Thankful for Technology

Yes, I have a website.  But I have not been posting as a priority.  It doesn’t come naturally.  This Baby Boomer has been a foreigner to technology; then a visitor. However, this week, I decided to emigrate to Techland.  I have arrived mentally. Too many ships are passing in the night.  I need to get on board.

But I fear becoming an addict;  on it all day.  It’s a definite draw.  When I’m on the technology I don’t need to look inside, connect with the whole person I’m in tech with, or be seen.   There’s something missing.

However, I’ve decided to focus more fully on the benefits.  Like Lyft and Uber.  My first experience was mind altering.  Pushed button. ‘Richard will be there in two minutes.’  Go.  Arrive. Click. Pay. Done.  Hmmm.  Somebody gets it with technology.

So here’s the plan.  Use what is good for you.  Face your fears and learn new skills and tips.  Don’t complain.  Get help.  Sounds a bit like recovery, indeed.  It’s time to grow.

Holding Your Family Together at the Table: Make Encouragement Rich!

Monday, July 6, 2015 is here!   I’m just about ready to teach the Parent Room this evening for our (venicechurch.org) VBS.  My topic is ‘How to Hold Your Family Together at the Table’.  Below is a list of questions and ideas for your table that go beyond the good, starter questions: ‘How was your day?’ and ‘What was today’s high and low point?’  What you discover can give you better understanding of your loved ones and ways to pray for them too.

The first list is adapted from Dee Brestin’s list in the book, ‘Come to Our Table’, edited by Anita Lustrea and Melinda Schmidt with Lori Neff.

  • What have you been thinking about a lot lately?
  • What observations can you make from today’s (chosen) proverb? (The bible has a book of proverbs by King Solomon.)
  • What is one thing you appreciate about the person on your right?
  • On Thanksgiving Day: What are you thankful for this year that you could not have been thankful for last year?
  • During Advent, share a Christmas song, line by line, and ask for observations.
  • I Spy!  Between Ash Wednesday and Easter, or any time, teach the children (and adults, for that matter) to try to ‘spy’ God during the week.  Try these four ways to ‘spy’ Him:  answered prayer, unusual circumstances or timing which made you suspect God at work, unexpected grace and God’s help to do His work in the world.

I also liked these questions more suited for adult relationships gleaned from http://www.thekitchn.com/10-questions-to-ask-your-partner-at-the-dinner-table-219337.

  1. If you were by yourself and could do anything you wanted for one day, what would you do?
  2. What is your most vivid childhood memory?
  3. If you could wake up tomorrow and have one new ability or talent, what would it be?
  4. What advice would you give your younger self?
  5. What do you hope people think when they think of you?
  6. If you have kids: What’s the most important thing you hope your kids take with them out into the world?
  7. Who has been kindest to you?
  8. If you could hold on to just one memory for the rest of your life, what would it be?
  9. When you imagine yourself at 80 years old, what do you see?
  10. What are you most grateful for?

Why not give them a try?  Probably good to use just one at a time, and expand the conversation depending what is said and how it goes, of course. And, if you’re willing and able, let me know how they serve your relationships with family, friends and guests at your table.  Thanks!

Holding Your Family Together at the Home Table: Encouragement

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On July 6, I’ll be teaching a Vacation Bible School Parent Room class on the value of using the home table to hold your family together.  In this entry, I’m sharing a couple of resources  amoung many that I’ll be sharing with the parents regarding ‘Encouragement’ at your home table.  So, here’s an encouragement for YOU:  go to thefamilydinnerproject.org to get wonderful science, communication ideas, recipes and tools for establishing and enhancing your family table.

Though a good jumping off point, let’s go beyond or go deeper with sharing our days ‘highs and lows’ at the table.  How can we further encourage our family members with connection, confidence and communication?  Here are some things to try.

1.  Observe your family members when they arrive home.  Are they tired, excited, depressed, jumping to share or something else?  That will help determine how they might connect and communicate with you.  Let them know that you are interested in them and their day, but will give them room to communicate when they are willing and able to.  It’s okay to have a quiet meal together.

2.  Instead of asking ‘How was your day?’ be specific.  For example, ‘How did it go with the conversation you planned to have with the teacher about the time line of your science project? Or, ‘Did you to sit with Maria at lunch today? How did that go?’

3. Think about asking the family member if they would like feedback to what they share or just listening?  Then do that!

4.  Talk about things other than school, work and problems: an interesting article you read, a TV show they like, a game they played in Sunday school.

5.   Do not use negative responses, comments and impatient commentaries (e.g. ‘Well, it’s about time you answered!’).  Fortify and encourage:  (e.g. ‘Sounds like you handled that situation better than you expected!  I knew you could do it!)

6.  Practice finding ways to use positive words authentically that build confidence:  smart, better, great, capable, for example.

7.  Do NOT tease, mock, use sarcasm or taunt. These are negative and degrading and cut off safe communication and trust (even if people say ‘Just kidding’.)  Also, have the confidence to encourage.  It may be new to you and your family.

Now, come up with ways of your own.  To help, think about what you would like said to YOU at the table in your home to encourage you!

P.S. (The picture at the beginning is a reminder that encouragement is for family AND friends!)

The Church Analogy

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The Choir Analogy

I’ve been in a choir two other times; once for a few weeks as an adult and in fourth grade for probably one holiday. So I haven’t thought much about what it means to be in a choir.  I joined our choir because I believe all art forms are to express God’s glory. And I like to support Patty (the Choir Director) and her Christ centered creative endeavors. I like to sing.  I wanted to grow.

I was quickly met by unexpected surprises as the choir came to life.  The idea that came to mind encapsulating my discoveries was how like a tiny church the choir is.  It’s a church analogy come to life.

When you join a church or a choir, you join a group that, ideally, comes together to worship and express love for Christ and each other.  You grow into what Christ wants you to be and do in the world: at church through the Pastor and the word of God;  in the choir through the Director and the biblical truths noted in the music.

The people in church have expectations of each other.  So do the choir members. Both groups do best when they keep their eyes on Jesus, through the Pastor or Choir Director, respectively, in the preaching and conducting.

Now, let’s say a choir member misses a note. Much of the time an honest, kindly reminder, correction, and a good model can bring them back, best when done by the Choir Director. This is a kind analogy regarding sin.  Let’s say a congregant sins.  Can a kind reminder, correction, good model bring them back?  Are we supplying that? Are we keeping our eyes on Jesus when we do?

The choir challenged me personally, artistically and worshipfully.  First I was surprised at my terror and deep discomfort at not ‘getting it’ faster than I did.  My pride caused a real fear of failing and looking bad.

‘Who am I really trying to please?’, I pondered.

‘At one point I asked the director for help.

Someone in the back  piped up, ‘You need help.’ and laughed with others.

I shot back, ‘And you need help learning to encourage others!’

I walked home crying.  I felt like I was in my fourth grade choir. Who knew dealing with sin would be part of choir training?

I was concerned that what happened would cause tension in the choir.  Should I tell him how my feelings were hurt? Apologize for snapping? Get over it? I waited.  The next time I saw him getting out of the car, I went ahead and opened the church door for him.

“You made my day’, he grinned with appreciation; and we were good.

Isn’t that just the way  of the Christian life, in the church and in the choir, at our jobs and in the shops, in our homes and with our families?  We practice the notes in the choir , and in life,  serve in and outside the church, even laugh and cry and eat dinner together, yet are we able to look at our own miss-notes, missteps and sins or do we think that everyone else is singing off key?  I repent in dust and ashes!

This season may our Easter Choir sing in the unity of the spirit, with the love of Christ in our hearts, doing our best, whether we hit the notes perfectly or not! May our brokenness and humble hearts leave room for the glory of the resurrected Christ to sing through us with joy pouring into the hearts of those who listen!  A Joyous Resurrection Sunday to you and yours!

From 2 Corinthians 13:11: encourage one another, be of one mind, live in peace. And the God of love and peace will be with you.

Sing to the Lord a brand new song!  Sing to the Lord, all the earth!  Sing to the Lord and bless His holy name!  Sing for joy to the Lord!   (A song from Psalm 96.)

 

 

                         

From the Road to the Table

The women’s group of Epicentre Church (housed at the US Center for World Missions in Pasadena, California) interacted well with the D.E.P.T.H. Ministries Workshop on ‘The Table’, which I provided for them on November 6, 2014. Throughout the bible are unexpected references to the table, its sanctity and importance; the Road to Emmaus being one of them. Three women stepped up to dramatize Luke 24:13-32. They made us laugh and enjoy a brighter understanding of the need to invite Jesus Christ to our tables at home each day! This was followed by an exhortation to encourage with our words. A tool was provided to practice this, teaching how to use scripture on your children’s level, to encourage their hearts and thoughts.  I ended with a few words focused on our need for rest as a lifestyle habit.  I’ll rest here.  But you can click on Ministry/Hospitality for books and bible references on ‘the table’.  Be enriched!

Luke 24:30-31 shows Cleopas and his companion recognizing Jesus when He broke bread with them at their table. Is not the table a sacred place when we welcome Christ there?

Luke 24:30-31 shows Cleopas and his companion recognizing Jesus when He broke bread with them at their table. Is not the table a sacred place when we welcome Christ there?

Hospitality as Gratitude

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Listen Up!

Listening is an art form, a way of holding hearts in your hands, gently, so that they know their words were heard and cared for. It is a part of hospitality as it welcomes people into being known, loved and understood.  It is first a practice. Who do you know who listens before jockeying to be heard? It is not easy so here are steps to practice it.  Listen up, now.  It will satisfy and enrich you as well as the one you listen to.

LOOK… with your eyes or your ears.  (Sorry, texters, it just isn’t the same when you are texting while someone is talking to you.)  Looking with your ears means to tilt your head and face your ear toward the person to signal them to go on because you are, indeed, listening.

INTEND TO HEAR.  Your mind and heart need to be engaged, which is intentional rather than automatic.  Pray ahead, plan ahead and instruct yourself to be intentional for listening. It is hard to take our minds off ourselves, plans and troubles and truly listen to another.

SILENCE!  Give them the gift of a long turn.  When it seems like they might be finished, (sometimes they are just taking a breath, my friend,) give them more silence so they can trust that you care to hear more!

TIMING.  Be alert to when someone needs to be listened to.  Sometimes they just ask, ‘Do you have a minute?’ Sometimes you can feel and see the need if you are open to it.  Be on the lookout for such opportunities.  Think about it.  Ask yourself, ‘Am I listening?  Did I listen today?’

EMPATHIZE.  Epathy is often shared without a word being said.   A nod, a look of concern and a touch can convey this.  When you use words, keep them on the other.  ‘It sounds like you struggle with that more than you’d like to.’ shows listening.  ‘That reminds me of the time I…’ is more about you.

NOTICE how they are doing.  Do they need more time?  Give it if you can.  Do they look ready to go?   Release them.  Listening is free.

A quote attributed to Henri Nouwen is a caring call to listen well.  It is ‘Listening is one of the highest forms of hospitality.’  May your ears warm another’s heart today!

The Gift of Encouragement

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The gift of encouragement never fails to encourage me more than the one I want to encourage!  Today, I visited my friend, Geraldine, who had a severe stroke in the last year or so.  So, when I visit,  it is encouraging to see her progress. Step by step, her  walking, communication and appetite are improving!

I arrived and we cheerfully chatted.  Then lunch was served by the caring staff.  We chatted as I sat with her at the table.  She offered to walk me to the gate when it was time for me to leave, with walker supporting her steps.  It was there at the gate that she responded so deeply to my encouragement.  She has always been a remarkable, caring, cheerful person and I told her so and how much I continue to appreciate her.  She wept tears of happiness and what looked like relief!  It reminded me to continue to tell people  in what specific ways they are a blessing.  People often don’t seem sure of the  good they show and share, the care they give and the support they offer.  Encouragement can spur one on to grow in the strength of their gifts as Christ grows in them and courage to continue is often born. Geraldine may feel that she isn’t doing much for others now, but who she is, not what she does encouraged me today.  I left feeling better than when I arrived, hoping that Geraldine will be sustained with courage in the days to come.

Speaking the Truth in Love!

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These beautiful girls were delighted to be told how beautiful they are and that God loves them so much!  How often do we ladies hear that we are beautiful and that God loves us from society?  GO!  Tell them!  It was delightful doing so yesterday at Mar Vista Gardens, Los Angeles with Pastor Hector!  The sharing of the good news of Jesus Christ made the girls smile!

Words to Encourage or Flatter?

To encourage is to grow! My heart smiles when my words restore another. I grow stronger; solid in my footing and at peace. Now flattery is a sly counterfeit to encouragement! It is charming and deceptive to others and self. I invite you to use your voice and share in what ways this is true! Thanks!