Three People That Changed My Life From Death Row Part 2

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I wished that life were easier.  One of the first things I want to do when I get to heaven is give Adam and Eve a piece of my mind.  We live in a world that is fallen and jacked up.  Of coarse God said that it would be this way from now until the whole mess is made right but it still ticks me off.

Last week I talked about how Millie changed my life and that her love for herself and for others changed me forever.  She truly is a special person.

The second person that truly changed my life is Fred.  Fred lives in the nursing facility that my wife works at as a speech therapist.  I said in the first installment I call this place death row.  People at the end of their lives waiting to die.

Fred is a 79-year-old pain in the butt.  Very rarely is Fred in a good mood.  You may know some people like this in your life.  Some people see life as a glass half-full and others see it half-empty and yet we have others like Fred that can’t even see the damn glass.

Nothing is good enough.  Fred rarely says something nice and he is suffering from dementia to boot.  This means that he has NO filter!  Whatever little zinger comes into Fred’s mind comes right out of his mouth.

The other day I was coming by to drop off some snacks for Britty and there Fred was telling another death row cohort that they shouldn’t chew tobacco and that if they didn’t get their life right they were going to hell.  That was actually a little amusing when I would beg to make they point that they were in hell already.  Anyways…Fred was really handing it to this guy, I mean like a Southern Baptist Preacher yelling at hookers on 11th street, when he directed his attention to me.  I couldn’t help but smile but he then proceeded to tell me that I didn’t respect God and his authority, that he could tell by my long hair that I didn’t have respect for anyone or anything!

Of coarse he had no idea who I was.  He had no idea that God means more to me than anything.  As I am standing there listening to this angry diatribe I was wondering since I didn’t love God then maybe he could pay off the $100,000 I borrowed to go to seminary but I quickly rethought my rebuttal.

Now, you may be wondering how on earth did this guy change my life and change it forever?  You see, I know people that are just like Fred personally and I see them standing on the corner of the Blue Dome District, downtown every Friday and Saturday night holding up signs condemning people as they walk by.  One fact that can be counted on is that the religious and the abusive will always be with us.  The reason that Fred impacted me so much is because he NEVER changed.  I am sure that Fred was an abusive asshole before he came to death row and he will be one until the day he dies.

So what is the lesson?  What is the take away?  Well, as I get older I start to see connecting points that when you pull them all together you start to see specific behaviors.  For starters we as humans create God in our image.  I have NEVER read in the Bible or any other supplemental historical literature that portrayed Jesus as this kind of abrasive and unforgiving soul.  If Jesus is the perfect image of WHO God is and God’s intentions towards mankind then “Christians” should never act like this.  They should never act like Fred but the opposite is quiet true.  I see people on a weekly basis that think badgering people with morality will bring about the change they desire to see in others.  They think that if they scare them enough then they will change.  God on the contrary says, “that perfect love casts out all fear”.  What I see is Jesus loving others, encouraging others and telling them to stop doing the things that hurt them, but only when THEY ask!  Perfection, or Jesus as I like to call him, doesn’t feel the compulsion to meddle in others lives yet the church does it on a daily basis.  This is how we create God in our own image.  We create a God that is built out of vein imaginations and we beat people with it.

So again, how did Fred change my life?  When I see Fred I see a person that pursued “holiness” his entire life.  I see a guy that can tell you five ways from Sunday how you are missing the mark and screwing up but he can’t stand to be in his own skin.  He is so miserable that he makes everyone else around him miserable too.  This is what the person who pursues “holiness” earns in his or her life.

Fred taught me that the pursuit of “holiness” is the wrong pursuit.  The pursuit that Jesus called us to is to love.  The pursuit of Fred’s vein imaginations about God led him to where he is today.  Fred taught me that the pursuit of “holiness” in the end is frustration, anger and a ship wrecked faith, on the contrary, I see the pursuit of love leading us to a life that is “light”.  Jesus said, “my yoke is easy and my burden is light”.  Jesus shows us that if we pursue love then “holiness” is a natural byproduct.  That we can’t help but be righteous when we love others and love ourselves the way God designed us to love.

My question to myself and to anyone reading this out there is this, “Are you pursuing holiness and if you are why?”  Who told you to do this?  What does the Bible really have to say about this topic?  You can take any particular verse and get it to say what you want but what are the overarching themes of scripture?  What was Jesus doing, modeling to his disciples and to us?  I think that if you stop and read scripture for yourself and not through a particular filter you will see Jesus trying to lead us to LOVE and that this is the greatest pursuit.  “The whole law can be summed up in this, to love God and love man” and don’t be a Fred.

Till next time,

Crappy Pastor

Three People That Changed My Life.

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I want to tell you about three people that changed my life.  Before I introduce them to you I should probably set some context.  My wife works at a nursing home as a speech pathologist.  It is a job that really makes a difference in peoples lives but it can really take its toll on you.  I call it death row.  I will show up to bring Britty (that’s what I call my wife) some lunch or bring the kids by so they can see their momma for a few minutes and you see them all lined up in the hallways.  These are people waiting to die.  I wished that this isn’t how I see it but when you walk through the halls and you see the zombie like stares, the vacant expressions, you can’t help but see it any other way.

If there is one thing about American culture that I truly loath it is this.  It is how we treat our elderly.  They become discarded like dirty diapers that can be rolled up and discarded.  I guess this is one of the ailments of living in a youth obsessed and consumeristic culture.

What I want to share with you is how I met three people in my wife’s nursing facility that changed my life and I hope that they change your life too.  Listening to their stories and watching them live out the last of their days had a powerful impact on me and I hope it will inspire you too.

The first resident that I want to introduce you to is Millie.  Millie was 86 when I first met her and she had a zest for living that honestly I wished I had sometimes.  There is something about having time to contemplate things, to look over your life and reflect.  Maybe Millie wasn’t’ always like this but today she convicts me to my core.  Millie was an inspiration to me.

Millie grew up in a time where she lived through one world war, Vietnam and multiple recessions.  She is as tough as you get.  I can sit and listen to her tell her stories in a way that sounds like I am being read a book.  The details are what amazes me.  Millie can remember details that would rival the sharpest of memories.  I cannot remember what I ate yesterday much less retrieving experiences like her with such clarity and attention to detail.

Millie’s story is a good one.  She grew up in Tulsa, OK most all of her life and she loved her family.  However, her family can be a bit more complicated that maybe yours or mine.  Millie is a life long lesbian.  Millie has had to live her entire life hiding a large portion of who she is, and whom she loves.  Millie had a partner of over 40 years and I am sure that those that knew her best understood her lifestyle but she grew up in a time that is much different than today.

Millie is one of the most direct people that I know.  You always get the honest answer and you always know where you stand with her.  No pretentious airs about her and she smiles a lot.  Millie has learned to tolerate people and their small minds most all of her life.  Now I am pretty sure that she never flaunted her lifestyle in others faces but I am also pretty sure that she learned to be tough and direct because of her sexuality.

In Millie’s room she had pictures of her woodworking shop.  She loved to tinker with wood and she always had a project that she was working on.  When I think about it there was nothing cliché about her as a women.  Growing up in a time like Millie’s meant that you got married, had children and you stayed at home to take care of the daily functions of a home.  Millie’s life was wildly different than the norm.  She never married, worked with her hands and built things.  Because of this there is a very practical side to Millie.  She sees life in very practical terms.  I guess you have to when your entire lifestyle, work life and home life are so different than the vast majority.

There are a few questions that I always ask people that have lived as long as Millie.  These questions give us a bird’s eye view of how they experience the world.  If you were to look back over Millie’s life you might assume that she would be a little bitter.  I mean why wouldn’t you be if you had to deal with being gay, having to hide the love of your life from the world?  I would be a little bitter because I would constantly think “why me”.  “Why would I have to be a woman that loved another women”?  I would probably also be a little bitter because of my love for tinkering with wood and tools, and having men mock me because that was “a man’s job”.

I would also probably be a little bitter because I would attend church all of my life, like Millie, trying to love God and serve man but knowing behind my back I was being mocked by “Christians” because I was gay, although she never came out and said it, owned publically this part of her life, I would always feel like an outsider.  But not Millie!  She has a way of being comfortable in her skin and loving herself that quiet honestly is convicting to me.  I wished I loved myself as much as she did.  I wished that I had the guts to live out my life in a manner that was authentic and true.  Millie was just Millie.  Millie also volunteered at Hillcrest Hospital for 30 years!  Stack your volunteerism next to that and see how it looks.

This is where Millie has inspired me and she should inspire you too.  Millie lives life to the fullest everyday.  Although she is at the end of her life she does not feel sorry for herself.  She has outlived her partner and she sits alone in a nursing facility.  No young daughters or sons to take care of her, visit her or love on her.  Millie is all alone but she is not alone on the inside.  On the inside you can see that she loves God and is loved by God.  You can see that she has embraced herself when many others would not. I can say that I love Millie.  I respect Millie.  Quiet honestly, I wished I were more like Millie.

So as you get caught in your busy lives, raising kids, working for a paycheck or going to church, think of Millie.  There are Millie’s all around you and I.  They are desperately looking for someone to love them and for them to love.  Why do we have categorize people by their color, age or sexual preference?  Did Jesus do that?  Did Jesus love Millie less than us or is it that we love ourselves less than she did?  I am inspired to live my life with no regrets because of Millie.  I am inspired to be honest with others and myself because of knowing Millie.

What part of yourself are you hiding from today?  What part of yourself are you ashamed of?  Is there a part of you that you think is unlovable?  I think we can all look to Millie and see that when you live life like a big sloppy wet kiss and embrace all of who you are, Jesus is standing right there.  Jesus embraced all of us, even the dark places.  The places that no one or only a select few know about.  I am pretty sure that Jesus wants us to do the same.  Love recklessly.  Love passionately.  Love ourselves and loving others with no strings attached.  No labels.  No agendas.

Love liberally today.  Love like Jesus did!

Till next time,

Crappy Pastor

Do You Ever Feel Overwhelmed?

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Do you ever feel overwhelmed?  I know that in my life I choose difficult projects over and over.  I have the propensity to create VERY LARGE projects in my life.  I am pretty sure it is the way that I am hardwired.  I do things like start churches, companies and the like, instead of working for someone else.  Because of this gnarly fact I find myself more often than not getting OVERWHELMED.

Do you ever find yourself getting overwhelmed?  I can even point to daily times in my life in which the house becomes hijacked by our three children and I can feel that sick feeling in the pit of your stomach warning you, “You better run buddy, because things are getting out of control”.  Do you have things in your life that overwhelm you?  I know that I do.

The question becomes what do we DO when we get overwhelmed?  Are you a jump in with both feet and “getterdone” kind of guy or are you like me?  I tend to be the old “deer in the headlights” kind of guy.  As you can imagine, when you are in the middle of very large projects becoming a frozen garden gnome is not the most productive choice, yet that is my default mode.

What I am reminded of is that we can only do what we can do.  There is a certain aspect of life that this in our control and the rest is up to God.  This is where our belief structure becomes so crucial.

Let me give you an example.  Proverbs 6:6 says, “Go to the ant, you sluggard.  Observe his ways and become wise”.  I was reading a blog by Donald Miller where he was telling a story about a guy that had his dissertation due for his PhD.  As you can imagine, this is a big project and he did not know where to start, so he went and played golf…I mean a lot of golf.  As his deadline for completion came closer he started feeling the stress.  One of his friends told him of Proverbs 6:6 and then promptly purchased him an ant farm.

As he observed the ants, he didn’t notice anything unusual at first.  The ants simply carried a grain of sand around from one area to another area so he went back to playing golf.  A few weeks later he revisited his little farm of ants and was astonished at what he saw.  The ants had transformed their environment into elaborate tunnels and architecture.  They had completely transformed their environment one grain of sand at a time.

Next, lets understand what it means to be a sluggard.  A sluggard is not someone that is lazy but rather it means “someone that is afraid”.  It is the fear of what needs to be done that paralyzes most people (including me).  In this fear we either do weird things that do not help the situation or even worse we do nothing.

In this proverb God is trying to tell us that we need to only do what we can do TODAY.  Stop trying to control the entire outcome of what is going on in you life and focus on what can be done today.  Sometimes that means that we need to come up with a strategy for our projects or it may mean that the strategy is in place and that we need to start doing simple little things that over time will transform our projects and lives, much like the ants.  One grain of sand at a time and our lives, environments and projects become completely transformed.

Some of us are not overwhelmed by our “projects” but we are overwhelmed by our relationships.  Things have somehow gone way off track and we feel inside that we cannot get things pulled back around.  There seems to be too much water under the bridge to make our marriage work so we do nothing or even worse we try and control the outcome (which translates in trying to control others).  Jesus NEVER tried to control others.  He trusted the process and he only did what he could do today.  Jesus said, “I can only do what I see the Father doing”.

So, if this is you then you need to back up and work at your relationships like an ant.  Do small things today that create intimacy and trust with your partner.  You may not see much today, tomorrow or even a month from now but eventually the landscape of your relationship will eventually become completely transformed.

Some of us need to try and not be sluggards.  The question for us needs to be what do we need to do today?  What are we procrastinating in our lives that needs to be done today?  Does the fear of the enormity of life seem to paralyze you?  If so, just remember that we can only do what we can do and the rest is up to God BUT remember to do what you can do today!

Here is a helpful tip that can transform you from the sluggard to the ant.  Make your daily “to do” list.  Once you have everything on it that you need to knock out for the day then pick the 3-5 things that you dislike the most and move them to the top of the list.  By making them your priority and finishing them early in the day you will not have that stress lingering over you.  The rest of the day should have less stress and you will feel better about yourself.  Think of this as you loving yourself or caring for yourself.  By getting the junk out of the way you can truly have peace of mind.

Till next time,

Crappy Pastor