Friday, February 15, 2013

A Friend is a Friend...Or Not

This is friendship! Unhindered, unadulterated, unconditional friendship! Isn't is a great picture? Isn't it a picture that we would love to see in our everyday life? I would and I wonder when I watch my horses bite each other, run each other off, and sometime be mean to each other, if they really are friends. But I realized something 2 days ago, my horses can be 'aggressive' toward each other, when they are having a bad day, or when the pecking order starts to get marred, but all in all, those moments last for a very short time; maybe 30 seconds, maybe 5 minutes, but when the moment is over, it is over, and life goes back to scratching each other's back. I tend to look at my friendships somewhat similar to my horses relationship, or at least I try to - I do have to say that is much more difficult than it sounds.  It is far harder for me, with my human brain activity, to be fired up about an issue, explode and then let it go. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind, the issue will linger and sometimes pop up when least expected. Unfortunately for me, I am not my horse, I am alive with thoughts and memories and things in my life that required constant attention.

I am somewhat like my companion mare, Raychel, she is very aggressive, very dominant and very moody. She takes up offenses for her herd continually and when there is an issue or, heaven forbid, someone goes after our matriarch mare, Princess, Raychel takes up to kicking their butt.  I can watch her when she is jealous or angry and, very similar to me, she will go after the culprit until she finally gets them; not to unsimilar from me.  I have been battling taking up others offenses for most of my adult life. If someone related, close or even an acquaintance is offended or hurt, I can immediately take up their offense and their side. Some would say that is very admirable, very loving, but in reality, it is not...ok well not in most cases.  This happened once again this week, 2 days ago to be exact, I was ready to take up an offense for a new friend; ready to head to Fayetteville and kick someones butt....and I had decided I wasn't going alone. (Ya know I am kind of small and when you're my size you should always take backup in the form a good friend that can scrap. haha)  So for 2 days I have been worried and then stewing over this new found friend's issue. Why would her long time friends be so mean? Why would they try to cut her down in her time of true need? What is wrong with people? (Ok that last one is really rhetorical, there are a lot of things wrong with people.)The offense may have more of an affect on me than I would like, this friend is broken, trying desperately to find a way to heal from a horrific and terrible loss almost a year ago. And in the midst of this time, she has turned to her lifetime friends, people who know her and her heart, and in this moment she has been hurt by those she is closest too. Doesn't that just make you feel like you could take up her offense? Doesn't it make you questions those around you? The ones who are closest to you? Psalms 41:9 "Even my closest friend whom I trusted, the one who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me."  Pretty  harsh! And this from David, who's best friend, soldier buddy, turned against him when he needed is friend the most. David talked about his trials, his hurts and his friends. I think, in reading this one sentence, that David was hurt most by the betrayal and hurt he suffered from his best, closest friend. I believe, in all honesty, that a friend who hurts you is probably the worst kind of hurt, it was for David and I believe it is for us. It is the hurt that cuts the most, even when we don't want to believe it, it is the hurt that probably travels with us the most through our life, and it is the hurt that causes us to take up another's offenses.

I wish, yes wish, that I could tell people that friends shouldn't be this way and have them believe me. I wish that I could tell friends not to be that way and have them hear me; I think all of us do, even tho it doesn't really work, we wish it. Why do we wish it? Because we are human, we are not horses (although that thought is a wonderful thought isn't it). We usually don't have a plethora of friends who will stand beside us but we do have those who would stand by us through anything. In my human life I wish that a friend would n to raise their heels against me, I would love to say that every person I have ever met would never betray or hurt me, and I would be living in a fantasy world. But, even when I know that a friend could betray me, when I guard my heart against friendship because, in the end, I believe that they could raise their heel against me, I meet someone who tells me that I have always been nice to them, that I have encouraged them, and my heart guard breaks down just a little bit.

I know, as well as you do, that friends in our life come and go. Unlike my horses, who live in a pasture with the friends that  I give them to live with, I have a multitude of those who are friends.  Unlike my horses, who with time accept everyone, I sometimes guard my heart against those who I meet, and there are those, that circle of friends who know more about me than they probably care to know.  Those people, that small herd, that inner circle of friends are those who I bear my heart to the most. I hope that you have those friendships too, I hope that somewhere in the midst of hurts and betrayals, you can narrow it down to a group of friends that are your herd.  They would go to war for you, without question, they would stand and have your back, with no fear, and they would stand and cry with you, no matter what.  I guess I am living in a pasture after herd is small and compact, with friends that would love me and hate me at the same time, forget offenses in a short period of time, and when needed, they would run someone down and beat them up when warranted...I do have a herd, I wonder if you do too?

Friday, February 8, 2013

Well That Jumped Up and Bit Me In The….

There are sayings, phrases, looks, and words that my family always used. It didn’t seem what the situation was at the time; they were able to come up with something that wasn’t appropriate that seemed to fit the situation.  We were very poor and my mom worked several jobs just to keep us in a trailer park, I believe to this day her favorite rhetorical answer to us was “put want in one hand and s*&^ in the other and tell me which weighs more.” Inevitably this was used when we really thought we needed something from the store or in life that was a ‘want’ not a life preserving need. My Aunt Barb on the other hand always waited until just the right moment when something had gone terribly wrong, after she had given direct and loud advice against it, and she would state, with profound dignity “Well that jumped up and bit you in the …”(let’s say butt), her way of saying “I told you so.”  That happened this week something came right up and bit me in the butt. Jumped up out of nowhere and got me. What was it…contradiction is actually what it was, I was hoping over the past 4 days that somehow it would change to conviction…that hasn't happened (hence the title!).

I hate finding out in the midst of something that I strongly believe that I have been a hypocrite. Although I know deep down every one of us is in some way or another but it just bugs me when it happens. So what happened? In my small group on Monday nights we broke down to smaller groups to discuss the video, women whom I know and don’t know sat in a small circle to discuss the points and meaning of what we had just heard.  During that time, a very nice woman (forgive me but I forget her name) was making a point about protecting oneself, knowing your surroundings, and generally not trusting anyone. About 2 minutes into her point, she looked at me and said “like you (pointing at me) never trust a horse.” Without a thought, I said “no, I trust my horses completely I have to every time I get on them.” Her response “you never trust horses”. Now for those of you who know me, my head was in the midst of several questions that I wanted to ask this woman. Something had to have happened for her to make this statement (or maybe the Holy Spirit just put it in her mouth for me-something I am still kind of struggling with). But I would think over all  most of you would agree if you heard someone make a statement about – well anything – that sounded like this, your first assumption would be that there had to be an experience that caused that reaction.  Where’s the contradiction you ask? Here it is, not long ago, and probably every time I teach someone to handle and ride a horse, my first statement is always, don’t trust that horse completely, they are an animal, 800lbs of ‘get the heck out of my way something’s going to eat me’. I tell people to be aware of what’s going on when handling horses, especially on the ground, because they are horses and in a herd they will push each other around and you are just a speck standing in the way. And yet, at the moment she pointed me out and said ‘you never trust a horse’ my first instinct was to say ‘no I trust my horses completely.’ Well if that didn’t jump up and bite me in the butt!! (My aunt would love that right now, hearing that statement from me!)

So what is it in me that made that quick, unthought out, unhindered statement? Why would I teach and tell people one thing and without a moments consideration immediately say that I didn't believe it? It’s trust, unhidden, unbound, unquestioning trust of my horses. In the simplest terms that what it is; even in my cautions to people just learning about the wonderful animals of non-trust, in the end, I have to trust them. I trust that every time I put my foot in the stirrup, swing my leg up and over their back, and sit on them, they are going to allow me to do it. I’m trusting that they won’t kill me, which any of them could do easily, I’m trusting them to do as I ask and do it without conflict. I’m trusting them to about the measure of 800lbs. Why is this important? The small group I am in is called the Law of Love, at its core it’s about trusting what God has in store for me, loving Him completely to get me through it and to it, and not worrying about the caution to go.   Deut 6:5 “Love the Lord your God with your whole heart; love Him with all that’s in you; love Him with all you've got.” (MSG) There are different versions of this verse, I really like this one, but you may have heard it like this “love the Lord your God with all your heart, and all your mind, and all your soul” – I heard that first in the New Testament from Jesus, I didn't know at the time that it was said probably over 1000 different ways with the same result throughout the Old Testament.  The Israelites were told to write this on their hearts, write it on the hands, on their foreheads, on their door frames, on their gates, take it everywhere they went, when the sit, when they talk, everywhere! What in the world?! Write it on their foreheads!? On their door frames and gates?! That’s a little extreme; even for the Israelites don’t you agree? Or was it? As a child from the 70s, I remember learning in school meant memorization (that is not the case today), it meant if I had to learn it, I probably wrote it 10 times or 20 times, and if it was a punishment 100 times what I wasn't going to do anymore. (Do you see what’s happening here? I just got bit again… don’t laugh, you did too!)

Write it on your foreheads, your hands, your door frames and gates. Learn this with all your heart, mind, and soul so you take it everywhere you go. Isn't that what God was telling them? Wasn't he in essence teaching them how to trust Him without questioning Him? And how did He do it? He told them to write it everywhere that they love Him. Because let’s face facts, none of us, not one, trust someone we don’t love. I’d like to say that I love Him with all my heart, soul and mind but that would be a lie, because I don’t, not yet anyway (maybe I need to start writing!). I don’t think it’s a surprises to Him, I think some of you would probably say let me pray for you, and I would say thank you for your prayers but praying isn't going to get me to love anymore than a smack in the face. I have no idea what it will take to get to the point of completely and wholly trusting and loving God, I don’t believe that is a surprise to Him either. What I do know is that He knew the Israelites needed to be told where to put it, where to write it, and where to keep it, and maybe I need the same thing.

Contradiction is a big realization don’t you agree? Sometimes, probably more often then we would like, God gives us something without our knowledge and allows us to stand on that for a while and then He throws a wrench in the whole thing.  That’s exactly what happened to me, a wrench came flying at me in the form of a woman who is afraid of horses, and through her God threw a wrench at my head. Maybe I need a lesson with me on horses (I’m sure some on you are laughing right now) only this time I need to hear what I’m actually trying to say. What is that you ask? Don’t trust the situation, maybe the situation isn't perfect or trustworthy but He is; trust Him who put me in the situation, or allowed me to go into the situation. Because in the end the horse person in me sees it this way; when I’m getting ready to enter the situation, I am putting my foot in the stirrup; trusting that He is going to stand with me, swinging my leg over the saddle; and knowing that He is truly by my side, allowing me to sit with confidence astride their back. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

You Can Look But You Can't Touch

If you had an upbringing like mine the phrase "you can look but you can't touch" meant that you were somewhere you could do nothing but put your hands behind your back or in your pockets and stare endlessly at the shiny things on the shelves. It also meant that no matter how much you asked your mom or dad for something that answer was going to be 'no'. The pleading and grumblings of your heart's desire was going to fall on deaf ears, and if you continued it usually meant that you were going to get something else - no not what you wanted! I remember thinking as a teen that I would never, ever use certain phrases with my children...Like "because I said so", "because I'm mom that's why", or just "because", but one that I remember using over and over again is "you can look but you can't touch". It's funny how a cycle comes about in an adult life that we are determined not to do and yet there it is, our parents incarnate coming out of our mouths!

I wonder sometimes what would have happened if I had parents that said yes to every one of my whims? What would it be like to get absolutely everything that I wanted, pleaded or begged for? What would it be like to have been raised without rules like "don't touch that!"? Wouldn't that just be wonderful! Come on think about it....Everything you wanted as a child, which lets face facts, that was absolutely everything we saw, every minute of the day, whether in a store, on TV or something of a friends. Everything! Wouldn't that be the coolest thing in the world? To be able to live carelessly and see everything and go everywhere and get anything! Wow! What a fantasy world! But what then would there be to offer my children? If I had and got and did everything, would I be willing to do the same for my children? Probably not. I mean lets face facts, if I had already done and gotten everything, why would I encourage my children to do anything? I probably wouldn't be enthusiastic about a new thing for them because I would have already accomplished that goal...sort of a 'been there done that" attitude.

Moses had a similar thing happen to him, he was told that he could look but not touch. He was hand picked as a child by God to free the Isrealites from Egypt, hand picked to bring plagues to Pharaoh's people, to lead the people God put in him charge of to a place that was talked about for hundreds and hundreds of years, the Promise Land! He was destined to lead tens of thousands of God's chosen children for 11 days, across the Red Sea, through the desert and the Jordan to the Promise Land! Oh what a delight. And then within a few days, that joy was destroyed, taken away. Moses, like those who cried about entering the land across the Jordan, was told he would never see the Promised Land, he would never cross the Jordan. Moses even pleaded for 40 years with God to forgive him, he pleaded, not the way you and I would, but pleaded all the same. Deut 2:23-28 "At that time I begged God, 'God, my Master, you let me in on the beginnings, you let me see your greatness, you let me see your might - what god in Heave or Earth can do anything like what you've done! Please let me also in on the endings, let me cross the river and see the good land over the Jordan, the lush hills, the Lebanon mountains.  But God was still angry with me because of you. He wouldn't listen.  He said, 'Enough of that! Not another word from you on this! Climb to the top of Mount Pisgah and look around: look east, west, north, and south. Take the land in with your own eyes.  Take a good look because you are not going to cross the Jordan. Then command Joshua. Give him courage, Give him strength. Single-handed he will lead this people across the river. Single-handed he will cause them  to inherit the land at which you can only look." Well if that's not a kick in the butt! Not only could he only look and not touch, he had to tell Joshua that he was going to get it and Moses was going to give him all the details on how to get it! That's like a kick in the head isn't it!?  That's like standing in the checkout line at the store and there in front of you and your sister is all the candy you can't have and all of a sudden your mom says "honey you can't have any because you're in trouble but you can help you sister pick you her piece of candy but you can only tell her you can't touch or point to the candy." That sucks! Don't you agree? If you don't than you and I have to have a serious discussion. Don't you feel bad for Moses? (Heck don't you feel bad for yourself having to pick out the piece of candy for your sister?!) I mean really this the same situation, the same terms, Moses was in trooouuuuble! I mean some big time bad trouble. He spent 40 years in the desert trying to get God to let him cross the Jordan and all he got to do was destroy two kings on the west side of the Jordan and then look at what he would never set foot on. Makes me kind of mad how about you?!

So now that I got a chance to rant, and I got you on my side about the whole thing....I wonder what the point of this is, what in the world is really being said here? And while I'm writing, I'm talking to a friend in a text, and out of nowhere it hits me. Smack! (yes just like that) And I wonder what it is that I am going to be encouraging someone to do that I will never get to do, that I will never be able to take part in? What is it that I get to see a glimpse of, travel the road toward, and never get to touch? And I realize that I am doing it everyday with my girls.  Everyday, I get to see Sydney go to school and excel at things that I never could have begun to do at her age, I get to see her pick up an instrument, pretty much any instrument, and learn to play it in a matter of weeks. I get to hear her try to teach someone how to read  music, I couldn't even begin to read music. Everyday, I get the opportunity to hear about Jennifer's life at college, I get to encourage her to persevere through troubles of her heart while being homesick and becoming part of a new life and new family. Everyday I get to hear about her new adventures, about her new classes that she is loving, classes that I never took part in as a teenager, college that I never experienced at her age. Do you see, I got to look but I can not touch. I can encourage and love my children, both of my daughters to a life that I never got to take part in, encourage them toward a new life, that I have never got to experience. I have the opportunity to know, that eventually, each of them will meet the husband God has planned for them, know that eventually they will be mother's and somewhere in the midst of all of their life, I will get to be at the beginnings but I will not be at the endings.  I will get to see but not touch, I will get to be part of for a while but not forever. And so I wonder, who else in my life am I getting the opportunity to encourage, strengthen toward a Promise Land that, like Moses, I may get to get a glimpse of but never get to set foot in? And I wonder, maybe God wasn't saying no to Moses just because Moses was still in trouble. Maybe God was saying 'I have given you the opportunity to raise a generation that will be greater than you. A generation that will be greater than the seas, a generation that will be My loving people. I so love you that I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you don't need to touch what you are heading toward. But those you have raised, lead, taught, and loved, they will continue on the path that you have started. See...there is more to this than you know, more to this than you can understand. You are more to this generation than you, right now, could even imagine. Trust me."

You can look but you can't touch doesn't sound so bad anymore. It doesn't hold that power anymore that I don't get something I desperately want anymore. Instead, it holds a hope that I get the opportunity to be more than I think I am, an opportunity to encourage a generation to be more than they think they can be, an opportunity to do something I'm not so good a doing....encouraging those to go ahead, leading those toward a promise, filling up with the spirit, following the words of God, going to a place unknown, seeing without being able to touch, and trusting.
"Then command Joshua. Give him courage, Give him strength. Single-handed he will lead this people across the river. Single-handed he will cause them  to inherit the land at which you can only look."