Thursday, March 26, 2015

Can These Emotions Be Okay?

Hey Friend,

I must start this post by asking for your grace and mercy.  For the past week - ten days, Zoe, my senior pup, has been very ill.  I've been up with her most nights.  I've also had some health problems of my own and am quite concerned and worried about the situation in Pakistan.  My brain has been scattered and I imagine my words will be too, but if you can bear with me, maybe together we can gain some insight on this topic.

I know it was not coincidence that the night before I was to write about the topic of emotions, I had a knock-down-drag-out argument with my adult daughter.  I won't bore you with the gory details, but unfortunately I unleashed unresolved anger and resentment toward my ex-husband upon my daughter.  In her words and actions toward me, she was being (in my mind) just like him...thoughtless, disrespectful, unappreciative, callous and rude.  The venomous tongue lashing I unleashed was totally over the top and uncalled for. 

We'll talk more about this, but anger in and of itself is not "bad".  It is a valid emotion, but when left unchecked and unresolved, it can leave destruction in its path. It's what we do with the anger that matters.  I know I blew it!!

A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.  (Proverbs 29:11)

As believers we are filled with the Holy Spirit, but we are also filled, to a degree, with our own sinful spirit.

But the fruit of the Spirit (Holy Spirit) is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)

Sadly, I was the fool who gave rise to my own sinful spirit (a fool gives rise to his spirit). I did not run my wrath through the filter of scripture and discern what is good and acceptable in God's sight.  What I let fly was foul, selfish, fool- fruit instead of the fragrant fruit of the Holy Spirit...BIG difference. I have since apologized and asked for forgiveness...

Before, however, we go condemning all emotions as bad or destructive...let's give this some thought.  I have always been an "emotional" person.  That's not to say I have more emotions than any one else, I just tend to let my emotions show more. Early on it was engrained in me to not "wear my emotions on my sleeve."  I was raised in a family of stoics.  Later on in life I was directed to books that talked about "managing" or "controlling" your emotions like they were in essence not okay, but bad. 

When God created each of us, He created us in His own image.  He breathed His very Spirit into us.

I believe that if we are made in God's image, then God must have emotions too.  One day I will know fully...

I believe that our emotions were originally intended to help us enjoy, serve, and relate to God.  They give us insights about the Nature of God.  They reveal our character and the nature of our relationship with God as we struggle to live in a broken world.  Example:  Sadness and anger are appropriate emotions to feel as we live in a world full of man's inhumanity to man.  I believe that God weeps when genocide is repeated decade after decade, generation after generation.

God created perfect man with perfect and valid's when they got mixed with sin (that man brought upon himself) that they gained the potential of turning ugly through our actions. 

Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there is a time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn and a time to dance.

Jesus - fully God and fully man - was sad and joyous and angry.   In Matthew, Jesus experienced righteous anger when He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple.  He shared in joy at the wedding feast when, with His first miracle, He turned water into wine.  In the Garden of Gethsemane (before His arrest), Jesus didn't just shed a few tears.  No, with loud cries of prayer and supplication He shed tears of fear, sadness, and anguish at His Father's feet.  Facing an excruciating death on the cross, I can only imagine the emotions He must have been feeling??!!

Look up how many times Jesus wept...He let his feelings be known...

John 11:35:  Jesus wept.
Luke 19:41:  And when he (Jesus) drew near and saw the city, he wept over it.

Jesus claimed that if you have seen Him, then you have seen the Father.  Looking at Jesus and the depth of emotion that He poured out over the people He loved...the pious and the prostitutes, I believe we get a glimpse into the very soul of God.

Back to my anger issue...Ephesians 4:26 says, "Be angry and do not sin; don't let the sun go down on your anger.

To me, that says, go ahead and feel angry AND do not sin.  This tells me, I can be angry and still NOT sin at the same time.  Some of my anger may have been justified, but my response, my actions certainly were not.

So what's a person to do?

I like this quote by Reneau Peurifoy: "Yielding to the Holy Spirit transforms your inner being into what God intended it to be.  As this occurs, your emotions, desires and thoughts are transformed so they function more closely to what God intends."

Lord, thank you for creating me in Your image.  Enable me to let go of my sinful spirit and yield to Your Holy Spirit so that my emotions, desires, and thoughts are transformed by Your love to be what you intended. Help me to accept my God-given emotions AND to not sin at the same time.  Thank you for your grace and forgiveness when I slip up.  In Jesus' name.  Amen 

Be blessed...

ps. Update on Redeemer Christian School:  Reports out of Pakistan say that after the two tandem suicide bombing attacks on churches by Taliban forces, an angry mob of hostile Christians attacked and killed two supposed accomplices to the bombers.  (This is what happens when sin is attached to emotion).  Now Christians (many of whom were not affiliated with the attack in any way) are being rounded up, arrested and sentenced to long jail terms or worse.  Tensions are VERY high right now.  Please pray: for the safety of RCS staff and their families as well as the children.  May God provide a hedge of protection around them and protect the innocent!!  Now, more than ever, we could use your prayers and financial support.  Thank you.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

In The Face Of Evil

Hey Friend,

Ever since Sunday, when I received news of the two tandem suicide bombing attacks upon two churches 650 yards apart in Lahore, Pakistan, I could feel my heart in my stomach.  For several days I was rocked with feelings and emotions I didn't know I could have. 

Why?  Many in the world read the news with disdain or perhaps casual indifference.  It was another attack by the Taliban or ISIS in a part of the world that was halfway around the globe.  It wasn't on US soil or worse yet, in our neighborhood.  No, we were safe and busy filling in our brackets for March Madness.

So why did I find myself sobbing?  Incapacitated even?  Because I know people that lived in the neighborhood within a five minute walk to both of those churches.  I know names and faces and smiles and wide-eyed wonder that inhabits bodies that walk those streets.  I even know someone that was in one of the churches when the bomb detonated and blew body parts into the air.  I saw pictures of the aftermath.  To me, this was real...these were real people...God's children.

I challenge you...if I asked you to point to Pakistan or (most recently) Tunisia on the map, could you?

If not...why not?

In the Bible, Matthew 28:16-20 is called "The Great Commission".  In it Jesus is talking to his disciples -his closest friends and followers- and tells them in verse 19:

"Therefore go and make disciples of all nations..."

What exactly is a disciple?  Easton's Bible Dictionary says:

A disciple of Christ is one who believes his (Jesus') doctrine, rests on his sacrifice, imbibes his spirit, and imitates his example.

If we call ourselves believers, then we should be disciples...

So how can we make disciples of all nations if we don't know where, and more importantly who, they are?  As a writer and blogger, I have certainly been convicted of my lack of knowledge on several occasions.  My blog statistics are able to tell me where - what part of the globe - my readers are tuning in from.  Thanks to internet and mass media, I have readers all across the globe (this I am continually amazed by).  I admit I have Countries and Republics show up under "Audience" that I could not tell you exactly where they are on a map.  Shame on me!!  Incentive to learn accomplished.

The good news of this is that The Good News is reaching Nations around the globe and reaching them with amazing speed.

I am but one tiny blogger in a sea of thousands of bloggers reaching out to the world through cyberspace. What I would like to tell the world is that we care...that we really do care. 

It's almost Easter, so crosses will be appearing everywhere.  Stand and gaze at one.  Follow the northern most point of the cross, which if followed, would extend to Heaven.  Follow the eastern and western points and imagine them extending out to others (like outstretched arms) around the globe...encircling people of all colors and nationalities with their love.  Finally, follow the southern most point that descends down to earth and even further to the depths of hell, where ultimately Christ will be victorious over sin, and evil, and death. 

What amazing news...that Jesus will triumph over sin and death.  He will fly in the very face of evil and defeat it...forever!

Isn't this news worth sharing?

If you think that the Good News of the Bible is worth sharing, would you join me in doing so?  Together, let's not let these horrific tragedies go un-met.  Let's not turn an indifferent eye to these atrocities. 

In honor and memory of those who have died around the globe, let's fly in the face of evil and tell the Nations of the Good News of the Bible.

How?:  Let's place Bibles in the hands of the innocent children who live and learn in the epicenter of evil.  Darkness may be at their doorstep, but we can put light into their hands.

This Easter season of Hope, will you join me at my "Missions" tab and donate enough to put a Bible or several Bibles in the hands of children who are hungry for words of hope??  I pray that you will...

Lord, help us to be ambassadors of hope to Nations around the globe.  Help me to not turn a blind eye toward those who need to read and hear your word.  Enable me to take my role as a disciple seriously so that all the world might know.  Be with those who, in the aftermath of attacks, need your presence, your healing, and your love.
In Jesus' name,  Amen.

Be blessed...

Thursday, March 12, 2015

You Can Never Run Out Of Grace

Hey Friend,
So..."Grace" is my watchword for 2015.  This post is obviously about grace.  But, how do you write about grace when you are, to put it bluntly, really ticked off?
I had waited months to get in with a specialist regarding perpetual nerve pain in my foot.  I was ready to head out the door to the appointment when the pest control company called back about scheduling a follow up visit in my ongoing war with the ants in my kitchen.  While on that call, the doctor's office called to cancel the appointment that I was heading out the door to go to.
What?  They were cancelling right now?  Apparently the doctor had a "family emergency".  I'm embarrassed  to admit it, but any trace of grace for him and his situation immediately blew right out the window.  All I could think about was me and my pain at the moment.  After multiple calls back and forth with his office, then waiting on hold listening to how great their practice was for eighteen minutes on speakerphone, I finally got a live person who told me two weeks out was the best they could do.  Click.
To say that I was not a happy camper would be an understatement.  My uber-conscience urged me to utter a half-hearted prayer for his family emergency.  Determined not to let this ruin my day, I opted for plan B.  I would work on this blog post.  With steam still coming out my ears, I prayed.  I tried to humble my agitated heart before God.  I typed the title and I sat staring at my laptop....
Nothing...I would have had a better chance of turning water into wine than I was going to have writing this post.  Just then my phone pinged.  It was my good friend and neighbor asking me if I could spare some time to help her assemble and stuff wedding invitations for her daughter who was already distraught that they were going out so late.  "Sure", I texted back, "be right over."
How ironic, that in the middle of my ugliness, God was calling on me to measure out - or to give grace.
God can be uncanny with His timing.  He knew that I couldn't write about grace until I had been called to freely give it. 
And, we can't give grace unless we have truly and fully received grace.
By fully I mean...fill 'er up!  You wouldn't walk into a restaurant, pay for a full glass of soda, and then tell the waitress to only fill it half full because that's all you deserved.  Nor, would you expect the waitress to grudgingly fill your glass to the top.  No, you would drink that full glass and joyfully wait on free refills. 
If this analogy was truly reflective of God's grace, we would not be the ones paying for the glass of soda...Jesus would have already paid the price for that full glass of soda (grace).
Somehow we get the mistaken idea that if we keep messing up we will, at some point, run out of, or use up our allotment of grace.
The exact opposite is true.  If you are a believer you can NEVER run out of God's grace.
You can't exhaust Him.
You can't disappoint Him.
You can't try His patience to a breaking point.
You just can't.  That is what is so truly amazing about God's grace.
Word analysis time (bear with me, I was an English major).
Grace = generous act of God- making us acceptable in His sight through Christ's death.
Grace or (charis) in the Greek form means different things in different contexts.  Grace can mean:  favor, goodwill, blessings freely given (not by any claim or merit), rejoicing, gratitude, thankfulness, kindness, mercy, acceptance, power.
Grace is a divine blessing given to us by the in-working of the Holy Spirit.
Grace is a blessing freely given. It is NOT based on works or earning it.
In fact Christianity is the only religion based on grace.  All other religions are based on works. 
Renee Swope, author of "A Confident Heart" said in her book that she surveyed over 1,000 women and discovered that our past failures and fear of failing in the future are the two most common causes of insecurity and self doubt. 
What a relief, then, to know that no matter what I do or how badly I mess up, God's grace extends further.  I can't do it on my own, but in His power I can pick myself up and begin again.  What freedom!!
My grace is sufficient for you; for my power is made perfect in weakness.  (2 Corinthians 12:9)
"We do what we can and then we rest in grace."  (Holley Gerth)

"If grace is an ocean, we're all sinking."  (worship song by J. McMillan)

Obviously we don't go on purposefully sinning so that our grace may increase. 

But, we go on living freely knowing that God's grace has set us free.

Lord, help me to know that because of Your grace, my guilt is forgiven - washed clean.  Strengthen my heart to know that no matter what, I can never run out of Your grace.  When I want to give You my "works" enable me to give You my thanks instead.  Let me feel Your waterfall of never ending grace fall down on me and give me peace.  In Jesus' precious name, Amen.

ps. Please leave a comment below or contact me to let me know how I can pray for you...

Please pray for Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan.  The Director, Anosh, has not been well and needs prayer for healing...especially since Easter is approaching.  For Easter we are trying to raise funds so that every child at the school can have his/her own Bible in their language.  To do so, donations in the next couple weeks are critical.  If you would like to place a Bible in a child's hands, please go to my "Missions" tab and donate. Thank you! 

**This post dedicated to my friends who have lavished much grace upon me in my times of weakness.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Need A Breath Of Fresh Air?

Hey Friend,
Have you ever felt like you are submerged under water and you are kicking and paddling furiously toward the surface?  It seems just out of reach and you wonder if you're going to make it with the air you have in your lungs.  Faster and faster you kick; panic begins to set in, and then you gloriously break through the water's surface and suck in a big breath of life-giving air?
I think we've all felt that way at the big vacuum cleaner of life has cozied up to us and sucked the life right out of us.  I have felt that way this week. Frustrations, emotions, and lack of sleep have left me craving something I need.  I need a breath of fresh air. 
Every path he guides us on is fragrant with his lovingkindness.  (Psalm 25:10)
Every path he guides me on...notice that He "guides" me.  He doesn't leave me in the wilderness alone to wander.  No, He lovingly guides me.  He doesn't just do this on some paths; no, He does this on "every" path.  Even on the rough and treacherous paths, He still guides me.
Here it comes. Every path is "fragrant".  It's not just a breath of fresh air; it's much more than that - it's beautifully fragrant.  
The only thing required of me is to simply breathe it in.
Even the paths in the dark are fragrant.  Think about the night jasmine whose delightful fragrance only comes out in the dark of night. 
 What is every path fragrant with?  His lovingkindness.  This might sound redundant, but I love the word "lovingkindness".  My spell check on my laptop wants to correct it and separate the word into two words, but in the Bible (and only in the Bible)  lovingkindness is one complete word.  Lovingkindness is also only used to describe God. interesting. 
Along every path in life, be it trial or pleasure stroll, the path is ALWAYS fragrant with His lovingkindness.
I can only read the news in the newspaper so long until I have to pick up the comics for a breath of fresh air.  I can only stay cooped up inside with all the winter snow and ice outside until I need to step out into the sunshine and feel it on my face. 
God will give us the "comics".  He will give us the "sunshine on our face".  He always brings it to us in the form of lovingkindness.  Our job is to look for it and then to breathe it in.
It may come in many forms:  Notice the intricate petals of a flower just beginning to bloom.  Listen to the laughter of your children or a group of children as they walk home from school.  Feel the warm embrace of a good friend.  Listen to the steady rhythm of your spouse's breathing as they lie next to you.  Smell how the coffee, or the cookies, or the bacon wafts its way up the stairs and tickles your nose. 
Read scripture and hang on God's every word and drink in the love found therein.
In all these ways the path is fragrant with his lovingkindness - His peace, His hope, His joy, His love.  Let it cover you, inspire you, uplift you, and surround you.  Breathe it in.
I used to live in a farming community in Pennsylvania.  One day I got stuck on a winding two lane road behind a manure truck.  Life can be like a manure truck.  I followed the road I was on until I literally had tears running down my cheeks - the stench was that bad.  Just when I thought I couldn't take another breath of this literal crap, the truck turned off the road I was on and headed down a dusty road.  I threw open the windows of the car and I gloriously breathed in the fresh sweet air. 
Every path he guides us on (even the rough, trial and frustration laden paths), are fragrant with his lovingkindness.  We may not be able to breathe it in at every point along the path, but just as "weeping may endure for the night, joy comes in the morning".  Just as we may have to wait and hold our breath, God's fragrant breath of fresh air will break through. 
Look for it, and when it comes, breathe it in.
Lord, thank you for promising to guide me along every path in life.  Thank you that amidst the stench of life, you also provide fragrant lovingkindness to give me hope.  Thank you that you come behind me and follow me with goodness and mercy all my life.  In all these things, I thank you.  In Jesus name, Amen.
Be blessed...
ps.  For Easter, we are trying to raise funds so that every child at Redeemer Christian School in Pakistan can have their own Bible in their own language.  Will you join me at my "Missions" tab to read more about this wonderful school that is bringing light into a dark world and consider an Easter donation?  Let us bring the fragrance of God's lovingkindness to these innocent ones.  Thank you.
Your thoughts, comments and prayer requests mean a great deal to me... I would love to hear from you.  Will you consider clicking below to leave a comment?