A Hospital Maze, a Labyrinth and a Path for My Father

I woke up thinking, Who in the world would be knocking on my door at 3:00 am? I was alone, so I didn’t want to answer, but the knocking was persistent. If it’s a family emergency, they surely would have tried to call first, I reasoned as I grabbed my phone. Alarmed to see a multitude of messages and texts from my brothers and my mom, I hurried to the door without even checking what the messages said. I let my brothers Steve and Shawn in. They said they were heading down to Tennessee because our dad had another stroke. I was relieved to know it was not worse news.

When we got to the hospital and Mom led us through the hallways to Dad’s room, she kept saying how confusing the hospital layout was. I figured her brain was just as tired and frazzled as her appearance. But as the hours wore on and we attempted to navigate our way to various rooms and facilities, all three of us “kids” laughed in agreement with her – this place was like a maze.

At one point, we went outside for some fresh air and discovered the hospital had a labyrinth prayer and meditation garden.

angel

The labyrinth at Jackson-Madison County General Hospital (Jackson, TN)

Unlike a maze with its dead ends and turn-arounds, a labyrinth is one single path that leads you to the center and then back out. The goal of a labyrinth walk is as follows:

  1. Use the walk on the way into the center to clear your thoughts and release your burdens.
  2. Once you get to the center, you’re in a better frame of mind to pray and/or receive what you need from God.
  3. After spending time in the center, you walk the path out, reviewing and meditating on what you have received.

I returned to the labyrinth that night. I knew it would be hard to lay aside the concerns I had for my dad, but I took a deep breath and began my walk. One way to clear your mind for the process is to repeat a word or phrase as you walk; I had none for the moment. But just a few steps in, I found myself humming the words to an old Kathy Troccoli song: My life is in your hands, my heart is in your keeping. I had my mantra.

I started repeating that first line to the beat of my steps. Soon, I was adding and adjusting words.

My life is in your hands, my life is in your hands, my life is in your hands,

yes, my life is in your hands

My father’s life is in your hands, yes, My father’s life is in your hands,

yes, my father’s life is in your hands

Yes, my father’s life is in the hands of my Father, yes

My father’s life is in the hands of my loving Father,

Yes, my loving father’s life is in the hands of my loving Father

By the time I reached the center, my only prayer was one of thankfulness.

There will be many more prayers to come as we learn the extent of the damage this stroke has caused and watch my dad work through its effects. But the one prayer that serves as a banner over all the rest has been answered. In fact, it was answered long ago, when my loving father placed his life in the hands of our loving Father.

To see more posts about my labyrinth walks, click here.

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Encourager’s Devotional Series – March Wrap-Up

To wrap up this month’s Encourager’s Devotional theme (Finding Peace in the Midst of Chaos), I thought I’d give you a list of ideas for ways to maintain a personal sense of peace and/or encourage others. This is a list I included, along with other support materials, in the Leader’s Guide for the March devotion. If you would like to receive the Leader’s Guide for each month’s theme, email me at pullupachairwithlisa@gmail.com.

  1. Help someone whose loved one is away for military duty. You can tie this into the theme of “a world in chaos” and how this puts added stress on military families.
    • People whose spouses are away suggested the following: stamps, packing materials, offer to babysit or organize a “spouses night out.”
    • Remember that some have basically been thrust into the role of single parenting. Any help with errands, home repair, carpooling, etc. is sure to be helpful.
    • Those who are actively serving also need support. One friend said her husband loved getting care packages, especially cookies.
    • Letters from children in Sunday School classes or other groups are encouraging.
    • I also really liked one idea I heard where someone bought two copies of a daily devotion book. They gave one copy to the wife and sent the other to the husband in Iraq. That way, they could have a daily “connection” by reading and thinking on the same things.
  2. Plan an event to make or view Christian artwork. Below is a picture from a mosaic making night we had at my church. Several of the people who came told me how relaxing the night was for them.

    Mosaic by Me Night @ The Merge

    Mosaic by Me Night @ The Merge

  3. Visit a Christian bookstore. The atmosphere is usually wonderful and you’ll find much to lift your spirit. You’ll also find things to help you minister to others. (Teacher: You could plan a group outing and then share what you each discovered over lunch. You might also give everyone the assignment to find at least one item they will purchase to give to someone they want to encourage.)
  4. Organize a prayer walk, set up a prayer room, or set a time of day you will pray with others even if you are not in the same location.
  5. And finally, how about supporting a local Christian radio station? The positive message they put out daily is a blessing to many. Most Christian radio stations do some form of fundraising during the spring. Your participation would not only be an encouragement to the people who run the stations, but also to those who benefit from listening. Here’s a link to a new Christian radio station that I highly recommend, The Rock. It’s based in the St. Louis area but you can listen online. Update May 15, 2015: The Rock is currently raising funds to create an app for their station. For more details, or to support this cause, click here.

Given our current situation in St. Louis, I’d also like to create a list of ways we can support local law enforcement families. While many are working to right the wrongs of those in law enforcement who have contributed to the problem here, we must remember that there are also many good people serving our communities in local police agencies. Recent events have put an incredible strain on their families. If you have any ideas on ways we can support them, please post them in the comments.

When Hearts are Revealed through Social Media

 

Lord, heal our hearts.

Lord, heal our hearts.

Today my heart is grieved by those who spew hatred. I’m especially troubled by those who claim to be Christ followers yet don’t seem to realize that what they post and share on social media is saying so much about their true feelings towards others. As the St. Louis area still reels from recent events in Ferguson, the last thing we need is more people stirring up animosity.

So, I was tempted today to challenge some of the posts I’ve seen. But then I thought of the Scripture in which God says He can change people’s hardened hearts from stone to flesh. Healing for our region and beyond will require dialogue, debate, debunking and determination on the part of those trying to foster peace. In this moment, though, I am not suited for the battle because my own heart is agitated.

I’m choosing instead to make the irritating posts I see my promptings for prayer:

Holy Spirit, convict hearts as only you can. Lord, please chisel away the callouses and turn these stony hearts into hearts of flesh.

My First Year of Blogging – 2014 in Review

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog. See what’s happened since Lisa started her blog on May 8, 2014.

Here’s an excerpt:

The busiest day of the year was October 16th with 81 views. The most popular post that day was 5 Controversial Statements about Race and Gender I’ve Really Wanted to Post on My Blog but Haven’t – Until Now.

Click here to see the complete report.

4 Motivating Reasons to Start Your New Year’s Resolutions NOW

After finishing up our church’s small group study of Radical by David Platt, we decided to commit to The Radical Experiment. It’s a year-long commitment to five specific challenges:

  • To pray for the entire world
  • To read through the entire Word
  • To commit our lives to multiplying community
  • To sacrifice our money for a specific purpose
  • To give our time in another context

We started working on several of the challenges immediately. For the prayer goal, we’re beginning with Operation World’s 60 day prayer experience. It’s an app that provides the history, statistics and prayer needs of a different people group each day. After the 60 days, we’ll find another resource to help us continue our prayer efforts. We decided on a chronological reading plan for the Bible challenge and have begun our reading. We’re also planning a mission trip with Casas por Cristo for March and we’re raising funds for that.

While doing the Bible reading plan and prayer experience, I’ve thought how these are usually the tasks I start at the beginning of a New Year. I’m finding it refreshing to start some New Year’s resolutions before the New Year actually begins. Here are four benefits I see to starting early:

  1. Starting now is proactive instead of reactive. Being proactive means looking ahead and planning for challenges instead of just reacting to them after they hit. We all know New Year’s Resolutions are difficult to keep. Starting early provides opportunity to work out the kinks and make adjustments to be more realistic with our goals.
  1. Starting now fosters a mindset that deals effectively with setbacks. Since I’m taking action prior to the official start date, if I miss a day here or there it doesn’t feel like defeat. And if I miss a day in 2015 it won’t undermine the whole process because I’ll have made deposits into the “resolution account” to balance out the negative days.
  1. Starting now is motivating because it doesn’t begin with the concept of failure. New Year’s resolutions often feel like attempts to reboot or refocus on something I’ve failed at previously. In 2015, my goal will be to continue something good I’ve already started instead of trying to muster up the enthusiasm to begin something I’ve been putting off for far too long.
  1. Starting now is creating momentum, which should lead to a more successful approach to the resolutions. When the New Year starts, I’ll already have established the good habits I’m working towards. I will enter the 2015 feeling like I’m ahead of the game. I like the idea that I’ll start the New Year off with some accomplishments already made towards my goals.

This approach to my Bible reading and prayer goals has been so positive and motivating that I’m starting on a few more resolutions now instead of waiting. One such goal is related to this blog. To date, I’ve been blogging inconsistently, whenever the mood strikes and/or I make time for it. I’m now planning a posting schedule for 2015. I’m particularly excited to work on turning my “Encourager’s Devotional Series” into a blog feature. This was something I used to send out to email subscribers and Bible study groups. I’ve been told many times, for MANY years, I should create an internet version. Looks like it’s time to get to it. Stay tuned for that and an overall schedule – and remember, I hope to be posting it BEFORE the New Year begins. 🙂

What challenges or goals have you been putting off until the New Year? What resolutions to you begrudgingly put on your list every year only to have forgotten about them in a few months? How might starting now change your success rate?

The Pain in Peace

The labyrinth at Trinity Episcopal Church, where I sometimes go to find inner peace.

The labyrinth at Trinity Episcopal Church, where I sometimes go to find inner peace.

My husband will be very happy to see I’m admitting this in public. I have a hard time saying I’m sorry when it comes to an argument.

It’s not that I don’t think I’ve done anything wrong. I’m a firm believer that both sides have usually fallen into some form of error when embroiled in an argument – if not from the outset, most definitely once the battle begins.

And it’s not even that I don’t feel sorry for something along the way. At the very least, even when I feel like I’m 100% correct in my original point of contention, I’m always sorry we’re fighting. And I’m sorry the other person has been hurt in the process of airing out our grievances.

Here’s where my hang-up with “sorry” comes in: I can’t stand the thought of it being issued prematurely. I refuse to make an apology until I feel like my voice has been heard. I dislike the idea of a peace treaty that comes from either of us not having said what we’re really thinking and feeling. For me, a peace that stems from sugar coating or backing down from a perceived truth is only temporary. The issue will inevitably come up again because root issues were never really resolved.

I share all of this, not because I think I’m right or justified in this approach to conflict mediation. Rather, I put all this out on the table as an introduction to processing the quote from Jean Vanier. Here, I will share how I am working through the challenges presented in the quote, with the hope that the lessons I’m learning will also be seen as applicable to those who are praying for peace and justice in Ferguson, Missouri and beyond.

The quote really challenged me to think through the idea of what I’m willing to lose in an effort to pursue peace. Now, I’m still working through the processing of this, but here’s what it looks like so far:

Contemplating the loss of certitudes – Am I willing to admit I may be wrong? If I am, then the resulting action would be to listen more closely to the person on the other side of the debate. Instead of only listening for signs that they hear my point of view, I will listen more closely to theirs. What hurts are they expressing? What feels like injustice to them? What valid points are they bringing to the table? Instead of only seeking to be understood, perhaps I should ask questions about their history and what has led them to the conclusions they are expressing.

Contemplating the loss of comforts that shelter and define me – Am I willing to get out of my comfort zone and explore this issue from the perspective of “the other”? Am I willing to probe my own heart and see why I think saying “I’m sorry” is equivalent to saying, “I’m wrong”? Why does the withholding of my apology bring me comfort and a sense of security? Am I willing to give up that security in order to pursue peace? Why must the apology only come at the end of the discussion? Perhaps mingling in a few sincere apologies along the way would bring a level of comfort to the other person and foster truer, more effective dialogue. After all, I’m not just sorry after they’ve acknowledged my points. I’m sorry at various points in the discussion, so why not throw it out there as it’s occurring instead of waiting for them to earn it? (Darn! This is a difficult thing to admit.)

Contemplating the loss of hurts that shelter and define me – As difficult as that last area of contemplation was for me, this one is even harder. Am I willing to let go of my hurts? Holding on to my hurts shelters me from being hurt again. Will I risk all that in order to restore relationship? How does my hurt define me? Not just this hurt, but all the past hurts that feel similar to this one. Is it fair to bring all that baggage into this current conversation? It seems reasonable to allow both sides to acknowledge those hurts as reasons for their current stance on the issue and to promote understanding. If, however, I’m unwilling to release my grasp on those hurts … well, then I’m still in self-preservation mode and not yet working towards relationship preservation.

“Peace is the fruit of love, a love that is also justice.” In seeking peace and justice, which of the losses is hardest for you to take?

“If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Romans 12:18 (NASB)

Weeping for the City

Mark_Twain_statue,_Garden_City,_KS_IMG_5875

Today, I feel connected to the heart of Jesus when he looked out over the city of Jerusalem.

“As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it and said, ‘If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace—but now it is hidden from your eyes.'” (Luke 19:41-42, NIV)

I am disheartened by the way people indiscriminately latch on to stories, pictures, and social media posts that support their view of events – regardless of whether those things are based in truth. No fact checking. No hesitation to hit “share” even if the post might be offensive, or a lie. And for those who profess to be Christian, I have to wonder, where is spiritual discernment?

I’ve said before [see prior post], and will continue to say, the biggest challenge in finding the truth in the Ferguson situation will be that many do not really want truth. They just want to support their agendas.

I’m all for working for causes, promoting change, and letting our voices be heard. But for Christians this simply cannot be done at the expense of truth.

When Christians have blinders on that prevent them from even considering possible truths in the perspectives of “opponents” – or worse yet, when we willingly align ourselves with those spreading lies – it is imperative to lay our hearts before the Lord, yet again, and ask him to reveal the sins we hold in our “hidden parts.”

If you’re willing to challenge yourself in this way, here are a few Scriptures to guide your prayer time:

Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being. And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. (Psalm 51:6, NASB).

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. (John 3:19, NASB)

And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit. (Matthew 15:14, NASB)

Dancing for Peace

As I was trying to gain focus for a Facebook prayer group I’ve started to unite people in prayer for Ferguson today, I kept thinking of dancing. Yeah, it sounded strange to me, too, so I moved on to try to think of more spiritual things. I decided I’d like to find a quote by Nelson Mandela. When I found this quote, I realized the earlier prompt regarding dancing just might have been Spirit led after all.

“It is music and dancing that makes me at peace with the world, and at peace with myself.”
— Nelson Mandela

I’ve been using the phrase a lot lately, “putting feet to our prayers.” Today, I’m saying, “Let’s put dancing feet to our prayers.” Dance alone to be at peace with yourself so you can then bring that peaceful spirit to others. Dance with someone in solidarity. Dance with someone you have not yet found a way to engage with relationally. Dance with someone as a first step to dialogue.

As for me, I’m declaring tonight at The Merge Coffeehouse a night for dancing together. If you’re in the area, come dance with me. If you don’t live nearby, create a dance party of your own. Let’s dance to set our hearts free. Let’s dance for peace.

And for a more philosophical look at the effects of Mandela’s dancing, and the power of dance in general …

A Prayer Prompt As We Continue to Pray for Ferguson

Notes/disclaimers/ground-rules before you read this prayer prompt:

1) This kept coming to mind yesterday, but I hesitated to post because I really want it to spark personal prayer and not discussion or debate. So, please, know the purpose is NOT to have you post your responses here, but to ponder your response before the Lord today.
2) Despite yesterday’s hesitations, it continues to come to mind, so I’m posting despite the fact that I’m not really sure about it.
3) This is not meant to promote any one position over another. It is meant as a prompt for each of us to lay our own hearts bare before the Lord.

So, with all that said, here’s the prayer prompt:

If it was actually possible for the truth of what happened in the Michael Brown shooting to be revealed with absolute certainty, but the truth was contrary to what you have been prone to believe … if that were the case, how would you FEEL? I’m not asking whether you would doubt the outcome. Remember, in this hypothetical scenario, the truth has been proven without a shadow of a doubt. I’m asking how you would feel if the truth was contrary to your current presuppositions.

Would you feel glad and relieved that truth was found and justice served? Would you be disappointed that this case no longer served an agenda you promote? How might your heart be changed? Could your heart be changed? How would you feel towards the people “on the other side” of the issue? Would you desire to tag on a “yeah, but …”?

Wondering if maybe this prayer approach will let us know if our hearts are truly seeking truth and justice … or something else.

Holy Spirit, please guide us into all truth (John 16:1-15) – especially to the truth in our own hearts.

Initial Prayer Thoughts after a Walk in Ferguson

Slide1

While participating in a march in Ferguson last night, I talked with five or six different young people. I asked two quick questions: 1) What do I need to know? and 2) What do I need to do?

Here are their responses:

1) What I need to know –

“We’re living in prison.”

“We’re all in this together.”

2) What I need to do –

“Speak”

“Pray”

“You’re doin’ it.”

“Walk with us.”

My mind and heart are stirring following this event, and I will be writing more on this later. But for now, I want just give some thoughts for those who are praying with us here and in our Facebook prayer group.

As you pray, you might want to think about these things:

  • How will you help continue Christ’s mission to free the captives?
  • How will you show that we are all in this together? If you don’t believe this to be true, put that before the Lord in prayer.
  • Will you obey Proverbs 31:8-9 and “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves, for the rights of all who are destitute. Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy”? If you’re not sure how you can do this, pray for direction.
  • What can you DO? How can you walk with others in their struggles?