Lead Yourself Like A Ninja

Everywhere I turn these days, change is right there with me. I recently stepped away from some obligations I’ve been participating in for many years after transitioning into a new role in one area of my life. At the same time, I took on a whole truckload of work in another arena altogether. From my carpool status to my credit rating, I’ve adjusted a significant number of previous agreements and understandings while addressing competing expectations in multiple areas.  I’ve changed how, when, where, why and with whom I conduct much of my daily life.

I’ve pretty much re-negotiated most of my standing commitments, and I highly recommend it. (And yes, it was partly foreshadowed by this post.)

The most difficult piece to navigate has been the relationships. It’s hard to say no, to feel like I’m disappointing people I care about and whose opinions and feelings towards me I care about also. I hate knowing that even though we all agree that none of this is personal, dynamics will inevitably change. I already miss the affirmation and confidence that came after accomplishing certain assignments that only I could pull off.  I grieve the sense of competence that goes with being able to execute something effortlessly.  The bottom line is there are things I do well, things others appreciate and highly value, that I can’t justify doing anymore.

We are each responsible for leading our own life. If we don’t accept that responsibility, whether it’s because others try to stop us or because we are not aware that it is our responsibility in the first place, the odds of each of us becoming who we are meant to be or who we want to be are much much lower. The actions of others are not our fault, but acting as a leader (of yourself), even in situations where we encounter strong opposition, is always the best and strongest and most powerful choice anyone can make.

The fact that this is much easier to write in a blog post than it is to live out on a regular  basis doesn’t make it any less true. This is the gritty side of self-leadership; the part that hurts and doesn’t feel powerful or fulfilling or nascent. It feels confusing and sad and like nothing will ever be the same but in a scary way, not an exciting way. And no matter how many times we have been through a life transition before and come out the other side, the process is far from painless.

Making the choice to lead your own life as best you can doesn’t mean that you have to become a narcissist or begin dominating others. Quite the opposite! Being an effective self-leader means you have no need to grab onto external power or manipulate people. You aren’t compelled to exert your influence over situations in an arbitrary fashion, pushing your agenda out of insecurity or a compulsion  to be in control. Aggression is not your default. Rather,  you take after the oceans’ tide; flexible, transparent, open, yielding—and with unstoppable force.

The more in touch we are with this concept, the more we’ll understand how to manage when others resist our self-leadership.

There’s a book I don’t like very much called “Non-Violent Communication; A Language of Life.” One of the things I do appreciate about the book is the way they relate effective action with martial arts principles. For example, in Aikido, both halves of the technique, that of uke and that of tori, are considered essential. Tori learns to blend with and control attacking energy, while uke learns to become calm and flexible in the disadvantageous, off-balance positions in which tori places him. This “receiving” of the technique is called ukemi. *

Ukemi is such a great metaphor for self leadership. Once I am clear on my goal and how to get there, I can receive any challenge with grace and skill. I can be both nimble and reverent in my response to hostility or antagonism, and I can choose to see a challenger as a partner in training.

What this looks like for each of us in our individual contexts depends on our current situation. Ultimately I hope you find purpose and peace in the clarity that comes from knowing who you really are and what you deeply want. May we all be strengthened in ukemi, and may we continue to lead ourselves well.

Are You Leading The Life You Want?

*Adapted from Wikipedia; “Aikido Techniques”

 

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All The Time, Redux

This post is a slightly revised version of a post that ran in April of 2013. My family is approaching a decade of summers spent at the camp I refer to, and just last week I got giddy as I dispensed way too much advice to a friend about to go for their first time. The experience I describe below remains one of the most significant events of my adult life. I hope your summer has included similar moments of grace and truth. If not, you have a few weeks left.

Several years ago now, my family and I were at a place called “Family Camp” in Santa Cruz, California. It’s basically a resort, with lots of fun enriching activities for the whole family. My kids loved it, but then again, what’s not to love about staying up until 10 pm every night with pretty much an entire circus carnival right outside your window.

When we first arrived, I was fairly stressed out. Like, a 9 out of 10, with 10 being complete and utter chaos. Having never been to this “camp experience” before, the learning curve felt very steep. I felt uncomfortable most of the time, trying to figure out the social codes and expectations for me, my husband, and my kids. Because, you know, I’m responsible for it all. Begins with C and ends with ONTROL, people.

I was coming off of a very tough season at work; my workload was highest in the summers, and it was challenging to be so far away from what was going on. I’d gone through a very draining several months following a colleague leaving and lots of pieces falling through the cracks or being dropped altogether. I felt strung out and exhausted the way one does when one is constantly working outside one’s skill set, and I struggled with feeling like I had now arrived at yet another place where I was expected to learn how to function differently than before.

My older son had also just finished a rough year in first grade. We have since found out that he struggles with anxiety, so what was going on for him at age 6 was no small thing. A lot of my burden that summer was worry about him and how long it would take him to catch up to his peers in certain areas, as well as what damage might be done in the meantime. Suffice to say, I watched him like a hawk.

One afternoon, my family and I were hanging out at the pool during “free time”. At some point, my older son got ahold of one of those pool noodles that have holes at both ends and can act like a straw if you tilt them just right under the water. He had just discovered that it’s pretty easy to shoot water out of one end when you do that, and was gleefully shooting me and some other kids/grownups/innocent bystanders. All in good fun, no one getting annoyed….yet. But of course, I was thinking 17 steps ahead and panicking about how to arrest what was sure to be a violent attack on all peaceful pool-dwellers by a scrawny kid armed with a floppy purple pool noodle. The scenes flashed through my mind: would people scatter? Would uniformed agents have to be called? Would the offender be put in a holding cell? What would observers say later? “We thought something was wrong when he wouldn’t stop giggling…we had no idea so much damage could be done by a child with a bit too much Styrofoam. We’ll never swim without goggles again.”

From there, my imagination really takes off. I picture a huge dramatic scene wherein my entire family is escorted from the pool at what is of course the busiest time of the afternoon, causing hundreds of people to stop mid-swim and stare, mouths agape, at our family’s own personal exodus. Of course I am wearing my old ratty bathing suit, stretched out from before two kids ago, the one I usually only wear in the best friends hot tub with just the girlfriends because of course I forgot to pack the one I bought specifically to wear to the pool at camp but haven’t worn yet because its too nice and I don’t want to ruin it. I picture people murmuring disapproval, covering mouths while talking quickly in whispers, the peer group equivalent of flashing lights and sirens. I’m last in line, following my boys and husband in their dripping swim trunks with wet hair sticking up. This way everyone gets a parting shot of my droopy, sagging-even-more-with-the-soggy-stretched-out-old-swimsuit-covered-backside. Oh, the horror. I physically wince at the visual in my mind’s eye.

And then it happens. I look up (in real life now) and see, as if in slow motion, the lifeguard coming towards us. The red one piece, the floater thing on a string, the sunglasses, all of it. She’s total Baywatch, but it’s not like I have time to compare myself to her and come up short like usual because I’m too busy dealing with the rush of adrenalin and panic that comes from knowing your child is in serious danger of being harshly corrected by an adult other than yourself.

She comes over to my son, and asks him his name. He tells her. Then she leans down to his level, looks him right in the eye, and says, “You know, if you hold the noodle up to that jet over there, you can get tons more water and it will shoot straight out of the end. It will go way further and be totally strong. Try it!”

Now, you should know that I hate drama.

I really do. I’m not just saying that but really deep down inside I love it and it’s like a trick I play to get you to be really dramatic and then I’ll fall in love with you. I hated The Notebook, okay? Hated. It.

But I can’t lie to you, friends. What happened in my terrified heart at that moment was maybe one of the most powerful things I’ve ever experienced. It was as if that lifeguard was actually talking directly to me. She was saying: “I know you have been kicked in the stomach again and again and again for the last 8 months. I know you think you eff everything up and whenever you care about something and try to do it well you end up choking in front of everyone. I know you think everything you touch turns to crap. I know you feel like your anxious thoughts and fears and general terror are raging out of control with no antidote in sight. I know you are so scared for your little boy that you can’t sleep at night for fear of doing something even inadvertently that will mess him up even more and you will be even more responsible than you feel right now.

HOWEVER.

This is not who you are. It is not your whole life. It may be what you are surrounded by right now; the water in which you swim at this moment. Yet you are loved and enjoyed, exactly as you are. All the time. Yes you screw up, yes you make mistakes, yes you fail again and again and again. And, you are loved. At every moment. Exactly as you are. As flawed and frightened and fragile as you are. All the time.“

I know not everyone who reads this blog would consider themselves spiritual, but I do. I believe that my higher power communicates with me on a regular basis and gives me guidance and direction when I need it. And, I felt It saying to me, in that very moment, with my son in the pool at Family Camp: “Michele, you are loved. The way the lifeguard sees your son? The way she came and pretty much did the opposite of what you feared, and instead of shaming and rebuking your son, she accepted and encouraged him exactly as he is and loved on him right there? That’s how I feel about you. And not just when you’re a wreck in the pool with your hurting kid and wearing your nasty old bathing suit. All. The. Time.”

Let this be a reminder that whatever you are going through right now does not define you. Also, you are loved. Yes, you are. All The Time.

Now, go get yourself a new bathing suit.

Are You Leading The Life You Want? 

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Less Is More

Goff

I often encounter a certain scenario with people I coach, wherein individuals will give me copious explanation and background while telling me what they think I need to know about their current situation that has brought them to me. It’s important to them that I know the context, have a sense of the story, understand who the players are and how they relate.

As an INFJ, I appreciate the effort, but it’s not like I can’t figure it out in the first few minutes of our conversation. Penelope Trunk says: “INFJs…… are great at seeing everything, and the most difficult thing for INFJs is they can’t believe everyone else does not see what they see. It’s like INFJs are wearing glasses that no one else can access.”

Ay-men.

A colleague took me out to lunch recently (always a good idea) to “pick my brain” about his professional development. He shared goals he’s set, feedback he’s gotten, successes and failures, frustrations and hopes. After 20 minutes, he hadn’t touched his empanadas and my plate was clean. He raised his fork and asked for my thoughts. I took a sip of iced tea, picked some pico out of my teeth, and said: “Use less words.”

I explained that the running theme throughout what he shared- and even how he shared it– was one of loquaciousness. Which is great in certain roles. Sales, publicity, fundraising, politics, even some parts of academia.  It communicates gregariousness, extraversion; even generosity. But in his field, it also tended to make him appear indiscreet; unreserved and gossipy.  Nobody wants to work with someone they perceive as a compulsive over-communicator. Except maybe the casting directors for the Real Housewives.

Of course it was difficult on one level for me to even say this to my peer. Penelope Trunk (again) says: “the INFJ sees through people almost immediately, yet the INFJ is reserved and slow to share the knowledge that comes so easily to them.” Truly, I’d much rather listen than speak and I always prefer to use 5 words when others might use 50.

As I reflected on our conversation later, though, I realized that the “less is more” motto that originated from a Robert Browning poem in 1855 and characterized certain minimalist architectural trends in the ’60′s still applies today. In fact, I’m gripped now more than ever by the idea of simplicity and clarity leading to best results.

Our lives keep getting busier, no matter how many good things we refuse.  Work is demanding and requires attention and faithful stewardship. Relationships need maintenance as well as investment. Families, car repairs, meals, meetings, software glitches, faith commitments, education, figuring out where to go on vacation or what charity to donate to or what to stream on Netflix or how to get anywhere (I recommend Waze) all take resources.

What if this summer was characterized by following the “Less Is More” philosophy? What if the next time someone asked you to meet for dinner- or to work through dinner- you responded with: “No thanks. I’m trying to cut back.” A co-worker approaches you about the Fall Fantasy Football draft and you say “Not this year.” You begin to download another book on your Kindle or order a refill of your drink or book another gig or sign up for another class. You hear about interesting projects, fun opportunities, cool initiatives coming out. And you just.  say.  no.

How would your life change? And what would you do, then?

This is my summer of less is more. More is over-rated. I’m done with over-planning and multiple backups. This is not the season to try complicated new recipes or take up tennis or check my bags. I’m sticking with favorites in the summer menu rotation, running my standard 3-4 miles 3-4 days a week, and I’m bringing one carry on and buying whatever else I need when I get there. I’m going to begin with the end in mind and then stop when I reach the end.

Don’t mistake this for laziness or fear. If I’m resisting anything, I’m resisting cramming my schedule and then spreading myself too commensurably thin. I’m fighting against busyness, as cliche as that sounds. I’m taking a stand for intention.

If you’d like to join me, let me know. If not, no worries. Just don’t call me to discuss it. I’m not so much answering my phone these days.

Are You Leading The Life You Want?

 

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The Boy Who Lived

I’m back from visiting Robyn in Orlando. She feels slightly famous now after being profiled here for 8 weeks. If you’re ever in the Orlando area, hit her up for some devil’s food cake with salted caramel frosting. I can’t quit it.

While I was there, we pilgrimaged to the Mecca that is the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Orlando. Full disclosure, I may have wept just a little when we got there. Three times. Walking around absorbing the magic (and the Butterbeer) was transcendent.

On the flight home (maybe crying again, maybe not), I remembered that TED recently re-ran J.K. Rowling’s Commencement speech at Harvard. The theme of her talk was failure. After describing the significant and painful failures she experienced as a young broke single mother in her twenties, Rowling explains:

So why do I talk about the benefits of failure? Simply because failure meant a stripping away of the inessential. I stopped pretending to myself that I was anything other than what I was, and began to direct all my energy into finishing the only work that mattered to me. Had I really succeeded at anything else, I might never have found the determination to succeed in the one arena I believed I truly belonged. I was set free, because my greatest fear had been realised, and I was still alive, and I still had a daughter whom I adored, and I had an old typewriter and a big idea. And so rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.

You might never fail on the scale I did, but some failure in life is inevitable. It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.

Failure gave me an inner security that I had never attained by passing examinations. Failure taught me things about myself that I could have learned no other way. I discovered that I had a strong will, and more discipline than I had suspected; I also found out that I had friends whose value was truly above the price of rubies.

The knowledge that you have emerged wiser and stronger from setbacks means that you are, ever after, secure in your ability to survive. You will never truly know yourself, or the strength of your relationships, until both have been tested by adversity. Such knowledge is a true gift, for all that it is painfully won, and it has been worth more than any qualification I ever earned. (Emphasis mine.)

She went on to talk about the importance of imagination, which was more heartbreaking than I had expected. You can see the whole thing here, or read it here.  Give it a few repeats to be sure you get it all.

I think many of us can relate to the “rock bottom” that Rowling describes in her speech. Those seasons in life that, looking back, may have been short on calendar days but in the moment felt like excruciatingly long endless nights. When you are much more familiar with the end of your own personal rope than you ever wanted to be. The white-knuckle part of the ride that is life.

Rowling’s speech — combined with my experience in Orlando reminiscing over the story of the boy who lived– reminds me that the gifts that come from life’s failures are precious. Rewards like security, self-worth, knowledge of what you and your friends are made of; these are things we long to see and know as we deal in this mortal coil. In my life, each failure has definitely meant a “stripping away of the inessential;” a return to what I know to be true about myself and others. Thank you, J.K. Rowling, for this reminder of the higher purpose of failure, and that hard-fought battles bring the sweetest victories. And thank you, Robyn, for driving me all over Orlando, especially to Krispy Kreme and Whole Foods on the same day.

Whatever season you are in, may you take time to pause and be thankful for the seasons of failure that are inevitable and invaluable. And for the gifts that are disguised within it. May you not fail by default. Expecto Patronum.

 Are You Leading The Life You Want?

 

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All For Love, Part the Eighth* – FINALE

This is the eighth– and final– post in a multi-part series about friendship. You can read the first post here, the second post here, the third here, the fourth here the fifth here,  the sixth right here and the seventh here.

We’ve been talking about friendship. How my friendship with Robyn from high school mirrors the one between David and Jonathan in the Bible, and which is magnified in high definition when David meets Mephibosheth because then we see the kind of love God has for us. The kind of commitment David made to Mephibosheth is only possible because of the strength of the original relationship between David and Mephibosheth’s father, Jonathan. 

When I started this series, I had no idea I would have so much to say abut the topic- certainly not 8 posts worth. But thanks in part to the inspiration found here, I am off to a girls trip this weekend, and headed to visit dearly beloved Robyn next month. More girls weekend and intentional visits follow this summer. And I am thankful- first for my lifelong pals and second for the mindfulness to be grateful for them at all. 

The point, finally…….

This is a world full of Mephibosheths. We are poor, lost, living in the enemy’s household, lame, broken by sin. We don’t even have the sense to hope that the King knows who we are, let alone remembers us and could ever be convinced not to kill us.

Remember in this story, this record of Mephibosheth and David, the king did the seeking. The same is true of us. None of us would be here if God hadn’t first acted on us by his grace.

And we come to him terrified, just like Mephibosheth came to David. We come to him broken. We come to him impoverished. We come to him with fear and guilt. We come as sinners, poor and wretched, weak and wounded, sick and sore. And we have only one defense. A covenant promise. A friendship.

And we are accepted- not because of our natural birth, not because of position, or prominence, or wealth, or achievement, but because of who God is. Because he picks us up and carries us when we are lame and cannot walk on our own. He did this in Jesus.

We have what we have, not because of ourselves, but because of the drama of the rescue from the eternal consequences of our sins. That is the message of the gospel- the good news of Jesus. That is Christianity. Out of the generosity of his heart, out of his covenant love towards us, God showers his resources upon us, shares his resources with us, and makes us his children.

Remember when I talked about how Robyn welcomed me as a friend when I had nothing to recommend me to her? Similarly, the faith we’ve given our hearts to is countercultural. It operates fundamentally differently than typical human culture operates.

Human culture can center on pride; on achievement or position. It can be about what we’ve earned and what we deserve. It often divides itself by race, culture, gender, economic and social class, each group thinking they’re better than the other, each group thinking they are right, each group proud of who they are and what they’ve achieved.

Human culture can be a lot like high school, sometimes.

Christianity is different than human culture because the fundamental message of Christianity is that none of us are deserving; none of us can stand on what we’ve accomplished; none of us is able to say: “I alone am right.” All of us fall short.

But Jesus says in chapter 15 of the book of John: I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father is made known to you. You did not choose me, but I chose you.

May your friends draw you closer to God, and may your whole life be a story of deep friendship with God.

 Amen.

* “All For Love” refers to one of the songs that instantly transports me back to high school. Nancy Wilson from Heart sings it as part of the soundtrack of the movie “Say Anything.” Join me in appreciating lace gloves and trenchcoats with shoulderpads here.

 

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All For Love, Part the Seventh*

This is the seventh in a multi-part series about friendship. You can read the first post here, the second post here, the third here, the fourth here the fifth here, and the sixth right here.

This is the point. The point is that life is hard, and we are lucky to have people to journey with; especially if they are the people who knew us when we were young and who can remind us of who we were. We cherish those people for being witnesses to our youth and for knowing parts of our stories we would otherwise forget. Most of all, we appreciate that they help us remember that we are unconditionally loved and welcomed by God.

Do you remember your high school yearbooks? All the promises, flowery language, forever undying eternal declarations of camaraderie? “Stay Sweet, Don’t ever change, Have a great summer?”

I don’t even remember what Robyn wrote. I was going to look it up, but then I realized that it doesn’t matter what she wrote 25 years ago.

I don’t remember a word she wrote in my high school yearbook.

I do remember that her house was always open to me, anytime of the day or night.

I remember when she drove with me all the way to Long Beach to get the dress I absolutely had to have for the Homecoming dance.

I remember when she walked me through my first love and subsequent broken heart.

I remember when she stood next to me on my wedding day.

I remember that she was my biggest fan, when I got the lead in the school play, when I got a new job, when I got pregnant.

I remember when she dropped everything to come watch my 2-year old because our babysitter flaked and I had to go to on a trip for work.

I remember the gingerbread creations she made for my kids at holiday time.

I remember when I told her things I’d never told anyone else and she didn’t walk away.

I think that somehow, our friendships show us the beginning of what it means to love.

They can be like guideposts pointing to a love we can barely comprehend. Not a soft, overly emotional love, gushing with nostalgia/sentimentality that comes out at the 20-year class reunion when you’ve had too many Mai Tai’s,  but a love that carries us when we can’t go on alone. A love that doesn’t shame or ridicule or judge but that says, “Hey, come over here. Take this seat next to me. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re here.”

That kind of love looks like hands that touch the sick, like looking out for the hungry, like refusing to shame or condemn. A love that  is so committed to breaking down the walls between people that it eats with tax collectors and shares a drink with a Samaritan woman.  A love that doesn’t forget and doesn’t let go.

That’s the love Robyn showed me, and the love David showed Mephibosheth. It’s love that can change your life.

I’ll say a teeny bit more about love and Robyn and God next time, and then we’ll (finally!) move on to other topics. Thank you for taking this trip with Robyn and me, and with David and Jonathan and Mephibosheth. It’s good to have companions on the way.

* “All For Love” refers to one of the songs that instantly transports me back to high school. Nancy Wilson from Heart sings it as part of the soundtrack of the movie “Say Anything.” Join me in appreciating lace gloves and trenchcoats with shoulderpads here.

 

 

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All For Love, Part the Sixth*

This is the sixth in a multi-part series about friendship. You can read the first post here, the second post here, the third here, the fourth here, and the fifth here.

It’s been a long week or so, with more work than self-care and/or friendship happening. A trip to Target and a cheeseburger should set me right. For those of us whose troubles run a little deeper and can’t always be solved with retail therapy, this post is (finally) for you. For all of us, really, when we struggle to remember how very very beloved we are. Okay, here it is.

In his greeting to Mephibosheth, David says three things that I want to emphasize.

1: I will shower you with my love. That word for kindness is almost untranslatable. It’s covenant love; steadfast love; loving kindness. It means bounty, showering of bounty, and is the result of the love of the giver.

David says I will show you kindness for the sake of your father Jonathan. I am showering my love upon you because of who you are attached to, because of what someone else has done, not because of what you have done.

Like when Robyn took me under her wing because our terrifying choir teacher told her to. That had nothing to do with me, who I was or what I could offer. It came with her job of being a leader and high-profile member of the choir. It was what she signed up for. Part of the deal. She did it because of who our teacher was to her, not who I was. I was nobody. The teacher was somebody.

There was nothing at all inherent in me that would in any possible way benefit Robyn. I had nothing to offer anyone, especially her. Remember, she was tall, blond and gorgeous, and I was none of those things.

There’s a second thing that David says: after first “I will give you my love,” second, I will make you rich/restore your land.” In this culture, land was power; land was wealth.

He says: I am going, by an act of my love, to immediately remove you from poverty to riches. Riches you could not ever earn on your own at this point; riches you have never even worked towards. These riches are the result of my love for you.

So in that culture, land was wealth, but in high school culture, popularity was wealth. Robyn was a senior. She had friends in the choir. Attractive male friends. Also friends with cars. Cars that were not Chevettes. I was hooked up.

She blessed me with her friendship, and by extension I also got credibility. I was cool by association. I was given confidence, social status, acceptance. I became rich in the currency of high school.

Again, put yourself in Mephibosheth’s position. What would it be like to hear that? To be given what you most need- and to have more of it than you could ever use.

Then the third thing: After, 1) I will set my love upon you, 2) I will shower you with riches, then: 3) I will adopt you into my family.

That’s what it means when it says: You will eat at my table always. You will live in my court. It means that from this day forward, you will be in the inner sanctum of my family; you will banquet at my table; you will be my son.

And then, the story goes, David begins to act on his commitment: to love, to shower with riches and to adopt Mephibosheth into his family.

Again, not because of anything Mephibosheth did- or didn’t-do himself.

But because of who his father was, to someone very important and with unlimited resources.

In verse 13 of chapter 9, it says: “So Mephibosheth lived in Jerusalem, for he always ate at the king’s table.”

So what is the point? Bet you can’t guess…..

* “All For Love” refers to one of the songs that instantly transports me back to high school. Nancy Wilson from Heart sings it as part of the soundtrack of the movie “Say Anything.” Join me in appreciating lace gloves and trenchcoats with shoulderpads here.

 

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All For Love, Part The Fifth*

This is the fifth in a multi-part series about friendship. You can read the first post here, the second post here, the third here, and the fourth here.

I had a tough conversation with a friend last week. We may not be friends anymore. I also made a new friend. And, minutes before beginning this post, a friend from what sometimes feels like another life contacted me and wanted to talk. The journey continues, and this series reminds me of the influence that friendships of all categories and intensities have on my life. Most of all, I’m grateful for what God does through them. Because often, they are where God shows up

Right here in our (continuing) story, for example,  is where God shows up for Mephibosheth. Terrified, crippled, alone, forever lame Mephibosheth.

Watch what happens next, after Mephibosheth falls to the floor and says: “Behold, I am your servant.”

David replies to him: “Do not fear, for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your grandfather, and you shall eat bread at my table continually.”

Then Mephibosheth bowed himself and said; “What is your servant, that you should look upon such a dead dog as I?”

At this point, I want to say something about what we’re doing here. And by here I mean here, on this blog, and also here, in life, as Christ-followers. I know this blog series has turned into the multi-part story that got away, like my first conversation about women and friendship was the gateway drug to this blog series. And yes the cliffhangers are a little like waiting to find out the ending to Inception.

Here’s the deal. When I read the records of Jesus in the Bible, of him walking and talking and “doing stuff,” a lot of times I read them as examples. Things I want to aspire to. A life I want to live. His patience, his wisdom, his equanimity – all character traits I desire.

And so my faith can start to look like things I do, and my understanding of myself as a Christian can resemble a to-do list. Forgive that person. Give resources towards that cause. Share this encouragement. Support that initiative. You get the idea.

It’s tempting for me to read this story, about David and Mephibosheth, and see it as another instruction. Be more like David. Give grace to the undeserving. Show mercy.

Which is not a bad thing. By all means, feel free to see this chapter as a call to be generous like David. At the same time, let’s remember that Christianity is not a list of Dos and Don’ts.

The good news in this chapter invites us primarily to be like Mephibosheth, not David. To let God do something wonderful for us, today.

I would love for us to be able to put ourselves in the place of the poor, crippled, rejected, petrified young man, utterly confused, as he stands before the king who almost died so many times at the hand of the boy’s grandfather, and to hear the king say this to us.

Because here, my friends, is where Mephibosheth, in his amazement and skepticism, discovers what is true of us as well.

He discovers that he has been restored.

No, he didn’t retrieve the ability to walk. Mephibosheth’s weakness did not vanish. The end of the story is clear about that. “He was [still] crippled in both feet.”

But he was given a place at the table of the king. This goes far beyond giving Mephibosheth what was rightly his. This is extravagant provision.

 Next time I’ll tell you how Robyn did this for me.

* “All For Love” refers to one of the songs that instantly transports me back to high school. Nancy Wilson from Heart sings it as part of the soundtrack of the movie “Say Anything.” Join me in appreciating lace gloves and trenchcoats with shoulderpads here.

 

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All For Love, Part The Fourth *

This is the fourth in a multi-part series about friendship. You can read the first post here, the second post here, and the third here.

The opportunities to reflect on the friendship in my own life continue. I got to have a precious phone conversation with a long-lost comrade right before she went to look at buying a boat- to live on! And this weekend I reconnected with one of the truest friends my heart has ever known. The best is yet to come- with friends and with this series. Because we are getting to the good part now. 

Remember the story of the covenant of friendship between David and Jonathan? And of Mephibosheth – Jonathan’s son who was dropped by a nurse at the age of 5 and was crippled for the rest of his life?

If you’re still reading along at home, you may have already gotten to the beginning of Chapter 9 in the book of 2 Samuel in the Bible.

At this point in the story, many years have passed. (FYI, each chapter in 1 and 2 Samuel isn’t in a period of time. Some chapters cover great periods of time. Helpful. )

What’s important now is that the kingdom has now been established and fulfilled in David, and David is the king of Israel.

Now get this: one day, David remembers the covenant he made with Jonathan. You may recall that Jonathan literally risked his own life; risked the wrath of his own father who was out to kill David, by protecting David. Because he and David had a covenant, wherein David promised that he would provide for and protect the house of Saul forever. But now- it’s as if one day David wakes up and wonders of the now-decimated house of Saul….is there anyone left from it that he could shower covenant kindness upon?

(Verse 1 of 2 Samuel Chapter 9: “And David said; is there still anyone left of the house of Saul, that I may show him kindness for Jonathan’s sake?”)

There’s a servant in David’s household, Ziba, who had previously been a servant in the household of Saul. It made sense to ask him if he had any knowledge of anyone remaining from Saul’s household.

Ziba said to the king, “Yes, there is still a son of Jonathan, he is crippled in his feet.” The king inquires where he is, and the account goes on. That son is Mephibosheth.

Mephibosheth had lost his health, his family, his position, his money….it’s hard to imagine something that hasn’t been taken away from Mephibosheth. In that world, in that culture, at that time he had nothing. There was no insurance, no Obama care or HMO’s or assisted living facilities. He was living as a reject, utterly poor, without any power to change his state.

There is also a good possibility that Mephibosheth had no knowledge of the covenant that was made between Jonathan and David, as he was just a tiny boy when that was made.

And so the king sends for Mephibosheth.

The story reads: “And Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David and fell on his face and paid homage. And David said, ‘Mephibosheth!’ And he answered, ‘Behold I am your servant.’ And David said to him; ‘Do not fear.’”

Why would David say that?

When Mephibosheth was called into David’s presence, he most likely was terrified, because the custom of the time was that new households would finish off any descendants in the previous household when they took the throne, so there could be no challenge to the throne.

As the grandson of dead King Saul, Mephibosheth was an heir to the throne that David now possessed. So his first thought may have been that the king would kill him because he might see him as a threat. For all Mephibosheth knew, he was being ushered to his death.

Secondly, and perhaps some of us can relate to this, it’s probable that Mephibosheth had experienced little in his life that would make him believe that something good could happen to him. Not a lot of winning lottery tickets in his life; more like the knocks on the door bring bad news. Growing up in that context; dependent, vulnerable, defenseless; I’m guessing he expected injury. It’s the safest bet.

Are you tracking with this? Can you identify with being a victims of circumstance? Maybe some of you have experience being innocently wronged by others’ mistakes?

Like Mephibosheth who trusted his nurse, we can relate to being dropped by those in whom we’ve placed our trust. We’re living altered lives because a person whom we loved and gave our hearts to has “dropped” us in some way. And our lives may still be suffering from the crippling effects of these disappointments.

Everyone has been “dropped” somehow. And if you haven’t, you will be. It’s no wonder that some of us are afraid to trust again.

Many of us are afraid to take risks or to step out in faith because the idea of making one more mistake freaks us out. Sometimes it feels as if we are hanging on by a fine thread. If God is a merciful God, we wonder when we will start seeing the mercy.

It’s so close. The mercy is. Wait and see.

* “All For Love” refers to one of the songs that instantly transports me back to high school. Nancy Wilson from Heart sings it as part of the soundtrack of the movie “Say Anything.” Join me in appreciating lace gloves and trenchcoats with shoulderpads here.

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All For Love, Part The Third*

This is the third in a multi-part series about friendship. You can read the first post here and the second post here.

I feel like as soon as I started posting on this topic, stories about friendships started showing up everywhere. Here, for example- said much better than I could. I’m scrutinizing my own friendships differently than I ever have, and becoming more aware of my own weaknesses and aspirations regarding my friendships with other women. Who knew that the story of one friendship would be so resonant? 

Actually, it’s the story of two friendships.

The first you’ve already heard about; my friendship with Robyn. The other one I’m going to tell you about in this post- the one between David and Jonathan.

To understand my friendship with Robyn, you need to know about David and Jonathan.

No, they were not our double dates for prom. They were friends in the Bible.

The story of how David and Jonathan met and became friends begins at Chapter 18 of the book of 1 Samuel in the Bible. They formed a covenant where they promised one another that they would fight for and protect one another. Which sounds cool until Chapters 19 and 20 show Jonathan’s father, King Saul, being so threatened by David that he tries to have him killed. Multiple times.

Talk about your awkward holiday get togethers. Hashtag: You tried to kill my BFF.

I digress. This mini-story of friendship between two men is meant to function as a lens through which we can view the meta story of redemption and fellowship in God’s kingdom. It can help us understand the dynamics of the bigger story that God is writing with us and gives a tangible example of how you and I can live with others as God would have us live.

A lot of other stuff happens in this dysfunctional relational triangle of David, Jonathan and Saul – David goes to war with Saul, he almost kills Saul in a cave but then lets him live, but then Saul dies anyway later, and so does Jonathan. And then David becomes king.

In Chapter 4 of the book of 2 Samuel, we learn that Jonathan had son before he died, and his son was named Mephibosheth.

Specifically, 2 Samuel 4 tells how when Mephibosheth was five years old, his father Jonathan, David’s best friend, was killed in battle along with Jonathan’s father, King Saul.

We are then told that when Mephibosheth’s nurse heard the news of the murder of Jonathan and Saul, she panicked and ran, carrying little five year old Mephibosheth in her arms. At some point while running, the nurse dropped the child, damaging his feet and causing him to become crippled for the rest of his life.

The baby prince who was in the line of succession to the throne became a damaged beggar who lived as an orphan in hiding.

What would have been a life of wealth became a life of misery, tragedy and heartbreak.

You’ll never guess what happens next. 

 * “All For Love” refers to one of the songs that instantly transports me back to high school. Nancy Wilson from Heart sings it as part of the soundtrack of the movie Say Anything.” Join me in appreciating lace gloves and trenchcoats with shoulderpads here.

 

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susan

I met Michele at a transitional time in my life. I had grown up in a family structure that avoided…

Susan