Five Minute Friday: Listen

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START –

Listen.

I’ve always had a love/ hate relationship with this whole social media and blogging thing.  In some ways it is the coolest thing, to be able to reach out from beyond our four walls and at the click of a button proclaim life, encourage and exhort and to find kindred spirits.  In other ways, it can be a false reality.

Last night I saw Lisa-Jo’s prompt go live.  I sat there and I started thinking.  And then came the onslaught through my twitter and facebook feeds.  Read this.  I just posted this.  This was my blog. Linking up now.

And something within me became a little crushed, a little worn, and a little deflated.

Oh I know there is good.  Tremendous good. There are many blessed and inspired words strung together to create something glorious over the internet.

But the whole orchestra of instruments all together chiming ‘read me’ is essentially the same as saying ‘listen to me’.

And I think as much as I love the hearts behind the blogging, I need to listen to Him more.

I want to tune in to the conductor, more than the individual instruments. For without Him, there would be no harmony, no connections and continuity.  No meaning.

As much as cyberfriends can reach out and love on people. Our Abba Father is at the ready, wanting ALL of my heart.  BOTH of my ears.  ALL of my attention.

We are all instruments, yes?

Let’s tune in to Him, just a little more, yes?

So that we can turn our readers to Him, just a little more.

STOP.

orchestra

Five Minute Friday: Song

Five Minute Friday

No extreme editing; no worrying about perfect grammar, font, or punctuation.

Unscripted. Unedited. Real.

5 mins of writing on a set topic.

I’ve decided that if I ever wanted to do more writing….and to really get serious about it then I need to be able to just write. Simply write. So I’m going to join some friends linking up at Lisa-Jo’s blog and we shall see what fun ensues…..

So here goes….

START –

SONG.

I love that God made birds to sing.  I love that different species of bird have different calls and sounds and songs.

There’s something so magical about waking up in a new and foreign to you country and hearing the native birds singing.  The chorus at first light.  Welcoming the new day.

Even after natural disasters, birds sing on.

If someone is listening or if no-one is listening, birds sing on.

Birds don’t need score cards or record deals, they don’t require positive feedback or constructive criticism.  They just sing on.

I think we all could learn from the birds.  The games we play and all.

I can’t help but wonder what our worlds would look like if we just sang the songs we were supposed to.  What if we didn’t look to the left or the right, but just up?

What if we didn’t check stats or facebook comments and likes, retweets and responses?  What if we just wrote the lyrics of our songs, the words God places on our hearts?

What if, like the birds who don’t need to sow or reap, for their heavenly Father looks after them, what if we didn’t worry about how we would be received?

What if we all sang the songs we were created to sing – because we couldn’t not do that?  What a mighty sound that would be.

STOP.

birds

 

An Addendum

I woke up with a song in my heart and the pressing need to add onto my five minute friday post from last night.

 

You see while everything I wrote is true – I do long for more in my friendships, I long for my daily routines to be interrupted by phone calls and texts and the ‘how are yous?’ that deep and reciprocal friendship bring with it….I still have to declare out loud that God is so very faithful.

I have much to be thankful for.  In the next few months as we prepare to leave our American adventure, I can look back and see God’s hand at work with relationships I’ve established and He has grown.  And for these I will be forever thankful.

 

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.

His mercies never come to an end.

They are new every morning, new every morning

Great is thy faithfulness O Lord

Great is thy faithfulness

Faithful with my Monday night writers group.  A group of women who took me in – they are all published and professional with their own writings – me – well I have this.  We chat, we eat, we play cards, we play our own form of scrabble.  We fellowship.

Faithful with my Wednesday morning prayer group.  We meet and we seek the Lord’s heart.  We strive to listen to Him. Together.  We care for one another.

Faithful with fellow church goers and co-workers of my husband and their families and Mom’s group members and ministry to teenage girls leaders.  All of these are such important parts of my life.  And I am grateful.

Faithful with random people that I have met through various inroads, people who have opened their arms and with their mouths declared ‘welcome’.

And so, for the days when the phone does not ring, my cell phone stays quiet, the doorbell does not go, I will still remember His faithfulness and His goodness.

The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, and I wish that you too, could know this love.  Wherever you are, whatever your circumstances, please know you are not alone, and I say this with all certainty.

 

Silence

Silence is like a chameleon.  It can be many different things, to many different people.  Silence can be a good and necessary thing, but it can also be a stumbling block.  A way of sending a mixed message and a cause for more angst.

Most of us crave some degree of silence to surround us from time to time.  When you have small children there is nothing sweeter than watching those children sleeping.  Quiet reigns.  For a time.  And it is a beautiful thing.

There are times in our lives when it is best to be silent.  When biting one’s tongue means that arguments are avoided.  Small mole hills are not made into mountains.  When it is more important for parents to show a united front before their children, than to discuss their different opinions and cause wavering thoughts.

Then there are times when it is necessary to speak up.  To end the silence.  To declare God’s truths.  To say it how it is.  No matter how much your voice quivers and squeaks.

No-one is ever remembered for what they stayed silent about.

Silence can convey indifference.

Loyalty is never silent.

People can’t know what we’re thinking, what we’re feeling, where we sit with things, unless we tell them.  Unless we break our silences.  We can’t be a good friend if we never communicate with our friends.  We can’t get past the fluff and nonsense if we never dig deeper in conversations and talk about real issues and real feelings and real life.

But how do we know when to be silent and when to clear our voices and declare our thoughts, loudly and clearly?

I’m the first to say I get it wrong sometimes.  I stay silent when I should talk.   I talk when I should stay silent.  But I’d rather try and mess up, and learn along the way than not have friends know how much I love and admire them, than not be able to share ideas on how to improve things usually from me learning things the hard way.  And I’m learning that it doesn’t matter that my knowledge on ‘stuff’ is limited, as long as I’m still learning and still trying.

What I do know is that I’m learning to be led by Him.  I’m learning to be led by the Holy Spirit, and the more I listen, the more I know when to speak up and when to be silent.

Silence can be so comforting and…..just so right.  When it is you and a dear friend, silence can be the greatest gift.  Silence with my husband is never awkward or wrong, but accepting and loving.  And silence can be frustrating and it can create anxious moments so very easily.  The difference is having peace.  The peace that passes all understanding, in being led by the one who is in control of the universe.  That’s my God.  That’s my King.

Wise and Harmless

Arrogant.

Alienating.

Assuming.

These are not very nice words associated with not very nice feelings.

These negative feelings can easily be put on, likes pieces of clothing, covering up our souls, bodies and spirits.  We can dress ourselves in these sad feelings as quickly as we can dress ourselves in the feelings of:

Humble and unconceited

Integrated and included

Thinking the best of and not jumping to conclusions

But here’s the thing.  I know which feelings I would rather clothe myself in.  Today and everyday.  And I know what feelings I would like my friends to be dressed in.

And I know my written words have the potential to dress people in feelings.

As corny as it sounds – I love all my friends. I really cherish friendships and I really value my non-Christian friendships as much as my Christian friends. BUT  I fear I clothe my non-Christian friends with my arrogance from time to time. I fear I throw ideas out there that alienate them and I fear these friends bear the brunt of a lot of my ill-assumed ideas.

Do you ever stop to think about what yours and my ‘Christianese’ does to our friends?

Our social media worlds filled with Christian-speak?

When you’ve been a Christian for a while you have certain things ingrained in you.  You think and speak certain things in a certain way because it is what you believe and what you can relate to and some of it is a direct result of the hand of God at work in your life.  Changing you.  Moulding you.  The master heart surgeon at work.

And this is good and this is right and we shouldn’t hide our lights.  For we may indeed be the only bible some people read.

But.

In this and through this, my words still need to bless others.  Not to assume superiority.

In this and through this, what needs to come first always to Christian and non-Christians are words that are loving, kind and thoughtful.

The gospel does offend people.  We are in a battle where people’s eyes and ears are blinded to the truth.  There will always be people in my life who don’t understand the way I think, and the way I live. I can be open and honest with my thoughts, beliefs and convictions – but I can do it with conscious thought as to not appear arrogant.  Not to alienate the minority of my non-Christian friends from my majority of Christian friends.  And not to assume that all my friends are on the same wave-length as me.

“Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.” – Matthew 10:16

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Ministry: A team thing

There are always pretty high stats floating around regarding the number of people that leave ministry, that leave their overseas mission field.

More than ever, I can see why.

Coming off the end of what’s been a particularly hard week, I can see why people leave ministry.  I’m not going to. Make that, we’re not going to.  I believe we are called to what we’re doing and God is firmly in control and that trials come and go, but I can see why people leave.

Chances are if you’re reading this you are possibly involved in a local church.  You will surely have friends and acquaintances serving in countries and places other than where you are currently planted. You may even be in an overseas mission field yourself. Or you may even have missionaries of sorts in your own neighborhood.

There are plenty of things that YOU can do to make life a lot easier for your friends in ministry.  Things that don’t just happen unless people think and then do……

Ministry needs to be a team thing….here are some pointers I’ve learnt along the way…some happened for us naturally and easily….others have been harder…but ALL are appreciated.  More than anything it is the people who can make a difference, for good, for people in ministry.

*  Pray. Pray.  Pray

*  Ask how your friends are doing.  Whether you are asking via email, skype, phone call or face to face.  Ask direct and pointed questions to get a good idea as to how they are doing in every area of their lives.  Don’t just presume.  (I wonder if I would had settled in a bit easier and quicker if I had people in my life actually ask me how I was finding things. I’m a private person and don’t talk about myself unless I am asked….maybe your friends are the same).

*  Give invitations to your friends in ministry around you, to include them for major holidays.  Push them to accept.  Holidays are the absolute worst to spend alone – without family around you – when it feels like everyone else is with loved ones.  (Word the invitations with a considerable amount of sincerity….nothing worse than it coming across like a token gesture).

*  Do what you can to be adoptive grandparents/ aunties/ uncles.  One of our friends here has really stepped up and been that person for us.  ‘Grandma Sue’ has been to watch basketball games, soccer games, has invited us into her home for Christmas and Thanksgiving and various barbecues as well as taken time off work to come to things like Luka’s Kindergarten graduation.  This has meant so much to us.  So much.

*  Be a free babysitter for your friends.  This matters.  If your friends are in ministry then nine times out of ten they are on a tight budget……the thought of some time out is appealing but the additional cost of a babysitter just pushes it into the too hard basket.  And ministry can cause enormous stress on a marriage.  Give your friends the gift of time.  Push them to accept it.

*  Communicate.  Write letters.  Write emails.  Skype.  Call on the phone.  Even with different time zones make it happen.  Show your friends you care and they are not forgotten.  It may seem like their ‘new’ lives are rich and full….but they still long for real friendships, the kind that has a history.  The kind where you can just pick up where you last left off, so very easily.

*  Provide news from home for those absent friends.  Keep them in the loop with what’s happening with mutual friends.  Most friends will be returning to their past ‘life’ at some point or another so this is important for them to know what is happening in their absence.

*  Seek to give pure, lovely and genuine encouragement.  Whether it is to your friends who are away from you, or your new friends in ministry beside you.  You never know how far that simple word of encouragement will go – you never know the depth of their honesickness or struggles on that particular day.

* Pray, pray, pray for them.  Know their prayer needs – by asking direct questions again.  Cover them in prayer.  Be aware of high pressure times for these friends of yours.  For us whenever Michael’s work does an appeal for more financial support, things happen to us.  Every time.  Without fail.  Usually it has been the kids getting sick and because Michael is working long hours, it has been me looking after sick kids for long hours by myself.  Now I know we need specific prayer covering at these times and I seek out people to pray for us.

You know maybe if we treated each other a little better, and were more aware of people’s needs a bit better, then maybe people in ministry wouldn’t get so burnt out.  They would feel more appreciated and supported in what they’re all doing.  We’re all part of one body.  Let’s help each other function as best we can.

‘For just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts, according to the grace given to each of us. If your gift is prophesying, then prophesy in accordance with your faith; if it is serving, then serve; if it is teaching, then teach; if it is to encourage, then give encouragement; if it is giving, then give generously; if it is to lead, do it diligently; if it is to show mercy, do it cheerfully.’

– Romans 12

God wants us to take His love and mercy to the ends of the earth.  Let’s help each other do the best we can, with what we are each called to do.  Hand in hand.

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The No Contact Zone

I try to keep in touch with the news that comes out of New Zealand, my home country.  This week there was a news article about how an international fast food chain is going to be trialing a kiosk system for ordering meals on-site.  So you rock on in, into the restaurant, stand at a self-service kiosk and order your meal at a computer, then you pick it up from a counter when it is ready.

My ten year old thinks it sounds ‘way cool’.

I’m glad he has an opinion, but I don’t join him in his delight.

Think about it – you can now go throughout a whole day very easily without contact with anyone, should you choose.  We live in an age of internet or phone banking, you can send messages via email to your kids’ schools, you don’t have to leave your home to rent movies, you can have food and drink delivered to your home – or – now order through a kiosk and not have to talk to a soul, at all.

While there is a lot of convenience in all of this, how much good does it really do us? Don’t we need connections with people?  Yes, everyday connections.

How did we get to this point?

About eighteen months ago one of my neighbours dropped in to see me, and dropped on me the bombshell that she and her husband were separating and that all manner of nasty things had been going down.  Suzanne had only been in my house about twice before.  I hardly knew her, yet here she was spilling her guts to me.

I had never before felt so out of my depth.

Here is a lady, at least twenty years my senior and she’s confiding in me, nearly a stranger to her.

After some prodding it soon became quite obvious that she really didn’t have many people in her life to talk to.  No girlfriends.  No mentors. No nothing.

This really shook me, to the core.

How did we get to this point?

Last night I was at a planning meeting for the Mother’s group I am a part of.  We’re re-structuring it and implementing quite a few changes.  One of the things we’re doing is putting ‘table leaders’ in position and part of these ‘table leaders’ jobs is to call their ladies, about six of them in total, once every two weeks.  That’s the minimum requirement.  And would you believe how hard it is to get women to commit to doing this?  To commit to helping build community…..to commit to actually keeping in touch with each other and being a friendly and sincere voice at the end of the phone.  To commit to caring. It’s hard.

How did we get to this point?

I don’t know how we got to this point.  I don’t know why people don’t want to reach each other and be a friendly face.  I don’t know why neighbours don’t know each other.  I don’t know why or when this no contact zone became so popular and accepted.

But I do know this.  And I know it with all my being, that people don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

We’ve got to change a few things.  We must be the church with hands, feet and a voice.

It starts with me.  And it starts with you.  The no contact zone has got to go.

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