Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Giving Gifts (and a little on the Lion and the Lamb)

When I turned 50, my family gave me a beautiful piece of artwork entitled "Peace and Love" by Jim Shore.  I've always loved the imagery of the lion and the lamb together (long before the Twilight series employed it in books and film).

I wanted it to be from the Isaiah 11:6-9 passage which speaks of the peaceable kingdom, but while the lion and the lamb both exist in that passage, they don't actually come together.
    The wolf will live with the lamb, the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; and a little child will lead them.
    The cow will feed with the bear, their young will lie down together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox.
    The infant will play near the hole of the cobra and the young child put his hand into the viper's nest.
    They will neither harm nor destroy on all my holy mountain, for the earth will be full of the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.
Where does this imagery actually come from?  From my other favorite book of Scripture - Revelation 5:5-6.  In this passage, John is weeping because there is no one worthy to open the scroll.  An elder stops him and says, "Look the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed. He is able to open the scroll and its seven seals."  John then goes on to say, "I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain, standing in the center of the throne ..."

The Lion and the Lamb are one and the same and are found in the person of Jesus Christ.  That's really something amazing!

That's the explanation for my love of this image.  However, I'm afraid I went off on a tangent.  The purpose of writing this blog was going to be about gift-giving.

You see, my friend Fran, gave me another sculpture of the Lion and Lamb image by the same artist for my birthday.  It is gorgeous!  I absolutely adore the way the two animals look as if they are whispering to each other.

She gave me some really great gifts for my birthday. I was telling my sister about them and Carol made the comment that Fran really is awesome at giving gifts.  It is Fran's love language.  Every single gift she gave  was something she knew about me and had translated into a gift.

I'm an Iowa Hawkeyes fan and really the only candy I eat any more is m&ms.  That translated into this (sans Yoda):

We've enjoyed a few peach bellinis in our dinners out and I received a bottle of wine and a frozen bellini mix.  I have to tell you that when I pulled out the wine, she confused me, because I'm really not a big wine drinker and I couldn't believe that she had given me something like that.  Then I pulled out the bellini mix and it all came together.

See, the gifts were not about her ... they were what she knew about me.

Sometimes we give gifts because we think someone needs something and don't bother to understand whether they do or not.  The gifts are based on our thoughts and desires rather than theirs.  Some gifts are giving to bring attention back to the giver, not because it is anything at all the person would use or desire.

Some gifts are given because a friend shares out of their talent or bounty ... that is an entirely different and wonderful type of gift because then I get to learn about the things that you love and I will get a chance to fall in love with that as well. I have a friend here who has given me food from her garden and jars of honey they've harvested.  I had no idea they had honeybees, but she exposed me to something glorious!

Gifts that are given heart to heart are gifts that transmit love.  Not everyone has gift giving as their love language, but we all have the opportunity to share love through gifts.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Looking for Good Friends, We Are!

We celebrated a friend's birthday last night and she exudes joy whenever I see her.  Tracy fills a room with her joy and laughter and last night she filled a room with her friends so that they could meet each other and understand how important everyone was to her.  That was pretty cool.  A great way to celebrate a birthday.

As she told us last night about our importance in her life, I was reminded of C.S. Lewis and the importance he placed on his friends ... all of his friends.  This is a quote I have published before here and still continues to mean a lot to me.

“In each of my friends there is something that only some other friend can fully bring out,” Lewis wrote. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets. Now that Charles is dead, I shall never again see Ronald’s reaction to a specifically Caroline joke. Far from having more of Ronald, having him ‘to myself’ now that Charles is away, I have less of Ronald. Hence true Friendship is the least jealous of loves. Two friends delight to be joined by a third, and three by a fourth … each bringing out all that is best, wisest, or funniest in all the others.”
Christian History Magazine-Issue 88: C.S. Lewis: Pointing People to Reality. 2005. Carol Stream, IL: Christianity Today.

Tracy was completely herself last night because of those people around her that bring out all her facets and make her shine. She was safe and loved and understood and allowed to be whatever it was she wanted to be.

That's true friendship! That's something we all yearn for and desire from the people with whom we surround ourselves.  No judgment, no attempts to fix our small inadequacies or blemishes, no worrying over mistakes we have made (or mistakes we will make).

I didn't intend to go down this path, but as I considered it, that's actually the relationship God wants to have with us.  He offers us safety and love and understanding and expects us to be what we want to be.  He doesn't really worry over the mistakes we make and will make over and over - He accepts us through those thing.  The things we consider to be blemishes and inadequacies, He sees as unique attributes of who we are.  His judgment is not about who we are ... but about our rejection of Him.

That relationship is rarely understood by humanity because we work so hard to make it more difficult than it is ... just like we mess with our friendships.  It is hard to just relax into a relationship that is safe because we insist on having to work at it, we can't believe that anyone would be able to see past our flaws.

The glory of all this is when we recognize in our friends the ability to make us more than we can be by ourselves and as we add people to that friendship, we become even brighter.

I strive to be the type of friend who loves beyond measure, accepts without reservation, encourages and believe in the people around me.  I love my friends.  They make me who I am, they offer me parts of themselves to ensure that I am complete.  What about you?

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Are You Afraid? You Will Be!

Luke Skywalker is on Dagobah in Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back.  Yoda and Ben Kenobi are discussing the fact that the boy is too old to begin Jedi training.

Luke says: I won’t fail you. I’m not afraid.

Yoda: (turns slowly toward him) Oh, you will be. You will be.

(yes, I have the scripts for these three movies.  Good heavens, I didn’t realize how much my geekiness had permeated my existence!)

Yoda knew that fear would soon overwhelm Luke, in fact as soon as the training began with Luke entering the big, black, dark cave in a tree, the young boy would experience far more than he had even imagined.  The only thing that Luke would find inside the blackness was what he took with him and that would be nothing more than his soul and his wits.

Mom was afraid of closed doors.  She became paralyzed by a closed door because she couldn’t see what was on the other side. She wasn’t afraid to walk into a room, no matter the experience, as long as her eyes allowed her to view the layout and whatever might be awaiting her. Her close friends and family knew this fear and generally went along to open doors for her.

She wasn’t afraid to speak to large and small groups of people or take college courses as an adult, or paddle a canoe in whitewater, or run for the school board, or raise a family in Iowa after having lived as a pampered debutante in Boston, or even to die; but the first time she entered a room, she needed someone else to open the door.

I thought this fear had only been communicated to her family until a friend of hers told me that the two of them had taken college courses together.  Mom helped Sonna recognize that she was smart enough for college and Sonna opened classroom doors on the first day of class.

Revelation 4:1 says that John saw an open door leading to the throne room in heaven. Jesus tells us in John 10:9, “I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture.”  I guess I’m glad that Mom had an open door … an open gate to make it into heaven or she might never have left earth!

I have discovered that my greatest fear is imperfection.  I simply shut down because I look for reasons that I can’t do something as well as another person.  I gauge my expertise and will not attempt something because it won’t live up to some insane standards I have created.

I find myself setting too many good ideas aside because I am so afraid of either failing or doing a mediocre job.  You can tell me over and over that multitudes of failures will finally lead to success and that the journey is more important that the accomplishment.  Even though I believe you, I can’t apply that sentiment to my own life. My fears of failure or mediocrity paralyze me into inaction.

Yoda knew before Luke entered into training that the boy would face some of his greatest fears.  When Luke had to look in the eyes of his worst enemy – Darth Vader, he did so first in training.  Yoda hoped to give him strength and confidence.

We can tell the world that we aren’t scared, but in the darkest, most hidden places of our hearts, we find our fears.  Oh, we will be afraid.  We will be afraid.

The question we have to answer is what we do with that? Will we allow it to swallow us up or will we keep moving forward, even if it requires employing the help of our friends and family to open doors for us?

I have a lot of things I would love to do and when I let my fears take over, I do none of them.  When I recognize them for the ridiculous notions that they are … I move forward.

John tells us that pefect love casts out all fear. (1 John 4:18)  I think I will continue to seek out perfect love instead of trying to accomplish my goals.  I’m betting that both will come to me in tandem.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Yoda and Me

Max gave me Star Wars stuff for my birthday last week.  One item was an 18" stuffed Yoda.

He talks if you press on his chest.  The first thing he said to me yesterday was "Do. Or do not. There is no try." I kept pressing to get the rest of his programmed pronouncements, but that is one of my favorites.  And one that I need to hear regularly.

It is so easy for me to start projects and go no further than the beginning ideas.  While that is great for some people, moving forward and accomplishing something is more important to me than just being an idea person.  I'm GREAT at being an idea person.  I have tons of those.

I have learned over the years that I don't tell anyone about my ideas until I'm committed to finishing them.  That way I don't make the world crazy with my half-baked attempts to change the world.  There is nothing more frustrating for me than to watch people announce great plans and ideas only to never see any follow-through.  Heck, I get frustrated with fabulous television pilots that never get off the ground.  If you're going to publish an idea ... commit to it.

Anyway ... so ... I'm a Star Wars addict and love the characters.  I've probably created more back story and characterization for each of them than actually exists in film and story and I get a little offended when George Lucas screws with them, but that's my problem.

My Yoda (I'm going to always have to clarify that he's Diane's Yoda or My Yoda - because I know he's not the real thing ... see what I did there?  I know the other isn't the real thing, but ... oh well, sigh). Anyway, My Yoda is going to start doing things with me.  He's the perfect size.  He will travel easily, he's very photogenic and he's going to try to use the power of the Force to remind me to stay away from the Dark Side.  (please don't lecture me on Christian spirituality versus the power of the Force ... for goodness sake, I get it - this is only a flippin' metaphor).

Yesterday, Leica was a bit unsure about having him in the front seat of the Jeep with her, but she got over.  Actually, she just crawled into the back seat and curled up on a blanket.

Yoda has plenty of other things programmed into his little voice box.  We'll see what I have to say when he talks about living for 900 years!