Name The (-Tune-) Excuse

Name That Tune- Excuse.

There used to be a TV game show where contestants would ‘name that tune’ in as few notes as possible. Now that I think of it, there was another one where they would ‘fill in the blank’ with a song’s next words. Or how about turning it around and stumping the late night TV show band?

Games shows are one of the biggest ‘genre’ in television. We make a game out of anything: Trivia – what is backwards and forwards. Filling in the letters of cliches and the names of people, places, and things. Savvy product-pricing awareness. Heck, even simply picking the number on a shiny metal case. And, if that’s not enough, we can make a movie about a character trying to get on a game show. (I’m going to insert a link here to my contest for you all to enter the names of the game shows and the movie I just hinted at.)

Today, let’s play “Name That Post Subject in 1 Bible Chapter.” Ready? The answer is Romans 7. If you guessed verse 19 “I don’t do the good that I want to do. I do the evil that I don’t want to do.” Ding, ding, ding! Honorable mention if you were too busy watching a game show or soap opera to respond in the time allowed.

Yes, a game out of anything. Everything. A game out of knowing or not knowing. A game out of doing or not doing. Ah, that last one is my favorite! Not doing what I know I should. What I know is good. When I know I should. When I know I could. Playing “Instead.” AKA Name That Excuse: It’s boring. It’s not fun. I don’t feel well. I don’t wanna get up even. I just don’t feel like it. It doesn’t really matter. It’s “their” fault. I’m stressed out. I’m staying in. I’m hurt, angry, lonely, tired. The devil made me do it. It’s not real – doesn’t really matter. I’m scared it WILL turn out the way God promised.

Ever play that last one? It’s where you intently squeeze those eyelids shut tight, and ignore God’s signs and Psalm 56:3 “When I am afraid, I will trust in you.” I’m really good at it. I always seems to start by playing – again – that seemingly-harmless “Let’s see if my life is truly unmanageable and I’m still powerless over my addictions and compulsive behaviors. (Step 1 of the 12 Steps.)” AKA It’s not that I can’t start but that I don’t stop. Playing games. Doing the evil (or the idle) that I don’t want to do. Reading fiction all day. Sleeping. Watching TV (sports games, for me). Busy work. Analysis paralysis. Even being so heavenly minded that I’m of no earthly use. Playing a pointless, meaningless video game for an entire day.

How about James 1? If you answered verse 8 “double-minded and unstable in all his ways”, ding again! This one is where “It’s not real – it doesn’t really matter” creeps into my thinking. We can make a game out of everything and we can make light of everything. Just not taking life seriously. Missing opportunities to be God’s hands, feet, and voice. Or worse, the sick game of “I don’t deserve God’s good stuff” or “Because I can (Cheap Grace)”.

But.

Perhaps I’m being too negative. I do, after all, have one sort-of game that is positive: how soon can I dig into the word today? The answer is usually “just as soon as the coffee is made.” Another name for it is “Name that Child of God, and watch God pick him/her up AGAIN.” The Bible chapter for this game? 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous, it does not brag, and it is not proud. Love is not rude, it is not selfish and it cannot be made angry easily. Love does not remember the wrongs done against it. Love is never happy when others do wrong,but it is always happy with the truth. Love never gives up on people. It never stops trusting, never loses hope, and never quits. Love will never end…  (ERV)

I could write more, but now it’s time to play “Mission Impossible (aka Your mission for today, if you decide to accept it, is this to do list…)”

PS I deleted the shortcut to the game off the desktop. Maybe I’ll forget it’s there?

Running on FUMES

A path to self-forgiveness

In my recovery program, Celebrate Recovery, we do acronyms. A lot. And since I like to think of myself as an uber-creative, I love coming up with acronyms. One of my favorites describes how I try to show love to others. FUMES stands for Forgiveness, Understanding, Mercy, Encouragement, and So many things that begin with S: support, serenity, spiritual strength, my story, my smile, being still and knowing, surety, scripture, simplicity, and – from this morning’s time in the Word – a new understanding of how to find self-forgiveness.

I don’t think that many of us struggle with this, I know. You tell me in small group and when you share your testimony. It’s one of the most difficult parts of healing and transformation, for sure. And today’s verses struck me strongly.

(I have to plug author Adam Houge – he’s a machine! I’ve read several of his books, and am currently working through the 30-day devotional Refreshed In Christ, which pointed me to these verses.)

1 John 3 in the Easy-to-Read Version (ERV)

:14 …We love each other as brothers and sisters.
:16 This is how we know what real love is: Jesus gave His life for us. So we should give our lives for each other as brothers and sisters.
:18 …We must show our love by the things we do.

This is straightforward. We’re called to show love for others – brotherly/sisterly love. We do this with our thoughts, words, and actions. There’s a cliche, “The best apology is changed behavior.” But there’s also a call to love and forgive ourselves. I dare say there’s only one way to do this:

:19-:21 And when our hearts make us feel guilty, we can still have peace before God, because God is greater than our hearts. He knows everything.
My dear friends, if we don’t feel that we are doing wrong, we can be without fear when we come to God.

In short, we know if our own repentance is sincere. We may still struggle, but we’re ‘working the steps.’ We’re really trying to do the next right thing. We’re forgiving others, being understanding, having merciful words (if not thoughts – yet), speaking encouragement. Serving. Sharing. Supporting. And we can be very sure that God knows our true hearts.

If we truly believe, we can and will think, speak, and act like it. Truly changed behavior, not just a show. (And all that takes is doing it.) We know what we were like in the past; we can’t and shouldn’t forget. But we know – we can see – that we have really been changed. (And if  we journal, we can literally read and review the documented progress.)

God gives us the power to change – stuffs us full of it, even if our circumstances mean this is only in our attitude, actions, and words. (IOW, if we don’t have things to give/share.) Everyone has encouraging words, a smile, at least a little time to give. And even the smallest bit of these can miraculously show God to someone who needs it.

Knowing my own sincere repentance, powered by God’s gift of grace and backed up by verses like these, is the key in the ignition of my self-forgiveness. But there’s more good stuff to fuel my progress!

:22-:23 And God gives us what we ask for. We receive it because we obey God’s commands and do what pleases Him. This is what God commands: That we believe in His son, Jesus Christ, and that we love each other as He commanded.

Do I believe in Jesus Christ? Easily! (Well, it turns out to be the easiest part of this journey. Daily.) God’s grace has then become more and more evident in my life – even if only in the serenity I feel. (Like during those long days in the hospital.) But my circumstances are changing, too. That re-affirms and re-assures me that I am, at last, on His right path, and makes me determined to – finally – stick to something. His something for me.

Instead of the vicious cycle of addiction and phases, I find myself in a blessed cycle of grace. And I realize I’m feeling better about myself each day.