Emotional Wreck

Have you ever been so mad you could just spit nails? I was there this week. Bottled up anger fueling a stubborn streak that is still trickling through my veins. If nothing else this introvert will always win a battle of the cold shoulder. Trust me. On the other side of the coin, I just got off the phone with a friend who was engulfed in a mix of grief, frustration and sadness. Tears flowed and she simply didn’t know how to function. Still another friend expressed her feelings about the current state of affairs in Afghanistan’s Taliban take over with shock. How can human beings be so fearful that they would risk hanging off the landing gear of a moving plane?! “Unbelievable” she writes. Last week we witnessed a blushing bride and groom goo goo over each other in the innocence of newlywed bliss. (Yes, goo goo is my official word for that). We humans were made with emotions as part of the package. They are literal parts of our physical make up. I don’t know of anyone who hasn’t been overcome by some sort of emotion… heaven knows our first cries are emotional outbursts! Which has led to my muse this week: How do Christians deal with emotions?

I read a thought-provoking article on the subject, which made some interesting points and comparisons. Obviously, our emotions — the feelings that drive our passions, our interests, and our pursuits, are stemmed from some sort of emotional response to “things” in our environment. What we like and dislike dictates how we live. Yet, many of us view emotions as problematic. You can’t trust your heart. Emotions are irrational and unreliable. You need more faith. Just trust in God. All will work together for good… Heard any of these before? But our emotional baggage is not simply feelings floating around in our heart… they are influenced by our culture, our experiences, and the time and space we live in. Our culture in 2021 is, I believe, so much more open to expression, interpretation, and mental awareness of our “emotional state” then any other time in history. The question becomes… is this good or bad? Do emotions threaten us in the church? If we have the “joy of the Lord” in our hearts should we shy away from anger, sadness, guilt or depression? Is a feeling of pride good or evil?

Obviously the Bible gives us many examples of “emotional wrecks”… characters who acted (seemingly) irrationally to some emotional trigger. Heart responses to outside stimuli. Humans acting the way humans do. Joseph, David, Sarah, the prodigal son, even Jesus and the disciples. So, what should our response be? And here I will credit the aforementioned article for enlightening my answer… because that trickle of anger is slightly tarnishing my views at the moment. Number one: the Bible makes it clear that we are broken people living in a fallen world. We are not perfect. This world is not perfect. We will not be perfect this side of Heaven. It is a loosing battle to pluck out a set of circumstances and rely on that circumstance alone. Our friends will fail. Our tradition, culture or family background does not make “all things right”. Even our church, our pastor, or the Bible teaching we hear is not foolproof. We can misinterpret and twist things. One just has to look at church history to see the results of that path. Our heart responses are not always correct, but they are a part of how God made us, so we must consider them as valid parts of our existence.

Photo by Tabitha Turner (Unsplash)

As Christians, what we can be certain of, is that our faith will profoundly impact our hearts. The end story of the gospel is what drives us. The hope we have is what allows us to see a different reality, if you will. One that is not always obvious, but “imagined”, or allowed to be seen, eventually. Jesus’ emotional outbursts were examples of always having God’s gospel goal in His vision. God’s character must give us an answer to our emotion. Because He is merciful and loving, we must be comforted in our grief. He is slow to anger, but still just and holy. We must therefore be diligent in not sinning in our guilt or in our anger. We are not the final judge, He is. So. Are we perfect? No. Is God? Yes. Seems like a perfectly logical answer to all our problems, right? Yup, cheers to you, my fellow emotional wreck. Here’s to one more step on the journey.

What’s in a Name?

Have you ever had to name something? Perhaps you’ve created a beautiful piece of art and it’s being prepared for gallery presentation; it needs a “name” to go on that little card. A title to say what it is about and why. Great artists and photographers always name their work. I once read a book about a girl who names all of the homes she moves into… both big and small. It gives the place significance. I guess it is more fun to live in “The Corner Cottage” than apartment #2 on Route One next to the old oak tree. Anyone name their car? “Lemons” in my case. Of course, if you are a parent, you’ve had to name your offspring. Were you like us and had a book with baby names, meanings and origins? You made a list of boy and girl names and tried out the short forms and how a first and middle name flowed together off the tip of the tongue. Did you look at initials? That kid is going to be stuck with his or her name forever… it better be good. Worthy of a monogramed towel hanging in the bathroom. Or maybe you chose a family name, passed down for generations, honoring a loved one. Oh, and never the name of that third grade kid who was a “weirdo”… I know a “blank” and can’t call my baby that!

Photo: Days with Grey

Our youngest acquired a new batch of pet rats this week. Yes, rats. That is a topic for another time and place. We are talking about naming things, here. Anyhow… Our rats have always been named after plants and flowers, so picking names can be quite fun. God’s garden gives us plenty of choices… and we’ve had fun attaching traits and characteristics to their names. I’m sure we will be posting on social media this week… so check them out later, if you are interested!

So, what’s in a name? In grade school I did a whole project on that quote from Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliette”. I got a pretty good mark, too. I guess I have been musing about such things for a while. As you know, words and their meanings are captivating to me, so names naturally fall into that category. Special “words” if you may. I tried searching “How many names does God have?” and didn’t get very accurate results. The short answer? “Lots”. God has lots of names. Each significant based on certain traits and characteristics. I guess that’s what makes it so special. Our Heavenly Father could be so many things for so many people: Father, Comforter, Protector, Creator, King… the list goes on and on. Listen to people pray… it’s a good hint about how they view God. How do they address Him when they speak to Him? There is a good list (here), although I don’t think even 950 names are exhaustive. But it is a significant start, if you may be interested in further study. Certainly fascinating.

Our little brains can’t begin to comprehend all the attributes of God, let alone name them. Names are really only a snapshot of something. And God is much much bigger than our tiny understanding of the person we call “God”. Would you agree? Or do you find it easy to label Him? Perhaps based on your needs, you know that God is definitely your “Abba” or your “protector”. Either way, Holy and awesome truly are His name. (Psalm 111). And no matter what your name is, He cares for you and loves you. And that’s the bottom line. Be blessed, my friends!

10 000 Fireflies

Have you ever seen a firefly? Unfortunately, the light pollution in our city makes the nostalgic experience rare and far between most summer nights. Recently, however, I was out walking the dog in a back field out in the country, where the city lights were significantly dimmed enough for me to catch a glimpse of a few lightening bugs calling to each other. I wouldn’t have paid too much attention, normally, but the quiet of the evening and the fact that our chocolate lab is almost invisible in the dark, made me consciously scan the bush edge for unsuspecting creatures or beady eyes staring back at me from the shadows. I smiled to myself as I watched for awhile and then proceeded to ask the dog if he noticed them too? Yes, out loud. Don’t judge me as I talk to the dog, okay?

Photo by: Cathy Kiefer

Being the good scientist that I am, I thought the little beetles might be interesting to learn about… not everyday you see glowing butts as a way to catch the love of your life’s attention, is it? There are about 2 000 species of fireflies — and not all can use bioluminescence. The “glow” is produced to lure a mate and can be green, orange or yellow coloured. It is created by the combination of oxygen, calcium, ATP and an enzyme called luciferase. Luciferase is derived from the (get this!) Latin word for lucifer…meaning “light bearer” and has been a very important chemical in science for detecting all sorts of things in cells and living creatures. It is apparently very efficient — nearly 100% of the energy produced in the chemical reaction produces light.

Yet not all fireflies can boast such (pardon the pun) glowing reviews…some are deceivers. Some use their light to attract prey. The unsuspecting love seeker gets all caught up in the show and gets eaten for its efforts. Some fireflies will actually “steal” other flies from spider’s webs! Packaged lunch to go! Wanna hear the cool word for that behaviour? “Kleptoparasitism.” Researchers still don’t know how the burglars get on and off the webs without getting caught themselves….

Isn’t science fascinating?! But more than that, I think God uses these real life examples to teach us more than cool vocabulary words. So many life lessons are observed by watching the world around us. Is it co-incidence that the most efficient light is named after Lucifer? How attractive he is … and how easily he ensnares us into following him! The little blips of temptation can easily go unnoticed until they catch our eye and distract us into mesmerizing patterns, drawing us deeper and deeper into the darkness — only to devour us later. You need a lot of “darkness” to see the tiny blips of fireflies … surrounding yourself with light will drown them out. In fact, our light pollution is creating a decline in the numbers of fireflies … they can’t reproduce if they can’t find mates. Do you see the lesson here?

The band Owl City has a bubbly little tune called 10 000 Fireflies. (Find it here). It draws us to the nostalgic side of watching fireflies and believing in the “magic” of our childhood dreams. Obviously, life isn’t as easy as our childhood wishes… and frequently we spend sleepless nights worrying about things that are often out of our control. May you be encouraged this week that there is someone who does care about you and your dreams. He’s not “magical” or flashy… He’s simply the God who loves you. And me. The One who created 10 000 fireflies… and the God who made me notice one, so I can tell you the story of how it made me smile on a summer’s evening (and talk to the dog out loud.)