No Unwholesome Talk

“Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen.” (Ephesians 4:29 NIV)

I had a very bad anger outburst this afternoon. For a very minor reason, I yelled at and insulted a staff member quite majorly. I told her to leave, which she did, but not just because I told her to. In fact, I’d caused her to get a little teary.

Obviously, I regret my outburst, though initially I didn’t fully see that it was all my responsibility. I mean, I did feel as though this staff member had triggered me. I see now that my anger was extreme and way out of proportion to the situation.

Then, in a collection of journaling prompts, I was pointed to this Bible verse. I didn’t know what it said, so went and looked it up because I find that Paul’s letter to the Ephesians usually appeals to me. There it was. Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths. Wow!

This does not refer just to no swear words. If it had, I could’ve said I don’t use those. Instead, looking at the second part of the verse, we’re supposed to only use words that build others up. In other words, calling someone names is the exact opposite of what Paul asks us to do here.

I did eventually apologize. Initially, this was a kind of half-hearted apology. Not because I had meant my insult, but because I struggle to prevent this happening again and because, at the time, I didn’t fully see that I alone was responsible for my behavior. I see now. I am praying that, with God’s help, I will learn better anger management strategies.

God, I want to confess that I am a very sinful person. You know this already, but I need to realize that my behavior is wrong. I had a horrible anger outburst and I didn’t even fully acknowledge that it was my fault. Please help me take responsibility for my anger. Please also help me come to You in future situations where I get triggered rather than react in anger. I pray for forgiveness and hope that You will still accept me even though I am not living up to even human expectations, let alone Yours. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Joy Comes in the Morning?

Today’s verse of the day in the YouVersion Bible app really speaks to me in a kind of interesting way. It reads: “For his anger lasts only a moment, but his favor lasts a lifetime; weeping may stay for the night, but rejoicing comes in the morning.” (Psalms 30:5 NIV) I particularly loved this verse because certain translations use “joy” instead of “rejoicing”.

Obviously, it is easy for me as a Christian to draw the comparison between the short-lived anger mentioned here and our life on Earth, and the rejoicing to our eternal life in Christ. After all, we all know our life on Earth is temporary. No-one, until the time of Jesus’ return, will live forever.

God also doesn’t promise us a hardship-free life. No, not even if we are as faithful as we can be. Ultimately, suffering is part of our life on Earth. God never promised us a rose garden, so to speak. That is, not yet. However, He does promise us that, ultimately, in Jesus Christ, we will have eternal life.

In addition, however, the verse shows us that God is quick to forgive us. In the story accompanying this verse on YouVersion, the pastor compared God’s attitude towards us to her own attitude towards her children: when they misbehave, she may get angry, but nothing can prevent her from loving her children exactly as they are. This is so touching! Similarly, God may show anger towards us in a moment, but His love will always shine through.

Lastly, the last part of the verse may also refer to Jesus’ resurrection. For me, this is hard to grasp, as this psalm was written by David, centuries before Jesus’ time on Earth. However, believing that all of Scripture is God-breathed, it is very possible that David was, at least on some subconscious level, aware of what would be coming.

During the night of Jesus’ crucifixion, there was intense weeping, but in the morning three days later, Mary shouted with joy when she met Jesus again.

When originally reading this verse on its own, I was like, I can see where this is coming from, but this is an Old Testament passage, so…? Now that I’ve dug a little deeper into its meaning and listened to the YouVersion story, my takeway is not just that life may be hard, but that ultimately everything will be okay. It is also that God’s love is, will always be and has always been, even in the time of David, far greater than His anger.

Linking up with Sunday Scripture Blessings.

Grateful for a Life of Abundance

“Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.” (Philippians 4:6 NIV)

The above Bible verse was the verse of the day for today on YouVersion. It immediately spoke to me. Today also, the prompt word for #JusJoJan is “Abundance”.

a thing I realized when I read up on abundance, was how fortunate I am. I don’t have to worry about not having something to eat tomorrow. I don’t have to worry about not having clothes on my back. I have a roof over my head – two, in fact, in a way, in that I have both my room in the care facility and my and my husband’s house. Though I do worry slightly about my financial security now that it’s time for my new long-term care copay to be determined, I really don’t have to worry. I have enough money to afford my necessities and most non-necessities I want too. Even if (most likely) I do get a higher copay, I still don’t have to worry about going into debt. All this means I am far more well off than the vast majority of people.

I also live a life of abundance because I am in reasonably good health both physically and mentally. Though I endured trauma in both childhood and my adult life, I am currently safe – even though PTSD sometimes tells me otherwise. I know there are a lot of people who feel happier or more stable mentally than me, but I have been in psychiatric hospitals long enough to know there are also many people who are a lot sicker than me.

I know that comparisons don’t always work. Telling yourself others have it worse isn’t a magical cure for misery or depression. However, gratitude definitely helps cultivate happiness.

I have an abundance of reasons to be grateful. Last Saturday, I listed ten gratefuls for the past 24 hours alone. Today, I could list a number of things too. I am grateful for my favorite Christmas cookies, called cinnamon stars. I finished the first packet out of four I got for Christmas. I am grateful for Senseo coffee. I am grateful the web store accepted my returned Fitbit charger (it wasn’t working). I am grateful elementary and secondary schools are reopening next week. Although I don’t have kids, this does feel like a small glimmer of hope for a way out of lockdown.

I trust that I will be able to live a life of abundance in spite of the hardships I may endure. I cannot do it alone, but through the grace of God in Jesus Christ, I will get there. He does not always give me what I want. I mean, I may actually have to pay a much higher long-term care copay than I expect now (I won’t find out until the 12th or so). Then again, He will take care of me as long as I put my trust in Him. Isn’t that awesome?

Linking up with InstaEncouragements.

Knowing God When I’m at a Fork in the Road

Yesterday, I finished the First steps with Jesus Bible plan on YouVersion and I immediately wanted to start a new Bible reading plan. I looked through the most recently added plans and found one called: Hey God, Can We Talk? I’m at a Fork in the Road. I clicked on it and apparently loved its description, although I can’t remember it right now. So I decided to start the plan.

The plan walks us through Jacob’s story. For the first day, we were asked to read the verses in Genesis 28 where Jacob leaves for Bethel after Esau plans to kill him. I had no idea about this. I mean, I thought the idea that Jacob would receive Isaac’s blessing rather than Esau had been mutually agreed upon. That’s how my father explained it once when we ate lentils for dinner: that Esau voluntarily swapped his firstborn’s right for a bowl of lentils. He then personalized the story to my younger sister and me. I probably thought to myself that my sister could keep her yucky lentils and eat mine as well.

Anyway, apparently not. Rebekah had urged Jacob to escape the family home and go to her brother. This, the plan author compares to us leaving home to go off to college. Except, she says, Jacob didn’t have his family to support him should catastrophe strike. This hit home to me.

When I lived independently in Nijmegen in 2007, I didn’t have my parents’ support either. That is, when I wasn’t coping, they made it very clear that I wasn’t to rely on them. I had my community support staff, of course, but they too had their conditions for supporting me.

At one point while resting in Bethel, Jacob has a very important dream. In it, the Lord speaks to him and promises him the land on which he lay. Okay, fine by me. I don’t need land. but I do need comfort.

The plan then goes on to highlight verse 16: “When Jacob awoke from his sleep, he thought, ‘Surely the Lord is in this place, and I was not aware of it.'” (Genesis 28:16 NIV)

This, then, was comforting but also slightly scary to Jacob. This is so relatable! In 2007, I had no idea there was even a God, let alone that He cares about my life. Now I do know, but it’s sometimes scary too. Maybe because I am not used, with the exception of my husband (and I doubt that all the time), to being loved unconditionally.

Of course, Jacob’s story takes place long before Christ. However, the God of the Old Testament, unlike what some atheists told me when I first learned about religion, isn’t a horrible dictator. He is still the same and He was with Jacob. I love this. Do you, too?

Linking up with Grace and Truth.

I Can Rest in Jesus

A few weeks ago, like I’ve mentioned before, my husband pointed out that I cannot and should not do life alone. I at once cannot and do not need to rely on myself alone to solve the puzzle that is life here on Earth. I have God to help me.

That same day, John 15:5 was the verse of the day on the Bible app I use. It has been on my mind ever since and could easily be one of my favorite verses so far. Oh yes, I know the Bible wasn’t originally written in chapters or verses and the wider context is important too. I will get to that.

“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” (John 15:5 ESV)

This is good news! My husband was initially worried that I would be disappointed by the rest of this chapter, because, well, it is good news only to those who will listen. This verse, to me, however, captures both the positive and the negative message that the wider context of the chapter reveals: Jesus is the vine, while we are the branches. If we abide in him, we will prosper; if we don’t, we will perish.

Today, as I was thinking of what to write for my blog, I opened Bobby Schuller’s book You Are Beloved and saw him discuss this exact chapter. Schuller says that, in Greek, the word that is translated as “abide” in English, is “meno”. There is no literal translation for this word in either Dutch or English (the Dutch Bible translation I use says “remain in”). Meno, according to Schuller, means something like coming home to a warm place after having been in the cold for a long while. We can come home to Jesus.

I loved the imagery Schuller evoked. As regular readers of this blog might know, I have never felt that I was truly “home” anywhere. No, not even in my current care facility. I didn’t feel very safe with my parents and, after I moved out, have been in so many places that were all temporary. Now that I can stay here, still, I struggle to believe it. Regardless though, in Jesus, I can rest and be home.

Schuller also makes it very clear that we can only truly love one another if we know God’s love for us. Through Jesus, we are loved in all our sinfulness. If we realize that God loves us, imperfections and all, we are able to extend this love to other people.

In my experience, this isn’t even a fully conscious choice. God’s grace extends to us, and due to that we are able to extend our grace and love to others. I am reminded, as I often am lately, of my music teacher’s telling me and my fellow students about a show on Dutch TV at the time called “God changes people”. Because the first several syllables of this phrase are the same as those in a Dutch swear word involving God, I was tempted to start cussing with God and then change my wording mid-sentence to “God changes people!” I still use God’s name in vain at times, but each time now, I am reminded of this. I credit God’s work in me for that.

I am linking up with Faith on Fire and Grace and Truth.

Quotes, Sayings and Affirmations for Self-Care #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to my Letter Q post in the #AtoZChallenge. Man, how time flies! We’ve just entered our sixth week in “intelligent” lockdown here in the Netherlands. Tomorrow, prime minister Rutte will hold another press conference to determine whether any restrictions will be lifted on April 28. I doubt it, but oh well.

Today I want to talk about using quotes and inspirational sayings in your self-care routine.

Quotes may seem a little cheesy to some people at first. Then again, maybe you haven’t found the right one yet. If you find a quote that truly speaks to you, it can definitely set you off in the right direction.

I for one love quotes and not just the deep ones. Anna Borges’ first self-care strategy is called “A.A. Milne” after the author of the book Winnie the Pooh. There are lots of funny quotes in that book and in the Disney movies based on it. They may actually make you laugh and inspire you at the same time.

I do also love deep quotes though. My favorites come from Helen Keller, Tori Amos and Madeleine L’Engle. However, I enjoy quotes from a ton of different people.

For those of us who are religious, Bible or other sacred text verses can also certainly speak to you. I am a true cherry picker where it comes to the Bible, picking out random passages to use for motivation. That’s totally okay if you ask me.

When you find a quote or verse that speaks to you, you can use it as a mantra or affirmation. You can also create your own affirmations. The key to getting affirmations to actually do good for you, is believing in them. I mean, I don’t believe in Law of Attraction-like ideas that say anything you set your mind to can come true. Affirmations need to be useful to your life right now. For example, I use the following affirmation: “I love, accept and respect myself exactly as I am right now.”

There are a number of different apps that can be used for focusing on affirmations. I use ThinkUp and Mantra on my iPhone. Both are free but come with ads and an in-app purchase to get premium features and remove advertising.

What are your favorite quotes, sayings or affirmations?