Wednesday, November 26, 2014

For the Love of Ferguson

When I was a girl growing up in a very small blink-and-you'll-miss-it town in Wisconsin the only black people I ever saw in Wisconsin were on TV playing for the Green Bay Packers or when I watched The Price is Right with my grandparents.  There were a few trips to Milwaukee as a child where I saw people of color out the car window, but that was the extent of ever knowing someone a different color than my pale flesh.

My grandparents and the other older generations still carried with them the vernacular of their formative years.  I remember several times watching The Price is Right with my grandparents.  I remember when an overly excited (at least from a white person's view of excitement) woman of color would win on that show and my grandfather saying something like, "look at that colored woman carrying on."  His tone was never judgment or disgust, but he thought it was funny.  Looking back, what was probably funniest was the white people looking uncomfortable around the overly excited one.

When I married my husband and moved away from my small Wisconsin town and began to see parts of the country where there were lots of people of many shades of color, my viewpoint began to expand and I was no longer looking outside a car window onto a street but I was hearing their voices, hearing their laughter, watching them buy groceries in the same grocery store I was in.

I remember going back to Wisconsin to visit family on occasion and sitting in my grandparent's living room, watching TPIR again and on those occasions when a woman of color showing her excitement and joy was on stage and my grandpa saying again, "that colored woman sure is excited," and me saying to my grandpa, "they poop and pee just like we do, grandpa."  And my grandpa laughing and saying, "well, I guess they do."

As we moved around the country, and my world stayed 99% white, my children started going to school where their world was not the white world I grew up in.  It was a world of many different shades.  I remember when my oldest daughter was in first grade and everyday she came home from school telling me about her friend Deandra.   "Deandra this" and "Deandra that" were the dominant themes of our conversations after school.

One day when I was in her classroom volunteering she proudly introduced me to her friend Deandra, who was a child of color, and NOT the white girl I assumed she was.  That afternoon when my daughter came home from school I said to my daughter, because I was a culturally raised white girl and my daughter was leading a new trail through my culture, "You didn't tell me your friend Deandra was black."

To which my blond haired, blue eyed girl who was coloring at the time and never looked up at me said,  "she's not black, Mom, she's brown."

A generations wide paradigm shifted that day, led by a girl who saw not black and white, but pinks and brown and tan and yellows as she colored a picture of children in her classroom.

After that conversation, or should I say the lesson learned from my girl, I began to pray for a friend like Deandra.  A friend that maybe was brown, maybe was black, or maybe purple.  I didn't care, I just began praying for a friend that I enjoyed being with like my girl enjoyed being with her friend Deandra.

It took several years before God gave me that blessing and before He could do that He had to show me another side of the color spectrum that was important to know before I was given the privilege of having a friend of another color for my purely selfish reasons.

He began to bring me women of color who sat in circles with me around the Word of God.  We studied His word together, we listened to each other's prayer requests, we prayed for each other.  And as God wove our hearts together around His Word, He wove shades of color into my heart that began to see His human creation not as black or white or Hispanic or Asian but as beautiful children, all with flesh and bones and hearts and muscles and pain and heartache and griefs and joy.

We were different colors on the outside, but our hearts had the same need on the inside.  Him.

Then, when I thought I was done learning my lessons on racial divides and saw from a much broader view than TPIR or my car window, and I was waiting for my friend to arrive, He put me in nursing school, smack dab in the middle of black, white, tan, male and female.

Let me tell you how trying to survive something like nursing school will quickly kill any remaining cultural prejudices you may have as you don't care who knows what, you just need someone to help you understand blood pressure and infection processes and will someone please help me figure out how to operate this (*)^%*% glucometer!

I needed help and God sent it and it came in color!

When I was pinned as a Registered Nurse I stood next to people of color who had felt the same stressors, had the same fears of failure, but we had made it.  I didn't see my fellow students as that black girl, but I saw her as my colleague, my classmate.  I was proud that we had made it together.  I wasn't proud that I had overcome my cultural prejudices, I was proud that we had made it together and we were nurses!





I had forgotten my prayer for a friend who was a different color then me, but God hadn't.

And I didn't get just one, I got a bunch.

My very first nursing job, God brought me my first friend who was not white like me.  And along with her came a couple more.

They make fun of me for the way I talk and for the way I tell them to slow down so I can understand the way they talk.  We laugh together as we laugh at each other and tell stories of our parents and our school stories and our childhood shenanigans.  I've learned so much from them, as women, as healthcare providers, as nurses, but mostly, I've learned from them as friends.

God has richly blessed me, He answered my prayers much broader and wider than I ever thought I needed or wanted by bringing them into my life. (They'll love to read that part).

My life is better because we're different.  I'm not better because I'm white and they're not less because they're not.  I'm better because I know them and I am loved by them.  They have my back and I have theirs.

Jesus taught me not to see skin color anymore, but to see character.

These are my friends.




Yes, this one made a mess at my house!





I will never know the struggles they have had as a person of color and they will never know the struggles I have as a person of pale color.  But we do share and know the struggles of being women, of being nurses, of being mothers, being daughters, being wives...of being people.  We all poop and pee the same way, our blood is the same color inside our bodies.

Oh that you and the rest of our country would know the joy I have in the blessings God has given me to call a brown person my friend.

Peace to you, peace for Ferguson, Missouri and the communities on all sides.

But mostly just

Peace,
Ronda

Saturday, November 22, 2014

When Opportunity Knocks......

sometimes we keep the door bolted shut.

It would be so much easier, wouldn't it, if God did what we wanted Him to do in the way we think He should do it?  If He would just listen to our suggestions, I mean prayers, and make things work out the way we would if we were him, life, at least our lives, would be so much better, wouldn't they?

But no, what does this God do?  He allows us heartache and disease and loneliness and broken relationships at the worst time.  Smack dab in the middle of life.

But maybe we should flip these things upside down and look at them from a different perspective.

Instead of cursing the pain and the darkness and the disease as something surely not allowed by God, but more as an annoyance or a punishment, maybe we need to look at these things as opportunities to see God more clearly and love him more dearly.

Opportunity:

an amount of time or situation in which something can be done
a favorable juncture of circumstances
a good chance for advancement or progress

Maybe the loneliness or the disease or whatever circumstance you're in right now is the favorable juncture of circumstances to advance or progress in your relationship with the One who could stop it but doesn't.

We spend, at least I do anyway, a lot of time banging on doors that  clearly are not going to open but we keep knocking, getting bloody knuckles and sore fists.  But the same may be said of a door I may have bolted shut.  God is on the other side, knocking in our hard stuff, wanting to come through the door and walk with us, but we are keeping Him locked out.  We don't like the timing or the situation so we're just going to show God how much we disagree with His methods by shutting Him out!

Yeah, that will show Him!

Maybe we need to redefine the hard things in life.  Instead of calling them pain or disease or brokenness or loneliness or simply crap, maybe we need to define them as
                                     

challenges 
or 
    opportunities

to see God and His ways, and ourselves, in an entirely different light.

Maybe?

If God is Opportunity knocking on the door, then wouldn't He be the first One we'd see when we opened the door?

Or maybe, just keep doing what we're doing.  Whining and complaining about all He isn't doing or isn't fixing.  Yeah, that's easier.  Stick with that.  It's what's comfortable and we know how to do that well.

God will keep knocking.  Sooner is better to open that door than later.  If you wait till later, it may be too late.  The opportunities for growth may have passed and the growth you could have had when you opened the door sooner may come later, but you'll have a lot more missed opportunities in your way to sort through.

So, what opportunities are you facing right now?  What challenges are you in now that have you  wondering how in the world you will ever get through?

Open the door.

See, He's there on the other side!  Let Him in.



Peace,
Ronda








Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Two Hardest to Forgive

The core of the Gospel is the forgiveness won for us by Jesus on the cross.  You might be able to guess by now that I love to call the Gospel story a wild story, because it is wild!  Absolutely wild!  No one could make this stuff up if they tried because it's so wild that a God would sacrifice Himself for some good for nothing knuckleheads.

Not only is that part wild, but the part that is really crazy for me is that the story is one that started thousands and thousands of years before you or I were even on the planet.

It all started with another group of ragamuffins starting with an old man named Abraham.  We are part of THAT story.  Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and Noah and Moses and David and the rest of the bunch.  We, you and me, we arrogant and over zealous bunch are part of a continuing line that started a long long time ago.

Ok, so that's wild to me.  And the part that seems so odd in 2014 is that we believe that a sacrifice, a human sacrifice, over 2000 years ago is relevant for us today.

So, anyway, I'm getting off on a tangent when the point I want to make is this:

Something had to be forgiven.  Sin, all mankind's sin had to be accounted for and charged to someone or something.  That's where Jesus came in.  There was nothing Abraham or any of us could do to make things right in our relationship with God.  We would be forever tainted by the sinful state we are all born in.

You know the story form here.  So God did what needed to be done to make things right.  He made Jesus be sin for us so that we no longer have to sacrifice anything or anyone to make things right, to pay our debts.

Because of this great act our sins are forgiven.  Not held against us, as far as the east is from the west God has removed them from ever getting in His way of seeing us pure and holy.

Ok, you know that part, right?.

What you might not know or have never thought of in the forgiveness realm is something that I didn't know either until God showed me, ever so gently, that forgiveness is a requirement now of us to others.  Forgiving others is not something that is done when "I feel like it."  Or when the person who has wronged us has really shown they're sorry.  No, forgiveness is mandatory in spite of actions or feelings of any party.

But forgiving doesn't mean forgetting.  Forgiving doesn't mean all is right between the two parties.  Forgiving simply means that you have taken whoever has wronged you off your hook and placed them on God's hook to deal with as He sees fit.  The feelings of the wrong may still hurt and trick you into thinking you haven't forgiven, but that doesn't mean you haven't forgiven.  It only means your heart needs healing.  And it may take awhile to heal.   Deep physical wounds don't heal overnight, they take lots of time depending how deep and wide they are.  The same with emotional wounds; just because the wound still hurts and needs tending to, does not mean forgiveness is lost.  It just means you're still healing.

All that being said, now here is the kicker and I think this is the most important part of why we find it hard to forgive someone for a wrong done to us or, on the other side of the coin, feel like we can never be forgiven, by others and most certainly by God himself.

There are two people we never talk about forgiving.

Do you want to guess who they are?

One of them is ourselves.

The other is God.

First, forgiving yourself:

You gotta let yourself off the hook.  If you've received God's forgiveness, if you've done what you can do to make things right with the person(s) you've wronged or who has wronged you, than you need to let it go.  You need to forgive yourself as you would anyone else.  It's very, very, VERY important that you start this today.  (If not today, then when?)

Stop making yourself pay for something that it is over and done with and cannot be changed.  STOP! NOW!

You are part of that little phrase in the LORD's prayer that says "Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."  You trespassed against yourself, now forgive yourself.  If you want to live in the freedom of the forgiveness won for you than you need to forgive the person hardest to forgive.  YOU.

The second "person" you need to forgive is God.

And this is the harder one, because God does not really need our forgiveness.  No.  He doesn't.

But you need to know you forgive Him.

Forgive Him for letting you fall.  (You believed He was big enough to rescue you from the pit you were swimming in, but He didn't).

Forgive Him for letting you be hurt by others when you were vulnerable and unable to defend yourself.  (He was not unaware of anything that happened to you no matter how distant he seemed, he was there).

Forgive Him for not fixing what you thought needed fixing in the way you thought it needed fixing.

Forgive Him.

He's God.  You're not.

If I know anything about Him it is that absolutely nothing that we do - sin or good work - is kept hidden from His sight and wasted.  God uses everything for His good purpose and His glory.

Everything.

The crap, the sins, the wasted time, the heartaches.  Everything.

He just doesn't use them or stop them or fix them the way we think He should and we need to forgive Him for that.

When we were raising our children it was very difficult at times for my husband and I to make them suffer the consequences of their bad behavior.  Behavior they insisted on doing over and over and over even when they were told over and over and over again not to do it.  I hated letting my children suffer the consequences of their actions.  I hated it!  But I had to let them suffer because suffering is sometime the best tool for learning.

I don't think God feels any less strongly when He has to let us suffer when He knows it's going to be used for some greater purpose.  He knows suffering will bring learning.

You need to forgive Him.

It's part of the trust thing.  When we forgive much we love much.  When we forgive God for not doing things the way we would like it's an act of faith.  Faith given by Him for us.  We have to forgive Him so that we can trust Him with the rest.  If you don't forgive Him, you'll keep spinning in circles wondering where in the world He is today, but refusing to trust Him with your life even when He makes Himself known to you.

He is by far the safest one to forgive.

When we forgive God then we can begin to see how the pain He let us suffer was part of a greater plan.  When we forgive God we can begin to see how the pain was used to make me stronger or braver or more compassionate or more faith filled.

When we forgive ourselves a door opens that has been locked shut tight.  Not just the little lock on the door handle but it's triple bolted and has a bar across it and nothing, nothing is going to get in.
But when we forgive ourselves and God, those bolts unlock, the bar is lifted, the door is flung open and the joys and the mercies and the peace that had been hidden come barging through like horses let out of their stalls.

You are the person who hurts when you don't forgive yourself and when you don't forgive God.

Those around you get burned and feel the flames of your unforgiving heart, but only you have the power to let go.

So.... Let go.

Let go of your past.  You can't change one second of it.  You don't have to be who you were.  Now you can be who you were meant to be all along.

Peace,
Ronda

Matthew 6:12   1 Peter 1:3-9

My Sharp Tongue

I can be a real smart ass and a snot.

I hate that about me.  I hate that my tongue can be sharp and the tone of my voice ...... bitchy, snotty.  I hate that.  It's not how I want to come across, my sharp tongue leading the charge, but it's there.  When I least expect it to pull itself out of its sheath, there it is slicing and dicing and saying things that cannot be taken back.

I can be sharp here too.  On this blog, using this keyboard.  I know I can and I have better control at managing the tongue here, but it's not perfect.  But I do try.  But this isn't one of those times.  My sharp tongue is out.

See, one of the things that irritates me the most out of all human behavior is laziness.  Not hard work laziness, not the physical kind, because I don't know too many people who are physically lazy.

The kind of laziness that irritates me is spiritual laziness.  (Political laziness bugs me too, but more spiritual laziness than either physical or political).

(Now, some may think I'm getting on a high horse and maybe I am, but I think there's some things that need to be said out loud, or at least on a screen because the times we live in are calling for warriors, not lazy cowards).

There goes my sharp tongue again.

We have greater access to the Word of God than we have ever had in all of history.  More people can read on their own now than were able to when the pages of the Holy Scriptures were first penned.  And yet, we still are weak and illiterate when it comes to what the Bible teaches.

Lazy people like to think that they are not smart enough to figure out all that Bible stuff.

That's a lie.

Lazy people like to think that they are not smart enough to be taught all that Bible stuff.

That's a lie too.

Lazy people like to be stuck on all the "God couldn't forgive me after all I've done so why would He want to teach me anything?"

Lie.

Lazy people like to think that they can only be taught by someone who is smarter than them and have more education.

Lie, lie, lie.

See, when lazy people look into the Word of God change happens.  And when change happens that means the way I was can no longer be the way I am.  God's word changes me and.....

Lazy people don't like change.  That's the bottom line as to why we choose being lazy over action.  Being lazy and using the excuses born of laziness because we don't like digging into a book that has been preserved, FOR US, for thousands of years, is because we don't like change.

Change is hard and scary and lonely.  Believe me, I know.  I've had more changes in my life than a lot of people I know and a lot less than most I'll never meet.  But I don't regret any of the changes that have happened, because change got me off my lazy butt and into a life intimately connected with the Maker of trees.

Lazy people like someone to tell them what to believe and think and to do all the digging for them.  (That may be why you read this blog.....just saying').

It's hard thinking for yourself and finding out what God thinks on your own because when one thinks for him or herself than they may lose a few friends because they no longer go with the flow or follow the way it's always been.  When a lazy person stops believing the lies they've believed and start walking in truth, change - wonderful change - begins to happen.

So I ask you, one lazy person to another, how is lazy working for you?

How is following someone else who is following Jesus working for you?  Why don't you want your own close and personal relationship with him?  Why do you think that because someone more educated than you should tell you what to believe or how to behave with the One who created you, rather than ask the One who created you how He wants your relationship to work?

Before there were educated people, long before there were rabbis and priests and pastors it was just God and His kids, hanging out in the garden in the cool of the day.  There weren't liturgies and standards of conduct and duties and job descriptions.  There was just a dad and his kids.  There was intimacy.  There was a bond being made.  There was a relationship being fertilized and watered and growing.

Yes, Adam and Eve messed it up for all of us and the relationship was broken.

But then Jesus came and fixed what was broken.

And now....we can go back to the Garden and hang out with God and just walk with Him and hang out with Him.  Jesus restored us to the place we were always meant to be.  Hanging out with our Dad. (And I don't mean the Garden waiting for us in heaven).

Who wouldn't want that?  Do you?  Then stop being lazy and start hanging out with God and find out what He thinks and says and wants.  It's time to stop being a coward and seek the face of your Maker while you still can.  Sure, if you believe He died for you then you'll be in the Eternal place of peace when you die, but why wait until then to get what He has for you today?

Do you want to know what God thinks about something?  Ask Him first!  Do you want to know how you should handle a situation?  Ask Him first!  Before you go and ask twenty five close friends and relatives and your pastor and your Sunday School teacher or your rabbi or priest.  Ask Him first!   You get to, you know.  You GET to ask the Maker of Trees first!  There's no human middle man necessary.  Go to Him first.

Stop being lazy!  Dig, plant, water, reap, prune!  Today is the day you're given.  Use it wisely and don't be lazy.

Sharp tongue back in its place.  I love you all and pray for Him to show Himself to you as intimately as He's shown Himself to me.

Peace,

Ronda




Saturday, November 1, 2014

When God is to Blame

I would guess there are a lot of people who walk around believing in God but are really mad at God.  I knew a few, I've read a lot of stuff written by more than a few who are.  They're mad that he lets bad things happen in the world.  They're mad that God lets people get sick, hurt, violated, die.  They're mad at God for not fixing their own bad behavior.  They're mad at God.

Would you agree?  Are you one of those mad at God for His failure to do something or for His allowing something to happen in your life and the world that you don't like?

It's ok to admit it.  It's actually probably a pretty brave thing to admit.  At least you're being honest.

I bet when you do admit those thoughts and beliefs to religious folks you get a lot of pat answers that really make you even more mad.  Phrases like:  God's ways are not our ways.  You shouldn't be mad at God.  God works everything for good.

Phrases like those?  I'm imagining you probably want to throw up in your mouth a little bit when you hear them.

I've been praying for you, if you're one brave enough to voice these things.  And I don't pray for what you may think I pray, that you "see the light" or that you "repent."

No, I don't pray those things because I'm beginning to see this anger at God differently.  It's not that you are in darkness and it's not quite the time for repentance.  No, I'm starting to see that one can only be angry at someone when the expectation of behavior is not met.  In other words, you know God is a big enough God to fix things that need fixing yet He doesn't fix them in the way you think they should be fixed, so this is what makes you mad.

But the kicker is this:  You have faith in a big God.

You believe in a God big enough to stop suffering.  Otherwise you wouldn't be mad at Him for not ending suffering.

You do.  You have a bigger faith than most of us who pray small prayers for suffering to end.

You know God is big enough to stop suffering, but He doesn't, and it frustrates you so you get mad at Him and pout and say dumb things like, "if there really was a God He would _______."

But you know what?  That's a pretty big belief in a pretty big God.

See, you pretend that if God would do everything God is capable of doing then you would follow Him.  Then you would trust Him.  Then you would believe in Him.  But the thing is, you are giving yourself a condition to trust Him so that you don't have to publicly trust Him.  Because you know what scoffers like you think of Christians.  And that's what makes you afraid, afraid enough to cover it with anger.

But you believe in how big and capable He is otherwise you wouldn't be so mad at Him.

Aren't you getting tired of being mad at Him?

If you would redirect that anger into actually seeking a relationship of peace with Him instead of anger, that big and capable God may start showing you some really cool things about His power right smack dab in your own life.

I don't know.  Maybe not.  Maybe you like living the way you're living.  If you're always blaming God and being mad at Him then you are released from any responsibility of blame for the way the world is right now.

If you keep waiting for a powerful God, what is it that some of you say, "If God is so good and so loving....", if you keep waiting to see good and loving acts without ever getting over your anger enough to ask Him for them in your own life, it keeps you from responsibility.

It's so much easier to criticize those who don't blame God and just give the phrases that make you cringe.  It's a lot harder to put up and shut up and trust in the God you already know is capable of making things better.

Maybe I'm wrong.  Maybe I'm seeing this wrong.

But I really do think that your anger is based on a deeply rooted belief that there is Someone bigger than all of us out there.  It's just easier to be mad at that Someone than to trust that Someone.

The sky won't fall if you think about this.  The world won't end if you concede just a smidge that I may have a point.

But I sure pray you throw these thoughts into your pot, stir them around, and taste them.

Peace,

Ronda