Musical Musing: “All You Need Is Love” The Beatles

All You Need Is Love

Love, love, love.
Love, love, love.
Love, love, love.

There's nothing you can do that can't be done.
Nothing you can sing that can't be sung.
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game.
It's easy.

Nothing you can make that can't be made.
No one you can save that can't be saved.
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

Nothing you can know that isn't known.
Nothing you can see that isn't shown.
Nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be.
It's easy.

All you need is love.
All you need is love.
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need.

All you need is love (all together, now!)
All you need is love. (everybody!)
All you need is love, love.
Love is all you need (love is all you need).

Oh yeah!
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah.
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah,

I feel like I’ve mused on this song before, but that’s one of the awesome things about the Beatles catalogue (and Across the Universe, the movie that celebrated the diversity and story telling of the catalogue); there’s so much there, so much that can be said of it, that even when I’ve finished with this one, I likely won’t be done. But if I get a bit repetitive of things I’ve said before, forgive me.

I’m a Christian existentialist. As I understand it, Existentialism puts existence before essence, and we are defined by our actions. Before you call me dark and moody or dismiss me as a nut, let me explain it this way. All of us are. Before I am a woman, or a wife, or white, or Christian, or straight, or a meat-eater, or a pet owner, or infertile, or any of the other millions ways to describe me, I am. When you strip all the labels away, all of the “essence” that makes me really me, you arrive at the fact that I exist. I am. My husband… before he is a man, or my husband, or white, or of Choctaw descent, or Christian or anything else, he is. If you strip away all the “descriptions” that are used to label and identify us, you come back to the simple existence. As an existentialist, I say that existence is more important than essence, meaning that the sheer fact that you are is more important, of more weight, of more value than any of the things that make up your essence, that make you identifiably you.

That’s important, because when we go back to that common ground, that we are before we are anything else, then we can learn to love and respect each other there. It no longer matters that someone is a different ethnicity, a different religion, a different nationality, a different history or perspective. They deserve (and receive) love and respect for their existence. And when you recognize that the rest is unimportant to their basic value as a human being, then you can celebrate the differences that make each of us unique. I can see the color of your skin as different, and yet no less beautiful, no less worthy, no less deserving than I am. I can view your religion, your nationality, your history and outlook, even when they’re different from my own, as paint over the basic canvas of you, and admire the skill and beauty with which you became the individual you are.

The other facet of existentialism is that we are defined by our actions. And if you think about it, we really are. Those who look at you, who see you, are left to describe and define who you are in their minds by only those things that have an outward effect on the world. They can’t read your mind or your intentions, they can’t know what you mean or meant… all they can judge by is outward actions. So yes, in a very real way, others form their definition of who I am based on my outward actions.

That’s important too. You may have heard that “the road to hell is paved with good intentions”… we all mean to do the best, but how often do our actions have a negative consequence. It demands that we consider the consequences of our actions, not only on the immediate situation, but in the larger sphere of time yet to come and others all around us. If I’m hungry, feeding myself is a good and desirable thing. But beyond just feeding me what my tongue wants to taste, I need to consider the further actions of feeding myself. For one thing, I need to either grow my own food (and consider what eating now means to the future self who will need to eat again) or pay for it, either from the store or the restaurant. Just taking it affects the lives of others, who count on the income they make from selling things so that they can buy food and pay bills and meet their needs, etc. So even my appetite has an effect on other people, and on myself (and that’s before we consider what I should or shouldn’t eat for the greater health of my body). And since the people from whom I took the food don’t know why I took it, I am “thief” in their minds, and not “hungry person”.

Of course, the other side of that is to bring yourself to a place where you stop and think about the intentions of others. I know, that would seem to defy the fact that we can’t read intentions. But if I want people to give me the benefit of the doubt, shouldn’t I do the same? For instance: My father was in a car accident when I was 17. He died instantly. While there are many in my family who are still angry over that, I never really was. Not really. You see, I guessed at the probable, likely intentions of those involved in the accident. The man who caused it was almost certainly not looking to go killing people, did not mean to cause the accident, would not if he could do it over again, and was remorseful (maybe even still is) over the whole thing. The people driving the truck that drove into my father’s door weren’t driving around that morning looking for people to careen into. When you realize that no one intended for anyone to die that day, when you realize that they’re probably sorry it happened, that they would probably do things differently if they could have… that they are no different from who you are on the most basic level of who they are… how can you be angry with them?

Now, I’ll admit, I don’t always practice what I preach, and I’m AWFUL in the car. (No, really… I curse like a sailor at other drivers, even when I’m not driving. It’s really not pretty. I recommend against it.) But if I stop and think about it, if I put existence before essence, if I think about what they might have meant to accomplish by thinking about my own intentions and actions in similar situations, then life becomes more peaceful.

OK. I really did mean to say all of that, but none of it really got back to the song. But maybe I can tie my thoughts on the song to the above. Let’s see…

You may remember that I’ve said I believe God is in complete control of every atom in the universe (or multiverse, but that’s a bit of SciFi geekiness I won’t bore you with just now). That means that nothing happens without a reason, a greater purpose than just what we can observe… just as we can’t observe the reasons or purposes behind other people’s actions (Ha! Did it! W00t!!). We can’t know the mind of God, so we can’t judge why things happen. And His control, His omnipotence (or all-powerfulness, almightiness), requires His omniscience (all-knowingness). In other words, He can’t have control over everything without knowing it already.

If you stretch that idea, if you lay it like a blanket over your view of life, then you may be able to tell where I’m going with this.

“There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done”. On the one hand, because we are all equal on our most basic level, there’s nothing you can do that someone else couldn’t do. Anyone could do it. But more than that, there’s something comforting and reassuring in the knowledge that God is able to do anything we can do, and more. I can’t do something He can’t do… or even undo. I can’t mess up so big that God can’t bring me through it and work it to His glory. Because He knows everything, because He can do everything, because He is all powerful, nothing is impossible. And all you need to do what can be done is Love.

God is Love. 1 John 4:7. One of the deepest, truest, most stunningly life changing things in the bible, that I’ve ever found in my life, is in those three little words. God is Love. Go through the Bible and look at every verse that speaks of Love, and realize that they are all talking about the character of God. Love is patient, Love is kind. No really, look at what it says; all you really need is God. All you need is Love. Nothing you can do, Love can’t do. Nothing you can sing, Love can’t sing.

When it comes down to it, the only thing that only you can do, is learn how to be you. You can learn how to live your life, “play the game”, and be you. All you need in order to be the best you that you can be is Love. All you can do is be you, and all you need to be you is the everything of God.

And you know what? He loves you, yeah, yeah, yeah. He loves you yeah, yeah, yeah.

God loves you, Beloved. It’s His nature. It’s who He is. He can’t not love you. And you know what, that’s all you need. God’s love is so big, so expanisive, so everything, that it’s really all you need. All you need is Love. Love is all you need.

Oh, if only more people knew that. If only the people who gave us that awesome song, so full of amazing truth, had known the truth they were singing.


Musical Musings: “Song For Josiah” Keith Green

Song For Josiah
Oh my son, you were born in a world that hates you,
And I swear I will never forsake you.
But there was a father centuries ago,
Who watched his beloved son die. Oh, die.

Oh my son, I am weak and I'm trembling,
For the Lord I am always remembering.
Oh what a strong shepherd holds you in His arms.
He'll break you and make you His own.
And then take you home.

Well if I could I would protect you from what you will see.
This world will promise love and beauty, but it lied to me.
And I will show you, if you will listen.
And I will promise, to listen too.

Oh yes, there are some who love the lies, they will kill you if they can.
Though you speak the truth in love, they will hate you like the man,
Jesus. although he was God, he allowed himself broken for you.

Well if I could I would protect you from what you will see.
The world might seem so alive, but it's dead to me.
And I will teach you, if you will hear me.
And I will promise, to hear you too. Yes I do.

Oh my son, I am only your brother.
For a sister, God gave me your mother.
But just like a mother, so long ago, had to watch her beloved son die,
Oh son, we will try, to let you go.

First of all, sweet daughters of Keith, if you’re by some weird chance reading this, I want you to know that I write this in honor of your dear father and his tender heart towards you, so evident in these lyrics. I, too, have lost a father, and I know the deep grief it can cause in a child’s heart. You can carry with you the assurance and peace that you will see your father crowned with glory in eternity if you share his faith as surely as you do his genes.

That said: This song makes me cry in all the best ways. There is something almost magical to me when I see good parenting in action. No, I never met Keith Green or his children or wife, but his heart is so evident in this (and his biography, penned by his wife) that I feel like I can safely say that Keith was a loving father.

Maybe it’s that my own parents struggled so, that I spent so little time with my father and didn’t appreciate his parenting until after he was gone. But when I see parents who love their children and discipline (not necessarily punish, but disciplining them, shaping them into the men and women they were created to be), it’s amazing and beautiful to me.

I have a coworker with a teenaged daughter who comes in from time to time… and I invariably hear her parenting this daughter. I know that her daughter doesn’t love it, and won’t appreciate it yet, but it’s so beautiful that I can’t not love my coworker more for it.

I’ve seen my uncle and my brother in law with their children, both of whom are close to me in age (to be fair, I’ve watched others, but since they were older enough for me to view them as belonging to my mother’s generation more than mine, I’m afraid that their prowess as parents was lost on my lack of appreciation for parenting at the time). I am so touched and blessed by their love and devotion for their children, the way they protect them and set boundaries, but are still able to play with and enjoy them.

Watching my family with my niece and nephew over Easter weekend, when we all came together for my grandparents’ 50th anniversary, was more of this magic. I got to see more of my niece; she was there before her brother, and stayed after he left, and John and I took her home that night. Watching my grandfather sweet-talk her into putting her shoes on (she knew that shoes meant she was going home, and she wanted to stay and play, but it was getting late and she needed to get home so she could go to bed), and knowing he’d done the same with me 25 years ago when I was her size was almost enough to make me cry (and it is enough now). Watching my uncles play with her out front… one carrying her, the other hiding and surprising her, and both of them playing it all up with her… knowing they’d almost certainly done the same with their children, knowing that they’d played with me when I was wee, knowing that this was what healthy interaction looks like, it was amazing.

I watch my friends with their children; instructing them in proper manners (don’t interrupt, say please and thank you) even as we may play together (we were all shooting paper wads at each other Sunday at lunch… if you were in the Owasso RibCrib and didn’t appreciate our play, I’m sorry. Quit being a grump.) When I was a teenager, I saw a friend, an adult I considered a sort of mentor, scoop her child up as he was being disobedient and disrespectful. In one fell swoop, she scooped him up as he was running past (after he’d been told not to run, after he’d been told he was being disobedient), pulled him into her lap, gave him a swat on the bottom and then rocked him close and comforted and instructed him, loving him.

You may take what I’m about to say with a grain of salt because I have no children of my own; all my experience is with my sisters and watching others and former wishing. I don’t mind. I still think what I’m going to say is true.

Loving your child isn’t about giving into their every whim and wish. It’s not about letting them dictate what happens in their world. It’s not about protecting them from everything that could go wrong in life. Let’s face it; you can’t protect them from everything (and certainly you can’t if you’re indulging their every whim!) and still have strong resilient children. You just can’t protect them from everything. I know I tried for my sisters, and couldn’t. And no, that’s not the same, but how many of you have seen your children hurting in a way that you couldn’t protect them from? How many of you have taught your precious one to ride a bike and had to let go, knowing they’d fall and hurt themselves eventually, and let go anyway? Good parents know when to set limits for their children, to protect them and preserve their innocence and health. They risk upsetting their children to do what’s best for them. They know not to panic when he falls down and bumps his head, to stay calm and encourage him to get up and keep trying. It teaches him that every scrape isn’t a crisis. And yet, if there’s something really wrong, they know how to keep him calm and get him what he needs to be healthy.

They don’t have a manual. Their children didn’t come with a book on how to raise them. They take life as it comes, and they follow the advice and examples of those who went before them. They learn from their mistakes and go forward. And they revel in the magic of a child’s innocence and discovery. They revel in the magic of a child.

Like I said, maybe it was my upbringing that makes this all seem so magical to me. Maybe it’s the fact that I don’t get to be a mommy myself. But there is nothing in all the world like watching parents love their children.

And now I come back to the song. Listen to Keith’s heart as he pours it out for his son. Listen to him instructing his son in his faith. Keith knows that no matter how much he wants to protect his child from the difficulties of life, of the pain we all feel, of the difficulty Christians face living in a fallen world, he cannot. Part of the process of growing up, of coming to a saving faith, is enduring the bumps and bruises, and yes, even the breaks of life. He knows that his children (for indeed, while this song is titled “Song for Josiah”, it is surely true for all of Keith’s children) will have to stumble and struggle their way through life to be strong and mature. He knows that his faith can’t be theirs; that they must build their own. And he takes an example and applies it to his own child… the example of how God the Father had to let His Son go, had to release Him to the world with all the physical discomforts and pains. Surely Jesus got bruises. Surely he caught colds. Surely there were times when Mary and Joseph fretted over their feverish firstborn. And we know she was there when Christ was dying on the cross.

Keith knows that his son is, in many ways, no different that the Son of God… and by that, I don’t mean that he sees his child as the divine Son of God, but that if even Christ had to grow up in this fallen world, then so too, will his son. That he can’t count on his son being spared anything; Christ wasn’t. He knows, even as he builds character and faith into his sweet child, that God will break his young heart and shape him as He sees fit. Keith is aware that the work he begins, His Father in heaven will be finishing, and it will not be easy.

Listen, too, to his plea for his child to learn from his example, instead of learning the hard way. We all seem to sort of bash our way through life, careening from one day to the next, stumbling, stopping and restarting, repeating the mistakes that every child has made in history. We all do the same thing the same way 10,000 times, and we all expect different results than we and everyone else has ever gotten… and its not until we learn that it doesn’t work that way that we even allow ourselves to think of doing things differently. Listen to Keith try to tell his son how to navigate the minefield of life. Listen to his promise to teach his son, if only his son will listen and heed his words. Listen to the promise to listen to his son. Listen to the vulnerability in his voice. Listen as he tells his son that he can’t protect him from life. Listen as he tells him that he is only human.

And then listen to the promise he makes, assuring his son of the goodness of God. “What a strong shepherd holds you in His arms.” And he promises him that God will shape him and make him, but He will also take him as His own. “He’ll break you and make you His own, and then He’ll take you home.”

Oh, Beloved, hear what I say to you now. Your parents love(d) you. And where they failed you, God will not. God cannot. He is the perfect Father. He will do what good parents do, only better. He will give you limits to protect you, rules to shape you, discipline to make you better people. And He delights in you. That you exist is a joy to Him. Do you hear me? Your existence… not anything you’ve ever done, nothing you’ll ever do, nothing you are, nothing you aren’t… just that you ARE at all, is a delight to God the Father. Life won’t be some perfect cakewalk; it hasn’t ever been for anyone, and surely if the Son of God suffered, so too will you. But He holds you. He’s waiting, arms outstretched for you. Like the prodigal son returning home, He will run to you. Like the mother who disciplined her son and loved him all at once, He will discipline you in love. Like my uncles, my grandparents, like my brother in law and friends, He will protect you from what would destroy you, even as he encourages you to stand up again after you fell down. He loves you.

Keith and his son and oldest daughter went home to be with Jesus in 1982. Josiah was never old enough to take his father’s advice, and his sisters grew up with this song as theirs. My father went home to be with Jesus in 1995, 13 years ago, 13 years after Keith. And yet I feel I can say with certainty that both men would say the same things today that Keith said then.

Hear the parent’s heart in Keith’s song. How much more your Father, who is in heaven, loves you. Good parenting is miraculous. Won’t you come back to the Source of the miracle?


OK, so I'm a little OCD...

and yet, I don't seem to mind my weird little tendencies. I probably should, I should probably worry about the freaky little ways it manifests iteself, and yet, I can't seem to care. So far, none of them seem unmanagable or dangerous, and I'm not wasting hours of every day on them. Well, not wasting hours of every day to the exclusion of everything else. Well, not wasting every day to the exclusion of everything else including my work (such as it is) or basic hygeine needs. Yeah. The last one.

I'm a completist. If there's a set and I want one part of it, I must have all parts. I avoided buying the Lego Basketball sets because of this; I knew I'd want ALL of them, but I have this issue with Iverson (why are we rewarding bad men just because they're good athletes? If you suck at being a human being, isn't that a bigger deal than if you can throw a ball in a hoop?!) and wouldn't want to own that one... so I didn't buy any of them.

But games? I have to have all of Steve Jackson's Munchkin series. All of the expansions. It doesn't matter that most people won't play with me; the ones that do enjoy all the expansions, too. And the Settlers of Catan. And Ticket to Ride (Nordic Countries, you will be mine! Even if you're in another language... or maybe esp because you're in another language, because that trips a different trigger in me!) And Shadows Over Camelot! But I've resisted Carcassone because I know my husband won't appreciate me having to buy every expansion... he'd like me to enjoy a game that doesn't have 50 bajillion expansions for it. Or at least to not need to buy them all.

I also collect die. Or dice? Crap, I should know the difference. But I now have like 10 sets of nerdy gaming dice, and lots of regular d6s, and a pound of assorted ones. And I knew when I lost ONE of them which I lost. Which is sort of sad, I know. And I have to sort them out, and when I'm playing with them, I find it necessary to turn them all so that the highest number is showing. That's gotten more important of late, and there's no good reason for it. But they can be all jumbled together in their bag, and who cares what side is which in there. That's good, right?

OK, now I sound pathetic. And I'm not even done.

I started collecting dragons. Not actual dragons, either, so at least there's no physical clutter from this one, and it's free, so it's not a financial expense either. Both of those facts are good. But I've got 3 hatchlings and 4 eggs, and I'm eagerly waiting for the 7 of them to grow up so I can get more. Because I've got to have at least one of each, and try breeding them. Because. No, there's not a good reason. If there was a good reason for my madness, it wouldn't be madness, would it?

Before you go looking for the forms for involuntary commitment to the Mental Hospital, let me assure you that I don't have to have my cabinets perfect, I don't have to have all my sheets folded just so, and none of it seems to interfere with my ability to function. I can still cook meals (and good ones, thank you... I just dislike cleaning up after, so I don't cook a ton), and do my work and have a social life outside of my little weirdnesses. Shoot, I couldn't have gotten a sunburn last weekend if I didn't have life beyond the weirdness!

I suppose I should stop wasting time on the computer... or maybe go teach myself Italian (satisfy that wierd little fetish for knowing EVERYTHING, especially languages! YES! Knowledge! Let me devour it and make it mine!!!) and probably do the supper dishes. Yeah, because that would be more healthy than stalking my dragon eggs.

Oh, and did I ask you to click on my eggs so they hatch? No? Here's my scroll; click view on each one (but each one only needs one, because only the first visit from each IP address counts towards the need to hatch (it keeps track of every time the egg is seen, and I have to balance total views with unique views and clicks to keep it healthy))...

I'm rambling. I'm going to go do laundry or something.

Tonight's dinner


This is the company that makes "Trail Dust", the boutique spice blend I use in almost everything. Yum!

Included in uses of Trail Dust: Tatertot Casserole

Brown 1/2 pound mild italian sausage, 1/2 pound light/lean ground beef, and 1/4-1/3 pounds ground buffalo (you can use all ground beef, or otherwise omit/substitute meats. Brown in a pan with generous shakes of Trail Dust (1-2? tablespoons... I just shook it in, so I'm not sure). Drain excess fat. Mix meat in casserole dish with cans lowfat cream of mushroom soup (you could probably use another cream of something if you wanted), and two cans of cut green beans (again, you can use fresh and parboil them first if you wish, or use frozen...). Sprinkle with 2% mild cheddar and cover with a layer of "crispy crowns" or tater tots. Bake at 450 deg. F for 12 minutes.

No, it's not exciting, but it's satisfying and filling. Someone made something like this for me when I had my appendix out in 2001, and I've found it comforting since. And the Trail dust makes sure that things aren't bland and boring. :D

I had an epiphany...

I think if you've read this with any consistency at all, I think it's fairly clear that I'm a conservative Christian. So the fact that I think about religious things should be no surprise. Nor should the fact that I believe that God created the world.

I realized tonight one of the great dangers of saying that God DIDN'T create the Earth. But aside from the possibilty of eliminating God, of eliminating the need for God, there's a second danger in denying that He created everything.

Anything I create, I have control over. So it is with God. What He created, He has dominion over and control of. If He has the power to create somethings from nothing, surely He has the power to control them even on the subatomic level. If He does not have the power over even the smallest quarks, then He loses His sovereignty and omnipotence. He no longer has the power to save. He no longer has the power to dictate right and wrong. He's too small to be God.

In Christ, all things were created. In Him we live and move and have our being. We can't afford not to. Which means, He controls even the smallest particles. And I prefer it that way. I like my God BIG.

Were you raised in a BARN?!

I had a really good 10th wedding anniversary (One decade behind us, here we come Decade Number 2!!). The things that were wrong with it were neither mine nor John’s fault. If you recognize yourself in this blog, Hello Again, I hope you enjoyed dinner and the movies more than we did. :P

We started with dinner at Osaka Fantasy Steakhouse in Tulsa (51st and Harvard, in the shopping center on the SE corner, if you’re looking for it). Osaka is one of those nifty hibachi places where they cook on the big table top grill at your table. I LOVE those places, and I’ll likely go back. The food is really good, the service is phenomenal, and most of your tablemates are sane and sober.

If however, you are not sober, please don’t pour your soup on the mushrooms!!! It might not have been so bad, except he had EATEN from the bowl of soup. EW. The poor chef looked as horrified as the rest of us; what was he supposed to do when the dude poured soup on the mushrooms? Seriously, who the hell does that?!

Also, if you are not sober, looking pissy when the waitress brings you another glass of wine, or when your date orders a second, is not so much cool man. (For the record, we don’t know he was drunk, but I sincerely hope he was because it’s the closest I can come to an excuse for his behavior!)

Making a mess at the table by mixing your date’s fried rice with your steamed rice, even after she points it out and suggests mixing it on your plate instead and then ignoring her? Also not cool.

Also not cool? Eating off your date’s plate merely inches from it, WHILE she’s still eating. A: you don’t have to fork it in as fast as possible. The food is all dead, cooked, and not going anywhere… well, except into your date’s mouth. Because it’s HER food! B: Eating it off her plate WHILE she’s eating it? Bad form. And C: INCHES from the plate? Since when is it acceptable to lower your face to the plate and SUCK the food in like a vacuum? You’re in public. Your meal costs more than $10. You freaking bought WINE. STOP SUCKING the food in.

So dude, bad form. You totally suck. And in a bad way.

We then went to see Indiana Jones at AMC Southroads. No real complaints. I liked the movie. :D

And then in a fit of freedom that lack of children and plans tomorrow lends us, we went to see the next show of Prince Caspian. The movie started at 9:50. I heard small children. Why were these children not at home in bed?

Then there were the little old ladies who TALKED the whole time. How the crap did you ladies not know you don’t talk through the film? Did none of the PSA’s telling you to shut your trap get through to you? Seriously? WHY ARE YOU TALKING?

Oh, wait… maybe it’s because AMC forgot that it was still over 80 outside and stupidly turned off the air conditioning. Um, AMC, you’re in Oklahoma. You’re putting many people together in a room. Body heat, outside heat, big lamps… TURN ON THE AC!

That said, I love Prince Caspian, too. I cried (big surprise).

And yes, if you read this blog and you were the rude guy who violated public health codes, or the little old ladies running your yaps all through the movie, YES, I am talking to you. You don’t want to get called out, don’t act like idiots in public!!!

For the most part, I like people. I sympathise greatly. But do you have to be rude?!

Good night, and good luck.


On weeping, and laughing, and lack of subtlety

The ancient Greeks had an aphorism, well one of many: gnothi seauton. Most of you may have never heard the greek, but you can readily understand the English, even if not in all its depth (which, to be fair, is still hotly debated in philosophical circles): Know Thyself.

Now, I’m not going to sit here and pretend I know the mysteries of all mankind, or even of a particular people group, especially not when I feel I’m still learning how to know just myself (and a little of my husband, you know, so we build a better relationship by sorting out what makes your spouse tick so you can better meet their needs, wants, and avoid unnecessary upsets as much as possible).

But I do actively pursue a course in Heather, and as selfish and self-centered as that may sound, it’s actually a course in “How can I finetune Heather so that she ticks more effectively, more efficiently, more pleasantly… how do I go about finding where she needs some finetuning, and then finetune her to be a better human being. How can Heather become ‘all things to all people that she might reach some?’”

It was some of this “know thyself” stuff that brings me to last night. I saw with John watching a favorite TV show last night. Someone died in the show, a character who has never lived in order to die, someone I didn’t even like all that much. And I sat there and cried my eyes out. I wept brokenhearted for those left behind, for the loss of a future between the characters, for the silly folly of life that means one minute you’re alive and well, and the next you’re on an irreversible course to a death no one imagined for you. (OK, Peanut section, you can giggle at me now… because if it was a TV show, the writers had to imagine that this would be the way the character died. But the character doesn’t know that.)

I marveled on the fact that I have such a tender heart that breaks so easily for fictional characters. I’ve joked that I’m not a small woman because I need room for this big ol’ tender heart of mine… and joked that on nights like this one, where the heartbreak is so big, that maybe I’m not big enough yet, It’s an attempt to bring levity to an absurd situation… Heather’s sobbing over a TV show/movie again. Isn’t that silly!

The truth is that I do weep for fallen characters, but more than that, I weep for the pain it mirrors in real life. Last night, as I wept for a life seemingly cut short, somewhere out there in the great big world, mothers and fathers were saying goodbye to terminally ill children for the last time. Husbands were kissing their wife’s forehead because he couldn’t reach her mouth with all the life-saving equipment in it that just wasn’t working. Children said goodbye to parents, to grandparents, lovers saying goodbye to their beloved, friends saying goodbye to beloved friends. As I sat here, insulated in my home, my heart was there, with the ones whom death leaves behind for a while. I wept for all the losses, for all the stupid mistakes that became fatal mistakes, for all the illness we can’t cure yet, for all hope that seems to die with a loved one. My heart broke for all of them, without knowing any of them,

And because I know myself well enough to know that I don’t sleep well when I’m feeling the hurts of life, I made a point to go find something wonderfully light and glib that makes me laugh for joy… a robot singing about scientific efforts and survivors of said efforts. Yes, I get the irony. “Death depresses her, so she listens to ‘Still Alive’. No, that’s not depressing or about death at all… when it talks about killing, or the ones who are dead…” Yet there’s something about little Moxie singing it that makes me smile and giggle.

As I lay in bed, unwinding, thinking about my reactions, I realized something about myself. There was new knowledge of myself to process and file away. I put it on twitter like this: “My emotional pendulum doesn’t have a ‘subtle’ setting.” I feel deeply. I mean, really really deeply. That thing you saw that was mildly amusing? Days later, I can still laugh myself hoarse and purple at it. I made a joke at my Pastor’s expense (he was there, he chuckled) the last day of April; it still make me giggle when I think of it. People I know hold contests to see how many shades of red they can see me turn if they get me laughing. Folks have threatened to call for an ambulance if I didn’t start breathing.

And if that’s excessive to the point of being almost sad, there’s anger. I don’t watch the news, because I go from mildly upset to outraged and incensed in no time. I’d give the Incredible Hulk a run for his money. And there’s the thing where I weep openly, brokenheartedly for characters I barely liked on a TV show that’s not even real.

Once my emotional pendulum starts to swing, it swings HARD. I once thought I might be bipolar, the way I can swing from such extremes so easily. And I’m not sure that leaping from “That’s not right” with my indoor voice to “HOW DARE THEY!” in a scream is necessarily good or helpful or useful at all. I’m going to need to learn a certain amount of moderation, I know.

But in the continuing study of all there is to this woman we call “Heather”, I’ve found a new, useful fact. Subtlety is not my strong suit. And while I do need to moderate my reactions, I’m still pleased with the tenderness of my heart.

Lord, may I never ceased to be moved by death, for when I am, I am as good as dead myself. May I never cease to laugh freely at even the dumb stuff, for when I do, I lose the joy of more than just a moment, but the connection to the greater Joy I have in You. The road you’ve marked is a narrow one; keep me, Lord, ever on the narrow road.


Things that make me laugh...

This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I'll have to see if I can figure out how to post videos or something to share the psycho cats and the snake-biting bunny (no, not snakebitten bunny, but the bunny who BITES a SNAKE!)... but in the meantime, enjoy the following items that have made me laugh like a loon today.

You'd have to have seen http://youtube.com/watch?v=JPONTneuaF4 to really get why this is so funny. But my husband and I now talk to one of his coworkers in this voice ALL the time. "Hi Marrrrrk!"

http://delilahpaints.blogspot.com/ This mom is hilarious. She's my age, and she's the kind mom I've thought I might be. And did I mention she's funny?

(Note, this list may grow... I don't know if being dayglo red and white like a candy cane makes me laugh more easily or not, but dude, I laugh at my own jokes DAYS later already... so God help John as he has to live with me laughing my face off every 20 minutes...)


The system is down...

WARNING: This is very angry and contains crude language (in the parenthetical portion of the rant). If you are under 18, please skip this and read something happier, like my apple salad recipe. If you are over 18, please consider what you can do to make a difference. I can’t change the world by myself, but together, we can move mountains.

I confess that, for all my attempts to live in forgiveness, to rise above my past, to overcome the abuse I survived, I find myself tonight still bitter, still angry, still upset, and I don’t know how not to be. Not at my mother, who has come to sincerely regret the things she did, and who I am learning to forgive, even though I have to do it for each thing I remember as though I was starting from scratch each time. Not at my father, who mistakenly thought that the way to protect his girls was to fight for custody of them, and failed at both. I don’t fault him for that. Not even at the man serving time for raping me repeatedly from the time I was 10 until I was 13, including the time he made my sister and I have lesbian sex for his amusement, even though, yes, that still makes me angry. No, what consistently angers me, every time I think about it, without fail, what is still a root of bitterness that eats at me, what I don’t know how to forgive is the system that so consistently failed first me, then my sisters, and now my niece and nephew. How do you forgive a governmental system that you’re told to trust, that you’re told will protect you, that everyone points you to for help, but that consistently fails to do any of those things? How do you forgive a governmental system that is criminal in the way it serves to aid and abet child abuse, especially when there are so many dead children that slipped through the cracks?

Please understand me, I’m not angry at the Guardian ad Litem who was assigned to our case only after I was 17 years old. I’m not angry at the dozens of caseworkers assigned to our family in at least 2 states and 3-5 cities. I’m not angry at the judges who wouldn’t even let me talk to them, wouldn’t listen to what I had to say. They were all working within the confines of what I believe is a criminally broken system. They had too many cases, not enough time, not enough resources, not enough evidence. They were up against a woman who knew how not to leave marks, who knew what to say to appear to be rehabilitated, who knew how to do just enough to satisfy requirements, and would move away from jurisdictions when it suited her. They were against a legal system that, while it wisely protects the innocent from the assumption of guilt, also made it the word of a child against the word of an adult when it came to proof, and tended to default to the adult over the child.

(I do have a personal grudge against the attorney who recused himself from representing the man who raped me for 4 years so that he could TESTIFY on his behalf, who attacked me on the stand verbally and emotionally, who mocked my intelligence when I knew words his own daughter didn’t, taking that not as proof that I was telling the truth, but instead that I’d been coaxed in an evil plot to get this man. Would you be more comfortable with a 13 year old girl saying that he jammed his cock into my cunt over an over and over again, instead of saying that he inserted his penis, pens, vibrators, and whatever else he wanted into my vagina. Does that make you feel better? Yes, I do blame you, Michael King, yes, I do have a personal problem with you. And if you want to sue me for libel, let’s pull up the transcripts of court where you told me I was lying in front of a jury, let’s pull up the transcripts where you stepped down so you could testify for him, let’s pull up the PROOF of what I’m saying you did. It’s not libel when it’s true, Mr. King. I hope you sleep well at night.)

But I’ve gotten off topic. I’m angry because the very system we are told as children to trust to protect us put me in more danger every time I did. I would tell them “if my mother even suspects that I’m the one who told, she’ll beat me worse when I get home.” They would assure me that my mother wouldn’t know, and yet every time, without fail, when I got home, she was waiting to throw me into the wall, to drag me up the stairs, to beat me, choke me, scream in my face. Every time I told, I got it worse when I got home. Wonder why I stopped bothering to tell people.

Eliza Izquierda was 6 when her mother beat her to death and then flipped her tiny body upside down to mop up the spilled blood with little Eliza’s hair. Her mother had been reported to Child Protective Services, or Social Services, or whatever it was called in New York in 1995. There was a caseworker assigned to protect Eliza, to act in her behalf. And yet, in a broken system, Eliza was murdered by her own mother.

Kelsey Briggs was 2 when her mother’s boyfriend beat her to death. She too had a caseworker assigned to her case. The system in Oklahoma was just as broken as it was in Virginia, as it was in New York, as it was everywhere, and Kelsey died even though the system was supposed to be protecting her.

I do not know of a single case where a child told the system “I’m in danger, help me, please, help me,” and the system could do anything about it. I have lost faith in the system. I have no confidence that the very agency that exists to protect our most innocent is actually able to do that. In fact, I honestly believe that the system is SO broken that children are DYING as a result.

Nor do I have faith that a single voice could change things. Even as a survivor of child abuse, I have no confidence that if I were to speak out, anything would really change. Order people to take parenting classes; my mother did. Order them into counseling: my mother picked up a sexual offender in group counseling ordered by the court. Order oversight: I could call the police when my mother was beating me, and nothing changed.

I don’t know the answer. I don’t know the solution. And I don’t know how to stop being angry that the system that failed me repeatedly is still failing children. I don’t know how to not be angry that I survived despite the government sworn to protect me, and that worse, children are actually being killed.

Maybe opening the dialogue is a place to start. Maybe if enough of us demand change, something will happen. Maybe my anger serves a purpose: to give voice to Eliza, to Kelsey, to the millions of other children. Maybe, just maybe, together, we can find a way to save these innocents.


I'm Not Who I Was

I’ve probably said this a hundred times, to a hundred different people, in a hundred different ways. None of this is really new, none of it is really news, and yet I feel compelled to put it down in some sort of concrete form in a public place.

Brandon Heath has a song, I’m Not Who I Was, all about forgiveness and the changes that are made in our lives as a result. I first heard it when a friend shared it with me, and since then I’ve heard it on various “Christian” radio stations, and finally bought it and downloaded it so I can hear it whenever I need to.

This message, though, is less about forgiveness, and yet I feel that phrase sums it up better than almost anything. You see, we are all born one person in this life, we are all shaped by our experiences in our lives; all of our perceptions become colored by the world around us. In a very real way, we all become a specific person long before we grow into adulthood. Our families know us as that person, they learn to expect things of us based on the person they’ve watched us become, and they learn to react to us based on their understanding of our shared experiences. But if we were to remain the same person all of our lives, never growing up, never changing from our immature and incomplete understanding of things, never maturing in our relationships and our reactions, it would be a very sad, incomplete, and even wasted life. In fact, when individuals are limited to childlike development through injury or illness, we grieve that loss of potential. Just as we become a person when we are young, we must not remain that same person as we grow into adulthood.

When I say that I’m not who I was, I’m referring to that sort of healthy development and maturation, and yet even more. You see, while taking the step from childish perceptions and a selfish focus into adulthood is essential to our lives as adults, there’s another change in our lives that is often overlooked. It is what Christ preached, experiencing the second birth He spoke of to Nicodemus in John 3. If you struggle with the idea, you’re not alone; even the highly educated Nicodemus didn’t understand what “born again” meant, possibly not until after the resurrection of Christ, if even then.

I’m guessing that as you read this, you’re in one of about 3, maybe 4 camps. Maybe you’ve dismissed me already as a religious nut, in which case, I’m surprised you’re still reading. Hopefully, you’ve opted to “hear” me out, and you’ll read this to the end. After all, like the sower in the parable, all I do is plant the seed; what happens to it after that isn’t up to me. Or perhaps you’re in the second camp, where you think that you know what I’m talking about, you may even count yourself among those who claim to be “born again”. But you’ve never had a real change in your life, you’ve never understood what the big deal is, and even now you, like the previous sort of reader, are debating if you should dismiss me as a nut. If you’re in the third and fourth camps, men and women who have seen a change in your life due to faith in Christ, then I ask you to stop reading right now, get before the Father, and pray for the others reading this. When you’re done, come back (by the way, the fourth camp is folks who are saved but are more rational and logical about their faith than I am… but you can still pray, can’t you?)

I grew up in church. I have a book my mother gave me when I was really young “on the occasion of [my] baptism in the Holy Spirit”. I was baptized Catholic as an infant, have Godparents, and have attended nearly every denomination of Christian church there is. I would have described myself as a Christian all my life, even had things in my life that most would think of as “typically Christian”. Yet when I was 16, the first day of my Junior year in High School, I realized there was nothing intentional to my faith. I was floating through life, and if God was moving through me, it was despite me, not in any sort of active cooperation on my part. I claimed the name, but nothing really changed. I decided that wasn’t enough. Floating through religion wasn’t faith, and I wasn’t confident that I had been truly changed. I opted to be, as I recall the imagery being, a glove, empty and ready to be filled with the Hand of God. I wanted to live intentionally.

Now I’m not going to pretend that I was suddenly, magically without sin, or even the impulse to sin. I’ve fallen, stumbled, staggered through life since then. I was far from “pure as the driven snow” (or maybe I was… have you ever seen snow that’s been driven through? It’s black and grey and brown and nasty and filthy… and that I can identify with more than the beautiful unspoiled powder that falls in the dead of winter). I was even suicidal after that. I made serious attempts on my life even after I decided to give my life to God for His purposes, at least one of which landed me in the hospital to get my stomach pumped, and many of which grieved my husband.

You see, in many ways, I was a child in a woman’s body, physically matured, but not emotionally so. I still had deep, deep wounds from my upbringing. While I was able to see that I didn’t want to be the person I’d grown into, I didn’t know how not to be. I didn’t know where to start changing things to change the person I was. I stumbled blindly through life, and yes, through faith, and hurt people I loved in the process. But something was happening inside of me all the same, and the only thing I had to do to start the change was to admit I needed the change and that God could work it. The simple process of recognizing that I wasn’t who I wanted to be was enough to start making me over. It wasn’t an instant change. God is certainly capable of instant changes and miraculous healings of body, mind and soul. But just as a child in the womb begins to grow and change and develop without conscious effort, so too did I.

One summer, about 4 years ago, after the hardest first year of teaching, after suffering for 13 months with head pain and all of the diagnostic tests and medications to try to treat the cause and relieve the symptoms, after yet another suicidal ideation (I was considering going to a bridge just off the school property and throwing myself into the interstate traffic below because I was just so tired of it all), I began the difficult birthing process. My students, who didn’t know quite what I was going through (though a few knew more than others), rallied around me. They did the best they could to take good care of me, even as I was trying to teach them (these were high schoolers, though the burden they carried on my behalf was still unfair to them). Oh, what a blessing they were to me (and several of them continue to be)! After the school year, I went on vacations with my husband’s family, with my adoptive family, and back to see my birth family and my sister’s first child, an angel that God gave my face. Each trip reinforced that unconditional love my students had shown me. A niece who declared her love for me without any prompting moved me (still moves me) to tears. Family members who spoke of their love for me and pride in my accomplishments opened my eyes. Holding the new infant in my arms, just holding her and adoring her, was life-changing. In her, I recognized my need to be loved the way I loved her. I finally saw the light.

I did a bible study that summer and fall, one on the “Beloved Disciple” and another on “Breaking Free” (both by Beth Moore). One afternoon in October 2004, as I worked on several days of study (I’d gotten behind, again), I was brought to tears again, and I walked away from the day feeling like I had truly been born again, literally born a brand new person.

I realized that I spent my life trying to earn love, trying to earn approval, trying to earn the right to wake up the next day. No wonder I was so tired; I didn’t trust anyone’s love for me, I didn’t believe that anybody COULD love me. Even those who said they loved me, I’d doubted- they loved me for what I meant to them, and if I died, yes, they’d grieve me, but without me there to continue earning their love, they’d be able to move on with their lives, able to find better things to do with their time than deal with me. I desperately wanted the unconditional love I gave to the infant, even as I denied I was worthy of it… even as I made it conditional. And as I opened my eyes, I realized that love deserved is a lie, that true love is independent of the recipient, that I’d been created to be loved, that I was always loved, that the thing I’d most wanted all my life had been freely available to me had I only known where to look and how to see it.

I was born that day. My physical birth had been nearly 27 years earlier, and yet, I was born that day. I was the infant I’d cradled, loved, adored, new and alive. I became a new person, different than the person I’d been as a child, different than the person I’d been as an adult, different from anything I’d ever known. In a very real way, I’m really not now who I was before. I’m not who I was. I’m alive, finally really living, and not just surviving from one day to the next.

I’ve still got problems, I still struggle. That’s the nature of life with all its imperfections. But I haven’t been suicidal once since then. I’m 51 months past the last time I had suicidal ideations, past the day I wanted to leap off a bridge into oncoming traffic. In all the languages I’ve studied, I’ve never found a way to express just how different I am that fits better than being born again, born a brand new person.

One of my struggles in life, in fact, possibly the largest struggle, is how to interact with the people who knew me before I was reborn. I’ve been blessed, and most of the people I know who knew me before rejoice with me over the change. They were waiting for me to open my eyes to the truth. It’s really easy to get along with these people. Even the people I’ve met since then are easier to get along with; I am able to see them through new eyes.

At my wedding, the pastor who married us spoke of love – it was a wedding… of course he spoke about love! But something he said really stuck with me. Love multiplies joys and divides sorrows. When I share my joy with someone, love multiplies that joy through us both. They’re happy for me, and that makes me happier. We get into a recursive cycle of emotions, where just being happy makes us happy. I look forward to sharing the things that make me happy because I know that those who love me will be happy for me and with me. And sorrow shared is divided. When I share my grief (even as I’m doing now), then the one with whom I share it helps me carry the grief. They help chip away at the burden of sorrow so that it’s bearable. The encourage me, come alongside me, and buoy me up with their love. That’s love: shared joy is multiplied, shared sorrow is divided. It’s beautiful.

But there are people in my life who don’t multiply shared joys, they don’t divide shared sorrow. Their calls are always about what’s wrong in life. When I share the joys in my life, it’s countered with everything wrong in theirs. When I am foolish enough to expose my hurts, it’s added to as they tell me how much worse they are than I am. It’s gotten to the point that when I see their number on my caller ID, my heart sinks. I have physiological reactions of stress just knowing they called. And because I tend to have weird recursive emotions, the fact that someone in my life leaves me so wounded and upset upsets me. I’m deeply wounded that someone I love would wound me so.

I know I need to learn how to cope better. I know I need to learn to deal with people who hurt me in a way that I can bless them despite them. I know that I need to be a blessing to them, how desperately they need the life I’ve found. I don’t pretend that I’m blameless in this, just as I don’t pretend that I’m perfect or without mistake myself.

But none of my failings make toxic relationships less toxic. None of my mistakes make them less responsible for their end of a healthy relationship. I can do all the work on me in the world, but healthy relationships require both sides to make an effort. I can’t continue to live if the joy I’ve found is choked out of me by the endless sorrows of unhealthy relationships.

The best gift I can offer is to live well. For my father, who died when I was 17, I can live well as a testament to what he gave me. For my mother, who has lived long enough to regret her mistakes, I can live well as proof that mistakes don’t have to be fatal. For my sisters, who continue to struggle blindly through life, I can live well as an example of the path out of the darkness and offer proof of hope. I can actively seek to live in joy instead of settling for mere survival in despair.

Sadly, heartbreakingly, for now that means that I have to live without people I love in my life. It’s not that I don’t love you. It’s not even that you aren’t worthy of love. I can’t protect you, I can’t help you, I can’t change you, I can’t make your choices for you, and I can’t save you. It has never been my job, my responsibility, nor have I ever been able to change your life. At the end of the day, only you can look at your life and decide that you don’t like what you see, only you can decide it’s time for a change.

I’ve shown the way. God waits to birth new life in you, the way He did in me. I stand as testimony to the goodness of God, to the joy that life can offer. I stand the only way I know how, and I challenge you to never settle for survival. And when you’re ready to live, to really live, to really love, to risk sharing my joys instead of just dumping your problems at my feet, you can call me. I’ll be waiting. Until then – forgive me. I’m not who I was, and I won’t allow even you to hold me back from this life.


On forgiveness

Forgiveness is a funny thing. Many of us talk about it, but few of us really practice it. Maybe that’s because I’m not sure we’ve really got an accurate portrait of what forgiveness really is, and I’m not entirely sure that we can really, truly forgive unless our own forgiveness has been so indelibly carved into us that we’re aware of the remarkable change. Now, I think it’s essential for me to point out that I’m not claiming to have the sole view of forgiveness, or even that I have it completely correct. What I share here on forgiveness is something that’s been wrought in my own heart, born out the fires of trial and even justifiable anger. These are things that I have found are effective in my own soul and scripturally supported. I would challenge you to read the Bible for yourself, to pray for yourself, and ask God to reveal the truth of forgiveness to you rather than to rely on a housewife in northeastern Oklahoma.

The entire idea of forgiveness is riddled and overburdened with ideas of what it is and isn’t, what is required and isn’t, and things that seem good on the surface and actually, may be more harmful than not. For instance, we’ve heard “forgive and forget”. Those in the Christian community have heard this compared the willful forgetfulness of God, who casts our sins into a sea of forgetfulness and separates us from them as far as the east is from the west. The idea is that if we’ve truly forgiven someone, we shouldn’t remember what they’ve done to us anymore. But there are something to remember about this comparison. First of all, in every account I can find of God “forgetting sins”, the offender had repented and turned from their offense, begging God for forgiveness. In other words, God’s forgetfulness seems to be connected with the admission of guilt. I’m not saying His forgiveness is attached to the admission of guilt, I’m only discussing the idea that forgiveness comes hand in hand with forgetting. So while God forgives unconditionally, I’m not certain it would be accurate to just make the blanket statement that He automagically forgets the offense. Secondly, we’re trying to attach the ability of an all-powerful deity outside of the limits of time to men and women who are in a body that will die, who are trapped in time. We’re not God. While God can risk the offender doing it again, we, in our temporal bodies, sometimes dare not, lest the offense be repeated to the detriment of all. I tend to liken this to the idea that I can forgive the guy who shoots me, but only a fool stands there while he reloads and lets him shoot a second time. It is wise to learn from things that have caused you harm, both physical and emotional, in the past and learn to avoid them. We dare not forget that some people are apparently incapable of not hurting others, and to allow them to hurt you again and again, saying you forgave them and forgot what they did. We dare not forget the types of evil mankind is capable of committing. (It’s worth noting here that remembering what was done and being afraid of it are two different things; it’s a delicate balance to not fear the evil that may come to your temporal body, but to be wise enough to avoid it anyway. I’m not afraid of death, but I’m not going to go actively seek it out, either.) Down the road of forgetfulness lies the Holocaust, Death Marches, Gulags, and repeated victimization by sick people. Remembering that these things were done helps us protect ourselves and the innocents who are in our care. Remembering wrongs that have the power to kill and destroy is being wise, or “shrewd as serpents”… not fearing them leaves us “innocent as doves”.

I am absolutely not advocating that there are offenses that we cannot forgive, only that to tie forgetting unconditionally to forgiveness is folly at best and deadly dangerous. I don’t need to remember the kid who tripped me on the playground when I was 6 when I’m 36; I need to forgive him and move on with my life. On the other hand, if someone shoots me, or cheats on me with someone else, remembering the hurt that came from those actions protect me from being hurt again. I forgive the shooter, I forgive the cheater, but I don’t walk around with blinders on, either.

OK, so how do you forgive when there’s been no repentance, or when you can’t afford to forget what was done? How do you get past an offense that continues to do you harm?

That’s where we come to the most important truth in forgiveness. Forgiveness is not about what was done. It’s not about the offense, it’s not even about the offender. You don’t forgive for the good of the one who wronged you. You see, your unforgiveness has no effect on them. They aren’t carrying the physical effects of your unforgiveness in their bodies, you are. Every time you think of them and grow angry, your body has a physical reaction; your brain triggers the release of stress hormones that cause your heart to beat harder and faster so that you can get away from the danger. This reaction is so intrinsic in you, so basic, that it’s not affected by the fact that you aren’t actually seeing the person, that you aren’t in any physical danger now… your body reacts the same to the memory as it does to the initial offense. You’re the one who’s blood pressure rises, you’re the one with stress hormones rising, you’re the one who is slowly but surely being poisoned by a reaction you can’t control to a stimulus you can control.

Wait a minute… a stimulus you can control? Yes. As long as you are unable to forgive someone, the thought of the offense is the stimulus that sets off the biochemical reaction. The way to avoid the chain reaction of stress is to remove the power from the memory… to stop associating even the name of your offender with the offense. Instead of being “Ooooh, that Frank Jones, he did me wrong…” or “Ooooh, I’ll get that Lucy Smith! How dare she!!”, you remember “Oh, yeah… I haven’t thought about Frank or Lucy for a long time… I wonder how they’re doing? They were in a bad place the last time I saw them.”

Bad place? How do I know they were in a bad place? What does that have to do with what they did to you? How do I even begin to get where I care more about them than I care about what they’ve done?

Forgiveness isn’t about what was done. It’s not about the one who did it. Forgiveness is all about your relationship with God. Forgiveness is all about the recognition that you are a sinner, unworthy of grace or forgiveness yourself, no better than the worst of offenders. Forgiveness is readjusting your view of yourself until it’s in proper perspective.

You see, unforgiveness lifts you onto a pedestal, where you’re better than the one who dared offend you. It lifts you above your brothers and sisters. You don’t have to be afraid of heights to know that being high and lifted above others is a dangerous and untenable position. You make a bigger target of yourself. You have farther to fall when you, yourself, are the offender… and don’t pretend you aren’t, because right now, as you’re reading this and thinking of someone who you can’t forgive, someone else puts your picture in the “unforgivable” column.

Forgiveness is recognizing that we are all guilty. It is the recognition that we all need grace, we all need forgiveness. It’s understanding that I am no better than the one who wronged me, that I am no more worthy or deserving of the forgiveness I need than the one I need to forgive.

When I put myself in the right perspective, when I elevate my view of God and demote myself back to my right position as human first, just like my offender, it’s a lot easier to forgive.

It’s not easy. We’re always tempted to think more of ourselves than we ought. (Even if you think ill of yourself… constantly thinking less of yourself is still constantly thinking of yourself.) It’s even harder when the offense is one that we can’t really risk forgetting, when it’s one that’s changed us forever, marked us forever somehow.

But as one who has been greatly offended, hear me out. My father was killed in a car accident in 1994. I can harbor unforgiveness towards the man who ran the stop sign, putting my father in danger, or in the couple who collided with him, causing his death. But what does that get me? None of them did it intentionally, none of them were considering the effect his death would have on me.

Big deal, you say… that was an accident. It wasn’t intentional. It’s different when they knew they were doing you harm and were intentional in their wrongdoing.

My mother’s second husband is serving time in prison for molesting me and my sister for over 3 years. He threatened to kill me repeatedly. He raped me over and over again. He stole my childhood from me, and even though I told repeatedly, he intimidated me into recanting repeatedly. He’s been in prison since I was 13, when I finally had the courage to insist that I was telling the truth, that I had been all along. I had to go to court and testify against him, to his face. To this day, red-headed men scare me.

But I am no more deserving of grace than he is. I am no less a sinner than he is. He is a human first, before he is an offender. I am a human first, before I was his victim. And I will not give him the power over me of being his victim still. I will not poison my body with hatred for a man who was created to be loved, just as I was.

I have to remember to actively forgive him from time to time. I admit that it’s not easy. I don’t pretend it is. But I’ve decided that I am no better than he is, that he, separate from his actions, is just as deserving of God’s grace and love as I am. I don’t deny that his actions were wrong, and I can’t afford to be cavalier about it; I do bear the effects in my person. But until I can remember his name, not in fear or anger or hatred, but in sorrowful remembrance of another soul desperately in need of God’s bountiful grace and love, then I can’t pretend I’ve forgiven him.

I’m getting there. Because the truth is that God loves him just as desperately as he loves me… and just recognizing that was a powerful step of forgiveness.

I’m inviting you to walk with me on this difficult road. The first step is a doozy, but then, falling from the heights we’ve lifted ourselves to always will be. You’re not alone; there are plenty who’ve gone before you and who will come after you yet. But healing can’t begin unless you take the first step.


Musical Musing “How Can I Keep From Singing?”, Chris Tomlin

How Can I Keep From Singing?

There is an endless song
Echoes in my soul
I hear the music ring
And though the storms may come
I am holding onTo the rock I cling

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I will lift my eyes
In the darkest night
For I know my Savior lives
And I will walk with You
Knowing You'll see me through
And sing the songs You give

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I know I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing

I can sing in the troubled times
Sing when I win
I can sing when I lose my step
And fall down again
I can sing 'cause You pick me up
Sing 'cause You're there
I can sing 'cause You hear me, Lord
When I call to You in prayer
I can sing with my last breath
Sing for I know
That I'll sing with the angels
And the saints around the throne

How can I keep from singing Your praise
How can I ever say enough
How amazing is Your love
How can I keep from shouting Your name
I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart
I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart
I am loved by the King
And it makes my heart want to sing
I can sing!

I’m sitting here, one day post surgery, on the computer after I decided I needed to take a break from it, blogging because of the joy that I have in me when I listen to this song.

What an infectious melody, driving beat, what a just plain fun song! And yet, behind the fun in this piece, there is the solid truth that buoys the spirits and encourages the discouraged (though, actually, unlike last time, I’m not really discouraged about the result, just bored while I let my eyes heal). Indeed, how can I keep from singing? (I suspect John will look at me at some point because I’ve stopped mouthing the words and signing what few I know and started singing out loud, interrupting his news).

This isn’t the only song in the contemporary Christian market right now that contrasts the idea of singing praise to God despite the circumstances that would suggest despair, not even the only one in recent times. Two others spring to mind readily, one done by Mercy Me and the other by Tree 63. I think it’s the truth that’s inside all of these that I’m tapping into when I’m lifted this way, and it’s the same idea that I was reaching for with Victory In Jesus. I wrote that piece when I was really struggling with non-stop pain from a headache (or series of headaches, I’m not sure we ever knew which) that just refused to go away.

I know I’m not the only one who understands the way that pain just wears at you. Even when it’s within tolerable levels, and you can function in your day, being in pain all the time is exhausting and discouraging. It’s easy to get lost in the pain, to think that our pain has become our new definition, to lose hope. It’s easy to be defeated in situations like that, to begin to fear that the “you” you want to be has died, and this new “you”, the one who is limited by pain or disease is all that remains. If you’ve ever suffered from a serious illness or chronic pain, I’m sure you understand what I’m saying. If you’ve watched someone live that way, you have some concept of what I mean when I say that it’s entirely too easy for us to be defeated by our circumstances.

These songs, like my poem, defy the idea that our identity or emotional state need be defined by our disability or disease. They call us to remember that our identity lies not in this life or this temporary trouble, but in the immortal Savior who has redeemed us. Paul, living with disability and chained for his faith called these things “light and momentary troubles” and encourages us to “not lose heart”. He reminds us that nothing in all of creation can separate us from the love of God, even as he reminds us that life is hard and trials will come.

You see, Beloved, Christianity isn’t a promise that life will go smoothly, or that you can pay all your bills on time, or be wealthy beyond imagining, or healthy and hale all the time. Jesus tells us that trials will come, and forgive me for being bold, but anyone who says that they won’t is repeating a lie from hell.

The power in this song, and those like it, isn’t that we praise God for the good thing, it isn’t that we are thanking Him for all the marvelous blessings we have in Him, though both of those things are good and worthy things. The Bible talks about loving people who are good to us, and dismisses this by saying that “even the pagans do this” (note, I mean “non-believers”, and nothing remotely derogatory by it), but instead challenges us to love those who do ill to us.

The power here, the truth that leaves me singing as I sit here in pain in the darkness with my computer set at a huge font just so I can see clearly enough to write, is that my identity is found in my Savior. I am not defined by my pain. I am not defined by my past. I am not defined by my limitations, my illness, my disability, my mistakes, my failings, my ANYTHING. No, Beloved, my identity is that of redeemed, loved, prized, treasured daughter of the creator of the universe. I am the dearly loved and longed for bride of the King of Kings. I am who HE says I am, I am wanted, I am loved, I have value and worth beyond my own estimations.

My identity isn’t temporary, it’s not based on what I do or who I know, it’s not based on what records I hold, what I know, my abilities, or even my disabilities. When you find your identity separate from the temporary things of this world, separate from the sunny days or the dark ones, when you have a promise that everything so far is so light, so minute, so temporary that even cancer and imprisonment can be called “light and momentary troubles” in the face of the glory to come… well, how could you keep from singing?

Beloved, my faith isn’t based on what I’ve done. It isn’t based on my ability to get myself into Heaven. It isn’t based on how smoothly life goes now. My faith is based in the person of God, who provided a way to bring me home to Him through His son, Jesus, and who has sealed me with His own Spirit. Even now, my God is in heaven, singing for joy over me, my Jesus is preparing a place for me, and eagerly awaiting when I take my place at his side as treasured bride. Let life bring what it may. Let me have the worst it has to offer; I’ve survived things that have destroyed others, and even if I don’t survive, I will be with the One who created me, who loved me so much that even before my birth He provided my redemption, who seals me and keeps me for Himself, who even now intervenes and intercedes on my behalf and is waiting to bring His bride to Himself. Bring it, life… because you don’t define me, and I won’t be defeated by temporary things.

You tell me… how can I keep from singing?


Post op

Well, folks, first of all, I apologize for any and all spelling mistakes.

I really shouldn't be on the computer at all, but scrunching to within a foot of the screen, I can see fairly well, which means when the haze heals off, I should be GREAT.

And knowing what to expect this time made the entire process better. This time the first time around, I was in frightened tears that something had gone terribly wrong. Now I know better, and I'm just coasting through.

I'm coasting my way to bed now... have fun, folks!