27 June 2014

Therapy for Pointless Score Keeping

 I write for therapy. It soothes my soul to put words to the gnarled thoughts and anxieties that pop around in my brain. Things get stuck for me sometimes, like a pinball that has found that perfect spot between the bumpers. Stuff pings back and forth, mostly unpleasant memories, moments I wish I could take back or fits of anger flash in short bursts of light and obnoxious noise. I am a score keeper. As I try to get through the agonies and annoyances of life, batting at balls with with flippers that are almost enough to keep things going, I am keeping score and remembering the faces of the folks who have wronged me. It is nothing if not exhausting and pointless.

Pointless score keeping. How is that for irony?

I can recite chapter and verse on the topic of biblical forgiveness.  I know that God's forgiveness of me and my sins is my model for forgiving others.  Love covers a multitude of sins. How many times should I forgive someone? Seventy times seven.  What does granting forgiveness mean?  That I can never again bring that offense up against the person forgiven. I must choose not to remember the transgression.  What happens if I do not forgive?   I fertilize a root of bitterness that will grow ever stronger,  tainting the fruit in my life and leaving those whose lives I touch with bad taste in their mouths. Unless of course they practice forgiveness and forgive me for my sins, faults and shortcomings.  I want them to. I expect them to and if they don't, I'll add that to my scorecard of offenses against me.

I can be a real jerk. The smile on my face and placid exterior are hiding the seething anger against those who have wronged me mixed with absolute contempt for myself for playing at being a "good Christian woman."   I don't  want to be a liar. I don't want to be a pharisee,  but it feels so good to go over and over in my head what I would say to someone who has been unjust with me. Humility is for people who aren't smart enough to come back with a retort that will slice an offender to ribbons, right?

What an ugly self-portrait. Honesty is as black and grotesque as the sin it confesses.

11 May 2014

Why I Hate Mother's Day

Often God's mercy feels more like a swift kick to my  backside than the "There, there, little one!" pat on the head that I would prefer. So it is this morning as I skipped church on a day I was physically able to attend, opting instead to stay home and feel sorry for myself, that I once again feel a Jehovah sized boot print on the place with the least amount of padding; my ego.  I am a slow learner. We go through this every year at this time. Is it any wonder that I hate Mother's Day?

I don't hate Mother's Day for any of the legitimate reason to despise made up holidays. It doesn't bother me a bit that Hallmark is making a killing on cards or that florists everywhere are being delivered high voltage shocks on their last nerve trying trying to get out orders. Trust me, I was a florist once upon a time. Valentines Day and Mother's Day test the soul of every florist. I hate Mother's Day for much deeper reasons.

When I was a kid I hated Mother's Day because when I was about three years old my mother left me.  I hated Mother's Day because of the things that kids in school made for their moms and I didn't have a mom at home to give them to. I was living with a grandmother who probably made a better grandmother to my siblings than a primary caregiver to me.

I was in second grade when my father married my step-mom, a woman who happened to be my mother's sister. I loved my aunt/mom.  When my father insisted I call her "Mom" I rebelled in every way I could, while still calling her Mom.  That consisted of perpetuating my disdain for Mother's Day.  You see, I idolized my mother. I thought if I was good enough she'd come back for me and how on earth would I appeal to a woman while bestowing gifts and love to her sister for being a great mom? I wasn't exactly consistent, my step-mom/aunt was very good to me. I started calling her "Mom" because that's what she was. She wasn't perfect but she did go to bat for me on more than one occasion and that meant the world to me.

When I graduated high school, I went to live with my Mom. I wanted to be a part of her life. I wanted to belong to her. Then Mother's Day left me with new reasons to dislike it.  How do I call two women "Mom" and give two women gifts and adoration without making one of them feel slighted?  I couldn't work it out and so for a few years my mother got first priority. I felt bad no matter what I did.

My mom died nearly twenty years before my step-mom aunt would pass away. As I mourned her it really felt wrong to call my step-mom aunt "Mom" so she became "Auntie" thereafter.  I  even had the audacity to drop Auntie from her title and call her by her first name.  What a shameful thing to do. I regret it. It's like I demoted her from "Mom" to "Hey you" and didn't even recognize that it might hurt her feelings tremendously.

When my sister died, I ended up raising two of her five children. It was a complicated situation. I remembered what it was like to grow up separated from my siblings.  I remembered what it was like to miss my mother desperately. I remembered what it was like to feel as though I did not belong.  I set about to love these two girls as if they were mine.  I never wanted to force them to call me "Mom" and I never wanted them to forget their mother.  That does't mean I didn't long to hear them call me "Mom" or think of me as their mother. Neither of which ever happened.  I love them with all my heart and would gladly exchange my life for theirs....or that's what I tell myself.

The truth is having the girls come to live with me exposed every character flaw I have.  I am selfish, self-focused, impatient, unkind, abrasive and pretty awful as a parent.  All that and I have the temerity to feel sorry for myself because my kids seldom, if ever, acknowledge me for Mother's Day.  I freakin' hate it.  I hate to be wished "Happy Mother's Day!" I hate to be ignored, I hate that I don't have children I birthed myself to love and to love me back.  I just don't see anything redemptive about this day.   Each year I cannot wait for it to be over. I feel so abused and unappreciated and then God reminds me about what a jerk I was... and am... and I realize I have no reason to complain. But wait, that's not all....

A couple of days ago I stumble across this video and it enumerates every mistake I made as a parent. Yeah, God really poured the boots to me with this one. It made me realize again the depth of my need for admiration and attention. I am still all about me.  I hate Mother's Day because it demonstrates for me how selfish I am, it forces me to see myself pouting because of the lack of accolades and attention I think I deserve.

I shouldn't hate Mother's Day. I should hate my sin. Watch the video and learn. Take wisdom like this and plant it deep in your heart.

Phil 2:3-4
3 Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. 4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.  ESV

14 February 2014

Do Not Try Harder

Really? Am I really sitting here at my computer blogging? I have someone coming over today and my house is in full disarray. I have enough dog and cat hair clinging to the furniture and floors to assemble several more pets. My kitchen is filthy. There are fig trees growing in my sink.  OK, I said that for shock value. The trees are in small pots and they are in the sink because they were just watered, but you get the idea, right?  I should be putting my house in order. 

The truth of the matter is I am putting my house in order, my spiritual house is almost always reflected in the way I take care of my home. I need to take a time out, prioritize my life, and the truth is, for all my studying I have been leaving out the doing part. It's all well and good to know the answers regarding what we should do as believers in Christ, but knowing isn't enough. 

There is a constant battle we face as believers.  The natural tendency of our hearts is to go to extremes. We want to be legalistic in our faith. If we only follow a prescribed formula of what to do and what not to do, God will be well pleased with us. We want God to be pleased with us because a happy God would certainly see the merit in sending us to heaven, right?   But the bible clearly tells us that we don't earn our salvation. We are saved by grace through faith. That sends us crashing to the other side of the extreme; license to do whatever we'd like. 

The bible has something to say about that too. Shall I continue to sin so that grace may abound?  It's a rhetorical question. We know the answer is a resounding, "NO! May it never be!"  When we continue in the same unbroken sinful patterns it is generally evidence of having a faith that doesn't save, the very sort of faith James warns us about. 

The answer for our dilemma?  Isaiah said, "In repentance and rest is your salvation."  Repentance and rest.  It doesn't say, "Repent and try harder!"  It says repentance and rest.  That is where we find our balance in Christ.

Think of a teeter-totter. There is only one narrow spot on which you can stand without tipping to the left (license) or the right (legalism). It's found in the center. That spot is where you can find rest in Jesus.  He is the fulcrum upon which we are able to stand.  I am not suggesting we are without responsibility for our actions. Repentance is an action. Absorbing God's Word is how the Holy Spirit teaches us to recognize when we have strayed off that narrow spot, and it is He that beckons us to repent and return to rest. 

My friends, don't try harder. Repent quicker and rest longer. That's the part I have been leaving out. The rest. 

Isa 30:15
For thus the Lord God, the Holy One of Israel, has said,
“In repentance and  rest you will be saved,
In quietness and trust is your strength.”

Acts 2:38
And Peter said to them, "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Eph 2:8-10
8 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9  not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. 

08 January 2014

Tuna and Torpor

There's a whole lot of lassitude and torpidity happening here for me today. It is, no doubt, brought about by an even greater amount of self-pity. If there is one thing I am especially accomplished at doing it is feeling sorry for myself.  As my childhood hero Will Sonnet would say-"No brag, just fact."

You may wonder what has transpired to bring my countenance so low. Then again you might not give a tinker's damn about my countenance, you're just bored and reading random things on the internet.  No matter, you're here and I am compelled to tell you the cause of my distress.  Tuna.

Tuna itself is not evil. It's just a fish. Eating tuna is not evil either, though to my vegan and vegetarian friends may argue with me there. I like to eat tuna and because I do I generally purchase it in mass quantities at Costco.  Yesterday I was craving tuna so I went to my pantry, picked out a can and pulled all the other ingredients  I wanted in my tuna.  Mayonnaise, dill pickles, shallots, lemon zest, celery and cheddar cheese were all carefully placed on my kitchen island along with a bowl and few other implements of de/construction.

So far things are sounding normal to you, right?  I should probably tell you at this point that during a trip to see Cumberland Falls I tripped and fell.  It was a gravitational assault of near biblical proportions. People came running to help the poor roly-poly lady who was face down on the ground.  During my sidewalk swan dive I managed to hurt my left wrist, my right knee and we won't even mention the bruising my dignity received.  Not only that but I have degenerative disc disease in my back and have already lost 40% of the use of my hands.  I am always an accident looking for a place to happen.  I tell you all this because I want you to know that it took some amount of effort and pain to compile all the ingredients I needed to satisfy my culinary cravings.  In fact, I had one heck of a time trying to use my can opener to open the tuna.  Diligence and ingenuity prevailed....almost.

I got the tuna open. I began seasoning it, smooshing it and adding all the ingredients. I went to open the new jar of pickles and nothing happened. I gripped the jar in one hand, holding it close to my body and with the other I clamped on to the lid as if my very life depended on it.  The only thing that happened then was a nerve shot of pain going up and down the outside of my left arm. From pinky to funny bone it felt not unlike being zapped with a cattle prod.  Frankly, that ticked me off.   I began to wrestle with jar of pickles, I did everything I could think of except try the ball peen hammer in my tool box.  I was undone by a jar of kosher dills and I have been feeling sorry for myself from that moment to this.

"God!" I screamed, "Why do I have to live alone? Why do I have to have hands that don't work right and a body racked with pain? Why do I have to feel guilty for being ticked off about not being able to open a flipping jar of pickles? Surely you have other people you can mess with, why does it have to be me?  Why not pick on the bad guys for a while?!"  Those are the Cliff Notes of our conversation....er my rant. It got pretty ugly and there were some unsanctified words said as I carried on about how little God has gotten right in my life as I have designed it.

Yeah, there's a lot of  lassitude and torpidity happening here.  The awful part is that I know gratitude and humility  on my part could change all that. Well, that, an electric can opener and taking the time to surf the net for something that will help me open jars.

I'll do that later. Right now I am taking a nap.

31 December 2013

Failing Forward

The end of year is fast approaching.  Frankly, it cannot end quickly enough for me.  I haven't liked very much about this year. Please, don't get me wrong, it wasn't all bad and it certainly contained some good belly laughs and blessings. If I had to sum it up I would put it something like this:

It wasn't the best of times and it wasn't the worst of times. It was just time.

The clock struck midnight 365 times and not once have I turned into a pumpkin or a princess. I haven't had any startling revelations. Oh sure, I have had a few crises of biblical proportions, but it's like they never really registered. I sort of plopped down and held my place like a cow pie marks its area in the field.  I haven't moved in any direction. I haven't composted and fertilized anything. I haven't achieved a single goal. I just sat still and let the world revolve around me.

I think it would be safe to say that before achieving a goal you have to actually set one. Everybody is talking about making or not making New Year's resolutions and I am thinking it's going to take a bloody revolution of some sort to get me up off my arse and doing something at all, even if it's wrong. Wait, can you be a Christian and use arse? I guess you can, I just did.

If I am going to be transparent it is fair to mention at this point that I couldn't possibly have achieved a goal as I never actually set one. Not even a little one. To the best of my knowledge I never gave goals or aspirations a single thought. It's upon this reflection that I realize I don't want to spend another minute, let alone another year, as a dried up old cow pie. IIf I want something different, I have to do something different.   I may fail but at least failing would be moving forward from simply existing, right?

I could certainly stand to do any of the normal things people resolve to do. I need to lose weight. I need to develop my prayer life, I need to develop discipline. If it is a admirable trait you can rest assured that I need to work on it. I have so many things in need of attention I can't sort out which to do first. I am frozen. Overwhelmed with my need and fear of failure.

That darned Paul. I always go into these tailspins thinking they are original with me and suddenly the Spirit brings to mind Romans 7:15. Paul starts complaining about not doing what he should do and doing what he doesn't want to do and I am certain God had him write that to prove to me I do not have a proprietary formula on screwing up. Sure, it's a comfort, but don't you ever long to be the exception to the rule?  I mean, I know that nothing has overtaken me except that which is common to man and God is faithful.... always providing a way out... but somewhere down deep don't you secretly yearn to be the one person God can't fix? Or is it just me whose pride runs amok with thoughts like that?

Where does that leave me? Apparently it leaves me in front of my computer considering the folly of not having goals or plans and cringing at the thought of spending another year as an old cow flop.   The Bible says, "Man makes his plans; God orders his steps" (Proverbs 16:9).  It seems I have some responsibility to make set some goals and make plans all the while keeping in mind that God will ordain my steps.

So, no grand statements of change. No resolutions to be mindful of or comforts to go without.  I don't know where to start so I'll start with the Word and thinking about what it is that God says about plans and goals.  If the Lord wills, I may even keep writing and let you know where my meditations lead me.  Until then, I wish you a New Year of blessings and encouragement as the Lord sanctifies and refines us all.

Ps 37:23-24
23 The steps of a man are established by the Lord,
when he delights in his way;
24  though he fall, he shall not be cast headlong,
for the Lord upholds his hand.

Proverbs 19:21
21  Many are the plans in the mind of a man,
but it is the purpose of the Lord that will stand.

Isaiah 46:10
10  declaring the end from the beginning
and from ancient times things not yet done,
saying, 'My counsel shall stand,
and I will accomplish all my purpose,'

James 4:13-15
Boasting About Tomorrow
13 Come now, you who say, "Today or tomorrow we will go into such and such a town and spend a year there and trade and make a profit"— 14 yet you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. 15 Instead you ought to say, "If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that." ESV

03 November 2013

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome / Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder FAS/FASD and the Need for Biblical Counseling Material

On January 31, 2008, I wrote a post on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FAS/FASD).  That was nearly six years ago. A lot has happened in our world during those six years. I honestly expected to find some biblical counseling information on FAS/FASD.  Unfortunately, among those who are foremost in providing resources for biblical counselors; those who publish scholarly articles in the Journal of Biblical Counseling; provide resources for NANC, and write books that help us look at the problems in our lives through a biblical lens,  there has yet to be an article, sermon or book written specifically on how to help someone with FAS/FASD.  I am hoping using their information will lead them to this article and they will consider changing this. We need material on FAS/FASD from a biblical perspective.

Recently I have been contacted by a couple of different people who stumbled upon my blog looking for biblical counseling resources specific to parenting children with FAS/FASD. They have asked me if I have resources to offer them and I have promised to look. The search began. 

I have looked through all of the books I have. I have scoured my Journals of Biblical Counseling.  I have searched the internet. Although I am fairly accomplished at finding resources, I know someone who is far better than I.  He's the man that challenged me, when my goal was a doctorate in psychology, to evaluate the congruence of my faith in God and His Word with my faith in psychology when it come to healing souls.  I have called him Mr Resource for years. He's Dr. Resource now. He too went on a search for material and like me he has come up empty handed.  I found a link dated in 2009 requesting Mike Emlet  write something addressing FAS/FASD.  Dr. Resource recently asked Dr. Emlet if there were any resources he could think of and he said no. 

I hope that you, my parents looking for resources, do not stop reading at this point. I am not giving up and I do not want you to give up.  In searching I found a treasure trove of articles, sermons, and material that may hold answers for you, even though it is not labeled specifically for FAS/FASD. I am going to list a group of links for you to look through. It may take quite a bit of work, but I plan to see if I can help synthesize some of the information. Honestly, it seems overwhelming.  I am not a doctor of any kind and I probably have never had an original thought of my own. I am, however, fairly determined and tenacious. 

I may start by taking this article on FAS/FASD and researching each of the challenges they list from a biblical perspective. For instance, hyperactivity and attention deficits are listed.  Ed Welch at CCEF has some fabulous resources on ADD/ADHD:

Similarly,  Mike Emlet's work on parenting angry children may be a benefit: 

Meanwhile, I want to list some links for you to go through yourself. I hope some of them will provide you comfort and encouragement. I want to remind you that our Gracious Father does not ask us to do what He is unwilling to equip and support us through. He did not lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the edge of the Red Sea and tell them to figure things out from there. He provides grace that is sufficient.  Hang in there with hope!

I am personally unfamiliar with this material but they are recommended or written by people I trust.

Your Special Needs Child  (This resource is for single parents but I am hoping it has some help for any parent.)

Steve Viars

Psalm 29:11

 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

12 September 2013

Why We're Not Honest in Prayer.

Because if we were honest our prayers might sound like this..... and we'd rather appear to be holy than to actually be transformed into His image.

Dear God,

I've come to equivocate for a few minutes. It won't take too much of your time, just long enough to assuage my guilt for not spending time with you. More importantly I want to be certain not to spend so much time that my attempts to manipulate you are glaringly apparent. Let's get started, shall we?

OK. I know I haven't really spent much time with you lately and I haven't been all that busy. I have been avoiding you.  I should be ashamed of myself, but my lack of communication with you isn't what's bothering me right now.  What's bothering me is your lack of outreach where I am concerned.  I mean, you raised Lazarus from the dead, surely a small miracle to prove that you're paying attention to me wouldn't be so hard for you to do. My faith could really use a boost and that's the surest way I can think of for you to get my attention.  I'd appreciate it if you'd stop making me wait, it really freaks me out and makes me question your existence.

I know you're probably annoyed with me about the way I dislike that new woman in our women's ministry. Really, who does she think she is? I wouldn't have such a problem with her if she'd just know her place.  She must think she is Super Christian. I know I told her we didn't need any help with the letter writing ministry.  It was a little white lie but really, does it matter? How could she possibly have anything encouraging to say to the missionaries we support? She doesn't even know them. Frankly, I don't understand why she offered.

Is there anything you can do to get the Pastor to preach a little quicker?  Sunday is such a big day between church in the morning and church at night. It would help to get out on time or even a little earlier than normal. It would be great to get into a restaurant before the rest of the town comes for their after church gossip fest.

My checking account is overdrawn and that's why I haven't tithed.  I think I will buy a lottery ticket and if I win, I promise I will tithe some of the winnings. You're God, you can arrange that, right?  I'll give a little every year or a lump sum percentage once I find the perfect house and car and travel to see family members and stuff. That sounds fair, doesn't it?

Yeah, OK. Well, there's more but I am tired, let me go down the list and finish quickly. My split ends, could you heal those?  Could you get my son's teacher off my back? I think it's pretty normal for kids to experiment with language, it's not like he hurt anyone physically and she is so boring her classes could use some disruption. Oh and I have to go shopping in the city tomorrow, bless me with no traffic and close parking spots.

I pray this in Jesus' name,

There is no such thing as a little white sin. There is no sense in prevaricating with God. If we were to pray honestly it would expose the selfishness in our hearts and that might be too difficult a reflection to see.

If you can't be honest with God you probably have no real appreciation for the perilous state of your immortal soul.

Proverbs 6:16-19

English Standard Version (ESV)
16 There are six things that the Lord hates,
    seven that are an abomination to him:
17 haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
    and hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked plans,
    feet that make haste to run to evil,
19 a false witness who breathes out lies,
    and one who sows discord among brothers.