Category Archive: Communication

Reading Treasures

I’ve read two books by friends in the past three weeks, to review one and do a bit of editing on the other.

It’s such a privilege to read books friends have written. I learn more about each writer’s heart, challenges, and interests. I powered through both of these, knowing there were deadlines at the other end. Each very different from the other; each a treasure.

Rogue Wave, by Jane Carlile Baker

Available now on amazon.com, this novel, by a friend I learned to know and appreciate in a writing group with Ethel Herr, held my attention from beginning to end. Baker knows her Central Coast geography and as I read, I could picture the locations for many of this page-turner’s scenes. While Bonnie is in the grocery store, she turns to see her daughter Fallon smiling at her. But Bonnie’s best friend’s daughter, who was sitting in the grocery cart with Fallon, is nowhere to be seen! Disappeared without a trace. Guilt overwhelms, a friendship is destroyed, and Bonnie becomes a hyper-vigilant helicopter mom to Fallon, until threats begin again in the ‘safe place’ she has built around her daughter. Can safety be guaranteed anywhere? Will they find Fallon before it’s too late? Can old wounds be healed, friendships restored? Interweaving plots and strong character development will keep you reading. I loved this book. https://www.amazon.com/Rogue-Wave-Bo…/…/ref=sr_1_fkmrnull_1…

Haley House, by MarJean S. Peters

MarJean and I became close in college, sharing our lives, singing together, and watching each other’s romances develop – or not. I was in her wedding. We were somewhat out of touch when I married about fourteen years later so she was not in mine.

My friend had a beautiful soprano voice, thick, dark brown hair, sparkling brown eyes and a warm, winsome smile. An artist, Jeannie has an eye for beauty. We’ve reconnected in the past few years and five college girlfriends have even shared a few reunions since. Jeannie’s hair, still thick and lustrous, is now white. She is still absolutely lovely.

Jeannie and her husband have raised four gifted, committed Christian children who are in different walks of life and service. She and Conrad have been pastors and missionaries. At one point, they lived bel
ow the poverty line and moved into Haley House, a moldy, rat-infested shack.

Her book is the story of that house, told from the point of view of a 12-year old son. I was touched as I thought of my lovely friend who enjoys beauty and creativity living in horrible surroundings for several years. And yet, I saw also the grace of God as MarJean found the good in their circumstances. Even as she brought in added income by cleaning houses for wealthy women, Jeannie recognized that having money or grand homes did not bring happiness or prevent marriages from breaking up. She was able to remind her family that in that tiny house they had to communicate, they had to work things through–and they were CLOSE (in more ways than one).

I chuckled when I read about one of the children complaining that his eggs were getting covered in pancake syrup because the floor sloped. My dear friend told her kids to turn their plates so the eggs would be on the upside of the slope, and the syrup would stay off the eggs! Understanding some of the valleys God took MarJean and Conrad through, seeing her faith amid confusion and questions and tears and hardship, challenged me in my own faith. 

Haley House will be available this week on amazon.com.

What have you read recently that you enjoyed, that challenged you, or that opened your eyes to someone else’s life, struggles and victories?

Agency

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Have you ever wondered how best to help a loved one or friend in a way that retains his dignity? While my brother and sister-in-law, Arnold and Carol, were here last week, we talked a good deal about the concept of “agency”.

Arnold’s definition of agency is “power and ability to do what you want to do.” He says “People with disabilities have lost some agency. People without power have lost some agency. Women have less agency in general than men because of cultural stereotypes and limitations. Prisoners have had agency removed from them by the courts.”

My brother has given a lot of thought to this topic because his wife, Carol, suffered a life-altering stroke six and a half years ago. There are things she can’t do herself any more; and activities with which she needs help.

Our mother has also lost some ability to do things she wishes to do, and therefore, some power. Mom’s mind is still quite clear; however, her legs are getting weaker. She’s fallen twice in the last two months. She has thought for awhile about possibly moving into the Assisted Living section of the senior manor where she lives.

Living independently at 97 is quite a feat, but we wondered if it was still wise for Mom. Of course we children want her to be safe. Arnold put it well when he said he sees his role with Carol, his wife, to be that of providing agency–or power, ability and environment for her to decide and to act as she wishes, rather than by simply doing things for her.

So this Christmas we, along with brothers Bob and Melvyn and their wives, talked with each other, and with Mom, asking questions like what situations would cause her to say “It’s time,” “I’m ready,” “I need to move.” She also asked whether we would be disappointed in either decision–to move or to stay. We set her mind at ease regarding that, and told her our desire is to help her achieve her goals, not to impose ours on her.

And she’s decided she’s not yet ready to leave the cottage which she loves and has decorated with precious mementos from the family home she shared with Dad. So our role is to support her, to help identify ways she can get additional help i.e. with taking care of her patio and plants, and to fill in some of the gaps for her on a more regular basis.

I appreciated Arn’s explanation of agency. When we help someone achieve their dreams, meet their own needs or make decisions that we then help facilitate, the person retains his dignity. He or she is acting rather than being acted upon, as it would be if we told that individual what to do.

There are certainly situations where safety or protection are so critical, or abilities so limited, that decisions must be made for another. But when there are still decision-making capabilities, how much better to help in that process.

Isn’t this what Jesus did for us? He took the penalty for my sins and yours, something we are incapable of doing for ourselves, and freed us, gave us the power and ability to walk with God through faith in Him.

Do you have someone in your life who lacks agency, or the capacity or power to act on his or her own behalf? If so, how can you help that individual identify or communicate their choices and then facilitate those choices to become a reality?

“Fab Friday”

These four women, and one other, have become precious to me over the past five or six years as our “Fab Friday” group meets twice monthly to study the Bible, pray, and care for each other.  This photo was taken at our 2018 Christmas brunch a few days ago.

We’ve walked through a lot of life together in these years…illness, loss, life’s various challenges. About a year ago I needed to take a step back due to my own health issues, so I dropped out of the group for a time. These women continued to love me, communicate with me, and keep me in the loop.

This past year has included lots of change for me: a new shoulder, new knee, a move to a new home and community, some of my closest friends moving out of the area … I realized I need these long-term sisters in Christ. I need their support and friendship, even as I give mine to them.

Why do I need these women?

WISE FRIENDS MAKE ONE WISER

“Walk with the wise and become wise, for a companion of fools suffers harm.” (Proverbs 13:20 New International Version)

These are godly women from whom I learn much, and I need their input into my life, even as I share with them..

WE BEAR EACH OTHER’S BURDENS

“Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way, you will fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2)

WE CHALLENGE EACH OTHER TO BE MORE LIKE JESUS

“As iron sharpens iron, so a friend sharpens a friend.” (Proverbs 27:17 New Living Translation”

As we are vulnerable to share our weaknesses as well as strengths, we sharpen each other to be more like Jesus.

WE FOLLOW JESUS’ EXAMPLE

God, Creator, Sustainer, Comforter, Healer, Peacegiver, Redeemer, exists in community himself: Father, Son and Holy Spirit. And He created us for relationship–not to go it alone, not to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, but to be in relationship with Him and with others.

These women are not my only friends; I have dear friends near and far. Some are one-on-one friendships, other couple friendships, but this is a group of women committed to each other, to confidentiality of the things we share, and to building each other up in our walks with Jesus. Such friendships are a precious gift, to be treasured and nurtured.

It’s easy for me to get lazy. I need to be reminded of how God is at work in others’ lives; to remain in His word and also to be reminded through what others recognize, how God is working in my own life. 

And so, as of January 4th, I’m back in!

“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their work; If one falls down, his friend can help him up. But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up.” ( Ecclesiastes 4:9-10)

Question: If you do not have a small group of trusted women or men with whom you meet regularly, where can you find one?

The Wisdom of Worship

According to Mayan legend, the gods who made the earth wanted someone to praise and worship them. So they created people made of clay; but the clay was soft and the clay people couldn’t stand.

So the creator made people of wood. These could stand, but had no minds or souls, and forgot to worship the gods who made them. So the gods sent a great water to wipe them out; and then made people of straw, who became the Mayans.

As Don and I listened to our tour guide at Tulum, a Mayan ruin on the stunning turquoise Caribbean coastline, I was impressed with two thoughts.

First, I was reminded of the truth of Romans 1:20-21: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse. For although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

It seems every culture has an understanding that there is a God.

And second, the parallels (like the flood, or God’s desire to be worshipped) between ancient tradition and God’s Word remind me that God has always desired to make himself known to his creation.

And He desires our worship. Psalm 9:11 exhorts us to “Sing praises to the Lord, who dwells in Zion! Declare His deeds among the people.”  And Psalm 30:4 says “Sing the praises of the Lord, you his faithful people; praise His holy name.” But he longs for this to be of our own volition, in recognition of who he is and what he has done, and will do, for us.

We praise Him for:

  • Revealing Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ, through whom we have eternal life in the future, and meaningful life now.
  • Rescuing us (I’ve been rescued when I lived in the LA ghetto, and probably other times I’m not aware of). “The Lord is my strength and my defense; he has become my salvation. He is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2). We can rely on Him.
  • Being great and glorious and above all. (Psalm 150).
  • Loving us–amazing as that is. So many cultures and belief systems focus on currying favor with the gods, whereas the God of the universe, of Creation, came to earth so we could know Him and have a relationship with him. (John 3:16).
  • His grace (Ephesians 1:6) and mercy (I Peter 1:3).
  • His faithfulness in all times (Psalm 40:11).
  • His comfort in times of sorrow, loss, distress (II Corinthians 1:3-5).
  • His guidance: Psalm 16:7 says “I will praise the Lord, who counsels me; even at night my heart instructs me.”
I pray I will always remember to praise and worship my Lord, my God, my Redeemer–not because I fear being annihilated, but because He is good and loving and worthy of all my praise.
I’d love to hear what you would add to my partial list of reasons to praise God above.
 

The Wisdom of Words

         Golden apple by krzysiu                    “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver.” Proverbs 25:11

Whoever said “Sticks and stones may hurt my bones, but words will never hurt me” was wrong–way wrong. Sometimes the deepest wounds are those caused by the sharp blade of hurtful words.

When I was around ten years old, a neighbor said I was “pleasantly plump.” Those words, meant well, have never left me. Who wants to be “pleasantly plump?” Words can cower a woman, destroy her spirit.  An abusive husband can tell a woman she’s worthless, never affirm her in her business or homemaking skills, or tell her she is important to him. A husband whose wife degrades him in front of others shows by words and actions that she doesn’t respect him. A child’s parents may tell him he has big ears, is lazy, stupid, uncoordinated.

Words can be either a blessing or a curse. Sometimes I ask God to give me the wisdom to know when to speak and when to be silent. Proverbs 10:19 warns against too many words: “Don’t talk too much, for it fosters sin. Be sensible and turn off the flow!” (NLT) A tremendous gift given to me after my first husband died was the attentive ear of a dear friend, who spent several hours sitting on the floor while I poured out my heart, talking about Jerry’s last day and his death. Her words were few, but precious. “Mmmmm ….”, “Oh my”, “I’m so sorry.” Sometimes listening in silence is the greatest gift we can give others.

Gossip destroys people and reputations. Lies and flattery hurt by raising false hopes; perverse or crude words bring others (as well as the speaker) down. And angry words destroy. It’s been said that the one thing you can never take back is your words. Once they have left the mouth they are always out there, never to be pulled back in. Thankfully, we can repent, we can ask those we’ve hurt to forgive us; but the damage can never be erased.

Another close friend ministered to me through words. A nurse, she told me how to read Jerry’s vital signs on the monitor and what each meant; how to know when his health was getting critical. So both silence and words can be a tremendous gift to others.

Wise words are a blessing. Proverbs 16:24 says it beautifully: “Kind words are like honey–sweet to the soul and healthy for the body.” (NLT) With our lips we praise God; and with our lips we encourage and influence others.

It was my eighth grade civics class. Our amazing teacher, Mrs. Goolsby, returned the graded tests to each of the students in the class, except me. What could have happened?

“Carol, I’d like you to stay after class for a few minutes.”

Mrs. Goolsby told me, in private, that I had failed the test. I was a reasonably good student, so this didn’t make sense to either of us. She questioned the process I’d used in answering the true/false questions and together, we figured out I had crossed out the right answer rather than crossing out the wrong one and leaving the correct one showing. When she re-graded the test with this criteria I had passed. But her words were kind, her heart discerning to understand what had gone wrong, and I knew she believed in me. Words of honey! And with her words, she influenced me for good.

The bottom line, as Pastor Val said last week, is that our words reveal our hearts.

Do you recall a time when words were either a curse or a blessing to you? How has that impacted your life?

“May the words of my mouth and the thoughts of my heart be pleasing to you, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

Psalm 19:14 (NLT)