I took Emmie the Elderly Golden Retriever to the vet this morning. It’s only for a nail-trim, I told her when she balked a bit about getting into the back-seat. It was cold outside, and her old bones don’t like the cold. Finally she did her best to jump into the car, her posterior getting a little boost from me.
Along the way, I rolled down the window so that my rearview mirror was filled with the vision of Emmie’s face behind me – full splendor, tufts of golden fur and a wide smile of teeth and gums (okay, mostly gums) and eyes squinting in the cold sunlight. She had forgotten that there was a destination involved. She was all about the ride.
When we arrived at the vet’s office, she remembered, of course. The last time we’d been here, she was extremely sick…
“Fathers, be good to your daughters
Daughters will love like you do
Girls become lovers who turn into mothers
So mothers, be good to your daughters too.”
– John Mayer, “Daughters”
I used to be a big fan of greeting cards – Instagram-esque images on the front, the oh-so-eloquent sappiness that makes up the text inside. But these days, I’m finding that Hallmark doesn’t always capture the essence of occasions. Here in my sepia years (not near ‘golden’, mind you) mass-generated greetings don’t cut it.
Looking for a Father’s Day card to recognize my husband, I hovered over a card on the rack that pictured the quintessential daddy-daughter image: A black-and-white picture of dancing feet – a little girl’s bare feet perched upon her father’s leather Oxfords. I love that image.
Isn’t that what father-ness looks like?
What does it look like, as a reel – instead of a snapshot?…
Who is NOT devastated by Orlando? I can’t imagine, unless perhaps you have lost touch with your basic humanity. And we know some people have. But not all. As history repeats itself again, another mass shooting rages on in even bigger number, the response is still the same: Shock, horror, unspeakable grief. But then….
THE LOVE COMES STEPPING OUT!
Stronger. Fiercer. More resolute. More people. More together.
Like millions of other citizens of Earth, each time this happens we struggle to make sense of the Why?
Here’s what I believe for sure. It’s not about gay (though that was the “excuse” this time for the mass carnage). It’s not about the guns, though we’ll argue about that too. We know extremism that destroys is NOT a faith at all. Because faith is about enduring, struggling, persevering, and ultimately proving the worthiness of the faith you profess. This IS simply the EVIL that resides…
So, I just wrote a positively genius Facebook rant about the horrific Orlando mass shooting at a gay club. It had all the components of TRUTH and WORD WEAVERY that I strive so hard to include in all my posts. It was witty. It was hard-driving. It was fact-filled. There was A LOT OF SHOUTING IN ALL CAPS, but without compromising the integrity of the message. I even included a quote by the very liberal Thom Friedman to back up my case, and add the last GOTCHA!
I’m tempted to paste the content RIGHT HERE so that even MORE people can read it and change their minds about Islam being a religion of peace, and why GUNS aren’t the problem, EVIL is the problem. Hate is the problem.
A Muslim extremist calls 911 and declares alliance with ISIS before killing 50 gay people, but yeah, sure….its a GUN problem.
Before I posted my genius post, there was a teensey spiritual nudging.
Are you sure you want to post that? I felt God ask my spirit.
OF COURSE I’M SURE, I told him. I’m RIGHT.
How many people have been convinced of truth as a result of a torrid Facebook post? He says.
You’re really throwing off my groove, God. I say in essence. Have you even READ it? (He had.)
So I post it. So vehement was I in my convictions, I even invited friends to UNFRIEND me if they didn’t see my point of view.
And wait for the ‘amen’ chorus, but nothing happens.
Then one friend messages me that there are 1 billion Muslims on Earth, and only 1 % are terrorists, and I answer back with “Well, 10 million terrorists is a LOT of terror” (and yes, I had to Google what 1% of 1 billion was. I’m not a math girl.)
And then I do something I should have done 30 minutes prior. I prayed and actually listened. It started as more of a “back me up, Father!” prayer, but ended in complete contrition.
So God….I’m thinking maybe I shouldn’t have posted that…..
God: Gee, I wish I’d told you that (I’ve found the Almighty to have quite the deadpan style at times)
So, before further damage and unfriending, I delete the post on Facebook.
But I just don’t delete it, because I want to keep it handy in case another horrible tragedy happens and I was right about something I’d written. (Hey, I’m being super transparent here!) Instead of totally deleting it, I cut and pasted it into a Word document. So it was out of the public eye, but I still had in close in hand because I still felt completely justified in feeling the feelings that precipitated it.
See? I deleted it, Lord.
And my Abba Father, in his infinite wisdom, reminds me that I didn’t delete it at all. I’m still holding on to it. And then he says to my spirit in the gentlest and most distinct way –
“You do the same thing with resentments all the time.”
Oh, I DO.
There is someone who has hurt me deeply and I still – many years later – resent her terribly. My mind has compiled a “The Best Of” anthology of all the ways she has hurt me. All the ways she has hurt me that NOBODY even KNOWS about. Spread lies and manipulations. Really, the world should KNOW what rotten things she did / said, because if people knew just how diabolical she can be, maybe she will feel hurt compatible to the way she made me hurt.
And is making me hurt STILL.
And the truth is, if she ever pulls that shit on me again, I can whip out that positively genius rant I’ve been saving, in all the TRUTH and WORD WEAVERY-ness that only 10 freaking years of crafting such a diatribe can render. It is witty. It’s hard-driving, and fact-filled. It’s out of the public eye, but still had in close in my heart because I still feel completely justified in feeling the feelings that precipitated it. All this time, I’ve saved it more surely than any Word document.
Is that what Jesus would do?
I wonder what the world would have looked like if Jesus had spent 10 years crafting a list of wrongs, instead of three years in ministry of only love?
My friend who reminded me of the 1% terror-driven adherents to Islam (I still say that’s a LOT) is also Recovery Warrior. He invited me to remember what we learned in Recovery Coach Academy – all 20 of us from all different walks and races and creeds – sitting in a circle. We didn’t sing Kumbaya or anything. But we DID all find common ground. We all found consensus.
Would I have read that genius Facebook post aloud in that room, if I’d have known one of those people was a non-terrorist Muslim?
No, I would not.
And I am not suggesting ‘letting go’ when it comes to terrorism. Aw, HELL no. I AM suggesting than spending all of my convincing the world that Islam is evil, I should be more concerned with convincing them that Jesus is LOVE.
Some things DO need letting go of.
I have boxes of old letters from people who used to love me, and I can’t throw them away because that might somehow cement that they don’t love me anymore.
I hide hurts in my heart that nobody knows, because they are just that awful.
I’ve had thoughts that are so bad – as the venerable Anne Lamott says – “they would make Jesus want to drink gin straight out of the cat dish.”
I may say I forgive you but keep a little kernel of righteous indignation to plant in my heart and water every time you present me with another infraction.
I hate those things about me, I so badly want to be like Jesus.
To which I feel God say GOTCHA!
And, in all caps (shouting intended!) he says, I LOVE YOU, KIDDO.
CLEAR ALL FILES, SAVE FOR LOVE.
Queue chorus of “AMEN!”
And God bless us, every one.
Help me to use my words to build up, and not tear down. Help me to use my talents to your glory, and not for my own agenda.
How do we love our enemies? You were pretty clear about showing us how, but I’m still struggling with it.
Be present in the darkness of our current mess on this planet, even as you entered into darkness for each of us on the cross.
Forgive me my pesky trespasses, and help me to LET GO of the trespasses of others.
“Lighthouses don’t go running all over an island looking for boats to save; they just stand there shining.” – Anne Lamott
By: Jana Greene
This planet is a scary place to be stationed for the duration of our earthly lives, isn’t it? It is full of manifest proof that people are completely whack. Especially in this political season, so rife with corruption and spite and division. I quite fancy the bumper sticker I saw the other day that simply says, “GIANT METEOR 2016” and in small print “Just end it already.”
In my flesh, I’m pretty sure that a giant meteor is the best contender, if for no other reason that it would at least be a quick death, and not a slow-burn of horror that might be a Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump presidency.
Surely God is avoiding those two candidates like the plague. Surely, God is a nice libertarian, right?
Be a light, I keep telling myself. Enough people are bitching about the election. Bitching about the state of the world is kind of a specialty of mine, because I feel so STRONGLY about things that I often work myself into a Chicken Little-style frenzy of running in circles yelling THE SKY IS FALLING! THE SKY IS FALLING!
In my flesh, I’m pretty sure we are politically doomed. Yet even as bits of sky are raining down, my supernatural spirit knows God will work all things to the good.
(God can even use Hillary and Trump somehow. THAT’S how powerful our God is, people.)
God is in this place, in this time. He isn’t in hiding. Contrary to many believers’ cries that God is so fed up with this country, he has left ‘Murica altogether. If that were true, indeed all hope would be lost.
But hope isn’t lost. Not all of it, anyway.
Christians especially love to put demographics of people into little boxes, so that we can give ‘those people’ wide berth. There are many, many believers who think that God would never be present in unholy places – the back alleys. The venues of ill repute.
The campaign trail (*shudder*)
But that’s just not true. I know this because Jesus entered into darkness when he signed up for this Earth gig. He never said, “Ew, I can’t go THERE with THEM.”
He entered into darkness so that every one of us has the opportunity to walk in the light. Because of that, I don’t have to fear the dark (I don’t HAVE to, but sometimes I still do…its a work in progress!)
One tiny light vanquishes darkness; it doesn’t have to be a torch or an incandescent bulb. It just has to be willing to be lit – accepting Christ and trusting that he is still on the throne no matter who is in the White House.
What to DO when you feel like you are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea? Stand there and be a lighthouse, of course.
Here is what I believe:
God is in me, and he is in you.
He is faithful and steadfast (no meteor required).
He has a plan, even when all evidence points to the contrary.
Plot twists are kind of his specialty.
He is not deterred by people, places and things.
He is only ever good at heart.
Because God is love, anywhere there is love, there God is.
God bless America. And may he bless us, every one.
My friend Andy (who is a girl) published a book a couple of months ago, and I have been meaning to blog about it, but truthfully, I just finished it because I cannot seem to GET IT TOGETHER and simply read a book in its entirety, even though the author is a DEAR FRIEND.
(A little something for my ADD / OCD would be nice at times, but never mind because I can not and should not be trusted with narcotics, so I suppose I’m stuck with this bockity brain…..)
Anyway, as I was saying, her book is “A Mary Like Me – Flawed yet called” and I highly recommend that you check it out, no matter which end of the Mary – Martha spectrum you fall in.
Also, please note that the venerable Mrs. Lee is an amazing blogstress as well. Check her out at:
“Oh how I love Andy Lee. Oh, and her writings – ALL of her writings. Her blog always calls me to glimpse a little piece of her gigantic heart and a lot of Holiness. I especially loved “A Mary Like Me” because it challenged me to take another look at those two biblical sisters (Mary and Martha) and explore their similarities within myself. Andy is a biblical scholar but you nearly forget that when you are reading her work – and I mean that in the BEST possible way. When you are reading “A Mary Like Me,” you are reading the words of a servant. Within the context of the Mary/Martha story, Andy delves into every nuance, opening my eyes to points-of-view that (even as a Rusty Old Christian) I’d never considered before. She sprinkles the book with tales of her own personal journey, which makes it a very relateable read; and includes space after each chapter for journaling, or – and this is where it really gets good – using for a ladies group discussion. I hope to see Mary groups crop up all over the nation, and even verily, unto the ends of the Earth!”
I once sat in on a Dialectical Behavioral Therapy class under a Super Zen Therapist, and let me just say out of the gate, it was FASCINATING. I cannot even begin to touch on all the things I learned (and have on occasion, even practiced) but seriously, folks. If you ever have the opportunity to explore this therapy, I highly recommend it.
The term “dialectical” means a synthesis or integration of opposites. The primary dialectic within DBT is between the seemingly opposite strategies of acceptance and change.
I love the premise, and the belief that OK, I feel this way, but I don’t have to. I can feel THAT way. Life is nothing if not a big, fat paradox on so many levels. I will take all the help I can get! I’m still about 95% emotion-driven, but hey – that’s a 5% improvement (and ‘progress, not perfection,’ right?)
About halfway through the course, though, we came to this one sentence in the teaching, and my spiritual breaks screeched to so such a sudden halt that it could have propelled me right out of the classroom and back into my AllTheFeels way of coping with everything.
That sentence was this:
Assume that everyone is doing the best they can at any given time.
Ok, hold up. HOLD UP!
I KNOW that’s not true in certain instances. For instance, when I visit my children in their homes and they are not super nice and tidy, I KNOW for a fact that they are not doing the best they can. I taught them, so obviously I’m calling BULLSH*T on this.
And what about other people, who have – and are actively – hurting me by making stupid decisions? You are telling me that the person/people who have (to my mind) driven me to require therapy are doing the best they can? I have to ACCEPT that?
“No, you can accept it or not. Is not accepting it working for you?” Says Super Zen Therapist.
Here’s what I’m still learning, and what is helping me oil those spiritual breaks and get them rolling in a forward-moving direction again….
You cannot keep a handle on another person’s issue. You simply cannot.
I came up with a dorky little rhyme to help me remember this, and I’ve probably said it to myself several thousand times (especially when the girls were teens):
It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.
You can die trying. You can contortionist yourself into all kinds of positions that only end up making you sore and tired. The stress will kill you, I’m not even kidding.
But that’s what happens when you assume that another person is not even TRYING, and you take it personal.
It’s not personal. That person is learning and morphing and all of your hand-wringing and brow-beating will not another minute add to your relationship life, but may well shorten it.
I don’t have to go back that far in my own history to recognize the power of this principal.
When I was an active alcoholic, I wanted to be better for my children. Even as intimate as the mother/child connection was, I didn’t always get it right! I had to learn and do, stop and lurch forward. Lather, rinse, repeat.
My process spilled over to them, but it was never meant to be personal.
I was doing the best I could at the moment, I swear to you. I did the best I could until I could do better. I did better when I surrounded myself with people who were doing better and whose love for me was not contingent on my doing better.
It will behoove YOUR state of mind to believe that the person most getting on your nerves is doing their best in this moment, with their particular life experience.
(And when I really stop to consider it, even the example of my kids and their tendencies NOT to be neat freaks, It was I who cleaned their rooms for ALL of their lives when they lived at home, because in some twisted way, I was making up for lost ‘drunk’ time as a mommy. They may well BE doing the best they know how in this moment. Because something is important to me, doesn’t mean its the only ‘right’ way (But that’s a subject for another therapy session….)
What about the big things?
If someone else’s life choices are spilling over on you and your heart is broken? Consider that they are doing their best. Go one further, even. Pray for them and believe for resolution to their situation. Petition God and plead your case, and then release.
It’s not your decision to make, nor your action to take.
You cannot grasp it because you aren’t SUPPOSED to grasp it.
You think holding on to it is helping, but it won’t be under your control.
You cannot drop it until you drop your Very Slippery Assumption and use both arms instead to embrace the person driving you completely crazy.
I am sad because the autopsy results are in – : Prince died from opiate overdose. I just lost my musical main man, David Bowie, earlier this year. Prince was my second music love; his lyrics wove the words of my final growing-up years with fine purple thread.
My friends and I saw Purple Rain in theaters half a dozen times. We sang along with “Party like its 1999” and marveled at how OLD we would be when it really was 1999. I played “KISS” on my boom box, rewinding it until the tape in the cassette broke. My friends and I ALL loved Prince’s voice and drowsy sexiness and ridiculous androgyny, and we all wished we were Apollonia or Sheila E., or Vanity. He also fostered in me a love for Corvettes – little red and otherwise.
In the weeks since his untimely death, I had been under a tiny umbrella of denial, even in a monsoon of Purple Rain. It’s not drugs, I convinced myself. Please no. No. No. No.
But it was drugs, and we need to talk about it.
Lets talk about the fact that around 40 Americans die each and every day from prescription opioid overdoses.
Let’s consider that the increased prescribing of opioids — which has quadrupled (QUADRUPLED!) since 1999 — is fueling an epidemic that is blurring the lines between prescription opioids and illicit opioids.* (Oxycontin, Percocet and Vicodin, heroin…it’s all the same to your body and mind. It all anesthetizes the Spirit.)
Lets talk about how hard life can be to get through – even when you are rich and famous, or talented and much-loved. Addiction is an equal opportunity destroyer.
I don’t know why Prince was an addict. Maybe he fed the monster to keep the music going, or to make the hurting stop. I can only guess.
Whatever the reason, I wish he’d discovered that freedom didn’t have to cost him his life. People can and DO recover. (If you are waiting for a sign to get help with a drug or alcohol problem, here it is – your Sign of the Times. Today is your day!)
We, Dearly Beloveds, need each other to get through this thing called life. We, the ones in recovery and our advocates – are that grassroots effort.
Prince (or the Artist Formerly Known as) didn’t die in vain if his overdose opens an honest conversation on addiction and closes the doors of stigma and apathy. How many Great Sadnesses do we need before we pay attention?
It was drugs, and we need to talk about it.
Dear Prince Rogers Nelson,
I hope your tender heart is satiated.
I hope you are in Heaven serenading angels with “Purple Rain.”
I hope your doves have finally found peace.
Thanks for the memories ❤
And God bless us, every one.
“Sign of the times, mess with your mind.
Hurry, before it’s too late….. – Prince”
*CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden, in an interview with People Magazine