Who Else Wants to Be Known?

It is one of the most joyful and lonely feelings I’ve ever had. I was one person in the sea of hundreds and though we were all focused on Jesus we were strangers lost in our own thoughts and personal salvation. The music begins, and all the voices raise, along with the hands. At once you are transported to the first rock concert you attended and your heart swells with the sound.

When I first attended North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, Georgia I was overwhelmed. If you have not attended a megachurch you may have never felt that sense of awe that seizes you the moment all of the lights, voices, and music blend into a cacophony of stimulation. I loved being present in this exciting mass of attendance, but my remote feeling didn’t go away until we joined a small group.

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Our small group became more like our church than the church itself.  That is not a criticism but is exactly what our Pastor, Andy Stanley, encourages us to focus on; circles rather than rows. We met once a week and when I was too tired to go my husband was always ready and vice-versa. This helped with the needling that came from a discouraged spirit or spiritual warfare, whichever was more prevalent on that night.

A few months later our world shifted in a series of blows; one of my daughters had a breakdown that put her in the hospital, my younger sister died, our business took a financial hit and then it became more apparent that our son was not able to fight the addiction he had been battling for almost 5 years.

When our son lay in the hospital, our pastor’s duties of running thousands precluded a personal visit to the hospital. The leader of our group and his wife, however, sat for hours with us. Group members brought us food and visited the waiting room holding our hands and praying with us. When he passed away a few days later they were the ones who stood closest to us those next few months, let us talk about what happened until we were sure there was nothing more we could have done.

Our small group stayed together for a little over 3 years.  In that period a few couples left and a few joined and still, it was wonderful giving and learning from each of them. We would never forget that first experience with a small group, but now we could welcome in others who felt isolated by the awe-inspiring size of the church. We could do our part to build the bridge between mass devotion and personal worship, help others feel less unnoticed.20161205_010920801_iOS

The last time our group got together was right before 2017 ended. Many said they would be busy, moving to another group, or not sure of their plans so we ended the group with promises of getting together for one last meeting, but it never happened. The holidays came, someone had surgery, someone else had family emergencies and in general, life happened.

My husband was the one who had surgery.  In March, after seeing him look bored because going out was not a real option, I reached out to the group by email. It was an open invitation for game night, no plans, no real agenda, just a night together. We invited fourteen but planned for three or four because we knew everyone was so busy now.  Twelve showed up and every one of those was from the small group that split up before the holidays!

IMG_1715We had a wonderful hyggelig evening and learned something. We had mistakenly thought that everyone decided to go separate ways because the group had reached its logical end.  What we found that evening was that we missed being together. We missed the spiritual part of the group true, but more than that we missed the solidarity; the harmony of being with others we had walked through the fire and swam the oceans with. We missed being truly known.

Many say that attendance in a church is not necessary for personal salvation. I agree with this. However, being with others, being a part of something together, is a good recipe for having deeper relationships with others and I know this is something I want.  Church is not a place and it never was intended to be. Church was envisioned as a community of souls who lean together into the moment, celebrate the small wins, comfort each other in the big losses and reach out to welcome in others lost from the comfort of being known. Being known and being loved because you are known (rather than despite it), is what God had in mind for all of us. It’s the way He loves us.

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Romans 12:9-16 Love must be sincere. Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality. Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Live in harmony with one another.

Lonliness; a Prescription for Dementia

I feel so strongly about this subject that I wanted to share this TEDx Talk with you. Here is Shasta Nelson, Founder, and CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com:

Published on Dec 15, 2017

Our world is getting “better” at connecting us and yet we’re reporting feeling more disconnected than ever. The issue: loneliness. The solution: understanding the 3 actions that lead to belonging.
Shasta Nelson is passionate about all things friendship. As founder and CEO of GirlFriendCircles.com— the female-friendship learning community—she speaks and writes regularly on this important topic. She is the author of two books: Friendships Don’t Just Happen! The Guide to Creating a Meaningful Circle of Girl- Friends and Frientimacy: How to Deepen Friendships for Lifelong Health and Happiness. Her spirited and soulful voice can also be read at Shasta’s Friendship Blog and in her relationship health column in The Huffington Post. She’s been interviewed on the Today show, Katie Couric’s show Katie, The Early Show, and on Fox Extra. She’s been consulted on friendship matters by writers and reporters from such magazines as Cosmopolitan, More, Real Simple, Redbook, and Good Housekeeping, and from such newspapers as The New York Times, Chicago Tribune, and the San Francisco Chronicle.
This talk was given at a TEDx event using the TED conference format but independently organized by a local community. Learn more at https://www.ted.com/tedx

I’ll Pray For You

 

My mother says this to me often. She and I are not of the same religion. Still I am grateful when I think of my name on their altar, where she and her group of friends, some who don’t even know me, bow their heads and plead for my cause.

My friend’s daughter, a Wiccan, says she hopes the Gods smile down on me and that she will send me good energy. I have only one God but I know He loves her enough to hear her plea for energy in my behalf.

My Catholic friend says she will light a candle for me. My son-in-law says, “Insha’Allah, If God wills it,” and then gets on his knees for me at his mosque. My Pentecostal friend says she will pray over me. My aunt says she will ask the elders of her church to lay their hands on me. I am touched by their concern despite the fact that I don’t practice my faith in the same way. My neighbor, who is agnostic simply says, “I’ll be thinking of you.” I’ll take that too.

Whether these people believe in the same God I do, or not, is beside the point. My God believes in them. It doesn’t matter if He is exactly who they think He is because the God I love cares for the compassionate requests of all of His children. And when they raise their voices to Him, in whatever religious place, ceremony, ritual or language they use, I know that His translation skills are universal. His is the ear of a patient father, who feels the worth of our reaching and hears the language of our hearts.

All prayer, all concentrated love and concern for others, counts in heaven.

“Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.”
‭‭Romans‬ ‭8:26‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/rom.8.26.esv

More from the Bible about Praying for Each Other

“I desire then that in every place the men should pray, lifting holy hands without anger or quarreling;”
‭‭1 Timothy‬ ‭2:8‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/1ti.2.8.esv

“Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven.”
‭‭Matthew‬ ‭18:19‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/mat.18.19.esv

“Therefore…pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.”
‭James‬ ‭5:16‬ ‭ESV‬‬
http://bible.com/59/jas.5.16.esv

White Soul Exposed

I’ve wanted so much to reach out every day this past week to tell all of my friends of color that, sure all lives matter…but for me…YOU matter.  You are my friends and I hope you know that I hate how this all feels for you.

I know that despite my cultural openness I am still guilty of assuming and pre-judgement.  I am openly admitting that so that, hopefully, you will forgive me.  I am another victim of the books, movies, music and even cartoon portrayals of black men and women everywhere. In my heart I don’t see you that way but my mind is forever recording garbage.  It is the shaping of misconception; like movies that make you not trust old bridges.

In every movie, that involves an old bridge, something bad happens when you cross it.  Maybe if they filmed happier scenes on the bridge, more often, I wouldn’t be so sure something bad was going to happen when someone went across it.  Nothing bad has ever happened to me on a bridge before and other than seeing some beautiful ones in pictures I’ve never actually seen anyone plummet through one.  I have nothing to base my bridge anxiety on, except those movies; but I’m still unnerved by them.  I think media influence can do that to you; make you feel emotions that you might not otherwise feel.

People of color, who know me, come to know quickly that I don’t judge others by their skin color but how do I express that to those who do not know me? I am always kind to everyone, I meet them with a handshake, a hug when appropriate, and look them in the eyes.  I laugh with them in elevators and ask how their vacations are going when we’re out of the state.  But truthfully, sometimes I am still afraid; afraid of offending you!  So, I say nothing because I’m afraid to say the wrong thing.

I do see your color, I acknowledge it because it’s beautiful and it’s an important part of your life and culture, but I treat you with respect like every person I meet.  Still, I trip on myself not refer to your skin color because I’m not sure if I should use the term African American or Black American or just black.  I don’t tell you how beautiful your weave is or how jealous I am that you can wear the brilliant colors you’re wearing because I wonder if that feels like I am “trying too hard” even though I sincerely mean it.  I want to say something in the summer time about my fear of blinding you with my neon white legs and how I wish I was that beautiful golden brown you are, but I stay silent because I am worried that you will think I’m being fake about it.   I look in envy every time I see a large black woman wearing tight clothing because she is so much more secure in her body than I am in mine, but I wouldn’t say that out loud for fear that she might think that I was actually being condescending and not flattering.

Yes, I am aware of the differences in our skin colors but not in the way you think.  More like in the way someone admires all the shades of blue in the sky at sunset. Yes, I’m sometimes afraid of you when we meet but not for the reason you believe.  It’s usually because I’m wondering if I can smile at you and you will honestly believe I’m not “one of those” white people (insert whatever unkind thing you’ve heard about us).  Yes, my eyes follow your children.  But because I love children and find your children fun to watch or beautiful as teens growing into adulthood.  You are not all the same.  We are not all the same.  We are not all thinking the same things.

Please don’t be frustrated with me for not knowing what to say.  So much has happened in our family’s pasts to make it hard to know for sure how you will respond to me.   I am not my ancestor but just like a new husband I am paying for your ex-husband’s sins until you get to know me better.

So why haven’t I said anything before this?  Because I don’t know what to say.  And I desperately want to say something.  Each time I read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “In the end we remember…the silence of our friends,” I feel the responsibility of saying something I don’t have the right words to say.

What can I say to the people I love and care about (and to others I don’t even know as well) that coming from my white mouth, would not feel like phoniness to your black ears? How can I make you feel my heart when I say, “You matter to me!”, and that I die a little inside as I empathize with the injustices that you feel?

A couple of days ago I talked with a couple on the phone for almost an hour about helping them adopt a baby.  I didn’t know until the end of the call that they were an African American couple.  Yesterday we met with a single, black woman about adopting.  We spent over an hour visiting because we had so much fun and so much in common.  For some of us life goes on the same in both worlds.  We meet, we laugh, we visit, we are touched by one another.  The world does not define us or our relationships.  This cloud exists only to darken what could have been an even more enjoyable relationship.  And yet we each feel the impact as if the world is shaken in two.

And we, straddling the divide, look at that bridge and dare to cross it.

 

© 2016 Dee Shihady, The Quiet Christian
(photos by internet research, not by author)

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