Wednesday Wisdom With Wyndham – 105

Wisdom and Vulnerability

Memories fill my head and heart as I look across my room and smile, as we enjoy the pleasure of the company of a dear friend. It’s a friendship built over many years of fighting battles together, talking about everything, praying much, sharing joys and laughter, and sharing sorrows and tears. This friend knows pretty much everything about each of us, as do we know him. I reminisce about other dear friends who visited today. Friends who are deeply embedded in our lives. Our kids grew up together and remain steadfast friends, as do we. What a privilege to be deeply involved in one anothers’ lives.

As I attempt to gather my thoughts for a blog, I am struck by the wisdom which comes from vulnerability in relationships. Jesus called his disciples his friends because he held nothing back from them (John 15:15).  God has always intended us to grow through relationships. We cannot practice our relationship with God without true relationships with others. The very nature of God is relational, as revealed by the unity of the three-in-one Father, Son, and Spirit.

Gordon helped both Wyndham and me learn vulnerability about 30 years ago when he and Theresa became our dear friends. Wyndham learned quickly, while I didn’t even understand what vulnerability looked like. You see, I had tried so hard to “do the right thing” throughout my life that I didn’t even know what I felt. What did feelings have to do with anything, anyway? I thought to focus on or express my feelings would be selfish. Also, I didn’t want to mess up, as I didn’t feel that was okay. This way of thinking made me unrelatable, always trying to measure up to earn my worth from God or others. While doing the right thing is a good thing, it’s incomplete and can become the wrong thing when vulnerability is absent. God wants our hearts, no matter how messy. He desires mercy over sacrifice. We can only learn this in the context of relationships.

As I prayed to understand what it meant to be vulnerable, I realized there were specific times in my life when I actually had shared my thoughts and feelings…and it did not go well. I vividly remember as a preteen telling my dad, when I was asked to clean my plate, that the inside gooey part of the tomatoes (that part was left on my plate) made me feel sick to eat. I was very strongly punished for “talking back.” I decided from that day on I would never “talk back,” and that it would be better to gag over the gooey inside of tomatoes or anything else and “stuff” whatever I felt rather than be honest and face consequences. (Everyone has bad days, even wonderful, godly parents.) As an adult, a few significant times when I was honest also did not turn out well, coming back down on my head with a bang. Though these may be small things, they were enough to cause me to zip my heart and my lips. While some people would “fight,” I would shut down. This was not good.

Gordon (and Theresa) were deeply vulnerable in our friendship with them. He showed me how to be vulnerable by doing so. Wyndham made it safe for me to be vulnerable, and God kept putting me in situations where I could either speak up and “swim” or “be silent” and drown. The progress did not come easily. Vulnerability, to me, was like learning a foreign language. I often felt I would rather go throw up than say what I felt, especially if I perceived a person as an authority figure. Often, I had stuffed feelings so deeply I would only come to know what I felt when I prayed, pouring out my heart to God. If I felt something with Wyndham I would often not know how to express what it was, but as soon as we would pray together it would come gushing out, accompanied with tears. I believe this came easiest in prayer because of finally trusting that God wants to know me—in all my ugliness, fears, and uncertainty. I would also tell everyone I talked to that I was trying to learn to be vulnerable, and after conversations asked them how I was doing. I begged God to make this weakness a strength–to be honest and courageous and not leave “elephants in the living room,” but speak the truth in love.

So, as I reflect on these friendships, important relationships in my community, I am ever so grateful for the depth and freedom that comes from vulnerability. I am grateful  Gordon demonstrated this Christ-like quality, and that God helped me learn this foreign language. I am deeply thankful for Wyndham’s wisdom, encouragement, example, and providing me a safe place to be completely vulnerable. I am grateful he has always encouraged me to practice honesty and vulnerability all my relationships. It has made a huge difference in my spiritual growth. I am inspired by his vulnerability, as truly everything in his life now requires intense vulnerability. He has trained for this for years, through the security he knows in God.

It is never to late to learn the language of vulnerability or even to take refresher courses. However, we must be truly engaged in a spiritual community to grow in this area. Wisdom learns vulnerability.

9  But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
10  That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong.

(2 Corinthians 12:9-10)

 

 

 

Heart Monitor

Accessorizing is not always easy – especially today.  For several years I have had occasional heart palpitations, that can become rather annoying.  So, during my annual physical my doctor prescribed me a heart monitor to find out what is going on.  Likely, all is quite fine, but if something needs to be treated she would like to know (as would I).   After she described the monitor to me  I envisioned a tiny little bracelet with a small button that would be pushed when “an event” happened.  Little did I know I would receive this semi-monstrosity (when it comes to accessories) that has wires that attach to my body and that I must wear for a month 24/7.

So, I’m coming up with creative ways to work this into a scarf, a handbag, a giant necklace or belt ornament…though I’m running short on ideas.  I can only imagine what is going to happen next time I am at the airport…wired up to my monitor, but that’s another story  to write.

At this point, I am quite aware of my monitor’s presence.  It works by sending a recording of my heartbeats via satellite to someone, somewhere who monitors my heart’s activity.  Yes, the corresponding analogies are numerous.

At times, I can forget or become less aware that God is always monitoring my heart.  He is eager to point out irregularities, because he wants me spiritually healthy and strong.   It can be a comforting or frightening thought to know that God is always monitoring our hearts…recording their thoughts and intentions. Whenever I have an “event” a buzzer goes off…and it is not quiet.  Can you imagine if any time we had a spiritual heart “event” we started beeping?

1 Chron. 28:9

“And you, my son Solomon, acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you; but if you forsake him, he will reject you forever.

Proverbs 20:27

The lamp of the Lord searches the spirit of a man;

it searches out his inmost being.

Romans 8:27

And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints in accordance with God’s will.

2 Chron. 16:9

For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him. You have done a foolish thing, and from now on you will be at war.”

When our hearts belong to God and we are seeking him wholeheartedly it is a comfort to know He  always sees our hearts and can strengthen them –  as well as continually cleanse us as we walk in the light (1 Jn. 1:5-7).  Yet if we are not fully committed to Him, and still walk in darkness it is a frightening thought to know that God sees our heart.  Meanwhile our hearts become more and more damaged, rather than healed.

As I go through the day with my new accessory, it helps me remember four areas crucial to monitoring the “inside of our hearts”.

First, the Word of God makes us aware of the condition of our heart.  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.

Second, we must have the openness and desire to change as we become sensitive to the areas of our heart that God reveals and exposes.   Psalm 139:23-24

Search me, O God, and know my heart;

test me and know my anxious thoughts.

[24] See if there is any offensive way in me,

and lead me in the way everlasting.

Third, we must care about the condition of our heart and make the effort  (put on the monitor) to guard its health.  Proverbs 4:23

Above all else, guard your heart,

for it is the wellspring of life.

And, we also need others in our lives, the physicians or consultants who can help us get out the bad and draw out the good.  Proverbs 20:5

The purposes of a man’s heart are deep waters,

but a man of understanding draws them out.

So really, I’m not alone in wearing a heart monitor.  Our hearts are all being monitored.  May they find the health and healing that God desires for us all.

Meanwhile, I’m a bit stuck on how to wear this little contraption.

Elephant in the Living Room

The other day I was visiting a friend in Burlington, Vermont, when I noticed a small dragon in her living room.   I inquired as to the friendliness of this creature in the room and whether or not it was supposed to be “out”.   I was told it was actually sunning itself, so yes – it was supposed to be there. I guess I was relieved – and tried to find solace in the pure enjoyment this dragon displayed while basking in the sunlight.

However, often critters can make there way into our living rooms and wreak havoc – while we ignore them, tiptoe around them or pretend they are not there.    I am speaking of the proverbial “elephant in the living room”.  (Here is a concise definition I took from Wikipedia. “Elephant in the room” is an English metaphorical idiom for an obvious truth that is being ignored or goes unaddressed. The idiomatic expression also applies to an obvious problem or risk no one wants to discuss.[1] It is based on the idea that an elephant in a room would be impossible to overlook; thus, people in the room who pretend the elephant is not there have chosen to avoid dealing with the looming big issue.)

Likely, we have had elephants tiptoe into our living rooms at one time or another.  There may even be one currently residing there.

While I think elephants are amazing creatures – I don’t want one in my living room.  Yet, at times I have allowed them to be there out of fear of speaking honestly.  Several scriptures have helped me tremendously that I refer to as my “elephant busters” – (emphasis added)   They are:  Ephes. 4:15-16
Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. [16] From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

John 8:31-32
To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. [32] Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.

Mark 12:14
They came to him and said, “Teacher, we know you are a man of integrity. You aren’t swayed by men, because you pay no attention to who they are; but you teach the way of God in accordance with the truth. Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?

1 John 4:18
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love.

No matter how difficult, I pray to always be honest and to not let creatures take residence in my living room, or any rooms of my heart.

If they move in and we ignore them, they will destroy our living rooms and leave a room full of elephant d.u.n.g.  In order to avoid the refuse there are several keys to be aware of.  They are: Discernment, Understanding, “Niceness” and Graciousness.  While speaking honestly, it is important to discern the best ways – including timing to approach a difficult situation.  It is also important to understand that there may be pieces missing in our understanding.  A tone of gentleness and kindness (or niceness) is also something we are instructed by God to practice.  It is also of utmost important to remember that God is a God of grace and mercy.   While he is just, he is also merciful – a God of grace and truth.  I desperately need his wisdom, power and guidance as I go through life.  May we all find the integrity, unity, freedom and love that truth produces.

Anatomy of Encouragement

Luke 18:17   I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”

Over the Thanksgiving weekend we gathered for our annual Shaw family photo.  As the family grows – this is no small feat.  In fact, when you look at the picture and see everyone’s big smile, you will have no idea how much time has gone into capturing that one moment. There were likely blinks, tears, frustration, laughs and distractions before the perfect pose was captured.  While awaiting the “photo shoot”  I  was reminded of God’s call for us to encourage one another.  This reminder came as I watched a situation unfold between two of my grandchildren.  It began with a pout.  I believe the snapshot of this pout will say more about my granddaughter’s attitude than words can tell.  (I will refer to my grandchildren by the number in their birth order.)  # 3 was not feeling particularly encouraged about the upcoming photo shoot.  Can you relate?  I can.  When we don’t want do something we can often keep our expression from showing our displeasure…but the inside of our heart reveals a pout similar to this.

We all get stuck at times and need others to encourage us.  Often crucial, however, to our “getting happy” is for someone to notice and to care enough to speak with us when we need some attitudinal adjustment  – and accompanying encouragement to move forward in a positive way.  This is where #4 came into the picture.  He loves his cousin and was genuinely concerned with her unhappiness.  So, he went to her and spoke with her.  Hebrews 3:13

    But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.

While #3 is too little to sin…she was still softened in her heart and attitude by some words (I didn’t hear what he said to her but it helped a lot) from her little cousin.

I reflected on how much I can grow to be more alert  to another person’s discouragement, unhappiness or bitterness that can lead to hardness of heart.   I know for me it begins with taking the time to consider others above myself.  Philip. 2:3

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.

Most often, intentions are good….but busyness can blind me to things that are going on in others’ lives.

It takes time and thought to consider.  May I always be more like my grandchildren…noticing… and taking considered action to encourage – as well as being quick to respond to encouragement given.

Hebrews 10:24

    And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds.

After the “encouragement encounter”….#3 was immediately ready to go. 

(thanks to Vanessa Embling for all the photos)