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Resentment Machine

When I write a blog, it usually is a result of something I have read in the morning that I feel God is prompting me to write about. Most of the time it is a direct result of something I am battling with myself and you, my dear friends, get to be the victims of me “reasoning things out” on paper. But today, I want to share a few things that have been on my mind since I watched a movie last week. It was called “A Light Between Oceans.” It isn’t necessary to recap the plot in order to help us reflect on a quote that I just can’t quite get out of my mind. In part, I think it is because I am realizing that even though it sounds good and beautiful, it’s missing a very important component that unfortunately, I have learned first hand in the past several years.

A couple different characters use this eloquent reflection on forgiveness and why it is always the best choice over resentment. Let me tell you the quote and you see if you can find the flaw: “It (forgiveness instead of resentment) is so much less exhausting. You only have to forgive once. To resent, you have to do it all day, every day. You have to keep remembering all the bad things…No…we always have a choice. All of us.” I do have to say that I am very proud of this movie for posing this as the best solution. We so love movies that have an exciting revenge plot! Just “letting it go” is not that glamorous and seems pretty unfair. So, in that respect, kudos to Hollywood.

But here is what I have found in my challenge to forgive: There is no way in heck that it’s a one time job. Depending on the depth of the hurt or betrayal, choosing to forgive might be something I have to decide to do every single day for the rest of my life. And often, several times a day, at that. Is it just me? And I have to say that the choice to forgive has to be a selfish one. What I mean by that is that I do if for my own peace of mind and serenity. If I had to rely on my desire to do it for the person I need to forgive, I’d never get there. There is something miraculous that happens when I make the decision to “let it go” for my own sake. It becomes a habit and, over time, I might actually have some softer feelings to match.

Resentment, I agree, takes a lot of work to hold on to. And yes, clinging to it causes me to rehearse and re-rehearse the offense.  I heard a speaker liken it to the sports announcers using the instant replay machine in a sporting even. Have you ever watched them review an injury on the football field? They play it over and over, in slow motion, and in the end it looks even worse than the first time it happened. That’s how resentments work. And yes, they are exhausting.  I love these lines in my Courage to Change book on Recovery: “When my thoughts are full of bitterness, fear, self-pity, and dreams of revenge, there is little room for love or for the quiet voice of guidance within me…I know that when I hold on to resentment and blame, I occupy my spirit with bitterness.” I love the way they put that: ” I occupy my spirit with bitterness.” It is up to us to de-clutter  our spirits from resentments so we can find more fulfilling and nurturing way to fill ourselves up.

So, I would just add an addendum to what the movie is trying to say regarding forgiveness. BOTH choices will most likely present themselves to your heart and mind on a regular basis. Every time you choose to resent, to replay that resentment machine over and over and over in your head, you will occupy your spirit with bitterness and it will keep you captive- unhappy and angry and very, very, very tired (I know this from experience also). But even though forgiveness is not a one and done event, there is a wonderful thing that happens the more you do it. You become more and more free. You will be able to hear that still small voice of God that get’s drowned out when resentment rules you. You will be lighter in body and spirit because each time you do it you will unload a little bit more of the baggage you have been hauling around with you-sometimes for years.

And the good news is, you don’t have to mean it. But, sweet friend, eventually, you probably will. My prayers for those I need to forgive may have started with “Lord, help them go to heaven tonight”, but today I find I can legitimately pray “God, give them all the good things in their life that I want in mine.” That progress did not come from giving in to rehearsing resentments day after day. It came from choosing, again and again, to forgive.

But the movie and I agree on that one truth, that in the end, forgiveness is always the least exhausting choice.

(even if you have to do it 70×7 )

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Your worst enemy

I love to read the Psalms when I am angry (or feeling like a victim). David, who wrote the majority of them, goes in to great detail about wanting his enemies to be “smote” or tortured in some terrible way. He vents his fears and human desire for justice to come to his enemies. He seems to be pursued quite a bit. Some of his enemies are not people who are after him for personal reasons. But there is one who is. His name is Saul, and he used to be David’s dearest friend. In Psalm 55:12-14 David says, “if an enemy were insulting me, I could endure it; if a foe were raising himself against me, I could hide from him. But, it is you, my companion, my close friend, with who I once enjoyed sweet fellowship as we walked with the throng at the house of God.” The worst kind of enemy is the kind that used to be our friend. When I look up the definition of enemy, it says, “(a person, or thing) who has hatred for, fosters harmful designs agains, or engages in antagonistic activities toward another.” I haven’t had many enemies in my life, but the most painful ones are those that were once “with me” and are now “against me”. I could talk a long time about that, but I actually want to share something different that came to me as I was reading the Psalms this morning. It isn’t often that God shows me a way to see scripture that has never occurred to me before. Most likely, because I get tunnel vision and tend to think I know the best and the only way to do things (anyone relate?). But today, I must have been more open to new ideas and this is the thought that I had: “my enemy is not always a person.”

Sometimes my enemy is far more dangerous than just another measly human being. Sometimes it is like what J.R.R. Tolkien describes as “a large ferocious wolf”. A bitter enemy. A danger to be feared. A Deadly foe. What is your bitter enemy? What enemy pursues you. Wants to devour you-though it used to comfort you and make you feel safe and warm? Is it the disease of alcoholism? Addiction? Food? Relationship? Exercise? Serving at church? Approval? Sex? Money? All of these are things that have potential to give us immediate gratification. A sense of well-being and confidence and even a feeling of temporary peace. But no longer. What, in your life, used to be your friend but now “returns at evening, snarling like a dog…prowls and wanders about for food and howls if it is not satisfied” (Ps.59:14,15)? At what point did it turn on you? Two glasses of wine used to be enough. It was your companion. But, today it haunts you. Taunts you. Lurks about trying to kill you. Those pills used to calm your nerves. Those chips, pizza, cookies used to give you a solution that worked. For a little while. That person used to give you the affection and love you needed to feel secure, but now they just can’t seem to do enough to satiate you. You are in a constant state of neediness. God has given us many good gifts. Used in the right context, these are some of them. But when our brokenness collides with them, and we look to the gifts, rather than the Giver, they turn on us. Because they simply aren’t big enough to fill the void in us that only God is big enough to fully occupy. I love how Bill Wilson, founder of AA puts it; “out of the alloy of drink and speculation (business/money/success) I commenced to form the weapons that would one day turn in its flight like a boomerang and all but cut me to ribbons.” Sometimes these “things” are our friends; until they are not. What “friend” of yours has come back to cut you to ribbons? Identify it and then pick up the book of Psalms and fight it. Read through them and every time you read about the “enemy”, insert your personal enemy. Pray like David did:

Psalm 55: “listen to my prayer, O God, do not ignore my plea; hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught at the voice of the enemy, at the stares of the wicked; for they bring down suffering upon me and revile me in their anger…But I call to God, and the Lord saves me. Evening, morning, and noon I cry out in distress and he hears my voice. He ransoms me unharmed from the battle waged against me, even though many oppose me”

Psalm 56; “When I am afraid, I will trust in you. In God, whose word I praise, in God I trust; I will not be afraid. What can mortal man do to me? All day long they wish my words; they are always plotting to harm me. They conspire, they lurk, they watch my steps, eager to take my life.”

Psalm 59: My enemies return at evening (aren’t those the bewitching hours?), snarling like dogs, and prowl about you the city (my mind, which is a dangerous neighborhood where no one should go alone). They spew out swords from their lips…but You, O Lord, laugh at them. O my Strength, I watch for you; you are my fortress, my loving God. God will go before me and will let me gloat over those who slander me.”

What is your enemy? What coping mechanism used to be your friend but is now attempting to “cut you to ribbons.” The battle is too big, too powerful, to dark, for you to do it alone. But the good news is that you have a God who can and will deliver you if you seek Him.

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SQUIRRELS

So-it’s been about a week since I have last written. Here’s why: I convinced myself I had nothing enlightening to say. Worried that I had run dry of stories and insights into everyday kind of life. But, this morning, I had an epiphany. It came while I was watching squirrels. Yes. Squirrels. There were 5 of them chasing each other in circles and up and down a large tree across the street. It was entertaining for a few minutes and then I thought, “I have a big tree in my yard too. They used to play in my tree. I wonder why they don’t play my tree anymore? What’s wrong with my tree?”(and now, you too are thinking I may have indeed “run dry”). The squirrels are important because they triggered my next thought which was a Recovery Reminder that perhaps I was “taking things personal that have nothing to do with me.” Is it possible that the squirrels were not actually playing in the neighbor’s yard just to stick it to me? Could it be that they are just having fun and are actually not even thinking about me at all? The answer is “yes”, it’s highly probable that the squirrels, and occasionally, people, do things that I choose to take personal but actually aren’t. And that’s when it hit me…my blogging brain was back!!! I knew that if my mind was once again able to learn life lessons from watching squirrels, that there was no end to the insights I could bring to pretty much any ridiculous circumstance that others just might overlook. It may not do the same for you, but it gave my heart a sense of joy and hope that I was afraid I had lost.

You see, I started writing because I was very sick. While I was sick, I had insights into common struggles that helped me navigate my way through my disease as well as my potential for discouragement. In the process, it seemed to help some other people around me who also were prone to similar ailments (physically, emotionally, spiritually). As my body got better and life got crazy and busy and taxing, I felt my serenity slipping. And then I let myself believe the worst sort of lie; If I wasn’t in perfect spiritual and emotional condition, I had no business talking out loud to anyone about anything significant. I mean, wonder if I talked about Joy and my family read it? They knew I had been grumpy and mopey for days. What if I pointed out our need for putting first things first and keeping things in perspective right after I chewed out my kid for spilling his milk (in the basement…on the carpet…the whole glass…)? Or maybe I blogged about staying connected to friends and not isolating but never returned your phone call? Wouldn’t all that just make be a big fat phony? But when I had my insight about the squirrels (which, come on, what is more profound that pontificating on squirrel behavior?), I realized that it came because I related it to the craziness that is in me. Not the mature parts. The immature parts. The disease of self and sin will never fully be eliminated from my life. So, technically, I will never run out of material. I have enough life experience with failure and falling short and screwing up and childish, idiotic behavior to last me indefinitely. It occurred to me that if anyone still reads what I have to say, it probably isn’t, and never was, because they they think I have it all figured out. More likely, it is because maybe they resonate with the parts of me I am willing to confess on paper that most people aren’t. I am generally not ashamed or embarrassed to admit that I am feeling emotionally threatened by squirrels who choose the neighbor’s tree over mine. And hopefully it makes you feel a little better about your own idiosyncrasies and hang-ups and blunders and down-right sins. That’s why I started writing, and that’s why I’m not ready to stop. It’s good to be back. I missed you.

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Inside Pets

We have a cat. Her name is Sunny Day. She is 12 years old in people years. As a kitten she almost didn’t make it for the long haul (scratching my little kids til’ they cried and tearing up furniture almost got her killed-by me). But as I am typing this, she is still here, trying to squirm her way on to my lap, even though it is occupied with my iPad. I love her to pieces and get sad when I think of her ever dying. This sadness surprises me, because until Sunny Day came along I never really had any pets. Don’t let that statement mislead you…I said we never had a “pet”, I did not say that we never had any “animals”. There is a big difference. We actually had a lot of animals over the years. The main difference between a pet and a mere animal, is location location location. Do they come INSIDE or do they have to stay OUTSIDE. Not only were the animals we accumulated never allowed inside (because someone CLAIMED they had allergies), they were also free. We never paid for any of the cats or dogs that lived in our backyard during my childhood.They were always given to us by a family member or friend or, and this was by far the most common means, my sister or brother rescued them from danger along the road or possibly at a grocery store (where they feared they might be “free” for someone’s dinner!). One might say that we had a very different approach to cats or dogs than, say, the powers that be in LA trying to pass a law that says you must not call them PETS. They are “animal companions.” I have a very distinct memory of losing one of our “animal companion” cats when we were moving from Montana to Oregon. We stopped at some friend’s house to say goodbye and when the car door opened she just jumped out of the car. We didn’t even try to catch her. I know it sounds horrible, but it’s hard to be too emotionally attached to someone/something that only peeks at you through the glass window now and then. Who never cuddles with you on the couch while you watch TV or while you sleep in your bed. Who you sometimes don’t even see for 2 or 3 days. Who you occasionally pet for 30 seconds and then ignore for a week or so. Who you set out food for, hoping that the raccoons and other neighborhood “outside” animals don’t eat it first.

This is why my attachment to my present pet is so unusual for me. She sleeps right on top of my body at night and if I don’t get up in time, she nibbles at my hair to get me out of bed. Last night, as I was laying in bed with Sunny Day draped across my belly, I had this thought about God (and please, nobody send me mail confronting me on implying that God is my “pet”. Just roll with it): I want God to be my INSIDE God, not my OUTSIDE God. When I had outside animals, they had names and we occasionally payed attention to them and once in awhile gave them some scraps off our dinner table or threw it an extra blanket if it was snowing. Whenever we called to our animals (“here kitty kitty kitty…”), from the warmth or cool of our home, they always came running. As if THIS would be the time we were going to let them in. When I treat God like an “Outside” pet, it is also hard to get attached to him. To feel emotionally engaged with him or make him a part of my everyday, simple life is nearly impossible. There may even be times where I think God has wandered away from home or found himself a better owner, only to find that when I call for him, he comes running back as if he were just patiently waiting around the corner. He longs to come inside, but instead I shoo him away with my foot and slam the door before he can enter. If I just keep busy inside, alone, I won’t notice that he is sitting by the door in anticipation. God is a magnificent Being who holds the universe and all that is in it. And yet, He longs to be our INSIDE God. One who soothes, comforts, and relates to us intimately. He sent His son at Christmas and brought him home at Easter, just to make this point excruciatingly clear. If you have always had an “outside” relationship with God, maybe it’s time to reconsider approaching him with an intimacy that is more like having an “inside” God. Instead of shooing him away, bring him inside. Let Him be the type of “Companion” that can fill the empty distance between the two of you.

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Dumb-Struck

My daughter has had laryngitis this week. If you haven’t met her, she is 14 and LOVES to talk. A lot. It’s been torture for her; that is, until she discovered an APP that would make her phone speak for her. She would type (which she can do about as fast as she can speak) and then hit a button and it would do the talking. We had fun discovering how it would describe various emojis. I’ll admit that I was curious about the newest emoji that one might describe as “giving someone the bird”. When she typed it, It would say “reversed hand with medium light skin tone with middle finger extended”. We giggled and giggled (I know that you are wishing you could instill such significant life lessons in your children as well. It’s a gift…).

Not being able to speak is challenging. And frustrating. I wish I could have figured out how to use that APP when I was recovering from my week in ICU. I had been intubated for several days and was very weak, so speaking was impossible. I had to write down anything I wanted to say, which took enormous effort as well. I had sort of forgotten about this inability to speak until I was listening to a message at church a couple weeks ago about a man named Zechariah. Actually, it was Jesus uncle and when an angel appeared to him to tell him that his wife was going to have a baby (which would be Jesus’ cousin, “John the Baptist”, in case you haven’t made the connection yet) even though she was, like, old…He doubted. He questioned God. So what happened to him? He was struck dumb, naturally! It’s one thing to not be able to speak, but it’ super frustrating when you weren’t born that way. When you have been talking and communicating audibly your whole life, and then are unable to speak when you have something really important, or even not so important to say, it’s infuriating. Take it from me, and probably from Zechariah-it’s no good. And like me, Zech had to write things down in order to communicate. In the end, right after their baby did indeed grow in his wife’s belly and come in to the world from her aged-womb, people were arguing over what to call him. The angel had told them to name him John. It was unheard of in those days to be named anything other than a name reflecting who his father was. But after being mute for 9 months, Zechariah wasn’t about to test God again. He grabbed a paper and pen and wrote in big letters with lots of exclamation points (I assume) “HIS NAME IS JOHN!!!!”. And immediately he could speak again. The story of the birth of John isn’t as widely known or told as the the birth of Jesus. So as I sat in church listening to this portion of the pre-Christmas story, for the first time, I actually felt a kinship with Zechariah. This was the first time I had heard this story where I could literally relate to how bad it stinks to be unable to talk!

Now, I know that the lessons Zechariah was supposed to learn are not outlined in scripture. So, let me just share with you a couple lessons I learned while I couldn’t speak. Maybe he learned them too. One lesson is pretty obvious; when you can’t speak, you have to listen. I listened to sounds and conversations around me that I would have never payed attention to otherwise. But most importantly, I listened to God. I guess because I believe He knows my every thought, I didn’t feel so lonely in my silence. I didn’t have to write things down to communicate my needs or fears or suffering to Him. Even when I was able to talk, I spent hours alone during the five 6-day stays in the hospital. I didn’t talk much. As a result, I felt an intimacy with God that is hard to duplicate in my current, noisy world. The other thing I learned-that I am pretty sure Zechariah learned as well-is that God’s power is tremendously demonstrated when he gives voice to the mute. My silence only lasted a week. Zechariah was writing notes and using hand gestures for nine months! A week was plenty of time to have an appreciation for silence embedded in my Being (though not entirely long enough according some of my family members). But when I could speak, and in my case, breathe on my own and eventually walk and kick cancer-God definitley got the credit. The glory. The gratitude. Though none of us can really duplicate either of these scenarios, I encourage you to do what you can to spend some time in silence. Send some time expressing yourself to a God who hears your every thought. Speak to him from the stillness and quietness of your grateful or hurting or broken heart. Even if it’s a few minutes a day. There is something profound to be said for “saying” nothing at all.

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Cousin Eddie

I am sitting on the couch in my pajama’s listening to Christmas Carols on my IPAD. I love my living room room this time of year. The Christmas tree is in here, there is a beautiful tray with candles and a poinsettia on the coffee table and my piano looks like a Christmas bomb exploded on it. Candles are lit and everything glows and smells of Christmas. Usually there are already piles of presents under the tree, which is reminding me that I better get my Christmas shopping rear in gear. But for now, I will try to stay focused long enough to write about 800 words. This morning I have been reading some of my recovery literature because tonight I get to lead a Meeting. This means that I get to choose the topic and a correlating reading to go with it. It took me about 2 and a half seconds to decide which one to pick. It’s a very powerful, effective tool called “Detachment”. Here is an example of how it has worked for me and how it might benefit you as you head in to the crunch-time of holiday madness (also known as “family get-togethers”).

I distinctly remember pulling out this “tool” a couple years ago. Maybe you have been in a similar state: sitting in the living room (the very SAME living room that gave me such joy in the paragraph above), needles rapidly covering the floor from the dried-out tree, feeling overwhelmed about un-decorating what seemed like a phenomenal to decorate a month ago, and wishing that you could return to life where kids are back at school and out-of-town guests would head home, like, yesterday. But my own attitude was only part of the problem. The bigger issue for me was that my husband was feeling the same way, and so, in my co-dependency, I was not only owning my own stress, I was taking on his. In fact, most of my actual anxiety was happening because I was worried about his emotions and frustrations. I knew I needed immediate help if I didn’t want to spend the rest of the season grouchy. So, I sat down and read every entry on “Detachment” I could find. There happen to be 14 of them, second only the the topic of “focusing on myself” which has 19. Both of these topics are sort of saying the same thing, really. The best definition of Detachment I have found is, “separating yourself emotional and spiritually from other people.” Now there’s a thought. I realized, as I read every entry on that particular day, that my “emotional emergency” could have been avoided if I had pulled this tool out at the beginning of the season. I could have walked peacefully through the previous weeks, even when those around me were not behaving to my liking or living up to my expectations of how the holidays should play out. Just in case you tend to be like Clark Griswold from “Christmas Vacation”, who had grand ideas and sentiments about all the grandparents staying with them to celebrate the holiday but whose serenity begins to slip as cousin Eddie pulls up in his RV, let me give you a few snippets from my readings on Detachment that might just save your life (or someone else’s!):

*”Detachment involves paying attention to my own mood before I have a chance to take on someone else’s…I don’t have to have a bad day just because someone I love is struggling.”

*”If I pause for a moment before focusing on someone else’s mood, I may find out that I have feelings of my own that deserve attention. I will look for those moments to check in with myself today.”

*”Detachment allows us to let go of our obsession with another’s behavior and begin to lead happier and more manageable lives.”

*”Detachment with love means that I stop depending upon what others do, say, or feel to determine my own well-being…I can love their best and never fear their worst.”

*”Detachment (with love) is a wonderful gift: I am allowing my loved ones the privilege and opportunity of being themselves.”

*Detachment means “I don’t have to like everything someone else says or does, and I don’t have to change them when I think they are wrong. I can continue to care without taking everything personally.”

One more for good measure:
*”When I am consumed with negativity over another person’s behavior, I have lost my focus. I needn’t tolerate what I consider unacceptable, but wallowing in negativity will not alter the situation. If there is action to take, I am free to take it. Where I am powerless to change the situation, I will turn it over to (God). By truly letting go, I detach and forgive.”

Well folks, Cousin Eddie has arrived. Christmas isn’t coming-it’s here. And you have control over how you approach it this year. Give yourself the gift of Detachment. Maybe, just maybe, this year you could be peaceful, happy and free amid the chaos.

Addiction, Brokenness, Faith/Spirituality, grace, Relationships, Uncategorized

Painter of Light

I’ve been thinking about this for a couple of days now. Even now I am not sure what my take away will be by the time I finish. Maybe that will be up to you…

I have a long history with Thomas Kincaid-“Painter of Light.” Remember him? At one point 1 in 20 American Homes had a Thomas Kincaid painting hanging on their wall. One year he grossed $130 million. He managed to touch a place in people’s hearts that no other artist could reach. And many of them were critical and clearly jealous and bitter over his wild success. Kincaid had 2 main trademarks. One, he brought light and warmth to an otherwise average painting and two, he made us want to visit or live in those cottages or go to church in that glowing, snow covered chapel.

My journey of familiarity with Kinkade’s work started when I got married. One of my great aunts and her daughter owned an art gallery in Duncan’s Mill, California. As a wedding gift, she gave us a numbered print of a church in a quaint, wintery town. It hung on my wall until this year (when I repainted and decided I was ready to change my decor. I may have to hang it back up after I finish this blog…). In Vallejo, California, a Thomas Kinkade development was actually launched. It crashed with the rest of the housing market, but it’s purpose was to create a place of “calm not chaos. Peace not pressure.” I have visited one of his art galleries in Carmel and at some point I purchased a Christmas Devotional that was written and illustrated by him. I have read it every Christmas for the past 15 years. He talks about his faith openly in this book as well as in many interviews. On the bottom of most of his inspirational paintings he writes “John 3:16” with a fish symbol next to it. You can find a nauseating amount of knick-knacks, ornaments, bookmarks, etc. that tout his work at Christian Bookstores everywhere. When he writes, he speaks fondly of his wife, Nanette, and his four daughters. The home he depicts is one we all would long to be a part of, especially at Christmas-time. The cover of my devotional says “Thomas Kinkade spends his days creating beautiful worlds where light dances and peace reigns.” Only that’s not entirely true.

On April 6, 2012, at the age of 54, Thomas Kinkade died of an overdose. The papers said, “Who could have imagined that behind so many contented visions of peace, harmony and nauseating goodness lay just another story of deception, disappointment and depravity, fueled by those ever-ready stooges, Valium and alcohol?”. It makes me wonder how many of his pictures are hanging in those homes now? Did they take them down when they learned that the man behind the mood was a drunk? I took mine down for superficial reasons, but as I am learning more about this battle of his, it actually makes me want to put it back up. What Thomas WANTED to say in His work, what he DID say, is that we all long for that place where we can feel “peaceful, happy, and free” as we say in recovery. In one article, he referred to his pieces as “silent messengers in the home,” and was unapologetic about his almost clinical efforts to make his work uplifting. “Every element in my paintings, from the patch of sun in the foreground to the mists on a distant horizon, is an effort to summon back those perfect moments that hang in our minds as pictures of harmony,” he once wrote in Lightposts for Living. “My deepest desire is that my work will help people aspire to the life those kinds of images evoke.” In another article he says of his paintings, “It’s not the world we live in, it’s the world we wished we live in. People wish they could find that stream, that cabin in the woods.” And yet, the disease of alcoholism hijacked this dream and drug him to the pit of despair. By the end of his life he was separated from his wife and girls and living with his girlfriend. One night, he drank too much and took valium and never woke up.

So, what? I don’t know exactly. Looking back on the article, I just read that even though his death ended in a way that opposed the very values he spent his life’s work depicting through word and art, sales are actually rising. What a relief. I have seen, on a personal level and in more public venues, what can happen when people of faith fall. The greater tragedy comes when those who were once inspired by such a person, turn their backs on them in disgust when their humanity rises up and takes over. When they display weakness or succumb to a sin that we cannot seem to forgive. I have heard first-hand stories of people inflicted with the disease of addiction and how they hurt those they loved and did or said things that contradicted their core beliefs. NONE of them say that they enjoyed being a bad parent or unreliable friend or hateful husband. And even without addiction as an explanation, haven’t we all behaved in ways that were not consistent with how we desire to live? I don’t have to be an addict to act like a self-willed, self-focused self-indulgent person. My goal each day is to love God and love people more and better than I did yesterday. But sadly, by the end of the day, my review of what I did tells me that the person I loved and served most was me. I guess one of the things I am trying to say is this: suspend judgment. There are people around us everyday who are acting in ways that are counter to who they really desire to be. There is no end the the obstacles that keep them, and me, from succeeding. Keep this story in your mind as you spend time with family, friends and co-workers who you feel like strangling. Instead of running around frazzled and stressed out and angry because of the pressures of the Christmas season, try to empathize with those whose hearts are living in chaos, grief and anxiety. Maybe YOU can be that “peaceful stream, that cabin in the woods”. Maybe you can help someone be touched by the glow of light on on otherwise dull painting. If you are one of those people who long for that light, and like Thomas Kinkade just can’t seem to reach it, get help. Find recovery. Find God. Find friends. Find me. I believe the words of the scripture: “For God comforts us in all our affliction so that we in turn may comfort others in the same way we have been comforted by God.” God has brought me through much. He has given me “comfort” in my soul. If I can help you find that comfort, I will. Most of us are either one version of Thomas Kinkade or the other, depending on the day. Let’s help each other out.

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If you can’t hide it-decorate it!

OK-this is going to be short, sweet and to the point because I have a haircut in 45 minutes. If you are new to my blog, that is a statement of celebration because I have post-leukemic hair and I am very grateful that I have hairs to cut!

It’s funny that I am headed to a haircut, because that’s exactly what my short and sweet point is about. External Beauty. I was reading from the book of Isaiah this morning (ya, I know that’s weird, but it’s where all the Christmas prophecies are from so I read bits and pieces of it every Christmas season). I read something in chapter 3 that i have never read before. God is talking about the rebellion of the people of Israel, specifically the women, in these verses. He says that the day will come when He will “snatch away their finery; the bangles and headbands and crescent necklaces, the earrings and bracelets and veils, the headdresses and ankle chains and sashes, the perfume bottles and charms, the signet rings and nose rings, the fine robes and the capes and cloaks, the purses and mirrors, and the linen garments and tiaras and shawls.” A couple quick comments: one; apparently, I am a severely under-accessorized woman and two; i gotta get me a veil, a headdress, a cape, a nose ring and a tiara! That woman had it going on! Notice that it didn’t say much else about her appearance. It reminds me of a story, a real life story, that my friend told me about 20 years ago. A woman who worked in her office was rather loud and rather large. She came to work one day wearing loud clothes and jewelry and makeup to match. Her husband happened to work there too. When he walked in the room and saw her, he said, “well, if you can’t hide it-decorate it!” (try not to get side tracked about ways to have that man killed).

That statement is more true than most of us want to admit. We aren’t happy with what’s inside so we distract by dressing up our outsides. Or maybe we aren’t necessarily miserable on the inside, but we definitely spend much more time perfecting what other see with their eyes and a pretty sad amount of time examining and improving our insides. Our character. Nurturing our spirit takes a back seat to the energy we waste decorating our outward appearance.

God says that there will come a day when “instead of fragrance there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-dressed hair, baldness; instead of fine clothing, sackcloth; instead of beauty, branding.” In other words-God sees and cares about what is on our insides. All the decorating in the world will not distract Him from who we truly are. This season-as you decorate you home-maybe it’s time to be more focused on the love that’s happening-or not happening inside it. And as you decorate your body for the next Christmas party-take time to consider if you are rocking the outfit on the outside, but know full well that your insides have a stench and your head is bald (i’ll try not to take that personally…). This isn’t an indictment…It’s an invitation. God is inviting you to draw near to Him and let HIM adorn your life with HIS beauty-inside and out.

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Fouling Out

I played basketball in high school. Well maybe I should clarify: I played my freshman year at a private school that barely had enough girls to compile a team. I had a great outside shot, as long as no one was guarding me and I had a good amount of time to get set up. What I lacked in skill I made up for in aggressiveness. Even though I didn’t start or play very much, I typically fouled out of most every game (for those of you non-basketball players, to “foul-out” essentially means that you have violated the rules of civilized sports one too many times and have to go sit on the bench in shame). I don’t know if you have ever noticed this, but girl basketball can look more like wrestling than basketball. As a general rule, a female’s competitive nature takes another female trying to steal the ball from her as a personal assault. I would latch on to that ball with everything bit of strength and stubbornness I could exert. If I needed to take the chick to the ground, so be it. And I only had 5 chances to do this before they made me sit out the rest of the game.Totally unfair!

I hate to admit that this Sunday, as I was “meditating” during Communion time at church, my short-lived basketball career came to mind. Here’s why: I started to tell God that I was turning over certain people in my life to His care. That I was going to stop trying to fix, manage and control them and just let Him take care of them. That struck me as sort of funny when I realized that the fact that I think that I can “turn over” something that isn’t really mine is absurd. He already has them. He’s already in charge of them. This is when the image of me wrestling players to the ground for the basketball entered my mind. What I need to do is to give up trying to wrestle God for “possession of the ball”, because the stats say I am fixn’ to foul out. There are certain people that He has in His possession, and I am violently, stubbornly, determinately, trying to pry them from God’s hands. Sunday it was people. Today, it’s situations. I am frantic because there are too many things blocking my perfect outside shot and I am resorting to scrapping and clawing for the ball. I have to keep in mind that the “possession arrow”, the one that indicates which team gets the ball next, is always pointing in God’s direction. In the end, in spite of all my wild wrestling, I will end up with another foul and God will still end up with possession. It would be wiser to politely, in accordance with civilized, surrendered, cooperative behavior, hand God the ball.