Category Archives: Connection

Skills in friendship

Tasting God’s Kindness

Apples on a tree, with caption "tasting God's Kindness"by Lydia Floren

“…if you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.”  1 Peter 2:3

I eat fast. Really fast.  My husband, Andrew, does too.  Often when we are out to dinner, and the waitress breezes by to ask, “How are the first few bites tasting?”, Andrew is reaching for his wallet and I am asking for a “to go” box.  Those of you who have shared a meal with us are nodding and smiling, aren’t you?

In our defense, we come by this food-shoveling habit honestly. It was a survival skill we each developed during our medical training. Here’s a typical scenario of dinner as a resident-on-call:

After multiple visits to the ER, two admissions and a crisis in the ICU, our four-to-five-member on-call team, finally catches a break. Uniformed in scrubs and stethescopes, we head down to the cafeteria, to stack our trays with the free hospital food. After settling into orange vinyl seats and tasting the first few bites, a beep-beep-beep sounds. And then, another one joins in. As everyone reaches for their pagers, an announcement drones overhead:  “Code Blue, 4th floor, west wing… code blue, 4th floor, west wing.” Collectively we groan, and then grab our gear and rush upstairs to see about the emergency.   Often – no, usually – by the time we make it back down to the basement to try to salvage the remainder of our cold meal, we find the cafeteria is dark,  its doors bolted shut. Sigh. Another night of vending machine supper.

In residency, it became clear that you’d better eat fast, or you may not get to eat at all.  Food wasn’t to be savored, just consumed, because the main point of eating was not enjoyment, but sustenance. Enjoying the taste of food was a luxury one could not afford, with such an unpredictable schedule.

Andrew and I have learned over the years that normal people don’t gulp or shovel.  Normal people take their time, and actually seem to enjoy the taste of their food. They savor. They actually enjoy what they are eating.  When I eat dinner with these folks, I find that I appreciate the flavor of my food  more than I ever would on my own.

1 Peter talks about tasting the kindness of the Lord.

I love that word picture, because in order to taste something, you have to slow down and pay attention to what you are eating.  Don’t we find ourselves rushing through life, consuming the blessings God gives us, but never taking time to savor them?  In order to taste God’s kindness, we have to be willing to let go of our tendency to hurry, and embrace a more  leisurely, thoughtful approach to life. Let’s face it:  most of our rushing around is not because of life or death emergencies.  It is primarily caused by an accumulation of commitments or desires – some important, some not so important.

So today, choose to not simply consume God’s kindnesses without really appreciating them.  Instead, choose to taste God’s kindness.  Take the time to notice the many wonderful ways He has, and is now, blessing you.  Savor His loving presence always with you and within you. Enjoy!

Shoes At My Door

Shoes At My Door

by Lydia Floren

When we first moved to Wisconsin, I was surprised to find that, when people came to visit, they always left their shoes at my door. I soon learned that Wisconsinites shed their shoes, just like they do their coats, when they enter someone’s home. Children learn to do this almost before they begin to walk. In fact, around here, taking your shoes off when you cross a threshold ranks right up there with the “yes ma’am’s” and “no ma’am’s” of the South: good when you do it, really rude when you don’t.

At first this shoe-at-the-door thing didn’t make much sense. But that was because we moved up here in July. By December, the reason became obvious: snow. Well, not just snow –  the sand and slush and salt and mud that accompany the winter months. Taking shoes off keeps everyone’s houses from being dirtied by the outside mess. This is such an ingrained habit in our Northwoods culture that, even when the weather is nice and the streets are clear, everyone still sheds their footwear when they come inside.

We each have some mud on our lives, especially this time of year.

Extra commitments, financial concerns, worry about family, renewed grief, loneliness. Some of the stuff is obvious while other parts – like the stirrings of old hurts –  stay hidden beneath the surface.

As we step into each other’s lives, wouldn’t it be cool if we would remember to first take off our “muddy shoes”? That might mean setting aside happenings from earlier in the day: a difficult circumstance, or unpleasant encounter, or hurry or stress. Maybe it means withholding judgment, extending grace, forgiving, getting out of our own perspective and choosing to enter theirs.

This holiday season we are going to have many distractions.

And we are going to step into a lot of lives.

May we remember to set aside our stress and tread gently, giving others (and ourselves) extra grace.

BTW, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this “extra grace-giving” became a habit we practiced all year long?

But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness. Psalm 86:15

Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you. Ephesians 4:32

Love is patient, love is kind. 1 Corinthians 13:4

God’s Gift to the World

4:28:16 God's gift to world

“Oh, she thinks she’s God’s gift to the world.”

Have you ever heard someone say that? Or said it yourself? I know I have. When I have made that snarky comment, I really mean, “She is soooo conceited. She is totally self-focused. She only cares about what matters to her. She never thinks about anyone but herself.”

HMMM. “Self-focused”? “Always thinking about herself”? Sounds a lot like me sometimes, especially when I am having a pity party. (BTW, my pity party may have many invitees, but only one person will show up: me!)

God’s gift to the world.
In my prayers this morning, I learned to see that phrase, “God’s gift to the world,” in a whole different light. I was sharing my discouragement and discontent with God, (OK complaining ☺ He is such a patient listener!) and then I felt Him telling me:

“You are my blessing to the world. To the people you touch, the lives you reach. You alone can touch and reach people in your own unique way.”

Huh.

You know, when you look at it like that, every person is God’s gift to the world. We are each unique creations. No one can love someone else exactly like we can. And no one else will have the encounters we have this day. Because we will never pass this way again.

Each person is unique, and each moment is unique.

Each encounter is an opportunity to love someone in our own unique way.

You, my dear friend, are God’s gift to the world. So today, have a blast blessing those around you in your own unique way!

Enjoy who you are. Love the person in front of you. Live in the abundance of God’s love.

I will give thanks to you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Psalm 139:14

Prepping for Success

3:9:16 Prepping for successby Lydia Floren

It is always soul-enriching, being with God. Why do I wait? What could possibly give me more life than spending time in His presence? Having those moments that soak into my soul?

Nothing.

Prepping for success

How can we be prepping for success? How do we minimize distractions first thing in the morning, and optimize our chances of success, in this all important meeting with The Person Who Loves Us Most? Here are a few thoughts that have helped me:

1. Restrict my daily “To Do” list to 5 items. I only allow 5 things on my to do list every day, and #1 is “Be loved by God, and listen.“

2. Plan and Prepare the night before:

  • Straighten up the night before, especially the area where I have my prayer/time with God.
  • Make this area inviting—soothing, peaceful. Pictures, flowers, music at the ready.
  • Get coffee set up to go automatically.
  • Have my journal/Bible/materials set out.
  • Go to bed on time, and set my alarm.

2. Keep a running task list handy. When things I need to do, or ideas I have, start crowding my mind, I can write them down and get them out of my head.

3. Continue reviewing my priorities and goals, so other things don’t creep into my life and
rob me of the most important things.

What do you do to stay focused in your daily meeting with God? Please share! I would love to hear from you!

A Recurring Struggle

3:3:16 Recurring Struggleby Lydia Floren

It happened again. I got distracted, and pretty soon two hours had passed and I still hadn’t spent any time alone with God. Once again, I let other things keep me from meeting Him at the first of my day: an unfinished project, a messy house, calls to make, emails to answer. It is a recurring struggle.

I am not alone in this recurring struggle.

C.S. Lewis wrote in Mere Christianity,

“The real problem of the Christian life comes where people do not usually look for it. It comes the very moment you wake up each morning. All your wishes and hopes for the day rush at you like wild animals. And the first job each morning consists simply in shoving that all back; in listening to that other voice, taking that other point of view, letting that other larger, stronger, quieter life come flowing in and so on, all day. Standing back from all your natural fussing and fretting; coming in out of the wind.

“We can only do it for moments at first. But from those moments the new sort of life will be spreading through our system, because now we are letting Him work at the right part of us. It is the difference between paint, which is merely laid on the surface, and a dye or stain which soaks right through.”
Wow. Moments of “letting that other, larger, stronger quieter life come flowing in.” . Moments of joy, of peace, of finding perspective, of talking to my best friend. The more I have of these, the more I hunger for them.

Everything really does fall into place once I take the time to really connect with God, soaking in His love and presence.

Worth the effort, I think.

What are your thoughts?

Morning Joy

Morning Joy

God gave me a beautiful gift this morning, as I was driving down the interstate.

It was 6:30 a.m., and I was in a hurry – it was going to be a long day.  As I rounded the final bend before my exit, a spectacular vista met my eyes:  a pink/purple dawn spread out over a distant blue ridge, which was draped in wispy clouds.  It reminded me of the Smoky Mountains – of home.

“Quick, get out the camera and snap a picture!”, I told myself.  No.  Not a good idea at 70 mph.  Just enjoy.  Soak in the beauty of the moment (and try to keep an eye on the road)!

That sunrise was a gift at the beginning of a difficult day.  It was as if God was saying,

“I am here.  All is well.  Enjoy.”

He says that to me a lot, actually.  In all kinds of ways.  Too many times, I don’t see.  Or I see, but I don’t stop to give thanks.  (I’m a slow learner.)

You know, on those days that I do notice God’s ever-abundant gifts, and choose to thank Him, something wonderful happens.  JOY settles over me like mist on a mountain.

In Your presence is fullness of joy!  Psalm 16:11

The Meeting

The Meetingby Lydia Floren

Imagine: You are involved in a big building project. Not only are you working there everyday, but you are living on-site, too. The venture is a huge undertaking. So much so, that the Architect, a world-renowned expert, also lives and works on the premises.

Every morning as you awake, your mind floods with all the things that need to be done. Your mental list is so long, you hardly know where to start. You drag out of bed and clamber down the hall in search of coffee, already sorting through the priorities in your mind.

As you sip your java and start committing your list to paper, you remember, “Oh, yeah, I have that daily 7 AM meeting with the Architect…. Do I really have time for that?”

There have been days when you’ve made it to the meeting, and others when you haven’t.

“Still,” you say to yourself, “The day does go so much better when I do make that meeting.”

He helps you focus on what’s most important. He trouble-shoots difficulties you have encountered, and helps find solutions. And, more often than not, when you make that daily meeting, you end up working the rest of your day with Him, enjoying His company and learning from His expertise.

“You know,” you think, “On the days I make that meeting I not only accomplish more, but I have more fun doing it.”

Why does that surprise you?

“Come to me, all who are weary and heavy-laden and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me. For I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my load is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

“For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”  Jeremiah 29:11

 

 

 

Our Deepest Need

Our Deepest Needby Lydia Floren

“Christ is wisdom and He is our deepest need. Our inner restlessness can only be pacified by the revelation of His eternal friendship and love for us.”
–Margaret Bottome (as quoted in Streams in the Desert, 8/26/15)

I need you, Father,

  • to tame my wandering mind
  • to still my soul
  • to focus me on what is important
  • to fill me up with Your love, and to show me how to live as one who is beloved
  • to banish my nagging sense of being “never-enough”
  • to teach me to truly love myself, love You, and love others
  • to complete me–to fill in all the holes and gaps, and make me whole.  Again and again.

Thank you for Your unwavering love for me, for each of us.

Our deepest need is You.
Our deepest need is met by You.  In You.  With You.  Without fail.

Christ is wisdom

All I have needed, Thy hand hath provided

AllIHaveNeeded

by Lydia Floren

Can we really count on God to meet all of our needs?

YES.

Really?   How can we know this?

All I have needed Thy hand hath provided. 

                Great is Thy faithfulness Lord unto me.

Thomas Chisholm wrote these words, and sang them with confidence because he made a habit of remembering.  He chose over and over again to recall all the times that God had provided for him.

When doubts creep in, make a habit of remembering.   Choose–and then continue to choose– to bring to mind God’s past faithfulness in your life, and in the lives of others.   And then choose to thank God for His consistent loving care.

The longer we follow God, the louder we sing

Great is Thy faithfulness, Lord unto me.

Once I was young, and now I am old. Yet I have never seen the godly abandoned or their children begging for bread. Psalm 37:25

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