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.)

On anger

My grandmother always wore dresses until she didn’t anymore. That time came when she was in the nursing home and she was wearing adult diapers. It was simply easier for the attendants to make her wear jogging pants to help keep them on. I didn’t understand this at the time and so I commented on her pants. I commented on how nice they were and said they must be comfortable. My grandmother looked at me with great astonishment and she said “I’m not wearing pants” and then she looked down at her legs and then looked back at me and stated again “I’m not wearing pants”. Even in the face of reality she stuck with what she had known to be true her whole life.

There are many people who are like this about their anger. When you point out to someone that they’re angry they’ll often say “I’m not angry!” They’ll say that they’re “frustrated” or they’re “upset” but they won’t say that they’re angry. They have all the signs for it but they won’t say it.

I think our greatest problem is that we won’t acknowledge what really is happening outside or inside of us. How can we heal our brokenness if we won’t even admit to ourselves that we are broken?

It is OK to be angry. Anger is a normal feeling. It isn’t healthy to be angry all the time, though, and that can happen when we fail to recognize it and handle it in a healthy way.

Think of anger as needing to go to the bathroom. There is something that is in you that needs to get out. This is a normal part of being a human being. With bowel movements, we are taught as children how to recognize that feeling and to go to the bathroom to eliminate. The bathroom is a safe and appropriate place to take care of this need. If we don’t take care of it in a timely manner then we can end up with physical problems due to having this no-longer needed matter inside us. Or we can have an “accident” and get poop all over ourselves and others.

Anger is just like this. If we keep it inside too long we can hurt ourselves or have an “accident” and spew anger all over the wrong people and in the wrong place. If we don’t do it in an appropriate manner we can make a real mess.

An important part is learning to recognize the feeling. Just like with poop, ignoring it doesn’t make it go away. It will only get worse. But before that, it is important to admit to yourself that anger is real, and it is normal.

Flowers and vegetables

I buy my own flowers, and I cook my own vegetables. I have to. I need to.

I wanted my husband to buy me flowers and to cook more vegetables, but it didn’t happen. Rather than feel resentful, I decided to show love to myself. Every week when I go to the grocery store, I get fresh vegetables and some flowers. He benefits from these things, sure, but I’m the first recipient.

For years I told him that we needed to start eating more vegetables. Eating mostly meat isn’t healthy. We didn’t have to go to being vegetarian, but at least more like omnivores. And by vegetables I meant actual, fresh vegetables. Not ones from the freezer, and not ones that had been processed to a point that they were unrecognizable.

This was beyond him.

Preparing fresh vegetables takes 20 minutes, from chopping up to steaming, but every night we’d end up eating an hour after I came home at 8. That is way too late to eat. I still can’t figure out how he was wasting that much time.

What pushed it over the edge was when I hurt my back and my chiropractor said that I needed to eat a vegetarian diet for a week to reduce the inflammation. My spouse totally didn’t get it, and I became even angrier and angrier as my physical pain got worse and worse.

I felt helpless.

Food is a basic need, and eating healthy is important. I felt that he was not providing for me in the way that I needed. Deep down, I felt that he was not loving me in the way that I needed. This is part of why I decided to make learning how to cook my goal for this year.

While I’m glad to feel self sufficient, I’m a little sad that he isn’t able to take care of me in this basic way.

It isn’t like I needed him to make a six digit salary, and to buy me furs and diamonds. It isn’t like I needed him to work hard enough that I didn’t have to.

It sounds selfish, and sad, and empty, that in this basic way he can’t support me. It is food, and flowers.

But, in a good way, I’m glad that I decided to love myself in the way that I needed to be loved. Rather than feel empty and abandoned, I decided to take matters into my own hands. It is healing at the same time it is sad.

Somehow, while I’m building myself up, I’m separating from him. I’m getting stronger by not relying on him as much. It is scary in a way.

I don’t trust women who crow about their husbands all the time – about how awesome they are, how wonderful, how supportive. I don’t believe them. Everybody has a shadow side. No person is perfect. I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop, for them to get really angry about how much of a slob he is, or how scatterbrained or thoughtless.

Who cares if you stay when the relationship is good? It is how you work out the hard stuff that matters.

Evil spirit?

So God is supposed to be all good, right? But what about these verses – God sends “evil spirits” to rile people up, to make bad things happen. Maybe there is something more to all of this. All Bible quotes are RSV.

There were a lot of judges in Israel before they had kings. Somebody had to make decisions. But then it seems that every now and then God stirred things up. Control was taken out of their hands.

Judges 9:22-25
22 Abim′elech ruled over Israel three years. 23 And God sent an evil spirit between Abim′elech and the men of Shechem; and the men of Shechem dealt treacherously with Abim′elech; 24 that the violence done to the seventy sons of Jerubba′al might come and their blood be laid upon Abim′elech their brother, who slew them, and upon the men of Shechem, who strengthened his hands to slay his brothers. 25 And the men of Shechem put men in ambush against him on the mountain tops, and they robbed all who passed by them along that way; and it was told Abim′elech.

Then God made Samson want a woman who was a Philistine just because God wanted to stir up a fight between the Philistines and Israel. God knew there would be a fight at the wedding.

Judges 14:1-4
Samson went down to Timnah, and at Timnah he saw one of the daughters of the Philistines. 2 Then he came up, and told his father and mother, “I saw one of the daughters of the Philistines at Timnah; now get her for me as my wife.” 3 But his father and mother said to him, “Is there not a woman among the daughters of your kinsmen, or among all our people, that you must go to take a wife from the uncircumcised Philistines?” But Samson said to his father, “Get her for me; for she pleases me well.” 4 His father and mother did not know that it was from the LORD; for he was seeking an occasion against the Philistines. At that time the Philistines had dominion over Israel.

Then God sends an “evil spirit” to King Saul, which stirs up problems between him and David, who God has chosen in his place to be king.

1 Samuel 16:14
14 Now the Spirit of the LORD departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the LORD tormented him.

Here’s another example of God sending an “evil spirit” upon Saul.

1 Samuel 18:10-11
10 And on the morrow an evil spirit from God rushed upon Saul, and he raved within his house, while David was playing the lyre, as he did day by day. Saul had his spear in his hand; 11 and Saul cast the spear, for he thought, “I will pin David to the wall.” But David evaded him twice.

The same thing happened to Judas. He wasn’t betraying Jesus because he wanted to –he was made to do it by forces beyond his control. Satan, the very definition of an “evil spirit”, entered him.

Luke 22:1-6
Now the feast of Unleavened Bread drew near, which is called the Passover. 2 And the chief priests and the scribes were seeking how to put him to death; for they feared the people. 3 Then Satan entered into Judas called Iscariot, who was of the number of the twelve;4 he went away and conferred with the chief priests and officers how he might betray him to them. 5 And they were glad, and engaged to give him money. 6 So he agreed, and sought an opportunity to betray him to them in the absence of the multitude.

Here’s another take on the same scene.

John 13:21-27
21 When Jesus had thus spoken, he was troubled in spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was lying close to the breast of Jesus; 24 so Simon Peter beckoned to him and said, “Tell us who it is of whom he speaks.” 25 So lying thus, close to the breast of Jesus, he said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I shall give this morsel when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot.27 Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.”

So what’s going on? This is pretty wild. God isn’t what we thought. What does this say about God and the nature of God?

Are we willing to let God use us like this? This is some hard stuff – wars being waged, innocent people being attacked and killed. All because God makes it happen by sending an “evil spirit”. God is in control of evil spirits? God is in control of everything.

What does this say about “free will”? It is out of the window. These people didn’t decide to be angry or crazy or start wars or betray a friend.

What does this say about bad times, about wars, about people attacking innocent people? David and Jesus were both innocent. They didn’t deserve to be attacked. They’d done nothing wrong.

Perhaps that is it. We need to trust that everything is part of a plan that we can’t see. The more we fight against it, the harder it is for us.

Maybe that terrorist, that road-rager, that narcissistic manager, that abusive parent is part of the plan. Maybe an “evil spirit” entered into them. Who knows? We can’t know. That is part of the problem. We want to see the whole picture, and we can’t. We don’t have the capacity for it.

God says that God is the Alpha and the Omega – the beginning and the end at the same time. We can’t comprehend that. It is like trying to play a DVD on a record player. Our technology, the human brain, lacks the capacity to process things like God does.

(All Bible quotes are RSV.)

My inner skunk

Today I’m getting in touch with my inner skunk.

They don’t attack. They just hold their ground. People tend to leave them alone and not cross them, because their bold coloring warns who they are.

I’m getting tired of people thinking I’m a pushover. I’m getting tired of feeling like I’m doing it all and everybody else is slacking.

Today I told the annoying page to pull her cart out of the walkway. I didn’t even care if she got mad. She gets mad all the time. She can say “Excuse me?” in a way that sounds like she is saying “Screw off!” She says “Excuse me?” when she wants you to repeat what you have said. She says it in just such a way that you never want to ask her anything ever again.

But today was it. I’d patiently waited for her to pull the cart out of the way on her own before, and thanked her for it, and explained how it is totally in my way when she puts her cart there. I did it that way because otherwise there would have been a confrontation. It went well for a while, but today it was halfway into the walkway again. There is at least ten feet of space she can work in, and she chooses the worst possible section that is totally in the way of traffic flow.

I am desperately trying to not say what I’m thinking too. This has been going on all day.

I don’t have any patience for people who only get movies. I’m jealous of all that time that they have. Then I wonder why they waste it the way they do. Then I wonder at the people who are there all day, who are my age. Don’t they have jobs? If not, why not? I’m jealous.

I’m angry that I’m angry. I’m in a bad mood about the fact that I’m in a bad mood.

I think about the teachers and counselors who have told me that I’m angry, when I didn’t feel like I was. The fact that they said that I’m angry when I don’t feel like I’m angry makes me angry.

Maybe “angry” is my normal, and I need to get used to it. I need to learn that this is who I am, or at least who I am right now. I spent so long letting people (especially my brother and boyfriends) walk all over me and push me around. I’m waking up from that stupor.

Skunks are seen as antisocial creatures, but they aren’t, really. They just don’t want to put up with anybody’s nonsense. They don’t start fights, but they don’t walk away from them either.

Angry is just a feeling.

It’s okay to be angry.

“Angry” is just a feeling. It is the same as being tired or being hungry or having to poop. It is a sign that something is lacking or there’s too much of something. It as a sign of imbalance but it in itself isn’t a bad thing, and it’s okay to feel it.

You don’t have to explain it. It can just be. It is what you do with it that matters. It’s not the feeling itself, it’s the action you take when you have the feeling that matters.

When you’re hungry do you overeat? When you’re tired do you sleep too much? What do you do with these feelings?

Perhaps having to go to the bathroom is the best example.

When you have to poop do you poop right where you are, or do you go to the bathroom? Do you wait and wait and wait when you have to pee, until you feel like you are going to burst? Or do you take care of it right away, and in a healthy way that is good for you and those around you?

To poop right where you are isn’t healthy, and it isn’t considerate of others. To wait and wait to pee might be considerate of others if you are in a meeting, but it isn’t healthy for you.

Going to the bathroom is learned. That isn’t instinctual. We had to learn how to handle that natural occurrence. I propose that dealing with anger is the same.

It is possible to learn how to deal with this natural feeling in a healthy and safe way, one that is healthy and safe for you, and for those around you.

Some things that work for me –
Go for a walk.
Have a hot bath. Bubbles help.
Write.
Paint.
Deep, focused breathing.
Prayer.
Playing the drums.

Think about the things you do when you are happy, and try one of those when you are angry. Sometimes that is enough to flip the switch.

No matter what, don’t try to escape your anger by using intoxicants. It isn’t about escaping it, it is about allowing it a safe way to get out.

Consider a balloon. The pressure builds up and builds up, and the air has to get out somehow. Either it can get out the way it got in (the neck), or the balloon can burst. Burst balloons don’t work as balloons anymore. They are broken bits. We are like that too when we don’t let our anger get out in a safe way.

Now, in the middle of all this it is a good idea to think about why you are angry. What about this situation is making you feel angry? Does it remind you of some earlier situation that went wrong? How did that situation make you feel? Was there someone in your past who taught you how to react in this particular situation?

You can unlearn old habits and take up new ones. You are forever able to rewrite yourself. Nothing is permanent. Just because it always has been that way doesn’t mean that it will always be that way. The past does not predict the future.

You can’t escape anger, but you can redirect it and you can learn from it. Anger is a part of life, just like night is a part of day. It isn’t bad, in and of itself. It is what you do with it that matters. Use it wisely and it can teach you a lot.

Finding home without a map.

We had a dog when I was growing up who was named Chumley. My brother picked him out, and my brother named him. Somehow, though, the dog ended up becoming my dog, and not in the good way. Somehow I, the younger sister, ended up having to make sure the dog was fed and watered and walked. This turned out to be a regular occurrence with my brother and pets. He’d get them, and then I’d have to take care of them. Perhaps this is part of where I learned to be a caretaker of others and not myself. But this is not that story.

This story is about a time where Chumley ran away. Most dogs know how to stay in the yard, but not Chumley. That dog was a wire haired fox terrier, and they aren’t really mentally intact dogs. Those dogs are a bit high strung and wild. They really aren’t the best around small children, and sometimes I think they really aren’t the best around themselves. They get a bit excitable all the time and kind of lose their minds.

Chumley was an inside dog in the biggest possible way. If we let him out without a leash he’d just run and run and run. Even with a leash it was hard. He was always straining at the leash, pulling me along, nearly choking himself to get to the next place. He made a hoarse, desperate sound all the time as he pulled ahead. The walk was a real workout for my shoulder muscles and not really very fun. I suspect it wasn’t very fun for him either.

He was so scattered that he even had to poop inside. We had newspapers in the kitchen, and that is where he would go. I can’t even imagine how I thought that was normal, to have food and crap and pee in the same room. It was what was introduced to me as normal, though, so I went with it. I didn’t know otherwise.

One time, before Christmas, he got out. He slipped out of the front door and went running. He kept running. Before we even realized it he was gone gone gone.

Days went by.

It was getting colder. It wasn’t too cold, because it was Chattanooga, and white Christmases are really rare. Brown with mud was more like it. But it was cold-ish, and this dog wasn’t an outside dog, and how was he eating and getting water? What was happening to him? Was he OK? Was he dead? There was no way he could have defended himself against another dog. He was like the clown of the circus.

Maybe we looked for him. Maybe we didn’t. I don’t remember. I hope we did. I could tell you that we put out an all points bulletin and stapled “Lost Dog” flyers on telephone poles, but I’d be lying. I don’t know if we even got in the car and drove around, calling out his name.

Maybe we just thought he wanted out.

I can understand that. I can empathize with that.

He didn’t choose to be there. He wanted to be out. He wanted to eat grass and poop outside and sniff other dog’s butts. He wanted to roll in mud puddles.

He wanted to be a dog.

And we weren’t letting him.

So, he was gone, for days.

Just about the time that we thought he must be dead (at worst) or adopted by another family (at best), he came back.

But he didn’t come back alone. There was this other dog with him. There was this smallish mutt beside him. Some dog that we’d never seen.

I played all over that neighborhood, and I knew every dog within a three mile radius of my house. I didn’t know this dog.

Somehow, this dog, this strange dog, had found Chumley and brought him back home.

I have no idea how he knew where Chumley’s home was. I have no idea how they communicated. All I know was that it was three days later and Chumley was dirty and tired and his feet were bloody from all that running outside, but he was home.

And I understand some of it now.

Sometimes I’m Chumley, and sometimes I’m the mutt. Sometimes my husband is Chumley, and sometimes he is the mutt. Sometimes we have to take turns walking each other home.

And sometimes home isn’t where we feel at home, but we stay there anyway. And sometimes “home” is more about the places in our heads and our hearts, rather than where we sleep and keep our stuff.

And sometimes all we want to do is run away as far as possible.

Sometimes I don’t feel at home in my self, my being, my “me”. Sometimes all I want to do is run away.

Sometimes I go up to my star stones. Sometimes I write. Sometimes I take a hot bath. Sometimes it is so bad that I have to do all three.

Sometimes I’m so upset and angry that I’m on fire and I don’t even realize it.

Sometimes the person I want to run away from is my husband.

Sometimes I want him to fix this fire burning in me, to put it out, to stomp on it and then call for a firetruck. Sometimes I want him to know what to do, what to say, how to stand just right that this fire will die down to a pretty little candle, contained in a glass dish. Something simple. Something safe. Something easy.

Sometimes I’m embarrassed at the bonfire of my emotions and feelings and I’m on fire and all I want to do is light up everything around me and leave it all a charred, smoking hulk of rubble for the forensics team to walk through and try to figure out what happened two days later when it cools down enough to be safe to pick through the pieces.

And then it turns. It changes.

I’ll have been gone for three days, or three minutes, or three hours. No matter how long, I’ve been right here, but I’ve been gone in my hurt and anger and loss and pain.

And somehow he finds me, and brings me back home.