Tag Archives: God

Holidays x One: St. Patrick’s Day

ShamrockWe raise a glass of green beer, or Bailey’s or Irish Whiskey and wear green so we don’t get pinched and think that maybe – just for a day – there are “little people” stealing our pens from our desks, scampering through the kitchen cupboards and hiding pots of gold at the end of rainbows. No other Christian saint has embodied a more eclectic set of myths and legends, both real and imagined, than the young British 16 year-old boy who was captured by Irish pirates and held as a slave for six years.

That ordeal ended when he heard the voice of the Lord saying, “Your ship is ready,” perhaps an early Gaelic version of “Your ship has come in?”  He escaped, walked 200 miles to a port and spent three days starving on board before finally reaching home. After gaining an education and becoming a clergyman, Patrick was given a new vision to return to Ireland, the land of his abject humiliation and dread. Return he did, spouting redemption in Jesus Christ and becoming a beloved Saint.

Who does that?  Me, I run from pain.  I block off hurtful memories. Why revisit the place of loneliness?

All it takes is courage. And a little faith.

So on this special feast day of March 17, celebrated nearly worldwide on behalf of a saint whom we now associate with druids, snakes, dragons, drinking and corned beef, cabbage and potatoes, why not whip up some resolve and think back. Drive out the snakes and behead the dragons that you carry around with you from the past.

Have you been imprisoned by abuse, by poverty, by others’ expectations? Have your own choices been like chains at your ankles and were you once a slave to your addictions or desires, hoping for rescue? And then you became your own white knight, escaped and trod the 200-mile road of recovery?

Here’s to you.

Did you receive a vision to set yourself apart from the crowd and become inspired to get out of debt? Step away from keeping up with your neighbors, buying that fancier car, going on that exotic vacation to feel better than others? And how did that feel? And how long did that feeling last? Are you done with all of that?

Here’s to you.

Have you heard the voice of God calling you to be loved by him, to trust his grace to meet your needs and guide your future? Do you know that he is for you and is as close as the next breath you take? That God is in you and around you, above you and lifting you up and has been there all along. And, regardless of the circumstances, loves you like a favorite child.

Can you look at your life and see that you were not alone? Never alone.

Maybe it’s not so bad, once a year, to step back from the parades and crowds and go back to those hard places that we’ve survived. The dragons we’ve conquered. The beliefs we stand on. We may not be saints, but we’re making progress with faith and courage.

Here’s to us.

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Things I Wish I Had Told My Husband

Mike Journal1

We were busy, you see. A blended family. Even though we had dated for almost two years, dating while turning 40 was mostly made up of running through life, loading laundry, driving kids to sports, being team mom and coach. Our dates involved hot dogs and corn nuts in the bleachers. A fancy date included peanut butter cups for dessert. Our arguments (pre-email) consisted of faxes at midnight.

When Mike became my husband it amped up the distance between us, weirdly, since we now lived together, had a mortgage and added a new baby. Yes, seven kids. It was hard to have each other’s backs through that, which we managed to do. But we didn’t have much face time. Time to talk.  The marriage was function-based. It could have been more. But he never knew.

The things I wish I had told Mike are not the sloppy and sentimental Hallmark hindsight sighs. I wish I had told him more about me. About the real me.  I wish I had told him, for instance, that I dreamed of reading out loud to each other once in a while. I loved books and wanted to share my favorite passages and then actually see what he thought of them. Especially passages that I wrote. Somehow he never read any of my nine books. He never knew.

Or, I wish I had let him know that it was very, very important to me to decorate the Christmas tree and wrap presents together. We learned quickly that he valued getting the tree, I valued trimming the tree. So decade after decade I spent holiday nights putting on lovely ornaments by myself in tears while he was out in the garage with the boys, fulfilled once the tree had plopped into the stand and didn’t topple over. But I didn’t want to be seen as needy.  In the same way, I bought gifts carefully and thoughtfully and sequestered them away all year.  He saw them but never offered to help wrap. So when the tree was surrounded with gifts wrapped and ready, he would run out on Christmas Eve and buy his gifts for everyone. I hated that. He never knew.

I hardly ever talked about my failures so he put me on a pedestal. I didn’t really want him to know that I’d flipped off a car that cut me off, hung up on telemarketers with snarky comments, or gossiped about the too-sexy woman at work. I was the godly one, you see, with appearances to keep up. So I hid my real self from my husband so many times. He never knew.

As a result, in 18 years we never had that cycle of confession, repentance, forgiveness that could have made our relationship so much deeper, so much more authentic. I never was fully convinced that he loved ME.  I was afraid to be my ugly, real self. Kind of like we do with God so many times. As if he doesn’t know.

And now I see that it all could have been much richer, much freer. We could have become completely and truly one if I had dropped my defenses just a little more. Instead, a sudden brain disease created a relationship where my functionality became a matter of life and death. He had the mental capacity of a pre-teen and vulnerability would kill him. And by then I was even more afraid of him dying than I had been of him living to know the real me.

After he died, though, I found a journal.  In the sprawling print of a child, he recorded his thoughts when I was going through pneumonia. One entry said:

“When I get up I am going to ask God to make tomorrow a great day for Fran. She was coughing all afternoon and getting well is taking her a long time. Today was a good day because, most important, I took care of Fran. It made me feel loved. That may not seem normal but it is with me. God is with us. Tears are coming down in joy. Good night and bless you all!  – Mike.”

All that time, it turned out taking care of me would have made him feel loved.

I never knew.

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Who is Jesus?

Away in a manger

No crib for a bed,

The little Lord Jesus

Lay down his sweet head.

The stars in the sky

Look down where he lay;

The little Lord Jesus

Asleep on the hay.

             It’s not quite that simple.

First there is the conviction that there is such a thing as meaning and purpose, so that rules out nihilism. Then there is the idea of a primary force that created everything, so that rules out atheism. And if you accept that a force created everything, you have to accept that the force is smarter and more powerful than you, so you can’t define it on your own terms, and that rules out we-are-all-one-with-god or we-are-god nonsense. Once you admit that you can’t define God you are pretty much left with exploring what God has to say about himself, and that gives you the scriptures, which puts agnosticism to rest. Once you study scripture, which is, basically, the history of God’s dealings with humans, you have to accept a linear universe, and that rules out all the “isms,” re-incarnation, and karma. And once you accept a linear universe with a beginning and an end, you figure out that you are on the timeline for a reason and maybe you should find out what it is. So, to find out the reason, you might as well ask. Once you ask, God starts telling you to look at Jesus, because he became the incarnation of God and overcame death to teach us who we are, which puts pretty much everything else to rest. And once you see Jesus, you see your failings and how much you fall short, which makes you want to be saved from your ridiculous striving to be “good.”  And once you ask Jesus to be saved, you are.

It’s that simple.

But knowing who God is, what the world is, who Jesus is and who you are and how it all fits together takes the rest of your life. And let me give you a hint. He’s not asleep on the hay.

From The Truth Swing by Francine Phillips (copyright 20013)

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Doing Battle – Foreword

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I’ve started my next book. The Truth Swing  was an intimate narrative of learning to surrender, to accept suffering, to face death and bow. Now, I am a widow. In this book, I hope to figure out what that means and how I can still hunger to become like God and like me, whom he loves. Anyway, here’s my first go at it. Please Like and subscribe if you think I’m on to something.

Foreword

Scripture says the Creator started a conversation saying, “It is not good for man to be alone.”  We’re not sure why. Maybe he was making up stupid names for the animals, or eating all the wrong balances of plants, or wasn’t picking up after himself. But Adam was alone – and it was clearly not good.

Nobody asked that about what would be good for a woman. Everybody in the Garden of Eden assumed that what was best for man was best for woman. And they’ve been assuming that ever since.

Okay, I’m kidding.  Partly.

In a perfect world there is diversity and unity. Some are in families, some are alone. But all of us need others and aloneness causes death, as has been proven in both prisons and psyche experiments. We are creatures of community and, like our three-in-one creator, the model of living in partnership and sharing/switching roles of leader, follower, and facilitator works for humankind just like it does for the Godhead. Some think of it this way – God the almighty and omnipotent as Dad; Holy Spirit, the comforter, reminder, defender, communicator as Mother; Jesus the compassionate, the rule-breaker and redeemer as Son or Daughter. On the other hand, it sometimes works out that the Holy Spirit is the teacher, who knows our language and everyone else’s; Jesus is the creator and sustainer of the universe; and God is crying out for justice and mercy. It’s a mash-up.

If we could reflect those revolving and interchangeable roles in our relationships, it could be heaven – and maybe it is heaven. But instead, we sinners tend to think about it the other way around. We take our flawed and rigid roles and try to make the Godhead a reflection of us instead – Father ever-distant; Mother invisible; sons taking off; daughters afraid.

How ironic that the greatest, deepest sin and temptation from Lucifer to fallen angels to Eve and Adam to Herod, to Hitler is wanting to be like God, while the mission of the church is to get everyone on earth to want to be like Jesus.  And the Holy Spirit? Well, that’s just scary.

Clearly we’re missing something.

The entire distinction seems to rest on one little word. It’s good to want to be like God, but not want to be God. Scholars call it being made in the Imago Deiimage of God. Or, put another way, it’s okay for us to want to better our own nature, but not to devalue it and want to become something else. Wanting to be God is this messed up, impossible and paradoxical trap, whereas wanting to be the man or woman God created us to be in that image – like that –  is being created for eternity. Being redeemed for eternity. Being eternal. Eternal beings.

Figuring out the impact of that one little distinction may take, in fact, an eternity. But for now, I’m willing to figure out what it means in a lifetime. Mine.

And since my lifetime started in the 1950s when women were excused from the factories and relegated to the kitchen, the nursery, and one side of the bed, being like God was obscure in my early church experience. Churches and parachurch organizations in post WWII America were organized on military models;  a commander and his troops doing the heavy lifting and women in support roles like praying, quilting, singing and running the nursery.  Men led evangelistic “campaigns” while women joined “societies.”

The battle cry of boys resounded off the walls of Sunday School rooms.

Onward Christian soldiers

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before.

Christ the royal master,

Leads against the foe,

Forward into battle,

See his banner go.

Onward Christian soldiers

Marching as to war,

With the cross of Jesus

Going on before.

Little girls in those same classrooms were singing, “I’ll be a Sunbeam for Him,” which may have been as close to the Holy Spirit that any of us dared go.

Lots of Christian girls from that era didn’t question that there was a Biblical mandate to be satisfied with being sunbeams while their male were expected to became soldiers. Some never caught on to the reality that girls can be soldiers, too, in their quest to be like God, and boys could be as tender as sunbeams for the same reason. But some did. I did.

The evangelical, stereotypical definition of womanhood has grated on me my whole life. As a married woman, a divorced woman, a re-married woman “unequally yoked,” a mother and stepmother. The mantle of disapproval chafed and blistered and was experienced in contrast to the utter love and delight in me that God showed again and again.

“God made a Francine because he wanted a Francine,” my friend Alice reminded me and it changed my life and blew my mind. He didn’t want the Francine who might be gracious and perfect someday. He didn’t want the Francine with the right kind of income and the right kind of children. He wanted me, got got me, and I am his. And he doesn’t want me to be humble like Mother Teresa or fake like Tammy Faye or to teach like Joyce Meyer or to write like Jerry Jenkins.  He wants me to be like him. And he wants you to be like him, too. In a way that only you can.

Knowing this to be true, I find myself a widow.

At this stage in life the last thing that I feel God expects is for me to become a ward of the church, to be patted on the head like a pitiful child, or to be dependent on the benevolence of dutiful believers. God expects me to take up my cross, not have it carried by others. He is looking for me to be part of the battle, not to wave a lace handkerchief from the sidelines. He wants me to speak truth and not fear consequences. He wants me to obey him and not conventions.

If I look carefully – past the gender restrictions and societal expectations that I have grown up with – I can find sisters who have always known this truth and lived it. Women who have circumvented those in their lives who wanted them to be “like other women.” Women who choose “the better part” of listening to Jesus instead of acting the part other woman want them to play.

There are examples in scripture and in history, of women who want to be like him. Not trying to be like men. Trying to be like God — because he says that’s who we are.

Let me introduce you.

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