Do Not Dread – Laugh

“Call us if you need us then,” we texted.  Another heartbreaking end to an adoption situation gone awry.

For the life of me I can’t understand the type of thinking that goes into planning out a scam.  And it was a scam, plain and simple.  There was no crying mother, holding her child, unable to give that child to another couple to raise.  I can understand that.  This was a woman who falsely filled out paperwork and was surprised to find out that we wouldn’t give her funding or match her to a family until we met her face to face; even though we had to fly to Texas from Georgia to do it.  This was someone who was trying to extract money and break the hearts of a trusting couple that will not have the ability of bringing life into this world on their own.  Not only do I not understand it but the Christian in me is tested.

In a world where things go wrong because of people knowingly making poor choices it is difficult for me, at times (okay most times) to love my neighbor and pray for those who persecute me.  I try to remember, in  I Peter 3:14 it says, “Do not dread or be afraid of their threats, nor be disturbed,” but  I do dread these encounters. I don’t comprehend the manipulation and malice it takes to put a plan like that into action.

So last night I laughed.  My mother used to say, “You have to laugh.  Or else you’ll cry.”  I laughed with a group of friends at a comedy show put on by a local church and I haven’t felt that type of release in a long time.  Ninety percent of comedy is about normal life and that is pretty funny sometimes. Of course it’s always funnier later, but it can be funny.

There is, “a time to weep and a time to laugh; A time to mourn and a time to dance.”  I am praying for your laughter today.  We both need it.

 

Sin or Mistake?

So I’m sitting in a group talking about the dumb things we do in life and I hear that new but familiar whisper in my mind, “God takes care of our sin.  He doesn’t need to fix our mistakes, we do.”

It was quite an abrupt thought actually.  I had to ask myself, “Is it a mistake when I get angry or is it a sin of judgement and unkindness?  Is it a mistake that I hurt someone’s feelings or a sin? What’s the difference and why does it matter?”

For me a mistake is something I do by accident, without premeditated thought and without contemplating the consequences.  A sin, on the other hand, is something I do knowing full well what the consequences are and not caring at that immediate moment.  Both cause regret and both should be addressed immediately but only one seems an intentional misuse of God’s gift of grace while the other seems an unintentional way to be forced to ask for someone else’s grace.

I sit back and think to myself, “The trouble is, if it’s my job to fix my mistakes, then when I sin and call it a mistake it becomes my job to take care of my sin.  So, do I really want to be held accountable for all of the sins I can’t take care of?  I think I’m pretty tied up already working on fixing all those mistakes!  It’s probably much easier to come clean, ask for God to take it and release it than to hang on to the delusion that it was ‘just a mistake’. ”

Then I hear, “Stop calling it a mistake and start asking for forgiveness and strength.”

Uh huh…noted.

White Soul Exposed

I’ve wanted so much to reach out every day this past week to tell all of my friends of color that, sure all lives matter…but for me…YOU matter.  You are my friends and I hope you know that I hate how this all feels for you.

I know that despite my cultural openness I am still guilty of assuming and pre-judgement.  I am openly admitting that so that, hopefully, you will forgive me.  I am another victim of the books, movies, music and even cartoon portrayals of black men and women everywhere. In my heart I don’t see you that way but my mind is forever recording garbage.  It is the shaping of misconception; like movies that make you not trust old bridges.

In every movie, that involves an old bridge, something bad happens when you cross it.  Maybe if they filmed happier scenes on the bridge, more often, I wouldn’t be so sure something bad was going to happen when someone went across it.  Nothing bad has ever happened to me on a bridge before and other than seeing some beautiful ones in pictures I’ve never actually seen anyone plummet through one.  I have nothing to base my bridge anxiety on, except those movies; but I’m still unnerved by them.  I think media influence can do that to you; make you feel emotions that you might not otherwise feel.

People of color, who know me, come to know quickly that I don’t judge others by their skin color but how do I express that to those who do not know me? I am always kind to everyone, I meet them with a handshake, a hug when appropriate, and look them in the eyes.  I laugh with them in elevators and ask how their vacations are going when we’re out of the state.  But truthfully, sometimes I am still afraid; afraid of offending you!  So, I say nothing because I’m afraid to say the wrong thing.

I do see your color, I acknowledge it because it’s beautiful and it’s an important part of your life and culture, but I treat you with respect like every person I meet.  Still, I trip on myself not refer to your skin color because I’m not sure if I should use the term African American or Black American or just black.  I don’t tell you how beautiful your weave is or how jealous I am that you can wear the brilliant colors you’re wearing because I wonder if that feels like I am “trying too hard” even though I sincerely mean it.  I want to say something in the summer time about my fear of blinding you with my neon white legs and how I wish I was that beautiful golden brown you are, but I stay silent because I am worried that you will think I’m being fake about it.   I look in envy every time I see a large black woman wearing tight clothing because she is so much more secure in her body than I am in mine, but I wouldn’t say that out loud for fear that she might think that I was actually being condescending and not flattering.

Yes, I am aware of the differences in our skin colors but not in the way you think.  More like in the way someone admires all the shades of blue in the sky at sunset. Yes, I’m sometimes afraid of you when we meet but not for the reason you believe.  It’s usually because I’m wondering if I can smile at you and you will honestly believe I’m not “one of those” white people (insert whatever unkind thing you’ve heard about us).  Yes, my eyes follow your children.  But because I love children and find your children fun to watch or beautiful as teens growing into adulthood.  You are not all the same.  We are not all the same.  We are not all thinking the same things.

Please don’t be frustrated with me for not knowing what to say.  So much has happened in our family’s pasts to make it hard to know for sure how you will respond to me.   I am not my ancestor but just like a new husband I am paying for your ex-husband’s sins until you get to know me better.

So why haven’t I said anything before this?  Because I don’t know what to say.  And I desperately want to say something.  Each time I read Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s words, “In the end we remember…the silence of our friends,” I feel the responsibility of saying something I don’t have the right words to say.

What can I say to the people I love and care about (and to others I don’t even know as well) that coming from my white mouth, would not feel like phoniness to your black ears? How can I make you feel my heart when I say, “You matter to me!”, and that I die a little inside as I empathize with the injustices that you feel?

A couple of days ago I talked with a couple on the phone for almost an hour about helping them adopt a baby.  I didn’t know until the end of the call that they were an African American couple.  Yesterday we met with a single, black woman about adopting.  We spent over an hour visiting because we had so much fun and so much in common.  For some of us life goes on the same in both worlds.  We meet, we laugh, we visit, we are touched by one another.  The world does not define us or our relationships.  This cloud exists only to darken what could have been an even more enjoyable relationship.  And yet we each feel the impact as if the world is shaken in two.

And we, straddling the divide, look at that bridge and dare to cross it.

 

© 2016 Dee Shihady, The Quiet Christian
(photos by internet research, not by author)

Grace, Ah, So That is What It Is.

Colossians 1:21 – “Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds which was shown by your evil actions…”

It’s interesting how we believe that God is mad at us when we do wrong things.  We suddenly “see things where there are none” and we alienate ourselves from Him.  But God never moves away from us…we move away from Him.

1:22 – “But now he has reconciled you by His physical body through death, to present you before God as a people who are holy, faultless, and without blame”.

Huh, so that even if I have separated myself from Him I am not being accused?

It is amazing to me – this gift I didn’t really understand that existed all along.

How could I – who have attended church all my life, I who have prayed regularly, read my bible, taught bible classes, and converted others – how could I have actually missed the real message behind all of that?

When I am telling others of God’s complete forgiveness is it really possible I could have missed the point?  That they could have walked away with that assurance while I remained in bondage?

And the promise was right there all along – in the bible I’ve read a hundred times!

I Shall Not Want

I love to shop. I love it so much that I use it as my down time, my celebration and my pacifier.  It is really not healthy even though I don’t really buy much. In fact, my husband and my mother have both noted that I can “nickle and dime” myself to death. Still, it seems I can hear the Spirit whispering when I’m moving through the isles, “Are you sure you really need that?”

And, of course, I usually don’t.

Barring the story of the “good shepherd” and how he always sees to the needs of his flock, I attempt to remind myself that this time it’s more than that.  This time when I read, “The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want…” (Psalm 23:1) I realize that believing this small phrase is a matter of trust, not acquiesce.  It’s not about sitting passively wishing I had more but of trusting that if I really need it, I will have it.

I’m not sure if you’re like me but I know I’m not that person…the one that waits to see if I really need it.  I am a Preparer; an obsessed version of the good boy scout.  Ask me, at any given time, what I have in my purse and I’m sure I will be able to bring forth something odd and/or only necessary if the sun goes down at exactly 7:19 pm.  So the idea of passing up something in the store that I might, at some point, want to use is really difficult for me. (How many extra measuring tapes and boxes that look like books can one use, you say?)

“I shall not want…”, it’s not a command, it’s a promise.

Oh.

God Loves a Questioner

God loves a questioner;

the man who asks before he does.

As much as he who nodding, plodding, does it just because.

God loves a heart that questions and wants to know just why.

He loves the one who cries in grief instead of standing by.

If not, the world would never get the beauty of the things

that come from wanting more of what we know the answer brings.

To question fosters progress. To ask increases trust.

If found, a profound faith in what we know inspires us.

God loves the man who asks His name and whether He is real.

The question begs an answer or a reason not to kneel.

In that moment of discovery, as the focus is the task

is when God becomes the answer to any question we could ask.

If I feel shame in asking, the disgrace is all my own

for God may love the questioner even more than one who won’t.

 

© 2016 Dee Shihady

Watch this great YouTube video on the personality of  the Questioner, according to Gretchen Rubin, Author of The Happiness Project and Better Than Before (the book I’m currently reading!) Are you a Questioner?  I have been my whole life! lol

 

The Day God Made

This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it. —Psalm 118:24

 

Hi, my name is Dee, and I am a control addict [hello Dee].  It’s been 10 minutes and 21 seconds since my last attempt to control a situation.  I have alienated friends, family, and strangers with  my addiction.  I know it’s all an illusion but I can’t help myself, it’s a disease.

Okay, seriously, I have not alienated people (because I also like to control whether I’m liked or not) but I have gone through some major emotional pain trying to make things come out the way I want them to be.

So the other day I was reading this scripture verse and it suddenly hit me to put the emphasis in another part of the sentence.  THIS is the day the Lord has made.

As in, this is the day the Lord has made…(Yes, I’m sure you would like this day to be a different kind of day)… Let us rejoice and be glad in it….(So, be grateful for this type of day and know that I have a plan.)

Oh, so this isn’t a sentence only meant to praise God but also to give up your control issues?

ME:  No! This is not working out right!  Oh God, I don’t think I can do this!

GOD:  Relax, I’ve got this.  This is the day I made.

ME:  But if this happens everything will be ruined!

GOD:  But this is the day I have made.

ME:  I can’t see any good come of this!  It’s painful for me and uncomfortable for them.

GOD:  Every way of a man is right in his own eyes but the Lord weighs and tries the hearts*. This is the reason I have made this day.

ME:  But, what if…

GOD:  Nevertheless, this is the day I have made.

Hi, my name is Dee, and I am a control addict [hello Dee].  It’s been 5 minutes since my last attempt to control a situation and God loves me anyway. Lucky for me He forgives my attempts to control Him too.

*Proverbs 21:2

Perfect Parenting

I am often reminded, in my stupor of personal wallowing, that the fact that I have plans for my future is of no consequence to God.  It’s not that He doesn’t let us choose our future, it’s that He is, after all, a Father.

When my college-age daughter comes to me with a plan that I believe will ultimately not be good for her I have two choices; I can support her decision-making process (even while telling her how I feel) or I can tell her I know better than she does and that she will do it my way or not at all.  I’m sure you can imagine that I would like to do the latter most of the time!

And yet our relationship has been steadily built on the premise that she is an individual and, as such, may want to do things differently than I would do it.  Truth be told she has made some very good decisions and I’ve been proud of her.  However, for the most part, I know her potential, her weaknesses and her strengths and I know what she should probably be doing so I could save her a lot of time and effort by just insisting on my course.

Here’s the glitch though.  She may end up in the same place I would’ve sent her but if she doesn’t make it there on her own she will have missed the opportunity to grow in that area.  What could be the most important thing she does can quickly turn into the thing she resents because it wasn’t her idea in the first place.

I think God is that parent when we try to make our own plans.  He listens, He nods, He celebrates our willingness to think for ourselves and try new things, He laughs with us and cries with us when it doesn’t go as planned and He could say, “I told you so” but He never does.  He actually knows us better than we can ever imagine, what we’re here for and what is best for us and yet He allows us to come to that conclusion all by ourselves.

Dee Shihady © 05/09/16

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