When Anger Sets up Camp

My four-year-old daughter stomped her foot, placed her hands on her hips and huffed, “I’m mad.”

Way to own it, sister.

We don’t have to look long today to witness anger in society. We may just find it inside. For some, a spirit of anger was passed down. You don’t even know how to respond without anger. For others, it’s just one disappointment after another, stuffed down to rise another day.

Anger says: I want my way and I must take it by force.

As we look into scripture we will see that anger itself is not the major problem. It’s what we do about it.

“In your anger, do not sin.” Eph. 4:26

You and I were made with beautiful threads of emotion to enrich and fulfill our lives. God made you with emotion. He did not make emotion to rule over you. This verse helps us see we will FEEL those emotions. But it also tells me there is a space between my feelings and my actions. That space is crunch time for the Christian. What we do there and how much of the Spirit we allow to flow will affect our maturity, our harvest and our joy.

“Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry and do not give the devil a foothold.”

Don’t read this so literally that you miss the point. This doesn’t mean that you have to fix ALL YOUR STUFF before your head hits the pillow or it’s too late. The point is the longer you wait the harder it is. Because the longer anger visits, the more likely it will set up camp.

set up camp

King Solomon said that “anger resides in the lap of fools.”

Let’s define reside: to dwell permanently; to settle; remain for a long time.

When you let anger it, it means to stay. There are many, many people walking around today on the brink of rage because anger came to visit and stayed too long.

God asked Cain why he was so angry. He stepped into that space between anger and the first murder recorded in scripture…to help. Cain let the tent pegs go into the ground, and anger turned to rage.

The longer you play the tape in your mind concerning that circumstance and how wronged you have been, the deeper the lies take hold. And one of the deepest lies anger can tell is this: revenge provides relief.

lie anger tells

I call anger the black widow of emotion. Because the more we feed it, the more it strangles us. We can rationalize anger probably more than any other negative emotion. We’ve all been “wronged” at some point. For some today, you may not even remember the last time you liked people. Because somewhere along the way frustration led to anger and anger led to bitterness.

Here is what you and I need to know as Christians in this discussion: Our yesterday does not have to define our next days. You really can KNOW what it’s like to laugh again. To find joy in people again. To take a deep breath of release.

Christ makes me better. He calls me to better. I don’t want to excuse my behavior or my response. I want to look different to the world. I want a harvest. You can decide today to start over in Him and redefine your label. If you see yourself as angry, began to say “I’m free in Him. I release those who have wronged me.” If others have seen you as angry, let God show them through you what redemption looks like. He can do it.

You don’t have to live angry. There is a better way for you. It’s through Him.

Kumbaya, Fertile Ground & The Forgiveness Echoing From Charleston

He was walking casually through the house singing the words so naturally, playing with a few random toys. I caught the words and I asked him, “Josh, where did you learn that song?”

“From the chipmunk movie,” he responded.

“Something good from a movie,” I thought.

My husband got home and I told him. He pulled the boy close to him and said, “Do you know what Kumbaya means, Josh?”

“No, daddy.”

“It means come by here, Lord. Come by here.”

I read recently that Kumbaya was written by Robert Winslow Gordon in 1927. When he later had it recorded it was sung in Gullah (a creole language) on the islands of South Carolina, reportedly between Charleston and Beaufort.

Charleston. “Come by here, Lord. Come by here.”

How many angels have come near just recently, only Heaven knows.

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We sat in the small prayer room, the five of us, today. We reported on illnesses, needs, praises. And we turned to Charleston – this church, these people of God thrown into the spotlight. The whole world watching.

Then a friend in the room mentioned a miracle. A man she knows who has struggled with racism, maybe all his life. He lives in Charleston. He drove by multiple churches on a day following the shooting and the parking lots were overflowing. And then the Spirit did what the Spirit does best – He touched that man. The man said he broke down. He wept. He apologized. He asked forgiveness. In an unexpected moment, no words from another, no preaching, no condemning – he was touched by the love of God. He has reached out to ask forgiveness for those he has offended in the past.

One story in a cloud of stories moving across the land.

All that we hope for, strive for and pray deeply for, the Spirit can do in one short moment with one simple touch.

The Bride of Christ has been tested, and the family of God in Charleston has responded with grace. When forgiveness is the most common word being used, Christ is being glorified. And all over the world, in hearts and cities and small towns, there is fertile ground. Because when trials produce authentic worship, souls are intrigued. Hearts are made pliable again.

In prayer, the Spirit spoke to me about fertile ground today.

“Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you.” Hosea 10:12

There are souls, people we have waited upon, perhaps prayed long years for. Many seeds have been planted over time and, like Apollos, we are being called upon to water the seed of faith. It is time.

There are many hurting hearts around us. In Charleston and perhaps across the street from our home. Is there unplowed ground in which we need to offer the work of love and forgiveness.  Ground that has been dry for a long time. Is there a seed we need to plant or water?

Multitudes, multitudes are in the valley of decision! Even now! Who needs our encouragement to persevere? Who needs our courage to share Christ? Who needs our forgiveness?

Forgiveness – as we’ve seen in Charleston – has a ripple effect. Oh, grace, grace be upon the hurting, the grieving souls. And love lead us as we take our place in the ripple and walk in the Spirit of Christ. May we be sensitive and obedient to nurture the seeds of faith in the souls we know and encounter.

Kumbaya, My Lord. Kumbaya.

One of the Hardest and Best Things a Christian Can Do

The hardest things are the best things. What great thing really does come easy?

A basketball coach used to tell me, “if it was easy, everybody would be doing it.” Didn’t really inspire me as I sweat through the next set of suicide runs. But it did push me. I kept running. I kept practicing free throws after everyone else left.

Being the last one in the pool really does pay off. But it’s hard.

We’ve got a really hard thing with being human. Somehow we are either really hard on ourselves or just that way with most everyone else.

And it’s funny really how we still get surprised when someone offends us. Like sometimes it just plain knocks our socks off.

We have better days than others. For good/different reasons. But does it amaze anyone else how quick we are to forget how moody we were yesterday when that guy is rude to us today?

Grace is hard for us to just plain live out. Especially when it comes to being offended.

Let’s be real- offenses happen everywhere. And if you are in ANY kind of leadership role, it’s like your weekly Mode of Operation. Add social media or public speaking, and just monitoring people’s feelings might be your full time job.

At times, it’s been mine. Mostly by my own choosing. Paranoia befriends the leader quite nicely. But it does help when people share their “thoughts” about your “style.”

I once spoke to a group of women about ministry and mentioned that at some point I might offend them. (The context was in regard to the years we would know each other and work together) I was sharing my heart regarding how we could be easier on one another. A woman came up to me after the talk and said, “Ginger, I want you to know nothing in that talk offended me.” (Score one for the speaker.)

I laughed recently about something that could have offended, because- really- it doesn’t matter in the big scheme of things. And not one iota of angst we carry about another soul is going to make our day/month/ year better.

I’ve seen people forgive drunk drivers for taking the life of their child, when I’ve also known women to carry bitterness for YEARS about that one small disagreement/conversation they had in church.

Bitterness really is the heaviest purse to carry.

Women are extremely prone to rehash the entire conversation one million and five times because if ONLY the other person really got it. And then we get all “she just doesn’t understand my personality!”

Thus we run to (read text or call) the one buddy we know will have our back and gripe just as loud about what that other person said because – hello, of course we were right.

On our extra Spirit-led days (thank you Jesus) we are less defensive – until it returns to our mind later because it’s then fully legal to rehash in eyebrow-raising attitude diva form- since we are just talking to ourself. Ahem.

Christianity isn’t easy. How many of us know someone who was offended recently and actually followed the biblical example for handling an offense? (i.e. they went directly to the person to address it IN LOVE instead of talking to others about it) **Matthew 18:15..

Jesus said this kind of thing will win someone over. Why? Because it’s in stark contrast to the world and every FEELING we have.

You wanna talk brave: show me that. Because you can’t go half-way. Doing the right thing first and THEN talking to others about it. That makes you look and sound good, but your spirit sinks about 12 levels later. You always know your own motives. And they follow you.

To take your vulnerability into the ring of honest discussion with someone you’ve chosen not to like will test every bit of your pride.

Who decided we “may have to love everyone but that doesn’t mean we have to like them?”

Doesn’t that reek of someone who chose not to like someone and then justify it?

I get it. We’re all different. We aren’t going to be besties with all the peeps. Lord knows I lean towards certain personality types. Of course we do. I’m not pretending I like the whole world. It just seems like an easy out.

But I think this little saying has gone far enough in defining our boundaries. Because let’s be real: when you choose not to like someone —– you aren’t going to go out of your way to love them.

I don’t remember a parable about Jesus and the “unlikeable dude” that He had to make himself love.

Glennon Doyle Melton wrote a piece recently for Storyline where she said, “maybe the surest way to be liked by people is simply to like people.”

The thing is people really do WANT to be liked. So we’ve been steered in the opposite direction of what people want. Sure – people NEED to be loved. But they want to be liked. Read any evangelism book and you’ll hear about meeting “felt needs” before sharing the gospel. Yeah, empty stomachs have no ears. Maybe the love comes easier after we choose to be interested and meet a need.

Not everyone is going to like me. And I’m going to offend. My job there is to apologize as quickly as I can and move on. We cannot (IN NO SHAPE OR FORM) control how the other person responds. What we can do – is overlook offenses against us. Because when they carry over to bitterness, we decide that person is unlikable and we get that “feeling” every time we see them. How – I say HOW does this help us? Notta. As a  matter of sad fact – it’s uprooting our harvest. The Spirit does not thrive when unforgiveness takes root.

What kind of crazy good things could happen in the Spirit if the churches shook off all the STUFF. If we said today – TODAY – all the things people have said or done to me – IT”S DONE. OVER. As of today, no one, and I mean NO ONE owes me anything.

I will let no debt remain outstanding except the debt to love one another. (Romans 13:8) Yeah – THAT.

I once heard this statement: When you are offended, don’t nurse it or rehearse it; curse it…and God will reverse it!

To overlook an offense might be the bravest of all.

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Linking up today with the beautiful Meredith, kind Holly and word wonder, Jennifer.

Keep Your Servant From Willful Sins: A Prayer From Psalm 119

Keeping our hearts on track today, Lord….we come with joy to your decrees…

 

keeper

 

Oh that my ways were steadfast in obeying you, sweet Lord.

I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you, lover of my soul.

Your statutes are my delight; they are my counselors. Counsel me, Oh God, in your truth. Sanctify me: Your Word is truth.

Oh that you would be gracious to me through your law and keep me from deceitful ways.

 

Turn my heart….oh TURN IT, GOD

 

Turn my heart toward your statutes and not toward selfish gain. Turn my eyes – yes, those wandering eyes…. away from worthless things;

 

Like Job, I have made a covenant with mine eyes – to sway them back to you at every turn. Shut them fast – yes so fast –  at evil, give sight only to you.

 

Preserve my life – this life you give – according to your Word. Preserve me in your righteousness, for you are the life within my life – this light of glory…shining, glowing unto eternal places.

 

Oh, yes – this…..

I will hasten and not delay…to obey your commands. Hasten my Spirit, oh Spirit Divine.

 

Move within me, oh Spirit, quickly….quickly towards the Lord.

 

———————-> Move now. Closer. Nearer.

 

Oh for a blameless heart, dear God. And a path steady for these feet, walking your road alone. Stay me from evil…within and around and coming after me.

 

Your statutes, these written down morsels of life – they are my heritage forever. Mine and my childrens’ and all the worlds.’ They are the joy of this heart of mine. That heart, this beating deceitful thing….is set – yeah I will SET IT on keeping your decrees to the very end.

 

And when this soul, this flesh of mine has turned off, Merciful God, I thank you that you do not treat us as our sins deserve. Your mercies are new – so new and fresh and refreshing. Great…so beyond understanding and great is your faithfulness.

 

Your Word – the deep soul bread – tells me that anyone – ANYONE – who tries to conceal their sin does not prosper and that all things hidden in darkness will come into the light.

 

And that same ANYONE who confesses their sin – yeah, you are still faithful – again and again and again – to forgive – that blessed word…. our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

 

Search my heart, O God, my King. Be my everything. May the words – the thoughts – the meditations – the movements and ways of my hands…and yeah, those eyes – be ever pleasing to you, my ROCK, my REDEEMER, my HOPE of everlasting LIFE.

 

Keep your servant from willful sin, O God. Those cherished ones I hold closer than you, tightly. Keep, me now, dear Spirit for you alone. Uproot, tear out all deep loves not abounding in your grace. No more willful sin here, God. No more.

 

I choose you. My heart is steady upon your Word, your grace, the fountain of love I cannot see but live within.

 

Keeper – my Keeper – Keep me ever close…for I am stayed by you.

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This is part of a series on PRAYER. May we hold fast to Him today. Blessings!

Say What You Need to Say

This post comes on the day of Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It’s always interesting how God orders things. Yom Kippur comes at the end of a 10-day period in which Jews seek forgiveness from others….in order that they may seek the face of God for the very same thing on Yom Kippur.

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It seems a rough stone on the pathway to His inner courts. We want to step over this one, our bare feet choosing the smooth path, but the Spirit hovers here.

steps to mount

There is work to be done.

If only we would see that the hard things – the every day things we must walk through and face – are the preparations for His teachings on grace.

As we approach the altar of our good and holy God, Christ asks us to pause here:

“…if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, leave your gift there in front of the altar. First go and be reconciled to your brother; then come and offer your gift.” Matthew 5:23-24

What heart does not need to stop and linger here? May we learn, together, and with great encouragement towards one another, what answered prayers, what healing, what restoration of the world awaits our practice of reconciliation.

In Proverbs 21 we are told that a gift given can soothe anger. Is Christ, in essence, stating above…”I do not need your sacrifices —–> but your brother does.”

We come and leave our gift for the Father, our most earnest hope, our boldest requests – sitting on this very step. We turn to do a work so that every prayer to follow is spoken with integrity.

“if you do not forgive men their sins, your father will not forgive your sins.” Mt. 6:15

Here we see that the horizontal always affects the vertical.

Yet we must look for wholeness in reconciliation, which always denotes a two-way healing. Leaving the altar of God to do work is not only a call to forgive, but actually a more specific call to ask for forgiveness.

“if your brother has something against you.”

What if we looked at all relationships as the preparation to be with the Father? How we love, how quickly we admit wrong, how we look upon others or release debts owed to us – affects the intimacy we will have with God.

Christ tells me – personally and through a burning heart – that to love Him I must love, wholeheartedly, my brother. To pray His kingdom down and practice the call to worship in spirit and in truth – I must invite His kingdom work first into my heart.

We all have deep, deep hurts. We have also caused some. What power, though, to know that healing is in our hands, if only. The action He calls for may seem, and be, quite heavy. But once practiced, I believe, they quickly release answers in the spiritual realm we may have been waiting for all our lives.

Forgiveness can be a process He takes you through over time. And others may need time to forgive you. That’s okay. But I must know I have said what needed to be said so that process can begin.

Two weeks ago, my words needed to be: “I love you.”

“In each prayer to the Father I must be able to say that I know of no one whom I do not heartily love.” – Andrew Murray

And for my personal work of forgiveness, I struggled with trust. How can I trust that person again? He whispered to my heart, “you don’t have to. You can trust me.”

What argument with a church member will we let affect our eternity? What resentment will we let hinder our physical healing? What fear is the ONLY thing between us and a miracle?

What words need to be spoken from our lips to another that our lips can speak more honestly and confidently to the Father? That we may sing with joy, “Come thou fount of every blessing…tune my heart to sing thy grace.”

Our hearts need tuning by the Maker that we can join in the chorus together and proclaim His grace to the world. A world that shouts loud with the message of ungrace.

Our hearts are tuned in the school of reconciliation. There we prepare to worship God in spirit and in truth. I don’t think we ever graduate from this school, but only move from class to class.

“Spirit, show me, show us what splinters remain beneath the surface. That you may draw them out with the needle of your love unto healing and deliverance. May you replace my hardened heart with one of flesh, worked over by the Great Surgeon of my soul. Have mercy. I choose to forgive what has been done unto me.”

In two days, we will consider uttering possibly the boldest prayer one can speak. This kind of boldness can only follow great humility. May we lower our faces to the ground and say,

“Oh Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner.”

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This is Day 4 in a series on Prayer. You may begin here.