Friday, April 27, 2012

If You're Angry and You Know It

Yesterday was a rough day. Ask Harry. I yelled at him for hovering around my feet as I went in and out of the sliding door to the deck in order to grill the chicken for dinner. Of course he was hovering--he's a dog, and loves grilled meat. Any kind of meat, really. Heck, he'll even munch on paper and tissues out of the garbage, if we don't empty the wastepaper cans right away.

I don't normally yell at him. Then again, Safety Bill doesn't normally snap at me when he comes home from work. He's normally very slow to get angry and long on the patience and love. And then our daughter was acting like a belligerent teenager yesterday, and got her feathers easily ruffled when normally she's very mature and sweet with me. She's 17, and we still haven't hit a stage where I wish she would go off to college and mature.  I don't want her to ever leave home. But yesterday I could actually envision it.Yesterday I wanted everyone to leave home, the dog included, and leave me alone.

Pressure. Frustration. Disappointment. Anger.Oh, I felt all these things yesterday. There was a lot going on under the surface too. Everyone is dealing with challenges and decisions to make. Each one of us is facing important decisions that have to be made. And we've all been praying. A lot, really. We've all been seeking God, seeking His will, trying to step out in faith, trying please Him with our actions of faith.

But remember, if you're stepping out in faith, then you're stepping out of your comfort zone. And there's only so long that you can deal with being out of your comfort zone before you realize you are, and you freak out a bit. Sometimes we've been trying so hard to please God, and going that extra mile, and then we hit a wall--it's a wall that we know God could have easily removed for us. We feel almost slighted by God. It's like we're a child that gets up early to surprise their parent by cleaning up the kitchen, and the parent walks out into the sparkling clean kitchen and....merely nods. Doesn't say a word. Oh, it's a pleasant nod of acknowledgement, but we were expecting so much more than that!

Well, I'm that child. And I felt close to a throwing a tantrum yesterday. I was frustrated. Bewildered, a bit.
 How much more could I show God that I was trying to change and grow in Him? I felt dejected. Angry, really. I didn't want to be angry with God. It's not a good feeling. Most people aren't even sure that you can be angry with God. 

But every healthy relationship includes an honest sharing of emotions and feelings and thoughts, one to the other.Actually the healthiest of relationships have a "safe zone" where each person can share their feelings without fear. With "safe" people, we can afford to let our anger out. We can risk being vulnerable. We can say, "I feel so angry with you right now."

Of course, there are healthy ways of expressing anger, and then there are dysfunctional, abusive ways of dealing with anger. Let's be clear on that. Let your anger out--but don't shoot it out. Don't shoot it out like an arrow with a poisonous tip!

"BE ANGRY, AND yet DO NOT SIN; do not let the sun go down on your anger," Ephesians 4: 26 tells us.
Would somebody care to explain how that's done, I always used to think the minute I'd read that verse. Because I don't know about you, but I don't know many people who know how to be angry and yet not sin. Getting angry, and not sinning, is like getting on and staying on a balancing beam that's a 1/4" wide-- would you know how to stay on perfectly and not fall off??

I really don't think, though, that God would tell us something that's impossible to do. I wonder if we've misunderstood what the sin is, in anger, and what's acceptable, when angry.

Anger builds up the more we've felt slighted, frustrated, misused, ignored, hurt.....The point is, that Anger builds up. And maybe we shouldn't let it. Maybe we should learn to quickly acknowledge the first sign of it and admit it, right away. Of course some of us are more prone to getting angry at the first sign of anything, and some of us have to be prodded to express our feelings. You know which one you are.

Here's the GOOD NEWS: God is the very first person you can safely go to, when angry. In fact, He is the best one to go to when angry so that your anger doesn't grow volcanic and explosive and out of control. Because, you see, you can tell God what you're feeling and you can talk it out with Him. Even if HE is the One you feel angry with, tell Him what you're feeling.

But here's a warning that you need to be aware of when you feel angry with Him: Don't curse God, or accuse God, when you're angry. Just tell Him how the situation looks to you, how it feels to you--don't malign Him, though, and attribute evil motive to Him. Be very careful with what you indirectly are saying.

That's what Job understood. That's how Job prevailed through one of the worst trials a person can go through. Job experienced an unexpected series of losses, when he'd been living right with God, and he didn't understand why. In fact, Job had been going out of his way to show God that he respected His ways. He even made sacrifices to God on behalf of his partying children who apparently didn't worry about living right with God like their father, Job, did.

And when faced with unexpected, horrific tragedy that Job didn't see coming, he still refused to accuse God of evil motive. "In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing."(Job 1:22)

Oh, Job was hurting! He was frustrated and angry. He was in shock, almost, astounded at what God had apparently allowed, or caused, to happen to him. You see he didn't know what God had in mind or why this had happened but he knew one thing, for sure: that though it looked like God was out to kill him, Job would still trust God's motive and plan for him.(Job 13:15)

Can you do that? You can if you have really come to know God, know His heart, know what He was willing to do in order that you could be made right with Him. You see, if you truly understand that God loves you with a sacrificial love, a merciful love, a love that says "Come unto Me all ye that labor and I will give you rest," then you would never accuse God, or curse Him, or charge Him with wrong doing.

Instead, you would say,

"God, I don't understand!"
"Lord, it feels like you're ignoring my prayers"
"God, I feel so angry!"
"Lord, it looks like You are not with me!"
                              and God would say, "I can see why you say that. Tell me more. Let's talk about it."

We will not always get a Birdseye view of what's going on, or why God is allowing something in our life. We will not always get a clear answer from Him, even after hours of tears and prayer and journaling and petitioning and sharing of our feelings. What will we get is the knowledge that He hears us--and cares. "I love the LORD because he hears my voice, my pleas for mercy," the psalmist writes. He bends down, and listens to us. He's willing to hear your heart. He wants to answer you. And He is... answering you.

Job kept his trust in the Lord, even though it looked like he had no reason to. It almost looked like God was out to get Job, that's how bad the situation was. Why trust someone who's out to hurt you? Can you trust someone who doesn't have your wholeness and well-being in mind? Exactly.

You see, the reason why Job did trust God is that he leaned on something more than circumstantial evidence: he knew the motive of God's heart. He knew the God of Covenantal Promise, the God who would send a Savior to earth that we might have life, and have it more abundantly. That's God's motive.That's His heart. That's why He's trustworthy. That, and so much more. He's the number One most Trustworthy Being I know.

Now go back to your anger. Wait, you're not feeling so angry and frustrated? Yeah, me neither. Do you now have a bit of quiet hope that your situation is not shrouded in retributive punishment--but in grace? Do you see, now, how God desires to turn your situation around, to turn your mourning into dancing? To turn your anger and frustration into chortles of delighted laughter at how big He is, how much He loves you, and how NOTHING will ever stop Him from being the God of the Universe, your Heavenly Father, the One who truly cares...for you.

Monday, April 16, 2012

The Real Thing

Peace to you all!

I feel like a hippie from the sixties, when I say that. But they didn't have a monopoly on the concept of peace, nor a perfect understanding of it. I refuse to let it be an expression pertaining to only them.

Jesus said, "I am leaving you at peace. I am giving you my own peace. I am not giving it to you as the world gives. So don't let your hearts be troubled, and don't be afraid." (John 14:27)

If you get a moment's peace from your kids' fighting and bickering, it might really be just a moment. If your marriage enjoys some peace, it might be because there have been no "issues" that have recently arisen. And if the world experiences a ceasefire in some region of some country, the fighting will cease for a season, but just for a season.

There is no lasting peace in this world. There is no lasting peace created by the world. There's only One person who not only holds continual peace for you, but who IS actual Peace, Himself. But if you feel frustrated that you haven't tapped into His peace, remember: He doesn't give it the way the world gives it.

If Jesus left you with peace, HE LEFT YOU WITH PEACE. Don't let anyone take it away from you. He gave you peace of heart and mind. It is flavored and imbued with His essence. Christ was never alarmed or fretful when He walked this earth. He was presented with many opportunities and reasons to be anxious or upset, but He did not give in to anxiety or agitation. So if He says He gave you peace, this is a quality Peace He has given you! This is an abiding powerful peace that you can rest upon and lean on and cling to and soak in!

It's YOURS-- He gave it to you. And He hasn't changed His mind. It's still yours. You see, the world and your kids and your daily problems will give you a moment's peace or a bit of peace now and then, but they can't give you lasting peace. They really can't even GIVE you peace, period, because they did not create the concept of peace nor are they able to hand you the actual substance of peace.

HE IS OUR PEACE, the Bible tells us. If I want God's continual presence in my life, then I should also expect the manifestation of peace. I can walk in peace even in unsettling circumstances. I can lay hold of this peace with my mind set on receiving what has already been given to me.

I will not be anxious or troubled. Say that again. I will not fear. I will not be anxious or troubled. I HAVE HIS PEACE.

"Great peace have they who love your law, and nothing can make them stumble," Psalm 119:165 tells us. What kind of peace have you been given? Great peace. Abundant peace. You're in good standing. You won't fall or stumble about. You are not orphaned or without resources. You are not in hot water! If you have Peace, you have the promise of His love, His favor.

You've got the peace that passes understanding, which means that people won't be able to figure out why you're so relaxed, so expectant of good, so capable of not only making it through the day, but making it through the day like the day was made just for you.

This is the day the Lord has made, and yes, we can be glad in it-- because we've got peace like a river. I know the source of the river. But as to where my peace goes, that remains to be seen.

You see, I'm taking it with me, wherever I go.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Every Step I Take

I thought I'd start out this post with some simple powerful truths that you need to know for today:

Today is already a very good day.

You've got some choices to make today, but I know you will choose well; so I'll say "good job!" already.

You've got God's favor working on your behalf, even if you can't see it; so just know that you've got way more going for you, than against you.

Lately I've been realizing that I know more than I think I do--but that isn't even the victory. It's not what you know that matters so much as what you do with what you know. Jesus tells us in Matthew 7:24 that successful, healthy people are those who put into practice the good things that they know. There's knowing something, and then there's doing something with what you know. But take heart, you are doing this already. God has given you a head start...when he designed your brain.

I've heard some people say that they've never gotten a lucky break. And I know some people who feel like God has failed them when they asked for His help. They didn't feel like they got specific direction from God. I've had times, myself, when I feel like God has let me loose in a fog and yet told me to follow Him. "Oh, this is just ducky," I've muttered to myself as I go bumbling about. There have been times when it didn't feel like my steps were at all ordered by God, much less directed by Him.

But let me share with you something about how God is leading you right now (because He IS leading you). He designed you, designed your brain, to aid you in the actual taking of every step. He designed you so that you will not fall. He thought of the concept of equilibrium and balance. Even if you're in a wheelchair, God wants you to know you can stand in Him. Even if you're lying down, beseiged in exhaustion or grief, God wants you to know you can be upright in Him. He designed us that that we can take actual physical steps of progress-- and that's not even the beginning of tapping into His storehouse of wisdom and insight and revelation.

Ruel Hinaloc writes in The Brain More Than a Computer about how our brain helps us take steps of progress. "Although extremely fast, computers handle only one piece of information at a time, whereas the human nervous system processes millions of pieces of information simultaneously. For example, during a stroll in the springtime, you can enjoy the beautiful scenery, listen to the song of birds, and smell the flowers. All these pleasant sensations are transmitted simultaneously to your brain. At the same time, streams of information flow from the sense receptors in your limbs, informing your brain of the moment-to-moment position of each leg and the state of each muscle. Obstacles in the footpath ahead are noticed by your eyes. On the basis of all this information, your brain ensures that each step is taken smoothly." (italics mine)

If God cared enough to make a brain that ensures your steps will be smooth and steady, how much more will He give you the emotional and spiritual assistance to make those physical steps endued with power when they become steps of faith as well!

You've got a lot going for you. You've got an incredible brain, designed by God, to aid you in taking steps forward. And then add to that ALL of heaven's resources at your disposal. Just trust God for that next step that seems so hard for you. It's not hard. It just seems hard.

When you think of it, you were designed for progress. You were designed for forward movement and you were designed to stay upright as you make progress.

So, repeat after me:

It's a good day, already. (Psalm 118:24)

I know how to choose wisely, and I will do so. (Phil. 2:13)

There is more going on for me than against me. (Rom 8:31)

There now. You've already made progress. Now take another step. And then another.

I'll look for you at the next pit stop, further on down the road.