You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘love’ category.

My Granny was one of my greatest spiritual mentors. It was not until she had a stroke and could no longer walk or talk that many of the words that she had spoken to me over and over throughout my life finally really sunk into me. It was like all of her teaching time was over, and the lessons were finally transferred to me, and I began saying the words back to her….reminding her of her own lessons as she suffered greatly at the end of her life. It was beautiful and sad at the same time.

“I finally get it Granny, and now we cannot talk about it together. You can no longer speak, and I am speaking your words back into you.”

But the good news is that although she is no longer with us I did finally get it, and she has left a legacy of spiritual wisdom here on earth.

Granny had many flaws and issues. She was far from perfect, but she lived a long life of fearless faith. She showed me the power of the Holy Spirit in a surrendered and humble human being. She never made a spectacle of herself when the spirit moved her. It was not for show with her. It was reality.

She taught me far too many things to mention in one short post, but a few small examples come to mind.

She taught me about the power of spoken words to create in our lives through faith or in fear. It is our choice.

She taught me that prayer works.

Everyone used to call her and say, “Will you pray for me about such and such because your prayers work.” She would always firmly tell me, “Your prayers work too! But, yes, I will agree with you in prayer of course.”

I will never forget walking into her bedroom as a little child crying with unbearable pain in my feet…..an odd ailment that tormented me many a night in my childhood. She whisked me upon the bed with Papa and her, grabbed my feet and began praying out loud for healing. She even commanded the devil to leave my feet alone which I thought was very strange even as a child…..but to my astonishment it worked! My feet instantly stopped hurting, and that had never happened before. It was a lesson in faith that bewildered me but that I also never forgot.

I sometimes quietly told myself that she was really an angel in disguise on earth. She had learned over her long life the art of  keeping a gentle tone in her voice when dealing with us kids, and her hair was even snow-white which fit the angel persona in my childhood mind.

Although she was quite the Alpha woman, a leader, a mover and a shaker….she was also gentle and compassionate in her approach…..a delicate balance of power and humility.

Even her death seemed divinely orchestrated. She passed away quietly in her sleep early one Thanksgiving morning when the family was already gathered in from out of town for Thanksgiving Day. And it seems fitting that she would leave us with one last message just by passing on that day…..Be grateful for all of life, but do not fear death for it is also a part of life.

Last year when my family suffered two horrible losses…..the death of a baby and the sudden death of a beloved young uncle…..my mom found a copy of a prayer tucked away in my grandmother’s keepsakes. We read it at our private outdoor memorial. It seemed like Granny’s contribution to us during this difficult time. It must have been a prayer that she kept close to her heart, and it is a prayer that I hope to live by every day. I will close with the prayer:

Keep us O God from pettiness: let us be large in thought, in word, in deed.

     Let us be done with fault finding, and leave off self-seeking. May we put away all pretense and meet each other face to face without self-pity and without prejudice.

     May we never be hasty in judgment and always generous.

     Let us take time for all things: make us to grow calm, serene, gentle.

     Teach us to put into action our better impulses, straight forward, and unafraid. Grant that we realize it is the little things that create differences and that in the big things of life we are as one.

     And may we strive to touch and know the great common human heart of us all, and O God, let us forget not to be kind.                                                                                                                                                                 Amen

 

Advertisements

I think that the revelation of grace is one of the best kept secrets of all time. People hear about grace, read about grace, talk about grace, sing about grace and even extend grace to others all the time, but very few seem to really “get it.”

I was raised in church my entire childhood. We were there every week an hour early for “Sunday School” and then stayed for the actual church service. We went to weekday services between Sundays, and I always attended or worked at summer Bible schools and camps.  I was blessed not to be in a fear based “hell-fire” atmosphere. There was a lot of love there and focus on giving to the poor. We were taught the actual Bible and not watered down stories even as kids so I had a very good foundation in teachings about grace, and one would think that grace would be a no brainer for me.

But my own experience is that grace really is a revelation or an epiphany that takes place in the soul or spirit. It is hard to describe it in words because it is almost beyond words. The word is “grace” and that does not really explain it. I have found that when I try to explain it to people they either light up with recognition because they have had this epiphany themselves or they look at me with eyes of confusion because they either do not understand what I am saying or they think that I am saying something wrong…I don’t know.

It was not until later in my adulthood that I had the realization of grace. And when I did I honestly felt as if I had been born into a new life.

I walked around in awe telling people “I feel like I have been struggling to get through a very tight dark womb and have finally been born into the light of the free world.”

The experience for me was so intense that I worried that people might think that I was a little “crazy.” They probably did.

I  remember saying, “Oh! This must be what those people mean when they say “born again!” But do they even know it?”

So what is it? How do I find the words?

Well I used to think that I had to try really hard to be “good.” I had to struggle to “do the right thing” all the time. I had to work hard. I had to help everyone that needed anything. I had to “be there” for everyone all the time. I had to strive and strain to achieve perfection, and with all of this hard work I would one day “arrive” at this Christ like state of being.

I would drop everything in my own life and help others…friends, family…no matter what. I was doing many “good” things for others. I was ALWAYS there if they needed me and not just there as a friend or in comfort, but I was there doing everything ..being everything…..I was playing God!

I was the one that they came too for literally EVERYTHING. I was very co-dependent. I was being their Holy Spirit. With me around no one had any need to go to God for anything. I had all of the answers and all of the help available 24 hours a day…Haha!

I was getting my self worth from “helping” everyone else…from being needed…from trying so hard to be good…to be God.

I was also getting more and more drained, depleted, and resentful. People never gave as much to me as I did to them. My own life and all of my own problems and issues were conveniently being ignored by me, and my own life was not going so great. I even dropped out of college several times because there was ALWAYS a big crisis in my dysfunctional family during the semester, and I would turn all of my focus onto that drama instead of my own life. Co-dependence is just another form of escapism.

So the revelation of grace did not happen overnight. I guess it was a lifelong process that finally came to a head, but when it finally clicked it seemed like it happened all of a sudden.

I realized that all of this trying and struggling and being everything to everyone was wrong. This is not the way to grow into the Christ-like being of love that I was hoping to emulate.

I realized that Christ does indeed dwell within me (Ephesians 3:17)…that the Holy Spirit is inside me (1 John 4:13)…that God which is love is within my very heart, soul, spirit and body.

I, like every human, am a unique creation. I am created specifically a certain way in order to express a unique aspect of God (love) on this planet at this time. I am created “in the image of God.” I, like everyone, am a unique ray of God’s immense love. This is cliché, but there has never been nor will there ever be another expression of God’s love on earth that is exactly like me so if I am not my true self…the “self” that I was created to be… then the world will not experience this unique aspect of God’s image ever again. In being my true “child of God” self I am fulfilling my purpose.

Grace is not about how hard I try, how much I do, how good I am, how much I struggle to be something.

Grace is about surrender…letting go…allowing the spark of God that I carry within me which is without limits…without fear…eternal and infinite to come alive on this limited 3 dimensional earth in this limited 3 dimensional body that I live in for this finite time.

It is nothing that I have or can ever earn by working hard and following rules, but as I surrender to this gift which is given to me because of the love of God that is within me and around me I am then COMPELLED to do the good things…the loving things that I was uniquely created to do.

I am no longer struggling to prove myself to God or others in order to earn love, approval, or status. I no longer have to wear myself out to do everything right and to be everything to everyone in order to achieve a Christ-like state of being.

When I let go of all of the struggling and trying and working, and I release myself from my inner task master in order to surrender to the spirit of love (Christ) that is within me I almost naturally but also supernaturally begin to walk on the path of fulfilling the purpose and doing the good works that God has purposed for me and my life……And that does not include every good work that my poor body can possibly do.

Yes…sometimes I catch myself slipping back into my co-dependent ways. I do not have it all perfectly figured out. I have not “arrived”

But I can at least catch it now at some point before it gets out of control because of the revelation of the grace of God which is given to me by the grace of God.

*”Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me-watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.”   Matthew 11: 28-30 (Jesus’ words) emphasis mine

* “What I’m saying is, If you walk around with your nose in the air, you’re going to end up flat on your face. But if you’re content to be simply yourself, you will become more than yourself.”   Luke 14:11 (Jesus’ words)(emphasis mine)

* “And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies because of his Spirit who lives in you.”  Romans 8:1

* “If I was “trying to be good,” I would be rebuilding the same old barn that I tore down. I would be acting as a charlatan.

 What actually took place is this: I tried keeping rules and working my head off to please God, and it didn’t work. So I quit being a “law man” so that I could be God’s man. Christ’s life showed me how, and enabled me to do it. I identified myself completely with him. Indeed, I have been crucified with Christ. My ego is no longer central. It is no longer important that I appear righteous before you or have your good opinion, and I am no longer driven to impress God. Christ lives in me. The life you see me living is not “mine,” but it is lived by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I am not going to go back on that. Is it not clear to you that to go back to that old rule-keeping, peer-pleasing religion would be an abandonment of everything personal and free in my relationship with God? I refuse to do that, to repudiate God’s grace. If a living relationship with God could come by rule-keeping, then Christ died unnecessarily.”   Galatians 2: 18-21

We are finally here…the anxiously awaited year of 2012. This is the year that many have thought about, talked about and written about….and here we are. And I feel a buzz of excitement in the air. There is spirit of change blowing through this time and space like a hurricane force wind.

There are uprisings of people around the globe. All over the world people are finding the courage to rise up against oppression, tyranny and lies. People are demanding truth, and they are revealing truth of all kinds. Things that have been kept in darkness are being brought out into the light for all to see. There is an awakening of sorts happening. I see it all over the world.

I have been connected to people around the planet through the internet in a way that was not possible just a few decades ago. I hear the same message and longing from them all. People are calling for hearts to be changed and opened. People of the world are crying out for the truth to be revealed and for truth to be heard. People are longing for human connection and divine connection. People are daring to believe that a better world is possible. People are looking for something much greater than themselves alone whether they realize it or not.

I see great fear in people of the world, but then I see them fighting that fear with great ferocity through the power of  faith, love, and connection.  I see courage in humanity…courage to speak the truth…courage to stand up for peace, freedom, and love…courage to be themselves.

There is an opening right now like a beautiful flower that is just beginning to bloom. Hearts, minds, and eyes are opening globally and this is being manifested in many different ways.

There is also great opposition to the spirit if these times. That is the way that it is on planet earth. There is always opposition…light and dark, yin and yang, good and evil….everything has an equal and opposite reaction.

I feel a burning in my soul and a vibration of a higher frequency that is becoming more harmonious with the song of the creator’s love….Agape…unconditional love.

No…I do not always act in harmony with it, but I feel it in my spirit. As I allow myself to open more and more to the heart of God… the spirit of this great love flows through me and it makes me dance to its music.

These are amazing times to be alive. My cells are singing with anticipation of the things to come. I do not imagine it all to be easy as great things rarely are, but I am working towards surrender to something beautiful and new. I hope that you can tune in and feel it too.

Just like a mighty Oak Tree receives the light of heaven freely through its branches,

As I reach toward heaven the love of God flows freely through me by grace.

Just as the tree is nourished all the way to its roots by the sun,

So am I nourished through and through with the light of God.

As the tree sways in harmony with the breeze while remaining firmly rooted to the dark womb of earth,

I remain solidly grounded as I am moved in a dance like flow by the breath of the Holy Creator.

Everywhere I look nature teaches me about the love of the one who created it.

And in looking at the tree I am reminded that I too am a conduit between heaven and earth.
As I gently walk the earth in this dense physical body totally open-hearted and surrendered in spirit,

The love of Christ flows to me and through me, and I humbly become a bringer of heaven to earth.

I believe that every person’s life has purpose. Every person has a part to play in this drama that we call life. It is so easy to get absorbed into our own world, to put on the blinders of separateness and to lose sight of how we are connected to a much larger picture than just our small day to day routine. We are all a piece of a greater puzzle. We are a note in a much fuller, more harmonious song. Our lives are threads in a beautiful tapestry.  Life really is a dance with a pattern that touches and connects with others all along the way, and we usually have no idea of the impact both positively and negatively that we have on the whole picture.

This concept is expressed so simply and perfectly in the classic Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life.” If you have seen the movie you know that when just an ordinary man, George Bailey, has his life erased from existence it causes a domino effect of disturbing changes in the lives around him and even lives of those he does not even know.

When one person touches other lives even in small ways then the lives that she touches then effect other people which then touch others and the ripple expands throughout the world. And this includes positive as well as negative impacts.

So with this in mind I have been wondering why so many people feel that they do not fit in? When you see the big picture it is obvious that everyone has to fit in, but so many people feel that they do not. So many people feel isolated and separate and unimportant. And many times we as humans perpetuate this belief by refusing to connect with others on any deep level. We do seem to push people out many times and add to this illusion of separateness and lack of life purpose.

Sometimes we don’t go as far as making someone an outcast, but we just deal with people on a surface level. We keep many acquaintances and call them our friends. Why are we as humans so intent on making some people feel like they are not a part of things, and why are we so fearful of connecting with others in a real way?

The more that I learn about people the more I see that we are all so similar. We are all so insecure sometimes. Even that person that you see and you think that they have it all together…they have it all figured out…they have it so great….well, they are insecure too.

We would all be so much more fulfilled if we embraced the connection that we have to everyone…if we embraced our similarities and our differences….if we broke through our fears and illusions….if we embraced one another.

There are certain relationships in life that just seem other worldly or divinely orchestrated. I have definitely experienced some of these with people, but I was seriously amazed when it happened to me with a cat especially since I had never really been a big animal person before.

I was about 20 years old, and I was going through one of the darkest periods of my life. Everything that I had been through as a child just started becoming clearer to me when I moved out on my own, and it seemed as if the world just crashed down on me. None of my old defense mechanisms were working anymore so I turned to more unhealthy and self-destructive ones because I honestly felt like I would not survive otherwise. I was dark, depressed, and self-destructive, and I honestly felt like there was some dark demonic force sitting on my back and trying to take me out. I know that sounds weird, but I really felt it. I would pray frantically, “Oh dear God please make it go away!”…..But it didn’t.

So anyway, out of the clear blue one day I got this weird obsessive thought that I wanted a pure white cat. When I say obsessive I mean I could not shake this desire that came on as suddenly as a heart attack. I just felt this strong pull and longing to get a white kitten IMMEDIATELY!

I looked in the newspaper that day to see if there were any cats for sale or for free, and low and behold there was an add that literally said, “All white kittens for sale.” It was the strangest synchronicity! It was actually bizarre to me that I suddenly got this odd urge then opened the paper to see the fulfillment to my urge right there in print.

I called the number, and the man said he had a litter of all white Persian kittens that I could come see. He lived an hour and a half away, and even though it was already about 8:00pm I asked him if I could come right away. He said, “sure,” so off  I went to spend my rent money on this little being that for some reason all of the forces of God and nature were pulling me towards.

When I arrived there with my boyfriend the man pulled out several cages of fluffy white kittens, and he let them all out for me to see. All of the kittens were showing off, jumping around, playing, and prancing like they were all competing for my attention. But there was one little guy that just ran like a fraidy cat back into his cage and hid all by himself in the corner staring at me with desperately frightened eyes that said, “Please get me out of here.”

He was also the only one that had a little silver patch on the crown of his head. When our eyes met and locked I knew that he was the one that I had come for, and the breeder acted surprised that I wanted the shy kitten, but I had no doubts at all that he was the one. There was some strange other worldly recognition that I had with his old deep looking eyes.

So I held him close to my heart all the way home comforting his fear with soft loving words, and we were instantly bonded. Over the years our love only grew and grew. He was affectionate with me. He hugged me, kissed me, slept on me, and there was nothing that he could ever do that would make me give him up.

He was almost like a dog with me. He came when I called. He stayed close by. He sensed when I was upset and was right there to comfort me. He loved me even when he witnessed me doing bad things, and I always felt guilty when he would stare at me as I was hurting myself in some way, and I would always hug him and apologize.

Other people marveled at the strange connection that I had with Casper, my kitty. I would let him out to play, and without even realizing it I would get up in the middle of a conversation with friends and open the front door, and he would run inside. When my friends’ jaws dropped I said, “What?”

They said, “How did you know he was at the door? He never even made a sound?”

I just shrugged. Casper and I always knew what each other needed. We had no problem communicating without words, and I had never experienced this kind of connection before with an animal.  Apparently it was unique even to see because others often commented on the strangeness yet the sweetness of it.

There was a period of time when I was in college far away from my home town that I was basically homeless….well I was homeless. I had everything that I owned in my tiny two seat car, and I had a pager so that people could get in touch with me. They would page, and I would call them from a pay phone. It was a crazy unstable time, but Casper was with me. I had him along with his litter box in my car with me. Where ever I was… he was home no matter how much we bounced around from place to place…we were together.

He was the love of my life honestly. We were soul mates. My boyfriends would even get jealous! I know it sounds insane, and I honestly never would have imagined having this kind of bond with a cat, but it just happened. He was my angel really. He came into my life when I became an adult and needed an angel more than ever, and he stayed with me during 14 of my wildest and most roller coaster-ish years.

I truly believe that he was heaven-sent. He even looked angelic with his pure white fur that was softer than a cloud, his tiny pink nose and mouth, and his big deep golden eyes that looked so loving and wise.

As Casper and I grew older I began longing for a child, and every now and then this horrible thought would pop into my head that said, “You are going to have to let go of Casper before you will be able to have a baby.” I would quickly push that thought away saying to myself that it was just a fear and not true, but deep down I felt it was honestly that deep inner knowing that comes to me sometimes that is true. I just did not want to believe it.

I tried to conceive unsuccessfully for 8 difficult years, and Casper remained faithfully by my side through it all.

Then one Saturday morning in January Casper came and jumped on me while I was sleeping late. He wanted me, but I pushed him away so that I could sleep longer. He calmly went off and allowed me to sleep. Then when I woke up and got my coffee I went and got back in my bed to relax and watch a movie. Casper then came back, and jumped into my lap.

He sat with me snuggling and purring loudly for a while as I pet him and gave him the love that he had been craving earlier. Then all of a sudden, as quickly as a heart attack, Casper gasped a few times and died in my lap.

It all happened so fast and so unexpectedly, but I knew instantly as it began happening that he was leaving me forever. I could almost see his spirit leaving his body in some strange way. I immediately burst into hard sobs, and started saying, “It’s okay….it’s okay” through my tears because I just knew as I always had with Casper that this was all in divine order even as difficult as it was.

My husband and I placed him in his new bed that we had just purchased for him. We took him to my grandparent’s house into a beautiful wooded area and covered his body with flowers before putting him in the ground. I decorated his grave site with tons of pink dewy flower petals that just happened to be all over the ground already, and I said a prayer thanking God for my angel and asking God to enjoy him in heaven as I had here.

This was one of the most difficult losses of life that I had ever experienced. I sobbed for weeks, and I still cry sometimes years later, but I also had peace about it because something in me knew that it was all just as it should be. Casper knew that he was leaving me that day, and he waited for me to wake up so that he could  say goodbye and so that he could be with me at his passing.

Little did I know, until later, that Casper died literally two days after I conceived my daughter. It was as if they passed each other in the ethers. He left as she came…. One great love for another. I don’t know why, but it still somehow makes sense.

I do not know if I will ever experience something like that with another pet. It is not something that can be forced. I tried. I tried to get another cat later, but it just did not work out even nearly the same.

Casper’s and my relationship was divine. He taught me more about unconditional love than I ever could have imagined. He was my angel in disguise, and I will look for him to greet me when my time in this world is up. Until then he remains with me in my heart and sometimes meets me in my dreams.

People often talk about God’s judgment and God’s wrath, but honestly it seems to me that we are the ones who really want to make others pay for their wrong doings. We are the ones who want to pour out our wrath on others.

We want to experience redemption and forgiveness for ourselves. We want others to see our side of things, to see the pain that brings us to make our mistakes, to give us a second or third or fourth chance to get our lives straight and do things differently….but when it comes to others we as people love to play the role of prosecutor and judge. We love to hold people accountable, and we can be extremely harsh judges full of wrath, ridicule and hatred.

We love to talk about how God will make people pay for their wrong doings, and there is some truth to that I guess. There is a law of karma…what goes around does come around…do unto others as you would have them do unto you.

But what about redemption? What about forgiveness? What about restoration of broken lives and broken people? We all want this for ourselves. We seek this from God and from others. We seek mercy when we are in trouble. What about other people? What about people who do things that we do not understand?

What if there are people or even loved ones who refuse to understand us and refuse to see the pain that causes our brokeness and our mistakes? What if we are the ones who the lynch mob is coming after? What if it is us who the world wants so badly to see as the worst of the worst. What if we are the ones being held under a microscope and then burned at the stake.

What if  God refused to extend redemption, forgiveness and multiple chances to us? What if we never experienced those miraculous moments when we somehow get another chance in life after making a horrible decision or a colossal mistake?

Are we really willing to do unto others as we hope that others will do unto us?

Are we willing to extend mercy when we do not understand another? Do we really seek redemption for others? Or do we only seek it for certain people with certain problems?

When I look at the life, the example, and the words of Christ I see something groundbreaking. I do not see wrath and judgment against “sinners.” I see Christ going out of his way to talk to women who were seen as lower than dogs in that primitive middle eastern culture.

I see him intentionally approaching and talking to a Samaritan woman who was living with a man she was not married to and who had been through about 5 husbands….very taboo in that society. The Samaritans were seen as “less than” by the Jewish people at that time so the fact that he was talking to a woman from another race with a bad reputation was extremely taboo!  He privately took time to talk to her and to reveal himself to her. He did not avoid her or expose her faults to everyone or seek to bring punishment or condemnation on her. He sought to bring her salvation and grace and good news to share.

I see him showing up at the exact time that a “lynch mob” was about to stone a woman to death for being caught in adultery. I see him putting a stop to them and calmly pointing out to the crowd that they were all just as guilty. I see him extending love, forgiveness, redemption and acceptance to her.

I see Christ making a point to spend time in the homes of the most hated sinners. I see him touching and loving the untouchables and the “unclean”  men and women. I see him asking those whom society had discarded to follow him and to be his friend.

Christ came to level the field, to set us free from all prejudices and separations and to show us that we are all the same:

“There is now no distinction neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is not male and female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”                   Galatians 3:28

Even after his death and resurrection I see Christ revealing himself to a man, Paul, who had been going around persecuting and killing the early Christians. Christ revealed himself to this horrible man in an extremely dramatic spiritual encounter, and Paul was totally transformed. He was forgiven. His life was completely changed, and he became one of those that he had been previously judging and killing! Yes….a killer was changed and given a new life of purpose.

The main times that I see Christ judging and extending anger are towards the Pharisees, the prideful religious people who went around harshly judging everyone else! Christ judged the judges not the sinners or the outcasts.

Christ extended love and compassion for those stuck in patterns of sin and brokeness. He made a point to reach out to the lowest people in society, but he spoke harshly and passed judgement on the ones who claimed to be more righteous than others and who held themselves up as prosecutors and judges of others!

Christ fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy of Isaiah (61) when he proclaimed,

“The spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed  Me to preach the good news to the poor; he has sent Me to announce release to the captives and recovery of sight to the blind, to send forth as delivered those who are oppressed, to proclaim the accepted and acceptable year of the Lord [the day when salvation and the free favors of God profusely abound.] ”           Luke 4:18, 19    

Christ came to show us the nature of God. His nature is to redeem, restore, forgive, love, help, transform and heal. His nature is to give us as humans many chances to fail and then get back up and try again. His nature is to rehabilitate even the “worst” of sinners and then give them a purpose in life for the causes of goodness and then to continue to extend grace to them when they fall again and attempt to get up yet again.

That is not our nature though….not most of us most of  the time. We tend to be more of the lynch mob looking to point the finger, judge, punish, and brand people for life. We tend to define people by their worst moments in life and hold them to that forever. We even get angry at others who do not want to join the lynch mob as we demand justice! We see this now at the end of the Casey Anthony trial for example.

Christ came and revealed to us a new and better way. He revealed to us a loving God. He revealed to us grace which is the undeserved favor and blessing of God. He showed us that grace comes to us not by what we do and do not do because we are all guilty from time to time. Grace comes to us by our faith in the goodness of God. God is love, and He cannot help but to love. It is his very essence. He showed us how to bear each others burdens, how to love and extend grace instead of judgment because we are all guilty of something.

He gave us two commandments:

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind…..And the second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as you do yourself.”   Matthew 22: 37-39

He was very different from those around him and from those around us today. I am a fan of redemption and grace. I have thankfully been the recipient of it, and it is because of that I strive to give that grace to others.  I do not always succeed, but when I do I never regret it. These are some of the reasons that I love this Christ.

Feelings of compassion are probably no strangers to most loving people, but I can still remember the exact moment when I came to the realization that compassion is profoundly painful. Sometimes true moments of compassion can be so unbearable that I think that many of us close our hearts just a little bit in order to bear it.

All of us being human have probably experienced compassion many times throughout our lives. I can think of many times that I have felt compassion for my fellow humans or even an animal. We have all felt that ache in our hearts when we see people suffering. That ache becomes stronger and harder to bear when it is a loved one such as our child, a sibling, a parent, a spouse, or a good friend.

Sometimes it is easier to work really hard at cheering the person up, to try to solve their problem, or to try to change the subject and stop thinking about it than to allow ourselves to really feel the gravity of the pain that they are suffering.

I have found though that when we do allow ourselves to experience compassion in its fullness we connect to something more true and more real in our hearts. We learn something instantly in that moment about ourselves and about humanity. When we allow ourselves to actually feel someone else’s pain even for a moment we connect to the truth about their soul and our own. We connect to our very connectedness.

This is very different from feeling sympathy. I am talking about having a moment of actually experiencing someone else’s pain in its entirety, and this is not easy or fun to do.

I remember a time when I was about 17, and my mother had recently found out that my step father had been having an affair. She had decided to try to work out the marriage which did not work out in the end, but she was trying. Things were very uncertain during this time. Our lives were shaken.

My step father had been the source of extreme misery for our family. He was abusive, highly critical, negative, oppressive and wallowed in his own misery. He was messed up, broken, full of self-hatred, angry, bitter, and sick in many ways. And he took it all out on us.

But he had been the step father that I lived with the majority of my childhood. I lived with him from the time that I was 4 until I was about 18, and there were some good moments. There were some times that we laughed together, and there were a few moments that he surprised me with gestures of love, true affection, or kindness. This is a very confusing thing for a child. There is love for and even from an abusive parent in some strange way.

Well my mother told me that she was trying to work out her marriage with him, and she asked me to be kind to him (which was a strange thing for her to say I think.) Since I always tried to help my mother in any way that I could and had spent my life doing things to try to show her the love that I subconsciously saw that she never received from her husband…. like buying her tons of Christmas gifts, defending her in arguments with him, making sure she was okay, watching her back…etc….I got on board with her for this too.

I don’t know why I felt compelled to do this, but I got my step father a sweet card, and I wrote a pages long heart-felt letter to him. I do not even remember what it said, but it was something from a part of myself that is more loving than any other part of me because remember….he had abused and hurt me and my dearest loved ones repetitively. I left the letter for him to find.

I did not stick around to watch him read it, but later I heard him closed up in the bathroom sobbing loudly and uncontrollably. He was wailing, and I had NEVER heard this from him in my life.

At that moment I felt his pain in my heart in a way that I had never felt before. I felt his brokeness and all of the pain that caused him to treat us the way that he did. I felt his humanity, and I actually felt connected to him in a true way for the first and last time. The pain that I felt coming from his true self into my heart was one of the most unbearable feelings I have ever felt, and I could not even sit with it for very long. I had to consciously close my heart a little bit to it after a few minutes because it was so horribly painful.

It was in that moment when I felt true indescribable heartbreaking compassion for my abuser that I realized what compassion really is and the gravity of it.

I have never forgotten that moment because of the impact that it had on me and the immense lesson that I learned in that brief moment. Since then I have understood the reality of compassion in its truest form and the reality of its heavy burden. I have seen how I and others have to close ourselves from the fullness of it at times in order to protect ourselves from the extreme heaviness of it. I have realized that many times we mistake sympathy for compassion and that they are very different.

I have also realized that when we have the courage to keep our hearts open even for a brief moment to compassion in its entirety even with and especially with those who hurt us and perpetrate against us we learn lessons about the human spirit that we would never completely understand any other way.

I have been awakened to the fact that compassion is not about butterflies and rainbows like we sometimes like to think. It is hard. It hurts. It involves suffering, and it teaches us more about the purest and greatest form of love than most other things can teach us. And it is worth it.

I have noticed that in life it seems that people who walk through very low valleys also get to experience very high mountain peaks. That has been my experience anyway. I have seen quite a bit of crisis and trauma…so much that crisis feels like the norm sometimes, but I have also seen more than one big miracle in my life. And I mean life and death miracles.

Just at the time when my group of best friends (my tribe that I spoke of earlier) began to change and go our separate ways something big happened. We were all feeling the change in our relationships. We were feeling the loss, and we were all fighting it a little but to no avail. My telephone rang one day, and my husband picked it up. I could tell by the way that his voice changed that something was very wrong. I was saying, “Who is it? Who is it? What happened?” It was one of “the friends” who was the husband of another one of  the friends, and her nickname was “Butterfly.” “Butterfly” was one of my closest friends in the group. Strangely I had recently followed an inner nudging to write her a letter telling her how much I loved and appreciated her. I had mailed the letter, and she had received it.

My husband told me that Butterfly was in trouble. An aneurysm had burst in her brain. I grabbed the phone from him. Her husband sounded differently than I had ever heard him. He was always strong, and he would never admit to weakness much less ask for help, but he called us. He told me that the headaches that they had thought were migraines were actually an aneurysm and that it had burst in her brain and had been bleeding  into her brain stem for 24 hours before they called an ambulance. She was in a coma in ICU, and she was going to die.

I hung up the phone and called another friend to tell her, but since I was the one who handled the heavy stuff I was the one to handle this too. She told me that she was glad that I was going to the hospital because she did not think she could handle it. She did pick up her guitar and wrote a beautiful song about Butterfly though as was her way. In a panic I grabbed my purse and ran out the door to the car with my husband to race to the hospital. I left the door of the house wide open because I was in flight mode.

When I got there I saw Butterfly, who was normally vibrant and full of life, looking like a dead person and hooked up to life support. The doctors said that after looking at her brain scans there was really no hope for her to live, and if by some small chance she did live that she would be a vegetable unable to walk, talk, or do anything. (Thank God I had written her that letter just in time.)

I went into warrior mode. I went to her bedside almost everyday and held her limp hand and prayed. I spoke blessings over her out loud in the form of scripture verses about love and life, and I talked and talked to her unresponsive body about love, God, Christ, and us. I held hands with her mother and siblings in the ICU waiting room and prayed. Many other people were praying for her too.

I put a picture of Butterfly looking alive, healthy and smiling beautifully up on my wall beside my bed so that I would see this healthy image of her everyday when I woke up. I dug through my junk and found a note that she had left at my house one day that said, “You are loved….B.”  I hung this on my wall as well. I had a dream one night that Butterfly was in my house looking as beautiful as ever and walking around completely healed. In the dream I told her that it was the power of prayer that healed her.

Two weeks went by, and Butterfly remained in a coma. During this time I decided to get baptized at my church. I had been baptized as a baby, but I had never experienced being dunked. I had entered a new stage in life and with God so I really wanted to experience this traditional kind of baptism to symbolize my new life. That day in church I was shaking with nerves and with the power of God that was overwhelming me. I stood in front of the church and told a very tiny condensed version of my story on the microphone, and then I was dunked under the water and raised up in baptism. It was an invigorating experience for me that I cannot explain.

Immediately after church I drove to the hospital to see Butterfly who had been completely dead looking for several weeks. She had been through brain surgery and had her head shaved with big staples coming across her skull. I was coming to once again pray over her, talk to her, and care for her body. I had been sick for a few days so I had not seen her in a few days. When I walked into her room on the day of my baptism my jaw dropped to the floor when I heard her voice say my name, and she said “I love you, and I have missed you so much!” I literally almost passed out!

This was the girl in a coma who was brain dead! She was going to die! There was no hope for her, and she would definitely never walk or talk again!

She just recognized me! She just spoke to me in a complete sentence, and she just told me she loved me! After she said this she went right back to being vegetable like. It was just as if she had one moment of clarity when I walked in the room that day! I got goose bumps, and my hair stood up on my arms.

That day was a turning point though because each time I saw her after that she was more and more conscious. Slowly, slowly over months she began to return to us. She was moved to a rehab facility where she learned to walk very quickly because she has a very strong will. She would not let people help her much. She meant she was going to walk! Over time she began to talk more and more clearly. Her personality was in tact, and she was her crazy old self.

She has had a tough time and a long road. She still forgets words at times or blurts out the wrong word at the wrong time. She still has issues to deal with due to some brain damage, but she is still the same old Butterfly. She still has that spark in her. She is the girl that I always knew. She looks the same. She can walk and talk and even regained her ability to drive. She is my miracle girl. She is Butterfly, and we will always keep in touch.

Years ago I had the honor of being a part of a true tribe. We were brought together by the pull of gravity, by forces of nature, and by God himself I think because somehow we just came together at exactly the right time for exactly the right season. We were all troubled souls, and we were living in an underground party culture, but we were not afraid to seek truth and to talk openly about God in spite of our shadowy existences. There was a core group of about 6 to 8 of us that clung to each other and lived life together no matter what happened.

We literally lived together slumber party style every weekend, and we saw each other as much as possible during the week as well. We were totally vulnerable with one another. We hid nothing, and we let all of our skeletons out of the closet. We did not have to be good or bad when we were together. We were free at last to be ourselves no matter how dark or light we happened to be at any given moment. We were not trying to live up to any standards or uphold any reputations. We just were.

We took care of each other. We watched each other’s backs wherever we went, and we trusted each other with everything (our money, our belongings, our hearts, our lives.) Other people in the sub-culture noticed that there was something unusual about our tribe and about the way that we loved and cared for one another, and they would tell us that they wanted to be a part of it.  We would take them in, but they never hung around too long. They would be transient members that hung out for a time and then moved on or showed that they could not be trusted, but our core tribe never parted. We would argue amongst ourselves at times but not for long. We always came back together and worked it out.

We all had our roles in the group, and I was given the nick name “Lil’ Lightnin'” because I was the tiniest one in the crew, but I had a giant spark. I was the one that everyone knew they could run to at any hour, and I would take them in and care for them. I was always promoting love at all costs, but there was also a wild streak in me that would come out if you crossed me or one of my friends, and then “lightnin’ would strike!” I was always a pacifist, but apparently I could get you with my words in a way that let you know that you had messed with my peeps, and you would know without a doubt that you had been “struck by lightnin’!”

Those days were magical in many ways. We spent so much time together wild and free. Much of that time we were on the beach dancing all night in the light of the moon and the phosphorescence to the music of our own resident DJ. We could also be found huddled together under the stars deeply contemplating the universe or shallowly acting like goofballs  or just being silent as the waves crashed in and out. We let go of every care that we had in the world and lived in the moment. All of the pain and heaviness that we had carried throughout our lives just melted away when were in the comfort of each other’s presence. We were safe  together. We were free to be ourselves. Our hearts were wide open, and we were young wild flowers (both male and female) being carried by the ocean breeze.

We remained together in this strange lifestyle for about 8 years, and then as all things do, things began to change. I realized that I could not live like this forever and that it was time to grow up and straighten up my life. Others in the tribe went through changes of their own, and slowly we began to move apart. It still saddens me to this day that things had to change, but now there is no way to go back. Life is just different now.

But my tribe will always be a large part of my heart. If they need me they know that I am still “Lil’ Lightnin'” at heart, and I will always be here for them. We rarely see each other or talk anymore, and years have gone by. I have not experienced a closeness like that with a group since then. It was a unique thing in life and a unique season. There were consequences for some of our wildness, but I do not regret it. That was a necessary part of my life that carried me through a unique time to the present life that I now live. It was a necessary part of making me the person that I am today and in making me who I am becoming still.

The break up of a family like that is not an easy thing to get over. It has taken me years to transition from that experience. It is hard not to compare everything to it. After years and years I am finally beginning to open my heart to the idea of a new tribe that is in its youthful stages. Love like we had does not die, and it does not easily change, but it does change. And we have moved on.  I thank God for them, and I am thankful for the part that we played in each other’s lives during a crucial time when we all needed each other so much.

~Love to my lost tribe forever~