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.

Thoughts From Another Writer

I’m sure I’ve violated some blogging protocol by blogging twice in one day but I couldn’t let this one go!

I have been using a book by Brennan Manning as a part of my daily quiet time.  It is entitled “Dear Abba: Morning and Evening Prayer” and I HIGHLY recommend it!!  The readings are short and simple and include a scripture reference, Brennan Manning’s thoughts on the scripture and then a crafted prayer.

I went into the book with some skepticism since I am not usually a fan of “pre-written” prayers; I tend to find that they are a little impersonal, devoid of any genuine heart.  I gave the book a chance because the last Brennan Manning book I read was a life-changing, paradigm shifting experience.

This is the crafted prayer from tonight and it hit me so powerfully that I’ve re-read it at least three times already.  In light of my earlier post about introspection, it seemed appropriate to share it with you so here it is –

Dear Abba –

To spiritually photoshop, or not to spiritually photoshop:  that is a recurring question.  I’ve gotten pretty good at cropping and resizing to keep an impressive facade, but the emptiness behind it is the telling thing, telling me that something about the life I’m living is off the tracks.  I’m not the biggest fan of mirrors but I realize they do serve a purpose:  showing me the reality, the real me.  I’m a ragamuffin, always have been, and yet You love me, the real me.  Amazing

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!

From the Heart

Two passages of scripture have been running through my head for the last month or so.  Really, they’ve kind of been chasing each other around in my head!  First one will come to mind, followed almost immediately by the other.  I’ve hesitated to say anything here about it because I’m not sure what to do with the truths contained in the passages.  Not fully sure, anyway.

Psalm 51:10-12

Create in me a pure heart, O God,
    and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
Do not cast me from your presence
    or take your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation
    and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.


2 Chronicles 7:14
If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

This last verse is one that I mull over quite often.  Believers are so quick to say that we need to pray for the corrupt path our nation is on and they often quote this verse.  But read it again.  Carefully.  The church is definitely being called to pray.  But not in the way some want to believe

“If my people, who are called by my name” – this is God talking so he’s talking about those who claim to follow him.  In the original, “Old Testament” writing of this, that meant the nation of Israel.  Since God has expanded his family to include non-Jews, it means all those who claim to follow God.

“Will humble themselves and pray (emphasis mine) and turn from their wicked ways” – this about the members of the body confessing their own sins, not standing in as confessors for a nation.  Believers are called to humble themselves, not humiliate those with a different political ideology.

“Then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin (again, emphasis mine) and will heal their land.” – the sin being forgiven here is not the sin of a nation.  It’s the sin of believers who have confessed.

Like I said, still chewing through these two verses and working on what exactly it is I am supposed to take away.  One thing is obvious – personal confession is something that believers are called to do.  I don’t mean beating yourself up or constantly belittling yourself.  I’m talking honesty – “I was wrong.  I violated your principles and I’m sorry.  Please forgive and restore me.”  After all, we have absolutely nothing to lose with confession. I John 1:9 says “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”

I guess it’s time to see if I’m brave enough to live what I’m learning.  Am I ready to confess and get things right?  Am I ready to own my responsibility and confess regardless of the attitudes and actions of others?   Oh boy.  This might be tougher than I thought!