Life’s Love Letters

Standard

I am deep in the throes of planning for my daughter’s wedding in April.  So, I will be less-than consistent with my blog each week (did you miss me last week when I didn’t post?).  I will post when I’m inspired, but am giving myself freedom to take a break when wedding details overwhelm me.

But now faith, hope, and love remain; these three virtues must characterize our lives. The greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13:13

Valentine’s Day has come and gone again.  I’m not big on celebrating it–not because I’m against love or fun or chocolate; but because it just doesn’t hold any significance for me.  I never really dated before I met Jud, and our ‘dating’ life involved long-distance communication for most of the year and a half before we got married.  I still remember our phone ‘dates.’  We would both order the same pizza (pepperoni and pineapple) and talk on the phone for hours.  That was back in the day when you actually had to pay for the long-distance minutes you used.  I think we topped out at $650 one month. I nearly choked when my dad showed me the bill and told me I needed to pay it within the week….  But, with our anniversary in January and the holidays so close to that event, Valentine’s just seemed like too much work.

However, this year, I started getting really excited for Valentine’s Day–or at least the post-Valentine’s-chocolate sales.  With our daughter’s wedding in April, I need to amass some pretty chocolate hearts wrapped in pretty red or purple foil for some gift bags.  This week, they will all be on sale!  And I like the idea of not having to pay full-price for anything wedding-related these days!  As I’ve scoured some of the ads to try to find good deals throughout the city, I have thought about love in our lives.

As I’ve said, Jud and I had a mostly long-distance relationship before we got married.  A week after we started dating, the military, in all it’s wisdom, transferred Jud from Arizona to New Mexico.  We still have all the snail-mail letters we wrote during that time, since the internet didn’t exist.  Someday, our kids will find the boxes that hold those cards, letters, cassette tapes and drawings and see how our relationship developed.  But those items only hold the beginning of our love story.  Most romantic comedies confuse romance with love, and then they end at the beginning of love.  Ah, those beautiful times when love is new.  The grass has forsaken the winter snow and hibernation and has become green again.  The trees are brimming with birds singing and new leaves unfolding.  Can we take a moment to deeply sigh longingly in the romance of young love?

Okay, that’s enough.

The reality that those of us who have lived-longer-than-our-teens know is that love encompasses so much more than the shallow depths of its newness.  Love grows to depths we couldn’t imagine in the beginning–and would completely scare us off if we knew the ugly paths we’d have to traverse to strengthen love for one another.  We find an everlasting beauty and depth of love in our scars–the times others had to help us, and the times we had to shore up our own strength to help another.  I think of the parent who tries to talk a child off a literal ledge to (hopefully) save the child’s life.  The spouse who takes care of a dying partner.  The woman who courageously chooses to leave an abusive relationship, rather than have her daughter grow up thinking that love destroys the body, mind and soul.  The man who embodies integrity, kindness, gentleness when he’s at his best, and humility when he fails.  The couple who weather the decades of life-issues, children-issues, health-issues, job-issues and allow those circumstances to grow them up individually and bond them collectively.

If you’re in love’s newness stage, enjoy every heart-soaring, heart-breaking minute of it.  If you’re well-rooted in love, enjoy every heart-soaring, heart-breaking minute of it.  If you express your love for others as a single, enjoy every heart-soaring, heart-breaking minute of it.  If you have lost a loved one, remember the heart-soaring, heart-breaking times, and let the remembrance of deep love accompany you in your grief and allow your heart to heal, in its time.

Too much of the news fills us with the knowledge of evil, injustice, dream-squashing in this world of ours.  It’s easy to forget that God’s image in us makes us capable of brilliant acts of courage:  staring down the powerful when they forget the breaking backs upon whom they stand, gently caring for the orphans and diseased, tirelessly teaching the challenged ones who are often overlooked.  Those who vulnerably open their hearts to receive the pain and fear of others to show that God’s love really can bring hope to mirthless places and rekindle faith that God has not forgotten us.  Those are love letters we all need to find!  Those are love letters we need to live!

I welcome comments!  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Celebrating Life!

Standard

So since we stand surrounded by all those who have gone before, an enormous cloud of witnesses, let us drop every extra weight, every sin that clings to us and slackens our pace, and let us run with endurance the long race set before us. –Hebrews 12:1 (The Voice version)

I’m not there yet, nor have I become perfect; but I am charging on to gain anything and everything the Anointed One, Jesus, has in store for me—and nothing will stand in my way because He has grabbed me and won’t let me go. –Philippians 3:12 (The Voice version)

This past week, I went to the funeral of one of my mom’s dearest friends.  I used to babysit for him and his wife before they moved out of the Phoenix area.  While my mom kept up with them–through fairly consistent weekly phone calls with his wife–I only heard bits and pieces of news from my mom through the years.  Missions trips, marriages, birth of a baby for the now-grown children; and retirement, travel and spiritual epiphanies for her friends.  Traveling to the funeral, memories from childhood to adolescence flooded my heart.

Funerals gather an interesting assortment of people–people who knew the person from all aspects of his life.  My mom’s friends had started attending a church with Messianic influences several years ago (I don’t know if it’s an official ‘Messianic Jewish’ congregation or not).  They had studied Hebrew and travelled to Israel.  I didn’t know them in this context.  As photos of them and their family scrolled on an overhead, I didn’t recognize the later pictures of their life.  Then, the earlier pictures repeated.  Ah, there was the man I knew.  There were the kids I remembered.  There was his wife whose laugh always sounded so musical.  There was the family I went to the drive-in with during a rainstorm and ate popcorn while watching The Cat From Outer Space.

As people told stories of his influence in their lives, almost all of them (except for his children’s stories) came from people who only knew him in recent years.  They described a man who sounded bigger than life.  A great man.  An encouraging man.  A giving  and selfless man.  His daughter finally spoke and reminded everyone that he was human–with faults and insecurities.

That was the man I knew:  the human one.  Not that he wasn’t a great guy when I knew him; but he hadn’t yet matured into the man these people knew.  He still had edges that needed softening.  His God-given gifts needed some humility and training.  His life in Christ was new and uncultivated.  I recognized a piece of the man his friends described–his best qualities had been well-seasoned with humility over the years.

I thought of another death of a family friend from long ago.  I remember my mom and dad talking about his funeral.  I knew him from a child’s perspective and loved him.  He asked my mom if she would call me ‘Maggie.’  (‘No’ was the answer.  I had to wait until I moved out of the house to take on that nickname.  Another story for another time…)  He was loud, funny and wore bow ties.  At his funeral, his first wife came and said, “You all act like you really liked him.”  She knew him as an unkind alcoholic.  We knew the person he became, and he looked precious little like his former self.

I reflected that night on the conversation my parents had about their other friend’s death, and the conversations I had with family and friends at this recent funeral.  I knew the man he was becoming.  His friends from later years knew the man he became.  I got to see some of the hard-work-of-his-soul.  They experienced the fruit of his journey with Christ.  Together, our memories contained a fullness of his total person.  I began to feel so much joy from the knowledge that he continued to mature and didn’t stay static–even though in my mind he remained a young father.  That joy overflowed through my being as I realized we all have the opportunity to change.  No season of our lives, no event in our lives, no person in our lives has to define our identity.  We can grow.  We can change.  We can become our best selves.  In my belief system, we need the presence of God and the Holy Spirit to develop that identity and constantly revise our thinking to become more like Christ.  We need God to remind us what His image looks like and that all of us carry His imprint. I appreciate the reminder to once again celebrate the people we once were, the people we are now, and the people God has yet to reveal in us.

I grieve my mom’s loss of a friend, his wife’s loss of her beloved husband, his children’s loss of their honored father, his community’s loss of his wisdom and generous spirit.  I rejoice that he now stands with the cloud of witnesses, having run his race well.  I pray we can all live our lives in similar fashion–with integrity, humility, wonder, and reverence–leaving a legacy worthy of celebration!

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Living Christmas All Year

Standard

Jesus speaking: ‘The thief approaches with malicious intent, looking to steal, slaughter, and destroy; I came to give life with joy and abundance’–John 10:10. 

I’m not sorry to say goodbye to 2014.  The last few years have seen a plethora of difficulties and life-altering events.  A friend of ours once told me that he believed I must be in God’s ‘special forces.’  He noted that I tended to do spiritual search-and-rescue missions for people’s souls and spirits.  And I don’t give up.  In some ways, he may be right.  I don’t fear hell on any of the levels I’ve experienced in my own life or the lives of others.  Oh, I ache, throw temper-tantrums, and have tremendous unbelief that I won’t heal from some of the falls I’ve taken; but I’m not afraid of what I may face in helping people see healing is possible for their hearts’ devastations.  I’ve seen depths of hell I know God never intended us to see.  But, in my own life and the lives of others, I’ve always had the confidence that God will show the way out of the maze to His light.

But, this year, I got bogged down in hell and lost my perspective of the abundant life Jesus promises us.  I became too comfortable living in the darkness searching for lost ones to embrace back into God’s presence.  And no one could find me … or maybe more truthfully–I wouldn’t let anyone know I couldn’t find my way out this time.  I’ve got the heart of a warrior when it comes to expressing who we are to God, and I go to great lengths to try and communicate God’s favor to all people.  When I think ‘church people’ are too theologically-focussed that they have begun bullying certain types of people, I want to go to war.

… And fight to the death.

… Because I know it won’t be my death….  

I’m learning that God can fight His own battles quite successfully and with significantly fewer casualties.  A gentle word … a kind act … is all I need to offer the war-effort.  No one can stand against those weapons.  And yet, no one’s spirit is crushed by them either.

So, as I reflect on 2014, I see how I viewed some of my brothers and sisters in Christ as an enemy whom I needed to destroy.  Living in the dark places with others will give that perspective.  I need to let Christ’s light shine on me again.  I need to live Christmas throughout the year.

What does that mean?

Christmas reminds us to look at the world as children–with awe, wonder, hope and expectancy.  I crave the world of childhood’s dreams, possibilities and unbridled joy.  Jesus’ birth created quite the stir; but then, Mary and Joseph had to get on with the mundane years of child-rearing.  No stars, no shepherds worshipping, no wise men giving gifts every year, no angels harking and heralding.  Just dirty diapers, skinned knees, colds and flus, temper tantrums.  (Seriously, do you think Jesus never threw a temper tantrum at age 3 or 4?)  And yet, in the mundane living, the promise remained.  In Luke 2, we are told that Mary pondered and treasured all the memories of Jesus’ birth.  I want to ponder and treasure all the memories I have of God’s presence–even when life is dull.

So for 2015, I want God to restore joy.  I want to gasp in awe at life, even if no angelic choir visits me.  I hope for a bright future, even if it takes years to grow up in me.  I choose to live expectantly, even if I continue to journey through the hellish mazes of people’s lives to offer healing and rest for their weary spirits.  I will remember to lift my eyes up more and let the warmth of Christ’s gaze envelop me, giving me strength and confidence to fight our real enemies of injustice, oppression, poverty–enemies that silence voices and create impossible standards and expectations of living.

May we all experience the joyous abundance of Christ’s presence in our lives in 2015!

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Poverty of Privilege

Standard
You thrill me, Lord, with all you have done for me!
I sing for joy because of what you have done.
O Lord, what great works you do!
And how deep are your thoughts.
–Psalm 92:4-5 (New Living Translation)

Thanksgiving.  A time of food.  A time of family.  A time of celebrating.  I haven’t felt much like celebrating this year.  I’ve lost sight of the multitude of blessings that my life holds, and I’ve grown cynical and skeptical in this wonder-filled life.  So this week, and throughout the rest of the year, I want to remember the joy and anticipation of giving.  I want to remember the goodness of God.

When I think of the poverty that surrounds me, I realize just how closed my heart has become.  Instead of my heart breaking for those who live in want, I find myself judging them …. Why do they have smart phones?  Why do they have cable?  Why don’t they act more humble?  Someone should teach them about budgeting and finances so they don’t always ask for handouts.  Yeah, it’s ugly in my heart.  I begin to see where the true poverty lies.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  Aware of my heart’s poverty, I am humbled and see physically poor people the way I believe God sees them–with kindness, compassion, mercy, grace.  I begin to see the kingdom of heaven open before me and broaden my perspective.  If someone is hungry, it’s not kind to judge hard-heartedly how they spent their money.  If someone can’t pay the heating bill, it’s not compassionate to take that moment to explain how to set financial priorities and goals. Or worse.  To think they deserve the lesson of hunger or coldness.  My heart grows a little colder when I look at people in the shadow of prejudice and privilege.  And yes, I hear the voices telling me that we must live in balance.  We can’t just fix every person’s problems.  They need to learn.  Don’t forget ‘tough love.’  All of that is true; however, in order for my heart to see and experience God in this season, I need to err on the side of empathy and humility.

So, this week, I’m humbled that I believe my blessings are deserved and another’s depravity is their own making.  In breaking that shameful thinking, I chose to do some random, anonymous acts of kindness.  I gave when I thought someone was undeserving.  I gave when I didn’t want to sacrifice.  I gave when I wanted to turn the other way.  Not all my giving was financial.  I gave time, patience, and empathy too–never letting on how poor I felt to offer anything.  I began to see a different view from the miserly perspective that held my heart for so long this year.  I began to see hope … wonder … God.

I wish I could tell you that I feel all giddy with anticipation.  I don’t.  But, I see a flicker of joy coming.  Because in empathizing with the poverty around me, I see the goodness and faithfulness of God to whom I’ve devoted myself.  In offering companionship to a lonely person, I see the relationships that I enjoy with my children and husband.  In giving a few dollars to a family so they can celebrate Thanksgiving, I see God’s provision around my own table.

How have I wanted others to treat me while in the throws of my angst?  Have I wanted instruction?  Have I welcomed advice?  Honestly, only from those who first treated me with compassion and tenderness.  I thank God for those people.  May we all begin to treat others with the grace and mercy we, ourselves, wish others would offer us.  The more we do, the more we understand God expresses great works and deep thoughts through us–we get to be the vessel of the Lord’s work in this world!  I encourage each of us to look for ways to rejoice in God through the rest of the year–whether by giving or allowing someone to give in our lives.  If we begin to live with this perspective, we will express a life of thankfulness!

I welcome comments.  Please keep them respectful and constructive.

 
 
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Prisons and Pardons

Standard

‘Certainly Your faithful protection and loving provision will pursue me where I go, always, everywhere.  I will always be with the Eternal, in Your house forever’ –Psalm 23:6.

I love Psalm 23–especially in The Voice translation.  It’s poetic, gentle, comforting, vivid.  As I experienced trauma at young ages, I would go to passages like Psalm 23 and find comfort that God is on my side.  Somehow (over the years I’ve lost sight of when exactly this happened) I became responsible for God’s faithful protection.  I will not insult soldiers struggling with PTSD and pretend that my version of PTSD compares to the atrocities that veterans have experienced and continue to have haunt them; but counselors tell me that traumatic abuse is traumatic abuse across the board–regardless of the circumstances that create it.  When I describe the hyper-vigilance that I experience in life–my brain GPSes office buildings for escape routes, notices people in restaurants who look out-of-place and tracks their movements, and categorizes everyday items that can change to weapons at a moment’s notice–therapists say that is a trait of PTSD.  All of this is done internally while I am joking, conversing, and seemingly carefree.  This post may be the first time most (if not all) of my friends and family have heard this.  Sorry.  Love you all!!

But this post is not about abuse and PTSD.  At least not directly.

This week, Acts 29, a church-planting ministry, removed Mark Driscoll and his Seattle-based Mars Hill Church from their registry.  Why was this a big deal?  Mark Driscoll co-founded the ministry and Mars Hill is a major supporter of Acts 29.  I’m no fan of Mark Driscoll.  Many have reported his character flaws and theology that … well … doesn’t exactly call to mind Jesus and how He treated people.  You can read one of his former colleague’s concerns here.

But this post is not about Mark Driscoll and his abusive ways.  At least not directly.

I write this post because tremendous healing has taken place in my soul over the past several years.  I haven’t had flashbacks in many years, my homicidal sleep-walking events have significantly lessened, and I feel more relaxed and at peace than I remember ever feeling.  Traditional counseling, non-traditional counseling, and spiritual direction have allowed me to see what God intended and what He never intended us to experience.  It takes a village to heal a person’s brokenness.

So, in saying all of that, hearing that an organization has the courage to stand up to a powerful bully and abuser helped me breathe a little more deeply.  We, the hyper-vigilant and self-designated protectors of all things unjust, don’t have to fight by ourselves.  God really does have others to raise up–and they really are beginning to listen to His voice–to take some of the pressure off us.  It doesn’t matter that my internal life has me believing that I’m really a super-hero–MaggieWoman–my reality knows that it’s all smoke and mirrors.  When I hear stories of people taking a stand against injustices, especially when whole organizations change policies to right wrongs, something in me heals a little deeper.  My hyper-vigilance relaxes just a little more, and I see less of the potential threats and enjoy more of the beauty around me.  I never would have guessed how much freedom I’ve missed throughout my life.  When we allow our hearts to heal and embrace freedom, it doesn’t mean we are less protected.  In many ways, I feel more protected these days because the fear of trauma has diminished.  Before, I had no control, but I had to try to control the safety around me.  Now, I know I have no control, but I’m not afraid of not being strong enough … smart enough … careful enough … enough ….

Unhealed trauma teaches us to not take risks–to not allow others to take risks.  We become our own bullies and abusers by shaming ourselves, or those we love, into our protection.  All in the name of love.  Protection born from shame is a prison.  We need a village to surround us so we learn the key is our own humility.  Humility brings safety and freedom.  Humility releases us from the emotional blackmail of lies our wounded souls use to keep the pain inside and us away from others.  Humility frees us to live our truest selves without fear of backlash–because the backlash we may experience comes from those trapped in prisons of their own making and it cannot overshadow the joy of releasing the God-designed life waiting for us … waiting for us to embrace … waiting for us to believe … waiting for us to recognize …

…Unfailingly waiting.  Just outside the unlocked prison doors.  Un-crouch from the corner shadows and look outside to the light.  Your pardon is signed and freedom is yours for the taking.  Many of us are beckoning for you to come out and play!

Please join me in praying for humility in our lives and in the lives of leaders.  I pray for Mars Hill in Seattle–for the congregants that are trying to understand all that’s going on in their church, for Acts 29 that God will bless their decision to stand for integrity, and even for Mark Driscoll that he will allow God to humble and transform him.  Statistics are not on his side; but God is on the side of his heart.  

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Through The Decades Of My Life

Standard

‘Do not allow this world to mold you in its own image. Instead, be transformed from the inside out by renewing your mind. As a result, you will be able to discern what God wills and whatever God finds good, pleasing, and complete’ –Romans 12:2.

This week, I turn 49 and will enter into my 50th year on this earth.  My birthday always finds me reflecting on who I’ve become and how the world is different.  In 49 years, I’ve seen technology explode our planet and make the world much smaller.  I remember the computer room my dad would take me to at the university where he worked.  That computer took up more space than my bedroom in my house.  I think it might have been bigger than my parents’ room, as well.  I remember fully embracing the risen Jesus–not just loving the Bible stories, but really and truly loving Him.

That would have been the late 1960s and early 1970s.

I remember women’s places changing from home to career.  I remember the first woman professor in my dad’s engineering department.  My dad didn’t know he taught me inclusivity by respecting her work.  He never got on a soap box; but he lived his professional life without feeling threatened by women.  I developed the belief system that as a woman, I was equal to men–even within church positions.

That was the 1970s.  

As a teenager, I remember listening more to what my parents talked about with each other.  As children, we observed more of how our parents lived than what they tried to tell us.  As a teenager, I had enough brain development to understand more of what they  talked about.  I learned how to treat people with compassion and how to live my life with integrity–mostly the same person in public as I am in private–by watching how they acted in public and at home.  I learned what to look for in a politician and what to look for in a life partner.  I remember the list I wrote before God of what I hoped He would provide.  Jud embodied that list.

That was the 1980s.

As my life progressed and my view of the world broadened, I understood more of my mom’s perspective–especially in raising children.  I found how daunting a role ‘Mother’ is.  However, I still believed that I could find answers in a book that would give me the formula on how to raise godly children.  I still believed a formula existed for most of life’s endeavors.  I still believed a ‘right’ and a ‘wrong’ way existed for marriage, children and church.  I began to understand just how wrong my beliefs were.

That was the 1990s.

At the turn of the century/millennium, I remember knowing that I had become a farce–as a mother, a wife and a church-goer.  I had played all the games, followed all the ‘rules’, and read all the books; but none of those things made my life turn out the way the ‘teachers’ said life would become.  I no longer found the presence of God in church, I couldn’t live up to the suburban-soccor-mom stereotype that people lifted up as the godly way to live, Jud and I had to re-learn what it meant to have a ‘christian’ marriage by re-learning how to be a wife/husband to each other–not the one-size-fits-all husband/wife rules of all the ‘christian’ marriage books, classes and seminars.  God began to reveal that sometimes church can have its own ‘world’ attitudes.

That was the 2000s.

Now, in this next decade, I can take all I’ve learned from the previous decades and transform even more.  After learning some facts about Bible interpretation and scholarship, I’ve had to re-learn how to read the Bible and accept its limitations.  I’ve found that by accepting the limitations (and many months of confusion, throwing a book or two against walls, and a few screaming matches with God, followed by some not-speaking-to-Him time), the Bible has more meaning, relevancy and depth than I ever dreamed.  Frankly, the stories have become so much more interesting and passion-filled–especially stories about Jesus.  I’ve learned to welcome and embrace the humility of broken living. I’ve learned to allow churches and pastors the same broken-ness.  Transforming my mind, God has developed a deeper sense of compassion, justice and a fuller belief in His power and work in this world. I look forward to having more and more revealed to me and our world about God’s heart, thoughts and ways for us.  I look forward to the struggle, the heartache and the joys as we become more and more like Him.

These are the 2010s.

I’d love to hear from you!  How have your views of yourself, life, God changed over the decades?

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

God Help Us!

Standard

‘The first thing I want you to do is pray. Pray every way you know how, for everyone you know. Pray especially for rulers and their governments to rule well so we can be quietly about our business of living simply, in humble contemplation. This is the way our Savior God wants us to live’ –1 Timothy:1-3 (The Message).

Remember the guy who wrote ‘All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten’?  I want him to run our government.  After reading a newspaper article this week that we shouldn’t expect Congress to accomplish much when they return from their vacation and before they break in August, it doesn’t take a genius to realize our nation’s leaders need a sanity check.  We pay them more than most of us who actually have to accomplish tasks on a daily basis make.  Why do we put up with their political tantrums and pouting?  How have we made it okay for them to collect their sizable paychecks and yet not improve our country or move it forward for months at a time?  Why are we not firing them during elections and hiring people who might actually play nice together and work toward the common good?  Why do we not insist on laws for term limits so that ‘politician’ ceases as a career path.  Our forefathers created our government with the idea that politics should never become an elitist occupation.  So, how do we-the-people take back our power in government?  By voting.

I would vote for a few teachers.  Those teachers who have won awards and have proven that they know how to handle students who have given up.  The teachers who inspire movies and believe our nation still has so much untapped potential.  The teachers who won’t allow Congress to just limp along, content with living far away from the constituents who voted them into office.  Teachers who would hold government accountable to focus on the good of the country and not the schoolyard scuffles of politics.  Teachers who haven’t stopped learning and respect the wisdom that youth bring to the table.

I would vote for a few business managers who have pulled their companies out of the landfill and created work environments that encourage productivity because they remember real people work for them and not just automatons.  Small business owners who sacrifice their own comforts to make payroll every month deserve some recognition in government–those bosses who understand the lives of their employees and know when to show grace and when to prune some dead branches.

I would vote for a few mothers who have successfully raised children to live productive lives.  Moms who have developed workable budgets and kept the checking accounts balanced.  Not to leave out fathers, I would also look for men who have a team mentality toward their family.  Men who exhibit an ability to share in the joys, responsibilities, successes and failures with their partners in mentoring children and setting a nurturing, disciplined home environment.

I would vote for some minorities who understand what it’s like to have your voice diminished and have risen above their circumstances.  People who have experienced all the -isms we have in our country and have found a way to succeed without malice toward those who have made their journey more difficult.  People full of grace, confidence, compassion and wisdom.

I would vote for a few people who have worked hard in blue-collar jobs, paid their mortgages, put their kids through school, paid their bills on time and struggle to make ends meet in retirement.  The ones who understand the power of humilty.  The ones who have known shame because they never made it to the financial or corporate level our society deems successful.  The ones our society may look down upon because they don’t epitomize our dream of a ‘Hollywood lifestyle’ with big homes, seemingly unlimited resources and $300 jeans.

So, that’s my dream government and the character qualities I will look for as political ads begin to inundate our lives.  As a new election season kicks into high gear, I hope we will listen to what candidates say and how they communicate.  We need people who are willing to work together.  We need more than party-line politicians.  Our country deserves leaders of the people, by the people and for the people.

May God help us as we vote and our leaders as they serve.

What about you?  What type of person would you like to see on the ballot?  What qualities are important to you in a leader?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

The ABC’s of Shame: Addictions, Bliss, Cookie Comas

Standard

‘So eat your meals heartily, not worrying about what others say about you—you’re eating to God’s glory, after all, not to please them. As a matter of fact, do everything that way, heartily and freely to God’s glory’–1 Corinthians 10:31.

Why do we feel shame when we have joy?  Have you noticed that in our society, we tend to feel guilty, not just when we’ve done something perceived as wrong, but also when we are happiest.

I’ve got an addiction that I only succumb to once a year.  Thankfully, my addiction is only available for a few weeks out of the year; but I’ve learned to stock up so I can imbibe all year long.  Thin Mints.  Yep.  That’s my addiction.  Girl Scout Thin Mint Cookies.  And I get several boxes of Samoas–they’re my daughter’s favorite.  I get enough to last through December.  Just a box every few months so that they keep their special occasion feel.  My dealer … er … ‘supplier’ … no that doesn’t sound any better … FRIEND!  That’s a great word!  My friend covertly meets me at McDonald’s, Starbucks, Chick-fil-A–wherever there’s a parking lot, really.  We make the exchange:  Me handing over a check for more money than I would ever spend on cookies, and her handing me an ungodly number of cookie boxes.  This year it qualified as a ‘case’ of cookies … That would be 12 boxes.

I’m not proud of my addiction.  I’ve realized just how much shame I feel with those boxes of cookies hidden in my room until the right amount of need-t0-cry-for-an-evening-rough-day reminds me that I can feel better–not fixed–just better.  A couple of years ago, my friend met me at McDonald’s for some coffee, then we went out to her trunk.  She opened it up revealing cases of the cookies.  I ‘shopped’ to my heart’s content; and as we said goodbye, several women came up to her looking over their shoulders and whispering, “Are you selling those?”  I laughed, left her to her other sales and drove out of town back to my home–with a sleeve of opened Thin Mints riding shotgun.

How often have I passed by a table outside of a store with adorable little girls selling their cookie wares and felt just a little self-righteous about my ability to say, ‘No, thank you’, while others just cannot help themselves.  Then, when I’ve gone out of town to purchase mine (so no one knows just how many I hoard in my home), I feel shame eating the incredible chocolatey-minty goodness that makes me so happy on my hour-long ride back home.  I’ve noticed that as I find freedom from shame, I don’t eat as many cookies in one sitting, nor do I have to do it covertly.  Which leads me to believe that shame can lead to addictions.  And, in my case, to cookie comas!

Instead of loathing myself for enjoying a few cookies, I can rejoice in the moments of bliss that having a couple of them give me after a stressful day.  Instead of hiding my ‘stash’, and secretly scarfing some down when no one is looking, I can savor them and enjoy the serenity of breathing in and breathing out when life throws me the curve balls.  Instead of shame, I find freedom.

Does this work for all addictions.  Absolutely NOT!  Some addictions need re-direction to healthier options.  Sex, drugs, alcohol and even sugar addictions should be overcome, not managed.  Does that mean that those who struggle with destructive addictions and unhealthy living cannot find blissful moments?  NO!  They just need to find healthier options on their road to freedom.  They still need release from the shame of their addiction; but that release should not give them justification to continue it–just as I cannot justify eating an entire sleeve of Thin Mints and throwing my body into a cookie coma.

But we all can revel in moments of joy without shame.  And one thing I have learned with Girl Scout Cookies:

Buying cookies should not feel like a drug deal.

Have you ever felt shame when you’ve done something not shameful?  Have you learned how to live in freedom?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

The Power of Humility

Standard

“Take my yoke upon you.  Let me teach you, because I am humble and gentle at heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” –Matthew 11:29

This week, I discovered that a friend ‘unfriended’ me on Facebook.  Oh, it didn’t surprise me.  Not really.  While we knew and liked each other years ago, geographical distance had taken its toll on our lives.  We rarely had seen each other outside of church when we lived in the same state; but I truly had thought of her as a kindred spirit when it came to family and passion for God.  I knew we didn’t agree on much politically, and perhaps interpreted certain Bible verses from different angles; however, none of that mattered to me, because those differences didn’t define who she is to me.  She has gone toe to toe with me on some of my more political comments.  She challenged and engaged me with scripture.  She encouraged me to use my writing for good and not evil.  It appears that I crossed a line in my views that she could no longer tolerate.  Apparently, she didn’t share the same attitude that what makes us different makes us interesting.

So, she did what has become the schoolyard snub and ‘unfriended’ me.

I don’t know that she hates me (that would be un-Christian); but if she secretly reviles me for my views, I’m not offended.  I’ve been hated and reviled before–at times, even I can admit it was justified.  Because I’ve always loved words, and especially creating them on blank canvasses, words tend to get me into trouble.  Being an extrovert, words flow out of my mouth, often before I think through the thoughts.  So, I have apologized time and again and will continue to apologize, I’m sure.  However, I don’t ask anyone to apologize for their opinions and I offer no apology for mine.  I do offer a seat in my home for discussion–even heated discussion–without fear of shame or rejection.  Don’t put me up on a pedestal.  I can be more sophomoric than the next person (and I have a few friends who can attest to the lengths of my immaturity); but in situations of differing philosophies, ideologies and interpretations, I am broad-minded and tough-skinned.  I don’t think my friend will invite me to share her table any time soon.  Too bad, because I still make her mother-in-law’s sweet potato casserole for Thanksgiving every year–delicious!

In reflecting on my friend’s snub, I wondered why it bothered me so much.  I don’t often get caught up in rejection–not that it doesn’t bother me at all; but rejection isn’t one of my prominent insecurities or issues.  So, as I sat with my feelings of loneliness, my thoughts turned to Syria, Egypt, Israel/Palestine, America and all the dead-in-the-water negotiations our world has tried to garner diplomatically.  If ‘friends’ can’t get along with differing views, is it possible to expect national leaders to act reasonably?  If only ‘they’ could see ‘our’ point rationally.  Surely, we can talk it out and break the cycles of tyranny, oppression and revenge.  Surely, people (especially leaders) want good for their people and the rest of the world.  Surely, national leaders envision the consequences of their actions.  Surely, people want to eradicate evil in our world.  Except that most people don’t admit we have to eradicate that evil from within ourselves, and not others, first.  Part of the problem we face is that we want to see humility in the person we face, while we keep our own pride.  Do you see that in leaders like Assad who defiantly assert their power regardless of whether their actions are humane or sane?

I remember conversations in our last presidential election and all the issues debated privately and publicly.  At one point, I stopped caring about the issues and said that I was tired of arrogant men.  I would vote for a person with some humility.  My candidate didn’t come close to winning.  In our schoolyard tussles, aren’t pride, arrogance, superiority and power the driving forces?  If we can’t stop our own selfishness, how can we hope to eradicate global selfishness?  It always begins with us.

As I follow-up with Pope Francis’ encouragement for people of all faiths to fast and pray this weekend for Syria, the Middle East and the rest of the world, my heart prays for humility in our global leaders, humility in our spiritual leaders, humility in my own heart.  Humility is the foundation for understanding another point of view.  Humility creates an atmosphere of negotiation.  Humility begets flexibility, kindness and reasonableness.  Humility won’t allow one-upmanship and doesn’t do anything to teach “them” a lesson.

And I find that as I exercise these ancient traditions of prayer and fasting, my own heart softens toward my friend.  My knee-jerk reaction to reject her at a higher level and ‘block’ her on Facebook (because that would really show her) loses its power and I can let go of the hurt.  I begin to realize that if all of us would take time to regularly humble ourselves, we really can affect change in our world–end hunger, global warming, genocides, sex-trades, prejudice and hate crimes–because the problems our world faces are problems in our own hearts.  The more we find our own selfishness unacceptable, the better chance we have of electing officials who have done the same, the better the chance that we will work together to find answers that don’t include weapons of mass destruction.

For my part, I humbly offer a seat at the table for my friend’s point of view.  Because I still believe that our differences make us interesting, and we need those differences to help us see the whole picture–and not just our own little corner.

Have you experienced the power of humility either in yourself or through a leader?  What are some other traits that you appreciate in relationships?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Remembering Jane: A Tribute

Standard

The church I attended from birth to high school graduation received Dr. Jane Tews as an Associate Minister around 1978 or 1979.  As the first female Methodist minister in the Phoenix area (perhaps the first official female minister in AZ; but I don’t remember the statistics from so long ago), she challenged stereotypes and created opportunities for women in the church.  I learned she had a massive stroke while I lunched with a dear friend, who had been in youth group with me.  The following is my tribute to this pioneering woman.

Dear Jane–

I know you’ll never read this note.  I had lunch with Jennie while my family visited my parents in Phoenix.  She told me about the stroke you’ve had and that you are not expected to live. I’m sorry for all of those you currently minister to and those of us you mentored in the past.  We will miss you.
I remember when you came to the United Methodist Church near Arizona State University.  You were fresh out of seminary and the first woman minister I had ever seen.  I remember the newspaper article about you.  Being a female minister was a BIG deal back then.  I think I was in 7th or 8th grade when you arrived for your new position.
I wonder if you knew how important you were to us girls in the late 1970s?  The women’s movement had gained much; but most of us didn’t have real-life role models of what it looked like to have a woman in a leadership role.  Thank you for letting us watch you and learn how to navigate through ‘a man’s world’ and make it our own.  Thank you for showing us that we didn’t have to sacrifice faith in order to have an intelligent voice in our world.  Thank you for showing us how, as women, Jesus lived through us.  Thank you for modeling how necessary women are in leadership positions and not just support positions.
Thank you for pioneering the way for us to believe that we really could embrace whatever calling God had for us and never had to believe that we had to conform that calling to gender stereotypes.
I’ve thought of you over the years and what it must have been like for you to be a lone woman in a traditionally male position.  To our eyes, you seemed so natural and confident.  I’m sure it wasn’t easy at times.  You and a few other women in my life developed my confidence to know that I am not lower than men.  In 2013, it sounds silly to even think that was once a common belief about women.  But, I and others remember the late 1970s/early 1980s, and know how ground-breaking having a woman in a leadership role was.  I remember how young teens desperately needed role models to understand not just our culture’s changes, but to understand how to live out what Jesus offers to ALL believers.
Thank you, Jane, for being that role model.  Thank you for your life.  May you know fully God’s joy as you pass into His tangible presence, as you have been fully known by Him in this life.
Sincerely,
maggie
Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Thank You, Wayne Brady

Standard

Way back in the day, our family used to watch ‘Whose Line Is It Anyway,’ an improv show with a brilliant comedic ensemble cast of Drew Carey, Colin Mochrie, Ryan Stiles and Wayne Brady (others, also great comedic improvers, joined; but these four were our favorites).  All of those guys are on the permanent invite to Thanksgiving.  That’s a special honor in our family.  Ellen Degeneres, the cast of Modern Family, Maggie Smith, my kids’ dermatologist all grace that list.  It’s the way our family describes people we don’t really know but consider them family.  And, by the way, I make an outstanding Thanksgiving spread!

Recently, I saw Wayne Brady on a talk show.  He’s still every bit as funny and fun as he was on ‘Whose Line.’  But, how he answered one of the questions posed to him made me respect him as a person and not just a performer.  The host asked, “What kind of woman do you want.”  Wayne said that he really wanted to find a woman who is intelligent.  Now, a lot of men say that–especially when they’re on a national platform.  No one (who’s intelligent themselves) is going to admit that physical appearance drives their relationship radar.  However, Wayne Brady went on to say that yes, of course, he wanted someone attractive to him; but at the end of the day, he’s a single dad to a daughter and what kind of message would he send her if he went out with women who were just physically beautiful but not much else?  He said that he couldn’t tell his daughter to develop her mind and then bring home a woman who couldn’t discuss relevant issues.

Now that’s a real man.  A man who thinks about what he’s teaching his children.  A man who lives out his principles and doesn’t just say the politically correct rhetoric.  A grown-up man.

I’ve mentored several women as they traversed divorce, dating and remarriage.  Many of them wanted the ‘bad boys.’  ‘Bad boys’ are exciting.  ‘Bad boys’ are edgy.  Most of the ‘bad boys’ reminded them of previous love interests in a relationship’s beginning when everything excited them and the possibility of adventure loomed.  ‘Bad boys’ excite the fantasy that comes with many of the insipid ‘chick flicks’ which glorify relationships where men treat women badly, but the women change them in the end.

*sigh*  Can we all take a moment and bask in the glory of stupid, I mean ‘young’ love?

Okay, back to reality.  The only time ‘bad boys’ work well in relationships is in fiction.  When someone else takes charge of their plot, everything works out splendidly.  When someone else writes their dialogue, they wax poetic and actually grow to empathize with the love interest.  When someone else develops their character, they don’t cheat or stray.  All of this relates to ‘bad girls’ too; I just haven’t had as much experience mentoring that arena.

Can we all take away a bit from Wayne Brady?  Can we strive to be role models for the next generation?  Can we leave behind the whole ‘do as I say, not what I do’ philosophy?  Can we work toward thinking about future generations and how they will process what a man or woman is, then live in such a way that they can springboard from our examples and become real men and real women? Perhaps if more of us embodied that character, the world could become a kinder, gentler place.

Oh, and Wayne, if you ever read this, you and yours have a standing invitation at our Thanksgiving table!

 

 

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page

Paths of Righteousness

Standard

Recently, some friends accused me of compromising the gospel because of how I relate to people’s experiences and their stories.  I don’t often call-out ‘sin’ in people’s lives, but instead, I walk with them and offer counsel as they ask.  My philosophy is that I earn the right to speak into their lives as they see I sincerely care for them and am on their side.  Psalm 23 resonates on many levels for me.   “He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness for His name’s sake” (Psalm 23:3) is my favorite line.  Do you see its beauty?  Paths.  Plural.  More than one.  In my belief system, for me, there is only one way to God and that is believing Jesus.  BUT, that’s not the sum of the beautiful, wondrous story of salvation.  So much more awaits us as we journey into oneness with each other and with God.  No one story will look alike.  Snowflakes, all of us, unique and yet appearing the same on the surface.  Yet, no one path contains the full mystery of God’s grace, God’s righteousness, God’s kingdom!  Many paths lead us to Jesus.

Sometimes I want my path to be the path where everyone finds God’s glorious treasures.  Surely, my tailor-made blessings from God would fit anyone.  How many of us have seen The Grand Canyon and gasped at its breathtaking grandeur?  I talked with a long-time family friend who visited that majestic tapestry of God’s handiwork and thought, “Eh, it’s just a big hole in the ground.”  Seriously?!  Someone experienced that divine creation differently than I do?!  A neighbor of my parents is an entomologist.  She has bug specimens all over her house (EEEEWWWWW!!).  Now, I have three kryptonite-level phobias.  Fear of bugs tops that list.  I even created a theology, of sorts, about bugs–they are a result of The Fall and epitomize sin entering the world.  They are NOT found in heaven (and we need to be quite clear on that point–except maybe butterflies, fireflies and ladybugs).  However, the neighbor sees God in the world of bugs and can actually worship Him in thinking about their creation.  Puzzling to me, but it’s not my path.  Could paths leading to our heart’s refinement be just as diverse?  Could God actually use His gift of mercy in me to lead someone else on a path to His righteousness which wouldn’t be found by overt ‘evangelism’?  Am I willing to admit that my ‘witness’ is flawed and not a one-size-fits-all for God to use in everyone’s life?

A few weeks ago, I went to a store looking for some art supplies for my son to finish his art project.  Because the store is large and poorly laid out (or brilliantly laid out to get people to buy more–depends on perspective), I traversed for 15 minutes before giving up and finding an employee to ask directions.  While the woman answered my question, she seemed to have a heavy heart.  I asked her if she was okay before going on with my agenda.  Her son, a security guard for an apartment complex in a rough part of town, had been shot early that morning and the store wouldn’t let her leave work.  Thankfully, the bullet hit his bullet-proof vest; but, naturally, the woman wanted to see her son.  After empathizing with her for about 10 minutes, I hurried to finish my original art supply errand.  Driving home, the shame began to creep up behind me.  I should have prayed with her.  I should have mentioned Jesus.  I should have witnessed more…better…overtly.  That evening, still beating myself up for missing an evangelism opportunity once again, I believe God spoke peace into my spirit.  She needed to vent and process.  She needed someone to enter her world of concern and worry.  She needed someone to soothe her soul in that moment.  In that moment, my gifting became God’s presence for her.  In that moment, God met her.  If God needs her to hear more overt evangelism, He’ll send someone else down her path.  Someone He’s trained with that gift.

What if God wants me to just lay the groundwork for another to ‘harvest’?  What if a person needs to learn to trust in the unconditional love of God before he or she can hear correction?  What if someone’s perceived ‘sin’ by us is not God’s definition of ‘sin’ or biggest concern in that person’s life?  Can we hear Jesus’ words to Peter when he hears what his future will hold and asks Jesus about John’s future, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you?  As for you, follow Me.”  (John 21:22)  Are we willing to follow where we see or hear Jesus leading us regardless of how someone else’s path looks or to whom another is called to minister?

Share on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on TumblrEmail this to someoneShare on Google+Print this page