spoiler alert: Got some good preachin’ goin’ on up in here!

Isn’t it odd how we think of ourselves as good people because we are good deed doers and don’t judge others for the mistakes they make, for being down on their luck, or suffering from their weaknesses? How sometimes we go out of our way to help a person because they have a specific need? How we think we are doing the right thing when we give to the salvation army, or buy raffle tickets for a worthy cause, or do volunteer work? It makes us feel good, like we are nice people trying to do the right thing. Like we are people who don’t judge others. See a man on the side of the road picking up cans? Here, you can have this one too. No judgment here. See an obviously homeless person hitching a ride? Jump in, no judgment here. Some painfully poor person panhandles for your loose change? I’ve got plenty, no judgment here. How about this one: a perfect stranger on face book needs someone to listen to her problems? Sure, take my ear. No judgment here.

My question is this: Do we exert ourselves in the same manner for our family, and friends? Are we as kind to them as we are to some strangers down on their luck? Do we give the people we love the most the same amount of respect as we do to people we don’t even know, or perhaps will never even meet?

I’m asking these questions of myself today. A distant memory triggered this onslaught of soul-searching and I realize there are a lot of sins I have not asked God to forgive. I hadn’t asked Him to forgive me for resenting my mom’s efforts to help a child in another country with a monthly donation. It was probably thirty five years ago and I remember my grandmother saying at the time “charity begins at home”. I agreed with her because I thought my mom would have better spent her money on me every month, after all, I was a single mother trying to get by. In all actuality, I was a self-centered knot-head with an it’s-all-about-me attitude. My world had an invisible boundary that hindered my ability to think beyond the ‘dome’. I never stopped to consider that my mom’s contribution might very well have changed the future for one little person, a change that might have an impact on the whole world, all because of that one little gesture, one little contribution. God said He forgives me. I hope my mom does too. If she were still with us, I would ask her from the bottom of my heart to forgive my selfish resentment – and for judging her wrongly.

Mankind is best served by all of the do-gooders out there and for obvious reasons. Jesus said “love one another”. Did you think this post would be about serving others, taking care of the poor or homeless, loving others as we love ourselves? In a way it is, but don’t forget about those already in your life, people. Don’t forget that your family, maybe friends, too, need your kindness. Or understanding. Or forgiveness. Or even to be forgiven. Don’t forget them in all your efforts to serve God’s people. They might be the ones who are down-trodden, disheartened, or misunderstood.

Don’t judge them either.

I used to be the world’s best at judging others. Just ask any of my former co-workers. I was baaad. It’s really hard to think before I judge, but I am practicing.

I’m going to have a go-to-Jesus meeting for a long list of wrongs I’ve done that I brushed aside because I thought ‘doing the right thing’ was enough. And I’m sure you’ve heard (over and over) how if you are in flight and the oxygen mask falls down, put it on yourself first so that you have the strength to help the person with you.

That’s what I’m talking about.

So keep doing good things, people. Don’t stop, increase your efforts. And keep in mind there will be no judgment here.

think before speaking

And don’t forget ya’ll – pray for world peace. Our entire world needs more prayer.


Childbirth and Breast Cancer

I had a lovely visit from a friend of mine yesterday. We have known each other since I was 19 years old and pregnant with my first child – very pregnant. In fact, she still teases me that it seemed like I was pregnant for 14 months. It felt that way to me too, especially when the little s*** baby knocked the wind out of me with his outrageously huge precious feet. Being pregnant exhausted me and frustrated me. I remember wondering what I had gotten myself into. And I got so stinkin’ big. But, as they say, in the end it was all worth it. My discomfort, swollen body, fluid retention, shortness of breath, and weight gain resulted in the birth of a terribly ugly beautiful red wrinkley screaming newborn son. And two fractured ribs. Did I mention pain? They say a woman forgets the pain over time. I’m here to tell you that is NOT true. I’m old now and I still remember it. I was shocked how the pain intensified after my water broke. It hurt like hell and I remember the nurse telling me she would get me a shot (back then they administered what they called the ‘twilight shot’, no such thing as an epidural then) after a visit from my husband. I told her forget the husband, get the shot. What did I know? I was only 19 years old. Husbands weren’t allowed in the delivery room in those days, so I missed my chance to share the moment with him until after the delivery. Trust me, I did him a favor.

Back to my friend. Bless her heart, she called me last week for prayer because she had an abnormal mammogram. It was especially scary because she had gotten breast implants a ton of years ago and, believe it or not, she was worried that they would have to be removed. I understand that. Don’t misinterpret either of us; the threat of cancer, loss of body parts, and uncertain mortality will sober a person up quickly. But to my dear friend, those implants were her identity. Not that she’s vampy about them, or showed them off in any way, but because after having grown up without a significant amount of breast, the confidence the implants give her is immeasurable. She is a humble person, a professional, a wife, mother, and grandmother.

Before her test results came back, our imaginations had her already sans breast and implants, with scarred thoracic flatness, balding and hyper-ill. Thank God in His mercy, her results were negative. Praise Him! She gave me the good news when she came all the way out to the countryside for a visit. It was a huge relief as you can imagine. Then she surprised me with a line of thought that made me see cancer in a different way. Cancer, she said, clarifies a person’s life. It makes a person see undeniably the important things in life – the moments with family and loved ones, and the uniqueness of every second of every day. She told me that the ugliness of this world became uglier and the beauty of this world became more beautiful. Colors changed. Love intensified. The ordinary no longer existed. And what a lovely thing to become aware of it all before this life expires, maybe even privileged.

I looked at her like she was cray cray. And because I am missing the check valve normal people are born with that withholds bluntly honest but inappropriate remarks, I self-righteously told her that it would have been better had she recognized those things before the threat of a life-ending disease. I have no tact. For that, I am so sorry, especially because this darling woman is closer to God than I ever hope to be. Her spirituality is golden. I know her well, and have for 40 years so I’ve seen every side of her, good and bad, and she knows me as well. So I found it disconcerting how calm she was about the health scare, and how she turned it into something positive, like some kind of saint or something.

Then, after she left I saw a commercial on TV that proclaimed those very beliefs nearly word for word. I felt better. She is human after all. And I just love her to pieces.

There is a huge lesson in all of this: enjoy, love, clarify life now before the threat of something awful happens. Cultivate an “attitude of gratitude” before you think you have to. I’m thankful for the lesson and for my friend’s saintly attitude, no matter the source. She has always been a blessing to me.