Tag Archives: friendship

Question therapy

question mark
Image via Wikipedia

How many questions do you ask in the course of day?  Not internally, but out loud.

If I really allow myself to think it through, many parts of my day include questions.  What’s the best time of day to buy gas?  When will the sun go down? How much is that? Why are my children screaming in the other room?

But how often do we genuinely ask what’s on our mind?

I sat down one day with a lovely lady who wanted to get to know me better.  I also wanted to know her.  She began by expressing interest in what I’ve done in the past.  I found myself sharing.  As I shared, her intrigue grew, she asked another question.  Not prodding or in any way annoying, she genuinely wanted to know more about me.

When our time together had finished, she had learned much about me and I felt great, but I knew so little about her.  I didn’t ask the proper questions.  I didn’t ask much at all.  It made me wonder how she felt when we finished talking.

Now I sit in my home, near the most precious people in the world to me.  Have I asked them good questions today?  There’s an art to good questions.  They flow from our experiences without being predetermined.  One question ignites the next because of our genuine care and concern for others.

If my girls and my husband are to know how much I value them, I must ask questions.  The more I inquire, the better I’ll become at the art of question asking.  I’ve seen this within my home already.

This might make you think you’ll never get to share your stuff.  Maybe.  But so far, I’ve seen quite the opposite.  The better and more caring my questions become, the more they inspire questions from my children, just like my friend inspired me.

Let’s imagine this experience as life continues.  The more questions I ask, the better I get at asking questions.  The more my family shares, the better we know each other.  We become closer.  We understand each other more.  We converse on multiple topics without fear throughout our lives.

Now that’s how a family should work, don’t you think?

If this is something you struggle with, take the challenge with me today.  Make a plan to ask more questions than you answer.  At first it might be difficult, because you haven’t had much practice.  But in the same way we learn to walk and spit our watermelon seeds, we can do this.

My choice today:

Ask more questions than I answer. 

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You’re welcome, no really, you are

Image by alborzshawn via Flickr

We toss that expression out our mouths so fast.  Something happens, a kindness, a smile, allowing someone to pass us in the grocery line, and we say, “You’re welcome.”  But are they?

For some of us this is a skill, welcoming I mean.  I’ve known outrageously welcoming people.  One of my friends is so welcoming, she redesigned her home to make it more comfortable for others to visit.

I know people who greet you and smile and embrace each and every moment.  They are a blast to hang with.   It’s not like they hit servant mode or anything, they just make you feel good in their presence.  They invite people into their space regularly and enjoy it.

I want to be like them, but it doesn’t come easy.

For some people this is a natural skill, a spiritual gift possibly.  But all of us are designed to exist within a community.  We need it and want it, but don’t always know how to start.   I’m one of those non-natural starters, but that’s not going to deter me.  Don’t let it stop you either.

I want an open door attitude, in my house and in my heart.  The best way to start is to start.  Maybe I’m clunky and awkward, but hey, so was walking.  But now, I can prance down the street effortlessly.  This hospitality gig doesn’t have to intimidate.

I started learning how to welcome people.  While I don’t have it wired yet, I’m toddling better each day.  You can do it too.

Here’s what I’ve learned:

1.  Invite people over, even if it feels uncomfortable.  You’ll get over it.

2.  Understand that people decline invitations all the time, this isn’t a knock on you. A busy world creates busy people.

3.  Smile.  Whether the house is perfectly clean or the meal perfectly finished, smile.

4.  Remember the mantra, “If at first you don’t succeed,” a burnt meal is better than no meal at all, and Pizza Hut delivers.

5.  Be the welcome wagon. Don’t wait for invitations, you may end up just waiting.  Take initiative and risk opening your home.

The Bible gives us great examples of this which have stuck in my head, and it pulls me out of my lethargy when I’m tempted to shut the doors and hide in my abode.  You knew I was going to bring the Bible into this, didn’t you?

The apostle Paul welcomed people:

“For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him.” (Acts 28:30, NIV)

This is why he did it:

“We loved you so much that we shared with you not only God’s Good News but our own lives, too.”  (1 Thessalonians 2:8, NLT)

For those of us who struggle with a welcoming attitude, the question is clear.  Do we love enough to really share ourselves?

I say, “Discomfort be darned.  You are welcome, you really are.”

Want to live your life on death row?

Folsom Prison s520
Image by uvw916a via Flickr

Harsh right?  Why would anyone want to do this?  It does happen.

Imagine what it would look like.

Death row sentence

You know you’re guilty, though you fought it.  You don’t want anyone to view you in light of your guilt, but there it sits like the pink lawn flamingo in the Pasadena suburb.  You argue and rail at those who’ve accused you, in spite of your self-acknowledged guilt.  The sentence passes and you walk through the doors of the jail knowing you will not leave on your own two feet.

You have to survive and want to enjoy the moments you have.  You pick your place in society or its chosen for you.  Still, you must follow rules.  You must do everything you’re told or suffer instant consequences.  You attempt to forget the reason for your new housing status.

You tell yourself, it’s free room and board.  You decide orange is your color, and you’ve always wanted to wear flip-flops, every day.  You seek a sense of happiness in spite of the space.  You are king of your cubicle.

But you know death is near.  You hear it, see it, smell it and taste it.  In the back of your brain sits the knowledge that you lack control.  Fear finds a home in your heart, whether you let anyone in on the secret or not.

But what would you do if you knew pardon was an option?  A real option.

The pardon 

Would you want the pardon option?

Well, yeah.

You’d do whatever it took to secure that pardon, wouldn’t you.  You’d make calls, dream dreams, write letters, you’d probably put on an orange polka-dotted tutu and dance the Macarena in front of all the other prisoners, if you knew you could leave this dream abode.

What if you weren’t told about the pardon possibility?  Others knew, but didn’t tell you because you were so cool and kingly.  They refused to offer you the option because they feared you’d become angry at the offer.  Really.  People do that.

This is real

What if what I’m writing isn’t just an exercise in imagination?  What if this was your life or the life of someone you know?

It is.

You’re wondering how that’s possible, right? You never visited Folsom Prison, let alone death row.

Those of us who know Jesus live in the daily knowledge of His forgiveness and love.  We have received the pardon.  I’ve received it.  Hopefully, you have too.

Our death sentence became a life sentence because Jesus offered to take the electrocution Himself.  Think pictorially, I know He’d died on a cross, but that doesn’t happen much today and I thought I’d offer a more recent image.

Jesus said, “…I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” (John 10:10b)

I see you shaking your head saying, it isn’t the same as death row. Let me explain.

Sinful life= Death row

If you were unaware, the word “sin” means “to miss the mark”.  Think of Robin Hood with the arrow in that famous contest.  The arrow has to hit bulls-eye to land “on the mark”.  God hits the mark every time, He is sinless and perfect. 

No matter how far from center we land, if we miss the mark, we sin.  Let’s face it, we all miss the bulls-eye of life.  I miss it so often, it’s as if I’m shooting in the air and landing a mile away in some strangers car tire.  Sorry.

What happens to all of us who miss that center sweet spot?

The Bible puts it this way (not my words, the Bible):

“The wages of sin is death…”

That’s where the death row image comes into play.  The pay we receive for continually missing God’s mark is life on death row.  But He doesn’t leave us there to wallow in our issues.  The same verse finishes this way:

“….but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.”  Romans 6:23 

The pardon is available and it isn’t just for us.  The pardon is a gift.  Imagine, it’s sitting at the prison’s front gate.  You’ve been sent a note and the guards permit you to go and get this gift.  When you open it in all it’s beauty, you can leave and live the life God has for you.  Would you go?

I would and I did. 

Once free, it’s your responsibility to place that gift at the gate again and offer it to as many prisoners as you can, so that they too can secure freedom.  It’s easily the best gift they’ll ever receive, and you get the privilege of giving it.  Will you?

Are you currently the prisoner or the pardoned one?  What are you doing to secure your freedom or offer it to others?