The Seven Words of The Serenity Prayer

Barbara posted the Serenity Prayer yesterday and it reminded me of a time in the late 90s when I was a part of ToughLove, a parents support group. Each night before we closed our meeting we would pray the Serenity Prayer and this is what we would pray:
God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
I once led a ToughLove group discussion where I talked about that prayer we prayed each week and examined seven words from the prayer. He is a (word-by-word) recap of what I said:
  • God: The Westminster Catechism defines as a spirit, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in his being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. If you are going to ask for help you need to ask somone who is willing and able to help.
  • Serenity: Synonyms are calmness, tranquillity, peacefulness, quietness, uncloudedness. Worry is the opposite of serenity; a frustrated attempt to “do something”. When we act out of worry and other emotions we create more problems. When we act out of serenity we can have confidence in our actions.
  • Accept: To receive willingly or favorably, agree to, concur with, release. Wanting a “normal” life causes us to deny the way things really are. Only when we “accept” can we focus on the things we can change.
  • Change: To make different. Often we want things to be different as long as we don’t have to change. If we always do what we’ve always done, we’ll get what we’ve always got.
  • Courage: The ability to meet danger or opposition with fearlessness, calmness and firmness. The most courageous word in our language is often “no” (i.e. to old habits). Sometimes we need encouragement from others to support our actions.
  • Wisdom: Synonyms are discernment, judgment, uncommon-sense. Like serenity, wisdom often comes through patience and experience. Wisdom often comes from other people who have “been there” before.
  • Know: To be sure of, understand, recognize, distinguish between. To act or not to act - often our knowing is less than perfect. Often we can rationalize ourselves out of doing something we know to do.
If you find yourself worried, troubled, anxious, or just dealing with some angst in your life try praying the Serenity Prayer ... it may help you to cast your cares on the Lord.

An Inspiring Psalm

Often, I read something that evokes a deep reaction in my heart. Today Julie Bogart posted something that did just that. Here are the beginning verses to "A Psalm: in honor of James Cone".
God is at work, even while I sleep.

As a child, I slept in my 1960s white middle class Californian home
and didn't praise God
African Americans, under the burden of Jim Crow laws,
thanked God for their daily bread
They sang that God would some day "swing low" and "carry them home"

In junior high, I looked to God for my deliverance from sin
so that I might go to heaven
Black Americans looked to God for their deliverance from my sins,
from the sins white people committed against them
that they might know heaven on earth.
The remainder of this psalm is truly magnificent. I encourage you to read the rest of it and encourage Julie at her blogspot. I join with Julie echoing the last verse of her psalm: "Glory be to the God of the oppressed!"

Just what Bloggerville needed

Just what Bloggerville needed ... a new blog from Kansas. Here is the intro to this new blog:
This is my attempt to consolidate my rantings and musings on life, politics, entertainment and trivia into one stewpot of rhetoric and monkey business.

These posts will tend to be daily and brief in nature and simply reflect what is going on in my boring world. I am also consolidating several other old blogposts (sans comments) onto this site - so I can get rid of all of my old blogsites.

I will continue to post to "An Eye for Redemption" once or twice a week with my insights on God, pain and trials ... some of these thoughts may bleed into this site but not intentionally.
Stop by and visit. I have consolidated 10 posts from my now defunct blogs for your reading pleasure.

Learning from Anger

Today's post comes from a friend (Kent Hotaling) of a friend (John Gilman). It is an insightful exposé of the affects of anger in one's life. I related to it on many levels. Blessings to you as you read. -- KB

About twenty years ago Kay and I were driving along and I asked a question that got an answer I had not expected. We had just been with a friend who was struggling with anger that was harmful to him and to those close to him. Musingly I asked Kay, “Do you think I’m an angry person?” There was a long silence and I knew I was in trouble! Eventually she said something to the effect that I had a core of anger and by discipline I kept it under control so most people never saw it. It only came out with her and our sons. Very painful to hear, but it set me on a journey to let God deal with this in my life.

One of the first things we did was ask God to heal this in my life. Next we signed up for a weekend seminar on anger. There were many new ideas from that weekend. The one that was the most helpful was for me to follow the pain trail back to the source of anger. Later my study brought the same idea from Dallas Willard:

“Anger indulged, instead of simply waved off, always has in it an element of self-righteousness and vanity. The importance of the self and the real or imaginary wound received is blown out of all proportion by those who indulge anger.” The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard

And this also led to the idea that anger is an emotion that hides the true emotion in the situation. It is a masking emotion. The key to dealing with anger is to recognize the emotion underneath the anger. All of these emotions have in common, pain that has us focused on ourselves rather than on Jesus and others. Some of the roots of anger are:

  1. Pain and abuse in our lives that has not been healed by forgiveness and leaves us with resentment and bitterness.

  2. Shame and guilt for the wrong things we have done that hurt others and ourselves.

  3. Fear of failure that can only be resolved by trusting in the life of Jesus lived in us in the fearful situation.

  4. Loneliness with the accompanying feelings of not being esteemed, of being unworthy.

  5. Feelings of inferiority that arise from any of the four ideas just mentioned.

In some people anger is hidden behind other emotions. If we grow up being taught that anger is always wrong than our anger remains hidden from us. This is often true for those of us who are forthright followers of Jesus. We control or bury our anger so we will not dishonor Jesus. We think of being disappointed in people or feeling low or some other emotion that explains our discomfort rather than admitting we are angry and learning to deal with it in a positive way.

C.S. Lewis helped me see the tyranny of my anger in our home when he wrote:

“Did we pretend to be angry about one thing when we knew, or could have known, that our anger had a different and much less presentable cause? Did we pretend to be “hurt” in our sensitive and tender feelings when envy, ungratified vanity, or thwarted self-will was our real trouble? Such tactics often succeed. The other parties give in. They give in not because they don’t know what is really wrong with us but because they have known it only too well, and that sleeping dog can be roused only at the cost of imperiling their whole relationship with us. It needs surgery, which they know we will never face. And so we win: by cheating. Indeed what is commonly called “sensitiveness” is the most powerful engine of domestic tyranny, sometimes a lifelong tyranny. How we should deal with it in others I am not sure; but we should be merciless at its first appearance in ourselves. C.S. Lewis in Reflections on the Psalms

This tyranny is exercised with some of the following weapons:

    • Shouting and physical violence

    • Holding in contempt; devaluing; name calling

    • Depression which is anger turned inward

    • Manipulation and control to dominate the person

    • Sarcasm

    • Righteous reasonableness that overwhelms the other

    • The silent treatment

    • Playing the martyr

The Apostle Paul is very clear that we have the choice on whether or not we use these weapons. In letters to the fellowship in Ephesus he writes: “Get rid of all bitterness, rage and anger.” I can choose to be angry or I can choose to lay down my weapons and “be kind and compassionate and forgiving.” Thomas Merton writes, "A temperamentally angry man may be more inclined to anger than another. But as long as he remains sane he is still free not to be angry." Thoughts in Solitude by Thomas Merton

A very helpful insight was to discover that anger was an emotion that is part of God’s nature and therefore not wrong in itself. Paul wrote, “In your anger do not sin.” Anger is not always sin. Lewis B. Smedes wrote it this way:

“I think that anger and forgiving can live together in the same heart. You are not a failure at forgiving just because you are still angry that a painful wrong was done to you. Anger is the executive power of human decency. If you do not get angry and stay angry when a bad thing happens, you lose a piece of your humanity.” Forgive and Forget by Lewis B. Smedes

Anger becomes sin when it is indulged and that is why we are to deal with it in a positive way before the sun goes down. If it is buried – it is buried alive and when it resurfaces it inflicts the pain that has been festering on all those near us. So Smedes adds these thoughts:

“Express your malice, but you need to express it to somebody who can help you get rid of it. You can express it secretly to God, or to someone who represents God to you. Then, you can let God handle those people you would like to manhandle in your hate. If they need teaching, let God teach them. If they need rescuing from their own stupidity, let God rescue them. If they need saving from their own crazy wickedness, let God save them. Malice is a misery that needs healing. Anger is energy that needs direction. After malice, let anger do its reforming work. Forgiving and anger can be partners in a good cause.”

What is the reforming work that anger can do? First of all it can focus for us our need to stay on the journey with Jesus in which he is moving us from self-centeredness to being centered in him. As this is happening it can also produce in us a desire to right the wrongs that have stirred us to anger. But in this reforming work we have to be on guard against the seductiveness of “self-righteous anger”. Willard writes.

“Anger and condemnation, like vengeance, are safely left to God. We must beware of believing that it is okay for us to condemn as long as we are condemning the right things. It is not so simple as all that. I can trust Jesus to go into the temple and drive out those who were profiting from religion, beating them with a rope. I cannot trust myself to do so.”

And Willard adds another caution and some counsel in this matter of anger doing its reforming work.

“Feelings are, with a few exceptions, good servants. But they are disastrous masters. The proper course of action is to replace destructive feelings with others that are good, or to subordinate them—anger and sexual desire, for example—in a way that makes them constructive and transforms their effects. The process of spiritual formation in Christ will do this by grace—effectively and intelligently received, and put into constant practice.” Renovation of the Heart by Dallas Willard

So what am I learning about the positive benefits of anger in my life.

  • I am learning the power of forgiveness. Forgiveness frees me to care about the person who angers me and to care about the people they have hurt.

  • I am learning to follow the trail of pain in my life to expose the places where I have been wounded; the things for which I am ashamed; and the ways I have become fearful. And I am discovering healing from the Lord and from my friendships with others.

  • I am learning to use the energy of anger to pray for people and situations in Africa and other parts of the world where my natural inclination is to “beat tyrants with a rope.” In fact, as anger is less a destructive force in my life it is giving me greater passion for the work of the Kingdom in all the things God gives me to do.

Kent Hotaling
November 2006

Give thanks to the Lord our God and King

We sang this song last Sunday. It is a good reminder of why we give thanks.
By: Chris Tomlin

Give thanks to the Lord our God and King
His love endures forever
For He is good, He is above all things
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise

With a mighty hand and out-streched arm
His love endures forever
For the life that's been reborn
His love endures forever

Sing praise, sing praise
Forever God is faithful
Forever God is strong
Forever God is with us
Forever, forever, forever

From the rising to the setting sun
His love endures forever
And by the grace of God we carry on
His love endures forever
Sing praise, sing praise
Singing praise with you on this day we set aside to give Him thanks!

Thankful for You

With Thanksgiving just a few days away I wanted to say thank you to my many friends in the Blogosphere. Your blogsites are a such a blessing to me. So, in honor of the day, I submit to you my short list ... with thanksgiving:
Andy: I am drawn to your heart for ministry!

Barbara: Your vulnerability humbles me!

Bill: Your openness is wonderful!

Brandilyn: Your talent is no mystery!

Codepoke: Your posts have so much heart!

Danny Kaye: Your diligence motivates me!

Danny Sims: Your understanding is outstanding!

Julie: Your honesty frees me!

Karen: Your transparency inpsires me!

Keith: Your posts really do reflect brokenness!

Matt: I am addicted to your emerging humor!

Michael: I miss your heartfelt posts!

Milly: I love your spirit!

Patchouli: Your art causes me to ponder!

Pauly: I miss your insightful posts!

Steve: Your kindness is such a blessing!
I thank my God in all my remembrance of you, always offering prayer with joy in my every prayer for you all, in view of your participation in the gospel from the first day until now. For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (Philippians 1:3-6)

When I run I feel His pleasure ...

Today I would like to examine the legacy of another runner. Like Derek Redmond, Eric Liddell was an Olympic runner. I recently watched the HiDef version of his Olympic story (my all time favorite movie "Chariots of Fire") and wanted to share that experience with you. The video clip below is from that movie and is purely 9 minutes of glorious film making. It traces Eric Liddell's resolve (to not run on Sunday) before the British Olympic Committee, to his reading of Isaiah 40 (in church that Sunday) and finishes with his Gold medal win at the 1924 Olympics ... it is so inspiring.

Here are few of great quotes from the movie:
"Then where does the power come from, to see the race to its end? From within." -- Eric Liddell

"I believe God made me for a purpose, but he also made me fast. And when I run I feel His pleasure." -- Eric Liddell

"The "lad", as you call him, is a true man of principles and a true athlete. His speed is a mere extension of his life, its force. We sought to sever his running from himself." -- Duke of Sutherland (speaking of Eric)
In Eric we see a young man preparing to run a greater race ... the race to fulfill his life as a missionary in China. I find it amazing that a man so young understood so much. Real life and power comes from within ... and we feel His pleasure when we run a life from within.

Encouragement and Endurance

I don't know if it gets better than Derek Redmond's race at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics. In this video we see the encouraging affect that a dad can have on a son's determination to endure and finish his race.

Here are a few excerpts from the story as remembered by Rick Weinberg:

Redmond arrived at the 1992 Olympic Summer Games in Barcelona determined to win a medal in the 400. The color of the medal was meaningless; he just wanted to win one. Just one.

He had been forced to withdraw from the 400 at the 1988 Games in Seoul, only 10 minutes before the race, because of an Achilles tendon injury. He then underwent five surgeries over the next year. This was the same runner who had shattered the British 400-meter record at age 19. So when the 1992 Games arrived, this was his time, his moment, his stage, to show the world how good he was and who he was.

Derek's father Jim had accompanied him to Barcelona, just as he did for all world competitions. They were as close as a father and son could be. Inseparable, really. The best of friends. When Derek ran, it was as if his father were running right next to him.
The Race
The day of the race arrives. Father and son reminisce about what it took for Derek to get to this point. They talk about ignoring past heartbreaks, past failures. They agree that if anything bad happens, no matter what it is, Derek has to finish the race, period.

The top four finishers in each of the two semifinal heats qualify for the Olympic final. As race time approaches for the semifinal 400 heat, Jim heads up to his seat at the top of Olympic Stadium, not far from where the Olympic torch was lit just a few days earlier. He is wearing a T-shirt that reads, "Have you hugged your foot today?"

The stadium is packed with 65,000 fans, bracing themselves for one of sport's greatest and most exciting spectacles. The race begins and Redmond breaks from the pack and quickly seizes the lead. "Keep it up, keep it up," Jim says to himself.

Down the backstretch, only 175 meters away from finishing, Redmond is a shoo-in to make the finals. Suddenly, he hears a pop. In his right hamstring. He pulls up lame, as if he had been shot.

"Oh, no," Jim says to himself. His face pales. His leg quivering, Redmond begins hopping on one leg, then slows down and falls to the track. As he lays on the track, clutching his right hamstring, a medical personnel unit runs toward him. At the same time, Jim Redmond, seeing his son in trouble, races down from the top row of the stands, sidestepping people, bumping into others. He has no credential to be on the track, but all he thinks about is getting to his son, to help him up. "I wasn't going to be stopped by anyone," he later tells the media.

On the track, Redmond realizes his dream of an Olympic medal is gone. Tears run down his face. "All I could think was, 'I'm out of the Olympics -- again,'" he would say.

As the medical crew arrives with a stretcher, Redmond tells them, "No, there's no way I'm getting on that stretcher. I'm going to finish my race."

Then, in a moment that will live forever in the minds of millions, Redmond lifts himself to his feet, ever so slowly, and starts hobbling down the track. The other runners have finished the race, with Steve Lewis of the U.S. winning the contest in 44.50. Suddenly, everyone realizes that Redmond isn't dropping out of the race by hobbling off to the side of the track. No, he is actually continuing on one leg. He's going to attempt to hobble his way to the finish line. All by himself. All in the name of pride and heart.

Slowly, the crowd, in total disbelief, rises and begins to roar. The roar gets louder and louder. Through the searing pain, Redmond hears the cheers, but "I wasn't doing it for the crowd," he would later say. "I was doing it for me. Whether people thought I was an idiot or a hero, I wanted to finish the race. I'm the one who has to live with it."

One painful step at a time, each one a little slower and more painful than the one before, his face twisted with pain and tears, Redmond limps onward, and the crowd, many in tears, cheer him on.

Suddenly, Jim Redmond finally gets to the bottom of the stands, leaps over the railing, avoids a security guard, and runs out to his son, with two security people chasing after him. "That's my son out there," he yells back to security, "and I'm going to help him."

Finally, with Derek refusing to surrender and painfully limping along the track, Jim reaches his son at the final curve, about 120 meters from the finish, and wraps his arm around his waist.
The Lesson
"I'm here, son," Jim says softly, hugging his boy. "We'll finish together." Derek puts his arms around his father's shoulders and sobs. Together, arm in arm, father and son, with 65,000 people cheering, clapping and crying, finish the race, just as they vowed they would. A couple steps from the finish line, and with the crowd in an absolute frenzy, Jim releases the grip he has on his son, so Derek could cross the finish line by himself. Then he throws his arms around Derek again, both crying, along with everyone in the stands and on TV.

"I'm the proudest father alive," he tells the press afterwards, tears in his eyes. "I'm prouder of him than I would have been if he had won the gold medal. It took a lot of guts for him to do what he did."
I think that this is such a magnificent picture of a father's love. It reminds me of our heavenly Father and how He runs to us when we fall. It is such a picture of encouragement and endurance.


The recent events concerning Ted Haggard's extramarital activity causes me to think about this verse:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men's bones and all uncleanness. "So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. (Matthew 23:27-28)
Before you jump my case and tell me to not judge lest I be judged hear what I have to say about hypocrisy. Firstly I think that we are all hypocrites because so few of us are free to be who we really are in our hearts. I think that religion is a weird phenomenom that puts people in positions where they are compelled to be hypocrites. Something inside of them causes them to reject who they really are and forces them to live external lives that are so different than their trues selves.

Fundamentalism really put me in that place of hypocrisy where my whole identity seemed to be external. I can remember times when I wanted to "go forward" to receive prayer and did not because I couldn't deal with the idea that people would question me as a leader. It seemed that my whole life was built around a charismatic persona where what I did was more important than who I was. It was only in pain that I began to reject living from the outside and start living from the inside - from my heart.

I am still challenged to live a life true to who I really am and to not reject my heart and cowtow to the image of the Christian leader that others might want me to be. It is sometimes a difficult journey because I don't like to be rejected and when you live from your heart rejection often comes - even if it is only in your mind :)

A Selfless Prayer

I give you a bit more inpsiration to pray this morning. This is one of my wife's favorite prayers.
The Prayer of St. Francis

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.

Where there is hatred let me sow peace;
where there is injury let me sow forgiveness;
where there is doubt let me sow faith;
where there is despair let me give hope;
where there is darkness let me give light;
where there is sadness let me give joy.

0 Lord, grant that I may
not try to be comforted, but to comfort,
not try to be understood but to understand,
not try to be loved but to love.

Because it is in giving that we receive,
it is in forgiving that we are forgiven,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
There is a selflessness communicated in this prayer that I am drawn to. In this coming season where we will celebrate Thanksgiving and Christmas let us endeavor to be praying people. God has given us many gifts and we all have much to be thankful for. I pray that we (read that I) will be agents of hope, encouragement and inspiration to those near to us who are very sad around the holidays.

The Prayer

With the US elections just days away I offer you this request to pray. I ask you, even now, to play this video, close your eyes and offer your heart to our Father. Ask Him to, as the Prayer below goes, help us to be wise in times when we don't know and to lead us to a place where we'll be safe.

The Prayer

I pray you'll be our eyes, and watch us where we go.
And help us to be wise in times when we don't know
Let this be our prayer, when we lose our way
Lead us to the place, guide us with your grace
To a place where we'll be safe

La luce che tu hai
I pray we'll find your light
nel cuore restera
and hold it in our hearts.
a ricordarci che
When stars go out each night,
eterna stella sei

The light you have
I pray we'll find your light
will be in the heart
and hold it in our hearts.
to remember us that
When stars go out each night,
you are eternal star
Nella mia preghiera
Let this be our prayer
quanta fede c'e
when shadows fill our day

How much faith there's
Let this be our prayer
in my prayer
when shadows fill our day
Lead us to a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

Sognamo un mondo senza piu violenza
un mondo di giustizia e di speranza
Ognuno dia la mano al suo vicino
Simbolo di pace, di fraternita

We dream a world without violence
a world of justice and faith.
Everyone gives the hand to his neighbours
Symbol of peace, of fraternity
La forza che ci da
We ask that life be kind
e il desiderio che
and watch us from above
ognuno trovi amor
We hope each soul will find
intorno e dentro se
another soul to love

The force his gives us
We ask that life be kind
is wish that
and watch us from above
everyone finds love
We hope each soul will find
around and inside
another soul to love
Let this be our prayer
Let this be our prayer, just like every child

Need to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe
Need to find a place, guide us with your grace
Give us faith so we'll be safe

E la fede che
hai acceso in noi,
sento che ci salvera

It's the faith
you light in us
I feel it will save us

If Only We Could See

Here are a few great follow-up thoughts to my post on Lady Liberty from our good friend Danny Kaye:


If only we could see the things Lady Liberty has seen from her perch on the water.

She has seen brotherly kindness extended to total strangers.

She has seen glistening hope in the eyes of those who had no hope.

She has seen crowds give up their collective citizenships to become a part of the land over which she watches.

She has seen ship after ship after ship carrying our nation's future leaders and collective heritage.

She has seen the desire for freedom in the souls of the oppressed.

She has seen great things!

If only we could see what she has seen.

Amen Danny! Truly inspired! Thanks for these beautiful words.