A Prayer for Empathy from Isolation By Tracy Mauro March 24, 2020 A virus - To our eyes unseen Holds us under lock and key. But still we find that we are free Through purchased connectivity. But what of those who aren’t so free? Even in better times than these Chronic illness, addiction, lack or disease Makes isolation their constant reality. Though we can't fully know their pain Perhaps now we won't turn away Now that we have had a little taste - May this strange season birth new grace.
So… the other evening I was “breaking bread” (actually it was sushi – but same concept) with a few friends from my faith community.
As we sipped our wine and enjoyed half-priced Sushi night, we began to talk about worship. One of my friends mentioned how very much she enjoyed participating in communion every week and that even watching the others in our congregation being served the Sacraments is such a Holy Moment.
Another friend chimed in that truly Holy Communion is one of those “thin places“. Of course, we all were immediately intrigued and asked him to explain more about “thin places”.
He explained how C.S. Lewis (one of my very favorite thinkers and writers) would write and speak of the thin places – where heaven and earth intermingle. I made the comment that I wish we could just live in that thin place – where not so much divides and keeps us from connecting to God and each other.
It’s just that I’m not always quite sure how to get there – much less stay there. I’ve experienced thin places throughout my life – from early childhood memories of my Mom and church pianist playing beautiful songs about the Blood of Jesus while communion was being served and wondering how wordless moments could be so powerful to breathtaking nature encounters when I’ve been absolutely certain that Maker painted a particular sunrise or sunset just for me.
But, even in the much-mystery that clouds our every day lives and deters us from entering those thin spaces – I will still seek to learn what an abiding life (see John 15) – that sweet communion with the Maker of our souls -truly looks like.
…to not do life alone. EVER.
It’s been a year….
OK, maybe it’s been a few years or a few decades of struggles masked by smiles.
But Maker is faithful to sculpt scarred hearts surrendered to Him into resilient masterpieces.
As I prepare to close this chapter in Atlanta – I am so thankful for the healing that has happened here over the past year-and-a-half.
I am especially thankful for those my Maker has surrounded me with in this season to help the healing happen…. Just to name a few: my North Springs United Methodist Church family – especially the Celebrate Recovery group there, my incredible colleagues who became fast friends at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital, my warm and welcoming neighbors here on The Hill ATL, and Hector Pereles at New Living Counseling…. Not to mention the faithful friends and family who have covered me with encouragement and prayers from across the country.
I am so very grateful and more adamant than ever when I say “Don’t do life alone”.
I really don’t think I would have survived had I not reached out for help.
#MyStorysNotOver because it’s part of an #EternalStory. AΩ; #AlphaOmegaSemicolon #SuicidePrevention #Hope #Healing #AbuseSurvivor #CodependencyRecovery #HealingContinues #HealingCommunities
Every person is our Maker’s masterpiece. Handle with care.
Respect EVERY person. The value and worth of every human lies so far beyond what you see…..
Let me begin with a disclaimer: I am not a “Porch Pirate” nor do I in any way endorse snatching packages from anyone’s front door stop (or any other illegal activity, for that matter!).
But the rampant acts of porch piracy occurring as so many of us skip the holiday crowds at the mall for the convenience of online shopping has me thinking….
Those porch pirates don’t know what they have until they take the time to open the package.
Since I order absolutely everything on line, if a pirate dared pillage my porch, she might open the package to discover anything from cat litter to a plumbing tool to de-clog the bathtub drain, to the awesome Surface Pro computer I ordered a couple months ago to use for my writing and graphics.
But what would happen if my fictional pirate stole all 3 of those packages from my porch. Let’s say she opens the cat litter (poor resale value and she’s a dog person), and the drain snake, and decides it’s not even worth her time to open the third package so she tosses it in the trash.
Little does Ms. Pirate know that she just tossed an expensive piece of electronics aside because she assumed from her past negative experiences with the other packages that it wouldn’t be worth her time to open the box.
Now, we may not be porch pirates (I hope not, anyway). But I’m afraid we still have the tendency to leave so many treasures undiscovered.
Unlike my “porch pirate” illustration, the real treasures are not in packages of factory-made trinkets swiped from a randomly selected doorstep and not even intended for the one who opens it. (Deep down I think we all know that all these things we work so hard for are not treasures at all – though modern culture and advertising tries very hard to make us think so). But the treasures we so often let walk by us undiscovered are people…. so many very amazing people we encounter day to day.
We don’t invest the energy to look beyond the weary smiles, the hi-how-are-you-I’m-fine’s to explore all the amazingness our Maker has put in the story behind the eyes of each person we pass by.
Many of us on most days walk right by our opportunities to connect with incredible people and their amazing life-stories that our Maker intentionally placed in our path to encourage or teach us.
Instead, we typically move by others quickly missing these many opportunities to connect with our Maker’s fingerprints all over the story of their lives. Perhaps we don’t even see them. Our gaze may be fixed to our phones as we busily “pseudo-connect” with others in our make-believe social media world. Or, we may be working hard to get the-stuff that will someday be dust instead of connecting with people who bear the eternal mark of our Maker on their very souls.
A recent example of a treasure once ignored but now appreciated is a woman I often see walking near my workplace at lunch time. She first captured my attention because she walks like she means it! The main evidence of this is the fact that “typical” women’s uncomfortable, high heeled, pointy-toed work shoes (by the way…. if God meant for our toes to point and our feet to be at our uncomfortable angle – He would have made our feet like that) have been replaced with serious athletic shoes. Also, her walking pace is probably double the speed of my typical running pace. And, she’s typically very-focused – “in her own space” as she walks with earbuds firmly in place. And, she is doing this every single day! (This is probably what had me most impressed since sustaining a disciplined and consistent healthy lifestyle is one of my main – although sometimes illusive – goals in life).
So, I felt Maker prompting me to connect with this lady. I didn’t for days. My excuses were like, “She’s listening to something on those earbuds – I don’t want to disturb her”. The real reason is that I probably didn’t want to interrupt my own lunchtime pursuit of junk food and junk posts on social media (insert eye-roll here) so I don’t have to actually connect with people and face my own insecurities and fears of possible rejection. But I finally gave in to that ever-persistent “still small voice” and was I ever in for a treat!
On the day that I broke both of our strides of our normal lunchtime routines to make eye contact with her and say hello – she wasn’t perturbed with the intrusion at all. Instead she paused her gait, removed her earbuds, and smiled a most fabulous smile at me. I shared with her that I am trying to develop a healthy life-style and get moving more and that seeing her being so consistent with her walking everyday inspires me. She beamed. And then, the treasure of her story was opened to me. She shared that she had at one point weighed close to 600 pounds (and I would guess she is at least a good 400 pounds less than that now). Her persistent and consistent walking was part of what literally saved her life. Now when we pass, I try not to break her awesome stride, but our eyes meet and we smile and greet. Daily I remember and am inspired by her incredible story that I would have completely missed if I had not taken that moment to connect.
I have a feeling we wouldn’t have to binge watch Netflix so much if we took a little more time to enter into the amazing stories behind each other’s eyes.
I challenge you and I challenge me to take the time to connect with the people God places in our path today. Taking even a few minutes to connect with that cashier, that person on the walking trail, the man behind the counter at the DMV (I mean – you waited an hour or more to see him – you might as well chat with him a bit) – might unwrap the very story you need to fuel your own journey today.
Calling that friend from church who has missed more than a month of Sundays, or taking the time to chat with your dog-walking neighbor, or calling (not texting) that family member who you’ve not spoken with a while will not only bless them, but you’ll probably unwrap a story in them that is just what your own soul needs, too!
We are designed to connect, so please don’t move through life so quickly that you miss the beauty of another human’s story. I promise you, a real life encounter with someone living and sharing their story is way better than anything we might watch on one of our many glowing screens.
So October is Pastor Appreciation Month and it has me thinking about why pastors and others in roles of spiritual leader and mentor (from hospital chaplains, to counselors, to that friend who always seems to become the nurturer, prayer warrior, and “spiritual mom” to everyone in her life) might need some extra appreciation and encouragement.
Ok…. so next time you’re around that person, watch how others interact with them. Yes there may be a person or two who walks up to the pastor and genuinely asks “How are you?” (pausing for an answer even). But much of the time, pastors are being approached with needs. “Pastor, can you pray for me about this”…. “Pastor, I just lost my job”…. “Pastor, my Dad’s in the hospital”…. and so on and on and on….
And even if someone doesn’t approach giving a spoken request, those in pastoral roles are strong in the areas of empathy and insight and may sense heaviness and a burden to pray for someone who – to the rest of us – seems to be just passing by Pastor to say hello. And even at times a need hasn’t been mentioned – there is the knowing that there are some people who will not even approach a pastor or darken the doorway of a church unless they are facing a crisis. So pastors are learning of and responding to spoken and unspoken needs during a good percentage of their waking hours. It makes my soul tired just imagining the weight of that!
Some of you may be asking “Well, I thought that was their job! Why should they get extra appreciation?? The rest of us don’t?” …. Well, your vehicle’s job is to drive but it’s not going to do that so well without gas and maintenance, is it? And if your vehicle encounters unique circumstances – like a big tough Jeep encountering extra rugged terrain and a lot of mud – it may need some extra care specific to its task. Like a good realignment and de-mudding. So since pastors are not just giving of their physical time and labor but giving up their very soul and spirit to nurture yours – it’s safe to say they are more than worthy of some extra support and appreciation. Like my “one-day” monster off-roading Jeep will, pastors tackle muddier areas of life than the rest of us. And sometimes it takes a little extra time and attention from the the rest of us to “get the mud off”.
And although there are the obvious forms of appreciation like financial gifts and support and maybe an extra note or kind word during Pastor Appreciation Month – I challenge us to take it a step further. Not just during this designated months or days – but all year long – let’s make a point to remember that “Pastors are people, too” and take time out to send that unexpected note, text, or say “Hello, how are you?” and actually take the time to listen without always adding our own prayer request or personal need to the conversation.
Oh, and let’s all just show up to our church’s events that our pastors work so hard to prepare. (For some of us this means when it’s not Easter, Christmas, a wedding, or a funeral). Believe me, the encouragement and necessary life-strengthening that comes from you attending church goes both ways – to the pulpit and back!
“The elders who lead the church in a good way should receive double honor —in particular, those who do the work of counseling and teaching.” – 1 Timothy 5:17 ERV (Easy-to-Read Version)
So, if you’re a pastor or spiritual leader, know that you are appreciated even when it’s not Pastor Appreciation Day (and sometimes feels like Pastor Depreciation Day) and those who have entrusted themselves to your spiritual care aren’t so great at showing it.
And if you’re blessed enough to have someone in your life who nurtured and leads you spiritually, don’t forget to care for the one who cares for your soul.
And if you don’t have someone like that in your life – be quick to ask your Good Father God to lead you to where you are to gather to worship. Because, I know I say this a lot – but only because it is so very true and has even been life-saving for me – Don’t do life alone ever!
Let’s continue to become who we already are…. together!
PS…. Of course I can’t end this post without a “shout out” of thanks and appreciation to the pastors and leaders who have poured so much into me. I love my home church, Amazing Church in McKinney, Texas!
She’s selfless (when I asked if she had requested assistance from her local church – she said she would save that as a last resort because she wants them to be able to help others who may have more needs than she does). She’s a smart, compassionate, hardworking single mom of kids ranging from school age to college age including an incredible special-needs child.
She has experienced some recent financial hardship and I would love to be able to help. I don’t have the ability to give the whole amount on my heart – but I bet if a bunch of us gave a few bucks we could really help lighten her load right now – just as she has helped lighten the load of others.
Simply click here to to check out the GoFundMe page I created for her so you can share her story on your own social media, pray, and/or give.
Thank you, in advance, for your support, prayers, and anything you can contribute financially! And remember, “Don’t do life alone!”…. EVER!
An #InstaPrayer for deliverance from the perfectionism we hide behind….
These thoughts began during the #WeekendExperience at my Amazing Church. It was a beautiful morning full of #GodEncounters as we took the time to #HearGodSpeak with and through each other. However, I had a little angst when something was spoken to me and in resonated in me instructing me not to “hide behind my words”. As I pondered this (a.k.a. pouted over it) I was thinking, “I don’t hide behind hide words! I’m a communicator and a writer! Of course I use a lot of carefully crafted words! It’s one of my gifts!”. However, the more I thought about it… the more I realized that your gift can become your curse when – rather than using it authentically – you use it as a tool for unhealthy perfectionism in vain attempts to create “perfect” moments or to self-protect (“skirt around” the real issues) during difficult conversations.
I’m blogging about this because I have a feeling I’m not the only one who has struggled in this area. Your gift may not be words. It may be fashion or culinary creating, for instance. But the fashionista becomes a captive of her own craft when it becomes more than her creative expression and she refuses to leave the house or FaceTime with a friend until she has that “perfect” look. And the chef loses joy in his creating when he tosses a well-loved recipe aside because of one harsh review.
Oh, and then there’s the fact that your gift can become a god/idol to you and God’s really not cool with that. (See Exodus 20:3. And while you’re in your #BibleApp, check out all the times in Psalms when God is referred to as our rock and our refuge…. Not anything we do or have or anyone we know…. #GodAlone).
So… let’s just live, love, and share our gifts… perhaps before that 100th rewrite or rework in our heads of that conversation, outfit, or meal. Or, as it’s been said, “Don’t let the perfect get in the way of the good”. When you allow your gift to become your source of security – you’re risking it becoming a clumsy, uncomfortable, even destructive crutch rather than the beautiful life-giving blessing it’s meant to be.
And, as I do through my Amazing Church, professional counseling/life-coaching, and in support groups with others on journeys similar to mine, be sure to position yourself in places of authentic connection where you can learn more about yourself through relationship with God and others. It takes the eyes of others to see yourself clearly sometimes.
Ok, that’s enough words shared for now. And this time I’m not hiding behind them – but revealing a part of my heart through them. That’s what words are for.
Let’s become who we already are… together.