writing for children

Bitter Truth

 
“Bitterness leads nowhere. It turns back on itself. It is the eternal cul-de-sac.”

(Agatha ChristieMurder in Three Acts, 1934)*

***
Bitterness is insidious. It slinks in on the coattails of our anger and pain. When not identified and exterminated, it slowly morphs into a monster who whispers to our spirit, “But they must pay!”  

And if we give it an ear, the caustic beast takes over everything. We aren’t carrying it in a cute little emotional backpack. Nope, it digs in its talons and clings to our backs, forcing us into a slow crawl.

But we can’t go through life carrying that type of burden. It sucks the life out of everything we do, say, think, and feel. The bitter truth about bitterness is this—it causes us to become someone we aren’t meant to be and less of the person we are meant to be.

And if we let bitterness stick around long enough? We inadvertently put it on a pedestal. And even without realizing it, our desire to make someone pay becomes a higher priority than forgiving them in the same manner we have been forgiven by Christ…and then bitterness can become an idol. And that idol keeps our eyes off of the forgiveness we have been freely given and places it squarely on our desire to see someone else hurt in the same way we have been hurt.

Maybe you know you have taken a bite of the bitter fruit…and maybe you know it’s taken root. But sometimes we don’t even know that we’re harboring bitterness. And many times the person who hurt us doesn’t know that we are harboring bitterness toward them. But those who live with us will usually know. Those who are the closest to us are sometimes the ones who are able to identify it more readily. They see us at our best and our worst…and they can see changes in us even when we can’t—or don’t want to.

And while we might be able to hide the bitterness at work or with those who aren’t part of our inner circle…our bitterness won’t stay hidden forever.

Bitterness is anger gone sour, an attitude of deep discontent that poi...  Quote by Billy Graham, Billy Graham in Quotes - QuotesLyfe

The bitterness can infiltrate our speech. It can reveal itself as part of our social posts. It can become part of the way we respond to everyone who “crosses us”. We are more apt to see other people as lost causes…to give up on relationships…and to view them without grace. It becomes a spiritual blind spot.

So what are some signs that we might be living in a palace of bitterness? It is different for each person, but here are a few symptoms we might experience:  

1.     When someone brings up name of the person who hurt us, bitterness trains our brain to explain/describe how wrong the other person was and still is. It doesn’t take much to set us on that trail…and there is not usually any redemptive aspects to our conversation about that person. 

2.     As Susan mentioned, there’s also the issue of “rehearsing”. Yup, when we think about seeing the offending party, we rehearse what we’ll say to them…over and over and over. Even if it’s just imaginary, it becomes something we ponder more often than not.

3.     We dwell on the things that could have been done differently (sometimes obsessively), while simultaneously blaming the one who caused the offense for everything that’s going wrong in our life.

4.     We don’t like to be around “cheerful” or positive people. It’s as if their sunny disposition disrupts the bitter flow we’ve got going on. Their joy irritates our bitterness.

5.     There is a distinct lack of grace for others, and mistakes are rarely our fault. We have a hard time apologizing. 

6.     We start being judgmental of others, not just the one who hurt us. 

7.     We justify our growing animosity with the remembrance of the sins of those who hurt us.

Bitterness is a heart issue; so what do we do about it? How can we respond to others in the same way that Christ has responded to us? What if that person continues to be a jerk? Or what if they never apologize? Or what if they don’t think they are wrong? What is there to chew on that can help us let go of the bitterness?

Forgiveness: it’s what’s for dinner…and many times, the appetizers and dessert. Why? Because unlike revenge (and pineapple), forgiveness is best served any time and all the time. Corny, yes…but nevertheless, it’s true. 

The Bible doesn’t say that you have to like someone to forgive them. But it does say that you must LOVE them. And true love moves and breathes in the Spirit…not seeking revenge.

In 2nd Timothy 2:24 we are told that those who serve God “…must not be quarrelsome (argumentative) but must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful…”. And in Matthew Jesus says, ““But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.”

It’s not enough to say that we forgive, we are instructed to DO something to show it. We are called to put our forgiveness into action. Then it gets even harder, y’all. In Romans 12, Paul instructs us to treat our “enemies” to lunch. Whaaaa?

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.” Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

That’s a tall order, y’all, and I don’t know if I’m ready for it. Are y’all? 

When I read the above passage, it reminds me that I’m a victor, rather than a victim of circumstances or someone else’s choices. 

Jesus said that “no one takes my life from me…I lay it down…and pick it up again.” That’s what we are being called to do, as well. But in order to do that, we have to take off the bitter monster who is weighing us down and holding us captive…and put on the yoke of Jesus instead. He said, “Are you weary, carrying a heavy burden? Come to me.I will refresh your life, for I am your oasis.[ Simply join your life with mine.[c] Learn my ways and you’ll discover that I’m gentle,[d] humble, easy to please. You will find refreshment and rest in me.[e] For all that I require of you will be pleasant[f] and easy to bear.”

Because when we hold on the bitterness and imprison the bitterness against others in our spirit, they are not the ones in bondage—it’s always us.

Donna

*If this is not the correct attribute, please let me know. But my research has led me to believe that the quote is from the cited source.

p.s. Join us for the other posts in this series. You can find them here! If you’d like to read them, here are the links:
The “B” Word—Not What You Think: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/the-b-word-not…/
Bitter Fruit: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/04/bitter-fruit/
From Bitter to Better: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/2021/05/10/from-bitter-to-better/

writing for children

The “B” Word…Not What You Think.

Prologue

Susan Wilson is a sweet, sweet friend and “adopted” sister to me. I’ve known her longer than I’ve known my husband! 😊 We met during the first week of orientation at Appalachian State University in 1991. As the years have gone by, we’ve had many deep discussions about marriage, motherhood, and mountains (physical, spiritual, and emotional ones). It’s been a joy to be her friend for so long and to walk out our individual journeys together.

Recently, I asked her to collaborate with me on a blog post about a mountain that all of us, at some time in our lives, need to throw into the sea. It’s name?

BITTERNESS.

We have all been on the receiving or giving end of bitterness at some point in our lives—and it is not a pleasant experience on either side. So what do we do about it? We can’t navigate someone else’s journey, but we can certainly take responsibility for our own. The next couple of blog posts will be a combination of thoughts, research, and prayer on the subject from Susan and me. As you read, I ask that you consider if there are any places in your life that are covered in the vines and weeds of bitterness and unforgiveness…then ask God how to deprive them of oxygen and rip them out by roots.

Here’s something to chew on today as we finish preparing for the next couple of posts…

Bitterness, which springs from unforgiveness, affects us spiritually…but it affects us physically, as well. And yes, doctors agree. This quote from Hopkinsmedicine.org shows us one perspective:

There is an enormous physical burden to being hurt and disappointed,”      says Karen Swartz, M.D., director of the Mood Disorders Adult Consultation Clinic at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Chronic anger puts you into a fight-or-flight mode, which results in numerous changes in heart rate, blood pressure and immune response. Those changes, then, increase the risk of depression, heart disease and diabetes, among other conditions. Forgiveness, however, calms stress levels, leading to improved health.” (Karen Swartz, M.D., John Hopkins Medical Center, and https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/wellness-and-prevention/forgiveness-your-health-depends-on-it)

And from Piedmont Healthcare:

“Living in a chronic state of tension disables your body’s repair mechanisms, increasing inflammation and the stress hormone cortisol in the body,” she explains. “Forgiveness engages the parasympathetic nervous system, which helps your immune system function more efficiently and makes room for feel-good hormones like serotonin and oxytocin.” The writers warn, “If you are tempted to dwell on an offense, remind yourself what you are doing to your body when you run the scenario in your mind again. Your brain doesn’t know what is real and what is imagined,” says Buttimer. “When you replay in your mind an experience you had six months ago, your body reacts as if you’re having the same experience over and over again.” (You can find the entire article here: https://www.piedmont.org/living-better/what-does-holding-a-grudge-do-to-your-health)

We hope you’ll join us over the next few days as we explore what happens when we choose bitterness over forgiveness…and how that looks in our lives. You can find the other posts in the series through the links below:

Bitter Fruit: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/04/bitter-fruit/ by Susan Wilson
Bitter Truth: https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/05/07/bitter-truth/ by Donna (me)
From Bitter to Better https://wordwranglernc.wordpress.com/…/from-bitter-to…/ by Susan Wilson

writing for children

Happy Resurrection Day

On the first day of the week, very early in the morning, the women came to the tomb, bringing the spices they had prepared. They found the stone rolled away from the tomb… — Luke 24:1

 

The women arrived with the expectation that the giant stone in front of the tomb would still be in place. When they arrived, it had rolled out of the way.

But if it had not been moved, how did they plan to move it?

I asked my daughters what they thought. They said, “There were guards there. They would have asked them to help.”

I considered that – but I don’t think it is a plausible answer. These were Roman guards — guards who owed nothing to the Jewish women. Even if the women had dared to speak to them, (which I don’t think would have happened), would the Roman guards have agreed to help the women? I don’t think so. They were under no obligation to do so.

The women were under the assumption that Jesus was still DEAD. They weren’t coming expecting the stone to be moved OR for Jesus to have risen. They arrived with anointing oil for his body.

So why did they come without backup help? How did they expect to move the stone? I’ve been praying and asking God to make it clear. I’m sure there are many reasons. But here’s what I’m leaning toward right now, the answer that I hear in my heart…

Even though they knew Jesus was dead — I believe that the women came with EXPECTATIONS.

The truth is, Jesus was dead and they had no way to move the stone.

BUT — they came anyway. 

There was NO plausible way they would be able to anoint Jesus’ body without divine intervention — no way to move the stone on their own and no help to do so —

and they came anyway. They came expecting God to DO SOMETHING to make that happen.

THEY CAME EXPECTING. 

 

Remember when Lazarus died? Mary and Martha were furious and hurt and full of all other sorts of emotions b/c Jesus hadn’t arrived in time like they’d expected Him to do. They had expected Him to come back and heal their brother before he died from the sickness. And when Jesus didn’t, they were distraught. They wept and Jesus wept with them. BUT THEN… when it seemed that all hope was lost, they watched as Jesus raised their brother from the dead.

But this time, it was Jesus in the tomb! Who was going to raise Him from the dead?

They didn’t know —

And they came anyway. They came…

EXPECTING!  

         Provers 13:12 Hope deferred makes the heart sick,
    but a longing fulfilled is a tree of life. *

So what about us? What “stones” in our lives need to be moved to allow us to see the miracle of Jesus’ death-defeating power? His resurrection power? His grace, mercy, and truth? When we ask God to do something, is our faith in line with our requests?

Like the women at the tomb — do we come to Jesus EXPECTING Him to do something?

That’s what faith is. It is the HOPE in things not seen… and EXPECTATION that God will do what God does… He saves. He revives. He makes all things new. He makes a WAY when there is not way. He responds to our pain and hurt in compassion and with truth. HE LOVES.

The empty tomb means that we ALWAYS have help in time of need. The one who raised Lazarus from the dead holds the power over sin and death — and moves whatever needs to be moved.

When we shift our expectations and put our focus on Jesus– God’s plan is revealed and no stone can stand in His way. NONE.

What stones are in your way today? God can and will shake what needs to be moved and shaken…

Come expecting! 

 

 

 

 

writing for children

REVOLUTION

REVOLUTION HAS COME
which side do you choose?

our world moans and groans
under the weight of “progress”
while our trees die from acid rain
and our rivers, once teeming with wildlife,
are suffocated by our excess

The future of our world,
our children,
are abused, silenced and tossed aside
like pieces of trash
with no value

Yet piles of true waste
are upgraded and “upcycled”,
and valued more than their original costs

but God sees His children
They are not hidden
from Him
He sees their plight
and their despair

Revolution has come
which side do you choose?

The God of the universe
sees
and hears
and knows
Even that which is done in secret
in secret meetings, with whispers and
bloody promises

God sees.
He knows.
And He is not pleased.

God is not moved by the cud of rhetoric
that rolls around in the mouths
of seemingly high-powered politicians,
Those that seek power,
that yearn for it,
more than they yearn for Him

He is not impressed with the
never-ceasing speeches
from the leeches
that suck the life
from our nation
and chain the lives of the
their brothers and sisters…
the ones they claim to protect

They would do well to remember
that they are God’s children
and He is a protective Father

REVOLUTION HAS COME
which side do you choose?

God’s ways are not our ways
His thoughts are not our thoughts
His Power has no bounds
His truth, mercy and Love
strikes down wickedness
and strips it of every disguise,
disintegrating mountains
into dust

There is no one who compares
No one who rivals His great deeds
The One True God

And yet He, the God of the Universe,
sees His creation…
and is moved – NOT by the words of those who
believe they can change His mind with their
perfect posture –

But rather –
He is moved by those
who humble themselves
before Him
seeking His forgiveness,
His direction,
His mercy…
believing and knowing that His promises are true
and His Love is everlasting

“But God chose the foolish things of the world, that he might put to shame them that are wise; and God chose the weak things of the world, that he might put to shame the things that are strong…”

A young girl
A manger
A baby

REVOLUTION HAS COME
Which side do you choose?

writing for children

Still learning: Hogwash

Do you remember the 70’s movie, “Love Story”?

At one point in the tumultuous story, Ali McGraw (the leading lady) says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry.” And then later, AFTER SHE DIES, Ryan O’Neal (the grieving leading man) repeats the statement. And with that, the movie ends.

“Love means never having to say you’re sorry.”

This, my dear friends, is the definition of HOGWASH. The lot of it. COMPLETE HOGWASH.

Why am I bringing this up now?

Because I recently heard someone say, “If you feel like you have to apologize to someone, then you aren’t really close.”  

Interestingly enough, Ryan O’Neal made another movie in 1972 called “What’s Up Doc” witih Barbara Streisand. When Barbara says, “Love means never having to say you’re sorry“, O’Neal replies, “That’s the dumbest thing I ever heard.”

Don’t get me wrong, I think you can interpret the “never having to say you’re sorry” bit as something worthwhile. Maybe it means you treat another person with as much respect and love as possible and therefore never have anything that needs to be apologized for.

Yeah. Like anyone can live up to that hype!

We all do things that end up hurting others. Our words and actions leave gaping holes in our relationships. Admitting our faults and making amends (yes, that means apologizing!) helps in the healing process and draws us closer.

But what if we never try to bridge those gaps – what happens?

We end up with relationships separated by canyons.

There will be times when words aren’t necessary. But more often than not, admitting we’ve hurt someone and trying to make things better is a good thing.

For me, though, claiming the “if you love me, I shouldn’t have to apologize” rule is a selfish rule at best. And at the worst, it is self destructive.

So what do you think of that old movie line? Truth? Or Hogwash?

 

*for further reading and opinions, check out these posts by other bloggers:

http://dawnkinzer.blogspot.com/2010/02/love-means-never-having-to-say-youre.html

http://mainstreetmom.com/marr/say_sorry.htm (EXCELLENT ARTICLE!)