Thoughts from an Ordinary Guy

This journey through life is never boring......

Month: December 2015

Jesus, Ann Voskamp and Bob Goff

I think it’s safe to say that this is a start to a New Year where relatively few people said, “wow, this past year was awesome.”    Yeah, there were some, but let’s face it, it’s been a tough year.

A tough year internationally – politically, militarily, religiously, from a refugee standpoint, from a violence standpoint.    It’s been tough.

It’s been a tough year domestically – a lot of struggles politically – a lot of things that are happening that many people don’t agree with.    Laws that are being passed, laws that some people feel shouldn’t be passed are and the opposite.   There are people running for President who, well let’s just say that my brother was in Ireland and one of the native Irish asked him,  “So what do you think of this Donald Trump fellow?”   Upon hearing that most Americans don’t think the way he talks, the response was, “Well, that’s good to hear, we were worried about you.”

And it’s been a tough year at home.    All one has to do is look up and down the rows at church or around your neighborhood and you can see pain.   She’s a single mom trying to do two parenting jobs at once.   They lost their first grandpa this year.   He struggles with…….   The list goes on and on.

2015 hasn’t been a good year in many ways.

And many people try to end a year and start a new year with a long list of resolutions of things that they are going to change.   It’s going to be better next year because I’m going to……

  • Lose 20 lbs.
  • Exercise 5 days a week.
  • Go…….

Well, you get the idea.   And rarely do those work and last beyond maybe the first of February.

I’ve read and heard a number of articles lately that have encouraged me to think differently this year (because that’s the way I used to think as well.)  Who are those people?   Ann Voskamp, Bob Goff, Chris Marlow, Jen Hatmaker and Ann Lamott to name a few…….

To paraphrase and combine what all of them have said, I’m going to attempt this year (and I’d encourage you to as well) to put all of those New Years Resolutions into two main, as Ann Voskamp says, Re-Soulutions.

Re-Soul – Love God and listen to him more.   This involves less noise, less me and more Him.   Oh and when you or I listen to God, we should also do what He says.

Remember what Bob Goff said and the title of his book?  “Love Does.”  Live your life with more love.  Live your life with the knowledge that there are many around you who are hurting, who are feeling alone, who are struggling.   Be the hands and feet of Jesus to those people.   Oh and because of the internet, those neighbors often right next door but they are also spread all over the world.

Love God and Listen to Him More.  And do what He says.

Love Others.

Try it this year.   I’m going to.

Tom

Crock Pots and Contemplation

So, yesterday, I told you how one of our pastors preached on Mary and Martha’s story and how God uses Crock Pots and not microwaves.  

Part of that crock pot mentality requires that we spend more time thinking and looking and waiting for God and less time being too busy.

This morning, even before the usual “morning fog” (in my head, not outside) cleared, this song was playing on my internal iTunes.     Why did God plant it there?   We haven’t sang this song in church for a number of weeks.    I don’t know.

But listen to the words – it is the type of action that God is calling us to be and do……

“From my heart to the heavens, Jesus be the center.   It’s all about you.”

Israel & New Breed Jesus At the Center Performance Video from Jeferson Gomes on Vimeo.

Listen to it.   All of it.   As it washes over you, ask yourself, am I really letting Jesus be the center?

What would this world be like if more of us really truly let Jesus be the center?

What would my life be like if I let Jesus be the center of it all?

What would our churches be like if we spent time every Sunday and every day thinking and talking about what it really means to make Jesus the center?

The center of how we live with our family.

The center of how we react to things on social media.

The center of how we judge who we are going to support in presidential races.

The center of how we treat those who look different and maybe believe differently than we do.

The center of how we wrestle with the need for security along with the pressing needs of millions in Syria and Greece.

From my heart to the heavens, Jesus be the center, because it’s all about you, yes it’s all about you.”

Tom

God and Crockpots

No, that’s not a typo.   Usually you’d read that as God and  cracked pots.    As in, God uses people who are broken, people who struggle, people who don’t have it all together.   Imperfect people.

People like you.

People like me.

But this isn’t about that.   This is about crockpots.   You know what crockpots are, right?

They are the cooking instruments where it takes 4 to 8 hours or more to cook something.    You don’t order drive through for crock pot food.    You plan it ahead and you wait.

And while you wait and while it cooks, you enjoy the smells and the flavors.   It permeates the house and when you walk in the door, you immediately smell it,  “Hmmm, that’s good…….”

Yesterday, one of our pastors preached on the story of Mary and Martha – and how Mary was sitting at the feet of Jesus absorbing every word and soaking in the presence and the good of being with Jesus.    Martha was in the kitchen doing good – but being too busy and missing out on the presence of Jesus.

That’s when he said it – “God’s not in the microwave business, He’s in the crock pot business.”   

God isn’t in the business of providing answers in 30 seconds on high or 1 minute and 45 seconds if it’s on defrost.

God isn’t in the business of “zapping” something so that the solution is immediately present.

God’s in the crock pot business.

His answers move slowly.   Many times much more slowly than we would like.  

His answers need to marinate and to permeate every inch of our hearts, our souls and our lives.

His answers take time.   Time that if you are too busy you will miss.

Time that if you are too busy trying to microwave and go off running in another direction, you’ll miss his dinner.

Yeah, you’ll still get your food, you’ll still get your needs met but rather than sitting down to a lavish meal that has satisfied not only your hunger but also your taste buds and your desire for pleasing aromas, tasty  nutrition and a chance to sit around the table and share your day with those close to you.

Crockpots give a more full, a more pleasing and more enriching meal that microwaves typically do.   Allowing God the time and spending the effort and the patience to contemplate what God wants, to be open to his moving and to be silent enough to hear His call raises faith and makes for a deeper and more soul satisfying relationship with God.

Too often, we live in a microwave society with a desire for a microwaveable faith.   May we all learn to seek out the crockpot moments, the opportunities to be still and know that God is God.

I want to take that one step further and address something that I know many of us are struggling with.    There appears to be so much bad stuff happening in the world right now – Paris, San Bernardino,  ISIS, Boko Haram, racist thoughts and actions that are on the rise, tensions between the police and citizens, battles between gun  control lobbyists and 2nd Amendment supporters – the list could go on and on.

There’s really not a lot to be happy about in the world situation.    It’s even making it that Facebook isn’t a fun place to be nearly as much as it used to be!  

Many people are wrestling with where God is in all of this evil and darkness.    I think that the story of Mary and Martha in Luke 10 illustrates where God is.

God is here.  

God is working.

God has a plan.

But it’s His plan, not our plan.

and quite often God works his plans at crock-pot speed when we want the problems solved at microwave speed.

May we all learn to appreciate God’s crock pot and to savor and contemplate Jesus and what He is doing.

Tom

A Sad Happy

Last week was a hard week. 

For many people.

For many communities.

For many families.

Violence ruined lives and crushed families.

Hope was lost and sadness took over.

Teenagers faced the loss of a classmate – at her own hands.

Why?

Why God?

And right before Christmas!?!

Why are things so ugly right now?   Why can’t we just enjoy the waiting for Christ?

Enjoy the time of Advent?

Enjoy the family time?   The church services that lift us with joy?

Because this is not our home.

This is not where we belong.

This is a sad and imperfect world.

A sin filled world.   A violence filled world.   An anger filled world.  

I shared a story on Facebook that a black art professor told of his encounter with the police.    Bam! Anger, frustration, discontent and racism blow up all over in reaction to his telling his perception of what happened to him.  

Christmas has the potential of being something extra special this year.   In a year and a week and a month filled with hate, violence and discontent, Jesus comes and shares light and love.

In a year filled with terror, Jesus comes and says, “Peace.”

In a year filled with sadness and heartbreak, Jesus weeps with his people.

In a year and a week and a month filled with so much anger, so much violence, so much political stupidity, we have the opportunity to be God’s light.

To spread the news.

To be the shepherds and share the good news that even in the violence and the sadness and the anger, God is.

God is.

God is coming.

God is here.

May we cling to that fact even when others try to sabotage that joy, sabotage that happy.

They can’t touch my Jesus and even through the tears, they can’t touch the joy of knowing Christ is coming.

Christ is here.

TJV

Therapist Thoughts

From Carissa Woodwyk about the long term issues adult  adoptees face (originally posted on Facebook)……

i think today is the end of “national adoption month,” right? well, i might just have a final “thought” from a conversation today (but you know that i will have many more thoughts because i always have thoughts, right?)


think about the ADULT adoptees you know – maybe it’s a personal friend or family member or someone you follow on social media. i’m gonna guess that MOST (not every) would say, if they could articulate it, that they long so deeply to feel loved. like totally and utterly loved. and i wonder, if for many, that means feeling KNOWN and WANTED and ENOUGH by and for others. (and by “known” i mean have what’s INSIDE them be known, not having someone know what they’re “doing” or “act like.” those are two very different things.)


and today, i was struck with this in a different way than before…


the very FIRST thing parents do when a woman is pregnant is TOUCH – he and/or she TOUCH the tummy, the baby bump, that shelters and covers the life growing inside – a lot. we rub and push on and massage and hold and tuck our knees up close to the place that is nurturing the sweet baby.


and then, when the baby is born, our immediate instinct is to hold that baby – skin on skin, as tightly and sweetly and tenderly as possible. we look into her/his eyes and something about the touch and feel and smell of that life makes our hearts melt and soar all at the same time.


i wonder what it’s like for that little baby to experience all of that. i’m gonna guess that babies love that, need that, crave that.


and then i wonder what it was like for me NOT to experience all of that. i wonder what it was like for ALL the babies who did NOT and do NOT experience all of that.


when you’re lying in a crib in a room full of babies, there’s no touch.


when you’re in an institution with dozens or hundreds of other children, there’s not as much touch.


if in the beginning, touch = love, then what does that do to our understanding of love?


and then…


(totally transitioning here)


when you’re raised in a “conservative” christian home by “conservative” christian parents who are taught by a “conservative” christian theology and were surrounded by a “conservative” christian culture, i’m guessing that many children would say, “i KNOW my parents love me,” but if you followed that with the question of, “HOW did you know they loved you”? i think they would have a hard time answering. i’m guessing that (maybe) punishment instead of discipline was often used, that shame instead of connection/correction was used, that the focus was on behavior and not the heart, that holy was preached more often than wholeness.


but, i’m just guessing.


i’m guessing because almost EVERY SINGLE adult i meet with who grew up in a “christian” home, describes their upbringing in very similar ways.


YES, they were raised in homes where their parent(s) – for the most part – PROVIDED and PROTECTED and maybe even PLAYED with them as children. but were they known? did they FEEL known? did they not only KNOW, but also believe that they were LOVABLE – no matter what they said or did? did they feel NEEDED? did they feel WANTED?


and now add the impact of the MISSING layer (for some) – the layer where the very first way parents/caretakers show their LOVE to a child is by touching them, holding them – a lot.


oh, my heart. sometimes my heart can’t handle all of that – for myself, for others. i think that’s one of the reasons why i get tears when i speak in front of adoption groups – i feel all the weight of those babies and the impact of what they didn’t receive, in the beginning. and, that is NOT to dismiss what they DID receive. i know so many of you quickly respond to me with, “but my baby had a great caretaker in the orphanage or foster home!” yes! celebrate that. hold that. AND, hold the impact of what didn’t happen. #bothand


i guess when i read adult adoptees’ posts and blogs, it doesn’t surprise me how much they are emoting online, in public. sometimes i wonder if they’re desperate to feel heard, to feel known. to feel loved. and i get why.


i guess when i hear adult adopted clients tell me that they don’t believe or struggle believing that they are lovable and don’t always deserve love and that they still swim in shame and fear and guilt, it doesn’t surprise me. i get it.


when they tell me that they don’t feel loved and that they’re not good at loving, it doesn’t surprise me. i get it.


and then when they tell me how difficult it is to have lasting relationships – that they have this realization that no one’s doing a perfect job loving them which leads to the feeling of being desperate for love and to know they’re lovable which leads them to demanding others to love them perfectly which leads to distance and disconnection which leads to loneliness.


which can lead to desperation.


and then we have the choice…to flee or to feel.


and if we flee, we’re gonna find something or someone to make us feel good. our brains and body can’t hold all of that.


but if we feel and own our story and allow our story to be true, it can lead us back to LIFE. we may actually find ourselves for the first time.


and then healing.


and transformation.


and then lots and lots of practice.


which leads to HOPE – a word that means that tomorrow can be better than today.


which leads to the truth that the degree to which we know and believe that we are lovable is directly related to the degree to which we have the ability to love others well.


and as WE change, our relationships will change.


which leads to a better tomorrow.


hmmm…i bet you don’t have to be an adopted to person to get all of this.


advent = HOPE


much much grace.

and even more HOPE this advent season.


#therapistthoughts

#weneedoneanother