The Folly of Fitting In

I have felt like an outsider for most of my life.

Photo by Wendy Wei on Pexels.com

This picture, taken from the vantage point of an onlooker, is how I felt for much of my life. Always an observer. Forever on the outside looking in. I desperately wanted to be one of those girls, arms wrapped around each other, laughing and having fun together. I was never invited.

Most people who know me think my self image is silly at best and possibly crazy. I’ve been told that my self perception is wrong, that I don’t really know myself, or that I have low self esteem. For years I assumed everyone else knew better. Then I got mad. Why would someone outside my head know me better than I know myself? The truth is I see things differently than most anyone else I know; therefore, I see myself as different. I am different. And so are you.

The thing about me that has separated me from many others, particularly my family, is my spiritual nature and my relationship with God. I was not raised in a family that went to church together every week. God was not discussed. It wasn’t a matter of belief as much as practice. My parents had not had a religious upbringing, so neither did my brother and I. Mom took us to church sometimes; she would take us and some friends to Sunday School then come back to pick us up. Finally, as we grew older we simply fell out of the practice.

I began going to church with friends and neighbors. I would walk down the street to attend the little nondenominational church in our neighborhood. Sometimes mom would come with me, but I felt an urge to be near God and this is where I thought He lived. So I went.

Fast forward to my fifth and sixth decades of life. Some days I don’t think I’ve learned anything; other days I stand in awe of all that God has done and is doing with me. This morning I had such a moment. It was a burning bush moment.

I picked up a devotional book that I haven’t touched in months, “Yes, And…” by Fr. Richard Rohr is a collection of meditations that move my heart, mind and soul. It always astounds me when I just open a book or the Bible and what I read speaks directly to what is happening in my life. It is a frequent enough occurrence that I have to believe God is enlightening me to something important.

You do not think yourself into a new way of living as much as you live your way into a new way of thinking.

Fr. Richard Rohr, Yes, And….

This one sentence stopped me cold. I had to read and reread it. Allow it to penetrate beyond the logical mind and into my soul. I sat quietly and allowed experiences and thoughts to flood back into my conscious mind. Images, of what have always felt like the tattered pieces of a life that had no direction, slowly came into focus. Thoughts from long ago returned accompanied by the late night whispers that our home is where we are to be and to invest in our community.

In a society that values decisiveness and action, God wants us to be still and listen. We are to watch and wait and live. Do the day in and day out stuff that seems mundane, but always do it with a sense of anticipation. We never know when God is ready to move in our hearts and minds towards something greater than we could have ever expected.

Do I fit in? Nope. Not on earth and certainly not in the world we currently live in. Do I care anymore? Nope! I am here because God has more work for me to do and my plan is to allow him to do what is necessary and enjoy the ride.

Peace and Love,

Sheryl

Take It With You

We are so busy accumulating possessions that the storage business is BIG business. Even amid the minimalism movement, we still buy, store and buy some more. Don’t get me wrong, I love my stuff like everyone else. I particularly love my electronic devices, books as well as art and needlework supplies. The daily use of these things give me pleasure. But are they necessary? No. But they sure make life more fun.

Steaming hot coffee is one of my favorite things.

I am writing this blog post from a booth at a breakfast restaurant. Thanks to technology I can take a Bible with me everywhere I go. An app for my blogging platform allows me to snap a picture and write whenever the spirit moves me. This is a wonderful thing. I never know when God is going to move my heart and I don’t have to risk forgetting; I can share anytime, anywhere.

I know that God is with me always…but now I can spontaneously share where He leads and what He is teaching…and so can you!

Peace & Love,

Sheryl

Where The Bright Light Shines

I love to go outside at night. There is a calm and a peace that flows over me as I immerse myself in the darkness. My time as a Girl Scout taught me to be prepared, so I never go without a source of light to guide my steps.

As a kid, a flashlight provided many hours of fun for me and my brother. Shine it through your hand, under your chin, up in the air and out at a distance. Although we didn’t realize it at the time, there were scientific as well as valuable life lessons happening as we played.

When we shined the light at our feet there was a strong, clear ring of light guiding out next step. But, if the beam of light is directed out into the darkness, it fades into nothingness. There is no direction or warning of a misstep ahead.

Life is filled with unknowns. How do we know for sure that we are making the right decision? Jesus, teaching at the synagogue, shocked the Jewish people with his knowledge. They wondered aloud how he knew so much when he had not been taught. Jesus replied:

My teaching is not mine but his who sent me. Anyone who resolves to do the will of God will know whether the teaching is from God or whether I am speaking on my own.

John 7:16-17

As I stay close to God through reading scripture, praying and then listening I am taking the first step in doing the will of God. I am doing my part to maintain the relationship, I am sensitive to what happens around me and I can see the light guiding the way. God’s path is always the best path. He will only guide me to what is best for me and that path reflects the credit back to him. THIS, is my circle of life.

~Sheryl

Still Water

I have spent way too much time in my life worrying about what other people will think of me if I say certain things, dress, behave, or do things (games, athletics, sing, etc) in public. This fear is paralyzing at times. Who knows what I have missed out on because I can’t bring myself to risk ridicule or embarrassment? The older I get the less I worry, but I still don’t bowl or play games in front of other people…maybe one day.

When it comes to talking to people about Jesus I experience the same kind of paralyzing fear. The fear that I will be ostracized or someone will argue with me and I won’t know what to say. The fear of rejection was more powerful than trusting Jesus to be with me.

With age comes wisdom. I have found ways of doing it that isn’t preaching at someone; telling them they are going to hell if they don’t believe and do as I do. Jesus taught with love and gentleness. He didn’t mince words, but he taught with stories and metaphors. He loved and cared for all people and held religious leaders to a higher standard. With them he could get testy. After all, they were the people who should have known better.

Jesus knew and understood why he was reviled by the Jewish leaders of his day. He was turning their world upside down. Jesus still turns our world upside down. The mere mention of his name can set jaws and spines in rebellion to the message he brought. This verse brings me comfort in those times I feel rejection because I take a stand with Jesus. It isn’t me…it is him. So I know to pray for the person or persons that their heart would soften and become receptive. Then it is out of my hands. I treat the person with loving kindness and show them what it is like to be a follower of Christ.

“The world cannot hate you, but it hates me because I testify against it that its works are evil.” ~Jesus

John 7:7

When you feel isolated and lonely for whatever reason, Jesus knows how you feel. His still waters run deep and he will comfort and guide you.

~Sheryl

Will Power

From the moment babies learn that they are independent from their parents a struggle for autonomy and authority begins. We have all heard of the “strong-willed” child. When it comes to God’s power in our lives, I believe most of us are still strong-willed children. I know I am.

Jesus is my example. So, I ask for God’s will not mine and I wait to see what doors are opened and experiences come across my path as I go about my day to day life. God’s will is always what is best for me.

~Sheryl

A Life Well Lived

My husband constantly asks me, “What do you want me to _______?” Fill in the blank. I attribute this behavior to laziness; it is easier to ask me than it is to figure things out for himself. It drives me crazy, but after thirty three years I have given up. I answer the question then let him do whatever he wants. Most often he does the exact opposite of what I say. It is one of those funny behaviors that people who have been married a long time often do as a result of years of give and take.


But I do nothing without consulting the Father.

John 5:30a

This verse jumped out at me this morning as I asked God to show me what I was to write today. I opened my Bible to John and picked up where I left off. Jesus had healed the lame man and was then confronted by the religious leaders about breaking the rules. What happened next is what we in the south refer to as a “come to Jesus meeting.”

Jesus took the church leaders to task and in so doing said so many profound things including giving us a glimpse into the relationship between Father and Son. Jesus could have done everything he did on his own without consulting the Father. But he didn’t. He is our example, our guide, our teacher. Remember the WWJD (What Would Jesus Do) bracelets? Here is the answer. He would do nothing without consulting with the Father.

I fail at this most days. I get busy or distracted. I wonder how my life would look if I began my day, before I even get out of bed, thanking God for the new day and asking him what he wants of me that day. Do I expect an audible answer? No. But what I know is that in the course of the day something will jump out at me like this verse did, and when I do what is before me I will have done what God wanted of me that day.

At the end of the day, this is a life well lived.

Blessings to you…Sheryl

Acting On Faith

I am a chronic over thinker. When it gets really bad and I am paralyzed in indecision, I usually ask my most trusted friend, “What should I do?” I am always pointed in the same direction.

Nothing can flow when we are pinched off from God.

When I reconnect to God through prayer, reading the Bible, and worship, suddenly I am not so anxious. Decisions become clearer and peace of mind returns.

At the beginning of his ministry on earth Jesus performed three miracles. He turned water into wine at the wedding in Cana; he healed the son of a government official as well as a lame man in Jerusalem. There is something to be gleaned from all three stories but what struck me this morning is that in each case Jesus gave all three people a command. Something they must do — “Fill the jars.” “Go back home.” “Stand up, pick up your sleeping mat, and walk!”

All three had been given a command, but they had a choice. Stay where they were, or believe and take action. These three took action. Not only were they the recipients of a blessing but others around them saw and believed as well.

Everything we do is witnessed by someone. We will never know the impact of a simple gesture or stepping out in faith to do something scary. But what I know is that if I have taken everything to God, trust him and then act, that water will start flowing again.

In closing…this does not mean that I think I will get everything I want. But I know I will have everything I need and more importantly, the peace that comes from being in close communication with God. Jesus made that possible. His life, death and resurrection ensure that all who believe have this access to God.

See you tomorrow…Sheryl

Life’s Work

In today’s highly connected, technological world, it is so easy to become discouraged. Social media creates the illusion that, it seems, there is a life out there we are not only missing out on, but that none of us can ever live up to. It is a conundrum for me. I enjoy engaging with folks who have similar interests as I do; I love sharing what I am doing; but I detest the inevitable discontent it breeds.

I am a creative person and all of my hobbies, in my mind, become possible business opportunities. I allow this mindset to suck the joy right out of everything I do. I am constantly pursuing validation through the work of my hands.

This morning I read this verse:

God in heaven appoints each person’s work.

John 3:27

No, I don’t believe God finds us our next job. But I know that we are all created with a certain set of abilities, gifts and talents along with the personality to use these things for good. In my case I am a nurturer. Though I never became the teacher or the mommy I always wanted to be, but all of the strengths needed for both of those were put to work in every area of my life.

I became a medical assistant so I could work in a doctor’s office; several years later I became a licensed nurse which led to working as a school nurse. I stopped working and came home when my step daughter’s mother died and I was needed here. That led to many years of nurturing her and then her children. And now, we have our oldest granddaughter living with us as she navigates her place in the world.

At sixty-four I spend much time analyzing where I’ve been as I look to where I might go next. It is clear to me that God appointed me as a caregiver to the next generation. One day when my work inside my family is done I will step out once again and care for the children and youth in need in my community. I don’t know where or how, I just know that God put that work on my heart and it will be my work for life.

May you find and know your worth and purpose; it comes from God and no one can separate you from it.

~Sheryl

Pass It On

I’ve stopped watching the news and reading newspapers. News stories have always been about the bad stuff that happens in the world, but today it is all so sad and what makes it worse is that the people in charge (both political parties and so many in big business) are doing whatever they need to do to maintain power and wealth. Everyone has an agenda; how do we know who is telling the truth? There is no care and concern for ordinary people. They are all crooks and thieves.

In a world that is upside down and backwards, who can we trust? There is only one who loves us all with a perfect love and that is God. Psalm 94 is one that I turn to for comfort. The closing verses give me hope and peace in the midst of the chaos of the world.

I can’t change all the wrongs in society, but I can lean on and learn from God then go about my life bringing that perspective into all my interactions with people. I can be a little ray of God’s light amongst the dark and pain. So can you. Your smile or small act of kindness could be the difference in someone’s life and day. Accept God’s love and his care then pass it on…the world will thank you.

Fear, Sparrows and Me

What do these things have in common? Jesus spoke about them all in the twelfth chapter of Luke. Well, he didn’t speak about me personally, rather he was speaking to his disciples. However, all who believe he is the Son of God; God made flesh who walked the earth then was persecuted and executed only to rise in three days to complete his purpose then ascended into heaven, we, too are his disciples. So what did he say?

Fear

I live with anxiety. I take medication so the symptoms are under control but my mind still can grab a hold of some thought or situation and go crazy creating scenarios that are not real. They are products of my imagination. Jesus very clearly says “Don’t be afraid. Do not worry.” So why do we live in fear?

It is one of the subjects spoken of the most in the Bible. I think it is because God knew that humanity, separate from Him, would try to survive on their own. Think of a small child who wants to venture out into the world, but is cautious; they will only go where their parent goes to keep them safe. Without God’s presence the world is a very scary place.

Sparrows & Me

Sparrows seem like happy little birds. They hop around urban areas scavenging for food and zip about in the sky from bush to bush hiding from predators. I have always taken great joy in watching sparrows go about their business.

Jesus uses sparrows to teach us how much we are loved and that God is with us always. As great teachers do, he used ordinary things to illustrate his message. Sparrows are small, prolific, commonplace and in the food chain, fairly helpless.

Maybe it is the small and helpless part of this that strikes so close to home for me. I am small and helpless – literally, I am a small person with little ability to protect myself. But I know that God loves me more than the sparrows and “the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to Him than a whole flock of sparrows.” This verse, Luke 12:7, is not the only time sparrows are used to show us how valuable we are to God. With a love like that is it no wonder that we are told over and over, “Do not worry.”

Worry = Broken Connection

Whenever I find myself worrying about the future…what I should do or where I should go, how will something work out…I know I have become disconnected. Worry comes when I have let go of Jesus’ hand and begun relying on my own knowledge and wisdom. Just like that toddler who must have their parent with them to feel safe and secure, I must stay connected to Jesus. He is my everything; he is my savior, role model, teacher, comforter and Lord. Without him my life has no value or meaning.

So, I start my day here and know that what comes next will all work for my own good no matter what that may be.

Blessings to you and those you love. ~Sheryl