Emmanuel, God With Us

May 17, 2010

The title makes it sound like I’m in the wrong season, and yes, that title is typically used at Christmas.  But the fact that we only use it once a year doesn’t change the reality of what Happened on that day, for every day of our lives.  This past week, in the Christian calendar, God ascended back into heaven, His true home, the place from which He came.  But in His Ascension, He promises to not leave us orphaned.  We are not alone.

I am just returning from vacation and am a bit anxious about it.  Life has been challenging the last few weeks here at home, primarily because my emotions are all out of whack as I open the closet in which I have hidden them for the past too many years to count!  I’m doing a lot of crying these days, but I’ve also experienced more anger than I ever remember feeling.  And I can’t deny the anxiety I have right now, either.  I sort of feel like I gave my emotions a leeetle tiny bit of freedom and they’ve thrown a wild kegger.   The truth is that I have let them out of the proverbial closet and now I have to take some time to look at each one, give it its due, and then put it back in the closet in an ORDERLY fashion.  That being the key.  I can’t go through the rest of my life without opening that closet again.  I need it to be organized so I can take out what I need when I need it, use it in the way I need to, and put it back again where it belongs the rest of the time.

OK, now that my first 2 paragraphs appear to have nothing to do with each other, I will try to tie them up!  Twice yesterday, in completely different settings, the message came to me that I need to remember God’s presence with me today, every moment.  He has not left me orphaned.  Most of my life, I’ve lived to a degree on the level of being orphaned and needing to look out for number one. 

He has not abandoned me.
                       He is not abandoning me.
                                           He will not abandon me.

It is as true at Christmas time that God is Emmanuel, with us, with me, as it is today.  It is as true today as it is at Christmastime.  He loves me and wants the best for me and I need to find ways to call upon Him daily, every minute, and turn my life over to Him for His strength & comfort.  It’s only through and with Him that I can possibly get my emotions back in line again.  So, even if the emotions do exceed their normal usage today, it has to be OK.  It is OK because Emmanuel, God is with me.

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Out of Town

May 8, 2010

I was hoping to get one new post in at least before I left and it just hasn’t happened.  I will be on vacation from Saturday, May 8th through Saturday, May 15th.  We’ll see you when I return!

Life

May 5, 2010

Sorry I haven’t posted anything new on here for a while.  Even today I don’t really have much to say.  Or maybe the truth is there’s so much in my brain that I can’t organize it into one rational piece of information I can share with others.

Life has been challenging lately.  I’m dealing with a lot of very strong emotion, particularly anger, so life feels like a day-to-day, moment-to-moment journey right now.  It ALWAYS is that way, but it’s particularly noticeable right now. 

Please pray for me as I walk this journey.  Pray that I can meet the Lord in a deeper way through this time.  I’m “feeling” very apart from Him right now, and that is incredibly frustrating and depressing, which adds to my anger.  (I put the word feeling in quotes because it may be what life feels like right now but I do know that the truth is that He is always closer to me than I could ever experience).  Know that everyone who reads this blog is in my prayer, as well.

Who is Really My Higher Power?

April 28, 2010

In steps 2 & 3 of 12 step programs (OA for me), you come to recognize that your life is out of control and you can’t manage it but that there is a being greater than you who can manage it.  For me, all along, that “higher power” is Who people traditionally have called God:  God the Father, Jesus Christ His Son, God the Holy Spirit.

At a recent meeting, we read a story about an atheist who was successful in the program and who had to give up the idea that there wasn’t a higher power if he wanted to succeed.  (from Overeaters Anonymous II “The Atheist who Made  a ZIF” p. 190)  The last paragraph of the story really struck me.  In it, the author talks about his relationship with his higher power after working through the steps on a daily basis. 

I was so struck by this man’s relationship with God (from my perspective) when he had not been a believer at all.  He knows and believes that God loves him and cares for him and wants the best for him.  It dawned on me that, in a way, I don’t have that kind of relationship with God.  I know Him, I’ve given my life to Him, but do I really have that kind of intimacy and trust with Him?

And then, even more importantly, the thought went through my mind, “Who is really your Higher Power – you or Me?”  I really believe that was the Lord speaking to me (Him being the “Me” in the sentence).  And what I understood Him to be showing me was that when I doubt His love for me, when I think to myself that God couldn’t possibly forgive me for all of my offenses, when I say that I’m not lovable, what I’ve really been saying is: I don’t love me, I don’t forgive me, I  don’t find myself lovable.

I’m making God in my image instead of letting Him make me more and more in His image.  I’m deciding what He’s permitted to “do” in my life, rather than let Him do it.  I’m cutting Him off at the pass: I’m not lovable, don’t try to tell me about it, it’s not worth it.  When really, He is trying to say, “I’m God!  I’m God and I have made you.  And I find you ‘very good.'” 

I need to let Him reign on the throne in my heart, in my life.  Let Him reign and tell me what He wants to say, not me telling Him what I have finally decided for my life.  End of the story.  Period.  He’s not a God of the period.  He goes beyond where I think the story ends.  He’s got a comma to extend the story, to complete it, to make it whole.  I have to let Him reign.

Healing the Crippled

April 26, 2010

Today I have another quote from Castaway Kid.  It strikes me because it’s so easy for me to think there’s nothing really that Jesus “needs” to do for me to heal me.  The truth of the matter is, He can do more than heal physically and He can still heal today, 2000 years from the time He walked on Earth. 

Do I have the willingness to put my hope and trust in Him and in the fact that He is doing a marvelous work in me, even if it’s not an immediate “cure?”  Even if the circumstances of my life don’t change instantaneously, will I still believe in Him and His desire to work in my life?  I’ve known Him long enough to say with Peter, “Lord, to whom would we go?  You have the words of everlasting life.”  Even in my struggle and doubt, I need to continue to turn back to Him and know that He is working His healing hand in me.

“But was Jesus actually offering me – and other bitter, angry people – hope for a better life today?  It sounded outrageous…

“All I knew was that I had to find a way to escape the cycle of failure that had trapped other boys from the Home.  I really wanted to believe I could rise above my bizarre childhood.  Could this Jesus really change things?

“When I got to Bible sections about Jesus healing the crippled, blind, and deaf, I usually passed them over.  That sure doesn’t apply to me, I thought.  I’m a three-sport athlete!  But one day Dave [Rob’s social worker/therapist] brought me up short.

“‘Hasn’t life maybe crippled you emotionally, Robby?’ he asked.  ‘Are you perhaps like the hardheaded people you’ve been reading about?  Is it possible your pride has blinded you to the promises of God?  Is your fear to trust making you deaf to those at camp who said Jesus made a difference in their lives?'”

Castaway Kid R.B. Mitchell

Offering Forgiveness

April 25, 2010

“Psychology became one of my favorite subjects.  In those classes I learned that some mental illnesses and antisocial behavior could be traced to resentment over insults and injustices – real or imagined.  My professors pointed out the importance of ‘coming to terms with one’s past.’

“But they seemed to avoid the concept of forgiveness.  In a way, so did I.

“I knew I hadn’t come to terms with my past.  In fact, I wasn’t interested in doing that.

“But then I heard the story of Corrie ten Boom.

“A Dutch Christian, Corrie and her sister Betsie, their father, and several friends had been arrested in 1944 for hiding Jews to save them from Hitler’s gas chambers.  Betsie and her father died in the Ravensbruck concentration camp; Corrie survived and was now in the United States speaking of the experience.

“She often told how, in a church where she was speaking, a man had approached her and extended his hand.  Corrie recognized him as a former Nazi S.S. guard from Ravensbruck.  He’d stood guard at the door when she and Betsie, pushed at gunpoint into the shower room, had been forced to strip naked in front of mocking German soldiers.

“Now he was asking Corrie to forgive him.

“Corrie told audiences that at that moment she felt nothing, not the slightest spark of warmth or charity. ‘Jesus,’ she prayed, ‘I cannot forgive him.’

“But God had called her to forgiveness, and she followed that calling.

“At the end of her talk, Corrie gave her listeners a loving but bold challenge: ‘Who do you need to forgive?’

“I knew the answer.  It took no effort to come up with my short  list.

“‘Remember the words in the prayer Jesus taught us,’ Corrie said.  ‘God’s answer to healing from the pain of injustice is to forgive those who have wronged us.’

“Corrie had been called to forgive a man who represented hurt, pain, and shame.  I knew God wanted me to do the same.”

Castaway Kid R. B. Mitchell (from The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, Elizabeth Sherrill, & John Sherrill)

The man writing this book has a very different story from mine.  He was abandoned by both of his parents by the age of 3 in the orphanage system in Illinois.  His mother was mentally ill and eventually lived more or less on the streets.  His father survived an attempted suicide and lived his days in an institution.  Rob had other family, as well, but they fail to bring him in to love and care for him during his childhood and young adulthood, so he experienced a great deal of rejection and loneliness, as well as anger.

The story may be very different but the end results: rejection, loneliness, anger, pain…, are similar.  And for both of us, we have to “come to terms with our past.”  I also know who I need to forgive without thinking too much about it.  And choosing to forgive is what will bring about healing and hope in my life.  Holding on to it does nothing but harm me.  It’s the only way to deal fully with the anger that has been brewing in my life and will help me in the process of learning to let go of the control I continually strive after.  For forgiveness I need Christ.  “I can do nothing without Christ who strengthens me.”

The Ability to Talk

April 22, 2010

One of the things I’m running into at the moment is that I finally feel very strongly the need to talk to people about the way I experience certain interactions between us.  But I don’t really know how!  There’s a level on which I want to be very sarcastic but that is unlikely to come out of my mouth in the moment.  And, because of my temperament and personality, I don’t necessarily have words right in the moment.

But the other part of the problem is that for so long I have not said something at all, so that now I’m bubbling over with many different bits and pieces of the various situations and no longer know what is a current reaction and what is old hat that I never dealt with.  And, I find I’m just not good at arguing, which in and of itself probably is not a bad thing, overall.  But I go into a discussion prepared to come out feeling like I’ve been beaten up and “lost” the argument, and having a hard time convincing myself that it’s a good idea to “get into it” in the first place.

But the truth of the matter is, if I choose to continue to not talk about things, not only am I not helping me or the other person, but I’m actually making things worse in the long run.  I need to learn to just talk, and also be less intense about it…

False Control

April 20, 2010

OK, so I realize that “false control” is really an oxymoron, at least at its deepest reality.  No one truly has control over their life any more than they do over another’s.  Yes, we can make decisions that affect things, but, at its core, I can’t decide whether I even wake up in the morning on any given day.  God is the One in control.

I find that when I’m struggling with the food (and even before I recognized the problem I have with food) somehow I twist my brain around to make myself think that really, I’m exerting control in my life.  I suspect that on a very deep level in my spirit, things feel out of control or that they might become out of control.  So I “take control” by deciding what I eat and when I eat it, instead of trusting that God’s will, to be abstinent from compulsive overeating, is really the safest place to find myself.  But what I’m realizing more and more is that I actually have NO control when I’m in the food.  That’s the whole problem!  Well, OK, only part of the problem, but a big part!  I don’t get to say what I eat, I just eat because there’s a craving in me for something or because I feel like I can’t resist something.  Why can I not hold on to that reality when I am faced with the struggle?  I do know it, I just don’t live out of it all the time…yet.  The good news is it’s only today.  I can live out of that reality tonight.  I can pick myself up again from the dust and walk the road of abstinence.  I do not need to be controled by food or the voice in my brain that tells me that eating will “solve all of my problems” and “make me feel good” and “give me back control.”

Soooo… w-h-y is it that I persist in pretending to have some sort of say over my life, control over my life.  In OA, we say that as we make step 3, “we turn our lives and our wills over to God.”  (my paraphrase)  And yet, every day I take that “will” back again and again.  I know this is, in reality, the human condition, caused by the original Fall of Adam & Eve.  But yet, I really want freedom from myself on one level, at least, and still fail to achieve that freedom.  And the reason is probably right there in my statement: I want freedom from myself but I fail to achieve it.  Somehow I have to find a way to truly turn my whole being over to the care of the Lord.

When Food = Love

April 18, 2010

So, I came up with this title 2 or 3 days ago and promptly ignored it.  I have continued to come to “Winter is Past” but haven’t been able to come up with much to write about.  I think there’s quite a bit simmering but it hasn’t been boiling.  I’m hoping I can fairly simply put into words what is percolating in my mind and in my heart on this topic.

I met with my counselor last week again and had a very good, deep conversation about a number of different things, particularly anger, but at one point she brought up my childhood and my parents’ inability to express love and affection well, especially in a way that I could understand it, could grasp it.  Dad was away a lot and my mom was not (and still is not) very good at dealing with emotions (from my perspective).  I only remember seeing either of my parents cry once, each at the death of their own fathers, and that only briefly.  And I definitely remember times when, if life got too emotionally charged, they just walked away from it, not able to handle it. 

So the counselor made a comment that really has stuck with me.  She said that life was challenging when I was young, I couldn’t get the affection that I felt like I wanted and needed, there was competition with my younger brother that I didn’t really understand, and I found food to be a comfort.  When all else was falling apart around me, there was food.  When I had no one else to turn to, there was food.  When I was lonely and afraid, there was food.  When I felt unloveable, there was food.  And probably most importantly, when I was angry and was afraid to or didn’t know how to express it: There.  Was.  Food.  She called it a “stomach hug.”  Really, my best friend.  My parent.  My comfort.

So how, when you’re “grown up” and you have the capability of turning to people around you who really do love you, care for you, have concern for you, desire to support and encourage and comfort you, do you let go of the best friend you’ve ever had?   How do you stop calling upon the one constant throughout your whole life?  Even if you know that the food has done great harm in your life, how do you let go of it?

I wish I knew the answers.  The two things I do know are: 1. calling on a God who loves me and 2. one day at a time.  Beyond that I haven’t figured it out yet.  Even those 2 I haven’t “perfected” by any means.  It’s a painful process, but one step at a time, one day at a time, I’m going to let go of the lie that has called itself my friend for 30 + years.  I will.  I must.

Running Into Myself

April 13, 2010

The last few days I have found myself incredibly frustrated.  There have been situations in which there is something that I want to happen, or something that I want to be a certain way, and it’s not working out like I hope.  Part of this frustration comes out of my attempt to control the situations when in reality control is an illusion.

The other part of my frustration comes out of this emotional reaction inside of me that is disproportionate to the outcome of the situation.  I find myself easily in tears when I’m not getting the answer I want and yet, deep down, I know that it’s not that big of a deal.  In fact, I would go so far as to say that I really don’t care that much.  They are such basic situations that it’s just not that big of a deal!

So why am I reacting so much?  Why do I find myself having such strong emotions?  I wish I understood it better because I might be better capable of managing it.  I suspect it has to do with starting to deal with anger and other emotions but I don’t fully grasp it.  And maybe wanting to understand it is just another way of trying to get it under control.  I don’t like having “out of control” emotions at all.  So it really pushes my desire for control button!

The other part of the situation is that I can understand why the things that are happening are going the way they are but when I listen to what others are saying to me to explain decisions, I hear, over and over again, how I have done something wrong in the situation or how I am responsible for things.  I am finding myself being beaten up by none other than me, myself & I. 

I think the bottom line is that I am expressing desires or preferences and not getting “my way” and am experiencing frustration in that but also to cope with the negative responses am trying to twist the situation in my mind to put blame.  It’s a way of trying to stop myself from being hurt, I think, by negative responses.  And I can’t do that.  Just because I get a negative response to something, things don’t go the way I want all the time, doesn’t mean I shouldn’t express my desires.  Sometimes they work out, sometimes they don’t, but that doesn’t mean having a preference different from someone else’s is wrong.  And that is a hard thing to reconcile in my mind, still.