Thursday, September 27, 2012

The Camera That Reveals More

We attended a beautiful wedding last weekend in Connecticut. Beautiful weather, beautiful chapel, beautiful bride and groom, beautiful guests.

Obvious response to such a setting - photos, lots of photos trying to capture the moments that were fleeing quickly.

Many of the guests had their smart phones in camera mode. Including me. One feature that I love about my phone is that I can snap a shot of what I see in front of me:

and with the touch of a button, I can reverse the lens and take a picture of myself (hopefully accompanied by a friend!)

Which causes me to ponder:

In my life, I observe a situation through the lens of my eyes. The picture I see "is what it is." My observations, judgements and conclusions have absolutely no affect on the picture I see.

But ... at the same time, there is always this "invisible camera" with the lens reversed - looking at me! It reveals a lot about who I am by how I respond.

Stepping into the "picture" of the wedding was easy. In that setting, I witnessed amazing love and joy. But what about those other messy, difficult, dark, draining "pictures" I encounter? What about the "pictures" of loneliness, pain and disappointment? It would be so much easier to look away (and regretfully, I've done that!). But what does that reveal about myself?

Standing outside, observing and judging = no power to help others. No transformation. No display of love. No growth. It's just a snapshot in my mind.
Stepping into the picture = Unlimited possibilities to make a difference. A display of courage or compassion. Justice for the oppressed. Hope. Healing. Growth.

I believe God often opens our eyes to see circumstances with a desire that we step into the picture. Why do I hold this belief? Because that is exactly what Jesus did. He left His throne and stepped into this messy, broken world to save us from disaster. He came to offer redemption. And I am supposed to have the same attitude.

"Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be grasped,
but made himself nothing,
taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself and became obedient to death-even death on a cross!"  Philippians 2:5-8

And I am so thankful for that good news!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Rumors spread quickly about this professor!

Rumors spread quickly about this college professor. Freshmen were advised that if they wanted favor in her psychology class, they would be wise to remember two things: 1) Never wear yellow! The explanation given was that she hated mustard and the color of yellow reminded her of that condiment. Crazy story! But I didn't have a problem with eliminating yellow from my wardrobe, just in case. After all, it wasn't my favorite color either.

And 2) her favorite teaching quote was, "To be mentally healthy, one must feel needed, necessary, imported, accepted, loved and understood." Instructions from knowledgeable upper classmen were, "On any given exam, if you did not know the answer to a question, somehow use this quote." Since all exams were essay, I used this line on more than one occasion. So much so, that is in ingrained in my memory bank.

Now, thirty years later, I find myself pondering this teaching. My thoughts:

1) Love should have been number one on her list. In fact, real love includes every other thing on her list ... and so much more.

2) That being established, if a list is required, then I could add to her list. I could add chosen, connected, included and appreciated.

3) Aren't the words needed and necessary synonyms? Why did she include both words on this list?
    The truth is, regardless of "feelings," we are necessary in God's economy. He created us with a plan for our lives and as long as we are breathing, He still has a plan for us.

4) "Important" ... what did she mean by that? Important to whom? Ourselves? Others? Mankind, in general? The truth is we have great value in just who we are ... not because of what we can do or will do. We are important because we were created in the Creator's image. We are important because we were created to know Him intimately.

5) "Accepted". Check! Through Jesus, we are accepted. We are accepted by the King of all kings, the Lord of all. In fact, we are adopted into God's family as His precious, beloved children. Does it get any better than that?

6) "Understood". Oh, we have One that totally understands. Jesus understands. He walked this earth with all of the trials and temptations that come with life. He wept on more than one occasion. He was betrayed by His closest friends. He was disappointed. He had no home. He was mocked and ridiculed. He was falsely accused. He was misunderstood.

7) And that brings me back to "love". God first loved us. Oh, how He loves us. "God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8). He loved us so much that ...
Yes, God has already shown us how much we are loved and he showed us at a great price.

Hmmm, if I could just remember that professors name ... I want to tell her that while I agree with her statement on one level, I have learned that I will never find fulfillment, contentment and peace that totally satisfy because other people make me "feel" good about myself. But I do find great joy in knowing that God tells me that through Jesus Christ, I am needed, necessary, important, accepted, loved and understood.

Oh...In case you were wondering, I made an "A" in that class!

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I am an aunt!

Question we asked: "How can we help?"
Warning: Do not ask this question unless you really want to know!

Answer: "You can de-lice  a dorm of about 100 little girls."

Response (among ourselves): "Wow! Ok ... how are we going to make this fun for little girls (and for us)? How can we make certain the little girls know they are honored and loved through this process?"

Someone in our group of 25 women came us with the idea of "playing beauty shop" with our "soon to be new friends" in Guatemala. So off we went for a crash course on cutting hair.

A week later, we arrived at Casa Aleluya equipped with scissors, capes and smiles that were masking our total lack of confidence. Actually, it turned out to be a very sweet time.

While the girls were attending school, we tackled one dorm room at a time. We washed sheets and treated hundreds of stuffed animals. We prayed over each bed as we lovingly remade them.

When the girls returned, we washed and carefully combed through their hair, on a mission to find each and every louse (singular tense ... and appropriate word) and nit (lice egg). We offered our new found "expertise" in hair cutting. A few girls cried because we cut more hair than they expected but many girls returned for a second trim. Really, I think they all just wanted a little more attention. Maybe that is because our team would "ooh" and "ahhh" over each one of our "masterpieces."

The beauty of that entire experience was that every little girl was noticed, touched, praised and prayed over - even the ones who were so shy they never would have sought our company otherwise.

Yes, we loved those girls for 5 glorious days. Then ... Thursday evening arrived and they realized we were leaving the next day. The sniffling began, tears followed and soon the room became a chorus of deep sobs. My heart began breaking. I lashed out to the One who was closest to me as I silently screamed, "God, how is this good for these little girls? You sent us here to love them and we did what You said to do. And now we are going to leave them! How is this good?"

Almost immediately I knew the answer. It was as if God whispered to my soul, "It doesn't have to be that way. You can be the "aunt." You can be the "grandmother" who returns each year for a visit with her family...and don't forget, I am always here!" I pondered ... that is how it often is in families. Beloved relatives arrive, spend time loving one another and then return home. Tears are shed but there is always the hope they will return for another visit, another time.

"Yes, God, I can do that."

Oh, and I have been back - every year for ten years - to visit my Guatemalan family.

We were created for relationship, first with our Creator and then with one another. Whether in another country or right down the street, we are told to love one another ... and love well.

I met a new friend today and she reminded me of my story as she told me hers. And so I felt compelled to record it ... lest it slip to the back of my mind again.