A moment of loneliness

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by Shelby Cruse

Genesis 2:18   the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper as his partner.”

 

 

 

There are 7 billion people in this world, and yet loneliness is becoming more and more common.  It has been reported that the average number of close friends Americans share has dropped from 3 to 2.  And the number of people in America with no close friends has tripled since 1985.   If you are one of these people, who suffer from loneliness you are not alone.

Interestingly loneliness is not a term used in the Bible, although the word alone occurs 195 times in the NRSV version.  Being alone is often a good thing and does not imply loneliness. Jesus had 12 close friends, and of those 12, Peter, Andrew, James and John were held even closer.  Even with this intimate group of friends always around he still often chose to be alone with God, which is still not alone and would not be lonely. These 12 men were called to friendship and set out to bring others into this fold.

Isaiah 41:10  do not fear, for I am with you, do not be afraid, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my victorious right hand.

Improve social skills–Practicing social skills can be very scary especially for the introvert.  But practice anyway.  Speak to at least 2-3 people a day if possible.  Smile, make eye contact and say ” Hi, how are you?” They may reply with a simple “fine.” However, it is the smile and the eye contact that will have the real impact on your loneliness level.  Asking others questions takes the focus off of you and offers it to the other person.  You are now thinking of someone else, and loneliness is moved aside even if only for a moment.

Increase social interaction–Put yourself in places where you can meet other people.  Even the seemingly superficial act of asking “How are you?” as I have said can have an impact.  If you can find ways to increase the questions, you will have more interaction.  Ask for help finding something in a store.  People love to be helpful, and you are offering them a chance to feel needed, and show they care.

Avoid negative thinking–Not all of the conversations you open will have a positive impact but keep your feelings neutral.  The smile and the eye contact you offer will be the thing most remembered and what you said will be forgotten very quickly.  Unless by chance, you said something very positive to a lonely person and made their day. That they will remember and you have done a very good thing!  Try to have a positive impact on everyone you encounter today.  It is a win-win!

Seek support systems–Look for groups that share your interests and join them.  I once said to someone,  “Close friends aren’t made they just are.”  It did not take me long after to realize that was not even close to accurate.  Friends are made, by seeking people with whom you have commonality.  By taking an interest in them and what interests them.  By noticing their low times and offering encouragement.  By sharing in their joys and laughter.  When you do this for others, you just might find that it comes right back to you.

Remember you are never alone–We were created in Love, by Love, for Love.  Open your heart to the Love of God and offer it to others.  It is the Love I feel from God and for God that pushed me to write.  It is my Love for His people that prompted me to send it out.  When I have moments of loneliness, I think of you.  You warm my heart.

A moment on the bright side

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“Look on the bright side.”  they

I probably shouldn’t, but I always get bristly when cliche phrases are said to try to make others feel better.  Sometimes things are just dark, and the bright side is too far off in the distance to even imagine what could be there.  But if we are in the darkness, and Jesus is the Light of the world, and Jesus is God made flesh, then the bright side would be God’s side. As I looked at this photo, from the dark side, I saw the light reaching over the mountains, reaching over to the dark side.

In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.  John 1:4-6 (NKJV)

I may not be able to look at or imagine what the bright side is like as I am in the darkness, but knowing there is another side brings me comfort.  Let me assure you, there is another side to our pain and our darkness.   There is God’s side.  And as I notice the light coming over the mountains, I am reminded God’s side is not separate from our side.  He has a plan and a purpose for each of us and for all the events in our lives.  His purpose is to draw us ever closer to Him.  Pain, suffering, and darkness are a necessary part of the process.  So that when we glimpse the other side, we long for it, we move toward it.  We open our hearts and trust in it.  And the light that may seem distant at the time can settle deeper into our hearts.

As I read the following passage this morning, I was struck by Simeon’s delight at seeing the Messiah and what must have been compassion as he tells Mary of her future suffering.

Now there was a man in Jerusalem whose name was Simeon; this man was righteous and devout, looking forward to the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit rested on him. It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. Guided by the Spirit, Simeon came into the temple; and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him what was customary under the law, Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying,

“Master, now you are dismissing your servant in peace,
    according to your word;
for my eyes have seen your salvation,
    which you have prepared in the presence of all peoples,
a light for revelation to the Gentiles
    and for glory to your people Israel.”

And the child’s father and mother were amazed at what was being said about him. Then Simeon blessed them and said to his mother Mary, “This child is destined for the falling and the rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be opposed so that the inner thoughts of many will be revealed—and a sword will pierce your own soul too.”  Luke 2:25-35 (NRSV)

Though we may not be able to fully comprehend these things. And though it may not soften the blows of our individual suffering any more than I imagine it could have for Mary.   Perhaps like Mary, we can trust the bright side, knowing the bright side is on our side.

In him was life, and the life was the light of all people.  The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.  John 1:4-5 (NRSV)

A moment of doubt

 

but I have prayed for you that your own faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned back, strengthen your brothers.” And he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you to prison and to death!” Jesus said, “I tell you, Peter, the cock will not crow this day, until you have denied three times that you know me.”  Luke 22:31-34 (NRSV)

There are times when our faith may fail.  What then?   In this scripture, Peter is puffed up and telling Jesus he will not have doubt.  Jesus says “Oh, you will, but when you come back you will be strong enough to strengthen others.”

In John chapter 14 verse 6, “Jesus says I am the way and the truth and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me.”   This statement infers a lot, and we often use it as an exclusionary device for who is in and who is out.   This is a statement that causes me a good deal of doubt.  What if Jesus is not THE Way?  What if Christians are wrong?

I am currently reading The Book of JOY.  As I read,  I can’t help but think that the Dalai Lama and Desmond Tutu, in their spiritual life, are in conversation with the same creator and the same God.   This opens a whole can of worms in the small box of faith I am at times most comfortable in.  My thoughts start swimming around, and I start questioning lots of scriptures.  This is good.  When my thoughts begin to settle again, I remember what I really know for sure.  God is Love.  Love with us and in us translates across cultures and religions.

Personally I am a Buddhist, and I consider faith very important.  but at the same time the reality is that out of seven billion people, over one billion people on the planet are nonbelievers.  So we cannot exclude them.  One billion is quite a large number.  They are also our human brothers and sisters.  They also have the right to become happier human beings and to be good members of the human family.   The Dalai Lama

Jesus’ teachings focus a great deal on unity.  We need to be unified with God and each other  This learning is simpler, narrowed down by the claiming of Christ as the only way to God.  Being united in love is much more difficult because we get uncomfortable with our differences.  Jesus, in the Gospels, shows us the way to love each other and the way to love God.  We love by serving and putting others ahead of ourselves.  In following Christ, my faith has a focus and a purpose.   The way to unity is love.  My doubts are transformed when I look outside myself and offer love to someone in need.

Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.Philippians 4:8NRSV

Personally, I am a Christian, and when I think about these things, I think of Christ.  What do you think of?

A moment of vulnerability

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For to us a child is born,

As we move through the Christmas season, it is easy for many of us to lose ourselves in the busyness of it all.  We can become self-centered, snarky, and nervous about family relationships that are already tense much of the year.  Is there anything about this baby in the manger that can really change all that?  How do we cope when those family members are up close and at our Christmas dinner table? 

In this Isaiah passage, we hear a message of hope.  A vulnerable child is born and he will be a Wonderful Counselor and the Prince of Peace.  This is a big expectation of a small child.

Moving forward in the story though, we see that this baby will celebrate an important meal with family and friends, some with whom he had a trying relationship.  Peter and Judas were both at this table.  He knew they did not have his best interests at heart.  They were self -absorbed and caught up in other things.

Jesus, in this moment, wasn’t unkind.  But, he did tell the truth.  He told the group that one of them would deny him and one would betray him.  He knew they would hurt him.  He understood his vulnerability.  He understood the human condition and he understood their vulnerability.  Therefore, in love, he focused that evening on teaching his beloved friends and family about servanthood and showing them what love looked like.

Be kind, for even the people who can’t be trusted to look out for our best interests can still be loved.

Be honest, tell the truth about your own vulnerability.

Be forgiving, it is often their vulnerability that makes others hurt us.

 to us a son is given,
    and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
    Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6 (NIV)