Jesus, Light

Love, Regret & Pure Rapture

My heart was caught up in a beautiful rapture this morning.

The hub and I were standing shoulder to shoulder singing one of my favorite worship songs when I noticed the elderly gentleman sitting in front of us was quivering. My heart was drawn to him. The quivering increased to what appeared to be silent crying. I didn’t know whether he was in distress or whether he was just moved by the song.  Often when I went to church with my dad, he would cry during worship, so I knew being moved to tears was a real possibility.

But just in case, I put my hand on his shoulder and said a prayer.  Almost in unison, the hub put his hand on the other shoulder.  Then his sweet wife noticed and took his hand. The beautiful clasp of their long-married hands is one for the memory album.

That precious snapshot was the prelude to an even more beautiful moment.

We next sang, Come Worship the Lord.

The young worship leader’s rich, able voice stirred the air as we sang the chorus again and again:

Come, worship the Lord,
For we are His people,
The flock that He shepherds.
Alleluia.

And I thought about my sister, Laura.

I thought about one of the last conversations we had before she died.  She asked me about my church. I told her I hadn’t been going.  She looked alarmed. “We’re just taking the summer off,” I assured her, “we’re going to start visiting churches in the fall – look for one that fits us better.”

“It’s the singing I miss,” she said.

Many years earlier she attended an Assemblies of God church with my dad. Back then I attended an Evangelical Presbyterian Church, but I would come and worship with them occasionally, especially when Laura was singing a solo.

She had a beautiful voice. The only one of us seven sisters who could sing.

Then she remarried and no longer went to church, hadn’t been, as far as I know, in about 25 years.  She told me, once, that she wanted to, but her husband wasn’t willing.  He was interested in more of a Native American spirituality which she adopted, and which gave her much comfort, in her battle with cancer.  And she never stopped believing in the God she worshiped in church.

She missed the singing.

And as I stood in the midst of the rapturous, glimmering, Spirit-filled air this morning, I wished it had occurred to me to say, “Let’s sing now.”

I’m tone deaf, so I would have sung along very quietly.

The two of us all alone in her house singing as many worship songs as she could remember.  Perhaps they would have stirred the air, enrapturing both our hearts.

I went to the funeral of a stranger.  I witnessed his family gather around his casket, which stood in the center of the aisle. They laid their hands on the casket and they kissed it and they prayed.

As I watched, I thought, “I would entrust my funeral to these people, to this pastor.”

This morning I wished Laura’s funeral had been entrusted to them.

This will likely offend some in my family, if they were to read it, but there is a deeper, higher, broader, sweeter, whole other layer of spirituality in worship and in the gentle giving of last rites and in prayer that my sister missed out on. Perhaps she wouldn’t have wanted it. Perhaps she would have asked for it if she did. Perhaps she didn’t know it was available for the asking.

I didn’t, until I witnessed it at that stranger’s funeral and until I was so moved by it today.

All I know is that Laura missed the singing and, if I had that afternoon in her living room to do over again, I would sing.

I want my death to have a soundtrack.  I want to walk to the gate with music playing – music that reminds me that I am one of His flock, and He is my Shepherd; music that affirms that even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, He’ll never let go of me.

I want this song on my dying breath:

 Worthy is the, Lamb who was slain, Holy, Holy is He…

I want to be surrounded by those who will sing it with me. Or for me, if I haven’t the strength or the consciousness to sing.

Then there was the sermon. It was one of his last in a series on the Apostle’s Creed.  The pastor explained the meaning of the holy catholic church and the communion of saints – including that great cloud of witnesses that has gone before us.

And again my thoughts turned to Laura.

When Abraham and Ishmael and Israel and others of the Old Testament died, Scripture says they “breathed their last and were gathered to their people.”

I’ve always loved that phrase, “gathered to their people.”

Shortly after my sister died, I had a dream about her. She was sitting under a tree with an open book in her lap.  From a distance it looked like the hardcover yearbooks we purchased in high school. People were sitting and milling around in the background, blurred, and she was sharply in focus in the foreground.  The scene looked and felt like a family reunion from our childhood.

Laura looked down at the open page and said, to no one in particular, “I really like her.”

It was as though she was being introduced to her people, sitting there under her family tree.

I know she’s fine now and I’m fine, too, and this morning my heart was full of love and regret and pure rapture.

Holy, Holy is He.

 

#breath

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life

Group Therapy

She came through the back door, removed her backpack and kicked off her shoes.

“Group therapy is intense.”

“What was the topic this week?”

“Mothers.”

“Oh boy.”

For those who are new to this blog, my daughter is in grad school working on her masters in counseling.  Since her group therapy class began three weeks ago they have discussed their issues with the counseling program, one another and now their mothers.

“There are a lot of bad mothers,” she sighed.

She paused and said, “It’s not so much the things they did that make them so bad, it’s their refusal to own up to them. My classmates’ moms’ versions of their childhoods make them wonder whose house they grew up in.” She paused again and said, “They’re the opposite of you.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know how you sometimes apologize for things that were no big deal?”

“Yeah, that’s because when you hold your baby, you want her life to be perfectly healthy in every way – physically, mentally, spiritually, emotionally.  When I first held you, I resolved to do my best to give you a happy, healthy, gentle childhood, to do everything right. Now, when I look back, I realize that I could have done some things better. And when I think of those things, I apologize.”

As an aside, I’ll share one of my regrets right now, for the benefit of those who are still rearing their children:

I wish I had given her chores.

Looking back, I realize that doing chores gives a child a sense of competence. It builds a belief that they have something to contribute.

I didn’t give my daughter chores because, as a single mom, it was quicker and easier to just do it myself. I didn’t give her chores because she was always playing so nicely and quietly in her room and I didn’t want to disturb her creativity.

But now I regret not giving her the opportunity to feel like she had something to contribute, not allowing her to build an early sense of competence, and of being a needed part of the team.

So when we are driving along in the car and my thoughts go there, I apologize.

And she always replies, “But I am competent. And when I lived on my own I knew how to clean my apartment and my house.”

“I know,” I say.

It’s not the skills she is missing. She doesn’t appear to be missing anything, but I still believe there is something to be gained by doing chores as a child, and I wish it had occurred to me then.

Yesterday morning, as my daughter was unloading the dishwasher, we continued our discussion from the night before.

“I guess it comes down to this,” I concluded, ‘the difference between a good mom and a bad mom is not in the mistakes we make, it’s in how we handle them. When you love someone, their feelings are more important to you than saving your own face. So you apologize.”

It’s just too much of a double whammy to be deeply hurt, and then to have the person who hurt you deny it happened – or minimize it – making it abundantly clear that they love their reputation, their pride, their fantasy of who they are way more than they love you.

Love covers a multitude of mistakes.

pumpkin

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life, war on women

Fifty Shades of Regret

Growing up you probably heard a variation of “That will rot your teeth” as you took a bite of something sweet.  But did anyone ever really explain it to you? Did they instruct you to brush your teeth after every sugary treat, or did they just lay a phrase on you and walk away? As a kid it was just a phrase, a vague guideline. But at fifty, it became harsh reality. It became me sitting in the oral surgeon’s chair, hearing his opening words: “It all started with that first Snickers bar.” Don’t get me wrong, I brushed my teeth every morning after breakfast and every night before bed. Apparently that isn’t enough.

Sometimes we need people to explain things to us a whole lot better than they do. Especially when we are young. Especially when it comes to sex. Which is why I go out and talk to kids. And which is why I am going to talk to you.

I was in Bible study last October celebrating a 90th birthday and watching a Beth Moore video. I received quite the education with my cake when Beth said this:

All sex was meant to be safe sex. All of it was. Not boring. Some of you, “If it’s safe, it’s boring.” You have to live out there in that adrenaline zone where you just barely make it and live most of your life down in a cavernous pit. I have been there, too…

What women are putting their bodies through to keep up with the appetites that are being created by pornography. I’m going to tell you something, if we can make it to 60 and 65 and not be incontinent, it’s going to be a miracle… It was not meant to tear up our bodies… Just because you are in a relationship with him doesn’t mean that everything he wants to do you need to do. You do get to say, “I’m not comfortable with that.” Even to your husband if you know that its going to tear up your body. It’s a dangerous, dangerous day when we’ve got the kind of growing need for more and more and more and more perversity. And our bodies are just getting abused and misused.

Even to your husband.

I have lunch once a year with an old friend. We used to go to the same church. Two years ago she told me her marriage was a wreck and she was contemplating jumping ship. I was very surprised. I had always viewed her and her husband as a strong, happy couple. The things she shared over salads revealed a whole different story. She told me a lot that day but she didn’t tell me everything.

At last year’s lunch she said her life was a bit better. She had decided to stay in the marriage on one condition: Her husband would have to take “no” for an answer. I’m sure my mouth was agape as she told me what he had been doing to her. When she would object he would say that it was her “Christian duty.”  After years of putting up with it, she finally said, “Christian duty or not, you’re not going to do that to me anymore.” She finally had nothing to lose and he finally stopped. I believed her when she said things are better between them, but how much better can they be with a man who would insist on harming his wife for his sexual gratification because the teachings of the church gave him the idea that he can.

This is why I keep hammering away at the church’s erroneous teachings when it comes to women.

I just hope she doesn’t wind up incontinent.

fifty shades of no

I sat in an assembly of tenth graders about ten years ago listening to Dr. John Diggs give a talk on sex. The boys were not shy with their questions. One asked about anal sex. Dr. Diggs explained that the anus is not nearly as elastic as the vagina. It doesn’t need to be: Bowel movements are never as big as babies. And because they are not as elastic, they tear more easily. Which is why AIDS spread so quickly among homosexual men – HIV is spread through blood and small tears in the anus gives the virus all the entrance it needs.

I really didn’t know anything about Fifty Shades of Grey except for a vague knowledge that it had something to do with kinky sex. The other day my daughter told me it is about S & M. She said there are Christians on tumblr who believe S & M is fine between two healthy married adults. Except, as my daughter so astutely pointed out, “there is nothing healthy about two adults who enjoy violent sex.”

Hear, hear sister! I mean daughter.

“And to make matters worse,” she said, “ I heard the guy falls in love with her at the end.”

“Oh great,” I said. “Way to feed that dangerous fantasy.”

When I first started volunteering at a pregnancy help center, I had a client whose boyfriend was pressuring her to have an abortion. After sitting with her and listening to her sob for 20 minutes, I finally said, “Joni, you don’t have to have an abortion.” My statement jolted her from her sobs. “You don’t have to have an abortion.”

Her boyfriend kept telling her that if she didn’t abort he would take the baby from her. “Why would he take it from you if he doesn’t even want it?” I asked. She just looked at me. Sometimes you have to apply a little logic.

She had followed him to our state from Oregon and she didn’t know many people here. She had written the phone numbers of a few of her co-workers – – including one male co-worker – in her phone book hoping to make some friends.  When her boyfriend saw it he pounded her head into the floor.

“Why do you stay with him?”

“Because deep down I know there is goodness in him, I just have to find the key that unlocks it. If I stay with him long enough, try hard enough, show him enough love…”

“No, sweetheart.”

Over the course of several counseling sessions I finally convinced her to reconcile with her family and return home to have the baby. Her boyfriend volunteered to drive her back to Oregon. And on the way there he tried to kill her.

I don’t ordinarily ask you to share my posts, but if you know someone who is at risk, I hope you will share this one. Or at least take the time to really explain that fifty shades of grey is fifty shades of danger, fifty shades of regret and fifty shades of incontinence.

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