Wednesday, April 17, 2013

The Blame Game

Do you ever watch or listen to TED Talks?  I think they are fascinating, and I love how people are able to convey thought-provoking ideas and new technology in an accessible and often times funny manner.  I once watched a talk on dinosaurs that had me in stitches.  Who knew dinosaurs and fossils could be funny?  Who knew that some dinosaurs may actually be the juvenile counterpart to another dinosaur rather than an entirely different species?  And who knew you could discover this by examining sliced dinosaur skulls.  Fascinating I tell you!!

Anyway, enough about extinct reptiles...  This morning I listened to a talk on vulnerability and relationships, given by Bren√© Brown.  She said something about blame that caused me to really stop and ponder.  In actuality, it was more of a plausible definition.

Blame - a way to discharge pain and discomfort

Hmm... I've never quite thought of it like that before.  I talk a lot with my boys about "blame shifting."  When my temper or frustration doesn't get the best of me (maybe 50% of the time, if I'm honest), I have the soundness of mind to ask them to stop and think a bit before they speak about an argument, giving them some needed time to process.

"I am going to ask you about YOUR part in this disagreement," I convey to them.  "Then you can let me know how your brother was involved."

I don't want to just hear the 'He hit me and scratched me' bit, I want to hear the 'I was provoking him by holding a toy out of his reach, and then he hit me and scratched me.'  Otherwise, it just tends to be blame shifting and we don't really get down to the root of the problem and ultimately changed behavior.  We might also miss the opportunity to discuss cause and effect, the Golden Rule, and responding in love.  Most importantly, I want them to learn to take responsibility for their own actions instead of diverting attention away from any wrong they themselves have done.

While I think these are good, healthy ways to deal with arguments and blame, I'm am realizing that for some reason, I occasionally allow people to place blame on me whether there was something to legitimately blame me for or not.  Not until now have I thought of blame as a way a person could discharge their own pain and discomfort, and I realize that I sometimes allow myself to be the recipient of blame that is not even my own.

You see, I like being able to help others with their pain and discomfort, and to share their burden... I think that is part of who God uniquely created me to be.  But there are times when I will not only help share the burden, but I will somehow turn it into my own responsibility and guilt so that the other person can feel better and doesn't have to change whatever responsibility he/she may have on his/her end.  I take it all on, and I start trying to come up with my own reasons to apologize, so everything can go back to being "calm and peaceful."  Only it's not... it then becomes my own silent turmoil.  And the problem doesn't disappear, it is just shifted.

I like what Paul said in his letter to the Philippians:

"And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God."

I'm going to start praying this for myself.  I would definitely be better off with more love, knowledge, depth of insight and discernment, especially in knowing when God might be using someone's pain and discomfort to bring them to another level of holiness and refinement.  I'm recognizing some areas where I may, in reality, be in God's way, and I pray that He teaches me when and where I just need to step aside, instead of camping out in His path.  Truth be told, I really don't like camping anyway... I'm horrible at it!  I would much rather pray from home and let God pitch His tabernacle where He sees fit and wait for Him to invite me over!

Have you ever struggled with these issues?
Is there a particular TED Talk that inspired you or caused you to think differently?

Friday, April 12, 2013

Tale of the Eyebrow

A couple days ago Patrick noticed that some of Jason's eyebrow was missing, so he asked him what happened to it.

Jason:  Well, you know how I get running really fast, and then sometimes I fall?  Well, the blades of grass are so sharp that they cut some of my eyebrow off!

How do you keep a straight face with a story like that??

Me: Did you get a hold of a razor?

Jason: Nooooooo......

Me:  You are not in trouble, just tell us what really happened, because I am not buying the "blades of grass" thing.

Yes, he admitted to using his teenage brother's razor, because he wanted it to look like a really cool scar.

The next day, he came home from school...

Me: Did anyone notice your eyebrow?

Jason: Yes...

Me:  So what did you tell them?

Jason:  I told them I had been involved in some major Ninja fights.

He's gotta get some points for some very clever story telling! Don't you think?

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

On the Side of Grace

It was a holiday weekend, nearly two years ago now.  My journey had already seemed so long, and I was quite physically and emotionally spent.  I felt like running away, so I did just that.  Hastily, I grabbed my Bible and the keys to the van and said something in passing about how I needed to get out.  Backing out of the driveway, I glimpsed my brother-in-law, arriving for his weekend visit.  His eyes grew large and his head tilted in concern as I turned the corner and sped away with a half-hearted wave and a frown turning down the corners of my mouth.

After heading north on the freeway for a few minutes, I decided to exit and found my way to a park overlooking the ocean.  I cracked the windows, breathed in the fresh, salty air and began to read a few Psalms.  I had a lot of "why's" and I was desperately searching for something. Solace, comfort, healing, answers.  To know that God remembered me, to know that He cared... something I knew to be true in my mind but that which was muddled and unclear in my heart.

Soon, I found myself walking through the neighborhood along the cliffs that erected themselves high above the Pacific.  I sat on a wooden bench and looked out on the shimmering waters, watching the seagulls soar and dive, crying out in the wind.

What would it be like, I wondered.  To spread my arms and soar off the cliffs and then be consumed by the foamy turquoise water.  I entertained these thoughts for a few minutes, and then pushing them  out of my mind, I began to cry out... cries that could only be heard inside my head, full of desperation and loneliness.  I asked God what to do.  Was I even on the right track with the treatments I had tried?  Was there something I needed to do to bring about healing?  Was the suffering meant for a purpose?  I pleaded for answers, but only heard the waves crashing below, and felt my own salty tears streaming down my face.

I heard something in the near distance that diverted me away from my prayers.  The footsteps grew closer on the asphalt road behind me and then crunched over the decomposed granite.  Then they stopped altogether, and I could feel the presence of someone standing directly behind me.  Certain I was going to be mugged, I found myself hoping it would happen quickly, so that I could get back to my thoughts and questions and prayers.

Then she questioned, "Are you okay?"

I turned my head sideways, trying to somehow conceal my teary face and reddened nose.  "No, I'm actually not okay," I replied to a perfect stranger.  She was an African-American woman who looked the picture of strength and health.  Her eyebrows furrowed and the small dog she was walking sniffed inquisitively at my feet.

"What's going on?  Would you like to talk about it?" she asked with a sensitive, kind cadence to her voice.

Not even knowing her name, I proceeded to tell her about how I was chronically ill with autoimmune and glandular issues.  She specifically asked about my diet and affirmed that I was on the right track.  Then she asked about how I was mentally handling things and that she understood how tiring this journey must be.  Did I have a therapist to talk to and did I feel like that was a safe place to be? Yes, I did feel safe there.  It was as if God was answering all the questions and doubts I had just confided in Him only moments before.

"My name is Daphne, by the way," she said.  "Would it be ok if I gave you a hug?"  I nodded and we embraced. 

"Do you see that house, two houses in there?" Daphne asked as I looked in the direction of her finger.  I nodded.  "Well, I rent the place in back.  If you ever need to talk about anything, you can come see me, ok?  You are going to get through this... keep on doing what you are doing."

Thanking her, I watched as she walked off with the little dog leading the way.  I was so comforted that God, with His kind and generous heart, gave me such a tangible answer so quickly.  It helped me to hold on to hope.

At this point on my journey, I knew I had physical health issues, but I hadn't officially been diagnosed with major clinical depression and complex PTSD.  This past weekend, as I read the account of a pastor's son who had been suffering with mental health issues for years and ended his life, I could relate well to his story and his pain, because I, too, experience the affliction and despair that accompanies mental illness.  There are a lot of us out there, trying to do the best that we can, longing for the time that we can fully rest in Jesus' arms.  We need Daphne's to lovingly speak kindness and compassion, hope and encouragement into our lives.  We need tender hugs and the knowledge that you will be there if we need to talk... that you will understand or at least try to.  We need you to gently point the way to God without boiling things down to Christian cliches.  Most of all, we need the grace of God... because it is often trying just to make it through the day.

Friends, it is difficult to know what is going on in anyone's mind.  Err on the side of extravagant grace, because you never know how your words may be offering hope from Jesus to a weary and troubled mind.
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