“Why Are You Angry”


DSC_0011God asked Cain.

Cain was the eldest son of Adam and Eve. You probably have heard of them even if you don’t read the Bible or believe in God. I think it’s common knowledge that he committed the first act of murder in history.

But the interesting thing is that God tried to help him before the situation ever got that far. We don’t have all the details of the story, but when God asked Cain why he was angry, Cain clearly had already been in a bad place mentally.

Because God asked BEFORE Cain killed his brother.

A little history: Cain and Abel both brought “sacrifices” to God. From what I can tell from scripture, this was not something God required, but something initiated by the boys. They both brought some of the fruit of their labor to God. Abel brought some of his flock to offer to God. The Bible says God looked on Abel with favor.

Cain also brought some of the grain he had grown, but God wasn’t pleased and Cain was upset. Okay, so what’s the deal? It may seem that God was showing favoritism, but that is contrary to God’s character (throughout the rest of the Bible) so we can deduce that it was something about the offer or the motive of the one offering.

It seems God was pleased with Abel’s attitude not just his action, but something was off with Cain.

Our reasoning is further substantiated by God’s comments to Cain:

“Why are you angry? Why is your face downcast? If you do what is right will you not be accepted? But if you do not do what is right, sin is crouching at your door, it desires to have you, but you must master it.”       Genesis 4:6-7

Seems pretty simple and forthright to me.

God saw something in Cain’s heart that wasn’t right, and he warned him to be careful because if he continued in his thoughts and/or actions, it would potentially lead him to do something worse.

So it seems that God was saying to Cain (and we can take a lesson here too) that if we come to him with sincerity of heart and do the right things, life will go well for us. But if we allow Satan, who is waiting to pounce on us, to grab us with wrong motives, thoughts or actions we will become slaves to him.

The good news God gives us is that we CAN master sin and not become trapped in it.

Reading further in the chapter, I discovered some things that can alert us when we’ve given in to sin and have not owned it…

  1. We hide. Adam and Eve did. Cain did. We’re all prone to avoiding, denying or lying to “hide” in our sin.
  2. We become defensive. Cain asked God “Am I my brother’s keeper?” when God asked what happened to Abel. Cain knew the truth so he became defensive in his response.
  3. We complain about the consequences. Cain griped to God that his consequences weren’t fair. They were too hard. Really? He killed his brother! But he was far more concerned about how tough life would be now for him than the fact that he destroyed the life of a family member and hurt God.
  4. We wallow in self-pity. Cain basically said “poor me” to God when he told God “…the punishment is more than I can bear.”
  5. We yield ourselves to divination. Divination is a spirit that tries to tell us what our future will be and it’s usually bad. Cain started proclaiming lies about what would happen to him – he would be hidden from God (his choice when he killed his brother but a choice God would have forgiven if he’d repented), he’d have no purpose in life, and everyone would be out to get/kill him. God refuted Cain’s “prophecies” and marked him for protection.
  6. We open the door to other sin. Cain never had a change of heart. It says he left God’s presence. So basically he destroyed his relationship with God as a result of his choices. And later, his son was the first man to take two wives (at a time), thus beginning a new culture of sin when God intended marriage to be between one man and one woman.

At any point, Cain could have humbled himself, confessed and restored his relationship.

And it’s the same with us. At any point, if we humble ourselves and confess our sinful actions, God forgives us and restores life to us.

But even if we don’t, God is still faithful to us.

I love that God still blessed Cain’s family. Even in spite of Cain’s sin, God didn’t allow him to be killed off, and in his lineage were all who played stringed instruments and those who forged tools of bronze and iron.

But I imagine Cain had a hard life.

God was pretty clear that he didn’t take Abel’s murder lightly. He said that Abel’s blood cried out to him from the dirt so he made Cain live under a curse that caused him to work overly hard without much to show for it. That was the consequences of his attitude and actions.

I’m so glad that God alerts us to sin in our lives, that he offers us warnings to help turn us around, and that he is always loving and forgiving if we do confess and repent. The Bible says that even when we are not faithful, God is always faithful.

All of that is some good news, right?

Are You Being Restored?


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A friend, my son and I remodeled a house once.

Planning and designing a new layout for the kitchen, closing in a breakfast nook for a bedroom, re-structuring the fireplace and a bathroom counter afforded hours of fun. Trips to the store for paint swatches, granite and tile felt like an adventure.

And then the actual work began.

At first, we jumped in full of enthusiasm. Even moving the kitchen temporarily to the dining room didn’t deflate our excitement. At least, not until about the third week when dust covered everything in the house, and painting the cabinet doors required an extra coat of paint. Or when standing on a ladder painting crown molding left us with aching arms.

In the end, the place looked amazing and we were proud of our hard hours of labor, but during the process, we often lamented the time, effort and expense of such extensive projects. Exhausted and paint spattered, we spent many evenings sprawled across dusty furniture (somehow not protected by the plastic sheeting we’d erected) wondering if we had what it would take to finish.

I think moving our life forward can be like restoring or remodeling a house.

My life is currently in a state of restoration. I didn’t expect it take this long. (We never do.) But I’m reminded of that project we accomplished and the house shows I love watching like Property Brothers or Fixer Upper. I think there is a correlation.

Sometimes your pipes are leaking. Or a joist is rotted. Maybe the plumbing has rusted through or the electrical wiring is shot. We don’t also see those problems until we’re in the midst of a remodel.

But I trust that God sees all the issues that need fixing in my life.

Each day I ask him to reveal what the current project is and wait for his instruction. Maybe it’s being open to thinking differently about something. Perhaps I need to have a hard conversation with someone. I may need to repent of a behavior, apologize to someone I’ve hurt or forgive a person for hurting me.

At times it requires me digging into the past.

A closet (our heart) can only hold so much junk before it spills out. Wounds from the past can be rotting away a place in our heart like unseen water leaks ruin wood. Old thought patterns can be like wiring that is no longer up to code with a potential to start a devastating fire.

Viewing my life like an old house gives me hope.

If Chip and Joanna Gaines can take a falling apart disaster and turn it into a beautiful, special masterpiece, then God can certainly do the same with my life. It may turn out differently or take a little longer than I expect, but His handiwork is incomparable. He’s in the business of redemption.

Where is your life being restored?

For those who love old house restoration, here’s a link with and interesting story and some great advice:

https://www.oldhouseonline.com/articles/11-tips-for-surviving-a-restoration

How to Move Forward by Turning Around


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The other day on my way to an appointment, I completely missed the street I was supposed to turn on. I had been looking for it, but as I chatted with my passenger, I became distracted and drove right past my turn off.

A couple of miles down the road, an uneasiness rumbled in my stomach.

Could I have not seen the street?

I mentioned to my friend my confusion and the street I had been looking for. “Oh, it’s back there. Right after the bridge.”

No way.

How did I get so mixed up that I missed it?

Naturally, I turned around as soon as possible and went back to the place I made my mistake. Within minutes, I was heading the right direction, anxiety gone. From that point, my friend and I navigated to our destination.

The incident reminded me of repentance.

It’s a word most of us don’t like. We cringe and pull away from the idea of it maybe recalling a man yelling on a street corner about us going somewhere awful.

But the word actually means to turn back or turn around.

We can think of it as changing our mind. Not continuing to think the way we’ve been thinking.

Changing our direction.

Like in my story, a few things can get us headed in the wrong direction:

  • We may be easily distracted and get off track.
  • We may make a mistake in ignorance and miss the mark.
  • We may believe that our way is right or best even though we are wrong.

The good news is that God is faithful to help us discover our blunder by:

  • That uneasy feeling in our heart or mind – it alerts us to stop and check things.
  • Someone points out our mistake.
  • We end up stuck at a dead end or lost and confused.

When we see our dilemma, God offers help and relief not judgment. The quicker we are to acknowledge our mistake, and turn around, the sooner we will find peace. The correct road opens up, and we are moving forward in life again.

Here are some indications we are repentant people:

  • If we’re willing to say “I was wrong.”
  • If we’re willing to be corrected.
  • If we are horrified by what we have done – acknowledging the damage or potential hurt to God, ourselves and others who may be affected by our choice.
  • If we don’t get stuck in beating ourselves up. True repentance removes our sin and the guilt.
  • If we are willing to let go of our wrong conclusion and embrace truth in its place.
  • If we don’t presume that we’re simply misunderstood and can make others believe our misconception if we just keep telling them enough times.
  • If we are willing to accept consequences of our wrong choices.

God encourages us to make a U-turn.

He wants us to have a good journey and end up in good places. So much so that if we keep on the wrong path, he will allow the pressure of consequences to turn us away from something that will end up hurting us worse than the pain of the situation.

At one point in my life, I hated the idea of repentance.

Being wrong about anything brought shame, condemnation and meant awful things would happen to me so I determined at a young age that I simply couldn’t ever be wrong. Obviously that didn’t work out very well. All of us make mistakes for any number of reasons and denying that we do drags us into stuck dead-end roads in life. I confess it’s not always easy to change our mind and go a different way. But if we want to move forward in life, it’s a choice we must make.Fruitful-Repentance-500x500-B

This resource, Fruitful Repentance by Daniel Brown, is what helped change my thinking.

I guess that means it helped me repent.

 

Facing Our Pain


068I’ll come straight to the point.

I’ve come to recognize other women like myself who have tried to protect themselves by denying the truth of trauma, abuse or sexual addiction in their lives or their spouses’ lives. But the protection we think we create actually prolongs our pain and hurts those we love as well. Yes, it is painful to deal with our experiences, both present and past, but the cost down the road is much greater if we don’t.

I wish I could shout it.

Look at the fruit of our denial in our children.  I understand the despair, but we can’t be afraid to look at the truth. When we struggle, lost in a hurting, hopeless world, our children also take on our pain. Even if we aren’t aware or think we will keep them from it.

I know. I’ve been there.

I put my kids through hell because I allowed myself to be blind to the abuse in which we were living. I am to blame for my choices that put us there and kept us trapped. Even years later, my heart aches for them. I failed miserably to give them a solid foundation of what healthy relationships look like. They went into their adulthood with tremendous pain and anger behind them and little training of how to navigate a future marriage.

I’ve watched them live my broken life in many ways.

I never intended for my kids to take that kind of past into their future. The pain inflicted upon them was far greater than I imagined. I didn’t realize how badly they were hurt because of the trauma of their parents’ lives.

But I was more afraid of facing my past pain…

…more afraid of being divorced than of an abusive marriage…

…more afraid of what people thought than what my children needed…

…more afraid of my shame than if my family functioned well…

We can’t even count the price for those choices, and the longer it goes on, the higher the cost, as if interest is added.

But there’s good news.

Surrender and repentance changes everything.

God waits for us to surrender to him so he can uncover our festering wounds, bind them with his loving touch, and lead us into a place of healing and wholeness.

We must be willing to open our eyes to the truth, repent of bad choices and turn around into a new way of thinking and living.

God promises us that when we come to him in broken repentance and surrender, he doesn’t condemn or shame us. His love for us, exhibited through Jesus’s death on the cross and resurrection, covers us, soothes our soul and protects us with true safety.

However, doing so requires a difficult choice for us.

We must let go of our pride, fear and self-reliance. We must step out in faith with even a tiny step, believing that God will meet us as he promises. We must allow ourselves to experience the pain of our past and present, grieve the losses and move into our future.

But the exchange for us and our families is worth it.

I think of it like this:

When one of my children was very young, they couldn’t grasp the concept of exchanging their pennies for a coin of equal value. Five pennies seemed much better to them than a nickel, two nickels trumped a dime and no way would they give up any combination of coins for a quarter!

Our perception of what we are giving up is skewed by our limited understanding.

And God gives us even more than an equal share! He offers us a massive sundae dripping with fudge and topped with whipped cream, nuts and a cherry if we will hand over our McDonald’s soft serve cone.

There’s really no comparison, is there?

Be brave. Take action. Step into your future and shed your past.

Make a way for generations after you to be healthier, happier and living a hot fudge sundae life.

How Do I Know if I’m Fruitful?


Every day we make mistakes.

We say and do things we know are wrong, hurtful or leading us in a direction away from where we want to end up.dsc_0021

And every day we can decide to change our trajectory.

How do we do that? In the Bible, Luke 3:8 tells us to “produce fruit in keeping with repentance.”

UGH.

Do we hate that word “repentance?” I used to. Until I learned that to repent simply means to turn around.

Like in 180°.

About face.

U-turn.

To see that we are headed the wrong way, catch it and say “I blew it. I’m sorry, God. I want to turn around.”

It’s really not as painful as we seem convinced it is. Well, okay, some things can be – like when we’ve lied to someone, or said something behind their back, or broken a promise. Yes, it is hard to come clean that we’ve been looking at inappropriate material or using the company card for our personal benefit. But when we’re taking our life forward into better, repentance is the way to go. Besides…

God already forgave us.

Done deal. So our acknowledging our sinful ways and receiving his forgiveness is a simple step. And every time we repent, it gets easier. Then we actually sin less.  Some attitudes or action need to be repented of a hundred times in a day at first, but each time creates a new path. Thank goodness.

So what’s this “fruit of repentance?”

The evidence that we’re getting it.

God tells us there are 3 things that show when we are living a repentant lifestyle:

  1. Generosity – A heart that is willing to give to those in need. Things, time, resources.
  2. Honesty -No lying to secure something for ourselves. No accusing others for our gain.
  3. Contentment – Being happy with what we have without trying to take more than our share.

I’m so grateful God forgives us and then gives us a barometer to remind us of how we’re doing. Embracing a repentant life means we’re living a freer life. I’m all for that!

Is there some area where you feel you need to make a U-Turn? I’d love to hear about it.

Getting Well Part 5 – How to Turn it Around


Time to make a U-Turn.Summer '12 271

We’ve agreed we want to get well. Even though it seems scary and is uncomfortable, we see our need for healing. The reasons we fall into depression make a little more sense. We’re examining our choices, and are learning to ask others for help.  Much of our unhealthiness of heart may be a result of wrongs done to us by others, but in our learning to cope and our follow up decisions, we’ve also been part of the problem. So how do we turn things around?

Healing often requires confession of sin.

I know. We hate to think of ourselves as sinners. The word holds a connotation of Bible wielding fanatics screaming in judgment,

Repent or die in hell, sinner!

We simply have to re-evaluate how we consider sin.

The Bible says that Jesus didn’t come to condemn us, but to save us (John 3:17; I John 1:9) God wants to make a way for us to be with him in relationship because he loves us. Let that sink in. Now consider that when we break off relationship with God by deciding that we are better at figuring out our lives than he (the one who created the universe and us) is, that is sin. Simply put, God is God and we are not. He knows everything and we do not. He wants our good, but we, like stubborn two year olds, often think we know better and we want our way. Now.

The concept of sin is that simple.

So when God talks about repentance, he’s asking us to reconsider. To turn toward him instead of away from him so that he can take care of us and bless us in every situation. Even the bad ones. It’s really as easy as making a U-Turn. Okay, so some U-Turns require patience and a little bit of a tight turn, but you get the picture.

How does this apply to getting well?

If we are serious about wanting to get well, we have to be willing to see things in our life that are sin; simply, anything that is not the way God intended for it to be. Then we must tell God we are sorry for doing or allowing something that is sinful—that’s repenting. We may also need to repent and apologize to others who have been hurt by our sin.

At first, repenting can feel so hard to do.

I remember a situation that occurred when I first began to understand this concept of repentance. I shared some information about a friend with another friend that I had no business passing on. It wasn’t gossip, I reasoned, since I wasn’t being mean or sharing something bad, but I had this awful feeling in my heart, a conviction that what I had done simply wasn’t right. It didn’t add anything to either of my friends’ lives, nor to mine other than making me feel important for having “news” to share. Apologizing was in order, but I struggled with my fear of being wrong (pride), and that I’d be rejected by my friends.

Finally, I gave in to the Lord’s gentle leading and repented—first to Him and then to my friends. I’d like to say the situation turned out beautifully and wasn’t awkward at all, but the truth is that the friend I gave the information to didn’t understand why I was making such a big deal over it and was a little miffed at me. The friend whose story I told acknowledged and agreed with my feeling convicted by my sin, and graciously forgave me with love and affection.  While the situation was painful, God brought such good out of it. I realized a lack in one friendship, and I grew closer to the other friend. And I walked away feeling a freedom I had not experienced in the past.

Sometimes it’s hard to grasp God’s grace and desire to love us without condemnation.

If we can be honest with ourselves about our sin, make a U-Turn in our thinking, and reach out for God’s grace in faith, we will be positioned for better things in life. Getting well is a process, but each step of repentance releases new freedom and healing.  Let’s turn this thing around!

What has your concept of sin and repentance been? Do you have an experience of healing as a result of confessing your sin?