us so? Coming to move us from our fields?

It had to be the shepherds and their flocks. They are us.

Everyday people living everyday lives. In a divine twist and the story takes a turn.  The story is for us. Christmas tearing open the dark and scary night to let heavens light in.

Christmas is not exclusive. It’s inclusive. We are the reason Christmas comes at all.

Earthly people intermingling with the Holy and all that it means. Miracle Baby born as God had decided long ago because we had moved so far from Him that He would not stand for it. Christmas was coming whether humanity wanted it or not. Jesus comes whether humanity wants Him to or not.  God does not forget His promises.

And isn’t that grace? Unmerited favor?

It’s always Christmas. Christmas is a new kind of story. It’s meant for us.

If you look closely today you can see the dazzling display of glory in the night sky. Filling the air with sacred sounds telling us that Christmas is here. Christmas is always here. Here for the everyday people living everyday lives.

I don’t know what Christmas is for you?  The celebrations, gatherings and presents are a lot of fun and honestly they do represent the spirit of Christmas if we let them. But Christmas comes to us, it comes for us.  It’s the twist in our story where things take a turn.

Do you have a Christmas in your story?

May we this season be curious about this Baby and they crazy way He came to us.  May we long to have our dark scary nights break open to let heavens light in.  May we find contentment in becoming human as God first had hoped for us.  May we discover Emmanuel, Jesus with us, through the up and down storyline of our everyday ordinary lives. O come O come Emmanuel.

When Jesus was born, God sent the sheep into the fields.

Celebrate That!

Celebrate That! Part Three

I love a story within a story. You know, a narrative that has a smaller but crucial story woven inside the bigger one.  The Bigger narrative wouldn’t be as rich or meaningful without it.

Take Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer for example. You know the story within the story right?  Think on it a second.  What is it?  That’s right…the Island of Misfit Toys!  It’s a mysterious place filled with not quite right toys that children didn’t want.  Santa learns about their plight and rescues them in the midst of the bigger story of Rudolf saving Christmas with his red nose.

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There was another story within a story.

A man named Zacharias and his wife Elizabeth had a life altering event unfold right inside the Christmas story. Their tale enriches Jesus birth story, it gives it richer meaning and significance.

They had been around for a long time and were getting up in years but were still a vital part of community. Zacharias was a priest. Everyone knew them. Everyone knew they were getting older. Everyone knew they did not have any children.

In that time children were e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.  A symbol of significance and blessing. An inheritance from God. You needed them for survival.  You needed them in your old age.  You needed them for your self-esteem.

Time was moving fast, Zacharias and Elizabeth were feeling it. There was a void. This was not how it was supposed to go.

Everywhere Zacharias looked he saw fathers with their children. He watched as they taught their kids the responsibilities of daily life. It didn’t matter what he did, he was surrounded by scenes of what he was supposed to have done in his younger years. At this point, grandchildren should be running around him. All he could see were families. Everywhere. It was like he was on his life stage but his storyline didn’t fit the scenery. Zacharias faithfully fulfilled his role as priest in the temple. He was busy doing his work but it was getting harder and harder to do.

Elizabeth was also a woman known in her community. Each day she was confronted by women with round bellies; children scurrying around the feet of their busy mothers. Life was bustling everywhere but inside her. Haunted by everyday life. She was making herself crazy with all her suspicions that others were talking behind her back. Each day she’d put on a bright face but inside she felt dark with the shame of not being able to bear a child. Maybe she had committed some great crime for which she didn’t know and couldn’t amend? Maybe that’s why this has happened? At least that is how she felt.

Do you look around your life stage right now and feel your storyline doesn’t fit the scenery? Everything looks Christmasy but inside you don’t feel it?

One night Elizabeth patiently waited for Zacharias to come home as she always did.  But he was late. Very late.

While at work in the temple he had a visitation. Not from a person but an angel.  (Angels always come at Christmastime.) This angel told him that he would have a child. A miracle.

Sound familiar?

Zacharias was no dummy.  He knew his wife was barren and even if she could have children she was well past her prime and so was he.  (Read the whole story here.) He didn’t mean to doubt the angel but he needed a guarantee. They had been through too much.  Elizabeth had been through too much, he couldn’t watch her suffer all over again. They had a nice thing going in life finally. They knew their place. They had made their peace with their situation. He wasn’t going to upset things now and he needed this angel to guarantee it would work out like he was suggesting.

Angels don’t make deals.

From that moment on Zacharias was dealt an unusual blow.  He was silenced.  Unable to speak.  He had to use hand gestures to explain what had happened. A big game of charades.

Now heres the story within the story:

Elizabeth and Mary, Jesus mother, were related. Before Jesus was this other baby. His name was to be John. His story also started as miracle. His parents also an unlikely duo; two old people surrounded by all the things that they longed for but could never have. Biology wouldn’t allow it. The backdrop of the Jesus story is the foreground of this story. A shocking conception before the really shocking Conception. A miracle that would set the stage of the Miracle. What the natural order of things couldn’t produce the supernatural is amused by.

I think it’s amusing that Zacharias is silenced.  At first it seems cruel.  The most amazing thing that has ever happened to him and he can’t even talk about it? Come on!  But then when I thought about it more I realized that perhaps it was a gift.

Silence can be a gift if we let it.

This old couple lived in a world where they were plagued by all that eluded them. They were diligent and sincere. But everywhere around them were triggers.  The expectation that they should have had children was a weight around them. The shame Elizabeth felt; that she must bear children in order to be worthy, a dagger in her heart each day. The constant reminders around them of their broken bodies and loss were like a nagging ringing in their ears.  It was no one’s fault. This was just how it was.

This angel had come to tell them their world would turn upside down.  Keep on praying and living, it will happen because God said it would happen. Zacharias couldn’t take the angel at his word. It was too difficult. So a quiet hushed his voice.

He couldn’t say one thing.

Sometimes it’s best to not say a thing.

Sometimes it’s just what we need.

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Look around. Do you feel as cheery as all the Christmas decorations, music and sentiments?  It’s great if you do.  But what I’m getting at is does this time present triggers for you?  Do you feel an expectation that you just can’t meet?  Are you supposed to make everyone feel magical and warm?  Are you supposed to find the exact right gift, prepare the perfect meal or cookie, decorate the house in the most inviting way….and inside…it’s not there?

This time of year can be brutal.

Striving for it to feel and be wonderful, we lose wonder and we feel nothing. Like Zacharias demanding a guarantee from the angel, we do the same.  We demand from ourself and others that each holiday delivers the good “feels” as we call them in my house. You know, the lights, decorations, traditions, foods, friends…it all has to make us feel Christmasy and if it’s not working, well we must be doing something wrong. Shame.

So inwardly we feel frustrated, crabby or filled with angst.  Outwardly we write the most amazing Christmas cards and bake the same old cookies and hang the stockings by the fire place hoping or at least pretending that it gives us the “feels” we so desperately want to feel.

But somewhere on the stage of life we need to be hushed.

Quiet makes room for the Spirit of God to still the soul. When we stop arguing with angels we can hear better. Hearing is a gateway to peace.

Zacharias was quieted to find peace.

Peace with himself and his aging body. Peace with his suffering wife and her aging body. Peace with his void. Peace with the expectation and demands that he and society had levied against both of them, which they could do nothing about. Peace with feeling helpless. Peace that God had heard their prayers all along. Peace with what the angel said. Peace with the timing of God and how different it was from his.

When the weight of unfulfilled expectation was more than he could take an angel came and silenced him; silence was the relief from the pressure.

Silence is holy.

Have your buttons been pressed yet this Christmas season?

Do you feel the anxiety of everyone else expectations? Do you feel you are supposed to be magical and you are fresh out of pixy dust?  Are you afraid of change, that the family won’t be together like they always are, that maybe someone is missing this year, that it can’t be the way you’ve always had it? Are you afraid you don’t have enough money or energy to make things special?  Is your body, mind or heart broken or sick?  Is your family broken or sick?

Is it more than you can take?

Shhhhhh

Let the angels quiet you this year.

The Holy is in the silence.

Impose intentional quiet.

Let silence bring you peace. God does NOT expect you to make Christmas magical. Your unfulfilled expectations have NOT gone unnoticed by God. Your prayers are heard.

The quiet teaches us that God is God and we are not. That His timeline and purpose is often far removed from what we are thinking, silence enables us to hear clearer. When we don’t have to waste verbal energy defending, coercing, explaining and conjuring ourselves, others and God, there is room for the peace of God. The miracle before the Miracle, the quiet in the silence.

Silence is an act of trust. Trusting allows our storyline to meet up with the scenery.

Impose intentional quiet. Silence was the gift Zacharias received and it can be ours too.

Before God sent His son, He sent silence.

Celebrate That!