The Battle of Words

                                   
The Battle of Words


Words whirl through the air like sleek, sharp, arrows with poisonous heads. 
I turn to protect myself and they pierce my back, between the shoulder blades.
It hurts and I pause for a moment then reload my bow with arrows intended for the heart.
I pull back the bow and take aim.
Did it pierce the skin and penetrate the heart?
His eyes will tell me. 
They flicker. 
My heart wrenches; I feel the pain constrict my heart ….along with his.
The poisonous arrow head pierced deeply; his shield was down just enough to let it slip by.
There is no glory in this victory; I have lost more than I gained.
Integrity has been sacrificed at the alter of my ego.


Forgiveness

To win the battle I must forgive and ask to be forgiven.
I offer a healing balm; words of lavender and honey, please forgive me, I was wrong.
I gently pull out the arrow and place a band aid over the puncture; I love you.
I softly kiss your chest; I touch you; your armor and shield are set aside.
I wrap you in a warm comfy blanket; I offer you me.
We have won.


 Genesis 50:17-18
…I ask you to forgive your brothers the sins and the wrongs they committed in treating you so badly.  Now please forgive the sins of the servants of God of your father.  When the message came to him, Joseph wept. 


 By Debora Shelford Hobbs

Resentment Unleashed

Resentment and its devastating effects on the human heart are not unlike a chip in a car’s windshield.  A car is driving the road happily about its business when a rock fly’s out of nowhere and hits the glass so hard that it leaves a mark.  After the initial shock, the chip is easily ignored and is barely noticeable especially since the rest of the glass looks sturdy and secure.  The problem is, that chip when subjected to severe weather and temperature changes begins to branch out until the entire windshield is cracked, leaving it unstable and dangerous.  That original little mark morphed from a tiny flaw that no one really noticed into something that became noticeable to all.  This word picture became my story some years ago, as hurtful events hit me broadside and rather than dealing with the hurt, I buried it and it cracked my heart and behavior until I was merely a shadow of my original self. 


The first nick in my psyche was when our neighbor’s started attacking my family and children in a bizarre set of scenarios that cast my family into a resentful and stressful state as recorded in “Overcoming Resentment.”  That situation had penetrated my heart with deep resentment and it was branching out and reaching into other areas of my life.  For as I was soon to learn, a root of sin always spreads, even when our intentions are quite the opposite.  Perhaps that’s why I fell so easily into resentment in yet another area of my life. 


During the last two years of high school my oldest son, dated a very nice girl named Shelly.  Her family loved Cody and bent over backwards to make him feel important.  It was just a mild annoyance until Shelly’s mom started crossing boundaries by contradicting our belief system and undermining our discipline. Anger boiled in my heart and I began to resent her interference.  My patience grew even thinner as my son went on and on about his admiration for their “perfect family” and their “perfect parenting” skills.  By the time my resentment was in full bloom, my son was a senior and I was hesitant to confront the Mom due to the fact that he was nearly 18.  I didn’t want to be that “interfering Mom” that needs to let go of their child nor did I want to cause a breach in my relationship with Cody so I stayed quiet and stewed in my resentment. 


School Committees and sports dominated my time in those days so I constantly had contact with many other parents. As I grew more agitated, I took the liberty to vent my frustration whenever other parents asked me about Cody and Shelly.  Without hesitation I provided far too much information about her mom’s behavior and then nicely framed it with “But, I’m sure she means well.”  Far too much energy was wasted with negative thoughts about this situation and my ongoing neighborhood battle.  As the resentment cracks grew in my heart, even a small offense was cause for animosity.  More and more I assumed evil intensions from anyone that offended me; I judged their hearts rather than offering mercy and understanding.  I have become convinced that there is nothing that tips a woman toward insanity quicker, than to have someone mess with her kids.


 There I was, on a path of self justified, wrong behavior and I dishonored God with my words and heart.  Yet, I felt justified because she had disrespected us and was interfering in our family – particularly with my son.   But God gently showed me that He doesn’t care about who instigates a problem.  He only cares about our behavior and our character growth in the midst of injustice.  Wrong behavior never justifies a response of wrong behavior but that is exactly what I was doing. 


Unfortunately, I never made this ordeal right because Cody and Shelly broke up when he went to college so it ceased being an issue.  I occasionally reflected on the situation however, and feel embarrassed and guilty that I never discovered a functional, Godly way to solve it. There was no reconciliation and to this day I don’t if  Shelly’s mom was aware of my back biting and feelings.
But I know. 


Looking back, I ask myself what I could have done differently.  Rather than allowing my bad feelings to pile up, I should have confronted the woman in kindness and respect, and explained how her actions hurt our family.  If I found that impossible, I could have simply let go of the situation and given the family mercy, knowing that God takes care of his children and vengeance belongs to God alone.  Resentment was a strong-hold for me and an area that the enemy easily got me going in the wrong direction.  As I wrote in “Overcoming Resentment” God stopped me in my tracks the summer after Cody graduated when I opened my bible and read with new understanding “The Godless in heart harbor resentment, even when He fetters them they do not call for help. They die in their youth.” Job 36:13.
That scripture drove a spike through my heart and revealed the destruction that resentment had wrought in my life.  Within three years, resentment that started from my neighborhood battle steadily grew inch by inch, offense by offense, until it had branched out into a network that overwhelmed my heart.   I had changed from a positive person to a negative person.  With great mercy the Lord opened my eyes to the truth in those verses and He helped me to understand my responsibility when faced with personal offenses.  He gave me a new heart, one of forgiveness and mercy and a knowledge that I need to trust God in all situations, even ones that are unjust.


I have learned that many times, God allows us to stew in our trouble in order to burn away the rubbish in our hearts and build us in character and spiritual maturity. He truly does take beauty from ashes.  Since resentment has been a stronghold for me, I must be on the watch for it whenever I am offended. And especially be on watch for the motivations of my heart because resentment can be easy to justify and hide.  The Lord has taught me that I must quickly forgive and offer mercy and understanding while allowing the Lord to repair hurt so that resentment cannot grow into an all consuming root system that breaks me and blinds me to my own destructive behavior.
Lastly, I am amazed by the fact that even when I am unmerciful, God is still merciful to me…how humbling is that?


By Rhonda Shelford Jansen


The Height of Fear




Don’t Let Fear Stop You (part 2)


I have always had a fear of heights.  The kind of fear that makes my palms sweat and heart palpitate anytime I’m standing near the edge of anything moderately high or higher like bridges of any type, or looking out windows above a certain floor, and of course observation platforms, and road side points of interest.  Each of these places has been a source of anxiety and fear for me.  Why do I fear them?  I’m unsure.   I just know that each of these places brings about a feeling of emanate death, of falling to my death, an irrational fear of “What If?”  That’s why the following story is so significant.


There I was, standing on a small wooden platform high in the mountain jungle outside of Puerto Vallarta, Mexico.  The tour guide assisted me with the required gear, a climbing harness that wrapped around each thigh and cinched tightly about my waist; large wet leather gloves on my hands and a darling helmet on top of my head.  The tour guide explained that these slimy, wet gloves would be my breaks, “just push down on the line” he said as he effortlessly hooked up the carabineers from the zip line cords to my harness, giving me a fairly large wedgy.   My legs were shaking, my jaw ached from clinching, and every muscle in my body was balled into cement orbs.  But……there I stood determined to follow through, determined to conquer my fear, determined to cease its power over my life.  I examined the two safety lines running from tree to tree. They looked strong, sturdy and secure, and that was comforting. 

I watched my husband and sons lunge with joy off the platform and zip to the next platform.  The guide said, “be sure to look around as you go down, the scenery is so beautiful.”   When pigs fly, I thought.  Through chattering teeth I quickly explained to him how scared I was, he smiled compassionately, then said “get ready” and gently pushed me off the platform.  I screamed, closed my eyes then quickly opened them because “What if I fall with my eyes closed?”  I fixed my eyes on the platform ahead while cramps started burning in my right arm and hand from the force I was putting on the line with my breaking hand.  I think I could have won the “Slowest Zip Liner Ever” contest, but hey, I was moving.  Touch down, I landed on the platform at the other end of the zip line in one piece, now just five more zip lines and two repels to go!


Yes, we were doing the Extreme Adventure, not the wimpy little zip line anyone can do; I’m doing the EXTREME zip line adventure.  The next tour guide unhooked my harness and pointed my shaking body towards the next platform, “just follow the trail” she said.  My husband waited for me to get close then hurried down the path happily anticipating his next thrill.  I walk quickly behind him chanting “I am brave, I am brave, I am brave” over and over again to the trees, leaves, wild animals, God, and myself.
 
After three zip lines the trail winds its way to a metal grid-work platform suspended 200 feet above the valley floor by metal cables attached to the giant trees above.  I could see others in our group hesitantly walk across it, only a few are allowed on the grid-work platform at a time.  Ok, I said to my husband, “this is too much, I can’t do it.”  I felt my stomach knot up even more than it was; which I didn’t think was possible.  My loving husband said, “Yes, you can, just go out there”.  Then he confessed to being a little freaked too.  In fact, everyone in our group was intimidated by walking across the grid work, backing up to the edge then willingly taking a step off, backwards into a self-controlled free-fall.


My husband went, my boys went, in fact everybody but one other fearful soul and me, had gone.  The guide said “come on ladies you gotta keep moving”.  I eased out onto the grid work feeling it sway gently as I walked, I reached out to hold onto the rail but it was just a thin cable that gave way under my hand and offered no true stability.  A gasp escaped from my mouth but I stayed focused on an object straight ahead, unable to look off to the side or down.   I moved taking tiny steps, kind of doing a side-step-slide kind of movement while suppressing the feeling of tears just waiting to be released.  I looked at the guide as he hooked up my harness and said with unmasked terror in my eyes, “I can’t do this will you please take me down”?   He says “sure, just turn around and backup to the end of the ramp, get a little closer, I’ve got you” then he let go and I started to drop; alone.  Of course, I’m dropping slowly because I know how to use the right hand break, and I use it the whole way down,  stop, go, stop, go; once again deserving the title of Slowest Moving Free-Fall Ever. 


When my feet hit the last platform of the Extreme Adventure zip line I was thrilled, exhilarated, and felt profoundly alive.  I felt reborn and renewed.  I had faced an old fear and had not allowed it to keep me from a new life experience; I was and still am empowered by this experience.  Throughout the day I had encountered deep fear and at times felt certain I couldn’t continue, but because of the tricky guides and very little sympathy from my family, which at any other time would have upset me, I DID IT.  I’m grateful to all for the tough love they gave me. 


When I did the Extreme Adventure I was approaching my 50th birthday and was honestly feeling a bit bland and afraid I had nothing more to experience.  Although I had no way of knowing it beforehand this adventure reminded me that I have so much more in life to experience and to give.  That age 50 can be an age of open doors and new experiences, of giving in new ways, and an age of hope.  I know I have much more work to do.
I do believe it pleased God to have one of his children overcome a fear and to be reminded that there is much more to be done in her life.


For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.   
II Timothy 1:7

Debora Shelford Hobbs


 

Fear, Don’t Let It Stop You


                                        
Boomerang Talk


We stood on top of Hog’s Back, an intermediate ski run at Stevens Pass, looking down at the mogul strewn and rather steep hill.  The night air was cold and crisp against my cheeks, thick with the spicy fragrance of pine and fir trees and fresh snow.  I sucked in the rich night air, holding it deep within my lungs for a moment or two, enjoying the sensation, then released it back to the mountain.  The ski slope was painted with lights and shadows cast from the powerful lights sitting high atop thick sturdy metal poles.  Skiers and boarders were swishing back and forth across the mountain, rhythmically moving to the sounds of nature. 


I looked down at Sam, my- eight- year old, standing next to me, also deep in thought about our surroundings.  We watch as Jackson, his younger brother, and Dad headed fearlessly down the hill swishing back and forth.  I looked at the shiny helmet on top of Sam’s eight year brain and I know what he’s thinking. “What if I’ve forgotten how to ski down big hills?  What if I break my arm or leg?  What if I fall?  What if I fall and cry?  What if I fall break a leg and arm and die?  Is this really a safe and smart thing for me to do?”  Yep, that’s what was going on in that head, I knew it, but needed to ask anyway.  “Sam, are you ready to head down the hill?” I ask with a big confident smile on my face. “NO, I want to go back to Daisy chair … I’m not comfortable with this hill it’s too steep … I want to go down another way” was his answer in a voice that started calm but grew in agitation as he spoke.  


This was our first ski run of the season down an intermediate slope and Sam and I were ready to conquer the hill.  Well, almost ready.  We had skied the beginner’s chair several times to regain our rhythm and balance after the long break between ski seasons.  Sam was eager but cautious about reintroducing his body to the sensation of gliding over the snow on two highly waxed boards.  He’d been skiing since he was five and was quite a competent skier.  However, at the beginning of each season it took him a while to once again believe in the skill that he already possessed.  So, I reminded him about how he had skied this very slope last year many times and did it well, he’d even raced Jackson down it once.  I reminded him that he already possessed the ability and skill; he just needed to trust his knowledge and body.


There he stood, a pint sized Michelin Tire Man in his grey down coat and thick ski pants determined to be immovable.  I knew he wanted to be like his older brother Ryan who talked about ski jumps and racing down the slopes with friends; or to be like Jackson who pointed his board downhill seemingly  never contemplating  the “what ifs” and when he fell, just laughed and got up.  But Sam’s mind didn’t work that way, it dwelled in the “what ifs” constantly asking question that were too deep and probing for a child. 


So, we stood at the top of Hog’s Back, surrounded by the beauty of nature and fast moving skiers, discussing the importance of not letting fear stop you from doing what you know you can.  Sam knew he had the skill to ski down the hill; it was fear stopping him, not ability.  We talked about how fear can hinder someone from growing in character and skill, if they let it.  Finally Sam took off down the hill, slowly, cautiously, but he was moving.   Frequently he would stop, give me a squinty eyed look of disapproval and say something like “this is going to kill me” or “why are you making me do this”?  But, with slow progress we made it down the slope where he promptly asked for a cup of hot chocolate.  After a little rest we went back to Hog’s Back and Sam skied the same slope with more confidence, believing in the skill that he already possessed. 


Many times over the years Sam and I have talked about how fear and insecurity can immobilize us from doing what we should or want to do.  We have talked about fear in relation to learning math and writing; in regard to school, friends, football, skiing and faith in God.  Fear is an issue that has resurfaced over and over again and each time Sam and I try to talk and pray through it.


Like Sam, I’ve had a life long struggle with fear and insecurity, so I’m able to understand how real and immobilizing fear can be.  Recently, the table was turned and Sam was the one giving me the “don’t let fear stop you, pep talk.”   A little while ago my husband and I decided it was time for me to reenter the workforce after many years of staying at home.  I spent a few months perusing Craigslist and other job boards, filling out application and writing cover letters.  Finally, I landed a job and felt so relieved at having the whole job hunting process over.  However, as I started the new job I realized how rusty my skills were and that I had a lot of catching up to do to be competitive.   


I came home from work one afternoon a few weeks after I started my new job exhausted and rather than going into the house I sat on the front porch and let the warm afternoon sun sooth my up-tight muscles.  Adjusting to working full time was challenging, but it was the feeling of inadequacy about my skills and ability to perform my job that really had me down.  While I sat there Sam came out of the house and asked how I was doing.  My answer was surprisingly honest, I said “I just don’t know, I’m a little overwhelmed right now, maybe it’s not the right job, maybe I should quite.”  Well, someone could have cued the music because Sam gave me my speech about not allowing fear to keep us from our goals; how fear can make us doubt the talents we have and even prevent us from using them.  I smiled at my son and said “thanks, I needed that.” 


Fear and its partner insecurity can immobilize us.  They can keep us from using and refining our talents.  They can hold us back from success.  They can prevent us from spiritual and emotional growth.  They can keep us from healthy relationships and keep us in unhealthy ones.  Fear and insecurity can keep us from stepping out in faith.  But with God’s help we can stand strong and face our fears and insecurities. Below are two of my favorite verses that help me move forward when fear and insecurity threaten to stop my progress in any area.


Isaiah 41:13 For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, do not fear; I will help you.


Psalm 27: 1 The Lord is my light and my salvation whom shall I fear?  The Lord is the stronghold of my life of whom shall I be afraid?


Debora Shelford Hobbs