Where Everybody Knows Your Name

We have recently decided to turn off our satellite TV service. We occasionally get tired of paying high dollar for not much in the way of quality entertainment, so we cut it off. We still have Netflix, Hulu, and Apple TV, so it’s not really like we’re going off the grid or anything. 

I’ve found a few ancient shows from the eighties that I decided I would revisit on Netflix. One is Cheers. As soon as the familiar theme song began playing, I felt like I was meeting up with an old friend. 

“Sometimes you want to go…Where everybody knows your name… And they’re always glad you came…”

It’s true. We just mostly want to be where we know people and are known by people. The biggest whine I get from my kids is when I need them to go somewhere where they will not know anyone. They’d rather scrub toilets with a toothbrush. Their toothbrush.

I grew up in a tiny town. At the time, I didn’t know how tiny. I grew up in Pinson, Alabama thinking I knew everyone. I realize, now that I am grown, that I actually did not know every person, but it felt like I did. If I didn’t actually know them, I “knew of them” as my mom would say. 

“Knowing of” someone just means you may know someone who knows someone who might know something about where the person in question works, or goes to church, or whose cousin or daughter they married. Facebook has nothing on life in a small town. You didn’t need a news feed to know everything about everybody. 

Depending on how closely you knew of someone, you could still get favors like a free ice cream cone at Prices Drug store. I didn’t really know Mr. Price personally because he was an adult, but my parents did, so sometimes I could get free stuff like an ice cream cone. 

It’s the whole, “I know a guy who knows a guy” kind of thing, but with small town charm and nosiness. 

The Bible says that God desires to know us and be known by us. God doesn’t just know of us. He knows us. Completely. He still wants us to know him, but many just know of him. He speaks about those folks in the Bible. 

They are the ones who will cry,“Lord, Lord” thinking they know him, but he sends them away saying they really only knew of him. God wants intimacy. He wants relationship. He wants more than church membership and deeds done in His name. He wants every part of us. 

It’s a whole different level of knowing. Really knowing God is like really knowing people. It takes time and an investment of ourselves. But the return pays off like when Norm walked through the door of Cheers… He was home. 

Flight of Ideas

I woke up early today. It figures. The day I could sleep in a little bit, and I am up early. I’m excited, though. I am flying away with my family today to go on a trip we have been planning and paying for a long time. We are headed to Los Angeles, then Hawaii, then San Francisco. It’s how we decided to celebrate our twenty-fifth anniversary and it has been a LONG time coming.

So I woke up to the idea of flying away, and how I don’t particularly like flying on airplanes. All that recycled air, and the physics involved to get that huge thing off the ground and up in the air. I never quite understood physics. Which led me to thinking about Jesus and his flying back to heaven at the transfiguration, and then I thought about the body he had at that point and how it still had the scars the crucifixion had given him. Scars on his glorified body?

(When I was at Samford, I took a lot of psychology classes, and I can remember distinctly my professor telling us that was called a “flight of ideas” and that those might indicate someone was a loony bird. So you have been warned. Read on at your own risk.)

I landed my flight of ideas on the fact that Jesus still had his scars. I sometimes think of my glorified body, the one I will get when I am finally, forever, with Jesus.

The one that will be perfectly healthy.

The one that will no longer have migraine headaches or allergies, spider veins or stress incontinence.

The one that will know no sickness or pain.

The one with a beautiful voice, perfect measurements, and the ability to dance like a Radio City Music Hall Rockette.

My mom is short. She’s all of 5’2”, or she used to be. I am convinced she has gotten shorter. Gravity. She’s holding firm to 5’2” in her head, though. She has always said that she hopes her glorified body is at least 5’7”.

But what of Jesus and those scars? His perfected, glorified, heavenly body still held the scars of the darkest day in history? Why? Why did he choose not to fix that? Certainly, being God, he could.

Thomas Aquinas was a theologian, philosopher, professor, and writer from the 1200s. He spoke to why he thought Jesus kept his scars. According to Thomas, Jesus kept His scars not from inability to heal them, “but to wear them as an everlasting trophy of His victory.” Hence Augustine says, “Perhaps in that kingdom we shall see on the bodies of the Martyrs the traces of the wounds which they bore for Christ’s name: because it will not be a deformity, but a dignity in them; and a certain kind of beauty will shine in them, in the body, though not of the body.”

duccio_doubting_thomas_2

Thomas also thought that by keeping the scars, Jesus would be better able prove his identity to the disciples, to plead on our behalf before the Father, and finally, on that day of his return, to show them to his enemies, reminding them that by their hands he suffered, and yet for them he died, and they still refuse him.

So there is a power in those scars Jesus chose to continue to bear. They are a part of his story, an important part. The deal is, though, that they no longer affect him; they no longer bring him pain. Instead, they are like a badge worn to tell the story of his great sacrifice for us. They tell the great roll he played in the redemption of the world.

I still believe that our glorified bodies will be perfected, but they might not be perfect. I believe, like Thomas, that the martyrs of the faith will still hold evidence of the scars from their suffering, not that will keep them from beauty, but to enhance it. I think all that any of us who suffer for Christ will show that evidence in our new, glorified bodies, as badges of honor to be prized in the new kingdom.

Most of us carry scars around from the blows that life has dealt us. The great hope we have in Christ is that those scars will be completely gone one day. Those wrongs will be made right for us and in us. There is an old hymn that says,

“One glad morning, when this life is o’er, I’ll fly away. To a place on God’s celestial shore, I’ll fly away… Just a few more weary days and then… To a home where joy shall never end. I’ll fly away.” 

I still hold out hope that our glorified bodies can fly (sans airplanes) and teleport. After his resurrection, Jesus flew. Jesus just showed up places. I realize that it could be a bit precarious, all of us flying around willy-nilly, and just showing up wherever. But I’m going to be a bit let down if I can’t fly.

I do so need this vacation

Meeting of the Broken Hearts Club is Cancelled

I have had my heart broken a time or two. I have also broken a heart or two. It is tough stuff, these matters of the heart. We are created to live in relationships. It’s the very reason we were made in the first place. We were formed to be in relationship with God. So for those of you still searching for why you were made… there you go. We are hardwired for relationships; first to be in relationship with the Father and then to be in relationship with one another.

But relationships are fragile.

When I was much younger, I made my share of mistakes with regard to relationships. I gave my heart away far too easily. I was less than careful with the hearts of others, as well, sometimes. I can remember in second grade, ripping out a little boy’s heart, throwing it on the ground and stomping on it. Worse still, I refused to return the ring he had given me- that was actually his mother’s -because I had given it to my friend, Wendy. I still feel kinda bad about that. I was paid back in full when in sixth grade the boy who liked me decided he no longer liked me because I got a perm. It was a bad perm, but I was still me…

FullSizeRenderThe older we get, the more complicated these things get. The more invested in a relationship we are, the harder it is if we lose that relationship. The grief we feel can almost feel as if a person has died. Sometimes we think death might be easier to take. I said this was tough stuff.

Here’s a thing about grief…

We can often get stuck in our grief. I mean we feel like we deserve to wallow a bit; a fair amount of time anyway. But what is that amount? When can we be done? It does take time to pick ourselves up off the ground, dust ourselves off and regroup. But how much time does that take? The truth is you get to decide that. A day? A week? Six months? Years? It’s literally up to you.

Or it can be if you decide it is. You can decide that you are stepping into a new day. You can decide you are just giving it all, lock, stock and barrel, to the Holy Spirit. Let him have it and give him free reign in your heart to come in and patch up what is broken. He can. He can come in and fix it all, and it will be like it was never broken and he can do it faster than you can. You walk away with experience and wisdom you didn’t have before, but without the pain.

There is a saying that goes, “Time heals all wounds.” That, is a load from the enemy. Now space and distance from an initial heartbreak can serve to give us a different perspective, but time has absolutely no healing power whatsoever. If you are waiting on time to heal your wounds, you will be waiting a long… time. And if you are not careful, you can get comfortable there in your grief and heartbreak. You can decide that sitting around in your dirty bathrobe and eating a steady diet of Fritos and Ben and Jerry’s is not such a bad life after all.

Just ask Terah from Genesis 11. Terah was headed to Canaan but he never made it. Terah’s son had died and it had broken his heart. While traveling to Canaan, he passed through a town named the same name as his dead son, Heran. Terah became stuck there. Stuck in his grief and he never made it to Canaan. He actually died in Heran, never ever seeing the Promised Land.

Terah needed to keep walking. He needed to push through and keep walking to the other side. He needed to say no to wallowing and yes to the path God had marked out for him. He should have turned his pain over to the Father. He needed to allow the Holy Spirit in to heal those broken places and make his heart new again.

You might not exactly be sitting in your ice cream stained bathrobe with Fritos breath, but maybe it’s time to hand your heartbreak over to the Father. Stop putting your faith in time. Time never healed anyone, but God, now he’s in the business of heart healing. Keep walking. It’s a new day. And all that time wasted in that relationship? For a child of God, there is no such thing as time wasted. God uses all things for our good, even the tough stuff.

Stop Reading to Your Kids, Please

So the Pope is now an honorary Harlem Globe Trotter (Why?), ABC is asking if parents reading bedtime stories to their kids isn’t giving some kids an unfair advantage, it seems like everyone wants to redefine what it means to be male and female, the new little princess in England was named after Diana (shocker), and Chuck Norris is worried about the US Government taking over Texas.

This is what passes for news in today’s society. Can this even be real? Are we living in some kind of Matrix-land where someone, somewhere, is just spit balling the craziest stuff they can come up with and throwing it all out there to see how we respond? On some level, that would actually be sort of comforting. But unfortunately, as far as I can tell, this is real stuff.

The only one of those I feel even a tiny bit interested in speaking to is why ABC would address the issue of reading to children, and how it might give those children an unfair advantage over those who don’t have parents or other folks who do that. ABC came really close to suggesting that those people just stop it. Stop reading to your kids, you selfish, selfish parents. Don’t you know what you are doing? Don’t you understand that you are just widening the gap between your kids and those poor kids who don’t have that at home?

So instead of helping out the kids who don’t have that by brow beating (encouraging) those lazy (uninformed/disinterested) parents, we are just going to level the playing field down.

FullSizeRenderI remember reading to my kids when they were little. What I remember is that it was a chore most of the time. When my kids were little, I worked night shift a couple of nights a week so that I could be, for all intents and purposes, a stay at home mom to my four kids. I used to tell my mom that it felt like a daycare, only no one ever went home. By the time bedtime came, I was tired. I didn’t really want to read Green Eggs and Ham again. But I did. I didn’t work nights and stay home for me; I stayed home for my kids. I realize this also probably gave them an unfair advantage. I’m sorry. If I could do it all over again and work all the time, I would.

I will admit that by the time child number four came along I had pretty much stopped reading bedtime stories. Instead, for Evan, I made up stories. Stories about a blue door that when opened, took people on wild adventures. It was a new story every night. There were also stories about a magic mailbox that held letters that could take the reader to exciting places. I was tired of reading Dr. Seuss. Evan is a straight A student. It’s horrible.

I do think most parents do the best they can by their kids. I also think that sometimes parents think the best they can means giving them all they can, financially. Parents work a lot. Now that my kids are older, I work a lot, too. College is expensive. But when they were little, Matthew and I decided that we could get by on less in order to pour more of me into our kids. We got creative with our schedules and our budget. We didn’t do it to give our kids an advantage over other kids. We did it because those four kids were given to us to love, nurture, and raise. We took on that job with all seriousness that many nights included hide and seek games in the dark, talent shows in the family room, and bedtime stories.

As believers in Christ, we are called to give our lives away. As parents, I believe the first folks to dip into that pot are our kids. So in answer to ABC’s suggestion that parents stop investing in their kids because all kids don’t have that at home, I’m sorry. I really am, but that’s not going to happen in my house. I think it’s time that we stop thinking it’s better to lower the playing field in order to find equity. Americans have always been about raising the bar… I’m not sure who all these people are who think lowering it will bring anything good to anyone. Perhaps they are some of those illegal aliens we keep hearing about in the news.

All children deserve parents who invest in them. Raise the bar. Invest in their lives. It’s what we are supposed to do as parents. Really ABC, that was just a dumb story.

Life Is A Wiggle

The Benson clan loves to eat Chinese food. It’s pretty cheap, so we can eat our fill for not too much money. I can remember once after we finished a meal at a Chinese restaurant, one of our sons opened his fortune cookie to find it said, “Life isn’t a struggle, it’s a wiggle”. We all kind of liked that philosophy.

We still do.

FullSizeRenderLife is sometimes hard. This is no real revelation. Issues come up. Bills come due. Relationships hit a wall. Illness strikes. Disappointments come. If you live longer than a minute or two, you will face trials. Right off the bat we are shoved through an opening a fraction of our size, born cold, wet, and could someone please turn off those lights?!

Jesus promised us trials. “In this life you will have trouble”. That’s what he said. He didn’t sugar coat it. He just laid it out there. Matter of fact. No hemming, no hawing.

Jesus wanted everyone clear on this thing. Just because we decide to follow him, doesn’t mean our lives will be all chocolate covered bacon all the time. We don’t have to go looking for trouble. Trouble will surely find us.

The great thing about Jesus is that he is a rescuer. He said we will have trouble in this world, but then he eases our panic by saying we shouldn’t worry. He said, “I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) Nothing is too big, too hard, to hurtful, or painful for Jesus to overcome. No matter what it is, if we are able to lay it at his feet, he can take it.

Jesus could have been our Savior without coming to earth and living the life we live. God could have chosen a different path for him. He could have just fast forwarded to the part where he defeated death and the grave without having to live a human existence for thirty three years. It could have still been magnificent with light sabers, flashes of lightening, and an epic sound track.

But then we would not have a Savior who knows our pain, understands our disappointments and heart break. He would not have experienced rejection, betrayal, loss or humiliation. He would have still loved us enough, but he would not feel the same empathy for us. He would not be able to stand at the right hand of the Father and so easily intercede on our behalf as we go through life with all of its inherent trials.

Instead, we can put our faith in a Savior who knows firsthand our issues and trials. When we cry out, he immediately identifies with our problems and situations. And not only that, he knows the way through to the other side of our issue. How? Because he has been there. I always tell the young leaders in my care that it’s difficult to take someone somewhere you have not been. I am much more comfortable following someone to a new place if I know for sure that they know the way. I can rest easier that I will get where I need to be because I am following someone who knows.

No matter what you face, if you are following Jesus, you are following someone who knows. You don’t have to worry. He knows the way through. We still face things, but they do not slay us in the same manner they once did if we are following Jesus closely enough. When you begin to trust Jesus at this level, then life really can cease being a struggle and begin to be a wiggle. And who can’t handle a wiggle?

Loose Ends

I recently moved my office to a new suite in the same building. In doing so, the IT Department had to take care of moving and setting up my computer and phone in my new office. For the last few weeks, I have watched as the message signal on my phone blinks at me. When I first noticed it, I picked up the handset and tried to dial in to retrieve my message. Apparently, in the move, my password was lost. The one I used in my old office no longer works in the new location. I was curious about this, but only for a minute or two. This was a few weeks ago. My phone is still blinking at me. Occasionally, I wonder what the message on my phone might be. It could be important. But then I figure if it is really important, the person would have tried again to reach me with the important news.

Blink

Blink

FullSizeRenderI could call up the IT Department’s Help Desk, and tell them that my phone won’t accept my password anymore. They would help me. It’s why they call it the “Help Desk”. It’s for people like me who can’t figure out why the light on their phone is blinking or why all the icons on their desktop just disappeared. Stuff like that. They are always patient and nice and they never, ever ask me, “What did you do to it?” Although I am sure they want to. They always do ask me for information I do not have, but somehow I feel like I should have. But still, they are kind. I do notice, though, that only a few seconds into our conversations, they usually begin speaking to me like a kindergarten teacher might speak to one of her students. They begin using simple words and short sentences.

Blink

Blink

I know there are people who wouldn’t have been able to allow this to go on this long. I love those people. I am married to one. I don’t think he would care so much about the message waiting as he would just want things to be in order, and not blinking. If I care at all it isn’t because of the blinking as much as I wonder a bit about the message. Perhaps I won something. Although I didn’ t enter any contests. I learned my lesson about that decades ago when I registered to win a Rainbow vacuum cleaner only to find the only thing I won was a vacuum cleaner salesman at my door and a three hour demonstration of a vacuum I could not hope to pay for.

Blink

Blink

I realize the grownup thing to do in this situation is to call for help, and to resolve the situation. Sometimes we just decide we aren’t going to do the thing that we know we should do. I mean it’s not as if I don’t know how to fix my situation. But there is a part of me that is enjoying the mystery. It’s like when you get to the end of a good book and you are almost mad at yourself for reading to the end. Now it’s over and done and you have to go find another way to amuse yourself. As long as my phone is blinking, I can wonder about the message. If I get a new password and listen to the message, it’s done.

Blink

Blink

But perhaps it’s time. I should just call the Help Desk and get it done. I’ll suffer through the questions I don’t have the answers to until I can get a new password and listen to my message. It will most likely be a non-event, and my adventure will be over with no real climax. With any luck, the message will not be that I have been let go, and I am just finding out a month later. That would be a bummer. The blinking light is a loose end. As grownups, we are supposed to tie those up. Maybe you have a loose end or two you need to deal with. I’ll go deal with mine, maybe today is the day you deal with yours, too. You know what you need to do…

Blink

Blink

Is This What “The Change” Is All About?

There have been a few times over the last few years when my husband has asked me, “Does this mean you are going through the change?” Since I had not been through the change yet, I would say, “I don’t know, maybe.” All the while thinking, “I don’t think this is the change,” and yet all the while wondering, “Is this the change?”

Women talk about going through menopause as if it is a devil of a thing. Why is that? Well, it comes with hot flashes that melt the makeup right off your face, and mood swings that have you on an angry rampage one second and in a puddle of tears the next. Weight gain, night sweats, heart palpitations, incontinence, bloating, irritability, and allergies are all signs hailing the onset of menopause. Why would anyone dread that?

I read an article recently that exposed thirty-four symptoms of menopause. I stopped counting when I had reached about fourteen that I have or have had. I can remember the first night I woke up from a deep sleep to the feeling of sweat running down my thighs. Too much information? Well, you should probably stop reading now.FullSizeRender

I jumped up out of bed to find that the sheets beneath me were soaked through. I literally had to go get a towel and dry off. I changed my night shirt and underwear and slept the rest of the night on top of a towel… all while Matthew slept soundly, unaware of the commotion on my side of the bed. Lucky duck.

Hitting that menopause wall is hard for a lot of women. It signals the end of one era and the beginning of another. Lots of times it feels like you have completely lost control of your body and your mind. Sometimes it’s the first time we women ever give any consideration to the fact that we are not really timeless. We realize that even though we don’t want to have more children, we soon won’t be able to even if we did want to.

Which we don’t.

But it still bothers us.

I didn’t say any of this made any sense.

That’s probably the most frustrating thing about menopause. It does things to our bodies that just don’t make any sense. If we remember back to puberty, we can agree that the things going on in our bodies didn’t make sense then, either. It was a season, just like menopause is a season. The difference in seasons for us is that puberty meant the start of something, while menopause means the end of something. For some of us, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

For most of us, menopause will last about ten years. That’s quite a sentence… for us- AND our spouses and children. There is plenty of literature and articles out there to help women navigate these years. Some of it is good, and some of it is snake oil. Some doctors offer hormone replacement or antidepressant therapy. Some encourage exercise and diet change…

Can we just stop always talking about exercise and diet change?!! (Sorry, lost it there a second)

I think the worst thing we can do while facing menopause is to keep quiet about it. Women need to talk, no matter in what stage of life we find ourselves. We will weather these years better together; together with our girlfriends, and together with our spouses. Remember, the sweet loving woman he thought he knew has gone on a bit of a hiatus… we need to assure him she will be back. He needs to see glimpses of her from time to time.

We can’t expect our husbands to know how to deal with us any more than we know how to deal with ourselves. We have to tell our spouses what we need during this time. We need his patience. We need to hear that we are still beautiful, wanted, and secure in our relationships…

When we got married, it was our dream to grow old with the man. Well, sister, this is where the rubber meets the road… This is where it begins, and it really is a beginning. For most of us, the best really is yet to come, and I am not just talking about grandchildren! (Although, that’s going to be pretty awesome!)

I had the great privilege of hearing John Maxwell, 68, speak recently and he said this, “I’m going to live until I die.” I think I will do that, too. Menopause is just a thing, and it’s not even a huge thing. Just like puberty, it will pass. Let’s focus less on what’s happening to us, and more on what God can still do through us. Menopause wants us to focus on ourselves, making life all about how we feel. We’ve never been able to trust our feelings before, and we certainly can’t now.

In Psalm 42, the psalmist is downcast and he doesn’t understand why. He is struggling. Sound familiar? But then, with each struggle, he reminds himself to put his hope in God and to give him praise. God is our refuge and strength, our ever present help in times of trouble. Our bodies? Our emotions? They will fail us, but God never will.

Menopause is a big ol distraction. Let’s just deal with it and get on with the business of living. There are a lot of things I have left to do, and so do you.