Victim beads part two – a month later.

I made a victim bracelet after I went to visit my spiritual director last month. She wanted me to focus on my pain and those people who have harmed me. I’m opposed to this. I want to rush right ahead to the “forgive and forget” part.

Mostly the forget part.

But, she hasn’t steered me wrong yet, so I’m giving it a try. She didn’t recommend making a bracelet to help me remember. That is just something I do. This way, all day long I have a reminder to think about this. Beads are good tools for me.

I made it, with a bead for each person who came to mind. This was a month ago, and I’m discovering that I can’t remember who each bead refers to. A girl I went to high school with. My aunt. The former branch manager of the library I work at. My mom. A lady in a social group I was in. My brother, of course. But I’m having a hard time remembering everybody else. It isn’t easy.

Perhaps Jesus is getting on there and healing the broken bits.

I don’t want to focus on my pain, but I know it is important. You can’t heal what you don’t know is broken. Emotional pain is harder to work on. You can see a cut on your arm. It is easy to spot. Just put a bit of Neosporin on it and a Band-Aid and you are good.

But emotional hurts are harder to spot. The longer they aren’t tended to, the deeper they go. The deeper they go, the harder they are to dig up and get out. They tend to erupt in ugly ways. They tend to come up like privet in your yard, unwanted, unsightly, and well entrenched.

I want to forgive them. They didn’t know better. They didn’t know they were hurting me. I didn’t tell them. They didn’t mean to be mean and thoughtless and cruel. I want to let them off the hook and be done with it. I don’t want to wear this bracelet because it seems like I’m advertising my pain.

But I’m not, not really. Nobody knows what this bracelet is about. It is private. It is just a bunch of beads. Nobody knows they have meaning.

And why would I care what others think? When was I taught shame for these feelings? How much of this is the old idea of keeping the family name, the family honor clean, unbesmirched? Stiff upper lip, and all that. Don’t air your dirty laundry.

I always feel a sense of betrayal when I talk about these things. Not that I was betrayed, but that I am betraying them. This is especially true when I mention my parents. Don’t speak ill of the dead, you know.

How bad is it when the victim is the one blaming the victim?

So I wear this bracelet sometimes to work on these feelings, and ask Jesus into them. This is still a foreign idea. I wasn’t raised with the idea of Jesus as being real, and present, and my best friend. Jesus was a guy back then and out there, not somebody right now and right here.

I’m catching glimpses of this Jesus, and I think I like him.
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Book sniffer

I am a book sniffer. The older, the better. Perhaps that is part of why I chose to work in a library. I love the smell of books.

Now, I didn’t get hired at an old library. It was new when I started. You could say it and I started at the same time. It is now 13 years old and the books are just starting to smell pleasant. Fortunately we are part of a system and we get old books in on hold all the time. Every now and then there will be a special one.

A good book smells like fall leaves raked into a pile. It smells like the pile of leaves after you have jumped into it.

A good book smells a bit like vanilla pound cake, fresh out of the oven and cooling on the windowsill.

A good book smells faintly of pipe smoke from your grandfather, while he is warming up by the fire after coming in from the rain. He is sitting in a soft worn leather armchair, wearing his tweed jacket. It is a little bit of all these smells.

A good book smells comfortable and friendly. These smells are the smells of safety and home.

There was a coworker once who shared my love of smelling books. When we’d find one, we’d share it. We’d take the book in our hands, admire the cover and the patina of age on the pages, open it up and have a good sniff.

The branch manager saw us doing this once and openly wondered about our mental health. But, then again, she never read a book to our knowledge.

Now, not all books smell good. Some smell of feet, and cat spray, and the sad sickly smell of too many medicines and ointments and not enough fresh air. Way too many books smell like cheap cigarettes.

But it is the good smelling books that I cherish.

How can you spot a potentially good-smelling book? Covers like this are a sure thing. The original covers have been taken off and the book has been rebound in this amazing stuff. It is beyond the hardness of a hardback. This kind of stuff is going to last forever.

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The spines are embossed, either in gold or silver.

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The edge of the book looks like this. Note the worn nature and the color.

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The corner edge is rounded. That is always a nice touch.

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All these different bits point to really old books. That is what you are looking for. Smell the edge, and if that is OK, then open it up and smell the gutter (the inside, opposite the spine) of the book.

Modern books with their fancy ink and high quality paper just won’t do. You are looking for old books with old-fashioned paper.

Happy sniffing!

Thoughts on the Lord’s Prayer.

With the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus was trying to give us a model of how to pray. It is a recipe, a framework, a blueprint. We aren’t supposed to repeat these words mindlessly. We are to use them as an example and make them our own.

Here’s the version I was taught. There are slightly different versions. Some don’t include the “trespasses” part. Some add “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever.” at the end.

Our Father who art in heaven,
hallowed be thy name.
Thy kingdom come.
Thy will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread,
and forgive us our trespasses,
as we forgive those who trespass against us,
and lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from evil.
Amen.

Really, how many people even talk like this today? Jesus sure didn’t. In spite of what some fundamentalists would believe, Jesus didn’t speak English. And Jesus certainly wouldn’t use King James English in the 21st century. Jesus is all about getting down to our level. Jesus talks like how the people he’s with talk.

How many of us even really understand these words? Who knows what “hallowed” means? How many of us just say these words like they are a magic formula? We have them memorized and we say them and we are done. The words have passed through our lips but not through our minds or hearts.

These words of Jesus are a pattern, not a formula. They provide us a framework. They give us topics to cover. If you cover these basic topics, you’ll have prayed in a good way. Jesus isn’t about people mindlessly muttering words to God. Jesus tells us to pray from our hearts.

God made each one of us a little different, and God wants to hear from each one of us in our own special way. That is way we were made different. For us to pray the same prayer all the time makes no sense.

So what is Jesus saying in this prayer? What is Jesus telling us to do?

Perhaps it is something as simple as this:

Dear God/ Creator/ Divine Source of all that is, You are the master of everything and you are the Lord. (Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name.)

Help me to remember that You are always in charge, and You know what is going on better than I do. Help me remember that I don’t have to try to control everything – that you’ve got it all figured out. (Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.)

Thank you for taking care of my physical needs, not just food but clothing and a place to live. Thank you for making sure that I have what I need. (Give us this day our daily bread,)

Help me to remember to always forgive other people, because You have already forgiven me. Help me to hold no grudges. (and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,)

I ask that you not test me by tempting me with things that are bad for me. (and lead us not into temptation,)

Please protect me and keep me safe. (deliver us from evil.)

Amen.

You can formulate it along this pattern. Think about each phrase as if you are seeing it for the first time. Think about each word. Look each one up – not just the ones you aren’t familiar with. What do they mean to you? They will mean something different to you ten years from now.

Some thoughts on this –

The “For thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever” part is really a repeat of the “hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” part. They both refer to the fact that God is in charge. God is the creator and ruler of everything. God is the beginning and the end and everything in between. God has the master plan. We keep thinking we are in charge, and it is up to us to make sure everything gets done. This is a very unhealthy way to think. So perhaps it is good to refer to this twice in this prayer. It is the key to it all.

In the “and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us,” part, we need to look at the word “as” – it means “in the same way, or like” but it also means “at the same time” Our mistakes are forgiven when we forgive others their mistakes. It isn’t up to us to judge. We have to let it go and let God be in charge. Jesus came to teach peace and forgiveness. This is something that comes from God to us, but it is also supposed to be something that we extend out to everyone. Consider it trickle-down forgiveness, but the trickle is more like a waterfall.

In the “lead us not into temptation” part, I feel that is there because God often tests us to strengthen us. God is like a personal trainer, and wants us to grow strong. We have to be tested for this to happen. Perhaps part of this is also that we are asking that we see that whatever tests do come our way we see as being from God. Then we will have the strength to endure them.

If we live an easy life then we won’t ever get to test our faith. It is easy to “love your neighbor” if your neighbor is kind – it is much harder when your neighbor is a jerk. But it is exactly that kind of neighbor that we are here to be kind to. I also think Jesus put in the “lead us not into temptation” line because God forgets how hard it is to be human.

God gave us all these rules to follow. And we kept breaking them. God gave us more rules, and we still didn’t get it right. So God came down in human form, and finally understood why we couldn’t get the rules right. God finally understood how hard it is to be human because God finally saw what it was like from our perspective.

It is like a professional race car driver trying to give driving instructions to someone who has an antique VW van to drive. The professional is going to keep getting frustrated – why can’t this person get it? It is easy. Then, when the driver finally gets into the old, clunky, VW van with its impossible stick shift and heater that is always on, even in the middle of summer, and the rusted out floorboards, the driver will finally get a clue as to what is going on.

It is as if God says after all that “Of course you can’t do it the way I’ve been telling you. I see now. Here, let me break it down to just two rules. Love Me, and love your neighbor.”

And really, it is just one rule. Love.

Sometimes that is the hardest thing ever.

Audience

Who is my audience? Who reads this? Who “gets” what I write? And does it affect what and how I write?
I am my first audience. I write to understand things. Writing helps me to clear my head. Writing is how I define myself – it is how I understand what I’m thinking, and it is a descriptive. I write in order to be me. But I don’t write about the same things all the time. I write poetry, “progressive” Christian commentary, what it is like to be an adult survivor of an abusive family, Bible study, and political pieces about modern culture and what it is like to be female. That is a pretty broad range, and there aren’t that many people that will like each thing. I write about whatever comes to my mind that I want to understand. I also write about things that I think are helpful to others, things that may give them a signpost in an often confusing world.
I feel that sometimes I have something really important to say. Sometimes I feel like I want to shout from the rooftops – hey – look at this, here’s a connection that has just come to me and it will make so many lives easier! I sometimes don’t feel like they are my words. I feel like I’ve found a treasure rather than created one. Writing is like that sometimes. It isn’t always a process of creation but discovery. Sometimes these discoveries are pretty amazing.
My audience is small. It is highly unlikely that the right person will get this information. My audience is varied – all over the world. I look at the profiles of every person who “follows” my blog. I give thanks for each person who has decided that what I have written is worthwhile enough to want to read it on a regular basis. I keep a list of every person that I personally have sold a book to for the same reason.
I don’t feel that what I write is “mine”. I feel that I am a receptacle. I feel that I am a channel. I feel that God uses me (and everyone else) to reveal things. Sometimes I’m not very good with conveying the information. That is why I write every day. I want to get better. Writing is just like any other exercise. You have to do it a lot to get good at it. What is the point of having information if you can’t convey it to others in a way they can understand it?
But I think that is part of faith and trust. I think that if God wants this information to get to others, God will make it happen. I think writing a blog is a great idea. You can write a book, but then you are dependent on a publisher accepting it and then printing it and then distributing it. You have to rely on people being able to get to a bookstore and being able to afford it, or having a library nearby. With a blog, whatever you produce is right there, available, no waiting, to anyone with an Internet connection.
Admittedly, that isn’t everyone. Not everyone has electricity. Not everyone has the infrastructure to have high-speed Internet. Not every government is OK with the free exchange of ideas. Just looking at the map of who has read my blog reminds me of this.
But I think that part of all of this is that I just have to do my part. I have to show up, and receive what I can, and offer it forth in the best way I can, and let it go. Just like casting bread upon the water I have to trust that it will get to where it needs to go.
Would it help if I had more followers? Would that encourage me, or hinder me? Would I get bolder, or more hesitant? Would it help if more people “liked” my posts? Would that mean I’d write more things like that, or less? Would it help if I posted some of my posts on larger sites? Would that change my audience, and then change how and what I wrote?
I think it is best to just write, a not worry about it. I don’t make any money on writing a blog, and in a way I think that keeps me honest. Nobody can “buy” my words. I don’t have to change what I write to suit anybody. While it would be nice to get a little money from this, I feel that isn’t fair in a way. I feel that I get the information for free, so I should give it out for free. But then, there is the time I take to write it – isn’t that worth something? But that too, was given to me by God.
Not everything I write is divinely inspired. Some of it just is rambling and wondering out loud. Perhaps it sounds strange to say that I feel that God inspires some of what I write. But to me it sounds humble – it is giving credit where credit is due. To take the credit for a connection that came to me out of the blue is to lie, in my opinion. I’m sure that some people will think it is vain to say that God inspires me (and others – I’m not alone) but to me it is the exact opposite.
I write all the time. I write every morning. I write while I’m walking at lunch. I write while I’m waiting in doctor’s offices. I write while I’m going somewhere if I’m the passenger. (Long road trips are great). I write if I’m on retreat. I write at work when it is a quiet time and I’m caught up. I keep a notepad with me all the time for ideas.
I pray to be a worthy receptacle, and that God is able to help people through me. I pray that I can help encourage others through my words, and to open doors for them to shed light on confusing ideas. I pray that I can let them know that they aren’t alone in their struggles, and to keep on working on it and through it.