Category Archives: Anger

5 Friday Faves – Concerning Hobbits, Flag at Half Staff, Relational Shock Absorbers, Leader Smarts, and Making Family Happen

Friday! Tonight, in the Richmond area,  we have our first hard freeze this Fall. That means Dave finishes picking our peppers from the garden. He hopes the greens will survive. It’s a beautiful day – sunny and breezy – with showers of brightly colored leaves covering the grass. Both stained glass windows and patchwork quilts come to mind in this feast for the eyes. Hope your Friday is as lovely. Here are my faves for the week. Enjoy.

1) Concerning Hobbits – The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was a very big deal in our growing-up family. When these films came out, we wanted our kids (then middle-school and high school aged) to read the books first. The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings novels by J. R. R. Tolkien. Surprisingly, our kids did, along with their dad re-reading these classics. They were captivated by the stories and the courage and endurance of the characters. The Hobbits were especially endearing as they were tiny folk, carried along by a grand mission. Much beyond their physical abilities but not beyond their great hearts.

This past week, Nathan Mills, at Beyond the Guitar, arranged the film theme Concerning Hobbits. Composed by Howard Shore, this melody captures the sweetness and hominess of the Hobbits. There is a rise to crescendo in Mills’ arrangement that also speaks to the willingness of the wee Hobbits to rise to battle when necessary.

I’m reminded of the Hobbit Samwise Gamgee’s role in the novel and film. Two quotes follow – one about him by the author and one by him:

“One tiny Hobbit against all the evil the world could muster. A sane being would have given up, but Samwise burned with a magnificent madness, a glowing obsession to surmount every obstacle, to find Frodo, destroy the Ring, and cleanse Middle Earth of its festering malignancy. He knew he would try again. Fail, perhaps. And try once more. A thousand, thousand times if need be, but he would not give up the quest.”J. R. R. Tolkien

“There’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo, and it’s worth fighting for.”SamwisePhoto Credit: Pinterest

[Beyond the Guitar is presently posting a video/week. Concerning Hobbits came out last Friday, and today, he published DESTINY 2: Journey – Classical Guitar Cover – check it out!!]

2) Flag at Half Staff – It seems our country’s flag is at half staff too frequently these days. This month we remember our military on Veterans Day and many businesses and private homes will display the American flag in honor of these men and women who served our country.

When a flag is flown at half staff it usually relates to the death of someone significant to all Americans.Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

This week, again, our flag is at half staff. This time, in our state, it flies in mourning for those victims of the Sutherland Springs church shooting.

This tragedy has reminded us again of the brevity of life, the great value of life and community, and how important it is to reach out always to our neighbors. We grieve with our neighbors in Texas.

Yesterday our flags were at half staff for them:

Governor’s Flag Order for the Commonwealth of Virginia

Pursuant to President Trump’s Presidential Proclamation to lower the United States flag, I do hereby order that the flags of the United States of America and the Commonwealth of Virginia are to be flown at half-staff over the state Capitol and all local, state, and federal buildings and grounds to honor the victims of the attack in Sutherland Springs, Texas, on November 5, 2017.

I hereby order that the flags shall be lowered until sunset, November 9, 2017.  

Ordered on this, the 6th day of November, 2017. 

Sincerely,

Terence R. McAuliffe

3) Relational Shock Absorbers – I’d like us to consider for a moment the great gift of relational shock absorbers. Those people in our lives who are safe. Those people who sometimes take the brunt of our outbursts or brooding, without returning evil for evil and without inserting their own drama into what we’ve created. I am NOT talking about people who “just take” our bad behavior out of fear or insecurity or their own struggle. That’s codependence and doesn’t help heal either party.

What I am talking about is those in our lives who are rock-solid in their care for us, who recognize that we are not our best selves at that moment, and who refuse to think ill of us. They don’t make whatever issue is going on…about them. Relational shock absorbers are those in our lives who give space and grace, who hug instead of withhold, who listen for the truth behind the tantrum, and who love us forever. No trade-ins. Ever. Our mom was one of those in our lives…I have a long list of others. Give a shout-out to some of yours in the Comments. Photo Credit: Vimeo

Family Systems, Emotions, and Behaviors – Teach Through Love – Lori Petro

4) Leader Smarts – It is so easy for us to become better at our work if we want it badly enough. Pursuing higher education in leadership or business administration is definitely one way. Or searching out leadership mentors online is another way accessible to all of us. Marcel Schwantes is one of my go-to guys, especially related to servant leadership. In a recent piece for Inc., he makes a case for why employees quit, and what leaders can do to keep them.
Photo Credit: USDA
Schwantes makes a bold claim that the “smoking gun” of why too often employees leave their jobs – Employees are simply not valued as human beings.
He lists out 5 ways leaders (and all the rest of us) can demonstrate that we value employees (fellow volunteers, family members, fill-in-the-blank):
  • Invest in employees’ growth and development.
  • Create an environment of psychological safety.
  • Display the leadership strength of humility.
  • Share information.
  • Give them decision-making discretion.

Read more of Schwante’s insightful commentary here.

Want Your Boss to Be a Better Leader? Persuade Them to Try Any of These Top 5 Habits of Smart Leaders – Marcel Schwantes

5) Making Family Happen – Everybody’s busy. I get that. So how do we make family happen without it being an undue burden on our loved ones, either our children or theirs?
I’m trying to figure this out and would love any wisdom from you willing to share (please comment below). Just this past week, we experienced a generous dose of “making family happen”.
Dave and I traveled to Georgia for a family visit, and it was a sweet touch-point with many we loved there. Like our trips to visit our Delaware family, this one brought all sorts of beauty and kindnesses which will sooth our hearts for many months to come.
 In all our married life, we have never lived close to family – sometimes states away, and sometimes countries apart. I have always missed that drop-in nearness with loved ones. Now with both parents gone, my hope is that we next generations will carry on relationships that matter. The traditions may change some, but as long as there are sweet memories…that’s a big part of making family happen. I’m very thankful for a brother and sister-in-law who made family happen for us this past week…and all the younguns who could.
As the holidays of Thanksgiving and Christmas quickly come, I hope for all of us that we can lean in – to God and each other. Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Irish People Try American Thanksgiving Food – Dustin Nelson [Despite brief politicalization, this video was so fun.]

Bonuses

The Instant Pot – Haven’t bought one yet but now I am – thanks to this blogger – family. life. organized.

Favorite quote of the week:  Focus is finding a big “Yes” and saying “No” a thousand times.John R. Bell

Practices From the Inside Out: Taking Off Our Masks – Greg Richardson

Free T-shirt in the mail today – Emory Cares International Service Day

5 Friday Faves – Beyond the Guitar & Malinda Kathleen Reese, Podcasts, the Uncivil War on Racism, the Invisible Yemeni War, and Bonuses Make 5

Friday came faster than usual this week and is ticking fast away itself. When you can take a minute, here are my favorite finds for this week:

  1. Beyond the Guitar and Malinda Kathleen Reese Collaboration – What happens when a YouTube sensation like Malinda Kathleen Reese collaborates with an incredibly gifted guitarist on the rise? Magic. If you’ve been here before, you know what Nathan does with the guitar…and Malinda’s voice? An angel. Full stop.Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

Their collaboration on the song “May It Be” from The Lord of the Rings Trilogy was other-worldly beautiful. Click on the link and refresh from any hard in your day.

They also collaborated on “Would You Be So Kind?”. See link below.

YouTube Video – dodie – “Would You Be So Kind?” – Malinda Kathleen Reese cover ft. Andrew Huang & Nathan Mills

I hope this is just the beginning of beautiful collaborations between these gifted artists.

Nathan posts guitar arrangements twice monthly. Just in this week, he posted three! The third was his arrangement of the 4 themes of the superhero Netflix shows; now all combined in the show The Defenders. Great characters blended together into a fun series.

Nathan’s crazy impersonations of The Defenders are part of what makes this video so endearing…but again…the music. Wow!

Photo Credit: Beyond the Guitar

2) Podcasts – Who besides me listens to podcasts? They are a great source of inspiration, information, and entertainment (depending on the podcaster). Some of my favorite podcasts are here.

This week the Academy of Podcasters had its award ceremonies. I haven’t seen the results yet, but I’ve linked to some of the favorites below. One of my faves is Knox and Jamie’s The Pop Cast – a funny tongue-in-cheek look at our culture in America.Photo Credit: Knox and Jamie

Knox and Jamie’s The Pop Cast

44 Award-Nominated Podcasts & Their Top Rated Episodes – Sean Baeyens – the Patreon Blog

8 Great Pop Culture Podcasts to Keep You Up to Date on TV, Movies, Music and More – Ma’ayan Plaut

3) The Uncivil War on Racism – We in the US have been in great turmoil for quite some time over the issue of chronic racism. Is it worsening, or is that the deafening cry of mainstream media? I don’t know, but I’ve certainly taken a more serious look at my own heart.Photo Credit: CDN, CLD

We live in a city that was a capital of the Confederacy during the Civil War. Richmond, Virginia, has sharp racial divides still. Some of this has focused in recent days on the Confederate monuments displayed around our city. Should they come down?Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

[Sidebar: J. E. B. Stuart, V, is a hand surgeon in Richmond, Va. He was my surgeon the last time I broke my wrist. Wonder what he thinks. He is a great-great-grand (?) of the Confederate General above. ]

If the monuments come down, where does the “taking down” stop? A friend of mine today took the issue to its simplest form. “If they hurt people, take them down.”

What frustrates me is that the focus on monuments will change nothing about the problems of “poverty, illiteracy, drugs, crime, and violence.” (Herman Cain). Protests between the alt-right and alt-left groups inflame the situation and divide us even more…along racial lines…

I was asked recently why did I think whites and blacks were so silent on this topic in real conversation. There’s much said in social media, and the news media is loud with hate-filled voices.

For me, I don’t know what to say, but I want to listen…and to participate in action that changes quality of life and the futures of our children.

Will taking down statues help? If so, then so be it. While we’re at it, I wouldn’t mind this one coming down. It’s housed in the Smithsonian Museum. She is Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

Photo Credit: Life Site News

“A statue remains in Washington D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution commemorating the one person responsible for the deaths of more African Americans that any other in history: Margaret Sanger, founder of Planned Parenthood.

‘More than 19 million black babies have been aborted since the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court decision legalized abortion in our country,’ according to Michigan Right to Life’s website. ‘On average, 900 black babies are aborted every day in the United States.’ Planned Parenthood is responsible for many of those abortions.

In August 2015, a group of Black pastors gathered in front of the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery to make known their plea for the removal of Sanger’s bust from the museum.

Their request was rejected and the bust of Planned Parenthood’s founder remains on display today.” – Doug Mainwaring, Life News Site

Herman Cain Just Finally Said What Everyone Has Been Too Afraid To Say!!

The Science of Being ‘Nice’: How Politeness Is Different From Compassion – Kun Zhao & Luke Smillie

What I Saw in Charlottesville – Brian McLaren

4) Invisible Yemeni War – I have followed the Syrian conflict  fairly closely over the years since 2011 when it took the international stage. What has happened and continues in Syria in terms of lives lost or displaced is unfathomable. Then there’s Yemen – the poorest country in the Arab world; in its most recent civil war since 2015.Photo Credit: Raw StoryPhoto Credit: Flickr

American news doesn’t quite reach the plight of the Yemeni people. This year has been especially devastating for those still in country, caught in the throes of war. Famine and cholera both taking their toll as well.Photo Credit: World Health Organization

This week, the Yemeni people are now back on my radar. Hopefully, they are on yours as well. We can pray; we can give to reputable charities; we can refuse to forget them.

Yemen Conflict: Who Controls WhatFaisal Edroos, Yarno Ritzen

Yemen Crisis: Who Is Fighting Whom? – BBC News

Yemen Crisis – World Health Organization

Meeting the Houthis and Their Enemies – Safa Alahmad

Ending on a serious note today, but I hope to live life with eyes wide open…and my heart the same. Burying our heads in the sand…or in our phones, etc. diminishes the possibilities for us to truly love our neighbors. It’s a daily battle.

Have a refreshing weekend…be kind to yourselves and each other.

5) Bonuses

This week’s favorite quote: “I am looking for the fellowship of the burning heart – for men and women of all generations everywhere who love the Savior until adoration becomes the music of their soul until they don’t have to be fooled with and entertained and amused. Jesus Christ is everything, all-in-all.”A. W. Tozer

Google on Abortion – 3 Fresh Ways to Make the Case for Life – Trevin Wax

YouTube Video – Sounds Every 90s Kid Will Remember

60 Pieces of Survival Wisdom From the Great Depression – The Survival Mom

5 Friday Faves – Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia, Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover, a Low-Carb Surprise, Blindspots, and Taking Responsibility

Friday! This time of year, it’s squeezing out those last vacation days before school starts again (after Labor Day in Virginia). Many of our friends in other states have already shut down their summer as kids  returned to school this week. Can’t you just smell the fragrance of new school supplies? For us here, it’s still making hot August day memories with little guys.

While you finish your cup of coffee or break from work, let’s get down to this week’s Friday Faves.

1) Joni’s 50 Years of Quadriplegia – A woman who has taught me much about living through hardship with grace is Joni Eareckson Tada. She is a writer, speaker, artist and advocate for persons with disabilities. More central than all of that is her deep faith and dependence on God…especially in the 50 years since a diving accident, at 17 years old, put her in a wheelchair for life. I discovered her through an old feature film and her autobiography – Joni: An Unforgettable Story. The testament of her life points always to a God who gave her the grace to “count quadriplegia joy“. She is an amazing woman empowered with His love and that of those by her side, especially her husband, Ken Tada.Photo Credit: Joni and Friends

In Awe of Her God – Joni’s Fifty Years of Counting Quadriplegia Joy

Reflections on the 50th Anniversary of My Diving Accident – Joni Eareckson Tada

Joni and Friends

2) Lord of the Rings Guitar Cover – One of the feature films with the greatest impact on our family is The Lord of the Rings Trilogy. The stories are gripping; the heroes are the stuff of legend; the villains are loathsome; the music is spectacular. Nathan Mills, Beyond the Guitar, has finally given us an arrangement of one of the great themes: Riders of Rohan from The Two Towers (second film of the trilogy). You can hear the theme in context with the story here (music rises after minute 5).

Nathan’s arrangement is here…and all us LOTR fans loved it (126,000 views and counting).

3) A Low-Carb Surprise – Earlier this week, we had a big supper with friends. A regular event where we take turns bringing food to share. This amazing cook in the bunch made loaded mashed potatoes. Having just finished a sugar detox, I have minimized carbs in my diet for over a month. Those mashed potatoes were so yummy. Not really ready to dive into unrestricted carb eating, I’ve been doing something very different (and appalling for me). Substituting cauliflower for potatoes and rice. Here’s the surprise. I’m shocked to confess that cauliflower is actually good…enough. With a lighter carb load and other nutritious qualities as well. Last night I made Shepherd’s Pie with a cauliflower topping. I don’t food-process the cauliflower; just steam it and then either mash it or crush it a bit with a fork (to use as rice).Cauliflower takes on the flavors added to it. Just as with mashed potatoes, butter and a bit of milk completed the substitution. Cheese on top and…hello!

Still…the next time it’s my friend’s turn to cook, that mashed-potato queen, I will not be slow to take my serving. Low carbs, not no carbs.

YouTube Video – This Is Why Eating Healthy Is So Hard (Time Travel Dietician)

4) Blind Spots – Life coach and writer Martha Beck defines blind spots as psychological “aspects of our personality that are obvious to everyone but ourselves“. She even prescribes a way to discover them.

“I know how valuable honest feedback can be, how much precious time it can save in my struggle to awaken. I still have to force myself to go looking for it, but when I do I almost always benefit.

Try this: For a week, ask for blind-spot feedback from one person a day, never asking the same person twice. Just say it: “Is there anything about me that I don’t seem to see but is obvious to you?” You’ll probably want to start with your nearest and dearest, but don’t stop there. Surprisingly, a group of relative strangers is often the best mirror you can find. I’ve worked with many groups of people who, just minutes after meeting, could offer one another powerful insights. Like the emperor in his new clothes, we often believe that our illusions are confirmed by the silence of people who are simply too polite to mention the obvious. Breaking the courtesy barrier by asking for the truth can change your life faster than anything else I’ve ever experienced.”Martha Beck

As hard as negative feedback is to stomach, it is a great help to avoid continued odd responses from people or the distancing that can happen when our blind spots get in the way of intimacy and care in relationships.Photo Credit: Vimeo

Now blind spots and “buttons” are different and yet connected. Buttons – those things people do that make us crazy – actually point to some of our blind spots in the way we respond to people pushing those buttons.

For instance, one of my buttons is when someone treats me like I’m stupid, or gullible. Like when a person tries to help me understand a decision he/she has made as if it’s a good thing when I know, and he/she knows, it’s not necessarily a good thing for me. This sort of thing makes me really burn (standing in the need of prayer here). OK…that’s a button, but my response reveals a blind spot. My blind spot is that if I take a stand in some area then it means that I am totally right in that stand. Sort of the same as the button but from a different direction, you know what I’m saying? It’s helpful to know our blind spots and our buttons so we can work out ways of being more honest and honoring in our communications.

What do you think?

Seeing Your Emotional Blind Spots – Martha Beck

What’s Your Blind Spot – Jane Taylor

6 Career Derailing Blind Spots and How to Overcome Them

How Successful People Cure Their Blind Spots – Kevin Kruse

How to Watch Out for Blind Spots in Your Leadership – Lolly Daskal

5) Taking Responsibility – You may be starting to expect in pretty much every Friday Faves that you’ll see a guitar arrangement by Beyond the Guitar and a life hack by Benjamin Hardy. You could be right. This week, Hardy posted an article on taking responsibility – What Happens When You Take Full Responsibility of Your LifePhoto Credit: Lakenheath

He talks about the hazards of indecision. Taking responsibility for our lives means to make decisions based on where you are and where you want to be at some future time. Life isn’t meant to happen haphazardly. Yet, because of our fear of failure or insecurity about making good decisions, we default to not making the decision. Then we languish in our current situation, losing ground even…rather than taking hold of our life and moving it in the direction we believe it’s meant to go.

Commitments are important to make and to keep. When we commit to something publicly, we have even more impetus to do what we’ve said we will do. This isn’t shaming or guilting…this is operating as a mature and responsible individual. These kinds of commitments also grease the tracks for success in that expressed decision.

Making a commitment means you’re seeing it through to the end. It means you’re leaving yourself no escape routes. You’re burning any bridges that might lead to lesser paths of distraction. Your decision has been made. There’s no going back. You’ve passed your point of no return.

Where decisions are made in a single moment, commitment is seeing those decisions into the future. Especially when life gets difficult. – Benjamin Hardy

A friend made the statement “You fake it until you make it.” I’ve heard that spoken before but never by her. “Faking it” is something that doesn’t fit this incredibly wise and reasoned woman. What she further explained though brought the meaning. So what if we aren’t sure of ourselves in the decision. What if our desire is to commit to something but we aren’t sure we can actually follow-through. Then we “fake it”, or really, in her further explanation – “You walk the talk until the talk becomes your walk”.  Make the decision; execute the decision.

Make the decision you want to. Eventually, you grow into that decision through your commitment and personal resolve. Your goals are something you grow into.

This isn’t faking anything.

It’s living with intention.

It’s living with definiteness of purpose.

So what’s the challenge?

Publicly commit to something to TODAY.Benjamin Hardy

Thanks again, Benjamin Hardy…and Nathan Mills…and all of you have a safe and restful weekend. Live with intentionality, and be kind to yourselves. That kindness will splash out on others.

Worship Wednesday – Thy Will Be Done – Hillary Scott

Blog - Thy Will Be Done - Lord's Prayer - SlidesharePhoto Credit: Slideshare

We don’t try to explain God’s will at play when good things happen. It’s just celebration time. However, when bad things happen, we are caught off-guard. There must be some reason, something He’s teaching me, something wrong that He is righting, or some greater good. How do we as His children even imagine that we can explain or justify or normalize the activity of God?

Maybe because we are children. I think of my own children growing up and coping with a decision or direction change that caused them pain, disappointment, or confusion. After their questioning and attempts at convincing us of a better way, after the tears, came the surrender. We were always relieved when they let go of those exhausting emotions and would finally wrap their arms and legs around us, and lay their heads on our shoulders, to come close and be comforted. I remember those intimate times…grateful.

[It’s odd that my memories like these don’t go back to childhood and the same struggles with disappointments, seemingly caused by my own parents. Maybe you do remember times like that. Please share in Comments. Perhaps being grown, we have sorted it out enough times that the hurt has dissipated.  Or the relationships, between child and parent, have proved to be trustworthy, and the disappointments just don’t matter in contrast.]

When Jesus’ followers asked him to teach them how to pray, he modeled a prayer for them. Within the text of the prayer, there is an appeal to God, echoing a surrender, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth, as it is in Heaven.” I have prayed that phrase over many countries, and over my own life, and that of our children.

Jesus was/is in perfect unity with the Father and the Holy Spirit…and the will of God. In that unity, unblemished by his years on earth, he embraced and lived within that will. Still, even for Jesus, there came a dark, awful night, when he wrestled with the sometimes costly nature of the will of God. The next day, sinless Jesus would take on the sins of all the world – dying willingly for us in order that we, in every generation, could be restored to a holy God…forever. It was the only way for us…His obedience, his surrender. In a moment of human struggle, Jesus raised the possibility to the Father of another way…but resolutely, he reaffirmed “Not my will, but Thine be done.” [Luke 22:42]Blog - Jesus prayed - Thy Will - redeeminggodPhoto Credit: Redeeming God

At times, we also wrestle with the will of God. Maybe we are less tempted to question Him when we receive the scholarship, or the job offer, or the marriage proposal, or the healthy baby, or the clear medical report. It’s when things go terribly wrong that we struggle with the “why’s” of the will of God. I don’t want trifle with offering up an explanation for God or attempt to answer for Him. When I was younger, I tried, but it seems vain and inadequate for us, as children even His, to try to explain God or give rationale for something hard in our lives.

Terrible things do happen in this world…and I am sure they grieve the heart of God. How do we reconcile the fall-out of sin and brokenness in this life and how God works his will even in those situations? We can’t see with his eyes…nor can we know why. What we can know always is that God loves his children. If we suffer at the hands of others or because of some circumstance of a sin-sick world, we cling to a God who is good…always good.

We are not tossed and tattered by the will of some god who is distant or uncaring. When we face a difficult turn in our lives, we don’t face it alone. Just like our children crawled up onto our laps for comfort when they didn’t understand, we do the same with our Father in Heaven. We may be confused by what we’re facing, but we can be sure that foremost in God’s will for us is to know that He loves us and will bring us through whatever situation we find ourselves. He will lovingly bring us through it.

Hillary Scott, singer-songwriter, of Lady Antebellum and The Scott Family, writes a song about this very process – this resting in the love and person of God, no matter the loss, or painful situation.

Worship with me.

I’m so confused
I know I heard You loud and clear
So, I followed through
Somehow I ended up here
I don’t wanna think
I may never understand
That my broken heart is a part of Your plan
When I try to pray
All I’ve got is hurt and these four words

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You’re good
But this don’t feel good right now
And I know You think
Of things I could never think about
It’s hard to count it all joy
Distracted by the noise
Just trying to make sense
Of all Your promises
Sometimes I gotta stop
Remember that You’re God
And I am not
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
I know You hear me
I know You see me, Lord
Your plans are for me
Goodness You have in store
So

Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Like a child on my knees all that comes to me is
Thy will be done
Thy will be done
Thy will be done

I know You see me
I know You hear me, Lord*

Blog - Thy Will - cocolaelle

Photo Credit: Cocolaelle

*Lyrics to Thy Will Performed by Hillary Scott and Scott Family

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott & The Scott Family – Thy Will

YouTube Video – Hillary Scott Shares the Story Behind the Song Thy Will

Worship Wednesday – From Bitterness to Brokenness – Create in Me a Clean Heart, O God

Blog - Bitterness or Brokenness - oldpathsjournalPhoto Credit: Old Paths Journal

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, in whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, outcry and slander, along with every form of malice. Be kind and tender-hearted to one another, forgiving each other just as in Christ God forgave you. – Ephesians 4:30-32

Create in me a clean heart, O God,
    and renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
    and take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Restore to me the joy of your salvation,
    and uphold me with a willing spirit.

Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
    and sinners will return to you.

The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit;
    a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. Psalm 51:10-13, 17

Bitterness. It’s been described as a poison concocted for the one who wounded you but you are the one who drinks it.

We may have situations in our lives that are truly grievous and undeserved. We rail against those situations, and the persons who created them, and our hearts are altered…hardened. It’s not intentional at first – almost like the formation of a scab or a scar. If not recognized and repented of, bitterness becomes its own enemy in our lives.

Blog - Bitterness - Lee Strobel quote - azquotesPhoto Credit: AZ Quotes

I have seen the damage bitterness can cause in the lives of others…we all have. It’s frightening to watch it grow in someone we love. My older brother struggled with a lifetime of losses. His regret at his part of them was taken over by blaming others. I will be forever grateful that he did not die in that place, but began reckoning with his bitterness before he died.

It’s a dangerous place to find ourselves – that hardening of our hearts in response to grave injustices, deep losses, and dreams dashed. No matter what the cause – whether the hits we take are from enemy or friendly fire – bitterness will not only hurt us but those who love us the most…and our fellowship with God who loves us best.Blog - Bitterness and Brokenness - Henri Nouwen - quoteaddictsPhoto Credit: QuoteAddicts

John Piper has preached and written so much about anger and bitterness (see links below). Don’t miss his  piece on battling the unbelief of bitterness. Here are his 4 points (gleaned from Ephesians 4:30-32 :

  1. Believe that what the Great Physician says is good advice. If he says, “Put away anger,” don’t ignore the counsel. Put it in your mind and resolve to keep it.
  2. Believe that you are forgiven, and that being forgiven by an infinitely holy God is an awesome thing.
  3. Believe that vengeance belongs to God, that he will repay those who do wrong.
  4. Believe that God’s purpose in all your trials is to turn the cause of your anger for your good.

We have beautiful trees in our neighborhood and seedlings pop up across our yard. Dave pulls them up regularly. The hardest ones to get up, he says, are the oak seedlings. They quickly and seriously drive a woody root into the ground, extending beyond the taproot, holding onto the soil, as if with a vengeance. Blog - Bitterness - airpotPhoto Credit: Air-Pot

As beautiful as oak trees are, the image of that stubborn and strong root reminds me of bitterness. It spreads and takes firm hold.

The writer of Hebrews talks soberly about resisting a “root of bitterness”.

“Pursue peace with all men, and the sanctification without which no one will see the Lord. See to it that no one comes short of the grace of God; that no root of bitterness, springing up, causes trouble, and by it many be defiled.”Hebrews 12:14-15 (12:14-15). John Piper again gives “warning not to treat holiness lightly or to presume upon more grace…[a bitter person] defiles many and can lead to the experience of Esau who played fast and loose with his inheritance and could not repent in the end, and find life”.

As much as we might feel justified in nursing our bitterness, it is a treacherous thing…a terrifying thing for those who love the one struggling with it. Our souls may cry out for justice, and God will do justice. What He requires of His children is “to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). We cannot, with His blessing, exact justice without both administering loving kindness and practicing humility. Whew….

To get out of the burden and yoke of bitterness, we must allow God to break our hearts toward Him and the situation…a brokenness that will penetrate the hardness of heart and restore us to ourselves.

Piper prescribes a practical way out of the grip of bitterness:

“By the work of the Holy Spirit, God defeats temptation (like the temptation to be angry and depressed that you are suffering) by awakening joy through belief in the word of God which is at work in us. And that word is most centrally the good news that Christ died for us so that all the promises of God are Yes in him (2 Corinthians 1:20).

By the Spirit, we trust the promises which bring joy which defeats temptation. And all the while we are praying!

So now let me illustrate how this works. It helps me to have an acronym called APTAT.”

  • A – I admit I can’t in myself do what needs to be done.
  • P – I pray for God’s help.
  • T – I trust a particular promise He has given.
  • A – I act to do whatever God is calling me to do.
  • T – I thank Him for His help when I am done.

Worship with me to Keith Green‘s rendition of Psalm 51:

Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me
Create in me a clean heart, oh God
And renew a right spirit within me

Cast me not away from Thy presence, oh Lord
Take not Thy holy spirit from me
Restore unto me the joy of Thy salvation
And renew a right spirit within me

[Repeat x 3]

Don’t give up on God. He doesn’t give up on us.

[One last thing – for anyone out there who read this thinking of someone else…we all have it in us to wound others, sowing the seeds of bitterness. In a callous casual word, in a decision made with wide ramifications, and an act of preference, exclusion, or judgment. Examining our own hearts is always wisdom. Confession when needed and repentance as widely as the offense requires…may be a Holy Spirit response. Peace.]

Bitterness or Brokenness – Tony Shirley

SermonsandSongs.Org – A. W. Tozer – The Root of Bitterness

7 Bible Verses to Help Overcome Bitterness – Crystal McDowell

YouTube Video – Bitterness and Forgiveness – John Piper

The Word of God Is at Work in You – John Piper – [the video above is a portion of this sermon transcript]

Top 10 Christian Songs About Forgiveness

How Christ Conquered Bitterness – John Piper

Why Can’t I Overcome My Bitterness and Anger? – John Piper

Fighting Bitterness – Interview with John Piper

YouTube Video – Donnie McClurkin: Create in Me a Clean Heart

Sulking and the Idolatry of Relationships

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I learned how to sulk very early in life, the only girl with three brothers. Sulking came too naturally when I didn’t get my way, especially when my brothers wanted something different than what I wanted. That habit of sulking transferred easily into marriage.

Joseph Bonifacio defines the verb sulk:

Blog - Sulk - joseph bonifacioPhoto Credit: Joseph Bonifacio

When Dave and I were first married, if he didn’t at times behave in some way that I felt he should have, I could effectively sink into a long, brooding sulk. Even though the Bible verse about “not letting the sun go down on your anger” was a serious warning against sulking, I could still go three days without talking to him…beyond the absolute essential.

Those early years of marriage are way in our past, and my sulking these days rarely goes for long, minutes usually, rarely a few hours. Still, it has to be so punishing for him. It certainly is for me.

Today I read the most fascinating description of sulking by Alain de Botton, author of On Love: A Novel and The Course of Love: A Novel

Blog - Sulking - Alain de Botton - fanpopPhoto Credit: Fanpop

At the heart of a sulk lies a confusing mixture of intense anger and an equally intense desire not to communicate what one is angry about. The sulker both desperately needs the other person to understand and yet remains utterly committed to doing nothing to help them do so. The very need to explain forms the kernel of the insult: if the partner requires an explanation, he or she is clearly not worthy of one. We should add: it is a privilege to be the recipient of a sulk; it means the other person respects and trusts us enough to think we should understand their unspoken hurt. It is one of the odder gifts of love.”Alain de Botton

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Sulking pays homage to a beautiful, dangerous ideal that can be traced back to our earliest childhoods: the promise of wordless understanding. In the womb, we never had to explain. Our every requirement was catered to. The right sort of comfort simply happened. Some of this idyll continued in our first years. We didn’t have to make our every  requirement known: large, kind people guessed for us. They saw past our tears, our inarticulacy, our confusions: they found the explanations for discomforts which we lacked the ability to verbalize. That may be why, in relationships, even the most eloquent among us may instinctively prefer not to spell things out when our partners are at risk of failing to read us properly. Only wordless and accurate mind reading can feel like a true sign that our partner is someone to be trusted: only when we don’t have to explain can we feel certain that we are genuinely understood.Alain de Botton

Sheesh.

We can make it hard on those we love the most.

In the same article, on Brain Pickings, where I read Alain de Botton’s words above, there was also the following quote:

““Why is love rich beyond all other possible human experiences and a sweet burden to those seized in its grasp? Because we become what we love and yet remain ourselves.”Martin Heidegger

It reminded me of the passage preached by our pastor this morning. Psalm 115. The psalmist was glorifying God in worship and warning against the sin and human vanity of idolatry – of fashioning a thing or relationship into something for our own pleasure. He further warned that what we fashion for ourselves can cause us to stumble in the worshiping of what was never intended for worship.

Those who make them (idols) become like them; so do all who trust in them.Psalm 115:8
Sulking is a sign that I have assigned omniscience (an “all-knowing”) to my husband (for instance). He is supposed to know what is important to me and how to respond accordingly. The selfishness I may silently stew about in him is actually reflecting the very same selfishness in my own heart. Idolatry is when “I” or my interests take center stage, and sulking is a vehicle for that self-centered universe. Ugh!
It’s something that has come to mind today, thanks to the “coincidence” of a sermon at Movement Church, an article I read this afternoon, and my very own bumping into the idolatrous nature of my heart… This kind of convergence had a great impact on me today and helped me bounce back from a slow-burn that could have ruined a sweet evening with my best friend. Humility on both our parts helped restore the joy and peace in our relationship…sooner than later. Sulking no more.
So…what are your thoughts about idolatries in relationships? Is sulking a struggle of yours, or would your partner say it’s a burden of his/hers?

A senior couple enjoying a cup of tea together

Angry Men – Dealing with Fits of Anger and the Painful Fallout

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Be angry, yet do not sin. Do not let the sun set upon your anger, and do not give the devil a foothold.Ephesians 4:26-27

I’d like to start a conversation about angry men. Not that women don’t get angry; sure we do. For today, though I’d like to think out loud about the frightening, threatening nature of anger in men. As an emotion, anger isn’t necessarily bad. It is a normal response to plenty of situations. We all have good reasons to be angry at times. When we turn up our anger either on ourselves or others then it becomes destructive and sometimes dangerous.

[Disclaimer: I am not an authority on this topic,  but have found the articles by the men who have written and counseled on this topic very helpful – they are linked below.]

Living with someone who strikes out at me in anger is not a daily experience, and for that I’m very thankful. However, there are strong memories of unchecked anger in my past that still sting when they come to mind.

  • I was maybe 5 years old when, one night in our home, all four of us children were sitting, huddled together on a bottom bunk, while my mom, dad and an uncle were having some sort of altercation. Mom and Dad were divorced by then, and he and my uncle were in some sort of row. I remember my dad’s face bleeding and a bloody handkerchief…and lots of frightening yelling…until he finally left our house.
  • My step-dad, who is the only dad I’ve ever really known, has always been so kind to me. He, on the other hand, was sometimes a tough dad with the boys. He struggled with fits of anger, and they were the recipients of it. As the years went by, he managed to get control of his anger for the most part. Still there are memories I wish I didn’t have, and I’m sure my brothers wish they could forget.
  • My oldest brother, who saw much more than I did of our birth father’s selfishness and our step-dad’s temper, also struggled with anger issues through his life. He had an uncanny ability to bait us, as family, into escalating arguments that left us all shaking with emotion. I learned the most about dealing with anger through trying to stay in relationship with him. Two friends, who also loved him, gave me the insight I needed to NOT take the bait and to draw down the negative emotion of our conversations. One friend told me, “Hurt people hurt people.” That one observation helped me the most with my brother. His whole life was full of hurt, some he brought on himself, some he didn’t. Before he died, a few years back, he had begun the process of healing in a lot of those areas. I am so thankful that he finally saw that friendship with family was possible. We became close friends before the end. My only regret for him was that he didn’t have time for all his relationships mended before he died. Learn from this.

[There are some other situations very close to me that are still too fresh and painful to put up here….where people I love have been terribly hurt by angry, vindictive men who were supposed to protect and care for them.]

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I started thinking about this dilemma of “blowing up” anger especially in men after reading Chuck Lawless’ article 10 Steps to Deal with Anger. He offers really good counsel especially to Christian men with anger problems, but anyone would benefit from reading this article. Chuck grew up with a father who lashed out at his family in anger (he wrote about it here). Like my step-dad, his dad would later change, with God’s help…which can give hope to all of us.

Too often we downplay anger. Because it is a normal emotion, we tend to just accept it unless there is violence inflicted.  When fits of anger are typical of how we respond to frustration, disappointment, loss, or not getting our way, we need help.

Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these… But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law...If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit.  Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.Galatians 5:19-26

Kurt Smith posted a gripping piece on his Guy Stuff Counseling blog. Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger was taken from Kim Barnes’ article With This Rage, I Thee Wed. Her story is real and heart-wrenching. Then the comments and Kurt Smith’s responses to them are also incredibly helpful in understanding what women encounter in their anger-singed relationships.

Dear men with anger issues in our lives, please get the help you need…for your sake and that of those who love you. Often, we hear people walking away from negative relationships, but, except for when violence is present, I would support people staying together and fighting through to healing if at all possible. Still, help from counselors, pastors, or other professionals may be required for a breakthrough.

Tom Elliff wrote a small book entitled The Broken Curse, about lashing out with words and the life-long impact of such words…unless healing takes place. “Hurt people hurt people” and their weapons are sometimes words of contempt, resentment, and intimidation. Men who explode with anger have histories often of being victims of that very same kind of treatment by one who was supposed to have loved and protected them. Both the angry men and the women, children, and other men in their lives all need to examine these life patterns and work together to relate differently to each other.

Helps abound online and through various agencies…when we’re willing to face the hateful, hurtful reality of unleashed anger.

 Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. – Ephesians 4:31-32

Kill Anger Before It Kills You or Your Marriage – John Piper – don’t miss this one.

Married to an Angry Man – A Wife’s View of Her Husband’s Anger – posted by Kurt Smith, Counseling Men Blog – Don’t miss the comments – story after story of women and the angry men they have loved – very helpful.

Counseling Men Blog – Guy Stuff Counseling

Brad Hambrick on Anger

Top 7 Bible Verses on Anger – Jack Wellman

7 Ways to Help Men Resolve Anger Issues – Jed Diamond

Battered Person Syndrome – Wikipedia

The Angry Heart – Biblical Counseling CoalitionBlog - Anger - Angry man - Biblical Counseling CoalitionPhoto Credit: Biblical Counseling Coalition