Mundane Atrocities

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“Keep your heart with all diligence,
For out of it spring the issues of life.”

Proverbs 4:23

We often carry in our hearts the woundings from other’s actions and sins. We will typically respond in different ways. Some insulate themselves, others get quirky; quite a few turn on to drugs and alcohol to ease the pain. Very few handle these wounds properly without God’s intervention.

We can get quite innovative building and maintaining these deceptions and protections. If you’ve been ‘wounded’ you know what I mean. I struggled for the longest time over something spoken in jest– harmless banter that became poisonous over time. We can hurt from just simple trifles.

There is something I call, ‘mundane atrocities.’ They are casual encounters that are woven over time to produce nasty results. They can often be the raw material for the deceptions that shape us.

The story of Joseph in the Book of Genesis 39-50 provides us insight into the life of one man who sincerely follows the Lord, through outrageous ‘twists & turns.’ He navigates as a dreamer and a loved son, to slave and then prison. Over the years Joseph is hurt by the brokenness of those around him, yet he moves through these without becoming derailed.

Joseph says something toward the end that is quite perceptive. In Genesis we read of his heart in these mundane atrocities. These are the words of a broken man, from a broken family

“But now, do not therefore be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here; for God sent me before you to preserve life.” (45:5)

 “But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive.” (50:20)

Mind you, this is after years of false imprisonment and vicious misunderstanding. Joseph sees God’s hand in deep injustice. He keeps his spirit clean through it all. He could’ve reacted and insisted on vengeance, but that would not happen.

I believe there exists a “Holy Order of the Josephites.”

Joseph is a prototype, a real example for us who must navigate through the tangledness of life. I believe there exists a “Holy Order of the Josephites.” It is bestowed on those who have experienced this first-hand and come through with their spirits clean. (We call this Christlikeness.)

Jesus himself walks by your side through all this pain. Fix your eyes on the one who understands intimately your situation. “God means it for good” and intends on bringing you through this, you will stand by His side one day soon.

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I am Jonah

1 “But Jonah was greatly displeased and became angry. 2 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. 3 Now, O LORD, take away my life, for it is better for me to die than to live.”

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

Jonah 4:1-4, NIV 

Jonah is the very essence of the modern Christian who prefers God to be just like them (only more so.)  Just like Jonah we can be:

  1. unbelieving,
  2. unaccepting and
  3. unforgiving.

When you mix the three, (in a kind of “Jonah smoothie”) you will have something quite religious– but very toxic.  A toxicity that normally should require protective clothing and a quarantine.

Jonah has a sense of who God really is.  But, he disagrees.  In his eyes, God is way too excessive, way too elaborate in His love.  He makes way too many possibilities for forgiveness.  It drives him nuts, to serve a God that is way too liberal with His love.  It seems to push Jonah to try to readjust the love of God on his own.

In the eyes of Mr. Jonah, he simply must modify the “way of salvation.”  In his way of thinking, he can’t let God, be wholly God.  Jonah simply must step in, and dial back the real tendency of God to venture into His excessive and foolish love.  He must be thinking that what God is doing is way too outrageous, and far too far for human reasoning.

Amazingly, Jonah knows God deeply.  He knows, and he is afflicted by the grace that God has for these Ninevites.  Jonah doesn’t get vague, rather he gets specific.  He becomes more aware.  Verse 2 states Jonah’s deep awareness that God is simply too good for people, He is far too rich and generous with the behavior of people who live way too loose.

Since God seems so excessive we feel we must adjust Him.

It seems we must work to make Him more acceptable, and to redefine Him into a more focused kind of religious faith.  Something that makes sense to us His followers.  Something in the way the World perceives Him.  It so seems that this is a job that almost every believer jumps at. (I vote to send God to “rehab.”) :-)

whale-clip-art-whale-clip-art-freeBut the LORD replied, “Have you any right to be angry?”  The Lord speaks specifically to Jonah.  He asks a question, which is a very good idea, when confronting foolish thinking.  “Have you any right?”  This question reverberates and echos through the corridors inside our hearts.  It seems our right doesn’t extend that far.  Being “angry” with God (and the way He does things,) is never an acceptable way of thinking.

Simply put, you have no right.  You have nothing.  There isn’t any allowance or prerogative given, that allows you to alter and adjust the way God wants His reputation and character to be made public.  Sorry, you can’t “airbrush” Him to meet the perceived ideas of the mass population.  He will not allow you to “photoshop” His face or presence, to make His love more presentable.

Simply understood and easily stated, “We have no right.”

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The Stigma of Mental Illness (or, how we found dog poop in the living room!)

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Robin Williams’ recent suicide has risen the awareness of many people. One out of five Americans will experience a mental disorder during their lifetime.  But, people can get better.  With proper treatment, most people with a mental illness recover quickly, and the majority do not need hospital care, or have only brief admissions.

Mental illness has traditionally been surrounded by community misunderstanding, fear, and stigma.  Stigma towards people with a mental illness has a detrimental effect on their ability to obtain services, their recovery, the type of treatment and support they receive, and their acceptance in the community.

Exactly what is stigma?  Stigma means a mark or sign of shame, disgrace or disapproval, of being shunned or rejected by others.  It emerges when people feel uneasy or embarrassed to talk about behavior they perceive as different.  The stigma surrounding mental illness is so strong that it places a wall of silence around this issue.

It is like hiding the “pile” instead of dealing with it properly.

The effects are damaging to the community as well as to the person will the illness and his/her family and friends.  But at Mental Health agencies and groups all over are working hard to erase the stigma associated with having a mental illness.

In-House-46638176283_xlargeThe emphasis needs to be on supporting and treating people in their own communities, close to their families, friends and familiar surroundings.

Yet discrimination and community misconceptions remain among the most significant barriers to people with a mental illness being able to actively participate in the community and gaining access to the services they need.

But it is not only people with a mental illness who experience discrimination and stigma.  Rejection of people with mental illness inevitably spills over to the caregiver and family members.

Improving community attitudes by increasing knowledge and understanding about mental illness is essential if people with a mental illness are to live in, and contribute to, the community, free from stigma and discrimination.

People with mental problems are our neighbors. They are members of our congregations, members of our families; they are everywhere in this country. If we ignore their cries for help, we will be continuing to participate in the anguish from which those cries for help come. A problem of this magnitude will not go away. Because it will not go away, and because of our spiritual commitments, we are compelled to take action.”

~Rosalynn Carter

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Those Joyful Christians

Joyful

You satisfy me more than the richest feast.
    I will praise you with songs of joy.”

Psalm 63:5, (NLT)

To be truly happy– a man must have sources of gladness which are not dependent on anything in this world.”

J.C. Ryle

The defining hallmark of vital Christianity has to be joy. It is truly what describes believers in every culture, from a ‘rice paddy’ in Vietnam to a business woman in a NYC skyscraper. Joy is seen in their hearts and faces. Its source– the indwelling Holy Spirit; He makes them ‘bubble’ in a ‘carbonated’ kind of holiness. He sets them apart for Himself. They are His own possession. He loves us prodigiously.

I must say this: Joy is not contingent on ‘good’ circumstances. A bad day at the office or a bill-collector at the door can’t nullify the Spirit’s ministry inside of us. We can be joyful in all circumstances without being comfortable with them. As a matter of fact, we can rejoice (joy, again) in our tribulations.

Ultimate joy is waiting for us. We must turn-off the TV and give our video games a rest, and press into communicating with God. Sometimes we’ll need to shut down the internet for a few hours, to keep ‘the spring bubbling’ fresh and clean.

It will take work to set the Lord before you,

you will have to say ‘No” to some things.

Awareness of Him through His Word and worship are good habits to have. They are essential for ‘broken believers’ that may struggle with physical or mental handicaps. They are as vital as the meds we must take.

 And Nehemiah continued, “Go and celebrate with a feast of rich foods and sweet drinks, and share gifts of food with people who have nothing prepared. This is a sacred day before our Lord. Don’t be dejected and sad, for the joy of the Lord is your strength!

Nehemiah 8:10

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