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A Crisis of Faith

This has been a rough month.

There is a person in our lives who has rejected the measures of help we’ve offered, but who feels very entitled to what he thinks would help him (basically enablement without any accountability). He recently decided to make us pay for destroying his life. He came to our house while we were out, and smashed in 3 of our windows and our front door.  He was arrested later that night, and then released with conditions until his court appearance. He breached those conditions by threatening to come back and do more damage, so he was arrested again, and held in custody until his court date. Last week, he was released on probation.

I can’t give many more details than that, as I’m unsure of what is yet to come regarding court dates and charges. But I wanted to set the scene for you. This is a person whom we welcomed into our lives because of our faith. This person deeply resents the boundaries that we’ve put on the kinds of “help” we’re willing to give him (see above re: entitlement, enablement, and accountability). This resentment has grown into a violent hatred towards us, which has been expressed numerous times in the ways he has verbally attacked us, made accusations against our Christianity, and now physically attacked the safety of our home.

And he is free. And he is still angry. And we are not safe.

We have taken some security measures: motion-detecting lights and security cameras. Our conversations about ‘what to do’ have included the ideas of restraining orders, moving, getting a guard dog. We have been very communicative with the police, the court, victim services, and his probation officer. But none of these things, we realize, are realistic protection. The court did not rule in the way that we had hoped and prayed for, and now there is nothing stopping him from coming back.

And so, we come back to the faith that brought him into our lives in the first place.

We have to put our faith in Almighty God. It is a daily choice to focus on His capability. We adamantly cling to His promise to turn evil plans into His good purpose.  We resist the urge to live in fear, knowing full well that He might still allow another attack, but we stand firm in the assurance that He will also carry us through whatever evil may still come our way.

This is not easy. It has made me analyze my beliefs. There’s that old saying, “Faith isn’t faith until it’s all you’re holding onto” – you may have seen those words on a poster, probably accompanied by a picture of a kitten dangling from a tree branch with one paw. It’s a stupid poster, and the words are cliché to the point of being nauseating. Oh, but the truth therein! Passive faith is just empty religion. A vague belief in the existence of God serves us nothing. Trust is easy when life is good. Faith becomes real when it’s all we’ve got.

lovewinsMy faith is work right now. But it’s refreshing work (even while it’s exhausting). As a reminder to myself (and to everyone who drives by our house), I painted one of the boarded up windows. Love wins. Not our own love (which is broken and insufficient and clearly more “conditional” than we want to admit), but HIS love. His love compelled Him to step into the midst of our mess – our brokenness, our neediness, our entitlement, our anger. His love brings healing and restoration. His love is the only security worth trusting.

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Posted by on December 20, 2016 in Adoption, Beauty, Family, God, Uncategorized

 

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So Messed Up

“What is the most broken and messed up thing in the world?” This conversation-starter was posted on Facebook today, and the answers have kept me interested all afternoon. Poverty, sexual abuse against women and children, the inaccessibility of plentiful resources like food and clean water, greed for power and money, the value of money outweighing the value of human life, the pandemic of broken families, terrorism.

I can’t argue against any of those. Nor can I argue that one is more messed up than the rest.

The answer I would contribute is that the sacredness of sexual purity is broken. That’s almost the same answer as sexual abuse, but it’s broader than that. Abuse happens because individuals lose (or never had) a sense of the sacredness of sexuality, and their selfishness drives them to inflict their perversion on other people. That trajectory is manifested in so many ways: pornography and child pornography, prostitution and sex slavery, adultery, rape and other forms of assault… The list goes on and on, and I believe it all stems from purity not being cherished and protected.

So much brokenness. It is so heavy. And it is so close. There’s no point in deluding ourselves into thinking the mess doesn’t touch our own yard. It’s here. It’s everywhere. And it sucks.

My heart is often heavy in prayer for broken loved ones. Abusive relationships, devastating illnesses, financial blows that keep on coming. I pray for them and I pray with them. And then, so often it feels like the next wave of trauma just sweeps right over us all. And sometimes bitterness creeps into my prayers. “Really, God? This is what You thought was a good answer? Because this is kind of the exact opposite of what we were praying for.” Sometimes I’m tempted to decline praying for someone lest they be sucked into the vortex of my run of bad “luck”.

The last couple of weeks have been especially overwhelming, with waves coming from every direction. Talking about brokenness on Facebook is too heavy, too close.

But it is timely.

As Easter approaches, I think it is worthwhile to consider the brokenness. The loss. The seemingly unmet expectations of our prayers and hopes. I’m sure that’s how Christ’s followers felt 2000 years ago as they watched Jesus being arrested, tossed back and forth between governing bodies in a sham of a trial, beaten and then condemned. Hour by hour, they must have felt like “This is as bad as it can get. He’s going to show Himself strong any moment now. He’s about to do the big miracle that we’ve been waiting for.” And then, no. Crucified.

The brokenness and the desperation of such loss – it’s unbearable. Where is the hope when it feels like God is playing a sick joke? How can we continue to cry out to Him for help when we can see how He’s answered all our prayers leading up to this point? How do we trust Him when it looks like He failed?

The answer lies in Sunday morning.  We find our hope in the resurrection, the triumph over death. We cling to that reality from centuries past, but it is also a picture of a coming final victory. The mess will be eradicated, the brokenness will be fully healed.

Today, we wait in the pause of Saturday, wallowing in brokenness and pain. We may question the purpose of the pause: why is He waiting? But let us not give up entirely. He is big enough to handle our doubts and bitterness and even accusations. He is patient enough to wait out our tears. He is purposeful enough to make use of the pause. And He is already victorious in the coming dawn.

Sunday is almost here.

 
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Posted by on March 22, 2016 in God, Personal Growth

 

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Weedemption!

I have just finished my annual weeding of the flower gardens.

Good-bye, dandelions, twitch-grass, and a bunch of other little green sprouts that are probably things I paid money for last year but I now have no recollection of planting.

And to the perennials who really gave it a good shot in this, the garden where flowers come to die, I bid you farewell as I heave your sad, crusty carcasses into the weed pile. I’m sorry your efforts were all for naught.

To the hearty few, the strongest of the strong, who have survived by stubbornly defying death year after year, I greet with a maniacal smile as I lop off your dead ends and dare you to bloom once again.

Yes, this sums up my gardening skills. A couple of hours and that about does it for me. Maybe one day in the next few weeks I’ll randomly plop a few annuals in here and there, thus completing my signature gardening strategy for the summer.

I should probably be embarrassed. But I’m not. Except when my mother-in-law visits. She can plant a rock and make it burst into glorious bloom. And her growing season – yes, even in Canada – extends from early March to late November. Her gardens are spectacular. Seriously, she could charge admission to her yard. But that is not my point.

My point is that my gardens suck grub guts and I know it’s because of my intermittent (at best) attention. I like the idea of having a beautiful garden. I have great appreciation for beautiful gardens. I am in awe of people who are able to plan ahead so that they have different things in bloom all through the spring, summer and fall. But when it comes to actually doing the work for myself…meh. I’m willing to have the trashy yard that makes my neighbours look all that more accomplished.

And there you have a brilliant (if not completely original) analogy for our spiritual lives.

I am 36 years old. I have had a relationship with Jesus for almost 33 years. After all that time of loving Him, reading the Bible, going to church, I should be a lot better than I am now. I should know more of the Bible. I should be more like God. I should be more loving and merciful and generous and patient already!

I know there are a lot of people out there who didn’t come to know God until much later in life. And there are a lot of people who knew God, but then went through years of not following Him. I don’t have those excuses. I started early and I never had a rebellious period of sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll. (Although, if you ask my parents, they probably had serious doubts when I started falling for this lanky guy who had a mullet and Jimi Hendrix t-shirts and his own car. They surely thought his only purpose in life was to boost me into my handbasket. Yeah, he turned out to be pure evil. Good thing I didn’t marry him. Ahem.)

So, 33 years of following Jesus with no major rebellious phases (my development of an appreciation for classic rock and blues notwithstanding) and here I am. Not perfect. What’s with that?

Oh yes, I know what’s with that. Perhaps the lack of attention. Kind of like my garden. Why do I sometimes let myself think that a good burst of spiritual weeding will keep me holy for a long time? Why do I get fertilized on Sundays and then not bother to water throughout the week? (That is not a commentary on the quality of preaching at our church. I love the preaching at our church!)

I cannot just admire the beautiful, productive spiritual lives of my neighbours. If I want my life to look like that, I have to put in the work. Sometimes it’s hard. Sometimes I’m tired or distracted. Sometimes (dare I say it?) there are parts of the Bible that are really boring. But I want to be more like Jesus. More than anything else in the world, I want to be like Jesus.

So here I am, putting it out there on the world wide web. Go ahead and ask me anytime how I’m doing and what I’m learning. If I don’t have a decent answer for you, you can make me eat a worm.

 
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Posted by on May 11, 2012 in God, Humour, Personal Growth

 

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Beauty vs. Uggo

If you know me personally and see me regularly, maybe you shouldn’t read this post. If you do read it, you’d better not do anything weird the next time you see me. Don’t look at me more closely, don’t analyze my hair or make-up, and if you dare try to give me some lame, esteem-boosting compliment that sounds even the slightest bit fake to me, I will hurt you. I am fast, flexible and strong and I can kick you in the head. Don’t test me.

Okay. Brace yourself. I’m about to let you inside my head.

I am not one of the Beautiful People. I presume I’m not frighteningly hideous, but there are occasionally days when I’m sure people are thinking, “Get back into hiding, Quasimodo. The public is not ready for you!”

Next layer: I live in this paradoxical reality of loving being on-stage, but wishing I was invisible when I’m up there. I really and truly aim for invisibility. I know I’m in no danger of distracting the audience with my radiant beauty, but nor do I want to be a distraction at the opposite end of that spectrum. So I pick clothes that won’t stand out too much and make-up that is subtle enough so people won’t think, “Who is she kidding?”

I am 36 years old and I have basically spent 36 years wishing I was prettier. That sounds so stupidly vain and egocentric and pitiful and cliché. Everyone knows that women feel this way. Everyone knows that we all have features that we wish were smaller/bigger/straighter/fuller/curvier/firmer/perkier/cuter/brighter etc. We know it, and yet we still process it through a filter that tells us everyone else is fine the way they are but we truly deserve the self-incrimination. We see the Beautiful People around us complaining about their big nose or flabby thighs or asymmetrical eyebrows and we think it’s false humility or compliment-fishing. Or they’re somehow trying to make us uggos feel better about our own blatant shortcomings. Hearing Jennifer Lopez or Kate Hudson or Emma Watson discuss their “flaws” does not make us go through the following mental process: “They are beautiful but they think they are ugly, therefore I must be beautiful even though I think I’m ugly.” No, it makes us roll our eyes. And possibly break into a rousing rendition of “Cry Me A River”.

I am only just starting to realize that when we say things like “every woman feels this way”, it actually does include the Beautiful People. A friend of mine, who is one of the Beautiful People, recently said something about feeling ugly one day and I was completely dumbfounded. What the what? She feels ugly?!?! What is she thinking? How can that be?

And then there was Kevin Costner’s speech at Whitney Houston’s funeral. He talked about how Whitney spent her whole life being afraid that she wasn’t good enough…wasn’t pretty enough. Even when he was trying to convince her to co-star with him in “The Bodyguard”, she was terrified of doing the screen-test. She completely botched her first attempt by piling on too much make-up, which melted right off her face as soon as she stepped into the stage light. Fortunately, they gave her a second chance, and the rest, of course, is history.

Whitney Houston was obviously one of the Beautiful People. And yet, SHE looked in the mirror and seriously didn’t see that? How can that be?

Maybe, just MAYBE, I need to make myself go through this mental process: “They are beautiful but they think they are ugly, therefore I might be beautiful even though I think I’m ugly.” I don’t know if I can do it. I’m quite sure I won’t believe myself.

But here’s what I can do. I can tell my daughters that they’re beautiful. I can tell my nieces that they’re beautiful. I can tell my daughters’ friends and my friends’ daughters that they’re beautiful. And if I tell them often, maybe they will start to believe it.

And that is why I’ve summoned the gumption to post this. Not because I want a flurry of compliments. (Seriously. My foot + your head.) The idea of sounding so needy and putting it on The Internet makes me throw up in my mouth (which is sad because I just had a fabulous Viet Thai lunch date with my husband). I’m writing so that one of two things might happen: A. You will recognize your own thoughts in what you’re reading and you will know you’re normal and you’re prettier than you think you are. Or B. Everything I’m writing sounds completely illogical and bizarre to you (which means you’re probably a man) but now you understand what most women think of themselves and you can go and tell your wife/daughter/granddaughter/sister/friend that she’s beautiful. She may not believe you (despite her thankful response) so tell her again.

And again.

And again.

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2012 in Beauty, Personal Growth

 

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