Letting Go

Not sure how to start this but just to say that the drive that we so often have to try to have control over everything and everyone in our lives is such a trap. I am so thankful that God has taught me to let go. You will never know how free you can feel until you trust God with the world, your life and all the people in it so you can fly free! It is the best feeling I have ever had.

For so long, I lived with the frustration of trying to make everyone do what I thought they should. I still do it some now, so don’t think I don’t still struggle with this. I do. You get this warped idea that somehow you know everything that’s best for everyone. I know I do. Just read some of my other blog posts! 😉 You will see it there.

The problem comes when you get so stressed by this feeling that you have to MAKE everyone see things your way — that you have to force people to wake up and conform to your wonderful wisdom for their own good. It’s an exercise in ultimate frustration. There is just no way you can make anyone do anything short of holding a gun on them, and even then you can’t make them think the way you want.

So, what do you do when people won’t behave or think the way you want? Write them off as idiots and have nothing more to do with them? That’s one way I’ve seen people handle it, but I find that way sad. It’s sad because from my perspective you miss so much that way. People who don’t think like you do are just human too and trying to live the best they can. Maybe they are wrong about some things, but, face it, you are too almost certainly. Nobody is perfect. And, who knows? By being friends, or at least friendly with them anyway, you could teach them some things, or they could teach you. It could be a two-way street and you’ll both learn something.

For me, the greatest thing to do is just give up. By that I don’t mean you become defeatist. No. You still have hope. You still see their weaknesses and faults even, but you don’t let those things tie you up because you realize that there is nothing you can do about them. I have learned to give these folks up to God. I pray for them, and let God work in their lives. I know he’s worked in mine and changed me a lot in my years on Earth. I’m sure He can handle changing them too.

Even if they ignore God’s instructions all their lives, even if they ignore all of your kindnesses and never change, you will still free yourselves from being responsible for them. Remember, they are free to make their choices, just like you are.

The golden rule applies here, I think. Put yourself in their shoes. Would you like it if someone thought they knew what you should be doing with your life? Would you like it if they tried to force you to live in a different way than you do? Of course you wouldn’t.

People have to be free.

But, there are also circumstances we try to control. We so often live our lives in fear. Fear has been one of my plaguing weaknesses all of my life. So, what I have done is try to live safe. I don’t risk a whole lot and try to control my life in that way, try to protect myself from fear and from facing fear. But what that does is take a lot of joy from life. Thankfully, God has pushed me out of my comfort zone so many times that I have grown and lived in spite of my fears.

But, the best thing, the thing that relieves so much stress, is to remember to trust God and actively let him have control so that I know I am completely safe at all times. Corrie ten Boom, one of my heroes as you might remember, said “worry doesn’t empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it only empties today of its strength.”

And, when you think of it, that’s exactly right. Worry does nothing good for anyone. It’s the opposite of faith. Think about this — you don’t know the future. What you worry about is either something that ends up making you feel silly for worrying over because it ends up being so trivial and unthreatening, or it’s something that you could never have changed by worrying about it. Worry is useless.

It’s amazing what a weight comes off of your shoulders when you release all worry to God. It’s wonderful to be able to remember that He is in control when all the world seems to be a chaotic mess.

That’s not to say we should never do things to try to make life better in the world, or for our friends or family. And, it’s not to say that you shouldn’t ever give advice. We need each other. I need advice and input from people I love and trust, and even from strangers sometimes.

Letting go doesn’t mean withdrawing. It means being free so that when you do engage with the world, you aren’t dragging along a weight of responsibility that isn’t yours to carry. It means you can truly be yourself and others can be themselves with you. It encourages honesty in relationships and lets you give other people room to let God work in their lives too. I’m not responsible for how they respond to life. I’m only responsible for myself – and even that I let go of to God so that he can help me control my impulses. That frees me too. It’s like breathing fresh air or drinking a nice long, cold glass of living water. It is SO refreshing. 🙂

The Overlooked

Amber and the school bus

As I was remembering the last time my daughter voted (and the only time) in a presidential election, I began to remember what she longed for. She voted for Sarah Palin. She didn’t care about anyone else in that election. She didn’t vote for anything but the presidential race, because she didn’t understand or care much about those other positions.

She voted for Sarah Palin because she thought that Palin truly understood the plight of the disabled better than anyone else in power. Amber longed for the day when the disabled would be important to someone in power.

As I thought about it, it hit me that the disabled are so very often overlooked by just about everyone. Not only are they overlooked, but they are often resented. Many kids born with disabilities have their very mothers and fathers abandon them or worse. We knew a child with cerebral palsy, who attended Amber’s school, whose father took him out in a car and smothered him to death with a plastic bag. God how that broke my heart!

Are these people trash? Are they just nuisances to society at large? Sometimes I think so and it makes our society that much pettier, meaner and trashier in my opinion.

My daughter was the most wonderful, sweet person in the world. All she needed was some health care, some help with her medical needs, a place to park so she could go and do things and some respect. I cannot tell you how many times we had no place to park when we went places, even at church.

People were constantly parking in handicapped spots, and some places, contrary to public opinion, only have one or two handicapped spots available. When you say something to these folks, all you get is nasty attitudes and excuses that you’ve heard a million times before. I used to get very angry, but then I realized that my anger was upsetting my daughter. She was embarrassed when I’d confront someone. The last thing she wanted to be was conspicuous.

And, I realized that those folks who disregarded the needs of the disabled were not the sort of folks who really would care that they upset someone. So, the best thing to do seemed to be to let it go. Life was too short to get that upset all of the time, because it happened all of the time.

When it came to health care, during Amber’s last few years, hardly any doctors would take Medicaid. We found a clinic for her, but, it was so packed with needy patients that we would often have to wait six hours in a very crowded waiting room to see the doctor. It was agony for my daughter to sit that long in that environment. We got so we didn’t go to the doctor unless absolutely necessary.

Sure, there are programs for the disabled, though funding is always being cut for them. They are always the first things to get cut whenever a politician wants to funnel money to his pet projects. Cut union funds? Get raked over the coals. Cut money for the disabled? No problem. Those people can’t protest and those that care for them are mostly too tired and too overwhelmed by the task at hand to do much about it.

So, the cycle continues. The American’s with Disabilities’ Act can be helpful, and I was thankful for it, but, I can’t tell you how many people express resentment toward that act and toward the disabled in general. You see it in comedies like Jerry Seinfeld and you hear about it in water-cooler discussions at the office.

There are very few people who understand, or want to, how very, very difficult life is for the disabled. They have no clue that everything in life is harder for a person with disabilities – and I mean EVERYTHING. Opening doors, getting dressed, getting to the bathroom, getting into a vehicle, negotiating crowded shopping center hallways, going to church where there are nothing but stairs, shopping in stores that have narrow aisles and shelves full of breakable objects. The list goes on and on. And, all they ask for is a chance, a chance to live the best life they can live like anyone else – a chance to pursue happiness and freedom, a chance to be able to park somewhere where they can actually get out of their vehicle without someone blocking access to their lifts and cussing them for needing it.

I long for a day when someone gets into power who cares about the vulnerable, helpless disabled. I really have a hard time believing that will ever happen on this Earth, because the disabled are not powerful, have little to no voice, and often can’t even vote.

Yet, they give so much if you let them. My girl may not have been able to find a cure for cancer or build a bridge, but she never did drugs, never got arrested and treated everyone like she’d want to be treated. I’d say she was a darned good citizen.

Forgiveness and Mercy

This is a tough subject, if you’ve ever been hurt by anyone, or offended. It’s a great subject if you’ve ever hurt or offended anyone though. It is so difficult to rise above a wounded sense of pride or spirit, and especially difficult if someone has gravely wounded you, bodily, spiritually, or mentally, or someone you love.

But, every time I think someone has hurt me worse than anyone has ever been hurt, I think of Corrie ten Boom, the gentle Christian lady who was a prisoner in Nazi Germany during that terrible time when they were in power. Corrie and her entire family were imprisoned for helping Jews in Holland escape from the Nazi terror. Her story was portrayed in the movie The Hiding Place and in a book by the same name. She also travelled around and told her story to churches and other groups. It’s hard for me to think that there have been too many people like her in the world. She is one of my heroes of the faith.

The following is an excerpt from Corrie’s story about forgiving, published in the publication Guidepost in 1972..

“It was in a church in Munich that I saw him—a balding, heavyset man in a gray overcoat, a brown felt hat clutched between his hands. People were filing out of the basement room where I had just spoken, moving along the rows of wooden chairs to the door at the rear. It was 1947 and I had come from Holland to defeated Germany with the message that God forgives.

“It was the truth they needed most to hear in that bitter, bombed-out land, and I gave them my favorite mental picture. Maybe because the sea is never far from a Hollander’s mind, I liked to think that that’s where forgiven sins were thrown. ‘When we confess our sins,’ I said, ‘God casts them into the deepest ocean, gone forever. …’

“The solemn faces stared back at me, not quite daring to believe. There were never questions after a talk in Germany in 1947. People stood up in silence, in silence collected their wraps, in silence left the room.

“And that’s when I saw him, working his way forward against the others. One moment I saw the overcoat and the brown hat; the next, a blue uniform and a visored cap with its skull and crossbones. It came back with a rush: the huge room with its harsh overhead lights; the pathetic pile of dresses and shoes in the center of the floor; the shame of walking naked past this man. I could see my sister’s frail form ahead of me, ribs sharp beneath the parchment skin. Betsie, how thin you were!

[Betsie and I had been arrested for concealing Jews in our home during the Nazi occupation of Holland; this man had been a guard at Ravensbruck concentration camp where we were sent.]

“Now he was in front of me, hand thrust out: ‘A fine message, Fräulein! How good it is to know that, as you say, all our sins are at the bottom of the sea!’

“And I, who had spoken so glibly of forgiveness, fumbled in my pocketbook rather than take that hand. He would not remember me, of course—how could he remember one prisoner among those thousands of women?

“But I remembered him and the leather crop swinging from his belt. I was face-to-face with one of my captors and my blood seemed to freeze.

“ ‘You mentioned Ravensbruck in your talk,’ he was saying, ‘I was a guard there.’ No, he did not remember me.

“ ‘But since that time,’ he went on, ‘I have become a Christian. I know that God has forgiven me for the cruel things I did there, but I would like to hear it from your lips as well. Fräulein,’ again the hand came out—’will you forgive me?’

“And I stood there—I whose sins had again and again to be forgiven—and could not forgive. Betsie had died in that place—could he erase her slow terrible death simply for the asking?

“It could not have been many seconds that he stood there—hand held out—but to me it seemed hours as I wrestled with the most difficult thing I had ever had to do.

“For I had to do it—I knew that. The message that God forgives has a prior condition: that we forgive those who have injured us. ‘If you do not forgive men their trespasses,’ Jesus says, ‘neither will your Father in heaven forgive your trespasses.’

“I knew it not only as a commandment of God, but as a daily experience. Since the end of the war I had had a home in Holland for victims of Nazi brutality. Those who were able to forgive their former enemies were able also to return to the outside world and rebuild their lives, no matter what the physical scars. Those who nursed their bitterness remained invalids. It was as simple and as horrible as that.

“And still I stood there with the coldness clutching my heart. But forgiveness is not an emotion—I knew that too. Forgiveness is an act of the will, and the will can function regardless of the temperature of the heart. ‘… Help!’ I prayed silently. ‘I can lift my hand. I can do that much. You supply the feeling.’

“And so woodenly, mechanically, I thrust my hand into the one stretched out to me. And as I did, an incredible thing took place. The current started in my shoulder, raced down my arm, sprang into our joined hands. And then this healing warmth seemed to flood my whole being, bringing tears to my eyes.

“ ‘I forgive you, brother!’ I cried. ‘With all my heart!’

“For a long moment we grasped each other’s hands, the former guard and the former prisoner. I had never known God’s love so intensely, as I did then”

Every time I hear her story, I am convicted that I too must forgive — forgive the father whose mental illness caused so much heartache in our family growing up, forgive the sergeant who refused to let me come off of guard duty while pregnant and later my child was born early with brain damage, forgive myself for all the times I let my daughter down, and forgive God for letting her die last year. Is such forgiveness easy? No, not in the least. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

You see, unforgiveness is like a prison, trapping a person in the past, keeping them locked up in pain and anger while the one who hurt them lives on, perhaps oblivious to their guilt. Forgiveness is the key to freedom from the past and freedom to have a relationship with God and with others.

Too many times, in recent memory, I have read the writings of people on the internet who are filled with resentment and unforgiveness and their worlds seem terribly small. I pray that they will find the healing they need and that they can let every hurt and offense go, realizing that the way they triumph over these things is to rise above them and forgive.

After all, we have all needed to be forgiven. We have all hurt people and offended them, sometimes unintentionally like people have hurt us, and sometimes on purpose, as others have done us. But, what right do we have to hold onto bitterness against someone else and expect our own misdeeds to be forgiven? None. None at all.

But God forgives us freely, though not without cost. His mercy is great enough to have sent His Son to take the penalty for every wound we have inflicted and every wound that has been inflicted on us. He wants to take our burdens of sin and also of bitterness. He wants us to live free and He has said that if we have not forgiven others, we will not be forgiven because in His eyes, all of us are guilty.

It is God who has the right not to forgive, but he sets that right aside because He is Love. Love does the painful things and bears the wounds of sin in order to forgive. It heals and brings reconciliation between ourselves and God and between ourselves and others. We need forgiveness. Won’t we learn to give it as well? If ever we need there to be living within us the spirit of forgiveness it is now. These days are filled with arguments, divisiveness, offenses and insults. Let us not be bitter. I pray we will all learn to forgive, to turn that other cheek and rise above the pettiness and bitterness of this world.

Politics and Christianity

Whoah! Heavy topic, eh? Those are two of the things you’re never supposed to talk about in polite company, right? Politics and religion? But, I’m going to do it anyway, because I’m certainly not the only one.

I’m just going to lay out what I’ve been thinking about during this political season, and things that have weighed on my heart for awhile. First of all, I have to admit it — I do not really like politics. I am thankful that we have free elections, that the people have a say in the government and we have free speech, but, I have never liked hearing people trash each other. And, that’s what we seem to always get whenever an election is coming up — LOTS and LOTS of negativity and nastiness. I do not like nastiness.

I grew up in a conservative, evangelical Christian home. I’m not ashamed of that. I’m thankful for it. I think, in spite of its human flaws, my family was a good one and still is.

But, as I have grown up, and gone out into the world, as a soldier, a public affairs specialist, a journalist, a mother, and a gaming magazine writer/editor, I have seen a lot and gotten to know people from all over the world, from all walks of life and upbringings.

And, I feel that God was always a part of my life, molding me, helping me learn and opening my eyes to how people differ and teaching me that I not only do not have to be afraid of people who are different than me, but, I just might learn something from them. He has led me into friendships with people FAR different than me in philosophy and lifestyle. He encouraged me to befriend a person of the Wiccan religion, and we have been the closest of friends for many years now. I learned a lot from the experience of becoming friends with her. I am also friends with a few people who are homosexual and I value them greatly. One of my very dearest friends is an atheist. I love her, and she loves me, and though she doesn’t believe in God, she is not hostile to my beliefs at all. On the contrary, she is open to hearing them.

So, when it comes to politics, though I have always voted Republican, I no longer feel as if I HAVE to vote Republican in order to be a good Christian. I used to think this way, but that was when I was immature in my faith. God has since educated me and I’m thankful for it.

There are actually people who love God with all of their hearts who vote Democrat. GASP! I know them, and they are fantastic people. And, many of my loved ones still are conservative Christians who vote Republican. And, guess what? They’re not narrow-minded bigots who hate poor people. GASP! 😉

I voted for John McCain nearly four years ago. But, when Obama won, I wasn’t upset, angry or afraid. I was actually very happy for the people who had wanted to see him win so very much. Watching the inaugural was one of the most touching things I’ve seen. I almost regretted not voting for him. I certainly wasn’t about to embrace sour grapes or become alarmist. He was elected. God was still in Heaven and in control.

Since he was elected, however, I have been dismayed by the reaction of many Christians and conservatives. I never realized how nasty they can be when they don’t get their way. Suddenly, Christian online have posted constant nasty, angry, insulting things about our President — things that in my opinion, are very unchristian.

Have Christians forgotten how to be humble? Sometimes it seems that way. They act as if people who disagree with them politically are enemies — and they root for them to fail. They gloat whenever someone on the “enemy side” messes up or has a scandal. They boast about their own party’s merits and superiority and generally behave pretty badly.

Is that really the way we are supposed to be? I don’t think so, personally.

So, here we are, in another political season. Mitt Romney, a Mormon, is the Republican nominee picked to run against Barack Obama, who, by self-profession, is a Christian. Christians have overwhelmingly thrown their support behind Romney and his running mate Paul Ryan, and I am just confused.

Yes, I think Romney is probably a good man in spite of the nasty things the other side says about him. But, forgive me here, I am not sure about electing a Mormon to office. This faith gives me pause and just doesn’t sit well with me. Yes, they call themselves Christians, but their beliefs, in my opinion, are so far from what the Bible seems to say, that I just cannot help but be concerned.

Would Christians vote for anyone as long as they’re Republican? What if Romney were a Scientologist? Atheist? Hare Krishna? Is political conservatism the only thing we care about? Should it be?

Now, we do not live in a theocracy. Many of my non-Christian friends would be appalled at my concern for a candidate’s religious preference, I’m sure. To them, that shouldn’t matter at all. But, to me, and many other Christians, it does.

We want to elect officials who mirror our beliefs, who embrace the principles we believe in and follow ourselves. We want them to be honest, have respect for life, uphold the Constitution and protect us from oppression.

But, really, every American wants the same, basically.

Some think that a Christian should be against abortion and gay marriage and therefore cannot possibly vote for anyone who supports these things. I hate abortion, personally, but am not against gay marriage. That may appall some of my Christian friends and family members, not because they’re hateful bigots, but because they are convinced that homosexuality is wrong, even while they love people who are homosexuals.

But, what about other Christian principals, like caring for the poor and homeless? Aren’t they important too? Many Christians believe in the Democratic party like my conservative friends believe in the Republican.

The thing I think we all need to remember is that God is not a Republican or Democrat. God is Sovereign. And, our main job on this Earth is to make disciples of people, to shine a light in the world that points to salvation and to bring glory to God.

So, no matter who we vote for, we have to remember that in the end, we can only do our best to choose, but elections are not the most important things in life. When we get to Heaven and face God on judgement day, will the only thing we have to show for our lives be what party we belonged to? I hope not.

And, no matter what party we belong to, as Christians, we need to remember to treat everyone with love and respect, even if they disagree with us. It is wrong for us to belittle other people, even politicians of differing parties. It is wrong to insult the President and those who voted for him. Even if we feel that the President and his party is wrong on some issues, that does not give us the right, in God’s eyes, to be petty or hateful in our public discourse. We need to watch how we act in public and remember what the Bible says in Philippians, chapter 2.

3 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit.(F) Rather, in humility value others above yourselves,(G) 4 not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.(H)

5 In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:(I)

6 Who, being in very nature[a] God,(J)
did not consider equality with God(K) something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing(L)

These are my thoughts on the matter, and if you disagree with anything I have written, I love you anyway and I hope you will respect me still and love me too. We are all children of God after all.