Anger Management

Rows of Mailboxes

Dear Rory,

Thank you so much for the lovely card at Thanksgiving. My Grandmother tells me to say Hi for her. You were always her favorite of my friends growing up.

I had meant to send this letter off to you earlier, but I have been a bit under the weather. Between my cold and all the turkey I am amazed I remembered to breath. I seemed to have missed something however, this past week. Without my noticing it appears Christmas lights have gone up all over! Can you believe it is already December? This year has gone by at warp speed! I feel like I have lived a decade in the past twelve months. I tell you the truth though; I could swear I saw Valentine’s day candy at the grocery store.

I had dinner with Eric the other night. He is here and there and everywhere right now. Amidst work, family and his travels we decided to meet up before the year changed. Our friendship has changed drastically. I am not sure you would recognize us if you saw us together. Like you, he has a hard time understanding my ‘conversion’ to Christianity.  “God is so angry” he told me, “all that killing. How do you believe that?”

With great ease, I wanted to reply. But it is not easy, at least not right away. It takes time and reading to understand. Like Eric, I remember feeling that way about the Old Testament. I mean what is with the God of the Old Testament. He wants to punish and kill everyone. Right?

Wrong.

The thing is this; you have to read the Old Testament to understand. God wants nothing more than reconciliation. He wants His children to return, trust, and love Him. Your mother and father want the same thing. God doesn’t want to force it though, He wants it el naturel. He allows us to choose it.

So how does a loving God punish His people by destroying them? Well I think it is important to understand what those people were doing. They were sinning.

Okay, here is where I am going to go off the beaten track of mainstream Christianity. I say this because every one of the preachers I have met says ‘there is no hierarchy of sin- it is all offensive to God.’ I am not disputing that. BUT let’s look at what that sin was. We are not talking about of gossips, or people telling little white lies. We are talking about a group of people who were worshiping fake gods and idols.

What the harm in that? Why is God so jealous especially if they are not real? Must be an egomaniac right?

Well what if I told you that to worship those fake gods involved cannibalism; and not just cannibalism but eating the flesh of unborn babies. What If that worship called for you to burn your children to death by fire, or bake them in metal statues? What if it meant that you had to prostitute you children out to the temple priests? Religious induced rape and incest?

I have heard people say that Hitler was going straight to hell. I have heard people call Saddam Hussein the devil and call for the execution of Charles Manson. That is to say nothing of the Son of Sam, Ted Bundy or John Wayne Gacy.  Can you imagine a city where that is the norm. Where behavior such as theirs is not only accepted but endorsed, honored and praised? Can you imagine being a Child in Israel in that time?

If humanity can agree that this is indefensible, then why would we expect less of God the Father? Why then is his anger unjustifiable and irrational?

I wanted to share this bit of scripture with you. It is from Jeremiah. A man God used to a prophet to tell the people to repent their ways, to stop their horrid practices. (See Rory, even when He is rebuking them, God wants his people. He does not simply throw them away. )

31 They have built the high places of Topheth in the Valley of Ben Hinnom to burn their sons and daughters in the fire—something I did not command, nor did it enter my mind. – Jeremiah 7:31

I know it will sound silly, but this verse filled me with such love! It didn’t enter His mind! It was not something He wanted. It was not a thought He had for us. Somehow that piece of scripture transformed God the angry to God the forever loving and caring. God will rise up against us. God will defend his children. He loves us. He wants nothing more than our reconciliation.

His,

M

gobble gobble gobble…

Dear Rory,

Happy Thanksgiving! I love the way this time of year smells, all that cinnamon and pumpkin. The fact that it is just chilly enough outside that you need to wear a sweater.  I am on pie duty again this year. Are you going to make your famous Turkey? I pray that you don’t burn down your house….

I know it is clique to say what you are thankful for. It is like saying I love you on Valentine’s day. But it seems people need reminders. We tend to take so many things for granted. Why last night I was complaining about my phone…you know the cell phone that allows me to call from just about anywhere, lets me map out my destination, send emails, and listen to music. Oh and it also plays games for when I am bored and lets me read the newest book. Yeah, that phone is the one I was complaining about, that technology that I have taken for granted so much that I feel frustrated when it doesn’t work as fast as I want it to.

It seems in this fast paced world we need to be extra cautious to be thankful for what we have. Sometimes I think we need to stop, look past what we take for granted and really see something for what it is. Whether or not that is a phone or our God.

Last night I was reading this passage in the book of Lamentations.

57You came near when I called you, and you said, “Do not fear.”

58 You, Lord, took up my case; you redeemed my life.

59 Lord, you have seen the wrong done to me. Uphold my cause!

60 You have seen the depth of their vengeance, all their plots against me.

61 Lord, you have heard their insults, all their plots against me—

62 what my enemies whisper and mutter against me all day long.

63 Look at them! Sitting or standing, they mock me in their songs.

64 Pay them back what they deserve, Lord, for what their hands have done.

65 Put a veil over their hearts, and may your curse be on them!

66 Pursue them in anger and destroy them from under the heavens of the Lord.

It seemed odd to me that God would seek revenge on our behalf. On my behalf. I mean isn’t being a Christian about loving your enemies? It has always seemed like something I should never even ask let alone expect form God.

…but why not?

I mean if God is our heavenly father, and the school bully is stealing our lunch money, wouldn’t we tell our parents? Wouldn’t a God that loves us be on our side? I am not advocating that we pray to God asking for His righteous anger to strike down the next person that cuts us off on the freeway, but we can go to Him.  Why is it I never thought I could? Why did I feel that He wouldn’t care? I don’t really know, except that perhaps I was taking Him for granted. So use to the idea of God that I stopped seeing GOD for who and what He was. I stopped seeing how he wanted a relationship with me.

Sometimes, I would think, oh I shouldn’t go to God with that. I could rant and rave with my friends but not tell God. It reminds me a bit of Eric. We once were so close and have become politely estranged. Last night as I was bemoaning my pathetic phone and ignoring the amazing technology it contained, I was complaining to Eric that we never talk. That I don’t know what is going on in his life anymore and how I missed him. I wonder if God has ever felt that way about me. Where did she go? Why doesn’t she talk to me anymore?

It’s like that verse about praying without ceasing….to be in constant communication….It doesn’t have to always be important or epic news or requests. Sometimes nonsense is important too.

So this Thanksgiving I am thankful for an Epic God who would fight for me. A God who loves me and wants a relationship with me.  A God who has blessed me in a multitude of ways. I am thankful for this awkward, painful, hysterical, wonderful season of growing. I am thankful for friends faithful enough to stand by me and family who loves me. I am thankful for a Mother I will one day see again, residents who teach me to live my days- not count them. I am thankful for my staff that cares and the church who teaches.

And I am thankful for you Rory,

M

Don’t Judge Me….

Dear Rory,

I have been battling a cold, sorry for the delay in this letter. I hope you are staying warm and well.

I love the picture you sent me. I do remember that trip to the beach. How could I forget the lifeguard telling us to get out of the water because we were making him nervous? I never did learn to swim properly. Did you?

Life has been crazy lately and very stressful. We are getting new computer systems at work. The holidays are fast approaching. I have decided to go back to school. I also got a new pet- today actually. I know my track record is not strong with animals, but it is not for lack of trying. He is a baby betta fish. Yes I know they grow bigger, but not that big.  I named him Shamgar.

Yes it is biblical.

Shamgar was raised to be a Judge of Israel.  Not like that- his parents didn’t give him toy gavels or anything. He was chosen by God. And Judges are not like Judy or Wapner. They are like rulers, or guardians. This is what is written of him:

31 After Ehud came Shamgar son of Anath, who struck down six hundred Philistines with an oxgoad. He too saved Israel. Judges 3:31

An oxgoad by the way is a cattle prod. How cool is that. Why is no more written about him?  I think it has the potential of an epic Hollywood movie….THIS SUMMER….ONLY ONE CAN WEILD THE CATTLE PROD…he is SHAMGAR SON OF ANATH!!!! Coming soon to theaters near you.

Can you imagine the sequel…Shamgar and the Electric Cattle Prod of Judgement!

Okay, so maybe I have had a bit too much cold medicine.

Wanna know something else….Unicorns are real…at least in the King James Version of the bible, and I quote

22 God brought them out of Egypt; he hath as it were the strength of an unicorn.- Numbers 23:22

 

What happened to them I wonder. Why did the newer version or translations get rid of the Unicorn.  In the NIV version they are ‘wild ox’. Now, I am not a zoologist, but I know there is a difference between a unicorn and wild ox. And if that is not enough to blow your mind, did you know that this verse comes from a saga that involves a talking Donkey! (Shrek not included).

26 Then the angel of the Lord moved on ahead and stood in a narrow place where there was no room to turn, either to the right or to the left. 27 When the donkey saw the angel of the Lord, she lay down under Balaam, and he was angry and beat her with his staff. 28 Then the Lord opened the donkey’s mouth, and she said to Balaam, “What have I done to you to make you beat me these three times?”

29 Balaam answered the donkey, “You have made a fool of me! If I had a sword in my hand, I would kill you right now.”

30 The donkey said to Balaam, “Am I not your own donkey, which you have always ridden, to this day? Have I been in the habit of doing this to you?”

“No,” he said.

31 Then the Lord opened Balaam’s eyes, and he saw the angel of the Lord standing in the road with his sword drawn. So he bowed low and fell facedown. Numbers 22:26-31

What I love about this, (and we are so going to talk about this narrative later) is the lack of surprise Balaam seems to have in talking to a donkey. It’s not like he says ‘YOU CAN TALK!!!’ Oh no, he just goes right into a conversation.

I know I already told you my life verse…and it is a pretty heavy verse too, but if I had to pick another one, between me and you, it would be from the book of Job 21:3…It says this…On second thought Rory, I think I will let you look that up on your own.  It’s time for more medicine.

M

Warm Cider

Dear Rory,

I thought of you last night. It was so cold. I had my first cup of hot apple cider. (I may or may not have splashed it with some honey whiskey…) I snuggled up in blankets and read. It was wonderful. It reminded me of that apartment you had downtown and how when it rained it would be colder and wetter inside than out. Remember camping out in your living room, freezing, drinking southern tea and confessing our dark secrets and passions? The things we would never tell anyone because it was ‘too private’ to share?

I have always been a private person. I think I was raised that way. Private does not mean antisocial. I am plenty social. And friendly. I will talk with just about anybody, at any time about anything, as long as it is not personal.  Personal for me can be a wide range of topics; my financial concerns, stress over whether or not to go back to school or upcoming medical tests. Crazy thing is private doesn’t always mean drama, or embarrassing. Private is just things I don’t want to share. Things that could identify me somehow.

The thing is- plenty of people think they know me personally when in reality it is just an illusion. Sure, I will share with you how stressed I am at work, (but not how I fear losing my job), I will share about how much I love to read (but never let on that I have a lot of questions) and complain about my allergies (but not that I am having a test to rule out cancer.)

I know that you are probably saying, boundaries are important- and you are right, they are. But sometimes Rory, when I am in a situation to actually share something, I find myself holding back. I think that somewhere down the road of keeping things private, I forgot how to let people in.

I am about to finish my third small group of the year. So far I have learned about the parables of Jesus, Traveled through the Old Testament and have learned to become fearless, (well…less fearful is probably closer to the truth). More than that however, I have learned to open up more. To share more.

You see, at the close of every group the teacher asks us for prayer requests. Then, all week we pray for each other’s needs. The first group I kept it pretty simple…help me get over my cough, help me get through my audit. True to myself, I hid what I really feared and what I was secretly praying for. It was uncomfortable and awkward. The honesty of those around me was unnerving. I didn’t understand it. How could they be so open? Especially to a room of people who were practically strangers?

Well, I think it’s because they view it as being a part of a group, and Christians as part of a family.  Our teacher, my mentors and the church pastors all say the same thing: Christianity is a team sport and they frequently quote these scriptures:

As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another. Proverbs 27:17

And

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor: 10 If either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up. 11 Also, if two lie down together, they will keep warm. But how can one keep warm alone? – Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

I understood the concept. But I guess you could say I wasn’t drinking the Kool Aide…no matter how many people told me that the prayers worked. I mean, even though I wasn’t specific, my prayer requests were being addressed too…Things were easier, better or if not the response I was praying for then something better, and if not better and answered, I was at peace. Besides, Jesus knew what I needed…doesn’t the bible say that he knows all our needs before we do?

So why then did I have to share my needs in detail with the rest of the class? I mean wouldn’t ‘stress at work’ cover not getting laid off?

Well, you know me; curiosity will one day kill me. I tried it. First I opened up more to my mentors. Shared the deep dark stuff. They were non phased. Next I started opening up in class. I also started to really listen to the other requests. That’s when I started to notice something. Something huge I had been missing all this time. Not only are we sometimes the answers to other people’s prayers, but sometimes, just asking for the prayer is peace enough. Sometimes, confessing an anxiety makes it less monstrous. Furthermore, knowing that people are praying for you because not only do they believe in the power and the love of the One they are praying to, they believe in you too.  Maybe the act of caring for each other is how we ‘pray without ceasing’. Maybe that is true communion with God, interlocking prayers of comfort and support.  And maybe, that is how we can participate in the wonder and glory of creation.

As always Rory, I hope all is well with you. You are always remembered in my prayers.

M

Day 11: Great and Small

Dear Rory,
I thought you might find this interesting, I did.
M

Finding the balance

Dear C.,

How great do you believe God is, really?

For we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose. ~ Romans 8:28

God works in all things – this means whether in good or bad times. Whether things go your way or not, God is still working for the good of those who love him.

Also, God works.  God, who is all knowing, who holds eternity in his hands, who does not perceive time or space as you do. Who knows everything before its even happened, before you can process it in your little 3 dimensional world. God,  who unlike you, does not rely on possibilities, probabilities and contingency plans. Because he already knows.

Finally, God works for the good of those who are called according to his purpose. Again, God’s purpose. Not your…

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Reading the Signs

Dear Rory,

It may surprise you to find out that I am no longer the freakishly superstitious person I once was. I no longer knock on wood if someone says anything I would have considered a jinx. I walk under ladders with easy confidence and I have stopped throwing salt. Furthermore, I no longer live my life by the stars in the sky, the numbers on my birth certificate or the slips of paper found in my food.

When Christians profess freedom in Christ Jesus, I don’t think the mean from fortune cookies. But it is, in my crazy mind the same thing. It is liberating.

I mean do you remember how crushed I would be if the horoscope said I was in for a bad day? How often I quoted the phase of the moon as a way to counter a bad mood? With each one, I was taking a step farther away from God.

I know it seems odd. If God is all powerful then what is the big deal with reading a horoscope? There is nothing wrong with it, in my opinion, as long as you treat it like a joke or remember that it is fake. I have a hard time with that. I think it is a lot like drinking. There is nothing inherently wrong with having a glass of wine with dinner. There is something wrong when it becomes an addiction, when it leads to bad decisions and sin. Fortune tellers are like that for me. Only instead of going to AA, I go to church on Sunday.

The preacher at church said something interesting the other day. Worship is what we place value on. I checked Merrium Webster and found this: extravagant respect or admiration for or devotion to an object of esteem <worship of the dollar> If that is what worship is, then I had a tendency to worshiped superstitions and fake religions.

I don’t think the commandment of “You shall have no other gods beforeme.” (Exodus 20:3) is one made out of jealousy.  I think as humans, we are so tempted to push God out of the picture and believe what an astrologer for the local paper says. And by believing in the fake gods we don’t allow room in our lives for the one true God to surface and work in us. When Jesus begins to work in you, and you trust in that alone, then you are free. You begin to see things in a new light. Big Scary Epic Events are suddenly just another blip in eternity.

It’s also a bit scary…

So what’s scary then?…Scary for me is knowing how much power I gave away to superstitions. How many people I led astray- how many paths I blocked claiming that all beliefs could be Christian.

I am really no better than the Minister who complained about my Sunday best, or the Priest that told Eric he would never amount to anything good because his parents were divorced. I am of the same ilk as the clergy that told you once upon a time you couldn’t believe in God and science.

I know in my last letter I talked a bit about evil.  I hate even thinking about this, but what greater evil is there than when normal decent people (like I hopefully am) help the devil along. I feel like I was used as a pawn in a much bigger game. And I chose it. I agreed to it. I proudly explained the difference in numbers; I played tarot cards and created my own superstitions. And I was always looking for a sign. I am sure you remember that Rory. How many times did I say…Oh it’s a sign! It’s meant to be. I trusted in the sign to be my right and wrong. I encouraged others to do the same.

Needless to say, I have stopped looking for signs.

Funny thing is, once you trust in God and try to walk a Godly path….God gives you signs.

I went to church on Saturday. It was a crazy day for me. I had spent the morning my storage shed looking for winter clothes.  In between old books, unused kitchen tools were reminders of my mom. She was everywhere. I opened one box and accidentally spilt one of her memory boxes. Old pictures and name badges smiled up at me. The incident left me in a mental funk all afternoon; the kind where you are on the verge of tears that won’t come, because the pain is more like a dull ache. A tender muscle that has been overstretched.

When I get to church I sat by myself in the back. When Church started, the band sang favorite songs (This is love- Hillsong). Then as a special event the choir sang a song. I don’t know the name of it, I will have to find it, but the chorus was something about there not being a stranger, with God, that there are no orphans with God.  During all of this different friends patted me on the back and said hello. I walked in sad and reminiscent and left lifted and loved.

I know that most all Christian songs tend to have the same message. And I know it wasn’t sung just for me. But it seemed like it was, it seemed like a sign that God loves me. Loves all of us. Those types of signs, well they are a lot better, because you don’t have to look for them. God just gives them to you when you need them. And they always say the same thing. He loves us.

More than that Rory, These signs are true.

M