Who’s More Mature-You or Kids?

I do wonder at times who is more mature, me or my kids. I’m not speaking of physical maturity or even emotional maturity. No. But I am speaking of spiritual maturity. Seriously, I wonder. Even in the order of the world as we are full on into this political season in the States, I wonder if perhaps my kids have a far better perspective than I do. I wonder how much of the world do we take on the older we get. My kids, when they were younger (or even now a days), were completely fearless. Part of it may be naivety or ignorance of the height of the bridge or tree, or the huge mean animal.But they were fearless nonetheless. As time has gone on, they have become more fearful.

Or take their outlook on the different races in our society. They didn’t see color, they simply saw people. Everyone was different, of course, but color wasn’t a descriptor. Or look at wealth. Maybe the other family had a nicer car or more toys, but it wasn’t noticed by my kids. They were simply other people who had different stuff than we did.

The older they have gotten, the more difference they have begun to notice. In some cases it was a celebratory “oh there’s so much diversity” as in new things to learn. But in other cases, unfortunately, there has been the “I wish we were like them” or “what’s wrong with them” mentality that has infiltrated their innocence. The latter two make me sad, and at times frustrates me. Future post topic, I suppose….

Anyhow, back to spiritual maturity.

Iris and I pray with the kids every night. For the most part, it’s pretty normal, standard prayers-keep us safe, give us a good night’s rest, sweet dreams, good day tomorrow, etc. But one of our kids prays the most sincere, honest, from the heart, raw prayers every single night.

 Dear God, thank you for joy, faith, hope, laughter, love, peace in our hearts and all those things you’ve given us. I pray tomorrow is better than today and that we can laugh more and have more peace. Give us more money so we can buy the things we need and help other people that need stuff. Give us a good night. Amen.

There’s also this one….

Dear God, Thank you for all the things you’ve given us. Thank you for all the things you will give us. Let all the things you will give us be good to us. Let all the things you’ve given us be in your hands, let all the things you will give us be in your hands, and let us always be in your hands. Amen.

Now, before you think I’m just bragging about my kids, I’m not. My kids are not the only ones I’ve experienced this with. But, I have obviously spent the mos time with mine. I often will listen to their prayers and think how incredibly simple and true they are. And then I think how complex I have made my life. How complex I’ve made my prayers. How complex I’ve made my relationships with others and most importantly with God. I know there are other factors involved, people involved, adult life things that happen that we have to also work through and engage with. But children tend to look through all of that and see God there. “Of course we should be thankful; Or course He give us joy; Of course everything is from Him.”

So, nothing earth shattering here. Nothing incredible. I just find myself, often, wondering what I can learn from these little people living in my house. What am I missing out on that they get and are a part of? What part of God does my adult mind full of all the distractions of life, not see? Maybe you’re wondering the same thing. Perhaps, we need to spend a little more time simply looking at life from their perspective. And perhaps, one of the best things we can do, is simply spend time with them just listening to their conversations with the Father of Heavenly Lights. What a different place this might be if we lived more like them.

When was the last time you though like a child? How would your world change if you began to think with a child’s perspective on God? If you have though this way before, how did it change your view of God’s presence?

be blessed today

 

 

 Photo Credity: http://true-hw.com/blog/2014/06
Advertisements

What Does Being Honest Mean?

I ran from God for a while. I was angry at my parents, at God, at other people. That was middle school to early high school. My sophomore year hit and I got to a point where realized the only person I was really angry at was me. I was selfish. I was self focused, and that caused a rift in my relationships. My desire to live a life that modeled helping others began to grow, but there was still a fear that God would punish me for being angry at him.

I would pray in bed at night, and as if some small way to appease a wrathful Creator, I would go through this small little saying of “goodnight, good morning, good afternoon God.” Trying to win His favor with some humor. If He is omnipresent, then I would need to say all three of those greetings, right? Unfortunately, this fear of His wrath was always with me. I could never just be me in a prayer or conversation with Him. I had to put on some kind of show, character or act in a way as to not make Him more mad.

Screwed up, I know, but it was what it was. As I began to grow in my faith and knowledge of Him, the more I began to see that there is a raw honesty in the Bible. Even at looking at other historical texts not in the Bible, but pointing to Him, there is an honesty that is stripped of niceties. From Song of Solomon to David almost cursing God at times, there is nothing more raw.

“Praying wasn’t being nice before God….The psalms aren’t pretty, they’re not nice… but it’s honest.”-Eugene Peterson

Bono, the lead singer for U2, and Eugene Peterson, recently got together at Peterson’s home to talk about faith and life. It’s 20 minutes, but this clip is definitely worth watching as these two creative minds who love Jesus are simply being honest. I’m sure I’ll refer more to this video in the future, but there was comment in particular that spoke to me.

Peterson states, “Praying wasn’t being nice before God….The psalms aren’t pretty, they’re not nice… but it’s honest.” There was an honesty, a breaking down of any desire to save face or put up a front. The honesty that David had to question God’s motives and actions. The honesty that David had to dance before his troops out of pure joy. An honesty in the prayers of Jesus pleading with God for another way for man to be saved. An honesty in Moses telling God of how useless he was and how he didn’t want to do what God was asking of him.

As I continue down this road, I am continually reminded how God desires honesty with Him. If he does really know all, well, He kind of knows what we’re thinking already. So, why not be honest with Him? With ourselves? That “hustle” I keep talking about, that fear that motivates us to try and make ourselves look better than others, that drives us to wear so many masks to save face, that hustle keeps us from being honest with ourselves. If we aren’t honest with ourselves, to the depths of even our darkest secrets, then how can we ever expect to experience the depths of God’s love? Love deep enough to cover us and bring peace even to those deep dark places we try to coverup?

The answer is we can’t. The more honest we are with ourselves and with God, the more understanding we have of His love. Some days I wish there was an end, an ultimate point we come to where we can say, “ok, that’s all of His love..we now know the end,” simply so I could know how deep it goes. But, then I’m reminded again of how limitless it is, and how grateful I am for it. The only way to gain greater depth of His love is to be honest. Stop pretending, stop hustling, stop putting up walls, and finally be you.

And enjoy living in your new freedom.

be blessed

 

 

Photo Credit: https://www.verywell.com/how-to-tell-if-someone-is-lying-2795917

 

Do You Have The Courage For Empathy?

There have been several times where I’ve had no words. There are some people who might find that hard to believe about me (I tend to talk a lot), but it’s true. At times I have been known to hustle-try to make myself look better in others eyes by providing some sort of “wisdom” or “advice.” But what it amounted to was me simply floating, fading, smoke filled words to build my ego, or at least save face.

There’s been a series of ads run in the U.S. from a help line for those who are dealing with family members struggling with substance abuse. The commercials usually have two people chatting, one obviously upset about something and the other simply there. The person struggling reveals that their child has a drug problem and then the other person doesn’t know what to say. Or perhaps worse, says something very similar to what I mentioned I do above. The commercials premise is great, helping people help their family members by giving them tools and resources.  But, it seems to be lumping two  very important things together that should never be linked.  Empathy and Sympathy.

I used to hand out sympathy left and right to people. To me, sympathy was pity. Sympathy can also mean having compassion, but often times to show someone sympathy is to show them pity. To say that they are lesser than, weaker than, worse off than myself or yourself, that’s pity. Knowing that I love Jesus and Jesus loves me, I walked around with some sort of arrogant pride in the love Christ has for me, and therefore had pity on other people. Perhaps it was simply my Western, White, American mind that had pity on those who had less than me. Perhaps that is why I still struggle with it. Perhaps, but that’s for another post.

To have pity on someone, only, is to simply put yourself above them. To have pity, only, is to feel bad because they feel bad. That isn’t compassion, that is co-dependency. Jesus showed compassion to others around Him. He wept because He was so overcome with compassion. Even God showed compassion on Jonah in the midst of Jonah’s judgemental pity on Ninevah, by letting a giant weed grow to provide Jonah shade from the hot sun. Jobs friends, on the other hand, had nothing to offer. They didn’t really seem to listen to Job. They simply handed out their advice and in the end, said it was all Jobs’ fault. Not only was this not true, it also wasn’t compassion. It was pity.

Having empathy is something a bit different. Empathy is trying to relate to another person, tying to see what is going on from their perspective, trying to have an idea of what they are going through. I wrote about my daughter last week, grieving saying goodbye to her school and friends she may never see again. I had compassion because she was really hurting. And I also had empathy because I have had to say goodbye to people I knew, not knowing if I would ever see them again. I had to be real, honest and vulnerable with myself in my emotions in saying goodbye to those I knew and loved in order for me to relate and have compassion for my daughter. And I had to dig deep into myself to find the same feeling that she was having.

My sister in law passed away unexpectedly three years ago. Iris was in the middle of grief and mourning. So was I. But, understandably so, Iris’ grief was far deeper than mine. This was her older sister. She shared a room with her growing up. She learned from her, watched her, and spent most of her life with her up until she met me. I had lost all four of my grandparents years ago, and that was a time of grieving for me. But I was young, and both of my siblings are still alive. So, I didn’t know how to relate or even understand what Iris was going through.I hadn’t had that experience. So, what was the only option? Sympathy?

Sympathy as compassion, yes. But not pity. Her walking down this road was also the beginning of my journey of understanding what I was feeling and allowing myself to feel. Thankfully, I was able to lean into my support system of friends, coaches, spiritual directors and others. God began a work in me to become more in touch with my feelings, why I was feeling them and what they were. This also came about from starting down the road of recovery. Sitting in meetings, talking with people and hearing their stories allowed me to dig deep and find those same feelings from past experiences in my own life. What I learned was that simply listening to her, acknowledging what she was feeling and honestly saying I had no idea what to say, was the most empathetic response I could have given. And she was thankful for me sitting in the midst of the darkness with her.

But digging deep, just like loving, is a process that brings about pain. Empathizing with someone going through a hard situation means you are tapping into the same feelings you had after going through a painful situation. We don’t like pain, because, well, it’s pain. It hurts. But when we have the courage to dig deep, be vulnerable and honest with ourselves and tap into those feelings, the joy of building relationship comes through. Empathy and compassion build relationship. Sympathy in the form of pity drives wedges between people. It holds others at an arms distance because we are too afraid to dig deep into ourselves to find those same feelings.

Empathy does not only come in hard times, but also in joyful times. Empathizing with someone when they are joyful of a pregnancy, marriage or promotion can also happen even if we have never experienced those exact things. But again, it comes with digging deep and being honest with ourselves. And even those times of joy can come om pain.

Jesus empathized and showed compassion. Though He was the most courageous of all, my prayer is that we strive for the same courage of our Savior.

Be Courageous. Be honest. Dig deep.

be blessed

 

Photo Credit: http://weheartit.com/entry/13536737

Do You Know How to Love Fiercely?

To love is to lose it all. To love is to willingly accept pain.

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.    -C.S. Lewis

Our only daughter finished up her kindergarten career this past Tuesday. The school she attended was entirely in Mongolian, made up of mostly Mongolian kids, a few Korean children and her. There was only one other classmate that spoke English and that’s because her parents spent considerable time in the States studying. She had her final concert performance the week before and did simply awesome. But now it was Tuesday, her final day. Because it wasn’t a state run kindergarten, most of the kids will move on to other schools. But not hers. No one from her kindergarten will be attending her new school in the Fall.

As we walked out the door of her school, the contents of her locker and all remaining art work of hers in tow, the sobs from this little six yer old began to take over. We hopped into the car, she got buckled, and we began to drive out of the parking lot onto the main road. Her sobs became louder, her tears bigger as grief began to set in. Mourning this time in her life and all the friends she will miss and probably never see again, was where she was. She was fully engaged in it. She was fully embracing her losses. As Iris puts it, our little girl loves fierce. But with such fierce love comes a just as fierce pain of loss. She is six and thankfully she hasn’t learned defense mechanisms that hold her back from embracing such grief. At least I think she hasn’t learned them. Perhaps she has chosen to embrace the grief  instead of putting up walls, putting p her defenses or  running. Perhaps that is the case which makes her far more mature than I.

Oh to have her courage.

When we decide to love someone, we decide to lose. Lose what things we want for selfish gain and pride, to simply love someone other than our self. We decide to let down all barriers and accept that pain will now be a part of our lives. We can only love to the extent that we are willing to lose. We can only love to the extent that we are willing to accept pain. In order to love someone, I mean truly love them, we must be willing to lay it all out, bare it all, give the scalpel to the other person trusting that they will return the same openness, honesty and raw courageous love that we are giving them.

This means that we are accepting pain. We are accepting that no one is perfect and we will be hurt by them, just as they will be hurt by us. And it means that we are willing to walk through the path of pain to the joy of reconciliation and peace on the other side.

With this kind of love and pain comes a joy deeper than anything else. Jesus did this. He really did bare it all because He loved us. When He was on His knees pleading with the Father to not let what was about to happen, happen, we are not told if the disciples heard his ongoing prayer and plea. But, we are told of this. How intimate of God to reveal this to us.

To experience more of the fullness of God, His joy, His love, we must love Him like this. The more courageous we love Him, the more we understand the depth of His love. We are not meant to live in this world alone. God has called us to Himself and to those around us. In order to experience and understand more of God’s love, we must also love others just as fierce.

That cost is heavy as it comes with the price of pain. And the reward is something far greater than what we’ll suffer. This life is far more painful to live alone, never having that kind of openness, vulnerability and humility with others. The pathway to peace, they say, is hardship. My hope is that we, myself included, may we all live and love so courageously. Living how Christ lived to those around us. Living to the depth that He created us for.

Do you love like this? I know that when I begin to tell people I’m fine (which is an acronym most church folk may not like….I can tell you later) or OK, and brush it off like no big deal, I am not loving ferociously. In fact, we have banned that word from our house. I’m not being honest with them, and perhaps not honest with myself. When I begin to “not show up” with all of who I am, I am not allowing the other person to see me. I’m guarded, I’m defensive. These are walls I’m putting up. I am not saying bare everything to everyone around you. Some people are simply not in a place where they can handle that information well, nor treat you well. I am saying set up healthy boundaries where you are still showing up, being honest and vulnerable with others and using wisdom to determine how much is appropriate to share. But to not show up at all is based in the fear that we don’t want to get hurt. That is fear based, and our God is not a God of fear.

It takes being brave to love that courageously. Brene Brown says “It often takes just a single brave person to change the trajectory of a family, or of any system, for that matter.” Love is how we change the world.

Be Brave. Be Courageous. Love Fierce.

be blessed

 

Photo Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/k2i4n6g8/6471148825/in/photostream/