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!

REMEMBER YOUR CHEERLEADER

Reese is a cheerleader. If just being a teenage girl didn’t already come pre-packaged with its own set of neuroses, we’ve now got the triple bundle package.

One evening, after my 1.5 hour commute, I arrived at the JV football game to support my Reesie-cup. It was cold and damp outside. The bleachers were sparsely populated with the parents obligated to provide transportation to their football player sons, young girls supporting their football crush and me.

In an attempt to bring some life into a drab evening and … generate some body heat, I participate in the “response” to the cheerleaders “call”. I was the cheerleader of my cheerleader, and I shout, “Shake it, Reesie-cup!” She blushes. And I hear her fellow cheerleaders tease, “Yeah, shake it Reesie-cup”.

The game ends. I can’t remember if our team won or not. I just wanted to grab my girl and find some heat. I wait for her as she give good-bye hugs and promises to respond to text messages. Finally, we leave. And then, in true Sybil form, she turns to me and tells me how I embarrassed her, how she was mortified that I was cheering, how I screamed “shake-it”, and now her friends are calling her Reesie-cup. “That’s not my name”, she protests.

I pause in disbelief. This chick can’t be serious. But she is and she rattles off a string of nonsensical babble, all standard features in the teenage bundle package. I walk ahead of her. I’m mad. I’m hurt. I’m finished. I isolate myself for the rest of the night.

The next day, I try to get my quality time in with Holy Spirit. I’m chatting about everything but what happened the night before. In the spirit, I hear Him ask, “Is that what you want to talk about?”

I don’t make Him work for it. I pour out my heart like a busted dam. “She’s embarrassed by me? The one whose always there! I’m there when the other parent forgets. I’m there when her brother refuses. I’m there when grandparents are too far and when friends simply don’t care. I’m there after 10 hour days. I’m there in bad weather; In uncomfortable weather. I’m there! And instead of reveling in the support and the big love that drapes her very existence; instead of showing a little gratitude for her bubble-wrapped life; instead of just shaking it and owning the power within, she melted into a teenage mess and blamed me!”

He says, “I know exactly how you feel!”  And then these scriptures came to mind:

Bless the lord, O my soul, and forget not his benefits. Psalm 103:2

When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery. Deuteronomy 6:10-12 NIV

I sit reflecting, waiting to see where this is going. And then I hear that familiar voice, “Who can I bless and they won’t forget Me?”

In August, I moved into a new home and got a (very needy) puppy. I was already over scheduled, in prayerful hope of God creating an eighth day in the week. In my fatigue I’ve sacrificed my blog, slept in more Sundays than not, and reduced my devotion time to two pages from a Joel Osteen book.

Who can God bless and they not forget Him?

My blessings are immeasurable. I’m well employed. I’m healthy. I have a loving family with a manageable set of dysfunctions. My children are thriving. And our new puppy epitomizes unconditional love. My car is reliable. My friends are faithful. And if that weren’t enough, I’m loved by the Creator of the world, the Father of the Heavens, the King of Kings. He calls me daughter. He’s made me royalty. He’s assigned an army of angels to guard me and keep my feet from stumbling. His love drapes my very existence. He’s my cheerleader. He sits on the bleachers of my life through the damp, dark seasons, no matter how uncomfortable for others. He’s always there for me. When no other comfort actually comforts, His does. He provides light, He gives hope. He’s given His spirit and the power that comes with it to live in me.

Like Reese, I’ve been living in tremendous favor and blessing but allowed it to be overshadowed by self-inflicted discomforts and fatigue. I’ve focused on why I don’t have my dream job yet. I’ve whined about my slowing metabolism and the sudden need of reading glasses. Instead of giving, I’ve been buying. Instead of sharing, I’ve been storing. Instead of praying, I’ve been just hoping.

I was forgetting–

It’s easy to become religious. To become stagnant in your faith. Adopting routine and monotonous practices that vaguely resemble praise. Watching the clock during devotionals or church. Forgetting how He brought you out of Egypt.

Who can God bless and they not forget Him?

I whimpered, “I’m so sorry, Lord.” And right there, in the quiet of my room, I threw a log on the proverbial fire in my heart. I spent time remembering my Lord. I could feel His acceptance. The warmth of His approval and love, which I always had, flooded the room. I laid there for a bit, enjoying the warmth, feeling refreshed in His presence. And then one of those kids called me. I tightened, feeling interrupted, again. But this time, I heard the spirit and power that lives within cheer me on, “Go shake it, Rhonda!”

Holy Spirit, help me never to forget how You’ve blessed me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

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…