What’s Your Comfort Zone?

Cliques. What's Your Comfort Zone?

Cliques.  Did you have them in high school?  Boy, we sure did!  There were the jocks, the beautiful kids, the kids who did drugs, the ones who were rowdy, the ones who were smart, the ones in the band.  You get the idea.  Remember that?  What was that all about? And now that we are all grown-up, is it any different?

 We may not call them cliques, but the fact remains that we like to be around people who are like us.  People who look like us, think like us, act like us.  Even when our communities may already seem pretty homogenous, we still get cliquish. 

 I live in a fairly affluent part of the country, but I am not one of the affluent.  Now, before you start telling me how rich I am, I already know it.  I realize and appreciate that just by living in California in the United States of America that I am far wealthier than most people in the world.  I get it.  I am speaking relatively, about me in South Orange County. 

I have often joked about living on “the other side of the tracks” in comparison to many in my fairly homogenous area.  To be honest, I have often felt very uncomfortable in the company of affluent people.  It makes me uncomfortable to be in their neighborhoods.  I feel like I don’t belong.  I am pretty  sure I don’t speak their language.  I like my middle-class, what are investments anyway, clique.  So maybe grown-ups do have cliques.  The rich people, the middle-class people, the party people, the religious people, the beautiful people, the immigrant people. You get the idea. 

Jesus and His disciples took a lot of heat for hanging around people who weren’t like them – people who didn’t look like them, think like them or act like them.  He didn’t hang around them because He wanted to engage in their bad behavior, which sometimes accompanies our cliques.  He just wanted to love on them.  He wanted to bring them good news, hope, a better way.  It didn’t matter if they were rich or poor, educated or illiterate, strong or weak, healthy or sick – He was, and is, a lover of people.    He loved them enough to tell them the truth; to tell them about a better way to live.  He loved them enough to tell them that their bad behavior could lead to death – maybe emotional, maybe spiritual, certainly physical.  He loved them enough to save them from themselves.  He loved people enough to meet them in their own cliques. 

Make some new friends!

Oh, that we could be more like Jesus!  I am a grown-up.  It is time to put away childish things.  It is time to venture outside my clique, my comfort zone, and engage with others who are not like me.  It is time to share hope and a better way.  Will you join me?  Will you take a baby step outside your own clique to love on others?

For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:16



Do You Hear A Bell?

Ring! Ring! On Your Left!

Warnings.  This past month I have been blessed to spend some time with my daughter who lives in Arlington, Virginia.  Outside of the condo building where she lives is a walking and bike path.  One day we decided to go check it out.  The path itself is nothing unusual – a strip of black asphalt with a divided yellow line down the middle.  But the scenery around the path was so refreshing to a California girl, like me.  Lush greenery and bushes with little flowers of different shapes and colors sprinkled all along the path and birds outnumbered walkers 3 to 1.  There were many of us walking on the path that day.  Some of us had nothing more than our own legs to power us along.  Some were pushing strollers.  Some rollerblading   Some being walked by their dogs.  And then there were the bike riders. 

 The first time I heard one it startled me.  The sharp sound of a bell followed by a shout, “Left!”

 “What’s that?” I asked my daughter. 

“Bike rider,” she said, “they are warning you that they are coming up on the left.”

 So we quickly took a small step to the right so we weren’t in danger of being hit.

 “I like that,” I said.  “Warning.  That’s a good thing.  Especially when you are on a crowded path like this and distracted by good conversation.  Warnings are good.”

 I pondered that as we walked along, as we occasionally stepped to the right to get out of the way of a passing biker or jogger.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we had warnings in everyday life for unexpected events? 

 Wouldn’t it be great if you heard a little “ring, ring” before  you got that call.

“Can you come to my office? The company is downsizing and I need to talk to you.”
“I know this is unexpected, but your mother is in the hospital.”
“I’m sorry, the test results show cancer.”

Seems like a warning would be a good thing.  But upon more reflection, I wonder if in all circumstances that is true. 

Sure, a warning is swell when you might be hit by a bike, or an oncoming car, or you may overdraw your bank account.  But is knowing about a life changing event ahead of time really a good thing?  I suppose if we knew that something life changing were going to happen to us or to a loved one, we might do some things differently.  We might make preparations to make life easier for others.  We might decide to spend more quality time with those we love.  We might choose our activities a lot more carefully. 

But if we did get a warning, would we waste time and energy worrying about something we couldn’t change?  Would we live in the past with regret or in the future with longing rather than living in the present with gratitude?  I think that could be true for me, what about you?

For better or for worse, we won’t get a warning bell before the unexpected forces us to take a small or big step to the right. 

Ring, ring! Ring, ring!  Consider that your warning bell.  Live to expect the unexpected. Not in worry or fear – that is not what I am talking about.  Rather, live in a way that minimizes regret. You have the ability to choose, right now, how you will spend your time, what activities you will engage in, whether or not you will draw closer to loved ones.  Let’s try to live that way, after all, we’ve all been warned.

Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes.  James 4:14

Flight Buddies

Who's Your Flight Buddy?

Flying. It’s not being a bazillion feet up in the air that bothers me. It’s not taking off or landing. I don’t even mind a little turbulence. It’s the window or middle seat that get me. I hate being boxed in and feeling like I can’t get up when I want to without bothering someone…unless it’s a family member or a friend…I will bother them all day long. But a stranger? This stresses me out. I know, it’s crazy and I hope to get help for this soon, but for now, I struggle.

So I recently went to visit my daughter in DC – a long flight from Orange County, California. This flight was not a direct flight either, so that meant two seats to worry about. And because I was flying on short notice, all the aisle seats were taken on both flights. So I prayed.

Lord, please let an aisle seat open up. You know how I get. You know how important it is to go visit my daughter. You know I don’t want to end up on the nightly news because I caused the plane to turn around due to my freak out in the middle seat. Please, Lord, see what you can do.

I got to the airport and approached my gate only to see people, and more people, and could all these people possibly fit on our plane? I began to approach the airline service representative, who didn’t look too enthusiastic about her job, when I noticed the scrolling message in lights above her head on the gate information board –

This flight is full. No seat changes.

Great. No point in even asking Miss Sourpuss – the expression on her face and the message above her just shouted, “Don’t even ask!”

So I prayed.

Okay, Lord, switching seats is not looking very good right now. I know it is in your power to do ANYTHING, but apparently there is some reason you don’t want to answer my prayer for an aisle seat. That’s okay Lord, sort of. I have medication. I will use it. I won’t be a martyr. I am not sure it will completely help with my anxiety, but let’s give it a try, Lord.

And I waited to board. And I prayed some more.

Lord, if this aisle seat thing isn’t going to work out, could you help me to at least be around compassionate people? Let me have nice, compassionate people around me. That would really help. And Lord, if I can do something for you by being able to help someone else, even though you and I both know that I am the one in desperate need here, well, Lord, if you would give me that opportunity, I will try my best to be a blessing.

I got on the plane and found my seat. The window seat was occupied by a nice looking younger woman who seemed so friendly and pleasant. Good start. And so far no one was in the aisle seat.

Could it be, Lord? Could it possibly be that the person next to me, on the aisle, won’t show up? Miracle of miracles??

Just then a quiet man with a slight build slipped into the coveted aisle seat. Well, at least he looked nice. Maybe he could even be compassionate.

Wait, what’s this? The flight attendant has asked the slight, quiet, possibly compassionate man to change seats with another passenger. Moving into his seat is a big man, with tattoos on every limb (he was wearing shorts, so I know this to be true) and he had his lip pierced and eyebrow and ears. He was quiet, too, but I wasn’t so sure about the compassionate part. Until my window seat companion and I began to share our anxiety about flying. She, like me, didn’t like to be boxed in. She, like me, was okay when she had a buddy to fly with but was anxious otherwise.

And here she was in a window seat! At that moment we decided that we could take the guy on the aisle if we needed to if turned out to be less than compassionate. After talking in a voice loud enough to be heard, we both peeked to see how our aisle companion took the news – he smiled! He nodded in agreement! He wasn’t going to give us any problems – could it be he was compassionate? Yes! Though a man of few words, he also seemed to share the same dislike of being boxed in that we did. Flight buddies!

We took off, three happy flight buddies, well, at least two happy flight buddies. I looked at my aisle companion and noticed him trying to figure out how to make the in-flight satellite television work.

“Have you ever been on a flight with one of these?” I asked.
“No,” he said, obviously curious.
“You are going to love it! It will make the time go by so much faster! Do you have any headphones?”
“No.” He looked seriously dejected.
“Well, I actually threw in an extra pair, brand new, you are welcome to use them. But, I gotta warn ya, they’re pink.”

And they were. Pink on the ear buds, pink wire all the way down. My big, tattoo loving aisle companion didn’t seem to mind. I got him all set up with the headphones, a couple of snacks, and now we had three happy flight buddies – though it was hard not to smile at the big guy with the pink headphones.

When our plane landed, he handed back the headphones and said, quite sincerely, “Thank you. That was such a nice thing to do.” Or something to that effect.
“Do you have a connecting flight?” I asked.
“Yes, I do.”
“Keep them.”
I knew his next flight buddy would appreciate the sight and I know my new friend would appreciate the headphones.

Lord, you do know best. I ask, but you know which prayers to answer. You can do anything – you could have opened up an aisle seat for me. But you had a better plan. A plan that blessed me and blessed others. Thank you.

Sunrise, Sunset

Does your world revolve around the Son?

Sunrise. I woke up facing the window in my daughter’s bedroom.  Her condo is up on the 5th floor and my eyes fluttered open to see townhomes in the distance and treetops with a halo of sunshine.  I am a West Coast girl who treasures a spectacular sunset in the west and so I thought of how special it was that now, being on the East Coast, I was able to see the sunrise in the east.  In my sleepy haze, I thought, the sun rises in the east and sets in the west. In the past I have been known to confuse myself and get that backwards at times, but let’s just keep that between us.  And then it occurred to me – the sun doesn’t rise or set at all. Didn’t Galileo show us that the earth was not the center of the universe?  The sun is stationary, the same, unmoving and it is we, tiny earthlings, who revolve around it.  And yet we say, “What time is sunrise today?”  “Let’s go watch the sunset!” I can hear you now, “Well, what are we supposed to say, huh??” Don’t know.  And I am not going to get all astronomical on you, because I don’t have the intelligence for that. But wouldn’t it seem that in the 400 plus years since we first realized that the earth revolves around the sun, we could have come up with a more accurate statement than “the sun rises in the east and sets in the west”? Haven’t we evolved beyond that?  

Perhaps not. Because, if we are being honest, it really is all about us, isn’t it?  It’s our nature to believe that the world revolves around us, as we once believed the sun revolved around the earth.  I like to think that I have matured beyond being a two year old, but sometimes I wonder.  How often do my thoughts go this way (please read with emotion with emphasis on the italicized words): That person offended meI got my feelings hurt. That sales clerk took forever to take my order.  Isn’t anyone going to come over and help me? My husband doesn’t understand me. My family doesn’t appreciate me. I’m worth more than that. What about my dreams? Why do I have to wait?  And that could be just one day – maybe even one hour. 

A friend of mine recently went to a Tobie Keith concert and he said he really loved one of his songs entitled, I Wanna Talk About Me.  Oh, I know the song, and since he mentioned it about a week or so ago, I can’t get it out of my head. 

I wanna talk about talk about me, I wanna talk about I, I wanna talk about number one, oh my, me, my, What I think, what I know, what I like, what I want, what I see….you get the idea. 

If you get a chance, look up the lyrics.  They are very funny, in an “ouch” kind of way.  Am I that self-focused?  Is it really all about me? I know I should be others focused; am I not doing a good job with that?  After all, my own pastor, Rick Warren, said “It’s not about me” in the opening line of his book, The Purpose Driven Life.  But the author of life has said it so much better. 

Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind’ ; and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ ”
Luke 10:26-28

 How I wish that I could say I lived this verse consistently every minute of every day.  One call to my husband will reveal that is not the case.  Life is a process.  This is one of my favorite things to say, and as I get older I realize it is a never-ending refining process.  So for today, I will try to be more others focused.  I will try to remember that the sun does not revolve around the earth. The Son is constant –  the same today, yesterday and tomorrow. That the world does not revolve around me.   That instead, my world should revolve around the Son. How about you?