Tribe

“…there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” ~ Proverbs 18:24 NKJV

As the holidays approach I think more and more about my fragmented, distant family. Although there are only a handful of us left, we rarely connect with each other outside of tragedies.

I have five siblings that I seldom see. I have not seen my youngest sister in years nor have I met her last three children. The same goes for my youngest brother. My middle brother only contacts me when he is in need. I communicate the most with my middle sister which is still only marginally. My brother who is the second child reaches out more than the others. I suppose because it was only us for the first two years.

I have three aunts and a smattering of cousins. I talk to two aunts on occasion and my cousins when I run into them on a rare outing.

It is hurtful to be estranged from family. I have spent many days pondering our fragile connection. However, lately I have made peace with the way things are and instead try to focus on nurturing the relationships that I do have.

The other day my seven year old asked if we could have a “real” Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family. He referenced an end of summer party that we attended, “like the party at the big, blue house.” It took me a minute to recollect and figure out that he was talking about my friend’s party. We had a great time surrounded by both good food and people. It made me sad that I cannot offer him such a setting. We simply do not have the family for it.

Life is tough. The Bible even warns us that our days will be full of trouble and I can say that this has certainly been true in my life. But I also know that is why the Lord, in His infinite wisdom, gave us families. Our family are supposed to help smooth life’s frayed edges.

I too, know that we can’t force our blood relatives to be kindred. However, we can create our own tribe-another blessing from our Father who connects us all. I’ve done this in a sense. My motley crew of a family does not resemble the traditional model. It is composed of my two boys, a few true friends, coworkers turned comrades, some church saints, girlfriends now sisterfriends, and past and present students.

As a bonus, we get the families of my tribe mates as well. Sometimes I sit back, reflect and wish it could be different with my biological family. These people are blood of my blood, flesh of my flesh after all. This will never change. But too much time has elapsed which has allowed the distance to widen. Things are strained and tense to the point that I do not even wish to attempt to sew the rip that’s torn us a part. Obviously no one else wants to either. Being family should not be a seasonal affair when it is meant for a lifetime. Now they are almost like strangers to me. I only know them by heart.

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Healing Hearts 

“And let us continue to consider how to motivate one another to love and good deeds, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another even more as you see the day of the Lord coming nearer.” ~Hebrews 10:24-25

There are many hurting people all around us. Some are obvious. Others not so much. But to be alive is to know some form of pain and it is safe to assume a great majority could benefit from being encouraged. 

My spiritual gift is one of mercy. I hate to see people suffer. I have a deep sense of empathy and compassion. 

I believe we all have a story to tell. Our stories are what provides hope for those who need it. Our earthly testimonies help heal hurts and eventually hearts. Oftentimes we go through things in order to empower someone else to face their own trial. In other words, our suffering has little to do with us, unless it is self-imposed. We have to remember that God can use anything. He can give us a purpose for our pain. He can turn our sorrow into strategy. With this in mind, Healing Hearts was born. 

I sent a letter to one of our two women’s prisons requesting permission to host a workshop featuring poetry and testimony. This population is often forgotten, but I’m sure a lot of pain resides in the hearts of most prisoners. Remember those in prison, as if you were there yourself. Remember also those being mistreated, since you are also in the body. Hebrews 13:3.  I haven’t heard back from the superintendent yet, but if it’s the will of God that I go there, it will be. 

I will also be actively seeking other opportunities to share with others what God has done for me in order to cheer up those who are discouraged, and help those who are weak.  ~1 Thessalonians 5:14

I count my pain all joy in order to glorify the Lord and serve others. 

Lord, Have Mercy

“It is of the LORD’S mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.” Lamentations 3:22-23

Yesterday in church I looked around and noticed just how many people were shedding tears of brokenness. The hurt was palpable on so many faces. It is easy for me to recognize my old familiar friend, Pain.

The heaviness in the air made me feel such compassion. It’s hard to hurt, I know all too well. Suffering literally sucks the life out of you. While I do believe that there is value in the valley, too much overwhelms the soul.

I suppose most people go to church to nurse their wounded hearts. And to get sustenance for the week ahead. I do.

The messiness of life can drain us. It leaves us emotionally barren. Only the Great Physican can remedy this with His abundant, sufficient grace. The Bible tells us that His mercies are new every morning and that He is close to the brokenhearted.

The only thing we can do to combat the pain is to stay near God. Stay in His Word. Stay around likeminded believers. Stay in prayer. Stay faithful. Stay hopeful. Stay patient. Stay still.

I Say a Little Prayer

“Seek the LORD while He may be found, call upon Him while He is near.” Isaiah 55: 6

When I am feeling emotionally overwhelmed by a troubling situation I am going through, I say this “pocket” prayer multiple times throughout the day:

Lord,

Heal my hurt. Lord, heal my heart.

Amen

It’s simple but it works. The Lord hears this prayer the same as He hears all others. The length doesn’t matter; He only cares that our heart is seeking Him.