DOING FAMILY BETTER

My cousin said something interesting the other day.  She said that she wants to “do family a little bit better”.  There was no need for an explanation or clarification.  I understood exactly what she meant.  She wants to experience, to live within and contribute to a healthier context of family.  Something more loving.  More forgiving.  More gracious.  More tolerant.  More truthful.  More trusting.  More supportive.  More stable.  More fruitful.  More tempered.   And in my words- I imagine less secrets.  Less fear. Less possessiveness.  Less grudgeful.   Less manipulative.  Less guarded. Less judgment.  Less onerous.  Less toxic.

I love my family- with all its idiosyncrasies and mild dysfunctions.  How planned dinners always start an hour late.  How everyone shares everyone’s business except when it’s most important- like breaking a generational curse. I contemplate what doing family better would look like.  Yes, I’d like to see a family portrait in which the forceful and fragile among us can co-exist, where the elephant in the room gets ushered out. A family in which everyone feels validated. Where we’re all healthy, happy and whole!

Flipping through the scriptures in my mind, I’m tempted to be discouraged.  I cannot recall one family in the Bible that wasn’t crazy, or had a least one crazy relative.

Cain killed his brother.  Abraham said his wife was actually his sister- twice- to avoid possibly being killed.  He also had to send his son away because of the rift between Sarah and Hagar.  Lot offered up his daughters to a gang of would-be rapists. Rebecca encouraged her son to trick his dad into giving him his brother’s inheritance.  Judah got his daughter-in law pregnant, albeit unknowingly.  Joseph’s brothers thought about killing him but sold him into slavery instead. Eli’s sons were described as scoundrels.  Athalia killed nine of her grandchildren. David’s son raped his sister.  David’s other son tried to kill, uh, David.  And Mary and Joseph accidently left Jesus behind at a festival.  After the celebration, they headed home and did not realize until much later that the Son of God was not with them!  Really?!?

What hope for a healthy family do we have?  What are we to model?  Who are we to model?

Here’s what I’ve got-

  1. God.  We are to model God, Himself; to make Him the head of your household.  We are to let Him teach us how to love, share, and parent.  Joshua 24:15 says it best:

But if serving the LORD seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the LORD.”  NIV

  1. Patience.  We extend much grace and exercise greater tolerance for the people in our work place than we do for those we call family.  We ignore unsavory behavior.  We forgive outbursts in meeting.  We make concessions for those not pulling their weight.   But with family, we kill with silence, we avoid interaction, we offer medicine without honey.   We can’t treat others better than the ones we claim to love in the name of family.  I like the New Living Translation of Proverbs 19:11:

Sensible people control their temper; they earn respect by overlooking wrongs.

  1. Think Positive. Sounds like cotton-candy ministry, almost trite, right?  But how else do you overlook an offense except that you focus on the positive?  How do we experience family better unless we choose to look at things as better?

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things. Philippians 4:8 NIV

My family is one rooted in God.  And like many of you, we daily seek to live in our identity as King Kids. And like many of you, we come up short.  We hurt each other, whether intentional or not.  You’ve heard the saying, “Blood is thicker than water.”  Well, we try to live like Jesus’ blood is thicker than [our] blood.  But it doesn’t always feel that way.  And so we find ourselves in the ongoing exercise of forgiving everything -real or perceived- done to us, intentional and unintentional. Choosing to be positive.  Choosing to do family better.

Our family scripture is Ephesians 3:20, Now unto him that is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that worketh in us.

The operative phrase there is “the power that worketh in us.”  Our adoption of this scripture acknowledges that we have the power.  That we control the capacity of that power.  And that Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think is waiting for us to work that power.

I encourage you to exercise your power to choose- choose Him; to extend grace and do family better.  Work the power within you!

Love you!

I’VE BEEN SETUP…

Believe it or not, we’re always in forgiveness mode; always having to shake off an offense. When you’re cut off in traffic you may blow your horn, but you keep it moving because you don’t have time to debate the offense. When overlooked in a list of thank yous at the school fundraiser, you smile through it and reconcile that you didn’t feel like standing up to be recognized anyway. The rude server at the restaurant? No need to get twisted. You simply show your appreciation of his or her service in your tip, right? Right! Easily forgiven.   Kind of…

The potential to be offended, hurt, and mistreated happens daily. And many of us block and dismiss without effort. But then there’s that one person, that one incident, that one cut that’s so deep that leaving a bad tip seems grossly insufficient. In fact, there’s seems to be no legal, self-honoring, non-homicidal way to relieve yourself of the angst, hurt, or betrayal.

Or is there?  When eye-gouging is not an option, what do you do?

You forgive.

I know. I know! Easier said than done. I was just having this conversation with a friend who is going through a divorce. Unfortunately her story is not original, her pain is too familiar to most, and her difficulty to forgive is common to many of us.

She asked me how I did it? I laughed …and so did He.

Laughed because I had an answer, yes, but it wasn’t easy and, on some level, I felt tricked into forgiveness. If you’re new to my blog, you should know that I have these very candid conversations with Holy Spirit that may seem a bit irreverent to some. My reasoning is, He knows what’s in our hearts anyway so why lie or soften my words. Moreover, as brilliant, original and forward thinking as I would like to see myself, the truth is there’s is nothing new to God. He can handle me. He can handle everything I say and think. And He will correct me, if necessary.

The answer to how I came to forgive my deepest cut: Prayer.

Not praying, “Jesus heal my heart.” Or “Jesus help me to release that person from my heart.” No. Praying for the one that cut me. Again, I submit that I was tricked, but it worked.

One night when Ron Anthony was about 6 years old, he climbed into my bed and shared that he was worried about his daddy. Some things that he had observed correctly were weighing on his little heart. Not wanting to confirm his thoughts but not wanting to dismiss them either, I passed the ball to Jesus. I tell Ron Anthony that he should pray about it; that he should tell Jesus all that concerns him and that Jesus will hear and help him. Now go back to bed, kid.

Ron Anthony says, “Mommy, I like that idea. You pray first and then me.”

What the what! This is a setup. I’m not praying for that man, God! I’m being punked, aren’t I?

In what felt like minutes but in truth was only milliseconds, I say to God, I’m not even mad about the reasons I left anymore. I’m mad about what he did last week! I hear in my spirit, “Oh, I’m sorry, I asked you to forgive. The request didn’t have a date range.”

I had a vision, of sorts, that our Father was sitting on the throne, nudging Jesus, and with restrained laughter says, “Watch. This is going to be good.”

So, under duress, I offer up a Sesame Street style prayer. “Jesus take care of Ron Anthony’s daddy. Give him a good night’s rest so he won’t be tired in the morning. I pray that he have a great day. Blah, blah blah. Amen.” Not even ” in Jesus’s name”; just ‘amen’.

In contrast to my apparent resistance to pray, I had just spent an hour or so listening to worship music. Borrowing the words (and the animation) from one of Kim Walker’s songs, my handsome son says, “Okay, my turn. Jesus, I pray that you will have a love encounter with my daddy tonight. Because I know if he has a love encounter with you, he would know and his life will never, ever be the same. It will never, ever be the same again. So we brace ourselves so you can explode in here! In Jesus name, amen. “

Dude drops the mic and then says, “Thanks mommy. I feel better already. Can we pray for daddy every night?”

I have no words. Not only am I dumbfounded by the power of his prayer, I’m thoroughly convinced I’ve been setup.

I nod my head affirmatively, and kiss him good night for a second time. I sit on the edge of my bed, twisted! Just Mad!

As I lie down, I think I hear an actual mic really drop! And now I KNOW all of heaven is laughing at me.

Faithful and enthusiastic, Ron Anthony came back the next night, the night after that, and the night after that to pray for his dad. A funny thing happened. Slowly but surely, I released my anger. It’s hard to stay angry with someone you’re praying for. And after some time (a significant amount), I found myself praying for him …just because. Look at God! Over time I found that I wasn’t moved by every little thing and his presence didn’t make me feel violent. Tee Hee. Over time, I began to pray that God would help me to see him as He did; that He would guide me in how to pray for him more effectively, more specifically, more powerfully.

Was it easy?  No.

Did I resist?  Yes

Does it work?  Heavens Yes!    Our healing can be found in our prayers for others.

Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. James 5:16 NIV, emphasis added.

Do you remember your first heartbreak? Maybe it was in high school? Or college? Remember how you thought the pain was unbearable? Maybe you were humiliated in the experience? Do you remember the day you realized you could care less? The day when their name didn’t trigger any response, good or bad? Remember that sense of freedom? God wants you to experience that freedom every day, to live in that space. Begin to pray for those who’ve hurt you and be healed. Pray yourself free. Pray them free. Start Sesame Street style. It’s okay; it’s all part of the setup…