Work In Progress

I spent all of yesterday and most of today curled up in the corner of one of the living room futons battling the worst respiratory “yuckiness” I’ve had in a long time.  Maybe ever.  Apart from the coughing, sneezing, and the occasional nap, I had much time to think and even did some praying.  Almost all of this thinking and praying was specifically for a family member who is hurting.  This big sister wishes she could do more than pray but the situation is so far out of my control it’s crazy.

My sister is hurting.  Big time.  Like “can’t-breathe-not-sure-how-to-keep-functioning” hurting.  The circumstance is so huge that it has hurt much of the family – my sister more than any other, but my kids have all gotten stung as well. My other sister, the husbands, my parents . . . all are a little hurt/frustrated/angry.  So take big sister anger and add some mama bear growl . . . let’s just say my first impulse when I heard about the situation a week ago was to jump on a plane and rush to the rescue; with violence, if necessary.

As I’ve prayed for my sister and her boys, I’ve also had to pray quite a bit about my own attitude.  I don’t want to forgive.  The offender hasn’t asked for forgiveness but forgiveness really isn’t about the other person, is it?  I mean, there are so many times when the other person doesn’t care if we forgive or not.  Forgiving is really about my releasing the right to seek revenge for the wrong.  In this case, the wrong was not directly visited on me.  But anyone who has ever been a big sister or a mom can tell you, I would probably be MORE forgiving if it was me – rather than my sister or my ducklings – that had been hurt directly.

I am an imperfect Jesus follower (aren’t we all!) and I know there are areas in which I need to grow.  This whole week has revealed a very big one for me.  I don’t want to forgive this person.  Right now this person shows no interest in being forgiven or trying to make amends.  But I’m only responsible my response, not the other person’s actions. And I REALLY DON’T WANT TO FORGIVE!!!  *sigh* So now I know what I need to work on –

I need to get better at forgiving.

I need to get better at extending grace when others have screwed up big time.

I need to look to the person who “took the direct hit” for my cue on how to respond.

But I’ve also realized that I can drop everything and be there for hurting family and not, even for a moment, regret the time spent.  In the time I’ve spent praying for this, I’ve been very honest about my feelings and asked for help growing up.  And I’ve tried to be very aware of the usual cliches offered in situations like this and (hopefully!) avoided them.

Regardless of the eventual outcome – this whole thing could drag on for a year at the least – I have just a couple things I hope will be true in the end:  (1) I want to be available as a sounding board/person to vent to/shoulder to cry on as often as possible and (2) I want to forgive the “guilty party” even if that person NEVER owns up to the hurtful actions.

Sometimes “adulting” is hard.

Faith or a Road Map?

I recently finished reading a challenging book entitled “Sifted: God’s Scandalous Response to Satan’s Outrageous Demand” by Rick Lawrence.  It was a timely reading choice in my own life but those details are for another post. Maybe.

I read this particular book in ebook format but that didn’t keep me from highlighting the parts that were thought-provoking, striking or even those parts that made me bristle a bit.  (Let’s face it – sometimes we really CAN’T handle the truth!)

I keep coming back to a handful of the passages that struck a chord with me.  I will likely be sharing a few of them in the next few posts.  Maybe very few.  Just not sure where all of this is heading yet.  But this one I knew I needed to share:

Martin Luther King Jr. was embracing the beauty of the darkness when he said, “Faith is taking the first step, even when you don’t see the whole staircase.”  And we’re motivated to take that “first step” because we know who made the stairs, not because we’re sure of where they’re leading us.

When the author mentions “the beauty of the darkness” he’s talking about those times in our lives when we don’t see a way out of the circumstances we’re in and all we have left is faith.  Those times when we can’t see the “light at the end of the tunnel” and we secretly fear that the tunnel may have collapsed around us!

I keep coming back to the idea of taking the first step without seeing the staircase (thank you, Dr. King).  If I can see the end – if I have the road map or a clearly marked path to follow – is that really faith?!  Those who are wary of technology may say that it takes ALOT of faith to trust their GPS.  But not really.  When I can see where I’m going I don’t have to have much faith to get me there and it allows me to be in control (or at least feel like I am!).

In recent weeks, my life has been an interesting experience because some doors have been very clearly opened and others very clearly closed while in other areas big fat questions marks seem to cover the landscape with doors that may or may not be slightly ajar.  To say that my plans for the next school year are still rather fuzzy would be pretty accurate.

I’d like answers.  A clear agenda.  I’d like to have all of it spelled out for me; not only the actual plan but the reasoning and thought behind all of it.

But none of that takes faith.

Yeah, taking that first step of faith is hard.  Maybe even scary.  And you just might be too exhausted to even THINK about stepping.  But to simply sit and do nothing is to guarantee stagnation.

So there are my choices.  Step out in faith and risk . . . something.  Maybe.  Or sit and do nothing and guarantee that nothing will happen.  One brings with it the chance for growth and reward.  The other is safe and predictable and ultimately sucks the life out of you.

Well, . . . here goes nothin’.

Peace-seeking Mission

From the very beginning of my memory, music was an integral part of my faith expression.  I can remember sitting in the “old” sanctuary of Emmanuel Baptist Church in Farmington, New Mexico – I must have been somewhere between 4 and 5 years of age – and watching the college group give a performance of a cantata/musical on the life of Christ “He Lived a Good Life”.  We somehow ended up with the record of the show.  (Yes, record.  Vinyl.)  40 years later, I can still sing some of those songs without missing a lyric.  When Emmanuel built their new sanctuary, I can remember sitting in the pews, basking in the amazing sounds of the adult choir as they rehearsed the Gather Easter cantata “Alleluia” or the bi-centennial celebration musical entitled “Fabric of Freedom” and a personal favorite – “The Apostle” based on the life of Paul.  And yes, there are still some songs from each of those that I remember.  Songs I learned as a child that can still be recalled decades later!!

Those memories aren’t just pleasant.  There was something overwhelming in each of them.  I can remember the choir being moved to tears during a performance of “Alleluia” and being overcome myself.  As a small child, watching a song touch your own father to such a depth that tears pour down his cheeks?  That’s powerful.

As if that wasn’t enough, I was surrounded by music at home.  My mother and father both sang (daddy’s a bass, mom’s an alto) and there was a piano in the home.  I began taking piano lessons at the age of 4 and 1/2.  The record player was always full of music, usually LOTS of southern gospel!

I could go on for quite some time about powerful music services I’ve been in, worship songs that have impacted my life in intense ways, songs that have helped with emotional healing at a time when it was most needed.  Hopefully, you get the idea that music is a powerful, even necessary piece of my faith-walk.  This is especially true of music in a community setting; congregational, if you prefer that word.

Lately, I feel completely directionless and uninspired in the area of music as it connects to my faith and it hurts.  I don’t know what the cause is and to start speculating would be useless.  I don’t know what the cure is.  All I know is that I seem to just be going through the motions lately.  Every so often one song will strike a chord with me.  And there are times in my private music listening moments that my heart is touched, my emotions are stirred, I am comforted.  But it’s not happening in community and I don’t know why.

You’re going to say I should pray about it.  You would be absolutely right.  I have been. For months.  And I’m no closer to understanding my situation or finding a solution than I was when I started.  So I will keep praying.  I will find times to simply “be still and know that He is God” (Psalm 46:10).  Some of you might suggest I speak to my Pastor.  Well, that’s kind of a weird situation – my Pastor is my hubby.  I don’t really want to dump this on him.  So I’m praying about seeking counsel elsewhere (don’t worry – I’m doing that with hubby’s blessing and we are praying together about the situation as a whole!).

God never wastes anything so I’m sure there is a lesson in this regardless of the cause or the outcome.  And if you feel led to pray, I would certainly appreciate it!

Handle With Care

I can’t believe I’m feeling compelled to blog about what is currently on my mind.  Maybe I’ll end up saving it as a draft, re-reading it later, discovering it’s horrid and deleting it.  Guess I’ll have to see how the Spirit leads.

I’m in a time of Spiritual struggle/doubt/confusion and I’m not sure how long it’s going to take to wade through it all.  But I will get through it.  Eventually.  I got into a discussion lately with someone whose grasp of Biblical truths I value greatly.  Our discussion was over a handful of Scriptures that are all related and this person is quietly confident that their interpretation is correct which is frightening since what they’ve shared means some radical changes for how I view some things as well as how I act and react.

I won’t be sharing the specifics here.  The details of this are all still so fresh that just thinking about the situation as I type has me in tears!  If I accept this person’s understanding of Scripture as correct, it means radically redefining some things about my life.  It’s also left me feeling very exposed and vulnerable.

Without getting into a long sob story, I’ve spent much of my life feeling like God’s “illegitimate child”.  You know, the  one he had to take because he forgot to make an exception to that whole “whosoever will” clause.  I was finally, after many years of work, beginning to get to a place where some past issues and attitudes had been confronted or admitted and were well on the way to being dealt with.  But the result of this recent conversation and the resultant realization has undone much of that.  It’s not that I feel unloved or unwanted by God – I’ve gotten past that, Hallelujah!  But I am at a loss in some other, very personal areas of my life.  I need to redefine some things, some of the roles I fulfill, and it looks like this is something I’ll be doing alone.

In earlier blogs, I commented on the weirdness that comes from being a Pastor’s wife.  Moments like this – being in a place of Spiritual crisis and desperately wanting to talk to a Godly counselor – are downright painful for many members of Pastor’s families.  I don’t have a Pastor in the truest sense of the word.  I’m married to the man who Pastor’s the church I attend which makes it awkward to seek him out for counseling since we already have a long-established relationship. It’s impossible for me to see him as “just” my Pastor or for him to see me as “just” another church member.  So I turn to writing my thoughts out in the hopes that I will discover some catharsis or have an epiphany.  The reality is getting it “written down” simply relieves some of the emotional pressure.

I have no idea what the rest of this journey will look like and I’m more than a little terrified.  It’s never easy to change one’s paradigm and when you have to do it alone, the task can seem insurmountable.  So I rest in the reminder of Psalm 18:2 – “The Lord is my rock, my fortress, and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.”

And of course, I’ll turn to the best comfort I can find in times like these – the gift of music. (The song in the video below is a current favorite!)