I Beg to Differ….

It’s been difficult to write, read, speak, or think lately as polarizing opinions continue to wreak havoc on my country and my heart. God taught me the importance of differing differently this week.

As Christians, we are not supposed to be fused to a particular ideology, theology, doctrine, or opinion. We are simply to be who God created us to be. It is the sincerest form of praise to Him and the most beautiful witness of His creation and His love for us. As friends, we are supposed to love one another as we are without having to agree on everything. As family, we love unconditionally and without the need to control. Love is not about control; it is as natural as breathing when it is real. When it is controlled, it is like being on a ventilator. You may be breathing, but it isn’t natural or comfortable!

Each of us was created to be different by a Creator Who knows us better than we know ourselves. He could have made us all exactly the same, but He knew better. He could, and can, make us all love Him and one another as He desires; but He knows that would showcase His power rather than His love. God doesn’t want control because He already has it. He wants holiness. That word doesn’t mean perfect; it means maturity, ripeness, readiness to be who He created us to be. Self differentiation allows us to love as God loves.

Fusion is the easiest way to connect, so it is the way most connect. Individuals get lost, and polarization abounds. Our world is fusing and fighting in ways that break God’s heart. It’s bad enough to fuse, but to use His name as the agent of such fusing is inherently wrong. It’s getting more and more difficult to differ, and that hinders differentiation and creates division. God helped me see how differing differently can actually help with the process of differentiation.

I used to feel the need to be who those around me wanted me to be. That need caused me to adapt a Pollyanna approach to living and loving in community. Make everyone happy, and they will love you. All will be right in the world. The world around me will be much more pleasant, and life will be much simpler. That didn’t pan out, so I decided to try being myself and forgetting about whether or not others like me or not. That doesn’t mean being mean; it just means saying what I believe in a respectful way.

God gave me three loving sisters who have, do, and always will love me just as I am. They have surrounded and tried to protect me from the harsh realities of this world all of my life. Their love was a safe harbor for my heart, but God knew I needed more than a harbor. He sent a dear friend who heard my heart and helped me move away from the harbor and into the open sea. It was very scary at first, but my heart found its sea legs and eventually began to enjoy the freedom a non anxious loving presence brings.

I had a discussion with two folks this week about a subject I didn’t realize we disagreed upon. One showed grace, but the other showed rage. I was a bit unnerved by the anger, but I maintained my opinion while giving room for another opinion. When the conversation ended, two of us were still smiling, but one carried her anger with her. I felt our friendship may have been compromised by our difference of opinion, but I didn’t try to fix or convince. I’ve felt that way often during the past year.

I beg to differ because it is in our differing that we learn and grow and change. I long for the day when we can agree to disagree and move on with our lives. When we cannot disagree, we lose so much more than an argument. We lose the ability to self differentiate. Psychologists, medical doctors, guidance counselors, parents, teachers, and ministers will tell you the ability to be who we are created to be is at the heart of living a happy, healthy life.

God made His feelings about self differentiations very clear to Moses and to us. He is Who He is. He is not going to be who we want Him to be, and that is a beautiful lesson for all of us to follow.

God said to Moses, “IAM-WHO-IAM. Tell the People of Israel, ‘IAM sent me to you.’”(Exodus 3:14)

 

Seasons of the Heart

Fall is my favorite time of year. I’m an October girl by birth and by choice. There is nothing more beautiful than the leaves of a maple leaning against an October blue sky in the mountains. I have a dear friend who grew up in New England, and she tells me I haven’t seen anything that compares to the colors of a New Hampshire fall. I put seeing one with her on my bucket list because God is never nearer to my heart than when I witness fall’s transformation. As the saying goes, “I can hear God in every season, but I can see Him in the fall!”

October is about change. Transition is part of transformation, and that rarely comes without suffering. Fall has always signaled change in my life, and often that change has been painful. This year, change involved learning to let go. Just as falling leaves make way for new ones, letting go allows my heart to make room for  the love God has in mind. When I have trouble letting go, God does the pruning for me. He knows what needs to go, but He also knows that timing is important when it comes to trimming.

I have the tendency to foster unhealthy relationships and have trouble severing ties which are not good for me. No one understands the importance of pruning better than God. This definition of synaptic pruning applies beautifully to any area of growth, and I think God would agree that it captures the essence of the important process.

Synaptic pruning eliminates weaker synaptic contacts; stronger connections are strengthened. Experience determines which connections are pruned and the ones that have been activated most frequently are preserved. Ineffective or weak connections are “pruned” in much the same way a gardener would prune a tree or bush, creating the desired shape.” Source: klubpsychology.blogspot.com/…

God is the Creator, and I am His creation. The process of creating His desired shape for my heart takes a lifetime. That isn’t because God needs a lifetime; I do. He could make me perfect from birth, but then I would never experience the seasons of life and love that teach and transform my heart. Beauty comes from dying to self, and that is never more obvious than on a beautiful fall day.

Love goes through seasons, and each has its own beauty. The vibrant colors of fall become the clear etchings of winter, and the soft greens of spring melt into a lavish tropical display in summer. The heat of summer invites me to soak up the sun and play in the water; but fall  bids my heart to rest and grow.

I find hope in the fall, rest in the winter, awakening in the spring, and play in the summer. The seasons of my heart are very like the seasons of the year. I love the mountains of western North Carolina because we have four distinct seasons that bring beautiful growth to my world and my heart.

Fall 2007

Tears of a Clown

Robin Williams
The world lost one of its greatest comedians when Robin Williams lost his battle with depression today. My heart hurt when I heard the news, and I thought back to a song that touched my heart back in 1967. “Tears of a Clown” was a number one hit in both the US and England. I could relate to the lyrics and sang it at least a thousand times while in high school. I still find myself singing it when the world gets me down.

In case you aren’t familiar with the song, here are the lyrics written by Smokey Robinson to go with music scored by Stevie Wonder.

“Now if there’s a smile on my face
It’s only there trying to fool the public
But when it comes down to fooling you
Now honey that’s quite a different subject
But don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Really I’m sad, oh I’m sadder than sad
You’re gone and I’m hurtin’ so bad
Like a clown I pretend to be glad

Now there’s some sad things known to man
But ain’t too much sadder than
The tears of a clown, when there’s no one around
Uh hum, oh yeah baby

Now if I appear to be carefree
It’s only to camouflage my sadness
And honey to shield my pride I try
To cover this hurt with a show of gladness
But don’t let my show convince you
That I’ve been happy since you
Decided to go, oh I need you so
I’m hurt and I want you to know
But for others I put on a show, ooh yeah

{repeat CHORUS}

Just like Pagliacci did
I try to keep my surface hid
Smiling in the public eye
But in my lonely room I cry
The tears of a clown
When there’s no one around, oh yeah, baby baby
Now if there’s a smile on my face
Don’t let my glad expression
Give you the wrong impression
Don’t let this smile I wear
Make you think that I don’t care
When really I’m sad…I’m hurting so bad…”

Like Pagliacci, the cheers of the world encourage me to hide my hurt and forget my pain. I didn’t know Robin Williams personally, but I spent countless hours laughing with him. The mention of his name made me grin, and his movies made me laugh out loud each time I watched them. I hope I will continue to enjoy his incredible work, but I can’t help but cry tonight as I think of the pain he endured while keeping us laughing.

It’s not easy to keep the world happy, especially when your heart is broken. We all pretend to be glad when we are sad at some point in our lives, but for some it is a never-ending battle. I spent far too much of my life putting on a happy face and ended up missing a great deal because of it. I’m learning it’s best to be real and let people see my tears. When I do, I find that hurt is part of everyone’s journey. I’m learning to cry out to and with others, and it’s changing my heart.

There is truly nothing sadder than the tears of a clown, especially when those tears flood the soul and stop the heart. I have known deep sadness in my life, and I’ve considered death as an escape twice. I thank God that I did not end up drowning in my sorrow either time. I’m learning to let others know when I’m hurting or tired or need a hand. Having loving friends and family who hear my heart and love me as I am makes all the difference. I wish that were true for all who face deep sadness or battle depression. I pray I will look more deeply into the hearts of those I love and look more closely into their eyes to see if there is a tear hiding behind their smile.

Fear, Take a Hike!!

The peace of God can only be found in the present moment. He promises peace, but I lose it the moment I begin rehashing the past or rehearsing the future. I wrote about that in http://wp.me/p2G1u5-Ln, so I won’t rehash it now. God ended a difficult chapter last week and began a beautiful new one. I love a good ending, especially when it’s a surprise. The writer and reader in me loves leaving a chapter with a great feeling, and there’s nothing I like better than a new beginning. All endings lead to beginnings, and that was a big part of the learning this week.

I decided to rest instead of run this week, so peace caught up with my heart. I tore up the mountain in tears on Tuesday, but God brought me back down filled with the sweetest peace I’ve ever felt. I marvel at the difference in my before and after heart. I got something off my chest on that walk. I left the elephant that took up residence in my heart five years ago on top of that mountain. I came down feeling a thousand pounds lighter. Past regrets and future worries dissipated in God’s loving presence. His forgiveness gently lifted the weight of the world from my heart and left me transformed. I felt as though I had just lived through a year of Extreme Weight Loss in one hour. I literally jumped for joy because I was the me God created me to be.

Fear causes me to lose the peace God has in mind for me, and it was chasing love away. God made it clear that only love is able to cast out fear, and I had to choose whether or not to let it.

There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear, because fear involves punishment, and the one who fears is not perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18 (NASB)

God showed me the root of fear is a need for punishment, and He made it clear that He is tired of me wallowing in that need. He is not, and never has been, a God of punishment. He is, and always will be, a God of love. He knew only I could let go of my need to be punished and embrace the love in my path. Love does cast out fear, and that’s a lesson I lived and loved this week. God showed me I was surrounded by love, and that allowed me to put fear and punishment aside and let Him begin perfecting my heart. The Holy Spirit’s perfect love isn’t about being perfect. It is about getting rid of fear. Love perfects peace as soon as I tell fear to take a hike. I did just that with the help of a sweet loving friend this week, and it changed my heart in a beautiful way.

Breaking Up the Clay

Sandy died on the night she graduated from high school in 1969. I haven’t thought about her in a very long time even though she was my dearest friend. Sandy Barnes was a beautiful girl, but her inner beauty was what I remember most about her. She was soft spoken and sweet and had a genuine smile that welcomed me into her home and her life. She lived across the street, so we were always together. She was a year ahead of me in school, and I looked up to her and loved her dearly. She was killed in a car accident on the way to the beach. It was a tradition to head to Myrtle Beach as soon as graduation was over, and she and Judy did just that. Judy, who lived two houses down the street, was critically injured in the same accident. She didn’t die, but she was never the same after that fateful evening. They were hit head on by a driver who was sleeping. My neighborhood and my heart were never the same.

Images of clay have been on my mind all week. I saw the familiar red dirt that produces a substance perfect for molding, but terrible for growing. I’ve always connected clay to my heart. Broken pots strewn on the floor and delicate vases abandoned on a shelf all trace their origins back to the sticky red mud that holds, hardens, and inhibits growth. The theme of my lessons this week has been growth, so it fits that God would bring that annoying clay to the surface. My father struggled with and cursed the red clay in our yard, and I found myself doing the same. I was sick of those images and asked God, “Why clay? What is it with the clay?? I’m sick and tired of wrestling in it and want to get out of it. I’ve had enough!

God heard my prayer and answered in a way I didn’t expect. What appeared was a totally unexpected and deeply disturbing memory that pulled the roots of my heart right out of the clay. It was terribly painful, but I didn’t turn away from the pain as God showed me how my heart became encased in clay. I thought it had something to do with daddy and his battle with the frustrating soil, so I was floored when Sandy’s face appeared.

Sandy was the first friend I lost to death. Her brother struggled with heart problems, and I often worried that Tommy might die after we had a rough ball game or strenuous wrestling match. The thought that Sandy might die never crossed my mind, but she did. In one terrible moment my view of death, dying, and my body changed forever. I begged and pleaded with my parents for weeks to let me go to the beach with Sandy and Judy. I cried, pitched fits, and promised to do anything they wanted in return. They would not budge. I was not going, and that was that! I hated them for not letting me go and made sure everybody knew it.

When momma came to tell me Sandy was dead, she was a mess. I know now she was thinking it could have been me. I couldn’t process the information. I was numb and empty and sorry. Guilt weighed heavily upon my heart because I was glad I hadn’t gone with them. My husband once described to me how he felt when a friend was killed beside him in Vietnam. Amazing relief and then horrible guilt for feeling relieved. That was exactly how I felt. Numbness took up permanent residence in my heart, and I went about for weeks feeling nothing at all. As I prayed and absorbed the image before me this morning, I knew the clay had begun to harden around my heart the day after Sandy died.

Sandy’s grandparents lived a few houses down the street, and they were having a wake for Sandy. I wasn’t really sure what that was, but mama said it was a “sitting up” with the dead. Sandy’s grandparents were old fashioned, and mama said I needed to go. I didn’t want to, but I forced myself to walk down the street and into the Ward’s living room. I was frozen in my footsteps when I saw Sandy’s casket sitting right in front of me, and it was open! Dear God! What kind of sick tradition was this!! Something was inside that horrible casket, but it wasn’t Sandy. My numbness got deeper as I stood staring at a body that bore no resemblance to my lost friend. I stayed because I couldn’t move. I wanted to run and never stop. A part of me did run out of that house, and it has been running ever since.

Sandy’s funeral was the first one I remember attending. I know I had been to other funerals, but I don’t remember anything about them. I was a flower girl and had to be at the church long before the service began. I wore a light pink chiffon dress and a Jackie Kennedy pill box hat. I had on white gloves that I threw away as soon I got home. I sat on the front row on the left side of the church. The middle section was for family, and Sandy’s casket was closed and sitting in front of the altar. The flower girls sitting together wondering what we were supposed to be doing. No one said anything to us, so we sat quietly.

A man with the funeral home came in to open the casket. I looked down at the floor wishing I was someplace else. He came over and asked if I would help him. I went with him and figured I was about to find out what a flower girl is supposed to do. What happened next is something I put out of my heart and mind for forty four years. I was good at putting unpleasant images out of my head and heart and could easily travel away from my body when things got to be too much for my heart. As I stood in front of Sandy’s casket in my pink dress and white gloves, I avoided looking in the casket. That wasn’t Sandy, and I refused to look at those distorted features. Her color was terrible, and her make up not like her at all. I felt myself getting dizzy.

With a matter of fact tone, the man brought me back to reality by asking me to lift the veil on Sandy’s hat while he fixed her nose. What? Did he expect me to touch her? He repeated his request as if it were the most natural thing in the world for me to do. In shock, I reached down and lifted the veil while he rearranged her features. It was clay! It wasn’t Sandy’s face at all. It takes me a while to understand the obvious, but it hits hard when I do finally get it. I couldn’t look away as this artist worked on his masterpiece. He talked about the heat and how hard it was to keep the nose in place. Blah, blah, blah… I drifted further and further into my own clay until he told me to go sit down.

As I put Sandy’s veil back down, I got some of that orange makeup on my white glove. I wanted to take it off, scream, and run from the building, but I went back to my pew, sat down, and put my hands in my lap. I don’t remember anything else about the funeral or the weeks that followed except that I erased the whole affair. This morning was the first time in forty four years I remembered the incident. Time, distance, and maturity helped me see the event in a new light. I didn’t ever connect to anyone as closely as I had connected to Sandy. I was afraid to get too close, and I found myself loving those who couldn’t, wouldn’t, or didn’t love me back. I kept my heart at a safe distance, not because of daddy but because of Sandy. Safety became all that mattered when it came to my heart. Don’t get too close and you won’t get hurt. I learned from Sandy’s death that it’s best to be safe and not sorry. Don’t take chances, and don’t venture too far away from my safety zone. If my parents hadn’t forced me to stay home, I’d be the one in the casket or in the rehabilitation center learning to walk and talk again. God’s ways are higher than mine, and I marvel at the way He transformed my foundation today. He shattered the old clay into a million pieces because that’s the only way to get rid of the hateful stuff. If you wet it down, it dries harder than before. If you burn it, it gets even harder. It has to be broken, but God waited until I was ready for a new foundation before breaking apart the old one.

I’m ready to get my body into the rich soil God has in mind for it. Soil is the foundation of the body and comprises the first chakra if you keep up with that sort of thing. When balancing the first chakra, I must envision it as it is before God can transform it into what He wants it to be. I have to want to be healed and be ready for the changes. The images of clay and fertile fields were never about my heart. They were about my body and my being. God knows I have to start at the bottom and work my way up, and He did an amazing job of excavating today. I realize I need to forget the horrible image at the casket and remember the many years of beautiful friendship and love Sandy and I shared. I also know I have to connect with others as I connected with her. She was an amazing young woman, and I wondered this morning what her children and grandchildren would have looked like. I know she would have been a great wife, wonderful mother, and a sweet grandmother. God showed me clearly that I was still feeling guilty for being alive and needed to forgive myself and move on. I know Sandy would want me to let go of the guilt too. God gave me a sweet memory of Sandy and I when we were very young. I was grounded and couldn’t leave my yard. I wasn’t supposed to play with anyone, but Sandy brought her dolls to the corner of my yard, right next to the street, and we sat and played for hours. It was the type of thing she was always doing. I plan to hold on to those memories and remember the feeling of letting someone get very close.

I can’t tell you how amazing it feels to be rid of that guilt, but I believe daddy would say it best, “I’m glad you’re out of that damn red clay and back in the rich fertile soil where you belong!” I agree daddy; I agree 🙂

That Damn Red Clay

Rich Soil

Lessons in Love & Loyalty

RC was a beautiful dog who was part of our family for over a decade. He was a Chow/German Shepherd mix who had the reputation for being very vicious. He was a vicious dog when my husband brought him home from the construction site where he was working back in 1975, but my son Tyler could lay on RC’s belly while he drank his bottle or watched TV. The message on Sunday morning was about following God’s path because He’s the one who set us free. I immediately thought of that beautiful red dog that loved my husband with a loyalty that I’d never seen before.

RC had been chained to a cement block in the middle of yard filled with hard, red clay mud. His sole purpose was to scare off intruders, and he did it very well. His master was a mean man who gave him enough water and food to keep him alive and poked at him in order to teach him hate. As a result, he attacked anyone who came within reach of his chain. He made the mistake of turning on his owner one day, and that would prove to be a turning point for this dog who had never known love.

My husband was doing some work for the dog’s owner when he informed him that he was going to kill that @#$% dog because he was out of control. Billy couldn’t bear to think about the dog being killed, so he said he would take him home. The man told him he would be sorry, but Billy decided he couldn’t just stand by and let this poor dog die. When I heard Billy come home that afternoon, I went out to meet him. I quickly slammed the door shut when RC came at me with teeth bared, hackles raised, and barking as though he were going to kill me!

Billy managed to get past RC and in the house, leaving him on the front porch barking. He began to explain the whole story to me, but I was shaking my head no and telling him there was no way we could have a dog like that with our tiny apartment in town. Our landlady would never agree, and the neighbors would surely be upset. RC had calmed down by this time, and I went out with Billy to look at the creature he had rescued. My heart went out to this pitiful animal that had been abused and used as a guard dog since birth. I had to admit he was beautiful, and I knew he was also very hungry.

I learned about food and love from my mama, so I went after a peace offering. He swallowed the large piece of cornbread in one bite and looked at me with pleading eyes that said, “More! Please!!” So, I went inside and fixed a plate for him. I know it wasn’t the right way to feed a dog, but I didn’t have any dog food. We became fast friends, and RC made it clear that he would literally kill anyone who came near me. For that reason, we had to keep him contained. We always made sure he was comfortable, and Billy took him wherever he went. There was nothing RC loved more than riding in the back of Billy’s truck.

We moved, and Tyler came along. RC was more protective of him than of Billy and I put together. We let him run free unless someone was coming for a visit, and he always walked back and forth in front of Tyler as if to form a line that better not be crossed. RC knew about boundaries and lines, and he made it clear to all that Tyler was not to be touched. Tyler would hold on to RC’s fur when trying to stand up. RC would whimper, but he never so much as frowned at little Tyler.

I used to tell Billy that he was RC’s god. He didn’t like that analogy, but it was true. Billy set RC free, and RC followed him everywhere he went. I thought of their relationship on Sunday and realized that I should be more like RC when it comes to following God. His devotion and love for Billy is a beautiful model to follow. RC so wanted to be free, and freedom meant following the one who set him free. It is really what Psalm 119:32 is saying. It was a beautiful message on Sunday and a sweet trip down memory lane for me this week as I thought of an old friend who lived out his love and loyalty in a way that I should live out mine.

RC hasn’t been in our lives for a very long time, but there are many stories I could tell you about his adventures. It was nice to remember him today. This isn’t a picture of the real RC, but this sweet dog looks just like him.  Thanks old friend for the sweet lesson in love and loyalty. I needed it today.

Lessons in Love and Loyalty from An Old Friend

Lessons in Love and Loyalty from An Old Friend

Bringing My Heart Home

In his commentary on Jeremiah, Walter Brueggemann says, “We become like the god we serve. Pursue a bubble and become a bubble.The object of love determines the quality of love.” My study of Jeremiah over the past two weeks has been a challenge. Jeremiah has a way with words, and his poetry always touches my heart very deeply. However, his message from God is not an easy one to swallow. All prophets must struggle with the temptation to say people want to hear, but there is another word for those who do that. Prophets and harlots have very different agendas. Harlotry is easier in the short term, but prophets who speak the truth with love have a sweet closeness to God that is far better than anything this world has to offer. Jeremiah knew the cost of proclaiming the truth, and God’s messengers know it today.

The past three days have been powerful ones for me as I’ve been given the rare gift of seeing a glimpse of my nineteen-year-old self through the eyes of a dear friend. Forty-two years ago, I went on a camping trip with a very special friend. It was a time of connection that brought us closer to God, and it was wonderful to get to relive that time. He wrote a book based on conversations we had that weekend and shared it with me this week. As we talked about the book today, I was deeply touched the healing our honest communion brought both then and now. Sharing the truth with love changes the one telling the story as well as the one hearing it.

Jeremiah knew the importance of sharing Gods truth with love. He was given a difficult message to pass along. Those words were for the people of Israel thousands of years ago, and they are for me today.

Behold, I have put My words in your mouth. See, I have appointed you this day over the nations and over the kingdoms,
to pluck up and to break down to destroy and to overthrow, to build and to plant.” Jeremiah 1:10 NASB

It’s been a month of dying to self and having my very foundation pulled out from under me. The razing prepared my heart for the building and planting God has in mind. God put loving friends right where I needed them, right when I needed them. He always does, but I don’t always notice. I hope to become more aware of all He has at every turn and pray I never lose my sense of awe when it comes to His glory.

I was reminded this week that childlike faith is to be cherished, and I also learned to love who I have been, am, and will continue to be under God’s loving care. I am grateful for those willing to love honestly and share the path in a way that gives me the courage to share my own story. When I find the courage to tell the truth with love, I find God in that telling. It changes me and those with whom I share the path. The lessons this week have been very difficult, but I love the way God brought them home to my heart. In fact, those lessons brought my heart home in a beautiful way. It’s His and always has been, and I know He has wonderful plans in store as He continues to “pluck up, break down, destroy, and overthrow” so He can “build and plant” what He has in mind. 

The sunset this evening was just God showing off, and I absolutely love it when He does that!!

Bringing My Heart Home