Monday, February 23, 2009

On the Cusp

Generally "on the cusp" is a phrase used in astrology to signify a person born between two signs - the shared date of one astrological sign ending and another beginning. But lately I've been feeling very "on the cusp" in another way. I'm beginning to realize that there is a certain amount of schizophrenia among those of us who were born at a time when women were insisting that their roles change.

I was born on the edge, on the cusp of roles changing from hubby and housework; babies and bath water and to hubby, corporate work, babies ( maybe) and housework (well only if we couldn't get someone else to do it!)

I think this has not only affected me but many others near my age. What side of the cusp did you fall on? and can we relate to people who fell on , stayed on, never-considered-moving-from the other side? There are people my age who can't email, text, enter numbers in their cell. And then there are people who understand that women can choose, chase, chance.

The way I see it being on the cusp has made me flexible and open ( well at least to most things). I've kinda had to be. The times they were so a'changing when I was coming up and yet I noticed one day that I just won't order my coffee in the new language. I just won't. I finally know which is which when asked Venti, Grande, Tall ( what? they ran out of a foreign word for "small"?!)
But I'm just not doing it! When I want a Large that is what I'll ask for. Large medium, small... size differentiations that have not changed for centuries. But even as I write it does it make me sound old? inflexible? Is it rigid to draw the line somewhere? Gees...even if I do submit to a Venti Verona with room for cream, I can only order that in one place. The other places call it something else. So isn't it best to keep it the same? Small Medium Large. Everyone knows what that is. Everyone knows what you mean. Okay so that's it! That's my line! I may have changed from floppy disk to flashdrive; I may now email instead of snail mail; text instead of type; blog instead of journal... but I will not ask for a Venti. I will not!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


This morning I invite you into a discussion of Anger. I decided that we need to begin an exploration on this topic when I noticed that many people do not seem to realize that just because we love Jesus doesn’t mean we automatically know how to love each other
I know that we would all agreed that the commandment from Jesus recorded in John chapter 15 verse 12 that, we love one another he has loved us is a wonderful concept. It sounds fine on paper and seems to work well right up until we actually meet one another. Then we find that what works in theory is quite difficult to put in practice. Yet we know that we are to figure it out because we have been commanded to…but how?How do we figure it out? How does it actually work out in our everyday lives? What is the balance? What is a healthy expression of anger in the church community?

These are some excellent questions that we as a Christian community must explore together. We must learn how to be angry how to hate the sin but not the sinner; To stop the wrongdoing without murdering the wrongdoer. I could go on but let me stop and tell you something you already know…This topic is huge! There are many different areas and avenues to travel. We have the notion of righteous or compassionate anger that is often necessary for Christians to “proclaim release to the captives” and “let the oppressed go free”[1]

But I’ve decided against addressing that today. That would be too easy. And would not get us to working on the hard parts – you know how we always had to eat our greens first. Supposedly made us appreciate the tastier parts of the dinner. We have whether or not we can be angry...yes I’m going to discuss that. We have whether or not anger is bad ...Yes I’m going to address that. Whether or not anger is dangerous ...yes I’m addressing that and I am even going to touch on how to handle anger. But at another time on another day I am going to come back to this topic again. Amen?

So let’s get started. Much of what I read about anger started off with some sort of acknowledgement that anger exists. In some of these same books several chapters were written before they even got into what anger was exactly. By the time I stopped myself from pulling books off the shelf I had fifteen books ranging from Anger as a spiritual ally to one entitled It’s the Little Things which explored the everyday interactions that anger and divide the races. And believe me there were plenty more books left on that shelf !!! Other books had extensive chapters on why people get angry,how to control it, if it is good or bad. There was One book in the anger section about forgiveness and even though this book had several chapters on anger for a minute I thought it was on the wrong shelf then I thought I guess if you are struggling with the need to forgive then you must be angry about something

One of my favorites however was the book that included an Anger Inventory. Twenty–five questions that you rated on a scale from zero which meant you would feel very little or no annoyance to four which meant that you would feel very angry. At the end you added the numbers and depending on where you ended up you were either remarkably low on the anger scale and were told that you were among an extremely select few or you were unbelievably high on the anger scale and only a few percent of the adult population reacted as intensely as this about anything!From this I decided that most of us fell somewhere in between.I figured that we were in the average to substantially more than average range. Not extremely peaceful but not a raving lunatic either! But despite the fact that I learned that most of us fell in the range of “normal” I still believe that many of us are not happy during those times when our anger skyrockets out of control or we when find ourselves puzzled by our reactions to things that should fall in the “little to no annoyance” category. So before I go further let’s decide on a common definition of anger. Let’s agree on a few things that none of us needs to read a book to know. Anger is a fact of life. Anger is human. Anger is an emotion and a very powerful one.
I will add that in many instances Anger frightens us or should I correct and say the inappropriate display of anger...The blind rage ...the lack of control...our own and someone else’s frightens us.
I will suggest that anger is everyone’s problem. Even if you are one of the few people on earth
who never gets angry you are most likely not one of the few who has never experienced someone else’s anger directly or indirectly. Anger particularly in its varied and inappropriate manifestations your own or someone else’s is a problem for all of us. One common feature that most social scientists acknowledge about anger is that anger occurs when we feel threatened. I personally had to ponder that for a while but hear me out these social scientists suggest that when anger occurs two things are present a person and a threat.[2]

Allow me to elaborate these threats may be to our physical self reckless drivers, burglars, cancer to our social or extended self people, ideas things or to our self esteem our value system, sense of respect our ideal selves. Basically when some part of our total self experiences a threat real or imagined we feel anger. I emphasize “feel” here. In all of this I join many social scientists, commentators, and others when I say that as an emotion, anger in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. The problem is not the experience of the feeling at least not at first. The problem with anger is the direction that it could lead us. Or more accurately the direction we allow our anger to take us.[3] Too often when we think of or discuss anger the appropriate human feeling of anger gets twisted and blended with the inappropriate expression of it such as aggression, violence and vengeance. This may come from how we were raised or how we came to understand the story of Cain and Abel in Genesis chapter four. Some of us came to understand the story to mean that it was wrong to be angry at all and particularly at God. But reading the story again we might see that the issue was not that Cain had become angry but that in being angry Cain was more vulnerable to the wrong expression of it.[4] So Proverbs chapter 29 verse11 is right to tell us That it is a fool who gives full vent to anger[5] that we should do as Psalm 37 verse 8 instructs us and forsake wrath and not fret or obsess because it will only lead to evil[6] but keep in mind that it is the “Full vent” that makes us fools not the anger. Almost as often in the discussion of anger we forget about a different expression of anger which is also inappropriate. This form of expression comes out of our correct decision that busting up the room is bad which it is and that any feeling of anger is bad which it isn’t and so we push, shove and squish the anger way down in our selves. Now maybe at first this “pushing down” was for good reasons maybe it was the wrong time to deal with it the wrong person the wrong place Okay but then what has happened? Now it has been suppressed so long that we end up at the very least passive aggressive unwilling or unable to address the root anger we become snipers, nitpickers, sarcastic. Or we display smiles that aren’t happy or become depressed which is anger turned inward. Frankly suppressed anger is dead weight. It prevents us from moving forward and cripples our relationships not only with those with whom we are angry but with all those we interact with in our community. Work can’t get done. Projects are stalled. Committees are fighting about snow removal when really someone or several some ones are angry about some other unresolved thing.

We wrongly think we are being “nice” or appropriate by not discussing it. We wrongly think that it is over because it has been so long. And yet, we find ourselves counting each new slight in a way that turns true molehills into Mt. Kilimanjaro! We wrongly think that as long as we keep
the imaginary mountain to ourselves that we are doing ourselves, the person with whom we are angry and the community a favor. Aren’t we grand? Aren’t we great not to bring it up? Not to cause disruption? When in fact our blood pressures are up, and we experience the anger anew every time we see the person. This is the fretting referred to in Psalm 37 and what we call festering and this is not good! Now don’t get me wrong anger is dangerous because in being angry we are much more likely to act in ways that are destructive[7] to others and to ourselves. Cain did murder Abel.

We live in a society that believes that “pay back” is appropriate; especially if we didn’t “start” it if we didn’t start it we wrongly believe we have a “right” to finish it. We cheer Rambo in First Blood which is a euphemism for “they started it”. We live in a city which at one point
had the highest murder rate in the nation. And the statistics of these murders suggested that
the murders stemmed from difficult interpersonal relationships, And were not random but more likely the horrible end result of poor expressions of anger. Excuse me?
Are we being told and more importantly are we believing that we should feel safe in a world where we have less to fear from strangers than from those who know and love us? Now murder is certainly the most horrendous outcome of poorly managed anger, but we cannot get comfortable thinking “well at least I’ve never murdered anyone”Because we are not exempt We are not off the hook from addressing our anger just because we never murdered anyone! Much of the way we behave has anger at its root and we don’t end up looking very good or smelling quite so sweet. It’s not murder but we fume at other drivers for making the same dangerous move that we have made at some point. We say hurtful things just audible enough to be heard but not so loud that we don’t have plausible deniability We malign people who have angered us and spend endless hours doing it with no plans of ever addressing the person or the issue.

In a book entitled Creative Anger the authors explore a seven step method born from years of their research. The acronym RETHINK lists skills that they assert and I’ll quote here: RETHINK skills “will assure creative outcomes will enrich relationships, resolve conflicts and contribute to physical and emotional health[8] According to the authors when we RETHINK[9]
R— we recognize our anger and what triggers it
E— we empathize with the other person meaning listening with our heart
T— we think about the situation –reframe it if necessary
H— we Hear what the other person is communicating verbally and non verbally
I— we Integrate respect with our responses
N— we Notice how our body reacts to being angry and we Notice how to calm ourselves
K— we Keep our attention on the present problem

I am aware that even with a formula handling anger is not easy and it is not something that can be corrected over night or in one sermon. Much of our new life in Christ is like this.
Our life in Christ is a life long pursuit. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we get it wrong
and sometimes we just don’t “get it”. But I assert that learning about and coming to understand our own anger falls into the category of something we can “get”. How and when we express ourselves about our anger is our choice and within our control. What we decide pushes our buttons is also under our control. We may not be able to control who pushes the buttons, but can decide how we behave when our buttons get pushed.

What God meant in Genesis chapter four and what the author of Ephesians meant is that dangerous though anger can be it does not have to be. In both of these examples being angry is not the problem letting anger get this best of us, as it did Cain, not being careful to avoid vengeance, getting even, wishing or planning the destruction and demise of someone else or letting the sun go down or as we would say fester. This is a problem. This is the problem.
We “sin” not in being angry but in what happens because we are angry. The “sin” is either in our expression as with Cain murdering his brother or it is in our lack of expression
pretending we don’t have any anger ignoring it or harboring it and then becoming bitter, slanderous and full of malice. Our struggle as followers of Christ is how do we acknowledge the reality of anger and find loving and timely expression of it our Christian community.
The author of Ephesians in chapter four verse twenty-six allows for our anger but not for a lack of resolution. Indulging anger either by murderous expression or by letting it fester under the surface of our relationships[11] is what the author of Ephesians considers sinful. This is a task for each of us to undertake. Whether we decide to truly let it go or find an appropriate healthy and helpful way to address it we are to get rid of it and as soon as possible. Learning a careful, considerate, thoughtful expression of anger is good for each of us as individuals and is good for our community.


[1] Luke 4:18
[2] Coping With Anger – A Christian Guide - Andrew Lester p19
[3] Anger is a Choice - Tim LaHaye and Bob Phillips p 14
[4] Anger – Discovering your Spiritual Ally – Andrew Lester p 32
[5] Proverbs 29:11 A fool gives full vent to anger, but the wise quietly holds it back.
[6] Psalm 37:8 Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath. Do not fret—it leads only to evil.
[7] Anger – Discovering your Spiritual Ally – Andrew Lester p 32
[8] Creative Anger – putting that Powerful Emotion to Good Use – Rhoda Baruch, Edith Grothberg, Suzanne Stutman
[9] Creative Anger – putting that Powerful Emotion to Good Use – Rhoda Baruch, Edith Grothberg, Suzanne Stutman
[10] Creative Anger – putting that Powerful Emotion to Good Use – Rhoda Baruch, Edith Grothberg, Suzanne Stutman
[11] Ephesians God Calls a New People – A Study Guide - David B. Howell

Sermonic Text: Genesis 4:1-8; New Testament Text: Ephesians 4:26; 31-32
Preached February 15, 2009 - Yeadon Presbyterian Church – Philadelphia, PA

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Goldilocks and diabetes...

A few days ago I was in a discussion with my DFF who was recently diagnosed with Diabetes. I have been trying to "duck" the whole diabetes bullet myself (taking "pre" diabetes classes, using Splenda, trying to [or should I say thinking about] losing weight) So my DFF's diagnosis hit me and hurt me. For years my DFF had turned their nose up at my "rabbit food". Tolerant though, my DFF made every effort to make sure I could eat wherever we ended long as they didn't have to eat the tofu get the idea.

My DFF teased me quite often though. So imagine my surprise when my DFF started talking about brown rice and rolled oats! Was this the same person that had introduced me to "Nuts to You" with bags of Gummy Worms, Sweet and Sours and Twizzlers? It was hard. When your friends' and family's lives change so does yours. I kept forgetting and saying things like "let's go get ice cream" or "don't you want a bean pie". Mind you I didn't need the ice cream or the bean pie or food for the next month for that matter ! but habits are what they are...difficult to change!

Maybe habits are hard for me to change but for my DFF the turn around was amazing! My DFF actually eats better than me now -putting me to serious shame. (Was that really me that said "it's only rice" while I was wolfing down Popeye's red beans and rice?)

Lately though the numbers have been escalating seemingly for no apparent reason. No matter what my DFF did or didn't do ...or so it would seem...the numbers were too high one time and too low another. Both are bad. Too high and too low. Goldilocks knew what she was talking about..."too" anything is not has to be just right!

What my DFF and I realize is always had to be just right! Because it all counts...every little bit of food, every little bit of all counts and it all costs.

The way I see always did. Every bit of food, every bit of exercise always counted and it always cost. it was just that years ago the price to pay wasn't so immediate and the cost was not so deadly... but it always counted and it always cost. Now though the piper wants the payment up front and in cash! That little taste of chocolate anything will send your numbers through the roof...maybe it did before...but that headache, stomach, rash, etc. could be passed off or passed through...before...years ago...when youthful bodies overrode many an abuse.

The way I see it now...everyone over 15yo should act like it all counts and that it all costs now primarily because it does. We should all get in the habit of honoring and respecting our bodies ...let's consider it the "Goldilock principle" of good health... always treat your body...just right!

Friday, February 6, 2009

It's been a while since I've posted! (tell me again what year it is??) Seems all of December's to-do's got pushed into January which of course made me nuts and I'm almost recovered but not quite and it isn't quite the middle of February so I still may make get the picture I'm sure. In the meantime...

1.. My husband and I divorced over religious differences. He thought he was God and I didn't
.2.. I don't suffer from insanity; I enjoy every minute of it.
3.. Some people are alive only because it's illegal to kill them.
4.. I used to have a handle on life, but it broke.
5.. Don't take life too seriously; No one gets out alive.
6.. You're just jealous because the voices only talk to me.
7.. Beauty is in the eye of the beer holder.
8.. Earth is the insane asylum for the universe.
9.. I'm not a complete idiot -- Some parts are just missing.
10... Out of my mind. Back in five minutes.
11.. NyQuil, the stuffy, sneezy, why-the-heck-is-the-room-spinning medicine.
12.. God must love stupid people; He made so many.
13.. The gene pool could use a little chlorine.
14.. Consciousness: That annoying time between naps.
15.. Ever stop to think, and forget to start again?
16.. Being 'over the hill' is much better than being under it!
17.. Wrinkled Was Not One of the Things I Wanted to Be When I Grew up.
18 Procrastinate Now!
19.. I Have a Degree in Liberal Arts; Do You Want Fries With That?
20.. A hangover is the wrath of grapes.
21.. A journey of a thousand miles begins with a cash advance.
22.. Stupidity is not a handicap. Park elsewhere!
23..They call it PMS because Mad Cow Disease was already taken.
24.. He who dies with the most toys is nonetheless DEAD.
25.. A picture is worth a thousand words, but it uses up threethousand times the memory.
26.. Ham and eggs...A day's work for a chicken, a lifetime commitment for a pig.
27.. The trouble with life is there's no background music.
28.. The original point and click interface was a Smith & Wesson.
29.. I smile because I don't know what the hell is going on.