Screaming Fits

My friend and I went shopping and I purchased new hangers for my closet. I absolutely love these hangers because a) they all match, and b) the clothing does not seem so crowded together when I use them. We also found a new Christmas store that had absolutely lovely things in it that I can only dream about because they are not in my budget (not to mention I already have WAY too much Christmas stuff!).

After shopping we decided to dine at a Chinese fast food restaurant. We were enjoying a leisurely meal when the door was thrown open and a lady stormed into the restaurant. She threw her hands up in the air like a referee calling a touchdown and began to yell. When I say she began to yell, I mean she was screaming at the top of her lungs at the staff. Things like, “You are fired. You are a lazy bunch of people who are not doing your job! The drive-through is extremely slow and there is no excuse for that.” She was taunting the staff to come over and face her.

photo by bowie15

Initially, I thought maybe it was a store manager who had totally lost control, because she had a red apron on similar to what the workers were wearing. But then I noticed it had a totally different logo. My friend and I assumed she had gone through the drive-through and they were too slow for her. She became inappropriately angry–or dare I even say, full of rage.

As she continued her rant, finally a young man came up to her and politely asked her to leave. She was screaming in his face and at that point he escorted her out the door. She left, but we watched as she continued to pace up and down the sidewalk outside the restaurant.

My friend and I decided it was time to leave. As we started to exit, the young man was extremely polite and asked us if he could get us anything else or even a drink to go. We declined and then he offered to escort us to our car since the woman was still agitatedly walking up and down the sidewalk. We told him it was not necessary, but we did not tarry getting into the car!

My friend and I discussed what had happened, and quite frankly, we were glad she did not have a gun in her hand. I suspect if she had, we might all have been injured or even dead, she was that out of control. In all honesty, most of us have been in a slow drive through line at some point and may find ourselves becoming irritated. I am grateful that our action is not to come in the store and scream at the top of our lungs. Frankly, some of us have watched YouTube videos showing unacceptable incidents that have taken place in drive-throughs. But I had to wonder what happened in that woman’s life that made her so full of rage.

In all honesty, in my younger years, I struggled sometimes with anger and as a result acted inappropriately on occasion. It was only after I truly focused on letting God take control of my words and actions that I started becoming less hateful and more kind. I am grateful that as we become Christians and let the Holy Spirit do his work in our lives things like rage no longer control us. If we truly let ourselves be ruled by the Spirit, we are going to be focusing on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control–all fruit of the Spirit.

The fact is anger is an emotion all of us experience at one time or another. But when we let that anger fester and boil over, it is harmful to both ourselves and those around us. By learning to recognize and appropriately respond to our anger, we avoid enacting scenes like the one we witnessed in the restaurant.

Proverbs 29:11 says, “A fool gives full vent to his anger, but a wise man keeps himself under control.” So my prayer to God is to not foolishly let anger lead me to sin against God, but to instead practice using the fruit of the Spirit that God has gifted to me.

A Father’s Arms

This past weekend I attended a worship night at our church. Of everything we do at church, worship nights are one of my favorite things. I came early so I could sit in a row close to the front and on the outside of the aisle, because of, well, short girl problems. If I am farther in the row and someone tall sits in front of me I may as well have saved myself the time of coming early.

As worship began and we were singing in earnest a father with his son nestled in his arms slipped into the row ahead of me. It was obvious the young boy, who was well past toddlerhood, was tired. I noticed when his eyelids gently shut and he snuggled deeper into his father’s arms. Soon he was sound asleep and even the enthusiastic singing all around him did not wake him up.

I watched as the father continued to hold his child tightly while he was singing praises to God. He held him during our entire worship service–sometimes when he was standing, and sometimes when he was sitting. But through it all he continued to lovingly hold him in his arms.

As I watched the son put his arms around his father’s neck when he finally stirred, it hit me that he had a lot of trust in his dad. I don’t think he was concerned about falling, or being abandoned while he slept, or any other myriad of things that a person can think about when they put themselves in someone else’s hands. He just cuddled up to his dad and slept, and all was right with his world.

Isn’t that the way it should be with our heavenly father? We know our father loves us and we should be able to trust that he has us when we are weary and tired. He will hold onto us and not let us slip from his grip. Jesus says, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.” (Matthew 11:28-29). In 1 Peter 5:7, it says “Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.” (NLT)

For some reason, seeing the young boy and his father reminded me that we have a heavenly Father that cares about us and when we are tired and weary, we can trust him to hold us in his arms and not let us fall. Until we take our last breath we can trust God to be holding our hand. What a beautiful reassurance I have when I read Isaiah 46:4 “I will be your God throughout your lifetime – until your hair is white with age. I made you, and I will care for you” I am grateful for a father’s love and the knowledge that he will not let me go.

So You Are a Toe

Several weeks ago I managed to injure my big toe in the klutziest of ways. I was rolling up an area rug to take it out of the house and have it cleaned. Because it was so heavy, I was trying to hold one side with my foot, while still rolling the other side to make it even. The rug rolled back and hit my big toe, with the resulting feeling that it jammed it up into the rest of my foot! Needless to say, I jumped, the rug unrolled, and I had to start the process over again, with my toe throbbing the entire time.

The next morning when I looked at my foot there was a huge bruise from the toe all the way up to the top of my foot. I did not go have it x-rayed, because I have had broken toes before and there is not much they do for them except tape them and sometimes put you in a stiff shoe. However, I saw my rheumatologist for my regular follow-up a day later and she noticed my toe. I told her the whole ridiculous story of how I hurt it, and she insisted I go for an x-ray. I reluctantly went and found to her surprise and my delight that it was not broken. But that toe took forever to heal.

It is a funny thing about the body–every part serves a function. If you are like me you don’t think a lot about your toes, until one of them gets hurt. Then you limp and try to protect it as much as possible.

I was reading in 1 Corinthians 12 and was reminded that the church is a body and it has many parts. Some of those parts may seem insignificant and are not highly visible, but they still play an important role. And believe me, the toe plays an important role in helping balance the body!

It is a strange thing, but generally true, that the most visible parts seem to get the most glory in the church. We seem to value highly the ones who preach, sing, and teach–all visible parts of the body. But the ones who change dirty diapers in the nursery, take out the trash, and clean the baptistry are not noticed so much. Yet they play valuable roles in being part of the body.

Paul says “But our bodies have many parts, and God has put each part just where he wants it.” (1 Corinthians 12:10, NLT) He further notes in verse 11, “In fact, some parts of the body that seem weakest and least important are actually the most necessary.” Believe me if the trash is not taken out, the restrooms are not cleaned, and dirty diapers are not changed, we begin to sit up and take notice.

Do not wait until you stub your toe to notice how important it is to the body. In the same way, take note of all of those individuals in the church who are playing such vital, almost unseen roles in the church. And, if you are a toe? Know that you are truly appreciated in the church of Christ.

Arrogance, Pride, and Power

We have all met them; arrogant Christians who boast about almost anything. They tend to grate on us with their pride, wearing their roles like a shield and making their judgments on the rest of us. I was reading in 1 Corinthians 4 and 5 and it struck me that so much of the church discipline that was needed in the early church had to do with pride and power.

In the New Testament we read of conflicts between Jewish Christians and Gentile Christians on what to eat, circumcision, and yes, even if you were baptized in John’s baptism or Christ’s baptism. Ananias and Sapphira allowed their greed to lie to the church and were both struck dead because of it (can you imagine if that happened today?). The Greek speaking Christians complained that the Hebrew speaking believers were discriminating against widows in the daily distribution of food.

We see in Philippians where Euodia and Syntyche had a disagreement that actually made its way to the news Paul received while in prison. He appealed to them to settle their disagreement amicably. He even asks the church to help these two women. The whole book of Galatians relates to refuting the teaching of some of the Jewish Christians. They were trying to bind people up to obeying and following the law in order to earn their salvation. Paul wrote an entire letter that talks about freedom in Christ.

In 1 Corinthians 4:18-20, Paul writes, “Some of you have become arrogant, thinking I will not visit you again. But I will come–and soon–if the Lord lets me, and then I’ll find out whether these arrogant people just give pretentious speeches or whether they really have God’s power. For the Kingdom of God is not just a lot of talk; it is living by God’s power”

As I read the passage in 1 Corinthians, I had to do some soul searching and I realized that some of those criticisms would lie justly on me. While I like to think I am not arrogant, I recognize that I can be, on occasion, insufferable (just ask my children). I also like to think that I do not give pretentious speeches, but I cannot guarantee that they come across like that sometimes.

I pray that God will keep me humble as I seek to do better and grow more in Christ. I pray constantly for my church and its leaders to be the living hands and feet of Jesus. I pray for the church at large to be more consumed with compassion, than pride; to treat people more tenderly than judgmentally; and to love the freedom we have in Christ more than wearing the chains of legalism.

What I do know is this: Arrogance, pride, and power has no place in our lives as Christians. When we look at the fruit of the spirit, none of those three things are a part of it. Instead we have love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and faithfulness. We are part of the body of Christ, and as such we want to live in a way that leads people to live a life more like Jesus.

Never Give Up!

One of my favorite sci-fi comedy shows is Galaxy Quest. The saying: “Never give up! Never surrender!” is used by a tv character who actually ends up with an alien encounter. The aliens believe he is truly his character rather than a has-been actor. Throughout the movie they use the phrase, “Never give up! Never Surrender!” The phrase is pivotal in the final plot line. Buzz Lightyear, one of the beloved characters from the Toy Story series, also uses this term frequently and indeed, he used it before it appeared in Galaxy Quest.

Photo by Milad Fakurian on Unsplash

I had the privilege of speaking at an assistant living facility and spoke about patience and perseverance. Patience or perseverance is mentioned 44 times in the New Testament. Not only is it mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23 where Paul talks about fruit of the Spirit, it is also mentioned in 1 Timothy 6:11-12, and 2 Peter 1:5-8, along with other qualities we need to be cultivating in our lives.

As frequently happens when I speak, the issues I addressed hit me squarely where I am. It is easy to get discouraged and quit. Honestly, there are times when I am trying to work on my book that I am ready to give it all up. This week has been one of them. But I realized as I spoke that maybe this topic was more for me than for the people I spoke to whom I was speaking.

It is a lot harder to get up and try again when we find ourselves failing at something, than it is to just quit and go on to something else. But people who are successful in life are those who can face odds, make mistakes, have failures, and still persevere. If you study the histories of people like Michael Jordan, Harry Truman, Louis Pasteur, Helen Keller, Rudyard Kipling, and yes, even Abraham Lincoln, you will find individuals who overcame odds and obstacles to have huge accomplishments.

The fact is challenges and troubles help us develop perseverance in our lives. It is hard to acknowledge, but trials and testing are actually good for developing our character. James 1:2-4 says, “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

In Romans 5:3-5 Paul notes, “We also glory in our sufferings because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.”

So today think about the things in your life you have overcome so far, and keep on going. Develop perseverance in your life because good things can come from it. As for me, after my speech I realized it was just the motivation I needed to renew my determination to write on my book again!

I have always like the poem “Don’t You Quit” by Edgar A. Guest. So here it is.

When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,

When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,

When the funds are low and the debts are high,

And you want to smile, but you have to sigh,

When care is pressing you down a bit,

Rest, if you must, but don’t you quit.

Life is queer with its twists and turns,

As every one of us sometimes learns,

And many a failure turns about,

When he might have won had he stuck it out;

Don’t give up though the pace seems slow

You may succeed with another blow

.

Often the goal is nearer than

It seems to a faint and faltering man,

Often the struggler has given up,

When he might have captured the victor’s cup,

And he learned too late when the night slipped down,

 How close he was to the golden crown.

Success is failure turned inside out

The silver tint of the clouds of doubt,

 And you never can tell how close you are,

 It may be near when it seems so far,

So stick to the fight when you’re hardest hit

It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.

We Too

I just finished reading Mary Demuth’s book We Too, to help gather some insight for the fiction book I am writing. In my book the main character was sexually abused by her youth minister when she was in high school. While my book is fiction, the fact is there is more sexual abuse being covered up in the church than one can even imagine. If you happen to be familiar with the work of Julie Roys, Boz Tchividjian, Rachel Denhollander, or Mary DeMuth, you will be given some insights into the need for the church to be transparent about sexual abuse and how it is handled.

Little did I realize that Me Too was more than just a book to help me understand the need for the church to respond in an appropriate way, but it was also a book that was painful to read based on my own personal experience and years of working with women in the church.

In my roles in both youth ministry and women’s ministry I have heard heartbreaking stories of women and children abused by the ones who were supposed to be safe and care for them. From the misuse by fathers and stepfathers, to date rape, to clerical sexual abuse, to stalking, and more, it never seems to stop. Not just women, but men (especially young boys) are the target for increasingly common sexual abuse. We are living in a culture where sin abounds and Satan has a special fondness for sexual abuse. All we need to do is look at the pornography statistics and at the number of trafficked individuals that is on the rise.

When I headed an organization called Christian Women’s Resource Network (which no longer exists), we sponsored a program geared for women’s ministers to help identify abuse, and provide resources for the abused. We had speakers from organizations who talked about sexual abuse, physical abuse, and verbal abuse. We talked about how the church needs to respond and support those who have been abused. I only wish We Too had been written when we had the program.

The stories shared by women after the program were heart-wrenching. I will never forget the 80-year-old woman who shared that she had been sexually abused by a family member in her early teens. She had never told anyone until the day of the program. I cannot imagine carrying that burden around for as long as she did. I honestly wish I could say I have never heard one complaint about abuse at the hands of a self-professing Christian. Unfortunately, I cannot.

It would be nice to categorically say that the church is a safe place to bring accusations of abuse, especially at the hands of another Christian. Unfortunately, fact does not back that up. If you wonder why a victim has not come forward, you only need to look at the instances of victim blaming and shaming that occur when they do.

I would like to encourage you to stay informed. Research the topic for yourself. Do not just take my word for it that this is an issue in the worldwide church. It is not just a Catholic issue–it is across all denominations and “non-denominations” as well. You can order We Too by Mary Demuth at any local bookstore or on Amazon.

I want to leave you with this thought. Jesus loved the outcast and marginalized throughout the gospels.. He saw the people who had a great need for his love. So many who have been abused in the church yearn to have their voice heard and believed. They long for justice. Let us be the eyes, ears, and hands of Jesus as we minister to them.

Not Good Enough

I realized that I have not written a blog for a while. In all honesty, I have been in a funk lately and I sometimes wonder why I have started this journey of writing. Do I really have anything to say that my readers have not heard a hundred times before? I frequently ask myself, what am I doing here? Sometimes doubts plague me and Satan shouts at me, “You are not good enough for this.”

Photo by Hello I’m Nik on Unsplash

I am going to be vulnerable here and share my doubts. When I struggle to sit and write another page in my book, I think maybe I am not creative enough and my characters are not real enough and my plot is not developed enough. I am not good enough to do this.

When I write about the hurts that my main character has had in her life, I remember hurts I have had in mine. And I think–I can’t do this God. I cannot revisit the pain that I hid for years. But I cannot reveal my character’s pain without acknowledging my own. And my past sometimes shouts at me that I am flawed and not good enough.

The reality is, I am NOT good enough. But today once again I was reminded that God is. God has whispered to me that he is enough. All of my sins, all of my flaws, all of my doubts and insecurities, can be given to him. Because this book is not about me. It is about God and his ability to redeem a person’s life.

My book is about redemption and reconciliation and yes, even, reckoning. And the process of writing this is a reminder that in my weaknesses and feelings of not being enough, his grace can be sufficient and he is enough.

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me. 10 That is why, for Christ’s sake, I delight in weaknesses, in insults, in hardships, in persecutions, in difficulties. For when I am weak, then I am strong. – 2 Corinthians 12:9-10 (NIV)

Sitting at the Table

Today I attended the funeral of a friend of mine. I tried to remember the first time I met Nancy. Our paths first crossed at a retreat put on by the Christian Campus House of Missouri University. That was in 1971. I did not meet her again until 1978, when I returned back home from living in Cincinnati for four years after college. It was then that I went back to Ferguson Christian Church, where I had helped with Jet Cadets during my college years. That was where Nancy and I first became friends.

Our lives continued to connect as we both moved to the same city, attended the same church for decades, and were recently in the same Bunco group. Over the years, we shared many meals together and when she cooked them–oh, yummy.

At her funeral it was noted that she was a marvelous cook (and she was), and she had a knack for hospitality (and she did). For years she served quietly behind the scenes helping with potlucks, cooking fabulous desserts (her chocolate pecan pie was a hit), and taking meals to the sick.

But the thing that impressed me most was from the time she learned she had pancreatic cancer, in her quiet and understated way, she was an amazing example of staying the course with her faith. She never wavered in her faith that God was a good God. All of those who visited with her came away with the same knowledge that her faith was what sustained her. On my last visit with her, her quiet certainty that heaven awaited her shined through. While I was tearful, she was calm and in her inimitable way, totally Nancy. Her organizational skills were always somewhat amazing, and true to form, she told me she had put everything in order so that her sisters would know where everything was and would not have to go searching for things.

It is a strange thing as we get older and see death more often, watching loved ones and friends succumb to that inevitable fate we all face, that we think about the legacy we will leave when we pass. I think about that more as each day draws me closer to the day when I will see my Savior. In all honesty, I do not feel old, but when I think about it, more of my life is behind me than in front of me!

God has been good to me. And while I have had some ups and downs in my life, the knowledge that He loves me sustains me. I can only hope that when I face my final days and I finally take my last breath here on earth, that I am found faithful and am confident with the same kind of assurance of heaven that Nancy had.

For Nancy, the most difficult thing about being sick was her inability to eat. Nancy enjoyed food, but also worked hard to stay healthy and at a good weight. She lost weight rapidly after becoming sick and ended up with a feeding tube. She told one of our friends that she would frequently dream about eating and she looked forward to being able to eat in heaven.

For centuries the church has taught there will be a great banquet in heaven. That teaching dates all the way back to Messianic teaching in Isaiah 25. I do not know if it is true, but if it is, I know that Nancy will be sitting at the table.

Chocolate Pecan Pie

½ c. margarine                                                 1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. sugar                                                          1 c. pecan halves

1 c. light corn syrup                                         ¾ c. semi-sweet chocolate chips

4 eggs

Melt ½ cup butter. Combine 1 cup sugar, 1 cup light corn syrup (Karo), 4 slightly bean eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1 cup pecan halves, and ¾ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips. Mix well. Pour into unbaked 9-inceh pastry shell. Bake at 350 for 45-50 minutes. Cool. Serves 8.

If Wishes Were Horses

Today I was looking online at bikes. My sister-in-law has one and she rides with a friend frequently. She enjoys their rides, and they take advantage of the nearby Katy Trail, built on an old railroad track which runs from Machens MO to Clinton MO, covering a large swath of Missouri from east to west. All along the trail you will find bikers and hikers, runners and walkers, and a multitude of beautiful scenery. My sister-in-law and her friend take off on their bikes and frequently ride at least five miles at a time.

I must confess here. I have friends who are avid bikers and some of them ride 20 or more miles at a time. However, If I tried to ride a bike five miles a day, you would need to scrape me up from the pavement, where I would surely be lying after the first grueling mile! That is how out of shape I am.  

But I learned the secret of my sister-in-law’s rides. She had purchased an electric bike, which gives her an assist when the going gets tough. I confess, I had no clue there were electric bikes out there. I had seen electric scooters, and even electric wheelchairs, but I had not seen an electric bike. I was fascinated with this and suddenly, I was seeing electric bikes everywhere. We have a lovely walking trail in my subdivision and this morning I saw one of my neighbors with a new toy–his electric bike. He has been whizzing around the neighborhood daily on his bike!

And I thought to myself, I think I might buy an electric bike. I went to my go to place for anything new—Amazon. The phrase “If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride,” was one repeated often by my mother as one or the other of us would wish for something beyond our meager means while growing up. It took me a while to figure out what she really meant, and I frequently wondered where the phrase originated. I found out that “If wishes were horses, beggars would ride” is a proverb and nursery rhyme, first recorded about 1628 in a collection of Scottish proverbs.

Photo by Himiway Bikes on Unsplash

Looking at a new electric bike, I felt like the beggar who didn’t have a horse. The bike, while not outrageously expensive, is not in my budget right now. Two vacations, which were planned during last year and took place this year, and one wedding, that is planned this year, have taken care of any excess funds for me this year. And while I am not truly destitute, I do need to live within my means, especially in this economy.

I have decided when I finish my book and it is finally published, I will splurge by rewarding myself with an electric bike. So that means I really need to sit down and write—because this beggar is going to find herself a horse (or a bike) to ride–eventually!

Remember Your Why

I recently watched the Today show and they interviewed a running coach, Ryan Walsh. One of the first points he made was that anyone starting something new should always remember your why. Think about the reason you started, why you wanted to make this change, and what were the benefits of doing it. This resonated with me as I have started two large projects in my life.

My first project is eating healthy. My why was primarily for health reasons, but part of it is also vanity. Quite frankly, I am tired of buying plus size clothing and needing to stop a minute to catch my breath when I am walking any distance farther than a block. Some days are better than others when I make my eating choices. But on my recent vacation? All bets were off! I came back four pounds heavier and I really did make good choices, except for, well, maybe the ice cream. (and I have lost two of it in the first week back).

My next big project is finishing my novel, The Porch Swing. I have picked it up and set it back down more times than I can remember. But this year I picked it up and sent my first eight chapters to a friend, whose judgment I trust. Now she is waiting for the rest of it. I am attending the American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) in September and I want to have my first rough draft finished. So I had to think long and hard about my why for this book.

My why is to address the amount of abuse that happens in a church and how we respond. Do we believe the person who says she was raped by her youth minister? Or do we hide it and pretend nothing happened, because why would we ruin his reputation like that? I have found this process for working through my writing has been cathartic to me. I was abused by a cousin as a child and it did not stop until I was old enough to realize he was not going to tell anyone (a threat he used with me). Even after the abuse stopped I felt dirty and ashamed. My salvation came from the Lord and all of the old me was wiped away because I knew that Christ did a marvelous thing when he made me brand new.

Scripture tells us that Jesus prayed in the garden right before his arrest. He asked if there was any way to avoid what he knew was coming. There wasn’t. His why was for our salvation. He knew his mission in life and stuck to it even when it meant his death on the cross.

So my why? In actuality there are many of them. How about you? What do you think about when you ask yourself why you have started a project or why you want to do a major challenge. Do you get discouraged and want to quit because things are not happening fast enough? Do you find yourself getting easily sidetracked? When that happens take a step back and remember the why.