Peace by Peace

Plenty of people in this world walk around putting on heirs.  They pretend to be so happy with where they are in their life, when in actuality, their actions tell quite a different story.  Whether it’s nasty behaviors toward most people they come in contact with for no other reason than the fact that they are miserable inside, or judgmental talk about just about everyone in their lives, the hubris seeps out through every pore until you barely recognize who you’re dealing with anymore.   They have themselves convinced they’re living under the guise of honesty, and cannot recognize that their words and actions don’t match their proclamations.  I am a firm believer that our behavior is the best reflection of our true character.  We can talk a certain way, but if our walk doesn’t match that talk, it falls on deaf ears.

I am, in no way, a perfect human being.  I have never claimed to be in my lifetime.  I fall short every.single.day.  But I know who I am – a child of the King who forgives me for my shortcomings and meets me where I am at.  His love is fresh and new for me every day, and I don’t have to every worry about disappointing Him, because His love never fails.

I also know my responsibility as His child – to love Him, and to love others and I love myself.  See that last word – myself – it’s bold and underlined for a reason.  Often times we leave off this key word.  Jesus was asked specifically by the Pharisees what the greatest commandment in the Law was, to which He answered love God, but the second portion of the answer is where we get hung up.  Matthew 22:39 says,” 39 And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’”  First we are charged to love our neighbor – ALL of them – not just our white neighbor, our Christian neighbor, our young neighbor, our cool neighbor, our nice neighbor, our conservative neighbor, our straight neighbor,  our non-addict neighbor, our sober neighbor….but ALL OUR NEIBHBORS.

And the next part…here’s the deal-breaker.   To love the way God loves, I have to love me first.  This isn’t selfish or haughty, it’s just plain fact.  If I have issues with me, I can’t love like God loves.  If I don’t feel worthy, I can’t love like God loves.  If I have issues with forgiveness, or hate, or self-loathing, or identity, or relationships, or bitterness, or self-control, or selfishness…it is impossible to love like God loves.  Because God does not struggle with these issues, plain and simple.  So until we can lay these issues down at the feet of our Father, we cannot love as we are asked to do, thereby fulfilling the greatest command.

We can walk around thinking we’ve arrived all we want, talking up a good talk, telling all who will listen that we are Christians, but until we’ve laid all down all our junk, we’re nothing more than clanging cymbals in the ears of those around us.  God knows we’re not fooling Him.

My prayer is for a time when we all – us and ALL our neighbors – love ourselves and each other enough to step forward in unity.  We’ve spent far too much time looking at differences.  Far too much wasted time.

Love God ~ Love others as yourself

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That Still, Small Voice

“Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.  Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is – his good, pleasing, and perfect will.”

Romans 12:2

I love my showers.  In the winter, the scalding water warms my chilled body down to the bone, where the snowy cold has robbed me not just of my body temperature but many times of my spirit.  In the summer, the cool water seeps deep into my pores, chilling me beyond what air conditioning can do in the most refreshing of ways.  What I love most about the shower is the silence, the peace, the solace – time for reflection, a collecting of my thoughts, my only true haven.

My showers lately have been different – noisy, distracting, befuddled.  I haven’t been able to connect with that place of peace I need so desperately as of late.  Miscellaneous noise and others’ junk whirl overhead like a swarm of bees, robbing me of my soul connection.  I have allowed it to continue – I make no qualms about this – but I haven’t known how to stop the distractions…until today.

Today, as I watch the water spin down the drain, that still, small voice I’ve been missing for months whispers my name and demands my attention.  The voice only I can hear speaks into my being, and suddenly all the confusion and lack of clarity I’ve been experiencing for the last few weeks becomes transparent – gossamer even – and I know what I must do, and how to get to where I need to be.

For the first time in weeks, I feel light again.  Upon deeper inflection I realize though I’ve made great strides in the recent past, I’ve chosen the wrong road of two presented before me.  And while I thought I’d chosen well, I chose the easier of the two paths, which typically would cause great disappointment in myself.  But today I resolve to make a better choice, with the new information, and leave my weapons on the ground – I’ve been beaten down enough.  Even this revelation is a huge one for me, and I find myself a little giddy at my progress.

I intend to reach out to that voice again tomorrow.  I really hope she’s not a stranger…I’ve got plans for us!

Getting to Gray

The last few days have been a series of revelations for me.  I know every day should be a revelation of sorts, but some days I’m pretty thick, set in my own thoughts, my own ways, often bogged down in my own junk so much I have trouble seeing over the piles I’ve created for myself.  But these last two days there’s been a clearing of sorts, and I can’t keep quiet about it anymore.

One of my Pastors preached this morning on a very sensitive topic for this world, homosexuality, and he did a phenomenal job.  The irony was that it was his last sermon at our church, as he and his family are moving to a new job, a new state, and this, as he plainly stated, would clearly not have been his choice of topics to leave his legacy upon.  And while I have my thoughts and beliefs on this topic, I don’t want to write about that tonight.  What I do want to take away from his message, however, were his exceptional parables and use of visual aids, and how relevant they are to what I’ve been revealing in my own walk.

For most of my life, I have been a self-professed ‘black and white’ viewer of the world.  Things were simply wrong or right – and each of us came down squarely on one side of that clearly drawn line or the other, with little room for ambiguity.  And while it’s been explained to me prior to now that the world exists much more in an area of grayness, I struggled with my delineation and my vantage-point so much that there was little room for the grace necessary to view that gray…until this point in my life.

The examples given today’s sermon were so telling: how we manage to draw our lines in ‘waves’ to allow for what we view as acceptable into our area, and back out for what we clearly think is less than.  The dilemma, however, is that these lines are drawn by us…by men…with all our failings and shortcomings.  When God originally drew this straight unwavering line, He allowed for grace by way of a ‘door’ – Jesus – for we sinners to pass to the good side.  When I stand in judgment of someone who fails my ‘moral line’ test, I have no ‘door,’ no safe passage for people to overcome what I have deemed appropriate behavior.  I can be as ‘moral’ as I’d like to appear, but if not for that doorway left open for me, every minute of every day, I am nothing more than those I quickly, mindlessly cast over the line.

God wants us to care about people – on both sides of the line.  Without Him we have nothing, plain and simple.  We can do all the right things, live what by worldly standards, appears to be the best lifestyles, but without an eternal destination, that line might as well be a spiral staircase to nowhere.  If we don’t learn how to extend grace, love and compassion as Jesus did to those who live differently than we do, we are not in obedience to God’s will.  It’s as simple and as complicated as that.

I have been working on this behavior of mine – this judgment I do in silence – for months now.  Yesterday as I relayed the story of my week to my therapist, I was overcome with many emotions.  I was talking about how tired I am of being strong; of always being the bigger person; of how this whole process of going to court month after month is wearing me out physically and emotionally, and that I just cannot continue to do it any longer; that I am thankful to have someone in my life that is simply my companion – that cares for me in little ways that were taken for granted for so long I forgot what it felt like to be cared about in such tiny, insignificant ways; that I don’t want to keep fighting and I want to let the kid’s dad come to events and not feel like I’m doing something wrong.  I looked up and she was smiling, and then she said the nicest thing she’s ever said…”You’re gray now.”  My instinct was to argue, because I know I still have a lot of work to do…but for just a moment, I let that sink in.

If this experience, this current season has taught me anything, it’s that we all have room for growth.  I have gained so much over the last 26 months – the greatest being happiness.  But not to be forgotten are also strength, self-confidence, self-worth, a better relationship with my children, a good beginning on determining my value, forgiveness of myself and pride in who I am.  Never again will I let another person define me.  And hand-in-hand with that, I do not define who anyone else is.  My challenge is to love others, as Jesus loved them.  As my Pastor said today, I’m going to trust the One who drew the moral line for me, and get out of the judgment business.