When a Lonely Place Becomes the Best Place

the best place 2

I wish I could say that my heart has been consistently joyful and at peace when I’m faced with an unexpected interruption, however my first inclination is to worry, fret or to be annoyed by the inconvenience. How I respond to an upset in my plans reveals the condition of my heart.

My heart needs to be turned towards caring. My soul needs to be softened and molded to show God’s peace and joy.

Unexpected events are not simply interruptions of our daily work but the way God molds our heart to be more patient, more caring, more selfless. I need a holy intervention to move gracefully through interruptions, to see the beauty of community with friends, the importance of sharing life-on-life.

It’s there right in front of me … this holy intervention. I need to be quiet, to withdraw from breathless activities. To pray. This is when a lonely place becomes the best place.

I love this photo of my daughter sitting next to her daughter, talking quietly while comforting her daughter and meeting her needs. When I realize that people are the primary cause of interruptions my perspective towards being inconvenienced changes. My prayers shift from being self-focused to people-focused … a concern for others is motivated more by their needs than my own.

In the morning, long before dawn, [Jesus} got up and left the house, and went off to a lonely place and prayed there. (Mark 1:35)

In the lonely place, Jesus finds the courage to follow God’s will and not his own; to speak God’s words and not his own; to do God’s work and not his own. It is in the lonely place, where Jesus enters into intimacy with the Father. Somewhere we know that without a lonely place our actions quickly become empty gestures. ­[1]

He wakens me morning by morning, wakens my ear to listen like one being instructed. (Isaiah 50:4)

A lonely place becomes the best place for God’s goodness and care to be displayed. It is in the lonely place that I find peace that God will answer prayer.

[Jesus and his disciples] went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many recognized them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. By now it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, “This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.” (Mark 6:30-44)

Jesus is in a lonely place with his disciples and five thousand other people. It is in this best place where God overwhelmingly answers Jesus’ prayer through a young boy’s simple gesture of giving away his meal of five loves and two fish.

When you are able to create a lonely place in the middle of your actions and concerns, your successes and failures slowly can lose some of their power over you. Then your concern for others can be motivated more by their needs than your own. In short: then you can care. Let us therefore live our lives to the fullest but let us not forget to once in a while get up long before dawn to leave the house and go to a lonely place. [2]

“I have always been complaining that my work was constantly interrupted, until I slowly discovered that my interruptions were my work.” Henri Nouwen

Receiving more grace in the lonely place indeed becomes the best place.

the best place[1] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 18  |  [2] Out of Solitude: Three Meditations on the Christian Life, Henri J.M. Nouwen, page 30.

Help others and Help Yourself

Help Others--Help Yourself

Somebody once made the observation that the person who is wrapped up entirely in himself makes a very small package–and the package contains an unhappy person. Think about this: Have you ever known a genuinely happy, self-centered person?

Research indicates that those who consistently (help) show kindness to other people experience less depression, greater calm, fewer pains and better health. They may even live longer. Students who performed five acts of kindness a day increased their happiness and providing emotional support to others significantly decreased the harmful health effects of certain kinds of stress. [1]

Everyone knows the story of the Good Samaritan. It’s about being helpful and showing kindness to other people.  As Luke records it, Jesus told this parable in the context of a teacher of the law who, “wanting to justify himself,” asked Jesus, “Who is my neighbor?” Jesus confounds him by suggesting that God requires us to love our “neighbors” in a way that transcends ethnic boundaries. [2] (Luke 10:25-37) Sadly, we often fail to meet Jesus’ ideal of neighbor love.

“If you’ve gotten anything at all out of following Christ, if his love has made any difference in your life, if being in a community of the Spirit means anything to you, if you have a heart, if you care— then do me a favor: Agree with each other, love each other, be deep-spirited friends. Don’t push your way to the front; don’t sweet-talk your way to the top. Put yourself aside, and help others get ahead. Don’t be obsessed with getting your own advantage. Forget yourselves long enough to lend a helping hand.”  Philippians 2:3-4 (The Message) [3]

When helping people, find out what’s actually valuable to them. Make an effort to ask them where they need help, and keep that in mind when you see an opportunity. And there are many opportunities to help others. Just don’t make it all about you.

The more you make helping others all about you, the more disappointed, dry and weary you’ll become. And the more you understand that this is about Jesus, and his kingdom, and his crown, and his glory, the more freed up you are to help others.

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? 1 John 3:16-20 (NIV)

Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.  Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Philippians 2:3-4 (ESV)


1] liveyourlifewell.org │[2] [843 Acres] The Park Forum│[3] Philippians 2:3-4, The Message │  Photo Credit: sweetmusingsfromthecove.wordpress.com

 You may like this: HelpOthers.org — kindness is contagious. Welcome to a portal dedicated to small acts of kindness.

The Stuff of Friendship

the stuff of friendship

I’ve been gone for a week. I traveled with friends to the Orange Conference 2013. If you’ve never been, you’re missing out. I invited six friends to go with me. This was the first time for them to experience an Orange Conference and I suspect they will continue to unpack what they heard and learned for weeks to come.  I’m still chewing on the great stuff I heard. I’ll write about that great stuff later, but right now I’m focusing this moment on the stuff of friendship.

Those six friends that accompanied me to Atlanta are new friendships in the making. They don’t know me well and most have not heard my story of being rescued by Jesus Christ. They don’t know my family, my children and grandchildren. They don’t know about the crazy wild and fun adventures my family has experienced or the deep sadness of loss we have dealt with. These new friends do not know my history, yet they are now part my life story. And you know what, I am now woven into their story, too.

I had to stop and think about that…I am now woven into their story, too. My new friends have opened a small window into their life story and I have offered them a glimpse into my history. The stuff of friendship is messy when everyone’s history is dumped on each other. I realize it takes time for friendships to become engrained with trust, laughter, and acceptance of the real messiness of junk. All of that junk that keeps us bending the knee in prayer and surrendering in submission to God for help. The stuff of friendship means that I give them grace when they mess up and they give me grace when I fail.

The stuff of friendship is built on the foundation of Jesus, the number one example of what being a real friend is. While Jesus was all God (think about that! ALL God!) He was very comfortable hanging out with the “worst ” of people. The worst of people who needed a real friend to impact their history…nasty and messy people with raunchy stories that would soon be filled with supernatural beauty of healing, forgiveness and life change. Jesus added more fun and laughter into their lives. He gave them something real to be happy about!

Those friends of Jesus were transparent before him. They spilled their guts and messiness all over him. They wanted more of Jesus and he welcomed them into a new life of freedom and victory. He took their mess and began to rewrite their stories. Jesus offered them a way out of their messy junked up life. Their history was forever changed.

The stuff of friendship is like that. We are the voice of Jesus into a broken world, shouting beautiful words of hope and joy, sounds of laughter, having fun and sharing stories of real life change. We can help shape another person’s story, add grace from God’s truth and begin to weave it into the life of a new friend’s life story. The stuff of friendship is the stuff of stories full of God’s redeeming grace.

So, I’ve been gone for a week. I walked in the door of our home very late. My husband was waiting for me. When I walked in, very tired and weary, he was there to embrace me and he said, “Finally, you are home! It’s good to see you!”

The stuff of friendship is woven into our marriage, our life together means transparency and acceptance of all the junk and messiness that we are capable of and we continue to love each other through it all.

My husband is a handsome introvert. Introverts find their strength and rejuvenation with retreating into a quite respite by themselves. Introverts are very contented with alone time. I know this about my hubby and since our friendship is woven deep and knotted with life, I am very happy to give him time to be alone.

That’s why I treasure the words he said to me, “I am most contented with me, myself, and you!” No longer is it, “me, myself, and I” but YOU.

The stuff of friendship is about including the people whom God moves into our stories. It’s knotted up in the life of each other. It’s including all of those “YOU’s” out there into our life. We have very little time left to make a difference in the lives of our families, much less into the lives of friends that God brings to us.

We are people needing the stuff of friendship…the catalyst for a deep devotion, and sustaining faith in God.  Friendship and loyalty that can single-handedly make it possible for us to survive.

“Friendship” is a mild word for such an extraordinary and holy connection, for what can be the most sustaining, life-giving, death-defying relationships some of us will ever experience. My closest friends are the reason for my deep faith in God, because through them I have discovered what superhuman intimacy and devotion are. ~Anne Lamott