The Judgement Files-Exposed

Picture yourself standing in front of a crowd of people. They are your friends, family, and acquaintances. The lights dim and a spotlight begins to shine on you. A screen behind you begins to list every bad deed you have ever committed. It lists every bad thought and every bad word you have ever said about anyone. You are exposed.

Someone you’ve known your entire life stands up and says, “I can no longer be your friend.” She leaves. Others stand and leave with her.

Someone else says, “I will be your friend, but I will never look at you the same.” He sits back down.

The next person says, “You will have to prove your worth to me before I can forgive you.” He leaves. Others stand and leave with him.

One more person stands. She begins to walk down the aisle toward you. Once she is near, she reaches out for your hand. She yells out to the remaining people, “I have done just as many wrong things in my life. The only difference is that my sins…your sins have not been exposed. They are not on display for all to see.” She looks at you and says, “I love you. I forgive you. Now let’s go grab a bite to eat.”  You two leave and a few others follow.

THE END.

P.S. Which person do you want to be like?

What exactly is the good?

DSC_0014.jpg

As I sat waiting for Luke’s game to begin, I played with blades of grass at my feet. My mind was as calm as a glassy lake; there was not a wave nor a ripple in sight. But then my phone rang. It was my dad. He never calls me on the weekend, I thought as I answered my phone.

In one second my frame of mind shifted. The pain of this world, oh the pain. I wasn’t surprised by the news, yet each word stung. Sometimes it is the unsurprising news that hurts the most. I always hope people will respond or do differently than what I see coming. I much rather the stories of people overcoming life. The bad in life, that is. I love when people prevail.

It is a strength and a weakness that I strive to find the good in all things. The problem arises when the pain of this world is deeper than the seemingly good it can bring. I hate to see people give up on life. They throw in the towel and don’t look back, and they don’t look forward either. They remain stuck unable to move. Maybe that is why I need Romans 8:28, we all need Romans 8:28.

Wait.

What exactly does that even mean? I just talked about pain and giving up on life. Now I am encouraging a bible verse that talks about “in all things God works for the good”? Yes, I just said that and that.

Yesterday, after I wrote my blog post about this verse, I walked into my kitchen and there on my table were mason jars full of carnations. They’ve been sitting there for almost a week, but I saw them as if they just magically appeared.image I focused in on the pink ones. Romans 8:28 reminds me of my grandparents, it reminds me of my grandma’s death. Since the verse keeps popping up I have been thinking of her. Pink carnations were her favorite. They’ve been here in my house and yet it slipped my mind until that moment. As if that were not enough, I went to sit on my couch. My phone was in my hand because I was getting ready to clean and was going to put music on. (Who likes to clean without music?) I sat, thought about my grandma, pulled myself together, and then put Pandora on. I began to stand up when the song Homesick came on. It was the song they played at her funeral.

The tears flowed, I pictured my grandma’s face, and then peace came. My grandma was touched by the pain of this world, just like us all. Her pain is no more, though. She’s home. It got me thinking. That’s it, I’m homesick. We are all homesick. That is why it hurts so bad. We know we don’t belong here.

We are touched by our bad choices, other people’s bad choices, unexpected news, disease, death, and etc. We must remember our hope and truth lie in the fact that sin or anything that happens as a result cannot ruin God’s plan. His mind is set on our eternal salvation. His mind is set on bringing us home. That is why He sent His son Jesus to die for our sins. Stop and brew on that for a minute. That is powerful stuff. Nothing can stop His plan and nothing can stop His purpose of eternity.

The challenge lies not in my knowing this. It lies in my sharing this. It lies in you sharing this. How can we show people the good in God’s purpose? How can we show them that the light shines in the darkness and the darkness will not prevail?

For the Good

Romans 8:28 has been popping up everywhere lately. It is a verse, the verse, that reminds me of my grandparents the most. My grandpa got interviewed by his church after my grandma passed away. I remember the change in his voice and the pain in his eyes when he mentioned this was one of their favorites. He struggled and questioned God after my grandma passed away. He said he couldn’t find any good in her passing away. I’m sure he will never see this verse in the same light. Although I know the meaning is much deeper than thinking nothing bad will ever happen, neither will I.

My grandma was an amazing lady. When she said she was proud of me, it meant something. I still cry sometimes when I think of her. It is crazy, I never thought I was anything like her. The older I get, the more I see her in me. Maybe because the older I get the more I am comfortable with myself. I never saw her in me because I never saw me in myself.

So here I am reflecting on this verse and what I really need is to spend time in prayer. I need to read the surrounding verses. This is a hard one for me. When I think of this verse, I think the pain in my grandpa’s eyes. I think of my grandma and cry.

image

Finished

Hi. My name is Stacy. I serve at my church. I read my bible. I pray. I have a Christian blog where I share my faith openly. I’ve been surrounded by churchgoing Christians all my life. I could sit and discuss theology for hours. I get ‘can’t sit still’ excited over it. Shall I list all my good deeds now? Should I tell you how I turn the other cheek? Don’t you see what a good little Christian I am? I’m really working my way up to heaven. Yep, I can see the building of my own place up there…it just keeps getting larger…more majestic as we speak. No? 

Maybe I should start again.

Hi. My name is Stacy. I am a sinner. No matter how often I go to church, no matter how much I serve, no matter how much I pray, I cannot earn my way up to heaven. Yes, all of that is a product of my ever-growing faith. But, it isn’t my salvation. If I lived like the above paragraph, I’d be living as a slave. I’d be as righteous as the pharisees. I wouldn’t need a savior. In a sense, I’d be worshipping myself…I’d be my own stinking idol.

I could say many Christians are accused of living their life as trying to prove their righteous ways. I could say they are accused of condemning points of the fingers. The problem is there really are people (too many) who try to earn their way to the blood. Some really are pointing fingers.

They have forgotten they are sinners like the rest of us. They have simply forgotten or maybe they have never even been taught the truth. Imagine that.

Can we place the blame on these modern day pharisees for the declining relevance of the church? I don’t think they deserve that. We need to look at them as being as lost as someone who has never stepped inside a church. Which means, what they deserve is to hear the true Gospel. They also need a big hug. They need to be told, “It is finished!”

Yep, it is finished. Jesus did the work. He lived a sinless life. He died for all of our sins. He rose from the dead! He did what we couldn’t do. He did what we will never be able to do.

Jesus was and always will be enough to finish the job. So, rest, my weary brothers and sisters. Just rest.

image

Without the Black and White

image

I remember the first time I watched the Wizard of Oz. My mom was excited to have all of her children old enough to watch one of her favorite movies. My brothers and I sat on the floor in front of the tv, my parents on the couch, and all of us chomping on popcorn. Remember the aluminum foil pan popcorn? That was the ish back then. Anyhow, I could barely sit still when I heard the MGM lion roar. The movie started and… it was black and white? I had to sit through an old black and white movie?

My mom told us to just watch and pay attention. It would be amazing, she said. I trusted her and I also knew whining would just get me sent to bed. So, I waited. Dorothy opened the door and the beautiful colors captured me. I remember my mom’s giggle as she listened to us kids ooh and aah. It was a magical moment.

It became an annual tradition to watch the Wizard of Oz. Back then, we didn’t have On Demand. We had to wait until it came back on television. Now, we don’t know anything about the excitement of waiting like we did back then. I remember when we recorded it for the first time. I could watch it whenever I wanted. Woohoo, right? I thought so until I watched it a few times and the family tradition faded. The fun in waiting ended. I learned the magic isn’t so magical without the waiting.

As a kid, I never fully appreciated Good Friday. It wasn’t a nice day to think about. Jesus having to die was sad, it wasn’t exciting. It was like the beginning of the Wizard of Oz. All I wanted was for the door to open. I wanted the beautiful color, not the black and white. I wanted to hear about Jesus rising from the dead. I was a kid so I would be lying if I didn’t also admit I wanted the Easter egg hunt, the pretty dress, and the candy (of course). All I wanted was the magic, not the things leading up to the magic.

I now love Holy Week. I love the reflection and the humility it brings. I always try to carry the beauty of the “black and white” into the “technicolor” and the days beyond. It is easily my favorite week of the year. It sort of snuck up on me this year, though. Tuesday, I kept thinking of how I wanted it to slow down. I wanted to feel the waiting a little bit longer.

It wasn’t until Wednesday night during my class that I felt my usual Holy Week feelings. I told the kids we were going to have a (sort of) Last Supper together. They were excited to say the least. It took them a bit to calm down and I almost thought it wasn’t going to work out.

They did calm down. I read the verses as we talked about how it must have felt to be there. How did Judas feel? Peter? Jesus? We passed out bread. We talked about what it meant. We ate. I poured grape juice. We talked about what it meant. We drank. They were engaged. The verses were familiar to them and of course they started talking about communion. We talked about the steps they need to take in our church to participate in communion when they are older. I got my Holy Week feeling back. Funny how teaching has a way of helping me as well. I guess it goes to show why it is important to use your unique gifts and talents.

Even as an adult I try to rush to the magic at times. I have to remind myself to stop and trust God. I look back and see the beauty in the steps leading up. I thank God for the steps leading up––no matter how hard they may be at the time.

Without the blood shed on the cross, we can have no salvation. Without the black and white, we would not have the color. It is the same with life. We must not rush to get to the color. We have to wait and see and feel the beauty in the black and white. It is only then that we can see and feel the true beauty and magic in the color.

image

This is a painting I had my class do on Wednesday night after our lesson. This was my son’s. I loved the colors each kid chose. I loved seeing the anticipation they felt waiting to see their finished project. I especially loved their smiles when I oohed and aahed at their work. 

The Whisper From Within

I pulled my hair back into my usual low messy bun, removed my sunglasses, and peered into the opening of the cave. My hands tightly held my treasured designer sunglasses that hid tired eyes on my busiest days. I remembered the day I bought them and the false sense of accomplishment I felt wearing them. I wanted to rid myself of all of that and so I quickly tossed them into the tall grass behind me.

I stood staring into the never-ending darkness. I took a deep breath and stepped inside. A light sweeping breeze tickled my skin. I heard the whisper, the whisper from within, calling me to continue. It was the same whisper telling me to leave behind my fierce independent ways. It assured me perfection is a weak and fragile state. It reminded me real strength lies in the mess. It lies in being content with your mess and with your limitations.

I was frightened, yet determined. I thought of the steps that led me there. I was in my early twenties. The noise of busyness, the layers of self-made sludge, the wounds of days past had drowned out the whisper. I wanted nothing more than to listen and embrace it once again. I was never meant to live that life. I was meant to live my life. So, one day I stopped. I just stopped, pretty much dropped, and couldn’t move any further into the life I created. A life I worked so hard at maintaining the image of perfection and self-sufficiency. It was then I saw brave was not nonstop trying and doing and living the “good” life. Brave was standing where I was that moment. Brave was stepping inside my own cave.

I took another deep breath and didn’t look back. It felt like the first few moments after jumping into a pool. There was a shocking cold that quickly transformed into a refreshment for my weary soul. My eyes adapted and light appeared. The outside noises soon diminished. I began shoveling through the sludge. I came across my wounds, some I healed and some I simply acknowledged. There was nothing else between me and the whisper from within. It was like a long lost friend I hadn’t seen in years. We embraced and cried and fell right back into the old rhythm of things. I fell back inline and freed myself from the pressures of this world.

There are times, will always be times, I wander outside the bounds of my life. I find my way back to my cave, I do the work all over again. I know that life isn’t real, it isn’t sincere, it isn’t mine. It is built on pressure and duty and pushing past limitations I was never meant to push past. No one is made to do it all, to try it all, to go and go and go until you drown out the voice from within. So just stop and go inside your cave. You won’t regret it. I haven’t.

Oh, I Understand

DSC_0125I understand what it feels like to raise a kid who is “different”. I know what it feels like when others just don’t get it. They nod their head, they listen, but then a minute later something flies out of their mouth that makes you want to scream.

I understand what it feels like to want the world to accommodate your child’s every need. You only want them to have an even playing field. You want their teachers to help them. You want their friends to take it easy on them; to wait for them when they are falling behind or struggling.

I remember how unfair everything felt when Luke was first diagnosed. Heck, there are still times when it feels unfair when I watch my kid struggle. When he tries to pretend he can see so he can just feel “normal” for a moment is a horrible thing to watch. It is horrible. It is a feeling I would not wish upon anyone.

Everyone wants to be able to relate to others and when you have one thing that always gets in your way…something you can never take away…well it sucks.

One day, Luke was with a group of kids and he was talking and laughing with the rest of them. He got right up in one kid’s face as he was talking. The other kid put his hand up and said, “Luke, back up. You’re too close.”

I was so used to Luke getting up in my face, that I failed to even think of how uncomfortable it made others. I started observing. I saw adults backing away from him, I saw kids backing away from him. I saw.

I didn’t say anything to Luke right away because it was hard to think of having to tell my kid to stop doing something that helped him. But then I began to think of the life I wanted for him. I thought of the person I wanted him to become. My parenting became harder and life became more gray.

See, Luke can’t have it all in life. I can’t allow him to do what is best for only him. He must think of others. He must find a healthy balance between trying to see his world better and also seeing the world through other people’s eyes. It is the only way for him or for any of us to share life with others.

To take care of himself and others is what I envision for him. It makes things more complicated. It makes my job harder. The difference I have seen socially since Luke has improved on his personal space issues (and understanding of personal space) shows it is worth it. It doesn’t make it any less heartbreaking to see him struggle, but I know it will make him a better person.

It is worth raising your kid, no matter what the struggle, to simultaneously think of themselves and others. There are times when we teach Luke to think of his needs first. Sit in the front of the class. Use enlarged print. Put sunglasses on when the sun is bothering your eyes. Those are black and white. The gray areas are where other people are involved. Sometimes in the gray, we must choose others. I now know getting in other people’s personal space is not worth the benefit it has for Luke. It is one of the many times he has to learn to accommodate to the world. It is a little less fair, but we all have to do this in life.

Remember, I understand. It is hard to choose others over you own kid. Over someone you love unconditionally. We all deserve to feel normal, but we cannot always take away from other people to do so. Sometimes what is best is to see the gray and choose some middle ground for the sake of others.