Midday Connection

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Archive for the month “November, 2012”

Guest blog: How to Experience His Presence this Advent

How are you going to avoid turning into a “Martha” this Christmas – worried and anxious about many things, and missing the most important thing? Martha was not happy and she was making everyone else miserable too. Jesus was so concerned He said her name twice: “Martha, Martha.” I have sensed Him saying the same to me, “Dee, Dee.” It is so easy to lose perspective – especially at Christmas – and ironically, miss being with Him and the peace and joy that He brings. Because our souls won’t tolerate a void, we run to our heart idols instead – and end up eating, spending, and rushing around too much. But when we practice His presence throughout Advent, we will find some Christmas tasks will fall away, and those that remain will be transformed with His love.

I would love to invite you to take the Advent Challenge with me beginning this Sunday, December 2, on my website. (www.deebrestin.com) I will be posting a free interactive study each week to help us be with Him all during Advent. One of the wonderful things about an internet study is you can do it in your pajamas in your home. I will read your comments and interact with you as will some wonderful women of depth. Because it is an internet study, I can show some amazing short videos that will bring you into His presence. For example, this week we’ll be looking at the Magi and how they responded to God that caused them to experience His presence. We’ll look at T. S. Elliot’s poem: The Journey of the Magi. Here is T. S. Elliot himself reading it – watch and wonder and join us Sunday!

Dee BrestinDee Brestin is the author of a Bible study series that includes titles such as A Woman of Love, A Woman of Faith, A Woman of Purpose and The God of All Comfort. Dee is a popular speaker at women’s conferences across the country. She enjoys singing hymns, swimming and spending time with her family.  To learn more about Dee, visit her website.

Midday blog: Redeeming Christmas

The Christmas mandates of our culture overwhelm me. You know them well. Christmas card sending, gift buying, house decorating (inside and out), and if you have children, toss in age appropriate Christmas craft ideas with them. Really, we find ourselves in a sort of wilderness of busyness, excess, and clutter of all kinds, especially as Christmas approaches.

1) If Christmas seems a burden, may I suggest a few things that might be helpful.Find a good Advent devotional book and tenaciously guard 5 – 10 minutes a day to read it. If you are married, ask your spouse to watch the young ones for that short amount of time.  If you are a single mom, either tell, don’t ask, your children that you need mommy time for 10 minutes and then lock yourself in the bathroom!

I have several advent devotional suggestions:
The Gospel of Christmas  by Patty Kirk
Preparing for Jesus – Walter Wangerin Jr.
Watch for the Light – Various writers
The Uncluttered Heart – Beth Richardson

There are so many other good choices, these are just a few that I’ve used through the years.

 2) Scale down. Who says you have to deck the halls to the point of exhausting yourself and everyone around you. Maybe you choose to put out one nativity scene, not all 5 you own.  Maybe you decorate a small tree, a table top tree, not the colossal one you usually put up.  Remember, these are thoughts, suggestions that might help you transform Advent into a season of reflection over exhaustion.

 3) Look outward.  Consider where you might give this year that has nothing to do with getting.  A homeless shelter, a gift for children halfway around the world.  Some act of charity that will make a difference. Forget buying that “one more trinket” for those who already have too much, and look beyond yourself.

I hope this gets you thinking of ways you can transform your Advent and Christmas experience starting today!

Anita Lustrea

Anita Lustrea is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and has worked for Moody Radio since 1984. She is a sought-after conference and retreat speaker and loves to connect with Midday Connection listeners face-to-face. Anita lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mike, and her son, John. To learn more about Anita, her speaking schedule and her blog, please visit her website.

Listener Blog: Grace: Unmerited

When I prayed the salvation prayer as a young child, I don’t remember thinking about, or even understanding what grace meant.  “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith-and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…” Eph 2:8 was a verse I’d heard on a regular basis.   In my young mind, I didn’t need to know what it meant.  I knew that because of Christ I would be in Heaven someday, and that was enough. 

As a teen I didn’t care what it meant.  When I needed his help, which “wasn’t very often”, I asked and he was gracious enough to give it to me, his way. 

The understanding began in my early twenties.  I asked Mom why she and Dad didn’t seem bothered by the bad choices I had made in my teens.   

“God has forgiven you, so do we.  You need to forgive yourself,” was her response.

In my early thirties, God taught me a new understanding of grace.  After a couple of years of one crisis after another, I started having panic attacks.  I had received some counseling from a mentor, but I still had to come to the understanding that there are just some things that I had to trust God with.

I was babysitting a friend’s beautiful little girl, when my heart began to race.  That had become a very familiar feeling.  I told God that if anything happened while I was responsible for that precious little girl, I would never forgive myself.

“Where is your foundation?” he spoke straight to my heart.  Having been taught by Dad that just like a house needs a strong foundation to stand, we humans need a strong foundation in Christ. 

“Jesus,” I answered, and as quickly as it started, the panic stopped.

I’ll never forget that day or that little girl, her name… Grace.

Carla Anderson is a Colorado native.  She and her husband Rob have been married for 23 years, have three boys, Robert, A.J., and Cory.  Their family now includes daughter-in-law, Patti, and their first grandson, Shawn.

Midday blog: What are you missing?

In case you’ve missed it, we are now solidly in the midst of the holiday season. However this is not a happy time for many. There’s one group of people that I want to draw your attention to those who are alone during the holidays. When you look around your church who do you see? Maybe your church is like many out there and is made up of primarily of families. Look around the edges though, is there a college student who doesn’t have a place to go for Thanksgiving? Maybe there’s an international student who will stay in the United States for Christmas. Maybe there’s an older single in your church who has no family in the area.
So this year I’d like to challenge you: find someone who doesn’t have a place to go for the holidays and invite them to join your family for part of the day. Not just the days around it, but also the holiday as well as those can be the hardest for those who are alone. Everything is closed down, no one is around to spend time with, and everything in the media is focused around that holiday. It can be a hard day but you can make it a positive experience and a happy memory for someone.
Singles, I’d like to challenge you if you are going to be alone this holiday season. Start thinking now about what you can do to serve others this holiday season. Do you see others who will be alone for a holiday? Invite them over and start new traditions. Go serve with a non-profit in your area…maybe serving food at a homeless shelter. Look around in your community to see where you might be able to serve this holiday season.
I’d like to encourage you to seek to serve others this holiday season, it might require sacrifice but don’t let that stop you. Remember that Christ came to serve, and imitate his example.

Josh Klos is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute with a degree in Radio Communications, he has served as the engineer for Midday Connection since 2010. He is also a part of the volunteer College & 20’s group staff at his church and enjoys spending time outside, as well as at libraries, bookstores and various coffee shops. He’s busy these days with graduate school, where he studying communication and culture.

To learn more about Josh and read his blog, please visit his website.

Guest blog: Reclaiming a Life of the Mind

With the constant barrage of messages inundating our inbox, demanding our attention in the checkout aisle, and distracting us from our everyday activities through sophisticated marketing strategies, maybe you’ve felt the increasing difficulty that many of us are experiencing in thinking deeply about anything.

Perhaps it’s that this is just the way our brains are being rewired as a result of living in an age marked more by constantly evolving technologies and gadgets than in the constants of knowledge and history. Or perhaps it’s that we are acquiescing to a form of living that is most comfortable skimming on the surface of our everyday existence, rather than doing the hard—but rewarding—work of plumbing the depths of human existence and our Christian faith as previous generations have done.

In my assessment one of the greatest challenges of our day is to learn the craft of critically engaging our world where dynamism and change is the norm. Where we no longer have the luxury of claiming scientific and technological ignorance if that was ever even acceptable. Where we must begin to ask questions about what it means to be human, about human flourishing, about values and our common humanity, as we stand on the cusp of capabilities to shape the future of our human species, to remake humanity. That’s why I think it is essential that we cultivate the Christian life of the mind, to meet the challenge that Mark Noll heralded nearly twenty years ago in his charge that “The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is not much of an evangelical mind.” If we have any hope of engaging some of the most pressing issues of our day, we must recapture a sense of moral imagination. And, the first step in doing so is to start with reclaiming the Christian life of the mind.

(You can hear Dr. Sleasman on Bring to Mind, a podcast produced by Midday Connection.)

Michael SleasmanDr. Michael J. Sleasman, PhD, is the managing director and research scholar for The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity and an affiliate professor of bioethics in the Graduate School at Trinity International University. His research and teaching cover the areas of philosophy, theology, and ethics, with a particular emphasis on the intersection of technology and culture.

For more information you can visit the website for The Center for Bioethics & Human Dignity.

Midday blog: Silence

I woke up that morning tense and unsettled. I couldn’t seem to put my finger on why I was troubled. I had slept well, but there was trouble deep inside of me… somewhere. I drank my coffee, read some Scripture, journaled and the feeling lingered. I started thinking about all of the things I go to when I’m vaguely troubled: talk to someone, journal, distract myself, worry, avoid. I realized that those sometimes work, but only temporarily. The core issue remains neglected. So, I wondered, what is God calling me to do this time? I suddenly remembered a time when I used to sit in silence before God for about 15-30 minutes each morning and just be still. I wondered if that’s what I needed to do this morning. So, I got out my little timer app on my iPad and closed my eyes and was still before God, simply saying, “I’m here, God. I’m troubled, but You are my Peace”, then I was quiet. As I sat listening, pretty soon a thought bubbled up in my mind – a tiny thought, a subtle suggestion of a deeper concern that had drifted my way the day before that I’d forgotten. I realized that my intuition had picked up on a cue and had tucked it away, but was gnawing at me until I paid attention. When I finally stilled myself and listened and paid attention to what the Holy Spirit had brought to my attention the day before, I took a breath, thanking God for showing me what I needed to do. I felt at peace once again. Yes, there’s work to be done – in this case, a difficult conversation – but, what a relief to not have a unnamed cloud over me!

I believe our culture is often deprived of silence, I crave silence, contemplation, and solitude – I’m drawn to it.  It might not come naturally for you, but I’d recommend giving it a try.  I think it’s wonderful that God speaks to each of us in ways that we can hear. The way you connect with God might look different in different seasons of your life, too. In the comments below, tell me about the ways you listen to God…

Lori Neff is the senior producer for the award-winning national radio program, Midday Connection. Lori grew up in a small town in Ohio, spending more time outside in nature than inside. She is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute. Her interests include art (looking at it and creating it), music, literature, humanitarian aid efforts, cooking, gardening, coffee, traveling, thinking, learning and spending time with her husband, John.

To learn more about Lori and read her blog, please visit visit her website.

Guest blog: Desperate or Dangerous?

While I was writing the book, Culture Rebel, God spoke this sentence to me: “You are not called to be desperate, you’re called to be dangerous”.  From that moment, I started to write for specific “desperate women”.

The Desperate Housewife

Television and mass marketing seek to tell us what we should do, what we should believe and who we should be.  Desperate Housewives has created a whole new culture of middle-aged women, married or not.  We don’t need to be adulterous to be included in this group.   The media has sold us a message that in order for us to feel significant all we need is the perfect body (even after four kids), a beautiful home, a room size wardrobe with all the latest fashions, grey-free hair, and the ability to still turn heads while walking down the street.  Alas, it’s hard to live in a world where Jennifer Lopez and Eva Longoria set the standard for middle aged women.

The Desperate Woman at Home

In my writings and speaking about culture-rebellion, I have run into numerous desperate women in this category.   Women who long to make a significant contribution to the kingdom of God, but have bought into the lie of “go big or go home”.  They don’t feel they’re doing anything “important” like solving hunger in Africa or human trafficking in Thailand.  They’ve been told to “dream big” and to “change the world” which has left them sitting in their kitchen clutching their coffee bewildered about what that could possibly mean for them.  They think to themselves, “Maybe God only uses special people, not ordinary people like me”.

The Desperate Disciple

I relate to both the above desperate women.  I was a desperate housewife trying to find fulfillment in visits to the mall.  I found trying to attain the standard society placed on me over-promised and under-delivered.  I had no purpose beyond my next hair appointment.  Once my dissatisfaction turned to rebellion, I became overwhelmed with the concept, “What can my ordinary life offer?”  Then Jesus wrecked me.  He told me to lose my life which not only included my self-absorbed cravings, but also my insecurities and measurements of success.  He was calling me to a dangerous gospel that asked for every ounce of me.

You are not called to be desperate, you’re called to be dangerous for His kingdom.  Embrace a gospel that’s dangerous.  Dangerous will look good on you.

(You can hear our recent program with Connie on the Midday Connection website.)

Connie JakabConnie Jakab is the author of the blog, Culture Rebel, which is also be her first book title released in 2012.  Connie is passionate about rebelling against status quo living and encouraging others to branch out.  The founder of WILD (women impacting lives daily) as well as Mpact (www.mpactdance.com), a dance company that produces shows based on social justice issues, Connie drives her passion outward into the arms of those wanting something more radical and meaningful in life. Connie is an active speaker and worship leader, and lives with her husband and two boys in Calgary, Alberta Canada. For more information, please visit her blog.

Midday blog: Our Privilege

Voting is a serious activity. We spend months, leading up to any election, hearing about the issues and debating the stands of various political opponents. We are so used to the political process in our country that sometimes we forget the price paid for such an opportunity.

A few weeks ago an online “friend” forwarded me a lengthy email with the subject line ‘Women’s Right to Vote’. I usually delete these kinds of forwards, but for whatever reason I opened it and started to cursor my way down through the pictures and captions it contained.  There were photos of women picketing, holding signs reading, “President Wilson how long do you advise us to wait?” and “Wilson against Women”. This looked like a typical peaceful picketing scene you might see today, but as the pictures continued, it was a reminder that women paid a high price for the right to vote which was finally granted in 1920. During one of the non-violent picketing times, 40 prison guards wielding clubs and their warden’s blessing went on a rampage against a group of women wrongly convicted of ‘obstructing sidewalk traffic.’ By the end of the evening these women, who had been beaten, were barely alive.

We’re familiar with the name Susan B. Anthony, but how about Lucy Burns. She was left in her cell, her hands chained to the cell bars above her head where she was left hanging for the night, bleeding and gasping for air. Dora Lewis was hurled into an iron bed in a cell where she was knocked out cold. Her cellmate, Alice Cosu, thought Lewis was dead and suffered a heart attack. For weeks these imprisoned women’s water came only by way of an open pail. Their food, a colorless slop, was infested with worms.  Some of the treatment given these women is unspeakeable, but it serves as a difficult yet important reminder.

Sometimes we feel going to the polls is inconvenient, it seems more obligation than privilege. The truth is that we stand on the shoulder’s of women who paid a high price so that we can exercise the right to vote.  Think of them as you walk into the voting booth this year and cast your ballot.

Anita LustreaAnita Lustrea is a graduate of Moody Bible Institute and has worked for Moody Radio since 1984. She is a sought-after conference and retreat speaker and loves to connect with Midday Connection listeners face-to-face. Anita lives in the Chicago suburbs with her husband, Mike, and her son, John. To learn more about Anita, her speaking schedule and her blog, please visit her website.

Listener blog: Does Everything Really Happen for a Reason?

My journey, spiritually, started with a fundamentalist upbringing, moved to an Evangelical / post-conservative theological formal training, and then toward “the mysteries” (i.e. mystic tendencies). What brought me there? Tremendous pain. Living in “the mysteries” means that I don’t think of suffering as a problem, sorrow as un-wellness, or bouts of profound unhappiness as a sign of too little faith. Most of the biblical characters were indeed tortured souls, and it’s a modern construct to think that the life of faith has a “Sunshine Mountain” feel to it.

In the throes of abuse, or the death of a child, or a tragic accident many may tell you, “Everything happens for a reason.” Or, “All things work together for good…”

Rubbish.

Scripture mustn’t be cherry-picked for sound bites of sympathy. The whole counsel of God runs as a full narrative of suffering and grace with no easy answers or inoculations of pain.

Our notions of “reasons” are often so pale and flimsy, too. Much pain has no good explanations and will not. Evil and suffering defy reason. They are unreasonable, and the why questions linger.

When our doubts aren’t shelved long enough to work fully through the wallops of suffering we see two common ways of coping:

1. Trying to believe what is horrible or evil has an adequate redemptive reason that will come to good, eventually.

2. Watching our hope and faith to erode or dissolve as pain becomes unexplainable.

But there is a third option.

It is “the way of the mysteries”. And it’s not a cop out.

It’s a perspective that does not shun hardship or revel in it, but rather uses the pain to refine and make us wiser. Instead we must sit amid our own pain, or with others in theirs. It’s uncomfortable and dark. Sometimes horrid. Yet, with the permission to hurt we are sent toward wellness. Sorrow is potent but it doesn’t get the final word. In the enigmatic process of living well and deeply we become like oaks of maturity and grace.

Lisa Colón DeLay lives with her husband, her daughter, and her son who has special needs, in rural Pennsylvania. She writes, blogs, and works as a communications consultant and graphic designer. Lisa earned a BFA in Communication Design and a Masters of Arts in Religion with a concentration in Spiritual Formation from Evangelical Seminary in Myerstown, PA.  To learn more, you can visit her blog.

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