What’s in a Name?

During my Lectio Divina practice this morning, I reflected on the second line of the Lord’s Prayer. Again, I got ahead of myself and assumed “hallowed” would be the focus. Again, I was wrong 😊

“Hallowed be Your name.” Matthew 6:9 NASB

I couldn’t get away from name, so I relaxed and listened to God. He led me to the scripture where Jesus asked the disciples who people said He was. He asked Peter directly, and got the answer He is hoping to hear. Jesus always pointed to His Father and resisted those who wanted to worship Him instead of His Father.

 And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. Matthew 16:14-16 NASB

What we are called says a lot about who we are, and what we call others says a lot of who they are as well as who we are. I thought about what I call God. I usually call Him Father when I pray, but I also like Creator. When my prayer is very personal, I call Him Adonai.

I use Yahweh, Elohim, and El Shaddai when supplicating because I feel the need to call all His names when I’m desperate. The Jewish people use HaShem, the Hebrew word for “the Name.” I like that name because it reminds me that God used I Am when referring to Himself. There are over thirty verses in the Bible where God uses those words to describe Who He says He Is. Father fits best for me because it reminds me of who He believes me to be. I am His beloved daughter, and that name is the one I go to when I need balance or reassurance. It is the most precious name I have.

A name means something, so I do my best to call those I know by name when addressing them. I taught over 2,000 students, so it is very difficult to recall every name. Facebook helps me with that 😊

Kathy, Kathy Jean, Mom, Mrs. Proctor, Ms. Kathy and Gigi represent different aspects of who I am. Child, friend, wife, mother, teacher, volunteer, and grandmother. The first time I heard “Mom” my heart was altered forever. The first “Gigi” stretched my heart beyond my wildest imagination. When my first students called me Mrs. Proctor, I felt a new sense of identity and purpose. I love, and answer to, all of the above; but there was one name that left a deep scar on my heart. I do not answer to it any more.

My father called me “stupid” for the first five years of my life. It got my attention and captured my essence for too much of my life, but I knew that name lost its power when an angry middle school boy lashed out at me in the office one day. I wasn’t his teacher and had nothing to do with his anger, but I was the person standing closest to him.

I asked what was going on, simply wanting to help. He screamed at the top of his lungs, “Shut up you stupid b****!!” I realized at that point that it would be best to leave him in the hands of those involved in his situation.

I smiled as I left the office because that name didn’t anger me at all. In fact, I quietly told the young man that I was a lot of things, but stupid wasn’t one of them.

Negativity is Like Kudzu!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing!

A little negativity is like a little kudzu; there’s no such thing! If you don’t know about kudzu, let me introduce you. The plant is also known as Japanese arrowroot and was brought to the mountains of  western North Carolina decades ago in hopes of controlling erosion. Its rapid growth controls erosion very effectively, but it destroys everything in its path in the process. Negativity does the same if allowed to propagate.

Here are a few pictures of the kudzu in my neighborhood:

 

Once it takes root, kudzu is virtually impossible to stop. Stolons (runners) form new plants faster than its seeds. It kills all existing vegetation by blocking light. Covered vegetation and buildings lose their identities and become grotesque caricatures of other-worldly creatures.

Negativity spreads in the same manner. A little seed or runner seems harmless enough at first; but if left unchecked, it will block the light and alter the landscape of my heart.

Both negativity and kudzu require fertile ground to grow; so the next time negativity shows up at your door, remember these images of kudzu and ignore the knock!

Embracing Joy 🦋

Joy has been the subject of God’s lessons all week, so I wasn’t surprised that the service at The River of Life this morning was about just that.

I’ve been reading “Daring Greatly” this week and was taken aback by the notion of foreboding joy being a common shield against vulnerability.

Brene Brown describes her findings in Chapter 4.

“…having spent several years studying what it means to feel joyful, I’d argue that joy is probably the most difficult emotion to really feel. Why? Because when we lose the ability or willingness to be vulnerable, joy becomes something we approach with deep foreboding. This shift from our younger self’s greeting of joy with unalloyed delight happens slowly and outside of our awareness.”

I completely connected to the notion of foreboding joy as she described her own experiences and the experiences of the people she interviewed. When something wonderful happens or all is going very well, I begin to think something bad is getting ready to happen. It’s a ridiculous notion, but I was clearly guilty of putting up the foreboding joy shield to protect myself from vulnerability.

The good news is that hearing her describe her struggles helped me see my struggles in a new light. She goes on to give hope to those of us who are guilty of worrying that the other shoe is about to drop.

“Once we make the connection between vulnerability and joy, the answer is pretty straightforward: We’re trying to beat vulnerability to the punch. We don’t want to be blindsided by hurt. We don’t want to be caught off-guard, so we literally practice being devastated or never move from self-elected disappointment.”

She goes on to say that our culture assists in the doom and gloom scenarios we rehearse. Awareness is the first step to change, so I was overjoyed this morning as I sat by the river and had a sweet talk with God about my foreboding joy shield.

He has always known about it, and He and I both know it’s forged in fear. We both know that fear doesn’t feed on the vulnerable; it feeds on those who think they need a shield. It was freeing to let the river sweep away my shield this morning as I thanked God for lessons learned.

Brene Brown says, “While I was initially taken aback by the relationship between joy and vulnerability, it now makes perfect sense to me, and I can see why gratitude would be the antidote to foreboding joy.” 

So do I! I plan to practice gratitude and embrace all the joy that comes into my life 🦋

Joy on the River 8-26-18

An Island Sunrise

Topsail Island, North Carolina is famous for its amazing sunrises. There is something majestic about the sun rising over the ocean. Like a pampered queen, she takes her time appearing before her adoring audience. She never wears the same gown twice, so those in attendance are never bored.

I marvel at how anyone cannot be stunned into silence by such a show; but then I remember how much beauty I miss each and every day as I scurry about in a mad dash to get somewhere or do something.  The journey is so much better when I slow down and take in all the wonders in my path.

 

Cloudy Lessons

Clouds have fascinated me for as long as I can remember. As a daydreamer, I often look up at the sky and imagine all sorts of creatures and objects forming in them. I especially love to watch sunsets. I’m not sure what images you will see in the view from my little porch, but I’m sure they will not be the same as the ones I see. I love that about clouds, and I love that about people.

We see ourselves and others in various ways depending upon the circumstances in our lives and in theirs. Like clouds, people can be stormy, calm, or playful. Love allows us to see others in all phases of their lives and love them all the more 💜

I see faces, angels, hearts, clouds, eagles, and even a little wolf in the images below. They are all the same view from my porch in the evening, but all are very different. I hope you will take a moment out of your busy day and let clouds carry your imagination away. It really is good for the soul 🦋

I Beg to Differ….

It’s been difficult to write, read, speak, or think lately as polarizing opinions continue to wreak havoc on my country and my heart. God taught me the importance of differing differently this week.

As Christians, we are not supposed to be fused to a particular ideology, theology, doctrine, or opinion. We are simply to be who God created us to be. It is the sincerest form of praise to Him and the most beautiful witness of His creation and His love for us. As friends, we are supposed to love one another as we are without having to agree on everything. As family, we love unconditionally and without the need to control. Love is not about control; it is as natural as breathing when it is real. When it is controlled, it is like being on a ventilator. You may be breathing, but it isn’t natural or comfortable!

Each of us was created to be different by a Creator Who knows us better than we know ourselves. He could have made us all exactly the same, but He knew better. He could, and can, make us all love Him and one another as He desires; but He knows that would showcase His power rather than His love. God doesn’t want control because He already has it. He wants holiness. That word doesn’t mean perfect; it means maturity, ripeness, readiness to be who He created us to be. Self differentiation allows us to love as God loves.

Fusion is the easiest way to connect, so it is the way most connect. Individuals get lost, and polarization abounds. Our world is fusing and fighting in ways that break God’s heart. It’s bad enough to fuse, but to use His name as the agent of such fusing is inherently wrong. It’s getting more and more difficult to differ, and that hinders differentiation and creates division. God helped me see how differing differently can actually help with the process of differentiation.

I used to feel the need to be who those around me wanted me to be. That need caused me to adapt a Pollyanna approach to living and loving in community. Make everyone happy, and they will love you. All will be right in the world. The world around me will be much more pleasant, and life will be much simpler. That didn’t pan out, so I decided to try being myself and forgetting about whether or not others like me or not. That doesn’t mean being mean; it just means saying what I believe in a respectful way.

God gave me three loving sisters who have, do, and always will love me just as I am. They have surrounded and tried to protect me from the harsh realities of this world all of my life. Their love was a safe harbor for my heart, but God knew I needed more than a harbor. He sent a dear friend who heard my heart and helped me move away from the harbor and into the open sea. It was very scary at first, but my heart found its sea legs and eventually began to enjoy the freedom a non anxious loving presence brings.

I had a discussion with two folks this week about a subject I didn’t realize we disagreed upon. One showed grace, but the other showed rage. I was a bit unnerved by the anger, but I maintained my opinion while giving room for another opinion. When the conversation ended, two of us were still smiling, but one carried her anger with her. I felt our friendship may have been compromised by our difference of opinion, but I didn’t try to fix or convince. I’ve felt that way often during the past year.

I beg to differ because it is in our differing that we learn and grow and change. I long for the day when we can agree to disagree and move on with our lives. When we cannot disagree, we lose so much more than an argument. We lose the ability to self differentiate. Psychologists, medical doctors, guidance counselors, parents, teachers, and ministers will tell you the ability to be who we are created to be is at the heart of living a happy, healthy life.

God made His feelings about self differentiations very clear to Moses and to us. He is Who He is. He is not going to be who we want Him to be, and that is a beautiful lesson for all of us to follow.

God said to Moses, “IAM-WHO-IAM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘IAM sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:14)

 

Family

Familiarity can breed contempt, but it can also give birth to the level of affection we are created to experience. The difference is whether I let fear or love lead the way. 1 John 4:18 says it best.

“There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” (NASB)

Families fall apart when fear forces them to fuse together. They connect beautifully when love allows them to be who they are. God created us to connect, and our hearts cannot survive without those connections. The most valuable thing the homeless have lost is not their addresses; it is their family connections.

The family systems theory concerning differentiation of self makes a great deal of sense, and I believe God is the ultimate example of how it works. He makes it clear that He is the Great I AM. That isn’t as much about being all powerful as it is about being exactly Who He Is. I believe He wants each of us to be the amazing individual He created us to be, so we can  connect and live in community as He desires.

The Bowen Center has this to say about the negative effects of unhealthy interdependence:

“The more intense the interdependence, the less the group’s capacity to adapt to potentially stressful events without a marked escalation of chronic anxiety. Everyone is subject to problems in his work and personal life, but less differentiated people and families are vulnerable to periods of heightened chronic anxiety which contributes to their having a disproportionate share of society’s most serious problems.”

You can read more at https://www.thebowencenter.org/theory/eight-concepts/differentiation-of-self/

Family brings a sense of belonging, and Christ made it very clear that His family is open to all. That doesn’t mean He sanctions abusive behavior. Abuse is the worst form of fusion, and it breaks God’s heart to see His children hurting. Parents and children alike understand the pain of such breaking. Society suffers alongside broken families. God has the power to make us love any way or any one He wants, but He knows better than to force love upon His children.

Family isn’t an easy word to define; but like love, I know it when I feel it. God has helped me see myself as He sees me, and I am so very thankful for a birth family who loves me just as I am. I can’t imagine life with my three sweet sisters and their families, my son and his wife, or my three adorable little grand daughters; but I also thank God for brothers and sisters who are related beautifully by the common thread of love. I am thankful for connections that surround me like a warm, cozy blanket and melt my heart into a sweet, still pool of peace.

Reaching out isn’t easy; it is much simpler to fuse into small groups who share a common love. It is easier still to form groups with a common hatred, and we all know examples of how that destroys families, churches, communities, and countries. It is easiest to simply stay out of sight and not connect at all. That lets you off the hook when it comes to grieving over the loss of a loved one, but it also leaves you with a deep sense of longing that is the worst pain of all.

God loved us enough to send His only Son. I haven’t reached that level of love and doubt I will understand it until I am with Him, but I have learned that God will provide connections that are good for my heart when I relax into faith and trust Him to know what is best for my heart.

Jesus was born into a beautiful family, but I’m sure His earthly family was filled with individuals who were far from perfect. This morning, I was imagining what a large family gathering might look like when He was a young boy. I bet He had a crazy aunt or uncle who made Him smile, and I’m sure there were squabbles and even a feud or two. That didn’t stop Him from loving them, and it doesn’t stop Him from loving us. I also know with all my heart, that He must have looked around when all were gathered in one accord, smiled, and said to Himself, “This reminds me of Home.”