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God and the Olive Shells – Day 6

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Day six.  It’s the last full day of our vacation. The last day of these peace-receiving, knowledge-gaining morning walks on the beach.

I set out for my final “sabbath” moments of solitude.  There is no agenda this morning.  Simply to walk, breathe, and listen.

As I walk I take pleasure, and comfort, in the “knowing” that is in my spirit.  The knowing that My Father, God, is with me.  The knowing that He is watching.  The knowing that He cares and does have a plan.  The knowing that He has never – ever – left me, even when I felt so very, very far away from Him.

I am thankful for these mornings with Him.  I am grateful for the time and finances that He provided to allow us to take a break from life-as-usual for a while. A much-needed while.  I so appreciate the seemingly simple ways that God has spoken to me each day… Fragments of sentences in a book… Breaching dolphins in the waters every day… Children’s footprints in the sands… and, of course, there are the olive shells.

As I reminisce and ponder on each truth that He has spoken to me this week I find random olive shells.  As I pick up each one I breathe in His peace.

I pray for strength to get back to life a little less susceptible to stress and anxiety.  I pray for wisdom in dealing with people, decisions, and circumstances life throws my way.  I pray for family’s protection, and for them to have supernatural encounters with the living God that will change their lives, their perspectives, and their hearts.  I pray for them by name.

And as I pray for my children and grandchildren, oldest to the youngest, the littlest grandgirl comes to my heart.  It is then that I find it.  The smallest olive shell I have found all week.  His familiar voice speaks to my heart – even on this final walk.  “I love the little things”.

God cares about the little things that concern us because we belong to Him and He is full of compassion for His children.  He loves those who the world considers “little” – the young, the unlovely, the seemingly unworthy.  He delights in the smallest of sparrows and numbers the hairs on our head.  He created every tiny grain of sand and every individual snowflake that falls.  He has named each child who lives, and those who are mourned by their mommies and daddies (Mommy and daddy, rest assured that they are playing in His infinite playground in the most glorious of places).  He catches even the smallest tear that we shed.

He loves even the “little” things.  And on this last day of my vacation with Him he confirms it once again… with an olive shell.

          

God and the Olive Shells – Day 5

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Day five.  This morning I walked in the opposite direction from the previous two. The daily conversations with God – and the constant sensing of His presence – have been what I so desperately needed.  Before this vacation I had come to a place in my life where, though knowing that He is always near, I felt as if I no longer sensed His presence – and rarely His pleasure.  So far I had been assured by My Father that He is with me and that He holds my life in His hands.  I had been reminded of His power and His faithfulness.  I had been challenged to be patient – and to persevere in the times when it seemed as if an answer would never come.

This morning I had something else on my mind and heart.  Something besides me.  SomeONE besides myself.  This particular morning I wanted to talk about my family.  My broken and hurting family.  So many things had been torn apart in the lives of those closest to me.  Hearts had been shattered so many times that it often seemed they would never – could never – be mended.  I wanted some answers as to why they weren’t being put back together and fixed, and I was ready to ask.  Now.

I walked more swiftly than the previous days because my thoughts were quick and my questions many.

I reminded God of my son who has been damaged by churches and in the name of Christ.  My son who doesn’t go to church, and is not sure that he ever will return.  Recently he was, again, treated condescendingly by someone who had no idea whether Christopher had a relationship with God or not.  Someone in a church.  Afterwards, he reminded me that he isn’t sure he’s willing to go through it all again.  I don’t know where he stands in his relationship with God any longer.  There used to be an intimacy and desire there.  The fact that those things were tarnished by church-goers and professing Christians breaks my heart.  The thought of my son being far from God and broken makes me weep.

I asked My Father about my oldest daughter, Adria.  She has such a tender and giving heart.  But it is often hidden behind a guise of obstinance and willfullness – which is simply her defense mechanism that masks her insecurities.  She feels as if her life is unmendable…that she is unloveable… that she is undesireable because she has 2 children.  Her heart has been broken – and she thinks that her life is shattered as well.  She wants things to be the way that they were.  When things were simple and she could be herself and not have the weight of worrying about others all of the time.  She knows that this is impossible – and ultimately doesn’t really want time to turn back. But she does want to feel whole again.  Complete.  Loved.  Instead of unfixable.  Hopeless.  Lost.

Then there’s Ariel, the youngest.  She’s 15.  I really didn’t need to remind Him of anything else.  Being 15 says it all.  She’s dealing with finding her identity, hormones, mood swings, insecurity, shyness, and trying to find those right kinds of friends all while attempting to resolve where God is in her life.  She doesn’t believe in herself – yet is at that age where everything is about herself.  She often hides her tortured emotions and hurt feelings behind a cavalier, “I don’t care” attitude.  So confusing and frustrating for teens these days.  And she doesn’t quite know how to deal with the brokenness of her siblings.  All she does know is that she wants them to be okay again… she’s not quite sure what to do when those things aren’t a reality.

I talked with Him about Jun-Jun.  My new believer, disillusioned, not-sure-how-to-relate-to-God husband.  His life so twisted in the past that it often seems as if his emotions – his anger and pain – will never be healed.  He wrestles with forgiveness.  Sometimes he doesn’t want to forgive.  He has a right to be angry and a right to be hurt.  Yet he doesn’t want to be who he is.  He’s a broken man who struggles to be whole.

All the while that I’m talking with God about my broken family I am looking for olive shells.  My eyes are darting to and fro searching for a reminder of His promises.  The sands in this direction are littered with shell beds and sea waste.  Paths of colors run parallel to my footprints.  Row after row of tiny pieces of sea dwellers and mollusks.  But no olive shells.  As the day before, not one.

I don’t sense that this is about persevering and so I slow my pace and begin to take notice of what I am walking in and around.  I still don’t find what I’m looking for.  Instead I see hundreds of fragments of olive shells.  All colors and sizes.  Some broken at the top.  Some shattered at the bottom.  Some peppered with holes in their incompleteness.  None whole, yet all identifiable as former olive shells. And then He speaks to my heart.

“I don’t take things that are broken and put them back together just as they were.  They would be weaker at the mended places.  Instead, I take the broken pieces and I put them together in a whole different way.  I make something different and beautiful out of the fragments.  I can make beauty out of brokenness.”

I rolled these words around in my mind over and over as I walked around those broken pieces.  As I meditated on what He had spoken, I sensed a peace in my soul.  A letting go – if you will.

I can’t fix the brokenness in my family.  My tears and the cries of my heart – as many and frequent as they are – can only reach the heart of God, but the mending is in His hands. His desire is not to put the pieces back together and make things the same as they were prior to being shattered.  He makes all things new.  He takes the fragments of our lives, our experiences, our learnings, our pain, and yes – our forgiven sins, and He masterfully places each in such a way that our character is strengthened, our influence increased, our healing more wonderful, and our hearts enlarged.  He puts us back together in such a way that our brokenness is evident, yet the “new” is beautiful.  If only we allow Him to do so.

I walked back to the room without an olive shell that morning.  Instead, I had peace and a promise that He is working on the mosaics of my family’s lives.

 

God and the Olive Shells – Day 4

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Day four.  Each morning of my vacation I woke with anticipation of conversing with My Father by the sea, and this morning was no different.

I dressed quietly, while everyone else was sleeping, and headed out to the sand.  I felt invigorated after yesterday’s inspirational discovery of olive shells and understanding.  I began walking in the same direction as the day before, hoping to find the same fertile shell bed.  I didn’t have a specific agenda for the day’s conversation.  I simply wanted to know that He was there and to spend time with Him.

Approaching the place where, the morning prior, I had found such a large treasure – I began to sift through the sands and pieces of shell debris with my toes.  Given that each day previous olive shells had, quite literally, appeared before my feet I expected nothing different on this day.  But what I found was…… nothing.  Not one single olive shell.  No pieces.  No parts.  No wholes.  I looked for quite a long time and found absolutely nothing.  I walked to the edge of the ocean and let Him know that I just didn’t understand this at. all.

Each day He had shown Himself to me so simply, yet powerfully, with an olive shell (or two) and today there was not one to be found.  It was one of those “what’s up with that?” moments.  And that’s exactly what I asked Him.  “You’ve been with me every time that I have walked in the mornings.  You’ve talked to me and I’ve been fascinated with olive shells every single time.  So what about today?  Why am I not finding any?”

I was reminded of a Catalyst podcast that I had listened to the afternoon before.  It told a story of a Native American rain-maker who – every single time that he did his rain dance – it rained.  When asked how this was, he responded “I dance until the rain comes”. The entirety of the message focused on persevering until the answer comes.  I heard Him ask: “Are you willing to persevere?”  Just that one little question… again.  “Are you willing to persevere?”

I stood still as the waters covered my feet.  I was determined that I was not going to move on until I had my answer… until I found my olive shell… until He proved that He was with me.  And so I stood.  My feet were gradually descending into the sand.  “Are you willing to be patient?  To wait for the answer even if gets uncomfortable?  Painful?  Will you persevere ‘until it rains’?”  These are the questions that were resonating in my mind and heart.

My feet had sunk so far that they had reached large broken pieces of shells that were buried – and it was uncomfortable.  I was sunburned and the sun was completing it’s rise to my left – the burning rays were painful.  The waves were getting deeper as the tides were coming in, their currents making me waver in my stance, but still I stood. I would not move until He brought me an olive shell.

I’m not sure how long I stood there.  I’m sure that it was a strange sight for those who were walking all around and playing in the waves.  This woman who stood unmoving in the waters and did not speak aloud but seemed to be listening.  I stood until He spoke to me to turn.

As I turned towards the sun – that agonizingly painful, burning sun – I looked ahead at a bare patch of sand and was encouraged to walk there.  My mind was arguing.  Yesterday I had found a plethora of olives scattered among the expansive patches of broken vessels and shells, and now I was walking towards bare sand and expecting to find something?  And there it was.

One.  One olive shell, all alone in the sand.

I turned and walked back to the room wondering how often I had given up early.  How often had I turned the other way, because of my impatience, and missed the answer that was right around the corner?  How many times had I stopped pursuing something because I could no longer see the possibility of it?  How many times had I looked and seen nothing that I expected, mistook it for barrenness, and walked away from what HIS best was for me?  I’m sure more times than I would care to know.

I added one more olive shell to my collection that day. An olive shell that reminds me to persevere… to be patient.  And to dance until it rains!

God and the Olive Shells – Day 3

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Day three.  By now we’ve established a pattern.  By “we” I mean God and myself.  We’ve established a pattern where I walk by the shore, pour out my heart, and He speaks to my soul and confirms that He is there with an olive shell.

I now wake with excited anticipation of our conversations and quiet time.  I’ve kept the 4 olive shells that I’ve found to take home and place in a visible space where I can be frequently reminded of these intimate promise-filled communions.  So I set out for another morning of authenticity and honest exchanges.

As I’m walking this morning I am simply questioning My Father why there has been such a time of barrenness, disillusionment, and perceived uselessness in my life.  I am asking where I have been in His plans the last few years.  Querying whether He continues to have a plan that involves me caressing the souls of others with song or challenging the hearts and minds of teams and leaders.  All the while I’m inquiring of Him, the lyrics from a recent song from Curt Coffield were playing in my mind:

Am I unloveable?  Am I unforgiveable?

Am I a candidate for grace?  Can mercy be new for me again?

Am I on the right track?  Will Your words still be a light unto my path?

Will You ever speak through me again?  Are You disgusted with what I’ve been?

Can you put me back together……………….. put me back together again?

The tides were receding and I came upon one of those frequent patches of shell pieces and debris.  I immediately spotted an olive shell and bent to pick it up.  Next to it was another… and then another.  I had no bag or bucket for collecting shells so I was holding them scooped in the top of my bathing suit.  Everywhere I looked there were olive shells.  I picked up so many that I was having to wrap one arm underneath to hold them all.  Of course, I frequently had to pause a moment and wipe the tears from my eyes so that I could see and gather them all.  Some were old, aged by the sea.  Others were new, with all of their colors and patterns fully visible.

I walked back to the room carrying a load of shells cradled in both arms and wrapped in cloth.  The strange looks that I received were frequent, but they would not deter my path or my purpose.  I laid the shells out on a paper towel and began to count.  1 short of 45.

Later, His voice resonated in my heart: “Do you realize how many olive shells you picked up?”

Me: “44”

“One for each year of your life.”

In my fascination with finding so many, the significance of the number hadn’t occurred to me.

“I have held you, like you held them, every day of your life.”

I held and protected those olive shells, wrapped tightly against me, as I stumbled over uneven dunes and fiery foot-scorching sand.  I was determined not to drop or lose any of them.  He has done the same for me.  He’s been determined that I won’t be lost, even as I journeyed through hills and valleys, trials of fire, and scorching internal deserts.

Although there have been times I may not have sensed His protection, He has watched over and guarded me.  Every single day of my life.  I have 44 more olive shells as a reminder.

 

God and the Olive Shells – Day 2

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Day two.  I woke up much earlier than I ever am able to when at home – and I was rested.  I dressed in my bare feet and headed out to breathe in the fresh morning air and some time with Him.  I knew that this was going to be an important part of my journey to peace while on vacation.

I’ve never minced words when talking with God. This morning was no exception.  After a few moments of savoring the peacefulness of the calming sound created by the ocean waves, I began to lament.  I told My Father how miserable I’ve been having been unable to sing and have the song pierce the hearts of the listeners.  I wept for how painful the ache is to teach and to lead once again – feeling His pleasure.  I whispered how unsettling it is to feel as if my life experiences and His calling mean nothing, because I am no longer considered “youthful” – and am woman.  And as I stood and wept I said out of my mouth “I don’t know how to trust You anymore… I just don’t”.

The inner silence was so loud that it seemed deafening.

I felt something hard brush against my foot.  I reached down and picked up an olive shell.  One.  Whole.  Complete.  This one was petrified.  Old.  From ages ago…  When His hands and His words first created the earth and all that is in it.

He has held the world in His hands from the beginning of time.  He has spoken His will since before the worlds were formed.  He made fertile a 90-year old woman, and she became the mother of many powerful nations.  He used a stuttering murderer to lead His people out of a land of bondage and slavery.  He anointed a slight shepherd boy King and – even knowing that he would commit adultery and murder – chose David to be a forefather of Christ.  He gifted a female judge with such wisdom that she counseled entire armies, and He used a woman to defeat the commander of an enemy army.  He spoke through a reluctant prophet, who had run away from the call on his life, and a very wicked city – from the youngest to the king – repented of their evil ways and cried out to God.  He chose common ordinary men to walk with Him, talk with Him, eat with Him, learn from Him, and then change the world by giving their lives to share His story.

Throughout history He has utilized unexpected people by anointing their raw humanity and turning it into gifts.  He has found ways to capitalize on their observable weaknesses and turn them into strengths that glorify Him.  He has used the simple to confound the wise.

Can I trust that He can still use my life?  My voice and my passions?  My weaknesses and my failures?  My age and my strong femininity?

An olive shell at my feet reminds me that He can… and He will.  In His time.

God and the Olive Shells – Day 1

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We recently went on a vacation to Myrtle Beach for the sole purpose of experiencing some peace for a few days.  Life, the past few years, has been anything but peaceful and we determined that we were going to escape for as many days as we could afford this year so that our shoulders could, once again, assume their God-given position instead of being drawn up to our ears from the stress and strains of work, family, bills, etc.

While there, I met with God each day by the seashore and we had a talk. And by talk I do not mean a pious sounding pontification of Thees/Thous and forced thanksgiving from my lips.  I mean a talk.  Raw and real.  During these talks, every day, God spoke to me through an Olive Shell.  And each day, my peace increased as he used something so small to teach me – or rather remind me of – so many huge truths.

Day one.  We had arrived at the beach before lunch time and, after unpacking and getting settled in, I stripped off my shoes and headed to walk by the ocean and simply breathe.  As I was walking I was telling My Father how much I needed to know that He is still there.  I was thankful for the large dark-lensed sunglasses because there were tears running down my cheeks as I was saying “I just can’t seem to find my way back to You… to where I used to be with You”.  On this barren shell-less stretch of sand, there was an olive shell directly in front of me.  Whole and undamaged.  I picked it up, walked a little farther, and then turned to go back to my hotel.  I was satisfied that He was going to meet with me because I am not fascinated by, or attracted to many types of sea shells.  However, miniatures and olive shells I am.  And this My Father knows.

Later that afternoon, when the tides were coming in, I decided to go for another walk… the other direction.  And, again, I was having a honest talk with Him.  Rather, I was asking Him some (to me) pretty tough questions.  The lyrics to My Redeemer Lives by Nicole C Mullen came to mind: Who taught the sun where to stand in the morning?  Who told the ocean “you can only come this far”?  I stood at the edge of the ocean and felt it’s power and strength while marveling that it is restricted only by the power of His words.  While meditating on these things, one by one, 3 olive shells washed up onto the shore.  I collected them through tear-filled eyes and returned to the room for dinner.

Coincidences may be how many would explain away the olive shells.  I would vehemently disagree.  God… Our Father… knows what speaks to us, what moves us, what helps us.  He is so much more creative in His communication than we expect Him to be.  In scripture He led His people with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night.  He spoke through His prophets, through a gentle whisper, through a burning bush, through dreams, and even through an ass.  He hasn’t changed.  Even today God is continuously communicating with us.  We just may not always be listening… or paying attention.

He spoke to me through an olive shell.  How is He speaking to you… right now?

Living In A Box

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Sometimes the reality of another person’s humanity is difficult for others to swallow. Usually that is because we are encouraged to keep secrets, hide our skeletons, and minimize – or cover up – our faults, flaws, uniqueness, and individuality.  We are expected to live within a box that is defined by society’s rules, religion’s restrictions, and other people’s labels.

It’s considered the norm to kiss butt, quote the common mantras, and morph into the desired being of whoever holds the “power” in the moment. Authenticity is rare. And because we often succumb to the pressures of being who we are not, it is awkward – even threatening – when we come into contact with someone who is not bound by the boxed-in limits of someone else’s narrow-minded diagnosis of who they should be. So when we meet that “real” someone, we compose new definitions for them… eccentric, crazy, weird, flaky, “out there”.

Doesn’t matter that they don’t spend every penny they have on jewelry for their cats at the expense of their own health and well-being (this would truly be eccentric). Doesn’t matter that they don’t wear pants on their arms and walk on their hands believing the world is upside down (yeah… that might be a little bit “out there”). Nor does it matter that they don’t flitter around quoting nothing but scripture – or religious mantras – and believe that they are the only one who has a connection to God and can have no conversation about day-to-day things because they’re too spiritual (most definitely would earn the “flaky” label).

They are simply different. They are comfortable with themselves. They are confident in their abilities and aware of their weaknesses. They speak their minds with quiet conviction, they aren’t bound by fads and fashions, and they tend to be an open book… what you see is what you get. What they say they mean.

Authenticity is rare, yet something that would make our world a better place – and us better humans – if we could simply learn to BE who we were created to be and allow others the same liberating freedom.

This Is My Confession… I Have An Addiction.

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This is my confession… I have an addiction. I have a vice. An unhealthy stress reliever. A habit that I fight against almost daily.

It’s not cigarettes, drugs, or alcohol. Those things have never crossed my lips. The desire to imbibe, puff, drag, or pop has never been an issue. I’ve never been driven by a desire to smoke a cigarette when I’m stressed, or to pop a pill to escape. I’ve never been tempted to “drink away my problems” or “take a toke” to numb the pain. My addiction has never had to do with substance use or abuse of any kind.

And yet, it’s as addictive and destructive as any chemical. It holds onto the soul as strongly as any nicotine, narcotic, or alcohol induced stronghold. It’s like a razor sharp claw on the hands of a monster that has a grip so tight you fight to keep it from ripping your insides out.

My addiction is pornography. Not the visual kind that is driven by images, video, and peep shows. Erotica. Words that paint pictures in the mind and are much harder to forget than pictures on a page.

It began when I was young… very young.

I saw an image in the paper when I was 6 or 7 years old and I read the words around it. It was a comic and wasn’t overtly sexual, but alluded to this. It stuck with me. I can still see that one “frame” of the comic in my head, 30 some years later. Something about the words surrounding that image got into my soul that day.

I can tell you every single time that I was exposed to pornography growing up. Never in our home. Our parents protected us from these things well by – correctly – guarding what we watched, listened to, and read as children. Our home was safe from these types of influences. I was exposed to pornography and erotica outside the home.

At friends’ homes where they would sneak magazines to shock everyone at slumber parties, and we’d all sit around and comment about how “gross” the images and words that were being read were. Yet we were fascinated and wanted to see – or hear – more.

At an uncle’s. He had magazines, novels, movies, and more around his home every time that we would visit. When we got old enough to recognize what it was he would hide the magazines when our family visited, but we knew where he often hid them. I would hide myself in the bathroom and read the stories that people wrote in to Hustler, Playboy, and Penthouse. Then I would return the magazine exactly where I found it so no-one would know. I had “stomach troubles” a lot when we went to my uncle’s home. But no-one was the wiser.

I was young. So very young. Yet so very fascinated.

And as I grew older I would just want to go down to Alleghany Bookstore and buy a $4 book, take it home, and hide in my room reading at night. But afterwards there was always the guilt. The guilt because I had, in the moment, enjoyed reading those words and had created those images in my head. The shame because I had given in, again, to something that momentarily relieved my stress, or insecurity, or anger – but that I knew was wrong. Such an incredible sense of shame.

So I’d hide the book where no-one else could find it. Then later, though I knew I’d feel so dirty afterwards, I’d pull it out when I needed a “fix” – going through the same cycle of indulgence, relief, guilt/shame, then hiding all over again. Eventually the guilt and shame would overwhelm me and I’d throw the book in the trash, or tear it up for kindling in the fireplace, angry at myself – and telling myself it would never happen again…. …until the next time that things got stressful, or emotional, or lonely.

This addiction has continued into adulthood. It has hounded me like a vicious dog through marriage, children, life, and even ministry.

When the chaos of life swirls around me like a tempest I have to fight the urge to just go hide in my room and read some smut to escape. So I find something else to do. I make lists of things that need to be done. Furiously clean something. Play mindless games on the internet. Read something else. Get my husband to go to bed early with me. (I know, TMI ).

Have I mastered this addiction so that I never have the urge? Absolutely not. It’s an addiction that I do – like any recovering addict – have to fight daily.

Yet I am determined that it will not be master over me. It will not break me, but I will break free of it’s stronghold.

This is my confession… I have an addiction… but I will not serve 2 masters. And as long as I have breath left in me, though it may call to my very soul in times of trouble, the voice of My Father is louder – more powerful – and THAT is the voice I am purposed to heed.

This Is My Confession… I Doubt God

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I do. I have moments when I doubt God.  His ways, His acts, even His Word cause me uncertainty.  There are spells, spans of time, where I am so very confused by Him.

In the last few years I can pinpoint several instances when my confidence in God’s faithfulness was non-existent.  In those cases life’s chaos, conflict, negative words, and/or tumultuous thoughts of guilt and shame will swirl around me like a perfect storm. Whispers of failures whirling in the mind, growing louder and louder, like hurricane winds. Harsh, stinging rains of ugly words and rejection beating against the hull of my heart and I look frantically for a place of refuge and see only the tempest around me.  I begin to doubt.  I hear the winds.  I see the waves.  His voice is drowned out by the squall so large and looming overhead.  And like Peter, one of Christ’s beloved disciples, I doubt.

On a much more real level…There are lots of time – too many times – that I doubt His ability in changing things for the better, with family AND with myself.  I doubt His commitment that, because I trained my children in His ways and taught my children His heart when they were young, that He will protect their hearts and they will return to Him.  I doubt that He can forgive me for the divorce, and the running from Him period that followed, that did NOT show my children – or anyone else in my circle of influence – His heart, His ways…Him. I doubt that He will heal the wounds and scars in my husband’s heart that cause him so much pain and anger.  I doubt that I’ll ever be accepted by another church, because of the rejection of churches the last few years.  I doubt that I’ll ever lead worship, or the arts, again – even though it is my most fervent passion and what I am actually most gifted at.  I doubt that I’ll ever be deemed ‘useful’ in ministry again because I’m considered “older” and “young and trendy” seems to be the norm these days.  I doubt His faithfulness to the things that He has spoken to my heart.  I doubt His plan. And in doubting these thing, I guess that I am ultimately doubting God’s character and power.

It makes me sad.  It hurts my heart. It makes me angry with myself that I have lost such faith in the last few years and have so many times when I do not trust the God who made me…and loves me just the way I am.

I often listen to the song by Don Potter entitled Show Me Your Face. I can so readily identify with the cry of the heart that says:

Show me Your face, Lord

Show me Your face

And gird up my legs that I might stand in Your holy place

Show me Your face, Lord

Your power and grace

I can make it to the end if I could just see Your face

I confess, I doubt God.  Too often.  And I’m not sure exactly how to change this…

The song, for any others like me, is here:   Show Me Your Face

This is My Confession… I lose control when I’m angry

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James 5:16 says “confess your faults one to another”. The word “faults” is translated “a lapse or deviation from truth and uprightness; a sin, misdeed”. In the previous blog post I shared thoughts on confessing to one another as Christ-followers… as Christ’s body…. as the church and being the church to one another in times of struggle, failure, and honest questioning.

As someone who highly values authenticity, honesty, and the safety for each of God’s masterpieces to be exactly who they were created to be without fear, I can’t speak about the importance of confession without being willing to take a first step forward myself.

The purpose is not to boast in my faults nor to cry out for pity.  Neither are beneficial for my pursuit of Christ.  The purpose is three-fold:

  • to invite others who follow Christ to lovingly hold me accountable by asking “Hey… how’s that thing going?”
  • to ask others to pray when they feel prompted
  • to encourage others to comment, share, and/or confess when they feel safe – because we are, after all, every one human

And so I begin a series of blog posts that are simply… confessions.

This is my confession… When I get angry anymore, I lose control.

It has always taken a lot to make me angry enough to speak harshly.  I have forever had a tendency to tighten my teeth and harden my eyes, yet hold my tongue because I am not a fan of conflict.  Nor do I enjoy having to bear the weight of guilt that comes when speaking rashly and damaging someone else’s heart or psyche with my angry words. So I have typically endured criticism, disrespectful words, rudeness, arrogance, dishonesty, and even verbal abuse from some – often with angry tears running down my face – in silence.

Every now and then I would get just angry enough.  My shoulders would start to tighten, my breathing would get quicker, I could feel it bubbling up, and then I would suddenly spew words of frustration, irritation, and aggravation like hot lava from a volcano. But it would take someone pushing my buttons for a long while before I got to this point.  I was proud of that. Until lately…

In the last 3-4 years I have developed a very short fuse which is miniscule, at best, these days.  I find myself walking through Walmart and getting angry at the “trifling lazy woman” who makes her 5-year old push the buggy and then smacks his head when he doesn’t walk as fast as she wants him to.  I get angry at the “idiots who can’t drive”.  I get angry at the “incompetent people” who attempt to solve my customer service issues. I get angry at the “lazy scraggly security people” that I don’t feel work quick enough at my daughter’s school.  I get angry at my kids.  I get angry at my husband.  I get angry at God.  And when I get angry, I lose control. I do the thing that I so do not want to do.  I become rude. Harsh. Demanding. I speak hurtful words (I can see the hurt in their eyes).  And I curse… worse than any sailor.

Then afterwards, I cry from the deep.  I cry because I have caused someone else pain or humiliation or shame.  I cry because I hate that person that I become.  I cry from remorse for losing control.  I cry because God cannot use an angry person.  I cry because there is no-one that I can tell about my struggle with anger because they won’t understand if I am their leader… or they won’t want me to minister or speak… or they get uncomfortable with vulnerability… or they will no longer trust me as a mentor, minister, or friend.  I cry because I know that I do not want to be an angry, bitter, hard-hearted person; yet I have not been able to come to a place of soul-rest again.  I cry because I am guilty.  I cry because I am ashamed.  I cry because I am hurt.  I cry because I am angry. At myself. For getting so angry.

And I ask God, again, to please help me get this thing… my heart… my emotions… my words… my reactions and responses right.

This is my confession. This is what I struggle with.  But this is NOT who I want to, or will, be.

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13 Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray.14 Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. 15 And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. 16 Therefore confess your faults to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective. – James 5:13-16