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A Harmful Outburst

I am prompted to write due to an outburst of rage, my most damaging character defect. My closing thoughts last night after a rather shallow personal inventory were:

And if they don’t like it they can have a big ol’ bowl of ‘bite-me!’ and a swig of ‘suck-it!’ to wash it down!

Fit spiritual condition? I think not. I warn any who have me on a pedestal to get me off it now, ’cause today’s post reveals a whole lot of crazy in one man!

Frustration, on a bed of fear and vain disappointment, set in a condition of shame and regret was my excuse for lashing out at the faulty wall switch in our dining room, its plastic cover plate, and the surrounding bit of drywall this morning as I searched in vain for a missing item. These materials and my hand suffered harm while the dogs cowered in what looked like helpless terror a short distance away. My anger, now bathed in a new bucket of shame and disgust at this atrocious failure, roared at the frightened animals, but struck an inanimate card table which has been gaining my annoyed attention over the past few days. That table represents the amends I have been paying for years, doing most of the household chores to make up for the years of doing next to none. Erected semi-regularly so I can fold and sort laundry, it occasionally remains in an unwelcome position where it gathers clutter. There it stood this morning as a monument in my living room to a new resentment I harbor for all those whose contributions to the household seem smaller than I deserve. Cluttered and smug, it stood in my way. As I searched its leaves for the fruit I was seeking, I found none and overturned it with a kick. More harm done? Likely. Dang it!

When I finally recognized the shape I was in, took a few breaths, and let a thought pierce the cloudy fog that had enveloped me, I found my missing item and went out the door for a run. I saw the sparkles on the water that I normally celebrate as God’s fireworks show just for me, and they were especially bright today, but I could not enjoy them.

In Your blinding glory, Lord, who can stand? Certainly not me!

My music player was set on my “inspirational” playlist and, song after song, I was reminded of the grace that keeps me, and how none of it comes as a result of me toeing any line or paying any price. None of it comes because I am perfect, without defect, or flaw, but because Jesus is, and was willing to die for me – an angry, fat-headed, compulsive, self-serving, lying hoarder of property, food, and self-will. There was nothing about me that made me redeemable; it was all on account of my Redeemer!

My outrageous behavior left marks for which I am responsible, and my fearful and ashamed condition are the result of lazy procrastination, so I have work to go do. Instead of only studying for a test today for which I am underprepared, I now have messes to clean up and a wall to repair.

Holy Father, today, save me from myself! Thank You for the knowledge that I cannot throw myself, even in a tantrum, out of Your loving care.

Misconception of God #4,897

creative thought bubbleI once thought I had a better understanding of God than all the rest of the humans. Today I know I am as blind as the rest of the race, perceiving only a small portion of that which the Divine has determined to reveal of Himself. One misconception that I am learning is fairly common, and for which I had long blamed the Creator, was the idea that He is all finished creating. I took Bible references to the Sabbath to mean that all was complete, and Christ’s quote on the cross, “It is finished!” to mean that God’s involvement in building what is to be built was pretty much concluded.

What I didn’t understand was that the One who is the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, has presented me with the option of deciding what my middle will be, and to what master I will present it. Will I spend my middle serving my cares, concerns, and cravings, or will I make God the god of my whole life: beginning, middle, and end? If I can serve but one master, and the cravings of the greedy rob a person of life, than the choice seems simple. Serving God actually benefits me. But if I choose to serve God for my own benefit, aren’t I really just serving myself in a back-handed way? It turns out that God invites the burdened, the hungry, the brokenhearted, the spiritually impoverished, and all those who recognize their unmet need for Him to return to the Manufacturer for counsel, companionship, and conformity to their original design and purpose. No matter how far removed we become from the pattern in which all things work like they were supposed to, we are under warranty, welcome to come back for an overhaul.

“…he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 1:6, NIV)

Dear Father, today, I give you my middle. Be the Master of my whole alphabet, from beginning to end. Make every part of me work according to Your will and design, and take pleasure in employing me to Your purpose. Thank You for continuing to construct me into something new. I am happy to be a tool in Your service, for a tool in the hand of his Master is of value while a tool standing in front of a mirror is just shelved scrap.

Scripture References:

Genesis 2:2
John 19:30
Revelation 1:8, 21:6, 22:13
Matthew 6:24, Luke 16:13
Proverbs 1:19
Isaiah 55:1, Matthew 5:3-12

inequalitySome of my most pivotal revelations come when I’m busy talking, and such was the case at a recovery meeting I attended recently. I was in mid-share when it occurred to me that at the heart of my mental illness is an erroneous equation: imperfect equals worthless. If you factor out this faulty formula, you conclude that anyone who assesses value to the imperfect is therefore either incompetent, misguided, or worthless themselves. Since I know better than anyone my own imperfection, I am, according to this mad science, worthless and so is anybody who says otherwise. This makes relationships with anyone difficult, since any other people who hold me in any esteem whatsoever are, as I have just proven, imbeciles; and because I am too faulty to be relied upon for any emotional support or camaraderie.  This is the hub on which my self-pity wheel turns and on which my reward and punishment party wagon rides.

The clickety-clack of this wobbly wheel sounds like this: You deserve to eat what you want. You deserve to die a lonely death…early! You’ve had a bad day and need ice cream. You’re celebrating so we’re having a cake with your name on it. You’ve done well, and have won an edible prize. You made poo-poo in the potty and get candy! Maybe it does go back that far, but there is something wrong with my value estimator. Good behavior gets rewards! Ask Mother, my teachers, Santa Claus, my bosses, even (dare I admit) my misconceptions of God. I remember gagging just a little when I heard someone parrot that trite adage: “God don’t make no junk,” because I blamed Him for the mess I was, and there was no doubt about it – I was junk.

There is where I was at Step One: admitting that I was powerless over my problem and that the way I was living life was never going to work. I gradually became able to accept that if God says one thing and I feel another, the chances are God is more likely right than my feelings. After all, I had proved it with my food choices, and I could see it in my selfish defects too. My way is poison compared to God’s way which always brings life more abundant. I figured that “act as if” phrase just might fit me if I wore it on this particular point. Acting like God is right instead of me turned out to be the most pivotal change in my life. When someone turns that abruptly and goes the opposite direction, it’s referred to by a number of phrases: doing a one-eighty, an about face, or this one that sounds familiar to the religious circle – “repent.” I’d been a Bible-thumper for decades but was missing the repentance that is supposed to follow knowledge of the Giver of grace. I was the forgiven debtor of millions who beat his neighbor over a nickel owed (Matt. 18:21-25) and I believe it was because I was so convinced that, as an imperfect – and therefore worthless – person, I had to somehow make myself appear less worthless than everyone else so that I could at least, in that way, assuage some of my painfully disappointing worthlessness. Does that make sense? I doesn’t to me either, but I believe it to be a logical explanation of my insanity.

The truth is that if we believe we can be perfect on our own then we have made ourselves our god, and God is not in charge. That’s a disappointing experience, because I’m even worse at being a god than I am at being a human. The whole idea of a higher power is that mine ought to be higher than me, not even worse at his job than me, so I needed to terminate me from my position as my own higher power due to unquestionable incompetence. Once I let God have His seat on the throne of my life and really started trying to do what I understood He wanted rather than what I wanted, things began to turn around and fit almost like they were designed to go that way by a highly intelligent Creator. Amazing!

It turns out that God never expected me to be perfect, but He did design me to crave perfection so that I would seek Him out. You see, only He is perfect, and He shares Himself with those who seek Him. He is also a bit of a mosaic artist, taking the shattered pieces of my life and arranging them perfectly to suit His grand design so that every torn edge and ragged shard has a place and a purpose. Nothing is wasted, and none of it was ever junk!

Dear Father, today, help me to remember that You are the Creator of creation, the Breather of life, the Redeemer of broken things, the Orchestrator of circumstances, and the Source of all hope. With You in charge, I have nothing to fear. If you forgive, who, including me, can convict me? I choose to live in Your grace rather than my wrath. Thank You for freeing me from me. Please do it again tomorrow.

Day 1,705 or Day one?

I feel like I’ve relapsed totally. Last night, during an emotional tirade, I fussed at my wife and then went to bed, disregarding the fact that I had not yet eaten my last planned meal of the day. When I remembered it, I said to myself, “Forget it, I’m not eating!” which is dangerously close to my abstinence phrase, “Forget it, I’m eating!” and I can see how the two are related in the lives and recoveries of some of my friends who restrict food intake. To make matters worse, once I did go to sleep, I dreamt of every imaginable self-indulgence, starting with cake and ending with an extra-marital affair. I woke up afflicted with guilt and shame, and it took a while to remind myself I had not actually done any of the things for which I was feeling guilty, except for the harmful fit that started it all. By the time the artificial guilt eroded, I had completed the personal inventory that makes everything my fault, so generally my guilt was never really assuaged but redirected at the defects that ignite outbursts of rage in an otherwise peaceful home.

Since my abstinence does not say anything about restricting, I will not consider this a “day one” but I need to acknowledge that I am a hair’s breadth from relapse if I do not do something about my spiritual condition.

Dear Father, today, keep me aware of what I have done, but wash me clean of it. Help me remember the atrocities of which I am capable so I can be vigilant against them. Protect me from the spiritual forces that war against me, and help me to stand up against my own internal battles that tend to weaken me to any outside force. In my weakness make me strong. Secure my insecurities so I can be gentle and selfless in my relationships. Do not let me suffer needlessly, but bring purpose to any pain by making me teachable, and to Your discipline I submit, Lord. Thank You for loving me enough to be patient in re-creating me.

Dropping a tool can be a big deal if the tool is critical in one’s building project and especially if there is considerable effort required to pick it up again. This thought occurred to me while I was recently on the roof of my house, overlooking the edge, taking down Christmas lights. Overeater’s Anonymous lists nine “Tools of Recovery” and I have fumbled the one called “Writing.” I cannot commit to writing daily as was necessary in the beginning, but I owe it to myself to check in here occasionally, just to keep myself accountable and I hope to do it with more regularity than I have recently. I can only live today and here is today’s post.

I am abstinent today by the grace of God, and I am working to maintain my healthy body weight and living the Twelve Steps to the best of my ability. I abstain from eating between four planned meals per day; from candies, cakes, cookies, and nachos; and from the “forget it – I’m eating” response. I generally plan my meals a safe distance from sweet or sugar-containing foods so that I do not fall into the death traps I just described. I am taking action to redefine myself, not just physically, but spiritually, mentally, and even professionally.

Most noteworthy today is a whopping development in my exercise program. I have been going to the gym three days a week since I began my journey, stepping through the doors of a post-operative rehabilitation gym when my knee ligament was severed under my excess weight, then 320 pounds. While I make it a practice to give it all I’ve got while I am in the gym, I must admit I have remained mostly sedentary once I leave that place. Since then, willingness has developed, erasing old “never” statements I have made about running. What I once swore I would never do I now do regularly, jogging three times a week: two shorter runs of 3 to 4 miles, and one longer run of 8 to 10 miles. Last week, I ran my first half marathon (13.1 miles) and finished in 2 hours 18 minutes, a respectable time even among experienced runners my age. The reason I bring it up today is that I have just now registered for three more organized runs (aka “races”), one a month for the first quarter of 2015. The grand finale of these three is one for which 20,000 runners turn out and the 15K (9.32 mile) course traverses two large bridges, the elevation of which makes finishing difficult. Having only just pulled myself out of the sofa cushions in March of 2014, and with my experience witnessing God’s constructive power in my life, I know that no uphill climb is too big an obstacle for God’s strength when applied to my weakness. When I am weak, He makes me strong!

Dear Father, today, help me live in Your strength. May the breath of life You have given me inspire another to breathe You in deeply and experience the abundant life for which You came to Earth in the form of Jesus Christ.

“I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.” (John 10:10b, KJV)

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