The Purpose of ‘Bad’ Things

I have recently weathered another perfect storm:  exhaustion and self-doubt met with unjust accusations, betrayal, inquisition, and ambush.  Did I mention I have weathered that storm….I came through it in one piece.

When a dear friend asked me today why these things always happen to me, I did not elaborate on my beliefs, but Jackie, I will now.  My opinion of why such things always happen to me is 1) difficult for many people to accept and 2) my opinion and I am entitled to one.

When people think about ‘bad’ things happening to good people, their concept of ‘bad’ is not my concept of ‘bad.’  Other people’s list of ‘bad’ things include things like car accidents, cancer, abandonment, birth defects, premature death, etc.  To me, ‘bad’ is being so unconnected with God that you wonder if you need to introduce yourself when you start to pray.

I will clarify my definition of ‘bad’ by defining the opposite, namely ‘good.’  ‘Good’ is unconditionally loving God.   Walk with me closely here because I am not saying that we should respond to ‘bad’ things by loving God; it’s a little more involved (and possible) than that.  When ‘bad’ things happen to me, I can often see how the ‘bad’ thing is connected to (or pointing to) something that is distracting me from God.

I will add another very controversial concept:  God lets dark forces interfere in our lives for a purpose.  Ask Job.   When the dark forces are on me like flies, that is my opportunity to once again declare to Whom I belong.

The purpose of this life is not peace, joy, success, prosperity, abundance, health, blah, blah, blah,…  And conversely, hatred, misery, failure, etc. are not ‘bad’ things.  The purpose of this life is to give us an opportunity, in the midst of battle, to locate and adhere to God.  God wants one thing: our constant awareness of Him.  The bad things that happen are God-given opportunities to perfect that.

Remember, this is my opinion and I hold it very stongly…and I can because it plays out repeatedly in my life; each time I weather this kind of storm, and prove my loyalty and faith, my bond with God becomes stronger.

In Shadrach, Meschah, and Whatshisname, I give my battle cry, “I’m with them.”

I serve God, through Jesus, with strength and conviction from the Holy Spirit and in the Name of Jesus, saved by His blood by the Grace of God.  I look to Jesus, the Holy Spirit and the very Father God to protect and save me.  But if He does not, I will not turn from God nor will I stop drawing close to Jesus and neither will I stop turning to the Holy Spirit for guidance and protection.  I will not worship anything else.  Are there any questions?

I feel I must point out that holding this belief is easy for me because, unike the rich young ruler and most other people, I don’t have much left to lose.   I’ve done this a good bit; I know the drill.  That is not to say the battle is over.  I have not died yet.  I’m sure things can get worse.   But I pray for the strength to remain steadfast and that I continue to show up when called upon to do so.

Protecting Cherished Hopes – My own teachable moment

In his book The Lifestyle of a Prophet, James W. Goll describes my own barrier to effectiveness.  Goll writes:

What will I look like if I do this?  What will others think of me?  How well will I perform?  …if we allow ourselves to be held back by the fear of rejection or the fear of authority or the opinions of others, eventually we will become people-pleasers, strangled by the anticipation of their opinions.  …Fear can paralyze us while authentic faith propels us forward.

I already know the truth of this and when I feel myself becoming self-conscious, my best response is to get out of God’s way, say what I am given to say, and move on.  (See All I Need to do is Show Up and Jesus, Keep me busy.)

But I find I have another barrier to true effectiveness…and true healing:  protecting cherished hopes.

For the past two years I have been releasing worldly attachments:  careers, possessions, reputations, dreams, aspirations, hopes, resentments, fears, illnesses,…

Last night, I wrote a letter to a person from my past.  Seems I have been holding on to a hope…or rather, I have been reluctant to give up on a lost opportunity.

When I met this person shortly after becoming a single mom, over 25 years ago, I was immediately overwhelmed by a desire to be close emotionally, physically, spiritually and so much so that I could not behave normally.  My fear of rejection was so strong that I could do nothing but create a situation that begged for it.

I have become aware, recently, that I was protecting this small cherished hope like a bar of chocolate tucked between two books in a bed side shelf…well-hidden and sweet.

But, in light of all that I have been able to shed these past two years, and in light of the clarity and strength of my connection to God that I am blessed with as a result, I felt the need to let this one go, too.

However, I am still human.  The sealed envelope that sits on the table, stamped and ready to be put in the box, contains a weak and flawed attempt to let it go.   How it is weak is how I am essentially asking if there is any similar feeling of regret on his part.  How it is flawed is in how I failed to mention to this person just what my life is all about now.  Like Peter during Jesus’ passion, I have essentially denied Who it is I follow…Who it is I serve…Who it is I love above all else and above all others.

For the most part, I am in a good place emotionally and spiritually.  From that good place, I felt the strength to get this wrapped up and done.   The writing of the letter, researching addresses, recalling events and feelings, however, opened small but unhealed wounds that have a bit of foul odor.  There is still pain.  It still hurts.  I’m still disappointed.  I still have tears to let drop.  Jesus is the only one who can hold me now.  and He does

 

The Christmas Condom

Okay, that’s a crude title…

…but no more harsh than what we say to friends and family over the holidays.  Therefore, I suggest that, as part of our morning ritual, we slip on an extra layer of skin, this one lubricated with the Holy Spirit.

Yes, I’m serious.  Despite our best efforts to rid our psyches of past traumas and wounds, people…particularly those we grew up with…have an amazing ability to push well-hidden buttons.

Shirley MacLaine once said that she had life all figured out…her life and everyone else’s lives…and then she went home for Thanksgiving.

We all have our infections…some more deadly than others…and just like practicing safe sex, we all should do the right thing and practice safe inter-actions.

And, just like with safe sex, it may not feel the same; it may not be as much fun; but that nasty barb or snide remark will infect and cause as much harm as syphilis.  (By the way, syphilis causes blindness; did you know that?  Nasty remarks that keep old wounds full of germs and puss will blind ‘loved ones’ to your virtues…and vice versa; did you know that, too?)

Remember, condoms protect both parties.  Before you press the doorbell, if you ask Jesus for the blessing of a Holy Spirit ‘condom’…and make sure it is on you, snug and secure…then you will be protected and protecting.

Happy Holidays

 

In Thanksgiving for life…

(Dictated into my cell phone on the evening of January 19, 2016)

I’m driving through Travelers Rest, watching the gas gauge because I am just about out of gas. I have about a dollar seventy five to my name and I’m making plans.

There’s a gas station at the Green River exit on 25 and I’m thinking of offering to clean the bathroom in exchange for two gallons of gas.

I’m recording this because I’m thinking about what it’s like to live like this…for the people who live like this every day of their lives, and can’t get out of the downward spiral.

All of my life I have come across people who live this way, hand to mouth. I have to admit that I have very often thought that they somehow deserved to live this way,  either because they were wasteful and stupid or because they had an entitlement mentality; by that, I mean they were so used to social programs that there was no other way to live. They didn’t seem to know how to take care of themselves.

God was I wrong. There is no dignity in this.  Yes, I have been stupid and wasteful.  But, I believe it takes more strength to hold your head up, survive this, and ask for help than it does to work a hard, paying job.

I will make it through this. I know I will. I’m having to convince my daughter that she, too, will survive this because she, too, is overdrawn and facing rent day. But I’m also having to teach her that this is a God lesson in humility. This whole scenario is destroying my pride. And that is a good thing…a God thing.

To identify with the people who live on the streets or in their cars or in 60 year old house trailers with the floors falling in… it’s a good place to be.

God, forgive me for all those times when I have felt superior to people who have nothing. Forgive me for making them feel bad by looking the other way or not smiling, for not looking them in the eyes, or not offering to help.

And for all those empty-headed idiots who say people who live on the street do so because they want to…I can’t think of a curse strong enough for them.

Well, I did it.  I stopped at the Green River exit and asked the attendant if I could clean the bathrooms for two gallons of gas.  He deferred to the manager/owner. First, she calculates how much two gallons is going to cost her, asks me where I’m going, and how many miles I get to a gallon.  She then tells me she’s already cleaned up and they close in 10 minutes, so, “no.”  I wait.  She waits back.  So I leave, with no gas.

I drove 40 to 50 miles on an empty tank, like the miracle of Hanukkah, all over again.

I’m now at my daughter’s apartment where it’s warm.  It’s 19 degrees outside and I’m thinking about the people broken down by the side of the road, or ‘sleeping’ under bridges, or in their cars, or even in shelters.  I beg God to bless them, if not in this life then in the next one.  And, please, if they sleep, may they know in their dreams that someone is sorry, very sorry, that someone cares for them even if there is nothing she can do to help, and that she loves them.

Let Them Talk

I’m all about ‘teachable moments,’ those special moments in time when we are given the opportunity to alter life.  I miss probably 95% of them so when I realize I have walked away from one of the 5% that I am aware of, I lament.

I was late in making the water bill payment and drove to the facility on Saturday morning to put the check in the night deposit box.   As I was looking around the front door for anything that might resemble a deposit box, a white SUV drove past the side of the building to a covered drive-through.  As I walked around the side of the building, I noticed that the driver of the SUV had his window down.

“Is that the night deposit box?” I asked.

“Yes, it is,” he replied.  He opened his door a bit and said, “I can’t reach it.”

I hurried into the space between us and offered, “Here, let me help.  You told me where to find it so I’ll put both of our checks in.”

“Thank you,” he said, handing me his envelope.  As I slipped both beneath the protective cover, he added,  “I’ve had a stroke and I’ve lost a lot of strength in my left arm.”

“Oh, I’m sorry…”

“…but I’m getting better,” he quickly added.

Seeing an opportunity, I prayed, “Thank you, Jesus.”

“You bet.  I’ll tell you, this stroke really saved my life.”

“Bless you, dear.”  I touched his arm; “You have a good Thanksgiving.”

“You, too.”

But I knew as soon as I turned to go that I had blown it.  That man had a story to tell and I cut him off.

 

Everyone has a story to tell.

Some stories are outrageous tales of abuse, neglect, and unbelievable mistreatment…or they start out that way.  Some stories don’t sound like stories at all, but rather as general complaints about politics, family members, illness, or the weather.  However, if given the opportunity, the complaints can morph into a sharing of the story teller’s  circumstances and experiences…often as an explanation of why the story teller thinks the way he does.

If handled properly (and if trust is built) the story teller may then be empowered to shift his position just a bit, less toward rancor and rage, and more toward patience and forgiveness…even toward a willingness to admit his own failings.  In, “What do people do, who don’t have Jesus?” I describe a day of meeting people, listening to their stories, and..in time…getting to the crux of life.

The gentleman at the water department wanted to share his story of how suffering a  stroke had saved his life.  It is probably a wonderful story; his stroke probably forced a change of life priorities or a re-connection to God.  By gifting him with the opportunity to tell his story, I could have strengthened the power of the transforming event in his life; I could have encouraged his willingness to share his story and life with more people; I could even have been blessing, myself, with wisdom from the Holy Spirit.

There are enumerable, but only positive, reasons for listening to another person’s story.  Truth be told, I would also be obeying Christ in doing so because several times a day He whispers to me, “Let her talk.”

When dark clouds are on the horizon…

Many many people are in a panic because of the outcome of the election.  I empathize and would be in a panic, too, except that over the past few years I have found my refuge.  I have needed to go there frequently because of a variety of disasters, catastrophes, and onslaughts.  If Viktor Frankl can survive Auschwitz concentration camps by going to his refuge, so can we.

I am ‘borrowing’ the following thoughts from a post I wrote several months ago…a post which probably now belongs to word press.  I am not implying that any elected official is evil.  I am addressing how I respond to situations that leave me feeling fearful and despairing.  I believe now, as then, it is a time to hunch up close to Jesus:

This morning, …I felt powerless, minuscule, and controlled.  But then I remembered, I have God…not that God is in my back pocket and that I can whip Him out at a moment’s notice and hack and slash at my enemy, but it is a similar situation as fighting evil.  I am called to do what I can to be vigilant and to protect myself and loved ones with prayer and condemnations of Satan and his minions in the name of Christ.

However, when I am feeling weak in the over-arching presence of users, manipulators, and terrifying possibilities, I am reminded of a sweet homily given at the funeral of an 18-month-old child.  The wise minister did not give the typical come-to-Jesus sermon to his captive audience; instead, he addressed our pain and confusion over why God allowed this to happen.  Try as he did to satisfy our non-understanding, the words I clearly remember were, “Now is a time to hunch up close to Jesus.”

There are forces and actions in this world that are just not understandable.  Taking on the forces of evil is less effective and more dangerous than tilting at windmills; one can get lost in the darkness and overwhelmed by it.  I’ve said it before, this is not heaven; this is the life before the afterlife.  The safest place for me to be is hunched up close to Jesus.  He has the power to control and defeat the users and manipulators; I do not.  When I try to, I weaken myself by becoming angry, fearful, anxious, and destructive.  Those attitudes open me up to being influenced by evil and I refuse to play into that.

Say what you will; I may be turning a blind eye to the users and manipulators but am I turning a blind eye to evil when I refuse to focus on it?  I don’t think so.  I am weak. I am vulnerable.  But, hunched up close to Jesus, I am as safe as I can be in this life.  When I can’t feel Him directly with His hand on my head or His arm about my shoulders, I hear His voice or see His sweet gentle smile.  If I am not aware of any of this, I read His words and focus on His promises, because I know that in His presence the evil one shrinks, cringes, and slithers away defeated.

There are, and always will be in this life, users and manipulators.  I can not defeat them.  But, God has His ways.  The Holy Spirit is not computer illiterate.  The more technology advances, the more vehicles the Holy Spirit has.  I am not afraid or in doubt as to Who will win this battle.  It is decided; it is done.  All that is left is for it to play out.  There will be casualties and there will be victories, but, again, this is not heaven.

Thanks be to Jesus…

And to God be the Glory…

People Don’t Listen…

…but that is okay because that is just how people are.  I am determined to no longer get upset when people do what people do…like jump to conclusions, make gross generalizations (that are usually wrong.), hate without cause or reason, make bad choices.  I choose to do differently but if I get upset when others do dumb stuff, then I am only making myself unhappy.  People are not going to change just because I think they would be better off if they did.

I have probably not heard much of what has been said to me about my own stupidity…but I can not be totally sure of this because I wasn’t listening at the time.

Addendum:

I think I’ll add a little recently gained wisdom to these sentiments, namely:

People Aren’t Perfect…including myself.

I do my best thinking face down in the gravel.  (I stole that quote years ago and I can’t remember from whom.)  When dusting the grit off of my cheeks last week, a loyal friend pointed out two truths to me:  1) I expect too much from people and 2) I give more than I have.

I thought I had learned point #1 a while back but I guess not, as demonstrated by the piece “What Am I Missing” and my current situation.  Point #2 has eluded me as well.  All of my life I have given to others, especially my children, more than I could afford to give…not just financially, but emotionally and physically.

These two statements are now my new mantra.  If I forget them, please remind me.