This Means War

9 03 2017

I have been wrestling with something lately and I couldn’t put my finger on the word until today. It was a few things all in a row that lifted it to the surface. Its not a new pain; its an ongoing thing and I have a soul sadness over it that I know will never go away, not in this life.

I watched the movie “Hidden Figures” recently. Such a great and inspiring movie but I walked away feeling low. It is shameful that the stories about these amazing and gifted ladies happened the way they happened. The line in the movie that got me was, of course, when Mrs. Mitchell (who is white) does her best to seem empathetic to what the African-American women were going through. She says,

Mrs. Mitchell: Dorothy, despite what you might think, I have nothing against y’all.
Dorothy: I know. I know you believe that.

That line…that line is just so loaded with meaning.

The sadness for me is that no matter how hard the races try to “not have anything against one another” there is so much material from the past that can never be rewritten, never be undone, never be excused, never atoned for…not truly. And it is not just in the past — that is the worst thing — it isn’t really changing. It might change in one area but it is like when you poke the stuffing back into a pillow and it bulges out of a tear somewhere else. Sorry to be pessimistic. There is so much that a person “of colour* has has walked through and will continue to walk through that I don’t even know how it can be mended. (*About that term “of colour” — really so ridiculous that this is even a description of a human being. A “person of colour”, what does that even mean? It implies there is a colourless race and then all the rest…a whole other set of human beings like there are only two categories. That term perpetuates the problem).

I walked out of that movie longing to be right with my fellow human beings of all shades — without the barriers we have created because of our sin. I wish we could just purely enjoy one another and live with one another without underlying judgements or any evil sense of superiority or inferiority.

But we left the path so long ago. We have not loved what God has loved and so the “colourless” and the “coloured” are at…here is the word: war.

A long time ago a group of people landed on the shores of what would later be called Canada and they took it. They didn’t ask for it, they just took it. If that wasn’t bad enough, they elevated themselves to believe that they were more human than those already present on the property. From there it was just a massacre in every way. If murder was not enough, for those who remained they squeezed the culture almost totally out of its original inhabitants. They tried to refashion them in their own likeness so that even the “Aboriginal” people could barely recognize themselves. The conquerors told them, “sit here and don’t move,” giving them what they thought would be an adequate life for an lesser people, and they had the audacity to think they were helping. They even gave them a misrepresentation of a Saviour to follow which was possibly the most damaging thing of all.

And so we have lived separate lives. We have crossed paths in recent years. We have forged friendships — but friendships? Some people work really hard at it, and even that tells a story. Why do we have to work so hard at something that should be just natural? Its uneasy. There is still a them and us. One group meets here. One group meets there. There is still so much suspicion and division. The recovery is slow, so very slow…and I am not sure if  there can ever be an end to the war with this nation and its First Nation with so much left unsaid and so much left undone.

This gives me such an ache. God, I wish we could turn back the hands of time so that we could love each other the way You always have. He says, “I know, I warned you.”

And then yesterday was International Women’s Day. I love who woman are when they live out their calling confidently! I love seeing that person,  fashioned by our Creator, doing things she couldn’t imagine herself capable of — whatever it is! I love her spice and her courage and voice and her humour and her contribution whether she is reserved or all out there. I love when she just does what she does and has the room to do so.

But yesterday, it couldn’t be ignored, there was a Woman’s Day because there is enmity between women and men. Sophie Grégoire Trudeau posted on Instagram a photo of herself and her husband, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, celebrating on Women’s Day the men who celebrate Women’s Day too. And she heard about it! It was not the time (many felt), it was not the place to even mention men in the equation because there are too many women who are not free, who face male-imposed barriers and ceilings and rules and economic disparity. There are too many closed doors and too much demeaning behaviour, and there is too much conflict at each difficult step forward for women all over the world.

The point of this post is just to say — we are fighting. Men and Women are at each other and this was not the original idea either. We were supposed to be boosting each other up, helping each other over the wall, challenging one another with different viewpoints, strengthening the other when weariness set in, and yet…and yet…we are at war with one another.

In the “old days” those of faith spoke and sang of heaven more. Weary bodies with hopeful voices, looking forward to something better than this. Wealth and credit have fooled us into thinking this can be paradise, but it’s not. It certainly is not, because we are at war. We keep striving to fix things — it is a noble effort (not always noble, but many do so with good hearts) but as long as we have selfishness and greed and a damaged view of one another…how far can we take this?

Isaiah 2:4

He will judge between the nations and will settle disputes for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore.

— Teresa Klassen

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To the very, very end.

11 10 2014

pruningtool1“He prunes every branch that bears fruit so that it will bear more fruit.” (John 15:2b)

It’s really dumb to think you can be perfect, but sometimes I think I have achieved some measure of it. When things are rolling just right

I’m on time,

work is done,

made a list,

followed the map,

double-checked,

said something smart,

was extra nice,

my ego kisses the mirror. It’s delusional, but it happens.

If it was simply about doing things the best I can, that would be one thing, but behind it I know I want to be right…and standing behind that I don’t want to fail…and behind that is a fear of exposure…and behind that is a fear of rejection…and behind that stands a whole row of fear and lies and this my friends is why John 15:2b exists.

Yesterday’s post was all about “non fruit bearing branches.” You get the impression the gardener is trimming whatever is stubbornly refusing to really be a part of His design. I have never wanted to be that person. I have stayed as far away from that line as possible. I have always wanted to live the way the Bible leads us to live but here I read even the ones who are on track, producing fruit, get pruned.

“There is no one righteous. Not even one.” Romans 3:10

No one gets a pass. No individual branch is “right” or good to go, not even one. There is no exception or loophole, every branch is tended.

This could really be fuel for the perfectionist to add to the to-do list, but as I have been reflecting on this, I realize how important it is to remember who is doing the work in this passage. It isn’t me deciding what pet-project to work on today, it is the Gardener pruning. The Gardener deciding what must go, what must change, what needs binding, what needs supporting…it is the Gardener. He can tell: the Vine is One Way and if we are another the Gardener can tell. To anyone else we may seem just fine, but He knows. He knows about the lineup of fear and lies that get in the way of the Life and Freedom He offers.  This is not about adding something more, it is about trust and surrender.

“O Lord, you have examined my heart and know everything about me.” (Psalm 139:1)

The Gardener looks at me, what is inside of me, and sees what I can’t or what I refuse to. It may be the smallest thing or it may be an elephant but, for my own good and the good of His kingdom, it has got to go. Maybe it can go with one little snip; maybe it will take years but we can be sure that all of us will receive this kind of attention. This kind of loving, hard, patient, persistent attention.

I am 46 and my earliest memories all include Jesus. I have always loved Him and have wanted to be a follower in “right” standing. At the same time, I have always known I fail at this. I am a sinner. At 46 I haven’t stopped sinning but at this age I have a deeper understanding of it. When I was younger, I really thought I could trick the system, but at 46 I know I do not have the capability.

In my heart I see sinful tendencies, so there is no way I could ever accept that I am a “good person.” I can think noble things, do noble things, but lurking there in the shadows is always the ignoble. My confessions come quicker, my admissions are more readily made. My gratitude is more profound. I think I am more honest today then I was when I was 20 and still attempting to be perfect.

I recognize pruning more than I did back then. Here too there is pride, and not the good kind: I ask myself, “Really, at 46 you haven’t learned (interpretation: perfected) this?” No, I haven’t. But at 46 I recognize God’s love mixed in with the pain of His pruning. I still squirm when I see those shears; I wish I sat still right from the start, but I don’t. It taxes the plant to be pruned, that’s for sure, but I do know it is because I matter enough to my Father that He prunes me and this is pretty amazing too. In the end it will be good.

God is all about the good.

One day, as my mother was dying she was very restless. She was literally wrestling in her spirit and asked us to pray for her. I could see the turmoil and I was a little angry with God that this woman of faith should have to experience such a hurdle at this point,

“Really Lord? She has to go through this now? Hasn’t she been through enough?”

And then, some time later this peace washed over her and she said, “I needed to know, am I really forgiven? Is it true what Jesus has said, that He has really forgiven me for my sin? I am really loved?  And yes. I am.”

It was like the Gardener could see in her that little doubt and to finish her walk here on earth, for the very last bit of her journey He wanted this branch He had tended for 75 years to be free of that lie, the one that says Jesus is not quite enough and we are not quite adopted.

Fellow sojourner, He prunes every branch, even the ones so dedicated to bearing fruit, so that we will bear more fruit. There is no retirement, no Florida, no “old and useless.”

We are branches planted by the water, roots drinking from the stream, not fearing when heat [or pruning] comes; leaves are always green. We have no worries in a year of drought and never fail to bear fruit (Jeremiah 17:8 paraphrase).

Green to the very, very end.

— Teresa Klassen

 





Putting Your Foot Down

3 12 2012

ps 37_6Part Two

Yesterday I had a conversation with a couple of friends about the challenges of shaping behavior in their 2 year olds. The topic was “hitting” and how do you get them to stop hitting when they are two and not really able to dialogue about the problem or reason it out. One of the moms carries a roll of tape and a pair of socks in her bag and when her child hits, she puts the socks over their hands and tapes over them with painter’s tape so the child can’t use her hands for a while. It is a physical reminder that hands are to be used lovingly, and if they choose to do otherwise, they temporarily may not use them at all.

The child is not pleased. In fact, the other day this particular little one railed against the discipline for twenty minutes. Have you ever been in the room with an unhappy 2 year old for twenty minutes? It’s exhausting. And here is the thing: this mom is prepared to engage in this battle until it clicks with her child and the hitting stops; because hitting others is wrong.

“Wrong” is easier to deal with when it is obvious; when the lines are clear. For example, you don’t say cruel things to other people, right? Then somewhere around grade one your child says something you think is unkind and adds the line “I was just joking.” You can argue that it is not funny, but the line has suddenly become less clear. What’s funny and what’s not funny? When is sarcasm okay or not okay? What’s wrong has just become a touch more difficult to define.

Take swearing; when is that wrong and what makes one word more wrong than another? What if it is “close” to a swear-word but not a swear-word? Is it wrong or in bad taste? And how will you shape your child’s use of language when often you don’t even hear it; when it is a post on Facebook or liberally used in the private world of texting?

As a parent with several teenagers I can tell you that standing up for what is “right” is not simple. Pointing to this idea of “True North” has me constantly evaluating if North still stands in the same place as it did when I was young. What is wrong? What do you not bend on?

Standing up for what is “right” is a lonely place these days. In summer I phoned all the parents of my son’s friends. He wanted more independence and so we laid out some ground-rules of what that would look like. One of our requirements was that I would speak to every parent in every household he would potentially stay in for the night to let them know what we expected of him.  For the most part we were in agreement, but here and there I ran into parents saying, “My son is a good boy. I know he drinks occasionally but at least he tells us about it.”

These are 14 and 15 year olds we are talking about.

When did the law become an option? In BC you cannot, by law, drink until you are 19.  Not one, single, alcoholic beverage. It doesn’t matter if you think it has little effect; it doesn’t matter if the quantity seems reasonable; it doesn’t matter if you know about it or it is consumed on your property. It is against the law. It is wrong.

Teens will ask, “Why are you making such a big deal out of this? It isn’t like we are getting drunk. It is just one drink.”

I can tell you, as much as I am clear about what is wrong with this scenario, I will find myself getting worn down and confused. There are a lot of things parents should not be so intense about; there are things that are actually trivial that we shouldn’t get so in knots over. Which are the things that go in the “minor issue” category and which go in the “major issue” category?

Back to drinking, Parents will laugh and say, “Oh yeah, I remember drinking when I was 14. It’s just something teenagers do.” I will find myself thinking, “Is that right? Do teenagers just do that and I need to relax on this a bit? In light of all the worse things kids are doing, can I live with them having a drink here or there? What if they are honest about it? What if it is in a controlled environment?”

And then I shake my head. This just does not work. Wrong is wrong. As soon as we start messing with wrong to make it look more right we are in capital letters TROUBLE.

The issues have become much more complicated than deciding whether drinking is right or wrong. There are issues of integrity and attitude, respect for authority, responsibility with money, dating and sexuality, proper internet and texting use, and the terrifyingly casual approach to the “recreational” use of marijuana to name a few.

When a 14, 15, 16 year old pulls out all the stops and begins to challenge what is permissible and what’s not, you better know what you know to the core and you better be well familiar with prayer. A conversation with a determined teenager can be as grueling as a contentious court case. They will go for the jugular and there you are suddenly on the stand, defending the battered idea that there is a right and there is a wrong with EVERYTHING against you.

This is where Psalm 37:6 comes in. I don’t believe for a second we are alone with this. I think raising our families against the tide of our decaying culture is a missionary call and I believe that God is all over helping us. Raising a family to walk uprightly isn’t so that they will simply be productive, honorable citizens down the road; raising a family to live by God’s original intent is part of being a light on a hill in a dark, confused, hurting world.

I believe God is with us in this, holding up the weary parent and sustaining us when it seems our voice wavers, small and tired and weary. When we have had to say over and over and over, “No, we can’t let you do that.” When we come before Him, prepared to keep standing and keep on standing for what is good and right, He will help us to be steadfast and, more then that,

“He will vindicate you in broad daylight, and publicly defend your just cause” Psalm 37:6 (NET).

I don’t even know what that looks like but it strengthens my bones! I am not only defending, I am defended! I can keep standing up for this because the Merciful Judge is in my corner.

Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mean God is on our side in an American-Christian-Fundamentalist way. I just mean God is showing us how to say, “Hey wait…there’s a better way. A life-giving way. A restorative way. A way that God can bless.” I can actually see myself glancing to the right and God giving me the nod: “You go.” He has long been concerned about evil; He has warned and warned and warned us about the perils of experimenting with sin. He is looking for people to send, to strengthen, to speak through.

So Mike and I spend hours deliberating over each challenge presented to us. I mean hours. We close the door; we talk. We read God’s instructions and journal. We pray. We meet together again and we call our teen in and remind them that there is a right, and there is a wrong. And I am finding I can actually stay soft (yes I cry my eyes out) even while being strong (yes, I know what we need to do and will do it). I can love my teenagers when they give me their best-worst shot. And I can, even when I think I can’t anymore, put my foot down.

— Teresa Klassen





Things Fall Quickly

26 08 2011

Things fall quickly. Have you noticed?

Your elbow catches a cup on the edge of the counter and just that fast it crashes to the floor, a mess of liquid and glass.

You are getting out of your car, a load of things in your arms, too many to pay attention to the cell-phone in your hand; a second later it is in three pieces on the driveway – phone, battery, back cover.

The sunglasses you wore when you dove into the lake.

The buttered toast on a tilted plate.

The ring down the sink drain.

The child leaning back too far in their chair.

Things fall quickly.

Two friends on a hike on a beautiful day on a cliff above a sparkling creek. The bank gives way and one falls and another trying to save him; all too quick, they fall; the story does not have a happy ending.

No one ever sees these things coming, if you saw them coming you would tuck in your elbow, you would hold the phone tightly, you would take off your glasses, you would balance the plate, you would take care with the ring, you would warn the child, you would stay farther away from the edge.

But things fall quickly and we always forget.

One little flirtation with a substance or a someone and a giant trapdoor, larger than we ever imagined, swings open and we are done; the descent is swift.

Or

One little lie.

One careless conversation.

One experiment.

One picture online.

One bitterness.

One compromise.

One disobedience.

Things fall quickly.

“So, if you think you are standing firm,

be careful that you don’t fall!” ( 1 Corinthians 10:12)

— Teresa Klassen

AfterWord: Saw this today. Thought it went well with this post.