Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘God’

“Dear God.  I am really angry with You!”

Just saying those words out loud made me hold my breath.  Would I bring down the fabled wrath for having said that?  But it was true – it was the most honest statement I’d ever made to God since I’d started trying to pray.  I was really angry – for a lot of reasons.  But I had been somehow conditioned that you don’t talk honestly to those you have a problem with – so the same should logically apply to God.

I knew something was really wrong in my life.  I had been plagued by problems for years, problems I couldn’t pin down as to origin.  I had even tried to talk about that as a prayer, many years before.  When I was about 21, there was a Sunday evening service at the church I attended, and at one point in the service, they would dim the lights, and people were invited to come down to the altar rail, kneel and pray.  One time my prayer had gone something like “Dear God, I don’t know if You’re really up there, and if You’re really listening, but if You are, I know there’s something terribly wrong with my life.  I seem to hurt deep down inside, and I don’t know where it’s coming from.  Please help me God.”  I didn’t seem to get an answer at the time, and for a long time afterward.

But it was just after Christmas in 1987, and my Dad had just died, at a time when the problems I had been struggling with had escalated.  It felt like my whole world was spinning out of control.  I was 37 years old, and my anger at God had already started to surface.  In anger I had torn up and shredded a lot of Bible study notes, frustrated at the seeming lack of answers in all that study I had done.  Then I got the phone call – come home; Dad is dying.  I had returned to my parents house, had been there when my Dad died, delivered the eulogy at his funeral.  It had been a hugely emotional time, and I was still reeling from it.

Now, a month later, the anger was back, and boiling.  I was willing to risk all sorts of possible bad things to be honest with what I was feeling, and just say – flat out – how angry I was at God, and at the situation.  Having stated my anger, and not been struck down by a bolt of lightning, I sat down and started writing what I was angry about.

I had recently started narrowing down where all the issues were coming from.  I had remembered several ugly incidents with my Dad when I was a teenager.  First my Dad had shamed poetry that I had written for a school literary magazine, told me it was worthless and I’d never amount to anything.  It was a horrible experience, and it felt like a light went out in my soul when my writing was taken away from me by being told it was worthless.   The next thing I had remembered was arguing with my Dad over being able to wear my hair like the Beatles.  He was a former Marine, and refused to allow it.  Then late at night he came into my room and beat me up, telling me not to talk back to him.  I had a feeling there may have been more – the evidence pointed that way – but I didn’t know how to root out whatever still might be underneath.

Then there was the horrible hurt I was feeling over my Dad dying.  Our relationship had been strained for a number of years, but recently we had found a new supportiveness and peace between us.  And then he died.  It wasn’t fair!

So it came back to “Dear God, I am angry with you!”  I knew I couldn’t keep carrying that anger, so I took a risky step.  I set up a meeting with a minister at my church, to admit before a man of God about my anger.  Wow – now that felt risky!  But it also felt necessary.  I had watched as my Dad denied his anger and refused to deal with it for many years.  He had suffered numerous health problems, and had died in his late 50s.  I had been watching his behavior and expecting his early death for several years, and knew – somehow I just knew – that if I didn’t deal with my own anger, I would end up going down the same path.

I met with the minister the next day.  I shared with him what I had written, and the things I was angry about.  I held my breath, expecting some dread penance for irreverence.  Instead, the minister confirmed that many people felt things like I was feeling, and had experienced deep anger at God.  It just wasn’t supported at church to talk about that, so everyone put on what I called the “happy Christian game face” and didn’t talk about things like anger at God. He said I had opened the lines of communication with God in a whole new way, and God would honor that honesty.  He told me it took great courage for me to share what I did, and that it would only help my healing process. Then the minister said something very interesting – he said not to be surprised if other things continued to be revealed to me.  He was right!

Several weeks later, I found the deep source of the issues that had plagued me.  A very deep and violent incident with my Dad when I was seventeen, while he was drunk.  I kept getting clues that something had happened, followed them, and was led to have this incident revealed.  It was a horrible event to remember, and I knew it would take a long time to fully work through the effects.  But – there was also a tremendous sense of relief.  I now knew why my world had been so skewed, and in the big picture, things made a whole lot more sense.

So saying I was angry at God, being honest in that way, had led to a huge healing process.  Not eternal punishment, chastisement or condemnation.  I still had some of those teachings stuck in my soul, and it took a while to release those old beliefs and realize that God really did want the best for me.

Then the question.  Did God hear my plea down at the altar rail when I was 21?  Were things revealed to me at a time and in a way that I could handle knowing the truth?  It sure seemed like it!  I know I couldn’t have handled knowing about the violence when I was 21.  It came out as gently as it could given how horrific the abuse had been.

“Dear God.  Thank You for revealing this incident with my Dad at a time when I could handle it.  Thank You for being so loving toward me.”

Quite a different prayer than the earlier one.  But they felt connected – the angry prayer led to the thankful prayer.  I do believe that.

Photo Credit:

“Speak Truth Banner” Donnaphoto @flickr.com. Creative Commons. Some Right Reserved.

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

It was 1971.  I was a newly minted Christian, and eager to share the good news of what I had found.  I had gone to what the Methodist Church called a Lay Witness Mission, sort of a revival, and given my life over to God.  It was phrased as “give as much of yourself as you can, to as much of God as you can understand.”  It wasn’t much in either case – I didn’t understand much, and I couldn’t give much, but I did what I could.  One of the things they had emphasized was the need to share the message of the faith you had found.  They didn’t say much about how to do that, but just had a few lectures on the basics of Christianity.

So there I was one night, sitting in a dorm room at Texas Tech University in Lubbock, trying to share my faith with a friend of mine.  I had gone to high school with Jerry, and we’d spent a lot of time water skiing and hanging out at the lake.  He was at Tech to get a biology degree, and wanted to eventually get a PhD in some specialized type of biology that I didn’t understand.  I had barely gotten through the dissecting the frog course, so I had no idea what he was studying, but I did know he was really smart.

I stumbled through the basic concepts of Christianity I had been given, somehow thinking that to be effective I needed to be sure of what I was saying, and convicted in the correctness of my position.  Only later did I realize that I hadn’t thought through what I had been taught, wasn’t sure if I believed it or agreed with it, and that this made for a less than effective presentation of certainty.

Then Jerry said something that baffled me.  “I think we come to faith through doubting.”  I was perplexed, because they hadn’t given us an answer for that thought in the lectures.  In some vague way, it felt like not being faithful to even question the validity of Christianity.  I ran my stock answers past him one more time, trying to speak them clearly enough that he would understand what I was saying.  I could see he remained unconvinced, and somewhere deep inside me, I felt unconvinced myself.

It took me many years to understand what he had said.  Only after I had gone through doubting phases did I realize the strength of the concept he was trying to share with me.  And the irony of that didn’t escape me.

I reached a point where I had tried all the Bible Studies I could sign up for – to try to better understand God.  I had been very active at our church, involved in singles ministry, working as a counselor with the high school kids.  I had even gone on weekend prison ministries – where we would spend the majority of the weekend inside a Texas prison unit, only returning to our motel rooms late at night – witnessing to the prisoners about our faith.

I later realized that what I was trying to do, particularly with the Bible Study – was to understand God well enough that I could quantify Him, put Him in a box, and essentially, not have to trust in God.  I began to wonder if I agreed with all I had learned, and felt that all the effort wasn’t allowing me to feel more convinced when it came to my faith.  Did I really believe the things I had learned and thought I knew about God?

Somewhere during that time, I also attended a Great Books study group, and heard a wonderful quote by Socrates.  Paraphrased – “the beginning of wisdom is to know we don’t have wisdom.”  I translated that to be free to give up trying to understand and quantify God – because it couldn’t be done.  I relaxed a lot after that.

But I was still left questioning my faith, my direction, and my relationship with God.  As I realized that there were unresolved issues from my childhood that had broken my trust in God, I began to see why I was not giving myself more freely.  The essential question was: “If you’re an omniscient, omnipotent God like I’ve been taught – where were You when the bad things were happening, and why didn’t You stop it?”  I didn’t find a simplistic answer to that question – I’m not sure if one exists – but I made peace with the fact that there had been abuse and violence that had caused me to doubt.  Wait – caused me to doubt?  So did I come to trust more and have more faith, through doubting?  Sure seemed like it.

So now Jerry’s statement took on a whole new meaning.  “We come to faith through doubting.”  I didn’t understand until I had gone through it myself.  But it gave me a whole new appreciation for the faith process.  By questioning what I had been taught, by doubting God because of my past, I had come to that certainty that had been missing earlier about my faith.  By giving up the need to know everything – more accurately, by admitting the futility of trying to know everything – I came to a greater peace about accepting life as it was, and taking faith as “the evidence of things unseen,” and relying on them as I went about my life.  It freed me to a more pure spirituality – not religiosity – that allowed me to connect with God in a way I had never done before.  And if I doubted occasionally – I was fine with that now, and knew it would eventually strengthen my faith.

Photo Credits

“sensitive noise / obvious 2”  milos milosevic @flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

“Question mark.”  Marco Bellucci @flickr.com Creative Commons.  Some rights reserved.

Read Full Post »

One time I heard someone talk about having Balcony People in your life – people who were in the balcony cheering you on, and pulling you up by their positive encouragement.  I later realized that I had allowed into my life a number of Basement People – people who were trying to pull me down into the muck of their unhappiness as I was trying to climb out and away from that dynamic.  So I had to write the following poem.

(Written October 16, 1986)

To The Basement People

You choose to stay in prison,
Behind the wall that you create.
You say that you are happy,
But your eye is filled with hate.

I choose to seek my freedom,
You do not understand.
I follow inner guidance,
Not every move is planned.

I need less your approval,
You feel me pull away.
Expending every effort,
You try to make me stay.

My freedom is convicting,
It says so much to you.
If I am free to come and go,
Then so, perhaps, are you.

But also with the freedom,
You’re aware there is a cost.
To take a risk, have less control,
It’s what you fear the most.

So not to leave your prison,
You try to limit me.
You undermine me all the time,
My efforts to be free.

By sowing little seeds of doubt,
Among my growth and gains.
You take away the awful sting,
Of your own prison chains.

I took it for so many years,
Allowed you to control.
But farewell, you prisoner,
For God has freed my soul.

Read Full Post »

(Written November 12, 1988)

By holding on to hate, focusing on those objects of anger, I tie myself to the past.  But denying the anger as well did not work, because I was tied just as much, without knowledge, unable to escape the chains.

By moving through the anger and hurt, I am freed – freed to live in the present and look forward to the future.  Savoring each day and each just more rich experience.  To feel the power of the lion, rather than the rage of the tiger.

Yet, paradox once again.  I am returning; returning to a realm of almost forgotten knowledge, awareness.  Of the time when I had what I am.  I knew what I know now.

Who I am, what I want, what I want to do.

To know the incredible sweetness of the spiritual flow of words from my pen to paper.  Feeling at that time empowered by God, blessed, enriched, in harmony with life, embracing my destiny, fully myself, not a role or what someone else wishes of me, joyful, hopeful, expectant.

Knowing – that I am to have a special someone.  Someone I don’t know and cannot describe, but who will, with perfect divine order fit my needs and meet my needs – all those that can be fulfilled by a lover.

Aware of and accepting the limitations of that relationship.  Not teenage fantasy of being everything, each day flawless and goodness and goo, but commitment – I love you when I don’t like you, when you leave your socks on the floor, when you need space and I need to be held.

The mundane of bills to be paid, stubbed toes and egos, upsets and in-laws, shopping and ironing, the IRS.

But even so, more comfortable together than alone, comfortable in silence, enjoying going to movies, walks on the beach, exploring the wildflowers, expanding each other, seeking God together.

I at my computer, composing, concentrated, enveloped in creativity; she respectful of it, yet not waiting for my return, sitting and toe tapping, but also enrapt in her own world, developing, growing, blooming.  Then free to return to togetherness, sharing the growing.  No fear – of leaving, because at last we are not runners.  The need to leave for a time – to walk amid trees separately – brings no fear of abandonment, because the commitment brings freedom and the knowing of return.  The steward of each other’s solitude.

A return also to the full awareness of my spiritual richness.  The ability to transmit warmth and safety.  So that cats and small children feel safe to draw near, are attracted to the warmth.  Aware that I think of someone and they – if they are a kindred spirit, receive and know of my thoughts.  Knowing the joy of looking across a room at someone facing the other way, sending a silent message saying “I love you;” they turn, look, then smile at me – she doesn’t know why, but I do.

Having healed the wounds, yet never losing the scars, knowing that I understand those who have been at war, and those who have stood in an old Western town in the middle of a dusty, lonely street, facing an opponent with a gun.

Aware of the incredible paradox of being a boxer with a killer instinct who can also craft fine poetry, play sweet music, wishes no harm to others.  This too, is my destiny.  I cannot escape it, but as I embrace it, though it has its own special sadness, I become more fully me.

Feeling so harmonious with God that at long last I am able to follow God, blind as a newborn puppy, having shed the everpresent why, relaxed and expectant through the unknowing.  Knowing that when I know not what to do I will be shown.  That I cannot describe that special someone, but God can and is gently, firmly, leading me to her.

Knowing full well the gratitude and deep humility of the time when with all the efforts, willingness and surrender, I stood before Him not knowing what in me was broken, yet knowing it was, and He showed it to me, even in my hour of deepest defeat, and released me of it.  The hour pride was killed.  the realm of miracles.

Knowing that this hour is a beginning, a fresh start, all will be brought to fruition.  As I most fully claim the many talents I possess, I have not to battle against the old pride, because the brand of humility has been so deeply burned into my soul.  By grace I am alive and know.  By grace has the tiger been silenced.

So to joy, to experience, to fulfillment, the pen flows more freely, the words leap into congruence, wisdom, insight, harmony, in an everchanging simplicity.

I even look different.  The eyes, open, wide, childlike. The brow no longer furrowed, arms uncrossed, shoulders relaxed, loosely smiling, radiant with love.  yet through the anger the boundaries – you have your space, but leave me mine.  The balance.

Always the balance.  Maintaining harmony.  Celebration.  No hurry, no rushing to finish one even to be on to the next.  The celebration is in the moment.  So now to joy.

————

Epilogue:

I wrote this piece in 1988, but hadn’t read it in almost 20 years.  I found it, almost by accident, when I was looking through files for things to post on my blog site.  I was astonished by the voice I heard speaking to me through this piece.  In the early ’80s I read a book entitled “The Bridge Across Forever,” by Richard Bach.  In that book, Richard from 20 years in the future came and talked to Richard in his present time, and told him things about his future.  It was written metaphorically – you thought, but you weren’t sure.

When I read Celebration, I had that eerie sensation that I’d had a similar experience to Richard Bach in his book.  The things I said in this piece could have been written today, and were infinitely more true about me today than back then.  In 1988, I was 15 years away from even beginning to see the impact my grandmother had in my life and the abusive seeds she had planted in me at age 8. Those events directly locked up my creativity for many, many years.  The publication of the book I wrote entitled “Freedom’s Just Another Word,” brought those issues to the surface, and broke the back of those old wounds with Grandma.  Which freed me to be where I am today!

I embrace Celebration as a statement of my present!

Dan

 

Read Full Post »

Redemption

Written December 30, 1988

At Thanksgiving of 1988 I returned to Fort Worth, a place of many of my roots – my family, early friends, beginnings.  I had lived there for about a year and a half in 1967 and 1968.  My family had moved back to the town where my parents had grown up, and where many of my relatives still lived.

We began attending Mathews Memorial Methodist Church, which my parents had attended while they were growing up.  It was there I had first found a sense of church family, and had formed some bonds that had lasted until the present.  It was currently known as University Methodist, but in my heart it would always be Mathews.

I had seen a flyer that stated there would be a garage sale at the church on Saturday morning.  That day I went over to the church, planning to browse the sale and just look around.  I went into the gym, filled with the chaos of a typical garage sale.  I saw a few vaguely familiar faces, but could not connect them with names.  I bought two books I had wanted for a while, and left.

As I passed the side doors of the church, on a whim I pulled at one, intending to roam the once familiar halls.  To my surprise, the door opened on to the side of the sanctuary.  I stepped in and listened, but could hear no one.  It was much smaller than I had remembered; a sanctuary seating approximately 400, with light blue carpet and baby blue walls, stained glass windows of Bible scenes down each side.  Now it was hushed in muted stillness, tranquil and warm.

I walked in and sat on the second pew, memories flooding me.  Our gang had all been in a Christmas play together, performed on the platform beside the pulpit.  Our youth minister had stood at that pulpit and preached a memorable sermon, using the analogy of a ship: “Who are you, where are you going, who is your captain?”  A stately matriarch sat in the choir loft on Sunday mornings and glared at the fidgety ones (like me) sitting in the balcony.  Once I had forgotten and worm white socks with my suit.  It was Communion Sunday and I had to kneel before the entire church at the altar rail, convinced they were all looking at my socks.

Then my eyes wandered up to the wall behind the choir loft.  It had a large circular stained glass window; Jesus, seated, with arms outstretched – offering.  Along the outer border were three segments of a verse: My Peace – I give – unto you.  I had always been attracted to those words, because you could combine the segments any way you wanted and they still made sense.  I had forgotten about the stained glass, and it affected me powerfully.

It hit me with tremendous force that the title of my first book was “Search For Peace.”  It was an autobiographical chronicle of my spiritual journey, my struggles to find God, yet also my resistance against God.  For the first time I realized that the title of my book came from some corner of my heart where the words in the stained glass window had been stored.

Looking back down at the altar rail I remembered Sunday night services.  They would dim the lights in the church, and people were free to come forward, kneel at the rail and pray.  I suddenly remembered vividly a prayer of mine one night when I was 18.  I had said something like “God, I don’t know if You’re up there, but if You are, and if You are listening, here’s what I have to say.  The way I am running my life is not working.  There’s something bad wrong, but I don’t know what it is.  So if You’re up there, and if You really care, help me! I can’t give you much, but whatever I have I give You.”  That experience had stayed with me vividly through all the years.  I could even tell exactly where at the altar rail I had been when I prayed that prayer.

I had recently been feeling an incredible sense of peace and freedom, after a long struggle with some very deep seated issues.  The peace was not just intellectual statements any more, but I felt it down very deep inside me.  My gaze drawn back to the stained glass, I thought of a completed circle – finding peace and returning once more to the exact place where the journey began – from beginning to beginning.  I went and knelt at the altar rail, at the same spot, tears welled up and a prayer of thanksgiving flooded from my heart up to God.

———–

Several weeks later, just before Christmas, I was back home in Houston and awoke to a rainy day.  I had been carrying the experience in Fort Worth in my thoughts for several weeks, yet its full significance eluded me.  There was some element of it that whispered at the edge of my awareness, like a long forgotten but barely remembered memory.

I needed exercise, and went to a local mall, The Galleria, to walk – which I sometimes did when the weather was inclement. It was a pleasant form of exercise; it had the additional bonus of fascinating people watching.  As I began walking, I noticed the vast number of people hurrying, doing their Christmas shopping, but in a terrible rush; some of them did not look happy!

For several laps I had noticed a grand piano sitting in an atrium area at one end of the mall.  As I passed one time, a young, neatly dressed black man sat at the piano, playing a light, soothing melody – appealing, yet unrecognizable.

I stopped, sat down on a bench, and began quietly listening.  It was a complex piece, lifting up to airy heights, then deepening, ripening fully, powerfully, then scaling back upward in a soothing pattern.  I found myself becoming very tranquil and calm, though the hordes were still bustling past.

He finished and arose.  He had seen my interest among the bustlers, came over and sat next to me.  In talking with him, I discovered that the piece was his original composition.  He had had no formal training, could not read music, but just played for the love of it.   He did not work for the mall, but had just seen the piano and sat down to play.

Since I had missed the beginning, I asked if he would play it again, which he gladly did.  After he finished, he returned and sat shyly next to me.

“Wow,” I said, “that is a really beautiful piece.  No one gave you lessons or anything?”

“No, I just picked things out by myself.  I’m out of practice.  You should hear it when I’ve been working on it.  I missed some parts.”

“Well, it’s really wonderful as it is.  You really do have a gift.  You should stay with it and develop it!”

We sat quietly for a moment.

“By the way, what’s the piece called?  Does it have a name?”

“Yeah, sure. I call it Redemption.  It just seemed right.”

“Why did you call it that?”

“Because of what Jesus has done in my life.”

“Mmm.  That is really special.  Beautiful.”

We talked for a few minutes more, shook hands, bid each other well, and he went out of my life.

It took several more weeks before I realized the gift he had given me – a Christmas gift.  He gave me the word that had been eluding me, though the concept was well documented.  I guess I had been too close to the experience to see it.  It was the sensation I had been experiencing and trying to describe.  Redemption.  From the vague and pleading prayer at the altar rail at Mathews, to the thankful prayer of gratitude upon return to the same spot.

Redemption. My Peace – I give – Unto you.  I had sought; I had found.  It was not just an awareness or intellectual comprehension of a concept.  It was an offer that had been made – by God, through His Son Jesus, and at that moment of my life, I could fully appropriate it, claim it.  Not just thinking it to be true; not just believing it – but knowing it.  Deeply.  I felt overwhelmed with love.

My greatest Christmas gift. From God, to me – Redemption.

 

Read Full Post »

October 13, 1986
Although I wrote this poem in 1986, it exactly captures what I’m going through right now, as I separate from some very damaging old messages my Grandma gave me. (See posting on And Then I Stop)

I fear total freedom,
To live without grey,
To transcend the past,
And live in today.

To grow and create,
Inner voice to guide,
And from other people,
Not needing to hide.

To accept all the love,
God wants to convey,
The light of His love,
My life to portray.

I have not encountered,
This freedom before,
The chains have been broken,
So walk out the door.

So why hesitation,
To believe it is true,
It is unfamiliar,
Is it scary for you?

I must take the risk,
To give it a feel,
And thereby to know,
That freedom is real.

 

Read Full Post »

Outside the Walls

I wrote this poem October 13, 1986, then realized today that it was what I was going through right now, but in a different way. Back then, I thought I built the walls all by myself. But now I’m realizing how much my Grandma built walls of fear for me when I was just 8 years old! See my June posting about my next book, “And Then I Stop”, to see what I mean. With God’s help, Little Danny, the terrified 8 year old who lives in a corner of my soul, is about to step outside the walls forever!

Outside the Walls

I lived in a prison for many a year,
Inside the four walls that I built with my fear.
The air was rancid, surroundings were stark,
I sat in my chains, alone in the dark.

The safety of prison, inside my cell,
No one could touch me in my private hell.
I sat and I pondered, what could be wrong?
I would not leave, so I sang my fear song.

God showed me a picture, life sunny and free,
I shrank in the corner, not wanting to see.
He drew me so gently, through the cell door,
Freed me to love, not keeping score.

Looked back at my prison, from down the road,
How massive the walls, my fear to hold.
They fell as I watched, rubble and dust,
I scarce could believe, but do so I must.

I felt very naked, the walls were not there,
People could see me, people could care.
I tottered along, mid flowers and grass,
With a foreboding that this too would pass.

My eyes grew stronger, facing the light,
I no longer hungered to hide in the night.
My step grew steady, bolder, more sure,
Freely accepting the loving so pure.

 

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »