I give myself back

Last night I watched “The Passion of the Christ” again and just like the first time I saw it, had a visceral response.  Even though it’s a film, it’s hard to watch someone I know be beaten and flogged for my sin.  Each time I hear/read/watch the story, I’m reminded of what He did for me and how badly I’d like to do something, anything in return.  But what do I have?  Today, the day between Good Friday and Easter, seems like the ideal day to reflect on giving back to the Lord for all He’s done for me.

George Macdonald wrote, “The last act of our Lord in thus commending his spirit at the close of his life, was only a summing up of what he had been doing all his life.  He had been offering this sacrifice, the sacrifice of himself” during His entire time on earth.  And, I’m reminded, He didn’t do it because he had to, but because he wanted to, which is why He’s called a Servant King. How does one give back?  What could possibly be good enough?

I’ve recently been frustrated with all the things I can‘t do because of a condition that sidelines me – this year more than most.  But this year, I have begun two new volunteer opportunities.  Guess that’s God’s way of telling me that even with less time, I still have time to give.  And He knows I love it.  It’s probably because I grew up with a volunteering mom.  When I was in 6th grade we spent dozens of hours each Christmas holiday wrapping presents at the mall for our school.  It was so tiring but we loved it.  I remember Wednesdays was the day she volunteered at the hospital and later, a number of other organizations over the years.

I’m not sure how intentional she was in thinking that her time was the Lord’s but I believe that strongly now.  He gave me gifts and inclinations.  He’s shown me that when I use them with people who give me a joy-jolt, it’s super fun.  Recently I read about a man who told the Spirit, “All that I am I hand over to you for you to live in it the life you please…Help yourself to it.”  When I’m volunteering, that’s how I feel.  ‘You gave me the desire to be here, you opened the doors and on top of it all, it feels good.’

Now before anyone writes that I don’t have to perform for Him, I know.  No one can ever accomplish or do enough to earn His love.  But because He loves me, I give my time and talent back to him.  So Happy Easter, Lord.  I give myself back to you this year.

A Buddhist and a Christian walk into a room….

I met a new friend a few years ago who I liked instantly.  I hoped that we would be able to know each other for a long time.   Then she shared that she was a Buddhist.  Oh.  I have no problem with that; it’s just that I’ve never known a Buddhist before.  This was new and it was a good new. We talked openly about things and what was most appealing were these words: “I’m not going to judge you.”   How refreshing!

I know all about judging because I feel like an expert some days.  It’s so hard for us NOT to judge and we do it so sub-consciously that it becomes our default setting.  Granted, some are better at this than others, but I’ve also heard from some amazingly honest people lately about how opinionated they are, how they find it easier to gripe about people than listen to them and they seem to have more fun with friends with they’re criticizing others. Hhmmm….

After thinking about these comments, I prayed about trying a different approach with people:  to assume the best more often, and to not judge but ask about what else might be going on so I can have a more complete picture than the one I knee-jerk guess.  Or, just praying for them. As a Christian, I have prayed for forgiveness many times for my critical spirit and my lack of grace with others.  There’s no excuse when Jesus has been generous to the point of giving His life for me.  But I also know I’m a sinful woman who can look Him full in the face and His mercy covers me anew each day.

And to that end, this morning my Buddhist friend called and left me crying when I hung up.  Not tears of sadness but from a weight of compassion.  She asked the right questions, listened compassionately and understood my vulnerability generously and accepted my honesty graciously.   That kind of love brought me to tears.  I don’t claim to understand a thing about Buddhism; and I have a long way to understanding the complex mysteries of my God and Father, but I know for certain when He brings two women together to bless each other.

So here I am, a committed Christian, wanting to be a little more like my Buddhist friend in her acceptance and openness of people.  It makes me think of others who aren’t Christians but have something about their natures that I want to emulate.  Speaking only for myself and not for Christians at large, I know that I live in a bubble of my own making.  To my shame, I can’t rattle off a list of non-Christian friends.  It’s not because I’ve intentionally avoided them, but because my orbit is a little too small.  I’m working on that – and excited about it.

When we first met, my friend asked me if it would be a problem for me to befriend her and I said No immediately.  For one, I rarely think of her religion and, I also believe God can use anyone and He clearly is using her to bless me.  As we approach Easter, I’m reminded of the new life that He gives us and I’m thankful that sometimes a new turn of heart comes from unlikely places and people.

Can you sum up your life in 6 words?

i can’t help it, I’m always on the prowl.  Magazines, flyers, books, sites, the backs of cereal boxes, for pity’s sakes… you name it, if it has words on it, I want to read it.   I scour, wander, search and I find.  Besides my own edification, I want to find an interesting writing assignments for my students, and to that end,  I stumbled across a book on six-word memoirs.  I tore through it, wishing I could know some of these people who so succinctly summed up and shared their lives in this form.

 

How do you even begin to start when asked to state your life in a mere six words?  Were it me, I could go in a number of different directions.  My health? How about Need replacement body; this one’s broken.  My family? Married kind, gentle, guy; never fight.  Or, Won kid lottery, have three winners.  My career: Best job: teens plus writing, reading.  My hobbies: Chocolate: bake, frost, share, slice, savor.

Here are my favorites:

Optimistic:

Curly haired sad kid chose fun.

Tragic childhood can lead to wisdom.

I live the perfect imperfect life.

Working with what God gave me.

 

Sweet:

Sweet wife, good sons; I’m rich.

Polio gave me a happy life.

We were each other’s favorite person.
There’s an interesting story behind these:

Almost a victim of my family.

Thought I would have more impact.

I fell far from the tree.

It was embarrassing so don’t ask.

 

Funny:

Without me, it is just aweso.

It’s pretty high, you go first.

Overjoyed I’m not like my sister.

Well, I thought it was funny.

Now it’s your turn.  I know I have readers who don’t post a comment but I’d love to see your six-word memoir. If you can sum up your life in six words, please do!

 

 

Does this blind spot make my butt look big?

Watching “What not to wear” can be a cringe-inducing.  Some of these poor women look so terrible and most of the time, they just don’t see it.  My daughter and I watch and mutter, “Oh, honey….”  We feel for them.  They step into the 360 mirror and sometimes see what we see; other times, they think they’re rockin’ their look.  I always tell my daughter, “If I ever look that bad – tell me!!”   This show reveals the literal and figurative blind spots we can all have.  We wear something and think we look great, only to look at ourselves years later and delete the picture.  We say or do or think something and believe we’ve got it goin’ on, only to realize later, that we weren’t as sharp as we’d hoped.

Harper Lee noted the blind spots of some white folks in her community who were quick to assume that all blacks were guilty…even if they hadn’t done anything.  To Kill a Mockingbird also includes a teacher who railed on Hitler’s atrocities while turning a blind eye to those in her town who were treated just as judgmentally and unfairly.  Further underscoring her point, a group of powdered white ladies worked to raise money for “those poor African children who only have one white missionary” telling them the way to live rightly when they themselves live a few miles away from a Negro settlement that could greatly benefit from a group of caring white women who want to be generous with their resources.

It’s so easy to read and teach that book and say, “Look at these people!  Don’t they see?!?”  and not so easy to see my own blind spot I heft around day after day.  We all get in patterns of responding and behaving and as the years tick by,  the pattern continues.  So I wonder, where am I blind and how many others see it clearly?  Many times I’ve prayed, “Lord, let me see this rightly,”  because the frustrating aspect of a blind spot is not realizing when you have one, but wondering how often you operate from one and don’t realize it!

This idea has been percolating for a bit so it’s no coincidence that a recent conversation stirred the mental brew.  A friend shared with me that she’s giving up being judgmental for Lent. This is an area that perhaps she was blind to, maybe not, but she acknowledges (bravely) that it’s probably more obvious to others and she wants to work on it.  I admire that!   And then, while we were talking, I felt gentle nudging. ‘Yes, God I hear you talking to me.’   Maybe instead of giving up coffee or chocolate or soda for Lent, I should give up an intangible…something that God will reveal to me as a blind spot.

I KNOW I have stuff to work on.  The questions are: How obvious is it? And, are my friends and family too kind to point it out?  To the first – I hope not too much! and to the second, probably!  Simply put, it’s easier not to see some things about ourselves and I admire those who take a hard look and say, ‘that needs to change.’  So that’s my goal: seeking an improvement in something about which I am totally unaware.   Sounds almost impossible, but when we walk with God and He makes us more like Him every day, we can trust we’re in good hands.