Thankful for Perspective

Ambi5
Recently, I’ve struggled with sadness. Holidays always bring some sadness as I miss my daughter. But, this year, there’s something else that has been weighing me down. Someone I love and admire is moving away. Yeah, I am a mushy person and this has been bumming me out. I’m going to miss her.

Last night, however, as the sad thoughts of my friend and Amber move in on my emotions, I pray for help. Within a moment, I am given a new perspective and wonder why I didn’t think of it before. Instead of being sad because a special time is ending, I should be thankful that I had the special time in the first place. The reason I have the sorrow about something ending (or seeming to end), is because previously, I had been blessed so greatly with such love, such goodness and awesome fellowship. Now, change is coming and you know what? If nothing had ever changed in my life, I would have never had my awesome daughter, and I’d never have met the wonderful person whose presence I will miss for a time.

I came to the realization that I had to ask for forgiveness from God for looking at things from a negative perspective, when in reality, I had been blessed. All of life is a journey and a transition. Instead of bemoaning what is in the past, I really need to embrace what is ahead. What is now my past was once my future.

This isn’t to say that I won’t still miss Amber. I will. But, looking at things through the lens of thankfulness, I have a weight lifted. One of the greatest things in my life has been the joy of discovery, and of having my mind expand and my experiences grow.

I feel so blessed to have had a daughter with a smile like the sun and a laugh like music. And that hasn’t ended, it’s just gone somewhere else for awhile. Amber is safe. Amber is free. That’s a great thing.

I have been blessed with having known such special people in my life, but when life changes and I, or they, move on, I have to see it as a chance for rejoicing, not sorrow. I rejoice that I’ve known them closely, and that even if there is distance between us now, love does not die, or diminish.

I thank God for helping me gain a new perspective this year. Maybe this will be the year that I can finally put up that Christmas tree again.

I Am Thankful for Myself

meKYes, that sounds quite arrogant. Have I gone over the edge? Perhaps.

On Facebook, I’ve been trying to focus on what I am thankful for as a way of fighting the fearful and depressing feelings I could fall into given the state of our world. I’ve shared the typical things – thankful for family, friends and nature.

But, today, I’ve gone off the deep end and am sharing that I am thankful for myself. To people who don’t know me, that might sound haughty. But, to people who do know me, it’s a step I have not taken in life before. So, bear with me.

I have never been able to say this, growing up in a world that places little, if any, value on female life.

But, through the support and leadership of other women, through counseling and being open (or maybe desperate) enough to look for reasons to love myself, I am starting to see that I do have value. I have been given talents, a disposition, and uniqueness that make me someone who brings good things into the world. And, I have chosen to use what I’ve been given to try to make the world better. I have survived a lot of sadness and trauma, and I have not given up. I have been blessed with the ability to see the injustices others suffer, and to care about them.

This is not to say I don’t have flaws. I do, like everyone.

But, in this life, where I’ve been taught to hate myself, I realize that this is a sin. For, if I am to love my neighbor as I love myself, then what will happen to my neighbor if I hate myself? Nothing good, that’s for sure. At the very least, I will feel disempowered to help my neighbor and at the worst, I might even harm my neighbor. So, loving myself and being thankful for my life and my being is not the same thing as pride. It is, in fact, a God-given ability, for you see, God loves me. So, why shouldn’t I love myself?

This year, as I’m thinking of the things I am thankful for, I will have to add “myself” to that list. Thank you, God for making me the capable, loving, strong, kind, creative person that I am, and thank you that you are constantly working to help me not only recover from the harms dealt me by the past (and a society of patriarchy), but you are helping me find ways that I can stand up against the sorts of things that condition others to devalue themselves. That is something to be thankful for.

Lords and Masters — or Servants?

washing-feetThis is what seems evident to me — Donald Trump’s rise to power is the result of Christians wanting to be masters instead of servants. For so long now, the church of the United States has wanted to run the country and make sure it runs by their rules. But, is this quest for power really what God wants for his church?

When I read the Bible, and I get to the teachings of Jesus, they look nothing like the church of today, at least a major portion of the church that seems intent on clinging to political power. I see no love in this church at all. I don’t see people making sure they have taken the logs out of their own eyes while trying to get a speck out of the eyes of “sinners.”

Oh, they will accept sinners within their doors (or how else would they get in?). But, only certain kinds of sinners (ones with church-approved sins like gossip or gluttony). They will even let greedy people in without so much as batting an eye at them. In fact, many follow the greedy, preachers who build up wealth for themselves on Earth and teach others that all they have to do is name and claim wealth and they’ll have it because God wants them all to have big houses and fancy cars.

But, they will by no means accept those they deem to be beneath them – ones who don’t follow the spoken and unspoken laws like those who are gay, transgender, questioning who they are, those who aren’t sure what they really think about God, those with doubts, those who are poor and on welfare (because those folks are lazy) or liberals.

I don’t remember Jesus ever turning people away. I don’t remember reading that Jesus had any condemning words for anyone, except for the self-righteous who claimed to know the truth of God but cared nothing for others. So, when God judges our nation, our church, just what sin do you think he’ll judge it for? Sex sins? Abortion? Or, do you think it just might be he’ll judge the nation for being vengeful, corrupt, unjust, and unloving? Will he judge the church for completely ignoring the teachings of Christ about loving enemies, loving neighbors (and that’s everyone), ignoring the “least of these” and becoming completely irrelevant?

What did Jesus tell his disciples to do? Didn’t he want them to proclaim that the Kingdom is at hand? Didn’t he want them to fish for people? Didn’t he tell them to follow him? Making disciples doesn’t mean forcing people to believe, it means teaching them, like Christ taught his disciples, about what God really requires of us, what God really offers the world, and what love really looks like.

Why are we so focused on gaining power in this world? Why are we trying to force man-made rules that we say are God’s rules, and not caring about the souls or hearts of people who need God’s love? Why are we known for who we don’t love rather than for loving all people? Things have gotten so twisted, it seems. Our focus has become so narrow. You say it’s loving to be honest and call sin what it is. It’s not our job to convict people of sin (that’s the Holy Spirit’s job). How loved do you feel when someone constantly points out what they think you are doing wrong? Is it such a terrible thing to let go of the reins of the world and let God have them? I never will forget the day I wanted to argue with someone about God, thinking I was doing God some big favor by “defending” him and I felt him put a hand over my mouth and say, “I don’t need you to argue for me. I’m big enough to take care of myself. This person needs a friend.”

I’ve been told that I pick and choose what parts of the Bible to believe – by the very same people who are picking and choosing to somehow focus on a few verses in scripture that seem to condemn homosexuality, to the exclusion of the teachings of Christ, the teachings about love from Corinthians and the letters of John, among other numerous passages about loving others, not seeking revenge, being content, and being humble. I admit I pick and choose. I choose the words, teachings and example of Jesus, and I try to use that as a lens to view the rest of scripture. I follow Jesus who broke the rules about the Sabbath, and taught that the Sabbath was made for people, not people for the Sabbath. I follow the Jesus who washes feet and eats with sinners. Focusing on rule-keeping is not abundant life. It offers no light to the world. Why do we sing about a loving God on Sundays, and then turn around and condemn people on Mondays?

Think about it, pray about it, and ask yourself, “Am I wanting to control and be a master over people? Or, do I seek to serve God and love my neighbor as I love myself? Whose feet would I wash?”