Thursday, September 24, 2009

Just me and Donkey

I'm sitting in my office spending time with my friend Donkey. For anyone who hasn't worked in the self-storage business, it's hard to grasp the value of having a friend to share your day with. I usually arrive at work about 8:45am and depart shortly after 6pm. Yep, that nine full hours to spend alone in my head. Occasionally customers come to visit me. Perhaps they're just being friendly for the nine seconds it takes for me to process their payments, but I consider it a visit. In self-storage, you take what you can get. Donkey sits in my window sill and keeps me on track. He's about three inches tall, has a red bandana, and if you flip his head back a chalky tablet that resembles candy pops out. Some would think that he's just a Pez dispenser, but I know better.

I used to work at an inner-city outreach facility that serves as one of our Healing Place Church campuses. The Baton Rouge Dream Center has all types of programs, activities, services and some of the coolest people you'll ever meet. The choice to leave there and come here was difficult, but I knew God was moving me. The reason I mention the Dream Center is because that's where Donkey and I met. My friend Emily knows that I love donkeys. (That's right, donkeys. You wanna make something of it? Sorry...I digress.) So, because of my affinity for these precious beasts of burdens, one day she presented my with my very own furry, Pez dispensing donkey. I was immediately in love. I kept Donkey on my desk along with another friend, Sheep. Sheep is much bigger than donkey but also furry. Sorry folks, no Pez with Sheep, which is probably good because they'd be the size of matchbox cars; that's a lot of chalk.

(A sad story about Sheep: one Sunday afternoon one of our DC kids got hurt on the playground and had to go to the hospital. While we were waiting for parents to arrive, I allowed said child to hold Sheep until Momma got there. Both child and Sheep left. Only the child came back [Cue sad music]. I now have a picture of a sheep in my office but its just not the same.)

The reason I've taken you down this rambling road is to tell you why I have to spend my time with Donkey. The reason Sheep and Donkey lived on my desk is because they were visual reminders of my nature. Sheep are fluffy and lovable and quietly kind. They're submissive, gentle and they follow the shepherd without question. That's how I would like to be.

Donkeys, on the other hand, are unruly, stubborn and hard to train. They are more apt to do their own thing than whatever their master wants, and they're frequently making noise when everyone around them wishes they'd be quiet. That's more like me than I care to admit.

Don't get me wrong, I would love to be a sheep instead of a donkey. I try to hang out with sheep and emulate them, I read books and listen to podcasts and go to church and pray that God changes me. Still, more often than not, I'm a donkey.

With Sheep gone, it's just me and Donkey left. I wonder if God's trying to tell me something.

Any thoughts? I'd love for you to share your own inner-donkey story...if only to make me feel better. Be blessed and be free, in Jesus' name. All glory to God!

Monday, September 14, 2009

A good, solid throat-punch

Have you ever just wanted to throat-punch the devil? That's a pretty regular thought for me so, as often as I can, I just go ahead and do it. I love that the prayers of the righteous availeth much. I feel like we should all just availeth today! (That's right, I'm goin King James on ya now, baby!)

Every day this week I have something going on. I'm not complaining; I love it when life is stacked up. I had the opportunity yesterday to sit on a panel at church (Baton Rouge Dream Center) and talk about how God set me free from addictions. It was a wonderful, humbling experience. On Thursday evening Anne Jackson is coming in to speak at the Hub and I'm so pumped I can hardly wait. (I've only really met Anne one time but because I read her blog almost everyday I think of us as internet buddies. The time I did meet her I gave her MRE's and ostrich jerky from the hind-sight, maybe not the best gift to give a mostly-vegetarian.)

My week looks like this: writing group, accounting meeting, life coach meeting, counseling session, street outreach, Anne at the Hub and then a double-header of softball on Friday night. So what's the problem?

I'M ON CRUTCHES!!! Oh yeah, I feel a giant throat-punch coming on!

I don't know what happened but sometime in the past few weeks my hip decided to quit working for me. I've been to the doctor's, had x-rays, taken medicine (pills and {yikes!} needles) and I'm currently waiting for an MRI. I know that we should consider it all joy... seriously?

I'm a terrible patient and I don't suffer well. Will you please be praying that God will heal my body quickly? I think, praying in one accord, we can collectively throat-punch the devil hard enough to get him off of us. And I love kicking his tail :)

All glory to God!

If the devil has been giving you trouble send me your prayer request and I'll put it on my list. I love praying for people and watching God move!

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Lessons from the alley

It's Saturday morning and I'm at work. A few months ago I left my job at the Dream Center so I could write my next book. I asked God to move me to a place where I had time to write and still had a paycheck. I currently manage a self-storage facility. Some days I think I can hear God laughing.

Seriously though, it's been a great learning experience. I recently finished the second (or maybe third?) draft of my manuscript and now I'm in the excruciating season of query letters, endorsements and book proposals. It's odd, but it seems like its easier to write an entire book than to write a 5-page paper about the book. Nevertheless, we forge on.

I've never done well with time spent in solitude. I tell people that my mind is like a dark alley; I should never go there alone. Over the past three or four months I've spent a lot of time in the alley. Some days have been really rough, but for the most part it has been an interesting time. God has been working out some things; things that I didn't necessarily know were there. Here's a little insight on what I've been learning:

1. Alleys are dark for a reason. Darkness not only hides a lot of stuff, it intimidates as well. One of the reasons I've spent a great deal of energy avoiding my mind is that I wasn't quite sure what I would find there. I've battled with a number of significant issues over the years and, although God has faithfully carried me through all of them, I suspect that some of the skeletons still clatter around in the alley. Sometimes it's easier to avoid an area than to try to clean it up.

2. Alleys typically smell bad. Many of the alleys that I've wandered down are lined with dumpsters; a type of socially acceptable trash heap. Most of the time, if something stinks, it's because it's old and dead. My mind has a few dumpsters in it; containers (memories) filled with other people's trash that has collected in my head. Most of the issues (and some of the people) are long-since dead, but they live on in my head, usually to my own demise. For much of my life I have believed that it was me that stunk. Upon closer investigation, I realized that most of the garbage isn't even mine. I somehow granted access to my dumpster for other people's junk. Granted, I still have lots of thoughts and habits that I'm working on getting cleaned up, but for the most part, my life is more sanitized than it's ever been.

3. Sometimes people throw stuff in the alley that doesn't belong. There are things in my life that I will carry because they are mine to bear, but not everything in my head belongs to me. Before I started this mental dumpster-diving excursion, I just accepted all of the junk as my own. I don't know if it's been through the writing of my latest book or the fifty hours a week I spend alone, but I have come to realize that a bunch of this stinky mess isn't even mine. Part of my journey has been releasing the junk back to it's rightful owners.

4. We can police the use of our dumpster. I don't have to let other people's junk fill up my alley. I was raised in a lot of confusion which led to some unhealthy behaviors like codependency and people-pleasing. For much of my life I thought that I was responsible for whatever happened to land in my life. I have come to realize that I really get to decide how much ownership I will take in in any given situation. I've found a lot of freedom in that.

5. We can empty the dumpster whenever we need to. When Jesus Christ died on the cross, He made a way for me to have a clean slate anytime I needed it. The bible says that when we confess our sins, God is faithful and just to forgive our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. That means, the trash that is rightfully ours, can be removed every time we repent. But what about the trash that other people heap into our lives? I believe the answer to that is forgiveness. As we release the people into God's hands and let Him deal with their trash, they no longer have access to our hearts and minds. Unforgiveness is a prop that holds the door wide open for resentment and bitterness. If you're holding the lid open, don't be surprised when people throw their trash in.

6. It's up to us to keep our alley clean. Once the trash man (God) cleans up our mess, it's our responsibility to keep it clean. The word 'repent' means to turn away from. When Jesus forgave the woman who was caught in adultery He told her, "Go now and leave your life of sin." He forgave her, but He also gave her instructions on how to continue on with her life. If we are serious about asking God to clean up our lives, we have to be serious about 'turning away from' our sin. For me, I had to enlist some help for that. I had to allow people into my life to hold me accountable, and then I had to be honest with them. Here's a free tip: accountability is not telling someone what you've already done; it's asking them if it's a good idea before you do it. Accountability has saved my walk with God. It's humbling, often embarrassing, and sometimes downright scary. And it will only work to the level of honest effort you put into it.

I have had ample opportunity in the past several months to work on my 'clean up Donna's alley' project. I haven't liked a lot of what I've found, but God has been with me every step of the way. I probably still wouldn't choose to have a picnic in my alley, but some of the stench has been removed and there's more room to move around. Progress, not perfection.

What's going on in your alley? Are you living the life God intended or are you holding a hankie over your nose hoping you don't throw up? Either way, God will meet you where you're at. I encourage you to take some time and investigate your personal alley. Shine the light of God's love and mercy over your dumpster. Forgive other people. Forgive yourself. And then, leave your life of sin. You don't have to keep the junk. Jesus is standing, arms open wide, waiting to receive you and your mess.

All thanks and glory to God.

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