Guest Post: Start Your Own Friendship Brunch

My friend, Mary DeMuth, over at Live Uncaged, writes about…well, she writes about just about anything.  I follow her blog on a regular basis because she always has something great to say about words-smithing, about what it means to be a ‘successful’ writer, mother, woman of God and friend.  A few days ago, she shared this post with her readers about her annual friendship brunch.  If you have read my book, you know that I am a big fan of eating….and also breaking bread with friends.  🙂 When I read about this tradition of hers, I felt compelled to share it with you guys. Enjoy!

I don’t remember when I first started this, but I believe I lived in Seattle, which means my friendship brunch started in the roaring Nineties. A friend of mine had created her own yearly brunch with friends, and I had the privilege of being a part. When life moved on, I decided to follow her inspiration.

So every year around Christmas time, I invite friends to a brunch. This year was my biggest yet, with 14 guests. I had to add a table onto my table to make everyone fit. But it was worth it.

Why? Because there are just so few moments we take these days to celebrate friendship, to ask good questions, and to share our hearts. I started by telling everyone how I knew each person. (I was the common denominator of all the women, so it was fun to share how I met each one.) It was interesting to see how the stories interconnected. Some of us went to the same church. Some of us met when my husband was in seminary. Several of the friends had actually visited us when we lived in France. All of the women have prayed for our family in different, cool ways.

The next question I asked was, “From what you’ve gone through this last year, what one thing do you want to do differently next year? In other words, what did you learn and what do you want to put into practice?”

Mine? I’ve seen how this year has…why don’t you jump on over to www.marydemuth.com to read the rest….I know you’ll enjoy it!

#Small Town 2012: So Much More than a Conference

On Stage at #Small Town 2012
Photo by #140conf on Instagram

Two weeks ago a traveled to the middle of Kansas to talk about covenant relationships.  This, in and of itself, is not a new thing, but the format and the experience were a whole new world.

Earlier this year, I was selected as a speaker for a State of Now/#140 Conference called Small Town 2012 in Hutchinson, Kansas.  This ‘twitter’ conference is an interesting event that brought together speakers from all of the country to speak about the effect of social media on small town America.

From the website:  

The State of Now (#140conf) events provide a platform for the worldwide online community to:      listen, connect, share and engage with each other, while collectively exploring the effects of the emerging real-time internet on business. It creates serendipity in talking to each other, sharing ideas across industries, and exchanging thoughts with people like you and not like you. To put it in rural terms, we’re going to cross-pollinate some ideas. Or think of it as hybrid vigor: your new ideas are much stronger than the ideas that brought them about.

Ummmm..yeah, so not my usual women’s banquet.

And quite honestly, the moment I received my acceptance letter from the event coordinator, Becky McCray, I began struggling with where I would fit in this conference. After all, this is about small towns…and while I technically live in a town with 5,000 people- it’s really more of a suburb of a larger area.  I don’t live on a farm, I’m 4 miles to the nearest mall, I can walk to the nearest Wal-Mart…and a load of other reasons paraded through my brain as to why I didn’t think I would have anything in common with the folks I would find there.

Oh, and did I mention, each speaker only has 10 minutes?  Yeah, you know this is an unfathomable request to ask me to get to the point in that amount of time.

So for weeks I mulled over what to say…and in the end, I came back to the core message of Strings Attached…covenant relationships are about how YOU interact with the people in your life….online and off.

So I packed up my bags and headed to Hutchinson.  When I arrived, I was excited to learn that the receptions and get-togethers planned were in awesome venues like the Kansas Underground Salt Museum and the Cosmosphere.  I met super cool people- veterans of this conference who’ve come year after year, who settled my nerves, and, by telling me their stories, held open a space for this newcomer to fit in (Thank you Dennis,Simon, Patsy and Gigi). And on the day of the conference, I got to see real, open hearts. People who, yes, spoke about how social media had changed their lives, but not with numbers and anecdotes, but with stories about fires raging through their hometown and family illnesses and droughts that nearly bankrupted a family(Thank you Dave, Lanna and Carrie).

The stories were amazing, but the people knocked my socks off. For that I am grateful that I ignored all the voices telling me how different I was, and let me see how common our human experiences can be.  I’m grateful for the friendships that were forged and new partnerships that are budding from this event. (Thanks, Angela and Melissa for the great talks). And I’m grateful for the opportunity to share a message that might be a little outside the box for a conference like this, but that was certainly well received and honored (thanks again, Becky, for the opportunity).

I hope to return next year, but until then, why don’t you take 10 minutes and check out my talk?  Or if you have a little longer, watch through the rest of the videos.

 

Sprinting with God

“Imagine yourself as a living house. God comes in to rebuild that house. At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing. He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on; you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised. But presently He starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and does not seem to make any sense. What on earth is He up to? The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of – throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards. You thought you were being made into a decent little cottage: but He is building a palace. He intends to come and live in it Himself.” – CS Lewis, Mere Christianity

It happens once in a while….God places someone or something in your path that rocks your world and shifts the gear on your sanctification process.  Anyone else experience this?  You are walking along with Jesus- happy with the God you have created, finally understanding your place in your reality- and then suddenly God grabs your hand and starts off at a sprint…

Come with me…I have something to show you, he shouts back over his shoulder.

And so I run…no sprint…to keep up- lungs breathless and legs burning…and I sense it, that just over the horizon is new revelation…new understanding…new holiness, and I can’t wait.

I’ve just begun a new study of God’s words…of his principles…of the Kingdom…and it is transforming my heart.  But sometimes, God divinely appoints someone to speak into my life exactly what I didn’t know I was needing , but was searching for, last night was one of those divine appointments.

I stayed after to request a book list of my instructor.  I had no thought of spending the next two hours pouring out my questions like a pitcher with a thousand holes in it.  With grace and truth he spoke to me and I felt the thousand little heart explosions as truth landed there between us, and what was an easy-paced walk with the Lord, turned into an Olympic record sprint.

Although David had many weaknesses, one thing he did well was to receive the Word of God from the prophets around him.  His obedience to God’s truth saved him, grew him and molded him into the “man after God’s own heart” that he was to come.  I am thankful that God has placed in my life wise prophets to speak God’s Words into me…words of life and encouragement.

As we crest the hill together, God and I, I see that this is my Adullam – my refuge…my place of learning and of building and of growing and a confirmation sweeps over me that I am in the right place at the right time. The right time to learn how a shepherd becomes a king…

“I need to know you are holding me just as closely as the day you took my life and gave me a vision, as the day you poured the oil and gave me a dream. I can’t believe this is happening. How does a shepherd become a king?”- Sara Groves, Cave of Adullum

cave-of-adullum-album-version-28426042
Cave Of Adullum (Album Version)

Re-Mix: In the Wake of Isaac

As Hurricane Isaac bears down on us, I am reminded of a guest post my dear friend Marilyn wrote for me…

Strings Attached Ministries

I’m so excited to share this guest post with you.  My dear friend, Marilyn Hodgin, is half way through a two year commitment to teach English in Taiwan.  She was back in the states recently and we shared lunch. But, OH! It was so much more than lunch! Marilyn shared this poem she wrote when a typhoon hit during her first assignment to Taiwan three years ago.  I asked her to let me share it with you…and guess what? She said yes! I hope that it blesses you as it blesses me….

My favorite line? “The birds are STILL singing!” (my emphasis)…enjoy!

In the Midst of the Storm
The typhoon came – it was expected.
With it came the winds and rain
Unparalleled in its force and magnitude
Leaving destruction in its wake.

 

Sitting in the safety of my room
Writing my thoughts and observations
As the storm raged…

View original post 331 more words

The Sound of Silence: In Love Again

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

4/15/12

Everything seems so sensual this morning.

I slept fitfully last night and finally about3:30 am prayed that God would help me sleep.  I dreamed of running through soft grass and swimming naked crystal clear hot springs with the water wrapping around my body.

I awoke and performed my morning yoga. I think that will become a routine again and I felt blood flow and course and my body hummed happy like a well-oiled machine.

The sky is hazy- not gray specifically, but the haziness that comes with humidity and soon-coming rain. The kind of haze that makes colors shout out their names and reminds you of the beach in midwinter.

Even breakfast caressed the senses this morning. Still simple fare, no gourmet chefs here these monks,  but simple food from God’s bounty prepared with love and care.  This morning we ate scrambled eggs and biscuits with link sausage from a package and I nearly did a cartwheel when the monk rang the bell for breakfast.

A smile, bright like joy itself, sprang to my lips when this man and woman spooned up God’s nourishment and I desperately wanted to bubble out “Thank you” but we are still giving each other the gift of silence and I have a breakfast date with Jesus so my smile like joy will have to do and I bound away happy.

I pour a glass of water flavored with lemons and oranges. I taste the slick spring water and it leaps to life on my tongue. Bright notes of floral and citrus play together and maybe a little mint and my heart sings because I am in love again….with this water, with this place, but especially with the Maker of it all.

I linger over breakfast. The smooth blanket of biscuit with fresh butter and strawberry jam, eggs scrambled just right- still soft and so warm. I salt the fruit to taste its flavors and they pop and kiss and mingle together in my mouth and my heart sings happy because I am in love again.

After breakfast, I head out to the place God prepared to do our last Lectio Divina. I’ve saved a verse about battle (2 Chronicles20:15-17) for last, for the time before I return to the real world.

For a moment, I feel fear and doubt rush in.  There is no Absolam here. There has been a caterpillar to greet me along every steo of my journey there sort of as a guide to confirm my steps are his will.

 

“Oh, but I am here.”

I look down and there is a brown and black caterpillar I’ve looked for and found everywhere along the way crawling up my pant’s leg. I wonder silently how long he’s been there.

“All along,” comes a chuckle from God, “all along.”

So I sit and pray and open my Bible to appropriate passage and begin to dig in with God.

I expect words like “Fight the good fight.” And “Go tell the nations.” But instead, Jesus lets  me off the hook. He took down the chore list from the refrigerator. You know the one with:

20 min of quiet time

20 min Bible study

Evangelize

Make Converts

Invite people to church

You know that list? The one that straps me into to “doing” everyday and fills me with shame at my failure every night? Jesus gently takes it off the fridge and crumples it and throws it in the trash.

“The battle is not yours, but God’s,” He says. “Stand firm, hold your position and watch the salvation of the Lord on your behalf.”

I stutter denials and  but, buts.. and he says:

“I’ve given you a story. Tell yours and they will hear Mine.  Love. Go in peace and stand firm.”

And then we sit for an hour and talk about fear-

Of doing too much.

Of doing too little.

Of letting go of fear itself.

Jesus says “Trust me.”

“You make it sound so simple,” I say.

He chuckles, “Simple is not always easy, Cari.”

He doesn’t always sound like my Dad, but today he does and I love him even more for it.

So, OK…Practice trust. Simply trust.

And then Jesus blows my mind-

“Listen. You are doing the right thing. There is no right or wrong way to draw near to me. No twelve step formula to hear my voice. Just listen. Listen for me.”

I breathe deep his peace and look down. There in the leaves are two more Absolams. They raise up the front part of their bodies as if to speak to me or say “Hello.”

But I think perhaps they are saying, “Goodbye,Alice.  Until we meet again.”

15 And he said, “Listen, all Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem and King Jehoshaphat: Thus says the Lord to you, ‘Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed at this great horde, for the battle is not yours but God’s. 16 Tomorrow go down against them. Behold, they will come up by the ascent of Ziz. You will find them at the end of the valley, east of the wilderness of Jeruel. 17 You will not need to fight in this battle. Stand firm, hold your position, and see the salvation of the Lord on your behalf, O Judah and Jerusalem.’ Do not be afraid and do not be dismayed. Tomorrow go out against them,and the Lord will be with you.” – 2 Chronicles 15-17

The Sound of Silence:Grief Like a Stillborn Child

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

4/14/12

I came here seeking answers.  Lots of them.

Anne Lamott says she knows only two prayers- “Help me, help me, help me,” and “Thank you, thank you, thank you.” I would add to that my own two – “I love you, love you, love you,” and “guide me, guide me, guide me.”

I surrendered my list of “Guide me’s” when I entered silence last night…I laid them all on the altar….save one.

One I kept in my tight-clenched fist, unknowingly holding it up to Jesus with every prayer. My heart whispering, “Guide me, guide me, guide me.” The promise of a new book- a book with 124 pages already written, no ending in sight and a six month writer’s block that wouldn’t budge.

I didn’t realize I had held onto it until I voiced it in spiritual direction this morning. My director, Judy, pressed into that question.

“It feels like you are holding this gift from God very close to your heart? I wonder. Is that part of what is binding you up?”

Fear began its creep up my spine…slowly, like a tentative spider, tick-tickling its way up to my shoulders. I felt my eyes dart to the ground as I pondered and denied. Jesus, bind fear…help me stay open, I prayed silently inside.

“Yeah, I think it is.” I said finally, not really committing to doing much about it. What about this Lord? Can I keep this?

Jesus answered through this slight, gentle woman across from me.

“The story that comes to mind is the story of Abraham being asked to sacrifice Isaac.”

Oh, Dear Jesus, no! Sharp intake of breath, the fear spider swooping in for the kill now.

“What would you say if God asked you to put this book you are writing on the altar?”

I must have visibly recoiled, for the question softened and was tempered by this gentle woman….by an even gentler God.

“…maybe not for good, but just for this weekend.”

“I can do that.  Yes, God…I will do that.”

I sighed relief thick and heavy and felt God’s antitoxin for fear venom sweep through me- the peace of surrender and trust.

As we finished, Judy prayed for me…for us…

“Jesus, we give you these gifts.  We give you the give you these things we create from our great giftedness- the giftedness You gave to us. We give you this book that you and Cari have been writing together.  We give you the grief of loss- grief that comes when our gift isn’t fully brought to life, grief like that of having a stillborn child.  We give you this stillborn child now…bring Cari peace in its place. “

The image struck me cold and hard and I realized that it was perfect.  That is it.  I have been grieving the still birth of this promise unrealized.  I have been grieving the fear that it would never be at all…that I had misheard and misunderstood.  I have been grieving for the doubt that has welled up in its place.

What a gift Judy and God gave to me in that moment.  A sadness named.  Grief…that is the name of this sadness that sweeps away my joy.  I breathe in the peace of a person who is at home in the silence and breathe in the peace of a God who sends his rescue even when we don’t know that we are trapped.

Jesus, I unfurl my hands and give you this stillborn child.  There is still hope that you will breathe your life into it and return her to me – full of life and vigor. But I lay her on the altar now, Jesus.

 

Photo by Pam Chupp

A Reflection on this reflection:

It’s so interesting to me to see how God uses experiences in our lives to prepare us to receive wisdom from Him.  Just two weeks ago, I played Jairus’ wife (Jesus raises her daughter from the dead during his ministry) in our church’s resurrection drama, The Savior and the Scarlet Thread.  I was looking through pictures of the drama and this one caught my eye.

The Sound of Silence: Stretching the Muscle Bound Heart

I am sharing a few of my journal entries from a three day silent directed retreat held by Christview Ministries at Little Portion Retreat Center in Eureka Springs, Arkansas April 13-15, 2012.  

This morning I did yoga for the first time in many months. I don’t why I chose it today, perhaps unconsciously I thought to stretch and relax my body would do the same for my mind.

My usually flexible and pliable muscles were tight and achy and groaned at the movement. Not unlike the spiritual muscle of my heart.

I’ve been working hard at ministry lately. Serving. Doing. Accomplishing great things for the Kingdom.

And none of that is bad or even outside God’s will, but my heart is bound up by all the heavy lifting.  Like a weightlifter who builds giant muscles, but can’t bend over to tie his shoes, my heart has grown inflexible and muscle bound.

As I stretched, Jesus said, “I prepared for you, Cari. Trust me. Let down the walls and trust me.”

Oh Jesus, please come. Come for me here in this place. I’m waiting for you to just be here with me. I came with questions and requests for guidance and I let them go…I just give them all to you right now.  I don’t need answers, Jesus…I just need you. Holy Spirit, come…I invite you here. Stretch me. Relax me. Be with me here. Come.

3 In the first month of the first year of his reign, he opened the doors of the temple of the LORD and repaired them.

– 2 Chronicles 29:3

36 And Hezekiah and all the people rejoiced because God had provided for the people, for the thing came about suddenly.

– 2 Chronicles 29:36

“You provide the fire. I’ll provide the sacrifice. You provide the Spirit, I will open up inside.”