Friday, October 15, 2010


I've been left wondering what people do when we come up empty praying for a wounded, broken or faded relationship. When we leave our spouse and take the kids, or are no longer speaking to our parents, or get to the point where we have to block a former friend on facebook so they can't harass us anymore. How did things get this bad? we wonder. We certainly had good intentions... we never wanted to fight with this person, we wanted a good relationship, we did all we could to make it that way.

Sometimes, though, you come to the point of realizing that you are just empty. You have done your best to improve the relationship, or maybe just manage the relationship. Or maybe some of both. Then one day, you run out of gas, like a car on the side of the road. The relationships in life that are supposed to nurture you are draining you and making you feel as dry and cracked as a patch of ground in West Texas in August.

You wonder if anyone is praying for the person you felt you had to walk away from before they drove you insane. You feel like YOU should, but you can't. You try, but the words don't come. You are just drained. You're past caring much about anything concerning that person or relationship right now, except that you got out of it with your sanity intact.

For many of us, especially women, there's still that little voice saying it's our fault. We should have been more patient, tried harder, given more. Like with the Institutional God, anything you can do was never good enough. We all grew up watching TV shows with 'good guys' and 'bad guys' and that's how we've been taught to view people in broken or rifted relationships.

Maybe the first thing that is needed is to try to stop seeing 'the good guys' and 'the bad guys.' Although in some situations one person was clearly more at fault, can people just agree to part ways when they can't get along? Even if they're related, even if they used to be best friends?

Better yet would be to repair the relationship, but I've lost a lot of hope for that because I just don't see it happen. What I see a lot of is divorce, broken friendships, extended family who won't speak to each other. I know God's heart is for restoration. Do we have to wait for heaven to see this happen? Today I just don't know.

Thursday, October 7, 2010


For those of us who have been compelled to follow God 'outside the box,' we have come to realize that relationships, between us and God, and each other, are valuable above all else. Yet there are times when we experience the pain and frustration of realizing that we don't have ultimate control over how any of our relationships turn out.

A few journey-mates and I are all dealing with relationship situations in our own lives that we can't seem to fix, improve, or sometimes even hang onto. We ask ourselves and each other, was it us? After all, we're not perfect either. We re-comb the scene of destruction, re-playing family gatherings, arguments, and dynamics. Are we bad parents? Bad sons or daughters? Crummy friends? What could we have done differently? Would it have made a difference? Even if the break or the wound in the relationship wasn't our fault, is there anything more we could do to repair it? This question haunts many folks who love people that we can't live in harmony with.

So to all of you out there

-whose spouse seems distant, and you wonder if they'll leave you for another one day, or maybe they already have,
-whose parents seem bent on 'being right' above all else, including having relationship with their children or grandchildren,
-whose grown children won't talk to you and your efforts to repair the break are stonewalled,
-whose family members are making choices that are upsetting and bewildering to you,
- whose friend has discarded you like an old newspaper and you're still trying to recover from the shock so you can grieve,
-whose relationship with their child is going through a difficult season,
-whose family structure has fractured in a dozen different places and they're all hoping you'll take sides with them, even as they look to you to fix it,
-who wonders if their life will ever be the same after the loss of a relationship that was torn from their life and left an aching hole.

I'm going to talk about this for a few blogs. Relationship trouble, and seemingly irreparable rifts in relationships with folks we love, seems to be a given in a fallen world. Yet my heart of hearts insists this shouldn't be so, for people supposedly planning on spending eternity together.

May we all find peace as we tread through the valleys of life.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea. I saw the Holy City, the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride beautifully dressed for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, "Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away. - Revelation 21: 1-4

Monday, October 4, 2010


Now and then, I’m blessed to see a time of unity among people who might otherwise have a hard time finding anything in common. I spend time with a group of people each month so we can play our stringed instruments together. We play folk songs, fiddle songs, hymns. Sometimes we sing with the music, other times we just play. We always have a great time and I go home feeling full.

Now if I were to spend the day in church with these same people, I’d likely go home feeling drained. After a day spent listening to a preacher talk and the group discussion (if there is any) is about trying harder to be good and please God, I’d be ready to go home and take a nap even if the group of people was my best friends. But then, at this point in my walk, this group of people couldn’t be my best friends.

So I spent the whole weekend at a folk music festival with a bunch of conservative WASPS, most of whom probably only miss the weekly church meeting for special occasions such as out-of-town music festivals. I’m sure none of them ever cuss, smoke or drink. I’m also sure they’d mostly think I’m off my rocker for being a ‘free believer.’ In this setting, though, I feel right at home with them.

Our focus was not on our differences in doctrine, or on dos and don’ts, or on religion at all for the most part. Our focus was on what we all love: music. We talked some, about the pretty weather and about how to play this or that chord differently, but mostly we just played. We played songs together that we knew, and listened to songs played by others that we didn’t know. We sang (sometimes off key) and laughed off our mistakes. We asked each other how long we’d been playing an instrument, rather than how long we’d been going to this church. We shared what we knew that someone else could learn from. Obviously there was no need to shove it down each other’s throat. Funny how only church doctrine conversations usually take on that tone.

There was an unusual and enjoyable church service Sunday morning, ending the weekend. We sang A Capella gospel music, then heard a sermon on unity in the church, and how that is what God’s heart is. There were many denominations represented there, and I wonder what the reaction was in some of them as they listened to the preacher tell them that many church traditions stand in the way of unity in the body. It’s true. Yet the whole weekend, this group of people had been unified through music and love for the God that we all worship. It was a balm to my soul. I hope this brought some healing to others, as well.

The most amusing and touching part of the weekend was seeing my conservative Baptist friends from our music group go wild cheering over the dynamic performance of a self-described black Indian named Bing Futch. Visually, he blended about as well as a chocolate bar in a sea of marshmallows. He was the only non-WASP there, with dark skin, dreadlocks down past his waist, and several ear and nose piercings. Moving among the crowd of conservative 70 year old Baptist ladies in their clean white tennis shoes and jackets with their church logos on the front, he seemed perfectly happy and at ease. Everyone there had wonderful things to say about him as a person as well as a performer; I didn’t get to meet him but he seems to really love people.

His music is full of his own history (his-story) which is African and Seminole. While I love traditional American folk music, I’ve often felt it’s very limiting to understanding the struggles, pain and joy of the human race. Hearing Bing’s music brought images of proud, brave, strong and yet often downtrodden people of the past and present, from all over the globe. People who have often been used as stepping stones for the white man’s greed and glory.

I have always felt that the WASP version of Christ and Christianity is sadly lacking. The blend of selfish ambition and self-aggrandizement that is so common to the ‘progress’ of the white race is all too obvious in most of Churchianity. I believe this prideful attitude is at the root of the insistence of the salvation-by-works doctrine that is at least blended into the doctrine of ‘grace’ at most church buildings. (Some buildings don’t even bother with the grace part).

So the idea of what Jesus might look like is not fixed in my mind. I have always laughed at the insistent images of Christ portrayed in most Protestant works of art, both ancient and modern. He is always slim, blue-eyed and lily-white, with immaculate brown hair to his shoulders. (My husband, who has access to a much better hairbrush than Jesus could have had, never achieves such a smooth look). He is always dressed in a clean and blindingly white robe, with a glow about his head and usually a martyred, distant look on his face. It has never appealed to me.

We can be Christ to one another, or at least try to. The 'Christ' I experienced in most of my time in traditional church was white, with freshly clipped short hair, starched to the nines and always carrying a Bible. If I asked for help, they had the answer in the book and sent me on my way (that is, if they even had time for me at all).

No, the Jesus I find appealing and long for, if I try to picture him in a fleshly vessel, is one of dark, dark skin and thick, knotted hands, scarred and tough from years of work. Maybe he has long dreadlocks, or maybe just long bad hair. Maybe he wears traditional African garb, or maybe a dirty t-shirt and jeans. His eyes are as dark and rich and filled with love as can be. He says “hey little sister” when he sees me and I find such comfort burying my face in his hair, breathing in his scent and feeling his warm, strong arms around me. He might hold me as I cry, or tell me a story. Maybe he'll take me on a ride down the highway on his Harley, telling me with a wink, "Hang on little sister, here we go."

What would the reaction be around here in the rural Baptist Bible belt, in one of the ‘white’ churches, if such a man appeared in their building? Would they run? Some might. Others might throw him out. Me, I’d want to leave the building and go have coffee with him. Maybe we could just talk, hang out. Maybe we could sing “Amazing Grace” together as we strummed our instruments, laughing at our off-key voices. I know he wouldn’t try to ‘fix’ me. We’d just love each other, and play our music, and that unity is what would bring healing.