Training Camp of Character

This past week I photographed, watched and learned about the MN Vikings from a whole new perspective.  A friend met me there mid-week, and admitted that this was never something she would have chosen to attend herself.  I was glad to have her around though.  During the practices, she sat on the bleachers & I ran around taking photos.  One day as we walked away from the field, she mentioned something that has stuck with me the last few days.  She told me about sitting in the bleachers, watching the team practice, and listening to the crowds cheer & root for them.  They would praise the players who made a great catch, comment on the muscles someone had, cheer for a nice kick, etc…all encouraging the performance, abilities & physicality of a player.  My friend noted that it’s our society that praises these things, and that it’s pretty common to do, but wondered what it would be like to live in a society that praised not the accomplishments necessarily but the character of the person before us.

Wow. Praise someone’s character? That thought goes beyond winning or losing, but to the internal soul of what makes that person who they are, and the fruit that they are expressing.  “But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.” (Hebrews 3:13)  …encourage one another, there’s no group here, it seems pretty broad, it’s to be for everyone…and what are the things we should encourage each other about?  “…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control….” (Galatians 5:22-23) These are the things that we should be praising….”Way to be gentle in that hard place”, “You have such joy about this”, “Your patience astounds me”, etc.  I’m getting excited just in writing this, to encourage someone today.

So what would it look like if we became a society that praised someone based on their character and not on their physical strength, skill or speed?  How would that change people, and how would it effect each of us?  Wouldn’t you be strengthened inside to continue doing good & making decisions that would please our Heavenly Father?  Let’s be encouraged now, and freely give encouragement to those in whom we see Christ working through their character. Let’s build each other up not only on our accomplishments but on who we are becoming through every situation & circumstance despite those accomplishments or failures. Let’s let this life we live be a training camp of character, with the goal of heaven to drive us, so when we break camp, we can stand before the Father in bold confidence that he who began a good work in us continued through the end.

Anticipation

Standing on the precipice of something extraordinary….or maybe just new, I cannot help but feel anticipation and eagerness to move forward, to feel whatever this is that the Lord is moving around in my life. Big pieces are moving, and slowly things are taking shape.  I’ve been praying much the past few months of what does God have for me next.  I am “content” where I am, yet some of the situations that surround me make me uncomfortable, and yes I do realize that uncomfortableness can grow you….however this type of uncomfortable is the kind that can kill you. So. What is it God, what will it be? Where will it be? When will it be?

Looking forward, I cannot help but look back as well…I recently saw this verse at one of the 5 funerals I’ve attended in the last few weeks…”The memory of the righteous will be a blessing….” (Proverbs 10:7a).  What a blessing that I have been given through all of the people in my life & now who have passed on to the next.  One of my favorite kids books, tells the story of an old woman who refuses to name things that she knows she will outlive.  So the puppy that starts to visit her daily goes without a name until at one point he stops coming & she believes she has lost him forever. Through his visits, she has grown to love him…and when the dog pound guy asks what the lost puppy’s name is, she thinks back over all her friends that she had outlived, and realized just how lucky she was, and decided then to name the dog “lucky”.  As I look for what this new thing is that God is stirring, I want to bring the memories of the righteous people in my life with me…they will be in me and their memories will live through me, in whatever place I land.

Eleanor Roosevelt, in my mind one of the greatest inspirational women to ever live, said this…”The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience.”  That’s what I’m trying to do…..reaching out to find whatever is out there, whatever God has that holds a rich newness to it. His redeeming & loving character will provide that, in his way.  Hm. How are we, am I, living that is tasting His will to the utmost, am I reaching out eagerly & without fear?  Will I remember the past with a blessed feeling?  I will, and I will try to take steps in faith to be one of those women who live without fear of the future, to be confident in the hope I have in Christ, and the boldness to follow wherever He may lead…seeing how He worked so vibrantly in the lives of my loved ones past, and fully trusting that He will do the same in me.

Total Restoration in Progress

This is my new life statement. Total restoration in progress. Think about this with me.  As I walked down the old & classic looking streets of downtown St. Paul, there’s a place called the Coney Island Cafe. It says it opened in 1923, and now there is plastic sheets over the windows & dirt in the doorway. But a tiny little sign tells you that there is a “total restoration in progress”.  When you peek into the windows, you can see the old bar stools, the juke box in the middle of the dining room, old booths made from dark wood…signs of a past that has been lived and worn down.  Signs that at one time this little shop was something…it was made to be something, but has gotten dirty, old, been shut off from the outside & has lost life inside the walls.

As I walked away from the cloudy window, I pictured my own life like that little cafe.  Parts of my life have been dusty, abandoned, been shut off from the outside & lost life.  I thought about how many of us when going through difficult things will grow tired of visiting those places inside of us, and pretty soon they’re closed for business, not something we easily remember, and not something any one would want to go back to.

But Christ, in his ever visioning perspective & will, sees that old place and sees the potential that is still held within.  He comes inside of that place, and puts up a sign “total restoration in progress”.  Total….not one spot untouched, taking everything into the process.  Restoration…..taking all those parts, every single spec & restoring it to the original design, the original intent & vibrant life.  In Progress……an ongoing process, active & not sedentary, forward moving towards a goal, a developing of sorts.

Isn’t our life in Christ a “total restoration in progress”?  Will we ever reach a finished state until Christ says come home?  And how would we be totally restored if we do not allow him into every little nook & cranny of our being?

When you see a place that has been totally restored to it’s original state, is it not a beautiful sight? Something you want to behold, take in, soak up, relish, applaud, appreciate & marvel at?  Are we not usually wanting to give recognition to the hard work that the restorer has accomplished? Do we not look at all the tiny details that the crafter took time to meticulously finish?  Why then would we not recognize the work that Christ would like to do in us, a more than fully capable master who knows the ins & outs of us better than we know ourselves.  Should we not then give him the keys to every part of us and especially the dark & dusty parts so that we can be fully restored to the life that Christ meant for us to live out?

A little shift.

I think something has changed. Temporarily? It’s possible. But changed? Definitely.  A friend asked me very cautiously, if since my mother’s death I looked at dying differently. To that I had an emphatic response of “yes…I’m not afraid of it at all.” I realize that as a believer, there’s no reason to fear death, but sometimes it’s not death you fear, but the unknown that surrounds it.  The unanswerable questions that after the fact won’t matter anyway.

I remember that when my friend Julie passed away, I was soon after on a trip to Mexico.  There we visited Copper Canyon in Chihuahua.  There was one cliff that we saw, that had a large rock at the very tip.  My friends discovered that the rock–rocked. You could stand on the rock & it would sway on the tip of the cliff.  I wanted a picture out there, but decided I wasn’t brave enough to stand on the edge, so I stayed on the “sturdy” rock in front.  Immediately after they took my picture though, I changed my mind & decided I couldn’t be that close & not stand at the edge. I quickly turned around, walked right out onto the rock & posed for a picture. Yes, I was probably about 200+ feet above the bottom of the canyon, with not much below me…not ANYTHING below me…but I realized that death didn’t frighten me. Why not live life & be a little daring?

This is not nearly as near to the story I just told, but last night as I drove away from my home, I spied a beautiful antique settee on the curb. I wondered, pondered & decided to drive on. Then I had a little twinge…why not turn around & see.  I turned a right and went around the block, pulled up in front of a quaint little house, walked up to the door & knocked. After a few minutes of curious knocking, a girl my age welcomed me with a big smile. I asked about the couch & she vibrantly answered “You like it? It’s yours. Think it’ll fit in your car?” Huh. See how easy that I was I thought? What did that hurt to ask?

That part of me …that is sometimes timid & nervous, is changing. I’m growing bolder, braver….little by little. It’s a good change, a welcomed change. I’m finding joy in this, and can’t wait to see what else awaits!

Going back forward

Last night, talking with a friend, made me think about some things….about “being”.  There also was a group of people yesterday, who I shared with about my struggle with this whole concept of just “being”….of being still, of listening, of taking time to slow down, etc. A very good friend of mine has asked me to take some time to slow down, with writing letters…..I started, but still haven’t gotten a whole one out (It’s coming you).

Anyway, what I found funny yesterday is that in thinking about “being” I took time to look through some of my old blog posts. It dumbfounded me because what is happening today, is totally different from two years ago, yet some of my thoughts & reactions are completely identical. I read one post, and thought….this could have been a narrative of me today, crazy!  Totally different situation, and yet same response.  Makes me wonder how much I’m growing….or how much this is just me, and going to stay me. Is there something more I need to learn in this area, or rather will I EVER learn?

I don’t know. But I do know this…..whoever is reading this, you know me (or at least most of you do)….so if you see things that you question, I’m opening myself up to your questioning of me. Seek me out & ask about it if you see something that brings up a flag in your mind….caution me, question me, whatever you feel you need to do. I’m okay with that. It’s helping me to grow.