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People who hide themselves are impossible to know.

A long-term friend is coming for her first visit to New York City next week. I really didn’t think the visit would happen (it still may not) because she’s never made the effort to do anything really in our friendship. Even when I lived in the same city, she visited my home maybe one time. When I visited her from NYC over the last thirteen years, she has never wanted to leave her home. I’ve a l ways had to see her in her space.

We began as work friends. We met nearly twenty years ago in Milwaukee, WI when I was an intern at a company she was temping at. There were two other women on the floor we bonded with during our time at that company. Of the four, she and I have remained in contact.

When I think back on the tenure of this relationship, I see how I was willing to be a friend, comforter and aid for many years. I openly shared my own growing pains, failures, successes and hopes. I overshared, actually. For the past twelve years, she has only shared her bitterness, anger and resentment – fruit from a broken relationship. About ten years ago, I told her I couldn’t take any of it anymore. I was her dumping ground for everything negative in her life. Most interactions with her have drained me of energy. So we spoke less and less. Her anger towards her ex is always simmering at an explosive level below the surface. Nearly every conversation has circled back, involved or alluded to him for the last twelve years. To be fair, however, she can be the best hype person. Geeking me up when I shared good news or was uncertain of a decision I had to make usually gave her unchallenged space to introduce her unchanging gripes about her ex’s activities.

All this to say, all I know about my friend of nearly twenty years is her anger, bitterness, resentment and lack of gratitude.

I’ve been chasing her all week for a list of things she would love/like/hope to see/do on her first visit to New York City which is to celebrate her 50th birthday.

It took her three days to text a generic list that reads like the top ten free things to do in a NYC google search. I worked on researching and mapping out an agenda for her visit based on this list for a whole afternoon before I realized that if I allow her to not show up for herself, we would both be wasting our time and I’ll be wasting my money since I’m hosting.

So I texted her and told her I needed her true preferences, not a generic top ten. To which she responded, “I trust you. Anything would be great.” Her short, dishonest text, triggered this post.

She can’t trust me to know what she likes because she has never shared any of her likes, loves or joys with me. At least not in recent memory. She has hidden herself away in anger and hatefulness for so long, no one can see anything else. It’s very sad to realize I’m unsure of how to celebrate someone I’ve “known” for so long for a milestone birthday. Should I spurge on Broadway tickets? If so, to what type of show? Does she really want to visit a church during her Thursday-Saturday trip or was that on the list for my benefit? New York City literally has something for everyone at all income levels, including free. All I’m asking for is a general direction to go in. She can’t give me that. She refuses to give herself that.

Thus says the Lord: Cursed are those who trust in mere mortals and make mere flesh their strength, whose hearts turn away from the Lord . They shall be like a shrub in the desert, and shall not see when relief comes. They shall live in the parched places of the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.

Blessed are those who trust in the Lord, whose trust is the Lord . They shall be like a tree planted by water, sending out its roots by the stream. It shall not fear when heat comes, and its leaves shall stay green; in the year of drought it is not anxious, and it does not cease to bear fruit.

The heart is devious above all else; it is perverse— who can understand it? I the Lord test the mind and search the heart, to give to all according to their ways, according to the fruit of their doings. ~ Jeremiah 17:5-10

Imagine. I want to celebrate her. I want to show her a good time. I want to bless her. Yet she refuses to do her part which is simply to open enough to receive.

She says she believes in God and she tries to live a solid Christian life, but her hardheartedness gives to lie to her belief. You can’t hold on to God and trust Him with your life when you’re wholeheartedly holding on to anger, bitterness, and resentment.

I’ve been telling her for years that the Word of God is hard for her to digest because she doesn’t listen. Everything has to be her way. She has to be in control. And she absolutely hates the fact that she has no control over the household of her ex, the father of her children. I hang on because her children are my Godchildren. They have long brought me joy and I can’t comprehend how she isn’t overflowing with joy, gratitude and a gracious, forgiving heart for the gifts she received in the form of her two children.

The bigger picture here is that God wants to bless her. Indeed, He already has. Not just with her children but in so many countless ways over the years. I’ve seen it. People show up in her life in so many capacities, I have to tamp down a bit on jealousy every once in a while. She says she’s grateful for the blessings, when she’s willing to acknowledge them. But she doesn’t act like she’s grateful. Her behavior doesn’t change. Her countenance doesn’t lift. Her anger doesn’t dissipate. Her attacks on her ex continue.

Those who believe in Him are not condemned; but those who do not believe are condemned already, because they have not believed in the name of the only Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and people loved darkness rather than light because their deeds were evil. For all who do evil hate the light and do not come to the light, so that their deeds may not be exposed. But those who do what is true come to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that their deeds have been done in God.” ~ John 3:18-21

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ACAD – New Self: Isaiah 57

Israel’s Futile Idolatry

The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart; devout men are taken away, while no one understands.
For the righteous man is taken away from calamity; he enters into peace; they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness. But you, draw near, sons of the sorceress, offspring of the adulterer and the loose woman. Whom are you mocking? Against whom do you open your mouth wide and stick out your tongue? Are you not children of transgression, the offspring of deceit, you who burn with lust among the oaks,[aunder every green tree, who slaughter your children in the valleys, under the clefts of the rocks? Among the smooth stones of the valley is your portion; they, they, are your lot; to them you have poured out a drink offering, you have brought a grain offering. Shall I relent for these things? On a high and lofty mountain you have set your bed, and there you went up to offer sacrifice. Behind the door and the doorpost you have set up your memorial; for, deserting me, you have uncovered your bed, you have gone up to it, you have made it wide; and you have made a covenant for yourself with them, you have loved their bed, you have looked on nakedness.[bYou journeyed to the king with oil and multiplied your perfumes; you sent your envoys far off, and sent down even to Sheol. You were wearied with the length of your way, but you did not say, “It is hopeless”; you found new life for your strength, and so you were not faint.[c]

Whom did you dread and fear, so that you lied, and did not remember me, did not lay it to heart? Have I not held my peace, even for a long time, and you do not fear me? I will declare your righteousness and your deeds, but they will not profit you. When you cry out, let your collection of idols deliver you! The wind will carry them all off, a breath will take them away. But he who takes refuge in me shall possess the land and shall inherit my holy mountain.

Comfort for the Contrite

And it shall be said, “Build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstruction from my people’s way.” For thus says the One who is high and lifted up, who inhabits eternity, whose name is Holy: “I dwell in the high and holy place, and also with him who is of a contrite and lowly spirit, to revive the spirit of the lowly, and to revive the heart of the contrite. For I will not contend forever, nor will I always be angry; for the spirit would grow faint before me, and the breath of life that I made. Because of the iniquity of his unjust gain I was angry, I struck him; I hid my face and was angry, but he went on backsliding in the way of his own heart. I have seen his ways, but I will heal him; I will lead him and restore comfort to him and his mourners, creating the fruit of the lips. Peace, peace, to the far and to the near,” says the Lord, “and I will heal him. But the wicked are like the tossing sea; for it cannot be quiet, and its waters toss up mire and dirt. There is no peace,” says my God, “for the wicked.”


  1. Isaiah 57:5 Or among the terebinths
  2. Isaiah 57:8 Or on a monument (see 56:5); Hebrew on a hand
  3. Isaiah 57:10 Hebrew and so you were not sick

English Standard Version (ESV)The Holy Bible, English Standard Version Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

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Know whose you are.

I’ve been vulnerable to petty distractions and attacks for a period of time. Of course I didn’t notice a pattern or recognize danger until I was deep in the grips of something destructive – anger. Recently, I had a very strong reaction to some workplace ridiculousness. It was the extreme ridiculousness of the situation and the fact that I allowed myself to engage in the ridiculousness that had me jerking myself up by the scruff of the neck. I didn’t like the fact that I was allowing myself to get distracted from my primary project goal by something that wasn’t even relevant to the completion of my project. Part of my self-correction included apologizing to my project colleagues: “My apologies for falling into a rabbit hole of ridiculousness. It’s rare that I allow my goat to get got.”

Part of checking myself consisted of asking myself two telling questions. (1) What am I really upset about? (2) What do I have to prove to the people I was engaging with?

The answer to the first question had nothing to do with the petty issues pelting me. The answer to the second question was: absolutely nothing.

The enemy was attacking me through very accommodating vessels, but it was up to me if and how I allowed the attacks to affect me.

These attacks that were aimed at the very heart of who I am and what I’ve worked hard for. Most of them literally came through people I didn’t know (a stranger appeared at my door one night to yell at me), people I haven’t spoken to in years (friends and relatives who had cut me off) were suddenly calling and emailing, and work colleague intent on showing me how insignificant I am in the whole scheme of things were making me aware of their disdain. And of course the most unexpected and vicious attacks were through people who knew me well (or thought they did). The attacks went on like rapid fire throughout this whole year. But it was only in the last three or four months that I cracked. I was extremely stressed and extremely tired.

So how did I respond when the cracks became big gaps in my peace and reasoning?

Well, I was only being told lies of hatred and unworthiness. After a while I didn’t have the strength to fight the lies. They kept rolling over me and eventually seeped into the cracks of my armor. That’s not to say that I thought less of myself in regards to the people attacking me, but I got extremely angry and wanted to attack them back. This was not a healthy anger. It was dark and seething. It was hateful. It recollected abuses, insults and wrongs long forgotten. And each new attacker was in danger of receiving the full brunt of the anger consuming me.

That’s what I saw in myself when I finally checked myself. But the strength to check myself didn’t come until after I completely shut down. I had to close out the voices. Eliminate the distractions. Reevaluate everything about my life. Who am I? Who do I want to be? Am I where I want to be? Where do I want to be? What have I done that truly matters? What needs do I have? What do I still desire? What’s next? What happens between now and then? How do I get there?

The months of October and November proved to be a period of recalibration for me. I didn’t dive deep, but I certainly cleaned the surface and started digging. I began uprooting the elements that didn’t belong in my spirit: resentment, bitterness, anger. Now I see all the attacks as requests for entry into my spirit. They were knocks at my door, cold calls and smoke signals seeking an invitation to come roost in me. After resting, thinking, praying and re-evaluating, I finally had the strength to say, “No, you’re not welcome here.” And, “The door to my life is no longer open to you.”        

I CAN JUST BE ME by Laura Story

HELLO, MY NAME IS by Matthew West

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Two Life Living Lessons from Mom

The two most memorable lessons I learned from my mother are:

1. Treat others as you want to be treated.
2. You can’t hate for anyone.

Nearly everything I learned from my mother, I learned from watching her live; observing how she interacted with and treated others. Occasionally, I ignored one of her lessons and took my cues from how people treated her – dismissively, disrespectfully or abusively. When I responded to them in kind, mom would rebuke me with a great deal of irritation, “You don’t do what other people do! If they jumped off a bridge would you follow behind them?”

I’m sure a couple of times I responded with some slick comment, like, “It depends on how high the bridge is….” In my youth I didn’t understand why she got so angry with me for defending her against people who claimed to love her but treated her so wrong….

What I’ve learned since is, I am like a mirror and a sponge. I soak up everything in my environment and reflect it back to its source. Usually with an intensified twist. So, when I fought mom’s attackers back (usually verbal), I was fighting for a knock-out. I was never interested in back and forth or tic for tac; I wanted to shut the other person down. Had my mother allowed that destructive, errant willfulness to develop, I would have perhaps grown into an angry, hateful, vengeful adult. Emotionally crippled. Spiritually deficient.

On the flip side, when I reflect back any measure of love, kindness, or appreciation within my sphere, it is magnified with a radiance that creates a special space for relationships. My mother re-focused my rare aggressive energy onto things I could do to improve difficult situations, “Instead of doing this, try doing that,” she would say. I didn’t understand it at the time, but she was training me to be a very tolerant, forgiving and resourceful person. Her position was not that ill treatment should be tolerated, however, only that it shouldn’t be responded to with more wrong behavior. In other words, don’t stoke the fire – turn the other cheek. I used to tell her I was out of cheeks.

Mom died fifteen years ago – I was barely a legal adult, but she prepared me well for life. Amazingly, I am still learning about her and still growing from the lessons she imparted so many years ago. I appreciate her more with each year I live. Her most powerful lesson to me was that not even for her should I dishonor myself (the God in me) by returning evil for evil.

If you can’t even hate a person who’s mistreating your mom, then who can you hate?

No one.

Every day I work on being the best person I can possibly be in every interaction I have. I admit it’s a struggle sometimes. Some days my best may be a mere fraction of what my best on better days may be. But I always strive to acknowledge and root out any destructive willfulness that may be looking for a knock-out. I thank God for the loving nurturer He graced my life with. Mom gave the best of herself and she nurtured the best in me.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.  ~ Matthew 7:12

“You have heard the law that says the punishment must match the injury:  ‘An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say, do not resist an evil person! If someone slaps you on the right cheek, offer the other cheek also.  ~ Matthew 5:38-39

“You have heard the law that says, ‘Love your neighbor’ and hate your enemy. But I say, love your enemies! Pray for those who persecute you! In that way, you will be acting as true children of your Father in heaven. For he gives his sunlight to both the evil and the good, and he sends rain on the just and the unjust alike.  ~ Matthew 5:43-45

Direct your children onto the right path, and when they are older, they will not leave it.  ~ Proverbs 22:6