Relationship Versus Wrongs

What do you focus on with your best friend? How about with your spouse or significant other? Your family?

Do you concentrate on what you have in common? Do you remember how they have wronged you?

Are you confident in how good things are, or are your thoughts consumed with how they just don’t measure up to your standards?

Do you tell others the positive things about them? Or do you feel justified in telling others about what you see as negative qualities?

Does how you treat them, how you talk about them to others, have any impact on that relationship?

How do they treat you, or talk about you? Does that affect how close you feel to them?

What does a healthy relationship even look like?

What about Jesus?

Do we focus on how Jesus has wronged us? How He just doesn’t meet (or mete) our standards? Do we tell everyone negative things about Jesus?

I’m pretty sure the answer is no to the last 3 questions. How do you even measure against His perfection?

So, let’s flip it around.

Does Jesus focus on how we have wronged Him? I think some people really believe He does, but Scripture tells us He throws our sins as far as the east is from the west. That there is no record of wrong.

Is He disappointed that we just don’t measure up to Him? I mean– who can, right? Scripture reminds us that Jesus is our strength, the Holy Spirit is both our Teacher and our Comforter, and that God is our Father. We have been adopted by Him, grafted into the vine of His family tree!

Does Jesus tell everyone the negative things He knows about us? No. Instead, He is our Mediator. He prays for us– He prayed for us all in the Garden of Gethsemane. He felt so much love and compassion, burdened so deeply for us then, that it caused Him to sweat His blood as He prayed! Who else has ever done that for even one of us?

And then– then He willingly died to become the final sacrifice to God, to pay for our failings, our inability to do right by God.

He became our Mediator– standing between God and the punishment for rebelling against God in our actions and in our hearts. He became our covering, the lens God now views us through.

If this is how much we are worth to Jesus, how much should we practice love, kindness, generosity– forgiveness– with our friends, spouses and loved ones?

The saying is, “You can’t pick your family.”

Jesus didn’t pick us– and yet He did! Our sins, our rebellion, against our Creator were the cause for Jesus to be abused and nailed to a cross to be murdered. There was no justification for Jesus to be killed, He did nothing wrong. We did! Jesus could have hated us all, instead. He could have focused on all we did wrong, and turned away with hatred and anger at us. He could have– but He did not. And God accepted His willingness to die the eternal death every one of us deserves. And because there was no sin found in Jesus, God raised Him back to life, and took Him up to sit next to Himself, at and as His righteous right hand. Jesus is God’s Right Hand man.

And Jesus, having done all of that for us, does not focus on what we did to cause Him to be murdered. No. Instead He has given His life to God, to help us be better. To strengthen us. To give us confidence. To free us from the death traps that have been set out for us by the enemy of God, the enemy of our souls. He sets us free as we trust in all He is, all He has done, and all that will come to pass.

Jesus has forgiven us. Jesus has forgotten our sins, all of our sins.

Shouldn’t we?

It’s no longer about sin– it’s about our relationship with Jesus.

Jesus paid it all!

All to Him I owe!

Sin had left a crimson stain,

He washed it white as snow!

My Shoes

Nobody says, “I wonder what it would be like to walk in their shoes?” about abused children.

No one daydreams about being yelled at, called names– or worse.

No one envies the child with the broken spirit, no one celebrates their choice to fight to survive.

One of the strongest memories of my dad was the time I walked into our living room and he just started yelling at me about how much he hated me, how I was just in the way– how he wished I were dead and had never been born.

I reacted to that, at first, by contemplating ways to take myself out of the way. Then– I called my best friend.

She helped me realize the best way to help myself would be to remove myself from the situation. So– I planned a vacation, where I could strengthen my will to continue to live.

I was in high school at the time. I planned for a two week vacation from my life. I took time off from my job, I arranged for a place to stay, and I told no one except the person I stayed with where I would be.

That saved my life.

It was inconvenient for others, I know. Some worried– and they should have. They should have been worried more about my state of mind before I took my time-out, than the fact that I left.

I only used a week of that planned two weeks.

I was introduced to a life I had never known before that, but it was just enough to realize– that also was not the kind of life I wanted to live.

I woke up to some harsh realities, and I walked away from some permanent options that would have become permanent mistakes– had I chosen to take them.

I had always had a secret life of envying others who had dads that were loving, kind, and healthy. Dads who’s hugs were not dangerous, where insults were not the “norm”– ones that cherished their daughters.

My dad, he had a rough childhood. He probably had a secret envy life, as well.

I forgave my dad for his failings, years ago.

I made sure my own children had what I envied of others (God made sure too) because I knew what I had missed. I don’t blame my mom for my dad’s issues. It’s never been her fault.

I love my friends who have had wonderful, nurturing and healthy relationships with their fathers. But, it’s like bumping an unseen bruise to know that that’s something I will never get to know firsthand.

I’m old enough that I’ve forgotten many things I’ve experienced. That ache at what I was robbed of is always there, though, silently throbbing under the surface.

I’m so very happy for others, but my heart silently envies and daydreams about what their lives must have been like.

I’ve attempted to try on their shoes, but my callouses and bruises keep them from fitting comfortably, I’ve never been able to walk in them.

I’ve heard more often than I can count, that God is my Father. True– He is. He is a good father.

As awesome as God is, I still have a lack in my heart for a loving, mentally healthy, earthly dad. That’s my reality. Acceptance from God has been more healing than anything anyone could offer. This is why more mentally healthy, accountable-to-others, Christian men need to step up inside the church. There are people of all ages missing healthy relationships. We are so quick to just expect God to mysteriously fill every void and heal every affliction, when God gave us to one another.

Jesus made sure his own mother had someone to step in to fill the void He was leaving. What an amazing example of compassion and understanding! We lack nurturing, healthy relationships inside our church families. Our own members are hurting from devastating wounds and circumstances, and we busy ourselves with programs, not recognizing the deep needs right in front of us.

God help us to be what our own family-in-Christ needs us to be– what You call us to be.

God has given us shoes to wear. Shoes of the Gospel of Peace. Shouldn’t we wear them at all times, starting inside the Church? And if we don’t wear them there, if we take Abaraham’s burning bush approach and take them off on Holy Ground– Jesus made it abundantly clear the need to wash one another’s feet.

In other words– we need to look after one-another, with the same intimacy as close, healthy, loving family.

We need to get this right so we can effectively affect and reach the world around us with God’s gift of Hope, Love, and relationship with Him through Jesus.

There Will Be Weeping And Gnashing Of Teeth

My stomach has been in knots lately. I avoid the “ugly” online, as much as possible. What I’ve recently seen– I can’t unsee it. I didn’t look for it, but I was still confronted by it.

It’s a reality that I can’t hide my understanding from any longer. And now I realize, I cannot pray effectively if I hide my head in the “positives” that make me feel safe and happy.

Some have had their safety and happiness stolen away from them.

Whether you follow the recent “conspiracies” or you just struggle through your day-to-day life, God is unchanging. He is unmoved from His position.

What is His position, you might ask?

Righteousness.

Justice.

Forgiveness.

Grace.

Mercy.

And– when necessary– Vengeance.

Why am I writing about this now?

Even those who don’t turn to God through the Salvation of Jesus recognize that– for some– there is a need for Justice, and even want Vengeance.

We Christians often talk about the Love of God and all those “feel good”, “warm fuzzy” things. It’s time we start recognizing there will, soon I believe, be a time God will execute His Vengeance.

I can’t even bring myself to say for those who deserve it. Because I know, if not for Jesus, we all would be in danger of it. It will be worse than the most awful thing anyone could contrive in their imagination.

“Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written, “VENGEANCE IS MINE, I WILL REPAY,” says the Lord.” Romans 12:19 NASB

I’ve heard of and seen some things that should just never be.

When those people– and I believe He has them in His sights– refuse to turn to Him, convinced they don’t need Him– when Repentance, Grace and Mercy are rejected, what is left?

God sees all, knows all, is everywhere at once. Nothing, no thing, is hidden from Him. He knows our thoughts. He sees us when we wake up and when we go to sleep.

It’s important for those who Trust in Him to walk in forgiveness of others and trust Him for His timing and choice in the execution of His Vengeance.

His Wrath will be seen– soon. There is no rock to hide under, no cave that is deep enough, no place in space or the air that is out of His reach. The Creator of all the Universes is greater, more powerful than everything combined. He sees into those dark places most of us do not want to look at or acknowledge.

He knows.

I pray He grants Repentance to those who are in His sight for Vengeance.

The Wrath of God is a terrible thing! Those who may very well experience that, they have no idea what is coming. No person or group of people, or event can stop it or soften it’s blow.

Repent now, seek God while He May be found! The Lord is slow to anger, quick to listen to a sincerely reverent repentant heart. Will some of them repent?

His anger has been building up slowly for some time now.

They may not believe in Him, but their unbelief cannot protect them.

Only Jesus can protect them.

“It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10:31 NASB

We should be praying God gives those doing wicked in His sight, ears to hear and eyes to see what the Lord would say to them.

As much as I want to hate those who are purposefully involved in the ugliest of evil– I am afraid for them. Their arrogance and pride will melt away as nothing.

If only they would repent and be sincerely Saved. Not saved from their actions. Their souls rescued for Eternity, while they are held accountable to humanity.

I can say it is well with my soul. Yes, I feel a seething anger, and I know God’s judgement has to come. I can hate the actions and words of some, but I can never rejoice that the wrath of God will be like an angry lion ripping apart its prey. Hell was not made for people, and I hate that some will be tricked into it.

No one who is living has gone too far away from Salvation.

It Is Well

Wound’s Protector— The Scar

I’ve mentioned a few times that I have scars on my scalp from a “friendly” domesticated adolescent cougar “playing” with my head as his chew toy. I’m thinking about that today because they hurt. Kinda bad.

So that got me to thinking– if my physical scars hurt so badly at times, what about those deep emotional scars? Sure I’ve gone through all those rituals of forgiveness, repentance for my part in some things, and trust in God for healing. And He has healed me– so much! (I’ve even felt Him heal my esophagus as I praised Him through singing– what an amazing, warm, wonderful feeling that was!) I wouldn’t be married again if God had not done major surgery on my mind and my heart. We just celebrated 20 awe-inspiring years!

Those of us operating in the American mindset think we have everything all figured out. We put things in neatly labeled boxes, organized by category, decorated prettily with descriptions, definitions and diagnosis.

But what if we’re wrong?

What if we take a box out of the organized line-up, sort through it and realize it really isn’t the way we believed it to be?

What if emotional pain is not always as explained? What if it’s the manifestation of pain from emotional scarring?

The tough thing about emotional scars is no one can see them. Only the person who lived the experience can feel and remember.

Incidentally– that’s exactly the experience of Christianity. Only the person who has experienced Divine interactions can feel them and experience their reality. That does not invalidate that person or experience, just like it does not invalidate one who has emotional scars. The experiences did happen, they did have an impact on the person they happened to. Jesus did Save the Christian, His actions and the Holy Spirit interactions continuously impact the Believer, though it’s deeply personal.

Do emotions exist? Do memories represent past experiences? Does pain from emotional wounds and scars ever manifest in our reactions, responses, emotions and beliefs?

I think maybe the “professionals” are really just guessing– and maybe they have guessed wrong in some things.

Maybe we look at mental health the wrong way. I don’t think PHD’s have all the answers because I don’t think they have been asking the right questions– many times they are just masking the symptoms, not getting to the core and root of what they diagnose– not looking for a healing solution.

Only God has all the answers, only God knows all things, sees all things and understands the “why” of all things. He has promised in His Word that we can call all to Him and He will answer us– He’ll show us great things we don’t know. Do we believe that?

I think I do. Sometimes. When we step away from the bindings of what has been explained to us with human understanding, and seek Divine understanding, God will show us, Jesus sent us the Holy Spirit to teach us, to comfort us, to empower us.

How much of that have we stepped out in faith to embrace?

We cling to our diagnosis, definitions and descriptions as though those have life for us. The One Who holds all knowledge is life. My desire is to cling to Him.

I fall short.

Do my emotional scars manifest sadness through their pain? Anger? A desire to be comforted? A lack of trust in others?

I honestly think maybe they do. Maybe that’s part of their intended function as God has designed them to protect where we once were wounded.

One Size Fits… Um No

I confess– I have a tendency to be a serial unasked-for advice giver. I can’t help it. I know others can glean from my experience-gained wisdom. Right?

Except that’s never how it’s taken.

If I’m honest, it’s also not how I take it from others, either, even though I try to be polite and respectful.

The old cliche’ about judging a book by its cover fits here well. How often do we hear or read something someone says and opine that we know the solution to their problem? After all– it worked for us, so it will work 1000000% for all– right?

Well, no. It won’t.

Nothing about me or my life is ever a one-size-fits-all fit.

Even Scripture is not a one-size-fits-all life application. I mean– it is– but it applies in endless ways. Some Scripture is the same for everyone. Like John 3:16-17. And most Scripture will help us achieve the same outcome as others, but it applies individually and uniquely over every life it touches.

Because it’s the Living Word of God.

It’s not a one-size-fits-most bandaid or covering. It’s the healing/repair balm uniquely designed to fit our specific needs.

God’s Word is not reactionary to us, it’s designed for us to respond to it.

Unlike our random acts of unasked-for advice-giving.

I have so much more to learn about letting God love others through me.

His ways are so much better than mine.

A Patchwork Of Memories and Emotions From An Overly Complicated Relationship

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So, I’m sitting here, alone, on the eve of the anniversary of my dad’s death. Hubby is deeply sleeping after a long day at work, the kids are in bed, and I wish I had someone I could just maybe watch a movie with– probably to avoid thinking. There’s no reason why anyone should think I’d need to talk or get my mind off of what seems to be an undercurrent of emotions I really just don’t want to deal with. (It’s going to turn into a flood of tears, and I don’t want to open that gate.)

I don’t think much about my dad anymore.

When I do, there aren’t many emotions involved. We didn’t have any kind of a relationship when he passed on, I hadn’t seen him in years. One of the last times I did see him– he humiliated me, in public and in front of my husband. I mean, horribly humiliated me.

I forgave him. My husband gently told him off, and forgave him. But, it sickened my heart to even see him again.

We had such a complicated relationship. He was mentally ill, before doctors knew what to do to help that. I have begrudged the VA for using him as a guinea pig, but some of that responsibility was his alone. He wouldn’t take the pills prescribed, he used his diagnosis as a crutch– and he was a jerk.

But he was also really funny. There were times he had us laughing until our sides ached.

He was one of the smartest people I’ve ever met, and I have met quite a few very smart people! He was a genius with electronics and rigging things.

He had times where he could be really mean. Thankfully those weren’t constant. But, he was unpredictable. And, of course, there was the abuse.

It’s always kind of felt like my dad was dead in some ways. When I think about him, I grieve for the father-daughter relationship I wish we could’ve had. I know there is not one thing I could have done to make things better, so I’m able to move on. There is a diminishing part inside of me that wonders “why?” Why did it have to be me that went through all of that?

Why did I have to have that dad?

And, after all these years, I think I finally know the answer– Because just like that scratchy violin I had as a kid that caused me to practice for hours and hours everyday to overcome that awful, scratchy tone– I had to want to make a better life. I had to actively seek God to make a better path for my future children. My first husband was not that path, he was not someone I would have trusted with children. After that (biblical) divorce (from a non-believer who wanted to leave), I desperately sought God to provide me with a man who would be.

And He did.

But, had I not experienced everything I did, I wouldn’t have known what to work towards.

I sometimes wonder if my life being so full of overwhelming things that I’ve had to push through, if that’s what triggered my body’s reaction with a disease that exhausts me. Physical things, nothing psychosomatic. Fatigue is a reality blood work has confirmed.

Ok, now it’s the actual anniversary of his death.

4 years ago, today.

Remembering is stirring up, I don’t know– I guess emotional dust? Cobwebs? Triggered reminders?

I’ve watched my husband over the years with our daughter, and it’s such a contrast to what I ever knew with my own dad. I grew up terrified, filled with hate and anger– though not anymore. My daughter and my husband laugh and joke, share music, and she has never had to build a protective guard against him for any reason.

I am so, so deeply thankful for that.

I’ve often said it’s been thoroughly healing to watch them interact, and see what I missed out on– yet gives me the opportunity to rejoice that my daughter has not.

Isaiah 61:3 has come to life in my life– “To grant those who mourn in Zion, Giving them a garland instead of ashes, The oil of gladness instead of mourning, The mantle of praise instead of a spirit of fainting. So they will be called oaks of righteousness, The planting of the LORD, that He may be glorified.”

Doxology

My Open Letter To Pastors Everywhere– You Need To Get This


Dear Pastors,

Over the past 20 years I have been moved from place to place, sometimes by God, sometimes for personal reasons. 

That is why I’m writing this.
I am no one special. I have no title, no grand purpose or calling. I am like many within your flock, under your care– part of your Divine calling and purpose.

I am a member of the Body of Christ, and that means something more to me than merely being a member of a local church.

I have been given talents by God, and I strive to use them to help further His Kingdom purpose.  I have been given a heart of flesh that longs to please God. I love people, I love Jesus, and I love serving God as He calls me to.

I have seen where church leadership has some blindspots. I am asking you, humbly, as one who loves God and people–  please– drop all defensiveness and listen.

I believe that God has called Pastors and all church leaders to love His people as He loves His people, not to just instruct us about the Word of God. Not one of us is in the same part of the narrow road, nor have we walked with the same steps or strides. In fact, there are some who are crawling, there are some who are stopped– waiting on God to give them clear direction– direction that oftentimes comes through you.

Every Pastor wants the congregants who are running the race perfectly, with all the energy necessary to carry out the plans and purposes of the ministries churches offer. There are people who are called and able to fulfill those Pastoral dreams. 

I want to tell you, many simply are not. Many are trying to work out their Salvation with fear and trembling. Some want to please church leadership, but they are burnt out by doing so. Some feel weighted down by life. Some have been crippled by life’s circumstances, and they can’t “perform” as is often necessary. These are the people you are leaving behind. These are the ones you are hurting. Some of these equate how you treat them with how God wants them to be treated– and that is breaking God’s heart.

I want to encourage you to look at every person as the individual that God has created them to be.

We are all brothers and sisters in Christ, and God has entrusted you with the loving care to help nurture and grow even the most unloveable Christian.

I believe God wants to release His healing within His Body. Hurts caused by our own family in Christ. Reconciliations. Letting go of offenses. Repentance for how we all treat one another.

I believe He wants to begin from the top of the leadership down through the entire congregation.

What does this look like? More ministries for congregants, not just opportunities to serve. Listening more carefully. Being approachable, a healthy relationship attainable outside of jumping through specific hoops to prove worthiness of your time, attention and appreciation. 

Removal of any “hierarchy” mindset that in any way belittles your congregants in your eyes.

There are millions of Pastors, and every one of you is a unique individual created by God, just like all of your congregants are. 

I pray you will read this, that you will seek God concerning this. Not because I am asking, but because God’s Judgment begins in the House of The Lord. We all need to be far more sensitive to God’s Spirit than we are to the opinions of ourselves and others.

God’s love is not tough, it’s full of compassion, patience and deep understanding.

So should we all be towards one another.

Sincerely,

Your Sister In Christ