Midday Connection

A safe place to process your story.

Archive for the month “April, 2014”

Guest blog: Embracing Community

Community is not a word that comes naturally to a Christian artist. It is for those who are the same, let me rephrase that, it was meant for normal non-artists. Artists of any kind balance ourselves in a place of in-between, most secular artists are not sure what to do with us, because we are not on the same search of what boundaries can we push and most Christians aren’t sure how to take us because of that boundary pushing stigma. So when Midday Connection asked me to lead a “community” through Lent a second time I was a bit unsure of what the outcome might look like.

Last year was my first real year to walk through Lent and what community could look like; it was raw, messy and honestly scary. I processed not just Christ’s death, but also my mother’s out in the open for all to see. I struggled with what I was going through and a few listeners were kind enough to join me on the journey. They poured into me as I poured everything I had out. Not one of them had ever met me in person, but they prayed for me, my family, they joined me during my sorrow – and for the first time I began to understand the idea of community and how I could use my art to help connect others together.

This year, I had hoped for the same, a small group who “got me and my conversations with God”. What I didn’t expect was for over 550 people from all over the world wanting to see how creativity could impact their daily time with God. They embraced their creativity and in turn were able to experience God in a new way as they themselves began to visually interpret their quiet time with God. This year my fear of being me, the creative being that God made me to be, was taken down a notch. I realized that when I finally allowed myself to be who God created me to be, a fully creative being, not only do I experience Him in new ways, but allow others to have the freedom to do the same.


Tamara PetersonTamara Peterson has her undergraduate degree from the University of North Texas in Communication Design, she has worked at Fossil, Fellowship Church and now freelances from home. Three years ago, she started a ministry called Safe Blankets that gives handmade quilts to children in crisis situations. Since that time they have given over 150 quilts to children in the Chicago area. Tamara has been teaching art and journaling classes for the past 2 years at women’s retreats, various small groups and even at her own studio. In that time she has taught almost 200 women this way of connecting with God and discovering themselves. She lives in Skokie, IL with her husband and son. For more information,  please visit her website .


Midday blog: Authentic Friendships, Part 2

Last month when I blogged, I focused on Authentic Friendships. You can read it here. This is part 2 of that important conversation.

Many of us have experienced betrayal in relationships. Some have even been abused or struggled with codependency issues. These things all color how we seek to develop and maintain close relationships, or whether we seek to develop them at all. When I was in Jr. High, I had a close friend betray me. After that deeply wounding event, I guarded my heart and wouldn’t let others in, especially other women. The year after I graduated college I had two women call me on it. I was traveling for a year with a singing group and there were only 3 men and 3 women in the group. The other two women confronted me and said, “If you won’t open up to us, first of all it’s going to be a long year, and secondly we don’t think God will work as deeply through us as he could.” I knew they were right. God used their loving confrontation to break me and begin opening my heart up to them, to Him, and others. I realized I was making them pay for something that happened in my past. In reality, I had been living with an open wound that had gotten infected and couldn’t heal.

I said in part 1 of Authentic Friendships that going deeper takes risk. It is much less risky if you know how important it is to link up with safe people. Henry Cloud and John Townsend are well known for their book Boundaries, which I highly recommend. Before they wrote that, they penned a book that greatly helped me called Safe People. They emphasize how crucial it is to be in relationships with safe people. It will help eliminate some drama in your life.

Here are the 3 characteristics of safe people:
1. A safe person will always lead you closer to Christ.
2. A safe person will always lead you closer to others. They will not isolate you and keep you to themselves.
3. A safe person will always draw you closer to your authentic self. They will see the gem you really are and help you move toward becoming all God created you to be as they encourage the development of the gifts they see in you.

There is one more crucial piece to the ‘safe people’ puzzle. I’ve shared this important equation with people for years and still had people come to me and say I make sure people in my life have these 3 characteristics and I still can’t maintain friendships. I started to notice something in common with those who had this experience and I realized something important. We have to run ourselves through the safe people grid. If we don’t possess the safe people characteristics, we cannot hope to find and retain quality friends with whom we can be authentic.

How’s your people picker? Has it been broken in the past? Do you think the Safe People characteristics can help?

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.

Midday blog: Terms of Identity

Those close to me know that I have an appreciation for terms of endearment (the words, not the movie… ha!) and there are special meanings for these terms associated with those in my inner circles.

Some use the term “bro” for someone they work with, their group of buddies, or maybe to any random person. I only use it for my three brothers (two of whom are non-biological brothers). One of my cousins and I refer to each other as “Cousin” as if by name:
“Hey, Cousin. Wanna grab a bite to eat tonight?”
“Sure, Cousin. What time do you wanna meet up?”

My brother and sister-in-law and younger cousins call me “Kuya,” which in Filipino is a title given to an older sibling or relative. To my nieces and nephews, I am “Tito Mark” or “Uncle Mark” — and some of them are not blood-related. This also include the kids of close friends with whom I grew up and still regularly keep in touch.

These are just a few reminders of special relationships in my life. When any of them call me, email me, or even send a text message, and they call me by that unique “term,” I get that special link of identity that affirms the bond I have with that person. There are times when they use my “real name” and, being used to hearing the other name, it somehow sounds strange!

One of my co-workers refers to her closest girlfriends as her sisters. Many have different names for grandparents. Then there are the current colloquialisms, “BFFs” or “besties.” My sister-in-law’s siblings occasionally call their mother Sandra, “San,” sometimes meant in jest, but truly a demonstration of love.

What special identity markers do you have with those who know you best? And what does it mean to you?


Mark BretaMark Breta is a radio producer/announcer, musician and foodie. He has been with Moody Radio since 2007 and has worked with many of its programs. Mark currently works with Midday Connection and Treasured Truth. He has led worship at conferences and events, and more recently, at Chicago area churches in Arlington Heights and Oak Park.  You can follow Mark at his website.

Midday blog: Dark Cloud on the Horizon

I received some unexpected news recently that got my world spinning. I’ve talked in the past on Midday Connection (and this blog) about my struggles with depression…well, this news brought back the invitation to the familiar and comfortable black pit. I could feel myself slipping right back into that known place and feeling right at home. I felt tired and depleted and I wanted to just ease into the dark clouds, numb out, and not fight it.

Sitting on the train, looking out the window, I felt the dark shadow wanting to take me over.  Honestly, I wanted to settle into a dark melancholy.  I did.  It felt like it would be a safe, warm, dark room that I could hide in for a bit.

I recently attended a seminar and the speaker said that self-awareness is 90% of the healing/recovery process.  That has stayed with me in a profound way.  In the past, when I felt the melancholy approach, I just sank into it and hung on for the ride – feeling that I didn’t have a choice about it at all.  But, once I became aware of this shadow in my life, I realized that I do have a choice.  I refuse to deny my feelings of sadness and disappointment and shock…but that doesn’t mean I need to settle into a dark place.

I sat in my gloom and realized that I know where that familiar dark spiral goes.  I needed to remember that I’ve gone down that path before and that old way of handling my sadness just doesn’t work for me anymore, though it may feel familiar.  God has shown me better and healthier coping mechanisms.  It took (and is still taking) much effort to keep reminding myself of where I’ve been and that I don’t want or need to go back to that pit.

I’m pretty surprised that awareness and mental reminders are helping me greatly!  Thanks be to God!

How about you?  Do some of the ways that you’ve dealt with stress, sadness, other issues still work?  Or, is God showing you a new way?

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.

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