Sunday, May 20, 2018

What comes after forgiveness?

Let's say you have forgiven someone an offense, then what?  Wipe your hands of them?  Dust off your feet and be on your way?  Run back to them and go back to the exact same relationship?  Refuse to talk about the issues and enter back into relationship? Say 'good riddance' and flee from them? Ensure a repentant heart is involved and work to see if trust can be rebuilt as you cautiously enter back into relationship?

In some circumstances, fleeing may be advised, but we are still called to exhibit love.  Love comes in many different forms and can be shown in various ways, though.  Sometimes, love is best given at a distance depending on the situation and what offenses have been forgiven.

Again, reconciliation is not a given but forgiveness is; only you know your situation and what it takes to keep your self, your spouse (if you have one), and your kids (if you have them) safe, protected, and loved. An anonymous person once said:
Reconciliation is never a one way street when it comes to relationships. The one who has offended you must see how they have offended you and understand how that offense has hurt you, and they must come to you with humility. They must also accept the fact that maybe their offense was so egregious, that no matter how sincere they are in their explanations that you may never trust them. But you must set your healthy boundaries with the gentleness of a dove. And then if they honor your boundaries and keep them, then I think reconciliation might be a possibility. 

So what does love look like from a distance if reconciliation is not, at the very least, in the near future?  Honestly, a lot is situational.  What I can tell you, though, is it ought to begin with prayer.

Sometimes prayer directed at the person doesn't come for a long time depending on what has occurred; but when true forgiveness between you and God has happened and the situation(s) have been released through forgiveness, I would be shocked if there wasn't a different kind of love for that person that you then wished for them.  Whenever you have a thought that includes them, take hold of that opportunity and bring them before God, remember that no one and no relationship is without hope.  Paul dubbed himself chief among sinners, and yet God saved him and used him in powerful ways for His glory.

One thing you might want to try, especially if you have kids, is to start a prayer accountability calendar.  Each month, everyone in your family individually chooses a person outside of your family unit to pray for and commit to praying for them that month.  Have a square or different color that each member can mark off for the days they prayed for their person.  If nothing else, it is an easy way to engage the whole family in prayer while also teaching them to pray for others without telling them.  It would also be a great opportunity to pray for those who you are not currently in relationship with; the specific relational prayers obviously need not include your children within earshot but they will know if you are following through if you are marking off your checkboxes.

For a long time, the power of prayer was lost on me. It wasn't until the Lord re-worked and stripped away some major areas of pride in my life that He taught me what it is, how to do it in many various capacities, why it is important, how beneficial it is, and how much it is a necessary constant as we walk through this life. Some days, weeping alone to Him would constitute my communication as it was all I could bear.  And He sustained me and our family through all of the trials we have encountered in these last couple of years.

Prayer is and should be your first thought when you are dealing with relationships that have figurative bumps and bruises.  To that end, I hope that anyone reading this would come to a point in their life that they would be praying for those that have opposed them.  The reality is, there is a VERY narrow road, not many, not many at all will be praising God in Heaven when He comes again.  Someone claiming the name "Christian" does not a Christian make; not living according to the fruit that evidences a right relationship with Him ought to reconsider their relationship with Christ, especially if multiple people are telling them something is not right with what they claim versus their life choices.

But let it not be that you didn't care enough about their hearts while you were on earth and Jesus was preparing your heart to be with Him; that is a very dangerous paradox to cling to.  Every person will face judgment day, including you. Including me. Including the person(s) who wronged you. That should concern us all.

Friday, January 5, 2018

When Loyalty and Tradition Trump the Word

Historians and wise people teach us the past. For good reason.
Those who cannot remember the past are  condemned to repeat it.
~George Santayana 
There is a reason we study what has occurred throughout history. In this day and age, we have been abundantly blessed with the ability to study to our hearts content nearly any subject, even mere matters that pique our interest.

It concerns me to see in many areas of life a stagnant oppression to loyalty over Truth. 

Our church for example has compiled an entire printed volume of the rich history it claims. There are traditions as well as long-standing members (and some of their descendants) that have been a part of the foundation of this church.  We started attending our church after searching for an exegetical preaching style, there is a rich long-standing history of such preaching; the traditions and foundations of an organization are not bad, but sometimes need fresh eyes on them.  In a church and as a church like ours in a time of transition, it very well might be a time to reevaluate or risk clinging white-knuckled to a loyal tradition.  Time to reevaluate the leadership goals, the pastoral goals, the effective leading and equipping of the saints, the way in which we approach our youth and how to get to their hearts, the children of the church (for them to know their value in Him and the knowledge to be more than the subject of a memorized verse), or possibly the way in which missionary support is provided.  Praise the Lord, our church is setting up the structures to ensure that the traditions it maintains are in right-standing.

Personally I love tradition, the creeds, the history, the structure. It's comforting to know it has been there all along and it's comfortable as a backdrop in my daily walk. However, as I, myself, have been walking through my own transition in my walk with Christ I have seen in myself how my tradition kept me from truly pursuing the Lord in my heart. It grew my knowledge, comfort, and voice but I had missed my own heart in my empty, vain walk where I claimed the name of Christ as my own but lacked assurance. While not an identical scenario as what our church faces, I think it similar.

How often though do all of us do the same though? Do we cling to a person and revere them to the point of Sainthood, refusing to hear truths about them that are uncomfortable?  Do we uplift or enable someone to sin instead of encouraging them to repentance? Do we, with tight fist, evade any negative comments about a "Christian" leader because you might know him personally or like him as a person? Do we want to keep reading the same "Christian" author and avoid harsh (but true) criticisms of what she teaches? Do we hear the truth about someone but ignore it so we can keep sinning in the same way ourselves? Bringing it down quite a few levels, do we want to keep watching the same tv show at night even though the episodes have consistently showcased more and more evil? Do we want to read a certain book even though there are detailed bedroom scenes?

So I ask, how much do we selfishly cling to the things we want to believe instead of challenging them against the Truth of the Bible?

It may be time for you to reevaluate your life.  Does the truth you see align with God's Truth?

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Second Hunt

We did it again, we had an overnight babysitter and took off to go hunt again.

We packed up our car late at night and took off around midnight on a Thursday.  Yes, midnight.  We looked at each other with smiles in our eyes and careless laughter as we embarked on our second hunting vacay in as many weeks.

At about 2 am when we switched drivers, we were excessively less jovial.  In fact, we were downright solemn.  I was anyway.  I'm sure the pillow, blanket, and snoring from the passenger seat kept the full weight of the boringly, long drive from sending me over the edge.  It's amazing how someone can be so peacefully at rest while another one enviously watches them through side-eye glares.

I wasn't actually ticked off, but I was a bit jealous even though I had just woken up to take over the driving responsibilities.  Come 3 am and I was beginning to question our last minute strategy to leave and drive through the night.  Come 4 am when we arrived, I was really wondering where our sanity went as we got our gear on to go for a 5 hour hunt.  Gah. If you will remember, coffee and I really enjoy our morning time together.  This was not exactly an option the local coffee shop took upon themselves to accommodate my inane cravings.  

Yet, we carried on as though our brains were fully functioning.  By carried on, I mean we attempted to carry on. My legs weren't moving like they should.  Sleep deprivation and hiking were clearly not a positive combo, nor one that I would recommend.  Plus, we weren't even able to talk the whole drive there, what a waste of all those quiet hours in the car without the blissful earplug worthy little yaps from the backseat.

We moved a lot slower this time though and proceeded with a wait and see tactic where we parked our behinds down where we thought they would magically appear.  Looking back, it may not have been the wisest strategy.  Dusty took a picture of me though, "How sweet", you say.  I had other thoughts after I saw it.

If there was a deer that kicked me in the stomach and spit on my face I would not have noticed nor cared. I was in my own blissful hibernation.  Eventually I woke up and it was at this moment that it struck me: We. Are. Old.  Traveling all night at 30+ with 4 kids and expecting to stay up the entire day was nothing short of madness.  We were nuts.  Nothing else to it.  And we were already up on the mountain, so we decided to embrace it.

We trekked up to the spot where we had witnessed our one proof of animal existence (aside from the random bird or furiously angry chipmunks) from our prior hunting trip.  One chipmunk climbed up a tree to get to our eye level as we were sitting near a cliff, stared at us while squawking furiously, this lasted for a good couple of minutes straight before we told it to stop, because reasoning with woodland creatures is what happens when you're old.  I can still imagine his little fist shaking at us. He was seriously mad, too. The  deer must pay them off in some way for sounding the alarm when they see humans, because that little sucker was loud.  Dirty little bribes happening in the underbrush.

We hiked, and hiked, and hiked some more.  

Then we drove to go eat and HAVE COFFEE. Finally. Priorities were being set in their proper place again. We stopped at the local hunting shop first to chat with the owner and he shared that the deer still have not come back to the area since the fires and the smoke.  Sigh.  He told us where he did see some awhile ago so we wasted no time and headed straight there.

After, of course, we got a coffee for the road.

Our trip took a bit of a turn as my hunting partner literally blazed his. own. path.  As in, I hunkered down in the truck to sleep. He searched and searched while I slept and slept.

When that was over we went driving to see if we could spot any from the road as I was still content in my seat.  It was at this time that Dust started to yawn.  Keep in mind, we were still 4 something hours away from home and hadn't left yet.  We had "been up" for longer than any normal person ever should be.  Staying the night was not an option because of the deadline we had for our babysitter.

The drive back started well enough.  By well enough, I mean the first 23 minutes where the truck didn't traverse over the turtles or truck gates rattling me awake went well enough.

I asked Dust how he was doing and he openly shared that his eyes seemed glued shut. Guess it was my turn.  I was surprisingly awake, and am assuming I can attribute it to my continual cat naps throughout the day.  So I drove pretty well all the way home until the last hour when we switched again.

After the first 4 minutes of his newly acquired shift he realized he was still too tired to drive, we switched again.  We finally made it home--Dusty made a beeline for the bed while I chatted with our babysitter about how it went for her.

The next morning was a soccer game at 9, it honestly felt like I was ripped from bed at 3 am by a tiger shark.

On Saturday, we spent a good deal of time nursing our wounds, sleeping, and utilizing screens for the kids.

Moral of the story: We are old.  Really old. We will never do that again.

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Hunt

Recently, I went bow-hunting for the first time with my husband.  It was such an exciting trip to go on... we were going for two nights sans kids... aka sans schedules! There was a glorious hope involved for freedom from work, feeding and re-feeding and more feeding of 4 little chicklets, freedom from a schedule determined by my chicklets needs to eat/survive/sleep, freedom for alone time sparked by a really long drive where we could talk uninterrupted for a cool 4 hours (I'm sure that was the most anticipated event for Dusty, too).

To say I was excited was an understatement, I was near giddy.

I learned a whole lot about hunting in our 48 hour camping trip. First, the camper we took ended up being for looks, and for terrifying me on the drive that the back tire might catch the edge of the road and pull us down the cliff that was not even a yard away from the white line.  I will say, the camper was nice for the exhausted freefall into it both nights as I prepared for a glorious couple hours of sleep because we "had to get up the mountain before the deer". Sure, okay.

Boy, does 4 am comes early when you have just driven for 4 hours, hurriedly unpacked and set up the trailer in 30 minutes, tried on and wore my hunting gear for the first time, and zipped out to hunt the night before for a couple hours, and had dinner at 9 (but let me say, it really was delicious, because again, we were eating dinner at 9... with no one screaming at us or throwing food at the waitress).  Coming off the dinner, we were headed to the one grocery store in town so we could grab food for the morning, but more importantly, creamer because, hello, it will be the crack of dawn, and coffee is a must on a normal day.

The one grocery store in this remote little town decided that closing time already happened before we arrived.  I will freely admit this was my biggest concern the whole trip. Getting attacked and eaten by a black bear, falling off the cliff while driving there--these had nothing on the fact that I wasn't going to have a good cup of coffee in my hands for our early morning jaunt in the woods, nor any food for breakfast.  I was assured we would go out for breakfast after and all would be well again in my world, so we pressed on and decided to get a Starbucks cold drink and mix that in with our black coffee.  I would advise munching on watered down coffee grounds rather than ever doing that again. But we paired it well with our dried out turkey sandwiches from the "deli" section.  A breakfast for kings.  Kings who don't plan well.

We arrived at our morning hunting spot, sat down on some really comfy rocks, and began to glass.  Glass, in hunter's wife lingo, means you pull out your brand new binoculars that your husband bought hoping you would have something to do with your time instead of talk as you are supposed to be really "quiet" when you hunt because the animals have exceptional hearing.

My husband knows me well, he knows I love puzzles and used it to his advantage by telling me that glassing is essentially like taking the entire mountainous hillside and dividing it into itty bitty puzzle pieces that you spend all too long analyzing in hopes of seeing some antlers stick up higher than the grasses.  In reality he was right, it was just more like one of those 50,000 piece puzzles of a polar bear in a blizzard.

Luckily, Dusty spotted a bush swaying back and forth and although I wasn't able to see any hint of what type of animal, I imagined by the raucous nature that it was some sort of beastly creature that would not welcome us invading his space with weapons.

By the looks of it, we were a good day and a half hike away from The Bush.  Apparently, we were going to risk it anyway. We drove to a closer location to start the hike. Now, "hike" in hunter's wife lingo, means extremely deliberate and calculated stepping, all while staring at where your next step would be and simultaneously keeping my eyes on my husband because if he stops, I stop. That is all while also looking around to prevent a potential bear attack or possibly that a buck would be staring me in the face because I most assuredly would have gotten that close with how quiet I was. Except my breathing, it was horrendously loud. Looking back, the wheezing may have scared away the deer. It took me awhile to recognize that sometimes Dust stopped to generously give me time to catch up and not because he heard something. Take note that the word generously is the key takeaway from that revelation. Love him.

I had heard of hunters training in the gym for hunting season, and I'll openly admit that I scoffed. Until this trip. I had no idea just how much stamina is involved with hunting.  There's an overly tired body that wakes up entirely too early and is fueled by mostly coffee and protein bars that has to scale a mountain in a couple hours time *quietly*, hopefully have the strength after that to pull back your bow in order to achieve the purpose of the whole trip, dissect your victim, and traipse down the mountain with it (and possibly your wife) on your back.  It was nothing short of impressive to me understanding the level of endurance involved.

There was a lot of looking down while hiking which I wasn't expecting.  If there was a twig that would crack, I stepped around it if I could.  If there was a rock that might slip, I stepped around it if I could.  If there was deer or bear droppings, I stepped around those if I could.  In fact, on that hike there was a lot of poop. I had been expecting a weekend free from others' excrement but found myself getting overly excited when I would see those fresh brown berries because it felt like the deer were close.  I almost imagined the steam rising because it was that fresh. I'm a Mom, I'm used to fresh.

The first hunt we saw a lot of signs.  The next 2 hunting sessions were not as exciting in terms of fresh evidence. Yet, when we took a break to eat something, we saw our one and only legal buck. It got spooked and took off, and we unfortunately couldn't track it down after a solid 2 1/2 more hours of hiking.  I had been expecting to see a lot of deer, almost so much so that we would have our pick of the choicest rack.  That was far from reality since we ended up only seeing one during our entire trip.  It felt very much like a game of luck.  So not a game really at all. Just pure luck. If a deer was to my left and I was looking to my right I very well could have missed him.

Another thing that surprised me was how far we could travel in a mere 2 hours of hiking without stopping.  I haven't really worked out consistently for a good couple of years now and I just deliberately traveled with my legs as my vehicle for 2 hours up a steep incline.  And I made it.  We actually made it to The Bush that first day but the deer, or mountain lion, or mammoth beast had left already.  And let's not forget that if it took a couple hours to get up there, one still must come down.

With hunting, there's always another ridge to scale.  Seriously, looking up at a behemoth of an incline only to peer over the ridge and see another looming hillside is a bit discouraging... it's like a constant nature delusion that you think this is the top after 40 more carefully placed steps and it's not.

We headed back down soon after that as I was starting to get concerned my muscles would lock up and he'd have to pack me out. Packing out, in hunter's wife lingo, so I'm told, is a concerted effort by those in your hunting party to help you divvy up your proof of hunting prowess and assist you in heaving 100 or so pounds of a carved up animal onto your already heavy pack down the steep hillside to your vehicle.  This would have been most unfortunate for Dusty to have to pack out his pack, me, my pack, and a buck. I'm almost certain he would have been fine.  Since I did decide to not take a ride down, let me tell you, trekking down a mountain in exhaustion is a lot louder than the concentrated movements when anticipation of running into a buck is a possibility.

What I also didn't realize was how little down time there would be during The Hunt.  When I imagined hunting, I foresaw a hike to a destination where we would sip our coffees, eat some snacks, and wait for a buck to walk right in front of us.  I also expected that afterward there would be cuddling by the fire as we talked about our hopes and dreams, sipping our decaf coffees, after we had time to meander through the shops in town while drinking coffee.  (Again, please take note that my expectation here may better explain the intense desire earlier to have creamer as coffee clearly plays a major role in my life.)  There was none of that. Any of that.  My expectations and reality were world's apart.

We had a blast though, other than me breaking down in anxiety-racked tears on a logging road (logging road is hunter's wife lingo for a rocky, rutted 5 foot wide span of dirt and boulders that would better be termed a wider than average hiking trail) with a cliff as he backed up (on a cliff) and away from 3 Jeeps (1 of which nearly tipped over as they tried to "climb" the side of the mountain to "give us room to pass" on a cliff) (another story for another time though).  It was so much fun to hang out with each other alone, with no schedule, learning about a hobby that interests my husband so much.

We made it back and would do it again in a heartbeat! I would anyway, I might need to double check with Dusty whether or not he came to the same conclusion.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Sunday Grace

They say sometimes you win some
Sometimes you lose some
And right now, right now I'm losing bad
I've stood on this stage night after night
Reminding the broken it'll be alright
But right now, oh right now I just can't
It's easy to sing
When there's nothing to bring me down
But what will I say
When I'm held to the flame
Like I am right now
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
They say it only takes a little faith
To move a mountain
Well good thing
A little faith is all I have, right now
But God, when You choose
To leave mountains unmovable
Oh give me the strength to be able to sing
It is well with my soul
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, and I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
You've been faithful, You've been good
All of my days
Jesus, I will cling to You
Come what may
‘Cause I know You're able
I know You can
I know You're able and I know You can
Save through the fire with Your mighty hand
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
I know the sorrow, I know the hurt
Would all go away if You'd just say the word
But even if You don't
My hope is You alone
It is well with my soul
It is well, it is well with my soul
Songwriters: Bart Marshall Millard / Benjamin Glover / Crystal Lewis / David Arthur Garcia / Tim Timmons
Even If lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Music Services, Inc
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