It’s an Attitude of the Heart

‎”The overflow of our lives saturates those around
us, good or bad. Each day we spread either thankfulness, kindness, love, forgiveness, and grace, OR we soak others with our bitterness, discontent, complaining, impatience, and sour attitude. What overflows from your life? When you spill over, what saturates the lives of… those …around you?”~Hester Christensen

Of Whine and Roses

“When you do tell your story, don’t sound like the victim. If you do, you’ll sound like you’re whining. Just be truthful in telling your story and aim to discover that slice of humanity that others can relate to.” David Pierce, author of “Don’t Let Me Go.”

Ever pick up a case of the whines without realizing it? I do that and I don’t mean to. I hate it when I catch myself doing it too. When sharing facts, I can forget the good pieces that came of whatever situation it was. Case in point. I went through an incredible season of sifting that has brought amazing fruit and yet these places in my heart are still tender, still mending, and giving voice to them, hurts a little and it comes out all wrong. I caught myself doing that a lot last week at the Cove and man did that ever frustrate me.

I learned so much in that season several years ago. I learned about letting go, about not having to be the Christ for everyone I meet, about boundaries, fear, idols, and about trusting God. Mostly, I learned how to play for an audience of One. Those are wonderful gifts to share. When I remember to share them that is. The problem is, I don’t always remember.

I know that I am not the first person in the world to feel forsaken or to feel like I’ve been handed over to Satan on a silver platter – as if to say, “Here, she won’t listen to me so you have a go at her.” I’m inspired by authors who are willing to tell the truth. Men like Philip Yancey who seem to bleed when they write. In a good way. Me? Sometimes I bleed, sometimes I vomit. Mostly, I stuff.

That paints a lovely picture, doesn’t it? Instead of the cute Irish Chia Pet, I’m that baby on the commercials buying stock and spitting up all at the same time. Ewww.

So how do I find that balance that David talks about? Talking with people I trust. Learning how to say I know there is something in here that can help someone else, please help me find the right words.

4852_90879174043_821739043_1848473_4212151_nbMy husband caught a great quote of mine last week. The ice storm of 2007 destroyed all of our trees and instead of shade we now have sunshine and I planted flowers. Was it a lot of work? Oh yes. Clearing out dead trees and building beds IS hard work and yet- out of the storm came sunshine, and new life and a new creaton and that is a good thing.

Gratitude


Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.
— Melody Beattie

The Art of Giving and Receiving

Acts 20:35
In everything I did, I showed you that by this kind of hard work we must help the weak, remembering the words the Lord Jesus himself said: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’


I’m in a place right now where I’m really looking at giving and receiving. Not in martyred or co-dependant and manipulative ways. But rather, I’m looking at balance between the two. Being a caretaker who insists on pulling myself up via my own bootstraps continually, I’m learning how to bring balance to my daily life.

Giving based on a need to win approval or loyalty – is manipulative control. Or the kind of giving where the above scripture verse is taken completely out of context – it becomes martyred and tired. I say that because those who give without receiving are still controlling people, places, and things. It’s unhealthy. You know what I mean, I’ll do this if you do that, or the “I give and I give and I give (Superglue wrist to forehead for effect) and THIS is the thanks I get?”

Giving – is healthy when done without expectations. It’s also healthy when it’s balanced by receiving.

Receiving, I’m learning can be healthy too. We don’t always like it, do we? Some people might, but I don’t. When I’m receiving, I feel in debt to the giver and I don’t like feeling indebted. I don’t receive well. I have a hard time receiving gifts, compliments, even friendship. I’m much more comfortable on the giver’s platform. I’m much more comfortable when I’m in control. It’s about balance.

We can’t always be the givers and we can’t always be the receivers, especially in relationships. We need to take turns doing both.

I got a taste of what that looked like last summer and I decided I needed to learn how to receive better than I presently do. A friend of mine had their house broken into. All of her jewelry, money, and mementos from her deceased mother were stolen. They even stole her perfume. She felt emotionally violated, and I’ll dare say “raped” at least on some level. Her safe haven (home) was no longer safe. A stranger was in her bedroom. A stranger touched her things. Intimate things, private things, and their ghost stained her spirit for a long time. Emotional rape, to women, can be just as bad as the physical kind. It takes a long time to heal from something like that.

I know exactly how she felt. My house had been robbed as a child. It’s frightening. It’s violating. While I couldn’t replace what was stolen, or her piece of mind, I could do something nice. So I did. I bought her a bottle of her favorite perfume and gave it to her before church.

My gift to her was the perfume. I was the giver. And she was the receiver. Upon receiving the perfume, we immediately switched roles. She gave me her excitement, happiness and joy. And I received it. Right up until her husband took it away. Not the perfume, but her joy. Seeing her excitement, he publicly chastised her, telling her that “it’s more blessed to give than to receive.” And she shut down. He robbed her, and me of the flow of life. We were giving and receiving from each other in a healthy and positive way.

His criticism of her joy, stopped the flow and ruined the moment. I wanted to give him something right then and there too. I wanted to give him a piece of my mind. But I didn’t. I’m a coward when it comes to conflict. I give praise, and stuff criticism down my own throat rather than someone else’s. And I received the wrong message – I received his message that well, receiving is wrong. I also sent him the wrong message, or the right one, depending on how you see it. I sent a truthful message anyway. By shutting down, I communicated distrust. By withholding my disagreement, I missed out on sharing my true heart. We both had a chance to give and receive and build a relationship of honesty and we blew it.

What I’ve decided this year is that HE is wrong. It is blessed to do both. To consciously choose to be one or the other only is unhealthy. It contaminates the well. There’s no flow of fresh air in this kind of one-sided living.
God is a giver of great gifts. He gives unmerited and undeserved favor on a daily basis. If all I focus on is giving whether it’s to him or others I deny others the joy of my receiving.

I’m a lot like my friend. I don’t receive well. This is a season where I get to learn and consciously recognize when I’m giving and when I’m receiving. That might sound odd to people who don’t struggle with this issue, but I do struggle and because of that, I need to learn how to be still and do both.

In my garden, for example, I give time, water, nutrients and care to my plants. If I don’t take time to receive the beauty that comes as a result of that, I’ll miss out on joy. In receiving beauty I receive my own kind of nourishment. I need to be still and open in order for that gift (which is really from God if you think about it.) to fill my soul. It’s about letting go of control and like the story below, it keeps the water living and my life renewable.
——————————————————————————–
Barton wrote this short piece, “There are Two Seas” for McCall’s in 1928. John D. Rockefeller used it as a parable in his speech for a United Fund campaign. It was also reprinted in the Reader’s Digest in 1946.

There Are Two Seas by Bruce Barton

There are two seas in Palestine.
One is fresh, and fish are in it.
Splashes of green adorn its banks.
Trees spread their branches over it
and stretch out their thirsty roots to sip of its healing waters.
Along its shores the children play as children played when He was there.
He loved it. He could look across its silver surface when He spoke His parables.
And on a rolling plain not far away He fed five thousand people.
The river Jordan makes this sea with sparkling water from the hills.
So it laughs in the sunshine.
And men build their houses near to it, and birds their nests;
and every kind of life is happier because it is there.
The river Jordan flows on south into another sea.
Here no splash of fish, no fluttering of leaf,
no song of birds, no children’s laughter.
Travelers choose another route, unless on urgent business.
The air hangs heavy above its water, and neither man nor beast nor fowl will drink.
What makes this mighty difference in these neighbor seas?
Not the river Jordan. It empties the same good water into both.
Not the soil in which they lie; not the country round about.
This is the difference.
The Sea of Galilee receives but does not keep the Jordan.
For every drop that flows into it another drop flows out.
The giving and receiving go on in equal measure.
The other sea is shrewder, hoarding its income jealously.
It will not be tempted into any generous impulse. Every drop it gets, it keeps.
The Sea of Galilee gives and lives.
The other sea gives nothing. It is named The Dead.

There are two kinds of people in the world.
There are two seas in Palestine.

—————–

Giving and Receiving are choices that are made not day by day, but moment by moment.

Are you a HopeLifter, or a Hope Crusher?

I just got back from the most incredible week I’ve had in a long time. For those who don’t know, I took a huge personal risk and went to Grand Rapids Michigan for a speaker’s workshop called Speak Up With Confidence. This class was led in large part by Carol Kent – with a lot of help from her friends let me tell you.

Carol has been teaching this class for about 25 years now. SpeakUP is geared towards enabling and equipping ministry leaders with the skills needed for teaching, speaking, and witnessing Christ with confidence and clarity.

With the loss of my mentors several years back (through geographical moves or death) I have felt lost and a bit alone. I’ve been praying for a learning opportunity like this for the past five years. Once there, I caught myself wondering why God waited until this year to let me know about it. And then it hit me, God waited because this was the first year I was ready for it. I was scared as it was and it took constant prayer just to get me on the plane. Once there I still battled with my own insecurities and fears.

I learned far more than I can blog about today, but I did learn one thing that I do want to write about. Hopelifting. I want to know, am I a HopeLifter or a Hope Crusher? Not only for others, but for myself as well.

The team at SpeakUP is very affirming and gives constructive guidance and feedback. I struggled at times with my own myopic mirror of self doubt and the ability to look around me and encourage others. I love giving encouragment – and I learned that I don’t always know how to receive it.

Throughout the week, I was given affirmations by the leaders at just the right times. One leader called me “beautiful” not once, but twice. Someone else told me she thought I had the friendliest face. Carol wrote after my five minute evaluation “Excellent Communication Skills, very warm and connects with the audience.” and then went on to ask me if I was a teacher. I did internal backflips over that one, let me tell you. To be affirmed by a woman I admire (even if we don’t really know eachother) meant the world.

I’m keeping those evaluation forms in my smile box – I know there will come a day when I’ll need that emotional boost and I can pull them out and read them for a pick me up.

I have a question here – if you do not have someone in your life who is affirming you in healthy and positive ways, can you commit to being that for yourself? I can be my own worst enemy to be honest – I’m known for being verbally and spiritually abusive to myself – “Well that was stupid.” and “I’m such a dork” yes I say those things pretty regularly – I’ve committed to learning how to be that affirming voice for myself – will you join me in that?

I returned on Sunday just in time for a voters meeting at church – still on cloud 9 from this workshop I invited the ENTIRE congregation to SpeakUP. My aim is to bring at least five people back with me next year. People who are ready to take that next step in ministry and step out in faith for Christ.

Voter’s meetings are well, voters meetings what can I say. Being part of a church plant that isn’t always enthusiastically embraced by our congregation is a challenge. We have a couple who openly oppose what we are trying to do and find ways to speak out against it when ever they can.

After the meeting this gal and her husband sought out part of our team to pray with us, and told us all about the two mission churches they tried to start and how they failed. They were trying to be encouraging.. but the message they gave us was “well, we failed so we know that you will too.”

Fortunatley for us, we chose not to receive their words (and it is a choice), and simply thanked them for their time and concern and let them leave.

They are what I call hope crushers… people who are double minded in their caring and who focus their time on telling people why their ideas and dreams won’t work.

I try to avoid people like that.

What I want to do this week is look for opportunities to be a hopelifter in someones life – and watch my words with my own family. Am I being affirming in positive ways? Or am I transferring my past and fears onto someone else?

Do you want to join me? Listen to your words this week – are you lifting up others or smashing them down? Keep a journal and see. When you do see yourself smashing hope – call on Christ – confess it as sin (because that’s what it is) then repent – (turn around in your actions) make a plan to be more affirming – for yourself and for others, and ask for God’s help – he will help you.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

If They Laugh

George Burns once said “If they laugh, it’s funny.” and you know what? He’s right. Although I will admit sometimes getting to laughing is the hardest part.

We’ve had a rough week to say the least, but by Saturday night we were laughing. So either we’ve totally lost it as a team OR we found our place on the light side of circumstance.

First, our home church get’s robbed and we lose some music gear, then we found out that we lost our lease this week at Liberty Elementary. That’s where our Saturday night mission church meets. Maybe “lost” isn’t the right word, it’s more like our lease expired last week (death by paperwork neglect) and our fearless leader was in Cancun, blissfully unaware of our predicament. Until we called him after services to welcome him home. Poor guy.A worship team minus gear and no place to worship? At first we envisioned a pathetic throw back to the old Salvation Army Days, wrapped in coats, standing in front of “our” building, clapping our tamborines. Telling people that Jesus Loved them. Ha. Ha. Besides that – Jen and I have 10,000 (yes that’s TEN THOUSAND) Easter Eggs to fill for an egg hunt for 500 people (or at least that’s how many came last year) and no home to hunt at.. What are we going to do? Walk through the neighborhood and egg houses? Okay so that was lame.

As luck (and great negotiating skills) would have it, Jeff was able to talk the school into “one more night” and we had tonight. Telling the team about our prediciment went better than expected. He and I just found out on Friday and with pastor out of the country, we had no idea how to tell the team. I expected fretting, and disappoinment or worry. What we got, suprised us both. Everyone was happy, excited and laughing about it. We were making jokes about the missing paperwork, and all. Even the Egg Hunt took on new joy – we are open to bigger possibilites now. We can have it any where we want. Woooo Whooo. Set up and tear down of our gear went well, we made it just fine without our second sound board and we even said goodbye to Don the janitor. So long and thanks for all the fish Don.

Even telling pastor, “houston we have a problem” went well. We did it as a group, on our cell phone outside of the school after we loaded our trailor of gear. Receiving bad news by a bunch of laughing people – who probably lost it in some sense or another went down better than if we’d been upset I’m sure. Even if it was his first night back in the country.

We have no idea where we are going, if we’ll be able to get one more three month extension like we asked for- or what, but we do know this..We kept our laughter – and we kept our friendships and because of that – we’ll keep on keepin’ on.

We’re a team – following God and laughing along the way, and we can’t go wrong with that.

Broken Limbs yes, Broken Life? No…

Just a short blog really. Ton’s to write about, but little time at the moment. I’m too busy enjoying my kids and my husband during Christmas break.

I will write this: My day began with emails from some CCA people. (CCA is the Christian Comedy Association, with members like Chonda Pierce, Ken Davis, Nazarath, and other Christian speakers and artists too numerous to mention, all of us Christian.) It started with a word of encouragement from our President of CCA, followed by an Amen from one member. Another shared the wisdom of how important it is *not* to contract food poisoning while in Cambodia on New Years (his web page is ironically called throwingup.com – he’s a juggler) and then my next email following this chain was another exhortation for the new years.

Life’s up’s and downs in one chain. All I could do was look at those emails (from a few of my hero’s in the faith and industry) and consider myself blessed beyond measure, that God would allow me to be part of such an amazing group of speakers, comics, and evangelists.
2007 was a rough year for some of us, depression, cancer, epilepsy, ministry struggles, and what not. A friend lost her nephew to suicide last night, and another lost her husband this morning. More of life already unfolding. And yet “because of the Lord’s Great love, we know that we will not be consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning. And no matter what this day brings, His faithfulness is great. (lam 3:22-33)

On the morning of the great Tulsa ice storm, I sat on my back porch with my coffee wrapped in a blanket, whining at God about the devastation taking place right before my eyes. Standing proud and presently unharmed was my maple tree. She was my lone tree. The only one left. So I started talking to her, much like an old friend. “You’re strong you know. Beautiful. This storm doesn’t mean anything. You are a Maple Tree. Created to last. Created to withstand harsh winters. Created to give fruit (maple syrup) to other’s. You are important. Hang in there.”
Great words of affirmation – even if it was for a tree. Then I started talking to God. Asking him to spare my last remaining tree. The one my kids climb. The one that is about 20 years old. No, it doesn’t look like much – but it’s my tree God. And then he whispered in my heart, “I am the vine, and you are the branches.”

Wasn’t that cool of God? Speaking to my heart in the storm. Reminding me of his faithfulness. Putting a scripture on my heart just when I needed it most. I snuggled down in my blanket with my cup of coffee in my hands for warmth, and felt for a moment, cozy and safe in His arms.

Then from out of nowhere, I hear this C-A-R-A-C-K!!!!

Down falls the biggest branch from my sad maple tree.

“Oh Thanks a lot God!, Great Visual! Here I am all happy to be part of your vine – YOU put that verse on my heart. It’s not like I made it up you know~! Yeah, I’m comforted.
With that, more branches fell.

This time, I hunkered back down in my blanket, not in secure warmth, but more like a childish pout. He could have left me like that, but he didn’t. Again I heard his whisper, “You don’t get it, do you? YOU’RE not that tree, and my vine? Nothing can snatch you away, no storm, no weight, no sin. Your name is carved into my hand, and you are mine.”

You don’t have to drive far to see how badly this last storm whiped out some of our greatest trees. It’ll be a long time before Tulsa looks the same. Our streets are lined with the debris, waiting for FEMA to pick it up. And yet, God’s word remains.

His mercies are new each day, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 31-39

And in case someone hasn’t told you lately. “You’re strong you know. And when you’re not feeling so strong, remember that God is stronger. You are beautiful. This present storm in your life doesn’t mean anything. You might be pressed, but you will not be crushed by it’s weight. You are created to last. Created to withstand harsh winters and sweet summers. Created to bear fruit to other’s. You are important, to God and to me. Hang in there.”
Speak to the storms in your life, and most importantly speak to God.

God Bless you all in 2008
Deana