The Word of my Friend

Did you ever feel like God was trying to send you a message?  At every turn you see the same words, almost as though they were written on billboards specifically for you? Perhaps since I have been blogging, I notice this a little bit more easily than I ever have.

On April 13th I posted a blog called “The Power of Words” in which I considered the effects — both positive and negative — of my words on others.   Then, on April 22 I posted a blog called “The Power of Fewer Words” in which I discussed my challenge to say less and listen more.  It may come as no surprise to those who know me that the kind of words and the number of words that come out of my mouth have been a life-long challenge.

Way back in the fall some new friends invited me to attend a conference for Lutheran pastors’ wives.  They gave me a post card with the theme of the conference written on it, “The Word with Friends”.  The logo is a wordle (see featured image); I love Wordles!  I love words — I am a writer, an English teacher, a Words with Friends addict, and a bibliophile. My friends didn’t have to twist my arm to convince to come to this conference.  I put the dates on my calendar, paid the registration fee, and waited for the weekend to arrive.

Well, two days after I wrote the second blog mentioned above, I was walking into the conference at a hotel in Bay City.  The tables were set with Scrabble boards as centerpieces complete with chocolate Scrabble tiles!  The opening games were all word games — fill in the blank, word scrambles, hinky pinky, and the like. We were even sorted into groups by drawing Scrabble tiles from a bag.  I was having so much fun!!!  Words and letters everywhere!!

The next morning, I woke, ate breakfast, and joined a table of women for the first of four Bible study sessions — The Power of Words, The Lack of Words, Hidden Words, and Impress these Words.  Probably the biggest take away for me came in our last session on Sunday morning.  We were studying James 1:19-26.  Though we had been talking about words all weekend, this chunk included all the gems that God has been teaching me through the last few weeks: be quick to hear, slow to speak; be doers of the word, and not hearers only; bridle your tongue; and most importantly for me, I think, receive with meekness the implanted word, which is able to save your souls. 

And really, if I am going to be honest, that is the lesson that I have been learning since I started this blog back in July — God’s Word is powerful and able to save my soul.  Although I have made many changes since last year at this time — new home, new city, new church, new friends, new blog, new work life — the most impactful change has been reconnecting with the discipline of daily Bible study.  I didn’t set out to make that change — it just kind of happened.  My friend invited me to a Bible study.  The Bible study required daily preparation.  I am a good student, so I complied.

But here’s the thing — daily connection with God’s word has breathed life into me.  It has poured truth into my heart.  It has changed my thinking.  It has slowed me down.  It has allowed me to examine my thoughts, actions, and motives.  It has brought me joy.

On Sunday morning, our Bible study leader gave us all a small can of Play-doh.  She encouraged us to make shapes to remind us of the lessons we had learned.  We made a face with a closed mouth and extra large ears to remind us to respect the ratio of one mouth to two ears.  We made a hand to remind us to be doers of the word.   We made a face with a tongue sticking out to remind us to bridle our tongue.  And, we made a flower to remind us that God’s implanted word will bear fruit.

Words are a part of every day of my life.  I read, I write, I edit, I teach writing, and I now teach reading.  I must encounter thousands, even tens of thousands, of words every single day.  But here’s the thing — most of those words do not have a lasting impact on my life.  Sure, there are stories that I love to read over and over again.  There are poems and songs that make my heart sing.  My blog allows me to bring order to the chaos in my brain.  But only the Words of God have the power to save my soul.

Hebrews 4:12

For the Word of God is living and active.

Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow;

it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

I am just a human, being, revisit

This post, written in July 2014 at the beginning of my quest to do less and be more, seems appropriate even in July 2019, at the end of a weekend where I hung out with my granddaughters, simply being.

Many have pointed out the irony of being called ‘human beings’ in a culture that is so focused on ‘doing’. We often find our worth, meaning, and identity through what we do. Strangers, upon meeting, ask one another, “so what do you do?”  The child comes home from school, and the parent asks, “what did you do today?”  The husband says to the wife, “what have you been doing?” It’s fine if what you did was close a million-dollar deal, get an A on a paper, or promote world peace, but not so great if what you did was file for bankruptcy, get in a fight with a friend, or simply change diapers all day. When we form our identity or measure our worth based on what we do, we may end up struggling with perfectionism, workaholism, and, in the absence of peak-performance, depression.

I must admit from the start, that in the world of doing, I have been an over-achiever. I stood at the starting line of adulthood declaring that I was going to win. I was the mom who, while holding a full-time teaching position, trained for and ran a half-marathon, baked cinnamon rolls and tortillas from scratch, clipped coupons, and made all my children’s clothes (just kidding on that last one). You get the point. I have got doing down. To a fault.

I often do when I don’t want to feel, or when I need to be in control, or when I am angry or afraid.  It is my way of avoiding the interior me — the human being.  

So when my health began to shift and I suddenly found myself unable to do all the things I like to do and started to be, it was pretty ugly. I began to be angry, and scared, and depressed, and worried, and sad, and bored. I didn’t like to be with me. I was downright whiny — and this momma has never done whiny!

My strategy to cope with this was, of course, to do something!  While I was struggling to manage all the responsibilities of my full-time-plus position as a teacher and administrator of a high school, I spent evenings and weekends applying for all kinds of jobs where I could do less! After about six months doing that, I got an interview and an offer to do, shockingly, more!  And then,….and then….a solution was provided! I didn’t have to do anything!  My husband was offered a position that relocated us to a new environment and provided me with some time to just be. And here we are.

Being.

A long time ago, a huge group of people was following Jesus around, so he walked up the side of a mountain and started speaking to them. He said, “You are the salt of the earth….you are the light of the world.”  He didn’t say “Be the salt of the earth.” Or, “be the light of the world.”  He said “you are“. The word ‘are’ is the present tense plural form of ‘be’ We are already the salt of the earth and the light of the world. Our identify is not dependent on what we do. Our identity is firmly planted in Christ. We are His.

I enter this time of rest and be-ing chanting this mantra, “I am His. I am a human, being His.”

I will pray that you find some space to just be today, too.

Epilogue: Five years later, I’m still trying to find the balance between being and doing. I’m discovering in many areas of life that balance is not about choosing one option (i.e. being) over another (i.e. doing) but about finding ways to live in the tension of the existence of both. Our identity is based on who we are in Christ, and He calls us to do — to live our life — out of that truth. We can do great things because of who He has made us to be, which is really not as easy as it sounds, especially in a culture that values accomplishment and status. We can easily forget that the most important is already done; we quickly fall back into patterns of trying to do more to earn position, identity, or status. However, when we realize that our identity is based on who we are in Christ, we can freely do without the added pressure of earning our worth.

As I watched our granddaughters this weekend, I loved them every minute — when they were charming, when they were naughty, when they were sleeping, and when they were showing off. My love for them was not based on what they were doing; I am simply in love with their beings. As they grow, others may not be so kind, but the One who made them — and us — will love them through all the things that they do, while they learn who He has made them to be.

The same is true for you and me.

Be kind and compassionate to one another.”

Ephesians 4:32