You don’t have to live life alone

I spent last weekend hanging around people who speak my language. I have so many friends, so many wonderful encouragers that God has put in my life, so many incredible people who mean the world to me, but last weekend, I got to spend time with other people who write down what the voices in their heads are saying.

No, we’re not psycho. We’re writers. And we’re all a little weird. I’m just being honest. And while I adore my friends and family here at home and around the world (people who I know love me), I don’t always like to talk about writing with them. It’s not that I don’t want to share. It’s just that writing means something different to me than it does to them.

My brother is an engineer. He’s freakin’ brilliant, and he loves all those complicated engineering type things. He loves talking about them too, but many of his friends aren’t engineers. So he refrains from talking about it so that everyone can participate in conversation. That’s the same thing a lot of writers do. If you know someone who writes, they may not talk about it all the time for fear of coming off as a complete psychopath, but if they’re serious about their craft, it’s all they think about.

So it was really nice to be in a giant room full of writers because we were all on the same page. More than that, this conference is for writers who believe in Jesus, so not only are we wired the same way, we all write for the same reason–to glorify the Lord. Being around so many people who “just get me” was such a blessing, and then this morning I ran across a Psalm that reminded me I don’t have to go looking for a writer when I need someone to understand me.

bench-couple-love-people_1534x1023Today’s verses are Psalm 139:1-6.

O Lord, you have examined my heart
and know everything about me.
You know when I sit down or stand up.
You know my thoughts even when I’m far away.
You see me when I travel
and when I rest at home.
You know everything I do.
You know what I am going to say
even before I say it, Lord.
You go before me and follow me.
You place your hand of blessing on my head.
Such knowledge is too wonderful for me,
too great for me to understand!

God gets you. You know that, right? He made you the way you are, so He understands how you’re wired. It’s comforting for me because my brain is so very strange. It’s good to know that God understands how the circuitry works.

Everyone feels isolated at some point in their lives, and that’s normal. But if you’re a Christ-follower, you don’t have to live life alone. God will have put people in your life who love you. Maybe they don’t always understand you, but they love you anyway. They’re there for you. Don’t take them for granted.

But more than that, God understands you. He knows your heart. He knows your thoughts. Regardless of where you are or what you’re doing or what you’ve done or what you will do, God knows you and loves you and wants to have a personal, face-t0-face, one-on-one relationship. Imagine that! Having the God of the Universe for a friend! You can’t beat that.

So don’t trick yourself into thinking you can hide from God. It doesn’t work. You don’t want to hide from Him anyway. It’s just kind of silly to even try. And don’t convince yourself that you’re on your own either. You’re not.

The next time you’re feeling lonely or misunderstood, tell God about it. He’s always ready to listen, and He always wants to hear from you. He likes your ideas, and He believes you’re worth listening to. So what are you waiting for?

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Alone isn’t always better, especially when it comes to worship

When I’m tired and stressed out, the last thing I want to do is be around people. When I’m running behind on my deadlines and have so many unresolved issues in my own life, the last thing I want to do is talk to people about their lives.

With everything that’s been going on in my life–between work and sickness and family issues–I hadn’t been to church in about a month. I realized it as I was pulling into the parking lot yesterday. And to be quite honest, I wasn’t looking forward to it.

I’ve managed to get myself over committed again. Some of it is my own doing. The rest of it is someone else’s doing (hence Friday’s post). But no matter who is responsible, I still have too much work to get done and not enough days left in 2014. Even as I was parking the car, I was thinking maybe I’d have opportunity to slip out early so I could get some work done.

Well, God took a 2×4 to my thick skull today and reminded me why I needed to be at my church today. Because hiding doesn’t help you manage your tiredness and your stress, and focusing on your own unresolved issues often makes them worse instead of better.

700879_77376177Today’s verse is Colossians 3:16.

Let the message about Christ, in all its richness, fill your lives. Teach and counsel each other with all the wisdom he gives. Sing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs to God with thankful hearts.

I spend most of my 45-minute commute every morning talking to God and singing along with the radio or my own personal mix of music. And that’s good for me. It helps me get my focus right. It helps me remember that my life isn’t about me and that God has put me where I am for a reason. But there’s something different about being in a group of people all singing together or all praying together. It’s important to do it on your own, but when you’re one voice among many, all talking to the same God, it becomes more real somehow.

I’m sure I’ve realized this before, but standing in worship yesterday with an auditorium full of other Christ-followers, all singing at the top of our lungs–it helped me remember that I’m not in this fight alone. And maybe that’s a silly thing to realize, because it’s something I already know. But when you lock yourself away, it’s easier to forget that you are surrounded by a community of people who believe the same way you do. People who understand you better than you think.

And instead of worrying about my problems and my issues and my deadlines and all the things that I am responsible to do, I just stood in awe, lifted up by 1500 voices (or however many our auditorium holds these days) all telling God how great He is. And all I could think about was how I hope it made Him happy, how I desperately wanted Him to know how thankful I am for my life and my family and my priceless friendship with Him.

Yeah, I’ve got a lot to do. But what really matters in the end?

It’s ironic, really. I didn’t want to go to church because I had too much to do. But I went anyway because I knew I needed to. And when I got home I finished three major things that I’d been trying to get done all last week. That should teach me something.

I’m so blessed to have a wonderful church. No, it’s not perfect, but no group of people is. What’s important is that it’s where I’m called to be right now. If you don’t have a church or some place you can go to worship–and I mean really worship–please do yourself a favor and find one. And once you find it, go. Yes, life is busy and frantic and stressful, and it’s getting ready to get worse with the holidays approaching, but the more time you spend alone on your own deadlines and problems, the more you focus on them and the less you focus on just being in God’s presence.

It’s the one place I can really be still. Where I can’t find words and I don’t worry about it because with Him I don’t need them. Where I don’t try to hide because He knows me inside and out. And, yeah, I can worship in my car on my own, but when you’re in a group of people all focusing on God and all telling Him how wonderful He is, your problems don’t seem so insurmountable.

It will seem like a hassle. It will seem like more trouble than it’s worth. It will sound like work. But going to church where you can worship God in a community of like-minded brothers and sisters in Christ is never a bad idea, no matter how busy you are. Take the time to do it. Get your focus off yourself, and put your focus where it belongs–on God.

Your problems won’t go away, but you’ll see them for what they are–opportunities for God to show you just how wonderful He truly is.

Do your loved ones know how much they matter?

I usually avoid a lot of current events when I’m putting a devotional together in the mornings before work. Mostly, news I hear about is so depressing it’s just not worth bringing up, but something happened this week that I just couldn’t stop thinking about.

Robin Williams died.

I know of many actors who have passed away. Many comedians who graced the stage and made people laugh, dramatists who made people cry, artists who brought the fantastic to life. But I really think this is the first time an actor who I really liked has died–not of old age, not of natural causes, but apparently by taking his own life.

I can’t even tell you how many Robin Williams movies I’ve seen. I own lots of them. The man just made me laugh. And it’s heartbreaking to think that someone who brought so many people so much joy couldn’t find enough meaning in his own life to keep living it.

Today’s verses are Matthew 5:14-16.

You are the light of the world—like a city on a hilltop that cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp and then puts it under a basket. Instead, a lamp is placed on a stand, where it gives light to everyone in the house. In the same way, let your good deeds shine out for all to see, so that everyone will praise your heavenly Father.

I know it’s probably understood. I know it’s probably something that everyone has already thought of. But when was the last time you went out of your way to tell someone important to you what they mean to you?

I’m not talking about strangers on the street. I’m talking about people in your family. People in your home. People you go to church with. People you live life with.

Do they know what you feel?

Don’t just assume they know. Obviously, I can’t speak for Robin Williams or for anyone else who has taken his or her life. But I can speak from experience when it comes to feeling alone and isolated, like I can’t do anything right, like I’ve failed. I know what depression feels like.

And when somebody is so deep in depression that they would consider taking their own life, they need to know they matter. It’s not just love. It’s not just respect. It’s purpose.

We can have all the love and respect and success in the world, but it won’t give us purpose. God is the only one who can accomplish that. Sometimes God communicates purpose through Scripture. Sometimes He does it through the Holy Spirit. Other times, He does it through His children–us–who are called to love others.

So how are we doing on that one? Not with strangers on the street even. I mean in our own families.

Do you think someone you love is depressed? Do you suspect someone you care about is on the edge? Don’t assume they know how you feel.

When you’ve convinced yourself that you’re alone and isolated, you don’t know anything for sure. When you’ve talked yourself into believing that you can’t do anything right, a pat on the back isn’t enough.

Maybe you think it’s overkill. Maybe you don’t think they need it.

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather annoy them than take the chance that they convince themselves the world would be better off without them.

It’s their choice. That decision is up to them. It’s between them and God, just like the condition of their heart is between them and God. But don’t leave it like that. Don’t just leave them alone to sort things out by themselves. People lost in depression think they want to be alone, but they don’t really. They don’t really know what they want.

It’s my experience that people lost in depression just need to know that they matter. And they need to hear more than just words. They need to remember that they’ve made a difference, and they need to see that the world really is a brighter place because they’re in it.

And I don’t know how to accomplish that. I think it’s different for every person. But it has to start somewhere. It has to start with someone. And it might as well be us, Christ-followers.

God didn’t give us His Light so we could use it to beat people up. He gave it to us so we could push back the darkness and the lies of our enemy and help the world see how much God treasures us and what God gave up so that we could have a purpose.

Wherever you go, wherever you are, whatever you do, keep your eyes open and recognize that our broken world is full of broken, hurting people who just need to know they aren’t alone. And remember that without Christ, we’d be right there with them.

Lonely tree in the southern field behind Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Don’t let solitude become a security blanket

I’m an independent person. I always have been, from the time I was a little girl. I don’t need much to make it through in life. I’m not really the sort of person who requires socialization or a circle of friends. It’s easy for me to be on my own, and by that token, it’s easy for me to isolate myself. I live like a hermit anyway, alone in the middle of nowhere. And now I don’t even have a cat to talk to, as they’ve all either died of old age or got carried off by owls or coyotes.

And while I like the quietude of this lifestyle choice, sometimes the silence lies and tries to convince me that I’m isolated because I’m alone. And there’s a big difference between being isolated and being alone, between being independent and being lonely. I don’t necessarily think that isolation is bad. It just depends on your motives. But if you’re going to live a life that’s solitary–and even if you don’t–you need to be aware that lies get louder in silence. And you need to remember that even if you enjoy being on your own, you still need people.

Lonely tree in the southern field behind Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Lonely tree in the southern field behind Safe Haven Farm, Haven, KS

Today’s verses are Hebrews 10:23-25.

Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.

I’ve been running wild the last couple of months. Actually, running wild is sort of a constant with me. I’m always dashing from one thing to another, rarely standing still. But that’s me, and I’ve got a lot of plates spinning. So for the last few months, I actually haven’t been able to go to church. I’m fortunate to attend a church that streams their services live, so I’ve watched when I had the opportunity. But streaming online isn’t the same as being there in person.

I got to go this weekend. And being in the service, surrounded by friends and family in the blood of Christ reminded me just how much I need people. When I’m on my own, busy and bustling back and forth from crisis to crisis, it’s easy for me to think that I’m okay without sharing life with people. I’m functioning just fine, after all. But there’s more to life than just functioning. There’s more to life than just surviving. God didn’t put me here to just make it through another day. He wants me to thrive. He wants me to grow. He wants me to live.

And while I prefer the silence sometimes, silence isn’t always conducive to growth. And you can’t experience real friendship if you don’t invest in other people. It’s a risk, yes, because people are people. But it’s worth it.

Pastor posed a question in his message yesterday, asking us to think about the people who’ve loved us the most in our lives and what our lives would look like without them. That’s difficult to even think about. And my first thought was that I didn’t have a whole lot of people who loved me like that, and that’s when I realized I’d been shutting myself away too long. Because that’s a lie.

I started making a list of people who’ve loved me, who’ve made a difference in my life, and needless to say it’s very very long. It was much longer than I expected it to be. I have been very fortunate in my life to have many, many people come alongside me to support me and love me more than I deserved. But when you get so busy with your nose to the grindstone, it’s easy to forget the people who’ve invested in you.

So for the rest of this month, I really want to focus on friendships and relationships in life and how important they are. Granted, I’m not going to change the way I live, unless God tells me I need to. But I don’t have to shut myself away from people. Living a quiet life is good. Having quiet moments is essential. But when the quiet changes from a refuge to a security blanket, you’ve got a problem.

Don’t cut people out of your life. If you were sufficient on your own, God wouldn’t have made other people. And, yes, God is sufficient for you as your friend, your maker, your God, your Lord. But if it was just supposed to be you and God going through life without any other interaction with people, why are there people around you? God designed us to invest in each other. So don’t run away from it. Embrace it. Yes, that means you’re taking a risk. Yes, that means you’ll have to give up some time alone. But what are you really here for?