Tag Archive: faith


Will You Forgive Me, Please?

I’m going to tell you a story. This story involves one of my sisters, but it’s not about her. It’s really about me. Because I’m the one telling it, and she’s not here to share her side of the story (which undoubtedly differs from mine), please remember that I’m talking from my perspective and how things affected me. I’d leave her out altogether if I could, but I haven’t been able to come up with a clever way to do that while still communicating effectively about what became a profound experience in my life.

I am a pretty competent person. It’s not that I know everything or have some super power that makes me capable of succeeding at whatever I try. It’s has more to do with my dislike of turning out work of poor quality. As Yoda said, “Do or do not. There is no try,” and I’d add that if I’m going to do it, I might as well bother to do it well. I don’t even have to like whatever it is to do a good job of it, and I don’t have to know how to do it. I’ll learn, teaching myself if necessary. I’ve been like this as long as I can remember.

I tend to be right. Some of that is merely accuracy combined with a habit of choosing my words with care. Some of that is conscience. I need to be morally right and try to keep from wrongdoing.  I care about justice in general. Been like that all of my life, too.

I’m not always the most humble or self-effacing person you’ll ever meet, either.  I’d like to think that I’m less arrogant than I used to be, but the truth is that I wasn’t particularly aware of how my pride was affecting me then, and it’s entirely possible I have blind spots aplenty still.

Throw all of that together – competency, conscience, a strong sense of justice coupled with outrage over injustice, and pride – in me, and you get a driven, stubborn, very pigheaded person who would rather drown than give up the ball to the other team. Playing water basketball as a freshman at summer camp did nearly get me drowned. One of the other team felt sorry for me and opted to try picking me up and shaking me. She didn’t get the ball, either. Anyway, get me to the point where I’m convinced I’m right, and I can become intransigent.  I won’t bend, buckle, or back down.

And proud of it.

I suppose you can imagine that this habit of mine occasionally caused problems. My relationship with my sister, who I’ll call P in this post, is a good illustration. P is a little younger than me, so the poor kid got to “enjoy” the same sort of home life I did. It was tough. It was really tough. We all dealt with it differently. I was quite the prig. My dad once called me something like the Pious with all the dark and twisted religious shades to it, and the comment was not completely wrong. P dealt with it in other ways. We butted heads a lot, starting young and continuing into adulthood. My dad leaving the family didn’t magically make everything better. We had all learned bad habits and lessons, and we had to learn new things and norms after he left. Learning, the process of it, is rife with mistakes, yes?

P and I had many, many differences of opinion. There was a lot of conflict, and it frustrated and hurt me. I felt like she was being very unfair to me. It didn’t seem to matter how hard I tried – it was not enough. I couldn’t make her happy with me or what I was doing no matter how nice, tactful, fillintheblank I tried to be. It didn’t improve my attitude or hurt feelings that I thought some of what she did was wrong and/or unlikely to help her get what she’d told me she wanted. I felt as though she twisted my words to use them against me and heard poison where I’d meant only and striven mightily to infuse kindness. I didn’t feel like I could trust her to look out for me. Things were getting pretty sour, and I was getting very tired of what I perceived to be me doing a lot of bending over backwards to avoid giving further offense. I was angry about that.

I had done everything I knew. I had tried to the best of my ability to work things out and improve the relationship. I had failed. It sucked. It was miserable. We were kinda, sorta not really speaking to each other, and I felt grief. She’s my sister. I love her. My guts were twisting into a knot to be on such bad terms with her.

So, in the middle of this confusion of feeling and attitude, I hear something from God that I don’t like . He tells me to show up at her house, ask her for her side of the story, listen humbly, receive, and then ask for her forgiveness. That was actually frightening. It was vulnerable. P hadn’t exactly been the safest person in my life. Her words weren’t safe. I didn’t want to go.

I did, though. I showed up, she was home, and I listened to what she had to say for maybe a couple of hours. I can’t remember for sure. It was a lengthy conversation, though. Somewhere in there, I gave her a simple apology. “I’m sorry. Would you forgive me, please?” No defensiveness, no excuses, no guardedness hidden in justifications, no feedback from me toward her – nothing self-protective. I simply and unreservedly owned the truth that I had hurt her (even if I didn’t mean to do it, even if only through ignorance, I had still caused her pain) and asked her to forgive me.

We parted ways on somewhat better terms, having expressed a desire to have a better relationship with each other. It hasn’t happened yet. Within a year, things had broken down completely, and at her request, I have not spoken to her since.

What was the point? Why did I have to go through all of that? Every once in a while, I roll it over again, and now seems to be the latest once in a while.

Why? What good did that do? I can’t answer that for her. I have no idea if that conversation and my request for forgiveness did anything for her.

I guess the why has a lot to do with why I went. I didn’t go for me. I didn’t go thinking it would make any difference in how my sister and I related. I didn’t even do it for her to “help” her or anything. I went because I believed that was what God was asking me to do. I obeyed and trusted Him with everything I had invested and everything I feared. It may not have helped my relationship with my sister, but it did change some things in how I related to God. It changed me. I might talk about that more in another post, but for now – have a good night.

Asking For His Blessing

I am tired today. The last few days have been busy. In fact, the summer has been busy. It’s generously provided me with a limited time opportunity to accomplish a lot outside, and I’ve seized that chance. It’s made for long days, short nights, and sore muscles, which would be why I woke up this morning with a sore shoulder, a developing headache, an abundance of yawning, and no phone call from work telling me that I could just stay home in bed.

I don’t know about you, but these are perfect conditions for a good case of the grumps, the cranks, the snarls, and good, old-fashioned crankiness. I am tired. I hurt some. I have things beeping and ringing and otherwise annoying me, and I have to be nice? Or at least put up a decent pretense? Bleah.

Fortunately, I do have options. I don’t have to assume the guise of Grouchy Malouchy, and fortunately I remembered that options are available this morning when my alarm went off. It’s always best to nip the grumps early. I can ask for God’s blessing.

It’s pretty simple. In some ways, it’s a lot like asking a blessing before a meal. We do that as an expression of gratitude, as an acknowledgement of of God’s provision, and as an opportunity to make requests, such as nourishment. Why not carry that practice into other areas of our lives? I figure that a God who does “immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine” probably does more than simply give us food. I think that a God who can turn water into wine, feed a guy using ravens, keep a supply of flour and oil refreshed until the rain comes, feed five thousand from a seed of 2 fish and five loaves, make bread and quail appear to sustain the desert dwelling Israelites, and an old man into a great nation is probably a pretty good provider. He sounds like He’s good at meeting needs.

He sounds like He excels at taking inadequacy and making it into an abundance, so that’s what I asked Him for this morning when I woke up and realized how tired I felt.

God, I’m really tired. You know I’ve been busy, and that it was hard to get to sleep last night. Thank you for the sleep that I did get. I know every bit helps, but I also know that it’s not enough, and I have a long day ahead. Please bless the rest I did get. Take it and make it somehow enough to get me through my day safely. Help me to have a good day. Thanks.

This isn’t the first time I’ve asked for His blessing on getting me through a day. He always gets me through, though I never know what to expect. Sometimes I just feel better (and can’t give caffeine all the credit), sometimes I have an unexpectedly easy day (which seems to be today so far), sometimes I get to experience the sufficiency of grace through a hard day, and so on. Easy or hard, He always seems to work it out so that the day has value. I don’t usually get stuck gritting my teeth while trying endure on my own yet another horrible, stressful day. If nothing else, simply having an open door to ask for His help relieves some of my stress. Remembering that I have a choice helps alleviate some stress, too.

We’ll see how today goes. Personally, I’m expecting good things!

—–

Yep, it was a good day, and now it’s bedtime. Have a great one!

Links for This Week

This last week, I’ve been pretty busy working outside, playing with my sisters, and painting hope onto my wall. In other words, I’ve slacked off and not written a post, but it’s all good. I’ve been meaning to put up a post recommending another blog. In the last week, Kari provided some great posts, and I definitely think her work is worth reading.

For a little background, I found her blog on Facebook. Half my lifetime ago, Kari and I went to the same rural church. Since it was small and relationally oriented, everybody knew everybody. We were a community. The church attended services together, ate together, worshiped together, worked together, had retreats and Family Camps and weddings and all kinds of stuff. It was really a great church in a lot of ways, so for me, it was fun, 10 or 15 years later, to see that Kari had been keeping a blog. It was even better to read it and see that she definitely still loves God. I always love to see that! She writes about faith a lot, and when she’s not writing about that, she often writes about some practical ways to keep a house and live more frugally.

This week, she wrote a series of posts dealing with the dreadful “d” of disappointment. The first is called “When the road is long.” Kari shares some thoughts about disappointments which last a long time. The second is called “When no one understands.” It’s an interesting thought. I hadn’t considered how disappointing it can be to not be understood. The third is “When you must be silent,” and she talks about the difficulty imposed by silence. That’s one I do understand. Not being able to talk about things can just swell your throat shut so that the time comes that it would be okay to talk, you can’t. Come to think of it, that right there is pretty disappointing.

One thing I would mention about disappointment is that it can be quite the thief. It will steal hope from your heart if you let it.

Following those three posts identifying some types of disappointment, Kari wrote a great post about expectations titled “What to expect when you’re expecting…” I love this one. There’s truth in it, truth that can help point a person to God and make them aware of their need for Him. Look at this!

So what should we expect?

Opposition. Persecution. Obstacles. Suffering. Trials. Conflict. Hardship. Storms. But most of all …

Except to see and encounter Him in the midst of it all.

He is found in the midst of the storm, the suffering, the obstacle. When we run from those things,  we run from Him. He is there.

I expect to face these things, and I expect to see His face there.

That’s what I can expect.

I love this, not because the idea of being used as a punching bag sounds like fun, but because God doesn’t leave me. Because God is there. Because God works things out for good. Because even death can’t beat Him. Life is not a soft, fluffy, sweet teddy bear on which we can land without the least concern. Bad things, hard things, painful things – they all happen, and they happen without regard for my wickedness or righteousness, my foolishness or my wisdom, my poverty or my wealth, or any number of other things. We can’t control much of what happens. In the middle of it all, in the good and the bad, God is there. I sleep better at night because of that.

Have a good one!

Not The Easiest Week

The last few days have been… er… interesting.

My brother is moving, somewhat unexpectedly, from 25 minutes away to more like 4 hours. He’s been frantically packing and prepping.  Several of us have been over at one time or another helping paint the house.

One of my sisters took a road trip and had another sister watch her puppy dogs. On the way to the dogs, that sister had car trouble. There was something with a fuel line and shredded tire. The fuel line caused problems on her way home, too, which meant gas went on the ground instead of her tank, two other family members ran to her rescue, and there was an attempt to hitch the van to a trailer to haul sheep for shearing that gave the van a dent. Oh, and one of the dogs? She might have ringworm. My sister tells me that the canine version isn’t terribly easy to catch as a human, but it’s a definite possibility. Guess we’ll find out in a few weeks.

An outdoor rave was thrown a few miles away. I can’t imagine what it was like for closer neighbors. We and others miles from it had no trouble hearing the bass and even vocals at times. That’s not at all normal for where I live. Noisy stuff is usually somebody’s power tool, tractor, or motorcycle. Something about the “festival” felt icky and strange. No neighbors received notification of a festival being held nearby, which I understand is common practice for large events. Seeing rescue vehicles held up at the gates instead of being allowed into the area (ambulance summoning usually implies emergent need) and hearing reports of drug usage and inappropriate defecations didn’t make me or the rest of my family feel any better, either.

I’ve had some stress from work. I also managed to acquire more blisters, scratches, and bruises from working outside over the weekend than I’d probably had in the last couple of years altogether.

My roommate’s summer work scramble has been stressful, and her homework load hasn’t been easy, either.

Another sister just had to treat her head for lice!

One of the dogs caught a chicken and yanked a bunch of her feathers. I don’t know that the hen took any more damage than feather loss, but I don’t think she wanted a summer do.

Little Miss Tire Troubled wasn’t done with her car woes, either. She went out last night to find a different tire had gone flat.

It’s County Fair week. Baking has had to be done; animals have had to be prepped; plants have had to be hauled. It’s a massive undertaking. I think this year three of my sisters are entering lambs, chickens, a bunny, baked goods, table setting, plants, fabric arts, and I don’t know what else. It takes multiple trips just to haul it all into the fair.

We (mostly my mother, a sister, and myself) worked outside. We hung a swing from a tree (the interesting part about that was cutting down the old tire to provide the tree limb with some protection), put a chicken wire top on the chicken’s run (we’re very done with them flying out, and they would not have been out for the dog to chase if the door had been properly shut), tilled a good sized patch preparatory to planting it with grass next fall, weeded (thistles – guess where some of my scratches came from?), removed the limbs from several felled trees, started cutting those trees down into firewood (need to figure out where we’re going to store the wood, but at least we got the downed trees off the fence), hauled rocks and sticks and other junk out of the area to be tilled, burned all of the excess wood and the (nasty) weeds, and did other random cleanup chores. We managed to do laundry, feed folks, and all the normal stuff. Mom even worked in crewing for her hot air balloon buddies early a  couple of those mornings.

It’s just been a crazy, busy, tumultuous week. Good stuff, hard stuff, weird stuff – all tumbled together and wearing us down until we were out of resiliency. No more rubber, no bounce back, gone was the elasticity! The lice last night were about the last straw. I had a moment where I thought one of my sisters was playing a joke in very poor taste, but no. True story. I poked my nose in to say hi and see how she was doing. The poor kid was combing the lice out of her hair, exuding something of the same horrified disbelief that I was feeling, that “How did this happen? What’s going to happen next?” She said, “I’m just trying to remember to be anxious for nothing.” She’s right. She’s exactly right.

Philippians 4:6

New International Version (NIV)
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.

Blessings Found in Brokenness

In my last post, I talked about my revelation that God is truly good. That sort of interrupted all my yakking about brokenness, but I think it was a timely interruption. When God asked me what I would if I stayed broken, I’d already realized that He was good. I had a confidence and trust in His willingness to care for me that absolutely helped me to consider His question with less defensiveness than I had before. Please note that I did not say “no defensiveness.” I was hardly free from it. However, I was much more willing to listen. God is not out to get us. He is good. Brokenness: my lack of perfection, my deformed limp, my pain, my weakness – it might not be the end of the world.

As a matter of fact, it isn’t. In some ways, it’s been good for me. Perhaps it would be more accurate to say that God has worked good out of it for me. I could quote some Scripture (Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” with its claim that God’s “grace is sufficient” certainly leaps to mind!) to slap a coat of religious paint on, but I’d rather just tell you about what I know and am learning about living with a limp.

The funny thing is that there is some freedom in limping. I didn’t expect that. For instance, I don’t struggle as much with pride. Neither do I struggle as much with being afraid of finding pride within me. Both of those battles consumed a lot of effort. I’m a gifted individual, and the pitfall of pride correlates well with giftedness. So does the (sometimes false) accusation of pride. I used to get so tied up trying to figure out where my real problem was so I could fix it. Thing is that a lot of my pride was tied up in my “perfection” compared to other people. Having to accept my own brokenness and let God’s grace be sufficient slapped that one down hard. It’s great!

I learned more sympathy. This would be a no brainer, right? It seems like learning to accept, instead of rejecting and fleeing and shunning, my own pain would help me to be more kind to others experiencing hurt and disappointment.

The world became less black and white. One of my friends gave me an interesting tidbit about abuse survivors. After making it through a world of overly simplified values (like, kill or be killed; fight or flight; fight/flight or be thrashed; bad people or good people; it’s safe or it’s not – I’m sure you get the idea), former victims don’t know that the world is full of greys and even color. It’s not all an either/or proposition. I don’t know if that’s true of every abuse survivor, but it’s certainly something I’ve seen in myself and in my family. Where it can cause lots of trouble is in relationships. It’s a rare person who is an angel or a demon. Most folk are quite the mix, and I didn’t assess that well, not even in myself. It made me unnecessarily rigid, and I lacked grace. Enter ‘“My grace is sufficient,” right?

I am more able to live with uncertainty, which goes hand in hand with the world not seeming as black and white. The unknown is not as terrifying. Nor do I assume it to be populated only with bad things. Good things must be there, too. I have more hope.

One reason for that is I learned that brokenness is not necessarily pathetic or despicable. It’s not a disqualifier. God doesn’t hate me because I’m broken. People don’t always deal well with it, but God doesn’t have that problem. Although there frequently is pain involved, the pain is not a disqualifier, either. God still loves me even when I hurt. Brokenness is not leprosy or cause for quarantine. It is not contagious. Ain’t nobody perfect, folks. We all be broken.

I am more able to learn. Rigidity doesn’t lend itself well to the acquisition of new information, experiences, or opinions. Even when a person tries hard, rigidity greatly complicates the learning process.

I always have someplace to go. Brokenness cannot keep me from God and His provision, instruction, and comfort.

I’ve learned more patience. Please note that I do not claim to be a patient person! But I’ve had to learn some, because limping precludes getting anywhere fast.

It’s helped me to forgive. Oh, my, that’s a good one! That’s freedom! Once pride lost its grip, and I accepted that I, too, am broken, I realized that my dad and I have that in common. He’s broken, too. He took things to extremes that I have not, but that’s no reason for me to feel like I’m somehow better than him. I am not without sin. I am not perfect. Accepting that at an emotional level definitely helped free from my burning desire to start throwing rocks. Of course I was angry with my dad. I should have been. He did not treat me well, but living out my life hating his guts and everything about him was a horrible way to live, because, truthfully, I have more in common with him than brokenness. For example, writing is not my mom’s thing. It was most definitely my dad’s.

Happy Independence Day!