Light + Love = One

Last night at Evening Prayer we were asked to move around, sit with people with whom we had never had a conversation.  After folks moved around, we were asked to come up with things we had in common with the folks at our table.  It was interesting because our table wound up coming up with the most on our list.  (I know it wasn’t a competition–I’m going somewhere with this.)  I don’t know what the other groups came up with, but here’s an example of a conversation:

My young friend, after being encouraged to share something about herself, “Well, this isn’t probably anything anyone else does, but I do Tae Kwon Do.”  Turns out one other young man had taken for a while.  No one else had.  So instead we asked, “Who in the group can respect Tae Kwon Do and all that it is?”  Everyone nodded.  We found similarities in appreciating what was different.  I think we might have been on to something.

Until.

Later in conversation, someone at the table mentioned something about “The New Testament.”  A young man, high school age, responded, “Oh yeah, see, I can’t do that.  I don’t like it.” (I almost spewed my water.  Wait.  What?)  He kept on talking without pause. “Yeah, see I only like the King James Version.  That’s the only true word.  I don’t like any of that new stuff.”

Oh.  My.

Reminds me of a Twitter feed from “Things Bible Students Say.”  If you have Twitter and enjoy reading things that make you shake your head, follow them.  If you don’t have Twitter, it’s okay, it’s a lot of what you just read above.  From Bible students.

To the credit of all who were sitting there, no one argued or got defensive.  His opinion was respected; he has a right to his opinion and to speak his mind.  That’s what is beautiful about our service.  What broke my heart is I really don’t think this young man came up with this opinion, this line drawn in the sand, on his own.  About the King James Version, I mean. We’re just going with a communication breakdown on the whole New Testament thing.  I could be wrong, have been and will be again, but I’m betting he heard this from someone–a parent or another adult he respects.  Friends, they are listening and they are taking it all in.  For the love of what is good and right and makes common sense, please be careful what you are putting out there. (Ya got that, Tara?  *hanging head* Yes.)

I read a poem by Thom Shuman yesterday and today that touched on this.  The whole poem can be found here, but here are the words that punched me in my stomach and my conscience:

20131007-225329.jpg

Heartbreaking and TRUE.

Even among those who claim to have so much in common, such as the people at our table, there are lines being drawn, things we will and will not accept, things that we lay out there that keep us from being ONE.  Unity.  Community.  Communion. Respect. That’s what we are called to do, isn’t it?  Be with each other.  Love each other.

It breaks my heart to hear how those of us who claim to follow someone who was Light and Love personified are so filled with darkness and doubt and, in that, we hurt rather than love.  Like a father who chooses things over his children, all the while assisting in leading worship.  Or a family who tells their daughter her classmate and friend is not welcome in their home because she has different beliefs. Or the young woman in my Sister Circle who said she was stared at and felt uncomfortable when she walked into a local church–said she guessed she wasn’t dressed right or made folks ill at ease.  Or a kind-hearted and funny young man who insists nothing other than the King James version is acceptable. (If only he had said it’s the version he preferred–this would have turned out so differently.) The lines being drawn are only hurtful and confuse those looking to us to help share the Light and Love we follow.

I just read something my daughter wrote tonight.  It made my heart leap with joy.  (Literally, I’m skilled like that.)  As she wrote about her friends at college, she gave everyone a charge at the end of her post:

20131007-225759.jpg

Yes!  This.

If we could do this instead of backstabbing folks with our judgments or slamming doors of intolerance in their faces or just plain ignoring folks–if only we could do this.  Be the defensive tackles or running backs or tight ends and tackle folks with Love and Light, then, oh boy, THEN the pieces of our broken world could start healing, and maybe just maybe we could, in the words of Thom Shuman, we could be one.

(Boy that would have been so much better if I knew football positions worth a flip, huh?  Grace abounds, people, grace abounds.  Go tackle somebody. Love to all.)

Weathering the Storms

I remember when my brother first introduced me to Frederick Buechner.

He shared this quote with me, and I was hooked.  And thankful.

The place God calls you to is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”
― Frederick Buechner, A Wishful Thinking: A Theological ABC

Another version of the quote is, “Vocation is the place where your deep gladness and the world’s deep hunger meet.”

Good stuff.  And it gave me freedom to believe that I might possibly be on the right track in my life.  That’s really good stuff.

Since then I’ve been paying more attention to Mr. Buechner and his thoughts.

Many an atheist is a believer without knowing it just as many a believer is an atheist without knowing it.  You can sincerely believe there is no God and live as though there is.  You can sincerely believe there is a God and live as though there isn’t.”

-Frederick Buechner, originally published in Wishful Thinking and later in Beyond Words

That one calls for intentionality and focus in the choices we make every moment of every day.  Hard to do, but we have to try for the Light to shine through the darkness and for Love to win.

Then today there was this.

pic of buechner quote

Beneath our clothes, our reputations, our pretensions, beneath our religion or lack of it, we are all vulnerable both to the storm without and the storm within.” –Frederick Buechner

This moved me to tears.  We are all more alike than different.   It’s true, isn’t it?  We all face storms, and we need to give each other grace in that.  Underneath it all, we are the same.

Tonight I am thankful for Mr. Buechner and his thought-provoking messages. When I am facing storms it seems like people–family, friends, sister friends, even people I happen to meet for a moment–just come out of the woodwork to help me through it.  With laughter, with love, with presence.  If I will let them.  And that’s it.  Some people aren’t lucky like that–to have people who care enough to walk alongside, holding an umbrella.  And some people hold it all inside and don’t let others know about the storms.  And so they face it alone.

And that’s what breaks my heart.  For all of us.  For the ones weathering the storms alone and for those of us who don’t know…..I guess Mr. Buechner really explained it best when he said, “Compassion is sometimes the fatal capacity for feeling what it is like to live inside somebody else’s skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.”

This morning my friend Baddest Mother Ever reminded me of the song we sang at our eighth grade graduation: “Let There Be Peace On Earth.”

Let there be peace on earth,

And let it begin with me.

Amen.

Golden Girls, Jazz, and the Artist Within

Tuesday again.

Another Sister Circle.

Today was a small group.  Just the three of us.  We sat close together at one end of the U-shaped table setup.  We are on Chapter 4 of Find Your Way Home: Words from the Street, Wisdom from the Heart.  The topic of discussion was “Finding Your Place in the Circle.”

Lately I have found myself immersed in art and meeting wonderful new artist friends.  A couple of weeks ago one of them shared with the group I was in that we are all artists.  When someone expressed her doubt, the artist explained that as we are created in our Creator’s image–a Creator who is most definitely an artist–we all have a bit of artist in us.  With this in mind, last week I took markers and colored pencils and paper to our Sister Circle and we all “created” while we talked–some with words, some with drawing, some with abstract doodling.  It was beautiful–every bit of it.

Yesterday I had the chance to visit with one of my new favorite artists.  She teaches art lessons and often finds people in recovery sitting with her, discovering their inner artist. Healing.  Restorative.  As we talked she mentioned mandalas and how they can tap into one’s artistic and spiritual sides.  When I saw that we were talking about our own Circles today, I thought it would be perfect.

This morning I printed out several different mandalas for us each to choose and color.  When I arrived, there were not many women.  So it was that the three of us sat and talked.  Both had been before so we were able to jump right in.  When it came time to choose a mandala and medium, they both chose markers.  One chose the butterfly and another chose the circular pattern.  I really liked the butterfly myself, so I chose it.  I enjoy colored pencils so I used those.

I love the bold colors and the combining of areas to make a different and beautiful picture of the butterfly.

I love the bold colors and the combining of areas to make a different and beautiful picture of the butterfly.

I love that the circles are all flowing back into one.  Again the dark and bright and bold use of color and uncolored spaces combine to make a powerful work of art.  Love this one too.

I love that the circles are all flowing back into one. Again the dark and bright and bold use of color and uncolored spaces combine to make a powerful work of art. Love this one too.

We talked about all sorts of things.  Relationships.  Considering ourselves worthy of healthy relationships.  Respecting ourselves enough to require that our relationships be healthy.  Golden Girls, and how cool would that be to live with our best girlfriends.  Jazz music and whether we like it or not (two yes, one no).  I was very touched that both of these women said how much they liked having this time together.  Humbled.  It is just a time of conversation.  Nothing more really.  And yet, so much more.

As we finished up, I looked over at what they had done.  Both had used big, vibrant colors.  Both had created something that was outside of what the lines were asking to be done.  They had created their own in the midst of what was there.  They were artists.

My butterfly--all pastels, all symmetrical, all planned and put together.  I said something about the hard part being choosing what color to use each time and K said, "Not for me."  I want to have that sense of freedom.  To be able to breathe.

My butterfly–all pastels, all symmetrical, all planned and put together. I said something about the hard part being choosing what color to use each time and K said, “Not for me.” I want to have that sense of freedom. To be able to breathe.

I looked back at my work.  I had stuck to the pastel colors.  Whenever I looked at the grays or browns, I just couldn’t bring myself to use them.  I had made sure it was symmetrical and stayed inside every line, literal and figurative, there was.  I sighed.  This is where I want to step out of the box–to create.

I smiled and touched each picture.  “See,” I said softly.  “Look.  You’re artists.  You’ve done such a great job of creating something new.”

I paused. “I want to be an artist too.”

K nodded her head at me, shrugged, and said, “Well, hey, at least you is tryin’.”

Y’all.

Love.  Her.

I love both of them.  They’ve known each other for a long time.  In their world of people using other people for a means to an end, they have each other to depend on and trust.  At times today it was like they were speaking their own language.  I listened and smiled and envied them their friendship with laughs that spoke volumes more and thoughts that were so in sync that they could finish each other’s sentences.  That’s the stuff the Golden Girls were made of right there.  It was an honor to sit and be a part of it for a little while.

And then, the encouragement from one whom I’ve only just begun to get to know.

Better. Than. Gold.

Okay, truthfully, I’ve never been a big fan of gold.  Let’s see, it was better than a big ol’ King sized sweet tea over flaky ice from Nu-Way.  Yes, it felt that good.  And even more refreshing.

She’s right too.  I am trying.  To tap that inner artist.  To refuse to let my fear of not being perfect or worry over what others will say inhibit me from creating what is on my heart, what lies in my soul–whether with words or paint or colored pencils.  Or maybe even markers.  It’s just that today I fell back into that “let’s keep it lovely” mode.  Perhaps it’s time for me to go back to finger painting and playing with playdough for a while.  Time to get a little messy and see what beauty can be found in that.  There’s the real challenge–finding beauty in the mess and brokenness.  Because it is there to be found. 

Yesterday when I was visiting my new artist friend, she said, “I don’t believe in throwing anything away.”  She laughed.  “I think you can find beauty in anything.”  As I walked around her yard, I could see that it was true.  It reminded me of my visit to the farm and thinking about redemption.  Nothing was wasted.  There was redemption in everything.

Today one of my sweet friends called to check in and asked about our Sister Circle.  I laughed and said I was enjoying it, “Though if you asked for a mission statement, I don’t know what it would be.  I’m not sure we have one.”  As we talked for a few more minutes, it hit me.  “We do have a mission statement actually–‘to build relationships.’  That’s what we want to do.  Build healthy relationships in a safe space.”

And there it is.  In a nutshell.

And I think we might just be getting there.  When K, my new friend who initially said she had no artist in her and shared she just doesn’t like jazz music, took the time to stop and encourage me, I felt the tears prickling, crowding in ready for release.  To have someone see inside you and name it and let it out.  Well.  Ahem. Such a tender moment.  Perhaps one of the most loving, grace-filled, and precious gifts. 

She’s right.  I am trying.  In the meantime I am thankful for women like these two beautiful young women who honored me with their company today.  They teach me what real strength looks like.  And real friendship.  And love.  Bless ’em and I hope they sleep safe and sound tonight.  And every night.  They are my sisters and I love them.

The Circle of Light

Yesterday I sat in a circle with a group of women for whom a safe place to be is not always a given.  Some had worked and found a place with a roof, and some were still on the streets.  One was quite possibly one step away.

We gathered to share and talk in a safe place.  We borrowed our name from our sisters in Ghana at ABAN–our Sister Circle.  It seemed to resonate with them, that we are sisters though we come from many different walks of life.  We sat and talked about what community means to each of us.  It boiled down to love, respect, having the other person’s back, trust, safety, and listening.  It’s all about acting on that love.

I was humbled to sit with them and hear their stories, stories freely shared.  The pain and sheer brokenness in some of the stories moved me to tears.  We sat there together as sisters who have things in common, but I couldn’t help but think about the differences later, after we said our goodbyes.

I might wonder about the “what” of my next meal, but I never have to worry about the “where” or if.

When I lay my head down at night, I don’t have to keep one eye open, constantly alert for any threat or harm headed my way.

At the end of the day, when I shower I am washing off what miniscule dust and dirt I might have accumulated during my basically clinically clean day, not the real filth and residue of pain from the brokenness that threatens to engulf me.

A long time ago, I walked away from an abusive relationship, and I had a safe place to go.  I was not chased and attacked with no place to hide or relax or live.

I figure when all is said and done, I’ve had a really easy life compared to many of these women.

But here’s the thing.  Despite all these women have been through, and I don’t know all of it, each one of them has such tremendous faith.  They talk about how God has always been with them.  About the Comforter, the one who never leaves them behind.  God is the one Constant that has been with them through all of their stories.

And what amazed me the most?

They, not a single one of them, are not angry with God.

Oh there’s anger and frustration with the system–the system that seemingly works to keep them from getting the real help they need. The red tape and bureaucracy that seems to separate the haves and the have nots.  There’s anger at “so-called friends,” the ones who were nowhere to be found when real trouble hit.  There’s anger with themselves even, that they didn’t do this or that they once made this choice.  But anger with God?  I never heard even a hint of it.

I have not walked their journey.  I cannot even imagine what a day in any one of their lives is like.  But I know this:  my faith is only a drop in the bucket compared to theirs.  How they continue to carry on, to have hope, and to have faith–it defies logic.

Much like faith itself.

This thought came to my mind just a few minutes ago–you need faith to have faith.  In other words you have to have faith to step out on a limb and say you believe and that you know God has got you in the midst of all of this.

Y’all I was humbled and inspired and challenged by this group of strong and beautiful women.  They have seen humanity at its very worst and still believe.  Laugh.  Live their lives.  I did not hear a one of them ask anything like, “Why me?” or say “It’s not fair.”  I found it interesting because that is something I hear quite often in the general population (or in….say…..my head?).

Today I talked with friends about how once upon a time, I thanked God when we would hit nearly all green lights on the way to take my oldest to school.  Then it occurred to me that if I continued to do that, I might get frustrated with God when I hit red lights.  Which I did.  But once I let go of thinking God was a traffic controller, I quit feeling persecuted by him when they were all red lights. You just get what you get and don’t pitch a fit.  (quoting my brother there)  And that’s what these women are doing.  They are making a go of it, but they aren’t sitting around saying the things like, Why me? or It’s not fair.  It doesn’t even enter into their minds I guess.

But boy did this hit home with me.  I’ve had so much anger and frustration and asking “why” since Mama and Daddy both died in the past twenty months.  I don’t get it.  And I’m pretty sure that’s okay.  But I do know this, that God is with me, maybe even more so in the lousy points of my journey.  And tonight I am thankful for the reminder from my beautiful sisters about the face of community–love and respect–and for sharing their visions of God with me.  I look forward to walking this path with them. It is an honor.

The Sound of a Bee’s Laughter

I find myself falling for a fella who’s long and thin and, well, can be a little bristly.  But when we are together…..add a little magic, a little color, a bit of creativity, and who knows what we can do.

My paintbrush.

And today, after taking a few painting classes with instruction to create a picture similar to the one by the teacher, but with my own flair, I was in a class called “Art Mind and Soul.”  It was about reaching back to the creative people we were as children before we worried about it being perfect or what colors would be “right” or how it looked compared to the work of others.  I was there with my oldest and with our sweet friend.  We started the class by using crayons to color a sheet from a coloring book or playing with clay.  After a few minutes of quiet listening we set about creating the pieces that were on our hearts.

At the beginning of this year, I selected my “word,” what I wanted to focus on in 2013.  Open.  I wanted to be open to all kinds of things, but I have just about decided that I was supposed to be open to change.  Not my favorite of things by any means.  When I was choosing the word, I looked for a photo of a gate or door that was somewhat open to remind me to open my heart, my mind, my eyes.  I never found the perfect one.  So this afternoon I decided to attempt to paint the picture on my heart of “open.”  I was a bit nervous, but the wisdom of our instructor from Thursday night echoed in my ears, and I began.

I quartered the canvas, sketched it out, blocked my colors and then began working on the detail.  I was intimidated and wondered if I could do it, but as I did one small bit at a time, I found my heart lifted and I actually giggled out loud.  By the time I added the bougainvillea I was downright tickled with it all.  It was not photographic, but it was mine, and it was full of what was in my soul today, and in that I was joyful.

I wanted the gate down my path to be open; that was my main idea.  But as I drew and painted, I found other ideas creeping in.

The red clay path that was much like my Granny’s dirt road that led to her home and so many happy memories.  The big cauldron that Granny had hanging from a wooden beam, always filled with beautiful flowers.  My Granny’s old place, much like my great aunt’s house and Blackberry Flats (my parent’s place), speaks to my soul and grounds me.  The memories soothe me and remind me of a carefree time of chasing fireflies and late night Monopoly sessions, holding snoozing puppies on my chest as we sat quietly in the swing, sleeping on pallets of old quilts, going fishing, and sopping up syrup with Granny’s delicious biscuits.

The tiny, delicate purple flowers in the grass remind me of a quote from The Color Purple that my friend and pastor shared one night at Evening Prayer: “I think it [ticks] God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.”  Ever since she shared that I try to notice and celebrate the colors in a field, the beauty of the cardinal, the multitude of colors in a sunset.  When my oldest was little, she had a friend who was known to call out, upon seeing a beautiful sunset or something equally as striking, “Good job, God!”  I never want to forget to appreciate and admire.

The birds in the sky remind me of the old hymn written in 1905 by Civilla D. Martin and Charles H. Gabriel, “His Eye is on the Sparrow.”  It was inspired by a couple Mrs. Martin and her husband had met on their travels.  The wife was bedridden and the husband went to and from work in his wheelchair.  Their bright hopefulness despite all of this touched the Martins, and they asked the couple their secret.  The husband answered: “His eye is on the sparrow, and I know he watches me.”  From there a beautiful hymn was born.  The first time I heard it, our college choral group, the Wesleyannes, performed it.  The lyrics floated through the air and landed in my heart and soul, only to be revived recently as words of comfort.

I sing because I’m happy
I sing because I’m free
His eye is on the sparrow
And I know he watches me

The bougainvillea reminds me of beauty and strength.  It is a beautiful yet hardy plant.  Strong.  I like it.  And it reminds me of sitting with an elderly woman in England who told me once, “Oh dearie, someday you will sit around with your friends and talk about plants and flowers and such.  I suppose it sounds silly to you now, but one day…..”  And she was absolutely right.  I never could have imagined, but now I’m there.  Talking about what herbs to  plant to last year round, planting butterfly bushes and lantana and roses and the like.  Such joy that brings me!  What a wise and sweet woman.

The little bees remind me of the fragility of our world, and that I must work to protect it and to be a good steward of what we have around us.  The bees also remind me of the intricate workings of nature, how it’s all inter-dependent, just like we are.  And what an amazing creature the bee is, flying against all the odds…..do you suppose anyone has ever told a bee he couldn’t fly, that it’s actually pretty much not possible?  I would love to hear a bee laugh with glee.  Much like I did as I was finishing the painting I told myself couldn’t be done.  It was too hard.  And yet…..laughter.  Joy.  Worship.  Remembrance.  Grace.

pic of my painting

Tonight I am thankful for finally having my picture of Open.  It is all the more dear to me because of the journey, the path to get there.  To that completed picture.  I am grateful for the gift of time to do this, given to me by my sister, Mess Cat.  I give thanks for the laughter and stories and encouragement that floated around the room as we sat and created together.  And I appreciate the peace that has settled in my heart and soul tonight.  My heart and spirit and faith has taken a beating over the past couple of years.  I find myself seeking, searching for a way to worship that makes sense and resonates within me.  Today brought together my thoughts, what was on my heart and mind, and my appreciation for what is in the world around me.  Holy ground.  And for that, I am most thankful.  Amen.

The One Thing I Don’t Want to Be…..Especially on Sundays

pic of Sunday calendar

Another Sunday.

Today is the third Sunday since we have stopped serving meals on Sunday nights at Daybreak, the day shelter for folks in need up in Macon.  I hear that our friends are doing well at the other places that serve, and for that I am thankful.

My Sundays look very different now.  Actually they are still morphing, in transition.  No longer do I make sure my sink is totally cleared on Saturday nights so I can fill pots in the sink on Sunday.  No more inventory count no later than Friday to check my stock of coffee, tea bags, sugar, marshmallows, Swiss Miss, and so on.  No more getting up early to get things started–washing and sanitizing four coolers and then preparing ten gallons of sweet tea, over three of coffee, and then, season dependent–five gallons of hot chocolate or hot water.  It took me a while, but I finally had the process down to a near science.  It’s the little things in life, people.

I do miss our friends, but soon I will see them there at a different time and in a different capacity, so I am thankful for that.  What has surprised me is that I miss my Sunday ritual.  I do not mean to offend, but it had become a bit of a holy time, this preparation of the vessels and preparing the drinks.  I used the same pot and bowls and measuring cups and spoon each week.  And the cleanup was a special ritual as well.  This routine that took up much of my Sundays for over two and half years was familiar and it brought me comfort.  Each step I did, I knew what task was next.  There is something very comforting in that.  All the way through the day, knowing what came next.

Late last night I was thinking through our options of things to do today.  The past two Sundays have been good, filled with being with family and life-affirming goodness.  Things I love.  Today promised to be no different.  I have done things I would not have planned before, as my day was already full.  And in a good way.  Last night as I thought over the coming day, I wondered how long it would be before it no longer felt strange to have Sunday as a day to plan whatever or not plan at all.  I remember years ago, before any of my children were born, Sundays were very relaxed.  Up and off to church, dinner out with friends or family, then home to peruse the big thick Sunday paper and all those salespapers, and then usually a nap weaseled its way in.  Really, really laid back.  I was so complacent.  Maybe I was not completely unaware of my brothers and sisters who are living such hard lives without all their basic needs met, but I certainly was not mindful of it on a daily basis.

So I figured out last night that one of my fears in all of this is that I go back to that complacency.  Just because my Sundays have changed drastically doesn’t mean that theirs have.  I worry that the time will come when I don’t miss the ritual anymore, that a Sunday will pass that I don’t think about our friends and the fact that it’s raining or cold or hot and wonder how they are doing.  I don’t want that at all.  I want always to pause at some point in my day, particularly my Sundays, and appreciate whatever I am in the midst of; but I also want to have a quiet moment to recall and give thanks for all of these Sundays in the past and the people whom I have gotten to know–and what they have meant in my life–the people and the days.  I do not ever want to be complacent again.

Especially not on my Sundays.

The One in Which I share that I’m Not Happy

pic of i'm not happy

Okay folks. I’m not happy. In fact, I’m pretty much mad. (Warning–It’s been another napless day.  I’m likely to offend someone.  You have been warned.)

In the past few weeks, I have had conversations with friends and family that have broken my heart. It seems that people who have all read the same book are using quotes from it to make the people I love feel vulnerable, uncertain, afraid, upset, judged, and hurt. ENOUGH.

It is especially ironic and very sad that this book is supposed to be the epitome of GOOD. In fact, it is often called The Good Book.

It seems that some people who are well-versed, and some who maybe aren’t, are using verses from the Good Book to let others know the path they are on is doomed. Or that the questions they are asking will lead to a fate worse than death. Or what they believe or think is WRONG WRONG WRONG.

What are we doing? Why are we using the words from this Book to hurt others? That’s not going to make them want to read it more. Or to follow the One who wrote it at all. It’s just my opinion, but it seems that some folks are quoting chapter and verse to prove whatever point they want to make and forgetting about two important ones.

First there’s the one that tells how to love others.  Pretty much He said to love others as He loved us.  And since His love is referred to as perfect love, I’m thinking we (myself included) are falling short.  (John 13:34)

Then there’s the Parable of the Lost Sheep. The Shepherd has 100 sheep, but when he counts to be sure, he comes up with 99. He doesn’t say, “Oh well, it’s okay, no one else will count them, so we’ll be short a little yarn this year, it’s all good.” No. He loads up and goes after that ONE. One is enough for Him to love and to go after. There is no story we cannot bring Home with us.  And when He finds the sheep, the Shepherd brings it home and parties. Abundant joy, people, that’s good stuff. (Matthew 18:12-14 and Luke 15:3-7)

Here’s the thing.  I’m not trying to evangelize here.  Probably just the opposite.  I love this quote from Saint Francis of Assissi:

pic saint francis quote

Or there’s the old saying I used to hear the old folks around saying: “You catch more flies with honey than vinegar.”

I’m not trying to make light of people and what they believe.   I respect your right to believe what you believe.  But I am begging you, please do NOT, no matter how well intended, share what you believe in such a manner that you are negating all others and what they might think.  Let’s face it, life and all that is in it, is pretty much a mystery.  I  joke about looking forward to an Everything You Always Wanted To Know 101 class when I leave this earth.  But for now, I just have to accept that some things are not going to make sense.  Not easy, but I can’t honestly say I have all the answers.  Or that I get everything I read.

I have a friend who was going through a really hard time.  He happened to be homeless at the time.  I met up with him one day, and it was obvious he was intoxicated.  I think he expected a lecture, but whatever, this isn’t my first rodeo with an alcoholic and I figured out a long time ago, a lecture was not going to make it better.  So we visited about other things.  After a quiet moment he asked, “So are you one of them…..Christians?”  I was actually speechless, because I could hear the defensiveness and anger in his voice.  He was ready to disregard how much I cared about him because if I were a Christian, I would HAVE to care about him and it wouldn’t be about his worth as a person.  Maybe he thought then it would be about trying to save him.  I sat for a minute and then I replied, “Well I really like Jesus…..and I try to do what He said…..”  All of the hot air went out of my friend, and we have built from that moment a precious relationship.  I don’t walk in his shoes, so I can’t judge his disease.  But I can love him through it.  That’s about all I can do, but he says it’s enough.

I am tired of hearing about people being hurt by people who are supposed to know better.  We don’t know what others are going through.  When someone talks about how wrong divorce is, and about the tragedy of broken families, he or she should consider that there might have been abuse, and maybe that child is really, truly, and finally WHOLE.  Using verses from the Good Book to condemn the way someone is living is risky business, and if the Parable of the Lost Sheep (told twice) is to be believed, and IF that person is in trouble, from what I’m reading, the Shepherd’s going after that one.  All is not lost. And ultimately I’m not the judge of their right or wrong anyway. When someone hears a friend talking about how fragile their faith is in that moment, he or she is not helping the friend by saying it’s wrong to question, and that the only thing you need to know is Jesus died for our sins.  We have no idea what life events brought that person to the point of asking questions.  I can share from personal experience that when life’s turmoils have taken over, and I’ve asked questions and gnashed teeth, I came out on the other side with a faith that is stronger–even though I still don’t have all the answers.

Tonight I am thankful for the folks who have walked alongside me on my spiritual journey, no matter if we believed the same or not.  I give thanks for my Mama and Daddy who loved people from all walks of life and empowered us to do the same.  For my daughter who is strong in her beliefs and challenges me to figure out where I stand, I give special thanks.  I’m thankful for phone calls from friends asking great questions and the sharing that follows.  And I’m especially grateful for a question from someone who was drunk, the question that made me think about who I am and why I do what I do.  Yeah, I’m still trying to figure all that out.