Category Archives: Community

Life is Full of Detours

Hagar: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me by Shadia Hrichi

Hagar: Rediscovering the God Who Sees Me by Shadia Hrichi

Do you ever wonder what God is doing in your life? You head in one direction and end up taking a detour to somewhere else. That’s sure been my story for the past year. More about that in another post…

My friend, Shadia Hrichi, is publishing a Bible study on Hagar that looks wonderful. (BTW, have you ever seen a Bible study on Hagar? Shadia is working on a series on the often-overlooked people in the Bible. I love that concept!)

Today on her blog she revealed a portion of the first chapter, titled “Life is Full of Detours.” I loved this paragraph:

After Abraham and Sarah left Egypt, taking hordes of animals and slaves with them, they traveled right back to where they started. Could it be that God was watching over Hagar and that He decided to remove her from Egypt and its pagan gods? Might He have orchestrated this little detour into Egypt  — not because God needed to send Abraham and Sarah in  — but because God desired to bring Hagar out?

Wow! She calls this “God at work behind the seen.” I love it. It makes me wonder what God is doing “behind the seen” in my life. And yours.

 

Fiction Friday! Beauty for Ashes

Beauty for Ashes (The Isaiah Cadre) by Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus

How do you maintain your faith in times of unexpected trouble or trauma? Especially when it hits you out of nowhere. And what if the trauma has long-lasting effects—perhaps for the rest of your life? Would you still be able to trust God?

Beauty For Ashes: Isaiah Cadre, Book 1 (Isaiah Cadre Series) is the first of a series by my friend, Alyce-Kay Ruckelshaus. It chronicles the story of Kelly, a student at Westmont College in Santa Barbara in 1981. She is an MK (missionary kid) and in love with Matt, a PK (preacher’s kid). She is also part of the Isaiah Cadre, a group of dorm mates who have committed themselves to God and one another.

The book starts off a little slowly, but sets the stage well for an idyllic college experience, deep friendships, and young romance. It gives context that will be important later. And then the unthinkable happens and in a moment, Kelly’s world is shattered. Her faith is tested. Her love is tested. Even her friendships are tested.

The book offers a realistic portrayal of the way many people handle sudden trauma. It especially demonstrates how trauma affects a normally logical person, and how shame can distort one’s thinking.

I highly recommend this book. I loved it even though it’s not  my demographic. It’s well written, fast moving, and thoughtful. The author offers discussion questions for personal use or better yet, for a book group. Or even for a cadre. And best of all, it’s free on Kindle!

 

Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart

Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart by Steve Brown

Hidden Agenda: Dropping the Masks That Keep Us Apart by Steve Brown

You wear a mask. I wear a mask. We all wear masks. But it should not be so. And Steve Brown is determined that we know every possible way we adopt hidden agendas.

No one can argue with his premise. It’s human nature to hide our true selves. We fear authenticity. We may abhor phonies, but when it comes right down to it, we’re all about as phony as they come. And then we pretend no one notices.

Brown’s style pulls no punches. He’s clear, concise, and in your face. He writes with the humor of an excellent speaker, punctuating truth with a dash of absurdity. The book reads like a spoken sermon, laced with phrases cleverly turned and fingers pointed.

As well written as the book is, I found it rather tedious. It seemed that he made his point well in the first couple of chapters. Then he made it again and again and again. It reminded me of the speakers’ mantra: “Tell ‘em what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them.” Except that he put several more “tell them’s” in the middle.  And yet, perhaps this is a new concept to some readers. Perhaps some are blinded to their hidden agendas and need them pointed out in several different ways before they get it.

Brown redeemed himself in the last couple of chapters when brought it home and applied the concepts to the church where he advocates “a new kind of family.” The book includes discussion questions at the end of each chapter, making the book useful for small groups or personal journaling.

Addiction: A Thought for the Church

In all likelihood you have someone in your life with an addiction. Maybe even yourself. Addiction issues came to the forefront during my high school years in the 1960s, with the Viet Nam war, the war on drugs, and the Summer of Love. Drugs, alcohol, tobacco, eating disorders, gambling, internet, porn… the list has grown as we have become more aware.

Need a Hug?

Need a Hug?

But the common denominator, especially within the Church, has always been, “Addiction = weak person.” We look down on those who need a crutch to get by (because of course, we don’t need that crutch and let’s not talk about my crutch, ok?). We judge. We offer recovery programs to help those people. I know. I’ve been there…

So I was intrigued by an article entitled The Likely Cause of Addiction Has Been Discovered, and It Is Not What You Think.  Author Johann Hari offers another explanation, backed up with some fascinating research on both rats and humans. It’s a long read, but well worth the time. Bottom line, he says that both rats and humans need love and a stimulating environment. That the chemical addiction (and I would argue, non-chemical addiction) is less compelling than the loneliness, the boredom, the lack of connection. OK, that might be simplistic. But is it?

I’ve seen people with serious addictions heal rapidly when they finally understand God’s love and see it demonstrated in the people around them. That’s what did it for me. I called it a miraculous healing, but was it or was it that I was finally safe? Finally loved? Finally seen?

Sure, sometimes people need prayer, accountability, and discipleship. I certainly did. But is it those factors that change them or the fact that someone finally sees them for who God created them to be. That someone is bold enough to debunk the lies they have believed, often since childhood or even infancy. That someone is willing to speak Truth to their wounded spirits. Over and over, as needed. Is that why “hire a friend” (aka therapy) often makes a difference?

So what does that mean for the Church? For you and me? Maybe we need to judge less and love more. Criticize less and speak Truth more. Shun less and hang out more. We have the words of life, and we can share them, even with those struggling with addictions.

What do you think?

 

 

 

Senior Isolation: The Role of the Church

People often ask me why I don’t bring Mom over to my area rather than leaving her four hours away. There are many practical reasons, including family and cost, but her church is a large part of that decision.

The Church Is Essential in Combating Senior Isolation Edlerly Sunday school

The Church Is Essential in Combating Senior Isolation
Photo Credit: Jim Reynolds

I know that if Mom were here, she would suffer from isolation. My life is far too busy to provide what she needs on a day-to-day basis. However, she has been particularly blessed by her church, which knows how to do seniors well. They have an active seniors group and women’s Bible study, but more than that, there are a number of people who visit her regularly. Some of those are seniors younger than she is. Others from the Bible study are closer to my age. The combination means that she has visitors every week. Sometimes more than once a week. There are women who make sure she has a ride to Bible study and church on Sunday. When she was healthier there were some who made sure she had a ride to the weekly seniors’ luncheon.

I’m so impressed with their faithfulness. Mom has been in assisted living for more than two years and her church is still her lifeline. I don’t see a lot of that level of ministry, but I’m so glad they are there. It’s worth the inconvenience of driving four hours once a month to keep her close to her church.

What does your church do for seniors, especially the ones who are alone, isolated, and unable to drive? It’s something to think about…

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Senior Isolation: A Real Problem for the Elderly

Support Groups are a Lifeline!

Support Groups are Encouraging -- And Fun!

Support Groups are Encouraging — And Fun!
Photo Credit: TheArches

I attended my monthly Parkinson’s Disease Caregivers’ Support Group meeting yesterday. It’s a small group of very diverse people. All women at this point, although we did have a man in the group until his wife died. We share whatever is affecting each of us as we watch our husbands deteriorate under the plague of Parkinson’s and as we take on more and more of the household duties. What I see are several very tired, very overwhelmed heroines. But we listen, encourage, inform, and affirm one another. Each woman comes away knowing she isn’t alone and with a useful tidbit or two of new information as we each share what we’ve learned.

Last week I was at an event with several recent widows. They were each individually struggling with their new status. Missing their husbands. Grappling with complex household duties. Trying to redefine themselves into an unwanted identity. I couldn’t help but think about my support group and wish there were one for recent widows. There probably is. I just don’t know where it is.

If you’re facing a difficult situation, I strongly encourage you to find a support group. There is probably one near you. Check the Internet and perhaps local churches. If you can’t find an established group, gather two or three people in a similar situation and start one. You’ll learn as you go along. You’ll be glad you did.

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Living in the Present

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Becoming the Old Woman I Will Be |Watching my Attitude

 

Enjoying Life

Enjoying Life
Photo Credit: K. Kendall

How do you want to be remembered? Who are you becoming as you age? In my “career” as a caregiver, I’ve  met so many bitter old women and have determined I don’t want to be one. (Bitter that is, not old…)

I was thinking recently of Lila Lee, my mom’s best friend from childhood. She and Mom played together as children in Kansas and they remained best friends for over 80 years, even though they hadn’t lived near one another since high school. I only met Lila Lee a few times over the years, but each visit was a delight. A kindergarten teacher, she was single until her 40s. She wore brightly colored, flamboyant clothes and found joy in everything. She was fun.

In her last 20 years, she developed multiple sclerosis. She struggled on as long as she could, but for the last few years was bed ridden in a second floor condo. Her husband died in the next room and there was nothing she could do. She had caregivers who came in for a few hours per day. Otherwise, she was alone. And yet, she always had a positive outlook. Always had joy. Always was positive. Never complained, no matter how difficult her life was, no matter how much pain she was in.

When our son was married several years ago, we were able to take Mom for a visit to Lila Lee. We were happy to battle the southern California traffic to make sure they got time together. Because of her care constraints, they only had a couple of hours together, but they yakked non-stop, knowing it would be their last visit. I’m so glad we were able to give them that time together.

I’ve always admired Lila Lee’s joyful attitude in her good years and her bad years. So many older women facing such limitations whine and complain about their lot in life. They live in dread and misery, and make everyone around them miserable in the process. Not Lila Lee. She lived joyfully until the day she died.

While most people are governed by their feelings, the reality is, we can choose our behavior and our feelings will follow. Lila Lee pursued joy, trusted God, and found contentment in whatever circumstance she was in. One of my wise friends reminds me that we are now becoming the old women we will be. I want to follow Lila Lee’s example. I want to be a delightful old woman.

“Why Didn’t You Warn Me?” Turns Seven!

I’m so excited to share that my small group website, WhyDidntYouWarnMe?, linked to my book Why Didn’t You Warn Me? How to Deal with Challenging Group Members, turns seven on February 12. To celebrate, I’m giving away copies of my book, and also lowering the price of the book for the month of February. Please check out the blog for contest details and new pricing details.

Some of my new readers might not be familiar with this book. Why Didn’t You Warn Me? addresses 18 common problems that well-meaning people create in small groups and it give s you step-by-step suggestions for dealing with them with grace and sensitivity. It has provided a unique resource for small group leaders since 2007. If you aren’t familiar with it, check it out. I think you’ll like it.