Thursday, August 2, 2018

The Gift of Choice

The Gift of Choice -  

During the intermission for a Bela Fleck and the Flecktones concert at Chautauqua Park Barn in Boulder, Colorado, I approached a concert security personnel who had an intricate tattoo with an inscription. I was too intrigued not to ask about it. Gabriel was his name and he told me he lost his uncle, a cousin, and a best friend all within a few weeks. The tattoo was a memorial for these men.

For the last several months, I have been sculpting small disks of clay and stamping them with various, biblical messages or symbols on them. After firing them in a kiln, I will hand these so-called “stones” out to family and friends. My latest batch at the time was a thought exercise on the revolutionary things in our lives. There are three types of stones: on one side, I stamped “Love”, “Hope”, or “Jesus”, and the other side on all three is “Changes Everything”. I brought these stones to the concert and, for the first time, thought to give this stranger a choice. “If you want, pick one, two, or all three to keep” I offered. Gabriel chose “Hope”.

Making my way around the Barn I felt thirsty. Before the show began, I had run to my truck to pick up bottled water for Maury, my friend, and myself. It was a hot summer night and we quickly ran out of water.  I saw a line for iced, bottled water toward the right of the stage and got in line. Almost immediately I struck a conversation with Lisa, the person ahead of me, about the concert and how amazing this band performed. Then I noticed there was a sign on the table – CASH ONLY.  “Shoot!” I said out loud because I only had a credit card. Surprisingly, Lisa offered to pay, and so I asked if she would accept a gift as a thank you. I dug in my pocket and brought out the remaining “Love” and “Jesus” stones. “Pick one or both of these to keep.” Lisa chose “Love”.  After returning to my seat, water in hand, I told this story to Maury. I dropped the Jesus stone in his hand and said that’s the one they did not choose.

Choice Reveals Where I am

Since that concert, I’ve begun carrying and offering these stones, these choices, to individuals I meet during my activities and it’s consistent. No one chooses Jesus and their choice is not exclusive, they can choose one, two, or all three.  I’ve stopped making Jesus stones because Hope and Love are overwhelmingly in demand. Please do not misunderstand me, I do not judge anyone for not picking up the Jesus stone when I offer it. On the contrary, I know with every choice there is meaning, a background, and a story to tell. Every person I encounter is precious and known by God. I hand-make each one of these stones and with every stone I sculpt, I pray over the person who will eventually receive it. I pray that if they do not know Jesus that they will choose Him one day when the choice is offered again. I pray for those who have already accepted Jesus into their hearts, that they continue to choose Him. Whether we are being offered justification before belief or sanctification after believing, we always have the choice of Jesus.

Connect With God and Others

The Holy Spirit prompts me when and where I offer the stones.  Only one person asked if this is a test. I asked her what she thought - she chose Hope. It’s an extraordinary encounter, a gift, and an opportunity to share a choice safely. All the choices are good choices but one is best. God is the best and wants to share His best with these men and women.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

How Can I Speak Less, to Say More?

When fixing is hurting, not helping 

Fixer Upper

I’m a fixer. I like to fix things and I like to fix people. My immediate inclination is to listen for a preliminary trigger statement, then jump on the opportunity to show my wisdom. At home, this tactic steers conversations and interactions into hostility, and many times demonstrates my inability to listen.

Fixing is what many refer to as rescuing. In Transactional Analysis, it’s known as a destructive form of helping.

Proverbs 18:13
“If one gives an answer before he hears, it is his folly and shame.”

Matthew 11:15
“He who has ears to hear, let him listen.” 

I have learned that the quickest way to push people away is to give advice where none is asked. Listening to understand and not to impulsively speak to fix is a challenge that has only become easier with practice and time.

The Art of Brokenness 

While we are all fundamentally broken, I’ve found the best way to treat people is not to see them as broken and needing to be fixed by my own will. The approach to viewing people as broken feeds into devaluing their abilities and, more importantly, God's abilities.
For a period of time in my life, I was in care ministry visiting the hurt and dying in hospital/hospices. The biggest lesson I took away is that being intentionally present with someone hurting is the best gift; to let my presence speak for itself. I'd come away wondering if I said the right things or if it was enough. It was only after I left this ministry that I realized it wasn't about me—it was all about Jesus. This is how Jesus uses me, beyond my abilities and fears. Then what did I do?   I simply showed up.

What Can I Say?

What are helpful tactics when someone is hurting? 

Here is a link to one of my favorite articles on this topic: Ten supportive things I'm glad somebody said to me.

Take the Cup of Connections Challenge and reach out to someone who may need a lifeline.