Sunday, November 11, 2012

a gift from my father, years after

i was going to take this blog a different direction, but i realize i am too fragile at the moment. i am suffering quite badly in my body, in my mind and heart, and i'm just not up to the task. so i'm taking a different route.

i am hoping this fragile "set back" i am experiencing is due to a few different contributing factors, with the main one being the 5 year anniversary since my dad took his life in our front yard, and other reasons like stress and attacks from pharisees.

hmm, i think i better pause here and take a moment to ask anyone reading this to please not give me any advice on what i write here. not that many of you do, but sometimes there will be one or two people who, instead of sympathizing (entering into another person's suffering) they give "advice" or try to suggest a "different perspective" and it's really just awful and hurtful. and like i have said before, it is actually a form of emotional abuse --i kid you not-- and it even has a name: invalidation. i do appreciate comments and thoughts, but unsolicited advice/preaching/correction is not alright and i'll call your arse out on that shiznit! ok then. you few have been warned. back to my story.

throughout my life, i often turned to my dad when i needed encouragement and support (i was actually asking him for advice, so what he told me during those times was not invalidation). my dad was always supportive of his children, in whatever road they took in life, he was there when you needed him --and sometimes he was there when you didn't want him-- but i believe all 6 of his children, myself included, would say our dad was always just a phone call away to give good, solid advice, encouragement and he always offered to help in any way he could, and it was really a great comfort to know that.

my dad was a great example to his children to be creative, to "think outside the box" as he often said, to be an entrepreneur, to approach life in non-traditional ways, and to take chances. he questioned "why?" a lot. why do people have certain mindsets? why does our culture do the things they do, believe the things they do, or practice certain traditions? he was so intelligent, so incredibly wise, and was not afraid of confrontation in-the-least! he was able to tell someone how incredibly offensive and stupid they were in such a way that it left them utterly speechless, or in one case, speechless and crying. (that one was not very nice, and in retrospect, i think he'd now appreciate that woman's point of view).

when my dad decided to devote his life to the Lord he was as zealous as Paul after falling off his horse. he even confronted an entire church board meeting when he saw how the money they were receiving from the congregation was actually being spent. he pronounced anyone who agreed with the way the money was being lavished on the head pastor as hypocrites. they too were speechless, but ended up justifying themselves. surprising? not really.

all of dad's children inherited this confrontational gift in one form or another, and each with their own varying beliefs and opinions. i think it is a trait on my dad's side of the family, actually. my dad's parents were reporters, my dad was a photo-journalist and editor for many years, and that whole reporter-type questioning and boldness is in the blood of every McCuen, and it manifests in really different and wonderful (for the most part) ways. you can imagine how this trait could have it's downfalls too, and downfalls there have been. but that's a subject better left for my memoir, if God so pleases me to write.

about a year before my dad died, Jeremy, Jonah and i visited my parents at their home, and we were having lots of great food and conversation as we often did. i remember my dad stopped for a moment in the conversation and said to me, "Oh, Heather, before I forget: your Mom and I recently watched a movie on the Sundance station, and it's called 'The Girl in the Cafe'. As we were watching, I turned to your mother and said, 'You know who that girl (the main character) is like?' And I said, 'Heather. Heather is like that. So make sure you watch it. 'The Girl in the Cafe'. Alright?"

i didn't get around to seeing it. every time i looked for the movie in our local video store, i would forget the title. by the time we got a Netflix account, my dad was gone, and when i asked, mom couldn't remember the name of the movie either. all i knew was that it had to do with a girl in a place. a shop? a restaurant? then a little more than a year ago, it came to me! i searched Netflix, and there it was! "The Girl in the Cafe"! i put it at the top of my queue and couldn't wait for it to arrive.

upon watching the beginning of the movie, i was really confused. i thought, 'okay, so my dad thinks i am like a lonely girl who shacks up with a really old man? what the heck?' then i saw this scene and got it:

the character, Gina, is a guest at this conference of the world's most powerful people who make decisions that effect us all. she's not afraid of breaking tradition, of speaking up (she does this a few times to a couple of men before this scene, but this is her most powerful one, in front of all of them) and she challenges them to do what is right for the sake of starving children.

it is not so much the subject matter here that my dad was comparing me to (although if given the chance to speak up for children who are starving in the world because of stupid bureaucrats, i totally would!) but my dad was comparing me to Gina's boldness in speaking out, in questioning 'why' and 'why not', and for her taking a risk despite the knowledge of the consequences that would follow.

i cried very hard at the end of the movie as it came at a time when i was questioning (with love and guidance from God) the decisions people were making for our body of believers, and i had received some strong and hurtful opposition.

since that time --and every time now-- when i open up my heart and speak out on a topic (like animal abuse, for example) or question something (like the way church functions) and in return i am opposed or attacked (see the blog i wrote before this one) i go back to this --to this gift my dad gave me even after he was gone...but of course, not truly gone. each time some pharisee or hard-headed-opinionated person doesn't like what i question or a truth that i share, i remember this, and i feel my dad's encouragement, and i am truly strengthened.

i do not want to come across as puffing myself up with pride. not at all. i have learned, and continue to learn when i should hold my tongue and let God be God of other people's lives. who am i, anyway, to judge anyone? but i will speak up when led by the Spirit, and i will continue to "question everything" to get to the truth of the matter, despite how painful that can be for me, and i will not settle with "it's just the way things are" mentality. not ever. and it's not just me! my family has this same gift, and the people i love to be around --my friends-- are this way too (some much much better at it than me!)

so thank you, Dad. your love, wisdom and support continues to be with me, as does the Spirit, whose presence you see clearly, whose love and truth you now know fully, as i will too, someday.

Friday, November 9, 2012

to ALL you MEAN CHRISTIANS, i am blessed!

this morning i have been the recipient of very unkind words. one from a stranger, and the other from an old, high school acquaintance --on my own FB page-- who in one breath called himself a Christian, and then called me a lying whore. i believe he was drunk, as he also posted horrible accusations and political comments beneath my post about the anniversary of my dad's suicide, which is tomorrow. i unfriended and blocked him after giving him many opportunities to stop his onslaught of ugly posts.

this is not the first time i have been judged and "corrected" by other Christians --or even by Christians in my own family! i will not say it does not hurt, because it does, but tonight while talking with Christ, he reminded me that i should rejoice and consider myself blessed, so with his help, i will do so, and pray he also gives me his heart to forgive and pray for those who have offended me.

In Matthew 5: 11-12, Jesus said, “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad, because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you."

i do not want to deny that i am also guilty of hurting fellow Christians with my words, and i regret ever doing so, and pray they will (or have) been able to forgive me. recently, in a bible study i am blessed to be a part of, a friend read something from a book she is studying that read something along these lines: even if you are telling the truth, or correcting someone with the truth, if it is not done in love, then it is a sin. wow. that hit home.

it is hard for me to keep quiet though when i see fellow Christians acting like unloving, law-driven pharisees. i need to pray about how to react to these kinds of people. in scripture, these are the same people Jesus got REALLY ANGRY with, like rope-whipping, yelling-in-their-face angry!

i find it so easy and natural to have grace and love unbelievers, but someone being a hard-hearted, self-righteous,  defensive, bible-verse-spouting pharisee just makes me want to grab a whip myself and do some yelling-in-the-face, "you idiot! you say you worship Christ --the God of Love-- and yet you are being the complete opposite! you are doing great harm! you are giving our faith a terrible name! stop it!"

it is funny though, or interesting, i should say --in a shockingly disgusting sort of way-- that the majority of opposition i have received in my walk with God has come from other Christians. maybe this is because i am an easy target as i open up my heart and life, reveal my struggles, questions, convictions and thoughts as i truly try to seek God, especially in these 18 years of chronic physical suffering, as well as deep emotional suffering.

now, i will be the first to admit that i am SCREWED-UP and in great need of God's grace and love and, well, everything! i know the self-destructive, selfish sinner  that i am apart from him, and i am tremendously grateful for all he has done and IS doing in my life and in my family! 

so, i'd like you to see below just one way i opened myself up, tried to encourage a brother, only to be the recipient of mean words from a fellow Christian. the morning after the election i wrote on a friend's page:

 "i didn't vote. in fact, i've never voted, and my reasons are religious as well as personal. that being said, may i encourage you that our God is in control. His Word reminds us that anyone placed in government/worldly leadership is put there by His will. we don't know why, but our trust is in Him, our all-powerful and loving Father, not any human leader. i have been very encouraged by the following article a friend shared with me. i have read it many times over in the past few weeks. i hope you will be encouraged by it too:"

then a complete stranger posted in response, "Heather for you to forgo your right to vote for any reason makes me very sad!!! I am a veteran, but I am a Christian as well....nowhere in the teachings of my Church nor in my bible, I read the NIV...have I heard or read anything that would keep me from voting! I have always been a believer of God and Country...and to vote ensures that both are alive and well! The blood of men and women that you will never know was shed to insure you that right!! You have no right to feel encouraged or discouraged as you gave up that right by not voting..... In actuality you are more of a part of the problem then any encouragement you could ever offer as a consolation!! Just my humble opinion....."

his post was "liked" by 4 other strangers.

i responded, "[name withheld] you are judging me and accusing me of being part of the problem, and you say that is your "humble opinion"??? you do not know me in the slightest, brother, and i ask you not to judge my personal, God-led conviction. i completely respect Christians who feel led to vote, and with the love of Christ, i would appreciate the same. i forgive you for being so judgmental and harsh. i will obey what God tells me personally to do, no matter who i may disappoint or receive undue judgment from, even those who claim to follow the same Jesus. i hope in future situations, you are able to do the same...but with love and true humility.

P.S. [name withheld] and those who "liked" his judgmental post: i apologize that my conviction offends you. that was not my intent at all. i was only trying to encourage my friend and brother-in-Christ. God bless."

now, i do want to point out here, how thankful i am to those of you who truly know me, love me, and pray for me! i pray God will bless you. i am so grateful to have true brothers and sisters in Christ. God has been answering your prayers, and the last medical procedure i had is finally giving me a good deal of relief! my doctor, who preformed the procedure, is an incredible Christian, and he even prayed with me beforehand! it took about 3-4 weeks to kick in, but it is working so well that i was just able to go on vacation with my family to the mountains, and our time there was SO BLESSED by God! i have not been able to travel (or do much of anything) in over a year, so i am grateful to you, your prayers and encouragement, and to God for His grace and loving kindness!


Thursday, November 1, 2012

dying means everything

i have realized, at long last, what i have always known but never took time to practice: all the things i have imagined as "the stuff of life", mean nothing. my face, your face, they mean nothing. my size, age, home, financial status, nothing. my personality, my tastes, as well as yours, again, nothing. my art, your art, they mean nothing. accomplishments, nothing. good deeds, nothing. although these things may be good, like my art or your art --as it may help express our emotions and even touch other people's lives-- but the fact is: our art, our work, our tastes, personalities, home, size, face are temporal. in fact, all these things we take such great stock in are so very temporal, that unto the eternal, they are considered as chaff in the wind.

good lord, how frightening this realization is at first, for all of spend years --our lifetimes-- believing otherwise. i realize the mentality of many artists --myself included-- often count ourselves as something special that the world has not yet discovered, or maybe the world is beginning to discover --or worse-- if the world has snatched us from the crowd and put us on a grand display, then we feel we must strive to maintain our work, we set the bar higher and higher, to prove that we are, indeed, the unique one among the rest, worthy of attention and praise and love. i have yet to meet a secure artist. we have moments when we feel powerful, yet in truth, we are constantly powerless and frightened, just like the rest of humanity.

Matthew 16:25 Jesus says, "Those who want to save their lives will lose them. But those who lose their lives for me will find them."

or more interestingly said in The Message Bible: Then Jesus went to work on his disciples. “Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat; I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What kind of deal is it to get everything you want but lose yourself? What could you ever trade your soul for?

one month ago, my counselor shared two important things with me, one, do not resist your suffering, accept that you have it. this does not mean you have to be happy about your suffering, but acknowledge you have this disorder. too much energy is wasted resisting it, and it causes depression. two, invite God into every part of your suffering. e-v-e-r-y part.

since then, God has been revealing many things to me by his spirit and what i wrote above. old, ancient teachings about dying to self, and i am now just scratching the surface. indeed, he knows the pace at which to teach each of his children about his mysteries. some catch on quickly, some slowly, some not at all.

so i am currently mimicking Mary, who "treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart," as i explore with Christ what it really means to deny myself, take up my cross daily and follow Him.