whether or not Your lips move

You speak to me

life fermatas August 20, 2013

fer·ma·ta noun \fer-ˈmä-tə\: a prolongation at the discretion of the performer of a musical note, chord, or rest beyond its given time value; also: the sign denoting such a prolongation —called also hold

In the musical world, fermatas designate to hold the note or rest longer than usual. The definition above says that it is at the performer’s discretion, which is often true. But in a chorus the length the fermata is held is up to the director. The chorus singers watch the director for that moment when he or she releases them from holding the note or rest and signals that it is time to move on.

Life is full of fermatas, isn’t it?

There are times when we are watching God… just holding on… waiting for Him to signal that it is time to move on. What do we do during those prolongations?

We keep singing the last thing we knew to sing. It can be tempting to move on to the next part of the music when it feels right or when we just get too tired of holding the same note. But if we do that, we will miss out on the beauty of experiencing the music the way it was meant to be sung. If we take things into our own hands instead of being faithful in the most recent thing to which we were called, we could miss out on experiencing the fullness of what God had planned.

We keep our eyes on the Director. Contrary to popular opinion, sometimes God does give us more than we can handle. There are many reasons for this but I believe the primary reason is to reveal to us that He is an endless supply of strength from which we can draw. So when you think you’re out of breath from holding that note, know that He is there offering for you to breathe in deep from His Spirit. (Cool fact: in the New Testament, the Greek word for spirit and breath is the same.)

We trust that whatever comes next will be worth the wait. Sometimes in choruses we sight-read, meaning we perform without having previously rehearsed or sometimes without having even seen the music beforehand. We watch the director even more closely in those times. The same is true during life fermatas–even though we don’t always know what the next part looks or sounds like, we can trust God that it will be magnificent and what is best for us.

So… hang on. Keep breathing. Keep leaning on Him. And know that whatever is coming, one way or another it is going to end up beautiful.

 

our intergenerational mentoring prayer group January 11, 2011

For the past several months at work, I’ve been helping to coordinate a group of exquisitely awesome women in group settings in hopes that we each would find a prayer partner mentor/mentee. (Not manatee. Mentee is the best word I have found, but would love a better one if there is one!) The women involved are aged anywhere from their early 20’s through their 60’s. It has been really incredible to see how God has worked.

MAKING THE CONNECTION
I’ve been asked how to pair people up in mentoring relationships. And truly I don’t think a relationship of this sort can be “made.” It can be helped along and facilitated. But it has to happen naturally or it won’t be effective. (I’m talking about mentoring relationships that are personal in nature; for a career type mentoring relationship, assigned pairs might work if the manager really knows his/her people well.) My feeling is, people who follow Jesus know how to listen for His voice. They know when He’s tugging at their heart to talk to this person… to go to this place… to do this thing. Even if it has been a relatively short time that they’ve been in relationship with God, they heard Him calling to them to begin with. So I really feel that given the freedom and opportunity, most women know when God is drawing them into a friendship with another woman.

To be fair, I have seen assigned personal mentoring work, but it was because the “assigner” had such an intimate knowledge of all the people involved and could really discern who would fit best with whom. But as a general observation, those who naturally  feel connected with their mentor or mentee are much more likely to stay engaged and vulnerable over the course of the relationship. And it is also important that this feeling is mutual.

CREATING THE ENVIRONMENT
I like keeping things simple. For our large group times, we haven’t done any decorating or catered any food. Everyone knows to bring their lunch and join us. (We did do a Thanksgiving/Christmas potluck-style lunch, and it was a huge hit.) We start at 11:30 and end at 12:30 (unless individuals want to stay on longer to keep praying or move to another part of the building to talk). We might have some music playing in the background. The environment doesn’t need to be flashy; it just needs to be comfortable.

With our group at work, we have some really spectacular girls involved who are gifted at creating activities that help break the ice. They’ve put together some amazing group activities for us to do that we call– wait for it– ice breakers. Anything from a bingo game to a spin on the speed dating concept. Everything centers around getting women face to face with something to talk about that helps them get to know each other. The questions have ranged from “What department do you work in” to “What is your favorite childhood memory.” The questions are balanced in that they are disarming and comfortable, yet also open the door for much deeper conversation.

One thing that has been great to hear in our feedback is that even those who are more introverted have felt very comfortable with the ice breaker conversation times.

PRAYING TOGETHER
So, we’ve taken these ice breaker activities and done them with our group of ladies. At the end of the ice breaker activity (usually about 20 minutes or so), I then have asked them all to follow the Spirit’s lead and get into a small group to pray. The first gathering we broke into small groups of 3 or 4. The gathering after that, groups of 2 or 3. It brings such joy to my heart to see the “older” women taking such an intentional interest in the “younger” women. It brings tears to my eyes to see how earnestly the “younger” women are seeking out the “older” women. Many times at our gatherings I’ve had the privilege of standing back and watching the pairs praying together, praying over all of them… seeing some lifting their faces to the Father in joy… seeing some wiping away tears… all communing with God together in His presence.

MENTORING PRAYER PARTNERS
So far, of our 30-40 women who have been to a large group time, we’ve had about 8 pairs commit to each other. The logistics of each pair’s mentoring relationship outside our big group gatherings is unique. How each pair prays together, how often they get together, what they do together– all of that is up to that pair of women. Chances are by now they know they’ve got some things in common, and since they’re convinced the Holy Spirit brought them together for this purpose they feel the freedom to let Him continue guiding their friendship. If they want to get together every morning for breakfast and prayer, they will. If coffee once a month and lots of emails and texts in between is what works for their schedules, they go for it. I don’t know of any doing Bible studies together yet, but obviously that would be a possibility if they wanted. And we all continue getting together in our prayer partner lunches for more ice breakers and prayer time together as a group. Those who have already paired up are welcome to continue on their own if they want to, but so far the majority have really enjoyed still getting together in the large group.

I’m excited to see where God takes us all next. I’m excited to hear the stories of answered prayers and of burdens shared (and I really didn’t mean for that to rhyme). We’ll weep together and we’ll rejoice together. We’ll be the church. And eventually, the women who are ‘mentees’ will be in the role of mentor for other women, as they continue to learn from those who have gone ahead of them. And it will continue to multiply. And isn’t that discipleship?

How about you? What have you seen work when it comes to helping people form mentoring relationships? What have you experienced that hasn’t worked?

Related:
The Biblical Model of Mentoring

The Need for Mentoring in Today’s Church: An Appeal to the Older Generations

 

 

I shouldn’t be alive. September 25, 2010

I’ve been fairly open about my childhood experiences and past traumas among friends, family, and church family, but not so much online. I don’t think it is wise to put too much about yourself out there for the whole world to have access to. But the more I learn about child development for my master’s degree and the deeper I dig into different types of research, the more apparent it becomes that my past experiences will play a part in my destiny.

Without airing the gory details, I will let you know that I was neglected and abused as a child. Some of that abuse was sexual, and it happened more than once and came from more than one adult. I have always had vivid memories of parts of that abuse; God has mercifully allowed my subconscious to block the rest of it. I went through most of my life overcompensating for the feelings of powerlessness, fear, abandonment, and helplessness that stemmed from those experiences. I “learned” that being alive meant being in constant danger on some level and that I was on my own. Later I would learn that, too, was a lie. Praise God that He had His hand on me from an early age and had instilled in me a love for Jesus and His Word practically from the time I learned to talk– otherwise you’d likely be reading the blog of a staunch atheist.

People with a past like mine are several times more likely to commit suicide, have 30 or more sexual partners, be drug addicts or alcoholics, and be abusers themselves. If I’m doing my reading right, the “post traumatic stress” sexual abuse victims experience can parallel what war veterans experience. As I look at these statistics of what is “normal” for someone with my experiences, I become more convinced that there is only one reason I am alive. One reason I have an ounce of compassion in me. One reason I am able to rise above all the (insert choice word here) I have gone through in my almost 30 years. And that reason is JESUS. God’s love and grace.

I think that it would be easy, and even expected, for me to use all the trauma of my past as a REASON not to believe in a loving, protecting God. I bet some people would expect it and maybe even think I had a right to it. But you know what? God didn’t MAKE those people do those things to me. Did He allow it? Yes. For only reasons He knows and perhaps has yet to reveal. But, as I live, I trust Him. I can’t always explain it. But I do.

I have had personal, close encounters with the living God that are undeniable. Beyond and through what I consider to be the total truth of the Scriptures, I have personally experienced peace that is totally and completely illogical in the face of my past. I choose to forgive the people who molested and hurt me, even though there are days I would rather not. I am not living in denial of the things that have happened to me. I am forced to deal with that reality nearly every day. The only explanation for my being alive and my being effective in any sort of way is because the power of God is in me through the Holy Spirit.

I still have problems. I still struggle with this stuff. There have been times that all I can do is scream bloody murder because I can’t handle “it,” whatever “it” is. I may always wrestle that demon of depression, but after each match it stays down for the count a little longer. Studies show that I may always have overactive fear responses and not handle stress as well as a “normal” person, which can lead to chronic health problems (anyone who knows me can see that is true). But I know that ultimately, I win. Because God wins. And I’m not talking “end times” here, although that’s obviously true. But I mean in the here and now– in whatever length of years God chooses to give me on this hunk of dirt we call earth. I have to cling to this– that He has a purpose beyond what I can understand for all the awful things I have experienced in my life. That He will use me in someone’s life– yours– to point the way to Him.

How the traumas I experienced will play out in my destiny… I don’t know what it’s going to look like. I know I have a choice in the matter though, at least as far as my attitude and response. What Satan intended for evil, God can use for good. I can allow the memories and facts to weigh me down and render me useless. Or I can use them to help myself and others.

I’m gonna have to go with the latter.

 

Harmonious Relationships July 27, 2010

Just now I was reading 1 Peter 3:8, which says followers of Christ are supposed to have unity of mind, or as some translations put it, be “harmonious.” I don’t know about you, but a lot of times it can feel like we’re not even singing off the same page of music, let alone singing in harmony!

I struggle a lot when I realize I have a difference of opinion, taste, or thought than a friend. I like peace and really dislike arguments. I struggle even more when I realize that there is someone in my life that just doesn’t like me and isn’t all that interested in being friends.

This verse helps me feel a little better, though. Harmony is all about complementary notes and often what notes aren’t played are just as important as the ones that are. It doesn’t mean you hate the other notes. It just means they don’t need to be played at this moment in time.

I wonder what life would be like if I applied this to my everyday relationships. I could take some stress off myself with trying to “play every note” all at once–that probably ends up sounding like a great big mess. Instead I can focus on this chord here, and this one here. So these individuals aren’t interested in interacting with me on this. That’s OK. Maybe next time. So this person doesn’t want to hear my thoughts on this subject. No problem; maybe just bad timing.There might be certain topics or people that I just need to let take a rest.

So maybe it’s OK when we don’t all agree on something. As long as we are being sympathetic, loving each other, and being kind and humble, maybe we can work out the significant differences and just let the rest fade.

Finally, all of you, live in harmony with one another; be sympathetic, love as brothers, be compassionate and humble.
1 Peter 3:8 (NIV)

To sum up, all of you be harmonious, sympathetic, brotherly, kindhearted, and humble in spirit…
1 Peter 3:8 (NASB)

 

I want my crayons back June 28, 2010

So lately I have had this indescribable desire to be creative. I am a creative person (all people are in some way or another) but there are certain things I am not so great at, like painting. But even in college I would get a coloring book and crayons now and then, especially around finals!

Recently with my Mosaic ladies we had a creativity workshop led by two lovely, beautiful, and insanely creative friends, Lisa and Trae. They pointed out how our Creator God empowered us with the ability to create. Trae read a quote out of a book that really hit me. Basically it said that whenever we get restless and bored with life, it may be our inner Kindergartener saying we want our crayons back. We want to be encouraged and empowered to create, like we were when we were kids. Why did we ever stop being taught to imagine?

It’s interesting. I used to love to write stories. Even from a very young age, Anne of Green Gables was a hero of mine for many reasons, but mainly because she wrote stories and was a teacher. When I was in elementary school, I would write these crazy tales about my hamster’s secret nightlife. After my family and I were in bed, she would go on adventures to the animal mall, and she had fabulous accessories she’d don before heading out. And of course the stories were illustrated.

I can’t tell you how many ‘books’ I wrote as a young teenager. Spiral notebooks were my constant companion. Admittedly, many of my tales were more like retellings of whatever Babysitters Club Super Special I’d read most recently, only cast with my friends and me and slight adjustments to the plot. But I still had a great time writing them. I never finished them, though.

Then came high school AP English. Four years of it. By the time I graduated my desire to write had all but disappeared. I would write poetry here and there, especially when I was depressed, but no more stories. No more hamster escapades. No more outrageous summer vacations for me and my friends. No more hours wiled away with daydreaming and imagining and pretending to be Anne Shirley. The creativity in that area had been sucked away. Wilted like a flower long neglected.

So. I’ve been rediscovering this passion for stories. I don’t know where it will take me. I guess I’ll let you know. I read so very little fiction (only about 3 or 4 writers). But more and more I have learned that fiction is almost truer than nonfiction, if that makes any sense. There are things you can say and do with a “fiction” story that communicate more truth than any “nonfiction” way of writing ever could.

I’m finding other creative outlets as well. It kills me that I don’t have enough time or energy to do musicals right now, but I will return to that stage. I’ve nurtured a growing interest in fashion design ever since Project Runway season 1 aired (and I’ve watched every episode since) and am hoping to learn how to thread my sewing machine soon. I’ve become my own (quite amateur) makeup artist over the years, and recently fell in love with the book Making Faces. I learned to decorate cakes when I was a manager at Cold Stone, and am getting to take a fondant class in a couple of weeks. I started scrapbooking at least a year ago (and true to form have not yet finished even one album).

I keep uncovering all these reminders of my fleeting attempts at different creative endeavors, and fight the temptation to get down on myself for not finishing or excelling at any of it. But my how fun it all has been.

I think I got a couple of my crayons back.

 

Mentoring: Practical Ideas for Getting Started January 27, 2010

Filed under: mentoring,relationship with God — Ash @ 3:42 pm
Tags: ,

Mentoring doesn’t have to be a big, scary time commitment or even just going through a Bible study (though obviously there is nothing wrong with time commitments and Bible studies!). Mentoring is life on life. Think about how Jesus mentored: He spent several years in close contact, took opportunity of “teachable moments,” accepted people’s flaws while also challenging them, and most of all, loved. I know Jesus is our example and model and He was perfect. But thankfully ANYONE can mentor. You were made to invest yourself in others. You can do it!

Things to remember:

  • Be real, open, honest, authentic, transparent, and genuine in your interactions.
  • Don’t be overwhelmed with the number of people who need a mentor. Pray, watch, and ask just one younger person to hang out now and then (ideas below).
  • Pay attention to your heart. If a young person’s situation or life story really tugs at you or you have a shared experience or interest, this may be the Holy Spirit telling you that he/she is the one to approach.
  • Whenever possible, try to see each other face-to-face within your natural settings. Be open to and utilize other forms of communication but try to actually spend time together.
  • It might take some time for you to reach a level of relationship in which the younger person feels comfortable to share his/her struggles. Others may start sharing from the very beginning. Be flexible and seek the Holy Spirit’s leading.
  • Know when it’s time to refer someone for professional help.
  • You will have to accept the fact that you might be rejected. Please, please don’t give up. God has certain individuals who need YOU to invest in them.
  • Be loving. Love, love, and love some more.

 

Ideas for those 65 and up

  • Find a church in the area that seems to be geared mainly toward young people and attend frequently. They need your presence there more than they might realize.
  • Recent surveys are showing that the younger generations (those under 30 specifically) are very open to your generation’s genuine involvement in their lives.
  • If there are things about technology that you have questions about, ask a young person. Chances are he/she will be more than happy to spend time with you to show you how to use something.
  • Have a young person over for dinner. Nothing beats a home-cooked meal.
  • Share your stories. You’ve lived through things younger people have only read about in history books. Give them your thoughts and memories on these events and how they affected your life.
  • Share your hobbies and offer to teach young people how to do them. The younger generations are also extremely open to learning things like how to change the oil in a car, how to make clothes, and so on.
  • Some young people will seem resistant to communication on the phone and will want to communicate via email, Facebook, or text. Try not to take it personally; what they are really looking for is time face-to-face.
  • Do one activity or go one place that is out of the norm for you, but is familiar for the young person. Then do something together that is out of his/her norm.
  • Send a handwritten note or card. Young people hardly ever get these.
  • Pray together.

 

Ideas for those 50-64

  • Find a church in your area that seems to be attracting mostly younger people (if yours isn’t already). Look for needs among young parents, for instance, and offer to help.
  • Talk about music. Seriously. Recent surveys have found that you probably have more similar musical tastes with the younger generations than you might have thought.
  • Recent surveys are showing that the younger generations (those under 30 specifically) are very open to your generation’s genuine involvement in their lives.
  • Don’t be afraid to share your life stories. Young people want to hear them—especially the ones that might not always be “neat and tidy.” Share your mistakes and how you learned from them.
  • Share your hobbies and offer to teach young people how to do them. The younger generations are also extremely open to learning things like how to cook, how to change the oil in a car, and so on.
  • Nothing beats a good cup of coffee, so offer to have a younger person over to your home or to meet up at a coffee shop.
  • Some young people will seem resistant to communication on the phone and will want to communicate via email, Facebook, or text. Try not to take it personally; what they are really looking for is time face-to-face.
  • Do one activity or go one place that is out of the norm for you, but is familiar for the young person. Then do something together that is out of his/her norm.
  • Do some service projects together.
  • Pray together.

 

Ideas for those 30-49

  • Talk about music. Thanks to trends like Guitar Hero and Rock Band, those younger than you may totally dig the bands you grew up with.
  • Seek out newlyweds, new parents, or any other young persons who are in some sort of transition period. Find out what their practical needs are and meet them.
  • Find common interests and have a blast hanging out together. This can be anything from riding roller coasters to crocheting to shooting at the range to walking around the mall.
  • Talk about what your life was like growing up. Share stories and don’t leave out your mistakes; younger people will be very open to learning from your mistakes.
  • Spend time with each other’s families if you can. Let the younger person see how you interact with your family on a day-to-day basis and take opportunities to include him/her in your normal schedule. For instance, invite him/her to ride with you while you take your kids to gymnastics or swim lessons.
  • Do some service projects together.
  • Pray together.

 

Younger generations: Add to the conversation! What are some things you would like to do with a mentor at first?

Older generations: Help us out! What are some things that have worked (or not worked) for you as you seek to mentor?

 

what a girl wants January 8, 2010

Several years ago, I spent several months doing some hard praying, thinking, and soul-searching. I had finally escaped a six-year, off-and-on relationship and had decided that I’d rather be alone the rest of my life than with the wrong person. I was beginning to conclude that I should never settle for less than God’s best in any area of my life. I was starting to trust that God really had my best interests at heart and wasn’t holding out on me.

During this process, I began a list. Oh, the dreaded list. Some of you are cringing right now and about to close your browser window. I ask you to hang with me for a minute here.

Many girls’ lists are made up of things like “tall, dark, and handsome” or “drives a convertible.” There’s nothing really wrong with those things, but I want to challenge you girls to look at “the list” a little differently.

I’m kind of laughing at myself right now because it is going to sound like I’m telling you what to do, and that is just silly. But I seriously have seen this work in my own life and in other girls’ lives, too. Guys, you might get a little ticked off at me and think I’m telling all these girls to be insanely unreasonable. I ask you to spend some quiet time searching your own soul, and see if maybe you want to be the type of person I am going to describe.

I need to be clear, girls: there is no perfect guy. I know you’ve heard it a thousand times, but you really need to let that sink in. No matter how many of these qualities he has, he will eventually do or say something that hurts you. He’s human. He needs grace just like you do. Keep in mind that the things I’m about to list may look different than you thought they would. They may come in a package you didn’t think was “your type.”

You know from my other posts in this series that I don’t support unhealthy levels of intimacy (physical, emotional, or otherwise) early in a relationship. So many of the character qualities in the list below SHOULD be demonstrated in a guy BEFORE you get into a relationship with him. These things will be evidenced in his other relationships as you get to know him in a group setting.

And as you are reading through this list (and add your own things based on  your personality and God’s leading), you need to evaluate yourself on each point and ask yourself how YOU are doing in becoming the person God wants you to be. It isn’t unreasonable to look for a man who is compatible with you and who has these character traits. It IS unreasonable to think you should be with him while not taking the time to prepare yourself for a man like this.

Okay. Without further adieu.

THE LIST

  • A spiritual leader. He loves God; he is someone you can look up to and learn from spiritually; has strong convictions based on God’s Word. He takes God seriously and challenges you and others to love God more each day. He prays about everything and obeys God’s direction. He forgives and extends grace whenever possible.
  • A servant leader. He loves others in practical ways; he seeks to be more selfless in his actions; he takes initiative; he is generous. He has a positive attitude.
  • A worshiper. He wants to give God his best in every situation; he lives out what he says he believes; wants to give God a good name. He wants others to know and love Jesus the way he does.
  • A hard worker. He has a good work ethic; he is a hard worker but not a workaholic; honest with finances and responsible with money. He has goals for his career and life.
  • Has integrity. He keeps his commitments and does what he says he will do; he treats all women (and men) with respect; he is real and authentic; he is honest. He is not on a search for power and he does not manipulate people.
  • Level-headed. He can handle a crisis; he knows how to argue without fighting; he is able to responsibly handle an emotionally-charged situation; he speaks the truth in love.
  • Humble and flexible. Things don’t always have to be his way; he doesn’t flee at the first sign of trouble. He can admit when he’s wrong and isn’t afraid to ask for forgiveness. He works to make things right and will try to resolve conflicts.
  • Has good friends. He is committed to a local body of Christ followers; he has meaningful relationships with other men; has accountability in his life. Those closest to him will encourage him to be the man God wants him to be.
  • Passionate. He has healthy ambition and direction; he has a vision for the future; he is confident in who he is and his gifts. He is fun to be around and you share many common interests.
  • Communicates well. He listens well and can interact with people who are not like him; he takes care with his words. He isn’t always complaining and he isn’t a bully!
  • Family-oriented. He can interact well with children; he is a team player; he is a “coach” rather than a “dictator;” not afraid to take the lead. He can see the gifts in others and encourage them to use them. If he already has children, he maintains an appropriate relationship with their mother (based on the circumstances) and you are ready to be a stepmom.
  • Sexually pure. He respects women as daughters of God and sisters in Christ; he does not attempt to interact physically with women inappropriately; if he has been sexually active in the past, he is currently demonstrating his commitment to saving sex for marriage. He has healthy boundaries in his relationships with girls. It has to be said–he won’t ask you for or expect sexual contact of any kind. He’s not a player!
  • Emotionally whole. He is mature and steady; he shows progress and commitment to overcoming significant weaknesses in his life; he knows who he is in Christ; he can handle his anger appropriately. He does not have an active addiction to drugs, alcohol, porn, etc. but is self-controlled.
  • Affectionate. He expresses his affection appropriately; he understands what his “love language” is and seeks to know others’ love languages; he is not afraid of intimacy and is willing to invest himself in a relationship. In a committed relationship, he cherishes the woman as a gift from God and is willing to sacrifice for her.
  • Has appropriate family relationships. He respects his mother but she doesn’t control his life; if he does not have a healthy family he seeks to interact with them appropriately and with grace. (Ideally, if you come from a divorced family, it is a blessing to be with a guy whose parents are still married.)
  • Looks good. You’re attracted to him; he sees his body as God’s temple; has good hygiene; he takes care of himself physically and seeks to be in good health. He does not, however, place inappropriate emphasis on his physical appearance.
  • You have compatible weaknesses. In the areas you are weak, he is strong. In the areas he is weak, you are strong. It is important to have a lot in common, but weaknesses are not one of those things.

I hope that this has helped you begin to know what God’s best is for your life in the area of relationships. Guys, I know this is a tall order. But you have what it takes. Is there a man you know who fits the description above? Ask him to hang out sometime. See if you can start to learn from him how to be this kind of man.

Girls, he is out there. If God has called you to marriage, it is not unreasonable to be looking for him to be like this. It doesn’t only happen in fairy tales. The hardest part is going to be the waiting. Don’t sell yourself short by settling for less than God’s best.

I wish I could be having this conversation with you over a cup of coffee (or more often in my case, spiced apple cider). Please tell me your stories!