Friday, January 08, 2010

Prayer for the Virus Code Writer Dude (or Dudette)

This morning I was surfing the internet in search for something I needed to purchase. It has happened to me a few times, accidentally stumbling upon a fake internet site whose sole purpose is to infect my computer with some sort of horrible virus that will make my computer stop working, ruin all of my files and completely piss me off. Luckily, my husband is a really gifted computer guy. He has set up an amazing protection system for us as well as has taught me how to react and not “fall” for the normal tactics. My favorite of which is the one where the fake AVG-ish window pops up and tells you that you are in fact infected. You think it is a real warning from your own system and so you quickly click on the button that says “Scan Computer” or “Heal Infection.” Unbeknownst to you, what clicking that button really does is set the virus loose on your computer. As if that isn’t bad enough, these ‘genius’ (I use this word loosely) virus writers make it so that no matter what icon or button you click on (even the close window button)… you are setting the virus free to ravage your computer. Yes, it’s lovely. Bravo to you oh mastermind-virus-computer-code-writer dude (or dudette)… you are so smart, cool and smooth. Oh how I wish I were as brilliant as you. You have really made something of yourself, haven’t you?

As I said, I was surfing this morning and it happened. This time I couldn’t even get to my task manager screen to “kill” the page. I had to push the power button and shut down ungracefully. It really irritated me too… I mean I got insanely mad. What’s really funny is I was searching for Serenity Prayer bookmarks… ha ha… that’s right, you know it… “God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I can not change (like stupid hacker viruses), the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” Ironic really, how my search for ‘serenity’ left me extremely pissed off! And, how intelligent of yet another super-smart computer virus mastermind to build an infectious site and mask it with the serenity prayer… again… Bravo. You have truly earned my passive-aggressive standing slow-clap for that!!

Instead of mumbling and cursing under my breath, I suppose it would probably be more productive for me to stop and say a prayer for the dude (or dudette) whose life is so empty and meaningless, whose path has somehow left them feeling so powerless in their own world that the only sense of accomplishment that can muster is to attempt to ruin other people’s hard work and personal memories. For I know without doubt that God, in fact, loves them just as much as He loves me. As hard as that is to accept... it is true. With that being said, please join me in this prayer…

Lord, I pray that You will find a way to work Your powerful magic in the lives of all the people who, for whatever reason, find it necessary to write harmful computer viruses and pass them on through the internet. I ask that You forgive them, for they are no different than me, a grand sinner who is unworthy or Your mercy and forgiveness. Teach them to use their brilliance in a more productive manner, for it is obvious You have created them with incredible talent. Give me patience and understanding of their plight and protect the unsuspecting from the viruses they plant. And for those of us who fall victim, show us through our loss what is truly important in this world. It isn’t JPGs, MP3s, DOCs, PPTs, or even PSDs (even the ones that took us 12 hours to create). It is You… and keeping You at the center of our lives… spreading Your goodness to others… even the virus-code-writing dude (or dudettes) of the world. I ask this in Your amazing name – Amen! P.S. Help me really mean this prayer.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Beaten Isn't the Reas'n

Humility… something all of us humans are supposed to strive for. When I first entered recovery, I was told I needed to find some humility. At first I was totally offended. I was confused because I really thought I already had humility. After all, I knew I was one of the lowest life forms on the planet. I knew that everyone was better than me. I knew there was no way God could ever forgive my sins – they were too big, too bad and too unforgivable. I felt I already was as humble as I could get – in fact, I wondered if perhaps I was a little bit too humble. I had been told my whole life I was supposed to be humble, but I had also been told that to truly love someone else I needed to first love myself. I was so humble that I didn’t love myself at all.

Sobriety has taught me many things about humility and as it turned out… I had a horribly misconstrued conception of what humility was. Whenever I thought about the picture of humility, I saw Jesus. But the picture of Jesus that I would see wasn’t of Him teaching others, or healing people, or praying… it was the picture of Jesus being tortured and beaten – bloody from head to toe at the hand of his accusers as He prepared to be nailed to the cross. Yes, Jesus was the perfect picture of humility and He let people beat the crap out of Him, even though He didn’t deserve it at all.

So it only made sense; being beaten = humility. I think there might be a lot of us walking around this world thinking the very same thing. We think being humble means we are supposed to be, act or feel lower than the people around us. We think we are supposed to sacrifice our own natural desires and needs in a grand act of martyr-ism so we can come out on the other end feeling like the humble hero. But… what ends up happening, is we feel used and abused by others and we get angry for not being appreciated.

For me, I would wonder, “if humility is so great… why do I feel so insignificant and powerless when it’s all said and done?” I would then turn back to my thoughts of Jesus and how He didn’t complain about being beaten. I’d think, “Buck up camper… Jesus did it and His situation was so much worse! I just need to try harder to be humble and just accept that it sucks without complaining.” In my inability to accept the suck-i-ness, I would feel like a disappointment to God and become overwhelmed with a feeling of selfishness… and I’d beat myself up for my failure. My anger then extended outwards to others for not noticing my pain or appreciating my so-called sacrifices. That anger grew and grew… and the cycle continued.

One day, I was at an AA meeting complaining about the cycle I just explained. A gentleman came up to me privately after the meeting and told me I had it all wrong. He said I wasn’t being humble at all…he went on to tell me I was being extremely selfish. It has taken me a long time to understand what he meant… but I’m finally getting it… and he was right. I have never been humble… I have always been selfish.

Humility isn’t about making myself lowly. It isn’t about being a martyr. It’s not about being beaten by myself or others. Humility is not about powerlessness… in fact, humility is the most powerful trait anyone can possess. That’s right… to be humble is to be full of power. Humility is pure power… but… it is power under control.

Go back to that picture of Jesus I shared with you. He was sacrificing himself, giving His blood for our freedom. He was being beaten and taunted. He was in physical pain we can not even imagine but… His sacrifice, His spilled blood, His pulsing wounds, His emotional torment was NOT why He was humble. He was humble because He, the King of Kings, the Lord of Lords contained within Himself the power to stop what was happening to Him. He could have broken free and whooped some major butt at any given time but instead… He kept His power contained and under control. He knew who He was, He knew what His purpose was, He knew what God wanted from Him and He knew why it was so important… He was confident, He was powerful and… His control of those things was what made Him humble.

Those who successfully find true humility know who they are. They are confident in who God has made them to be (and they know the growth must continue… it is not a destination). They know their mission, their purpose and they aren’t looking to be a martyr or to be appreciated. They do what they do out of obedience to God because they know He has an important reason for sending them down a certain path. They are full of God’s power… but they hold it deeply in their soul, with delicate and definite control. I’m sure for them, humility comes and goes, for it wouldn’t be in our nature at all to have it together all the time. That’s why I believe humility can only be accomplished with the help of God. Maybe one day I will actually get to feel what humility truly is… but for now, I’m just working towards it. And I am so very glad to finally understand that I don’t have to be lowly, powerless, beaten or unappreciated to be on the pathway to humility.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Water: Take Two

I posted a note on Facebook on December 19, 2008 called "Water". I don't think anyone read it... and to be honest I totally forgot I wrote it. For some reason, I stumbled upon it today and thought it was pretty interesting. I have improved greatly in the last year on my water intake but I'm still working on it. Drinking more water is one of my goals for 2010. I hope you enjoy!

WATER -December 19, 2008

This morning I turned on the tv and it was on the Christian channel. Kenneth Copeland was on. I don't normally watch preachers on TV (not that I have a problem with it - I just prefer church in the flesh). In any case, I left it on while I was searching for something for my son to watch and I couldn't help but to hear what Copeland and his wife were talking about. It made a lot of sense to me and I wanted to share it because I felt like a light bulb switched on over my head. These are his thoughts but my interpretation...

Drinking water is good for your body. Water is the best drink, it is healthy and our bodies need it to replenish, rejuvenate, heal, and survive this world. Basically, water is pure and simple sustenance and our bodies were made to NEED water. Unfortunately, the majority of people these days don't drink nearly enough water, some of us (like me) don't drink hardly any straight water. Why?? Well, it doesn't taste like anything. It's boring. There is no "WOW" or immediate gratification. I would rather have soda or coffee - because it tastes better. I know they aren't healthy for me, but I drink them anyway.

It's funny, water isn't addictive at all. It takes discipline and conscious thought to make sure we drink enough water everyday - but coffee, soda, alcohol - they become addictions and we end up just drinking it in excess without a fleeting thought.

In the Bible, the Spirit is also referred to as water.... hmmm.... draw the conclusion... our lives and our bodies need "water" in both ways, H2O and Spirit. In both cases, it takes intentional thought and discipline to have them present. Just as I will never become addicted to water, the Spirit will never push himself on me and beg me to let Him in. I must invite Him with purpose and intention everyday.

All the worldly things that taste good, feel good, that are easily accessed and give immediate gratification become addictions, obsessions and distraction from the "water" I really need to be healthy and live life the way God intended. So, drinking water is about obedience to God; taking care of our temple and staying connected to His Spirit. They both require thought and will not just happen on their own. This really made sense to me... I'm going to make an effort to drink more water... both kinds :)

Saturday, January 02, 2010

You Are Good

One of the best ways for me to connect to God these days is to put my headphones on and listen to a few praise songs. I focus on the words and music and just give myself to Him. I close my eyes and in those moments I am able to disconnect from the world and only be aware of His mercy and glory. It is lovely.

I have recently gone through a season of my spiritual life where I have felt as though God was farther away from me than normal. I know in my head that God never goes away… but my heart and my spirit just seemed to be unaware of His presence. I had some sadness and trouble, stress and anxiety and even though He felt far away - I put my headphones on and tried my best to connect. Ever since reading “The Screwtape Letters” by C.S. Lewis, I whole-heartedly believe that God is most pleased with us when we try and try to connect with Him even when we aren’t getting immediate gratification of the connection. It’s easy to praise Him when we feel Him right next to us, just like it’s easy to be nice to people we like (and we know what the bible says about that). But as I stated, I know He never goes away… I just don’t feel Him sometimes. The reasons for this are… mysterious and frustrating… and I recognize, my own fault.

One of my favorite praise songs to get lost in is called “You Are Good.” It is by Gateway Worship and sung by Kari Jobe.

Your kindness leads me to repentance.
Your goodness draws me to Your side.
Your mercy calls me to be like You.
Your favor is my delight.
You are good… Your mercy lasts forever.

When I hear the beautiful music coupled with her gorgeous voice… I can’t help but to get lost in the meaning of those simple words of praise.

God, because I know how kind and loving You are, because I know You will not beat me to the ground - I am able to come and kneel at Your feet, pour my imperfections out, and cry bottomlessly for Your forgiveness. Lord, it is Your incomprehensible gracious nature that attracts me to be closer and closer to You. How could I not want to be near something so pure and truly good? Father, it is experiencing Your mercy and forgiveness personally, feeling the way You love me unconditionally that makes me want to give that same gift away to others. Especially to those who don’t know what You are really like. I know I can never fully succeed but, oh, how I want to try. King, the only time I am truly joyous is when I feel Your favor upon me. Nothing can match that happiness. I imagine that is what heaven will feel like all the time. I can not wait. You are the ONLY thing that is good in this world… and I can always count on You… forever.

In November and December of 2009 I was experiencing a large amount of loss and grief due to the death of two loved ones and also the loss of two friendships. I think the devil sees times of loss as his own personal playground. He whispers bittersweet lies in my ear and he knows I will slide so easily down in my weakened, saddened human state. He pushes me higher and higher on the “should-have, could-have but-it’s-too-late” swing and as much as I want to get off, there is something comfortable about self-blame and self-hatred. He sits on the other end of the teeter-totter and helps me go back and forth for hours: guilt… shame… guilt… shame…guilt… shame. He loves to watch me fall ungracefully and skin my knee on the ground as I search and he loves to convince me that God is in fact playing a game of hide and seek with me. He tells me, the seeker, I just don’t have the strength to look any further for the prize, so I slump… and that’s how the slump begins.

My recent slump had me feeling far away from God. I continued praying, I read the bible, I went to church with an open heart, and I sang God’s praises in my car. I curled up in bed in the middle of the day several times, put on my headphones, covering myself with the blankets and just cried as I listened to the lyrics of songs, “darkness flees when I call Your name” and “Your blood will find a way.” In those moments I believed those things in my head but my heart… was hurting. All I could do is cry.

Towards the end of December, I realized that one of the feelings I had really been missing was the feel of God’s favor. As the song I shared with you earlier states… “Your favor is my delight.” I hadn’t felt that delight in awhile yet I remembered what it felt like. The memory of the joy left me longing for it even more deeply. I wondered what I had done to disappoint my Father. I wondered why His favor had not been upon me. I prayed for the answer.

A relatively new person in my life, a person I don’t know all that well contacted me one day. All he said was that he was sorry to hear of the death in my family. I responded, appreciative of his kindness. I mentioned that life had been hard lately. I said I was dealing with much loss and pain. He knew of some of the things (his girlfriend is dear to me so I’m sure she shared my pain with him for the sake of prayer) but he knew no specifics. He responded in a way that answered my prayer and changed everything in my mind.

In a serious yet lighthearted tone, he reminded me that God will never give me more than I can handle. Yes, a great reminder. Then he went on to say the fact that I had several things piled up on top of me, things that were hard and hurtful, things that challenged me in so many ways showed the level of strength and faith God must know I possess. God knows I have what it takes to rest on Him and make it through.

Like a ton of bricks I realized my perception of God’s withdrawal of favor was an illusion. His favor had been upon me the whole time…. His favor was in the hard stuff, His favor was His belief in me.

I don’t know what your relationship with God is like… but I want to make sure you understand that God doesn’t work the way us humans do. God doesn’t remove His favor as punishment… and the fact that I was sitting there wondering what I had done only proves one thing… I was still on the devil’s pitiful playground. The devil is a liar. But God is a gentleman, He waits for us and helps us figure it out when we ask Him to. God’s favor has nothing to do with me and my worthiness or deservedness, for if it did I would have never felt it. God’s favor is based solely on His goodness. Oh Lord, You are good… You are good… Your mercy lasts forever!