Words are powerful. Yeah, yeah. Who rolled their eyes a that opening statement or decided to check out of this post? Go ahead, it's okay to be honest. I prefer it. Hit the delete key if you want, but this issue is bigger than many of us -- okay, you can insert my name there -- want to admit. We (I) have a tough time getting some things through our (my) thick skull. In my book Igniting Embers, the heroine is worried about the incoming hurricane. She repeats phrases from Scripture to remind herself Who she belongs to: The Lord is my Shepherd, my Rock and my Fortress. Other than a quick pick-me-up or feel good moment, does this practice of positive self-talk really do any good? How do the words you choose affect your behavior?
Once upon a time, there lived a great truth-teller. Have you heard this one? Growing up, I loved story. I would read all kinds of things, but I was particularly drawn to fiction. Books like Green Eggs and Ham and To Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street captured my young imagination long after I'd put the book down. Some book lovers are die-hard fiction fans. Others are solidly non-fiction only readers. But both have value. Non-fiction relates through logic. It involves the brain and invites the reader to follow a path of argument or assumptions. It blatantly challenges us to learn and to change. Its value is easy to see. But fiction? Don't discount it so quickly. Even books written for pure entertainment can teach you something that you may not easily learn any other way.
My heart sank as I sat across a coffee shop table listening to a friend talk about her latest experience with church. Another set of flawed humans casting judgment based on another set of human traditions, and my friend was found wanting. In my travels all over America, I've seen a lot. Words casually used in one state are curse words in another. Different places have different rules for dancing, drinking, and playing card games. Even blue jeans or simple pants can cause a stir. While many Christians will readily admit that these kinds of topics are not critical elements of salvation, we can't blindly ignore them altogether. They cause problems among us, so we must wrestle with what the Bible says.
I have skeletons. I don't specifically talk about a lot of them, but it's not because they are hidden away in the proverbial closet. When God brings a lady to me that would benefit from hearing part of my story, I openly share those moments when life sucker punched me or I chose to act in a way that wasn't God's best. This is not something that came easily to me, and truthfully I still hesitate before I confess my failures and shortcomings. No one likes to look foolish. None of us wants to be thought of as less than. And I certainly don't jump at the chance to admit how out of control I sometimes get. So, what is the point of sharing? And how can we do so in a manner that glorifies God even when the choices we made do not?
A popular notion is finding its way around Christian circles today. Perhaps you've heard it or even said it. It sounds good, so maybe you've put faith in it. It goes something like this: Everyone needs a Timothy, and everyone needs a Paul. If you know anything about these two men from the New Testament, this sounds good on the surface. But something about it has always bothered me. I didn't realize what it was until my daughter came home from her small group recently. They've been reading a book together, and this concept came up. In our discussion about it, I realized that she was troubled by the exact same part that bugs me. And that sent me into prayer and deeper study, wondering as always: Is this popular notion biblical?
Many years ago, I took a broad stroke writing course that briefly talked about the various forms of writing: fiction and nonfiction, newspaper articles, screenwriting, and more. As part of this class, I had to do a couple of lessons on children's books. Not my thing. Well, that's not exactly true. I love to read children's books. When my kids were little, we'd visit the library almost every week, and we frequently walked out with thirty or more books between the four of us. The stories we read were fun. Poignant. The characters were sweet. Daring. Hilarious. But to combine character development and plot lines into a story that was largely communicated through pictures and keep it under 1,000 words (shorter than many of my blog posts) — that was not my kind of writing. However, a seed was planted in those writing lessons that wouldn't let go.
Nine years, nine months, and five days. That’s how long my husband logged in as an active-duty airman before his medical retirement. Nine years, nine months, and five days of all the uncertainty and fluctuations that military life brings. And then a fresh uncertainty took hold: Medical Retirement. We could move wherever we wanted to move, but we would have to do it ourselves or pay someone to do it. We could pick whatever job we wanted to go after, at least as soon as our DD Form 214 was in hand. Military service and medical retirement gave my husband an advantage in the hiring process for federal jobs, but did we really want to stay tied to the Department of Defense? Health insurance. Survivor benefits. Life insurance. Commissary and exchange privileges. GI Bill benefits. We had so many new rules to learn. Job-search strategies. Resume writing. Interview protocols. Salary negotiation. My husband had so many new skills to gain. When retirement looms, where do you start?
Whether we like it or not, God made us for relationship: with Him and with each other. If you’ve been hurt by others or are introverted and shy, you probably don’t like that God expects us to broaden our friendships outside the front doors of our comfort zones. That’s okay. I didn’t much like it either when I started figuring it out. Most people these days tend toward self-sufficiency, and we like to reinforce that with pop psychology. Pull yourself up by your bootstraps. Put on your big-girl panties. God helps those who help themselves. Common mantras, but is that really what the Bible teaches?
If you could do anything, what would it be? Don't stop to think about money or time or health that might limit you. Just dream, and dream big! What would make your bucket list of long-term goals? Tour a famous city? Give large sums of money to causes you care about? Climb a mountain or bike a historical trail? Sleep in a tree house? Or an underwater hotel? Complete a marathon? Pet a penguin (yes, that really is a top bucket list choice!) What came to your mind as you considered the possibilities?
This month marks the two-year point. In June 2015, we moved from Virginia to our current home in North Carolina. Since I married my husband in 1996, we've moved a lot. Two and a half years in one house is about our limit before we're packing up and changing residences. I can't tell you how many times we started the school year by learning our address, or how many times I looked at whichever kid was in the ten-to-thirteen-year range and asking them if they knew our home phone number. Thank goodness for cell phones where your number doesn't change with every move! For the first time in my marriage, after two years in the same place, we are not facing the chore of packing up our entire house. No, instead we are facing the much bigger task of watching our oldest pack up everything she owns and moving across the country without us.