Sand and Water #2 Intuition

While packing for this trip, I contemplated what we really wanted to schlep bring with us.  After getting all 5 bikes out, I looked long and hard at our helmets.  We obey helmet laws on a regular basis, but at the beach, you seldom see people wearing helmets on the sand.  I remember our last beach trip, and the helmets were in the way more than anything.

I threw them in the van, but then considered taking them back out for more usable space for luggage.  In a moment, I decided to leave them.  Something inside me told to let them come.

Yesterday, the kids were riding their bikes on a slippery street where we are staying.  My daughter’s handle grip slipped off recently at home, but we stuck it back on and never thought about it again.

She turned a corner, the grip slipped off, sending her front tiring spinning sideways.  Down she went.  We got her back in the rental and cleaned up the many scrapes, cuts, etc.  Her elbow and hip were hurt.  After a triage assessment by my husband, I helped with some band-aids, pain reliever and ice.  We bought her a sling and she wore it the rest of the day.

At bedtime, she said her prayers and thanked God for her helmet several times.  When she finished praying, I asked her about the helmet because my back was turned when she fell.

Mom, that helmet saved my head.  When the tire turned, I fell directly on my elbow and head – my head bounced several times on the road.  My stomach sank and my heart rejoiced.  The thought of her fall upset me, but knowing she wore her helmet was a saving grace.

At her age, many teens don’t think it’s necessary, or cool, to wear a helmet.  Not wearing one would have badly hurt her and abruptly ended our trip.    Rules are there for a reason, and I am SO thankful God nudged me to pack these bulky things.  I now recognize it was the Holy Spirit who convinced me to literally remove my hand from the helmets and leave them in the van.

My baby girl showed me her helmet today, and it’s noticeably banged up.  That would’ve been her.  She’s out of the sling today, and her hip is a little bruised, but it hasn’t slowed her down one bit.  In addition to the sling, I bought a brand new pair of handle grips which have been successfully installed. 🙂

God spared her and the trip.  Watching her splash in the waves and dig in the sand, I am so very grateful for God’s hand of protection through some common sense and obedience at the small cost of inconvenient packing. 🙂  Party on…

Sand and Water #1 Rest

Stand at the crossroads and lookask for the ancient paths,

ask where the good way is, and walk in it,

and you will find rest for your souls.

~ Jeremiah 6:16

I am sitting in what feels like a painting.  We’re at the beach, and it is lightly raining.  I’ve perched myself on the balcony of our rental, and as I write it’s hard to imagine this is real.  Quite comfortable on the large, swinging bench, my dog leans against me – head up, ears cocked, eyes alert – she is protecting the alpha female…me.  On the swing, I’ve got with me my Bible, my camera bag, a devotional, this blog and black raspberry sparkling ice.  The only thing missing from the big rocks in my jar is my family who are delightfully playing in the ocean – despite the rain.

Not a sound.  Just rain falling softly on tin roofs and palm fronds sleepily swaying in the wind.  A beach vacation certainly assumes time in the sun, but as much as we anticipate that, we need rest.  I’ve learned that in life, sometimes the rain has to fall to make us stop and rest.

We’ve vacationed so hard sometimes that we were exhausted when we returned home.  That was more of a trip than vacation.  This time is intended as a respite.  A reconnect.  A refreshing as we gear up for a busy school year.  Let the rain fall if it means I don’t feel the pressure to plan activities or bring out the exasperating person in me who feels the endless need to be everything to everyone.

The breeze is beautiful.  The scenery divine.  It’s all good.

Reminding myself it’s all good is why I am writing today.  I have said goodbye to one season of life and am anticipating a new one.  It brings a lot of change with it, and although no life is perfect, this new season has perfect timing.

I take yet another lesson from my dog.  She drove with us many hours and miles, never having a clue where we were going.  She was patient in the car though she didn’t understand the GPS or our may stops.  Once here, she just wanted to know where her food, water and bed were.  After that, she is content just to be with us no matter what we do.

We are each on a journey of our own.  Only God knows where we are going – and He controls the GPS.  Are we patient traveling along the long roads, in traffic, in rain, at night, when we’re tired, when we take an unexpected trip to urgent care en route, when we are bored and are really done with this part of the journey?

When God leads us to our appointed destination, are we content with the basics of trusting Him to provide for our needs – or do we automatically begin foraging for ourselves?  Do we have and exercise faith that He knows what we need and will help us?

Once we are convinced He has our best at heart, are we content to simply be with Him throughout the days, following Him without complaint regardless of where, when or for how long He walks the sandy shore?

Is His presence enough to satisfy us without asking, “Yeah, I know God, but what else are we going to do?”

Lots to think about as I look down at my dog who involuntarily sways back and forth to the rhythm of the swing.  She’s just happy to be with me.  I want that blissfulness with God rain or shine, beach or home, good days or bad, rough waters or smooth sailing.  That is the desire of my heart.

The Great Sendoff

As I have fallen off the grid lately, intentionally, I have stolen a few moments here and there to just check in to see where the world is at.  A brief glance at Facebook, and I am reminded why this is my least favorite time of year.

Here they come.  Posts of friends and their sons and daughters headed to college.  Packed cars, unpacked dorm rooms and, in a few words or more, posts stream in about how proud and happy and sad parents are.

This takes my breath away.

I have endured such traumatic loss in my lifetime, I cannot bear the thought of my kids leaving home.  Naturally, I want the best for them.  God’s best for them.  But, I know the road of loss – and apart from not walking with God – it is the most lonely road in the entire world.

I read the posts and admire the photos, then the lump in my throat swells.  Eyes sting with salty tears.  My heart sinks as if it were my turn to kiss my babies’ heads one more time before closing the car door and leaving them on the green campus of their new home.

I just can’t take it.

It’s a selfish feeling, not wanting them to ever leave.  But, it gives me very small solace in understanding my issues.  Loss is extremely and especially hard for me.  Change is even harder.  I am well-acquainted with “new normals” and “survival” and “perspective.”  I get it, but it doesn’t guarantee relief in every situation.

This time of year, I typically reflect on the summer and all the memories it generously offers.  I prepare as best I can for the new school year.  Then, another wave of friends sends their precious not-so-little children to college and a tsunami of guilt and sorrow floods my heart.

I should have done more with them.  The science experiment.  The makeover.  The board games, I lament.  This is the only summer my kids will ever be this age.

The balance of my heart and head swings like a sail blown wildly in the wind.  I tell myself to give me break.  To be thankful for what we did do together.  To know that one person cannot be everything to everyone.

Then more photos and stories roll in via FB, text or conversation.

I, praise God, have a few more years before it’s our turn to post stories and photos, and on one hand it helps me prepare to hear others as they work through their grief.  On the other hand, however, knowing this is such a tender subject for me, I lose myself in unnecessary grief at the moment.  It’s not my turn, and this premature grief is stealing the joy from the moments I have with my children now.  My babies are still home.

Everyone has scars.  Everyone has a story.  The epicenter of my story is loss, and what is so frustrating is that it is something that I cannot get away from.

Loss will continue whether I want it to or not.  Change brings change.  I can only continue to try to adapt.  My kids tell me that I am one of the most optimistic people they know.  I reply, “My mom always said, ‘If you have a choice to laugh or cry…laugh.'”

I’m enjoying every laugh now, and pray it will give me strength when the inevitable tears come.

At the end of the day, I remind myself that this earth is not my home.  God is preparing a place for me, and in that place there is no sorrow, tears or guilt or goodbyes.  There is freedom and joy and peace.  That promise is what rocks me to sleep.

Hugging my kids a little tighter tonight.

Don’t Forget to Breathe!

This morning, I followed my little ritual as I added chlorine to our pool –  bring bucket of chlorine to the skimmer.  Take off the lid to the skimmer of the pool, and set it aside.  Lean over and slightly unlatch the childproof locks on the canister.  Stop.  Close my eyes.  Take in one, deep breath very slowly.  Release.  Take a second breath in deeply, slowly.  Trying not to get dizzy, I take a third, very deep breath and hold it.  Frantically, all in one movement, I open my eyes, throw off the cover to the canister, scramble for the scoop, measure the scoops of chlorine into the skimmer, throw the skimmer lid back on, snap the canister lid back on, and take off running as fast as I can across the yard away from the whole thing.  When the air finally settled, I returned for the canister and carried it back to its place, walking calmly as if nothing ever happened.

Yes, I am sure I look ridiculous.  But, 100% chlorine is miserable to breathe in as its fumes sting my eyes, nose and throat.   I got a big dose once that taught me never to do it slowly again.  So, that’s my theatrical performance in the backyard when the pool needs chlorine.

However, I feel that is also my reaction to life when it spins faster than a toy top.  Ramping up for a new school year, with many changes happening for our family, I find myself neglecting to breathe.  Literally.  It seems when I get stressed, I shallow-breathe.  I went to the doctor once about tingling hands and feet.  She said it was caused from hyperventilating.

But, I’m not heaving deep breaths, nor am I all upset and worked up like some I’ve seen hyperventilate! I replied.

She explained that not breathing deep enough can cause the same malfunctioning circulation.  I had no idea.

Ever since she taught me this, I am intentional about breathing when currents pick up and waves rise.  Like adding chlorine to the pool, I try to remember to stop.  Close my eyes.  Breathe deeply.

Sometimes I forget.  That’s been the case the past couple of weeks.  It’s very easy to slowly let life control the ship, and the next thing I know my world is being rocked like a toy boat spinning in a bathtub drain.

God is the one who needs to remain in control of life.  He is, after all, the one with all the answers, the patience, the knowledge and time at His disposal; crafted by His hand for our good.  Even when life seems like it doesn’t make sense, He is good and sovereign.  When bad things happen in this fallen world, I have faith He is the God of redemption and NOTHING is beyond His reach of grace and glory.

But, some days I still forget to breathe.  I let the endless list of things to do, people to please, and pressuring priorities determine my day.  That’s so backwards.  Being intentional about breathing means:

1. Give the day to God first and let Him be captain and I be the skipper – not the other way around.

2. Pace myself and not get in a flurry and do too many things at once.  I’m going to buffer time into the day for the unexpected things – of which I’ve already encountered three times this morning!

3. Realize the day’s expectations are more than I can meet.  Some things must simply wait until tomorrow.

4. Move my body.  Too often, my brain muscle gets all the exercise while my body lies dormant. Balance is a good thing.

5. Understand I am NOT responsible for other people’s happiness.  They are.

6. Appreciate the small treasures buried along the journey’s path.  Stolen moments with my kids.  The smell of gardenias in the backyard.  Pondering the blessings God has given me by way of family, friends, a new day to discover, and a healing back. 🙂

7. Work hard.  There is no guilt when I fully know I’ve done the best job I can do.

8. Put my feet up – if only for a little while.  Physically, it’s good for the heart.  Mentally, it’s a priceless break from everything.

9. Use the Holy Spirit as my filter for my attitude and my answers.  When seeking God’s perspective on things, His response is usually different than my own.

10. Breathe.  Literally and metaphorically.  Whatever helps decompress.  I do intentionally take deep breaths throughout the day (my kids think it’s a sign of exasperation, but it’s not – it’s preservation!).  I also breathe in ways that give me the same rejuvenating benefit like writing this blog 🙂 playing with my dog, a conversation with my husband or friend, doing something for someone else and doing something for myself – be it work or play (because sometimes tackling a long-dreaded project feels as good as taking a walk or watching a favorite show on tv).

Fall hasn’t begun yet, so I refuse to let its pressures and strain begin now.  There are precious days of summer left, and perhaps by keeping these days in check it will help me do the same when new routines begin.  It’s all good stuff, and it should be acknowledged as such.  If I don’t want to hear my kids complain, then I shouldn’t either.  This was a nice, deep breathe.  I’m ready to tackle embrace the day.  Are you?

May today be a great day…and don’t forget to breathe!

Happy New Year of Life

All the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be. ~ Psalm 139:16

Last week, I began the week in so much pain from a recent back injury that I didn’t even realize my birthday was approaching.  After 4 doctors, 5 doctor appointments, a heating pad, a cold pack, pain medications and very little sleep sitting straight up in a chair for over a week, I wandered around in a dazed fog – unable to keep up with the days of the week – much less the date.  This is why I’ve been off the grid from posting.  I was just trying to get up and down out of chair. :O

However, I have an amazing family and awesome friends who would not let my birthday go unnoticed nor let the excruciating back pain spoil the fun.  I have a great, big God who went out of His way to show me He didn’t forget the day He began our love story decades ago.

My last post, Today, was the worst day of the pain.  Back pain so bad that my skin has broken out in hives all week where the injury occurred.  Doctors said it was my back’s way of relieving the stress from the pain.  I didn’t even know that was possible.  I jokingly said that I must be allergic to pain.  Not!  Three childbirths, 5 surgeries and 2 severe car accidents have proven otherwise.

Anyway, today I simply want to post a huge, sincere THANK YOU to everyone who made this year one of the most loving, special, memorable birthdays I have ever had in my life.

To my husband and children, thank you for making me smile and laugh (the back pain from laughing was totally worth it!) and taking the time to treat me like a queen.  Bruce, you work so hard for our family.  I know you wanted to be home with me, but what you do makes our family life possible.  Your card, flowers, balloons, gifts and mostly your calls and texts made me feel like you were right by my side all day.  I love you!

Kids – you guys rock.  You got up on your summer morning at 6:30am, voluntarily, to make me breakfast!  That was the best egg white omlette I’ve ever had; the little dude made out of toast and jam – complete with wings and feet – was delicious; the fruit salad – with its professional presentation – was perfect; and homemade chocolate milk, something I afford myself only on my birthday and Mother’s Day meant so much that you remembered.  What can I say about the hand-dipped chocolate covered strawberries?  For breakfast!  I am utterly spoiled, and they were scrumptious.  It was enough for all 5 of us!

On my way to the 5th doctor’s appointment, I received a text from one of my best friends telling me to go check my front door.  I did, and below is what I found!!!  What an incredibly nice surprise!!!!!!!!  Seeing as our country is in a helium shortage (weird, huh?), I can’t believe you guys found some.  Frances and Ann, your two families are family to us always and forever.  You know me well, and filled this basket with my favorite things – most touching was the cards signed be each and everyone of you.  Thank you guys so much!  Ya’ll are kind, generous and loving – and I want the world to know. 🙂

After the appointment, I was treated to lunch by not one, but two friends at a favorite Italian restaurant.  Their hugs, smiles and fun conversation was priceless time with women I think the world of.  Your gifts, cards and fellowship is more than I could ask for.  Pam and Renee, you are beautiful blessings to me.  Thank you for lunch and the tiaramisu.  It was delicious, but even better sharing it with you.

Renee, you surprised me with dinner the night before my birthday just to help out with my back, and completely surprised me with birthday cupcakes!  BUT, not just any cupcakes, made-from-scratch chocolate sunflower cupcakes!!! They were adorable!  Too cute to eat, but we managed. 😉  We enjoyed every last crumb.  You took so much time out of your day to do this special gift for me, and I am so thankful.  God had such a big surprise in store for me when He brought us together, and it feels like I’ve known you a lifetime.  Thank you, Friend.

Going out with my family last night  was such fun!  Bruce wanted to pull out all of the stops.  When we got home, we played family games and, one of the cutest surprises, was the musical arrangement the kids put on.  My daughter pulled popular songs from each decade of my life and we all danced (well, I swayed) to the music.  That was so creative!!

My Facebook, voicemail and email were absolutely flooded with birthday wishes from so many wonderful people from Kenya to Ukraine to the United States.  Oh my!  I never ever expected that.  I thought my heart would burst from feeling so loved and remembered.  I read and re-read each and every one.  I LOVE the way my sweet Ukrainian friend worded her message to me, Happy new year of your life.  Indeed, God makes all things new. 🙂  I just love that!  To me, a birthday message is priceless.  Someone I care about took the time to stop their day and think of me.  Wow.  Being remembered is a beautiful thing.

All day long, I loved hanging out with my kids, enjoying long face-to-face as well as phone conversations with friends, and anticipating celebrating with my man.  I’m not so much about gifts, though who doesn’t’ like to receive a present? 🙂 I deeply treasure time and things from the heart the most.  My cup was overflowing with both…and very thoughtful presents I might add!

All 3 children gave me precious cards – each special in their own way.  This is the card my sixteen year-old son made for me…

This is part of my youngest’s card.  It’s the signature picture he draws of us every year.  I love it!!!!

God knows us better than we know ourselves.  He meets us right where we are and in ways only He knows is in our best interest.  He is so good.  I have a story about one of the gifts God gave me for my birthday and would love to share it.

On Tuesday, as I mentioned above my worst pain day, a house guest came over.  I was hiding out in my pajamas upstairs.  Clear instructions were given by those downstairs not to touch my camera.  My nice, expensive one I use for ministry.  (I’m oblivious to all of this happening downstairs.)  I guess the temptation was too much and hands picked it up…and dropped it.  Dropped it so hard the filter cracked in half and lens busted.

When I found out the news hours later, I was deflated more than anything.  Just 3 months ago, different hands accidentally knocked my old camera off of a table onto concrete and killed it.  Now this one, my new replacement.  Are you kidding me?  I cannot be without my camera, and when traveling there isn’t always a place to pick up another lens if this broken lens doesn’t get fixed and stay fixed.

Warily, Wednesday afternoon I hobbled into a big box electronic store where I bought it and dreaded the whole waranttee process.  I know it well and it is long and laborious.

I explained the whole thing to the gentleman, shifting my weight to find a comfortable standing position, and he was unmoved to say the least.  Another employee stood silently on the sidelines.  He called up a third employee, and I explained the saga to her.  I had told my daughter when I parked the car I would need God’s self control to get through this because of the back pain and the fact that this was camera #2 that I was left to deal with.  An expensive problem.

Another employee, fixing someone’s hard drive nearby, chimed in and borderline lectured me on the warantee process and how I am not special and do not have a choice to repair or replace.  Yeah yeah yeah.  I got it.

I was now going to be without a camera for an indefinite amount of time for an upcoming trip and milestones like visiting family, the first day of school, etc.  The whole thing gave me a headache.

Suddenly, the woman who came over from a different department placed a box on the counter.  She opened it (while the other guy was lecturing me unsolicited)  and with four simple words then entire issue ended…Here’s your new camera.

What? I responded, completley baffled.

This is your new camera, enjoy it! 🙂

Seriously? I questioned.

Yes, she said as she packed up the box.

Just like that? I asked.

Just like that, she replied.

Really? I asked again.  I know the waranttee process and this isn’t typical by a long shot.

Yes, she simply replied.

I’m not one to cry in front of others, but it was hard to choke back the lump in my throat.

This is the nicest thing anyone has done for me in a long time.  You have no idea what a blessing this is, I said while the other employees stood by speechless.

This wasn’t your fault, and you shouldn’t have to bear the stress of it.  Photography is what you do, and you should be able to do it, she said.

I’ll be honest.  This is the first time using a large company to buy my camera, and I was wary about the follow-up customer service.

Maybe this will help, she smiled.

Yes, indeed it does! Do I need to do anything?  Sign anything? 

Nope.  Just enjoy it.

Just like that, I had a brand new camera, new lens and a new battery.  Life simply doesn’t resolve itself like that usually.  I was so discouraged one moment, and in an instant the problem vanished.  Done.

Tears streamed underneath my sunglasses as my daughter and I left the store.  I was mostly relieved to have a working camera in my hands so I can do what God calls me to do with it.  No wondering if the repaired lens will flake out on me overseas, or if the body was affected in a way that won’t show up for some time.  It was new.  A brand new camera.

As we walked to the car, God spoke to me and said, You see your life broken in many ways, much like your camera.  But, like this camera, I can fix anything.  I can fix you.  Your life.  I can.

I have to say, He unearthed doubt that had built up in my heart over some things.  I felt physically broken with my back, and emotionally, mentally and spiritually broken over some heart issues.

Driving home, I wondered why this whole thing happened with my camera.  It was so random and bizarre!  But, God showed me that He allowed this to happen to prove a point with me.  That nothing is irreparable with God.  All things are possible.  He can make a way where there is no way.  And sometimes, the process doesn’t have to be long and laborious.

He gave me hope.  Hope for my back and my heart.  He wrapped it in a camera and every time I pick this new one up, I see Him saying, I love you.  I see.  I know.  I hear.  I am at work for your best interest.  What a beautiful, generous birthday present.

I will never forget this birthday.  And, it’s not over yet.  I look forward to going out with one of my favorite friends, Lisa, soon.  And, we are partying on with more family very soon.  Everything we celebrate is only what God has done in my life – a sinner saved by grace.  His faithfulness, mercy, grace and love.  He is eternally good.  All years combined, the good, the bad and the ugly, I write today that God is sovereign.  He is beautiful.  He is worthy.  Here’s to as many more days on this earth that He allows – for His glory.

My heart is full.

Repost: Is it okay to be angry with God?

In light of the tragedy in CO last night, I am reblogging this post. There was a different post planned, but when things happen that we can’t wrap our heads around, it can also shake our faith. I hope this post brings some level of comfort. We are praying for the family and friends who lost their loved ones. Psalm 34:18, “The LORD is close to the brokenhearted, and saves those crushed in spirit.” With my deepest sympathy, Kristi

Real. Deep. Stuff.

Recently, we stood helplessly by as we watched a dear family tragically lose their husband/father.  He had so many years left, but an accident took this hero’s life.  I’ve hugged his wife and children, and looked deeply into the eyes of his father – an older gentleman who said to me, He survived Afghanistan, but gets killed at home.  He died in action, serving his country, but where does that leave his family?  I held his father’s hand in both of mine and told him how sorry I was.  I assured him we were praying for strength and peace during this difficult time.  He looked into my eyes and said,  I’m trying to be as strong as I can.

There are so many circumstances in this world that bring us pain, sorrow and hurt.  Sometimes, the outcome is evident through long-suffering.  Sometimes, it comes in one phone call.  Whether it is…

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Is it okay to be angry with God?

Recently, we stood helplessly by as we watched a dear family tragically lose their husband/father.  He had so many years left, but an accident took this hero’s life.  I’ve hugged his wife and children, and looked deeply into the eyes of his father – an older gentleman who said to me, He survived Afghanistan, but gets killed at home.  He died in action, serving his country, but where does that leave his family?  I held his father’s hand in both of mine and told him how sorry I was.  I assured him we were praying for strength and peace during this difficult time.  He looked into my eyes and said,  I’m trying to be as strong as I can.

There are so many circumstances in this world that bring us pain, sorrow and hurt.  Sometimes, the outcome is evident through long-suffering.  Sometimes, it comes in one phone call.  Whether it is divorce, unemployment, rejection of endless degrees, a wayward child, victimization, losing a house, suffering from an illness or watching someone we love suffer, there are scores of reasons why this world is unfair.

When unfair comes knocking on our door, where can we hide?  Nowhere.  It finds us – try as we may to run.

God designed our bodies, minds, hearts and spirits with buffers.  In most times, if the enormity of a situation came at us 100% full-on, we probably couldn’t survive it.  As I spoke to my teen friend whose father died, I thought to myself (having suffered parent loss as a teen myself) You have no idea how this will affect your life – for the rest of your life.

To absorb the implications of what has happened all at once would overtake us, and we would wash away like a footprint in the sand.  Although God designed a perfect world, in His omnipotent knowledge He knew Adam and Eve would sin.  He knew before He created time that this world would need a Savior, and He knew that Savior would be His only Son.

Our spirits have eternal life through Christ when we accept Him as our Lord and receive forgiveness for our sins.  But, many of us still have lives to lead, unlike the thief on the cross who asked Jesus to remember him, and Jesus reassured the man he would be with Him in Paradise.  We, for better or worse, must still wrestle the 24/7 bestowed upon us.  It is at this point that brought me to write this post…the wrestling.

My family has prayed for our friends every day since their husband/father died.  However, one prayer caught my full attention.  One of my children prayed, Lord, please help them not to be angry. Being angry at You is wrong.  Please help them not sin by being angry.

Hmm. I wonder what train of thought brought this up?   God gave us a gift by allowing us to feel anger.

Anger is an emotion.  A feeling.  It is a release valve to the pressure, tension, and even confusion, we may feel during emotional or intense situations.  Anger is as normal as feeling happy or sad.  Our bodies physically feel the effects of circumstances, and like lightening, our anger is a channel in which to release adrenaline and chemicals in the brain so we don’t explode (well, not literally, but we may feel like we can sometimes!).

Emotionally, anger helps keeps feelings flowing.  It’s like a lubricant to gears.  When we stuff our natural emotion of anger down inside us, it rots.  When it rots, it becomes bitter and hardens our hearts.  Anger gives us the emotional courage to confront the situation, say what needs to be said, or do what needs to be done, in order to maintain a healthy relationship with the world and with ourselves.

I think what my child was getting at is something, I believe, is often misunderstood about the Bible.  Ephesians 4:26-27 says, “In your anger do not sin: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.”

The first part of this passage, “In your anger do not sin” comes from Psalm 4:4, “In your anger do not sin; when you are on your beds, search your hearts and be silent.  Selah”

David may simply be saying here, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.  After all, it’s better to be silent than say something we will regret.  And that is Paul’s point in Ephesians.  Anger is not the sin.  It’s what we do with it that gets us into trouble.  In action, word or thought, we have the choice to allow ourselves to be angry for a time, letting our physical bodies release, our minds decompress, and our emotions ride the waves – or act upon it in a sinful way albeit passively or aggressively.  Passively – by way of withholding communication (the silent treatment), withholding forgiveness when someone asks us for it of themselves, or any refusal on our part that denies progress in the situation because of bitterness, unforgiveness, hate, etc.  This doesn’t apply when people simply need time.  Of course, we are not vending machines that can produce upon demand.  We need time to heal.  It is when sin stands in the way of our progress that needs to be held accountable.

Take James 1:19-20.  It admonishes us, “My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.”

Before we cry foul, let’s look at what the anger means in this particular passage.  In Strong’s Greek Hebrew Dictionary (via www.mystudybible.com), the word anger comes from the Hebrew word orge and means “violent passion (ire, or [justifiable] abhorrence); by implication punishment :- anger, indignation, vengeance, wrath.”

But, the word anger in Psalm 4:4 is different. The Hebrew word orgizo comes from the word orge and means “to provoke or enrage; become exasperated.”

Holman New Testament Commentary Vol. 8 explains, “Sometimes a Christian may legitimately become angry.  Jesus became angry at times. In those times we must be extra careful how we act, for anger gives no excuse to sin.”

The Matthew Henry Concise Bible Commentary phrases Ephesians 4:26-27 this way, “Take heed of anger and ungoverned passions. If there is just occasion to express displeasure at what is wrong, and to reprove, see that it be without sin. We give place to the devil, when the first motions of sin are not grievous to our souls; when we consent to them; and when we repeat an evil deed. This teaches that as sin, if yielded unto, lets in the devil upon us, we are to resist it, keeping from all appearance of evil.”

Let’s compare two situations – Jonah and Lazarus.  Jonah was called by God to do something he didn’t want to do, with people he didn’t want to be anywhere near. He was stoking mad that God had compassion on this brood of ignorant souls.  Jonah was judgmental and hard-hearted and thought he knew better than God.  I’ll skip the story in its entirety for the sake of time, but it is fascinating.  This is the so-called dramatic ending of the four short chapters that make up the entire book…

Jonah chapter 4, “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. He prayed to the Lord, “O Lord, is this not what I said when I was still at home? That is why I was so quick to flee to Tarshish. I knew that you are a gracious and compassionate God, slow to anger and abounding in love, a God who relents from sending calamity. Now, O Lord, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

But the Lord replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”

Jonah went out and sat down at a place east of the city. There he made himself a shelter, sat in its shade and waited to see what would happen to the city. Then the Lord God provided a vine and made it grow up over Jonah to give shade for his head to ease his discomfort, and Jonah was very happy about the vine. But at dawn the next day God provided a worm, which chewed the vine so that it withered. When the sun rose, God provided a scorching east wind, and the sun blazed on Jonah’s head so that he grew faint. He wanted to die, and said, “It would be better for me to die than to live.”

But God said to Jonah, “Do you have a right to be angry about the vine?”

“I do,” he said. “I am angry enough to die.”

10 But the Lord said, “You have been concerned about this vine, though you did not tend it or make it grow. It sprang up overnight and died overnight. 11 But Nineveh has more than a hundred and twenty thousand people who cannot tell their right hand from their left, and many cattle as well. Should I not be concerned about that great city?”

The word anger used in this passage is from the Greek word hara.  Strong’s defines it as to glow or grow warm; figurative (usually) to blaze up, of anger, zeal, jealousy :- be angry, burn, be displeased, earnestly, fret self, grieve, be (wax) hot, be incensed, kindle, very, be wroth.”

I have always wondered what happened to Jonah.  We, by default, want a happy ending.  We look for it in movies, plays, books, and in our own lives.  We need closure and peace, and our moral bookends of the good guy wins and the bad guy gets what’s coming to him are what makes the story in between tolerable.  Here, Jonah’s account just fades off.  His last words recorded in the most complete account of history ever written were, “I am angry enough to die.” (verse 9)

That does not sound at all like Psalm 4:4 or Ephesians 4:26-27.  In fact, it sounds more like the Israelites in Hosea 7:6, “Their hearts are like an oven; they approach him with intrigue. Their passion smolders all night; in the morning it blazes like a flaming fire.”

Then there is Lazarus.  Brother of the well-known sisters, Mary and Martha.  In John 11, Lazarus died.  Jesus knows exactly what has happened and what will happen, but the details of this account twinge my heart because most, if not all of us, have either been Mary or Martha or both at some point in our lives when pain overcame us.

John 11 tells us that basically Jesus had more than enough time to get to Lazarus before Lazarus finally died.  Verses 18-19 even tell us this, “Bethany was less than two miles from Jerusalem, and many Jews had come to Martha and Mary to comfort them in the loss of their brother.”

What would be Jesus’ reason for His delay?  Verse 4 answers, “When he heard this, Jesus said, ‘This sickness will not end in death. No, it is for God’s glory so that God’s Son may be glorified through it.’” And in verses 14-15, “So then he told them plainly, “Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’

Okay…are you hanging with me?  We are at the heart of the point of this post. Read verses 20-21 slowly, “When Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she went out to meet him, but Mary stayed at home.  “Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

These two women are famous for their account of Martha being too busy to listen to Jesus, while Mary sat at His feet. Many of us can relate.  But, we can also relate to them now.

Mary, knowing full-well Jesus has arrived, doesn’t go out to meet Him.  The same woman who poured expensive perfume on Jesus’ feet and wiped them with her hair.  Did she love Jesus?  Yes.  So, why the silence now?

Martha, more spirited than her sister, met Jesus and confronted Him, if I may.

We’re going deeper now.  Jesus called for Mary personally.  Martha went to Mary and told her Jesus was asking for her.

Verses 29-32, “When Mary heard this, she got up quickly and went to him. 30 Now Jesus had not yet entered the village, but was still at the place where Martha had met him. 31 When the Jews who had been with Mary in the house, comforting her, noticed how quickly she got up and went out, they followed her, supposing she was going to the tomb to mourn there. 32 When Mary reached the place where Jesus was and saw him, she fell at his feet and said, “Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died.”

Once she knew Jesus was asking for her, she ran to Him and was able to speak from her heart.

So how does this account relate to Jonah’s because nowhere does it say the words anger or angry.  Or does it?

How would you feel if Jesus were walking this earth today and your loved one needed life-or-death healing, and you texted, emailed and left a voicemail on Jesus’ iPhone asking Him to immediately come only a short distance – and He is a no-show.  Not only that, He doesn’t return your text, email or voicemail, and stays 2 more days where He is – just a short distance away. Then, your loved one dies.  He or she actually dies.  There is, at this point, no happy ending, the good guy (your loved one a.k.a. Lazarus) didn’t win and the bad guy (death) got his way.

How would we feel?

If we are gut-wrenchingly honest, we’d be angry at Jesus.  Right?  He knows us.  He knows the need.  He knows He can help.  But, He didn’t show up.  He didn’t heal.  He didn’t even return our phone call.

Mary sinks into herself and stays inside.  She can’t find it in herself to go meet Jesus.  We can probably fill in the adjectives she is feeling as we relate.

Martha makes no bones about it.  She didn’t even let Jesus get into the village.  On the contrary, she met Him outside the village and told Him outright how she felt.  However, she did with respect and reverence.  She never forgot who He is – Lord.  She followed up her emotional outburst with, “But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” (Verse 22)

Mary, once told Jesus wanted to see her, ran to Him and told Him the same exact emotional eruption except she did it on her knees. Both women were thinking the same thing, but they went about it in different ways depending on their personalities.

How did Jesus react?  Did He shun them?  Did He smite them and banish them from heaven?  Did He lecture them on how to behave in their time of deepest grief?  Did He reject them and walk away?  Did He ignore them? Did He grow furious at them, point His finger at them, and call on God’s angels to punish them? Did He stop loving them?

How did Jesus feel over their words?  “When Jesus saw (Mary) weeping, and the Jews who had come along with her also weeping, he was deeply moved in spirit and troubled.” (Verse 33)

How did Jesus react?  What did He do? “Jesus wept.” (Verse 35)

He wept.  He felt their pain.  Jesus was 100% man and 100% God.  He knew how the story would end, but in that moment, He willingly climbed down into their emotional pit and felt their pain with them.

Indeed, Jesus climbs down into our emotional pits so He can bring us out of them.

God is a gracious, loving God.  Jesus knows our sorrows – He’s been there.  He lived on this earth and felt natural emotions including happiness, sadness and yes, anger.

Hebrews 4:14-16 is one of the most comforting Scriptures in the Bible. “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. 15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are —yet was without sin. 16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”

Anger.  It is one of the 5 responses in crisis and grief.  It is a God-given gift to be angry so we can channel the physical strain (headaches, digestive issues, heart issues, teeth clinching, nail biting, eyelash plucking, comfort eating, deliberate starving) pressure that happens when life deals us pain and suffering. Anger channels our adrenaline so we can sleep at night, keep our heads from spinning off into orbit, and gives us courage for self-preservation in overwhelming times.  It keeps emotions flowing as we wrestle with shock & denial, bargaining, depression and acceptance of a situation beyond our control.

Why would God create the emotion of anger for our physical, emotional and mental selves, but forbid it for our sprits which are eternal?  I believe the answer is in Psalm 4:4 – in your anger do not sin.  It never said not to be angry. It doesn’t promise we won’t ever be angry.  It says WHEN we are angry do not sin.

So why don’t we bring our anger to God?  Wow, that’s a whole other post, but suffice it to say our upbringing, personalities, life experience, and how we view God all affects how we interact with Him.

For me, I grew up in a house with a step father who did not tolerate anything from me and dictated a very unhealthy fear of male authority.  Is it easy for me to come to God with my anger?  No way!  It has taken me years to get to a point of God convincing me (through reading the Bible, His faithfulness to me and the testimonies of others) that I come before the throne and pour all of me out to Him – the good, the bad and the ugly.  The confidence Hebrews 11 speaks of is a work in progress in me, but God is a patient God who loves us with an everlasting love.

Do we think He can’t handle our anger?  That He isn’t strong enough?  That He doesn’t understand or care about our pain?  That we will be punished for being honest with Him?

Quite the opposite, Jesus intercedes on our behalf.  He could have gone to Bethany and healed Lazarus and left.  But, not only did He listen to Martha, but he called for Mary.  They were important to Him.  How they were doing was important to Him.  So are you.

Once, I was so upset about something, all the way home, as I drove alone, I yelled and cried and yelled some more to God.  Not at, but to Him (there is a difference).  I told Him how I felt and the whole nine yards.  I was ready to implode.  It was only after that did He bring a peace that passes my understanding about the circumstance.  He knew I needed to flush, to vent, to purge – and He allowed me grace and room and privacy to do so.  I did not sin in my anger, but I fully released how I was feeling.  It was one of the most healing experiences I’ve ever felt and that peace remains with me today.

God knows what we need, and He gave us a tool belt full of emotional equipment to help us survive, and thrive, in this broken world.  Anger is a tool, and used properly, it can bring us to closer intimacy with God.  Anger, managed properly and without sinning, keeps communication open.  Whether we are Martha who has no problem stating the issue, or Mary, who needs reassurance it’s okay, Jesus wants a close relationship with us – and He knows by personal experience how hard life on earth can be.

It’s our choice to be hard-hearted and bitter like Jonah and the Israelites in Hosea 7:6, but sure enough, circumstances in life will continue to make us angry.  Perhaps like Moses when he was asked by God to lead the Israelites although he had a speech impediment and felt like he couldn’t do the job; like Naomi when her husband and sons died leaving her no plan for provision; like Samuel when Israel demanded a king from him; like Nehemiah when he gazed upon the broken walls of his home – Jerusalem; like Dinah’s brothers when she was raped by a foreigner; like Joseph when his marriage plans to Mary took a left turn; or like Elijah as he, literally, ran for his life from Jezebel.

God looks at our hearts, our whole person.  He knows if we are shaking an angry, sinful fist at Him or using the tool of appropriate anger to uncover our hurt and pain that we desperately need healed.  He is gracious, but He is holy.  He deserves our respect, holy fear and reverence.  He is…God.

He is also Abba Father – Daddy.  He knows when we just can’t take it anymore and need a safe place to vent, to purge, to release.  He is a good listener. The best. He catches our tears of frustration in His hands and doesn’t use them against us. He is mercy. He is peace. He is rest.

1 Samuel 16:7, “…The Lord does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

1 Chronicles 28:9, “…acknowledge the God of your father, and serve him with wholehearted devotion and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches every heart and understands every motive behind the thoughts. If you seek him, he will be found by you…”

Anger.  It’s a tricky thing.  It can be helpful or hurtful.  Hindering or healing.  Understanding why we feel we can or cannot bring God our anger is a step closer to Him in itself.  Just keep walking.  Seek Him, and He will show you the way.