Monday, 29 April 2013

This is About That

Once, not too long ago, during a wonderful intimate time of fellowship, a lovely sharing circle suddenly turned into a brutal combat zone.

A beautiful, godly woman without warning and seemingly without cause, turned and let out a deadly barrage of ‘friendly’ fire, riveting a poor, unsuspecting ally.

The silence that followed the unprovoked attack was incredibly unnerving. A few dared to look up and survey the carnage while most of us kept our heads low and pretended to be completely engaged in our rings and fingernails.

My mind began to process the situation, trying to figure out what triggered the attack . . .

This is not about this . . . This was about THAT!

But of course!

So often people snap and spew hurtful words at bizarre times. We who witness or worse yet, receive the blows wonder what on earth just happened. The savage verbal hit is typically undeserved leaving us scratching our heads and wanting to duck for cover.

The thing is, this is rarely about this but rather about that. When seemingly sane people suddenly lash out irrationally it’s usually due to a trigger. Something said or done reminds them of a hurt from their past and click the bomb goes off. That is what they are angry at, not you and not whatever just transpired. In fact, it may be an old hurt from decades before.

It’s kind of like my dog.

She was a pound rescue and besides her oversized ears, she appeared to be a very loving, secure and ‘normal’ dog. After a few weeks with us, however, while horsing around in the kitchen one day, I whipped a towel playfully at the kids. As soon as she heard the snapping sound, she snapped! It was completely unexpected and over the top. Not in her true character at all. Clearly this little pup had a bad experience with some abuse or something that brought out the fight or flight in her. 

Ten years later, a bit more sure of herself, she can now handle a few snapping sounds before she goes off but the programming is still there. 

I believe we all have old thats.

While we may not be able to rewire our brains overnight to disconnect the this’s to the thats, as we mature and friends come alongside us in love to help us recognize patterns, slowly we can surrender our old hurts to the Lord and receive healing; fully and completely .

In the meantime, we need to show grace to our wounded friends, even when they turn and penetrate our souls with ‘friendly fire’. We need to recognize that it’s not us they are angry at (even if they don’t see it for themselves yet); they are reacting to old snapping towels from their past. 

Each situation will bring unique circumstances that need to be handled differently. No matter what, in moments like these, we need to go to them in love. Hurts typically only get that deep when inflicted by those who should have loved and protected them. So, as sisters, it’s up to us to give them an extra measure of grace in order to help them build trust. It’s not easy. Not to those reaching out nor to the deeply wounded soldier trying to rebuild their life.

Thankfully, the Lord will take our thats and transform us until we are controlled by His Spirit, not the this's. 

Until then, just keep remembering that This is about That and don’t take it personally. And, never go out—even to a Bible Study—before you put on your whole armor of God. It's a spiritual battlefield out there!

(Then there's the Theses and the Those's . . . don't even get me started on Them!)

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Hey Lady, Your Dress is on Fire!

On a holiday, not too long ago, as I sat poolside watching the sunset, a beautiful young woman walked by. Her long dress swooshed as she sauntered through the resort like a pink peony swaying in the wind. Suddenly the corner of her scalloped hem came a bit too close to a tea-light candle. Glowing embers flickered from the melting poly-blend . . . soon a little flame, not much bigger than a birthday candle could be seen.

I watched as she continued her walk along the deck. A gorgeous girl, all eyes were glued to her hot pink dress. It was hot alright! Waiting anxiously for someone near to pat out the fire or at least say something, I sat incredulously watching as the flame slowly crept up her skirt. Finally, a kind elderly lady leaning heavily on her cane shuffled over and managed to intercept her.

Cupping her hand as if to whisper, her hard of hearing voice declared loud enough for all to hear, “Darlin’ your dress is on fire!”

Glancing in disdain over her shoulder at the sweet senior, the clueless young girl shook her head in denial, dismissing the advice of the wise woman’s warning.

Continuing on her journey, the flame was now rising up past the back of her knee. Surely she could feel the heat now?

“Maam!” a pool attendant, busily folding towels yelled out from the cabana, “Your dress is on fire!” He waved a towel over his head, animating all the more his warning. Others, now empowered by his brashness, chimed in and all sounded the alarm.

This time, still moving, she took a moment to look behind her to see why everyone was raising such a raucous. For a moment she almost saw the flame, but then, shrugging her shoulders, she continued on her catwalk.

By now she was no more than three feet between me and the pool. With a yell like a linebacker, I rushed her and with one quick shove, pushed her in.


Rising out of the water, the look of shock on her face was priceless; mascara trailed down her cheeks, her carefully sculpted hair now hung in a matted mess. 

Leaning over, I came as close to her wet dripping face as I could and whispered, “Sweet thing, your dress was on fire.”

Glaring, she swore and stomping up the pool stairs, (with what was left of her dress barely covering her rear-end) threatened me with all kinds of legal action as she disappeared into the sunset.

Crazy story, huh? Which is why of course, it never actually happened. But I have seen similar scenarios acted out again and again.

Why? Because smart girls have been known to do very stupid things. 

Some of us women like to ‘play with fire’ and while a few ‘friends’ choose to turn a blind eye to our foolish choices, the others who do give warnings all too often are ignored or even chastised for getting involved. Arrogance seems to rule the day as we reject the advice of those who have gone before us. They are old. Or narrow minded. Or just don’t get it. 

Then, there are those of us who see the flames in other people’s lives but are so paranoid of ‘offending’ we allow them to burn rather than call their attention to the obvious! Besides, it’s so much easier to watch them ignite and then talk behind their scarred backs.

How do I know this to be true? Because I have a whole wardrobe full of singed garments! I can be as stubborn as the girl in my story. And, sad to say, there have been times when I have seen my friends catch fire and instead of yelling, tip-toed around them in some kind of un-Godly political correctness.

No more. 

We need to stop playing around with fire. So often we think that what we are dabbling in is harmless. But, like the girl in the story, something that starts out tiny can slowly engulf us.

In the meantime, if I see you’re in danger of burning up in flames, I’m going to go to you quietly . . . then I’ll yell . . . and if push comes to shove, I'll throw you in the pool. 

I pray to God you’ll do the same for me. (Note to self, buy waterproof mascara . . . in bulk!)

Picture by Alejandro  

Friday, 12 April 2013

Brennan Manning

I had never heard of this man until tonight; when I went to close down my computer and saw numerous tweets about his passing.

Always curious, a few clicks later I was sitting in the dark, moved to tears about this man's honesty in his writing. The confession of his faith and his desperate need of his Savior and His Grace.

An excerpt from his latest book is below. Normally I do not promote something or someone without doing a boatload of research, but for this passage alone I just had to share. Plus, his face . . . especially his eyes, remind me of my Dad. Also Irish, perhaps we're related somehow waaaay back?

Some have labeled my message one of "cheap grace."  In my younger days, their accusations were a gauntlet thrown down, a challenge.  But I'm an old man now and I don't care.  My friend Mike Yaconelli used the phrase unfair grace, and I like that, but I've come across another I would like to leave with you.  I believe Mike would like it; I know I do. I found it in the writings of the Episcopal priest Robert Farrar Capon. He calls it vulgar grace…

My life is a witness to vulgar grace—a grace that amazes as it offends.  A grace that pays the eager beaver who works all day long the same wages as the grinning drunk who shows up at ten till five. A grace that hikes up the robe and runs breakneck toward the prodigal reeking of sin and wraps him up and decides to throw a party no ifs, ands, or buts.  A grace that raises bloodshot eyes to a dying thief’s request—“Please remember me”—and assures him, “You bet!”  A grace that is the pleasure of the Father, fleshed out in the carpenter Messiah, Jesus the Christ, who left His Father’s side not for heaven’s sake but for our sakes, yours and mine.  This vulgar grace is indiscriminate compassion.  It works without asking anything of us.  It’s not cheap.  It’s free, and as such will always be a banana peel for the orthodox foot and a fairy tale for the grown-up sensibility.  Grace is sufficient even though we huff and puff with all our might to try to find something or someone it cannot cover.  Grace is enough. He is enough.  Jesus is enough.