Archive for the Faith Category

It works if you work it

I always thought I knew what faith was even though I couldn’t explain it. Oh, I could quote scripture about it, but I just thought I understood it. That being said, I still don’t completely understand it, and can no more explain it other than by telling you what it isn’t.

I played with the worship team at church a few weeks ago, and our only rehearsal as a group was Sunday morning before the first service. They were all easy songs to play, and I had played all but one before, so I felt fairly confident that I could play without any major screwups. That confidence did not keep me from losing my place in Cornerstone in every single service. Even though I did just fine in rehearsal. However, a couple weeks prior we had done a song called Relentless, and in one of the last choruses, there are 2 separate parts being sung. The first time we did it 2 weeks prior, I was one of the 2 vocalists to be singing the second part. We hadn’t had a rehearsal before that Sunday either, and since I hadn’t practiced it, I missed the cue every.single.time. This time I had it. One of the ladies pointed out during rehearsal that she could hear me and I had it down. I said, “I practiced that so hard last week!” And I did. I put more practice time into nailing the vocals on that one chorus than guitar and vocals combined on the other songs. This led to a discussion about faith, and how faith isn’t faith until it’s put in action. You have to work it.

And that’s when I said, “It works if you work it.”

I first heard that phrase in Al-Anon in reference to the Al-Anon program. Which is nearly identical to the AA program from which it was derived. It was about a year and a half ago that I stepped into Al-Anon, and I can say with absolute certainty, I didn’t work the Al-Anon program. I went to meetings. I read the literature. I didn’t call anyone even though I had 2 phone lists. I was my own sponsor. So I stayed perpetually on the 1st step – “We admitted we were powerless over alcohol – that our lives had become unmanageable.” I knew my life was unmanageable. There was no doubt about that. Powerless, though, I was not. Or so I thought.

I remember right before I started going to Al-Anon, I went to an open AA meeting with my husband. After the meeting he asked me what I thought and I said, “That is what church should be like. That is living out James 5:16.”

James 5:16 English Standard Version (ESV)
Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

I am convinced that is the only way we can bear one another’s burdens.

Galatians 6:2 English Standard Version (ESV)
Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

This is the essence of love. And it was love that got and kept me sober. A group of drunks who loved me until I could love myself. Strangers who walked with me one day at a time encouraging me to keep coming back. The woman I picked out to be my sponsor that I didn’t have the nerve to actually ask – who reached out to me and helped me pluck up the courage I had sat on for 2 weeks. God doing for me what I could not do for myself. But I still had to work at it.

I had to go to meetings. I had to read my literature. I had to call my sponsor – especially when I didn’t want to. I had to listen to her tell me what I didn’t want to hear and do what she suggested whether I wanted to or not. Sometimes she pissed me off. But I followed her. I followed her because she had already been down this road and knew the way. I followed her because God told me he had been sending people to help me when I cried out to him asking why he hadn’t helped me, and therefore I chose to trust that he put her in my life. I work the program, and it works even though I don’t work it perfectly.

Ephesians 2:8-10 English Standard Version (ESV)
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works,which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

Faith isn’t something we manufacture ourselves. It’s not a bargaining means to get God to grant our wishes. It is given to us to do what God would have us do whether his will is for us to act or be still. He gives us faith for His purpose and His glory. That is why it works if you work it. Because it’s not about you.

Wrapping up

This has been quite a year. I did not even accomplish half of my goals for the year. Life got crazy! For most of the year I was not only the only one in this house with a job, but the only one with a driver’s license. That wore me out and sucked up a large amount of vacation/sick time. But Jamie finally got her driver’s license, so the pressure is off to be everyone’s chauffeur. Oh, and we also only had 1 vehicle for much of the year, so I was still on the hook until we got another car.

I got my nose pierced. And I want to get my eyebrow pierced now. I also want a couple of tattoos, but that won’t happen until Petra gets inked.

My mom had a mini stroke. Adding that into the Alzheimer’s mix, she now has 3 distinct personalities. 1, she is still Mom, but has trouble saying the right words. She knows who you are, but can’t say your name. That’s the stroke effect. 2, she is still Mom, but she has no idea who people are. Thanksgiving, she would forget who the kids were, and thought I was Aunt Pearl. That’s the Alzheimer’s. It’s sad, but expected and fairly easy to deal with because she retains that same kind and loving personality of my Mom. But then there is that 3rd one – the paranoid delusional one. This one knows who I am, but thinks people are out to get her. This one infuriates me because she is nothing like my mom. Intellectually I know this is another aspect of the Alzheimer’s, but emotional detachment is not so easy.

The contract I worked on ended, and we switched to a new one with a new company. I got a 4 week paid staycation out of it which was great for the first 2 weeks. Those last 2 weeks, I was calling the security office nearly every day asking if my stuff had transferred so I could go back to work. And the first week back, I filled in as site lead while the site lead was on vacation. 4 weeks of nothing and then a week of everything because I was the only one left with working accounts. I still don’t want to be site lead. Oh, and I took a 10% pay cut. It hurts. But I love my co-workers.

I was forced to admit that I’m an alcoholic. By forced, I mean I was told I needed to quit for a while and I couldn’t. For those who don’t already know. Assuming more than 3 or 4 people read this blog anymore. Once I did the 3rd step, I realized I essentially rededicated my life to Jesus, and decided to get rebaptized as a matter of owning my faith as my own. And I am 11 months sober. One day at a time.

Throughout the year while working on my recovery through therapy, and through a 12-step program (which a LOT of people could really use), I have learned a lot about myself, and have come to terms and dealt with issues that I had never dealt with. I have grieved, and I have forgiven. I have learned to accept responsibility for my actions and reactions, and how to ask for forgiveness. And I’ve learned a few things along the way.

1. Life is more peaceful when you cease to be a victim/martyr.

2. Other people are responsible for their own choices and therefore their own consequences.

3. Life isn’t meant to be lived in isolation.

4. Trying to live up to a manufactured facade of other people’s expectations (real or perceived) will drive you insane.

5. It is okay to feel. Emotions are God-given. But let them be indicators and means of healing rather than living by them. Life isn’t sunshine and roses. You take the good, you take the bad.

Not earned #NaBloPoMo

I do a lot of reading. I was thinking about how many books I have read this year, and then I checked my Goodreads account, and maybe not so much. I’ve started a lot of books in the last 5 years, mostly non-fiction. Many of those didn’t get finished because I would just lose interest. I decided a couple weeks or so ago that I would not start another book until I finished the last book of R.A. Salvatore’s Hunter’s Blades Trilogy. Seriously, I’ve been reading The Two Swords for like 3 years. It’s time to finish. So I did finish it. And it didn’t wrap everything up so I now have to find the next book(s) in the series. Ugh! Or I could just tell myself that I killed King Obould Many Arrows in Neverwinter Nights and call that closure. ;)

The nonfiction I’ve read has been mostly Christian living books and most of those I have come to view as how-to books though that is probably not the intent of the authors. So many of them left me feeling even more that I don’t measure up. Less worthy and more unlovable. Totally inadequate. I had fallen again into thinking that I had to do a bunch of right things to be worthy of God’s love. The false gospel of salvation by works.

It is kind of ironic that while I grew up in church that I really started to learn about who God really is through recovery from alcoholism. In church I learned how to feel perpetual guilt and shame. I learned through addiction that I could numb and ignore my feelings. I made alcohol my higher power. In recovery I am learning that God really is the Higher Power I really need.

I have heard several well meaning Christians over the years say something to the effect of “Just believe in Jesus and your life will be great.” That’s just a subtle form of prosperity gospel which is not the Gospel. I can also tell you that there is a world of difference between being freed FROM sin and being freed OF sin. Salvation does not free you of sin. You are still going to sin. You won’t be perfect no matter how well-dressed and well-spoken you are when you go to church. And if you have a potty mouth, you’re going to say “shit” at church no matter if you’re 18 or 41. Or that might just be me. ;-) The point is, keeping up an outward appearance of holiness is such a deadly façade. It is completely deadly to nonbelievers who consider us hypocrites. Which, by the way, we are because we don’t live up to our own standards if we are truly and completely honest.

Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. 1 Thessalonians 5:23-24

Perspective and attitude

Perspective has a way of changing your attitude. Being the control freak that I am, my perspective has always been self-centered. My personal comfort took priority in how I looked at the world and situations. When things didn’t (or don’t) go the way I think they should, I end up on the pity pot only seeing the bad and never the good.

This has been most evident with my relationship with my dad. Yes the verbal abuse did a lot of damage. Yes, the lack of affirmation negatively affected me psychologically which in turn affected every relationship I’ve ever had with anyone including God. This was understandable and even excusable when I was a child. I didn’t have the capacity as a child to do anything more than develop ways to cope that allowed me to emotionally survive. Those coping skills long outlived their usefulness.

Since my mom worked outside the home when I was a child, I spent a lot of time with my dad. It was practically 24×7 until I started school so I am naturally like him in many ways. My mom did her best to counter many of the negative traits I picked either by imitation or genetics, but in ways that did not teach me to disrespect either of them. I am grateful for that now. Now I can see him as a father who did the best he could amidst his own character defects. And he tried to raise me to be respectful of others and independent and grounded in faith in God.

I just finished reading Barnabas Piper’s book The Pastor’s Kid. I’m a deacon’s kid, but much of what Barnabas wrote mirrored my own DK experience. I found much healing through his experience as a PK. I can now look my on my dad with a different perspective not only because of what Barnabas wrote of his experience, but also through working through my own issues and character defects.

Daddy taught small groups off and on at church up until I was 15. Throughout those years I saw him do a lot of study in preparation for teaching. He didn’t do it silently and would discuss it with my mom. It one pretty much one sided, but he was teaching as he was preparing to teach. I reaped the benefits of his preparation in that I was given a strong foundation for my own faith. Both he and my mom always encouraged me to study scripture for myself and not just blindly believe everything I heard either from the pulpit or from the classes I was in.

Acts 17:11 NIV ”
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.”

This was instilled in me more deeply than Missionary Baptist doctrine. Daddy learned what other denominations believed and taught me that as well even going to far as to teach me there was no doctrinal difference between Missionary Baptists and Southern Baptists. He made sure that I knew salvation was in Jesus and not in a particular church. That was a priceless gift.

When I started kindergarten, Daddy sat me down one day and had what I thought at the time was a weird talk. He talked to be about black people. Up to this point, I really hadn’t been around many black people because church and family were lily white. I don’t have any preschool memory of black people who weren’t on TV. He made it a point to explain to me that there was no difference between us and black people except for skin pigmentation and that didn’t matter. They had the same hearts and minds and I was never ever to call a black person “nigger” because it was hurtful. When I was older the conversation made sense, and it’s another thing I am grateful for because even though I wasn’t able to completely escape Southern culture race issues, that one conversation always came back to me to remind me that we are all human and I need to respect and love other people no matter our outside differences. It’s what’s inside that matters.

Daddy was a very smart man who could do just about anything. He was electrician, plumber, auto mechanic, small engine mechanic, gardener, and carpenter. He was also a fantastic cook who made the best apple and coconut cream pies I’ve ever eaten. He taught me much of that though mostly by watching and listening. But I do remember him taking the time to teach me how to do simple auto maintenance like checking and adding fluid and changing a tire. He is why I know my way around a breaker or fuse box. Throughout my childhood he did a lot of electrical, plumbing, and carpenter work for his sisters, widows in our community, and other family and friends. He taught by example to help others. And much of those skills he taught me explicitly were done before he went to prison I think because he saw I had the desire and the capacity to do minor maintenance and repairs that my mom lacked. She could cook and clean, and even do some gardening, but because she worked full time, she didn’t have time to do everything that needed to be done and had no inclination towards mechanical stuff. He ensured we weren’t left hanging, utterly dependent on other people for little things.

I remember when I played softball, Daddy would practice with me. I hated it most of the time because he and Mom both concentrated on my weakest area of catching which was grounders that I had to run for. Haha. He only missed one of my softball games. He didn’t miss any basketball game I played. He was there for every play and concert. When I was in the hospital he was there when my mom needed to go home and rest and a lot of the time when she was there too. He made me stay in bed when I was sick and made me drink lots of water and made my favorite foods so that I would actually eat. He helped me with homework and would play games with me. He even taught me how to play poker. Thankfully I didn’t get inherit his ability to count cards and don’t like losing money so as not to have a gambling problem. ;-)

He was overprotective in a lot of ways and tended to over and under react, but I understand now that it was fear that caused it. He didn’t necessarily love me in the ways I wanted, but he did love me and I can look back and see that now. He made many mistakes, but he made those because he had his own sickness and demons to contend with. He couldn’t be a perfect dad because he was human. But he did love me and he did try the best he could to raise me to put my faith in God and to grow up to be a responsible adult rather than a perpetual impulsive child. For that I can be grateful and honor him with love and respect.

Taking the plunge…again

After I got home last night – and ate because I was hangry – Chad came out on the porch to talk with me. It was a nice talk even though I had to tell him “No, we can’t afford that,” to which he didn’t whine or beg, but just accepted with an “Okay.” I think we might both be growing up. haha :) So anyway, I said, “Oh, hey, did I tell you I am getting rebaptized Sunday?” His response was great. “Did your first one expire?” The delivery made it funny. And I gave him a serious answer.

I was originally baptized when I was 14, and it was a valid believer’s baptism by immersion. So why do it again? I mean, really, I’ve never thought I needed another one. Truth be told, I still don’t think I need another one because my original was valid. However, when I did my 3rd step prayer, it amounted to a complete rededication. So partially because of that and partially because I have a much better understanding of the significance of baptism, it’s more to me of a complete ownership of my faith as mine rather than somewhat of my parent’s faith as it was when I was a kid.

So Sunday afternoon after the 1pm service at newhopeSanford, I’m taking the plunge…again.

Moving on

My name is Martha, and I am a Missionary Baptist deacon’s kid (DK). And I’m an alcoholic. I just reported the latter to my security officer so it can’t be used against me now. My co-workers know too. My mother does not, and I intend to keep it that way because that might be the one thing she doesn’t forget. ;) And I got sober before I got the nose ring. haha! :)

I was told not too long ago that I have been pretty open about blogging about my “junk.” Well, now that I have dragged all of my skellingtons out of the closet to my sponsor (and lived through it), I feel much more comfortable sharing my junk publicly. Because I kept a lot of crap bottled up for so long that I nearly imploded. It’s been a year now since my emotional breakdown which could in a sense be considered my rock bottom even though it took me a while after that to admit that my drinking was a problem that was perpetuating my other problems.

I read a couple of articles this morning that hit home and prompted me to be willing to put some more of my junk out there.

5 Reasons Pastors Kids are Leaving the Church – Guest Post by Emily Wierenga

Do Prodigals Feel Welcome At Our Churches?

I learned as a DK very early how to keep up appearances. I knew the right way to speak around the right people. I learned how to smile and pretend everything was okay. I might have missed my calling as an actress because I kept up quite an act. Things were not okay, and I was not okay. My dad was verbally and emotionally abuse to my mom and I, and it couldn’t be shared. So we suffered in silence. I can’t speak for her, but I can speak for how it affected me. It nearly destroyed me. I learned not to trust anyone, and not to respect authority, but to go through the motions as if I did. Of course that can’t be maintained, and so I would act out. I felt different from everybody like I didn’t fit in.

Then I got drunk, and that changed everything.

It was my 3rd time drinking when I hit that sweet spot of drunk where I felt good. I was confident and relaxed for the first time. I could be myself without analyzing everything that I or anyone else said or did. I enjoyed life, at least until I sobered up. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I never did drink like I “normal” person. I drank to get drunk – trying to get back that feeling of that first good drunk. Sometimes I did it, but more often than not I went way beyond that sweet spot. It became a means to escape. It didn’t matter how many hangovers where I swore I’d never drink again, I was going to end up doing it again. And when I did, I was going to drink until there was no more alcohol or I passed out or I was throwing up. I would feel guilty the next day, but still kept drinking.

I was extremely fortunate that drinking never got me into any trouble with work or the law. I never missed work because of my drinking, didn’t go to work drunk, and rarely went in with a hangover. I never got into any trouble with the law. But for the grace of God, it never progressed farther than having Petra tell me I needed to stop for a while. Which, of course, I couldn’t.

What really stood out to me in the first article I linked above is: “PKs aren’t given a chance to experience God’s grace and mercy; they’re just forced to memorize the concepts.” The same was true for this DK. Grace and mercy took a back seat to following rules to maintain your own reputation among other people. Or rather my dad’s reputation which he destroyed himself.

In the second article, there was this: “And when prodigals bottom out, they often return home and to the church.” I returned to the church before I actually bottomed out, but I nearly left again. I did leave the Baptist way behind because I could still see and feel that pressure to maintain an outward appearance of righteousness. I couldn’t live up to that standard as a child and I can’t live up to it as an adult.

What I can do, though, is learn how to rest in the finished work of Jesus. It took over 30 years for it to finally sink in, but I am not accepted and loved by God because of anything I have done, am doing, or will do. It is through Jesus and Jesus alone that I am made righteous. He paid my debt. I have nothing to earn. The best work I can do on my own is like a used tampon before God. Oh yeah, that’s the literal translation of “filthy rags” in the Bible. But if Christ’s death on the cross is not enough to pay for my sin, it’s not enough to cover anyone’s and none of us have any hope. The justification of salvation is an instant event, but sanctification is a process rather than an event. That is why I can put my junk out without wallowing in the pit of self-pity from guilt and shame due to not being perfect. That’s why I no longer look at trials as punishment but as instruments of growth because they are chipping away at my self-centeredness and my guilt and shame of not being perfect. Only Jesus was perfect.

I have 5 1/2 months of sobriety by the grace of God, one day at a time. I am making peace with my past and letting go by the grace of God, one day at a time. I am learning to open up and call people when I am feeling the insanity of the committee in my head and need someone to talk to and to talk me down, by the grace of God, one day at a time. I am learning to live in the present and not reliving the past or trying to control the future, by the grace of God, one day at a time.

Adventures in Arkansas

I really should have sat down and written last night when I had things to say. Or at least made a note of what I wanted to write about like I suggested to Petra. Haha! But in my defense, I was sick as a dog from the flight back from Arkansas. But Enterprise hooked me up with a sweet rental car:

I almost didn’t make that trip. I really didn’t want to. I didn’t want to face my mom’s health issues because avoidance is my default action (or inaction as it were) when I can’t practice full on denial. But I plucked up the courage to do it anyway. Oh my word. Her short term memory is completely gone. She had a stroke while she was in the hospital recovering from pneumonia (and she has COPD), and while the memory issues could be attributed to Alzheimer’s, her inability to say the right words is not something she had prior. It was hard. Hard to listen to and watch her struggle to get out what she wanted to say, and hard to figure out what she meant. But she gets around fine, and I wore her out! Because that’s how I roll. ;) She’s in the nursing home for rehabilitation, and they let me check her out and run her around.

I took her to the Veteran’s Walk of Flags by the hospital first. We did not walk the whole thing.

But my cousin Sharon was interviewed later that day while she was there:

Flags Flying for Veterans In Morrilton Today

It is such a beautiful and humbling display, and I feel honored that I now have a flag among so many others. I am so very grateful to Sharon for making sure all the Eoff family veterans got flags.

Then we went out to the Bishop family reunion and I didn’t take a single picture of any of my family. :( I did take one down at the creek:

Because the reunion isn’t just complete without a walk down to the creek. It was the thing to do when I was a kid, and it still is at 44. Not that I got off the bridge because the possibility of falling and getting wet doesn’t appeal to me anymore. Mainly because I didn’t want my phone ruined. haha! But I had a great time, and didn’t get glutened. Mom seemed to know everybody and that was great! I had a good talk with my sister-in-law even if it was short and kept semi on the down low given what I shared with her. And throughout the weekend I got to have really good visits with family and a couple old friends and my mom’s neighbor. And then after I dropped Mom off Saturday night and left the nursing home, I drove around town and bawled.

Now, I don’t like to fly, and have been terrified of flying since 1999. So as I drove up to RDU to leave, I thought I would try a little something different than I normally do. See, normally the DragonLady doesn’t get on a plane sober. Granted, last summer I flew sober, but I was a wreck the whole time. This time, drinking wasn’t an option I was willing to entertain so I prayed and asked God to remove my fear of flying. You know, it worked. I was not at all scared coming or going. Even with the turbulence and thunderstorms around Charlotte. And no, I didn’t ask God to give me a good rental car. That was pure bonus. hahaha!

You can’t hear if you’re not listening

There is a story behind that picture. I was scheduled to play at church this past Sunday, and there were several emails throughout the week regarding the song lineup. The first had to do with one particular song (video below) that only really had 3 instrumental parts: drums, bass, and keyboard. Bradford said that I would be playing keyboard. I laughed at that part of the email. He added not to worry that the keyboards would be tracked, and I just had to look like I was playing. Which made me laugh more because if I could fake playing a trumpet in college, I could definitely fake play keyboards. After listening to the song I thought that if I still had a keyboard and the time to practice (and the sheet music), I could have played it for real. But people thought I was really playing. Those who mentioned to me how cool it was that I play keyboards too got to hear the truth that I was keysyncing (like lipsyncing). And that was the only song I didn’t screw up. :cheesy: And I was glad to do it because otherwise I would have only been doing vocals, and I couldn’t do the clapping right. Plus clapping hurts my hands. Regardless, it gave me something to do with my hands.

Before rehearsal last Thursday as Bradford led us in a devotional, he summed up Pastor’s Nate’s sermon from the previous Sunday (which I missed).

Just because God is silent does not mean He isn’t active.

My experience has been that whenever I am going through a hard trial or a period of depression, God is not only silent, but He seems absent. I feel like I am completely alone and overwhelmed. Once it passes, I can then see that God was there the whole time working while I was wallowing in fear and/or self-pity. I’m starting to see, or hear, that He isn’t always silent in the pit.

I usually have ministry hangover the day after I play at church. Yesterday was no exception, and life compounded it. I felt it when I (finally) got out of bed, and I started praying while I showered. My shower is my “prayer closet” because generally speaking, I can be alone without interruption. This is also why I named my shower “the confessional.” So I was praying and as it progressed, I began praying about my self-will. I don’t remember what I asked, but I remember hearing the answer. I have already been set free.

Jesus is stronger than my self-will.

I have a hard time remembering that. Partially because of self-will. Partially because of bad theology. But hearing it helped. I immediately felt peace. And then life reared its head again, and the peace was gone. But over and over and over all day, I went back to my prayer time and reminded myself of what God spoke to me, and it got me through.

Pastor Benji said something during his sermon Sunday morning that really made an impression on me.

If I didn’t already know what the Bible has to say about my self-will, I don’t think I would have heard God’s voice as I did.

But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you. (John 14:26 ESV)

But additionally, I don’t think I would have heard it if I hadn’t been willing to hear something that might not be what I want to hear. Nor do I think I would have heard it if I wasn’t willing to give up my self-will. And I wouldn’t be willing to give up my self-will if living according to my will worked.

Learning empathy

Last week was kind of a rough week. By rough I mean busy. And as an aside, if you ever get desperate for entertainment, go spend a day in traffic court. Oh, my word. The only thing I will relay though, is James’ case is now over. The court was merciful with the DWI to the extent the judge could be, and for the next year, I am the only licensed driver in my household. What does that have to do with anything? More than one would think. The kids were bombarding me Sunday with their needs (aka wants), and I finally had to say, “Look. I know I am currently the only responsible person in our household. I can’t do everything for everybody. I can only do so much.” Given the awkward silence, I think maybe they got it, and they quit making demands. Well, until we got to Walmart anyway. ;)

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to comfort those who are in any affliction, with the comfort with which we ourselves are comforted by God. For as we share abundantly in Christ’s sufferings, so through Christ we share abundantly in comfort too. (2 Corinthians 1:3-5, ESV)

I was profoundly moved last year when I attended an AA meeting. It more exemplified James 5:16 than I’ve ever seen in church. That was the final push I needed to finally start attending Al-Anon. It’s in Al-Anon where I see 2 Corinthians 1:3-5 in action. Not that I haven’t or don’t see it in church. I’ve just been more able to see it in targeted manner in Al-Anon. Because in many ways that’s what we do because while our individual circumstances are different, we can all understand what each other are going through. Those who have been in the program for a long time are a huge help to us newbies just by understanding and listening.

Over the post few years, I have slowly started first facing and then working through my childhood issues which are “Daddy issues.” I didn’t really realize to what extent I had been affected and why until I read Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp. I was able to identify the root of a lot of my issues and some of the root causes. And it is still on-going as I try to come to terms with them while also working through the issues of being married to an alcoholic and drug addict.

My life has been hard from an emotional standpoint, and it could have been so much worse. I have bounced back and forth between avoidance, suppression, and acting out. I’ve dealt with anxiety and depression for almost as long as I can remember. Sometimes all seems right in the world, and I feel great. Sometimes I get so overwhelmed that I want to run away and hide. Sometimes the pain and the darkness are so oppressive that I can barely function. Often there is nothing going on around me to match how I am feeling. This makes me wonder how much of my emotional turmoil is just delayed response.

I have done my share of questioning with why me. Why did that happen to me? Why do these things keep happening? But sometimes, I can look at myself and wonder why did God choose to redeem me. I know the choices I have made that I can’t blame on abuse. I know the things I’ve done that I can’t even attribute to peer pressure. I’ve been both the victim and the bully. God knows those things too. Jesus died because of those things. Yet He called me and redeemed me. And so I have a completely different view of the suffering I have and do endure that I did not bring on myself, as well as what I did. I can empathize.

I think empathy makes it much easier to show compassion. Therefore, I am able to see the crap I have had to deal with that I didn’t cause, while it sucked big time, has a greater purpose. And the crap I’ve had to deal with that was self-inflicted can also have a purpose for good.

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him. (Colossians 3:12-17, ESV)

And in all of the mess and pain and chaos, I can be thankful because it has forced me to rely on God instead of trying to push through on my own strength. One of the sayings in Al-Anon is “Let go and let God.” This is what I am learning much more slowly than I would like. But even in my deepest despair, I still can have hope. Not “I hope things get better,” because that is a really a wish. I have hope knowing that there will be a day when God Himself will wipe the tears from my eyes. And with the empathy and compassion I am being taught through my pain, I can pass this hope on to others.

Does anyone know what Christmas is all about?

I didn’t quote Charlie Brown exactly. But it’s close enough. This post will also be a little all over the place. Possibly.

I got a case of the ass last night. Ok, it’s not really exclusive to last night as I usually have a case of the ass over something, but a lot of the time I can keep it in check so that once I calm down I realize it really isn’t a big deal in the grand scheme of things. Last night I didn’t keep my tongue in check, or rather I let my fingers fly since I was commenting on a comment on a blog post I’ve been following. I thought I had been mercifully spared from my rash verbal vomit since my comment didn’t show up. I had already commented without using my DragonLady pseudonym, but comment #2 was with “DragonLady” making me think the comment went into the spam hole where it should have stayed. :sigh: But it didn’t, and so if you care, here is the article: It’s Not Us Against Them

I have tried to stay out of the Duck Dynasty drama just like I stayed out of the Chick-Fil-A one. For the same reason, and because it all boils down to a bunch of posturing by both supporters and opposers of Dan Cathy and now Phil Robertson. So I will go ahead and lay my cards out on the table. I don’t eat at Chick-Fil-A because of being gluten free and all I ever ate there was the breaded, deep-fried chicken on a bun that I can’t eat any more. I could also mention that their “chicken” is likely of the same low quality as McDonald’s. Oh, wait. I just did. I also have never watched Duck Dynasty nor do I plan to. Generally speaking, I don’t watch TV period, but especially not “reality” TV. Which, by the way, is not real. I will occasionally watch Ice Road Truckers and the similar one with the truckers on the “most dangerous roads” whatever that show is. But I only watch those if my husband has them on and I have nothing better to do. I will also go ahead and state that yes, I believe homosexual activity (same-sex sex) is a sin, just as fornication, adultery, bestiality, and pornography are. Sexual sin is sexual sin before God who gave humans the good gift of sex to be used within the context of marriage between one man and one woman for life as he created it to be. Full disclosure, I am a former fornicator who for many years before and after marriage was addicted to various forms of pornography for the sole purpose of self-gratification. The self-gratification amounted to adultery of the heart. So I am no stranger to the bondage or consequences (which were thankfully pretty light) of sexual sin, and absolutely will not act towards others with judgement and/or condemnation who have or are committing sexual sin because I understand the desire. I have never had to deal with same sex attraction, nor with any sexual attraction to any animal. I do, however, have many gay friends, and several gay family members. I also have had at least one family member who was guilty of bestiality. Therefore, I can’t sit back in my self-righteous ivory tower looking down on homosexuals as an abstract group. They are real people with real struggles who need a real Savior just like I do for the same reason, and not because of the specific way they sin, but because we all sin. This is what I was trying to explain to Chad the other night. The end of the discussion came when he asked if you could “pray away the gay.” I told him if it were just that simple then his dad and I could just pray away the alcoholism and drug addiction.

All that said, this isn’t a post about homosexuality. Nor is it a post where I pledge my support for Mr. Cathy and Mr. Robinson. There is much more at stake in the Kingdom of God than the American right to free speech. I will give my opinion that the reason American Christians are so fired up about losing their voice and influence in the American/Western culture has less to do with standing firm for Christ and much more to do with fear of having to actually suffer for Christ. You know, the way Jesus promised us as Christians that we would suffer with Him if we really follow Him. Because our feel-good materialistic American culture that is the product of 20th century consumerism wants the good life now, and doesn’t really want to give up anything in order to have everything in Christ. We want to have our cake and eat it too.

I think it is all about comfort, and oh, how well do I know the futility of searching for comfort. Comfort is an idol for me almost as high up as my idol of pride. I’ve sought it in books, TV, food, tobacco, drugs, alcohol, sex, church, family, my parents (Mom specifically), friendships, my husband, my kids, running, biking, gaming, pets, blogs, social media. The list goes on and on and on. But none of those things or the myriad of other things bring lasting comfort. Lasting comfort is only found in Jesus. Now that is real easy for me to say, but way hard for me to believe. I know all the trite phrases. I know all the cliches. The Landmark Missionary Baptist deacon’s daughter Reagan conservative has had all the head knowledge for as long as I can remember. It all seems to fall apart when the trials hit because I have trust issues because I have Daddy issues. So knowing and believing were not one and the same for me. Out of sync, if you will. There were a few times over the past year where I spent time in prayer confessing and repenting for not trusting the only One who can be trusted. Why didn’t I trust? Because all of my little gods have always ultimately disappointed me by not becoming the lasting peace and comfort I crave.

Pastor Nate preached about comfort in the light of the Christmas narrative. In the midst of the sermon when he went from Matthew 1 to 2 Corinthians 1:3-7 and explained how Jesus is our comfort because he has already experienced the suffering we do. He and He alone really does know how we feel. Ridicule, betrayal, rejection, death of loved ones, loneliness. But he never really was alone. Not even on the cross. And a light bulb came on for me.

For he has not despised or abhorred

the affliction of the afflicted,

and he has not hidden his face from him,

but has heard, when he cried to him. (Psalm 22:24, ESV)

Sunday night, before I could forget, I wrote down some notes on what I managed to piece together (so far) about how Jesus is my comforter.

When Jesus was on the cross quoting Psalm 22, he hadn’t been forsaken by God the Father. The Father was still there, it just didn’t feel like it. Just like when we are so overcome in our trials and cannot feel God’s presence and wonder if he really is there. But He was there for Jesus and he is there for us because of Jesus. And Jesus really does know how we feel.

There was a brief moment of peace, and the comfort remains. My life circumstances are still as they were, there are still issues unresolved, but I can rest knowing and believing they will one day be resolved, and the broken will be fixed. Even me. Unearned favor. Amazing grace.

So what is Christmas all about? Christmas was the beginning of the end. Immanuel, God with us, the Creator came and lived among the created as one of us. Fully human and fully divine. Laying aside the riches and the power and the glory and honor that He rightfully owns and deserves to become the spotless sacrificial lamb of atonement. Born into poverty in a stable. His family having to flee to Egypt to protect him from being murdered by Herod as Herod slaughtered an untold number of innocent boys aged 2 and younger to protect his throne. Ultimately willingly submitting to a sham trial and torturous beating before a horrendous death by crucifixion under Roman authority to appease the religious Jews. Rising to life on the 3rd day showing that His sacrifice for our sins was accepted by the Father so that we who believe in Jesus by faith are granted grace and reconciled to God the Father though Jesus.

It’s not about our American rights or Western culture. It’s not about sex or chicken or reality TV. It’s not about whether people say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” It’s not about our temporal comfort. It’s about a Savior come to redeem unworthy and rebellious children.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:16-17, ESV)