Sunday, August 21, 2011

4 dirty words

What would it be like to live in a world where every living person had to carry with them a list of mistakes they have made? Whether it be moral issues, spiritual misadventures, physical offenses, emotional turmoil or any other situation that someone would deem inappropriate. This could be a huge list for any one of us. What might be immoral for me, may not be for another, but you would have to carry it on your list because I find it offensive in some way. My list would be pages of discrepancies, sins, bad judgments, and offending moments.

Can you imagine a world where we had to wear our thoughts on our sleeves? Where people could see our judgments of others as we pass by them. They would know how we see ourselves, and they would never have to imagine what we thought of them. It would also mean that we would not have the opportunity to rethink our initial impression of others.

But we don't live in that kind of world. We don't see into people's lives unless they allow us too, and unfortunately we sometimes (probably more often than not) take that opportunity to cast judgment on others and lower them in to a place that we have reserved for people we want nothing to do with.

At times people have done this with our lives as well.

Our walk with Christ isn't primarily about growth for the sake of personal improvement, but receiving the basics of His death and resurrection. Even we, who follow Christ, often times find ourselves in danger of needing to shrink from our elaborate, self-involved spiritual aspirations of do more, try harder.

See, we tend toward "doing" because, well...doing is about self-progress and we like to take credit for our achievements. We've become a society based on measurements. But the gospel is about the foundation of what has already been done for us.

And to be blunt, we are narcissistic people. For all our striving to live the holy life, Scripture isn't about us, or ability to achieve for God. Instead, it is about God's work done for us in Christ. Traditional spiritual wisdom teaches us that discouragement is normal. What happens is that we seek God for selfish reasons. We get emotional highs out of religious services, or out of prayer, or any other experience we attribute to His Spirit.

Let's face it. We Christians take the gospel for granted every day. Surely there's something more flashy about the Christian life than beginner, baby-Christian, Sunday school stuff, right? Wrong.

The gospel is simple, profound, and glorious. It's the stuff that changes hearts. Want to stay Jesus-focused, gospel-centered, and keep the big picture in sight? Don't get self-absorbed in your own sin management. It's tragic how His Word can so easily become a self-help guide.

At times in our history there have been incredible people who have questioned the systems that have been established. Systems that say you are better than me because of your income level or your childhood advantages. Systems that differentiate criminals from innocents, offenders from the offended, even sick from healthy. They have questioned the path some have outlined for raising some people to an upper levels and leaving others in subpar levels where only those who appear equal will connect with them.

They did this through grace.

These people, they moved. They are the ones that enter hospitals, prisons, back alleys, school, office buildings and everywhere in between with a message of, "our lives are equal because grace covers all.”

I see people who have lived a life, and continue to struggle, just like mine was and they are often full of anger, hatred, bitterness, vengeance, fear, doubt, and self pity. They are terrified of what the future holds fearing their pasts will not let them go.

They are unfulfilled, ungrateful, selfish and have a strong desire to be empowered but not to empower others. They just don't know how to be grateful. Or selfless. Or empowering.

The difference is grace. Unconditional grace.

Unconditionally. That means the what doesn't matter, but also that the who doesn't matter. Lost, found, and everything in between--we all need grace.

Now chew on this: who is it easier to give grace to? The "lost," or "saved" people?

Who is it easier to offer prayer to? To utter the words, "What can I pray for you about?" or "You are in my prayers." Who is it easier to send a Bible verse to? Who is it easier to unexpectedly offer help to?

Who is it easier to say, "I forgive you" too?

For me, the answer would be is someone who's saved. Why? Because they "get" it. Prayer, scripture, random kindness, and fellowship are just part of the same as I. The only thing for me to overcome is my laziness. To get off my butt.

Someone outside the church, on the other hand, is all kinds of complicated: Do I need to ask permission to pray or read scripture? Will they think it's weird that I'm dropping food off? Will they drop an f-bomb if I have a Bible study? Even though my "saved" friends know I'm human and still sin, will "these" people think of me as a hypocrite trying to be something I'm not?

This conflict is a tragedy. Biased Grace

It's the unconscious bias way we approach grace in our everyday lives. Here's the danger: bias perpetuates itself. If one kind of person is consistently shown grace, and another person is consistently ignored, the gap between the two grows bigger. And bigger. And bigger. Until you or I am afraid to bring a plate of cookies to someone because we're afraid they'll think we're weird.

It's easy to say, ”I'm called to minister to the church" and use all your energy as such. It's your calling, right? Well, so is this, "Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation."

So, make unconditional grace a purposeful part of your life.

Unconditional grace means tangible grace--the kind that actually causes physical change in the world around me. Around you. Around someone. The giver. The receiver. That is, after all, the model of Jesus, whose grace brings about salvation, healing, addiction, recovery, and any number of other miracles. But more often than not, I'm guilty of displays of grace that amount to simple "good" deeds. It's entry-level stuff, far removed from the potential that God has placed in me. I wonder, do put my full potential into the 12-Step class I teach?

There is a question that tragically kills grace dead in tracks every single day.

It is the pathetic question: "What will people think?" 

Sadly these 4 dirty words dictate so much of our grace giving and receiving.

What will people think if I take my cheating husband back?

What will people think if I forgive the a-hole that took advantage of me?

What will people think if I move on from my mistake and find happiness again?

What will people think if I admit I'm addicted to pain killers?

What will people think if they see me talking to "that" person?

What will people think I walk down the aisle of a church and surrender my life to God?

Those 4 dirty little words. Questions like these kill grace.

Grace does truly cover all, giving you a fresh start and a hope for better and brighter days. Grace is the one event/action/emotion/conveyed experience that can give you a new outlook on your life and towards others.

Let grace cover all that you have been, and then see who you can be.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

My worst enemy

Our enemies come from any number of places. From every walk of life. We know of them casually. We know some of them intimately who once were close friends. Some even have our same blood running through their veins. While others have been that of a betraying spouse.

Some of our enemies were vindictive and malicious with intent. Purposeful with a goal. For some we were simply collateral damage caught in their wake of destructive habits leaving us burned. For some, our enemies came about out of sheer naivety. Clueless on their part.

But what if our enemy is closer than our closest friend? They know us better than our family? More intimate with us than that of our spouse? When our worst enemy is ourselves. When we ourselves have inflicted our deepest wounds. When we alone caused ourselves the highest financial burdens. When we alone drove away those that loved us the most. When we alone caused ourselves the most damage. When we are left with shame and guilt.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

The wounds we share

Suffering. We are both its creator and victim.

Being a Christian implies forgiving people that hurt you, even when they don't deserve it. Then again none of us "deserve" forgiveness. Come on, let's be honest; even when we know we should forgive, the context of our story can get in the way. Forgiving can be so frustrating!

Suffering is a reality we all wish never existed. We try our hardest to flee from its sight. Repulsed by its touch and sickened with its embrace. Rarely do we see it coming like an impending storm that's been building before it hits and we can at least prepare for it.

Mostly, out of nowhere it assaults us like a venomous snake attempting to fill our hearts and minds with deadly poison; especially our spirits. It wraps around us, squeezing the life out of us. We want to be free from its clutches, free from its influences, from its pain. But we can't. It is a part of us, a byproduct of what we are. An integral part of our fallen world. We ARE both its creator and its victim.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grace To A Bipolar Husband

I know if you would've asked my wife five years if she had any kind of idea what she was getting herself into when she married me she could've looked at you with a, "What are you talking about" look on her face.

After multiple arrests where she swore to herself to leave me in jail, the loss of my driver's license, multiple late night outs, inappropriate friendships, angry outburst, financial burdens, alcohol abuse, two marriage counselors, manic and depressive episodes with suicidal ideations and suicide attempts followed by inpatient hospitalizations, at times on the brink of divorce, today I'm sure she could tell you a different story.

I am a bipolar spouse. I am also a bipolar spouse with a failed marriage and a (currently) extremely successful marriage (that wasn't always the case). My ex-spouse despised my bipolar in spite of the fact that it was under more control during our marriage. She hated everything about it. Even the site of my medications. It just did not fit into her world of a "perfect" marital relationship. So after years of her lack of support she walked.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Unconditionally Biased Graced

We all have set opinions and beliefs about grace and second changes. For most of us it's our culture (church, or lack of), upbringing, friends and even our own prejudices that craft these beliefs. One of the most widespread believes about grace is that it is conditional. That it can be poured out based upon "this" criteria or "that" criteria. But not "this" criteria or "that" criteria.

Grace is biased. Grace is conditional. People are comfortable with past drinking and partying; especially if you throw in there in some church outreach. But what if I abused my wife or was unfaithful? People aren't comfortable with infidelity, or abuse, maybe because it hits too close to home. Whatever the reason, this kind of grace isn't unconditional; it's biased.

Biased grace alienates and isolates -- and it's what real grace was never meant to be.

Our ideas about grace are way too small. Second chances are the greatest gifts we can give someone. Grace is a lifestyle, not an idea or concept. It can be debated, discussed, and preached along with second chances but that won't change anything. Grace has to be unleashed in our day-to-day lives. Our real beliefs about grace will be carried out in our actions whether we realize it or not. Are we real or are we fake? And we can't hide it.

Many people I meet are reminders of why we need to be purposeful about Grace. We have to strive to be like Christ, and actively fight against our grace bias. We need to look for opportunities, not just to practice "grace equality," but to practice this radical grace....uncomfortable grace,--even for the adulterer, the bigot, the blasphemer, the broken.

When we don't show grace to someone who doesn't show grace, we've lost sight of the meaning of grace.

We are called time and time again to give big grace to others. We've taken on the job of extending friends and strangers with this grace. Admitting that people ruin us, abuse us and wound us we will still extend (or at least try to extend) God's infinite grace to them.

Have you ever felt the glaring eyes of judgment from someone? Have you heard words that have left you feeling like you weren't good enough? Have you been in conversations where you've heard someone get run down, and you wonder what they say about you when you're not around? Have you ever felt like you didn't belong? Have you ever felt like something you did in your past now defines you to the people you know?

How often are we the one's quick to judge? How often do I make assessments about someone before I know the whole story when I have my own story?

Do I freely give grace and second chances?

No, I cannot change people...control people...make people behave in a way I think is appropriate.

I CAN be more...ask their perspective before forming my grace...Love never fails.

Our ability to offer grace and forgiveness cannot be dependent on if we receive it first or not. We just have to give it. And while it can be hard and uncomfortable, God gives us what we need to help us dispense complete grace and forgiveness when we feel like doing anything else but that. Grace and forgiveness never begins with a feeling.

One act, one comment, one hug, could radically change the destiny of someone else.

Today exists not because the sun and moon need something to do. Today is the double-overtime opportunity for grace to battle our culture where pain is entertaining, and brokenness runs rampant.

We all will have chance after chance before the day is done to show grace to someone, it may take effort, it may feel awkward, but it is a very real choice.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

This is not the Cosby Show

Every day on Facebook I see posts from people begging for 5 o'clock to come around. Fridays I see posts from people; TGIF! Sundays I see posts in dreads of impending Mondays.

As stressful as it can be I love my job. I have the hardest to please bosses I have ever had in my working years. They are the most demanding, most obnoxious, rudest bosses ever. I have never been able to please them all at the same time.

They are the most ungrateful and unsatisfied people I have ever worked for. Their demands are unreasonable and give out impossible deadlines to meet at all hours of the day (and night). In fact, my job never ends. There is no time clock, no 5 o'clock. No TGIF. Friday never comes and every day is Monday. No holidays either.

Where my inspiration comes from

A Recycled-Dad with Bipolar & Parkinson's, reflections on fathering and family life and other stuff thrown in'll love my Soap Box Rants

Blog with Integrity\\ Auhor Lupe Picazo

Why I call myself a Recycled Dad

I call myself a Recycled Dad because of the struggles with remarriage and being a step-parent and weekend dad. This is also about my life living with bipolar and how it affects me personally, my family and my job. It also reflects on the grace God has poured out on me throughout recovery from alcohol and an eating disorder. Recycled Dad is about my reflections on the wisdom God teaches daily on fatherhood and being a better husband in spite of being bipolar.

Please feel free to leave comments. I welcome them