“Father, Forgive Them”: Timeless, But Is It Possible?

One of the seven phrases Christ said on the cross was, “Father, forgive them” Luke 23:43. To me, these words are as fresh today as when He first spoke them. I believe in this phenomenon because of what Hebrews 13:8 tells us, “Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”

That means to me that when he said, “Father, forgive them,” they weren’t meant just for the high priests, the local government, the soldiers or the scoffers that day. No, these words, “Father, forgive them” transcends time and is also an appeal for you and me. “Father, forgive —all of them.” Especially me.

I am thankful that Jesus has interceded for me so many, many times in my life. Times when I wasn’t even aware I was doing something wrong—back as an unrefined child. For the mean things I said on the playground, to a sibling, or to a classmate.

Moreover, I am grateful for Jesus’s very personal plea, “Father forgive (Tanja).” He asked God to be open to me when I’d finally wake up after willfully sinning—as a rebellious teenager, or worse, as an inconsistent, lukewarm, so-called Christian. I may have known the rules, yet I flaunted them.

Still, Jesus spoke on my behalf. I didn’t deserve God’s forgiveness, but reflecting these times in my past, I am overwhelmed with the advocacy, undeserved love, and forgiveness.

Since I’ve experienced this blessed forgiveness, when I hear, “Father, forgive them,” I also feel I need to be more of what Jesus modeled. That is, to try to be more forgiving to those who have hurt me, betrayed me, and caused me pain. I have made some good strides, but I am not 100% there yet. I wonder if I’ll ever be?

For the time being, I can only try to follow Jesus: Marvel at His strength and love for us on the cross, and be guided and healed by what He says and does today.

 

Thank you, Tenth Avenue North

Living Out Loud With Passion & Faith:What’s Your New Tag Line for 2016?

Jukebox Hero
Living Out Loud and shamelessly playing my air guitar to Foreigner’s Juke Box Hero karaoke  after Sean’s cousin Jeanne’s cruise wedding. We were all a bit pie-eyed “performing” in front of a bewildered if not disgusted audience. Good thing they didn’t have rotten tomatoes!

Happy New Year! I removed the word “Healing” from my homepage tagline “Living and Healing with Passion and Faith” to “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith.”

Why? Because after four years of blogging and therapy and getting deeper into my faith, I felt it was time.  I feel more whole. When I first started blogging four years ago, I was in the throes of therapy working out forty-something years of hurt, anger, righteousness, and conflict. Some of the junk was due to the cards dealt to me; some of it was self-inflicted.  Many of my posts talk about facing stuff, shedding old skin and growing some new.

I’ve been able to forgive myself and forgive others. I’ve learned the blessings of extending grace instead of waiting for the other person to bend first.  I’ve become a bit more discerning before jumping in. It is OK and sometimes crucial to say “no.”  I remind myself to consider the big picture, to be still and know that God is God. More than a few times, I’ve given a tricky person or difficult situation over to the Divine to duke out, instead of me.

I’ve also gained peace by disengaging when it just wasn’t worth the effort or damages to hammer my point home.

So, here’s to a new year of living up to my new tagline “Living Out Loud with Passion and Faith!” I expect to laugh more, cry more, praise more, forgive more, and play more air guitar!

Is it time for you to have a new tagline in 2016? What would it say?

Thankful on Three Year Anniversary of Husband Surviving Broken Neck

Today, (June 10th) I humbly and gratefully observe the three year anniversary of our horrific motorcycle accident where my husband Sean broke his neck in five places.  I firmly believe God sent immediate help and spared us from long-term injury, paralysis and even death! Here are two previous posts explaining what happened and why I say Thank You, God!  God sent help Man’s Craving for a Beer Saved My Husband’s Life

Click here to hear Sean’s theme song by Chumbawamba

“Buddy Jesus” Meme Gets Personal

Just for fun this weekend, I searched my name in meme using Google Image and my oddly spelled T-A-N-J-A. I thought “Tanja with a “J” would never come up. Lo, I found this among other “Tanja” memes, a good number in German. At first glance I thought this rather duded-out rendition of Jesus could be a bit irreverent, but I have come to know that divine messages are delivered in all shapes and forms.

My husband who is far hipper on-line than me is well-versed in memes and explained that this is the “Buddy Jesus” meme. I realize that someone  generated this meme for another “Tanja” somewhere out there, but since we share the same spelling, I hope she won’t mind if I claim this meme as a personalized message for me today.  It rather reflects on my current faith journey status: I am seeing Jesus not only my Savior, but as “my bud” who gets my back as a Heavenly bro. God uses the world wide web as well as burning bushes to get our attention. Can a I get a witness?

Divine Depositor Revealed: Culprit Close to Heart and Home

“I have something kind of awkward to tell you,” our 23-year-old daughter Erin said on speaker phone from Vermont last week. My husband Sean and I held our breath. In a nano-second, my maternal mental Rolodex spun with at least seven or eight “awkward” scenarios she might break to us. Thankfully she came right to the point. “It was me who wrote on that twenty-dollar bill.”

Relieved it wasn’t something grave, I was just flabbergasted. “It was you? Really? Why?” I had tears in my eyes and a smile a mile wide that she couldn’t see.

“When did you do it?”

A few years ago, she said, but she had forgotten that she had done it at all until she was reminded by my previous post.

Back in 2011, sometime between her junior-year college breaks Erin had gone to our former church with us and was intrigued by this “reverse offering” idea. I recall now that it was a project loosely based on the Parable of the Talents, Matthew 25:14-30. A woman challenged parishioners to take a sum of money and to go out and invest it so it might yield more money for the church. I remember one woman used her “talents” to buy beads and wire and then made and sold jewelry with the proceeds going to the church.

From what I gather, Erin’s take on this project was to use her own (hard-earned) $20 from her part-time job and sort of invest it in us, her parents! “You and Dad are always doing so much and model devotion, love and perseverance. I just wanted to give this to you.” She explained that the message she wrote back then just flowed and “fit perfectly around the bill.”

IMG_0014

When I discovered this money popping out of my bible bag last week, I hadn’t recognize her handwriting.  I think I was thrown off because she had written, “Dear Sean and Tan,” and not, “Dear Dad and Mom.” Instead I’d asked a few female friends if they had made this divine deposit. Erin never crossed my mind.

There is only one other time in her life when Erin referred to me as “Tan” and not “mom.” When she was about 2 1/2 I had asked her to pick up her toys or something and she just gave me a look and said, “I don’t think so, Tan.” Needless to say I couldn’t keep a straight face and all parental resolve went out the window.

“I hope you aren’t disappointed,” Erin said.

“Why would I be? Because it was you or that you wrote on money?” I joked. I wasn’t even a little disappointed that the mystery was solved.  I was delighted, not disappointed. I explained to her a few reasons why:

First, finding this twenty-dollar bill with the message from “The Holy Spirit” brought me a profound sense of mystery and excitement (just like the still anonymous Valentine’s card from 2013). Who would take the time and thought to write such a lovely, spirit-filled message and give this generous gift of $20? I felt blessed to have such a grand list of possible friends/suspects to wonder about!

Then, there was the reminder of how God still speaks to us and gives us signs and words of encouragement especially at times in our lives when we feel burdened and weary.

Plus, posting about this mystery stimulated many readers to think and share about mysteries in their own lives! It started conversations about miracles, mercies and unexplained circumstances.

I told Erin that my heart was full of joy because I believe that the Holy Spirit in her moved her to write that encouraging message on that $20 three-plus years ago. That it was meant to be found now as words of encouragement to keep us on track. Think about it, three years ago Erin was a “broke college kid”and twenty bucks was no small amount for her to part with!

All in all, I feel so blessed that I have a daughter (and son) who even when they naturally and appropriately question the basics of what they’ve learned in Sunday School (who hasn’t or doesn’t?), that they are, in my heart and understanding living their lives guided consciously or unknowingly by the Holy Spirit. Finding this message, nearly four years after it was planted in my often-used Bible bag was yet another gift of God’s good and perfect timing. Even though it was written in my own daughter’s hand a few years ago, I feel the Holy Spirit was all over it then…and now!

Have You Any Sweet (still unsolved) Mysteries of Life?

Have you any unsolved mysteries in your life? I have two that I may never solve but they are happy ones, none-the-less. The first one I am thinking about is coming up on its two-year “unsolved” anniversary. In 2013 I received a homemade lace Valentine card that says, “I love you” in fancy, swirly script. The envelope’s cancelled stamp only says it’s from Southern Connecticut. My address is handwritten on a white label, in pen. “Tanja” is spelled correctly, but Moriarty has an extra “i” in it. I called around back then but to this day I still have no idea who sent this to me!

Today, I stumbled upon a second mystery. I ‘ve been on a tear going through old files, notebooks and boxes lately, putting decades of my writing into some sort of order. Am I merely stalling to work on current writing projects?

Anyway, I reached for my Bible bag thinking I had stored a eulogy or two I’d composed for friends and loved ones over the years and wanted to put them in a three-ringed binder.

As I started picking through the side pockets of the pouch, a twenty-dollar bill popped out! I jumped in that surreal moment when one finds unexpected money. A $20 no less, in my Bible bag?

It was folded in quarters and as I unfurled the bill, I noticed someone had written a message around the edges on the back. It says, “Dear Sean and Tan, Please accept this reverse offering as a token of my appreciation of your devotion, love and perseverance. Love, The Holy Spirit.”

Say what? Love from whom? It’s in what appears as feminine handwriting. Does the Holy Spirit have girly penmanship?

I immediately thought,” I can’t spend this! It has our names on it and a personal message from God!” Then I thought, “Who would leave me this?’

I don’t know how long this mystical money has been in my bag. I did attend a study group this fall and on occasion brought the bag with me. Yet, I can’t imagine when or how one of them would have made the divine deposit while I was right by it.

I suspected a friend of mine who’d likely do something like this. I had been in a study with her for months back in 2013. She claims it wasn’t she.

If it wasn’t CB, would the generous person please reveal him or herself so I can take you out for some, err, Heavenly coffee? But, if it was the Holy Ghost, please approach me gently and don’t freak me out!

Please share when you’ve received something mysterious or from an anonymous source.

Getting “Unstuck” This New Year: Changes That Heal

Raw emotions had inconveniently bubbled to the surface in early December threatening to ruin this holiday season. In spite of lots of hard work to try to heal after I left my church of 46 years in April, I just couldn’t keep a lid on it.

I was stunned at the intensity of this sadness and anger that demanded to be dealt with. I so badly wanted “drive thru” healing, to be completely done with negative feelings by now.

In reality, I had not dealt with feelings of huge disappointment in the way things went down at my former church. It wasn’t so much about the leaders of the church, it was more about family who still attended there, who in my estimation, didn’t “get my back” for one reason or another. I was also mourning the fact that I would not be attending Christmas Eve service there this year. In spite of it all, that church did offer a beautiful Christmas eve service that meant so much to me and my family.

It all just came to a head in early December. Facing the holidays, how was I supposed to just paint a smile on and conduct “Christmas-extended-family-business as usual”?

I confessed to my new pastor and to my former therapist (she called me “out of the blue” in early December to check in), that I was struggling this particular holiday season. They understood my unresolved, raw emotions, and gave me permission to be a little ripped, and to give myself some more time. It had only been 8 months.

I immersed myself in a women’s Bible study group this fall in the new church to establish new relationships and try to see God, Jesus and Church (not religion) in new ways. One woman pointed me to a Christian psychologist and author, Dr. Henry Cloud. I picked up his book, “Changes That Heal: How to Understand Your Past to Ensure a Healthier Future.”

What I had read and been counseled struck chords deep in my soul. I began applying Cloud’s suggestions to make changes that heal by navigating with Truth and Grace and allowing for Time to pass. In the meantime, I needed to stop blaming others, take responsibility for my actions, create new paths and draw healthier boundaries. I was honest about the way I felt with the people I love. It was a little messy at first, but enveloped in God’s mercy and grace, I was able to see them in a new and healthier light. I felt myself grow up. Things still aren’t perfect, but at least they are honest.

I want to share some of the highlights which turned out to be wonderful and merciful gifts I’ve received this Christmas season:

Getting a handle on bitterness. As I continue to harbor bitterness towards someone it will only stunt and make me ill. I will be estranged and/or only fake being “nice” and “loving” to that person, but the ugliness will eek out or spring forth eventually if I don’t deal with it truthfully. I have learned that sometimes the only way to start dealing truthfully is to confess to God, “I really suck at being loving and forgiving towards ________right now. I just don’t feel it.” God knows our hearts anyway, so we don’t have to fake “being good” when we’re just not there. When we admit we are weak that is when God makes us stronger, shows us the way.

Expectations. I need to stop expecting others to behave or “be” a certain way for me to accept them. I have been guilty of expecting more out of others (and myself). This doesn’t mean I have to be a “doormat,” accepting unacceptable behaviors. It means setting respectful boundaries. I can hope for “the ideal relationship” by modeling how I want my relationships to be.

Forgiveness. I recognize my need to forgive (and be forgiven) to eradicate the bitterness I have towards others. Sometimes forgiveness seems a tall or impossible order. In such cases, I need to give that person or relationship over to God. Let it be “between them and God.” That way, I can be “unstuck” to grow and be who I am supposed to be! Happy and blessed New Year!

Enjoy the lyrics of I Am,by Crowder.

Boo to The Who! They Blew Us Off: But We’ve Met Other Stars Along Our Way!

What happened to the fecking Who? The iconic rock band, launching their 50th Anniversary tour blew off Ireland! They were supposed to play in Belfast and last night here (26 Nov.) in Dublin, but we learned a few days ago they cancelled both shows for "logistical difficulties"! What? Apparently they had an unexpected? offer to play in Abu Dhabi on the 23rd and are claiming they couldn’t get to
Ireland? The UAE is not THAT faraway from Ireland, guys! I am thinking they got a better deal to party with the royalty and to heck with Ireland! Was there no way for them in this day and age to get back in time for “our” Nov. 26th show here in Dublin? Yes, I know this is such a first world rant but bear with me a bit.

Back in July Sean noticed The Who would be playing in Dublin at the beginning of their 50th anniversary tour in November. He asked if I wanted to go. I eagerly said yes knowing that he LOVES Ireland and The Who! Both in one place would be mind-blowing! But more that that, I was all for him going to one of his happiest of happy places—Ireland—to “get off grid” from his many stresses in the States.

We weren’t fully thinking in July that we’d be away for Thanksgiving so he bought The Who tickets that day. That kinda made us pregnant to take the trip!

I had a few misgivings about missing Thanksgiving, but also relished the idea of taking a break from 15 years in a row of hosting at our house. I’d miss our kids the most–and watching the parade in the morning, but our grown-up kids encouraged us to fly!

Even though we didn’t get to see The Who on this trip, we’ve had a great experiences already and have been privileged to meet some great people along the way–rock stars in their own right! Take a bow Brian and Helen, funky, classy hardworking hosts of the luxurious but comfortable Castlewood House B&B out in Dingle.

Thank you, thank you! to the very encouraging and hip Father David Gunn for welcoming us to your parish home at Port Magee for the tea and allowing us to pour over pages of hundred year old handwritten marriage and baptismal records as we trace more of Sean’s Irish heritage in the Ring of Kerry! We were welcomed right into the house and life “don’t mind the toys!” of a very cool cousin Sheila who introduced us to her wee ones, Shoon,3, Seamus,2. She made a phone call for Sean to see his cousins Mary and Tessie Cremens who lived up the road and across the street.

We were reunited with Tomas who spoils us at Kate Kearney’s Cottage in Killarney and now has his own photography business. It was so good to see John and Nora in at their lovely Ferris Wheel B&B at the Gap of Dunloe. We spoke at length to a very decent and bright woman at a woolen shop in Cashel— (Knitted) Hats off to Inga!

We anticipate meeting a few more “celebrities” as we spend the next few days here. Tonight, about the time you all back home will be enjoying your beautiful turkey dinners, (we’re 5 hours ahead), Sean and I will be taking a Literary Pub Crawl learning where Irish writers—Yeats, Joyce, Wilde, etc. hung out to discuss life, politics, their stories, and where they put down a few pints. Who knows who else we’ll encounter? Sean met Conan O’Brien on Grafton Street in 2012!

Happy Thanksgiving to our American family and friends. And Thank You, friends and relatives we’ve met on this trip! God Bless, Salente, Cheers!

Somethin’s Brewing: New Coffee House Starting to Perk

The outreach team and in-house band at the new church we’ve been attending wanted to pick our brains on how to run a coffee-house of all things! About a month ago, a new “sister” there stopped to chat with me to say the church had been talking about having a coffee-house for two years, but they weren’t sure what exactly to do. My heart raced and my throat tightened as I blinked back tears.

We (my husband, niece and I) had left my old, life-long church this past April after being the principle facilitators of Soup and Song open mic coffee house—for EXACTLY two years!

Before things came crashing down with the administration there, the coffee-house was drawing in an average of 55 participants on the Saturday nights it was held since 2012.  April 5th was the two-year anniversary. The coffee-house was a success at the tiny church not because of me, but because it was always God’s coffee-house. Tons of prayer went into each one. I never knew how many pots of soup or chili would be donated or how many trays of cookies or brownies would grace the table. I never knew who or how many were coming to perform, to help set up and take down. Lo, there was always enough. It was the fishes and loaves thing that kept me flying by the seat of my spiritual pants, that gave me hope at my long-time, fledgling church.

It kept me humble and it kept me in the moment! Oh, we had many a great moments. I can look back and see God all over it.

I understand it is still going on now. After of ton of God’s grace and mercy, time and healing  I can say “God bless it” and mean it.  It is still attracting people to fellowship, share music. That is the point.

Yes, it has been a painful transition to be called away from a place you’ve known, good and bad, had so much hope for, had vested so many years in, but I honestly believe it was God’s call. I wandered heart-broken and bewildered for a while, but God’s been faithful. My family has a been beyond welcomed, more like enveloped, into a healthy place of worship. Encouraged, included, and now invited. 

While the new coffee-house is just heating up and will likely be a blend of what worked well in Higganum, I know it will be God’s coffee-house because it is being brewed in prayer. I am confident it will be welcoming place where people of all ages, churched and non-churched, can come in, share talent, encourage others, and have some great food!

Stay tuned for details. Coffee will be on early in the new year, God willing!

Click on this great song! “Thrive” from WOW Hits 2015 (Deluxe Version) by Casting Crowns. Released: 2014.

A Slice of Swiss and “God’s Baby Girl”

Tanja, around 10, 1975.

I started going to a women’s Bible study group at the Wethersfield United Methodist Church to be open for what God has planned for me. The group, as well as the whole church, is very welcoming. We have embarked on a nine-week Beth Moore study, “Children of the Day: 1 & 2 Thessalonians.” I didn’t know what to expect, content-wise, but so far, it’s good stuff!

I am learning about the importance of (and am experiencing) a healthy spiritual community. I am gaining strength to get up again after being “knocked down for the count.”
Today’s biggie, to see God/Jesus as my Parent. To be a secure Child of God, I need to embrace and be embraced by God’s paternal and maternal attributes. “To be nurtured, affectionately desired (not just tolerated), exhorted (instructed), encouraged (inspired), and “charged to walk worthy” (get up and do what God charges us to do).

I’ve heard the phrase “Child of God” a thousand times. I just hadn’t wrapped my head around how it applied to me. I have biological parents and God had been more of a go-to “big guy” for mercy, relief, answers, grace and gratitude. I also never quite understood how God can have both female and male characteristics. I’ve struggled with God—the Father in defiance with previously unresolved Daddy issues. I never saw myself as  “God’s Baby Girl,” as Beth Moore suggested.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had to be a serious, big girl, big-sister, parent-partner to my newly divorced mother in the late 70s. My “childhood” lasted until I was in first or second grade before I was really aware and worried about the dysfunction at home.

For years, I could and did place blame, was a victim, made excuses… but that hasn’t served me too well.

During the video portion of the study, Beth Moore said something that helped bring things into even greater perspective. She compared earthly parents to various kinds of cheeses. Yes, cheeses, but she wasn’t trying to be funny.  She pointed out that we’re all human and imperfect. We can be swiss—though we try to be solid for our kids—we might have holes that leave them wanting. We can be bleu, sad parents. Feta, parents that crumble. Cheddar, too sharp or too mild.

Great analogy, Beth! Of course I thought of my earthly parents and what kind of cheese categories they might fit into.

To be fair,  I know as a parent myself, that I’ve fallen into various cheese categories, too.  I’m sure I’ve left some holes, been too sharp, etc.  Though I tried to be a more stable parent in a less chaotic home environment, I know there were times I’ve fallen short.

It seems to me that each of us feel holes left from childhood in some way or another. Nobody has perfect parents or are perfect parents, themselves.

I agree with Beth Moore, that we all could use to connect with God in a parent/child role, to be filled. As she said, “If we have a missing piece, we are missing peace.”

Many of us, especially women, are consummate care-givers to our children, our spouses, our aging parents. I’ve had to assume this role at an early age and later as a conservator.

Even though we may have great life partners we can lean on, they too, are merely human and cannot be there for us 100% of the time. They can let us down, surely as we let them down. But God doesn’t let us down. Anytime we call out, Jesus is there.

As part of trying to see God in a new way, I’m going try to see God as a Parent. To fill the holes that even after years of therapy, still can feel rather sizable. To rub my shoulders, soothe my brow, wipe my tears. Pick me up, dust me off, and put me gently back on the path with a gentle prod.