Fathers Day 2017- Another First

Father’s day is such a bittersweet day this year. It’s going to be another “first” without my sweet daddy. I know in heaven he is receiving the greatest gifts. No more pain. Jesus. Grandpa and grandma. My unborn grandbaby. He may even have a lot of work to do for the Kingdom of God. There are so many unknowns about heaven. I can sit here and dream about it all day, creating scenarios and possibilities. I believe they are endless.

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Instead, I will honor my sweet daddy and the life he lived. He wasn’t a complicated man as far as I can tell. He was quite the opposite. He wanted things to make sense. He wanted them to be logically thought out and endlessly pursued.  He loved with every fiber of his being. His hands were calloused from working so hard, yet they were soft and gentle enough to love on our babies. He liked simplicity.

Daddy didn’t want things for himself. He wanted everything for us and mom. I remember him living sacrificially. He lived by example and we needed it! He wasn’t perfect. He had his flaws (shocking I know!) But they were a part of him, and so was Jesus.  He wanted nothing more than for his tribe to understand and comprehend the love God has for us as much as he did.

 

Dad taught me to pray without ceasing- I mean 24 hours a day. He taught me that things aren’t always as they seem. He showed me to look for the light in the darkest situations. He wanted to instill an optimistic view on the world around him.

He was an amazing influence in his career. He taught at the same place his entire time teaching! He worked with kids with needs which far surpass what the public school can offer. These kids come to the program for survival. Some of them have been bullied, traumatized, rejected and abused. Some are overwhelmed with the life they were born into. He loved them all, unconditionally, without regret.

I have been told he was amazing at his job and how he related to the classroom. His peers respected him and listened to him. He fought for things when no one else would fight, and he honored his promises.

Sweet daddy was retired for two hours and fifteen minutes when he passed. The moment he left us was surreal, and I know he saw Jesus. I celebrate that holy time I spent with him as he was ushered on wings of angels into heaven, right where he belonged. It was a blessing for my immediate family to witness such a moment.

I hope he got answers to all his questions! This was a big topic we discussed around a lot of campfires. If you had one thing you really needed to know, what would you ask Jesus?  Did unicorns miss the ark? Did Lots wife blow away in the wind? What did Jesus write in the dirt when he spoke to the Pharisees about the adulteress? Who is “the Psalmist”? And the big one, did I fulfill my purpose on earth as you wanted?

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The grief from missing him has been positively overwhelming some days. It’s not the selfish kind of grief I had at first or even the heartache. It’s his absence in my everyday life. My mom hasn’t shut his phone off yet. I call it to hear his voice on voicemail somedays. It makes me tear up, but it also makes me smile.

Happy Father’s Day Daddy.

I miss your Saturday morning pancakes.

All of heaven is yours and I know you earned it.

Unexpected Adult Things: Jesus was Bullied, too

In his adult life, Jesus was consistently and sometimes ruthlessly bullied.
He was not only accused of being a liar but an enemy of the current government. He was pushed around. Men of stature used their position to belittle him and question his motives. He was chastised for choosing to spend time with those deemed unworthy.  He was challenged to prove his origin. He was put on the spot countless times for defending those who could not defend themselves. At times, even his most trusted confidants worried about their affiliation with him.

Jesus spent his ministry dealing with issues which are still common today.

Jesus was portrayed as a dangerous individual. Some individuals in power were afraid of this man and all he was doing. His power to heal was inarguable. His authority over death was fascinating. His ability to make unclean people shine was unnerving. They thought they were manipulating the crowd when Barabbas was freed in exchange for Jesus. They played on the emotions of the weak and powerless to end the reign of this “king” they were so afraid of.

The authorities assumed once he was crucified in front of the masses, his followers would come to their senses and turn back to their old lives again. They would get their tax collectors, fisherman, and carpenters back. Their ways of ruthless governing would not be questioned. The show of force to get rid of a heretic; an example of what happens when the government is challenged. Finally, the entire scene would be deleted and he would be but a memory.

Only.

There was much wailing as he hung on that cross.

That hill was covered in his blood.

The soldiers were uncertain.

The thieves on either side represented both the redeemed and condemned.

He whispered to the Father, in the still of a moment- “It is finished.” And it was.

The sky turned black.

Even the sun hid its face.

The cracking of rock could be heard as an earthquake tore imperative things in two.

The officials must have wondered what was happening.

Then, silence.

Mourning began.

His mother and friends retrieved his body.

He was properly prepared and buried.

They wept for three days and three nights.

The men who bullied Jesus thought they had washed their hands of him. They were certain things would now return to normal. They took to the task of rounding up the followers. They had a plan for normalcy which was based on control.

Then the announcement.

The grave where he once laid was empty. While everyone focused on finding a body and how that stone could be moved, one thing was crystal clear.  He was redeemed.

His message was redeemed. His love poured out. His truth exposed for being exactly what he said it was.

I am sure there was disappointment in the minds of those leaders who were so adamant about “getting on with life’ after his death. I am positive they would eventually understand why he was in their midst in the first place. And I am sure they realize how foolish it was to bully him and everyone else to their way of doing things. They may have found out upon their deaths, but I am sure they know now. I hope they came to their senses and were redeemed.

 

 

Unexpected Adult Things: How Did I Become the Aggressor?

Occasionally in moments of despair, we don’t know what to do with our emotion. There can be times when everything feels so out of control, we will do strange things to feel normal or in control. This is sometimes how an aggressor evolves from nowhere. Except,  nowhere is a place which doesn’t exist. Everything comes from somewhere.  Today, my friend Shelby shares her testimony with falling into the trap of rolling our emotions into something we aren’t expecting.

 

 

I found myself squinting as the sun cast a glare off her shiny lime green raincoat. She wore it daily, but today, I couldn’t take my eyes off of it. The day before I watched her take it off, only to hurl it at another girl’s face. She pretended her intentions were to throw it on the bleachers. Everyone knew it was on purpose.

 

Her victim? She played along as if it was an accident. The two girls were ex-best friends, something everyone else knew too. The bully was filtering through a lot of ex-best friends. What did the poor victim do to deserve the arm of a lime green raincoat slapped across her face? Nothing, probably. Just an easy target.

 

The bully liked those; easy targets. I remember her in 7th grade English class. She and a few other troublemakers made it feel as if we were animals locked inside cages at a zoo. Those troublemakers roared as lions and trampled over lesson plans like elephants as the Zookeeper attempted to teach the others. The Zookeeper once sheepishly admitted her sheltered upbringing; she spent nights reading dictionaries in her room, raised by her grandparents. Talk about an easy target.

 

The troublemakers prowled about the classroom cage and made sure to blare their voices louder than the Zookeeper’s. It dragged on for weeks. Poor Anne Frank, her story never had a chance. The troublemakers wouldn’t allow such depth to enter into our caged conversation. It probably opened the door to pain.

 

Then one day the Zookeeper finally had enough. She could’ve sent out tranquilizing shots landing the wild animals in the principal’s office, but instead she broke. How could one sheltered woman stand up against the ferocious wild?

 

That same day, the bully passed the Zookeeper as she prowled down the safari sidewalk. She glanced over only to see the Zookeeper sobbing on the shoulder of another cage caretaker trying to offer comfort. The bully knew she was responsible for the Zookeeper’s tears, she strolled by with the confidence of a lion, knowing she was merely a frightened kitten inside.

 

That bully was me. I was a frightened child, full of hurt and rage with nowhere to point it. Who was to blame? Who had broken my home? Who told me the answer was to take a stance with fists raised, instead of hit my knees with hands of praise?

 

No one.

 

She was a scared little girl left to her own devices. The world taught her to raise her fists with a loud voice and send her attackers cowering away like field mice. And she would kill off every assailant before they got close enough to even smell her fear.

 

As life went on, I became a fearful teenager, and then a broken young adult. Until one day, God’s love broke through. He sent his word, healed me and delivered me from my destructions, Psalm 107:20. There’s not a person on the planet who could’ve done what he did; Momma tried. Her love helped, but God healed. Once I was healed, I could fully love. There’s not a bully or victim on this Earth that’s equipped to deal with our broken world on their own. We were made for relationship, community, and love.

 

I’m still learning to love; learning to love others more than myself, learning to choose kindness over offense. I’m learning to choose love every day.

 

If there’s a bully or victim in your life, will you choose love? Show them Jesus. As my pastor says, “You might be the only bible they ever read.”

 

Hosea 14:4 (KJV) I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.

 

Song of Solomon 2:4 (KJV) He brought me to the banqueting house, and his banner over me was love.

Unexpected Adult Things: The Time I Surprised Even Myself

When I got married and we started having kids, I was careful to assess regularly how my children treated others. I wanted to make sure we didn’t raise any bullies. I wanted to make sure my children never made others feel the way I had been made to feel occasionally during my childhood.

When my daughter was mistreated by some friends for not going along with the crowd, I felt those feelings from middle school starting to rise up from the pit of wherever they had been packed away. The anxiety was real, my teachable moment for my daughter heartbreaking.  In the aftermath I was left exhausted, worried and afraid. I couldn’t figure out where that stuff had been hiding all those years, and I let my imagination run wild.

There is always a person who thinks they must have control over others.

This person will skip from family to family, making demands about things others never even think about. It doesn’t matter where you go, if you are sharing any type of space with them, you will be sure to have some kind of unwanted connection. Their manipulation is extreme, making each moment of contact victimizing. When it happened to me, I surprised even myself.

 

Just like when I was thirteen, I felt the anxiety start to rise up within me. I felt the burning in my throat and the hot tears filling my eyes as I tried to process the negative comments and sometimes threatening demeanor. I had already hung up the phone mid-sentence. Now I was ignoring a barrage of text messages sent to intimidate and upset me and those around me. The choice I made next was everything. I considered lashing out, giving this person what they “deserved.” But, I didn’t understand what was behind the aggression in the first place. So, I made a different choice.

I chose not to respond because this person hadn’t earned my time.

None of our family members deserved the aftermath a war of words would surely spark. There was no reason to continue a fight for power over something that didn’t exist. I had wasted enough time being upset, worried and anxious. I wasn’t going to give him anything more.

Regardless of how old my kids are, they deserve to have the full attention of their mother, not a distracted hot mess due to someone else’s social ignorance. They need to know the adults they depend on to be examples to them are- well- adult like when it is absolutely necessary and take the proverbial high road. They need to know at the end of the day, I would never expect them to cave into a bully, and neither will I.

I used to think standing up to a bully meant turning around and giving them a taste of their own medicine. I used to think the only way to stop someone from being an antagonist in your life was to tell them off, or to make them accountable in a public setting. I still think there are occasions when this works.  Unfortunately, some people only respond to or learn from a dose of their own behavior, turned back on them. But for now, I take the high road, handing my anxiety over to the one who can handle it. I have found through experience, silence and walking away non-reactive has been the best course of action.

And something else.Always keep them guessing.

Always keep them guessing.

Unexpected Adult Things: The Adult Aggressor

It occurs to me there are some things we never outgrow from our childhood.

For some, it is the reaction we have to others. Our insecurities never completely go away. We are sometimes surprised by the natural responses we feared when we were younger.  Those feelings creep up and before we know it, we are right back to our twelve-year-old self.

For others, it is the actions we take to get a reaction from other people. The need for some type of control over our environment or our fear of looking weak to our peers drives some to be intimidating. It makes us feel empowered for a moment.

Both perspectives are things some of us would rather have left behind.

We don’t all live in our childhood neighborhoods. If we do, it isn’t filled with the same exact people from twenty plus years ago. We have new friends, new family members and we belong somewhere. Whether it’s our church, our kids’ activities or our community in general, we come into constant contact with other adults.

Once in a while, there will be some jerk who never grew out of the antics he possessed in junior high school.

The possibilities for him (or her) to evoke havoc on our lives are very real, and the anxiety we are left with is almost traumatic.  It is a catch twenty-two because even though we want to avoid, the jerk is always going to be there because this is the community we both live in. He makes it feel as if it’s not big enough for all of us. His constant badgering of people around him leaves us feeling bullied and anxious.

There, I said it.

The jerk is nothing but a bully. He is looking for control

It sounds so basic, so simple an explanation. He is looking for control in an area of life where he has no place. These things can come about for a variety of reasons, but boil down to one fact- sometimes a person never grows up.

When a community catches on to the pattern of issues, how should it respond?

The majority of people just want it to go away. We choose to live in communities where we can “do our thing” without the constant drama others interject. Standing up to an adult bully is not an easy task, and a lot of people do it alone. Many will agree something needs to be done for resolution, but few will commit to the task of doing the right thing.

Just like in John 8:1-11, the locals did not try to interject in the stoning- or the not stoning- of the adulteress. They were just resigned to go along with whatever decision thePhariseess came to. First, it was “She’s guilty, stone her”, then it was ” they all dropped their stones and walked away one by one”.  It only took one man, Jesus, to make the decision. It only took one comment from him,

There are solutions to this problem which are both effective and immediate. Join me next time when I share my personal story, and how I surprised even myself.