Squeamish Truth

20 08 2015

(By the way, ‘Five’ referred to the fifth step as given in Be Selfish – Forgive.)

Start a discussion on the need to forgive God and people get nervous. Some become outraged on God’s behalf that I would suggest such a thing. Some consider me a heretic.

I’m okay with that.

Please take a moment to hear me out.

When we are hurt by another’s actions or words, the Bible instructs us to forgive. There are no qualifiers such as:

Only if they meant to hurt us.

If they said they were sorry.

Only if you’re willing to trust them again.

It doesn’t give qualifiers as to whom we are to forgive either. If we are hurt, then we are commanded to forgive.

As we saw in Be Selfish – Forgive, forgiveness is primarily something we do for ourselves. The offender usually doesn’t care one way or the other. It’s ‘no skin off their nose’ if we don’t forgive them. They’ve moved on and don’t give us a second thought.

Sometimes the One we need to forgive is God.

God is perfect. He never does anything wrong. Not even a tiny bit. He doesn’t have bad days, or whipping boys. He’s no bully, nor does He take out His frustration on anyone.

To suggest that we forgive Him seems foolish and arrogant. I get that. I’ve held that stance myself.

Until I met people who were genuinely angry at God. Seemingly with good reason:

The mother who prayed for a baby, got pregnant, but gave birth to a still-born.

The boy whose sister suffered for years before she died. He earnestly prayed for her healing, she died anyway.

The woman who prayerfully entered into marriage, confident that he was God’s choice for her…only to discover 15 years later that he was having an affair when they got married, and continued having them throughout their marriage.

I’m sure you could add to this list.

Are these people offended with God?

You bet your sweet bippy.

Did God, in fact, do anything wrong?

Not on your life. He is love, and everything He does is for the greatest benefit to the most people.

Tell any of these three, though, that they have no right to question our perfect God, no right to be angry with Him for He does all things well, and see how that goes.

What are they to do with their hurt, anger, and confusion? What else can they do, if they’re not allowed to express their emotions?

They will stuff them.

As any good counselor will tell you, stuffed emotions take on a life of their own. Shoved into the dark recesses of their hearts, they are fodder for the enemy. He will tell them lie upon lie:

God is not good

God doesn’t care

He doesn’t love {me} or He would never have done this to {me}
(the enemy always speaks to us in our pain in the first person, have you noticed?)

{I} can’t trust God

If God is in charge, and this is how He does things, {I} don’t want anything to do with Him

What began as a question about God’s character or nature becomes our belief system about God. Every new hurt that is perceived as coming from God gets added to the mess. Resentment and bitterness begin to grow.

There comes a day when it all comes boiling out. They become staunch rivals of God, doing everything they can to wipe His name out of existence.

Take time to listen to the story of an atheist, and you will almost always discover a point at which God ‘failed’ them…followed by their treatment by Christians who were offended by their outrage toward God.

How differently might things have turned out for them if they were allowed to voice their anger, their frustration, their confusion about what happened; had they received permission to be honest with God?

If, instead of Rebuke denouncing them for their arrogance against Almighty God, Empathy, or at least Compassion, stepped in and gave a safe place to vent, to hear their heart, none of those lies would have remained in the dark to grow like little dust bunnies under the bed.

Brought to the light, those emotions would have lost their power.

Given the tool of forgiveness, they may have chosen to begin the process. As they forgave a little here, a little there, their confusion would have cleared up. The lies would have been seen for what they were, and replaced with truth.

Force a person to be reverent to a God they don’t understand, especially in light of tragedy, if you must; but don’t be surprised when they later spew hateful invectives and go to great lengths to get God banned from everything.

God owes no one an apology.

His love never fails, and He is just in all He does.

I get that.

But we’re humans, with human emotions that sometimes go wrong. An offense is an offense, it doesn’t matter who that may be. Left unforgiven, pain will become resentment and bitterness. We’ve been commanded to forgive…everyone.

We cannot maintain a close relationship with a person by whom we’ve been hurt – intentional or otherwise. This doesn’t work in marriage, and it won’t work with God, either.

So long as hard feelings exist on our part, we will maintain our distance.

We can’t afford to be ‘peacekeepers’ with God. He wants our all – the good, the bad, and the ugly, as they say.

God is not impressed when we lie to Him about how we feel.

He already knows.

He’s ‘big enough’ to take care of Himself, and then respond with love, truth, grace, and mercy.

Once we’ve emptied our heads of the junk inside, there’s room for truth; space for fresh insight and revelation of the character of God.

We don’t demand answers. We may not get one, and that’s okay. What we will receive is peace ~ the type of peace that comes from clearing the air. Our memories of times with the Lord bring comfort once again.

In no time we will be able to say, “I don’t understand; but I know for sure that You have been good, and You will be good to me.”

And that’s the squeamish truth.





When My Body Said, “Enough!”

12 08 2015

Stuffing emotions is how I’ve coped with life. As a child, any emotion that was a little too happy or too sad was cause for a reprimand:

“Sit down and act your age. Settle down.”

Or

“Stop crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”

Sanguine by nature, I learned to behave like a Melancholy. In fact, I picked up many of the characteristics of that personality type: organized, analytical, studious, and focused.

I also suffered from severe Eczema, hives, bronchitis, and wet the bed well into my teens (TMI, I know).

It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that this ‘crazy fun’ personality made her appearance. I would get happy and act all crazy…then wonder if I was crazy, then stuff that nutso back in the box.

In 1980, I heard Florence Littauer speak on the four personality types. In a matter of a couple of hours, I saw what was going on and began to operate as the personality God gave me:

“Do it my way and we’ll have fun!” I love it!!

While I was set free to be me, I continued to stuff negative emotions. Expressing those had never gone very well, and this didn’t improve once I became an adult.

After several years of emotional healing, the skin ailments and bronchitis disappeared. I’ve been very healthy – without so much as the yearly bouts of flu and colds.

Until last year, that is.

It was like my body said, “That’s it! There isn’t room in here for one more thing.”

I began to have physical ailments, sometimes separately, at other times, several at once: migraines, joint pain, kidney stones, and gall stones.

One by one, though, as I addressed old wounds with my counselor, these began to go away.

It became apparent that certain types of stressors affected certain organs in my body. This is what I learned about the above maladies:

Migraines: Lies I believed about God, myself, and others.
Joint pain: Unforgiveness
Kidney stones: Rejection
Gallstones: Fear

As we worked through the lies I believed, I would get a raging migraine. By the time we’d worked through the current one, it would disappear.

These have become a warning sign for me that the enemy is attempting to sell me a lie. As soon as my head starts hurting, I consider what I’ve been thinking about. Every time, this has been the case for me.

In the spring of 2013, my entire bone structure came loose. When I moved around, my back sounded like a zipper. The rest of my joints continually popped as I walked around or used my limbs. It was a creepy feeling.

After nine months of forgiving people who hurt me, my skeleton is back to normal. I am so thankful for that! There were times when I thought a hip would dislocate just by moving it out of line with my body. That was scary.

Major emotional upsets that involved rejection resulted every time in a urinary tract disorder of one sort or another. The severity determined whether it would be stones or an infection of the kidneys or bladder.

No fooling. Absolutely every time, within 24 hours of the rejection this was the case.

And gallstones? I now understand that ‘blinding pain’ isn’t just a cute little phrase. Pain can be so intense that everything before your eyes goes completely black.

(Yes, I could go have my guts yanked out, but I like my guts and God wouldn’t have given them to me if they were unnecessary!)

It took a while to figure out what was causing stones, but after a few months it became apparent. Fear had to go.

Whenever a situation arose where I should have spoken up, but chose to be a coward – bam! Gallbladder attack. As soon as I addressed the situation, I would pass a stone (or several) and all would be well…

…until the next time.

This is the year I am learning to stand up for myself. Fear has no place in my life. My gallbladder says so.

I’ve learned that my body is the dashboard of my heart. When I deal with my heart…dis-ease goes away.

No, I am not prepared to claim this for everyone. Each of us is unique, the choices of medical care and medications between us and the Lord.

However, my body has been the way the Lord got my attention so He could heal my heart. Maybe this will help someone else, too. I’ve read reports from many medical professionals which state that up to 85% of all illness is due to emotions. I may not be that far off. It’s proven to be the case in my own life.

For me, this is the year of no more stuffing.

My body said, “Enough!”





Agreements: Vow’s Ugly Twin

6 08 2015

An ‘agreement’ is a faith statement. It is faith in the wrong thing…in a lie, not the truth. I confess with my mouth what I believe in my heart. It is the ugly twin of Vows, for the two are commonly found together

Here are some of the agreements we make:

“I’m stupid.”
“I’m an idiot.”
“I’m fat.”
“I’m ugly.”
“I’m accident prone.”
“I’m so co-dependent.”
“I’m unlovable.”

On and on it goes.

These statements don’t originate with us. They aren’t even true, yet we often agree with them as indisputable facts.

Why on earth would we do such a thing? And, where did these ‘truths’ come from?

Sadly, they often begin with our parents. In a moment of anger they may say something like, “Come here, you little idiot. I’m gonna give you what for.”

I could give examples ad nauseum, but I’ll spare you.

Other agreements are made in the aftermath of a painful situation (not unlike vows).

In the fifth grade, I was yanked from a school I loved when we moved to another town. During my final week in that class, the teacher introduced us to the music of Simon and Garfunkel. Their song, “I Am a Rock,” became my life song. It met the needs of my breaking heart.

Well, let’s look at the lyrics:

A winter’s day
In a deep and dark December
(for me it was October)
I am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen, silent shroud of snow
I am a rock
I am an island

I’ve built walls
A fortress, steep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need of friendship
Friendship causes pain.
It’s laughter and it’s loving I disdain.

(Have no friends. Check)
I am a rock
I am an island

Don’t talk of love
Well, I’ve heard the words before
It’s sleeping in my memory
And I won’t disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I never loved, I never would have cried

(Don’t love, or let people love me. I will get hurt again. Check)
I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no one and no one touches me

(Isolate. Read, protect myself with {music for me} Check)
I am a rock
I am an island

And a rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

(I’m sick of being hurt. Sign me up.)
© 1965 Words and Music by Paul Simon

At ten years of age, I decided that all people did was hurt me. I didn’t need people. I didn’t need love, and I didn’t ever want to cry again. Whenever something painful happened, I would withdraw to the safety of my ‘womb’ and shut everyone out.

I still had five moves after this most-hated one to survive during childhood. It was much easier with the ‘armor’ of this song as my shield. I no longer sought to make friends at the new locations. Eventually, I no longer felt lonely.

By the time I was in high school, I knew neither how to make nor keep friends. By then, everyone had their own ‘set’ anyway, so it didn’t matter. I buried myself in books, crafts and especially in making music. I preferred to be alone.

At the same time, I had a huge hole in my heart that my father should have filled. Well, father gave that job to another man. My step-dad filled it all right – with many more statements like those at the beginning of this article. Because he was an adult, and supposedly loved me, I believed him.

Why would he lie to a child?

One by one, I came into agreement with his assessment of me as a human. Some of them I accepted with bowed head, others I determined to overcome (by making a vow).

He loved to call me ‘stupid’ – or ‘Stu’ for short. I vowed to become smart, and used my isolation to learn all I could about many things. I learned about things I cared about, and things I didn’t, just so he couldn’t call me stupid anymore. That didn’t work, by the way.

Do you know what endoplasmic reticulum is? (Do you even care? 😉 )

After I got out from under his tyranny, I took over where he left off and agreed with whatever label came to mind.

I ask again, why would a person do such a thing? As a (wo)man thinks in (her) heart, so is she. My words became a self-fulfilled prophecy.

These agreements stayed with me for 35 years. I was 45, without a friend in the world, in a loveless marriage, and unable to connect with others. That’s a pitiful state in which to find oneself. My mom died that year. A year and a half later, I parted ways with my step-dad, and healing began.

It’s time we began to take these thoughts captive. Let’s hold them up to the truth of who God says we are, and quit agreeing with those who would steal, kill, and destroy us through their words.

God is not honored when we accept these lies about His workmanship as truth.

Do we even stop to ask, “IS THIS TRUE??”

I’ve quit agreeing with others’ opinions about me. I’ve had enough. There is only One who knows me, and He calls me “Beloved” and “Delightful.” He calls me His own, and “Chosen.” Since He knows me better than anyone else…including me…I’m going to agree with Him.

*****

Tune in to the next post to learn why I am no longer willing to accept another human’s assessment of me…and why you shouldn’t either:

Dirt Said What?





Behold, She Stinketh!

8 06 2015

Whose ‘skin’ fit best? A good question – one I had not considered before, really.

When reading Scripture, I search for Jesus in the stories – especially the Old Testament. I’ve learned much about Him using this method.

On this day, however, two separate people made the same suggestion:

Find yourself in the story to see what the Lord desires to show you.

The posts I wrote concerning Lazarus came to mind. Which one was me? Easy: Lazarus!

I still recall the day I met Jesus for the first time. The Sunday school teachers told us about Him and His great love for us. He captured my heart that day, and I welcomed Him as Lord and lover of my soul.

We became fast friends and I could ‘listen’ to Him talk for hours (through His Word, through pastors and teachers).

Then came the day when I was desperately ‘ill.’ Others went to bid Him come and heal me.

Imagine my hurt and confusion when He tarried, and seemingly allowed me to slip from life.

Dead.

Cold.

Isolated.

Surrounded by darkness.

So bound that I could scarcely move.

I thought He loved me. How could He treat me this way?

Just when all hope was gone, a light broke into my tomb, and I heard Him call my name.

Despite the tight cocoon-like wrapper, I managed to get to my feet. Shuffling along, I made my way back to the light of day.

Every movement brought a fresh whiff of the stench of death.

Then I heard Jesus command that my bonds be loosed by the onlookers.

Some looked on in horror. Others covered their noses and drew back, repulsed by the sight and putrid odor.

Thankfully, some braved the mess and began to set me free. Even some of these were overcome and also pulled away.

Bit by bit the grave clothes were removed.

Suddenly, it occurred to me that beneath the wrappings I was naked!

What to do?

At first I clung to those disgusting rags. I didn’t want to be exposed.

Awkward!

Embarrassment and humiliation became additional shrouds to be peeled away. I didn’t want anyone to see me in this state.

I had a choice to make: maintain my dignity and remain in bondage – or submit to being stripped bare in humility.

Finally the stench became so nauseous that I could no longer endure it. I surrendered to the gentle hands as they removed layer after layer from my heart.

Still in a weakened condition, others had to bathe me. At last I was dressed in fresh, clean clothes.

We marveled at the miracle of which we’d been a part.

‘Happily ever after’ loomed large on the horizon.

Instead, I found myself a target! I was hunted like a fugitive by Jesus’ enemies from that time on.

That’s a loose paraphrase of Lazarus’ story, laid over my own.

I found myself overtaken by ‘disease’ through no fault of my own.

As a teen, I began to ask Jesus to come heal me. He said He loved me, so a prompt response seemed like a no-brainer.

Instead, He took His time…so much that I was inwardly dead when He arrived.

Hopelessness, despair, unbelief that He could do anything at this point – these were the emotions I felt.

Abandoned.

Forsaken.

Forgotten.

These are the lies I believed.

Nevertheless, He called me from death to life and asked for volunteers to do the unpleasant work of releasing me from my putrid ‘grave clothes.’

Some didn’t know how – and shrank back.

For others, the mess was overwhelming. Offended by the stench, these also slipped away.

Some even tried to shove me back into the ‘tomb!’

A few brave, compassionate souls, though, came forward one by one and began to gently peel away my bonds. This took many years of counseling and prayer. To these women I will be forever grateful.

These sweet ladies not only removed the mess, but lovingly bathed and dressed me.

What amazes me most is that, instead of being seen as a living example of Jesus’ ability to bring life from death, the ‘religious’ folks did their best to ‘kill’ me. They would have liked nothing better than to see me bound up once again, and removed from sight. Sadly, some of these I once called ‘friend.’

Go figure!

************

That was an entry from my journal last October. It’s been a smelly, messy ordeal that took more than a year this time. I’m in the ‘being bathed’ phase at long last, and am not as stinky. God is good!

Jesus came to give us life to the full. He stated His intentions in Luke 4:18-19:

The Spirit of the LORD is upon Me,
Because He has anointed Me
To preach the gospel to
the poor;
He has sent Me
to heal the brokenhearted,
To proclaim liberty to the captives
And recovery of sight to
the blind,
To
set at liberty those who are oppressed;

To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD.”

He heals our wounds by revisiting memories with us. He gives us a new identity. He gives insight and revelation – a fresh perspective on old thoughts, and delivers us from the hands of the evil one. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that Jesus doesn’t heal in this way. I am walking, living, breathing proof that He does!

Salvation is so much more than a future home in heaven. It is eternal life, beginning now!

I wonder, which Bible stories most resonate with you?





Prodigal Surprise

9 01 2015

“Familiarity breeds contempt,” as it is said. While I didn’t have contempt for the prodigal’s story, I was so familiar with it that there seemed to be nothing new to glean from this parable.

How wrong I was!

Luke 15 finds Jesus drawing tax collectors and sinners, while Pharisees and scribes looked on and complained.

He begins to tell them stories – three, in fact:

The lost sheep

The lost coin

The prodigal son

All three have one thing in common: something was lost.

In the first two, however, a search ensues. They leave what is safe in the fold and in the house, and go in search of what is lost.

(This is where our story gets interesting!)

Is this true?

Sure enough, the ‘prodigal’ is out there somewhere, living it up, spending all he has.

Who goes in search of him?

No one.

Broken and broke, he returns home, prepared to spend the rest of his life as a ‘hired hand’ to his father and brother.

The father runs out to meet him when he sees his son from a long way off…

…but he hadn’t gone in search of the prodigal.

There is great rejoicing – as in the other two stories. He’s given the best robe (probably his father’s), a ring, and sandals. A party is thrown and everyone invited. They kill the fatted calf for this shindig.

It’s a big deal!

Hey, wait! Wasn’t the father’s inheritance split between his two sons (Luke 15:12)?

So, whose robe, ring, and sandals was the younger son wearing?

The older son’s. They were eating his cow, too! (See verse 31) When he found out, he was turned inside out with anger.

Now the search ensues.

“But he was angry and would not go in. Therefore the father came out and pleaded with him.” (verse 28)

Father went in search…not of the “bad” son, but of the “good” one.

If this family is to survive, the older son has some work to do.

It has to begin with his own heart.

He will need to take stock of his attitude of self-righteousness, realize that his motives in doing all he had were not pure – at least the younger son was honest about his feelings – and to see his own sin in all this.

He would rather point to his brother’s sin and carry on about what this ‘bum’ deserves. He actually owes a debt of gratitude…

…little brother made him look pretty good!

But out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks…and there isn’t a shred of grace, mercy, or love in his words.

If his heart isn’t too hard, once he faces its ugliness, the tough work of forgiving must begin if they are to live ‘happily ever after.’

Further, the older brother must come to terms with the fact that his sibling’s acting out will cost him.

It’s already cost him a robe, ring, shoes, and a big party. These all came out of his pocket.

Beyond that, little bro came home flat broke. He spent everything he had on “riotous” living. He’s already had his fun; now he’s come home completely spent.

All he offers is his broken, penitent heart. It’s all he has left.

He will need to be supported, for everything now belongs to the eldest. They will have to learn to work together. That’s a lot to ask of the older brother.

This will only be possible through forgiveness.

Then, and only then, can the big brother walk in freedom from bitterness, anger, and resentment.

The choice is his.

The sad truth is that when we are related to a ‘prodigal’ son, their sin will cost us – things that can seldom be tallied on a spreadsheet: embarrassment, humiliation, dignity, self-respect, and lost years.

Getting to forgiveness is a process, and will take time.

The cost of refusing to forgive is far greater, though. We will become bitter, resentful old people whom everyone avoids…lonely. We cut ourselves off, not only from others, but from our Father Himself.

That never goes well.

What is being asked of us will twist our minds every which way. It’s not fair! This is not my fault!

Forgiveness feels just plain wrong!!!

Why should our younger brother get off ‘scott-free’ – while we foot the bill for their actions?

And yet, is this not what our Big Brother did for us? Can we not pass on the grace which we so freely received?

We must, especially when we consider how much more we have to lose by hanging on to unforgiveness.

Do we really want to pay the high price of bitterness because of another’s sin against us?

I certainly don’t…but I haven’t “arrived” yet!

I want to, though. Lord, teach me to walk in the freedom of forgiveness.

As you can see, the prodigal’s story contained some surprises for me. Hopefully it did for you as well.

Whooee! This year is certainly starting off with a bang!!