Category Archives: Anger

Unfortunate misconceptions…

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In usual fashion, this post is quite long…ramblings of a sort. I’m honored if you make it to the end. Words fill my heart and head. And when they start to flow, I don’t want to hold them back. I hope each of my words touch your heart and leave you with love and compassion in a cruel world.
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Misconception

In light of the recent tragedy in Orlando, Florida, I’ve heard of and witnessed many stories filled with or fueled by hate. I’ve also heard many stories of the outpouring of love and support for the families of the victims involved in the senseless murders of 49 people and the many others injured, forever scarred by evil desires. It’s a mixed up world we are in and unfortunately, in a time when we should all come together in support of one another, we remain divided, allowing anger to fester between us. These are my own thoughts. Feel free to comment with your thoughts as well, but leave hate out of it. There’s no room for anymore hate. Comments filled with hate, from any point of view, will be deleted.

Misconception – a view or opinion that is incorrect because it is based on faulty thinking or understanding.

Religion – “the belief in a god or group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

Tragedy – “an event causing great suffering, destruction, and distress, such as a serious accident, crime, or natural catastrophe.”

On September 11, 2001, thousands of people breathed their last breath. A country was impacted by the tragedy of violence, hate, and murder. A country mourned. The world mourned. We still mourn.

December 14th, 2012, in the peaceful town of Newtown, Connecticut, a young man walked into an elementary school and murdered 20 children and 6 adults. The children were 6 and 7 years old…still babies, learning to read and write, to dance, to share with one another, to walk in a line, to whisper, to live, to love. Their lives were invaluable to those who loved them but to that one young man, their lives were meaningless.

June 17th, 2015, in a small South Carolina church, a group prayed together. They welcomed a troubled young man into the church and prayed with him just before he took their lives. A tragedy of violence, hate, and murder.

On June 12th, 2016, at a night club in Florida, men and women danced, laughed, sang, and breathed their final breaths as a gunman ripped their lives away. A moment of terror left 49 dead and many others injured. Hundreds of lives, forever changed, by violence, hate, and murder.

It’s been said that many of these tragedies are done “in the name of religion.”

This is true. Many acts of hate and evil have been done “in the name of religion.” What this means is people, filled with hate towards a select group of men, women, or children, committed acts of horror, terror, violence, and murder and claimed to do so based their belief that in doing so, they would be fulfilling the desires of their god. When this happens, the unfortunate misconception is that religion is to blame. We lump all religions, every group of people who gather to worship a higher power, into one category. We label religion as evil. But that’s where we are wrong.

When religion is based strictly on a set of rules or laws that one believes must be met in order to receive salvation, that opens the door for competition, jealousy, anger, rage, and hate. It creates a need to “one-up.” It puts people in a position of attempting to attain the impossible … perfection. When religion is based solely on the grace and mercy of one man, sent from the Creator of the earth, we are humbled people, learning to extend compassion and forgiveness, understanding we are no better than any other, knowing we are all broken people in need. This removes ourselves from being the source of our own salvation and places that salvation in the wounded hands of the only Savior.

Not one of those lives stolen deserved to die that way. Not one. Not the youngest of the children at Sandy Hook, not the heroes who rushed into falling buildings to save the lives of others, not one man or woman based on their sexuality, their feelings, their desires, period. Not even the men who began their lives as one tiny heartbeat, 10 little toes and fingers, a light, soft swoop of hair on their head, raised and taught to hate to the point they would brutally torture and rape women, or sacrifice their own lives to selfishly and hatefully take the life another, in the name of religion. Not one of them should have died. Not one.

Let’s get something straight…

Religion did not carry a gun into the the flashing lights and crowded dance floors of a night club in Florida and the gun did not walk in there on its own. A man chose to allow anger and hate to fill his heart. He chose to carry guns inside a night club filled with people. He chose to murder many innocent men and women and forever change the lives of many others. A broken man. A man with empty places filled by hate. Religion is not to blame. Evil is. Religion did not fly a plane into the World Trade Center with the intent to kill thousands. Broken men did. Religion did not walk into a church, sit among a group of people as they prayed what would be their final prayers, and then rob them of another breath. A broken man did. Religion did not enter an elementary school, open fire on a terrified, helpless, innocent group of 6 and 7 year olds, and destroy the lives of many. A broken man did.

We are all broken. Hear me, we are ALL broken.

As broken people, we need each other. We need love, support, encouragement, hope, peace, faith. Each of us is designed to grieve, to mourn, to desire fulfillment, closeness, relationships, and more. But in a broken world, we are left empty in many of the places we need, so deeply, to be filled.

For some, those places are filled through work, friends, activities, addictions, religion, etc. Others find themselves filled through what most would call religion, but what I will call a relationship and faith. Faith in something better. Faith in a loving God. Faith in a God who became flesh to teach us, guide us, and love us. Faith in a grander place and a grand design. Faith in humanity. Hope.

A successful relationship comes from knowing someone. You learn about their character. You grow to understand them. Through prayer, through reading Scripture, I’ve been able to understand more about the God I believe created the world. I have learned He is a God of love, not hate. He is a just God, who will punish evil, but at the same time, reminds me to live with peace and unity among all, including those who have different beliefs, make different choices, live different lives, and even with my enemies. He instructs me to pray for my enemy, those who hurt and betray me. Praying for those who hurt me does not wipe away the hurt, the wounds are not forgotten, and the pain is not removed, but the hate that could fill my heart is replaced by forgiveness, love, and hope. What could make me bitter, angry, and hate-filled, instead, allows me to look for the good, to appreciate the blessings, to love the unlovable. Religion is much more than a set of rules. It’s a relationship with the One who gave me life, and gave His own, in order that I may truly live. Without a relationship, without that appreciation, without the mercy and grace given as a gift, we have nothing.

Marriage does not work without communication.
Parenting without nurture wounds a child.
Religion without Christ, the giver of grace and mercy, is empty.

Perhaps we need to create some sort of substantial separation between what we define as religion and Faith. I’m not even sure that works because there are peaceful, loving Muslims. There are peaceful, loving, Buddhist. There are peaceful loving people in all sorts of “religions”. And there are broken people in them, just the same.

As a Christian, I believe we all need…we all need a savior and I believe the source of salvation is not in acts of goodness, service, kindness or in acts of control, hate, or murder. I believe our salvation is based solely on the grace and mercy of a loving God by His own flesh, Jesus Christ.

For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” Ephesians 2:8-10

Are bad things done in the name of religion? Yes.
Does that make religion bad? No.

But these words in my Bible, that I believe are breathed straight from God through man, serve as instruction and guidance for my life. They very clearly say that I am not saved by acts of kindness, service, or a good heart, nor am I saved by acts of evil, hate, or murder. I am saved by the acts of one sinless man, the very God I believe in, the one who created everything out of nothing, the one who fills darkness with light, the one who walked on earth in the form of flesh to experience the very same feelings and emotions we experience, in order to draw us closer to Him, to show He fully understands, to set an example before us of how to extend hope, love, and compassion to those around us, who created us with the purpose of doing good. Acts do not make me a Christian and believing in God does not make me good. I am a sinner. I have made bad choices. I have hurt people. Being a Christian, a believer in Christ, a follower of Christ, makes me a person who can freely admit that I have dished out my own fair share of wrongs and had wrongs done to me but am saved by the grace and mercy of one God, who took on the sins of the world through flesh, with the purpose that I will do good in His name. That in the name of God, because I have faith, I will love. I will show compassion. I will try to understand others. I will accept as they are, just as He has accepted me. I will pray for peace.

Do I profess to fully understand all of that? Nope.
Can I explain it without any doubt so that anyone else will also believe? Nope.
Do I have faith anyway? Yes.

There are a lot of “religious” people who spew hate and disgust at people who are different from them.  There are a lot of non-religious people who hate the religious bigots. That means there is a lot of hate going around. I don’t understand why this happens and I can’t explain the hate some are filled with.

Unresolved anger?
Fear?

Maybe there are no answers or maybe there are hundreds of answers.

What I do know is that we are designed with a desire and need to be with one another, to love one another, to support, encourage, and care for one another. From the moment a child is conceived, she has a need. She needs nourishment from her mothers body to enable her to grow inside her mothers womb. She needs comfort and protection as her organs form and she prepares to breath her first breath. And in that moment, the moment she takes her first breath, she needs love, comfort, and nourishment. Without those things, she will die. We are created to need one another.

While some people frown upon the word sin, one fact is, sin separates us. No matter what you believe or don’t believe, as a human being, you are not exempt from the effects of sin (or the wrong/bad choices people make). As a Christian, I believe sin separates us from God. I believe in a good God who can take no part in the evilness of sin, who mourns and grieves with us because of the evil in our broken world, but who promises us a place of peace and hope, to fill the emptiness left by the sinful acts committed by us or against us. As a person, who walks in the flesh, I believe sin separates us from each other. It doesn’t matter what religion you are or if you believe in anything, you are still subject to the effects of sin. Gossip destroys relationships, reputations, and lives. Infidelity puts walls between couples and robs them of the trust in their partner. Jealousy leads to dissatisfaction and a lack of thankfulness in the blessings of the meaningful things in our lives. Rape takes the innocence of an act designed to be pleasurable, fulfilling, intimate, and turns it into something horrific, a brutal, damaging form or torture that follows one throughout their life. Murder not only destroys the lives of many, but it robs the murdered of another moment, another breath, another chance to extend hope and love. It is an irreversible choice.

Sin, evil thoughts or acts, crimes of rape, murder, jealousy, infidelity, and so on, create in us a cold, dead heart. Not in the physical sense, but by us placing the value of a thing above the value of a person, in pursuing our own desires before those of another, in forcing things upon another against their will, in stealing ones innocence, in destroying the lives of others. It takes the love and warmth that was meant for us and replaces it with hate, anger, rage.

Religion did not destroy the lives of more than a hundred people at the Orlando shooting. Hate did.

While some claim hate in the name of religion, what people need to understand is, you cannot lump all those who have faith in a higher power under one title. Religion is not the source hate anymore than a tree is the source of money. An individual persons choices and actions are the source of and result of hate. Hate comes from many different people, religions, cultures, groups, beliefs, and so on. Hate can be found in a classroom, in a church, in a store, on a baseball field, in a group of friends, in a marriage, on a highway, or anywhere and in anyone’s heart.

So can love. It’s our choice what we fill our hearts with.

Religion – “the belief in a god or group of gods; an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god or group of gods; an interest, a belief, or an activity that is very important to a person or group.

Can religion be the source of hate? Yes.
Does that mean religion is evil or hate-filled? No.

There are many peaceful, loving, caring Muslims who believe their God is a God of peace. There are many Christians who pray daily for peace, grasping for bits of hope for a better tomorrow, believing in a loving God.

And then there are those who have their own motives, fueled by their brokenness, filled with hate.

I can only speak from the Christian perspective because it’s what I know.

Do religious people hurt people? Yes.
Do non-religious people hurt people? Yes.
Do Christians hurt people? Yes.
Do non-Christians hurt people? Yes.

Does the Bible speak of hate, murder, sexual immorality, punishment, war, and many other horrors? Yes. Does that make it hard to comprehend? Yes. Have countless people asked, “How can a loving God allow so much hurt and pain?” Of course. Is it possible for that to create doubt in a loving God? Yes.

Here’s the thing…doubt comes from a lack of understanding. I can say that because I’ve been there. For most of my life, I’ve doubted that I was worthy of the love of a good and loving God. I also spent many years believing He was punishing me for being a bad person. I lived in fear, doubt, hopelessness. I wanted to believe in a good and loving God but I couldn’t imagine one who would accept me.

Broken people need.

They need healing.
They need hope.
We are ALL broken.

At some point, in my own life, I knew I couldn’t make it on my own. I was in a place of desperation. The only choice I felt I had was to depend on a God I couldn’t see, one I feared hated me, one I was certain would never accept me, but one I placed my faith in anyway. It was a choice. I don’t take pride in any of the choices I have made but I am thankful for the direction my life took that led to the choice I made that sunny September morning in 2005. What I’ve learned is the God I believe in truly is a loving God. He chooses broken people. We are broken, created with many needs, leaving us each with empty places, that I believe, only He can fill. He uses broken people. He uses them for good…not evil.

So when someone commits a horrible crime, destroy lives, robbing them of a future, of hope, and they do so in the name of religion, we need to understand there is a difference in them, their beliefs, and mine. Religion is not hate. Religion is a group of people, worshiping a God they believe in, because it is important to them. That does not mean religion can be defined as hate.

Are there some religious people filled with hate? Yes.
Are there many other religious people filled with love? Yes.

Please don’t put us all in the same category based on misunderstanding of religion or the differences in religions.

Personally, I believe in Jesus Christ. I believe in forgiveness. I believe in hope. I believe that someday, there will be no more pain, tears, suffering. I believe because it’s what I need. It’s what works for me. I have lived through many tragedies of my own. I have lived a very broken life, with many hurts, many moments of darkness, and many thoughts of escaping this cruel world. I have questioned the God I believe in. There are things I will never understand.

I have sat alone in a cold, empty room, having had everything even down to my underwear stripped away from me and in that darkest, loneliest moment, the comfort of God’s words were all I had.

“I will not die but live, and proclaim what the Lord has done.” Psalm 118:17

Those words were with me that night. Whether you believe in God or not, I believe those words came from Him, over 2,000 years ago, and in that moment, He used them to comfort me, to give me peace, to restore my faith and bring life back to my worn and tattered soul. He gave me hope that I could breathe another breath, that I could face another tomorrow, that somehow, someway, I could help another through the struggles of this life as well. I was not alone. Though physically, I had nothing but a hard cot, a scratchy blanket, and a set of paper scrubs, I was not alone and He provided exactly what I needed in that very moment. Those words were everything.

And still, I find myself asking at times…

Why does a mother have to say goodbye to her child before it can even take it’s first breath?
Why do people fulfill their own sick desires by violating innocent children?
Why does a man walk into a night club and murder many innocent, precious, people?
Why do we not value each and every life, breath or no breath?
Why does a child face starvation and desperation?
Why are people hated because of the color of their skin, their physical disabilities, or their sexuality?

What brings a person to the point that he or she sees no value in the life of another?

I could go on and on with the questions but there are no answers. The only answer that brings me peace is that the God I believe in is faithful and promises hope, love, and healing. He promises to never abandon, to provide strength in times of need, to hear our cries, to mourn with us.

There may be religious people who hate. But religion itself is not hate. Religion is a group of people in a shared group of beliefs in either a God, laws, rituals or whatever. But hate is what fills a person. Religion may teach works, hate, or murder. Religion may teach hope, faith and love. Each of those things are what a person is filled with and each of those people are given a choice in what they will be filled with. A man who chose to murder 49 innocent people in the name of religion chose to be filled with hate. A person professing to be a Christian, shouting hate-filled statements of disgust and anger towards a group of people based on their sexuality, makes the choice to hate. A person who denying the beliefs of any greater power or a different higher being and in turn mocks, condemns, or ridicules someone else because of their differences in beliefs, chooses hate.

Why? Why are we so afraid of people who are different from us? Why are we offended when someone chooses something we don’t agree with? Why do we feel our beliefs and desires have to be the beliefs and desires of everyone? Why, like God, do we not allow people to make their own choices, and extend encouragement, support, and love? Perhaps if the gunman in Florida had been nurtured and loved, raised to accept the differences in others, to embrace those differences, to love in spite of differences, maybe he would have chosen love instead of hate.

And as a Christian, I know there are many “Christians” who express disgust towards homosexuals, yet when one is found guilty of adultery, gossip, slander, stealing, or something else they deem those “sins” as inadequate compared to what they believe is the sin of a homosexual. What someone does in their bedroom is their business. It’s not mine. It’s not yours. It’s theirs. If you believe in God, then you also know that Scripture says…

“Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. Romans 12:19

Basically, it says butt out. Mind your own business.

While that may sound harsh, leave the judgment to the God you believe in. If you feel the need to do something or say something, follow God’s word and pray. Don’t pray to change someone who’s different from you. Genuinely pray for them, that whatever is best for them will be, that the God you hold so highly, wrap them in His loving embrace and comfort them in any times of trouble. Cry out to God with your frustrations, concerns and fears. When we fail to trust the very God we expect others to follow and trust, we are no example to them. If we believe, as we say we do, in a loving and just God, then we should show our trust in Him by leaving the judgment and correction to Him and extend to others the grace and mercy He has given us.

The greatest commands are to love God and love others. Before anything else, we love God and others. A friend said to me, “Does your Bible say homosexuality is wrong?” Yes, it does. It also says tattoos, gossip, infidelity, stealing, murder and more are wrong. And it says we are all broken. It says we are all in need of something to fill our empty places. And it says we all have choices on what those empty places will be filled with. And it says if we choose to let those empty places be filled with love, we are full-filling the greatest and only commands we need to follow. By loving God and loving others, everything falls into place as it should.

“Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Matthew 22:36-39

“Make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.” 2 Peter 1:5-8

“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! For if, while we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son, how much more, having been reconciled, shall we be saved through his life! Not only is this so, but we also boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.” Romans 5:1-11

These are verses from my Bible. These are the commands of a loving, sovereign God.

Do bad things happen? Yes.
Does God punish people for the bad things they do? I believe He will.
Does He still mourn and grieve for those who turn from Him, those who do wrong, those who are hurt by the hands of another? I believe so.
Does He offer mercy, grace, and forgiveness? Yes.
Does He withhold that from anyone? No, it’s available to all.
Does He command us to do the same? Yes.

So while there are many things in Scripture that I may never understand, I do know God’s love is available to anyone. And I believe He loves everyone.

“… when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Romans 5:6

Christ died for the ungodly. Not the saints. Not the perfect people. Not the holier than thou. But for the broken, the needy, for all of us, not based on religion, sexuality, age, color, or name. We are all His creation. His desire is for not one person to be lost. But with that, He gives each of us the choice. He won’t force us to choose Him. We are free to make our own choices.

A religion may be a group of people who share a common belief, or even believe certain rituals or laws, but each individual is responsible for the choices they make. There are bad people and there are good people. There is sorrow and there is joy. There is pain and there is healing. What will you pour into others?

Many non-Christians or non-religious people say the Bible is filled with hate. I admit, there’s a lot in the Bible that makes very little sense to me, things I don’t think I’ll ever understand but as you really begin to understand the God of the Bible, you see, it’s His letter to us of guidance, hope, and love.

“We should not be like Cain, who was of the evil one and murdered his brother. And why did he murder him? Because his own deeds were evil and his brother’s righteous.” 1 John 3:12

Cain was evil. He was affected by sin. Each of us are given a choice. We can allow sin to control us or we can take control of that sin. Cain allowed his anger, his jealousy, to enrage him to the point he murdered his own brother. His deeds were evil. Cain made a choice to commit an evil act.

“For you formed my inward parts; you knitted me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well. My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw my unformed substance; in your book were written, every one of them, the days that were formed for me, when as yet there was none of them.” Psalm 139:13-16

Each an every heart that ever beats is precious in God’s eyes. Every single one. And each and every person is given choices in life. The hate-filled men who murdered thousands of innocent people in the name of religion as they brought a country to her knees on a beautiful September morning…they were created, intricately, in the depths of a woman’s womb, fearfully and wonderfully made. And in a broken world, they had a need. They had an emptiness that only God should fill. Instead, the choices they made led those empty places to be filled with hate and evil. What should have been filled with peace, love and hope, was occupied by plans of devastation and murder, and done in the name of religion.

But religion did not cause the events of that September day. Broken people, who made hate-filled choices did.

Does God allow evil?

Each of those twenty precious babies from Sandy Hook Elementary had value. They had value to their parents, to their families, to their friends, and to a loving God. Did God want fear, suffering, and death for them? I don’t believe so.

I believe from the very beginning, from the moment God took the dust of the earth and formed it into a man, He had a plan. A grand, beautiful plan, but a plan we would play part in. He could have created us as robots that followed everything He desired but instead, He allowed us to make that choice for ourselves. Without a choice, there would really be no meaning or no purpose in our lives. With choices, we would learn to put others before ourselves, to love one another, to mourn with each other, to laugh and be joy-filled together, to pray together, to live together. And with that, we would learn differences, and with differences would come jealousy, anger, and hate. And we would have a choice. We could choose to look beyond those differences in acceptance and love, or we could choose to allow bitterness to take root and grow into a hate-filled heart.

If God is all-knowing and in control, how do our choices make a difference?

Because He is all-knowing, He knows our hearts. Our comprehension and understanding is inadequate compared to Him. After all, He created everything, with a single breath. Can you do that? His ways are beyond our understanding. But He is good. His purposes are good. His desire is for us to choose Him, to come to Him in our own free will…not forced, but to make a choice to serve Him, a good, loving God. Being in control means He is aware of the outcome and in the end, He wins. Evil cannot win. Evil does not get the final say. Hate does not win. Love does.

Some people bring up the Old Testament laws and use them against Christians today, calling us hypocrites. I understand that and honestly, there really are plenty of hypocrites in the church, and outside the church. I’ve been one myself. Again, we are all broken people. I’ve been a thief. I’ve been jealous. I’ve gossiped. And on, and on, and on. And I’ve loved. I’ve served. I’ve grieved. I’ve suffered. You name it, I’ve probably done it. I’m broken just like anyone else.

But I have something that the man who walked into a night club and took the lives of 49 innocent, precious, beautiful sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, did not have. I have faith in a good and loving God. My religion is not hate. My religion is Christianity. I am a believer in Jesus Christ. I believe in a God who became flesh as an example of how to forgive, to love, to care for others, to bring comfort, to serve, to live. I believe in a God who became flesh to show me that He understands the temptations and sufferings I would experience on this earth and that He alone can provide the strength and courage needed. I believe in a God who promises to be with me through every moment of joy and through every painful tragedy. I believe in a God who is not filled with hate or disgust for any person, because after all, He created each and every one of us, loving us from before our hearts even beat for the first time, with a grand plan that someday, we would join Him in a peaceful and perfect world, but only after He allowed us to choose that for ourselves.

Religion is not hate. God is not hate. Evil is hate.

“The thief comes to steal, kill, and destroy. I have come that they may have life and have it abundantly.” John 10:10

People have a choice. Love or hate. Choose love. No matter what you believe, no matter what you’ve heard or what the media blows out of proportion. No matter the differences, no matter your location, no matter your history, no matter your future, choose love. Hate destroys what is meant to come together. Love brings unity and that is what God desires. We are “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” We are one nation. We are America. We are broken. We are all in need of something. Don’t let hate be what fills your empty places.

Let love win. Let love win. Let LOVE win!

 

 

Three T’s for Tuesday – 9/18/12 – Gossip

**What works for my family, may not be the right thing for your family but I have learned a lot through trial and error, mistake and prayer.  I am no expert on families, but I am an expert on mine.  My opinions and suggestions are simply that, opinions and suggestions.  Take from them what works for you and put aside the rest :)

Today’s Three T’s for Tueday:  Tackling Tough Topics is…

Sins of the tongue:  Gossip

What are your thought on gossip?

Ephesians 4:29 says, “Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear.”

Gossip can have devastating effects on a persons life.  The beginning of gossip can seem very innocent, but after, it spreads like wildfire through a group of people, it changes, comes out fierce, out of control.  What began as a simple little spark can turn into a full blown inferno.

In a recent Bible study on the book Proverbs, one suggestion from Author, Wendy Blight, on the topic of gossip was, asking a set of questions before choosing to talk about something or someone:

Is it helpful?
Is it kind?
Is it necessary?
Is it true?

If you can answer yes to all of those, then there’s probably no harm in discussing it but what if you answered no?

We need to carefully think about the things we are saying.  Our words are so powerful.  We can crush spirits and break hearts simply by the words we choose to speak.  At the same time, we have the power to encourage, support and love through those very same words.  It’s a choice we are given and not a choice that always comes easy.

For me, gossip has been a struggle.  It’s something I have to work very hard at to avoid.  In recent months, I have felt very strong convictions about the words I use, what I say and when I say them.  I have made plenty of mistakes with my words but thankfully am learning to hold my tongue, that I don’t always have to have something to say.

A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.  Proverbs 15:1

The words of a whisperer are like delicious morsels; they go down into the inner parts of the body. Proverbs 26:22

A gossip betrays a confidence, but a trustworthy man keeps a secret.  Proverbs 11:13

A gossip betrays a confidence; so avoid a man who talks too much.  Proverbs 20:19

A prudent man keeps his knowledge to himself, but the heart of fools blurts out folly.  Proverbs 12:23

Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body.  Proverbs 16:24

Whoever keeps his mouth and his tongue keeps himself out of trouble.  Proverbs 21:23

The Bible is very clear about how powerful our words are.  There are many verses that refer to taming our tongue, choosing our words carefully, avoiding gossip and using our words to build up, encourage, love and teach one another.

I don’t always get it right and sometimes I let gossip win.  My prayer is that you and I will overcome this battle with love in our hearts, knowing that we have the choice to either tear someone down or build them up.

Which will you choose?

Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person.  Colossians 4:6

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

Security in Christ…

Sometimes our security is shaken.  
We are left feeling uneasy, vulnerable, scared, worried, violated.

Today I seek reassurance that says…

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble.  Psalm 9:9

The LORD is my rock, my fortress and my deliverer; my God is my rock, in whom I take refuge. He is my shield and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold.  Psalm 18:2
One thing I ask of the Lord, this is what I seek:  that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple.  For in the day of trouble he will keep me safe in his dwelling; he will hide me in the shelter of his tabernacle and set me high upon a rock.  Psalms 27:4-5

Yes, the LORD is my rock, my fortress.  Even when I feel insecure in my earthly home, He is my fortress.  In Him, I take refuge.  He shields me from the pain of worldly actions, violations.  

I have to remember, we are safe.

While my family and I celebrated our freedoms, others took advantage of their freedoms and broke into our home.  They stole things that we have worked hard for.  Things we’ve sacrificed for.  Things we dreamed of.  Things we’ve waited years to get.  They damaged our beautiful home that we bought just 8 short months ago.  

Most of all, they stole our sense of security.  While we did have an alarm and it did activate and the police did come, the crooks had long enough to take a few of our valuables and do some damage.  It was enough to cause us to lose that safe feeling.  It was enough to rattle our nerves.  

It was enough to shake us but they will not break us.

God has promised me…

The salvation of the righteous comes from the LORD; he is their stronghold in time of trouble.  Psalm 37:39

God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble.  Psalm 46:1

When calamity comes, the wicked are brought down, but even in death the righteous have a refuge.  Proverbs 14:32

Though the mountains be shaken and the hills be removed, yet my unfailing love for you will not be shaken nor my covenant of peace be removed,” says the LORD, who has compassion on you.  Isaiah 54:10

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.  John 14:27

So today, as we continue to celebrate the freedoms we have in this country, I also mourn.  I mourn for the security that was stolen from my family.  I mourn for the loss of worldly things that we treasured but most of all…
I mourn for the lost souls who have such a crappy life they felt they needed to steal some of our joy.  I can only imagine how their lives are that they had to stoop to this level.  I pray that as they grabbed the laptop from my desk which was sitting right beside of my open Bible, they glanced at the pages.  I pray they saw some of the verses hanging on my walls in front of them.  I pray that when they dig through the life I had on my laptop, they see the images from this blog, the Bible studies I worked hard to prepare, the many moments I captured on camera, the joyous music of a glorious God, that they are overcome with heaviness, guilt and shame.  Perhaps my life can bring change to theirs.  I pray that God touches their hearts, that they find peace in their lives to live better ways, not destroying the lives of those around them.  

Even though the very human part of me will still feel anger, hurt and fear, the wisdom of my soul is at peace knowing that I am well.

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

The not so lovely truth about baggage…

I must admit, I’m a girl who loves bags!
Just ask anyone that knows me and they will tell you, I go through purses like babies go through diapers.  My husband would certainly agree that I have a slight huge obsession with bags.
The pic above is from my current stash of bags.  My collection has been purged many times over the years.  I have learned that I am very fond of a particular style and keep going back to that same style which is why I’ve hung on to most of these. 
On the left, there’s a blue & green flower print w/ Phil. 4:13 on it – that’s our church bag!  All the Bibles go in it as we head to church and I keep my current Bible study stuff in it.  It’s a nifty Thirty One utility tote ;)
Notice the bright yellow in the frontthat’s my hot new bag!  I snagged this beauty by Nine & Co. at JCPenney over the weekend.  Yes, I *had* to get the matching wallet because it’s also yellow and all this fabulous yellow will match the tiny huge order of more bags I have coming after a recent Thirty One party at our place.

– shameless plug:  be sure to visit my friend Kelly at the Thirty One links above to get your own awesome bags! –
{ Might I add, encouraging a bag party might not be the best idea for a girl who drools over bags (aka bag addict).  Perhaps an intervention might have been a better idea! *wink* }
So what’s my point in all this?
As much as I love bags, I don’t love baggage!
Baggage is defined as…
1. The trunks, bags, parcels, and suitcases in which one carries one’s belongings; luggage.
2. The movable equipment and supplies of an army.
3. Superfluous or burdensome practices, regulations, ideas, or traits.
Baggage is…
regret, disappointment, shame, guilt, anger, fear, anxiety, hate.
heavy.  it weighs us down.
tiring & exhausts us. it wears us out.
occupies too much of us, leaving too little for the important things.

Or as we know it, it’s all the crud we’ve stuffed away in our pockets (our hearts & minds), lugging it around with us every day, weighing us down, leading us to depression, wearing out our bodies, our minds, our spirit, attacking our hearts, our attitudes, and leaving us open to Satan’s attacks.

The baggage in my life has piled up about as quickly as my purse pile grows.  I’ve had to learn to let go of a lot of baggage – that is, give it to God!  He is capable of carrying all the things we drag around.  He can carry my baggage without worry, without anger, without resentment and all the while, He remains caring, loving and gentle.  I don’t have to worry about the strain I put on Him but the freedom it has given me is big huge! 

While I still struggle with my bag obsession, I am happily learning to let go of the baggage that weighs me down and keeps me from glorifying God.  
Hand your bags to God – He will gladly carry them!
The LORD is near to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit.  Psalm 34:18
Jesus replied, “What is impossible with men is possible with God.”  Luke 18:27
I can do everything through him who gives me strength.  Philippians 4:13
Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take.  Proverbs 3:5-6
Give all your worries and cares to God, for he cares about you.  1 Peter 5:7
I am thankful for these gentle reminders that I don’t have to carry around a lot of baggage – God will carry it for me! 

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

Letting go and moving forward…

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Colossians 3:12-14
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.  Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.  Forgive as the Lord forgave you.  And over all these virtues, put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Ephesians 4:29-32
Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.  And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, with whom you were sealed for the day of redemption.  Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.  Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Wow!  That sure isn’t easy to live by!

“clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.”

Compassion?  Kindness?  Humility?  Gentleness?  Patience?

What if we feel betrayed, offended, put down, hurt?  You mean I have to show compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience?

“Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another.”

You mean I have to forgive?

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.

What?!  I shouldn’t express my anger and frustration about others?  I shouldn’t complain about the way they treat me?

“Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger, brawling and slander, along with every form of malice.”

I have to get rid of bitterness, rage and anger?  Why can’t I be mad?  When someone does something wrong or hurts me, why shouldn’t I be angry with them?

“Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.”

And again, I have to forgive?  But I didn’t do anything wrong .. why should I forgive?

These are all questions I have asked over the years.  In fact, I’ve asked them many times over the years and some of them even recently.  Some things I have learned over the past year or so have really helped me in recent times when I find myself going back to these same questions.

Put your focus on God, not others
This one I have struggled with all my life.  I am a people watcher.  I have said before, I spent much of my time in church watching everyone else, seeing who they are sitting with, what they’re wearing, how their hair is fixed, etc.  My ears failed to hear what God had to say because my eyes were too focused on the people around me.  When I made the choice to stop watching everyone around me, I was finally able to start hearing God’s messages.

Find peace through God’s word
This is hard.  I don’t care for change.  Change sometimes means moving on, from things we love.  Just as we have to grow up, we also have to learn to accept change.  Several years ago, I was in the mindset that if things changed, it would be devastating to me.  It would have sent me into a whirlwind of emotions.  Now, when facing change, even though it may still be difficult, I face it with the help of my Bible, God’s word.  I have found so much peace in recent storms just by simply embracing my time with God.  Things that would have sent me spiraling, have now lost that power.  There is power in God’s word! 

*Choose* to live by Gods word
Choose being the key word…we have choices in life.  We can choose to lash out at others or we can choose to be careful with our words.  We can choose to harbor anger with others or we can choose to forgive them.  We have many, many choices in life.  I have not always made the best choices.  Sometimes I still make bad choices.  My choices in life affect those around me as well.  That’s something I never considered until recently.  I have learned that others choices have impacted my own life, affected the lives of my children, my family and others around me.  The choices weren’t necessarily the right ones, but I have to live with them anyway.  Learning this has made me more aware of my own choices and how they impact my life and the lives of those around me.  I find myself thinking a lot more than I use to.  I have always been very quick to act or speak.  I now find myself really thinking out my words before I say them, sometimes not even saying them at all.  I am slower to act and react to situations because I try to think about the outcome and how my actions will affect the situation.  Does it better it or bring more harm?  It may seem like the whimpy way out but that’s fine by me.  I won’t always get this right and I am sure this is something I will continue to struggle with but I will also continue to work on it and pray about it.

When doors close, God opens new doors
This one is huge for me!  In the past few years, I was secure in my friendships and yet I had turmoil inside.  I battled with making sacrifices for the sake of others.  I was a go with the flow kind of gal, sacrificing my own interests and desires for the sake of others.  I tried to be a people pleaser but it just wasn’t working for me.  Slowly, I backed away from many of the situations that were stirring up the emotions inside me but it was hard to completely let go.  Well, God had His hand on that and closed some doors.  At the same time, He opened new doors.  I started this blog, I started my classes at church, I joined online Bible studies, etc.  I strongly believe that was all God.  His plan for my life was to open doors that would bring me closer to Him and close the doors that were pulling me away from Him.  I am so grateful!  Even though it has been hard letting go of some things, I know that this is the best direction for my life and my family.  My patience is better with my children.  My heart is stronger for my friends.  My faith is stronger.  My trust is stronger.  My love for God is growing more every day.  I am learning how to keep my focus on Him in everything I do.

Do I still mess up?  Yes.  I admit, I still get it all wrong.  I still get angry.  I still get my feelings hurt.  I still ask why things have to change.  I still question if some of my choices are the right choices.  I still wonder if some doors can be reopened.

The thing that puts rest to those questions is knowing where I have been, embracing where I am now and looking forward to where I am headed.  Every time doubt starts to show itself, a verse will fill my mind or the desire to pick up my Bible will run through me.

Jeremiah 29:11  “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future.”

© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com

Thoughts on the church…

Scary title?  I felt a bit of a tremble run through my veins as I typed it.  Could this provoke different responses?  Sure!

The past couple days, I have followed a blog that I found through a friend.  The blog shared thoughts on leaving the church as well as thoughts on staying in the church.  What I found more interesting than the blog itself were the multiple responses the blog had provoked.  There were responses of hate, anger and frustration.  There were also responses of encouragement, hope and trust.  People of all ages, denominations and titles shared their thoughts.  If you’re interested in following that yourself, you’ll find it here and here.

While reading through these responses, I thought of my own experiences in the church.  Growing up, my family wasn’t very consistent with attending church.  Sometimes we’d go regularly for a few months and then we’d slack off and it would be a special occasion like Easter or Christmas that we’d go.  As a young girl, it felt like it was really more about dressing pretty and sitting quietly than it was about knowing God.

I don’t know if this is typical for a Methodist church, but most of the folks in the Methodist church I grew up in were quiet frankly, old.  This coming from my 6-18 year old self who saw very little other than white hair and wrinkles as I sat in the sanctuary snuggled up to my grandpa while his mouth dropped open to let out a quiet snore.  Did he sleep through the services often?  Yep, from what I remember, that was a regular part of our Sunday morning worship.  I know I napped through the sermons regularly.  Did that mean my grandpa loved God any less?  NOPE!  Not at all, in fact, he was one of the most Godly men I have ever known.  There was more Christ-like actions and attitude in him than I have ever seen from any one person.  Do I agree with everything he did or believed?  Nope.  But here’s the thing – he grew up in a different time than I did.  His life and situations were different.  Things were accepted then that most certainly are not accepted now and vice versa – there are some things we accept now that they would most certainly not have accepted then.  Did he always make the right choices?  No.  But I saw in him, a man who lived for God, who loved God and who had the heart of Christ.  That was enough for me to see that a person could make mistakes and it didn’t mean that he loved God any less, it simply meant he was human and emphasized the perfectness of Jesus and only Jesus.

I once visited a church – I believe they claimed to be a Southern Baptist church but they were nothing like the Southern Baptist church I have been a member of for years now.  That particular church left me feeling afraid and uneasy about church and about God.  I was afraid the preacher was either going to lash out and kill us all or fall over dead from a massive heart attack.  I simply am not comfortable with the style of preaching he used and quickly knew that was not the church for me.

My husband grew up in our church.  He has many fond memories of youth activities and a relationship with God.  Is he a sinner?  Of course.  Did his going to church make him always choose the right path?  No, not at all.  We are all sinners and we will always mess things up and make mistakes.  I believe the key in overcoming our faults and shortcomings is our ability to be honest with ourselves and with God.  Can you openly admit your wrong?  Can you go to God and ask for forgiveness?  Can you forgive yourself?

As I said, my husband grew up in the church we go to.  I have been a member there since 2007 but have attended since we got married in 1999.  It has been our perfect church for many reasons over the years:

It’s where my husband grew up.
His family is there.
He knew everyone.
The pastor married us.
There are a lot of kids there.
It’s good socially for our kids.
There’s lots of young people.
There’s lots of people, period.
They offer a lot of activities.
They have a lot of classes to choose from.
They have a big Vacation Bible School.
My kids will have lots of friends.
I will have lots of friends.
Life will be perfect.

Those were my thoughts years ago.  I went to church because I married Tony and his family went there and I was expected to go there as well.  I went to church because our son could have lots of friends to play with and grow up with a large group of kids (remember, my old Methodist church and all the older folks?  There were only about 5 kids total in our whole church).  I went to church because the pastor had married us and I didn’t want to “look bad” because I wasn’t there.

I struggled with many things in the early years of our marriage.  I struggled with a very deep, dark depression.  I avoided everyone.  In fact, I didn’t come to church and often sent our son with my mother-in-law so that he could have everything our church would offer but I wanted none of it.  I didn’t *need* the church.  In my mind, I could love God just as much from the comfort of my home.  While that may be true, I wasn’t living it.  I wasn’t loving God just as much.  I wasn’t living for God.  I was consumed by my own self-pity and darkness.  No one knew me, sought me out or realized what kind of darkness I was struggling with.  Was that there fault?  Not really, but I guess it might have been nice if someone had noticed.  Maybe I didn’t even make that possible.  Where am I going with all this?

I was there for all the wrong reasons.  Did you figure that out by my list?  The sad thing is, I’m sure I wasn’t and am not alone.  I am most certain there are many, many people there for the wrong reasons and many of them, like me, don’t even realize they aren’t there for the right reasons.  It was like I was blind to what church was all about.  I couldn’t see past the glitz and glamor.  I couldn’t see beyond the idea of status quo.  I couldn’t get past my shame.  I couldn’t be honest about myself because I was afraid I wouldn’t be accepted so I chose not to accept.

Until about a year ago, I was getting as much out of church as I did when I slept through it on the pew of the Methodist church I grew up in.  I might as well have been sleeping, but, I finally woke up.  Let me tell you, when God wakes you up, He really wakes you up.  I went from sleeping to totally on fire for God.

I am awake.
I am alive.
I am excited.
I am driven.
I am focused.
I am consumed.

The church – helped me get there.  I don’t know that there is any one, perfect church and certainly there are no perfect people in the church.  We all have our stories, our histories, our faults, our shortcomings, our strongholds, our weaknesses, etc.  but we also have our strengths and it’s the folks who chose to show their strengths and use them for God’s glory that helped me get to where I’m at.  Some folks, who were weak like me, were also part of the stepping stones in the path God laid before me.  He used other people to help wake me up.  Were they all perfect?  Nope!  Were some of them in church for the wrong reasons?  Most definitely!  Did that make them any less capable of impacting someone else?  No.

So, my point is, our actions and our beliefs are seen and heard whether our hearts are in the right place or not.  Sometimes, our faults can help others see a path they don’t want to go down.  We can learn from our own and others mistakes.  Other times, someone says just the right thing at the right time and a whole new perspective opens our eyes.  It’s when we choose not to be a part of it at all, that we are lost, or at least it was in my case.  The time I spent hiding from everyone was safe and comfortable but yet I was miserable and consumed with darkness, anger, fear, anxiety, etc.  The time I spent in the church was uncomfortable and has had many hurts, lots of drama, things I have had to experience not because I wanted to but because we are born sinners and because we make bad choices, we say the wrong things, we make mistakes and we are human.  Putting yourself into a place with people whom none of which are perfect is at some point, without a doubt, going to lead to hurt feelings, drama and chaos.

Through all of that, I have found God.  I didn’t find him at home, alone, in my safe, dark place.   I found him through people who chose to lead me, love me and even those who hurt me.

Perhaps, it was more that He found me – in His home, rather than in mine. 

Ephesians 1:18-23  18 I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his holy people, 19 and his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength 20 he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, 21 far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come. 22 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, 23 which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.  
© The Imperfect Princess at theimperfectprincess.com