Category Archives: Christ Life

A Perfect Imperfect Life

I celebrated another birthday last month. An odd thing about the years adding up, you realize how much you don’t know while also becoming wiser in the things you do know. Quite paradoxical, I’ve surmised. overflowSo on the wisdom theme; I’ve been thinking about clichés lately, both biblical and otherwise, those phrases we throw around as magic wand solutions to life. You know, stuff like “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence,” God won’t give you more than you can bear;” statements that help us feel better when we don’t know what else to say. I’ve been wondering where they came from and if they’re actually true.

Lately I’ve been contemplating this one: “Is your glass half full or half empty?” and have decided I don’t want my cup to be half anything. I want it filled to the brim and overflowing with thankfulness, grace, love, encouragement, joy, laughter and peace.

God has blessed me in many ways this past month, my glass is full and I want to acknowledge a few of these blessings with gratitude.

  • My husband took me out, brought me flowers and spoiled me. He spoils me all year actually and I’m awestruck that he has celebrated four decades of birthdays with me so far. I don’t deserve such love and loyalty.
  • We were able to visit our son, David, his wife, Clara and our cute, adorable, babbling, hug-able, my-heart-is-bursting-with-love, little grandson, Asa, for a long weekend. Someone please remove the stars from my eyes and forgive me for turning into the obnoxious grandmother I said I’d never be!
  • I have great friends! Three of them brought a surprise lunch to me on my birthday, cooked it in my kitchen and served me at my table. For someone who spends half her life in the kitchen (or so it seems) it doesn’t get much better than this. A few days ago, friends from Kissimmee drove up and stayed the day, brought gifts, food, laughter, a massage table (with essential oils! Ahhh!) and took me out for dinner before going home. And I had a night out with another beautiful friend this week who is rich in wisdom, overflows with love, makes me laugh way too much (if that’s possible), and challenges my heart and brain with stimulating conversation. God has surrounded me with the very best of His human creation.
  • I was able to get Jon to his dentist appointment on time (miracle!) and as he was waking up from sedation (our doesn’t want to be touched and doesn’t talk much son), held my hand and began quoting the 23rd Psalm and singing The Lord’s Prayer. God gives us deep glimpses into our Jon’s heart now and then, and reminds me that the heart of a person is more valuable than what is seen on the outside.
  • I’m not running marathons, but I’m more pain free and healthier than I’ve been since I was in my twenties, thanks to the knowledge I’ve gained in recent years about diet and nutrition. God has been faithful to lead me down a path of understanding my body as a temple of His Holy Spirit, and all this entails.

Life is far from perfect, there are constant obstacles and challenges but the longer I live, the more I’m aware of the perfection that exists in beautiful moments of time. Yet our selfish flesh loves to wallow in the mud of misery, negativity and pity. The enemy of our mind and soul delights in reminding us how hard our situation is, how difficult that person is, how we don’t have enough, how we aren’t enough and most of all that our God is too small! I can choose to remain mired in negatives and dwell on downers or allow Jesus to fill my cup to the brim with goodness, mercy and joy.

Remember, an overflowing cup is going to spill all over somebody. With every today, I want to live in a refreshing overflow of God’s presence, discovered in the richness of an imperfect life.

Perfection in imperfection, it’s the ultimate paradox lived in and through Christ.

John 7:38 “He who believes in Me, as the Scripture said, ‘From his innermost being will flow rivers of living water.'”

John 4:14 “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a fount of water springing up to eternal life.”

Luke 6:45 “The good man brings good things out of the good treasure of his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil treasure of his heart. For out of the overflow of the heart, the mouth speaks.”

Proverbs 4:23 “Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life.”

Psalm 68″19 “Blessed be the Lord, who daily loads us with benefits, The God of our salvation!

 

On Whose Lives Matter

Jon SuaveThe topic of lives that matter has been at the forefront of news lately, so I might as well add another group to the fray, one that receives little to no headlines, attention or protests.

In 2013, Robert Saylor, a man with Down syndrome died of asphyxiation after three off duty policemen moonlighting as security guards, restrained him to the floor in handcuffs when he refused to leave a movie theater. His caregiver’s pleas for understanding were apparently disregarded when Robert wanted to see the movie again.

Last week, Arnaldo Rios Soto, a man with autism, watched police shoot his caregiver on a Miami street. Arnaldo had wandered from his group home carrying a favorite metal toy truck in his hand. Someone called the police when they saw Arnoldo, describing him as a man with a gun, acting erratically. His caregiver, Charles Kinsey, was trying to coax him out of the street to safety when police arrived. As Kinsey tried desperately to explain Arnaldo had autism and the object in his hand was a toy truck, an officer discharged his gun at Arnaldo shooting Kinsey instead.

Police officers have protocols to follow and tough judgment calls to make based on their best assessment of a situation and the developmentally disabled rarely fit the cooperation profile. During one of Jon’s wandering episodes he was handcuffed and held in the back of a police car when he failed to answer an officer’s questions or supply his name. To the untrained, the developmentally challenged can be perceived as dangerous and they experience more misunderstandings with police than any other population.*

This week in Tokyo, Japan, Satoshi Uematsu a former employee of a residential facility for the disabled, broke in during the night and stabbed nineteen sleeping people to death and wounded twenty five more. Earlier he had written a letter that stated, “all disabled should cease to exist,” and “the disabled can only create misery.”

The first people exterminated during Hitler’s ‘purify the race’ campaign were not Jews, but the disabled or feeble minded, as he chose to label them. Our Jon would have been the first to die, had we been alive in that decade. It seems no population is exempt from injustice and violence in a world where human hearts trade fear for discernment or choose evil over righteousness.

A recently released movie, “Me Before You,” based on the novel by the same name, is a fictional story of a handsome, athletic young man from a wealthy family who is spine injured in an accident and becomes a paraplegic. It’s meant to be a tear jerker romance, but, of course, I found myself watching this story through the filter of disability and its connection to the value of a human life. The final message of the movie was disappointing, (spoiler alert!) the life of a disabled person is not worth living so the young man travels to Switzerland to die by assisted suicide.

Significance is defined as the quality of being important, large enough to be noticed or have effect or influence, to be worthwhile, valued. Everyone longs to matter. WH Auden, a poet from the 1930’s wrote, “..for who can bear to feel himself forgotten.”

We celebrate celebrity, worship achievement, want to be a ‘somebody’ and leave our mark on the world; a bigger than life personal graffiti wall that boldly states “I was here!” Our culture glorifies importance based on many factors: success, fame, wealth and influence, to name a few.

Disability that achieves the earmarks of worldly success is glorified, but not all disabled persons contribute in ways others consider worthwhile. Does this make their lives less valuable? I don’t have answers to all the tough questions about disability in the world, but our answer to the question of value usually depends on our worldview.

This is mine: “God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness..” (Genesis 1:26) and “the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).

If we believe God is the creator, author and beginning of all human existence, there can never be any doubt all lives matter. When Jesus told us to “love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Mark 12:3), He didn’t offer any exceptions, in fact He stated no other commandment was greater. He gave the example of two people groups embroiled in a cold racist war with one another in the parable of The Good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37), to illustrate what this love looks like.

Violence is a heart issue and will never be resolved until these words of Jesus are understood in the heart of every person and become standard practice.

If we are breathing God’s air on this planet He made, His life is in us, regardless of race, color, gender, preference, ability and age; we are His precious treasure. What others see when they look at us, our outward appearance, is only the packaging for the treasure inside and the wrapping, as beautiful as it might be, is never valued over the gift it holds.

We are significant because God thought we were worth creating. He paid for our life with His, and extends nail scared hands to all humanity as proof of His investment in us and as a personal guarantee that we are top priority.

Jon matters. You matter. I matter. God said so.

And that should be good enough for all of us.

Psalm 139:14-16 “I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made; Wonderful are Your works, And my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from You, When I was made in secret, And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth; Your eyes have seen my unformed substance; And in Your book were all written The days that were ordained for me, When as yet there was not one of them..”

Psalm 22:10 “ I was placed in your care from birth. From my mother’s womb you have been my God.”

*”Disabled people are four to ten times more likely to face violent crimes than the general population, including police violence, sexual assault, hate crime, bullying, robbery, and murder. According to the recent Ruderman report on media portrayal of police violence towards people with disabilities, at least one third to one half of all police violence cases covered by the media involves the disability community. ~ “#BlackDisabledLivesMatter vs #AllDisabledLivesMatter” by Pharaoh Inkabuss, blackautist.tumblr.com~

Swimming Through The Nevers

Our son, David, texted me from Wisconsin, where he, Clara and little grandson, Asa, were at Clara’s parents for the week with the rest of her siblings, their spouses and kids for a family gathering.

asa cousinsDavid’s text said Asa was meeting his many cousins for the first time.

Without much thought my reply was, “That’s fun, because he’ll never have any on this side.”

“Yeah, I’ve been thinking about that.” He responded.

It hadn’t hit me until this moment; David’s children will never have cousins from our side of the family.

It was another ‘never’ moment in our life with Jon and I was suddenly saddened with a loss I fought for several days.

Loss always brings varying levels of grief and comes in many forms, through death, rejection, betrayal, disappointment, regret, hijacked hope, disabled dreams or what could have been.

We swim in this deep ocean of life, joyfully splashing, serenely floating or treading water, when loss washes over us like an unexpected wave. We’re swept under by its powerful force, breathless and fearful, struggling to find air and a way to resurface.

I don’t know, maybe other parents of special needs kids do this better than me, but I still experience blindsided takeovers in my life with Jon. I’m buzzing along in our daily thing, trusting God, thankful for the blessings we have when it hits again, another huge wave, reminding me of more ‘nevers’.

You’d think after all these years I’d see it coming but they still catch me off guard. My heart sinks, panic and desperation threaten. I spit and sputter and cry out to God, once again, asking to be pulled from the depths of despondency.

And He does. He always does. He reminds me He understands my mother’s heart. He assures me He is there to bring me through. And He keeps His promises. When the wave subsides I rise again and get back to the good in life, looking on the bright side with a completely full, instead of half empty cup, counting my blessings instead of my lack.

Asa won’t have cousins here it’s true, but he will have grandparents who love him. And because he has Uncle Jon in his life he will grow, as did his father, to be kinder, gentler, more compassionate and more accepting of other’s differences. Our grandson will be shaped and influenced by the unique dynamic of our family in ways others cannot offer.

Each of us have opportunities to dwell on the can’t, the won’t and the never. Yours are probably different than mine but we all have them. It’s human to be pulled under the waves of despair at times but it’s NEVER okay to stay there.  Drowning is certainly an option, but not a good one.

Ecclesiastes 3:1, says there’s a season for everything, so we do our grieving, kicking and flailing, then grasp the hand God extends beneath the turbulent waters of living, resurface, breathe and move on.

“Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overwhelm you..” Isaiah 43:1-2.

Here’s one ‘never’ I can rejoice in. There’s never a need to drown in despair! My God possesses perfect life guarding skills. He will always carry me back to solid ground.

 

Psalm 40:2 “He lifted me out of the pit of despair, out of the mud and the mire. He set my feet on solid ground and steadied me as I walked along.”

Psalm 42:11 “Why are you in despair, O my soul? And why have you become disturbed within me? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him, the help of my countenance and my God.”

Ecclesiastes 3:1 “For everything there is a season, and a time for every purpose under heaven..”

Will the Jon Moms Please Stand Up

This year, as the calendar would have it, I experience Jon’s birthday and Mother’s Day just a few days apart.

Jon’s birthday never goes as (we) planned. We wanted to take him out, he didn’t want to go. We had cake, balloons and gifts ready at 11am, he stayed in his room until 7:30 pm. He wouldn’t let us sing “Happy Birthday” to him, he wanted to play “Bad Moon Rising” on YouTube instead (??!!).Jon 36 birthday

The candles had to burn all the way down to wax craters inside the top of the cake before he’d blow them out. Mike waited up until 11:30 for gift opening to commence and couldn’t last any longer. He went to bed and gifts were finally completed at 12:45 am, with me falling asleep on the sofa. Jon was just getting started.

He’s thirty-six now. I’m not really ‘raising’ him anymore. Those days are over and he sorta’ does what he wants around here. But I’m not really done parenting him either or maybe it’s more of an advisory enforcer role, reminding him to shower, shave, take his meds, not wander away and to quit hijacking kitchen utensils he doesn’t use and bills from the desk drawer, he’ll never pay.

I drag him to doctor and dentist appointments and talk him into getting a haircut whenever he starts getting the caveman look.

We’re caught in a weird time warp somewhere between unreasonable toddler, love-able kid,  ornery teenager and grumpy old man. It all depends on the day or maybe the hour. There’s no category for that I suppose.

Then I went to an awesome mother’s lunch yesterday and it got me wondering what Mom category I fit into. The mom with the most kids, the most grandkids, the most great-grands, the oldest, the youngest, the newest, the singles and the all-done-empty-nesters were acknowledged and asked to stand.

Jon Me IHOP 11-2015I was confused. I’m sorta’ that one, but not really. I’m half the other one but not sure if half counts. So I stayed seated. Not that it matters much. Standing or sitting, I’m still two guy’s mom and happy for it.

I realize Mother’s Day isn’t perfect for some of us. Some have loss, rebellion, prison, prodigal, estrangement, medically fragile and unusual when it comes to kids and some who want children never have them. Life throws reality at us and we mourn, cry, kick and scream for a while then get up and keep going.

God keeps us strong in all of it. We are HIS daughters, whether we have twenty kids or none, typical kids or not. He doesn’t categorize or compare. We are just loved, valued and precious to Him.

So here’s a shout out to all God’s daughters. Whatever earth bound category you fall into (or not) may you know He delights in YOU today.

YOU are the blessed of the Lord.

YOU are the Apple of His Eye.

And YOU are His favorite (after me of course :).

Happy Mother’s Day!

Psalm 115:14-15 “May the Lord continue to bless you and your children. You will be blessed by the Lord, the maker of heaven and earth.”

Psalm 17:8 “Keep me as the apple of your eye; hide me in the shadow of your wings.”

Zephaniah 3:17 “The Lord your God is with you, the Mighty Warrior who saves. He will take great delight in you..”

 

Grandmother Faith

Asa 2-12-2016 One week ago our grandson, Asa Connis, pushed his way into the world and added a brand new dimension to life. After sixty years, I’ve finally joined the Grandmother Club and I’m still trying to understand the overwhelming love I feel for this tiny guy when I haven’t met him yet.

According to Google maps he is five hundred and seventy two miles away from me, but the evidence of his awaited arrival, streams daily onto my iPhone screen, giving me faith to believe he finally exists and hope for the day I will soon meet him.

I’ve received a sound clip of his first cries and a picture of him in his first hour. I can scroll through my phone for more pictures; him bundled up in his car seat, sleeping in little footie pajamas, wearing the little hat we bought him, curled up in a classic fetal position in his newborn diaper, and a heart melting video of him sporting hiccups on his dad’s lap.

We are accumulating a massive amount of evidence Asa has arrived, in texts, updates and FaceTime calls. Though I have not felt the weight of him in my arms or seen his adorable little face with my own eyes, I know my grandson is here.

Because we live in a physical reality, we often have trouble believing something not yet seen or experienced. Faith is defined as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 1:6). Some believe if God can’t be seen He doesn’t exist, yet place great faith in what can be physically seen, but not fully trusted.

We trust the driver coming toward us in the other lane will stay there, the airplane will remain in the sky and take us safely to our destination, the grocery store will have needed food when we pull in the parking lot, and our paycheck will arrive at the end of the week.

We trust the pill the doctor gave us will make us better, the water coming out of our faucet is safe to drink, the repairman will show up to fix our hot water tank and the roof overhead will remain intact during the next storm.

We trust in so many temporary things, but fail to trust our Creator and Eternal God.

There are those who sincerely set out to disprove the existence of God but found it impossible to do so. Lee Strobel, in his book, “The Case For Christ,” and Josh McDowell, in his book, “Evidence That Demands a Verdict,” both explain how extensive research to disprove the reality of God led to their transformation from atheist to believer. Unlike these men, though I’ve never seen God with my own eyes, I’ve believed in Him most of life.

There is overwhelming historical proof He came to Earth through His son Jesus, and for those with open hearts, evidence He exists is all around us. For me, He shows up in numerous ways everyday; in the intricate designs of nature, in the laughter of a friend, in the quiet thoughts and impressions downloaded into my heart and mind, in His written Word gifted to us as a life manual, and in the miracle of my precious new grandson.

Jesus said to His disciple Thomas, “Because you have seen me, you believe. Blessed are those who have not seen and still believe” (John 20:29). If seeing is the only way to believe, then true faith is absent and without faith it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). If you love someone you want to make them happy and steadfast faith makes God happy.

 
In this life I see in part, the things of Heaven and Eternity are obscured, as if I’m looking through a distorted mirror. This often creates a faith crisis. 1 Corinthians 13:12 tells me, “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.”

Bottom line, God simply desires a life of total trust from me, even and especially when, I can’t see clearly. My trust demonstrates I understand how much He loves me and how He has my best interest in mind. Always.

God has set a date (Psalm 139:16) when I’ll leave the boundaries of this earth and go home to Him. I will finally see my Savior face to face (John 3:2) and the faith, I’ve struggled to hold onto through all the storms of life, will finally become sight (2 Corinthians 5:7).

For now, I’m seeing my grandson through a glass screen, but a trip is planned and soon I will see him face to face. I’m excited.

So I press on, looking forward to the time I see little Asa and eventually, one day, my Heavenly Father..

..with unwavering Grandmother faith.

“For I am mindful of the sincere faith within you, which first dwelt in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice, and I am sure that it is in you as well.” 2 Timothy 1:5
“We shall behold Him
O yes, we shall behold Him
Face to face in all of His glory
We shall behold Him
Yes, we shall behold Him
Face to face
Our Savior and Lord..”
~”We Shall Behold Him,” Dottie Rambo~

“It will be worth it all when we see Jesus,
Life’s trials will seem so small, when we see Christ;
One look at his dear face, all sorrow will erase,
So bravely run the race till we see Christ.”
~ Hymn, “When We See Christ,” Esther Kerr Rusthoi, 1941~

Do Unto Others

“Do unto others as they have done to you?”

There are many times in life, relationships and circumstances we secretly wish Jesus had actually said it that way and more often than we like to admit, we react as if He did (Matthew 7:12).

Here’s what I know:

People can disappointruler-684005_640
People can hurt
People can reject
People can ignore
People can ridicule
People can neglect
People can be selfish
People can be disloyal
People can be harsh
People can be intolerant
People can be heartless
People can be cruel
People can be…just fallen, broken, messed-up people.

So how do we respond when others become these ‘People Can’ folks?

What is our reaction when people don’t rise to the level of our expectations?

The human tendency is to recoil, withdraw, take out a mental permanent marker and cross them off our internal, ‘people-I-just-might-continue-to-like’ list.

I’ve said it and many times heard others say it, “They did/said ________. That’s it! I’m done with them!”

We wash our angry, offended hands of them and walk away; maybe not literally, but emotionally. We build walls, barriers and keep them distant; at the extreme fringe of our consciousness.

They are cast to the outside of our tiny circle and are greeted, if it all, with a stiff jaw, hard heart and an icy attitude.

Obviously, I’m not referring to abusive, immoral or illegal relationships. There may be people we need out of our life to vastly improve its’ outcome. Go ahead and pray for these as you walk away. But in the everyday interactions between co-workers, friends, family, spouse, fellow believers and the cashier in the checkout line, we can be so easily offended, so quick to write others off.

The truth is God did not write us off. He should have. We certainly deserve it.

He did this instead:

“For God so loved the world He gave…” John 3:16
“While we were yet sinners Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8
“Father forgive them they don’t know what they’re doing.” Luke 23:34

And if God, my Creator, did this for us, we can do no less for others.

Jesus, our pattern and example of God walking and living on the earth said:

“For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you.” Matthew 6:14
“This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you.” John 15:12
“By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:35
“Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you…” Matthew 5:44

In other words, “Do what I do. Treat others, not as they deserve, but in the same way I have treated you.”

He’s never turned his back on us, but gave it to the lash of scorners.

He’s never walked away from us, but stumbled up a dusty hill, carrying the same tree that took His life.

He’s never washed his hands of us, but allowed them to be pierced with nails of redemption.

He’s never crossed us off his list, but hung on a cross to prove He will never stop reaching for us.

This isn’t a fuzzy, mushy, lollipops and sunshine sorta’ love. It’s a, “This is hard and I don’t feel like it, but it’s the right thing to do,” kind of love (Luke 22:42).

It’s a love that puts relationship over being right. And a love, not for romantic, starry-eyed whimps, but for spirit led soldiers who will take up their cross and follow Him.

“So in EVERYTHING, do to others what you WOULD HAVE them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets” Matthew 7:12.

The addition of a few extra words changes everything.

My prayer today, is they will also change me and you.

My Gnat Confession

scary-gnatCleaning Jon’s room makes me mad! I’m confessing, putting it out here for all to read.

Every time I clean his room I battle a huge bad attitude. One way to deal with my anger has been to give it a name, “The Landfill”, and to play worship music on my iPad as loudly as possible while cleaning.

The past few days we’ve been seeing little gnat things flying around the house and couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. I do a quick check in Jon’s room every other day or so, making sure nothing’s growing or moving that shouldn’t be and about once a week, do a more thorough clean and sheet change.

Yesterday, I decided it was “Landfill” cleaning day. Mike was home so he helped me with the vacuuming and I was sorting through Jon’s usual piles of stuff on the floor and in crates making sure everything was kosher, when I found it buried under a pile of stuffed animals, a personal size Rubbermaid cooler that he had taken from a cabinet in the laundry room.

I opened it to see what was inside and a fleet of gnats flew up in my face. After they lifted off, I noticed the bottom of the cooler was alive and moving with hundreds of little gnat larva. They were living off some sort of food science experiment growing in there.

Horrified, I screamed, slammed the top shut, grabbed it, ran to the front door and heaved the cooler as hard as I could into the yard. I slammed the front door closed and jumped around in the foyer for a few minutes, totally grossed out, itching, shaking and hollering, trying to get hallucinatory gnats off of me.

Once that subsided, incredible anger took its place. I stomped into the kitchen and yelled at Jon for two minutes straight while he stared at me like I’d just lost my mind then I went back in his room, still freaking out, and tried to tell Mike I’d found the source of our gnat invasion.

“I can’t hear anything you’re saying. You’ve got the music so loud it sounds like a Pentecostal church service in here. Turn it down so I can hear you.” Mike hollered over the music.

I yelled back, “Listening to that music is the only way I get through cleaning this room so you best be glad it’s playing. I’m so mad right now if that music shuts off I’m gonna’ smack someone, and hard!”

We scrubbed the daylights out of Jon’s room for the next hour. I reluctantly searched every nook, cranny, box, crate, bag and pile in there and in his bathroom. I threw every thread of bedding and fabric I could find in the washing machine and got Jon in the shower. He even let me wash his hair, possible penance for what he’d just put me through, though I’ll never know for sure.

A few hours later, after I was sure everything was clean and back in order, I finally calmed down.

Last night I prayed. Though yesterday’s clean was more than unusual, I asked God to show me why I become so angry every time I clean Jon’s room.  God knows my heart better than I, and I want to understand what is triggering this anger inside of me.

The answer came in my prayer as I poured my heart out before my Heavenly Daddy.

“He’s thirty five, I shouldn’t have to still clean his room and it’s not fair that I do. We should be empty nesters now and only cleaning kid messes after grandchildren visit.”

As much as I love my son, cleaning his room is evidence that this didn’t turn out as I’d hoped and hope disappointed triggers many reactions and emotions. We often don’t recognize their source.

Like we didn’t know where the gnats were coming from, I didn’t know where my anger was coming from until I searched, until I asked.

Now that I know, God and I can start working on it together; one more area where grace can replace reaction, where a servant heart can replace selfishness.

Recognizing my shortcoming is the first step. Asking God to help me change is the second. He loves me too much to leave me as I am, yet He is gentle enough to expose and change my selfish heart one layer at a time, even if it takes a plague of gnats to motivate me.

Confession is good so I pray I’ll soon have a heart of joy and a song of praise at all times, even in “The Landfill”.

But. Please. Lord. (Shivverrrr) minus all creepy, crawly, cringy, critter things!

Psalm 139:23-24 “Search me, O God, and know my heart: try me, and know my thoughts: And see if there be any wicked way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

Ephesians 4:26 “Be angry and sin not, don’t let the sun go down on your wrath or give place to the devil.”

James 5:16 “Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that you may be healed.”

Get Over it! My Special Education, Lesson #10

car-seat-belt-injury-orlando-flI drove halfway up the driveway before noticing Jon didn’t have his seat belt on, so I stopped the car and put it in park.

“Please put your seat belt on, Jon.”

He glared at the floor and snarled, “Leave me alone!”

“You want to be left alone? Ok then.”

I put the car in reverse and backed it up to the garage, where we’d just come from.

“You want to be left alone? Then get out of the car right now and go back in the house.”

I stared at him. He stared at the floor. We sat in silence for a minute.

“You either get your seat belt on and loose the attitude or get out of this car. I’m going out to have a nice time and I don’t need any grumpys coming along to wreck it.” I said firmly.

The scowl on my son’s face relaxed and he reached for the seat belt and slowly clicked it in place. I thanked him and off we went.

On the way to our destination, I decided to remind him why seat belts are not an option. I began to explain in simple language I knew he understood, that wearing one is the law and how they save lives in case of an accident.

As I was talking he reached out and turned the radio volume up.

“So you don’t want to hear what you need to know, is that it, Jon?” I reached over and turned the radio down. “You don’t want me to talk? Well, I won’t quit talking ‘till I’m dead. So you might as well get used to it.”

He reached over to turn the radio back up but not before I heard him mutter, “Hope that hurries up.”

I desperately tried not to laugh. Something so hurtful can be hilarious coming from Jon. He doesn’t talk much but he sure doesn’t pussy foot around about how he feels. At thirty five, when confronted with his inappropriate behavior, he’s often like a moody, bad attitude teenager who forgot to grow up.

I glanced at him as I drove and answered lightly, “Because you just said that, God is now going to make sure I live forever.”

A barely-there smile crossed his lips and he turned to look out the window so I wouldn’t see it.

This is what I know.

Sometimes, people I care about say words that are less than loving.

Get over it!

Sometimes, people I love are hurtful.

Get over it!

Sometimes those I try to help, lash back.

Get over it!

Sometimes those I most want love, acceptance and approval from, disappoint.

Get over it!

If Jesus, who was nailed to a tree, and in the excruciating pain and suffering of his final breath could declare, “Father forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing,” for those who hung Him there, I have no right to hold an offense against those who do less to me.

I’m learning from my Savior and my son how to get over it!

Getting over offense is a choice we constantly make. Everyday and in all situations.

Will I hold on to the hurt and add it to my growing list of offenses?

Will I choose bitterness and bondage or forgiveness and freedom?

Will I choose to stop taking every word, action and reaction personally?

Will I choose to stop being overly sensitive.

Will I choose to let go?

When I pray for strength I don’t have, God’s grace meets me at the point of my choice. I then see others through His eyes and with His heart.

Broken.

Bruised.

Damaged.

Valuable.

Forgiven.

Deserving of love.

Worthy of redemption.

Just like me.

So. Get. Over. It!

“The first to apologize is the bravest. The first to forgive is the strongest. The first to forget is the happiest.” ~Unknown~

Matthew 18:21 Peter came up to the Lord and asked, “How many times should I forgive someone who does something wrong to me? Is seven times enough?”22 Jesus answered: Not just seven times, but seventy-seven times!

Colossians 3:13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.

Ephesians 4:31-32 Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

React or Respond – My Special Education, Lesson # 9

react-respondJon desperately needed a shower and shave. When I went in his room to vacuum and change his sheets, I took his iPad and told him he could have it back after he cleaned himself up.

“Why don’t you do that while I clean in here,” I said with a smile, “then everything about you will be clean and shiny today.”

He scowled at me and left the room.

I busied myself for the next hour picking up a variety of things from the floor: sticks, strings, marbles, batteries, dice and pens, throwing away piles of old paper he’d collected and organizing his DVD and VHS collection back on shelves.

When I went to check on him he was in our bathroom. I’m never thrilled about Jon in the master bath. He gets into all our stuff when he’s in there, but it’s the only bathroom in the house with a tub so we allow it from time to time.

Later that evening I noticed Mike’s electric shaver was missing along with my pearl necklace. I knew Jon had used the shaver since he emerged from our room with his caveman beard missing.

We looked in all the places he might have laid it down and didn’t find it so I knocked on his door.

“Jon, Dad’s shaver is missing and so is my pearl necklace. If you have them would you please set them outside your door? Dad needs his shaver before he leaves for work in the morning. I was going to give back your iPad but we need those things returned first”

He frowned, glared at the floor and when I left the room, threw a small object at the back of the door to emphasize his disapproval of my decision.

In the morning the shaver and the necklace were lying on the hall carpet in front of his door. I thanked him and returned his iPad.

Negotiating with Jon has become a survival skill I have learned over the years. He is slow and often resistant to respond to everything, including directives. The more he’s pushed, the further he retreats, so I need to remain firm, calm and wait him out.

When caring for someone long term, who needs help making good choices but doesn’t want it, choosing which battles to engage is important for sanity’s sake. Some aren’t worth fighting and others are tough to resolve no matter what. Then there are those days I know I won’t have the patience needed, so it’s best to avoid conflict, if possible.

Dealing with difficult people requires a good amount of tongue taming, self control and wisdom and all of us have plenty of opportunity to practice because we all have difficult people in our lives.

How we respond to them is usually more about us then them.

Because we are naturally selfish, anger is often the normal response. Our reaction is usually based, not on what will solve the problem, but how the other person is making us ‘feel’ at the moment.

What we say at such times and just as important, how we say it, reveals who we really are. A response of great character is described in Proverbs 15:1-2 & 4, “A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger. The tongue of the wise commends knowledge, but the mouths of fools pour out folly..a gentle tongue is a tree of life..”

Jesus was a master at responding to others instead of reacting. He knew exactly what to say in every situation and confrontation. He also knew when to be quiet and slip away. (John 12:49 “For I have not spoken on My own, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a command as to what I should say and what I should speak.”)

Can we begin to see the difficult folks in our lives as teachers instead of problems, opportunity for personal growth instead of someone to conquer, and a challenge to build strength of character instead of an irritation to curse? It’s certainly not easy to maintain this idea!

As we set our heart on the intentional practice of responding to others with grace, gentle words and quiet confidence, we find God gives us what we need to be changed from the inside out.

And as we pray for help to become less reactive to difficult situations and people, it becomes natural to keep a calmness and peace about us that others notice and desire.

Then we will “Be ready at any time to give a quiet and reverent answer to any man who wants a reason for the hope that you have within you..with gentleness and respect” (I Peter 3:15).

Hope for a New Year

new year2Since I was a child, I’ve always felt the shift of the clock from 11:59 p.m. on December 31, to 12:00 a.m. on January 1, should be magical, fantastical, miraculous; as if something incredible should happen at the very second a year flips over.

Shouldn’t the problem I’ve struggled over all year suddenly have resolution, or money fall from the sky like confetti in New York’s Times Square, or people desperately seeking restored health be instantly healed?

Shouldn’t broken hearts be renewed and shattered relationships repaired, mobile phones ringing and buzzing with offers of love and forgiveness?

Shouldn’t Jon come out of his room with a huge hug and Happy New Year wishes, and loved ones who’ve passed on, walk smiling through my door, shouting, “Hey! I’m back!”?

You know…amazing stuff like…answers. Reversals. Miracles.

I wait for it every year. Deep inside I admit to expecting it. But another new year seems to come and go as ordinary as most days. We celebrate it for a few hours, the fireworks fade and we wake up the next morning to another sunrise. Another start. Another chance. Another twenty four hours.

What is it about a new year that makes us yearn for more?

I think it’s hope. Hope is defined as desire accompanied by anticipation, expectation and confident belief. Hope is central to our very existence.

1 Corinthians 13:13, combines “faith, hope and love,” with love being the greatest. But how is love even possible without faith and hope? When hope walks out, all other longing goes with it. Proverbs 13:12 says, “Hope deferred makes the heart sick, but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life.”

The human heart has an incredible capacity to keep hope alive, even in the darkest times; to keep wishing for perfection, beauty, solutions, joy, and love. It shouldn’t surprise us, for we are made in God’s image, and He is all these and more.

There is a spark of hope in us that ignites new promise for a new year.

Maybe this year I’ll get that raise or promotion. Maybe this year I’ll meet that special someone. Maybe this year my situation will turn. Maybe this year my health will improve. Maybe this year my sorrow will turn to joy. Maybe this year will be my break through.

Last year was hard, but it’s over. This year will be better.

I hope.

We can’t know what a year will bring, but of this we can be certain: God will be in this New Year with us, just as He always has been. He has not forsaken us, even though we may not feel Him near. His mercy is new and available every morning and His love for us is endless. He can be trusted with our future.

As the year before us unfolds, my hope and prayer is, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit,” Romans 15:13.

The best of blessings to you and yours in the days ahead. May your year be abundant with hopes fulfilled.

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