faith

Transforming a Jealous Mind

Today’s daily prompt suggested I write an anonymous letter to someone I’m jealous of. But since my particular monster does not have green eyes, I’m reposting this instead.

But If I HAD to write a letter it would read something like Dear Ann Voskamp, I am SO GLAD that YOU have been given the ability to write beautiful words because I am blessed by them. I am thankful that you have been given such a sense of artistry and poetry because the photography in your one thousand gifts video brings strength and joy to my fragile heart.  Dear Beth Moore, I am SO GLAD that YOU have been given the awesome gift for teaching that I would love to have. This way I can sit in the audience, relax and soak it in – while you do the prep work, travel and carry the burden….

See? How can I be jealous of the gifts others have been given when they are also a gift to me?

Light & life

I used to think jealousy was a victimless crime. I thought it only hurt the perp.  And that might be true as long as it stays a soul-gnawing emotion.  But, as I shared in a previous post, once it takes action it does all manner of damage.

So how do you get jealousy under control?  How do you transform a gnarly thought before it morphs into a gnarly action?  Here’s what I do:

1.  I remind myself that there is enough to go around.  I used to scratch my head at my older sister’s manipulative attempts to push my other siblings and me out of our mother’s heart.  She seemed to believe that if we weren’t there, there would be more room for her.  Her logic made no sense to me.  Even as a small child I knew that mom’s love for one would not diminish her love for the others.  A mom…

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faith

Whispered Words of Wisdom

night streetEver since I laid my eyes on today’s daily prompt, the song has been playing in my head.

Paul was reportedly singing about a dream he had one night when he was under a lot of stress.  In the dream his mother, who had died of cancer when he was fourteen, appeared to comfort him.  Let it Be.

Similar words have been spoken to me, but not by my mother and not in a dream.  They were spoken to my heart by the Holy Spirit.

I was the director of a pregnancy help center.  An idea came to me for a fundraiser – a big production for which I had absolutely no experience.  But I felt the Spirit urging me to do it, so I did.

The president of the board – who did not like to share the limelight – was ruffled.  But, since she was awfully certain the event would be a disaster and I would end up looking foolish, she did not oppose it.  The event – thanks be to God – was a huge, amazing success.

She was beside herself.  She promptly started complaining about me to the other board members, told lies, tried to push me out.

My first impulse was to defend myself, set the record straight.  I’m all about the truth.

But the Spirit whispered “Hush”.

He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before its shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth.  Isaiah 53:7

So I hushed.  For days I trusted Him and kept my mouth completely shut.

When I walked into the office one early morning, I was greeted by the glow of the president’s computer screen.  No one was there.  Incriminating evidence against her, proof that she had been lying about me was illuminated right before my eyes.

I read it, turned it off and thanked the good Lord for affirming what I had suspected.  Yet still I remained silent.

A few hours later three of the board members came in to meet with me.  One of them had been in just before I arrived that morning, had left the computer on.  They wanted me to know that they knew.

In the end, the one who tried to push me out had pushed herself out.  Another victim of the green-eyed monster.

I love the One who whispers, “Let it Be”.  Who presses, “Don’t say a word, I’ve got this.”  The whole thing plays out so much better when the Advocate does the avenging.

Let it be, let it be
Let it be, let it be
Whisper words of wisdom
Let it be.

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church nonsense, life, Light

Transforming a Jealous Mind

I used to think jealousy was a victimless crime. I thought it only hurt the perp.  And that might be true as long as it stays a soul-gnawing emotion.  But, as I shared in a previous post, once it takes action it does all manner of damage.

So how do you get jealousy under control?  How do you transform a gnarly thought before it morphs into a gnarly action?  Here’s what I do:

1.  I remind myself that there is enough to go around.  I used to scratch my head at my older sister’s manipulative attempts to push my other siblings and me out of our mother’s heart.  She seemed to believe that if we weren’t there, there would be more room for her.  Her logic made no sense to me.  Even as a small child I knew that mom’s love for one would not diminish her love for the others.  A mom never runs out of love.  And a Father never runs out of blessings.  You fulfilling your dream does not mean I cannot fulfill mine.  God has enough for us both.

2.  I remind myself that we are a family.  The Baptist church is full of rugged individualists.  Our emphasis on a personal relationship with God seems to have corroded into an exclusive relationship with God.  It’s just God and me and no one else matters.  So we trample and claw as we race to the head of the class.  But I want to live in a healthy family, a family that spurs one another on toward love and good deeds, a family that is proud of and celebrates the successes of one another.  I want to live in a family where, when something good happens to one member, the rest rejoice in the knowledge that good is possible.

3.  I remember Payne Stewart For those who don’t know golf,  Payne Stewart died in a bizarre plane crash four months after winning the 1999 U.S. Open.  It was an exciting and iconic win.  After beating Phil Mickelson in a playoff, he took Phil’s face in his hands and put it all in perspective saying, “You are going to be a father!”  Phil had almost dropped out of the tournament before the final round because his wife was about to have their first baby.  Payne was a classy guy.  And Phil Mickelson was/is a classy guy, too.  But what if he wasn’t?  What if he had let jealousy tarnish Payne’s last trophy?

Several years ago I had the privilege of speaking at a week-long conference.  It was a huge and exciting opportunity.  Three days before traveling to the conference, I sat in my doctor’s office trying to process strange words.  Why was he talking to me about Gilda Radner?  We decided the exploratory surgery would wait until I returned.  This added a whole new dimension to my huge and exciting responsibility – a dimension I shared with no one but my husband.

Two women from my church, who had traveled to the conference as part of the ministry team, did their best to wreck my little chance to shine.  I ignored their whispered “Who does she think she is?” I graciously took their barrage of criticisms and suggestions under advisement.  And in my spiritually weaker moments I wondered whether they would feel guilty/sorry if I died.  Would they suffer at all knowing they had spoiled my one and only chance to “feel God’s pleasure”?

Thankfully, it wasn’t cancer.  But I remember that week any time even a smidgen of jealousy tries to sneak into my God-loving mind.  “Let her enjoy her turn”, I tell myself, “We should all get to take a turn without someone wrecking it.”

© The Reluctant Baptist, 2014

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church nonsense, Jesus, life, Light

Did Jealousy Kill Jesus?

I wrote a Bible study a few years ago and it was pretty darn brilliant.  My pastor, who was fairly new to our church, asked me, who was also fairly new to that church, to teach it.  To the women.  On Wednesday nights.  I knew the content would ruffle some baptist feathers, so I asked him to read it first.  He gave it high praise.  He said he agreed with 98% of it and he couldn’t prove me wrong on the other 2%.  Just a matter of interpretation.

Wednesday night attendance was sparse at that church.  There were two offerings for adults – a class for women and a class for men.  Because I was fairly new, I did not know that THWM (the head of the women’s ministry) had taught every Wednesday night class for at least the last twenty years.  This was her first time in a student’s seat.  And there she sat – right in the middle of the front row – loaded for bear.

I hadn’t uttered my first paragraph before she raised her hand and challenged me.  I politely responded that this was the lecture portion of the class.  Discussion would come later, so hold that thought.  She might be a slow learner, because she interrupted me several times more.  The next morning I was awakened by an angry phone call.  THWM was scolding me.  I was recklessly and dangerously straying from baptist doctrine to a class of vulnerable new believers.  “Good”, was my first sleepy thought, “they can study the Scriptures accurately right from the start.”  But instead of saying that out loud I asked her who those vulnerable new believers might be.  I wanted to know my audience so I had begun that first session with introductions.  I asked the women to tell me a little about themselves – including how long they had been attending that church, what was the extent of their Bible knowledge, etc.  No one had mentioned being a new believer.  THWM hemmed and hawed and said, “Well, none of them are new believers, but many of them don’t have much Bible knowledge.”  This time I said it aloud, cheerfully, “Good, then this is their opportunity to learn it accurately.  That way they won’t have anything to unlearn later.”

Week two brought more interruptions, more challenges, more negative energy from the middle of the front row.  And another angry phone call.

By week three the other women were uncomfortable.  And perhaps torn.  They seemed intrigued by the material but they also seemed afraid to enter into the discussion.  THWM had been in charge for as long as anyone could remember (shouldn’t there be term limits?) and it was likely she’d be in charge for another twenty years.  They had all been around long enough to know that her sweetness was saccharine and no one was willing to risk the bitter aftertaste.

Prior to the third class I asked God to show me the real issue.  THWM’s phone calls and accusations had been so scattered and flailing that I knew the problem was more emotional than theological.  After class, as I was putting the room back in order, THWM stayed behind.  She chewed my ear a bit and then suddenly blurted, “I could write a book, if I wanted to! I just never wanted to…but if God wanted me to, I would….”  And there it was – the real issue.  She wasn’t jealously defending the Scriptures, she was jealously defending her position as head of the women’s ministry and sole Bible teacher.

The next day I was invited to the pastor’s office for a chat.  THWM would be there.  Grateful for the revelation, I was prepared for our meeting.  I was gracious and poised knowing that the issue wasn’t what I was teaching, it was jealousy.  During the meeting I calmly answered each of her theological objections.  Frustrated in her attempt to get me thrown out for heresy in a straight up, honest theological debate, she resorted to taking liberties with the truth.  Blatant liberties.  Instead of addressing them, I went another route.  I dug deep into my feeble heart and grabbed every bit of kindness I could muster.  I shared that I had asked God to show me what was troubling her.  I linked it to her outburst about writing a book.  I assured her that I had no interest in being the head of the women’s ministry or in replacing her as the Wednesday night teacher.  I was simply doing as the pastor had asked. I had a ministry of my own, thank you very much, and it kept me plenty busy.

I expected the final weeks to go better now that THWM knew she would always be Queen of the Hill, but they didn’t.  She wanted more than position.  She wanted regard.  The highest regard.  She greedily wanted to be regarded as the one and only spiritual leader of that little flock of women.  The most knowledgeable, the most spiritual.  And so it continued – the sabotage, the complaints to the pastor, the class disruptions.  The only thing that ceased was the phone calls because we both knew what was what.

I had wanted our five weeks together to be a warm and wonderful time of learning, sharing and marveling at the genius of God as we grew closer to Him.  Jealousy killed that.  It killed the message Jesus had given me for that little class.  It killed the growth and the glory that would have been His as a result.  All that was left was an ugly display of the opening verses of 1 Corinthians 3.

Human nature has remained unchanged these 2,000 years.

“The chief priests and the teachers of the law heard this and began looking for a way to kill him, for they feared him, because the whole crowd was amazed at his teaching.”  Mark 11:18 NIV

Jealousy killed Jesus way back then and it is still killing Him today.

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