Deane's Blog

Four "Ways to Think" for a Great Summer

Friendships, FaithDeane Watters4 Comments
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Have you heard this quote? The words you speak become the house you live in. (Hafiz)

I totally agree with this but I believe a few words need to be added for it to become true for me: The words you speak to yourself become the house you live in. 

How we think and how we talk to ourselves has everything to do with the house (the life) in which we reside. Our thoughts affect how we view ourselves and the world we live in, how we feel, interact and react. The "walls" of our interior life can be plastered with wallpaper made of thankfulness and joy, or, in contrast,  posters of anger, fear, and bitterness.

I would like you to have a great summer living in a most lovely summer home, beautifully decorated. So here are a few suggestions on what you can say to yourself so you can have a meaningfully rich summer.

1. I will not be offended.

If I could have a soapbox to stand on all day long, I would shout out one thing for all to hear: "Be determined to NOT take offense!!" I have learned this the hard way and know how easy it is to feel offended. Being offended is a rampant reaction from our interstates to grocery stores and family members to church members. I wonder how many times in the past month these words have come out of my mouth.  "Don't be offended!"

Taking an offense only hurts the one who is offended! I encourage you to choose instead to talk with the person (if you can) about what hurt you, quietly and respectfully. Express yourself and then forgive. Each time it comes to your memory, forgive again. Don't water the seeds of offense. They will grow up to be nasty weeds that steal what is good from you. YOU will be the one who misses out. You will miss the joy of being free of the burden of anger or unforgiveness. And, worst of all, offense causes division when gossip invites people to take sides and unity is broken. Oh, for goodness sake, and for the love of God, STOP taking offense. (Don't mean to yell, but when I'm on a soapbox I can get going.)

2. I can be the inviter.

Instead of thinking that no one likes me or wants to be with me, I want to be the one who invites others to join me. How about you? If you have nothing going on next Friday, get on the phone and invite someone to do something with you. Our daughter talks about being someone who is building the life she wants. She doesn't wait for it to come to her.  Invite!          "Come sit with me! Let's meet for coffee! Would you like to go to that event with me?"

I love to be invited and I know most people feel the same way. Someone recently said to me, "I'd like to get to know you better." It was a super inviting thing to say. This friend and I got together and drank lots of coffee while engaging in good conversation. I encourage you to be an inviter this summer.

3. I can step into a room ready to be a giver. 

Shauna Niequist writes, " When you bring a grace-soaked, grounded soul to any room you walk in, you are offering yourself as an instrument for healing." 

I often tell myself on the way to church, to be sure to be on the lookout for women who might need encouraging. That cheering can be as simple as a smile. Perhaps it means stopping to chat and ask a few questions. Sometimes it will lead to praying over something that is difficult.

To do that though, I need to get to church a bit early (which is HARD for us) or stay a while after church to look for people to talk to. The purpose is to show love. To offer myself as an instrument for healing.

That means I do not rush right out of church after the last worship song. It means I look up and around searching for people who need to be noticed and reached out to. And then I step toward them with the intent to connect in some way. 

It means to practice the art of asking questions and being curious. People love to talk about themselves. My husband and a few friends I know have mastered this amazing way to show that they are interested in people ! I have to remind myself, but I work at it.

What can I give of myself to make this workplace, this church, this picnic, this neighborhood, this line at Walmart, a welcoming place?

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4. I Can Show Love in Unique Ways.

In the book, Everybody Always  Bob Goff, an exceptionally outgoing man, writes about how he has taken the love of Christ seriously. He is on a life mission to love people openly and confidently by doing the unexpected in unusual ways. In this guest post on Ann Voskamp's blog, Bob tells about one of the many times he showed outlandish love - the kind that builds people up and does not expect anything in return. It's a fun read.

You and I may not be as outgoing as Bob, but in quiet uncommon ways we can be encouragers and cheerleaders to the regular everyday people we come in contact with. Those in our homes as well as those we meet at the grocery store, at the car dealership, on the street, in the coffee shop, at our workplaces, anywhere we encounter people - everywhere people are hungry for affirmation and kindness. Let's be the ones who do the reaching out.

A friend at church said the other day that her boss was not one to show kindness to the women who worked under her. So my friend said that she herself  took on that role with her co-workers, complimenting them on a new outfit, asking about their weekend or noticing a change of mood and being an encourager. That kind of healthy interest is needed for a healthy workplace. My friend stepped up to be that person instead of complaining about her boss's lack of interest. I love this! Let's be the one we want others to be to us! (What a mouthful!)

 

 

 

I'm mostly preaching to myself here, so please, don't be offended. :)

If we are ever going to find change in our circumstances, we must start with our own thoughts and actions. Let's be people who live in warm comfortable "homes" full of invitations to relationship and friendship. Let's stand for kindness and be lovers of people because that is the only way for change to get started in our places and in our own personal "houses."

1 Peter 1:22 encourages us to "love one another deeply from the heart."  This encouragement spurs us on! We are doing it for Christ who loves us and gave himself for us. The kind of love I am talking about is almost impossible using our own steam, our own self effort. But we have help from the One who loved us first. It is His love that we freely give away.

Let's have a great summer!

The Gospel Comes with a House Key - book review

Good ReadsDeane Watters2 Comments
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I've always said that our house has a ministry. Throughout the 24 years we have lived here, we have opened our doors to exchange students, missionaries, friends, and strangers. We've hosted book clubs, Bible studies, wedding and baby showers, graduation open houses, and even a jewelry party! It has been a place of welcome for many years. I have enjoyed feeding people, giving them a place to rest and feel cared for.  So when I saw this book, I was interested in this author's take on inviting people into her home.

I found out that The Gospel Comes with a House Key takes hospitality to a whole new level! The author, Rosaria Butterfield, calls what they do "radically ordinary hospitality" and I would have to agree with the radical part but I find it anything but ordinary! 

She defines this hospitality as "Using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God. It brings glory to God, serves others, and lives out the gospel in word and deed." Its purpose is "To build, focus, deepen, and strengthen the family of God, pointing others to the Bible-believing local church, and being earthly and spiritually good to everyone we know."

In the preface, Butterfield explains, "Offering radically ordinary hospitality is an everyday thing at our house. It starts early, with minestrone soup simmering on one burner and a pot of steamed rice warming on another. It ends late, with Kent (her husband) making beds on the couches and blowing up air mattresses for a traveling, stranded family. A truly hospitable heart anticipates every day, Christ-centered table fellowship and guests who are genuinely in need. Such a heart seeks opportunities to serve. Radically ordinary hospitality doesn't keep fussy lists or make a big deal about invitations. Invitations are open."

Years ago, when she was an avid atheist, she had been invited over for a meal, in the same way, by a "nice Christian" neighbor.  She found herself preparing for a battle with the "enemy" as she felt Christians to be. But, she writes, "Nothing happened in the way I expected. Not that night, or the years after...Nothing prepared me for this openness and truth. Nothing prepared me for the unstoppable gospel and for the love of Jesus made manifest by the daily practices of hospitality undertaken in this one simple Christian home."

Does this compel you to read this book? It certainly pulled me in and I read it from cover to cover in just a few days.

As a result, I am wondering about a us and our house. I'm definitely not ready to hand out our house key with an open door policy. But perhaps I could go about getting to know my neighbors better by gathering them so they can get to know each other also. It certainly starts there. I also am left thinking more about what it means to be hospitable. I define it as being a welcoming person, open and without an agenda, except to love and show kindness, in Jesus' name. 

In years past, an elderly couple who lived just up the street from us (who have now moved to a retirement facility) hosted several summer ice cream socials for families in our neighborhood. We always enjoyed these gatherings, getting to know new people each time we were able to attend. Since they are no longer able, I think it would be good for us to offer an opportunity to meet and welcome those who live around us.

If all this interests you, I suggest that you get a hold of this book and be prepared to be challenged, encouraged, and led into new ways of being hospitable in your house with a ministry to its neighbors.

Spiritual Mamas

FaithDeane Watters6 Comments
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I can see my mom sitting there by herself, eyes closed, a little smile on her face.

She's singing or praying, I'm not sure which. but she is worshiping either way. 

Always by herself but never alone because the unseen Spirit glows from her gentle face.

Sitting in the pew at the front of the church or on her little chair in her dining room, her radiance was the same. That vulnerable heart of hers kept her close to God. She knew of her need for Him.

I need Thee, Oh, I need Thee; 

Every hour I need thee! 

Oh, bless me now, my Savior, I come to Thee.

That one quality, her need for her Savior, has greatly influenced my own life of faith. She deeply loved God and the way she lived her life showed the working out of being loved by Him. Her near-tears prayers impacted me and needing God seemed natural and right, not embarrassing or weak. He saved her from a life of bitterness and anger and she knew that. She humbly accepted the gift and did her best to show kindness and understanding to others.

Do you have a memory of a woman who influenced you just by being herself? Was it your own mother,  a neighbor, or the choir director? Was yours a Sunday school teacher, an aunt or perhaps the little elderly woman who owned the Christian bookstore down the street?

Maybe she didn't know you were watching but something about her interested you and you remember. You watched and learned and formed decisions about who you are and who God is.

I had one whose job it was to love on me...my very own mama. Mothering was her gift, one she received and cherished. I'm thankful that my sister, brothers and I were able to be loved by one who genuinely loved God. 

There are others in my life now who continue to encourage me as I long for a strong faith like theirs, or such a giving love.

  • There's the quiet one who keeps showing up, soaking in the truth.  Her faithfulness attracts me and I want to know more of her story.
  • And there's the one who feels her feelings so strongly that a huge loss about killed her but she hung on, trusting her Savior in deep and abiding ways. When all is crazy,  a hopeful joy ripples through her many words, big smile, open arms and true kindness.
  • Oh, and the faithful one who gently asks if she can pray for me. "It's what I do," she says.
  • Joy follows my dear friend around like a puppy and her enthusiasm smiles on us all. I wish for such brightness of spirit and the faithful way she lives out her ministry toward the sick and dying in her church.
  • One I know and love is desperately hanging on to her faith. Disappointments keep her numb and fear overpowers her. I pray for relief. I watch her on the lonely path of waiting for God and the fight for trust while feeling deeply burdened.
  • There is a young mama who speaks gently to her babies and holds dirty little hands while praying powerful prayers. Her love compels me toward selflessness.
  • And there's the mama whose adult child stands by her side these many years. I long for and admire her generosity and unselfish living, in the midst of hard things.
  • There is a gentle soul, wounded from the beginning, trying hard to believe the truth of her lovableness. I know God's favor surrounds her as with a shield. (Psalm 5:12)  Persevering, one day she will know it too.

There are many faithful women, I call them spiritual mamas, doing the right thing for the right reasons. I see them and admire their determination to follow Christ and to let him love them and love through them. I am touched as others go ahead of me to live their lives from a central truth: God loves me deeply, so I can deeply love. Proverbs 31:30 tells me that a woman who fears the LORD is to be admired and praised. I watch and ponder how they are faithful to the calling they have received. My faith is affected as I see others faithfully living theirs out. 

 

If you find yourself remembering someone who has influenced you in your faith, perhaps this would be the week, in light of Mother's Day, to send that someone a note, letting her know that how she lived her life mattered to you. Pick out one quality and just tell her. It will mean the world to her, believe me. We are a people unused to the deep telling of that which has formed these hearts of ours. Today would be a great day to turn that silence into a joyful statement of affirmation for a life that showed you a path on which to place your feet of faith.

 

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What's That Noise?

House of HopeDeane Watters3 Comments
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"Deane, wake up! I think there's a bat in our room!"

Groggy, I open my eyes and, yes indeed, there is an annoying little creature with a wide wingspan flying around and around our bedroom in the middle of the night. The unique clicking noise that accompanies the flapping of his wings brings a dreaded chill to my core as I hurry out of bed and into the closet...

I wonder how many times I have been stirred out of deep slumber because my husband has learned to listen in his sleep.

Sorry, but this is not a blog post about bats (which I could write, if you are interested), instead, it is about our thoughts. In April I led a three week class at House of Hope called, Learning to Listen, and I thought you might like to "think about your thoughts" for a bit with me here. 

When a thought comes flying into our mind, like an un-welcomed and unexpected guest, we can continue to let it fly around in our mind, harassing us as we try to ignore it, or we can sit up and listen, figure out what it's trying to tell us, and then decide what to do with it.

Sit Up And Listen

I have read that we have thousands of thoughts that go through our minds every day. Many of these thoughts go in and out unnoticed but some are glaring and packed with emotion. Which ones are we going to pay attention to?

William Kenower, in Fearless Writing, writes, "Thoughts are so powerful, so magnetic, and so packed with energy and creative potential that it is easy to mistake them for reality rather than simply a possibility."

So when one comes flapping in, looking especially dark and sinister, we should sit up and take notice! That thought can make us feel awful. But really, it is only a mist in our head, so to speak. 

If we add details to a negative thought, it becomes a story. And since it is so much easier to embrace a story, instead of just a thought, we would do best to stop before it becomes a story appearing even more real.

Example: I can notice a thought that tells me I am a worthless writer. I don't like this thought but every writer I've ever known has been tempted with that thought! I can perk up my ears and as the thought comes, and because of a recent writers block or discouragement, I can agree with it. I can believe it to be true so I start adding evidence that it is true, thus making it into a story. Pretty soon I am ready to shut down my blog and be done with it all. (And to be honest, this thought has harassed me more than once!)

But it would be much better to recognize that lie for what it is, pat my heart with kindness, and get ready to reject it.

What's It Trying To Tell Me?

I think these random thoughts remind me that I'm human. Fear can be overwhelming. Bad things do happen to people. I'm afraid I don't measure up. But I don't have to believe them!  I can let them make me more determined to trust God for my future and to remember He is with me. Psalm 5 even says that he surrounds those who seek him with "favor as with a shield." I love that.

 

What Shall I Do With It?

When a bat enters uninvited into our bedroom late at night (while I hide in the closet) Brian (my brave hero) crouches (to avoid the circling bat) to the window, opens it and removes the screen. We quickly leave the room, shutting the door. Eventually most bats will find the open window and fly out into the night to continue their nocturnal wanderings. 

Likewise, could we identify our thoughts that are ugly or scary and choose to "open the window" and let them, or force them to "get out of Dodge?" (That means "get out of town," for those of you who perhaps did not grow up watching Gunsmoke.)

It's not easy. Sometimes we need to look for a distraction or an encouragement that either gets our mind off the thought or gives assurance that indeed the thought was a poof-of-nothing. Philippians 4 tells us that "Whatever is true...think about such things...And the God of peace will be with you." I love this! Peace comes as I am determined to let untruths go and rest in the bigger truth of God's love for me.

This is by no means an exhaustive explanation about thoughts combined with scary experiences we have had with bats. But it is a wake up call to not let ourselves be fooled by a thought that enters and flutters about causing fear or dread. Let's look at it, decide what it is telling us and then give it a shove into the dark so we can get back to our peaceful night of sleep.

And those bats? Well, most of them find the open window. Some are a bit less compliant and stricter means are needed to get them out of our house. Think on that one for awhile.