Battling Anger, Frustration, and Impatience

You might not suspect it, but I have a short temper sometimes. I don’t yell. I grew up with yelling and didn’t want it in my home. But I tend to seethe silently, which is no better (and certainly isn’t healthier).

Of course, some anger is justified. Ephesians 4:26 says, “Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger.” But the next verse warns, “and give no opportunity to the devil.” There are a number of warnings in Proverbs and other Scriptures about the dangers of anger.

What trips me up most often are dumb little things. Like trying to get one coat hanger, which somehow makes others fall down. Or the easy-open package which doesn’t live up to its description. Or tossing a plastic bottle into the recycling bin only to have it bounce out and roll under the car.

When a flash of anger or frustration or impatience flares up, I pray for forgiveness and try to gain the right perspective.

I pray for patience. People say not to do that because, since “tribulation worketh patience” (Romans 5:3, KJV), you’re asking for more tribulation. But I am asking for grace to respond better when even these minor tribulations show up.

Lately I’ve wondered if there’s a way to head that flare-up off at the pass. “Good sense makes one slow to anger” (Proverbs 19:11). So I sat down one afternoon and sought some good sense “to be renewed in the spirit of [my] mind” (Ephesians 4:23).

We live in a fallen world. Stuff will go wrong. The computer will mess up just as I was finishing my work. Ants will find their way into my kitchen, despite having a whole big world outside to explore. Weeds will grow faster than plants. Ever since the fall of man in Genesis 3, life has been harder than it was before.

In my early adulthood, we didn’t have the plethora of personality profiles we do today. No one had heard of the Enneagram or Meyers-Briggs. All we had to go by were the four temperaments. Some Christian books on the subject were very helpful in understanding myself. But it was a preacher who shared in passing something that was a big eye-opener to me. He mentioned that melancholics (my personality type, but not meaning sad) liked things to be right. They’re often seen as critical (and can be), but that’s an outgrowth of wanting to fix what’s wrong.

But there’s no way I can personally set everything right, from hard-to-open packages to social justice. I can only do what’s before me to do. I ask God to set things right and pray for grace to deal with the everyday frustrations of life.

Who am I, that I should expect everything to go my way? I’m running late and get frustrated with red lights, as if the whole transportation system should rearrange itself for my benefit. I get angry at the driver who cut me off or took the parking space I was aiming for, as if I had a right to those spaces over him. A lot of my frustration boils down to selfishness.

Giving way in small things makes it easier to give way in big things. I used to think it wasn’t necessarily wrong to take anger out on an inanimate object when I was alone. It didn’t have feelings, and I wasn’t ruining my testimony. But letting myself “lose it” in those moments just makes it easier to keep responding the same way. As the old hymn says:

Yield not to temptation,
For yielding is sin;
Each vict’ry will help you,
Some other to win;
Fight valiantly onward,
Dark passions subdue;
Look ever to Jesus,
He will carry you through.

Ask the Savior to help you,
Comfort, strengthen and keep you;
He is willing to aid you,
He will carry you through.

H. R. Palmer

Impatience and frustration are not Christlike. “Whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked” (1 John 2:6). “Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God” (Ephesians 5:1-2). Yes, Jesus got angry. But when He overthrew the money-changer’s table in the temple and cursed a fig tree, those incidents were not flash-in-the-pan exasperation or losses of temper. They were a demonstration of His authority and a small preview of the judgment to come. In His dealings with everyday people, He was meek and kind.

For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps. He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth. When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.(1 Peter 2:21-23)

The fruit of the Spirit. Last week I talked about not just “don’t-ing,” not just concentrating on what we’re not supposed to do, but pursuing what we are supposed to. For the past few weeks I have been asking God every morning to fill me with His Holy Spirit and work out His fruit in my life. Then I recite the fruit of the Spirit to myself: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. Keeping those things at the forefront of my mind will hopefully incline me more toward them than the flesh.

Meditating on God’s Word. In addition to the passage about the fruit of the Spirit and anger, verses like these melt my anger away:

And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Ephesians 4:30-32)

Anger and frustration are not worth the consequences, physically (high blood pressure, headaches, etc.), mentally (letting the next minutes be ruined by a sour attitude over some frustration) or spiritually.

Remember little things are just little things. Don’t let them foment into a bigger problem.

Take practical measures. Stop struggling with the package and just get the scissors. Leave the house with a cushion of time. Set reminders so I don’t forget things.

Let God use frustrating circumstances for good. Elisabeth Elliot wrote in Keep a Quiet Heart:

Everything about which we are tempted to complain may be the very instrument whereby the Potter intends to shape His clay into the image of His Son–a headache, an insult, a long line at the check-out, someone’s rudeness or failure to say thank you, misunderstanding, disappointment, interruption. As Amy Carmichael said, “See in it a chance to die,” meaning a chance to leave self behind and say YES to the will of God, to be “conformable unto His death.” Not a morbid martyr-complex but a peaceful and happy contentment in the assurance that goodness and mercy follow us all the days of our lives. Wouldn’t our children learn godliness if they saw the example of contentment instead of complaint? acceptance instead of rebellion? peace instead of frustration?

Elisabeth once quoted what George MacDonald said in What’s Mine is Mine: “Because a thing is unpleasant, it is folly to conclude it ought not to be. There are powers to be born, creations to be perfected, sinners to be redeemed, through the ministry of pain, to be born, perfected, redeemed, in no other way.”

A Chinese proverb says, ‘”A gem cannot be polished without friction, nor a man perfected without trials.” 

Amy Carmichael once wrote:

The hardest thing is to keep cheerful (and loving) under little things that come from uncongenial surroundings, the very insignificance of which adds to their power to annoy, because they must be wrestled with, and overcome, as in the case of larger hurts. Some disagreeable habit in one to whom we may owe respect and duty, and which is a constant irritation or our sense of the fitness of things, may demand of us a greater moral force to keep the spirit serene than an absolute wrong committed against us. [Houghton, Frank. Amy Carmichael of Dohnavur. (Fort Washington, PA: Christian Literature Crusade, 1983), 86-87]

I make my prayer Colossians 1:11 (KJV): “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” Not just patient and longsuffering, not just “grin and bear it,” but joyful!

What helps you to battle impatience, frustration, and anger?

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

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Here are some of the thought-provoking reads discovered this week:

On Worship. A very clear, simple, and helpful explanation.

Trusting God in the Midst of Tragedy, HT to Challies. “How do you go on in life when something like this happens? How do you move forward as a husband, a dad, a Pastor? There is no training that can prepare you for this.”

When God Contests His Children, HT to Challies. “During the fight, God caused Jacob to undergo a complete reversal. Jacob went from striving against God to clinging to Him, and that is where he received the blessing.”

Love Your (Imperfect) Pastors, HT to Challies. “When our expectations for how our pastors must act or behave center on our preferences or pet agendas, we likely will lose the eager anticipation we should have when gathering with God’s people.”

Being Discerning and Being Critical Are Not the Same Thing, HT to Challies. “There seems to be a fine line between discernment and just being critical. So, how can you tell the difference between a discerning person and a critical one?”

A Spirituality of Quitting, HT to Challies. Sometimes it’s the right thing to do.

Kindness: More Than Just a Random Act, HT to The Story Warren. “While there’s nothing wrong with encouraging people to do nice things, the Bible has a radically different take on kindness. It teaches that kindness is a fruit of the Spirit, a supernatural gift from God. Kindness is much more than being friendly, generous, and considerate. Kindness is what God is.”

Using a Literature Approach to teach Early American History, HT to The Story Warren. I’m not endorsing the product mentioned–I don’t know anything about it beyond this article. But I love this idea. I had zero interest in history until college, when a professor made it come alive for me. And I’ve learned so much reading historical fiction which then leads me to look up more about the history it covers.

How to Talk to Kids About Their Art. I wish I had thought of some of these approaches when my kids were young! And it’s an interesting observation that “too much empty praise can have negative effects on our kids’ motivations.”

Sorry, I don’t have any videos or graphics today. 🙂

Have a great Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week
with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

The days go by so quickly, we often forget what happened even a day before. That’s one reason I love the Friday’s Fave Five. I appreciate this pause in the week to ponder and remember the good things God has allowed, lest we not only forget them, but forget to thank Him.

1. A good performance review for my youngest son. Mamas always like to hear good things about their children, no matter what age. 🙂 But this was especially gratifying since a previous review didn’t point out anything being done wrong, but mentioned “not stepping up” without really defining what was meant. Apparently that has been rectified now. They told him he was one of their top performers.

2. Jason’s birthday. A fun time to gather as a family (online with our oldest) and celebrate our middle son. Mittu made a wonderful S’mores cake.

I didn’t realize Timothy was partly in the picture—didn’t mean to cut him off! I think Mittu took a better one with Jason and Timothy behind the cake, but I haven’t seen it yet.

3. Shared produce. A neighbor gave us some squash, zucchini, and bell peppers from her garden.

4. A successful new recipe. Several weeks ago, the store had “breakfast steaks” on sale. I am not sure what that designation means, except that the steak slices were very thin. We don’t often have steak, but I couldn’t pass them up at these prices. I put them in the freezer until this week. I used the aforementioned bell peppers to make this version of pepper steak. It was very good!

5. IT techs in the family. I’ve been having trouble with my computer going dark and then coming back on with a notice about “display driver AMD stopped responding but recovered.” It’s been happening so often, it’s hard to get anything done. A few times it didn’t come back on until we restarted the computer. My husband consulted with my oldest son, took the computer apart, blew the dust out, and tried a couple of other measures like replacing a cable. They think it might be the video card, so one is on order. I’m thankful I have people in the family to deal with things like that. I’m thankful, too, to have a laptop while I am waiting on the desktop. I don’t usually get along quite as well with my laptop, but we’re doing okay—maybe using it more has helped me get to know it better.

Thank you for your kind comments about my ear infection last week. I’ve been using antibiotic drops and am about 95% better. Hopefully by the time I am finished with them, the infection will be completely gone.

That’s about it for my week. How was yours?

Out of the Shadows

In Sigmund Brouwer’s Out of the Shadows, Nick Barrett’s life has been shaped by two abandonments. His mother left with his trust fund before his tenth birthday, and there had been no word from her since. And as an adult, his wife of four days betrayed him.

Nick’s mother had been a waitress when a war hero from one of Charleston’s elite families saw her and fell in love. They married, but Nick and his mother were considered outsiders, especially after his father died. When his mother left, he was begrudgingly taken in by his father’s relatives. But he was still always on the outside. Just four days after he married the girl he loved, an accident cost him his leg, his marriage, and his Charleston residency. He signed an agreement to leave and never return.

Nick has been away from his native Charleston, SC, for fifteen years. He’s bitter against his mother, his relatives, and God. But a mysterious unsigned note has brought him back, promising information about his mother. Looking not only for information, but also revenge, Nick is led through a winding path of revelations. But what will they cost him in the end?

In defense of the stubbornness of my soul’s early flight from God, there were all the events before I left Charleston—events that seemed totally bereft of the touch of a God of love. God, however, as I was about to discover, is a patient hunter. I can now examine my years of exile and see earmarked on the pages of my personal history the times he beckoned, times that I resolutely turned aside to my own path. I imagine that in a way, I was like Jonah, determined to head in the opposite direction of God’s calling. For Jonah, the city he desperately wanted to avoid was Nineveh. For me, it was Charleston.

I picked up this book on a Kindle sale partly because I love Charleston and partly because I had read something of Brouwer’s in the past. I remembered enjoying it, though I couldn’t remember what it was.

This book was fascinating. There were several jaw-dropping surprises or twists, but not too many to seem realistic. I love the Charleston history and setting. I loved the irony of the Old South incongruity of using the most polite language while doing the most awful things. A couple of my favorite characters were a gossipy pair of elderly twin antique owners.

I didn’t know at first that this book was the beginning of a series. But now I look forward to reading the rest.

The Summer Kitchen

The Summer Kitchen by Lisa Wingate opens with SandraKaye Darden meeting a realtor at her Uncle Poppy’s house. Poppy had been tragically killed in a robbery just a few months before. The police had no new leads in his case. It was time to sell the house and move on.

The house was old and had not been well-kept due to Poppy’s advanced age. But SandraKaye can’t quite let it go yet. This house was a safe haven for her as a child when her mother’s mood swings and substance abuse were too much to bear. Though it doesn’t really make sense, Sandra decides to paint the kitchen cabinets. But she doesn’t tell her family or her pushy best friend.

Though outwardly Sandra looks affluent, she feels her world is crumbling. Her husband, a successful doctor, is rarely home. Neither is her youngest son, Christopher, who is struggling but won’t open up to her. And her oldest son, Jake, fled after Poppy’s funeral. Jake blamed himself: if Jake had been with Poppy, as he usually was that time of the week, perhaps Poppy would still be alive now. Jake’s car was found at the airport, and they suspect he went back to his native Guatemala, from which he had been adopted as a young boy.

As Sandra works in Poppy’s house, some of the neighborhood faces become familiar. The pre-teen wanna-be thugs who roam the streets. The disabled elderly lady. The kids who run around unsupervised. The family of Hispanic people across the street. And the teen girl who looks 13 going on 30.

The teen girl, Cass, lives with her brother, Rusty. Their mother died, and they didn’t want to live with “creepy Roger,” their mother’s boyfriend. So they ran away. Rusty, age 17, finds work to support them, and Cass tries to make ends meet in their cheap apartment. They lie about their ages so that social services won’t find and separate them.

One day when SandraKaye chases some young children from the dumpster, she realizes they were probably scavenging for food. She decides to bring peanut butter sandwiches the next day. That starts a regular routine. Cass begins helping, mainly in order to have access to those sandwiches. The two women form a relationship that changes both their lives.

I picked this book up on a two-for-one audiobook sale because I loved Wingate’s Carolina Chronicles series so much. This book, however, started extremely slowly. Then a crude reference and a bad word caused me to set it aside and listen to another book instead. I decided to come back to it later, and I am glad I did, because I enjoyed the latter half much more.

The slowness was not just the beginning plot. The narrators also seemed slow. The point of view goes back and forth between Sandra and Cass, and the story is set in Texas. I grew up in TX and don’t recall anyone there speaking as slowly as these narrators. It finally occurred to me to speed up the audiobook to 1.2. That helped a great deal without distorting the voices.

I was very disappointed to see the crude reference and bad word in one of Lisa’s books. I hope this doesn’t become a trend. Both were quite unnecessary. I got from the rest of Lisa’s description that the neighborhood Poppy and Cass lived in was seedy. There was no need to throw those elements in for realism or grit.

But I did appreciate SandraKaye’s realization that she didn’t have to retreat into a shell. It was good to see her world opening up to see the needs of others, not just as statistics, but as real people.

I especially liked how Sandra went from asking herself “Aren’t there programs to help these people?” to doing what she could personally.

I was also very satisfied with how the story ended. There were a couple of ways it might have that would have been nice but implausible. I think Lisa ended it the best way possible to be both realistic and gratifying.

Don’t-ing or Doing?

In my early Christian life, a lot of teaching I heard seemed to emphasize what we as Christians don’t do. We don’t dress like that. We don’t listen to that kind of music. We don’t watch those programs. We don’t play those games. We don’t use that kind of language.

During part of this time I had a job in retail sales. I wanted to be a good testimony. I politely said no to invitations to places I didn’t feel comfortable going with my coworkers. I quietly absented myself from certain conversations. My style of dress was noticeably different from that of others. They knew I didn’t do a number of things. Some were even kindly protective of me, careful not to put me in situations where I might be uncomfortable. I couldn’t help but wonder, however, what these actions (or inactions) indicated to my coworkers and customers. They knew I was “religious.” But could they tell the difference between me and an adherent of any number of other religions? They saw my standards, but did they see my Jesus?

The Bible does have a lot to say about what we should not do. Freedom in Christ doesn’t mean we live any way we want to. God’s command for our holiness filters down into every part of our lives, and our love for Him does influence our choices of dress and entertainment. We need to understand what things are wrong. We need to realize we’re innately drawn towards wrong. Paul said, “if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, ‘You shall not covet’” (Romans 7:7). It’s important to remember the Bible’s warnings against sin. Some people fall off-balance by minimizing or even overlooking the “don’ts” in the name of love and positivity or an effort to be inoffensive.


But the Bible doesn’t stop with a list of “don’ts.” “So flee youthful passions,” 2 Timothy 2:22 says. But it goes on to say, “and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.”

Colossians 3:5-9 tells us to “ Put to death ” or “put away” “sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry . . . anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. Do not lie to one another.”

But the passage doesn’t stop with “putting off.” “You have put off the old self with its practices and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator” (verses 9-10). The next verses enumerate what that new self we put on looks like:

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him (verses 12-17).

Ephesians 4:17-32 has similar instructions to “to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness” (verses 22-24). We trade lying for truth (v. 25), stealing for honest work (v. 28), corrupt talk for edifying words (v. 29). We don’t let anger linger (v. 26), and we replace bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice with kindness, tenderheartedness, and forgiveness “as God in Christ forgave you” (verses. 31-32).

We’re not aiming just for “positive thinking”: we’re seeking a balanced focus. “Putting on the new” not only keeps us balanced, but it actually helps us put off the old. We have known of preachers who have fallen into sexual sin after years of preaching against it. Surely a number of factors contributed to their fall, but one may have been an undue focus on the forbidden.

Erwin Lutzer shared a helpful illustration in How to Say No to a Stubborn Habit: if someone tells you not to think of the number eight—suddenly that’s all you can think about. The more you try not to think about it, the more it fills your mind. But if you start thinking of other numbers or working equations, you’re distracted from eight.

Likewise, if I try to diet by repeating to myself, “Don’t eat chocolate cake, Don’t eat chocolate cake, Don’t eat chocolate cake,” what is my mind filled with? Chocolate cake. I’m thinking about it so much, I am likely to give in and have some. But if I turn my thoughts toward other things I can eat, chocolate cake lessens it’s hold on me. Now I can focus on the positive, on what I can do rather than what I can’t.

Years ago I read in a forgotten older book about “chastity meetings.” The author didn’t elaborate, but evidently these meetings were held to help young people make a decision to pursue purity. His wise advice was, “Have your chastity meetings, but then go on to another subject.” If every single week these young people were warned about sexual sin and urged to avoid it, their thoughts would be filled with it just like mine would be with the chocolate cake I needed to avoid.

Concentrating on “doing” rather than just on “don’t-ing” not only helps us avoid sin and pursue good, but it presents a better testimony. If all we talk about is what we don’t do, we sound either curmudgeonly or self-righteous.

Pursuing the positive also creates joy in Christ rather than mourning what we can’t do.

But we don’t follow a list of impossible good works in order to gain favor or rack up points with God. We focus on these good traits not to become righteous but to demonstrate that God has changed us and made us righteous. The Ephesians passage mentioned above says the goal is to  “attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (verse 13). It also says we effect these transformations by being “renewed in the spirit of [our] minds (v. 23) and because that’s the way we have learned Christ (verses. 20-21). Romans 12:2 tells us “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind.” Colossians 3:10 tells us our “new self…is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”

How do we renew our minds in the knowledge of Him? By beholding Him in His Word: “And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:18). As we see Him in His Word, we get to know Him better, and we become more like Him. As we pursue the pure and good and holy, the lesser things fall away.

(Revised from the archives)

(I often link up with some of these bloggers)

Laudable Linkage

Here’s another list of good online reads:

Biblical Literacy: Jen Wilkin on the Importance of Bible Study, HT to Knowable Word. “By her twenties, Wilkin understood it was possible to drown in waves of opinion. If she was going to learn to swim, she would have to learn to read the Bible for herself.”

On Basketball, Spiritual Disciplines, and Sanctification. “I had in mind a list of characteristics that I felt were necessary for me to sanctified—to be holy. Most of them had something to do with keeping a list of rules or living by a certain standard in my life.” I did, too. I appreciate this testimony of learning that “Sanctification comes through relationship.”

You Will Fail Sometimes. Don’t Quit. “I used to think that there is some point in the Christian life when you arrive, when you finally see that your heart and head and spirit align in some sort of beautiful sphere of sincerity and goodness and true devotion to Christ. But the older I get and the more I have begun to understand why the Bible teaches that we need armor.”

Does Your Prayer Life Need to Change? Sometimes we don’t know where to start–sometimes our routines have turned into ruts. There are helps here for either problem.

Moms and Dads: Show Your Need, HT to Challies. “I wish I would’ve shown my kids my need for Christ more. I worked so hard to show them my godliness that I didn’t show them my need. I should have been more transparent. I should have shown them just how much I needed Jesus.”

Far From Home, HT to Challies. “Some of us include in our spaces only those who support our biases or our preferences; or those who have been born into our circle or have earned membership there. But the Bible is filled with admonitions to welcome and care for the widow, the orphan and the foreigner. It doesn’t say anything about first determining whether or not they deserve it, or how well they live up to our cultural ideals.”

The Scenes They Leave Out, HT to Challies. “This steady diet of films and books and TV full of action, adventure, and high drama is stimulating. But are we inadvertently teaching ourselves that normal life is not? When the ordinary stuff of daily living is at best a quick montage to set up the real action, aren’t we in danger of losing sight of the fact that the ordinary stuff of daily living is actually most of the real action of real life?”

It‘s Not Martyrdom if You’re Being Obnoxious. “When Christians suffer, there are more possible reasons than just ‘suffering for Jesus.’ Christians, individually or corporately, might be suffering because they’ve said or done stupid things, placing themselves under the divinely designed cosmic order, whereby life is tougher if you’re stupid (as John Wayne allegedly said).”

It Is All a Snare to Me. I don’t always get a lot out of reading other people’s prayers. But this touched home in many areas, reminding me “my greatest snare is myself.”

Should Christians Cuss? HT to Challies. “It is true that Jesus often used sharp, confrontational words, but that is not the same thing as using obscenities.”

2021 Audubon Photography Awards, HT to Challies. Stunning photos of God’s creation.

This is a cute excerpt from a BBC special about “Snow Bears” (which I have not seen):

“But it’s the wrong hole.” Not for the seal! 🙂

Happy Saturday!

Friday’s Fave Five

It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week
with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

I’m running a little late today, so I’ll jump right in . . .

1. Relief, at least temporarily. I’ve had an earache for the past three days. Wednesday night we got ear wax drops that my husband patiently administered, and then he flushed the ear with distilled water. It felt better that night and the next morning. But then it started hurting again. No wonder babies cry with earaches. I’m late this morning because I wanted to call the doctor’s office to see if I could get in today and see if this is an infection. I got ready to go first thing in case they had an opening right away. But they didn’t have one til this afternoon. (Update: diagnosis: ear canal infection. I hope my prescription ear drops start working soon.)

2. Baptism and church lunch. It’s always neat to see someone take that step of obedience, showing outwardly what’s happened in their hearts as they surrendered to Christ and were raised to newness of life.

3. Library system. Our local library is very nice but a little small. But I can look up books through the city library system online, place a hold, and have the book sent to my library to be picked up. So convenient.

4. Peonies. I’ve always thought they were so pretty, but I’ve never had one. One night this week Jason and Timothy brought over some cut ones they had found in a store. I didn’t know they started out as tight rolls. It’s been fun to watch them slowly unfold this week.

5. Good news for friends at church, including a young baby and an older woman home from hospitalizations.

How’s your week going?

The Secret War of Charles Fraser-Smith

I have not seen the James Bond films, but evidently the supplier of his cool spy gadgets is someone known as “Q.”

“Q” is based on a real person: Charles Fraser-Smith.

Charles started out as a British missionary in Morocco. One day he spoke at a church about his “pioneer missionary work in Morocco and the often unorthodox methods I had used to keep my various projects alive” (p. 22).

Sitting in the audience was the director of the Ministry of Supply, who chatted with Fraser-Smith afterward. The next day the director asked Fraser-Smith to meet him at the ministry headquarters and offered Fraser-Smith a job.

Outwardly, Fraser-Smith was a civil servant of the Ministry of Supply’s Clothing and Textile Department.

In reality, he procured or developed an astonishing numbers of gadgets and supplies for the Special Operations Executive during WWII.

Fraser-Smith and most of the people he dealt with had to sign an Official Secrets Act, requiring thirty years of silence about their wartime activities.

Some time after that thirty years, Fraser-Smith wrote The Secret War of Charles Fraser-Smith, the “Q” Gadget Wizard of World War II along with Gerald McKnight and Sandy Lesberg.

The “Q” designation came from “warships disguised as freighters and unarmed trawlers” during WWI which were known as “Q ships” (p. 10).

Some of what Fraser-Smith supplied were kits to go with soldiers in case they were captured: miniature maps and compasses hidden in hairbrushes, pipes, pens, even dominoes. Sometimes these included a flexible surgical saw with which to try to cut through bars to escape. Fraser-Smith also supplied spies and other soldiers.

He had to take great care that nothing would alert a casual observer—or a sharp-eyed prison guard—to anything that was hidden or unusual. One trick Fraser-Smith often used was to thread a screw-on lid or top in the opposite direction, so if anyone tried to unscrew it in the usual way, he’d actually be tightening it.

Hairbrushes had to be made with bristles native to the country his clients were going to. Sometimes he had to supply uniforms from other countries for men to go undercover. Fraser-Smith had to make sure the fabric was the same type and quality. In one of his first attempts, the manufacturer he used made the uniforms too well and had to redo them.

Sometimes Fraser-Smith came up with ideas himself. Other times, he had to consult with experts and convey what he needed without giving away too much information. And in either case, he had to employ manufacturers to produce what he needed in sufficient quantity. He had to swear many of these folks to the Official Secrets Act. Most of them rose to the challenge admirably. A few dragged their feet, not wanting to vary what they did for their own profit.

One of the most interesting parts to me were miniature cameras which were used to take pictures of the terrain of certain areas. These pictures would be smuggled back to photographic interpreters who would project the height of hills, depth of crevices, etc., so invading soldiers would know the lay of the land exactly.

Another fascinating section told of the S. O. E. employing an illusionist to disguise things, like making a military base look like a working farm.

Fraser-Smith had to come up with various ways to get his supplies to people, particularly POWs. He never used food packages like the Red Cross sent, because he didn’t want to risk those packages being refused if someone found one of his gadgets in them.

Fraser-Smith wrote that he “slightly” knew Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. But he said Fleming misused one of his ideas of hiding things in golf balls. Fleming’s golf balls would not have performed as golf balls and “wouldn’t have fooled an Irish farmhand let alone the lynx-eyed prison officers and S.S. of the O Flags” (p. 128).

Fraser-Smith also wrote of the “everyday people,” from resistance fighters to sympathetic citizens, who would pass on vital information or supplies at great risk to themselves. “Day after day these men and women continued against the greatest odds with no one present to encourage them. Seldom was it possible to let them know if their arduous and perilous work was successful. Much of it went unrecognized. Those who fought in the services were spurred on by team spirit, e’sprit de corps. The S. O. E. agent and the resistance fighter were alone. This was the highest order of heroism” (pp. 152-153).

I was surprised that some of these tricks would be revealed even after thirty years. Maybe most of them had been discovered by then. I’m sure the types of things that are hidden and disguised now are much different from what they were then.

I first heard of Fraser-Smith in this post, and I was so intrigued, I had to look up his book. It’s long out of print now, but I found used copies on Amazon. He reminded me of other pioneer missionaries, like Nate Saint, who devised ways to carry sheet metal strapped under his small plane or to drop a bucket to people below while flying in a circle. John Paton once had a major spiritual opening with a tribe after building a well. God doesn’t just use preachers and scholars, speakers and writers: He uses people He has gifted in various ways.

This was quite a fascinating book. I read it for pure interest, but I am also counting it towards the Nonfiction Reading Challenge. It would fit equally well for the Inventions or Wartime Experiences category, but I think I’ll count it for the former.

Ten Words to Live By

The Ten Words are the Hebrew designation for what we know as the Ten Commandments.

In Jen Wilkin’s book, Ten Words to Live By: Delighting in and Doing What God Commands, she cites a study showing that more Americans could name all the ingredients in a Big Mac than the Ten Commandments.

“When the Ten Commandments are not forgotten, they are often wrongly perceived. They suffer from a PR problem. They are seen by many as the obsolete utterances of a thunderous, grumpy God to a disobedient people, neither of whom seem relatable or likeable” (p. 12).

Even when people accept that these commandments come from a righteous God, they set them aside because they think they don’t apply since we’re under grace. “Thus, law and grace have come to be pitted against one another as enemies, when in fact, they are friends. The God of the Old Testament and the God of the New have been placed in opposition, when, in fact, they are one and the same” (p. 13). Christianity is based on relationship with God rather than rules, but “rather than threaten relationship, rules enable it” (p. 13). “Without rules, our hopes of healthy relationship vanish in short order. Jesus did not pit rules against relationship. It was he who said, ‘If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15) (p. 14). We see this even in our earthly relationships: there are none without boundaries and preferences.

Though we rightly want to avoid legalism, the Bible also condemns the other extreme of lawlessness. “Legalism is external righteousness only, practiced to curry favor. Legalism is not love of the law, but its own form of lawlessness, twisting the law for its own ends” (p. 14).

By contrast, “Obedience to the law is the means of sanctification for the believer. . . . not out of dread to earn his favor, but out of delight because we already have it” (p. 15).

“The Ten Words show us how to live holy lives as citizens of heaven while we yet dwell on earth” (p. 17).

The Ten Words are an expression of love. When asked which commandment was the greatest, Jesus said, “ You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.’ The second is this, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Mark 12:30-31). A former pastor used to say that if our hearts were right, these two would be all we needed. But they’re not, so we need things spelled out for us. “For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law” (Romans 13:9-10).

With these premises in place, Jen devotes a chapter to each of the ten commandments. She argues not for a letter-of-the-law merest obedience possible, but for an expansive obedience of the spirit of the law. She employs Jesus’s explanation that the law doesn’t cover just outward action, but our hearts.

Take, for instance, the sixth commandment: “Thou shalt not kill,” literally, “You shall not murder.” Most of us would say we’re safe from transgressing that one. But Jesus said, “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire” (Matthew 5:21-22).

Is Jesus adding to the law by broadening our attention from murder to anger and contempt? By no means. He is pointing out the seedling that grows into the thorny vine that chokes out life. He is appealing to us to fastidiously weed the garden of our personal holiness. He is teaching that if every person dealt with anger quickly and rightly, there would be no need for the sixth word at all (p. 94).

Jen also points out the progression of thought from anger to devaluing another.

First, I am angry with you in response to a hurt. Next, I begin to question your character with an insult. Then, I begin to question your worth as a person. As anger degrades into contempt, the personhood of another is devalued (p. 93).

But an expansive obedience “will not be content to simply be not-murderers, or not contemptuous, or not angry. We will not merely refrain from taking life—we will run toward giving it. Let us read in the sixth word’s prohibition of murder the exhortation to take every care to preserve life. Let us run to be life-protectors and esteem-givers and peacemakers” (p. 96).

Thus Jen couches each commandment in its initial setting, then examines how it applies today, then explores not just the letter, but the spirit of the law from the rest of the Bible.

I have markings on most of the pages, but here are just a few other quotes from the book:

Every transgression of one of the Ten Words begins by transgressing the first, to have no other gods before him (p. 34).

When we look to Christ, imitating him, we begin to see restored what sin has diminished. Bearing the image of God does not mean we look like him in physical terms but rather in spiritual terms—not so that others may worship us, but so that they may worship him (p. 42).

Our patterns of work and rest reveal what we believe to be true about God and ourselves. God alone requires no limits on his activity. To rest is to acknowledge that we humans are limited by design. We are created for rest just as surely as we are created for labor. An inability or unwillingness to cease from our labors is a confession of unbelief, an admission that we view ourselves as creator and sustainer of our own universes (pp. 64-65).

No one ever set out to sin against God or neighbor without first desiring something out of bounds (p. 140).

Our actions are the incarnation of our belief (p. 135).

My recent post A Better Blade for Killing Sin grew out of Jen’s comment on what Jesus said about cutting off whatever tempted us to sin. As Jesus always went to the heart,  not just the outward actions, so this admonition shows us something: even if we could cut off the lusting eye or the stealing hand, we’d still have a problem in our hearts.

We need a better blade than any formed by human hands, one aimed at ridding our hearts of disordered desires.

Praise God, we have one. The blade that slays the beast is the word of God, made living and active by the Spirit of God, dividing thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12). By the word of God we learn to delight our hearts in the Lord, and the outcome is that which the psalmist predicts: “Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart” (Ps. 37:4) (p. 106).

That blade doesn’t just lop off offending members until there is nothing left. It transforms us as we delight in Him. “The antidote to the lust of the eyes is not self-inflicted blindness, but seeing as God sees (pp. 106-107).”

I wish I could share some of the core truths of each chapter, but that would make this post too long. Instead, I encourage you to read the book. It’s one that I probably need to revisit regularly. I was convicted in each chapter.

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