Sabbath Monday: Think Positive

cropped-alternate-sidebar1.jpgA Sunday or 2 ago one of our season church goers came up and asked if my mic was on. She couldn’t hear me during prayer concerns. Then last week I received a note via snail mail from another seasoned church goer saying I should slow down during the reading of the scripture. But hey, you’re doing a great job. Grr…

I mentioned all of this to my colleague. I explained that this shouldn’t bother me but it does. His reply: “Forget about both of them.” The lectern mic is up and turned on, so hearing isn’t a problem, well maybe though not on my end. As for the note – forget about it. That seasoned church goer, sadly, is starting to lose memory and other skills. It sucks to hear that but also makes me feel better, which I don’t know, maybe it shouldn’t.

My colleague then said, “Do you have a positive box?” I looked at him dumbfounded. He explained that a Positive Box is full of cards, notes, emails, items, whatever from people thanking you for being there during their worst moments or teaching their child or youth or an overall thank you for your ministry.

I do have such a thing – my desk drawer, though that’s only from this church, not my previous one. That’s packed away in my parent’s basement.

The point is clear though – Don’t focus on the bad. Focus on the good, the positive.

Damn, he’s so right.

Then Friday evening I was out with a few youth, well a youth family, at a youth event at one of sister churches. I’ve been frustrated with the lack of commitment by the group and how some are forming cliques, which I despise with all my being. It was me and one family at this event. The dad is one of my youth leaders and he said it’ll all work itself out. There’s history of this group acting this way and though you only have 2 replies for tomorrow’s Bible study (Saturday morning, aka my day off), do it anyhow. Don’t cancel. Don’t cave. Do the activity with them.

Later when all of us were leaving, the mom said she had expressed to someone how she was worried about the move in the spring, about how the kids would be and all that. The person she was talking to told her to focus on the positive. All will be good and well and fine. It’s a new adventure that will turn out great. Both the mom and dad then said, “Focus on the good.”

Damn, they are so right.

Twice in one week I was told to focus on the good, the positive, not the negative. I chalk it up to the Holy Spirit doing its work.

I was watching a bit of Star Wars on Sunday evening. The old original ones. I’ve watched New Hope a million times and yet I never noticed: C3PO is such a Debbie Downer! Have you noticed that? He’s always saying things like I’m not cut out for this, don’t get us in trouble, I should have stayed on that ship. Ugh…Hello Mr. Negative. While R2D2 is Mr. Positive with his let’s do this, can-do attitude. He’s determined to get to Obi-Wan. He’s often leaving C3PO behind because R2 isn’t going to wait.

Why can’t the world be full of R2s? Why do we focus on the negative so much? I mean, think about how many times a day we grumble – too tired, too stressed, someone doesn’t like that I did this or that. Why can’t we focus on the positive? Why can’t we remind ourselves of the good that surrounds our life, even the small stuff? Why does our world feel like it’s a bunch of Debbie Downers?

I’m debating a project for the month of November. Finding one positive per day,. One thing that I’m happy with, thankful for, feel blessed over. I feel a picture project coming on and some blog posts. Hmmm…

My hope, Dear Readers, is that when life is stressful or when a bad note comes your direction is that you take a moment and remember the positive. Perhaps you start a Positive Box like I plan to do. (I see a craft project in my future.) Perhaps when something bad happens at work, you remember the good at home. Whatever it is that gets you down…

Focus on the good, on the positive when life gets you down.

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Friday 5: Scrapbooking

1027162152.jpgThere is no right or wrong way to scrapbook.  In fact, I’ve been memory keeping for years and learned how to do it all on mine own. I know what supplies I like, where I like to purchase them. I know I like a ton of photos because to me pictures tell the story-memory better than words.

Scrapbooking is self-care. And fun. And art.

When it came time to begin my next book, I decided to take a more authentic, journal type approach. I wanted to create something totally for me, something funky and fun, using my favorite non-color: Black, with patterned paper that are all different colors and shapes. I wanted to try new layouts I found on Pinterest and expand my creative juices.

Creating my 2015 California Trip book has been awesome!

Anywho, this all leads to my Friday 5 (though it’s Saturday).

My Friday 5 is my top 5 memories from my 2015 Cali. Trip. Given that I’ve been spending my few free hours hunched over gluing and cutting, and given that I left for San Francisco on October 28 of last year (a year ago yesterday), it made sense to reflect back. So…

My California Vacation 2015:

Number 1: New Destinations and Old Friends: I flew first to San Francisco to visit Tony and his (now) husband. It was my first trip to San Fran. In my few days there I saw Alcatraz, sea lions, Muir Woods an more. Plus, I was there for Tony’s wedding. After that, I flew to L.A. to see Emily and to hopefully meet up with college friends. I’d been to L.A. before but I did different stuff this time. Sadly, meeting up with Meg didn’t work out, only because she went into labor. Though I didn’t get to see her, the texting we did as she was being admitted and all that was awesome. I was at LAX when her husband texted that she delivered a healthy baby boy that I can’t wait to meet.

Number 2: Tony and Darrell’s Wedding: Tony is a friend and colleague and he finally married his partner, legally, on October 31, 2015. Love Wins Baby. I read scripture, a passage I don’t think I’ll be able to read again and not think of their wedding. I assisted 90-something Eloise in finding her seat and holding a mic, as she was reading. Eloise was a parishioner at Tony’s church and also like a grandmother to him and Darrell. Tony texted me last weekend saying Eloise had passed. He also said how Eloise was so grateful to have met me and for all I did at their wedding last year. Such sad news. The only pic I have of her is her back, sitting and facing Tony and Darrell during the rehearsal. Still, I treasure it.

Number 3: Days Exploring: I spent 2 days on my trip exploring on my own. Tony had a sermon to write so I hopped over to Alcatraz until he could meet up. I was proud of myself for figuring out BART (their version of the EL) and my way to Pier 39 all on my own. It’s a huge deal for the directionally challenged let me tell you. Then Emily had to work when I was in L.A. so I trekked over to The Getty Villa and wandered through Ancient Greek art and sculpture. I loved exploring on my own. (While walking among the many Greek sculptures I couldn’t help but think, “Don’t Blink.” Doctor Who fans will understand.)

Number 4: Soaring Like Harry Potter: You heard me. At the Warner Bros. Studio Tour I got onto a broom, green screen behind me and I soared thru London and Hogwarts. I also saw all of the Bat-mobiles, the costumes and props of many movies and shows, and had a latte at Central Perk. The geek in me had a ball. So did doing the adventure with Emily, who was also totally geeked out.

Number 5: First Vacay On My Own: Most of my vacations of late have been with family. This one was all me, which I hadn’t done in like 10 years or something. I can’t wait for my next adventure on my own.

Memories are fabulous. It’s one of the many blessings I thank God for. Adventures and exploration of new territory and spending time with old friends is another. I love that I can use my gift of creativity to put these memories into a book, to look at again in years to come and remember the day I was there for 2 friends as they legally married one another, to remember helping Eloise, to witness movie magic and to remember that life is a journey full of lots to explore.

 

Misc. Wednesday: Sleep Out

20151108_075010.jpgThis piggy-backs my other post regarding Sleep Out Saturday from October 12, 2016 – Misc. Wednesday: Sleeping Out for a Cause.

From the (upcoming) November church newsletter: Sleep Out Saturday 2016

I remember three years ago thinking, “I don’t know if I can do this. The cold and I are like oil and water – we don’t mix.” And yet sleeping outside in November was such a humbling experience.

Last year during Sleep Out Saturday I actually slept, all covered in blankets in the passenger seat of my car. Don’t get me wrong, I tossed and turned, my back hurt by about 4am, my neck had a cramp in it for the rest of the day and I still sort of nodded off during worship. It was sleep; I didn’t say it was great.

Yet this has become the one event every year I look forward to participating in; perhaps because it hits home a little more than I care to admit.

When I was fresh out of seminary, I had a ton of debt. I had a job but most of my earnings went to bills, leaving nothing substantial for me to live on. Thankfully I only had me to support. And I had loving parents who provided me with a warm bed and room, food and help when I needed it. Many are not so fortunate. I counted my blessings each and every day. With the blessings I’ve been given, I’m giving back a little at a time where I can, especially to the two people who cared for me.

On top this, Sleep Out Saturday hits home for me even more because I love children. I can’t imagine my nieces and nephews living in a car or sleeping in tents behind a store. I can’t imagine their bellies rumbling from hunger or wearing ratty clothes. It’s too painful to think about. Yet there are many in our own community that this is a daily reality.

Many teens mask the fact that they live out of a car, many scrounge for food where they can. Mothers and fathers, grandparents and other guardians face challenges of finding a warm, dry, safe place to sleep that hopefully includes something more than a peanut butter sandwich. This is the reality for many who are not so fortunate to have family looking out for them. It breaks my heart.

The SYF youth and I will bundle up and sleep in boxes, tents and cars on Saturday, November 5 to raise awareness and funds for Bridge Communities, an organization that I think holds a special place in many of our hearts for all various sorts of reason. Our hope is to raise as much money to make #HomelessNoMore a reality.

If you would like to donate to my efforts in Sleep Out Saturday on November 5, please go to: https://www.sleepoutsaturday.org/therevamanda.

Brrr...Last year was cold sleeping outside!

Brrr…Last year was cold sleeping outside!

If you are unable to donate, please pray for those sleeping out that evening all over our community and for those who live day in and day out, wondering where their next bed might be located.

Peace, Pastor Amanda (a.k.a. The Rev. Amanda)

Sabbath Monday: On Tuesday & Fitted Sheets

20160227_182414.jpgSaturday evening I was down on my hands and knees, grumbling about fitted sheets and how making the bed would be so much flipping easier if there were fitted sheets.

Perhaps I should back up…

Saturday evening I was setting up pads, a.k.a. beds, for PADS.

PADS is a temporary overnight housing program, usually held in a church, where the homeless come for a meal, a warm place to sleep, a shower, laundry and breakfast. The youth and I do the set up when it’s our church’s turn to host at the PADS site in town.

I typically put pillow cases on or bring blankets to each room. But Saturday I was down on the hard floor, trying to make beds with 2 flat sheets. Do you have any idea how difficult that is? The pads move around, the sheet comes undone when you move it and try to add the top sheet. It doesn’t look crisp and neat, like a bed should look. Every year I complain about the lack of fitted sheets. Maybe I need to do something about it. Hmmm…

After I had made my 4th bed, my knees and lower back were killing me. The youth work a lot faster than me so the room I was working in was almost finished, so I stopped and helped elsewhere. Then we added more beds to the lounge area. In all, I think the youth made about 50 beds.

When the group leaves, we always run into folks waiting outside. Mostly it’s men. Sometimes it’s women. Sometimes it’s a mom with a child or a teen. There was one woman with a toddler hanging out inside the door. Not sure if she was helping out or waiting for a bed. Either way, it tugged at my heart.

Saturday evening the group and I left, all of us getting into cars, saying “See you at Mod Pizza!” Sitting on the curb in between my car and another was a homeless man. Just the thought of saying, “See you for dinner!” to the others around me made my heart sink. I almost became nauseous. I bet that man would love a fresh, warm pizza. And here I get to go, swipe my credit card that I know will be reimbursed from the church, and buy pizzas for the youth and the youth’s family, a treat for helping out at PADS. If God wasn’t staring me in the face at that moment then golly…

I’m incredibly blessed to have warm bed, food in the fridge and a family who helps out when I need it. I’m incredibly blessed that I can eat out with the youth, by myself or with friends, that I can swipe my credit card in exchange for a pizza. I can only imagine the man sitting by my car was concerned about at that moment was a warm bed. It may be on the floor in an old church. It may be uncomfortable. I don’t know. But it’s a bed. Plus, there is a meal and community, even for one night.

Homelessness shouldn’t exist. There’s too much of it in our country. I’ve learned all about the cost of living since I moved out on my own. It’s ridiculous how much I spend in rent in a suburb of Chicago. But these are the times we are a living. Didn’t someone famous write or sing about that once?

I don’t typically give to folks on the street when I see them in need. I don’t usually hand out money when someone wanders into the church on a Sunday morning looking for a pastor and I try to send them to a community outreach program. The Spirit may tug but my conscience tells me otherwise. I do give to Bridge Communities, who assists families with transitional, temporary housing. I do give of my time to PADS and make beds without fitted sheets once a month. It’s small and probably doesn’t seem like a lot but I know those few beds I made warm a person’s heart, even for a night.

I’m not looking for praise for doing these small things, in fact, I often feel like I don’t do enough. However, I’m reminded of Jesus, of the story he told about someone who cleaned the wounds of a stranger, who put that stranger up in a hotel until he healed. If the end of homelessness and poverty are not in our grasps, then you know what? I’ll get down on my knees and make 25 beds on my own. Fitted sheets and bad knees and aching backs, all so someone can feel like a human for one night. All so someone, a stranger, can feel warmth and hospitality, even for one night.

 

 

 

 

 

Misc. Wednesday: A Day Late w/ The Great Pumpkin

1020161006a.jpgLast night as I sat down for dinner, I flipped on Channel 7 and watched It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. Normally I watch it on DVD but there’s something about watching it in real time on prime time.

Charlie Brown is one of my favorites, especially the Halloween and Christmas specials. I never took to Snoopy and Woodstock, who are the fan faves. Charlie Brown is one of my favorite characters because let’s face it – we’ve all been in his position before haven’t we? Things not going his way, lack of friends, lack of self-esteem. Charles is so human.

Then there’s Linus.

As I watched the program, I mimicked Linus’ monologue – “Tonight the Great Pumpkin will rise out of the pumpkin patch. He flies through the air and brings toys to all the children of the world.” Yep, I know all the dialogues. There’s this incredible innocence about him that is so endearing and melts my heart.

Linus believes with his full heart, full of conviction that the Great Pumpkin is real. He doesn’t believe in Santa (well,  maybe he does) but truly believes, all the way deep in soul, that the Great Pumpkin is real. At one point he calls after his friends and says if the Great Pumpkin will come. Linus quickly corrects himself: “Good grief! I said “if”! I meant, “when” he comes!”

Sally follows her crush into the pumpkin patch, missing tricks or treats. I think she partly sits there in the cold and dark just to be with Linus. as any girl with a crush would do (and Linus oblivious to the fact). On the other hand I think she wants to see what the hub-bub is about. Is the Great Pumpkin really real? Well, her curiosity for the best of her: “I was robbed! I spent the whole night waiting for the Great Pumpkin, when I could have been out for tricks or treats. Halloween is over, and I missed it!” Poor Sally. I hear ya, girlfriend.

Eventually Lucy, his big sis, has to come get him at like 4 in the morning from the pumpkin patch. And so, Linus is left a bit disappointed and later still defends his belief to Charlie Brown. “Wait till  next year,” he says.

Shouldn’t faith be like Linus’ belief in the Great Pumpkin? It’s innocent and yet so hard core that it seeps from his entire being. Linus writes letters, sits in a cold pumpkin patch on Halloween night, he defends the Great Pumpkin after he/she/it doesn’t show. He’s so driven in his belief. Shouldn’t faith be that way too? Shouldn’t our faith be a bit innocent, childlike even? Jesus evens says to have faith like a child, perhaps because children believe without fear and doubt, because children believe without question.

In a few weeks I will pop in A Charlie Brown Christmas and watch how Charles struggles with the meaning of Christmas. Little Linus, a child and yet so knowledgeable, will go to the center of the stage and recite a passage from the Gospel of Luke. It’s my favorite Christmas moment ever. It’s faith like a child, a childlike understanding of the meaning of Christmas, minus the trees and presents.

Faith should be childlike. Faith should rock us  but also contain a bit of innocence and conviction. Doubting and questioning is welcomed. I know I’ve been there. But on the flip side, faith should be firm and one that we are ready to defend, like Linus with the Great Pumpkin.

Thank you Linus for reminding me and us to have a childlike faith.

Sabbath Monday: Observations

cropped-alternate-sidebar1.jpgObservations. The introvert in me likes to observe situations a lot. Then I make usually make judgements or assumptions or opinions.

Take this observation for example:

Every day, if I’m home, I watch as a father sees his son off to what I’m assuming is school. Then sometime in the afternoon I watch the same father welcome his son home.

The father is older and the son could easily be in his twenties, perhaps even older. What sets them apart from the mothers and others who lead their children to the bus stop each morning and welcome them home at the same bus stop every afternoon, is that this son is handicapped. He’s paralyzed and in a wheelchair. I’ve often watched them take the elevator, barely fitting both wheelchair and father into the tiny contraption, taking them to the 3rd floor.

It’s sad and beautiful to watch.

I wonder what happened. Was the son born this way or did something tragic occur? I watch the driver of the specialized vehicle from the school converse with the father each morning and afternoon. There’s so much love.

Both father and son are foreigners, or at least I’m assuming. The father is in traditional Muslim, Middle Eastern clothing, has brown skin and honestly, I don’t know if he speaks much English, as I haven’t heard him speak. Then again, I live on the 2nd floor and though this scene plays out not far below, it can be difficult to hear. I have seen others with this family, possibly brothers, all again wearing the same thing and it’s possible I’ve heard Arabic spoken. Not sure.

And ok, I’ve at most said hello in the form of a smile as I’ve held the door or something. Plus, I live in a very diverse apartment complex, so I’m used to hearing Hindi and other languages spoken. Again, all of this is an assumption on my part, so I could be totally wrong. America has grown to be an even more diverse society, so it’s quite possible they all were born here and choose to wear clothing from their heritage. So these assumptions are based on observances.

Anyhow, as I was walking into my apartment building this afternoon, carrying my final load of groceries and laundry, the father was coming out of the elevator. I punched in my key, only to find the father opening the door. He came out and then held it for me. I thanked him and I think he may have simply nodded, though I do remember looking him in the eye. It’s quite possible he said “sure” or something, I don’t remember. I was too tired and sweaty from the 3 loads I carried upstairs.

As I unpacked, I stole glances to the street below, listening to the van lowering his son to the pavement and them making their way into the building. It’s this beautiful moment every day of father and son, sharing something so simple and I’m observing from my 2nd floor window, the outsider.

What must is be like for them? If I’m assuming they are from the Middle East, living in this strange country that pretty much wants nothing to do with them can’t be easy. Plus I’m assuming they are here for medical reasons, for a place that the son may get the help and treatment he may need. If my parents needed something for their children, if they knew that Canada or Japan or whatever had the best medicine or doctors or whatever for whatever my siblings and I needed, I’m going to assume they’d do whatever it took to get us that help, even if meant transplanting to a foreign country. The same is true of this little family that live a floor above me, again, based on observances.

Jesus taught to welcome all – stranger, foreigner – doesn’t matter. He told stories about one foreigner helping another. He welcomed the Samaritan women – an outsider, someone unlike himself and who was considered ‘other’ based on, what? blood? Jesus said all are welcomed into God’s kingdom, or as I like to say, God’s kin-dom, because aren’t all part of the human family in the end?

In a country that is so frightened by people who dress in burkas or traditional Mid-East clothing, who are so afraid based on assumptions and observations that stem from 9/11 or ISIS videos or whatever, it saddens me that this little family doesn’t get the credit of simply being human. It saddens me to think of others who want in our country for permanent residence or schooling or medical assistance or safety because their country is at war, will not be able to get it here. Ok, maybe they will be able to. Depends on who gets voted in this November.

Why are we so afraid to welcome the other?

Why is humanity so afraid of humanity?

I love the father-son duo I’ve come to observe. I love the love they share. And I wish more people in our world could see this little act of love like I do almost every day before making judgements and other assumptions. Because it’s such a human act – caring for someone else.

Again, a lot of what I’m observing is leading me to my own assumptions and conclusions, the little story about this family I’ve created based on what I’ve seen.  However, does it matter?

I don’t see a Muslim father and son. I simply see a father who is doing all he can for his son, who is there to welcome his son home at the end of the day, who is trying to give his son a better life despite the challenges. Some may see refugees or worse – aliens who shouldn’t be here and might be making bombs. I mean, really? Not all from the Mid-East are ISIS. Not all Hispanics are drug lords. That’s like saying all from the southern US are bigoted, racist and members of the KKK. It’s a small few who ruin it for others.

Observations can lead to assumptions and judgements and often times hate and discrimination. Perhaps it’s time to take a step back, remember what Jesus said about welcoming the stranger and remember that in the end, we are all human, trying to make our way in life, sometimes in foreign countries.

Dear God, help us to see everyone in your Kin-dom as human, different and yet created in Your image. Help us to break down barriers of hate and discrimination that often come from observations and assumptions. Help us to observe the good in all people. Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

Misc. Wednesday: Sleeping Out for A Cause

20151107_153731.jpg

Last year’s Sleep Out Saturday

Every October I’m stuck with the task of writing something about Bridge Communities and Sleep Out Saturday for the church newsletter. Do you have any idea how difficult it is to come up with new words to express the same thing year after year?

But Sleep Out Saturday is upon the church youth and I. Literally, it’s in like 3 weeks. Every youth will raise $50+ on their own, some through envelopes, some via the internet. Plus, each will sit out at church collecting starting this Sunday in hopes of raising $2000. Last year they did it and even had it matched by a donor.

Then on November 5th the youth will bring tents or boxes, along with blankets and hoodies and winter caps and such to sleep out. There will be a rally then back to hang out at church  then climbing into our make-shift beds for the evening, hoping to get a decent night’s sleep. I sleep in my car and you know, it’s not so bad. Humbling, actually.

I’m helping the youth do whatever it is they need to do to raise money., However, I’m on a personal mission to raise a full $200 on my own for Bridge Communities, which is near and dear to me, as is pointed out below. Last year I did about $150 so I’m hoping to get to $200.

Dear Readers, whoever you are, please consider giving even a small amount. Families all over DuPage County here in the Chicagoland area are in need of a home, especially as the cold sets in.

You all will read this year’s church newsletter article soon. For now, let’s time warp back to last year…

Written for the November 2015 church newsletter (with some minor edits):

Many of my friends like to run. I’m not a runner, unless something is chasing me, like my two year old niece in playful fun. And many of my friends run or walk for a charity. They get sponsors and donations online, posting links of where to donate on Facebook. And then pictures are posted of the before and after, with a thank you to all who supported them. I love seeing how passionate they are over running, walking or doing whatever for their charity.

And in the same breathe I think, “All of my friends run marathons or walk several miles for their charities. All I do is sleep in my car, in the cold, for one night. And that’s not including the fun activities I do with the youth before climbing into my car-bed.” But it doesn’t matter. Because whatever marathon or walk-a-thon, whatever charity link is posted on my friends’ pages, Sleep Out Saturday is equally important. And it has become one of my passions.

Homelessness is, in my opinion, a disease in country. It saddens me to think that people who work and work, trying to make ends meet, cannot find anywhere to call home other than a tent, a park bench, or maybe a car. How can a person choose between food and shelter? Aren’t those basic human needs? I mean, if Chicago was located in Hawaii or California, living outside wouldn’t be as bad. But when our winters are ugly, cold and full of snow and ice, living outside isn’t fun. One can do without a shower but our bodies were not made to live in the cold, at least not without proper coats and blankets and such. And if you can’t afford food, finding a warm coat may be difficult was well.

All of this leads to Sleep Out Saturday.

Bridge Communities is doing a wonderful thing here in DuPage County by taking families off the street and providing for them a means to get back on their feet. And it starts first with shelter. For a mere $35 a day, Bridge Communities can keep one person in a home. It doesn’t seem like a lot but to that person you can bet it is a huge amount!

Sleep Out Saturday is our chance to raise awareness that even in affluent communities here in DuPage County, homelessness is an issue. No one should be left out in the cold. And it’s time to do something, even a small dent.

If you would like to donate to my efforts in Sleep Out Saturday on November 5, please go to: https://www.sleepoutsaturday.org/therevamanda.  Every little bit counts.

On that night, the church youth and I will hunker down in tents, boxes and cars to raise awareness about homelessness and to make #HomelessNoMore a reality.

If you are unable to donate, please pray for those of us sleeping out that evening all over our community and for those who live day in and day out, wondering where their next bed might be located.

Peace, Pastor Amanda  (a.k.a. TheRevAmanda)

Sabbath Monday: Forgiveness, Part 2

wp-1476159469236.jpgConfrontation sucks. And yet I haven’t felt this good in about a year. I hate it when my parents are right.

Last Wednesday I talked about forgiveness, how I’m not ready to forgive a situation and persons, how forgiveness takes time. (Check out Misc. Wednesday: Forgiveness for more).

This weekend I stood up for myself and I confronted the issue and those involved. I wrote out how I was feeling earlier in the week, figuring if I’m going to control the confrontation, then I’m doing it my way by reading my feelings out loud.

When it came time to have the conversation I didn’t need those notes. I realized that the past is the past, that playing the My-Word vs. Your-Word Game is high school drama bullshit. And I’m an adult. Why drudge up those issues and volley back and forth? It causes a stalemate and more drama and hurt feelings.

Remember what I said last Wednesday about the Apostle Paul? He wrote the people of Ephesus: “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4: 26, 31-32)

Ugh…I hate it when the Apostle Paul is right too.

I took Paul’s words and did just that. I explained that I’m moving on and the past is done. It’s still going to be weird and awkward. That forgiveness may not happen right away. But let’s move on.

So that’s what I’m doing: moving on. I can respect them, whether they want to respect me or not is up to them. Though again, if I’m not respected, I won’t respect you back. That door swings both ways. It’s not bitterness or anger either. I’m slow to respect, forgive and trust again once it’s been broken. And this was broken…badly. Though I can’t continue this way so I’m moving on. If I’m respected, you’ll get that respect as well. Everything moving forward rests upon upcoming actions. It’s a waiting game now. Though I am at peace.

Last Thursday, the clouds parted a bit and the rain sort of stopped long enough for the sun to come out. As I left church, feeling miserable, tired, anxious and depressed, I looked up and saw a rainbow. God’s symbol of hope.

Then, today after an afternoon of panicking and talking again to parties involved in this, I ran to the store. Kohl’s was piping Kelly Clarkson’s “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) through the speakers. Ok, so it’s love song about a breakup. However, some of it applies to my situation. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger…Didn’t think I’d come back swinging… What doesn’t kill you makes a fighter…

It’s amazing how God can reach us, how the Spirit surrounds us and provides a moment of comfort, even through a song in a department store or a rainbow.

I stood up for myself. I stood up and said, “I’m done and moving on.” I said to those involved that I will not argue because I don’t (and won’t) play those games. I told myself that I am the bigger person, that I will be respected and that I will not allow others to get the best of me. I’ve become a fighter, just one who does it in a better manner than coping an attitude.

All of this doesn’t mean I have forgiven the situation and those involved. The opposite really. I’m still hurt and angry. I’m simply no longer going to let it get to me and there’s something so liberating in that feeling. And in standing up for myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Misc. Wednesday: Forgiveness

cropped-alternate-sidebar1.jpgMy world at the moment consists of a lot of hate, trying to forgive and move on and be the bigger person. Plus, I’m trying to be strong, which is how I am and I don’t want to seem weak to certain people. It’s been almost a year since I started down this path and I’m sick of it. However…I’m not ready for forgiveness. Heck, I’m not ready for confronting the situation but I have to.

Confrontation sucks. There, I said it.

Even if I express my feelings, even if all is said and done and all parties move on, I still don’t know if I can forgive, I don’t know if I can be alright with things.  I don’t know if I can be the bigger person. I don’t know if the hurt or hate will ever go away.

I don’t like the word hate. It’s too…I don’t know. I use it sparingly, though that’s how I’m feeling at the moment. And have been for quite some time.

Mom pointed out that Jesus didn’t hate. I laughed.

Me, the minister, laughed.

I think I replied something like, “Yeah, well, he wasn’t crazy about those Pharisee guys.” Seriously though, you can’t tell me that Jesus didn’t have people on his ‘Don’t like’ list. Ok, maybe Jesus didn’t hate but there probably were people he didn’t think too highly off.

Jesus was human and to me at least, he was not perfect. (Nor was he strong but that’s another blog/sermon.) I mean, he threw over tables in the Temple with the money changers because they were using a house of worship like a flea market. And you can’t tell me he wasn’t banging his head against the wall when the Disciples asked dumb questions, which they did…a lot.

I’m not trying to make light of Jesus’ image. This is how I see him. Jesus was human and I’m guessing he didn’t like some people. Jesus wasn’t perfect in my eyes. The Bible may sugar coat him, making him seem perfect, but he was human. Jesus bled and wept and had human emotions, including the ones about not liking people. It’s human nature.

However, Jesus also taught to be the bigger person, to turn the blind eye and move on. Grr…Do you have any idea how difficult that is?

The Apostle Paul told the church in Ephesus “Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,” and “Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger and wrangling and slander, together with all malice, and be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ has forgiven you.” (Ephesians 4: 26, 31-32) Good old Paul was preaching to a church that was divided and doing a lot of in-fighting however…

Pauly old chum, all of that is a lot easier said than done.

What Paul and Jesus don’t tell you is how long to forgive. Or maybe they do. I don’t remember. I grew up with the understanding that forgiveness doesn’t happen with a snap of a finger. It doesn’t just go poof and that’s it. It takes time and everyone is different. But the point is to forgive, to be the bigger person and move on. Sounds so flipping easy too.

Sometimes forgiveness is unreachable. Sometimes the best one can do is try to fix things and tolerate the person. Yes, tolerate. Because somewhere on that ladder in between hate and forgiveness, on the path to fixing things, is respect. And I’m not there yet either. And I honestly don’t know if I will ever be. But I can tolerate. Plus, respect goes both ways. You respect me, I’ll respect you. If it’s one sided, well… you get tolerate from me. I know it’s not the Christian thing to do, especially for a pastor, but it’s the best I can give of myself at the moment. I think Jesus, and even God for that matter, would be okay with me giving of my best because sometimes that’s all one can do. Forgiveness may be one sided. I’m hoping one day I can forgive, even if the other parties can not. Respect is a totally different animal.

I can clear the air and talk till I can’t see out of my eyes (because, you know, I’m crying so much), but that doesn’t mean I am able to forgive. And sadly, sometimes the people you love most are left sitting at the fringes of your life. It sucks and hurts and affects everyone around you. I am slow to forgive and respect once I’ve been wronged. I’m praying that I can confront the situation and at least be at peace on my end. I’ve done my part. And I’m hoping I can do more than simply tolerate. I’m hoping I can respect and forgive. If not, well…I’ve tried right? Jesus can’t fault me for trying.

Friday 5: September Round-Up

Placeholder ImageIt’s October 1 and let’s face it, none of us can believe it’s already October, that it’s 60 degrees outside and leaves are falling. As I look back on September 2016, 5 things stand out:

Number 1: September always means the beginning of a new church program year.  It means the start of Confirmation, including the retreat to church camp. It means a new year of Children’s Ministry, Youth Ministry, Women’s Ministry and more. This September brought new curriculum starts for the children and me to new ministry. I love September but this month was something else…

Number 2: Too many meetings! I’ve never had so many meetings before in one month, I swear. Sigh…While my colleague ran from one funeral home or grave site to another, I ran from a meeting about children to one about youth to one with the women of the church to one about stewardship. My office looks like a bomb went off. And October isn’t looking too great either…

Number 3: The upside: I read…a lot. I read 5 books this month. Not sure that’s a record and it’s actually a surprise given how busy I was. I’m in the middle of 2 large, thick history books – one on Thomas Jefferson and one on letters from Joshua Chamberlain, a major general during the Civil War – so those continue into October. Sadly, some of those 5 read books were duds (ehem, The Shining…I mean, that’s supposed to be Stephen King’s scariest novel and it was such a snooze fest!) and a few 5 stars (The Kitchen House by Kathleen Grissom, a historical fiction set years before the Civil War about slavery and plantation life. I can’t wait to read the sequel. And The Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard – similar to the Hunger Games but with more supernatural forces. OMG, so good!)  And I made it to my book group after a 3 month absence. And earlier tonight (cause it’s after 1am), I started the new Harry Potter.

Number 4: The fall always brings new TV shows. I try some if they look interesting but for the most part, I wait for my favorites to return. Once Upon A Time has 2 plot lines going and it’s losing me fast and it’s one episode in. Agents of SHEILD is okay, as is Gotham and New Girl. I don’t think I laughed so hard through an episode of The Big Bang Theory as I did during its premiere. An unexpected new favorite is The Good Place. I love Kristen Bell and she will forever be Veronica Mars but I love this comedy. It’s set in heaven or what heaven might be. But she’s there by mistake and it’s all forked up. Then there’s This Is Us. Can we say water works?!?!? The ending of the premiere made me cry, which is unusual for me. Ok, maybe I cried when Rory and Amy left Doctor Who but still…I didn’t see the end coming at all. I can’t wait to see the rest of the season. Oh and hockey has started and it’s baseball postseason so…That means shouting at the TV and an adult beverage on game nights.

Number 5: I finished a scrapbook. I mean, it sounds so simple and yet if you knew how much works goes into those books you’d understand the achievement. Plus, I started a new one, one that I will have finished before Christmas. I’m determined. And I love how I’m adding in a journaling component to it, which is something new for me. It’s turning out to be a very cool book so far. Plus, I love reliving last year’s trip to California.

Way more happened this month, like finally cleaning out the trunk of my car. I can clean out my trunk but not my office…Ok, I had to clean out my trunk since I needed it to get to church camp last weekend with all of our gear but…sigh…And perhaps some of the stuff from the trunk is currently residing in my living room but hey…I can actually use my trunk now. LOL

Cheers to a new month!

Let’s not start a countdown to Christmas, shall we?