The First 50 Years

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With every sun’s rising, surprise us with Your love,
satisfy us with Your kindness.
Then we will sing with joy and celebrate every day we are alive. –Psalm 90:14

I turned 50 this past week.  (I know. You’d never guess it to look at me….) For the past 10 years, I’ve celebrated anniversaries of my 39th year.  This year, I ‘fessed up to my actual age.  I don’t fear aging–just kinda liked the shell-game of ‘how old am I’.

’50’ doesn’t mean much to me.  Except that I told my husband, “It just sounds so grown-up.  I guess I should act more grown-up now … But that’s probably not going to happen.”

One of the many things my mom taught me was that birthdays should be celebrated.  I don’t think she ever used words to convey that message–just the joy she exuded with every birthday.  She had ovarian cancer back in 1970, and she’s considered a medical miracle.  Ever since, she has celebrated ‘as long as people will let [her] celebrate.’  I love that she’s passed that idea down to me.  

None of us know how long we will live.  I’ve got long live-ers in my family.  Most of my immediate line have lived into their 90s.  However, with military life came realities of lives cut shorter than was natural.  I think of my husband’s best friend, Bob, who died in the first or second year of our marriage. His funeral initiated me into the gravity of military life.  Many others would follow through the years. Length of life comes with no guarantee.  However, regardless of how long or short our lives run, we can live them fully and without fear.  Which brings me back to my running theme for 2015:  the tree of life vs. the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  As I pass what very well could be the mid-point of my life, I want to continue to eat from the tree of life.  

With so much life behind me comes so much opportunity for shame and regret. How do we choose Life every day? How do we identify every day with Christ and not with shame? How do we oppose the shame–even when others tease without realizing the effect on us … on me…  I heard Nadia Bolz-Weber speak recently.  She distinguished between ‘shame’ and ‘guilt.’  She said something like, “Guilt is good.  We should feel guilty when we do something wrong or hurt another person.  Shame is an identity.”  I never want to identify myself or others with shame.  Shame is not nourishing.  Or life-giving.  Or joyful.  It sucks all the life and joy and sustenance out of us.

And shame makes it really hard to CELEBRATE ourselves!  

With living in the midst of my 51st year, I celebrate who God has made me.  I celebrate my best qualities.  I roll my eyes at some of my not-so-best-but-ever-diminishing qualities. I humbly accept the love and patience of my family and friends, and I offer them my love and patience in return.

We need each other to remind us of our best qualities and our amazing potential.  We need each other to fiercely stand with us when all we see are (and others remind us that they see also) our short-comings. 

Before I go and savor another piece of cake, let me encourage all of us to ask God for perspective on ourselves and our lives.  God can satisfy our need for love and kindness, and give us a reason to sing and celebrate.  Choose to believe the truth about yourself.  Choose to believe that God loves you.  That God treats you with kindness–even when others are unkind in our every day lives.  Find friends who will build you up and help you to discover your value and worth.  Life’s too short, whether it’s a few hours or a hundred years, to experience without grace.  So, I offer a toast of thanks for today, yesterday, and any days to come for all of us.

And now … cake!

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

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Mother’s Day: A Snapshot Of Reality

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My dear children, I feel the pains of birth upon me again, and I will continue in labor for you until the Anointed One is formed completely in you. –Galatians 4:19

If St. Paul can know what it’s like to birth and raise children from a spiritual standpoint, I think all of us can celebrate Mother’s Day without shame or regret.

Mother’s Day looks great in a greeting card.  But, real life rarely looks so functional and pretty.  A friend of mine and I privately came up with ‘honest’ Mother’s Day card sentiments.  Things like: “Happy Mother’s Day to my mom who taught me to feel so guilty in life.  My therapist thanks you!”  Or: “Thanks, Mom, for exemplifying a strong woman to me.  A woman of strong character and fashion sense.  It’s not every woman who can pull off a red flowered shower cap in a motel swimming pool.  My therapist thanks you!”

…DISCLAIMER…

NONE OF THE AFOREMENTIONED SENTIMENTS HAVE ANY BASIS IN MY OWN UPBRINGING.  

I LOVE YOU, MAMA!

And now, with my 3 adult (well, semi-adult) children, they give me some fodder for ‘honest’ sentiments.  My just-married daughter has multiple commitments today and my older son has finals that he has to study for, so I’m told we’ll celebrate later in the week.  But, my 19-year-old son will live in infamy for many years to come.  Here’s the conversation:

Son: I have to work on Mother’s Day.

Me: Seriously?!

Son: Yeah.  The restaurant expects a lot of people to come in with their moms to celebrate.

Me: REALLY? Huh! 

Son: (looks at me completely perplexed) Oh, did you want to do something?

*sigh*

Yes, Happy Mother’s Day to all who nurture, sacrifice, love, and give companionship to others.

I hope for those that feel the weight of this day, you will find comfort in this prayer I found online by Amy Young.  Often, churches overlook the many stories of the Bible’s women.  At least today, find yourself a hero in one of these women who understood whatever circumstances you walk in.  May you feel encouraged that God doesn’t overlook your story.

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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Non-Violence In A Violent World

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God speaking:  Eat freely from any and all trees in the garden; I only require that you abstain from eating the fruit of one tree—the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Beware: the day you eat the fruit of this tree, you will certainly die. –Genesis 2:16-17

I am a violent person.

I have violent thoughts and violent dreams.  I tend to have homicidal sleep-walking occurrences.  Which is one of several reasons we don’t have firearms in the house….

I have a warrior’s spirit, which served me well when I played on the high school tennis team.  In Phoenix with 100° or higher weather, I would deny myself water if I started to lose.  I played mind games with my own body–which led to mind games with my opponents when they would see me pass up water breaks.  Out of desperation (or dehydration), my body would submit to my mind and begin to make un-returnable shots for survival.

While I have never fought anyone physically, I have destroyed many with my words. In the fight-or-flight psychology, I’m a fighter. I fight to win. I rarely back down. You want me in your corner, because I will go to the mat for those I love. And I almost always win. Almost always.  I’ve honed my injustice/hypocrisy radar to near perfection, and my craft in shaming a hypocrite are alarmingly sadistic.

And I enjoy it.

How did I get this way?  I ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  Like everyone else, I chose the fruit that would put me in control of my own soul.  While some didn’t get the homicidal gene, even the ones who would prefer ‘flight’ over ‘fight’ have eaten of the tree that brings death to our souls.  Fleeing does not equate to a non-violent approach to life.  It just means that you may live in fear of being over-run by those of us who live homicidally … I mean … assertively ….

Over the last several months, I’ve thought about the world events that flood my newsfeed.  Boko Haram and ISIS still rear their ugly heads.  Israel/Palestine relations continue to devolve.  Ferguson and, most recently, Baltimore divide people’s passions.  In the midst of these discordant stories, I’ve felt torn in understanding the desire for justice (really, vengeance) and wanting to embrace a non-violent approach to conflicts.

How do we live out eating from the tree of life in the midst of so many who live by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil?  Because the people I see in history that held to the tree of life philosophy were crucified, assassinated, martyred.  How many of us are willing to die, accept rejection or even exile from those we consider friends for what we value?  How easy compromise seems in keeping everyone happy!  Yet, that compromise brings a slow death.

Death of integrity.

Death of soul.

Death of innocence.

Death of hope of a better way of living.

What I see in Jesus, many of the Hebrew prophets, Martin Luther King, Jr., Gandhi and all our peaceable heroes who died violently is an uncompromising spirit that embraced non-violence regardless of how others treated them.  They forsook the fruit from the tree of knowledge of good and evil in favor of letting the fruit from the tree of life sustain them–even in their own physical death.  And the life they struggled to actualize for the world, blossomed and grew exponentially because they would rather die than see the world continue to divide over selfish pursuits of who-is-in-charge-of-everyone-else.  They sought unity over power-systems, human dignity over winning, equal-standing over hoarding–hoarding wealth, knowledge, opportunity.

Over the years, I’ve mellowed and am learning the grace of humility. I think it’s a life-long lesson; because when I sense injustice, I feel the fighter in me rising.  While most of my verbal assaults take place in my head these days, I still regret how easy it is for me to ‘slice-and-dice’ a person’s soul.  In recent years, I’ve seen firsthand how a less defensive mode can defuse a tense situation.  When I go on the offense, relationships suffer and tensions escalate.  When I take a moment to breathe and deny my primary desire to win, relationships grow and each person feels respected and esteemed.  How much more does this way of treating people play in world events?

Would we rather have a hothead with a knee-jerk reaction in charge?  Because that’s mainly who we’re putting in office.

But I digress….

How much do I practice that skill on myself?  If I train myself to use words against me, how will I learn to do the opposite with others?

And there’s a big part of the problem.  The more I destroy my own value, the less likely I am to see others as valuable.  If I view myself as created in the image of God, I would be less likely to destroy God’s image in someone else. The hope, then, is that if others can see themselves as the image of God, perhaps they will not be so quick to use their power to savagely sacrifice others.  But it all starts with recognizing the image of God within us and loving that image.  Until then, we will continue only to hope for non-violent resolutions while perpetuating the violent cycle.

I wish I had more answers; but then I would struggle even more with arrogance.  I know I only have a small piece of the puzzle.  Together, we need to share our ideas of how to live free and victorious while humbly helping those who remain trapped in shame and anger from the circumstances of their lives.

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

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