Friday, December 30, 2011

The Ogre In Us All

“For every person, in every instance, either brief or interminable, cruel or civil, warm or hostile, there will be enough sin in all our relationships that forgiveness is required if they are to continue toward an end that is good” (Bold Love, Dan Allender)

Do you have an inner Ogre? I do. I try to keep it well hidden, and out of sight. But occasionally, the Ogre appears in the form of grouchiness, or cynicism, and usually towards the people I love the most. I hate that part of myself and I work hard to keep it buried. However, every Christmas season, I love to be reminded that my inner Ogre is really just anger, hurt, and insecurity that manifests itself through negative behavior. I do this by watching "Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer" sometime during the holidays. Say what you want about Santa, but the bigger message in this classic movie is about the flawed little toys, the *misfits* that rescue the Ogre that has been scaring the daylights out of everyone for years. The misfit's are the little toys that didn't make the cut at Santa's toyshop. They find an elf who really doesn't want to be an elf, he wants to be a Dentist. Lo and behold, the Ogre isn't really all that bad of a guy...he just has a tootheache, he HURTS, and society has labled him as a monster. The wanna-be Dentist/elf extracts the offending tooth and suddenly, The Ogres a lovable, furry, critter who befriends the misfits on their journey to find someone to love them.

The Abominable Snowman to me represents those who are very outward in their anger and defiance. He is frustrated, and hurt, and lashes out, all because he's in pain. I know a lot of people who behave abominabally (is that a word?), and fit the profile. Here is where it gets deep: We, as Christians have to learn to recognize this, and respond in love and do this repeatedly, all seasoned well with the grain of a mustard seed. The scriptures say so, yet good Christians seem to ignore this teaching.

"Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven." - Matthew 18:21-22.

We ALL have to deal with each others inner-Ogre, and helping to heal the hurt by responding in love. Does that mean we are to take what Ogre's dish out? No. You can respond in love and still be honest. Some Christians get this crazy idea that responding in love means to put a smile on your face and endure abuse. No, never... You can respond in love, and still be honest. You just need to be thoughtful in your response and not retaliate. Nothing that someone does to you in anger gives you the justification to reciprocate the same way. We have a responsibility as followers of Christ to hold ourselves to a higher standard. This is our calling. It's what separates us from the world. It's what defines us as *little Christs*.

Recently, I was witness to someones inner-Ogre. It was not the most attractive thing to behold. I had to witness someone I love who refuses to be accountable. This person is a major-league-finger-pointer. So, in love, I told them that I felt their behavior was not only wrong, but damaging to others, and they needed to be accountable. Failure to speak to them about this would only make me an enabler. But I did not say anything about them as a person, simply their behavior. I chose to address the problem with this person, because they claim to be Christian. But their behavior was childish, accusing, and hurt loved ones to the point that a whole family was broken. I had to speak to their Ogre, not them personally. I tried to get to the heart of their hurt. What came out seemed very petty, almost silly to me, but to them, (and their Ogre), it was a big, painful tootheache. God is the dentist and the one who extracts. So I said my peace and now I pray for God to extract their pain, and help them to see how they hurting others because they hurt. I also pray that God shows them that humility in admitting their own weaknesses, will help them to not only heal, but to have the strength to apologize to others, and move forward in relationships. That's accountability, and it is a great virtue!

It's going to be a long haul for the above-mentioned Ogre, but with God nothing is impossible, right? We should all try to find the peace to accept the smaller weaknesses in our brothers and sisters in Christ, but the courage to take on the Ogres, and do it with love. May you find that strength as you journey heavenward.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Grace under Fire

Christmas Day is always a mixed bag for me, and a challenge to stay composed. I am on one hand; joyous to celebrate and recognize the birth of Jesus. I am aware this isn't his real birthday, just a time to reflect on it. And on the other hand; I am sad because so many people I love are no longer with us. It happens every Christmas- I just have to take a moment to myself and cry. I usually steal way to a bathroom and have a good little sob, while wishing my Mother, Grandparents, Brothers, and friends who have passed on a *Merry Christmas*. I can't help but think back of all the wonderful times we had...and miss them terribly. But then I splash cold water on my face, and return to the merriment. They would want me to, after all, but it's a challenge to mask the sadness for the moment.

After the gifts are opened and exchanged, as carols play and lights twinkle, we start preparing for guests. Ribbon and wrapping paper is thrown away, and the cooking and baking begins. My kitchen goes from cozy-to-science-experiment in just a matter of hours. It is at this point that I have to just *breathe*!! Noone cares how my kitchen looks, they are here to celebrate. Just the idea that all these loved ones, friends, family and neighbors would take time on Christmas Day to come to my home and truly fellowship with us, and each other is so humbling, again, I almost cry. People are packed in, dog is barking, men are laughing, tree is sparkling, women are chattering and it's just such a beautiful mess. It's like no other holiday, and I'm always emotional, but trying to look like I'm not. My Mother In Law is telling a story and shes speaking so fast with her beautiful German accent- it sounds almost like tongues. My husband looks across the room at me and catches my eye to say; *All is well Mrs. Hunt*.

In amongst all this annual chaos, I am torn. I want to spend individual time with every person who has honored me and my husband with their company on such a precious day. But I can't. I only have a couple of minutes to spare here and there and I'm flitting about like a little bird, asking if everyone is alright? Pointing the way to the ice chest, introducing friends to family, picking up on a conversation here and a bit of news there. I have a baby asleep on my shoulder and I take a minute to rock him, feeling like I might be slacking on my hostess duties, but by golly- babies don't keep! This moment is sacred. It's my grandson's first Christmas! Silas won't remember this, but I will, and so will his parents. As I look around, I see everyone is perfectly fine. They have everything they need. This moment is meant to be. Silas is breathing softly on my neck and I think "Really, am I going to cry again???" No, not were anyone can see. But there it goes... that one little tear that I hope noone see's as I kiss his sweet little cheek and whisper "Merry Christmas Silas, Jesus loves you".

Cookies are munched on, pie is enjoyed, coffee is perked and a bit of wine is flowing. This day is such a roller coaster of emotion! Love for my Savior, and appreciation for His birth. It reflects in the faces of everyone present. My annual challenge is to keep my composure, as I often want to throw my head back and laugh out loud, cry like a baby, and kiss every single person who walks through my door. It's what my Mother called: "Grace Under Fire" and it's my number one homemaking skill. I often wonder if everyone doesn't feel the same on Christmas Day?