Sunday, March 23, 2008

Forgiving God

Does the title grab you? Forgiving God? Who in the world forgives God? 

I'm continuing writing posts about some of the truths found in the book, The Shack. This isn't exactly a one-liner, but it's the text found on page 82 in Chapter 5. Mack is struggling with how to address God when he will meet him in the cabin. "No longer concerned or caring about what to call God and energized by his ire, he walked up to the door. Mack decided to bang loudly and see what happened, but just as he raised his fist to do so, the door flew open, ..."

This text reminded me of a time in my life when I was struggling with how God was showing Himself and how none of it seemed fair. Abusive people taking advantage of innocents was always so perplexing to me, and I was questioning God as to how He could let that happen. And, I had had some really troubling things happen in my life, things that I thought I was protected from because I was a believer and tried to honor God with my life.

I was waiting in a doctor's office and picked up a magazine, which had an article entitled, Have You Forgiven God? That caught my attention.

I learned from reading that article. It's not really that you forgive God, but it's a situation where you are angry at God and you can't figure out stuff. The essence of forgiving God is that you come to Him and discuss it with Him and it's actually that you listen to Him and get His perspective and in doing that, you have forgiven God. What you've really done is come to Him and opened yourself up to Him to receive what He has to say and to show you.

I was reminded of that in this section of The Shack. That was a change point or a turning point in my life. I didn't forgive God, but I was able to release my anger and open up to Him and receive His view of life and what He wants. That's a very different place to be.


Monday, March 17, 2008


Continuing with a few posts on some one-liners from The Shack...

On page 24 the quote that starts the chapter is, "Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets." by Paul Tournier

I remember a similar quote from John Powell, "We are as sick as we are secret." If I remember correctly, that's a quote from his book, Happiness Is an Inside Job.

Powell's quote is one of those one-liners that grabbed me a few years ago, and it's one of those I remember. It has served me well. Does this mean that I never keep anything to myself? I don't think so. Have you ever known someone who tells you absolutely everything, and you're pretty sure you didn't want to know about three-fourths of the info. I love the text-messaging abbreviation for too much information, TMI.

I think what's being referred to here are the secrets we keep so that others will think well of us, or so that our loved ones will continue to love us. 

Some secrets that are very unhealthy to keep are:
  • Relational abuses
  • Actions that require cover-up or lying
Families and churches are full of these kinds of secrets.

The other day we were visiting with friends and we were discussing a movie where the star did what was right by the letter of the law but his action seemed to be harmful to some innocents. It was a disturbing end. 

When I was asked what would I have done, I thought I would protect the innocents. But after some thought, I realized that I would have had to lie and have cover-up actions. With that incident I think there was a way to stay within the law and to follow-up to protect. There was a right way. That was a tough one. But it's a good example of what I'm speaking of here.

Of course, keeping relational abuse secrets is pretty obvious. This can sometimes be very hard, and it's in the secret keeping where the abuser gains power. 

For years it was considered a "sin" by Christian conservatives for believers to take an anti-depressant. (That's hard to believe now, but it's true.) I have taken several counseling courses and that's how I unraveled that wrong concept. But I still watch others struggle with this.

One time in the beauty shop I was waiting my turn and the nail technician asked the customer what she thought the difference in Methodists and Baptists was. She said that was easy to answer. Both Methodists and Baptists drink a little, but Baptists say they don't and Methodists admit they do. Isn't that an interesting outsider's observation? I thought it was pretty funny.

I'm not saying anything about anti-depressants or drinking. I'm just using them as examples of how sometimes we box ourselves in to having to keep secrets to "belong." Pretty sad state of affairs, isn't it?

Harmful secrets that are kept inside are like mushrooms in a cave. They thrive on the darkness. Often bringing our harmful secrets out of our cave into the light can bring healing. 

Lonely? Unhealthy?

Do you have secrets that need to be brought out of the cave and shared with discerning and loving friends (an appropriate audience)? 

It's a fun thought to know that God knows our hearts. We have no secrets from Him, and since He loves us and will never leave us, I do believe He'll help us empty our "caves" if needed.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inside Places

The next phrase in The Shack that caught my attention enough to want to post about is toward the bottom of page 12. "I will tell you honestly that being a part of this story has affected me deep inside, in places I had never been before and didn't even know existed."

That phrase or sentence caught my attention and gave me pause. 

Somebody famous, I can't remember who, said one time that the longest journey anyone will take is the journey inside and not too many choose to take that journey.

I like the quote from Young, the author of The Shack, because it reminds me of those deep inside places I have been. I was chatting with a very dear friend recently who was telling me that every time he's sure he's opened himself up to what he needs to learn and it's a deep lesson, soon thereafter he finds another entire room he didn't even know existed where the door needed to be opened. I liked that analogy. 

Young's statement helped me rethink some of the very, very hard experiences in life that spurred me on my inside journey and helped me discover my own inside places or rooms. Some of those included:
  • Losing a sister to suicide
  • Having a granddaughter born severely handicapped 
  • Acknowledging that my sixth grade male teacher molested the girl students and how that affected my psyche
  • Thinking I don't believe in divorce, but paying for my daughter's
  • Experiencing church leaders' rejection for standing for what's right
  • Having a sister turn against me because I set healthy boundaries
Okay. I'll stop there. This could get depressing. =)

Each one of these experiences caused me great distress and anguished questioning. But each one, when worked through opened me up to empathy, sympathy, and understanding of others who might be experiencing similar emotions and events.

For example, losing a sister to suicide was devastating, and I learned how hard it is for people to support and encourage the survivors. I now know how to hug and empathize with suicide surviving family members. That inside room was hard to acknowledge and then air out.

Having a handicapped granddaughter, as much as it hurt in the beginning, has brought unbelievably wonderful changes in me. That inside room was pretty tightly locked, even padlocked. I steered clear of handicapped people and unknowingly had prejudices. One cerebral palsied young man in one of our churches spotted that in me and worked on me and with me to help me overcome that, even though I was not very willing. I would actually start sweating when I would see him racing on his crutches to get to me. I couldn't understand his speech and it made me so uncomfortable. He helped me a lot. We even went on a "date" about which he bragged to everyone in the church.

But the life of our granddaughter has changed me major from the inside out. The way she's been treated and the way people stare and the way people avoid her really hurts. But can I blame them? That's the way I was before the gift of having her was given to me. That room inside me is open and full of sunshine!

I could easily take many experiences in my life and remember how hard that journey was and how difficult the bumps along the way. I did and do get sidetracked, but I do know that no matter the life experience, each is another opportunity for discovering an inside room or place that is ready to be enjoyed.

I'll close with this: I was walking with Sierra, one of our granddaughters, when she was about 5 or 6. We went to a nearby park and found a wooden bridge that took us back into some woods. There were high weeds and bugs and scary stuff to a little girl. She held my hand tighter and moved closer. I was trying to be positive and said the things you say as Grams. Sierra looked up at me and said, "Grams, this is an adventure, isn't it?"

I thought that was perfect. She was scared. She wasn't sure. But she had my hand and apparently she felt safe. She had picked up on my being positive and decided this could be an adventure.

My mantra since then has been, life is an adventure. And today I will add that discovering new places within, though they can be very scary, can add spice to our life adventure and our journey within.

Bon voyage.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Okay, fellow on-line book clubbers. I want to write a few blogs just pulling some good one-liners from the book, The Shack. This may not interest you, and if it doesn't, you can of course surf on to other places. If it does interest you, I invite you to also share in the comments section.

One of the first phrases or one-liners I liked in The Shack is found on page 11, and the context starts on page 10. The author is speaking of Mack and his wife and how she's stuck with him even through some fierce hurts in the early years. Then he continues, "I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside."

It's the second clause in that sentence that grabs me, "…and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside." So true. So true.

Have you ever found yourself in the position of trying to explain "grace" to someone? I mean what grace means to you and how you see it life-ing out in yourself and in others? I do not mean the old standbys which will suffice for a Sunday School lesson or even for a sermon. The acrostic God's Riches At Christ's Expense (taking the first letter of each word) is often quoted. Another definition, God's unmerited favor, is also a good one. These have great meaning, but to those of us who have grown up in church, these phrases almost become automatic and we say them easily. I did for years. And I think perhaps without realizing to any degree what I was saying.

Then I began to understand what grace really was for me, but it came in the back door. 

I think my first step in that direction was learning the meaning of the word shame. I read a book, Parenting Without Shame, and it socked me between the eyes. It nailed me. I realized I had shamed my kids to obedience. I could almost shame anyone into responding or acting like I wanted them to act. I was a shame tyrant. But I didn't know that. I was raised that way and I just continued the shaming style. It seemed the natural way. Realizing how not loving that was, I began the long road to change. At first it was a sense of not even knowing how to act. I was shocked at how much of my relational style was shaming.

The second step for me was understanding what respecting the other person really meant. I can remember when I really began to get a glimpse of this. Paul and I and our two daughters were riding some place together and the girls started talking about how to get their kids to respect them. We ended our discussion realizing that you don't teach respect, you respect others and in doing that they learn respect. When they're respected, they will respect others, or at least will have a fighting chance to learn and do. That discussion was the start of another long road of relational style changing. Wow! What revelations!

Now what does this have to do with grace? Everything. At least for me. I began to realize how God loves me without shame and without dis-grace. Totally accepting and without shame. May I repeat that, without shame. Unbelievable! And then on the heels of that, learning respect. God respects my person. I learn to respect myself and I then give respect to others. In this process I also learned that I cannot give to someone else what I do not have. I must love myself without shame, and respect my person before I can give love to others or respect others. I learned this by trying to stop my bad relational styles and then realizing that's the way God loves me. It has been an incredible journey!

That's grace! At least to me! Love without shame and respect for the person no matter who the person is or what that person does. Grace, the gift! And I can give that when I've received it from God to me and for me and I realize, fully realize deep within my inner person, that God has that for me, then I have it for myself. Then, I'm a giver of that gift to others. What release! What freedom! But a hard road to travel and many the potholes along the way.

A few years ago we were with another couple that we had known years ago when they were seminary students. Her name was Mary like mine, and his name was Paul like Paul's, and their last name started with a B and we had the same wedding anniversary. We had a lot in common. Mary said that day, "How do you explain grace? It's unexplainable! You just recognize in another person that they know. And you know. You can't teach it. You can't write it down. You live it and you experience it." I looked at her and thought, yes, yes, yes. So true. That's one of those "freeze-frame" moments that I will never forget.

In these last few years since my style of life and belief system have changed so drastically, I've had people ask me: Are you still a Christian? Do you still believe the Bible? Are you one of those wishy-washy people with no convictions? Do you just speak of love and don't hold people accountable? I always say, yes, yes, no, maybe. The "maybe" is because it depends on who is accountable to me? Not too many I dare say. 

That is why the phrase, "and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside" rings so true with me. Grace-based living is the opposite of shame-based living and performance-based living. Totally opposite. Most religious people I know are married to performance, perhaps to prove something. Most preaching I hear is somewhat shame-based and usually performance oriented. Most of my friends who knew me then and who know me now perhaps think, she's lost it. Yeah! Yes, I've lost it. I've lost performance-based living and religion. 

The truth of grace has been a truth that has set me free, and yet it's difficult to explain or outline or teach. But it's a wonderful way to live and it's wonderful to experience. I've still a long way to go to plumb the depths, but the journey is quite an adventure.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Memorable One-Liners: An Introduction

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I thought I might write a few blogs on some of the really good one-liners in the book The Shack by William P. Young.

The author of The Shack is named William Paul Young and on his MySpace many refer to him as Paul. In the foreword of the book the author talks about the main character and says it's family tradition for all the men to have the same first name but to be commonly called by their middle name.

Oddly, this author has the same two names as my husband, William Paul. And just as interesting is the fact that it's family tradition in the Burleson family to name the first boy born to each family William (Something) Burleson. Thus, in our family we have William Paul and William Wade. Paul's Dad was named William Reed and his Dad was William Arthur and his Dad was William Painter, etc. Common things catch your attention and the thought "Well, look at that!" crosses your mind. Links you right off to what you're about to read.

In this post I want to tell how I came to hear about and to read this book.

Cherri, our oldest, called me one day and said something like, "Mom, stop what you're doing and go buy this book, The Shack, by William P. Young." I of course immediately say Why? Why do you like it?

Her response was that a friend with whom she had been sharing life experiences and who has gone through some recent tragic events, said he had a friend recommend this book and he wanted Cherri to read it. He wouldn't tell her why, he just said read it and then let's talk.

Cherri went to the bookstore that day and bought the book and read it that day and into the night. She said it captured her and she experienced many emotions as she read it. She even cried as she told me snippets from the book and how it touched her. She didn't even want to talk about the book until she was able to process what she had read and what it meant to her. When she saw her friend, she could only say, later. She just wasn't ready.

She then told me she told Mike, her husband, about the book, and as he was reading it, he was overcome with emotion and couldn't talk about it. He would just walk into the room and nod his head and give a motion that meant it was really touching him and then turn around and leave and continue reading.

I immediately bought the book, but it was on the table and I didn't get to read it that day. Paul picked it up and got to the sixth page of the foreword and said, "I can tell I'm really going to like this book." He then started to read me the phrase that caught his attention and couldn't finish because he was overcome with emotion. When he could finish, he said something like he thought this was such a true statement but he had never read it in print. The statement: I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing.

One of the first statements that I want to write about in future posts is the one following that one: …and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.

I was telling Cherri what her Dad said about the statement he read, and she said to me, "Now Mom, don't let Dad read this book for you." I think she was afraid I was too busy and wouldn't get the full impact of reading it for myself. I promised her I wouldn't. She continued with what she had discovered, that each one who reads this book is touched in a different way, perhaps where their hurting points or needy areas are. She then shared with me what had spoken to her.

So, I then read the book.

I have been a part of book study groups before and I love them. It's so fun to read a book at the same time your friends are reading it, and then coming together to discuss what you've read and how it affected you. To me, that's so beneficial because we're all at different points in our journey of life and we learn from each other. Writing posts about the truths in this book and how they've affected me I hope will prompt any who are reading to share how they are affected. It will be my substitute for being able to participate in a book study group.

That's the intro to a new string of posts to come.