Tag Archives: anger

Acceptance is the key to all my problems and I’m angry about that

I both love and hate this:

Acceptance is the answer to all my problems today.
When I am disturbed,
It is because I find some person, place, thing, situation —
Some fact of my life — unacceptable to me,
And I can find no serenity until I accept
That person, place, thing, or situation
As being exactly the way it is supposed to be at this moment.
Nothing, absolutely nothing happens in God’s world by mistake.
Until I could accept my alcoholism, I could not stay sober;
Unless I accept life completely on life’s terms,
I cannot be happy.
I need to concentrate not so much
On what needs to be changed in the world
As on what needs to be changed in me and in my attitudes.”

(Big Book of AA pg 417). 

I know this to be true but it’s so damn hard and I’m struggling with it.    I have been agitated, angered, saddened, shocked, and hurt by what I have been watching on the news this week.   I want to say I am feeling all of these things about the children that are being detained because their parents – heroes in my eyes – dared to want a better life for themselves and their family.    I want to say that it is their cries that are breaking my heart and making me feel so agitated.  And to some extent it is.  But if I’m honest, it’s more than that.

The truth is, the real root of my anger is directed toward the people who are OK with that.   I’m angry that there are people who I know profess Jesus as their Lord who are OK with treating immigrants like they are trash.    I’m angry that there are people who lack mercy and empathy but seem to have plenty of law and judgment to dish out.

But more than that, I’m angry that I can’t change any of it.   I’m angry at myself that I have anger towards those people rather than mercy and love.   I’m angry that I cannot seem to accept the world as it is or people as they are.

And more than that, I’m angry that my refusal to be merciful and accepting of “those people” means I am no better than them and I’m left with nothing but my own self-righteous anger to stew in.

I’m angry that deep down I know the Big Book is right, and until I accept them as they are where they are for who they are that I will never be happy.

I’m angry that God is asking me to extend mercy to the merciless.

Mercy is that thing I want all the time from God and everyone, which I’ll give aplenty to those who demand nothing of me personally but will horde from those whom I think should know better.   Why can I have so much mercy for the addict who has lied a million times and ruined everyone’s life but none for the pious elder brother who has never left home?

If I don’t find a way to love the latter I’ll once more become the former.  I know this.

So I picked up Anne Lamott’s meddling book, Hallelujah Anyway: Rediscovering Mercy, and began to binge.  I knew I needed to gorge myself on mercy lest I die of thirst.    She diagnoses me on the first pages.

Mercy means that we soften every so slightly, so that we don’t have to condemn others for being total shits, although they may be that (Okay: are.)  If I do so, it makes me one.  As Father Ed Dowling said, sometimes heaven is just a new pair of glasses.  When we put them on, we see the awful person, sometimes even ourselves, a bit more gently, and we are blessed in return.  It seems, on the face of things, like a decent deal.

When we manage a flash of mercy for someone we don’t like, especially a truly awful person, including ourselves, we experience a great spiritual moment, a new point of view that can make us gasp. It gives us the chance to rediscover something both old and original, the sweet child in us who, all evidence to the contrary, was not killed of, but just put in the drawer.  I realize now how desperately, how grievously, I have needed the necessary mercy to experience self-respect.

All I have to do in order to begin again is to love mercy, if I am to believe nutty old Micah.

Micah. She is, of course, referring to the prophet whom God told only three things were required of us mortals:  Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God.    I am a pro at dishing out justice.   But if I’ve learned anything over the past few years, riding the justice train is my fastest ticket to relapse unless it is tempered with gargantuan doses of mercy (for both others and myself) while staying low, low, low to the earth.

The path for me is acceptance.   I can only get there if I remember to love mercy.

Mercy.

I’m struggling this week having any for some folks, but I’m crawling up to the table like a beggar famished for some crumbs and asking God to give me some.

 

 

 

 

 

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God is not content with 99% of you

Luke 15 is one of my favorite chapters in the bible.  It’s what I preached from Sunday.  I spent most of the time in the story of the prodigal son but ended with the story of the lost sheep.   Here, Jesus asks an important question of his audience full of sinners and religious professionals:

Which of you, having a hundred sheep, if he has lost one of them, does not leave the 99 in the open country, and go find the one that is lost until he finds it?

 

The answer to this question is one that might surprise us:   NONE OF US!  We are quite content with the 99, aren’t we?  If one foolish sheep goes and gets itself lost we are not going to jeopardize losing 99% of our profits for one dumb sheep, right?  That would be bad business.  99% is not a bad return in our economy.    Besides, the one lost might count as a write-off.

But this story isn’t about us. It’s about our Heavenly Father.   Jesus is trying to show us that unlike us, this Hound of Heaven will not rest until He finds and brings home every one of His own.   When we wander off the path and get stuck in a thicket, we can count on our Good Shepherd hunting us down till found.

jesus-sheep

At least two applications come to mind, the first being more obvious than the second.

First, God is not content with just 99%.  He is a jealous God and wants all of His children, or sheep, home.   He is not interested in preserving the flock that is at the expense of the flock that should or could be.  This means He will move out from our little church pastures where we have grown comfortable with ourselves and the 99 we have in attendance to go hunting the dark corners of our communities in search of the one that is missing.   He will not rest till every lost soul is found.    And therefore neither should we.   We are to be like our Father in Heaven, discontent with the number we have and always seeking to find the one hung up in the bushes out back.

Second, yet every bit as important, I sensed the Lord saying to me that I am all-too-often content with giving Jesus 99% of my heart when he wants it all.   Far too often I think it’s a good return on my investment if I can give God most of myself while holding back parts here and there.   I assume that God is like me, content with the 99 and willing to write-off the part I’ve withheld.    But God is not like me.  He is a jealous God and wants, and deserves, everything I have.

You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Back when I was addicted to pornography I got good at minimizing this sin by focusing on all the other good things I was doing (pastoring a church, going to seminary, adopting children, etc).  I convinced myself that God would be satisfied with the good I was doing and overlook this “one little black spot” in my life.

Perhaps porn is not your “one thing” but something else.   Maybe gossip is your thing, and you know it’s wrong and you shouldn’t do it, but believe 99% of your heart is good, what’s the big deal about this one thing?    Maybe it’s an addiction to any number of things or people.  Maybe it’s anger, or fear, or envy, or lustful thoughts, or bitterness, or lying,  or crude speech (Eph. 4:25-32).  It is so easy to comfort ourselves in the pasture made up of the 99%, where we go to church, attend Sunday school, pay our tithes, and give a dollar now and then to the beggar on the street and think God doesn’t care about the one dark corner of our heart hung up in the brambles.

The good news is that God does care.   I know that may not sound like good news at the moment.   It may sound like judgment.   And it is.  God’s word judges our hearts and minds, but never for the purpose of condemning us but to free us.   He is a holy God who “yearns jealously over the Spirit which he has made to dwell within us” (James 4:5).   If there is part of you which is lost, which is inconsistent with the will of the Holy Spirit, God wants to correct it, heal it, and free it.   He wants us enslaved by nothing in this world (1 Cor. 6:12).

So God is not like us.  He wants ALL of our heart, ALL of our SOUL, ALL of our STRENGTH , and ALL of our MIND (Luke 10:27).   If God wants this, then He will impart to us the grace by which we can accomplish living fully unto him rather than partly, or even mostly.    We can trust all of our heart and mind to Jesus because he is a GOOD shepherd and knows exactly and completely what is best for us (John 10).

What is your 1%?    Pray with me…

Dear Jesus, I thank you that you care enough about me to want everything.   Forgive me for being content with giving  you what I thought was most of me when you want all of me.   I give you permission to seek out and find and bring home the parts of my life that are lost and in darkness.   Expose them for what they are and help me to see my sin in the way you see it.  I don’t want to be enslaved by anything, and ask you to take complete control of my heart, my thoughts, my desires, my words, my body, my will.   Thank you, Jesus, for loving me enough to save every bit of me.   Thank you for forgiving me.   Amen.

The story of the lost sheep ends this way:

I tell you, there will be more joy in heaven  over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who need no repentance (Luke 15:7).

Heaven is rejoicing over you!

 

 

Dog Make me Holy

I love my dogs.

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I also hate them.

They have a tendency to bring out the worst in me.  Things can be going along just fine and then Chloe (the red head) will do something I don’t want her to do and my day is suddenly soured.   I go from peaceful and calm to angry and enraged, shouting for her to put that down, stop doing that, quiet down, sit, stay, shut up.

I take a prayer walk in the early mornings and I take Chloe and Miles with me.  It’s a struggle at times to pray with them beside me, sometimes wrestling each other for the best spot, sometimes veering off the path at the whiff of some game or garbage, sometimes barking at ghosts, or doing any number of other things that interrupt my planned period of dialog with God.   I get frustrated with them and yell, trusting that God can sort out my requests of Him from my rants towards them.

Yes, it’s ironic to be in the midst of crying out to God to be made a vessel of His mercy while telling my dogs to shut up. 

But not just ironic.   It’s illuminating.

What I’ve been learning lately is that God is faithful to use everything – EVERYTHING – for the purpose of making His children holy.    It’s not an accident that my dogs make me crazy.   It’s not an accident that they frustrate my prayer time.   All of it is used by God to illuminate what is still left of my flesh that needs to die.   My dogs reveal that there is still a lot.

And so it is that, by God’s grace, I’ve been more aware of these feelings of rage and why they arise.   It’s not my dog’s fault.  Rather, my anger towards them is a symptom of my selfishness.   When they cross my will and I get upset I am saying in my words and deeds that my desires and needs are the most important.   I am saying that I am the center of my world and woe, or woof, to anyone who interferes with that fantasy.

A better way, a more holy way, is to humble myself and choose in those moments to serve rather than be served.    Rather than blow up at my dogs for crossing my will I’m praying for the strength and grace to serve them and meet them in their need.   Yes, I know that sounds crazy.  Serve my dogs?   Aren’t I their Master?

But this is exactly what Jesus is calling me to do – to lay down my life for others, canine or otherwise.  By serving my dogs as an act of obedience towards God, my Master, I relinquish the control I think I have to Him.

And so it is that my dogs are making me more holy.   God is using everything, so it seems, to reveal what is inside my heart and what He has yet to lay hold of.

He’s using my dogs for his purposes in my life for this season.  What “dog” is presently in your life, driving you crazy?   It’s possible God is trying to get your attention.