Saturday, March 17, 2018

A God in Our Own Image

I wrote this piece about six months ago, after a conversation with a friend who does not believe in God.  He asks the same difficult questions we all do, like how can a good God allow babies to catch diseases, suffer, and die?  He has come to a different conclusion than I.  Some of my thoughts are captured here, and I welcome you to add your own thoughts in the Comments.

We are willing to worship and praise a God that we have made in our own image. 

Even unbelievers might be willing to believe in God, if He conformed more to the God they would create.

This God would stamp out hate, prejudice, and injustice, so that we wouldn’t have to do the hard work of doing it ourselves.  This God would swoop in to save all children from deadly diseases.  This God would protect us all from suffering, depression, anxiety, heart attacks, strokes, dementia, artery blockages, broken bones, twisted ankles, paper cuts, and mosquito bites. This God would preserve us from the physical and emotional pain that we can’t bear to face, and can’t stand to see our loved ones endure.  

And along these lines, then, this God would have to eliminate death, because no matter when or how it comes, it causes such unimaginable suffering in the people who are left behind, grieving the loss of one they have loved so deeply. 

This God would never allow a hurricane to ravage a coastline and leave scores dead and thousands homeless. Come to think of it, He would have to eliminate any rainfall that could lead to flooding, or really any level of discomfort that seems like an all-knowing and loving Creator would not permit.  But He would also need to step in when the sun burns too bright, when skin gets burned or blistered; what loving Creator would permit such a thing?

This God would prevent us from making poor decisions that would hurt other people’s feelings or cause them any level of grief. He would not permit us to make friends with people who will ultimately betray us.  All gossip and rumor would be squelched before it could pass our lips.  Our children would be comfortable replicas of all that we understand to be the best in ourselves, so that we will perceive raising them as problem-free.  And God would be able to sort out the features that each parent would like to see in their children, even when those features are at odds with each other.  We don’t have to worry:  God will take care of all that messiness!

With a God we create in our own image of who God should be, we would have no worries, no hardships, no ailments, no diseases, no accidents, no natural disasters, no betrayals, no bad decisions, no lost keys, no telemarketing calls, no injustice.  

We would not have to fight for anything, stand up for anything, come alongside anyone who is hurting, befriend anyone who is lonely, feed anyone who is hungry, open our homes to anyone needing hospitality.  

With a God made in our own image of who God should be, it’s His job to keep us happy and healthy, and we can just go along for the ride. 

With a God we create in our own image of who God should be, what, then, is our purpose in life? Why are we here?  What makes our experiences different from one another’s? What makes us grow, develop, or change over time? What enriches our experience of one another? What would we be moving toward? What would we care about? What would make us reach out to one another?

Twice, I had taken from me the thing I wanted in life more than anything else, the thing I was living for, the thing I had attached my identity and dreams to: First, I lost my marriage when we were just on the brink of settling in to the American dream of living in a big, beautiful house while starting a family.  Second, after re-marrying, I lost two babies before they were ever born, when all I wanted in life was to be a mother and raise them in the loving home that my husband and I had established for them.

Now, obviously, given the choice, I’m not going to say, “Wow, am I ever glad that my first husband cheated on me and dashed my dreams to smithereens, and, boy, was I ever lucky to have a couple of miscarriages before I gave birth to my daughters.”

I might even venture to say that I wish those things had not happened, and that I didn’t have to go through all that excruciating pain and recovery. 

But then I would have to confront the reality that if the first event had not happened, I would not have met and married my current husband, and I would be living NONE of the life I am currently living. And if the second event had not happened, I would not have the two girls who right this minute are shouting in fun while playing LEGOS in the next room.

Yes, other good and wonderful things might have/ could have/ would have happened.  But I would not be the person I am now, strengthened by what I have been through, and I would not have the life I have now, sharing it with these people in this place.

And being the kind of person who likes to celebrate and value and BE in the here and now, I might just go out on a limb and say that I can worship and praise a God who has put natural laws into place and has given people the freedom to make decisions, both good and bad. 

I can worship and praise a God who is MORE than anything I could ever imagine or create, a God I DID NOT create in the image of who I think God should be, a God who CAN let things happen as they will and STILL not have His purposes and plan for the good of His creation be thwarted. 

It’s a hard-won place to be to be able to say that, and I certainly wouldn’t have said it back in 2001 during my divorce, or during 2006 during my miscarriages, so I don’t expect anyone to be able to say it now just because I feel like I can. We all have to come to our own conclusions based on our own path and our own relationship with God along that path. 

I guess I just share this in hopes that someone who discards a belief in God or a life of faith because God just doesn’t measure up to what he or she thinks God should be, would consider this: 

Instead of focusing on who you think God should be, maybe you could start seeking out who God really is.
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Tuesday, August 22, 2017

"I am spiritual, but not religious..."

"Spirituality" can be a little abstract when you try your hand at defining it.
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"Religion," we get:  It's tied up in church buildings, prayers, doctrines, and creeds.  Many people (like me) engage with our religions as a reminder of our relationship with God, and as an organized, scheduled opportunity to spend time in His presence.  Our religious practices are strategies, or a kind of path, to keep up our connection with our Creator.  
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Each Sunday when I go to church, I am reminded of God's greatness, as well as His goodness.  I am in the presence of God and in fellowship with other believers.  I am reminded to spend my week loving Him and loving my neighbors.  I benefit from the generations of Christians before me who have traveled the same path that I am on, through the words of their hymns, the texts of the Bible, and the prayers and messages of the church leaders.  For me, church is a reminder, a fellowship, and an opportunity.
In An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, author Barbara Brown Taylor's message is that religion is only one strategy or path for connecting to God, and that innumerable other strategies exist through the everyday activities, places, people, and interactions of our lives.

IF we are paying attention.

Taylor's spirituality is grounded firmly in the physical:  We experience God via the bodies He has given us.  Taylor doesn't urge us to become "more fully spiritual"; on the contrary, she urges us to become "more fully human."

We do that by paying attention to certain practices we can employ and enjoy because we have bodies.  Our bodies become our vehicle for drawing closer to God.  "In a world where faith is often construed as a way of thinking," Taylor writes, "bodily practices remind the willing that faith is a way of life." And not only that, but holiness surrounds us throughout our world, if we are willing and able to notice it.

From this point of view, Taylor formulates such bodily practices as "wearing skin," "walking on the earth," "getting lost," "encountering others," and "feeling pain," among others.  For her, spiritual treasure is found through the bodily experiences of human life on earth.  We just have to pay attention to these everyday experiences.

This book would appeal to believers who have wandered away from church, feeling that it is no longer a helpful means to grow in their relationship with God, whatever the reason.  But it appeals to me, too, because it helps me find ways to carry what I learn and experience in church on Sunday into my activities during the rest of the week.

As the Living Stones Women's Ministry uses this book for our twice-monthly discussions, I will write blog posts related to the chapters and our discussions.  I recommend this book for your personal library, but even if you choose not to read it for yourself, I invite you to read this series of blog posts to consider key points from Taylor's writing.

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For your consideration:

Have you ever heard someone say, "I'm spiritual, but not religious" (or have you said it yourself)?  What does this mean to you, and how do you feel about the thinking behind the statement? How do you define "religious? How do you define "spiritual"?

As you read Taylor's book--and/or these blog posts--try to remain open-minded and attentive to the ways we can connect with God in our lives and our bodies in this world.

Just for fun, type "I am spiritual but not religious" in your browser, then click on "images," and enjoy the quotations, graphics, and opinions on this statement!

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Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Discovering Altars in the World

I am writing this blog post on the brink of a new beginning:  My family and I have bought a new home and are relocating to a new community. Though only 30 minutes away, the move will take my children to a new school, and open our lives to new neighbors and friends.  This change also means that the Living Stones Women's Ministry will be moving to a new location in July.  We will also be beginning a new book study.  Please read my introduction to our new book below, along with my invitation for you to consider joining us.  You can read more about the Living Stones Women's Ministry group by visiting the "At-a-Glance" tab at the top of the blog.
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In her introduction to An Altar in the World: A Geography of Faith, Barbara Brown Taylor recalls a priest who invited her to speak to the congregation of his church in Alabama. "Come tell us what is saving your life now," he suggested.  No formal teachings required. No orthodox creeds and ideologies expected. No ancient rituals to follow. Just an honest look at what gives meaning, feeling, connection, and life right now.

For Taylor, her answer now is not exactly the same as her answer during that speaking event.  But she continues to hold to the truth that the life of the spirit is inextricably linked to our physical experience in this world.  We find God here on earth, where we are, in what we are doing.

We may see God and draw closer to Him while on a pilgrimage, a mission trip, or a retreat. But these extra-ordinary experiences are not required.  We can, in fact, find God right here in even the most ordinary everyday activities.

What if we stop drawing such sharp distinctions between secular and sacred, physical and spiritual, body and soul? What if we start remembering that the whole world is the House of God? What if we don't have to choose between God and the world, but instead can experience the world as a place to encounter God?

"The treasure we seek," Taylor writes, "requires no lengthy expedition, no expensive equipment, no superior aptitude or special company. All we lack is the willingness to imagine that we already have everything we need. The only thing missing is our consent to be where we are." If we miss the "X" marking the spot of what we are looking for, she writes, it might be because we are standing right on top of it!

Taylor dedicates her book to people who are "tired of arguing about religion, tired of reading about spirituality, tired of talk-talk-talking about things that matter without doing a single thing that matters yourself." She wants to help us realize that there are altars all over this world... ordinary places where we meet up with God.  She offers us practices that require both our bodies and our souls, practices that will help us explore the idea that faith is a way of life.

"Earth is so thick with divine possibility," Taylor writes, "that it is a wonder we can walk anywhere without cracking our shins on altars."  I have found an altar in Springfield, in my family room, sitting around with an amazing group of women who seek to know and love their God better and more, who seek to support others through prayer and service.  I am now off to discover an altar in Berwyn, in a new family room, with some of the same amazing women, and hopefully new seekers, lovers, and pray-ers.

Come find an altar in the world with me!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Equipped for Doing God's Will

I am hesitant to tell people that God speaks to me. After all, the words, "The Lord told me..." are just as likely to send your audience backing out of the room as to draw them in closer to listen. But I am convinced that either I have a split personality with a very wise and authoritative "other half," or God has seen fit to communicate with me in surprisingly and blessedly clear ways.

I've been lolling around most nights over the past week, numbing my brain with Facebook, email, and real estate listings, with a little Pinterest thrown in for good measure. But the time 11 o'clock rolls around and I pull myself out from under my cat, I feel like I have made an incredible waste of yet another evening. Even though I can list the chores I've accomplished during the previous sixteen hours, I feel generally unfocused and unproductive.

Whenever I get that feeling about my days, ten times out of ten I can trace it to the fact that I haven't cracked my Bible in over a week. I still read verses and devotions with my girls, and I still pray throughout the day with them and on my own, but spending time reading the Bible--even if I don't do any kind of formal study--makes a complete difference in my entire attitude toward life.

You would think I would learn my lesson and, you know, read it religiously or something.

So last night, I opened the Bible to Hebrews 13 (because that chapter was referenced in a magazine article I had been reading, and I didn't have any other plan to go by).  I noticed right away that verses 20 and 21 sounded like a prayer, so in the margin of my Bible I restated them like this:
Lord, God of peace, equip me with everything good for doing Your will; work in me what is pleasing to you, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
After I did a little more reading, I went up for a shower, thinking how remarkable it is that a little Bible reading can make me feel so much better--like a vitamin or a shot of caffeine, if you'll forgive the poor comparison.  And that line: "Equip me with everything good for doing Your will," replayed in my mind. I stood there under the streaming water just beginning to form the prayer: "I love that verse, Lord. I pray that You would equip me..."  And just like that, across my brain flashed the thought, "I already have."

I already have equipped you with everything good for doing My will.

I feel thoroughly convinced that God cut me off mid-prayer to remind me that what I was asking Him for, He has already done. After those three God-breathed words, my own mind took over again, and I thought about how I:

  • have strong convictions related to people treating each other with the kindness, decency, and justice that Jesus displayed during his earthly ministry, but I have yet to take a leadership role in effecting change when I see those values threatened, 
  • have finished writing 3/4 of a book about Christian parenting based on what I've learned from experience and extensive research, but it sits in a tote bag with one section left unwritten and no plans in place for getting it to a publisher,
  • have a deep and long-standing love for writing and a desire to encourage people in their faith, but I have only a tiny platform on this blog for bringing these two things together,
  • have a craft room full of supplies and a head full of ideas, but I haven't brought them together to use my art for worship or to inspire others in their faith.

In each case, I see where God has equipped me with everything good for doing His will, but I haven't joined the effort with the ambition or stamina to put those gifts to use.

As I reflected on all of this, my first feelings were guilt and inadequacy--oh, how I am squandering my gifts and my advantages! How lazy I have been!

But there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus; we are set free from the law of sin and death (Romans 8:1-2). I am set free from feeling like a failure for what I cannot accomplish on my own. God didn't equip me with everything good for doing His will, and then send me off to figure out how to make it happen.

Instead, God supplies us out of His great sufficiency. As Paul reminds us, we are not competent (or sufficient) in ourselves, but our competence (or sufficiency) comes from God (2 Corinthians 3:5). His grace is sufficient for us, because our power is made perfect in weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). It is in these moments--like the ones I was experiencing last night, when I feel weak--that I am actually strong (2 Corinthians 12:10) because I remember to turn to God and His power. Paul has so much to say about this gift to the church in Corinth. "God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work...you will be made rich in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion (2 Corinthians 9:8, 11). Every time I pull away from God's Word, I lose my hold on this truth for my life.

I love how God is tough and loving at the same time. He interrupts my prayer--"Lord, equip me with everything good for doing Your will"--to deliver a truth that brings me humbly back to His grace. And out of that humility, He raises me up on wings like an eagle, renewing my strength to run and not grow weary and to walk and not be faint (Isaiah 40:31).

Today I thank God that He has already equipped me with everything good for doing His will, and that He doesn't send me out into the world with my gifts and talents and tasks and ideas and dreams and duties alone. Instead, He sends me with a Heavenly Father, a gracious Savior, and a guiding and holy Spirit to help bring His kingdom to earth as it is in Heaven.

This is not a truth just for me, of course. The same is true for you.

Amen.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Jesus, In the Middle of the Crazy

I have a little collection.
Can you guess what it is?
I'll give you three tries to see if you can get it right.
Clearly, I have a "thing" for Nativity scenes, and I have collected them for many years now.  I decided to do a gallery of scenes across the dining room table, though once the girls come home and set to work on their homework here, we'll see if this was a feasible idea after all.
As much as I love all of my Nativity sets, I have one in particular that brings me special joy when I put it out each Christmas season:
My sister gave me the pieces to this scene over the course of a couple of Christmases.  It's a substantial size, with somewhat realistic figures, even animals, awaiting the birth of baby Jesus.

Every year that I put it out, some of the hay shifts from the rooftop, and some of the grass pieces fall out of the manger.  It makes just a little bit of a mess as I set it up and pack it away each year.  It doesn't have that pristine quality of some of the Nativity scenes I've found out there in the world.

And I'm thinking that it is that bit of messiness, that bit of realism, that I especially like about it.

It's not enough that Jesus gave up his divinity to take on the form of a human being, coming to live among those he created, most of whom wouldn't even give him a second look, let alone recognize him as part of the Holy Trinity, present at the very creation of the universe.
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It's that when he made that choice to sacrifice the honors and glories and comforts of heaven, he came right into the midst of our earthly mess.

It was only recently, probably after giving birth to my two daughters, that I really thought about what it must have been like for Mary to travel such an uncomfortable distance right before her due date, and then to actually experience labor and delivery in a barn. How many of us still tell horror stories about our children's births, when we were ensconced in clean bed linen at a 21st century hospital with an epidural taking the edge off the worst of the pain?

And I've also considered the sounds and smells that would have surrounded Mary, Joseph, and Baby Jesus on that birth night long ago:  the stench of the barn animals and the cacophony of moos and baas and whinneys.

But something else occurred to me the other day: the population explosion that Bethlehem was probably experiencing if everyone had headed back to town, as Mary and Joseph had, in order to be counted in the census.  After all, there were no proper indoor spaces to give the Holy Family a decent room for the night, so I have to believe that in addition to all the normal sounds of nighttime and animals, there was also an unusual din from all the people who had crowded into town that week.
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I don't know exactly what life and attitudes were like back then, but I tend to believe that people probably got caught up in the hustle and bustle of life, and the excitement of the times, just as we do today.

I'm thinking that even without the rumbling of cars down the street and the noise of a hundred cell phone conversations, there was still plenty of din and activity surrounding baby Jesus in those first days.  No doubt the local economy of Bethlehem boomed--and then got a bit stretched beyond its means--as all those travelers sought shelter, food, and necessities for their time away from home.

I've always been taught that in Jesus' humanity, he experienced everything that we experience, which contributes to his great compassion for us, and his ability to walk with us through whatever we face.  Considering the circumstances of his birth has made me realize that he probably "gets" the crazy that surrounds us during the holiday season.  He was surrounded by crazy from the moment of his birth!

What does it matter to me that Jesus understands "the crazy"? For one thing, it helps me understand that I don't have to achieve a perfectly serene, tidy, quiet space in order to spend time with Him in prayer.  If there's just a touch of crazy going on around me, he is more than able to spend time in communion with me in the midst of it.

If my thoughts or prayers are a touch chaotic, it's nothing he hasn't encountered before, even at the moment of his birth.

My piles of Christmas decorations waiting to get displayed around the house are nothing compared to the bales of hay piled up around his manger.

My children's cries for making gingerbread houses and Christmas cookies, and going Christmas shopping, and "please please please get me an iPad for Christmas" (not gonna happen; the litany of request and denial is like a printed script at this point!) are nothing compared to the sounds of the animals reacting to three human beings invading their already-cramped stable space.

If I get distracted because I'm weighing my usual responsibilities with winter colds, extra errands, and holiday activity planning, it's nothing compared to Mary's swirling thoughts as she remembers her visit from the angel, her unprecedented conception, Joseph's counter-cultural level of understanding, and her unconventional birth story.

Hay askew, grass tumbling from the manger,  debris to sweep aside--sounds about right for this holiday season.

Jesus, in the middle of the crazy.

We have to be willing to look for him there because that is most assuredly where he will be found!

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

An Umbrella in the Rain

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A few weeks ago, I passed a young woman standing at a bus stop in the pouring rain. From the vantage point of my dry mini-van, I looked out in dismay as she was soaked by the downpour. Reflexively, I reached down and grabbed the extra umbrella stashed in the driver's-side door. But the young woman was on the opposite side of the street, the light was green, and traffic was moving fast. There wasn't any way to get to her with the umbrella unless I turned around and went back, which was a complicated proposition on this particular stretch of road. I drove on.

I shared the experience with my Sunday school class the following week, where we were discussing following Jesus' example of compassion in the world. I was dismayed that I hadn't made a great effort to respond to the woman's need.  Our participants listened kindly, and a visitor to class assured me that it would be impossible to act on every compassionate impulse.

Fast forward to today. Anyone who knows me or reads my Facebook posts knows that I am one of those who are reeling in disbelief and distress at Donald Trump's victory in the electoral college. As I drove around doing my errands, once again in the pouring rain, I was mulling things over: the Clinton concession speech, the Facebook posts I had been reading, the conversations I'd had with my children surrounding the election.  In my distraction, I almost missed noticing a young man walking down the street, with a soaked hoodie unable to withstand the downpour. I was past him before my thoughts pulled away from the election to focus on him.

No way. No way was I missing out on this chance again!  He had been walking on the sidewalk in the opposite direction from me, on the same side of the street. To get back to him, I had to drive around the corner and turn around in a side street.  Back out to where he was walking, I was now on the opposite side of the street. I laughed out loud, saying to myself, "Poor guy, I'm literally chasing you down." I turned around in another side street, and finally caught up to him. Grabbing the umbrella and slowing the car, I called out the window, "Sir, will you take this?"  He told me "Thanks," and I saw him pop it open in my rear-view mirror. I was flooded with emotion. It's been an emotional kind of day.

When you share a "good deed" you've done, you run the risk of looking like you're asking for some kind of "high five" for what a great person you are. Instead, I'm sharing it because it occurred to me that these kinds of small deeds, done daily by the millions, will be a way to secure the fabric of our nation in the absence of moral leadership in our government.

Throughout the presidential campaign, I heard and saw our President-Elect target, insult, mock, and threaten various groups, including women, immigrants, Muslims, refugees, the disabled, and Mexicans, both through his current-day words and actions and in his words and actions over the years. These observations led me to fear throughout the campaign that under his leadership, our country would move even further from our national ideals of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (for all but a limited group). When roughly half of our country does not find it necessary to hold our highest elected official to a rather basic standard of human decency, then the future of our country appears grim.

[Because I see again and again in the Bible that God does not protect His people from their mistakes, and that He usually allows us to live out the consequences of our poor choices, my concerns for our short-term future are not assuaged by my ultimate and foundational faith in His goodness and love. Yes, I believe that God will ultimately work all things for good, according to His plan. But I also know that the path to getting there could get very uncomfortable.]

On Facebook today, I suggested that we give ourselves a day to wallow in our disbelief, but then engage in proactive efforts to prepare ourselves for the future, to protect our brothers and sisters who have been targeted and threatened, and to represent the values and beliefs that have not been prioritized in this vote. I wrote that while I don't have a "To Do list" of what needs to be done, I hope I can help to develop one and to begin to carry it out, rather than waiting around to watch new leadership wreak havoc on our country's progress.

My "umbrella in the rain" experience clued me in to a starting point, though. Our call to action might have to get big and ambitious FAST to respond to our new circumstances, but for now, my answer lies in small acts of kindness, one person to another: acts of kindness between people of different sexes, ages, genders, races, social groups, religions, political viewpoints, economic levels, and any of the other demographic divisions we have created for ourselves.

Whether it's a smile, a door held open, a heavy grocery bag loaded into a car, a sincere compliment, a moment of conversation, or an umbrella in the rain, these small acts of civility that create a point of connection--human being to human being--are the starting point of holding ourselves together when roughly half of us fear that we as a nation are going to fall apart.

Can such small acts possibly matter? I say, yes. As Howard Zinn wrote, "We don't have to engage in grand, heroic actions to participate in the process of change. Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world." We can't afford to waste any more time crying, moping, or passive doomsaying.

Grab your extra umbrellas and get out there!
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The Good and Beautiful Life: Chapter 4

In chapter 4 of James Bryan Smith's The Good and Beautiful Life: Putting on the Character of Christ, Smith writes about learning to live without anger.
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He recounts a time when he grew increasingly angry sitting in California traffic, thinking that he might be late for a church retreat.  His anger moved through his body until he could feel it taking over. His brother, driving, remained calm, knowing that they were just in a temporary bottleneck, and would be flying along the freeway soon.  Jim does, in fact, reach his retreat on time, with room for a shower, rest, and prayer time before it began.  His earlier anger embarrassed him in retrospect, but led him to think about the roots of this kind of emotional response.

Jim determined that anger develops from a combination of unmet expectations and fear (often in the form of insecurity or a sense of threat). In Jim's case, sitting in traffic, he had been hoping for some downtime before the retreat would begin, and he was afraid that he might actually be so late that he would be a "no show." The thought combination created a major angry response.

But the stories he was telling himself turned out to be false narratives.  Jim lists several examples of false narratives we have a tendency to tell ourselves--narratives that only lead to problems.  His list includes things like, "Something terrible with happen if I make a mistake," "I must be in control all of the time," and "I need to anticipate everything that will happen to me today."
Looking at the list on page 73, which one of these false narratives is most common in your life and how does it lead to anger?
All of these false narratives are grounded in fear and the need to be in control.  Jim identifies this need to control and live from our own resources instead of God's as "walking in the flesh" (page 74).  He contrasts "walking in the flesh" with "being led by the Spirit."
How is it sinful to live in the flesh?
How would you describe/ explain the difference between the false narrative our author first talked about, and the kingdom narratives we should replace them with (found on page 76)?
On page 74, Jim says, "Unrighteous anger rarely happens when we are led by the Spirit. It is spawned by not seeing our situation in light of God's kingdom." This led me to ask myself, "How would it change things to see my situation [whatever it is at the time] in light of God's kingdom?"

Further, on page 76, he writes about new "kingdom narratives" and it made me think:
"If I truly believe in the reality of the presence and power of God, then it will change the way I see things."
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God never loses sight of us and never permits anything to happen to us that he can't redeem and use for good.
How does this impact anger? Do you have any evidence from your life of anger diminishing as you come to know that God is near you and working for your good?
Describe "the good kind of anger."
The good kind of anger is a correct response to injustice, to the things that anger God. The good kind of anger leads to remedying wrongs.  The good kind of anger motivates us to work toward change.
Give examples of righteous anger in today's world.
In closing, spend time with these words from Galatians 5:16-17:
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want."
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The Soul Training exercise for this chapter called for us to keep a Sabbath as a spiritual exercise to help us better deal with our anger.  Because "anger is about unmet expectations and fear" and "sabbath is about trusting God and his ways,"  Sabbath becomes a kind of antidote to anger. Rather than trying to keep things going by our own strength, we take time out to rely on God's grace.  
"Rest. Trust. Surrendering control. These are the core elements of sabbath keeping, and they can help us deal with anger" (page 81).
How did you attempt to keep a Sabbath, using Jim's suggestions on pages 82 and 83?
What connection did you experience between keeping a Sabbath and controlling anger?
What did you learn about God or yourself from your Sabbath rest?
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