There is a love that reaches into the mire of my life and the messiness of my heart, and it rescues me. It is a love that comes from a savior who is the basis of a redemptive story that has left me forever changed. A savior that did not allow my pain, my sin, my mistakes, or my pride to keep me from His love. He stepped into those things with me, and took them on himself so that I could experience His presence. His is a love that was willing to get messy to rescue me. Not just once, but daily. A love that doesn't require me to change in order to receive it, but invites me to change because I am blessed enough to already have it.
I have also been given that kind of love by a few people who have been willing to step into the arena of my ugliness, my sin, my struggles, and my brokenness and love me in spite of those things that make me rather unlovable. If we are Christ followers, those are the marching orders we have been given. Love. No qualifiers. No measuring sticks of who deserves it and who doesn't. No inquiry about whether or not I feel like it or agree. Love. No limit. No end. No excuses. Love, like Jesus did. That's our directive. (1 John 3:11, John 13:34, Leviticus 19:18, 1 Peter 4:8, Romans 13:8, 1 John 3:18, 1 John 4: 12-13, 1 Corinthians 16:14, Ephesians 4:2-3, 1 Peter 3:8-9.)
I have been disappointed through the years to see what happens to this love when fellow followers of Jesus disappoint us. When people who we believe know better, should do better, we are quick to limit our love, our grace, and our acceptance. When those preaching from the pulpit aren't living it on the pavement, we frequently do the opposite of what we have been asked to do. Yet, what we've been asked to do is the very thing that will set us apart. "They will know us, by our love." John 13:35 Too often, what I have seen us do is leave our own wounded on the side of the road in the name of self-righteous religion. We do not extend love well to our fellow pew sitter when we believe they have disrespected the pew they sit in. Judgment jumps in where justice and mercy are supposed to reside. Gossip quickly replaces grace as if grace was never an acquaintance of ours to begin with. We wrap ourselves in the guessing of someone else's pain, sin, crime, and difficulty by asking other stunned believers "What in the world happened?" Pettiness leaves no room for actual prayer and we get side tracked by the mess in the arena instead of rescuing the warrior who needs to be reminded that they are loved, in spite of the mess that surrounds them.
"What in the world happened?", is a great question, a natural question, and even a healing question when it is asked from the right heart to the right person. If you loved them, spoke to them, did life with them before you received the news about their falling, their failing, their mistake, their crime, their loss, etc… then you have an opportunity to be Jesus directly to them. When you have the rapport to step into the arena of someone else's tragedy and approach them with an open heart and say "What in the world happened?", while you embrace them with love, you are an agent of Jesus'. That's what He did for you. You just facilitated a process necessary for that person to return to the redemptive arms of a grace filled savior. You just provided them an opportunity to shed light on their own shame so they don't have to drown in it's darkness. You just did what we have been called to do! If you did not have this kind of rapport in the person's life before the tragedy, then now is not the time to obtain it and "what in the world happened?" is not your question to ask them. Keep in mind that asking others "what in the world happened?" will only be helpful if you do so with a prayerful heart and a grace-filled intention to help.
Have you reached out to the one who was in your Bible study who just got a DUI conviction? You know that person in your church community who was in treatement for depression and tried to take their own life, have you asked them what it's like to have those kind of thoughts? Have you sent any type of support to your friend whose mug shot was on the evening news? Have you prayed for or spoken to the pastor who had an affair? Or for the woman in the church he had it with? Have you lovingly encouraged the youth worker who is neglecting his own family? Have you had a heart to heart with the put together mom who works childcare at church and allegedly embezzled money from her employer? Have you considered ways you can be supportive to any and all of the children who might be caught in the crossfire of these situations? Have you put your arms around your friend who just can't tell their spouse that they cheated? Or are you, like many of us, lost in the audacity of the information, the details, and the scandel and unable to remember that you too have needed redemption from audacities as well?
Never once when I return to the loving arms of my Jesus after poorly representing Him have I felt that He is condoning my selfish, sinfilled choices by loving me. I am clear that He is possibly repulsed and certainly saddened when I miss the mark. Not once when I have had a Christ follower crawl into the mire with me did I believe they were okay with what I had done/said/been. When we extend that same love and grace to our fellow believers, they know we are not condoning what they have done. Chances are good they know exactly how most of us feel; we've gotten good at that message. What they might not know is that we are willing to take our marching orders from a Holy God seriously and step into the arena and love them as we have been loved.
"By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:35
I've voted for every party there is to vote for, depending on the reason I'm going to the poll. I've been a registered Independent for more than two decades; mostly because I recognized long ago that the two primary parties in our country compete against each other more than they work for the American people. I have never considered voting solely to win. I vote to speak. My vote is my voice. Contrary to what others are saying in this election, win or lose – my voice matters. Your voice matters. My vote in this election however, won't be able to say everything I'd like to say.
If competition is encouraged for healthy commerce in our country, it should also be encouraged for a healthy democracy. If multiple choices make our industries sharper, more innovative, more attentive, and more responsible, then so it should be with our government. The two party system, which seems more committed to their platforms than to their people, could use a good healthy threat of competition so that we change the way we are doing things. With several of our last administrations, the Commander in Chief has been, for all practical purposes, ineffective because it appears to me that our Congress and/or our Senate are busy fighting political agendas, lobby agendas, or for their own job security, NOT for the American people. They do one of two things – they fight for what they want or they fight against what the other side wants. They show little willingness to work as "our team" and seem to give exactly ZERO consideration to how any of it will affect the people who put them in office, pay their salaries, and are most effected by their decisions.
Have you been told this election NOT to vote your conscience? Well for some of us, that's like asking us not to breathe. I want my vote to say that my conscience matters. That although there is no ideal candidate, there is reason to follow your own moral compass, ethical beliefs, and general code of human conduct and decency when you cast your name in support of somebody else. Obviously we do not have a line item veto on any person we befriend, marry, or vote for. But like many of you, I want more choices. I want better choices than what seems to be in front of us this election. I've heard one too many times, "I don't like him but at least he's not her." or "I can't stand him so I guess I'll vote for her." You've heard it too, I'm sure. Lesser of two evils, blah, blah, blah, …
I want out of the tornado of insults this two party political environment has created. I want to see our leaders discuss issues in a manner worthy of adult conversation and debate protocol instead of political rhetoric and mudslinging like junior high kids on the playground or scorned lovers in divorce court. Wouldn't it be nice if we allowed Independent candidates, Green party candidates, Reform party candidates, Constitution party candidates, and Libertarian candidates to participate in the debates, if for no other reason than to concentrate on the issues, the state of our country and the plans that different people and platforms have to move forward? Big money, bad media, and elite politics have decided that bickering about audio tapes and e-mails is a better way to run our country and it's election than allowing actual people with actual ideas to enter into the discussions and get enough air time for us to actually get to know anybody else. And so we've only allowed two people on the playground to bully each other and lie to the bitter end, just to see who can bully and lie best. Meanwhile, my country is at stake!
This is NOT the best we can do America. I want to hear from everybody. I don't care about big money, political elite opinions or what is best for just me. I care about ALL of us. I want more options. I don't always get what I want so I must come to terms with the reality that these are the options we have. As a therapist, I speak frequently to people about choices. When you don't like any of your choices it makes you feel as though you have no choice. Yet I have been taught and continue to re-teach that we ALWAYS have a choice. ALWAYS. So I will choose in November even if it is a half-hearted choice at best. I will mark my ballot while simultaneously wondering if it is the right choice. Then I will choose to trust. Not our government, our President, our systems or even my fellow voters. I will trust in a God who continues to love, provide, protect, and grow me when I'm not even certain of my own choices. And it is the choice to trust Him that brings me great certainty.
75. I had a minor surgery this year and she came to stay with me for a few days to help with recovery. I woke up from a nap to find her outside picking up limbs in my yard.
76. She calls God her best friend.
77. She knows where all of the good things in her life have come from and not for one minute does she believe it has anything to do with her work or her efforts.
78. She always gives people the benefit of the doubt.
79. She creates special memories on purpose because she wants people to know that they matter to her.
80. She is really tough and rarely complains.
81. She listens more than she talks.
82. She has allowed each of her children the freedom to become who they were created to be not who she wanted or needed them to be.
83. If we are performing, playing a sport, getting an award or having an event she is sitting front and center in full support. Even today.
84. She decorates every nook and cranny of her house for Christmas.
85. Every year she still has each of us over for our birthdays and cooks our favorite childhood meal.
86. Every Monday and Wednesday when I get off of work she talks to me for my entire 45 minute drive home.
87. Her prayers for me are I believe, the primary catalyst for ALL of the amazing things I experience in my life.
88. Throughout my life, nobody has loved me with the same intentional passion and absolute determined purpose than the woman I get to call "Mom."