“Hi! How are ya?” “Fine. And you?”

Having moved all the way across the country from Oregon to New York this past February, we’ve been plunged into culture-learning. One of the common ways to greet someone here is the phrase, “Hi! How are ya?” The appropriate response I’ve learned is not “I’ve been up since 4 AM, my back hurts, and there’s a mountain of work in front of me.” No, you’re expected to say “Fine. And you?” Then, move on with your life, letting them move on with their life.

In some ways, this suits me just fine since quite often I’m not willing to divulge my innermost or take time to hear the innermost of another. Let’s just get on with it and get the job done. There’s so much to do! On the other hand, it troubles me somewhere down deep because I’d love to be able to share my burdens and perhaps, receiving some understanding and sympathy in response, move on with life knowing I’m not alone in this.

But there’s the honesty thing, the just keep smiling thing, and the put up a good front thing. Is it dishonest to not answer directly a discerning friend’s inquiry, “Are you okay? Are you not feeling well? You don’t seem yourself.” Is it really wrong or selfish to say, “Oh, I’m just a bit tired” – when unsure about what to say or whether the friend really means to take time to hear the nitty gritty? Maybe the difficulties that come with expressing our hearts so that we’re clearly understood and not put aside as a hopeless nut or bleeding heart case are just too great, most of the time.

Truth be 20150228_115558told, it’s not easy to share the innermost struggles and dreams of the heart. I’ve noticed for instance that when I’ve gone through a major life change or face major decisions, that I come close to hating the sensitive friend’s question, “How are you?” How do I answer when typically the answer is caught up in a mix of dreams, weariness, hurt, dissatisfaction, narrowing of options, life’s necessities, covenant responsibilities, thirst for adventure and meaning, and maybe guilt over some endless list of unmet expectations?

The kind of sharing I long for comes in what I call a covenant relationship. It’s the kind of thing I naturally have with the one whose love I’m convinced of and whom I love unconditionally in return.

I can share my life openly with someone that I’m partnered with in making a shared life, or conquering some mountain before us both. And especially, I can share my life with the one who delights in me as a person and who gives energy and time to be with me after discovering that I’m not yet whole. Is that one you? Will you covenant with me to live out our lives together serving the Lord and growing in grace together? Then, I hope you’ve got time for a good cup of coffee because this is going to take a while…

“Then Jonathan made a covenant with David, because he loved him as his own soul.”
(1 Samuel 18:3; cf. 1 Samuel 19 ESV)

“But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death while we were of no use whatever to him.”(Romans 5:8 MSG)

“The Lord your God is in your midst, a mighty one who will save; he will rejoice over you with gladness; he will quiet you by his love; he will exult over you with loud singing.” (Zephaniah 3:17 ESV)

Grace and Glitter

This is a newspaper column I wrote in 2011. When I read it today it reminded me of grace and glitter, so I’m sharing it with you.

Two four-year-old girls come to church early with their grandparents each Sunday. One grandmother works in the kitchen preparing coffee so it’s ready for everyone else when they arrive, the other is on the worship team and sets up the computer so we can have the words overhead during the service. The girls love to play together, as this is the only chance to see each other during the week.

This week, however, they decided that playing was not enough. They wanted to decorate. Imagine their grandmothers’ surprise when they discovered that Ally and Bella had found a large container of glitter and proceeded to sprinkle the carpets in the nursery, the hallways, and the clasglittersrooms. Almost every room in the church was flooded with sparkles! Even after two vacuums did everything they could to get rid of the beauty, there are still glittering pieces clinging to the carpet. Personally, I think it just looks like we had a really big party and a lot of fun.

I also think it’s a perfect introduction to the month of November which is the beginning of my favorite season of the year. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years are just around the corner with all the wonder those holidays bring. Glitter everywhere simply yells “Celebrate!”

Our celebration began early. This week our furnace quit. Well, actually, the problem was it would not quit. The only way we could get it to stop pouring out super hot air was to turn off the breaker for the furnace. We called Jay Hester of Hester’s Heating and ask him to come and fix our thermostat. He looked at it and announced that the only solution was a complete new furnace. We’ve known for several years that this was coming, as the unit was installed in 1977 when the house was built. Jay’s estimate was half of the one we got several years ago, but the problem was, he needed the money up front. We have never had much available cash, and this week was no exception.

A month ago, David and I went on a prayer retreat where God impressed on us that we should be living by grace, not just faith. Living by faith is living by what you believe about God. Living by grace is living by what God provides for you and saying “It is enough,” instead of complaining if you think there should be more. Everything we have is a gift from God. He has poured out so much—family, friends, a home, a wonderful place to live in a beautiful part of the world. November is a month to count blessings and we have so much for which to be thankful. We decided to live being thankful and saying that whatever we received from God was enough. We would no longer complain, thinking we want or need more.

After talking to Jay, we pulled everything out of our accounts, including the savings to visit our kids in New York over Christmas and the money set aside for property taxes, and we came up with exactly the amount we needed. It left only $9.13 in our checking account, but instead of complaining, we decided to thank God for His gift of being able to pay cash for the unit. And we now have a wonderful new furnace and heat pump that work great!

But that isn’t the end of the story. By the end of the week, God had also given us plane tickets to spend Christmas with our daughter and her family—the first time in their sixteen year marriage that we’ve been to their home for the holidays—and most of the money back in our checking accounts! We have experienced once again, that when you trust God, He is gracious and we are thankful. His provisions most often come in ways we would not normally expect.

In a time of economic uncertainty, when all around us we experience situations where we wish we could do or have more, we are choosing to say, “Thank you for what we have and it is enough.” We don’t know what will happen this year, but we do know our attitudes have changed. Gratitude and thankfulness are moving to the top of our response list as we learn to celebrate the gracious gifts of God. Maybe I’ll even break out the glitter!