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Presents or Presence (The Difference in Listening Well)

Dec

24

Posted by on Dec 24, 2016 |

robindance_fullypresent_incourage

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”
(John 3:16)

 

You can’t fool her, you know.

Two pudgy hands cup your cheeks to turn your face, demanding your eyes look deep into her own.

“Mama, you’re not listening!” You can almost feel her heart stomping its tiny imaginary foot to accentuate the point.

Of course, you’re right when you insist, “Yes I am, honey, I can just do two things at once.” You did hear her, after all.

But she’s right (more right?) because you weren’t listening.

Hearing requires only ears. Listening demands ears, eyes, mind, and maybe most important, heart.

The difference matters. A lot. Here’s why:

Your children don’t just notice the difference between hearing and listening, they understand the difference:

Something else is more important than them in that moment.

O u c h!

This isn’t confined to children; don’t we all hate it when we know someone is only half engaged in conversation? Present in body but absent in thought?


I grow weary from all the admonitions to focus on Christ during the Christmas season, to resist holiday busyness. Please don’t get me wrong — I agree — but then I see a believing people tangled and lifeless in sticky-webs of shopping, baking, parties, and school or church programs.

We are distracted.

Everyone is working extra hard to pay for All The Things.

And though our homes have never looked more lovely or smelled more delicious . . .

Our actions are speaking loudly, and they don’t always match up to our words.

Can I get an “Amen!”?

 

Please click to continue reading Presents/Presence for incourage. Promise:
if you’ll follow this friendly advice this Christmas season,
you’ll be  giving and receiving something precious.

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Craving Connection Book {Order before December 15th & get a second free!}

Dec

09

Posted by on Dec 9, 2016 |

cravingconnectionbook-preorder

 

A year or so ago an opportunity was presented to me that sounded intriguing: submit a chapter for a collaborative work published by incourage in partnership with Lifeway.

This first book project by incourage was to be all about community, its tagline, 30 challenges for real life engagement. Other than that, I knew my chapter was to be based on John 15:12-17 and needed to be between 2,000-2,500 words. It was an easy “yes” and sounded like fun.

When I sat down to write I wasn’t sure what to share, but once I put pen to paper, 20 years of my life poured out. Amazing how you can squeeze over 7,000 days into 2,500 words.

 

A few weeks ago I received an early copy and joined a small group of people who agreed to read the daily chapters and take part in one (or all) of the challenges associated with each piece.

Well.

I don’t know exactly what I expected, but friends, I’m here to tell you, it exceeded whatever expectation I had! Day after day I was encouraged. Just about every chapter was something I could personally relate to. The material was accessible and inspiring, and I was so glad and grateful to be a part of such a solid, God-glorifying collaboration.

It was a blessing to be with two dear friends when my copy arrived. God love ’em, they let me read my chapter out loud to them. Because it had been so long since I submitted my piece, and I had never read it aloud – essentially “hearing” it for the first time – I was surprised that it moved me to tears. I mean, it’s not like I wasn’t familiar with the material.

In any event, Craving Connections releases in hardback on January 10, 2017. It’s available for pre-order now, and if you order by December 15th, you get a second copy free along with a few other fun incentives. 

Craving Connections - Pre-order incentives

 

Of course, I hope you’ll support this work (because I KNOW you’ll come away encouraged!), and if you do, please DO share your thoughts with me! I reallyreallyreally want to hear!

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God-winks

Oct

21

Posted by on Oct 21, 2016 |

robindance_godgenerosity_quote

Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, 
with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change. (James 1:17 ESV)

Have you ever found yourself wishing, “If God would just SHOW ME A SIGN…” you would know what to do or whether or not you’re headed in the right direction?

Haven’t we all?

Just once, wouldn’t it be nice to look up and see writing in the sky?

Though answers rarely come as a flashing neon sign – call me crazy – sometimes I sense God’s favor in what others may dismiss as coincidence. Maybe nothing as dramatic as a thunder clap or lightning strike or a rainbow sent right to your front yard, but a kind of mini-miracle that speaks right to the heart of whatever is going on in your life rightnow….

Hold tight to what we’re promised in scripture: God has gifted us with not some, but every, spiritual blessing. In the passage from 1st Ephesians, we learn that in Christ, we are

chosen,

holy,

blameless,

family,

receivers of grace,

redeemed,

forgiven,

and sealed with the promised Holy Spirit.

God’s generosity knows no bound. 

He is a giver of good and perfect gifts, and what He gave because He loved us (Who He gave)? Should compel us to boundless gratitude. Lord, may I never cease to be thankful, humbled by, and astonished at the wonder, beauty, and cost of the cross.

Last week I was sitting at my kitchen table with two friends. I had invited them over to begin putting flesh on the bones of an idea birthed in my heart a while back. They weren’t the first people I had approached about joining me in this new thing; but after arm-twisting another friend without success for over two years, it finally occurred to me that maybe she wasn’t the one to help.

Sometimes earnestly seeking the Lord means letting go of preconceived plans and ideals. 

This is a lesson on repeat for me, something I’ve been slow to learn.

We began to sense God’s presence in our gathering, oddly enough, in a color scheme. It started with Hannah and Tracey noticing my journal, pen, and espresso cup perfectly coordinating. (How much do I love that friends picked up on such a tiny detail? It’s exactly the kind of thing I’m prone to notice.)

cravingconnectiongodwink-2

 

Intent in our conversation, all three of us jumped when Hannah noticed the shadow of a man at my front door, followed quickly by a sharp knock. I knew what they didn’t–it was simply a package delivery. Our front door is within arm’s reach of our kitchen table, and they aren’t accustomed to that proximity.

traceyrobinhannah-2

Why, yes, we may look like tears were involved…. <3

I opened the door to pick up my package, and immediately realized what it was: an Advanced Reader’s Copy of Craving Connection: 30 Challenges for Real Life Engagement. Since you’re obviously an (in)courage reader (smile), you might have seen recent images and teasers about Craving Connections. What makes this book extra special is that it is a first from (in)courage and features 30 authors from both the (in)courage team and community at large. Through scripture exploration, personal testimony, and prayer, the 30-day devotional asks the question, “How could your life be different after prayerfully and intentionally connecting with God, friends, and your community?” (If you’re interested, subscribe to my very occasional blogposts, I’ll let you know when Craving Connections is available!)

I quickly explained what it was to my friends, who remembered me working on my chapter, A Safe Harbor, at the first of the year. As quickly as I placed the book on the table to continue our conversation, we noticed–

Everything was color coordinated….

cravingconnectioncolorcoordination-2

 

We couldn’t miss it, and we didn’t want to dismiss it as coincidence. It felt like a God-wink, a conduit of God’s pleasure with our plans.

Please click to continue God-winks at (in)courage!!

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Extras in the Ordinary

Sep

17

Posted by on Sep 17, 2016 |

Bloom Where You're Planted

“…Speak to the earth and it will teach you.”
Job 12:8 (NIV)

Between my garage and back door runs a long narrow porch, brown-painted decking less than six feet wide.

 

It’s less the kind of space where you’re inclined to sit a spell — though that didn’t stop us from parking our weathered garden bench right in the middle — and more a covered breezeway to shield you from the elements. In Macon, slap in the middle of Georgia, that means blistering sun or torrential downpour, the kind sliced by thunder and lighting. Snow is a novelty if we’re lucky enough to get any at all. We’ve been in this home just over two years, and there’s no telling how many times I’ve made that trek from my house to our garage or our garage to the house.

We inherited wrought iron window boxes from our home’s previous owners, two for the back porch and a pair for the front; they hang on the railing that runs adjacent to the porch. Every spring I’ve filled them with annuals that can tolerate direct sun for most of the day. That eastern exposure sure is imposing; Miss Sunshine long outlasts a friendly welcome.

This is about the extent of my gardening; my thumbs are the opposite of green.

These annuals are demanding little creatures, begging for water every day (imagine that). If I’m away, or say, more likely, forget, they get pouty and play dead. They remind me of little drama queens, wilty and depressed when they don’t get their watery way.

Except that one plant I didn’t even plant, the tenacious stalk that shoots up through two slats of decking. No matter how many times we clip her back, cut her down, or (try to) yank her through the deck, she returns healthier than ever. If plants could talk, this one would be getting the last word, and I’m pretty sure she’d be laughing all the while.

weed-growing-through-deck

 

And here’s the thing: What once was an ugly nuisance to me has become an object of affection. How could this possibly be?

weeds

 

I hope you’ll click through to continue reading Extras in the Ordinary at incourage.
I guess if God can speak through a donkey, he can speak through an overachieving weed….

 

 

 

 

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The Enemy and The Lover

Aug

07

Posted by on Aug 7, 2016 | 1 comment

An encouragement for incourage.
 
20160807-SundayScripture-Eph6

We would do well to always remember two things:

 

There is a lover of our soul who…

is always for us {Romans 8:31}, with us {Isaiah 43:5}, and on our side {Psalm 118:6}. He is father and friend {Psalm 103:131 John 3:1 and John 15:13}, willing to help {Isaiah 41:13} and heal {Psalm 147:3}, eager to save {John 3:36Romans 10:13}. To him, we are precious {Isaiah 43:4}, so much so, he sacrificed his life for me {John 3:16}. For us.

and . . .

There is an enemy of our soul who…

seeks to kill and steal and destroy {John 10:10}. He is roaring lion on blood-thirsty prowl and he will devour you {1 John 3:8}. This one is master of disguise {2 Corinthians 11:14}, a dragon {Revelation 12:9}, and a schemer {Ephesians 6:11}; accusing {Revelation 12:10}, oppressive {Acts 10:38} and divisive {Luke 11:18}.

 

While it’s impossible for me to know your circumstances, it’s a safe bet there is some tension in your life pitting rocks against hard places.

 

So often — too often — relational tensions arise between people who matter to us. Whether colleague or companion, family or friend, issues can arise with potentially devastating consequences.

What begins as a simple misunderstanding between two people can dismantle a friendship . . .

Distrust can creep in when a co-worker oversteps boundaries or capitalizes on your ideas . . .

One child’s poor decision can wreak havoc on the entire family . . .

A spouse’s infidelity can shatter a marriage . . .

It’s so easy to focus on how we’re hurt in the process. Pain demands attention.

In nature, pain is a good thing. It can signal a course of correction that keeps us safe. Alive even. If you’re swimming and under water too long, you don’t even have to think about it — your body fights its way to the surface so your lungs can replenish oxygen. Heat from a campfire reminds you to keep a safe distance to avoid getting burned.
 
In life, relational fractures and its accompanying pain can orient a self-focus: when we’re angry, hurt, or embarrassed; when we feel rejected, ignored, or marginalized.

But . . . when we’re governed by our feelings we can forget we’re at war….

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Please click to continue reading over at incourage, and if you’d like
the community to pray, please leave a note in the comment section.

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The ministry of tears

Jun

05

Posted by on Jun 5, 2016 | 1 comment


06032016_RobinDance_MoveUsEDIT-652x400

I have cried more in the past three weeks than I have since my mother’s death, and that was a long, long time ago. Emotions? Threadbare. Sleep? Fitful at best. And eating a real meal? Wishful thinking. Who needs a meat and three when you can have a Snickers and coffee?

I wish I were kidding on that last one.

It’s embarrassing to admit the “Why” of it, because, if I play the Comparison Game, it’s not a good enough reason to justify my fragility. I’m not facing illness or financial trouble, my children and marriage are doing well; in fact, the “Why” of it is ultimately good: We sold our house, the one we haven’t lived in full-time in almost three years.

I mistakenly thought selling was the hard part.

Packing up and purging the house my children will remember as Home — the place destined to inhabit their dreams when their minds drift back to childhood — undid me.

As my oldest son and I emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.

As we emptied the attic, their lives passed before me, twisting my heart into knots. I didn’t expect to feel every memory, to re-live so many moments I had taken for granted at the time.


The first instance happened as I passed down a box of their handmade Christmas gifts to my son, and the weight of all I hadn’t accomplished punched me in the throat.
So many unfinished plans, slick roads paved with good intention. Life events, milestones, a childhood of Firsts times three. Tears were impossible to control. I could barely speak as I asked . . .

Did I get it right? Did I miss it…?” and poor Thomas, my 21-year-old, tried to answer the question he thought I was asking, “Mom…stop! You’re a great mother, we couldn’t have had it any better….” but he couldn’t possibly know what I meant. He hadn’t yet earned the right to understand; that price would be paid with a lot of life between now and then. Years. Decades.

We’ve been married almost 29 years; our babies are 23, 21 and 19. The oldest just received an amazing marriage proposal; the middle one will graduate college next May; and the youngest just finished his freshman year. The house we lived in most of their lives was big enough to hold a lot of memories, and many of those memories were now represented by things made or bought. Downsizing to a much smaller house forced decisions I didn’t want to have to make. To toss any “thing” felt personal, as if I were saying that memory didn’t matter. Suddenly everything mattered and I was paralyzed by emotion and indecision, and just about anything could trigger an emotional breakdown. 

I was grieving a certain kind of loss, and though that loss wasn’t marked by tragedy, and it wasn’t attached to relational devastation, financial ruin, or health scares, it was final. I was saying good-bye to more than just a house.

I cried a lot, and instantly felt guilty or hated myself for it, because selling our house was a good thing. But then it hit me–

Crying wasn’t weakness or pity party, it was catharsis.

Tears are an incredible pressure valve and every single one of them tells a story. Tears are a way of my body expressing itself when words are insufficient.

Please continue reading The Ministry of Tears over at incourage.me.
You’ll come away with a greater appreciation for the benefits of an ugly cry :).

 


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