I Will Love You Louder

 

“Whom you chose to listen to, will determine the outcome of your life.” Daniel Messina, Crossroads Fellowship – Raleigh, NC

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that. – Martin Luther King Jr.

 2016 was a tough year. Finally! The election was over, and I could get back to normal. I was so looking to 2017. While I was looking forward, God must have been chuckling. No, there are always still miles to go and tears to cry.  More reasons to seek Him, not my will.

That’s how life always happens. The wave of one crisis finally crests, and you’re treading water, ever so carefully, gratefully , hoping to quietly just float back to shore. And then you see it–the next wave. It’s so much bigger.

Lately the din of the news of the world coupled with the roar of life in my own kitchen has been making my head spin. I feel like it will explode on some days. Anxiety. Depression. Painful situations. Too many people I know are suffering. Is anyone in control up there in the tower? I’ve too many incoming planes and they’re all arriving unscheduled in my backyard from C and C Airways (Crisis and Confusion) and clearly their communication system is down. Help! I don’t know what to do! Hello? Is anyone listening?

So here we are. We’re hours away from a new POTUS and frankly, the world still seems as screwed up as it was before the election. The fault lines of our souls keep on cracking and dividing us further apart. The news media hurls the bad news fly balls faster than we can catch them. Apparently, mean tweets and anger and division swell ratings. Who knew?   Sheesh, if all I ever did was watch the news, and fall victim to every voice with an agenda, I’d swear our cities were burning down, we were in the middle of epic race wars, the planet is heating up to lethal temperatures, and mankind is continuously eliminating one another in the quest to dominate and be right—be it geography or the infinite, ever-expanding digital land mass known as social media.

But a weird thing happens when I walk away. I go outside and I see and breathe in sunshine. Or rain.   Or even snow. Regardless, it is a breath of fresh air. I put geographical distance and measured time between my eyes and the constant tap,tap,tapping of text messages on screens and BREAKING NEWS flashes. You see I’m learning, that if any of us are going to mentally survive going forward, you’re going to have to change the messages you listen to, in order to quiet your mind, to be a better, kinder, gentler person yourself.

Or you could just stay angry all the time. Or sad. Or feel hopeless. Or disgusted. Or whatever negative default state of disrepair you’ve learned is a safe fallback. Because as long as it’s the President’s fault (current, past, or incoming) or Congress or those on the other side of whatever viewpoints or opinions or theologies we currently hold sacrosanct, then guess what? We’re all absolved of any responsibility for fixing our own lives. Well—isn’t that convenient?!

Now before I get mean tweets of disagreement, let me say something. Disagreement does not equal disrespect for personhood or viewpoint. Though lately, many of us from the top to the bottom seem to have forgotten that. But you know what, we don’t have to engage! We don’t have to obsessively watch or listen to those voices which anger us. We don’t have to have angst anymore because others think differently then us.

In a world where uniqueness and diversity is celebrated, it seems like the last place that holds true is in the world of thought. And that’s actually where we most need to celebrate diversity. Without it, we wouldn’t have the great artists who create beauty, the scientists who solve mysteries, the doctors who find new ways to heal, the spiritual leaders who calm and inspire and teach us new ways of being.

Since the right to free speech doesn’t guarantee kind speech, we must choose what we listen to. We can’t regulate others’ tempers or temperament, only ours. I only know that if individually we become the voices of reason, kindness, gentleness and self-control, tolerance of viewpoint, and above all the blessed voice of silence because we choose to listen to others, some of the negative will be forced to retreat, to simmer down, perhaps even end.

Even if others don’t stop speaking ugly, you can still fill your head with pretty. But it’s your choice.   Who are you listening to? What are you listening to? How is it affecting your body, your mind, your soul?   Maybe it’s time to change the channel. Or go outside. Or listen to a symphony. Or read something that allows you to touch the words, feel them come to life as you turn the pages. I know! You could even get something done that you’ve been putting off! Or most of all, perhaps you need to learn how to sit alone with yourself and your thoughts. Surrender that which isn’t yours to fix. Pray for others. Make a plan. Rest. Rejuvenate.   Just be still. And know.

Changes are coming. Some will be great. Some will be terrible. Some will be made by us. Many will be made by others that are simply: out of our control.

So in light of all that? How now will you live? How will you choose?

As for me, I will resolve to speak less, listen harder.   I absolutely will be more selective on who/what I listen to. I will find ways to fast from those things that frustrate me or don’t help me grow. I will show love to those who think different, or who I disagree with.

 In the silent art of learning how to listen better, I will find I love you more. I will stop trying to change you. Perhaps you will grant me the same kindness?

In the gentle moments where my soul is quiet, I see I am able to love you. Even though we are different.   I will love you—louder.  Because it’s the only voice that makes sense to me.  It’s the only voice that will carry us all home safely.

 

 

 

 

 

I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!

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When I was a child, I remember my mom owned a book titled “I’m Ok; You’re Ok”.  OK, blogger’s disclosure here:  I have never read the book.  Sixty seconds of research on Amazon clearly puts me in my place; this is a distinguished writer who not only has the letters “M.D.” stenciled by his name, but has sold copies in the millions!  As if psychoanalyzing the dynamics of our parent/adult/child relationships to one another wasn’t totally gratifying, this doctor ultimately skyrocketed to fame with his book and subsequent movie “Silence of the Lambs” and “Hannibal”.    Second disclosure:  Glad I didn’t share couch time with him!

Ladies and gentleman, allow me to present myself:  Liz, amateur blogger who has zip, zero, nada credentials other than The School of Hard Knocks and The University of Life’s Experiences.   I am an expert in many subjects though; particularly the ones I deem worthy of arguing over.  Everything else is irrelevant.  Capishe?

Anyway, in my humblest of opinions, I really think most people would find ourselves and could skip years of therapy and countless thousands of dollars if they could just read one of dozens of books I eventually plan to write –barring unforeseen distractions of course!   I will call it:

“I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!”

Born just a few decades shy of the new millennium, I, like many of you experienced big life events.  Off the top of my head I remember these events, both external and internal, in a world that started out with time moving slowly. Now time seems to move at the speed of light thanks to the exponential increase in technology and access to world and interpersonal events simultaneously.    This is my truth as I remember it:

  • I turned four in a new house.  This time, it was a two-story home.
  • Our family got a brand new color TV!
  • The next day we saw Neil Armstrong take the first steps on the moon.
  • Our new color TV became my mom’s CNN when the Watergate Hearings started.
  • I turned eight that day.  “As the World Turns” was suspended.    I was covered in poison ivy.
  • President Nixon said he was not a crook.  I remember he was like the Beatles in this regard; he was famous and he also gave America the peace sign.
  • I repeatedly sat in the scorching heat and was bored to death in the back of my mom’s Impala as we waited forever to get gas before it ran out.
  • President Nixon, besieged by scandal, scowly jaws, and a neck that always seemed to turtle into his shoulders, resigned.
  • My cat had kittens and then my dad didn’t come back one day.  Then my parents divorced.  And I had to give all the kittens away.
  • Life was not always sunshine and lollipops.
  • I turned eleven.  On my birthday my dad stopped by.  He tied a red bandana around my eyes, put a cowgirl hat on my head, and gave me some genuine leather cowgirl boots.  We rode in his Porsche convertible 911 Targa to an unknown destination.  When he took off my blindfold, I was standing at a field near a stable. He had bought me a horse—the horse of my dreams!   I was so lucky!
  • I got the consolation prize but my mom got stuck with all the responsibility of raising me during the height of my future rebellion.  We are still very close to this day.
  • Then Elvis fell off his porcelain throne and died on his bathroom floor.  The whole world cried.  Did I?  I can’t remember.
  • I read CS Lewis’s “Alice and Wonderland” and got lost for a few days.  A love affair with words and imagination ensued.
  • I turned 12.  My horse got very sick.  I lay against her belly and cried copious tears on the hard ground when we had to put her to sleep.  I’m not a brave person, but I learned I could face it when the time comes to tell our pets good-bye.
  • I got my period and then over 900 people died in Jonestown, Guyana.  I do remember crying over that when I realized this scene repeated itself hundreds of times:  Parents gave their kids Kool-Aid.  Then they died.   Why?
  • I started high school.  My friend’s brother drove me to school in a 1970 VW Bus with a silver foot shaped gas pedal.  The van always smelled like reefer, but it didn’t bother me because I had a secret crush on him.  We never talked to each other.
  • John Lennon was assassinated.  Then my mom and I celebrated Christmas, just us two and our cats, for the fifth time.
  • Summer came.  I started liking boys more than girls.
  • Second year of high school was in session and John Hinckley Jr. tried to kill President Reagan to impress Jodi Foster.    Then I got my driver’s license.
  • That summer the sandy haired boy with the reefer bus committed suicide.  He left behind a daughter and girlfriend.  He never knew I liked him “more than a chauffeur.”  I was not a good friend to the sister he left behind.  Death makes people who aren’t grown up yet drift apart.  I wish I could tell her I’m sorry now.
  • Next I dated someone who was immature and sometimes cruel.  I got smart quick.  I dumped him fast.
  • I met my second boyfriend.
  • I worked all through high school.  Then I graduated.
  • A week later I moved out into a brand new mobile home with my boyfriend.  It hurt my mom because I didn’t give her any warning.
  • After four years I married that second boyfriend.  We had ups and downs, and stayed busy with three amazing kids who did every activity under the sun.  We traveled, we camped, we loved, we lost, and we loved again.  The cycle of life’s events big and small, internal and external happened, all over again.  Only this time it seemed to go by even faster, and with more of us.  We have a mostly good life today.  Some say blessed; I do.

Why?

It’s because we’ve both learned how to graciously—well, on most days, accept one another and those around us in the world as they truly are.  That is, “I’m Messed Up; And You’re Totally Wack!”

We both had childhoods that were indeed mostly happy, full of play, and learning, friends and family.  Yet from time to time, we took turns getting suddenly thrown out of “Happyville”.  Leaving Happyville, was always followed up by temporary internments in the tenement slum housing known as “Dysfunction City”.

We all went through this.    Yes, we children of the Age of Aquarius, this new dawn of enlightenment and reason, all had to endure these universal hardships of life:

Hurt.  Sadness.  Disappointment.  Unfairness.  Events beyond our control.

But here’s the good news:   The bad didn’t last.  It never does!  As God wove the threads of our life’s tapestry, these hard things became the torn threads that gave our life, our tapestry, its character and its absolute richness.    The master weaver is still at work.

We live and we dream and the world just keeps on turning.   God is in control.  And we’re all going to be okay.  Mostly.

And we know that in all things,  God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. Romans 8:28

ImageLiz and Her Horse Patches – 1976

LMFAO! (Live My Faith; Accept Others!)

The other day I was having a lovely lunch with my young son and mother.   Though my mom is an extremely youthful octogenarian, she amused me when she asked, “Liz, tell me something, what does LMFAO mean when people comment with that on their Facebook page?”  Oh boy!  Not one who enjoys cursing in front of my mom, I told her what the acronym’s letters stood for and assured her that I never use it with the middle letter attached when someone tells me something funny.

Long after I answered her question, I was still thinking about what it could stand for.  You see, in the deep cranial cavities of Liz Logic, I am kind of an acronym aficionado, if there is such a thing.  When I see unfamiliar acronyms, I love to see if I can figure out what they stand for based on context of a website or article etc.

At church, we have sermon notes, with blanks left out for key words that will be divulged during the sermon.  Pastor, I’m one step ahead of you; I got this one I always think to myself.  I like to think I know my bible well enough, that I can guess the key words before he teaches us with an amazing sermon.  And you guessed it, I often get it wrong.    I see an L__________ (fill in the blank) and go ahead and put LOVE!   Only to find out, the answer was Live!

It’s a mental game I play with myself, seeing if I can decipher answers before sitting still long enough to receive the answers from someone who just may possibly know more than I do.

Get to the point Liz!  OK, here’s the thing.  So I was pondering a better answer I could have given my mom for the off-colored acronym for a response to a humorous comment one makes on Facebook.   EUREKA!  It just came to me, like this, in a Liz-Flash of inspiration.

Live My Faith; Accept Others

It seems like the last year of my life has been one of the best years I’ve ever had.  But it’s not because every situation in my life is hunky dory all the time.  Far from it!    I don’t know if it’s because the sands of the hour glass are heavier on the bottom side of my life, or God has just graced me with more wisdom, but this message just keeps ringing true these days–repeatedly!

Here’s why:  I have been involved in a neighborhood bible study group with the loveliest friends I have ever known for the last fifteen years.  Some of us leave for a season and come back; some simply move on to other things in life, but the core friendships remain the same.  We are a platoon of moms, wives, daughters, sisters, and friends and we have seen it all and been through it all in our own lives.  We’ve been through multiple deaths, births, and struggles with our families and deep within ourselves.  We’ve laughed and cried together all these years and probably wouldn’t have had the strength to face some of the things we faced, had it not been for one another.    Sometimes we look back, and think, how in the world did we even survive that?    Only one answer rings true, but for God.

Something one dear friend said, especially grabbed me last night.  She said, “You know the answer in life is just so simple.”  Impossible at times to execute, but so simple to understand:

“Just love one another”

 If we all could just truly love one another, and accept one another, we wouldn’t be at war within our families, or within the world, and even within ourselves.  You don’t think you’re at war within yourself?  Think again.  Do you ever participate in self-condemnation?  I’m so fat or I’m so stupid?   Do you ever participate in pride, or judging others?

See, this truth is the heart of our faith–to just love one another!   Where do you feel the most free in life?  It’s probably in the friendships and relationships where you feel totally accepted in life, despite what they know about you, or your quirks, or your flaws, or your areas that you are working on.

We’ve learned some other things in life too.  It’s not enough to just love each other in our little “holy huddle.”  There is a hurting world outside just beyond the smell of our fresh coffee and raucous laughter.    We know!  That’s the world we always go back to when our time together is up.

Our personalities, political persuasions, professional choices, and how we school and parent our children vary vastly.   Yet we are in agreement on this bedrock principal.  Just love!  We don’t have to beat the others in our family or in the world with bible verses.  It’s not our position to save, but our privilege to share.  We can share our testimonies and our faith as we understand it if asked, but ultimately it is our kindness or love (or sadly, lack of) that tells the truth of who we claim to be.

Sometimes I personally feel like I’m the worst as far as being an effective ambassador or servant of Christ.  I’m so full of inconsistencies!  I’m full of pride sometimes!  I still sin, not only as defined in the bible, but as that voice in my head that says this doesn’t honor God.   Yes, I struggle!    I’m real!    I think we’ve all taken turns passing the self-condemnation ball around but I also know that this is a tactic from an enemy who wishes to see us destroy ourselves, and NOT the wrath of an angry God.

At the end of the day I know God is a mighty big God.  He has a sense of humor and strength that far surpasses mine.  After all He’s God!  He knows my obsessions, my fears, my tears, and my confessions!  (Whoa…that rhyme just tumbled out!).  But He does!  He probably laughs and says, “There, there my precious child.  You’re going to be okay.  I’ve got it covered.  I know ALL about this, but I love you anyway.  That situation that’s making you nuts or you’re totally afraid of?  It’s all going to be ok.  Trust me.  Be patient.  Have faith.  Don’t be angry at others; just love.  Yes, grow in love.”

I’m still growing up.  But the love comes easier these days.  I don’t have to stay confined to this group or that group of people.  I don’t have to put people in a category.   It’d be better if I ignore any splinters in my neighbor’s eye, considering I have enough planks in my eye to build a deck, quite possibly on a ship.

Though I still get mad, and frustrated, and lose it sometimes, I’m learning I have a place to return.    It’s the heart of our creator.  Proverbs 4:23 teaches us “Guard your heart; for it is the wellspring of life” has never been truer than now.    I’m pretty sure God doesn’t want us to build a fortress around it, as to not contaminate it, but to build bridges from it and let the love spill out into the world.  I think this verse is misunderstood as to not let anything corrupt us.  This is true, but I think it also means to not fear those that believe differently, those who have a different opinion of truth.    I think of it as guarding your heart from falling prey to fear, cynicism, judgment, condemnation, or categorizing.  Just breathe life-affirming love into others.  Let God worry about the rest.

Is our faith so fragile, we could lose it by loving those that are different?  I hope not.  That’s not what Jesus did and it’s not what I want to do either.  Though I’ve certainly been guilty of that, it’s not who I am anymore—at least I’m trying not to be that person!

For me, Jesus was perfect and I’m so not, and honestly neither has anyone who speaks in His name for the last two thousand years or so.   I think He would be a lot more popular if the world could see more love from those that claim to follow Him.

Love is not to be contained, or given to only those we deem lovely or loveable.  It is not reserved for the deserving, or folks like us.  It’s so much more than a cliché too; it’s actually a commandment…to love God with all our heart, soul, and mind, but don’t forget the second part—to love our neighbor as our self!

The world and its inhabitants have always and will always need more love and peace.  Just start with you.  Start now.  Where is the love?