Monday, January 28, 2013

Confession #37 - Love Thy Neighbor? Are you kidding me?

Honestly this post has been sitting in my list of blogs that I have yet to publish because I haven't been quite sure if I wanted to tell the whole world about this, but frankly after this last "incident" it's time.  I need to get this off my chest but also I need to begin the forgiveness and healing process, so here goes...

For the last 13 years we've live on a relatively quite street with fairly decent neighbors, but for the last two years my husband has become the target of one of our neighbor's (whom I believe is a sociopath) misguided anger.  Each time my husband is outside, the neighbor (who must watch for him) comes outside and as my husband passes on the opposite side of the street the neighbor hurls insults and foul language at him.  He always makes sure that no one else is around when he does it and then he taunts him by saying everything he can think of to get  him to come across the street for a physical confrontation.

Thank the Lord it has never come to that.  For the most part, my husband ignores him.  However, on occasion Vince has made comments back.  To which I have always encouraged my husband to ignore him and to forgive him that he has mental problems and the like....

Let me say that writing this post is not an excuse to "out" this person.  He will remain unnamed.   What I will say is...He is married to a nice lady, and has a few lovely children.  Additionally this man is a member of my church.  At church his personality is likened to a pillar of the community, but at home he is an evil man.  He has his wife and some other neighbors convinced that Vincent is the problem.  What makes the situation even more odd is the fact that we have been neighbors for as long as I've lived here and have only just realized his hatred.  Every year I'd bring his family cookies at Christmas, invite them over to our home; an invitation they've never accepted, hired him to do work for us, and when hurricane Wilma hit in 2005 Vince was on his roof nailing up a tarp. 

This situation has effected our marriage in the past because these verbal attacks have cause my husband to pent up rage and that would end up coming out on myself and sometimes even my daughter.  Thankfully we have worked through those issues but since this ugly man hasn't gotten the response he wants he's hitting verbally below the belt.  That brings me to yesterday...

This horrible man laughed at my husband and basically said he was happy that our dog Nicolas died.  Vince didn't really respond but when he came in and told me what he said I lost it!  I was on my way to confront him and my husband had to restrain me.  To me that's the same thing as saying that he's glad my kid died.  God forbid!

I don't know if it's the just Italian in me but I was ready to go to the mattresses and make him an offer he can't refuse.  I had thoughts of callin' up "Uncle Louie" and arranging a kneecap removal if you know what I mean.  After doing everything in my power not to react to this terrible thing I decided to pray for him.  And so I did, but the evil thoughts continued to invade my mind until I posted on facebook:

"What do you do when someone laughs in your face and says that they are happy your dog died? To me that is equivalent to saying that they are happy a family member died. It was a severe test of restraint. Please pray that God would continue to give me restraint and to help me to forgive him. Additionally please pray for this horrible man to find the love of Christ in his ugly black heart."
A friend who knows the situation wrote:

Her:   Gotta be that terrible neighbor of yours, right? Oh I am soooo mad reading this . I am sorry Jo.
Me:    Yup it was him
Her:    r u kidding me? Unreal.... I am amazed you haven't "outed" this apparently very misguided 'Christian'. That IS restraint !!!
Me:    Well I guess I just did. So much for restraint. :(
Her:    Do not feel bad. You do not have a mean bone in your body- and you have been a loving and forgiving neighbor despite this person's continued intentional meanness. Of course you will forgive, because you are intentional about being Christlike. Praying for the whole situation. Love you
That's just the point.  I didn't need to show restraint.  I needed to be Christlike.  I want to always be intentional about being Christlike, but once again I stumbled and I needed that loving reminder that my thoughts were far from that.  I allowed evil to invade my heart and it had hold of me for nearly an entire day.  I wasn't joking about the kneecap thing, I actually thought about it and quite a bit more.  Then I remembered that if I'm choosing Christ, I have to die to self.  I must live a sacrifical life.

The Apostle John taught us well in his message in 1 John 3:7-24

"So, my dear children, don’t let anyone divert you from the truth. It’s the person who acts right who is right, just as we see it lived out in our righteous Messiah. Those who make a practice of sin are straight from the Devil, the pioneer in the practice of sin. The Son of God entered the scene to abolish the Devil’s ways.  People conceived and brought into life by God don’t make a practice of sin. How could they? God’s seed is deep within them, making them who they are. It’s not in the nature of the God-begotten to practice and parade sin. Here’s how you tell the difference between God’s children and the Devil’s children: The one who won’t practice righteous ways isn’t from God, nor is the one who won’t love brother or sister. A simple test.
For this is the original message we heard: We should love each other.
We must not be like Cain, who joined the Evil One and then killed his brother. And why did he kill him? Because he was deep in the practice of evil, while the acts of his brother were righteous. So don’t be surprised, friends, when the world hates you. This has been going on a long time.
The way we know we’ve been transferred from death to life is that we love our brothers and sisters. Anyone who doesn’t love is as good as dead. Anyone who hates a brother or sister is a murderer, and you know very well that eternal life and murder don’t go together.
This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves. If you see some brother or sister in need and have the means to do something about it but turn a cold shoulder and do nothing, what happens to God’s love? It disappears. And you made it disappear.
My dear children, let’s not just talk about love; let’s practice real love. This is the only way we’ll know we’re living truly, living in God’s reality. It’s also the way to shut down debilitating self-criticism, even when there is something to it. For God is greater than our worried hearts and knows more about us than we do ourselves.
And friends, once that’s taken care of and we’re no longer accusing or condemning ourselves, we’re bold and free before God! We’re able to stretch our hands out and receive what we asked for because we’re doing what he said, doing what pleases him. Again, this is God’s command: to believe in his personally named Son, Jesus Christ. He told us to love each other, in line with the original command. As we keep his commands, we live deeply and surely in him, and he lives in us. And this is how we experience his deep and abiding presence in us: by the Spirit he gave us."  The Message

Here John, like my dear friend has reminded me that I need to live in love not evil if I want to show I am a Christ follower.

Thank the Lord that our Heavenly Father sent His son; a man of flesh and blood to model before us what our Father wants us to do when faced with evil.

There are people in our lives that hurt us everyday.  People that inflict verbal, emotional and physical pain.  But we are no better than the evil they display if we are not walking in love.  I'm not suggesting that you stay in a situation that continues to cause constant pain, because I don't believe that is what God wants for us.  But we must forgive those who have caused the pain and to love them anyway.  Albeit from a safe distance.

So dear sisters as you create the safe barrier between yourself and the one who hurts you remember to love them anyway.  It's very difficult to try do this in our human nature that is why God gave us His Spirit.  It's supernatural to love under such circumstances, but God will give you the strength to do it through the Holy Spirit that lives in us.  If you do not have the Holy Spirit you cannot do it at all.

Dear Heavenly Father, please dear Lord forgive me for my ugly heart against this man.  Please help me to love him no matter what he has to say.  Lord help me to be Christlike in all circumstances with all people.  Help me to love my neighbor and so I pray for him too that your love would override his evil heart and he would be changed.  Bless his life right now and forgive him, for he knows not what he does.  And for my dear sisters who have struggled with this issue dear Lord, please forgive them as well and teach them to love thy neighbor in all circumstances.  In Jesus Name I pray AMEN.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Confession #36 - That Ugly Green-Eyed Monster

Boy lately I've been feeling really sorry for myself.  More than that I've been entertaining that ugly green-eyed monster, jealousy.  The thoughts that have invaded my mind are, "Why can they succeed an not me?  Why do I have to struggle so hard?  I'm a good Christian and they follow the way of the world.  This stinks.  Life isn't fair!  It just isn't fair!"  Can you hear that teeny tiny violin playing my heart bleeds for you?  The radio station in my mind that I've been subscribing to this last week plays it over and over and over. 

I'm spilling the beans because frankly, I'm seriously convicted.  I know that what I'm actually doing is failing to trust God.  I'm failing to remember that He will give me victory through prayer in the areas of my life that others seem to come by naturally or have a benefactor to run and assist them when they need it.  They may have human benefactors, but what I'm forgetting is that I have God for my benefactor.  Humans have limitations, and God has no limitations. 

King David before he was crowned King spent many years of his life running from King Saul who wanted him executed.  King Saul had everything that King David would have, fame, fortune, success but in his heart King Saul was wicked.  He turned from God to serve himself and follow soothsayers and the like.  David on the other hand was trapped in the wilderness, hiding in caves.  As exampled by many of the psalms David wrote, most of the time he was tormented by his circumstances and would cry out to God in agony.  This has been my lately, tormented by my struggles in life, watching others succeed in their wicked ways.  However, as I was searching through the Psalms I came across this verse, "He will make your righteous reward shine like the dawn, your vindication like the noonday sun.  Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him; do not fret when people succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes.
Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil." Psalm 37:6-8.

That ugly green-eyed monster is only leading me to evil.  God was preparing David to be King and the adversity he faced during his "cave days" is what God was using to mold him into the King he wanted him to be; a man after God's own heart.  David learned to rely solely upon the joy, and rest, and peace that came from God rather than his struggles.  James 1:1-3 says, "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance."

It's time for me to kill off the ugly green-eyed monster dwelling in my heart and give way to knowing and trusting that God has a purpose and a plan for my life and that during this struggle he is preparing me for a better tomorrow.

"Dear Heavenly Father, I am sorry for feeling jealous of others who manage to succeed where I struggle.  I'm sorry for feeling sorry for myself when others are handed things that I have to work hard to earn.  I thank you for the trials I face because I know you are working on me through them and producing the woman you want me to be.  And Dear Lord, for my sisters-in-Christ who have been living with their own ugly green-eyed monsters I pray that you will reveal to them just how ugly it is to be jealous."  In Jesus Name AMEN.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Confession #35 - There's no place like home, the comfort zone

It's 2013!  The start of a new year and with it comes the promise of opportunity and change.  Most of us have spent time ironing out our resolutions and putting them into practice.  I too have considered what needs altering in my life and how to go about doing it, but I'm concerned that my Dorothy Gale complex is getting in the way. 

"There's no place like home there's no place like home there's no place like home", Dorothy repeated those words over and over again until she woke from her Oz slumber and was reunited with her family.  Despite the fact that Dorothy had visited an incredible new land, met new friends, faced her fears and overcame tremendous peril, Dorothy couldn't wait to get back to her comfort zone, home.  Dorothy was terrified on her the journey inside the tornado.  When she readched the destination a wonderous, magical land managed to smiled and was friendly and gracious however, she remained on her a quest to get out of there an and back to where she felt safe.  Despite the fact that she was running away from home in the first place not to mention that she completely forgot she had a guardian who watched over her every move and when she need help it miraculously appeared. 

I used to think that I loved to travel, but truthfully, what I like is the destination; I hate the journey.  I want the instant fun, instant gratification. 

When I went to Italy back in 2001, I hated the journey.  The plane ride was brutal, touring the country in the motor coach was grueling but seeing the sites, immersing in the culture, and eating the incredible food made it all good, but after a few weeks of no cold drinks (they don't believe in using ice cubes), not being able to use my own hair dryer because of the wattage issues, enduring horrible swelling in my legs and feet, and just being outside my comfort zone, I was jonezing for home!  Because frankly, "There's no place like home."  My comfort zone.

To sum it all up, like Dorothy, I feared and hated the journey, I somewhat enjoyed the destination,  but after a short time, all I wanted to do is turn back for home.  What does that have to do with change?  Well, the problem that the Dorothy complex brings is that change requires a difficult journey, and a new destination, a permanent change in your comfort zone.  To be successful in making any change you have to be willing to not just endure the journey but to embrace it, and you must love your destination enough to want to stay put if not you're going to return to your comfort zone no matter the cost.

What I want to change most this year is my health.  I want to finally do whatever it takes to loose this weight.  However, having done this in the past, I know a few more things about myself.  I know that I hate the journey, the sacrifice of eating whatever I want whenever I want, the regiment of exercise, the pain of sore muscles, the discomfort of sweating, and the torment of the hard grueling work it takes to burn off the fat.  I enjoyed the destination, feeling energetic, confident and happy.  However operating in this new place was still scary for me.  I didn't know how to navigate around in my new destination and so I returned to my comfort zone a few short years later.  I do want to reach the destination, but if I cannot learn to enjoy the journey, and ultimately change how I will mentally deal with my new destination by figuring out how to keep myself there, I know that once again I will return to my comfort zone. 

I hate the idea of going through the difficult process of loosing theweight again, only to put it all back on simply because I'm not comfortable in my new skin.  Because honestly, there is no surrender for this Dorothy!

So my question is this, how do I make my change permanent?  How can I change how I feel about my new life?  How do I mentally push the fear and discomfort aside to be happy in my new skin?  I know this may sound strange to many of you who think I'd be so happy if I could just loose this weight.  But search yourself for a while.  Why did you put it on in the first place?  Where you like me?  Did you put on the weight as a shield of comfort?  Because frankly, once you shed that armor you will be completely vulnerable again.  If your not ready to deal with that vulnerability you are likely to return to your comfort zone.  I don't want that for you or myself.  So I am posing the question of how can I embrace the destination before I even begin the journey? 

Please do not think that I'm a downer or looking to give up before I even get started.  No, on the contrary, I want to start out knowing that I'm not going to return, that I'm not just visiting, I'm relocating,.  Frankly, that takes more than just a commitment to get to my destination it's a change that requires me to want to stay put in a new comfort zone.  I know I can get there, I've done it before, but can I stay there???? 

Dorothy wanted to get back to her comfort zone so badly that she neglected the fact that she just fought off an evil wicked witch with only a bucket of water!  She freed an entire land of oppression.  She had a powerful guardian watching over her and offering help in her times of need.  If she missed her family so much, she could have figured out a way to get Aunt Em, Uncle Henry and the rest of them to come to her instead of returning to where she felt comfortable.  She could have stayed in Oz, but she chose to return to what was familiar.  Dorothy also had the power of the ruby slippers on her all along, to take her wherever she wanted, but didn't know how to access that power until her guardian, Glinda showed her how. 

I put on this weight to shield me from my fears.  But as the bible tells me in Ephesians 6:12, "For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms".  This is a deeper battle that I face than simply loosing weight.  This is facing the fierce wicked witch the devil and overcoming the oppession that keeps me from being the woman that God created me to be.  It's a spiritual battle.  Like the ruby slippers I have the power of the Holy Spirit within myself to overcome spiritual battles if I seek the Lord to show me how to access it.  Romans 8:25 says, "Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words."

Additionally, it's time to face my fears knowing that in my faith I have a whole new arsenal of weapons to fight these spiritual battles with that I did not have the last time. Ephesians 6:13 goes on to say, "Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, ( as I see it: temptation, fear, anxiety, discomfort) you may be able to stand your ground, (stay put in your new surroundings)  and after you have done everything, to stand. (the journey the hard work it took to loose that weight.) Ephesians 6:14-18, "Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place, and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace.  In addition to all this take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one.  Take the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.  And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests.  With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints."  That's how we can stay put knowing that we are protected and safe with our powerful guardian, our Savior and Lord looking out for us in our times of need and weakeness.

The bible also tells that, "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" 2 Corinthians 5:17.  I'm a new creation in Christ and so are you.  When we became Christians we moved to a new destination, a new comfort zone and we are perfectly fine.  We can conquer the fear, enjoy the journey and stay put in our new comfort zone, "...being strong in the Lord, and in his mighty power." Ephesians 6:10

I can do this, and so can you.  It's not going to be easy.  The bible tells us that, "Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour."  Lions and tigers and bears, Oh My!  But we don't have to be afraid, we can overcome if we clothe ourselves in God's holy armor.

Dear Heavenly Father, as I embark on my journey to good health Father I pray for you to lead me, protect me and keep me from evil.  Help me to keep my new destination in mind and to know that I have nothing to fear when I arrive.  And precious Lord, please help my dear sisters who chant, "There's no place like home,"  to understand that, "...that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope." Romans 5:3-4.  Give us the power and the perseverance to reach our goal and the peace to stay put once we get there.  In Jesus precious name I pray, AMEN!

I'll keep you posted on my spirtiual battle.  I hope and pray that we all overcome!