Hand it over

When you forgive, you aren’t saying that what happened was okay. You aren’t saying that who did it to you was justified. However you are saying that it isn’t your place to exact judgment or revenge.

To continue to hold a grudge over something doesn’t punish the criminal, but yourself. You hold yourself hostage. It is better to give the situation over to God – the true judge – and let justice happen when and how it is best.

When you hand things that are too heavy over to God, you are not only lightening your load, you are also handing them over to the One who is the most able to handle them. Leave it with the expert – God. You don’t need to carry it anymore.

 

The apostle Paul wrote in Romans 12:19

19 Friends, do not avenge yourselves; instead, leave room for His wrath. For it is written: Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay, says the Lord.

He is referring to the verses in Deuteronomy 32:35, where God says:

“Vengeance belongs to Me; I will repay. In time their foot will slip, for their day of disaster is near, and their doom is coming quickly.”
Also, consider these words from Psalm 27:1-3

1 The Lord is my light and my salvation—

whom should I fear?

The Lord is the stronghold of my life—

of whom should I be afraid?

2 When evildoers came against me to devour my flesh,

my foes and my enemies stumbled and fell.

3 Though an army deploys against me,

my heart is not afraid;

though a war breaks out against me,

still I am confident.

However, consider also the words of Jesus in Luke 23:34, when he was on the cross, being tormented and attacked –

Then Jesus said, “Father, forgive them, because they do not know what they are doing.”

He didn’t call on God to avenge.  He called on God to forgive. Now we often aren’t that spiritually evolved, especially when we are in the middle of the situation.  However, we aren’t alone in our struggles.  We have Jesus to help us.

 

 

(All Bible translations are HCSB.)

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The Horse, Hunter, and Stag

I was working on an art journal page recently and started digging through my paper collection.  I have some ephemera of my own, but I also have a stack that I’ve bought from a lady who meant to use the items for her own art. She soon realized that she had more ephemera than time for art. It turns out she has a great eye for things that spark creativity.  One of the pieces was a page from a book of fables – stories designed to teach us something.  I think this one is remarkably appropriate for what we are experiencing now.  The entire wording is contained between the lines below.  My comments will follow.

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A quarrel had arisen between the Horse and the Stag, so the Horse came to a Hunter to ask his help to take revenge on the Stag. The Hunter agreed, but said: “If you desire to conquer the Stag, you must permit me to place this piece of iron between your jaws, so that I may guide you with these reins, and allow this saddle to be placed upon your back so that I may keep steady upon you as we follow after the enemy.” The Horse agreed to the conditions, and the Hunter soon saddled and bridled him. Then with the aid of the Hunter the Horse soon overcame the Stag, and said to the Hunter: “Now, get off, and remove those things from my mouth and back.”

“Not so fast, friend,” said the Hunter. “I have now got you under bit and spur, and prefer to keep you as you are at present.”

If you allow men to use you for your own purposes, they will use you for theirs.

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It is now time to be aware and awake to our divisiveness. Our lack of unity with each other and within ourselves allows us to be led astray by others.  It renders us passive and not active members of life, of community.

It is not time to worry or complain about those who seek to divide us – to put us into “us” and “them” categories, who want to bait us like fighting dogs.

To be against those who seek to use us for their own gain is to further be drawn into the spiral.  It is to become that which we are trying to be aware of.

 

The goal is to be aware of every time you are distracted.

Notice when you are being baited, being told that “they” – whoever “they” are – are the reason that you are down.

“They” aren’t the reason for why you feel the way you do.  “They” are the same as you.  They are struggling too.

It is easy for people to pick on those who are seen as weaker.  It is easy to scapegoat.  Don’t do it.  Rise above. Don’t be drawn into that game.  Turn it upside down.  Notice who you are being told to be afraid of, to hate and instead make friends with them.  Learn everything you can about them.  Join up with them for your common cause of working together.

Remember the old phrase – “United we stand, divided we fall.”

Remember the motto on the back of the US dollar bill – “E pluribus unum”.  It means “Out of many, one.”  It means we are stronger together.

It is time to stop being scattered and divided.  We allow others to use us when we are like that.

Maybe addiction isn’t just for substance abusers

Here’s a rule – if you choose to ignore good advice, you don’t have the right to complain about the results.

If you eat mostly meat and drink sodas, you will get kidney stones. This is an expected result. If you know better and refuse to change then you are stupid. You are not ignorant because you know better. You’re willful and childish. It is crazy behavior.

This is my working out my anger at a friend who repeatedly has kidney stones and complains about them. They are very painful and keep him from living his life. Or perhaps this is the life he wants – a life of pain, of feeling victimized – that this just keeps happening. I realized I was very angry about this behavior of his, and dug deeper.

I realized that part of it is that I’m still angry because my Mom was so surprised that she was dying from lung cancer. She smoked two packs a day of cigarettes for 20 years. Duh. Of course she got lung cancer. She should have known better. So many people act like this.

Addiction isn’t just about abusing substances. It is about maladaptive techniques for living life. It isn’t just about using drugs or alcohol. It is about loving pain more than loving being healed.

I’m angry because I got out of my hole of addiction and I keep seeing friends in their holes, wailing. They want attention, but not help. They want to be noticed, to have people feel sorry for them. I have to stop listening because I feel so upset when I hear them like this. It is almost as if they are celebrating their pain. I was obese, addicted to pot, and I smoked clove cigarettes. I got myself out of that terrible place, slowly but surely.

It is possible to get out of the jails we put ourselves in as soon as we admit that we are the ones who put ourselves there. We have the keys.

How are we as a culture so asleep as to cause-and-effect? I’m angry how often people complain “My head hurts” (metaphorically), so the answer is to quit banging it against the wall. We are our own worst enemies. I cannot stand listening to addicts. I was one. I got over it. Grow up. You cannot have your cake and eat it too. You cannot spend all your money and still have savings for retirement or emergencies. You cannot have a lifetime of inactivity and expect to be healthy.

Americans are willfully ignorant of cause-and-effect. They think poverty / illness / death happens to other people. Or that it is somebody else’s fault or responsibility. They blame someone else (parents, their boss, the government, for instance) for their being in that situation or demand that someone else (often the same list of people) get them out of it. These are all lies. They are all habits of addicts. It is so frustrating to watch people kill themselves slowly.

It is like we are in an abusive relationship with ourselves, and nobody is willing to tell us. Consider when you have a friend who’s dating a guy who is a jerk. He steals her money, talks bad about her, he makes her feel like she’s no good or makes her feel like she can’t do anything without him. All of her friends see this and yet they don’t tell her because they’re under this collective lie that she’ll just ignore their words. They believe that she has to figure out her problems on her own. But what if she lacks perspective to know that she has value and that there is a choice, that there is a way out?

I think it’s cruel to say nothing when you see someone hitting their head against the wall when the door is right next to them.

I think that it is not the sign of a friend to let someone continue to abuse themselves without showing them that there is a safe way out of their problems.

Now once someone has been shown how to take care of himself, been shown the doorway out of the room that they were trapped in, then it is up to them to take the next steps. You cannot shove someone through the door but it is perfectly loving to tell them that there is one.

Part of the problem of recovery is that not every door works for every person. It is like diets. Some people have to have a raw diet, while some people have to have a macrobiotic diet. Some people need to grow their own food, while others feel they don’t have the time to do it and go to grocery store. Somewhere in the middle are those who go to the farmer’s market. Every person has their own path and it’s important to remember that their path is theirs and theirs alone.

There is a fine line between compassion and codependency, and I don’t know where that is.

So in the meantime, I’ve “unfollowed” a lot of friends on Facebook, rather than hear them complain about their lives. I want to rescue them, to kidnap them. I want to force them to learn how to get better, because I think that will help me get better. Maybe I’ll get “a star on my crown” if I heal them. But I can barely take care of myself.

Carrying burdens

There is a Buddhist story about a woman whose child had died. She carried him around the village in her arms, asking everyone she saw if they had medicine to help heal her child. Everyone who saw her was horrified and a little concerned about her but didn’t know how to help. One person finally suggested that she go to the teacher at the center of the village. The teacher was Buddha.

He looked at her with compassion, noticing her grief. She was carrying her dead child with her everywhere she went, desperate for help. He said “Go to every house in this village and ask every person if they’ve ever suffered from grief. If no one who lives in the house has ever experienced a death, then take a mustard seed from them, and I will make a medicine for you from those seeds.”

She did just that and discovered very quickly that every single person in the village had experienced grief in one way or another through someone they know dying or a difficult situation happening to them. All had suffered loss of some sort. She was unable to obtain any mustard seeds but she was able to obtain the medicine she needed through this exercise. She was able to accept her loss, and understand that it was no greater than anyone else’s.

We are like this when we continuously carry our burdens and we present them to others all the time.

We are like this when
we identify with our wounds.
When we describe ourselves as chronically ill
or that our parents died when we were young
or we are exiles from our homeland
or we are victims of any sort
having suffered from trauma, abuse, addiction.

When we do this, we are expecting others
to heal our wounds
forgetting that they have
similar ones,
ones that cut just as deep
and hurt just as much.

We have all suffered loss
and we all have brokenness.
Recognizing that is the medicine.

Free pass

Many years ago I was in a group of friends who lived in Atlanta. One girl kept making snarky comments to me one day. She would say something rude or condescending about everything I said or did. Either she didn’t usually speak to me or I didn’t notice her comments, but that day I did.

I finally worked up the courage to speak up. I said this to her with our friends present. Bullies have a hard time when there are witnesses. “Are you a bitch all the time, or is today just a special day?” She was silent. I continued. “Because all you have done all day is cut me down and I can’t think of any reason for it. If I’ve done something wrong, let me know.” She never answered, and she has never spoken to me again.

It was very hard for me to do this, but I had to. I was shaking inside, but I knew I had to say something. Verbal abuse is exactly the same as physical abuse, and must be stopped as soon as it is noticed or it will get worse. If you ignore it, you are allowing it to happen.

I once had a coworker who thought it was acceptable to walk up behind me and hit the back of my head several times a day.

I have relatives – blood and in-laws – who think it is acceptable to slander me, steal from me, and lie to me.

I am here to tell you that nobody is ever allowed a free pass to abuse you. Nobody. This includes but is not limited to managers, bosses, spouses, parents, siblings, friends, ministers, and strangers on the street.

Nobody has permission to harm you in any way.

First, let them know how their actions make you feel. They may not realize that they are being a bully. If they sincerely apologize and never do it again, then let it go. If they do it one more time, walk away. You do not need people like this in your life. It does not matter who they are. Nobody gets a free pass at harming you.

You are valuable. You are a child of God. You are unique and precious. If they cannot recognize that, then that is their loss. You cannot make blind people see.

Rumi says in “The Way That Moves as You Move” (rendered by Coleman Barks)
“You have read about the inspired spring. Drink from there. Be companions with those whose lips are wet without water. Others, even though they may be your father or your mother, they are your enemies. Leave, before they kill you.”

Jesus says:
“You assume that I have come to bring peace on earth, and you are mistaken. I have come to set fire to the world, and how I wish it was already burning! I have a mission that I am called to, and it will overwhelm me until I have completed it. I’m not here to join people together but to divide them. Families will turn against each other in their households. I’ve come to bring a sword, cutting old family ties. I’ve come to turn sons against fathers, daughters against mothers, daughters-in-law against their mothers-in-law. Your worst enemies will be members of your household. Anyone who loves their family more than me cannot be my disciple.” (MT 10:34-37, LK 14:25-26, LK 12:49-53 – Condensed Gospel version)

We must follow the Truth,
regardless of others around us,
regardless of their authority
or connection to us.
If they are harmful to us,
we must walk away and cut all ties.

Only God is above us, not them.

It is better to be lonely than with someone who abuses you.

Low

I read a post about how to help someone with depression. It said that you should encourage them to talk about it. That is insane. Sure, there are often things that need to get out. But there is no “cure” in just talking.

We must remember that our bodies are not separate from our minds and spirits. What affects one part affects the rest. We must stop thinking about depression as a mind issue, but a body issue that affects the mind.

My personal experience is that it is far healthier to take them for a walk outside with you while you talk. And feed them healthy food. Then show them how to take care of themselves.

I’ve hospitalized myself twice for bipolar disorder, so I’m not on the sidelines pontificating here. I’ve been diagnosed with a mental illness for since 1999, and in that time have learned how to take care of myself so well that my psychiatrist only sees me once a year. This means I do far more than just take my medicine (which I do, twice a day). I eat well, exercise, journal, and make art. I am a regular person with a regular 40 hour a week job. I do not rely on others to take care of me. I have learned to not blame others or situations for how I feel.

We must get back in touch with self-care. We do not have to ever experience depression. It requires a lot of work but it is worth it. No longer will we feel overwhelmed and controlled by our moods. This does not mean that we are “up” all the time. The point is not to just feel good all the time, but to feel everything with intention. We have control over how we feel.

Depression is a symptom of an imbalance – not enough sleep and exercise being part of it. Perhaps these examples will help give perspective –

When a tire is flat because it has a hole in it, you don’t put tape over it and drive on. We don’t say it is “depressed”. We look for the reason for the problem and fix it.

We don’t diagnose plants as “depressed” when their leaves droop or turn yellow. We find out what they are getting too much of or too little of and fix it. Too much or too little sun, water, or nutrients will make a plant droop and then die. The same is true for people.

When a car has run out of gas, we don’t say it is “depressed”. We put gas in it, and ideally we put in gas that doesn’t have additives in it. Better gas means that the car runs better. Food is the fuel that our bodies use. Better food, better results.

When we spend all of our money in our bank account and don’t put any in, we don’t say that the account is “depressed”. We either need to not waste our money or make more. Our energy levels are the same. We cannot continually expend energy without rest. However, too much rest is also bad. Our bodies are made to be used. Exercise builds up our “bank account”, but we also must take time to get enough sleep and schedule in times of inactivity in order to rebuild and refresh.

Talking about it is a waste of time. You wouldn’t expect a person with diabetes to “talk about it” to get over a low blood sugar episode. You wouldn’t expect a person with high blood pressure to “talk about it” to lower it. Certainly, they both might benefit from a little research into what they are doing or not doing for their health, but then they will only truly get better if they start acting on that realization.

Search for what you can do to help yourself. Start small. Keep doing it. It is easy to look at the big picture and feel overwhelmed. It is easy to come up with reasons why you can’t do it. Mental and physical health is not easy. Nobody else can do it for you. Your best source of medicine is to take care of yourself in any way you can.

Care or codependency?

I recently posted a picture of an item I’d bought at Goodwill on my Facebook page. I’m going to use it as a prop for a story I’m writing, but in the meantime I wanted to know what it really was. Several helpful friends let me know that it was a kitchen timer. It looks more like a remote control than a timer, so that is what it will be in the story.

However, one person posted this picture and said “Don’t buy from Goodwill”.

Perhaps it is significant that this is a cousin, from my husband’s side. I’ve never even met him. Perhaps that alone is my problem. Perhaps I need to not “friend” people I don’t know, even if they are family. That is a topic I write about a lot. Boundary lines blur a bit with family.

Here’s my reply to his post (which you might notice didn’t answer my question at all) –

“Too late. I don’t buy from Goodwill with the thought that they will be donating to charity. I am the charity. I benefit because I get to buy something very inexpensive that I need, that I can’t afford to buy new. This is where I buy my clothes. In spite of the fact that the CEO makes lots of bucks – they do provide job training and opportunities to people who normally have a hard time getting a job (those with mental or physical disabilities, or those who are ex-cons). Plus, by their mere existence, they are encouraging people to recycle and reuse – the items don’t go into a garbage dump. Surely these points have to be of value to you. I’ve seen this image before – and I notice that yours does not include the one donation center that does donate a lot to charity and the CEO takes home under $25K a year – and that is the Salvation Army. I’m so tired of messages from people who mean well that say “DON’T do this” but then don’t tell you what is good to do. We cannot live our lives based on fear.”

I thought “How dare he tell me what to do! How dare he try to share his fear!”

His need to “correct” me is a sign of codependency. His way of thinking is the problem, not where I shop.

It reminds me of health book that said to drink lots of clean water – but not from a tap, and not to drink out of plastic water bottles. But what is there other than that? The author didn’t say. So how is that helpful? If all you share is what not to do, you are not helping anyone. In fact, you are making the situation worse. This is part of the current problem our society faces – too many “don’t” and not enough helpful information. We are being lead by fear of everything, with no let up. There is no relief – just more and more fear.

Here are some current fear-based modes of thinking that are going on:

The government is going to take away everything you have.
The government is putting chemicals in your food.
You are under constant surveillance.
Immigrants are going to steal your job and/or kill you.

These ideas are poison, because they don’t offer a cure. They contribute to un-ease, to dis-ease. They are all passive. They are things that are going to happen to you (so they say), rather than things you can do something about. They create fear and disorder.

We are being told we are in a cage and not given a key. The real problem is that we were fine before we were told these lies.

And then I thought more about his message. This was a chance to educate him on the rest of the story. So I shared this picture.

Half information is worse than no information. Whatever we share must be for the good of all. To share mis-information or terror-talk is to BE the problem. Also, it is important to consider before you share anything – are you trying to control the actions of someone else? If so, why? Is it perhaps that You are the one who needs to hear your message – not the other person? Thinking about why you feel the need to control someone else’s actions, even in the guise of caring for them, is a very useful meditation.