Author: <span class="vcard">Debby Hudson</span>

Photo by Diana Deaver on Unsplash

 

“There’s a lot of difference between listening and hearing.”
G.K. Chesterton
A few years ago I got a referral to a hair salon and got lucky with a stylist who dumbs it all down for me. She also gets my irrational fear of getting a haircut that will make me look like a 14-year old boy. I’ve told her about my nightmares that getting bangs cut. Maybe I’m a little obsessed with my hair?
Within a few days after each salon visit, I get an email asking me to rate the salon. I like speaking up when things are good so I’ve given several 5-star reviews. But, a few months ago I’d had to wait an extended period for my confirmed appointment. This is highly unusual for this salon that follows a structured schedule. It also came on a day I had another appointment making me feel anxious about feeling rushed.
When the review request came I was honest. I raved about the stylist abilities but expressed dissatisfaction with having to wait so long for my scheduled appointment.
The following week, I received a call from the manager at the salon. She was clearly apologetic and explained the predicament my stylist was in from the new client she had in her chair that day. The manager didn’t offer me a discount or free products but she listened. I felt like I was heard.
Being heard is often all we want.
We especially want to be heard by God. When we pray we want to know He hears.
There are times, however, when it feels like God doesn’t hear us. There are prayers that seem to go unanswered. Some we’ve prayed for years. I may have even silently screamed “Listen to me!” to God a few hundred times.
The Psalmist words in Psalm 94 give me a strange comfort as he pleas for God to hear him. Four times he asks “how long, O Lord?” (Psalm 94) Even the writer of scripture felt God wasn’t listening.
When we’re heard we sense our words, thoughts, and opinions are valued. When it feels like no one is listening we feel insignificant. When we feel valued we feel like we are cared for. We feel like we matter.
We do matter to God. Yet, there are times he makes us wait. He doesn’t give in to our fussy crying like we might give in to a toddler throwing a tantrum.
It’s times like this when the only comfort I can find is that God is with me.
Like the manager of the salon, God isn’t offering me free products or a discount. He’s telling me what I want most, that he cares.
He hears me. He values me. I am loved.
“And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 NLT

faith

 

God’s purpose for your life will always be connected to people.

We think our purpose is about the big thing. The job. The calling. The degree.

The big thing is people. All people. Our purpose is to love them. All people. It’s not easy. It’s not easy to love the men hanging around the gas station with his hand out for spare change.

It’s not easy loving the man who boasts about having several children but hasn’t seen them in years.

The pastor who falls from grace, the father who didn’t love you, the noisy neighbor or the quiet neighbor with noisy dogs.

People aren’t easy to love. We’re a mess. But we are why Jesus came. We are why He died and rose again. People were his mission. We are God’s purpose.

When we’re arguing over 2nd Amendment rights and Roe V Wade may we not forget that our purpose isn’t to shout louder than the other side. It isn’t to take our toys and go away mad. To be connected to people we must be present. We must listen with our hearts as much as our ears. Because that is God’s purpose for all who say they’re his followers.

How does this look in your life?

What’s your biggest challenge in connecting to people?

 

The above image and others are available as free downloads on Unsplash.

faith photography

Our limits tell us important things about ourselves.

They help us draw lines for margin.

They pave the way for vulnerability.

They show us what we aren’t able to do and that

can be just as important as what we are able to do.

Emily Freeman

I had tech issue I needed help resolving. Whenever I’ve taken my Mac into Apple I’ve usually felt exposed. This time was no different.

The problem was with some software. Gus, the tech support guy, asked where the program was on my laptop. Where? Uh…I don’t know. Found out again!

I went to my default answer which is “I just know how to make things look pretty. I don’t know how it works.” (Big smile to tech people)

The thing is, I learned something. I’m a little bit smarter about how this program works and in not installing updates so quickly.

Limitations are frustrating. Sometimes humiliating. These words from Emily remind us of the opportunity for growth they present. And growth is rarely without discomfort.

How have your limitations helped you be vulnerable?

What have you learned about yourself from your limitations?

 

The above photo is available as a free download from me for you on Unsplash.

hope photography

 

We grow where we’re loved.- Bob Goff

We are away at a conference this week so I thought it might be a good time to share some quotes, photographs, and small bites of words from me.

I think I’ve established that I don’t have a green thumb. Any plant that survives with us does so on its own. I appreciate having nature around me but I tend to ignore it. I can’t say I love the plants. But, I don’t think my lack of love is what causes their doom.

In our work with men struggling through life, we’ve seen the effects of people living but not being loved. Some have felt the physical impact of abuse. More experienced abuse from words, and a general lack of attention and nurturing. Their emotional growth was stifled. Some are wary that anyone could care without ulterior motives. Some have perfected the art of numbing.

We know that premature babies benefit from being held. Some hospitals have volunteers that come and rock the babies because they need to be held more than one person can provide Being held in a loving embrace provides something that can’t be measured in a study or on a scale.

It doesn’t just work for babies. Human touch makes a positive difference.

We live in an age where hugs aren’t always acceptable. There are boundaries we need to recognize. Not everyone welcomes a hug. But a gentle hand on a shoulder or even a fist bump provides a human connection that, I believe, communicates caring.

Reaching out takes little effort and gives so much. Goff’s words are true. We grow where we are loved.

 

The photographs I’m including are available free to download from my little space on Unsplash. This link will take you to my collection of images. 

 

faith photography

There are two songs competing in my head:

Please, release me let me go

VS

I will not let you go

The first song is one I remember from, I think, one of those old K-Tell commercials advertising records (if you remember those). Those are the only words I know from the country song.

The other lyrics are from a song very familiar to me. Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody seems to have garnered a popularity that extends far beyond it’s 70’s release. There are two voices singing in a tug-of-war. One pleading to be let go and the other defiantly proclaiming he will not let go.

It’s a familiar internal battle. Anger at the silliest of things, things I can’t change or control, mount in my head. Somewhere in the distant corners of my mind are soothing words saying “release and let it go“. Often those sage words can’t be heard over my pride until I’m nearly undone.

I get ridiculously peeved at the morning traffic. Or at the traffic lights! Frustration over internal bureaucracy seems more justified but, again, my ire will not change what is.

And so the duel goes, day after day until I can sit in calm and give rational thought to my actions.

Losing my cool over congested traffic is not useful nor helpful. I need to follow the words of the first song and practice releasing and letting go.

Things that seem unjust or without merit are harder. Letting go isn’t always the answer but neither is letting them get to me in ways that cause me to lash out in angry words. I need to find a way to use my voice in helpful ways to create beneficial change. Or at least contribute to the conversation.

I’m not a quiet kind of person. For some crazy reason, I think my opinion matters. The key is to release my words with grace. And then to let them go with equal amounts of grace. If I can do that, the anger and frustration will also be released. And that’s what I really want to let go.

Five-Minute Friday grace

I’ve never been a bird person. The thought of one perching on my arms makes me cringe. And worse, I don’t like them flying low overhead as some of the gulls do at the beach. They are so accustomed to people they will swoop low hoping for a french fry or Frito.

The parrots are the colorful ones. They wear their striking colors well on their large frame. On occasion, we’ll see someone walking along the beach with one on their arm or handle of the stroller. Most often, however, we see them in the aviary at the zoo.

The aviary is filled with other colorful variety of birds: parakeets, like we had when I was a kid and lorikeets, are the most popular in the aviary.

wild parrots in sea grape tree

It’s the wild parrots I’ve come to love. I don’t know their proper name. I call them wild because they fly over our backyard and all of Ft. Lauderdale. You can hear them before you see them. Their green color blends in with the trees making them invisible. It’s only their squawking that gives up their location.

They are the ordinary ones.  One looks just like the next plain green one. Not one of them stands out from the others. They sound alike and look alike.

Yet, for some reason, when these noisy birds do a flyover, I smile.  My eyes immediately scan the sky looking for their direction. Even against a bright blue sky, you can make out their green form. I’m never quick enough to snap a photo so I keep it in my mind’s eye.

This is where I’m seeing God: in the ordinary and the plain.

It’s easy to see God in the extraordinary. It’s where we look first. We call them miracles and we can get so busy looking for them that we forget He’s in the every day too.

I see God when kindness is shown in a simple thank-you. I see him when people work together rather than against. God is in the hugs after Sunday church and the text from a friend.

Like the wild parrots who blend in with the scenery, I sometimes miss God’s gentleness. I’m waiting for the big show. But God isn’t a big show kind of being. He chooses the forgotten. He sits with the broken. God listens to the old.

He is all around us and everywhere. God’s not noisy like the parrots but if you’re listening and looking you will see him.

Where do you see God today?

faith

 

 

 

 

The best part of our ministry with men seeking to change their lives is sharing with them this upside down theology of Christ. It’s explaining why a day described in movies and art as violent and bloody and is called Good.

We take them through Holy Week observing the Last Supper, participating in a prayer Labyrinth and giving them an opportunity to nail their pain to the cross. All of this we do in the knowledge that we are Easter people.

Good Friday is not celebrated with dancing and cheers but with tears and lament. We know Sunday is coming. We know that rejoicing lays ahead.

But today. let’s remember the sacrifice made for us. Let’s remember how bad is made good.

 

faith hope Music

Photo by Redd Angelo on Unsplash
“I believed in God but I never believed he believed in me.”
Richard shared those words in our Sunday chapel. It’s easier to share with others who are part of our Fellowship of the Broken. I’m sure they are feelings held by many in the room. Broken by addictions, grief, loss of direction and purpose these men are empty. They’ve left a wake of hurt and anger. Promises have been broken – again. Lies were the currency they dealt in.
Who would believe in them? Surely God is in line with others who’ve turned their back after being hurt one too many times.
The account of Jesus calling the disciples is simply amazing.
     “Come, follow me,” Jesus said, “and I will send you out to fish for people.”  At once they left their nets and followed him. Matthew 4:19-20 NIV
 
     “Follow me,” he told him, and Matthew got up and followed him. Matthew 9:9
 
Who does that?
Who drops what they were doing and follows someone they don’t know?
Was it really that simple? 
Didn’t their mama’s teach them not to go with strangers?
I want more background.
 
Why would Jesus call these seemingly random men? Why does he call us?
 
 
The first will be last and the last first.
He challenged the religious leaders and kept company with the sinners.
He broke Jewish law and went against culture on many occasions.
 
If there was ever someone to always choose the underdog it was Jesus. And just to be clear, we’re the underdogs He’s chosen.
 
It’s never about what we can do for Jesus but what he does for us. 
 
*Years of addiction have been turned to service in ordained ministry.
*A man who couldn’t carry a tune could beat the drum and welcome others to church.
*A retired insurance salesman with a smile as big as his voice learned all the names of the children in the church they attended a few months out of the year.
*The couple who don’t say much say it all in their actions of service.
*The thief on the cross.
*The woman caught in adultery.
*Me.
*You.
Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me.

faith grace

Tornadoes have struck. They have become the announcement of spring.

Those living in cold climates are ready to pull out of the frost and ice. They have been waiting for the season that promises signs of new life: trees in bud, flowers poking up through the warmed soil, new life. Even baby chicks and bunnies have associated themselves as symbols of spring too.
But spring doesn’t come gently. New life never does. It comes with a struggle. Thunder booms through the angry clouds and winds swirl with fierce destruction. For many, that’s the announcement of this gentle season.
It’s like old ways giving up to new. Often, the old must be pushed out. It wants to hang on. One more winter storm. But it’s time. It’s time for a new season. There is conflict as one strengthens its grip and the new starts to make its way.
As giving birth is met with labor so is the birth of new seasons and new ways.
Pain shot through my back and nothing could make them go away. It was my body preparing to usher out what had been a part of me for nine months. The beauty of our firstborn didn’t come without struggle.
It was different with our second. Where before there had been pain this time it was only a heaviness. Our son was pushing down and I had to know the signs to accommodate his birth.
Change doesn’t always happen the same way. New life and new seasons don’t come without effort.
Students in our area are trying to effect political change hoping to make schools safer. It’s met with strong opposition and criticism.
Men we work with are trying to change their lives and discovering it’s not easy. It’s more than not drinking or using. It’s a work that has to start deep within sometimes bringing forth storms before seeing new growth.
Our area of South Florida doesn’t have seasons. If there are signs of spring here they are too subtle to make note of. But I dread the tornadoes that will strike throughout the south this time of year. It seems too high a price to pay for the gentleness we associate with spring.
Birth always means labor. Change often comes with a fight.
The less familiar second part of the Serenity Prayer reminds us acceptance is the answer. Not an easy answer but the pathway to peace provided by the Prince of Peace.

Living one day at a time;

enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.
 – Reinhold Niebuhr
Where is the new trying to break through in your life?
Do you recognize acceptance as the pathway to peace?

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faith Peace

photo by dhudson_creative on Unsplash

On one of our cross-country road trips, we ended up on a red dirt road in nowhere Arizona without a sign in sight. Why would there be a road sign when what we were driving on barely qualified as a road?

Our children were young. It was long before GPS or cell-phones. As we drove slowly on this very rocky road, hoping to see some sign of civilization my mind was going through possibilities. Since our trip was taking us from South Florida to Washington State we’d taken a large cooler to economize on snacks and stops. The thing that kept me from panic mode was the thought that if we had to spend the night in our minivan in this deserted place we would have water. If we had water, we’d be okay.
Most of us have been on this kind of road in a figurative sense. Life brings unexpected detours. The signposts seem to have disappeared. It’s a dry and lonely place.  On the outside, things appear normal. We keep showing up and going through the motions while inside we’re blinking back tears and looking for a flicker of hope. This isn’t where we want to be. We’re screaming for a way out and out now!
 
He prepares a table for me in the midst of the wilderness.
I’d written these words down without a reference. I thought it was a Message paraphrase from the Psalms but all my searching with BibleGateway and Google yielded nothing from the Bible. It could easily be a reference to God’s provision to the Israelites when they were in the desert. Faced with a long, hard journey, with nothing but the unknown, God met their needs. He met them in the wilderness with food, a table right there in the midst of the wilderness.
Nothing feels as if it’s enough when you’re hurting. You ask for prayers and do your best to believe in its power but how long, o Lord, how long must I plead with you? Don’t you hear me? Are you listening? We know the aches of the heart. We know the soft places where hard words have struck.
In the midst of this wilderness, He prepares a table. A table of friends….a table of grace. It’s not the answer we want but somewhere we have to trust He is giving us what we need today. Tomorrow he will provide for us again. And the next day and the next. It often won’t feel like enough but don’t give up hope. Gather up your friends, keep moving forward and know that God cares.
On that Arizona road, the only way out was to keep driving. We’d gone too far to turn back. We had to keep going forward so we continued on this rocky road with hope it would lead us out of the wilderness and back to life. We made it because we weren’t alone. Even in silence, our hope was greater when shared together.

faith hope