Focus and the Peace Pipe

Someone I respect posted a blog today.  I have a lot higher priorities than blogging right now, but I couldn’t NOT respond to what he said here.  So today was an investment.  Even though I’ve never met him, he’s a child of God, and worth every minute of my time. He could be my child.  My other priorities will have to happen later. Mama’s about to have a tellin’ –

I remember my first drug deal.  It was a shady street on the other side of town, probably nice enough in daylight and not much different from the street where I was born, but it wasn’t too friendly from this angle.  I was left outside in a car with a couple of very trashy girls while the guys who’d professed to our fathers they’d take care of us with their lives had disappeared inside – which house, I wasn’t sure.  For a long time.  I finally got out of the smoke-filled car so I could breathe, and went for a walk.  In the days before cell phones, it was sometimes difficult to call Dad for a rescue.  Just as I decided to go knock on a door, the guys came out, laughing and ready to go have a fun time.  All the time I’d spent primping and preening for my date – I now stunk like an ashtray, my head was splitting from toxicities audible and airborne, and now I had to listen to a lame excuse as to why it was ok for me to have been temporarily abandoned for something much more interesting.

It was just this side of the transaction I’d never seen.  My brother had a small nursery in his room upstairs that was the envy of all the neighbor teens.  He had a small income on top of his job.  I helped him, on occasion, to clean the seeds.  After he vacationed in Hawaii, I learned to tell the difference between the acrid smell of the crappy local stuff and the full bodied, richer Kona Gold and Maui Wowie.  I guess I had a nose for nuances even then.  We laughed when somebody sold an oregano joint to a stupid kid who wanted to grow up faster.  We cried a few years later when someone laced a roll for the same, now stupid teen, and he ended up in the mental hospital permanently.  Some of the older kids said he had it coming; he was always an idiot.  I felt badly; he was a really nice kid.

All my friends did it, so it couldn’t have been that bad.  Every so often you heard a story of a bad trip and seeing spiders on all the walls of your home or somesuch.  That was a gauntlet of sanity I never wanted to experience.  I stayed away from it all.  They laughed at me.  It wasn’t until a decade had passed that several of them mentioned I was the only smart one in the group.  I’d drawn my line and never crossed it.

I never wanted to be in a place where I was not firmly in control of my own faculties.

As I got older,  I began learning about herbs in order to heal childhood maladies without going broke at the pharmacy.  Remember, I’d already drawn my line with the drug dealers.  I came across Lobelia, or Indian tobacco.  The kids knew if they got really sick, it wouldn’t be long before I rubbed it on their feet and made them smell like an old Indian chief.  I fear it for all the dire warnings that accompany its description, but I’m drawn to its power and adaptogenic properties.  I still use it when I need it.

But we don’t play with the peace pipe recreationally.

Ps.104:14 says that we have been given “herbs for the service of man.”  The legal status of pot has given it a position – it’s become the logo for rebellious teens all across the country for several generations instead of just another herb for holistic health.

William Dufty, in his book Sugar Blues, compared drugs to alcohol and sugar and concluded with one statement:  “Junkies die of junk.”

We are all dying of our sins – this is the human condition.  If you repeatedly give your body unnecessary substances, physically or spiritually, eventually you’ll be unhealthy. It doesn’t matter whether it’s socially acceptable or not.  Red Bull, fast food, or weed isn’t the substance of the argument.

“If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which [temple] ye are.”  (1 Cor. 3:17)

I didn’t draw my line on smoking, drugs and illegality back in the day because of the moral high ground.  Far from it – I was afraid I’d be the one to die, first time out.  A medicinal herbalist will call for help if someone has a reaction, because he/she has no fear of the light.  Lawbreakers don’t want light shed on their activities, because 9-1-1 responders don’t care about whether what you’re doing should be legal.  You both know it’s not.

A little side note here: my dentist found that I am VERY sensitive to substances.  He remarked that I would’ve been the one in a million to OD on my first try.

But most people never have a problem and eventually dismiss those years as “adolescence”.   My brother went on to teach doctors about drugs and their interactions internationally.  Experts are amazed at his command of the subject.  Others, though, lulled by their successful foray into rebellion with no repercussions, continued to rebel in other areas as well, and stayed wasted.

Wasted lives.

Are Christians perfect?  Hardly.  Many of them think they are because they don’t smoke pot or frequent bars..  But really, we’re all humans, tainted by sin and a propensity to flirt with darkness.  The devil is cunning and will twist God’s goodness to entice us away from righteousness.  Knowing this, do we dare go off our own way -to the other side of the laws He has explicitly given us-  effectively leaving Him in the smoky backseat until we come back with a lame excuse of “it shouldn’t be illegal anyway”?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” (1 Cor. 10:31)  I have a hard time envisioning passing a bong around a room full of wasted dudes and sharing Cheetos as a way to bring glory to God.

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

It’s not the herb or a particular thing that’s the problem.  It’s your heart regarding it.

Be careful little eyes what you see
It’s the second glance that ties your hands as darkness pulls the strings
Be careful little feet where you go
For it’s the little feet behind you that are sure to follow

It’s a slow fade when you give yourself away

It’s a slow fade when black and white have turned to gray 
Thoughts invade, choices are made, a price will be paid
When you give yourself away
People never crumble in a day
It’s a slow fade, it’s a slow fade

–      Casting Crowns, “Slow Fade”

 

For another interesting article on this topic, see here.

 

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Santa Claus and Christmas

I don’t remember the 60’s nearly at all, but that’s fairly common.  In the 70’s, Pink Floyd and “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds” set the backdrop for my first memories of levitating sleighs, flying reindeer, and the fat guy slipping through chimneys.   When I was actually introduced to His Eminence, pipe-smoking childhood heroes were still considered normal and flying was something a lot of teens did regularly.  There was no doubt about his reality.  Besides, he also had his own Little Golden Book and I had a signed photo with him.

Some years later, though, I grasped that people don’t wear disguises unless they have something to pull over on me.   The fake beard just seals the deal.  A full-blown panic attack is not out of line when encountering a disguised man who wants me to sit on his lap.  Maybe I’m delusional.   I did have to apologize for knocking down my boys and dragging them under the stroller that one year.  To this day, if I must pass the mall’s “North Pole”, my older sons will intone: “Breathe, Mom. Breathe and walk.  You’ll be fine.  We’re here for you.”  I just don’t get the whole concept of Santa and Christmas.

We as a society go to great lengths to introduce our children to Santa Claus and make sure the impression is real.  In our house, we baked cookies for him and set them out with a glass of milk before bedtime.  In the morning, there sat the plate with only crumbs and the empty glass with distinct, pudgy lip prints on its rim.  The stockings were suddenly stuffed to overflowing, and the tree no longer sat on the floor for all the pageantry underneath.  At least my dad didn’t go tromp around on the roof, like some of my friends talk about.   As teens, we began helping Mom with the baking and she showed us how, at our midnight snack,  to dust the crumbs onto the plate and poof our lips up to make the appropriate prints on the glass for the little ones to see in the morning.

So why do we work so hard to instill this fantasy when it is expected to be discarded before puberty?  They must have Halloween rules at the North Pole; if you look older than about 10, you are no longer allowed to participate.  The innocence and sweetness of a child’s faith in goodness would be seen as gullibility in someone with mental acuity.  Maybe if we keep the idea in the children’s court, we can keep it around.

The story as presented just doesn’t add up, even for children.   Christmas is about  Jesus coming to earth as a baby, born in a stable.  He is God’s own Son come here to show us what He is like.  He taught about true love and demonstrated what it looked like.  After He went up to heaven, he sent Santa Claus back in his plush red suit every year at Christmastime to remind us to love one another by buying expensive presents for everyone we know.  As long as they’re nice, go to church, and don’t otherwise deserve coal.  Glory to God in the highest – uh, yeah.

So the kids and I read Clement Moore’s delightful story again over eggnog.   No brandy needed; this is good stuff by itself. While the original poem is great, what it sounds like today is another story altogether.  The star is introduced as St. Nick, who historically resembles our modern yuletide hero not at all, although the names have become synonymous.  “When, what to my wondering eyes should appear, but a miniature sleigh, and eight tiny reindeer.”  Reindeer are fairly large – this is a cool trick.  I’m not understanding why someone who’s gone to all the trouble of acquiring reindeer for a PR team would shrink them.  What does all the resizing do to my gift?  For that matter, to Rudolf?  Where’s PETA in this?  “He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work.”  Then, “Dash away, dash away, dash away all!”  Man, this sounds like we’re in East LA, ripping off cars.  Look small, work smart, run fast.  “And laying his finger aside of his nose” – uh-oh;  I’ve seen this kind of thing at college parties.  “And away they all flew like down on a thistle.”   Yep – it’s a flashback from the way-back days.

But really, Bren, it’s just a childhood story!

Just so my mother knows that it’s not just me being overly weird, I had the help of my sons, daughter, and three of their friends online for these ideas.  The jolly man with the goods sits up in his invisible house someplace where no one has ever found him and then goes over his list.  So He sees you when you’re sleeping… and knows what moral choices you make.  Then he comes out to each kid’s house.  My favorite remark, from Kyle:  “You best make morally straight decisions, for the sake of goodness.”  This is creepy; Santa is the ultimate stalker.

Not to mention his obvious unreliability.  The little bully from the playground received and destroyed more toys from Santa every year than any of us ever got.   We dutifully cleaned up our acts for an entire month before the big day and still got stiffed.   Nobody has ever found any trace of toy manufacturing at the North Pole.  And yet the multitude who question God’s veracity simply because they can’t see him celebrate Santa prominently every year with impersonators.

Granted, it really was a fun story to tell my little brother when he was young.  (“Honestly???  Did you really think you were going to get the dune buggy just for being GOOD???  BWAAhaaHaa!!!”)   Now, though, these are my children; my integrity is at stake.  I must teach them all about stranger danger and I expect – nay, need – them to take me at my word.  So once a year, I pay cold, hard cash to set my sweet young thang on the lap of a man whose name I do not know, is admittedly introduced with an alias, and then graciously step out of arm’s reach?  Between the hat and beard obscuring over 2/3 of his pudgy face and the stage-pillow in his shirt, I can’t identify him even with the photo of his hands on my little abductee.

Uh – how, pray tell, can I expect my children to discern the truth from my lips? When I’ve assured them of an obvious fantasy that is uncovered and recovered before their very eyes while still in their most impressionable years, how are they supposed to understand when I teach them historical fact?  Why would they ever trust me with their little hearts, when I’ve played with their fondest dreams?

They know the truth, you know.  They know there is a gift to be had at Christmas, and it is free.  Santa is just an imposter, sitting on a throne that is not his.  It turns out to be only the adults that grasp for him and confuse the players:

“Please God, I know I didn’t do too well on the first half of your rules this year, but I did stop coveting my neighbor’s ass and I never murdered my wife.  That makes 5 out of 10 this year, which means my batting average is approaching awesome.  Please send that big promotion at work.  I ask in Jesus’ name, as you’ve promised in John 14:13: ‘You can ask for anything in my name, and I will do it.’  Amen.”

“It’s Christmas Eve. And reverberating in our hearts is the reality of 2 Corinthians 9:15. “Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!” Christmas is about giving, because Jesus is a gift. It is not hard to make Romans 6:23 a Christmas text. “The free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” The first Christmas was the gift of Christ coming into the world to purchase for us eternal life by dying in our place and rising again. And this Christmas – as every Christmas – is a time when God is still giving.”   (John Piper,  DesiringGod.org)

In search of the lifeguard

When I was at the University, I had to undergo counseling as a requisite for my degree in Psychology.  It was a good thing; that was a really rough period in my life, and I could use guidance, even if it was only a grad student’s.  He said something one day that has reverberated in my head ever since.  He said that I seemed to go through life looking for a lifeguard; I get myself in trouble, grab the closest one on the beach, and as soon as I have solid ground under my feet, discard him and move on.  I needed to find my own strength. After 20-plus years, I think I finally have – but in my very next thought, I know I’d be smarter to just keep one on retainer.

I was happy to find when I became a Christian that there was not only a savior, but a guide to follow.  Because the more I read, I saw that I’d be in some seriously deep, live water with nobody I knew leading the way.   I will get in over my head and need assistance.   The trick is in accepting the challenge to go into ever deeper water and trusting that He is really there.  It’s in His best interests, after all, for me to succeed in His name.

My dad knew he could not swim.  He knew his float point was the bottom of the pool.  But it never stopped him from going where everybody else went.  He trusted that life vest enough to wear it.   I will never forget the look on his face when we stopped one time in a small cove to take a break from skiing with family friends.  We kids all dove overboard and began playing in the  sheltered waters of a little bay.  He threw the anchor over and noticed it stopped about a foot short of the end of the rope.  “How long is that rope?”  he asked his best friend.  “Uh, a hundred feet, why?”   My dad’s quick calculation of the height of the boat and slack in the line left a stricken look on his face, seeing all his children overboard, and himself in a life vest.  Even though we were all competent swimmers, he knew that he was not.  And this was some seriously deep water.

I liken faith to that life vest.  My dad trusted it to preserve him in case of accident and potential demise.  He never would have jumped over to go swimming with us, but he could feel secure in the boat as long as he had it.

How many lives have been lost because people bought the jackets but then were too proud to actually use them?  Accidents will happen in this world, no matter how much preparation we do to avoid them.  But we also have no need of one if we never venture with Christ beyond the Starbucks kiosk on the church patio.   Church membership needs to be a lot more than so much fire insurance.  We have to take chances and try new things in order to grow and achieve anything.  We have to have courage and confidence to go beyond our depth, but also the humility to ask for assistance when we need it.  I know it wasn’t the easiest thing Dad ever did to admit to his best friend that he feared going out on the boat, but he got in it anyway and watched his children learn to waterski.   It’s not the easiest thing I’ve ever done to proclaim Christ in my blog – but it’s what I’m given to write, so I do, and ask Him to please not completely offend my friends.  Worthwhile accomplishments never come easily.

But frankly, I really don’t like staying in the shallow end anyway.  It’s safe, but….  Many people advised us against moving to Las Vegas years ago, because it would be moving into the very lap of the enemy.  Our entire family would be lost in the seductions of the devil’s workshop.  We went anyway because we could have twice the house, twice the lifestyle, and at the same price as California living.  At least we weren’t lured by the world’s treasures.  It killed me to give up my beach, but that’s another story.  I found life there to be challenging, but not because of the charms of the Strip.  I fell in with people who asked me hard questions and made me realize I was using ChristianityLite, and not the real program that Martin Luther and Corrie ten Boom set their very lives on.  It was during this time that I came across a quote by C.T. Studd:  “Some wish to live within the sound of a chapel bell; I wish to run a rescue mission within a yard of hell.”   Hmm.  I am just selfish enough to not want to risk myself for someone else.  And there is a lot of security derived from having believers around me.  Maybe, in the midst of the flock,  I can just baaa my way in the right door.

What  I’ve noticed, though, is that I cannot seem to stay in the midst of the flock.  I have a perpetual fascination with rebels.  Not truly evil, mind you;  I am just drawn inexplicably to the sheerly rebellious side of life.  I am not embarrassed to wear the life jacket, but I want to go further.  I want to dive and look at fish and experience all of life.    I want the reality spoken of in Acts, not just a provider/protector persona that I can pull out of my purse as needed.  There’s so much more to faith than mere security.   In order to shuck the jacket and do more, I must develop a relationship with the lifeguard; Christianity is a team sport.

This may border on blasphemy, but I had a friend years ago who was the biggest kid any of us had ever known.  He was 6’3″ and 240 lbs. of pure muscle before he entered high school.  I’d known him since we were 8.  About the time I started college, life got crazy; too many changes happened too suddenly and I developed a hair trigger.  Our group was large and diverse, and trouble abounded – with me in the thick of it.  But every time I got in over my head, my buddy’s huge arms would close around me, pick me up,  and remove me from the situation.  I could struggle against him, cry in his big leather bomber jacket, or just snitch the flask from its pocket; he was always there when I was in need.  I was safe with him.  I imagine this is what God is like, to a certain degree.  His big, strong arms are capable of stopping me or the situation, and nobody dares challenge his authority.  He saves you from yourself just before you become one with the pavement.

Okay, my homeboys are now on the floor, and it may be a minute before the giggles and tears subside.  I told you it bordered on blasphemy, but it’s been a picture in my mind for months.  That man is probably one of the best friends any of us ever had, and I know I’m not the only one from that group who would stand in front of speeding trains for him to this day.

But how many of us will say that about the one who actually allowed himself to be nailed to rough-sawn lumber to die for our misbehavior?  My buddy never even so much as took a punch for me.  And yet we’ve have shaken our fists, denied and cursed the very name of the Creator who made us.   If you have followed the story of Jesus’ life at all, he chose to do it.  He is recorded, several times, as having disappeared from the midst of a crowd when necessary.  He could have done so again at any time.  But he chose to put the problem to death, once and for all, so that it could not endanger me anymore.

It seems so pitiful that all I have is “thanks” to offer in return.  He asks me to live offensively and lean into every situation put before me, just as He did.  But I won’t do that on a “Thou Shalt”.  I’ll only do that for (or with) a known, trusted friend.  I must develop a relationship with the one who saved me, so that He knows me well and I begin to trust Him with my everyday safety.

Maybe that’s why I’m still drawn to live on the dangerous side.   I’ve been plucked from the clutches of death now several times for the sake of righteousness, whether it be the integrity of my car’s roofline or my son’s life,  and I’ve realized that my Savior is real.  Just as real as the warm, leathery smell of that black bomber jacket, I know God is there.  He’s not giving me stuff, and I don’t need him to.  He’s already given all He needs to.  I am living within reach of hell, and I feel the heat.  The other sheep in the flock already have their safety assured.  With the shadow of my savior in my periphery, I am encouraged to venture out to other rebels who are just as tired of being alone in the rough waters as I am.    I can show them there is someone there for them when the tide starts ripping.  Because that’s when we all could use a strong, trusted friend.

“Christ wants not nibblers of the possible, but grabbers of the impossible.”

– C.T. Studd

Fffrrrreeeeeedoooooommmm!!!

I have struggled, over the years, with becoming a Christian: what does it mean, and what will I look like?   I have quite a few friends who don’t consider themselves to be Christians, or have fallen away from the church.  I hear them talk about how the church doesn’t meet their problems, the people are hypocrites, or none of it matters anyhow.  It pains me that I don’t have answers for them.  When I spend time with Christian friends, I hear them talk about wanting to reach the lost or train their children to be missionaries.  I have rarely seen one of them actually engage a non-Christian in conversation, and missionary life scares the bejeebees out of me.  My “heathen” friends, for the most part, are not solidly against Christianity; they have no problem with Christ or God.  Their problems hinge on Christians and hypocrisy.  To be sure, many outside the church don’t want their questions addressed.  But how many of us are willing to actually reach out in love to those right around us and face the issues each one presents?

Most of my friends see the average Christian as someone who’s been a member of the church since he was a toddler, attending AWANA, VBS, and choir practice weekly.  He’s sung Easter cantatas and lit Christmas candles since he could mount the steps.  He has no clue who Jack Daniels is, or that Pat Benatar lyrics can be quite inspirational.  He scorns the tattoo of remembrance for a fallen brother as so much branding of the wondrous body God gave.  Is this really the winsome character of acceptance we as Christians seek to present?

A few years ago, a lonely little boy began knocking on my door daily to play with my children.  We avoided him because he had already picked up a lot of irritating habits.  I knew I needed to minister to him, but in the meantime, my own children were learning from him how to successfully sneak contraband behind my back and lie about what was done.  They were learning to be wicked faster than I could show him how to be good.  Out of self-preservation (or was it fear?), I severely limited his access to my children.  I have sometimes wished I could have done more, but only after he’d moved away and I couldn’t anymore.

How ironic that the very weaknesses that draw us to God are the very ones that also keep us from him.  The same weaknesses He says He’ll overcome.  I could see this child needed what our family had, but I threw conditions on his case because he brought inconveniences with him.  Of course, as a parent, my commitment is to my own first.  Just like in the airplane, if you don’t put on your own oxygen mask first, you may not be able to save your child.  I have to get my own to a place of security before I can reach out to others.  Looking back, I could’ve done more to strengthen my own and reach out to him.  In short, I didn’t trust God for the outcome.  God doesn’t ever say that we should wait until we have attained the Promised Land before inviting others.  The disciple Andrew hadn’t been a disciple a full day before he brought his brother along to follow Jesus.

I’d like to think that nobody noticed what I neglected with this one boy, but I know this same selfish attitude will shine throughout my life.  My nephew is brutally honest with me here, and I love it. He’s got eyes like a hawk and helps me to see in the mirror more clearly than I’d ever be willing to look at myself.  But am I willing to be seen (or look at myself) that clearly?   I can look to different churches and justify myself against the whole gamut of liberality to legality, but my nephew lumps all Christians together.  Do I follow Christ, or not?

I’ve heard too many Christians say, “Y’know I don’t want to gossip, but…”  and then tell you more juicy dirt than any heathen ever worried about.  It is purported as “helping with discernment” or “guarding the sheep from wolves.”  Really?   Let’s just call it what it is.   I’ve got to give it to the non-Christians in my life; they are honest about what they see.  And what they see is too often a clique of people who close their eyes to acceptable sins within the group and truly needy people without.  Is it any wonder some disappear from our midst?  We should be encouraging our brothers to move past challenges, not keeping the evidence alive.  Does being saved exempt us from responsibility for trampling others?

Interestingly, these very limitations of our human-ness are a huge factor in how God gets the glory for whatever we do for him.  It’s pretty obvious that much of what is accomplished for God could not have been done alone.

When we invite someone to church, they hear that they must give up life as they know it in order to get what is offered.  Doctors know that asking someone to change their lifestyle is so hard they’d rather give you a pill than ask.  Yet the devil accomplishes it all the time.  I’ve joked for years that nobody would go to hell if the devil wore red tights, horns and carried a pointy stick.  It’s because he walks in looking like Miranda Priestley in a Prada-designed dress and up-to-the-minute sunglasses, taunting of something more that so many of us drop everything we stand for to join his team.  Luscious lipstick and sexy ankles are a lot more appealing than monastic wardrobes and lists of Thou Shalts.  Of course, the world’s lures are not appropriate for Christ’s disciples.  Jesus had nothing noteworthy but his loving acceptance of every sinner He met.  He asked for hard things, but always with his intended’s best interest in mind.  And they knew that.  This may seem like a strange illustration, but I saw a study once about women who’d left their husbands for another man.  The researchers were surprised that most of the lovers were not as physically attractive as the husbands.  Why would women, always security conscious by nature, discard the security of their marriages?  Because the lover had met a real need that the husband had overlooked.  Over and over, the Bible reports that Jesus saw what was really lacking in peoples’ lives and met those needs.  It changed them.  He looked beyond even longstanding patterns of poor behavior and said that they could be new.  He knew what His Father’s grace could accomplish.  One only needs look at the Apostle Paul to see how dramatically an encounter with the risen Christ can change a life.  Can He not do the same today, no matter how broken and lost we are, no matter what we’ve done?

Funny, for someone who’s taken as many salesmanship and psychology courses as I have that I didn’t get this aspect of being winsome.  One of the first things a salesman learns is that no one will ever buy anything he doesn’t have a need or want for.  He will not buy until he sees that you have what he wants.

Many years ago, when I lived in Las Vegas, a young family began attending our church.  They seemed so uneasy, but the kids were so nice – and the entire family was very open to accepting any teaching they could get on Christ.  I decided this would be an easy way for me to learn how to evangelize.  Pretty soon, I noticed that I was the only one speaking to this gal, and I never saw her husband around anymore.  It turned out he wasn’t her husband, and she was a dancer at a casino.  I am pretty blind sometimes, and it was only once she stopped coming that I realized why she was uneasy.  I don’t think anyone said anything offensive to her; they didn’t have to.  Their distance and looks said it all.  What would Jesus have done?

Oh, gosh – he was in a similar situation!  The woman at the well, right?  He showed with his actions – he had no fear of repercussions and spoke openly to her – and with his words – that he knew who she was and that she, too, could have eternal life if she’d accept his gift.  And did anyone notice what he found next time he visited that town?  She’d brought the entire town to faith.  Nobody is beyond saving.

Why are we so damn human in clinging to our petty ways, even when we’ve been freed from needing them anymore?  Why do we continually tear others down, even while professing a desire to lift them up?  I wanted to help that child, but how often did I bring him before the throne in prayer?  How often did I ask for protection of my own while accepting this opportunity to share what we had in abundance?  How many people tore that poor woman down behind her back with gossip, when she was doing exactly what they’d prayed for in the women’s meetings?  How many others are kept away by past sins that Christians cannot let go of?  We preach forgiveness; can we practice it?

It is not our place to judge another.   We must realize that all of our sins have been paid for – and have patience with those who haven’t grasped that yet.  A child of a friend of mine was probably a little too honest one day with me.  She told me that she and her sister were frustrated with my lack of understanding of something that was so simple to them.  “Mama told us to remember a few years ago, before we realized that.  It’s okay; you’ll get it.”  Out of the mouths of babes, the true character of the parent will speak.  Do my children – the ones who know me best – exude love and acceptance this way?

I’m finding that being a Christian is more than just attending church on Sunday.  I need to be aware of my failures so that I can encourage others in their struggles.  I need to forgive others for things that I’ve done myself.  I need to love those who are unloveable because I’ve been there.  I need to incorporate who I’ve been into who I am so that I can show what I’ve found.  I need to parent honestly.  I’m disgusted at the hypocrisy of Christians who cannot seem to grasp the power of God to surmount frailty and see His hand in others.  But in that very instant, I realize I’ve convicted myself.

I just want freedom from the restraints of this world – the silly grudges and mind games, the limitations of my own abilities, and the whims of the natural world around me.  I want to be loose of the unseen regulators that hold me down – those character traits I struggle with, the health issues that dog me.  I feel like William Wallace, shouting “Freedom!” as he charges across the dale at a completely insurmountable enemy.  And I don’t believe I’m alone in wanting these things.

But it’s not an outside enemy that must be conquered; it’s me.  My charge is toward my neighbor, and the sword I wield is pointed against my own fears.  I must look in my neighbor’s eyes and seek to understand who he is.  I must be willing to remember where I’ve been before I can lead him anywhere.  Then maybe, walking together, we can make a difference in the lives we touch until that day that the Savior releases us both.

We, as Christians, need to be upfront about our fallibility and stop professing anything but His covering of perfection.  Let’s not expect from others, especially non-Christians or those who’ve been battered out of their faith, what we don’t truly possess ourselves.  We have the freedom of knowing that we are forgiven and there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.  And since I don’t understand what that means, I’ll assume forgiveness is for everybody.