Blessed are the merciful…

Matthew 5:7 – Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

Pardon the abundance of ‘ ‘ in this post. The ‘ seem helpful in describing my angst.

You know those spiritual gift ‘tests’ that you can take to find out what gifts you ‘have’ & what gifts of the Holy Spirit you are exempt from displaying? (Here’s an example of one: ). Well, I used to love taking those tests & discovering at the end that I had ‘scored’ high in certain areas like discernment, teaching, & pastor … & that I had scored ‘low’ (read: not on the charts at all) in mercy. Because, hey, I’m a firstborn & I am a ‘consequences’ person. You get what you put in, & don’t expect me to make it easier on you. Mercy was for the Mother Teresa’s of the world – I was more concerned with ‘justice.’ As long as it didn’t apply to me. When it came to me, I wanted mercy. For others? Justice. As I saw justice appropriately meted out.

Looking back, I feel silly because I was almost SMUG about my results being low in mercy… as though mercy was something that weak people displayed, while people like me (The Firstborn Justice Mafia) served to keep life in balance & compensate for the Mercy People.

One day, I was reading through Matthew 5, & the verse at the top of the page hit me in the heart like a ton of bricks.

The merciful receive a blessing, & receive mercy from God.

Because God is merciful. And He wants mercy above good works. (Matthew 9:13)

And my petty, fleshy-human nature is exposed for what it is. Self-serving. Egotistical. Proud.

I am cut to the heart – I do a word study in Scripture on mercy. Bad idea, if I want to keep my worldview as is. God is merciful. Compassionate. Slow to anger. Rich in love. And His people have His tendencies. And I have not embraced mercy. And I’ve used stupid tests to validate my own twisted sense of justice. And I am unmade.

Mercy extended. Brings mercy to me. Lord, help my unbelief. Transform this heart.


Wind and fire, a return to school-ness, family, & other musings…

Oh LORD. Have mercy.

Fire is one of my favorite things – candles, camp fires, a back yard fire pit. Fire. In moderation, under control, providing ambiance, warmth, cheer… Sigh. I’m sitting at my desk looking out my window at the smoke filled sky… yet another wind-blown rager has descended upon the Reno area, consuming at least 10 houses in the Pleasant Valley-ish area. Oh LORD. Have mercy.

Sunday evening marks my return to my Master’s program & with it a 6 month deluge of reading & writing before my next break. I find myself wanting to drag out the days until I go “back to school” as long as possible. Its not the work – its the stress that keeping my school schedule in the context of an already full life – puts on my attempts to live “in rhythm,” balanced; to not only have a good day off, but to Sabbath. To cease. Rest. Celebrate. Reflect. Deadlines, assignments, pressures have taken me & my resolve to Sabbath to the bending point… bending to the point of recognizing a great need for an iron backbone and a forehead made of flint that, for the good of me & mine, will enable me to navigate the next phase of life & school. Oh LORD. Have mercy.

It has been exactly 5 months & 7 days since #1 son, the Pasty Gangster, moved to Knoxville, TN. He is doing well, has a great job, is prepping for a return to school in the fall, & his relationship with Alexandrea is going gangbusters… (He inherited from his Papi the uncanny ability of having a beautiful, talented, compassionate, caring woman fall in love with him. 3 words: Jedi mind tricks.)

I miss him something terribly. There’s a part of me that is so happy for him – the prayerful choices he made to get where he is, the hard work he’s put in to excel at his job, & set himself up for the next phase of life… And there’s a part of me, that is still grieving, missing him; it is so close to the surface that merely thinking on it moves me to weepyness, & I find myself “dad-gumming” the dust in the room that has gotten in my eyes. Oh, the joy of feeling one’s emotions… Don’t have a date to see the boy yet, but I’m hopeful. And praying for him. And us. And asking the LORD for mercy on our lives, and favor upon his.

Joey, aka iDoey came into our room last night, and laid across the foot of the bed. The whole thing. He was even hanging off the edge of it. What HAPPENED to that kid? When did the little man turn into the tallest member of the family? His drivers license tells me he is 17. I don’t believe it. I still see the 2 year old boy that used to try to sneak into my room in the morning (if 4 a.m. is the morning), dodging pillows that I’d toss at him, trying to make it to his mom’s side of the bed so he could alert her to his need for food & drink: “I’m hungry, and thirsty, and hungry!” Always the same words. The same intensity and desperation.

iDoey is passionate. His personality is reminiscent of my brother Johnny’s – super strong, articulate & well-expressed. I have oft been tempted to counter his strength with my own tidal wave of forcefulness, strength, & power… but that’s been shown, long ago, to be ineffective. Meekness, controlled strength, patience and perseverance is what was required. Oh, so many times I blew it in a blow up, only to repent later, asking forgiveness of my God & my boy. There’s not much time left before the world we live in calls my son an adult, challenging him to move out on his own to pursue life, dreams, & God’s plans for His life. I resist the temptation to control, and find myself praying for this boy/man. Oh LORD. Have mercy.

Alyse, theWeez, Princess Weezer-brooks just had birthday #15. She takes great joy in tormenting her father with stories of her dreams of getting married in just a couple more years… Oh theWeez, you can wait a little while, can’t you? I will spoil you something terrible, & you will get to have your mom & I all to yourself…

We, she & I, picked out a ring for her birthday – its special, with her birthstone – we call it a “getting a vision for sexy-time with her husband and only her husband” purity ring. To save the specialness of intimacy for marriage. Because my girl is special, & worth waiting for. Oh LORD. Have mercy.

Thankful for the peace of God that transcends understanding & circumstance, filling my heart & mind with the comfort of KNOWING that I KNOW that He is with me. Is sufficient for me. For my life situations. And my kids.

So say we all.

Nobody owes me anything…

January 2006, I was in Los Angeles with theMoses & brother for a the National Foursquare Youth Leadership conference. One of the plenary speakers is my now District Supervisor, Ron Pinkston. Something he said that morning has stuck with me to this day, & I repeat it to myself daily.

Nobody owes me anything.

When he first said it, I smirked, & my internal response was, “That sounds good… &, even better, I don’t owe anybody anything…”

That thought was still on the tip of my brain (you know what I mean; it was still bouncing around, being pondered & whatnot,) when he said, “And don’t go thinking that you ‘I don’t owe anybody anything’ is the same thing as ‘Nobody owes me anything.’ Cause its not. I don’t owe anybody anything is selfish. It’s petty. It numbs us to our personal responsibility to love one another, actively. To do to others as you would have them do to you…”

I was floored.

You know the times when someone is talking & it seems like they are talking just to you? That the subject matter & the things that they’re saying specifically address you, where you’re living, right on the dot? This was like that. Except stronger.

My heart was in my throat & it raced 100 miles an hour.

I. Was. Convicted.

The rest of the speech is like a dream in my memory; I remember bits & pieces vividly, other details not so much. What I do know is that the whole time Ron talked, I was consumed in an inner-dialogue with the Holy Spirit.

It felt a lot like Dickens “A Christmas Carol,” (the George C. Scott version of course,) where the ghost of Christmas Past, Present, & Future view scenes from Ebenezer Scrooge’s life, & let him be an observer to himself & to the people in his life.

Unbeknownst to me (or at least successfully ignored by me for a time,) a virtual bastion of thoughts, strong beliefs, & feelings that I was OWED something by others had born ‘fruit’ in & through my life.

Anger. Resentment. Entitlement. Bitterness. Offense. Pessimism. Negativity. Biting sarcasm. An inability to enjoy people, relationships, & situations that SHOULD’ve been enjoyed.

Some fruit.

I saw:

  • A wife & family that OBVIOUSLY didn’t appreciate all that I did – from working hard to provide for them, working around the house, personally going without so that they could play a sport or purchase a ‘want.’ I was OWED at least a regular diet of “Thank you’s.”
  • Countless times where others, especially those closest to me, should have known what I was thinking, feeling, hoping for, only to let me down. I was OWED more consideration.
  • ‘Friends’ who hadn’t reached out, hadn’t called, hadn’t sought me out, hadn’t done ANYTHING, when it was OBVIOUS that I was hurting – I was OWED more attention from them.
  • Times where I found out that my friends had gotten together to do something fun, & that I wasn’t invited – I was OWED an invitation.
  • People that had left the church without a word, a note, or an email – people I had loved, cared for, wept with, & invested in – I was OWED more than silence.
  • Being overlooked for a series of special assignments within our church family – that I was BEST qualified for, & didn’t even get ASKED about. I was OWED more.
  • Disappointment at unmet hopes, dreams, & expectations, even feeling let down by some as though they should have been a part of making MY hopes, dreams, & expectations a reality. I was OWED that.

You get the picture.

A really bad part  of the ‘fruit’ of my entitlement was the collateral damage  it had caused to other people through my example, my frequent ‘sharing’ of my feelings (complaining? gossiping?,) thereby influencing them towards the ‘dark side’ of cynicism, negativity, & self-focusedness.

I saw that I’d given away, neglected really, the responsibility for myself. My feelings of peace, happiness, &  joy. My contentment.

People had to walk on eggshells around me, not knowing what to expect… Because the very worst part of feeling like I was OWED, was that I didn’t express my feelings or thoughts to the people I was feeling OWED BY.  In retrospect, it feels silly to me to look back; embarrassing even.

This last week I ‘tweeted’ that I’d be writing a blog on this topic – my friend Tim wrote me giving his take on it & I want to share it with you…

I just saw your twitter post. Wanted to chime in.

Nobody owes me anything. I started to try to intentionally live this way a few years back. There are many great results, but one of the most unexpected ones was this: I am more confident in my communication of who I am and more bold about what I would like.

It’s like this: As long as I felt like people did owe me stuff, I’d either:

1. Sit around and expect that they would know what they owed me and wait for it to come, or
2. Speak out the things I felt I was owed and have emotional turmoil about the potential response.

Now, I can freely talk about who I am and even the things I’d like to see without putting a visible or invisible expectation on anyone else to actually give it to me…

Nobody owes me anything” allows for a kind of detachment that allows me to fully express my heart, because I don’t believe my heart must be confirmed by anyone else. If it is, great. If it isn’t, it does not diminish who I am or the dreams I have.

Nicely put.

Bottom line, I know that what I have learned & am learning can be redeemed, & maybe someone, somewhere can learn from me & what I’ve gone through, instead of having to choose the ‘way of pain.’ That’s my hope.

Nobody. Owes. Me. Anything.