Archive for the Faith Category

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)

Just let it go?

Here’s a little something I’m dragging out of the drafts hole. It was written over a span of about 5 months from Sep 2011 – Jan 2012.

I had this little running “joke” with our former pastor on Sunday mornings:

Pastor: “How are you?”
Me: “Self-righteous and bitter.”
Pastor: “Alrighty then.” (or something to that effect)

I always answered it in a joking kind of way, but really, I was/am dead serious. I think he knew it. The result of being self-righteous and bitter is being angry…often. Combine that with out of control (or out of sync) hormones (that’s a story in itself, which my doc thinks is more likely linked to my diet and somewhat addressed here), and you have a volatile mix. I’m going off at the least little thing, nit-picking over insignificant things, and emotionally collapsing into tears either from sheer anger or guilt from getting so angry over something stupid. Did I mention I was never much of a cryer? But I digress.

The self-righteousness and the bitterness have been there for years, but I never really noticed them for what they were. Generally speaking, I filed them away under a blanket of righteous indignation. After all, I was right to be angry because I was being wronged, or someone I loved was being wronged.

The anger wouldn’t be such an issue if it was just anger, albeit justified anger and not getting mad over something stupid. But, even if it is “justifiable” anger, it becomes an issue when it is something I’m not letting go of.

I keep dwelling on issues when they pop up in my head. The longer I stew on them, the angrier I get, and the angrier I get the more I want to go off on a self-righteous rant letting the “offender” know just how ate up they are. I have finally realized that the things that piss me off the most are things I do myself, and more often than not involve pride.

But at the heart of the matter, it boils down to a lack of forgiveness on my part. This lack of forgiveness is most blatantly on display towards my husband. Of all the people/situations I’ve stewed over and held grudges over, I have mostly held grudges against him, and not well held under control. But it is no more or no less venomous and vile. Sheer poison. It isn’t as if he is blameless. Even he will tell people there is only one thing that I have ever adamantly put my foot down about. It’s that one hot button trigger that holds the potential to split us up. I’ve threatened divorce (with every intention of backing it up), and I’ve wished all kinds of calamity on him from arrest to death. Yes, you read that right. I have wished he would die.

That’s cold-hearted right there. Completely unloving.

I know that my response is every bit as wrong as what he does that prompts it. I can see it coming, and I pray for grace to “shut up and pray”, and I quote scripture to myself and swear I will be quiet and let it go. But more often than not, I succumb to the voice that tells me I don’t deserve be treated like that, lied to, messed with, etc, and it all goes downhill from there. But then a day or two later, it’s over, we pick up and try again or just avoid any mention of what went down…pretending nothing ever happened and all is well. But it’s not. The hurt is still there. The broken promises still there. The “I want what I want and I want it on my terms” is still there, even when we confess and apologize to each other afterward. It’s a vicious cycle.

I’m left with questions. Why can’t I let go of the bitterness and resentment, and just forgive? Why do I insist on hanging on to it when I really don’t want it and know that it just eats me up?

Just to bring this up to date, my diet wasn’t the issue with my out of control emotions. In many ways it was a result, and that still remains an issue. Also divorce has been taken off the table as an option. I will add that once that no longer became an option, things got worse. WAY worse. I also have answered those 2 questions, and well, I pretty much had answered it within the original post. Self-righteousness for one, but victimhood also.

The solution is constant prayer. Constant preaching the gospel to myself. Constant reminder that the old me died with Jesus, and I’ve been set free from the bondage of self-gratification. Constant reminder that I am not God, that He sees what I can’t, and that He is in control. Constant reminder that He never promised ease and comfort in this life. Constant reminder of 1 Corinthians love. Constant reminder that I live in a broken and fallen world, and I am still a work in progress. Constant reminder to be thankful always.

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me—practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you. (Philippians 4:4-9, ESV)

Thinking out loud

My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26, ESV)

I don’t think I took my “happy pill” yesterday. There was that moment where I looked at the bottle and could not remember if I had taken it or not, but decided against risking an OD. Not that I know if you can OD on 40mg of Celexa. I’ve missed doses before. This past Saturday as a matter of fact. There were no ill effects. Yesterday though. I bottomed out.

I blame(d) the lack of medication because it was just out of the blue despair. Or so I thought. I did enough backtracking through the day to discover the trigger was a video I had watched. From there I was able to root out the discontentment and resentment that were in the pit I found myself in. It’s a dark pit where the darkness is heavy and constricting. Prayers were said, tears were shed. Withdrawl happened. Not complete withdrawl, but alone time to sort the truth from the lies.

I remember the first time God spoke “audibly” to me. It wasn’t a loud booming voice like I imagine he spoke to Moses. Of course there is a story to it. I spent probably half my early childhood begging my parents for a swing set. Like this:

EXIF/JPEG image with thumb

Yes, I got the kids what I wanted when I was a kid. Anyway, I never got one, but my dad made me swing by buying some nylon (or plastic) rope, and hanging it from a tree limb. In hindsight, that was a way better swing. Anyway, that old rope swing gave me many many hours of fun. I would get it swinging as high as I could (which was way higher than a “little” metal swing set swing could go), and then jump out at the forward apex. I did that so much one weekend that my legs were so sore I could barely walk for 3 days.

That was what I was doing: seeing just how high I could get the swing going before jumping out. As I was on the back swing just before that apex, I clearly heard a voice in my head telling me to stop. As I came back down, I put my feet down to stop. As soon as my feet were firm and stable on the ground, the rope broke. If I hadn’t listened to that voice, I would have gotten hurt. Maybe seriously, maybe not. Regardless, I would have been hurt. But it was years before I would realize what that voice was. Or rather, whose. I don’t remember how old I was, and I may or may not have still been using that swing while in junior high. ;)

I don’t think I ever told anyone about that except for my mom, though I might have told my dad when I told him the rope broke. But I don’t remember actually telling him. I know I did because he was going to notice and then wonder why I didn’t tell him. Plus, he was the only one who was going to fix it. lol But I think it was just within the last year that I told my mom the whole story of the incident. She recognized the voice for what it was. She may not remember what day it is, or people’s names, or whether or not someone has died, but Alzheimer’s has not yet touched her mind where theology and doctrine are concerned.

I wanted to hear Him yesterday like that, and well, every time I find myself in the pit. I don’t, but yet I don’t really feel completely alone either. I mean, in the deepest, darkest, heaviest point I do, but once the load lifts, I can tell I wasn’t alone. It’s really hard to explain it. It’s kind of like and aftertaste, only just a feeling. A closeness if you will.

So, this was a bit ADD. Hence the title. That’s how I roll.

Get a hold of yourself

I heard that a lot growing up. I’m pretty sure my dad was the one who would say it to me, but it could have been my mom or both of them. It was a warning when I would get either too excited and was starting to get too “rambunctious” or was working up to a meltdown over something. It was a long way of saying “calm down” or “chill out.” Without that outside discipline, I would have been wide-open, full-throttle all the time. I just never really developed that as a self-discipline whether happy, sad, angry, or whatever so that out on my own, there was little restraint in acting out.

Slowly, I have come to understand that acting out rather than taking a moment or so to “get a hold of myself” results in destructive behavior one way or another. No matter the circumstances I tend to speak or act without thinking about the effect on others. Or I sit and stew on it internalizing until I end up metaphorically vomiting on someone who probably didn’t have anything to do with what I was stewing on. Or I just act out without knowing all the facts and/or giving the benefit of the doubt and then find out I was completely wrong about the whole situation.

The past few weeks, there has been a recurrent theme popping up in sermons I’m listening to (both at my church, and podcasts), some of the blogs I read, and a book I’m currently reading. When the same thing keeps popping up, it’s a good indication that I need to be paying close attention. And so I’ve been mulling all this over. Chewing on it, if you will. It makes perfect sense, but there was just still a little bit gnawing at me with it with regards to application. Sometimes I’m slow. For instance, years ago, I heard a sermon (I think it was more of a series of sermons) about a particular topic. I “got it,” but I wholeheartedly disagreed, and therefore didn’t believe it applied to me at all. Years later, I heard another sermon, and “got it” to the point of believing it applied to me. I even heard another teacher teach on it, fully agreeing, and later found myself chewing it all over when the light bulb went off. It was the same thing I had heard as a kid and completely rejected, and this time I really “got it.” The whole concept. Better late than never right? ;)

Anyway, I’m now seeing a twist to this latest thing that I hadn’t expected. Since I have already put it out there once, I’ll put it out there again. Because that’s how I roll. My husband is an alcoholic/drug addict, and it is a sickness that spreads throughout the entire family. I struggle with it probably as much as he does because I think (wrongly) that it should be easier for him to give up the drugs and alcohol than it is. I fall into that thinking because I was relatively easily delivered from my porn addiction (which was just a portion of the problem). When my drinking gets to be “problem drinking,” it’s relatively easy for me to just not drink. I can carry around percocet with me 24×7 and not take it. But then I “conveniently” forget how hard it was to quit smoking and stay quit. And how many years I would still crave a cigarette. I still got an occasional craving.

But since I forget what is difficult for me, I fall into that trap of thinking I know the solution. “Just go to AA! You know it works!” Here’s the problem. He said once that at AA all they talk about is drinking, and that just makes him want to drink. That did not make a lick of sense to me despite the fact that I can spot a lit cigarette smouldering in the street as I am driving and crave so bad it takes every bit of willpower I have not to stop and buy a pack. I think it was Pastor Benji who was talking about what we concentrate on saying that for an alcoholic that’s trying to quit drinking by saying “Don’t drink! Don’t drink!” over and over to themselves is always thinking about drinking. And so, eventually, they will drink again. And now I get it.

Therefore, all the sermons, blogs, and the book are all saying the same thing. If you are always (or mostly) thinking about not committing a particular sin (or sins), your focus is on the wrong thing. It’s not merely a battle of wills. It’s like when Jesus was walking on the water toward the boat the disciples were in, and had Peter to walk out to him. Peter was walking on the water just fine as long as he was looking at Jesus. When he looked at the wind and the waves, he began to sink. He lost his focus on who was keeping him on top of the water in the storm. If any of us could overcome our sin by sheer willpower, we wouldn’t need Jesus at any point in our lives. Bottom line, we never stop needing Jesus. So instead of looking at our temptations and trying to overcome it by white-knuckling through the weakness, we need to look to Jesus and reach out to him. We will be overcome with exhaustion eventually trying to do it ourselves, but He will never let us go.

Rather than “getting a hold of myself,” I need to let go of myself. Rather than spending my energy on trying not to do what I don’t want to do, focus on doing what I know to be good, looking to Jesus to lead me where He wants me.

Being counter-cultural

This may end up being a continuation of yesterday’s post though not in any specific manner. By that I mean I am not publicly elaborating on the incident. Or well, at least not until James and Lee talk to a couple of other folks and get to the bottom of what led up to Saturday’s incident. And to set the stage for where I am coming from on all this, let me give you some info on my background for those who don’t know. I grew up in very conservative Missionary Baptist churches who considered Southern Baptist too liberal, but not so strict as Independent Fundamental Baptists. My dad was a deacon, and both of my parents were very active in the local church with my dad generally also being active in the local association. Essentially, I fall under the category of “preacher’s kid.” I often say I’ve been a Baptist 12 years longer than I’ve been a believer even though I no longer belong to a Baptist church.

I walked away from the church when I was 19, and it took nearly 20 years for me to return. When I came back, everything changed. I wanted to read my bible. I wanted to study it. I wanted to pray, and have learned through the reading and studying and my less than eloquent prayer that praying isn’t about asking for what I want that I think will make me happy. I was the prodigal son for those 20 years away. But I was also still in the mindset I had grown up in which amounted to the prodigal’s older brother. And I fed that with talk radio and reading certain pastors and Christian writers. But I just couldn’t keep it down. It kept me hungry all the time because somehow I knew I wasn’t really growing, and was instead stressing on things that weren’t mine to stress on. This is also why I don’t blog about politics anymore. I was feeling too militant.

Now with that out of the way, maybe I can remember what I was going to write about. ;) Using “counter-cultural” is usually used by Christians to other Christians to live differently than the world because we should not look and/or sound like non-believers. We are to be salt and light among the world to point to world to Jesus. And so we have our own culture, but if we aren’t careful we make our own culture a little-g god of its own. We forget that our holiness comes from the finished work of Jesus Christ alone and start acting like we are able to behave good enough to be worthy of grace. Once we do that, then we ourselves become the judge and determine who is worthy to belong among us by imposing a “conservative” set of rules that are meant to show 1) that we ourselves are spiritually mature and 2) to impose a faux spiritual maturity on spiritual babies who will either learn how to pretend or will eventually go away because they are made to feel so uncomfortable by being unable to live up to those who have deemed themselves spiritually mature enough to be the judge.

This is how many churches end up bearing more of a resemblance to a country club than a gathering of followers of Jesus. Instead of reaching out and embracing the lost, we end up reaching out to fill our pews with people who either already look and act like us or who are willing to pretend in order to fit into the church culture. Instead of making disciples, we are making cliques. Then when someone dares to buck against the church culture we unbiblically run them off (often in secret or known only among our little gossip cliques), or when someone gets fed up and leaves on their own (whether because of the gossip and backbiting/slander or not), they are shunned and treated as enemies. And then we wonder why our churches are in decline and/or outright dying and why we aren’t growing. It really isn’t rocket science.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:19-23, ESV)

There is quite a contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Country-clubbing your church isn’t fruit of the Spirit. Constantly telling the single mother that she is living in sin and then gossiping about her is not a fruit of the Spirit. Having an angry outburst at a former member who has been picking up food for your food bank every other Wednesday for the last 5 years even AFTER leaving your church because he dared to pick up a bag of food for his son is not displaying the fruit of the Spirit. This is why we need people in the church being counter culture to the church culture so that the church can be salt and light instead of just another one of the world’s exclusive clubs that treats the Word of God as merely a rulebook.

Full speed ahead

I had big plans and topics for this week. But things aren’t working out like I had planned. I’m in class for a couple of weeks so my mind is more occupied than normal with that. Last night was my scheduled counseling, so it was already late when I got home, and eating and going to bed were about all that happened. Tonight I plan to go to Al-Anon, but that’s going to depend upon how I feel when I get home. Plus, I have a basket full of laundry from Saturday that needs to be put away which also means I have some pants and tops that need to either be thrown back in the dryer or actually ironed.

Now, I have a post sitting in my drafts folder that kind of sums up why I don’t believe in coincidences. However, I’ve never really liked how it sounds because since it primarily involves me, I am afraid it seems self-aggrandizing. This weekend there was an incident with Lee that I won’t get into the details of because I have gossiped that enough even though I am still pretty pissed off about what happened to him. Anyway, James and I were informed of the incident that evening when we got to Lee & Rachel’s. Through the course of all of this, James and I convinced Lee & Rachel to come to church with us at Newhope church. We normally go to the afternoon service, and they were all for that. Since I played with the worship team that day, I was there for all 3 services, and therefore got to hear Pastor Nate’s sermon 3 times.

I’m going back up a little at this point because I just realized it is relevant. The incident occurred where we (both my husband and I and Lee & Rachel) used to go to church, and only involved one person there. It actually probably involves 2, but the other one is purely speculative based on information I shouldn’t know, but do because it indirectly impacted me. Anyway, I dumped part of my knowledge as I finally had the evidence of who was at the root of most of the trouble-making and connected a bunch of dots. And I was then told about another lady who also used to attend and why she finally quit going there. That crap pissed me all off too, because it’s so blatantly unbiblical, self-righteous, and downright mean and just plain evil.

So, there we all sat during the 3rd service, and Pastor Nate said, “If other churches don’t want you, we do.” That may not be the exact quote, but it’s the exact meaning. And that was the only time in all 3 services I heard him say that, which just happened to be the one service that Lee & Rachel came to…their first time there. And after what had happened the day before. Coincidence? I don’t think so.

Now, for the friends I have at the old church who read my blog, I am not making a sweeping indictment of the entire church. Almost everyone there embodies how a follower of Jesus Christ should walk and conduct themselves. Also, I want to state for the record that I love each and every member of that church. But there are some destructive actions that have been made for at least 4 years that will have to be addressed sooner or later if that church is ever going to grow. And that means that someone is going to have to stand up to the bullies in truth and love.

As obedient children, do not be conformed to the passions of your former ignorance, but as he who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, since it is written, “You shall be holy, for I am holy.” (1 Peter 1:14-16, ESV)

Demons are real

I started writing this post back in March, and then abandoned it to the drafts hole. As I write this “intro,” I am still teetering on the fence on whether to finish it and post it.

I have spent a week debating whether or not to write about what happened to me last week. For various reasons. Good, bad, or whatever. ;) I did tell a couple of people about it, so I didn’t hide it and/or pretend it didn’t happen. I mean, not that I could pretend it didn’t happen because I had a rough few days over it.

I had a demonic encounter. And I brought it on myself.

26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and give no opportunity to the devil. (Ephesians 4:26-27, ESV)

I gave opportunity to the devil. And it was over something that didn’t directly involve me, and was something that I thought I had let go, but when I was struck, I knew immediately that 1) I had just “physically” been struck though I could not see what hit me, and 2) that I had dwelled too many times for too long on a particular event. That scared the crap out of me. Not the attack, but the fact that I invited it. Then I spent the next couple of days fighting off an onslaught of angry thoughts about various other events where I should have spoken up and pointed out how things that were said and/or done were both unbiblical and unloving. But I remained silent in fear of confrontation. Mainly. Because I have a strong fight or flight response to confrontation, and flight is default. Part of it is that I know deep down whatever pisses me off the most, is more often than not something that I struggle with. Also, I have been known to act/speak without thinking through the whole situation and ended up at least as wrong as whatever I got hacked off about.

But anyway, as I came out of this encounter, I faced several things about myself that were exposed because of it.

    Self-righteous arrogance pisses me off because I am so self-righteous and arrogant.

    Gossip and backbiting piss me off because I have done and find that I still do it myself so often.

    Controlling busybodies piss me off because I am such a control freak.

    Dismissive know-it-alls piss me off because I have long been a dismissive know-it-all.

    Elitists piss me off because I am one too.

So as I envisioned my anger as righteous anger such as Jesus had when he drove the money changers out of the temple, it seems as though I have a lot more in common with the money changers. I love to be right. And I love to argue, except that I hate to argue because I suck at it. I realize the complete contradiction that statement is.

All that said, and everything offset in the blockquote is from March, this hasn’t been an isolated incident. That was just the first one that happened where I recognized what was happening. I had suspicions that there was demonic activity going on around me, and prayed for discernment. I still continue to pray for ongoing discernment to know the truth about my own ongoing struggles to know which are internal and which are external. In other words, what is coming from the old me, and what is demonic influence/oppression.

Now at this point, I still haven’t seen a demon while awake/conscious that I am completely sure was a demon. I did see something run through the living room earlier this year that I thought at first was KitKat until I looked again and couldn’t find her in the living room (and she can’t move silently that fast anyway), and then asked Jamie if KitKat was in her (locked) room. Which she was. So it wasn’t KitKat. Too small and dark to be Gizmo. So I erred on the side of caution and rebuked it.

I have had dreams (nightmares) over the years where there was a presence trying to get me that I could feel, but never see. These dreams are always different from the nightmares of murderers, rapes, nuclear detonation, snakes, spiders, car wrecks, falling, tornados, etc. In the last couple of years, I had one of the “presence” dreams only I saw it coming at me, and knew exactly what it was waking up as I cried out to Jesus. I have since heard people describe demons they have seen, and it was exactly what was in my dream.

Why am I sharing this? I think there are a lot of Christians who are completely ignorant as to what spiritual warfare is about because they don’t truly believe demonic activity can have any contact with them. That said, I do not believe that a believer in Christ, sealed with the Holy Spirit can be possessed by demons. But there is no scriptural basis for the teaching and belief that demons can’t do anything to you once you are saved. In fact, I would say the Bible teaches just the opposite. They can touch us and they can afflict us and they will do it because the enemy “comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” He already has the lost, and he has already lost. But what better way to keep unbelievers in darkness than to damage the Light because as believers we are the light of Jesus here on earth.

So don’t believe you can’t be touched or influenced because you are still at war, and the enemy is real.

Ephesians 6:11-18 English Standard Version (ESV)

11 Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the schemes of the devil. 12 For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. 13 Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand firm. 14 Stand therefore, having fastened on the belt of truth, and having put on the breastplate of righteousness, 15 and, as shoes for your feet, having put on the readiness given by the gospel of peace. 16 In all circumstances take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming darts of the evil one; 17 and take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God, 18 praying at all times in the Spirit, with all prayer and supplication. To that end keep alert with all perseverance, making supplication for all the saints,

Battling “hunger”

I’m sticking to the schedule again. 3 days in a row! :shock:

Molly blames Petra for turning me into a health food nut (for lack of a better term), but really, Dr. Garlick takes the bulk of the blame. Petra just reinforced what he has been telling me for years. Not that I trust her over an M.D., but I see and talk to her a lot more than Dr. Garlick. I don’t consistently heed her advice either. But she is pretty consistently right which is why when she looks me in the eye and tells me “You need to stop _____,” I tend to do it. Especially when she points out the glaring why. But I digress.

Anywho, I mentioned in a post a couple of days (or weeks) ago that my lax eating led to my constant “hunger.” I quote hunger because I am by no means really hungry. After reading Eat to Live and making an effort to eat that way (which was why I twice attempted to eat vegan), I learned the difference between how my body tells me I’m really hungry and when my body just wants to eat something. When I eat food that contains no msg or any artificial flavoring, I don’t have a problem with the stomach growling food craving. The craving is almost always for bread/pasta, cheese, or sugar. When I eat foods that haven’t been artificially flavored, I don’t feel the need to eat as much, and don’t get the overwhelming cravings for high-carb, low-nutrition comfort food.

Yeah, so above where I digressed, now I will get back to where I started to prematurely go. Petra called me out for comfort eating and drinking. Starting with “You need to stop drinking.” She didn’t say it all harsh, but I had been saying it harshly to myself. And she’s right. I was seeking comfort in alcohol and food instead of Jesus just like she said. I think it may go deeper than that, and that I have elevated comfort itself (or my ideal of it) as a god. This is why I have to abandon my old coping mechanisms because all they ever did was mask and deny the real problem(s) which in turn never got addressed.

All this said, I am turning back to healthier eating by eliminating the artificial flavorings and colors. And definitely the MSG. I know I need to eliminate the artificial preservatives as well, but while not eliminating totally, I am keeping those minimal. And no more Pumpkin Spice Lattes from Starbucks. :sigh:

Facing Fear

I had kind of a hard time going to sleep last night. I didn’t really have any one thing weighing heavy on my mind keeping me awake, but I just had an overall sense of restlessness. It may just have been a result of getting massively glutened over the weekend. I refuse to accept that it might have been the pumpkin spice and rather choose to place the blame solely on the spiced rum. I’ve been drinking pumpkin spice lattes for the past two years after going gluten free with no effect. This was the first time in the last two years since going gluten free that I drank spiced rum. But I digress.

Like I said, I had trouble falling asleep. So I took the opportunity to just spend the sleepless time in prayer. During the course of this I came to the point of really confessing how much I have let fear rule my life since, well, since I can remember. This is a HUGE obstacle. I have know it for a while, at least for the last 3-5 years. But denial ain’t just a river in Egypt. ;) So there I lay admitting and confessing all the fear, and the continued fear of taking that next step of surrender. So, yeah, I would also rather blame it all on the glutening than admit/accept that I have to stop acting/not acting out of fear.

I just don’t really know what that’s going to mean. What I mean by that is it is a great unknown to me which prevents me from formulating plans/strategies/coping mechanisms. As if I can really rely on my old coping mechanisms any more anyway. They served their purpose for a single purpose, and have generally miserably failed outside of that one purpose. But the one purpose it served spilled out into and onto every single relationship I’ve had whether family or friends or co-workers or total strangers. That is deliberately vague. For now.