Nine Months, One Lifetime, Part 3

I arrive home from my first therapy appointment. I share with my husband my experience. He asks me what I thought about the therapist. I said, “She’s OK” and show him the recommended book, Codependent No More. We chat a bit about me not knowing what to do at check out. He assures me everything is fine. I kind of am able to put it aside, but truthfully, I tuck it all away inside.

I am a bookworm. I love books! I own hundreds of books. I have a list of want to ‘own or read’ that surely rivals the Library of Congress catalogs. I welcome reading Codependent No More, especially learning that the answers to my current life flailing’s were within these pages. That is right, all the answers to correct whatever is wrong. That very night, I embark upon the ‘Introduction.’ Here are a few enticing sentences I highlighted:

            I saw people who constantly gave to others, but didn’t know how to receive. I saw people give until they were angry, exhausted, and emptied of everything.  

            Yet, these codependents who had such great insight into others couldn’t see themselves. They didn’t know what they were feeling. They weren’t sure what they thought. And they didn’t know what, if anything, they could do to solve their problems…

            Sadly, aside from myself, nobody knew how badly I felt. My problems were my secret.

            I was so responsible, so dependable. Sometimes I wasn’t sure I had a problem. I knew I felt miserable, but I didn’t understand why my life wasn’t working.

            I saw people who had gotten so absorbed in other people’s problems they didn’t have time to identify or solve their own. These were people who had cared so deeply, and often destructively, about other people that they had forgotten how to care about themselves. The codependents felt responsible for so much because the people around them felt responsible for so little; they were just taking up the slack.

            And, the pain that comes from loving someone who’s in trouble can be profound.

            It’s difficult to convince codependents – those who by comparison look, but don’t feel, normal – that they have problems.

These few insights lured me into a place of hopeful thinking. All I needed was to complete this book, attend and talk in a few therapy appointments, and I could wrap this investment of time and money up in about (my thinking – 20 chapters, read one a week and do the exercises, see the therapist every other week) 20 weeks, about five months! I can do this; this is nothing! I like to read; I like to write; and I like learning. I will know what is wrong; what to do to fix it; and permission granted to speed along my fair maiden! And, they lived happily ever after! The end! WHAT A FANTASY! I had no inkling about what lie ahead!! Ignorance is NOT always bliss!

I buzzed through chapters one and two like they were children’s books, picking up ideas, words and phrases like fatigue; some things were becoming an effort; my family and friends think I am a tower of strength; always in control, always ready to help; fear; believing lies; sick of shouldering the burden and feeling responsible for the success or failure in relationships; guilt; I’m falling apart very quietly; have I been depressed for years?; I should be able to snap out of this; long ago I had shut off my need to give and receive love, I had frozen that part of me that felt and cared, I had to  survive; I am trapped and cannot find my way out; something dreadful that I couldn’t explain had happened to me and has now snuck upon me; “adult child”?

The only chapter assignments thus far were to purchase a large notebook and record my responses to assignments, the above being the first, identifying these things (and people, which I did in my large notebook!) All done in two days! Hmmm…this might move a bit faster than I first calculated. But…all this is something to be considered. Little did I know that this was like peering at the Hubble Deep Field, ten billion light years away!

You can be assured that I did not stop at chapter two. In fact, I sailed through half the book and exercises up to chapter eleven by the time of my next appointment. I learned a couple definitions of codependency. One particularly stood out, referred to by Robert Subby in his book, Co-Dependency, An Emerging Issue seemed most to have a ring of truth for me:

      “An emotional, psychological, and behavioral condition that develops as a result of an individual’s prolonged exposure to, and practice of, a set of oppressive rules – rules which prevent the open expression of feeling as well as the direct discussion of personal and interpersonal problems.”

You see, silence and secrets fell on me like snow on the mountain peaks. I never spoke to anyone at any time about my childhood; about feeling alone in this life having to figure it all out for myself; about learning to survive on my own; about my husband’s problems and the struggles in our marriage; about an entire host of things inside of me that I did not, could not, and should not discuss, and furthermore did not weigh in as conscious topics to be discussed. For the first half of the book I sponged in information, identified concepts, learned characteristics, learned about detachment, undependence, removing the victim, the concept of setting myself free, and living my own life. I cognitively had an influx of information. Now I am one to extract knowledge, think on it, dwell on it, break it down, shred it apart, ponder on the pieces, mince it to fragments, toss it into the fire for purification (scripture reading and prayer,) and construct my truth. This I had done and I was all set for appointment number two!

This time, I did not feel like I was driving to my funeral; I was filled with a little more confidence; I knew where I was going; I was prepared with my homework in hand; and I moved with familiarity. I arrive at the facility around 5:30 pm for my 6 o’clock appointment. I assumed I was to check in with the back receptionist as I did on the first visit, as the sign indicated. When I got to the back receptionist, there was no receptionist; in fact, there was no receptionist at either the front or the back desks. I thought maybe because the appointment was after normal business hours that I should wait in the back waiting room, where I sat at the first appointment. I sat there thirty minutes; no one came, not one person. There was not another patient, another therapist, another body anywhere; there was silence. At 6:30 pm, I thought perhaps I was wrong on the appointment day and/or time. Maybe I already missed the appointment, maybe I wrote down the wrong day, maybe I’m not supposed to be here, maybe I went to the wrong place and don’t even recognize it, am I in the right place, and onward my inner confusion mounted. I decided I would leave and be done with this entire unsettling mistake. I stood up quietly and quickly began to make my way to the exit. I get a couple steps past the front receptionist desk and here, “Deeon?” I turn around and there stood my therapist in her stilettos and fine clothing. She asks, “Where have you been?” I said I was in the waiting room where I was last week, there was no receptionist to check in with, and so I waited back there. Now, I am quite keen on discerning people; she was miffed! She looked at the clock, and said, “Well, we have a half hour, so let’s go to my office.” I felt like a child being whisked away to the naughty room. I sincerely felt terrible about the confusion. When we sat down in her office, she asked why I had not gone up to the receptionist area again to check in. I again stated there was no one there. She boldly told me that I was responsible for checking in, otherwise no one would know that I was there. Between her edge and my guilt, internally I took full responsibility for the mishap, blamed myself, and completely lost my voice to speak. I have no idea what she said for the remaining twenty minutes, not a clue. Departing, I took a deep breath and said, “What would you like me to do with this homework?”   She said, “I’ll take it” and she did. And then she further stated in a nonchalant manner, “There is no one to check you out or set up another appointment. You will need to call in tomorrow to schedule your next appointment.”

I was never so glad to step out into the dark night and cold air. On the drive home, I wondered if I was losing my mind. What are you doing? Why are you doing this to yourself? Maybe I should not be doing this. I do not think she likes me. Why doesn’t she like me? Why didn’t she check for me in the waiting room? I do not think I should call tomorrow for another appointment. I think I should stop now. Maybe this is how therapy goes. Maybe you are the one responsible. Maybe they do not tell you how to do things to see how you will do things. Maybe you are being over-sensitive. Perhaps your misery is actually just your own melancholy, your personality type. Maybe some pastors are right – maybe my issues are really a deeper spiritual challenge. But, I read my Bible every day on morning break, I pray every day throughout the day, I go to church, I try to live a responsible life of integrity, and I certainly sacrificially help others. What is wrong with me? You know that self-talk? I had so much chatter going on in my head; I thought a large family of hungry squirrels had taken us residency.

By the time I arrived home, I was convinced this was not what I should be doing and shouldered the responsibility for this failure. Now, my husband is an easy-going type of guy. Through the years, I have learned that he will take the opposing side, but had not wisened up to that yet. I shared with him the situation and he convinced me that everything would be fine, I needed to call the next day to establish my next appointment, it was just a coincidental mistake, and she likes me otherwise she would not have told me to call for another appointment. In his own ignorance, he neutralized and counterbalanced my thoughts, he too not knowing what lurked ahead. I called the facility the next day. My next appointment was scheduled out for two and one half weeks later. Truthfully, that did not set well with me either, but I thought it must be normal. Despite my internal uneasiness, I did not know what was abnormal.

To be continued…

Love you, mean it!

Maybe Life is a Little Bit More

For some reason, I have lost my blogging mojo! I have not lost my enthusiasm about the blog; I love writing and I love my blog. It is as if I have lost my energy and concentration. It is at these junctures, I need to push myself into deeper water. In deeper water, I can either give up and drown or dig into that well of reserves and swim with more determination.  So, here I am swimming with determination, but in what direction? I am floundering with what to whittle out, though in reality the pickings are truly abundant. Hey, there’s a word — “abundant.” Seems like a great word for the Christmas season. Now, I am not talking about prosperity, I am talking about abundance. Prosperity, on the other hand, has more to do with material possessions and affluence. Scratch prosperity, that is not what I want to talk about, though I think the two get mingled together into one ideology never considering the distinctions.  

Prosperity theology (sometimes referred to as the Prosperity Gospel or New Thought) peddles a controversial religious thinking filled with accusations of hypocrisy. This notion promotes the will of God as always being financial blessings and the alleviation of sickness and poverty. Faith, prayer, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth. If humans have faith in God, He will deliver security and prosperity; after all, it is God’s will for His people to be blessed. One prominent proponent of these teachings is Joel Osteen. Osteen owns a $10.5 million, 17,000 square foot mansion with 6 bedrooms and bathrooms, 5 open wood fire places, 3 elevators, a guest house, an outdoor pool, and pool house in River Oaks, Texas (a ‘burb’ of Houston, Texas, paying over $260,000 in property taxes yearly.) *Picture below

Joel Osteen’s Mansion

His lifestyle includes fancy cars (for sure a Ferrari), private jets, yachts, tailored suits, a wife refined by lavish jewels, attired in top quality garments, etc. His estimated net worth is $50-60 million. A satirical joke by the Babylon Bee circulated during Hurricane Harvey saying, “Joel Osteen Sails Luxury Yacht Through Flooded Houston To Pass Out Copies Of ‘Your Best Life Now.’ ” (it is worth a little chuckle!) Now, I am going to just leave this right here because I am not a proponent of this doctrine. However, I will toss out a couple questions to ponder:

  1. Who is the primary beneficiary of the prosperity gospel? The leader?
  2. Wouldn’t Jesus have been the wealthiest man on earth?
  3. How do you explain the persistence of suffering, sickness, and disaster among Christians?
  4. Where are treasures laid up under this religiosity? – “Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth…”

I really want to try to keep this simple. Abundant living is not material blessings as I interpret scripture. I believe abundant living is quite the opposite. Abundant living is:

  • Faith and hope in Jesus; eternal life –
  • A true personal relationship with Jesus – “…the LORD your God is God; He is the faithful God…”
  • Pray, Pray, Pray about everything – “Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us.”
  • Reading the Bible – learning and maturing in wisdom and knowledge of truth – ““Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!”
  • Trusting in God’s power and presence in your life – “”I am the LORD, the God of all mankind. Is anything too hard for me?”
  • Trusting that God is all knowing – ““I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me. I make known the end from the beginning…”
  • Desiring God more than what the world offers like material possessions, status, achievement, recognition, popularity, approval, acceptance, attention, idolatry, fulfillment of the flesh
  • Practicing the fruits of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control
  • Confessing our sins regularly; asking forgiveness from God and others; apologizing; swallowing pride and humbling oneself to specifically say “I’m sorry for…”  – “The LORD is gracious and merciful; slow to anger and great in loving kindness.” The LORD, the LORD God, compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in loving kindness and truth…”
  • Asking God for help and helping others – “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.” So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy.” “And God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work.”
  • Choosing gratitude, being thankful for EVERYTHING – “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in ALL circumstances” (not some), “Oh, how abundant is your goodness, which you have stored up for those who fear you and worked for those who take refuge in you…”
  • Contentment in ALL circumstances – “And my God will supply every need of yours according to his riches in glory in Christ Jesus.” “O, taste and see that the Lord is good…”
  • Choosing joy and peace amidst grief, difficult circumstances, and painful struggles (the list is not comprehensive, but here are many to contemplate choosing joy and peace amidst the pain) –

Death of a spouse
Divorce or Marital separation
Imprisonment
Death of a close family member
Personal injury or illness, major surgeries
Mental Illness
Abuse
Job termination or resignation
Retirement
Change in health of family member
Loss of Pregnancy or child
Sexual difficulties
Change in financial state
Death of a close friend
Change to different line of work
Foreclosure of mortgage or loan
Bankruptcy
Disability
Change in responsibilities at work
Child leaving home
Trouble with in-laws or family members
Spouse starts or stops employment
Change in living conditions
Revision of personal habits
Change in residence, moving
Change in church
Change in sleeping habits
Change in eating habits
Christmas & Holidays & Anniversaries
Home invasion, theft of property or threat of
Loss of Trust, Betrayal, Loss of Approval, Loss of Safety  

  • Deep, abiding peace that passes all understanding that does not come from deep breathing and counting to ten
  • Choosing to live a changed new life as a new creation through the power of Christ
  • Surrendering our will and desires over to God – one example is addictions, which includes failing, recovering, adjusting, enduring, overcoming, over and over until we have victory
  • Resting in God’s sovereignty and timing – “He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” “I the Lord do not change.”
  • Loving and giving to others – “Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins.”  “…give, and it will be given to you. Good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For with the measure you use it will be measured back to you.”

You see, the abundant life is NOT an abundance of tangible “stuff” purchased at stores or online amassed in our homes or owning finer things keeping up appearances or keeping up with the Joneses, accumulating treasures here on earth. The abundant life is about the abundance of Jesus. I have often looked around our home and wondered what if I literally sold it all? A young man approached Jesus asking what good thing must he do to receive eternal life. Jesus replied, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” Just think about that for a minute. What if we sold all our material prosperity and gave the money to the poor? What if?

Charlie Brown struggled with the meaning of Christmas and the trappings of consumerism until Linus tells him the true meaning of Christmas.

And, even the Grinch in all his grinchiness finally grasps:

“He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!

And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow,
Stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so?

It came without ribbons! It came without tags!
It came without packages, boxes, or bags!”

He puzzled and puzzled til his puzzler was sore.
Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store.
Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more!”

The abundant life is about eternity with Jesus – “setting our minds on things above” and “storing up treasures in heaven.”  The abundant life is a state of being from within and living it outwardly toward others. The abundant life is a continual, un-ending season of giving; it is living out our faith through good deeds and blessing others. The abundant life is following Jesus.

Love you, mean it!

Frankincense: The King of Oils

Frankincense

Often, I have a goal of reading through the Bible in one year, and often I have found it to be quite enlightening, edifying, and enriching (and there is my three-point sermon…). The one-year path feels like a sprint to cross that finish line; it is a hard push and honestly at times, the pressure can scrape up a bit of irritation and annoyance. I feel like I miss out on the power of stopping to smell the roses and the reverence of taking in the scenery – the study, the meditation, and hearing that still small voice. So, this year I have been choosing random books. I meandered through the prophetic message of salvation in Isaiah, spent many months strolling through the rhythm of the Psalms, inhaled Job for about the fiftieth time, and this past week finished reading about my fleeting life in Ecclesiastes.   

Every time I do the one-year plan, I venture into Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers packed with rules, rules, and more rules. Several times reading through it, I thought to myself, “God, how could anyone ever remember all these instructions regarding rituals and legal and moral practices for holy living?” The next time I came upon my missionary endeavor, I literally stopped and prayed. I asked God to show me truth about His reasoning for all these manners of conduct. As I was scurrying through the text, I heard the Spirit speak to me in that still small voice, “Deeon, these rules were not meant to harm the Israelites, they were meant to protect them.” I really had to step back and soak in that revelation. That little rocky crag in my heart softened. It changed my perception. As I continued reading, Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers took on richer meaning. This was not about some punitive God trying to inflict punishment through laws, this code of conduct was about a holy, loving God living in their midst.  Exodus, Leviticus, and Numbers, as is the entire Bible, is God’s message of His presence, His power, and His sovereignty offering reconciliation from sin and a passageway to forgiveness because He loves us beyond comprehension.

At any rate, I am intentionally choosing to read the book of Leviticus unhurried. I am trying to dig underneath and marinate on all the many ways in which God is protecting His people. Here is an example: near the beginning of Leviticus, the guidelines for the Grain Offering are rendered. Depending on the version of scripture (I lean toward the ESV or NKJV), the text states to put frankincense on the Grain Offering if it is fine flour. I am a “why?” kind of gal. These offerings are burnt on the altar. Have you ever smelled burnt bread – not so much a pleasing odor? Perhaps, the frankincense rendered that “pleasing aroma” to God, that aroma that represented the substitutionary atonement for sin, which is pleasing to God. Yet, I believe frankincense, the king of oils, had a multilateral purpose. What I mean is that the frankincense was a pleasing aroma to God, which I believe holds deeper meaning than I have studied, but it was not unilateral, only for Him. I believe God created and used frankincense as a medicinal protection for the Israelites.  

From an article entitled, Frankincense, The Holy Grail of Essential Oils:                                                

Here are a few other points of interest about Frankincense:

Frankincense, also known as Olibanum, comes from the resin of the Boswellia tree grown in Africa and the Middle East, particularly in Oman, Somalia, and Ethiopia, though the finest comes from Arabia. Careful incisions are made in the tree at key times of year, and the sap slowly pours out. Once the sap dries and hardens it is ready to be used. The first period of tapping occurs from January to March and the second from August to October. After tapping has continued for five or six years, the trees are rested (the irony that God created through the sixth day and then rested on the seventh.) Frankincense has a woody, spicy smell. Now, I have a little bottle of Frankincense oil and indeed the smell is woody and spicy. I think for some it would be a scent that gains acquired appreciation, though I have always liked the scent and whiff on my little vile occasionally.

“Traditionally, frankincense was used for hundreds of years in incense, primarily in ancient rituals because of its promise to bring tremendous healing properties. Priests, rabbis, and medicine men around the world—especially in the Middle East—appreciated the essential oil for its antiseptic, anti-inflammatory, and rejuvenating properties.

Early use of frankincense resin was reserved for religious services, where it was burned as incense with the intention of the scent floating up invisibly to heaven in order to attract God’s attention. Historically, burning the resin was also a tool to vanquish negative energies or hold evil spirits at bay. To this day, it is commonly used in churches and temples and believed to affect us at our deepest level, setting our spirit free. The ancient Egyptians, Romans, and Greeks all used frankincense in their religious rituals. Similarly, the Chinese have been known to use it for years.

Frankincense was so valuable during ancient times that it was literally worth its weight in gold. Some cultures even prized it more than gold, making it an integral part of the Silk Road trade. Overall, it has been high in demand, from early history all the way to today.”

History, modern medicine, research, and the advancement of technology have offered some thought-provoking theories about frankincense:

Sacredly, when used during meditation, frankincense can be purifying to the mind, create a connection to one’s soul, and offer spiritual protection.

The smoke from burning frankincense drives out mosquitoes, pests, and other flying insects, reducing incidence of malaria and other insect transmitting diseases.

Frankincense has anti-inflammatory effects that may help reduce symptoms of joint inflammation caused by osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Frankincense may help reduce symptoms of Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis by reducing inflammation in the gut.

Frankincense may help reduce the likelihood of bronchial and sinus infections and asthma attacks in susceptible people. It may also open breathing passageways and increase lung capacity, thus relieving symptoms, such as shortness of breath, wheezing, coughing, and as well reduces phlegm.

Frankincense has antibacterial properties. Clinical studies at major universities in Egypt and in the United States have shown that frankincense has fantastic immune-enhancing abilities. These studies reveal that frankincense can fight dangerous bacteria and viruses throughout the body by providing immunostimulants. When applied topically, these benefits will work to create a layer of protection against bacterial and viral infections. When used aromatically, the same benefits manifest internally while working to heal your body from the inside out.

Frankincense has antimicrobial and antiseptic benefits, working to destroy harmful germs and bacteria upon contact, whether on the body or on surfaces throughout the home.  It may help prevent bad breath, toothaches, cavities, and mouth sores.

As a beauty Serum, frankincense can revive, rejuvenate, and strengthen skin health, adding elasticity to the skin. It may reduce the appearance of wrinkles and scars, smooth the complexion, prevent acne, even out blemishes, heal minor wounds, help reverse damage caused by UV rays, fade stretch marks, and heal cracked skin.

Frankincense is supportive of cellular function. It can assist with healthy cell function by promoting cell and tissue regeneration. So far, test-tube studies suggest that frankincense may fight breast, ovarian, skin, and colon cancer cells. The small study indicates that it may also help reduce side effects of cancer and may help kill cancer cells and prevent tumors from spreading. It can suppress cancer cells viability.

Psychologically and emotionally, frankincense, through aromatherapy, reduces the heart rate promoting relaxation, balancing moods, reducing anxiety, and calming and lifting the spirit. 

And, there are a few additional opinions hanging out there for which studies have not been performed. Frankincense could possibly help to prevent diabetes by lowering blood sugar levels; may aid in preventing heart disease by reducing inflammation; could improve sleep quality; may well boost memory and cognitive function; and quite possibly balance female hormones — delaying menopause, and reducing menstrual cramping, nausea, headaches, and mood swings.   

An altar of incense burned inside the tabernacle. This incense was a specific recipe of spices mixed with “pure frankincense.” God gave the recipe and stipulated that only this incense, and no other, was permitted to be burned on the altar of incense, and this incense recipe must not be used anywhere or by anyone else or else they will be cut off from their people. Aaron was instructed to burn incense on the altar each morning and at twilight, every day, as a regular offering to the Lord. To release its scent, the frankincense was either burned or smoldered over hot coals.

The Altar of Incense

Frankincense complemented many offerings and sacrifices. Frankincense was extensively used in burial rituals as part of the embalming material as an offering to the departed, a means to cover the odor of the dead body, and I believe to create purification from the potential risks of chronic infectious diseases.

The market for frankincense was unlimited. It created commerce and trade, via merchant ships and camel caravans. In essence, it was a form of currency. Whereas other exotic spices and aromatics were luxury items, frankincense, though expensive was a household necessity, a basic staple. An article from the New York Times states:

 “In January of 1997, exploring the remote back country of Yemen, over hills and through valleys and ravines, a party of archeologists came upon ruins and monuments from the time when frankincense and myrrh were among the world’s most coveted commodities. In the 10th century B.C., the biblical Queen of Sheba is supposed to have ruled in golden splendor over this land on the southern rim of the Arabian Peninsula. For several hundred years before and after the birth of Christ, it was a major emporium of the ancient world. Spices and textiles arrived by ship from India, silk from China and gold and ostrich feathers from Ethiopia. These goods were then packed off by camel caravan to Egypt and Persia, to Palmyra in Syria and, often as not, on to Rome. Nothing in the shipments was more prized than the two locally grown gum-resin products, frankincense and myrrh. “

They say the encampment of the Israelites, though highly structured and orderly, was about the size of Houston, Texas, the ninth largest city in the US. Now think of Houston as an entire city of refugees. Some scholars estimate the total Exodus population, including men, women, and children to be around 2.5 million people. Houston’s current population is about 2.3 million. Now imagine Houston as a desolate, barren wilderness where these refugees are, with precision as directed by God, encamped in tents throughout the entire region. The potential for widespread disease is immensely problematic. Now I do not know if every household contained frankincense for personal use, but I do know every morning and evening frankincense was burned in the tabernacle, releasing smoke and fumes upward into the air. This was holy and reverent, symbolizing the prayers of the people rising up to God, which was a pleasing aroma to Him. But, secondarily, I believe the incense served to purify the air in the encampment consequentially benefiting the refugees with all the potential of frankincense described above. The Bible is not clear on these likelihoods, but that is what I believe, and I am sticking to it. I believe God knew the need beforehand. I believe God planned everything out beforehand. Frankincense is a mere fraction of all the ways God sought to protect His people. So you see, the Bible is not all about rules, it is about God’s protection, provisions, and ultimately His love. It is a clear reminder to me, He knows the way that I take, He works all things together for my good, and His love is everlasting and higher than the heavens. I am so thankful for the Holy Spirit’s little whispers and teachings as I persist in reading scripture.

Love you, mean it!

Under The Rug

I do not know about you, but I have a lot of “stuff” swept under my rug, not literally, but figuratively. Things I want to ignore, avoid, deny, and conceal. It is peculiar how we think things magically disappear forever if we sweep them under that rug. The irony is this, those hidden “things” might be out of sight, your conscious awareness, but I am here to tell you they are not vanished and gone! I’m talking anger, resentment, conflicts, injustices, grudges, problems, unforgiveness, pain, hurt, secrets we hold as weapons against others, secrets about our pasts, responsibilities, other people’s feelings and problems that we have taken responsibility for, mistakes, fears, sadness, loneliness, guilt, things we don’t want to do, inappropriate or embarrassing behaviors, addictions, and unconfessed secret sins – anything that we want to keep in the darkness; anything we do not want exposed to the light, anything we have not dealt with appropriately, anything we do not want to own or deal with, and anything that holds us in captivity. The things we have under our rugs hold us prisoner, bound by shackles and chains to our current existence! Those things are not dead or departed, they are very much alive and present! In fact, they compound, intensify, and worsen the longer they remain under the rug. Those high, wide, and deep piles under my rugs created grave damage, horrific pain, and frightening levels of exhaustion the longer I remained in ignorance, the more I kept tripping over them, and the harder I fell.

Now, I believe we consciously choose to ignore things and brush them right under that rug, but once the situation is under the rug and it is a continuous ‘state of affairs’, I believe we begin a pattern of unconsciously and reflexively tossing any related circumstance on that interrelated pile under that rug, creating a mountain and quite a mess. It becomes an undertow. Those unseen currents below the surface of our rugs are moving in a different direction. They are dragging us backwards all the while we are fighting a losing battling to move forwards. They become weighted burdens that create a constant force of resistance and restrict us. They hold us back; they break us down; they create anxiety, depression, hopelessness, addictions, whatever unhealthy means you choose to cope; they destroy life! Here is the hard truth, it is HARD WORK and takes a lot of energy to clean up!!! It’s about being willing to put yourself under the microscope; it’s about dissecting every part of who you are; it’s about methodically looking at every single piece and part; it’s about being authentic and down in that pile of dirt under the rug all the way to the core open and honest. HARD WORK!

As a living example of what I mean, let me share a little trail of breadcrumbs from my life. Growing up, as a family we did not deal with emotions or feelings; we did not talk about, acknowledge, or give credence to their existence. I became a blank slate. I repressed my emotions and feelings continually. It was nothing intentional; I knew no different; it was my normal. It is not that my feelings and emotions did not exist; in ignorance and led by example, I concealed them under my rug. Repressing them became reflexive; I did not even know I was doing it. Who knew what a repressed feeling or emotion was as a little child. I normalized the environment. I did not know it was abnormal not to cry, not to show anger, not to talk about how I felt, and not to share painful heartaches. I interpreted normal as no outward reaction to anything. However, I became quite adept at monitoring and reading the atmosphere, the actions, and the faces of my family; I became a vigilante, unconsciously annexing my own and everyone else’s feelings and emotions, like extra-sensory perception. I harnessed and retained them all unbeknownst to me. They became a monstrous pile under my rug, which in turn created a riptide undercurrent effect in my life – generating an addiction, crafting destructive behavior patterns, producing mental and physical health issues, and a whole host of other crusades. I must say this, my blank slate of feelings and emotions piled up under my rug are not the total cause and reasons for my issues, but they are a huge piece of the pie. And now, my feelings and emotions can bleed out inappropriately. Though in many respects I still have that reflex to hide my feelings and emotions, I am super tender-hearted as when unhealed skin weeps; I can be reactive; I can be like a triggered pressure cooker to something totally unrelated; I can be a workaholic racing through life at warp speed trying to outrun my amassed pile of feelings and emotions; and at times I devour isolation and quietness to still the screeching chaos inside. Hopefully, you can get a glimpse of this trail of breadcrumbs that leads to the piles under my rug.

So, here’s the question – what’s under your rug? What are you ignoring, avoiding, denying, and concealing? Only you can answer that question. Only you know your story. I suspect, if you are willing to look closer, you can follow your own trail of breadcrumbs to your own piles under your own rugs. About a year ago, I got the absolute best broom in the world to help me clean this all up. It took many, many years and a whole lot of heartache, fear, and frustration, but God in His mercy laid His trail of breadcrumbs to guide me. Now I do not know why He waited so long and I do not know why I had to endure what seems to me wasted years, but I have learned to trust His sovereignty and timing. If that still small voice within is speaking to you, listen and pray. If that still small voice is nudging you and whispering that something is not right, listen and pray. If that still small voice is telling you it is time to move on or to do something different, listen and pray. I am telling you listen and pray. Give yourself permission to say, “No, it doesn’t have to be this way!” You do not have to remain stuck. You do not have to be miserable. You do not have to stay in unhealthy relationships or patterns of coping. You have permission to live and breathe. The breadcrumbs will lead you; give yourself permission to follow them even if it is just baby steps to the piles under your rugs. Even in writing this, it is like continuing to give myself permission.  

Love you, mean it!

Church 101

When I was 15, my mother announces we are leaving the large, wealthy Baptist church. She was a charter member, but no longer could tolerate the scrutiny of the pastor and many other members. I had no emotion over our departure. However, I must admit in the wake of leaving the church, I certainly did not leave much behind, in fact quite the opposite. I packed myself numerous boxes of substance and toted them right out those church doors. One box contained my precious salvation and baptism along with a few spiritual disciplines like daily praying, reading my Bible, listening to my Christian music LP’s, and the various convictions of living a moral life. I lugged out a heavier box crammed with legalistic rules that I had witnessed and been taught to believe was the mark of the accomplished Christian soldier. I hauled a box brimming to overflowing with all the reasons I was unlovable and unacceptable to God and everything I ‘should’ be doing to gain His love and favor. I carted off a box of glass shards each representing the countless times I was mocked, laughed at, ridiculed, and exploited by those church kids.

In this church, my mother was unacceptable because she came as a single parent bringing my brother and I on Sunday mornings, sometimes to Sunday School and church, sometimes just to Sunday School, sometimes just to church. My father adamantly refused to attend any church stating that the church was full of hypocrites. I never knew what that meant, other than Sunday morning TV, home repairs, and working in the garage was not what hypocrites did. Hypocrites went to church. The church itself had high expectations that everyone should attend Sunday morning Sunday school and church service, Sunday evening, Wednesday evening prayer meeting, and go door-to-door soul winning and visitation on Thursday evenings. She never met that mark and grew to feel judged, isolated, and lonely, particularly because she was ‘unequally yoked’ and her financial class did not measure up to their standard. I suppose she felt like condemnation was poured all over her. I believe there was solid evidence to support her feelings, but her own nefarious ways as well heaped conviction and guilt upon her soul. When she had a small meeting with the pastor to get ‘wise counsel’ about filing for divorce, it became her worst nightmare as the pastor resolutely objected. From that point on, she felt doomed to a marginalized place where only the poor were tossed a few crumbs. That is when she decided to leave.

As for myself, I heaved my over-stuffed boxes on my back, followed my mother out of that church, and year upon year, walked through life like a pack donkey. I believed those strongboxes contained all of my foundational beliefs; they contained the path and role-models to my spirituality; they contained my performance goals; they contained my spiritual benchmarks; they contained my self-assessment tormentors; they contained my mother’s boxes; and jointly  they continually catapulted me into a troublesome struggle with church and God. Now, of course, I had not a clue of all I jam-packed into my boxes at such an impressionable age. I never opened them to take a closer look and sort the contents all out. I just kept relentlessly trying to apply all these round pegs into my square holes, always expecting different results if I just kept trying harder and harder to become a round peg. For decades, the contents seeped all over my life, but here again I was ignorant and was not able to identify all the boxes strapped to my heart and mind; I was just a donkey loaded down with faceless, nameless burdens. As for the specifics of my personal experiences at this church, I will share in my future post entitled Church 102.

I am entitling this post Church 101 because boy do I have a lot more to say about church(s). Yet, I want to make this clear, I believe to the core of my being that Jesus died on the cross for my sins and the sins of the whole world – that is you too my readers! I believe Jesus is the only one true living Son of God. I believe that He was crucified on a cross, died a completely innocent man as the sacrificial lamb to redeem our sins, was buried in a tomb, and rose again in three days offering all salvation to those who believe. I believe the Bible is Truth and contains everything we need to know about living a life that glorifies God. I believe in reading my Bible and praying daily. I believe we are called to corporate worship. I believe that all true Christians throughout the entire world are the Body of Christ. I am a Christian believer saved by God’s grace and mercy. I am a follower of Jesus. He is my continual atonement!

With that said, I am one imperfect human being!! I have wrestled and struggled with various aspects of my spirituality throughout my life. Some issues have nearly crippled my faith. I have wandered off into complacency on occasion. I have meandered in and out of churches. I have felt deep discouragement. I have been angry with God. I have questioned God. I have read the book of Job about 100 times diminished to tears trying to understand grief and suffering. My pathway has twisted and turned, yet, I believe He is constantly pursuing me, in fact, I pray regularly asking Him to never let me go, to always come find me, and to do whatever it takes to humbly bring me before Him. Oh, and by the way, that prayer is continuously answered — He does not, He does, and He has! My soul truly seeks after Him.

Love you, mean it!