Seasoning the Seasons


“Prove yourself brave, truthful, and unselfish, and someday, you will be a real boy.” ~ The Blue Fairy ( IMDB, Disney’s Pinocchio, 1940)

 

It’s a strange thing, an awkward, how-can-it-be thing, when the holidays which are supposed to inspire feelings of benevolence, charity, patience, and generosity inside of us (no matter how we choose to observe them) are often rather commercial spectacles of excess, envy, self-indulgence, and competition. It is a wonderful thing to enjoy the blessings and fruits of hard work and God’s favor, don’t get me wrong; but when the decorations, food, and traditions become overly important, it’s difficult to actually enjoy these holidays. Worst of all, the people we are supposed to be teaching and sharing the deeper meaning of the seasons with get in the way of our dreams of “perfect”, things can get a little bit ugly, and by things I mean me. (Do you do this too?) Ugh. Embarrassing.

Of course it is so so easy to get wrapped up in the wrong things at this time of year (little pre-Christmas pun there). There are holiday specials to watch, and blogs to read (ahem), and recipes to try, and gifts to buy, and crafts to make, and bows to tie, and cinnamon-scented this and that, and Grandma Bobo’s Christmas tree skirt, and carols to sing, and bells to ring (hey I will rhyme most anything), and plays to watch, and Grandpa’s Scotch, and crab dip made from imitation, and Clark W’s Christmas Vacation………….So, it may be a good idea to stop, rewind, and remember why we have these often maddening special times. Maybe should recall the seasonings (or as it is also called, fruit) which make the Holidays truly bright…

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” ~ Galatians 5:22-26

“That” Woman


“In this day and age, some turn 18 and think they’re a man or a woman and that’s it, but that’s just not true. You have to establish your manhood or your womanhood with actions.” ~ Orlando McGuire (American actor, producer, and stunt artist)

 

Wonder Woman is my absolute favorite superhero, always has been. However, in spite of her stars and stripes falling in all the right places and, among other things, the ability to detect lies like a confessor from Terry Goodkind’s Sword of Truth series; she is only a cartoony, man-made archetype of a woman. The woman I want to discuss in this post is far more intimidating. I’m speaking, of course, about the Proverbs 31 Woman.

“A capable, intelligent, and virtuous woman–who is he who can find her? She is far more precious than jewels and her value is far above rubies or pearls. [Prov. 12:4; 18:22; 19:14.] The heart of her husband trusts in her confidently and relies on and believes in her securely, so that he has no lack of [honest] gain or need of [dishonest] spoil. She comforts, encourages, and does him only good as long as there is life within her…” Proverbs 31:10-12 Amplified
It goes on from there….Ugh! Talk about a tall order! If you take this passage literally, like a laundry list of do’s and don’ts, it can seem seriously, well, impossible. I, myself, do NOT meet the criteria to even join the same neighborhood watch as this woman. I can’t sew and know next to nothing about real estate. I’m not always encouraging, I do more than just eat the bread of idleness. I sometimes even bake it. I have often felt that it was unfair of God to include this part of the Bible at all. Who can actually do these things? This woman isn’t human!
As in every other aspect of our lives, when we feel inadequate, pathetic, weak, and sad, God is not only Jehovah Jirah (My Provider), He is also El Roi (The God Who Sees Me). He knows you, and he provides, in Jesus Christ. This is not about condemning women who do not meet the impossible, fluctuating, and contradictory standards of beauty set out by the schizophrenic women’s magazines in “news stands” all over the place. This is not about pointing fingers at those of us who live a less than DIY, handcrafted, homemade, homeschooling, organic lifestyle. This is not about being the everything for everyone in your life. This is about Jesus, who, when he lives inside your heart of hearts, can lift you up to a place in your mind and day to day life where HE is the all-sufficient, never-running-dry well that we as women can draw from to help meet the need we have so that we can, in turn be the women the world desperately needs us to be.
“But I say, walk and live [habitually] in the [Holy] Spirit [responsive to and controlled and guided by the Spirit]; then you will certainly not gratify the cravings and desires of the flesh (of human nature without God). For the desires of the flesh are opposed to the [Holy] Spirit, and the [desires of the] Spirit are opposed to the flesh (godless human nature); for these are antagonistic to each other [continually withstanding and in conflict with each other], so that you are not free but are prevented from doing what you desire to do. But if you are guided (led) by the [Holy] Spirit, you are not subject to the Law. Now the doings (practices) of the flesh are clear (obvious): they are immorality, impurity, indecency, Idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger (ill temper), selfishness, divisions (dissensions), party spirit (factions, sects with peculiar opinions, heresies), Envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you beforehand, just as I did previously, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes] is love, joy (gladness), peace, patience (an even temper, forbearance), kindness, goodness (benevolence), faithfulness, Gentleness (meekness, humility), self-control (self-restraint, continence). Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]. And those who belong to Christ Jesus (the Messiah) have crucified the flesh (the godless human nature) with its passions and appetites and desires. If we live by the [Holy] Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. [If by the Holy Spirit we have our life in God, let us go forward walking in line, our conduct controlled by the Spirit.] Let us not become vainglorious and self-conceited, competitive and challenging and provoking and irritating to one another, envying and being jealous of one another.” ~ John 1:16-26

 

You Are Here: An Inside Job


“We view ourselves on the eve of battle. We are nerved for the contest, and must conquer or perish. It is vain to look for present aid: none is at hand. We must now act or abandon all hope! Rally to the standard, and be no longer the scoff of mercenary tongues! Be men, be free men, that your children may bless their father’s name.” ~ Sam Houston

A lack of hope. The news headlines are full of many things; anger, poverty, cruelty, fear, hate, and the latest opinion on the latest opinion. One thing it lacks, among many others, is Hope. The headlines report that the bomb is dropped, the casualties are mounting, the child is lost forever, the families shattered, the money gone, the places of worship burned, the fields are salted, the cities mere rubble. Eventually, everything ends in death. After death and destruction, what is there left to do but mourn?

“THE HAND of the Lord was upon me, and He brought me out in the Spirit of the Lord and set me down in the midst of the valley; and it was full of bones. And He caused me to pass round about among them, and behold, there were very many [human bones] in the open valley or plain, and behold, they were very dry.”  ~ Ezekiel 37:1-2 (Valley of Dry Bones)

“THERE WAS a certain man of Ramathaim-zophim, of the hill country of Ephraim, named Elkanah son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of Tohu, the son of Zuph, an Ephraimite. He had two wives, one named Hannah and the other named Peninnah. Peninnah had children, but Hannah had none.” ~ 1 Samuel 1:1-2 (1 Samuel 1)

“Now when Jesus came back [to Galilee], the crowd received and welcomed Him gladly, for they were all waiting and looking for Him. And there came a man named Jairus, who had [for a long time] been a director of the synagogue; and falling at the feet of Jesus, he begged Him to come to his house, For he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying.” ~ Luke 8:40-42 (Luke 8)

“It was now about the sixth hour (midday), and darkness enveloped the whole land and earth until the ninth hour (about three o’clock in the afternoon), While the sun’s light faded or was darkened; and the curtain [of the Holy of Holies] of the temple was torn in two. [Exod. 26:31-35.]And Jesus, crying out with a loud voice, said, Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit! And with these words, He expired. [Ps. 31:5.]” ~ Luke 23:44-46

The Bible is full of examples of despair, bitterness, want, grief and hopelessness. One day or another, the shadows fall on all of us. The main thing which distinguishes the Bible from so many other books is that it offers Real Hope for those on whom the shadows have fallen.

Joshua 1 talks about such a time in the history of Israel. The swelling masses had just been witness to some of the most amazing miracles ever performed by God. They had followed Moses, the man who faced down the Pharaoh and at long last had led them through to a long-awaited life of being free after being under slavery for generation after generation. However, things don’t always go as planned. Their dynamic leader, Moses, died. What was going to become of the teeming crowds of Israelites somewhere in the desert of Sinai? These men and women knew how to be slaves. They needed a strong leader who was going to help them and not take advantage of them, they were in every way refugees on a massive scale. So, God raised up a new leader, and generation, to pick up the torch and carry on with the plan for the Children of Israel to finally have a permanent place to call home.

“Moses My servant is dead. So now arise [take his place], go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land which I am giving to them, the Israelites. Every place upon which the sole of your foot shall tread, that have I given to you, as I promised Moses. From the wilderness and this Lebanon to the great river Euphrates–all the land of the Hittites [Canaan]–and to the Great [Mediterranean] Sea on the west shall be your territory. No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong (confident) and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them. Only you be strong and very courageous, that you may do according to all the law which Moses My servant commanded you. Turn not from it to the right hand or to the left, that you may prosper wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart out of your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, that you may observe and do according to all that is written in it. For then you shall make your way prosperous, and then you shall deal wisely and have good success. Have not I commanded you? Be strong, vigorous, and very courageous. Be not afraid, neither be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” ~ Joshua 1:2-9
Whoa. That’s a seriously huge thing to ask of someone, and to say it all blunt like that: “Moses My servant is dead. So now arise.” It would be understandable that Joshua might need a teensy bit of encouragement…or probably more like a ton. God is ready. As I was with Moses, so I will be with you; I will not fail you or forsake you. Be strong (confident) and of good courage, for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” Uh, say that again, please? So God repeats himself and continues to give Joshua instructions and heartening encouragement.
See, in our very sad world, the story ends with bad news. It’s just so easy. Heavy diagnosis, loss, death, rejection, betrayal…..those things bring us to our knees. In the stories that God tells, however, people start out, not on their knees, but on their faces. A desperate cry is heard, borne out of the anguish for the thing that is desperately desired and yet impossible to attain.
For my own part, I went to bed and woke up with a terrible attitude. I have been fighting against telling someone off, but in my head I am letting them have it. This is a bad place to start off. Nothing good can come out of me if a bunch of bad stuff is going on inside of me. Of course, it just so happens that this is December. Christmas music is blaring at us from all sides and the competing philosophies of Feel-Good Festival of Stuff vs. Honoring the Gift of Christ’s Birth are in full swing. And here I am in the middle of all of that with a frown on my face, tightness in my chest, and bitterness in my heart.
Enter, stage left, the person of Christ in the form of a baby. What an unassuming form for Jesus to use. Even the stretching and lengthening of his human body as he grew were just the same old thing that had happened to every other baby since forever. God has been knocking on the doors of our hearts longer than we can imagine. Why? It’s easy to blame God for the terrible things that happen, but you can’t actually have it both ways. He is not a god of our own making. He does not follow our rules. He is GOD. He does not choose the things that make this world an ugly and scary place to live. He gave us life, and then he came to give us eternal life.
The Bible calls him El Roi, the God Who Sees (Genesis 16 The Story of Hagar). God does, indeed, see our physical crises as human beings. So much of our suffering is too plain to miss. Underneath, though, inside our hearts is a much bigger problem. Our hearts are where all the ugliness of the world begins.  God look at our hearts. (1 Samuel 16:7)
And He will establish you to the end [keep you steadfast, give you strength, and guarantee your vindication; He will be your warrant against all accusation or indictment so that you will be] guiltless and irreproachable in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah). God is faithful (reliable, trustworthy, and therefore ever true to His promise, and He can be depended on); by Him you were called into companionship and participation with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.” 1 Corinthians 1:8-9 (whole chapter)
So, we see that the Valley of Dry Bones is inside of us as well, but Jesus came with rivers of living water (John 7:37-38). God can restore more than just our circumstances! God can restore our hearts and relationships as well! Now for me to take that message to heart myself and let him restore my own.
“1 THEREFORE, SINCE we are justified (acquitted, declared righteous, and given a right standing with God) through faith, let us [grasp the fact that we] have [the peace of reconciliation to hold and to enjoy] peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
2 Through Him also we have [our] access (entrance, introduction) by faith into this grace (state of God’s favor) in which we [firmly and safely] stand. And let us rejoice andexult in our hope of experiencing andenjoying the glory of God.
3 Moreover [let us also be full of joy now!] let us exult and triumph in our troubles and rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that pressure and affliction and hardship produce patient and unswerving endurance.
4 And endurance (fortitude) develops maturity of character (approved faith and tried integrity). And character [of this sort] produces [the habit of] joyful and confident hope of eternal salvation.
5 Such hope never disappoints or deludes or shames us, for God’s love has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit Who has been given to us.
6 While we were yet in weakness [powerless to help ourselves], at the fitting time Christ died for (in behalf of) the ungodly.
7 Now it is an extraordinary thing for one to give his life even for an upright man, though perhaps for a noble and lovable and generous benefactor someone might even dare to die.
8 But God shows and clearly proves His [own] love for us by the fact that while we were still sinners, Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) died for us.
9 Therefore, since we are now justified (acquitted, made righteous, and brought into right relationship with God) by Christ’s blood, how much more [certain is it that] we shall be saved by Him from the indignation and wrath of God.
10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, it is much more [certain], now that we are reconciled, that we shall be saved (daily delivered from sin’s dominion) through His [resurrection] life.
11 Not only so, but we also rejoice and exultingly glory in God [in His love and perfection] through our Lord Jesus Christ, through Whom we have now received and enjoy [our] reconciliation. [Jer. 9:24.]
12 Therefore, as sin came into the world through one man, and death as the result of sin, so death spread to all men, [no one being able to stop it or to escape its power] because all men sinned.
13 [To be sure] sin was in the world before ever the Law was given, but sin is not charged to men’s account where there is no law [to transgress].
14 Yet death held sway from Adam to Moses [the Lawgiver], even over those who did not themselves transgress [a positive command] as Adam did. Adam was a type (prefigure) of the One Who was to come [in reverse, the former destructive, the Latter saving]. [Gen. 5:5; 7:22; Deut. 34:5.]
15 But God’s free gift is not at all to be compared to the trespass [His grace is out of all proportion to the fall of man]. For if many died through one man’s falling away (his lapse, his offense), much more profusely did God’s grace and the free gift [that comes] through the undeserved favor of the one Man Jesus Christ abound and overflow to and for [the benefit of] many.
16 Nor is the free gift at all to be compared to the effect of that one [man’s] sin. For the sentence [following the trespass] of one [man] brought condemnation, whereas the free gift [following] many transgressions brings justification (an act of righteousness).
17 For if because of one man’s trespass (lapse, offense) death reigned through that one, much more surely will those who receive [God’s] overflowing grace (unmerited favor) and the free gift of righteousness [putting them into right standing with Himself] reign as kings in life through the one Man Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One).
18 Well then, as one man’s trespass [one man’s false step and falling away led] to condemnation for all men, so one Man’s act of righteousness [leads] to acquittal and right standing with God and life for all men.
19 For just as by one man’s disobedience (failing to hear, heedlessness, and carelessness) the many were constituted sinners, so by one Man’s obedience the many will be constituted righteous (made acceptable to God, brought into right standing with Him).
20 But then Law came in, [only] to expand and increase the trespass [making it more apparent and exciting opposition]. But where sin increased and abounded, grace (God’s unmerited favor) has surpassed it and increased the more and superabounded,
21 So that, [just] as sin has reigned in death, [so] grace (His unearned and undeserved favor) might reign also through righteousness (right standing with God) which issues in eternal life through Jesus Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One) our Lord.” Romans 5

 

Image: property of Walt Disney Pictures, Walden Media

So Cold It Hurts (Part 1)


“How can you expect a man who’s warm to understand one who’s cold?” ~ Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Russian novelist, Nobel Prize for Literature (1970), b.1918)

‘Tis the season to give to charity, celebrate, be festive, give gifts, dress to impress, overspend,  and feel good about ourselves. No? Well, what do YOU see when you look around at your fellow man in December? What do you and I see when we look in the mirror? Thanksgiving was less than a month ago. The day after we sit down to give thanks, we rise up early the next day with greed and animosity to fight tooth and nail on Black Friday. Thus begins the tender and reverent celebration of the birth of Baby Jesus. But wait, there’s more…

December is the last month of the year, so when we pursue all this stuff, this window dressing, cake frosting, twinkle light decorated stuff, as beautiful and wonderful as it is and can be, we are ending the year on a false note. For many people, Christmas has become yet another thing to pay off and feel stressed about next year. Utility bills are higher, food bills are even more so, and  while there’s nothing wrong with celebrating with our friends and loved ones, we are missing the elusive “Spirit” of Christmas. Bigger than the biggest Christmas blowout, grander than the holiday buffet at a casino, brighter than the lights on your town’s most lit-up neighborhoods’ houses (the houses, not the neighbors), the Glory of Christmas stands alone: precious, pure, loving, enormous, and shocking.

Many of you are parents. I have several children myself and they are dear to me. I would protect them with my life, at the cost of my life savings (HAHA, raising a large family doesn’t easily allow for savings), at the cost of my health, my sanity, or my reputation. Knowing this, and knowing that so many parents feel the same, good parents mind you, it is unthinkable that we even have a reason to celebrate in December at all. I would not have given up my precious children to an amazing, loving family, no matter how wonderful they were. They are My Precious! MINE! I cannot imagine giving them to someone amazing, BUT God gave His ONLY child who is strangely part of himself as well to a rabid, desperate, cruel, thoughtless, selfish, depraved, abusive, unfaithful, greedy, hateful world. True, he picked some wonderful parents in Mary and Joseph; but you can’t hide at home forever. On top of it all, Jesus’ life path led purposely to a horrible death on a cross. He lived a hard, lonely life, and without the aid of an angel bodyguard. He stepped where we step. He ate what we eat. Sometimes he went hungry. Sometimes he was cold. Sometimes he felt stressed and over-tired and underappreciated.

Jesus was the most underappreciated person who ever lived.  It’s not that no one appreciates Him, but He is the Savior of the whole world; and even the most devout have only a sliver of an understanding of the amassed depth and sacrifice of this first Gift of the Season. Our cold hearts just don’t get it. It is a gift of pure Grace every time another piece becomes clear to us. It’s not like we seek to understand often. Like the huddled forgotten who line our streets and alleyways, we turn away as we rush to our comfortable “zone”. In many ways, each of us could star in A Christmas Carol as Scrooge. We are all struggling with past hurts, sorrow, regret, possibly financially. This is a hard time of year to be hard up. My own family has been eating a lot of beans lately….a LOT of beans. (Pardon me)

Yet at the same time, we are so wealthy with the lavish gift of free will we each possess. Each of us can make a huge difference in the lives of those around us for good or ill. I see the news stories that break my heart of a child who was hurt and then grew up to hurt another child and on it goes. A cycle of goodness also repeats. My dad tells often of his own father who was faithful to whatever he deemed his duty. He was on time or early everywhere he went. He didn’t call in sick, he didn’t make excuses. He just did what he believed was right. That made an impression on my dad. He is the most steadfast person I know to this day. As a child who was adopted later in my growing up time, I didn’t have the full lifetime of exposure to this hard to come by trait. I am often late, for one thing. I do admire this dependability, though. It just seems like such a reach. (I think of my dad like I would a superhero, possessing abilities I do not have.) I am glad, though, that when my arm is too short, my legs tired of climbing, when I feel like I just don’t make the grade, steep as it is, the Hand of Grace reaches down to bridge the gap. 

The wonder of Christmas is about faithfulness. God had been hinting and pointing and nudging and promising the Messiah for a long time, to get us ready when He came. This was a time of great learning, mankind was not a bunch of cavemen beating rocks together. We had no excuse; but our hearts were cold, and most people missed it. For pete’s sake there was a HUGE new star in the sky and we were so wrapped up in ourselves that we missed the birth of our Savior! Jesus was the answer for their questions. He was the balm for their hurts. He was the Friend for the lonely and forgotten. But the issues of day to day living were too big in the eyes of the world then. Today, we are no different. Perhaps if we remember a present for everyone on our list we will be filled with that elusive Christmas joy. Maybe if we attend every single community sing and Pops orchestra program, or at least catch them on TV, we will experience the wonder. Maybe if our house is covered in lights… We go broke. Our feet ache. We ache with mourning and loss. The Holiday have-tos bear down on us and the TV and radio and internet are all bursting with the message of give, give, give…..but give STUFF!! No wonder our hearts are so cold. We can’t warm ourselves with things. A mountain of gifts will not make anyone feel less lonely, or more-loved. Of course, we all enjoy receiving presents, but this is not the point. Our hearts are still cold. (To be continued…)

 “Because you say, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing,” and you do not know that you are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked, I advise you to buy from Me gold refined by fire so that you may become rich, and white garments so that you may clothe yourself, and that the shame of your nakedness will not be revealed; and eye salve to anoint your eyes so that you may see. ‘Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline; therefore be zealous and repent. ‘Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me. ‘He who overcomes, I will grant to him to sit down with Me on My throne, as I also overcame and sat down with My Father on His throne. ‘He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.” ~ Revelation 3:17-22 NIV

 

In Blog We Trust


“Solitude gives birth to the original in us, to beauty unfamiliar and perilous- to poetry. But also, it gives birth to the opposite: to the perverse, the illicit, the absurd.” – Thomas Mann

I love technology! I love movies that I can watch at home, music I can listen to at home, games I can play by myself at home, social media which helps me communicate with friends and family at home. I can take technology anywhere and have it all at my fingertips. What an amazing thing to be able to do anywhere and everywhere. Technology is so amazing, however, that a large majority of us, myself included, are beguiled to a point that we no longer look up to see what living, breathing people are waiting to talk to us, show us something, climb into our laps, go out for coffee, ask for our advice in person, hire us, promote us, teach us, or learn from us.

How ironic is it that social media makes us less social? I was soo struck by the sad irony of this phenomenon, in fact, that I had to take a break in the middle of writing this blog post to turn around and ignore my computer instead of my family. It’s been several days now and I am actively trying to engage my family more and more often, in spite of the seductive pull of the “time-waster” sitting on my desk. Today is the last day of school for my four older children. I will have an entire summer of chances to interact with my kids since everyone’s schedule will be more flexible. Am I up to the challenge?

People are demanding. They want our actual attention when they talk to us. They talk about things we don’t want to talk about. They say things we can’t control. They feel. This can be uncomfortable, inconvenient and irritating at times, but wading through the “peopleness” of people is how we build relationships. It is also the way we connect with God. Thankfully, God is ever patient with his children. I’m sure we can be tiresome, especially when he knows that oftentimes we know better.

The point of this post today isn’t about tolerance for the sometimes annoying habits of the people all around us. I’m not trying to convince anyone that technology, in general, or social media, in particular, is evil. I LOVE these innovations! I am, however, advocating balance. It’s funny sometimes which words make people cringe. For Christians certain over-used “buzzwords” like balance, proactive, centered, empower, etc, can really be “deal breakers”. (Ha ha) Balance, however is a Biblical concept first advocated by God himself.

“Do not be overrighteous, neither be overwise— why destroy yourself? Do not be overwicked, and do not be a fool— why die before your time? It is good to grasp the one and not let go of the other. Whoever fears God will avoid all extremes.” – ECCLESIASTES 7:16-18 NIV

Perhaps the answer to the dilemma of the time-sink that is the internet is not to be found in a cold turkey avoidance approach. Technology can be a wonderful tool. We would also be seriously kidding ourselves to think that we could dismiss it as a passing fad. Technology and social media are here to stay. We do need to establish some boundaries (another cringe-worthy buzzword). Just like the telephone or visitors to your front door, YOU are the one who has the power to set the limits for yourself and your family. Would you allow a guest to come into your house in the middle of the night for an unexpected, non-emergency cup of coffee? Does just anyone in the world have permission to enter your home? I seriously hope your answer is no to these questions. As the song goes, “We are the world.” Are you reading thios and other blogs when you should be doing something else, like plunging the bathroom sink, changing the baby, writing a report, reviewing your child’s homework, etc? These words will wait for you, life will not. The entire internet will wait for you. Your life is ticking away a second at a time, just as mine is. What is filling your time?

The mystery and beauty that is the internet is chock full of nuts certainly, but ultimately of dreams. As it was said by Dumbledore in the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, “It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” Since we cannot take Harry Potter as our ultimate authority for life, naturally, we must also look to what God says about this.

“KEEP YOUR foot [give your mind to what you are doing] when you go [as Jacob to sacred Bethel] to the house of God. For to draw near to hear and obey is better than to give the sacrifice of fools [carelessly, irreverently] too ignorant to know that they are doing evil. [Gen. 35:1-4; Exod. 3:5.] Be not rash with your mouth, and let not your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on earth; therefore let your words be few. For a dream comes with much business and painful effort, and a fool’s voice with many words. When you vow a vow or make a pledge to God, do not put off paying it; for God has no pleasure in fools (those who witlessly mock Him). Pay what you vow. [Ps. 50:14; 66:13, 14; 76:11.] It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay. [Prov. 20:25; Acts 5:4.] Do not allow your mouth to cause your body to sin, and do not say before the messenger [the priest] that it was an error or mistake. Why should God be [made] angry at your voice and destroy the work of your hands? [Mal. 2:7.] For in a multitude of dreams there is futility and worthlessness, and ruin in a flood of words. But [reverently] fear God [revere and worship Him, knowing that He is]. If you see the oppression of the poor and the violent taking away of justice and righteousness in the state or province, do not marvel at the matter. [Be sure that there are those who will attend to it] for a higher [official] than the high is observing, and higher ones are over them.” – ECCLESIASTES 5:1-8 AMP

So much information can be found on the internet, for self improvement, for crafts, for DIY projects, for help with marital issues, and on it goes. The rabbit trails that we are led upon do not benefit us unless we turn from our “information gathering” and actually live them out! I have seen a small portion of the blogs available for perusal online. They have inspired and challenged me. I must live my life, though, not just read about living my life, not just sit by the window and dream like Bilbo Baggins.

When it comes to the passage above, it may seem rather confusing. If you see this in the light of daydreaming, it’s not too difficult to connect some dots. When we daydream, or use our imaginations, or over-think about things, including serious life situations such as injustice, oppression, and evil, we risk not ever actually doing anything about any of it. You and I may not be capable of righting all wrongs and saving every victim; but we can all do something about the day to day we are faced with in our own neighborhoods and lives. It doesn’t do us any good to get all worked up and show God our superhero capes during prayer and rant and rave about how much we can do when God is on our sides, if we never take any kind of action. (This is especially convicting to me I must admit.) Don’t only think about your life. Live your life. 

“Do you not know that the unrighteous and the wrongdoers will not inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived (misled): neither the impure and immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor those who participate in homosexuality,
Nor cheats (swindlers and thieves), nor greedy graspers, nor drunkards, nor foulmouthed revilers and slanderers, nor extortioners and robbers will inherit or have any share in the kingdom of God.
And such some of you were [once]. But you were washed clean (purified by a complete atonement for sin and made free from the guilt of sin), and you were consecrated (set apart, hallowed), and you were justified [pronounced righteous, by trusting] in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the [Holy] Spirit of our God.
Everything is permissible (allowable and lawful) for me; but not all things are helpful (good for me to do, expedient and profitable when considered with other things). Everything is lawful for me, but I will not become the slave of anything or be brought under its power.
Food [is intended] for the stomach and the stomach for food, but God will finally end [the functions of] both and bring them to nothing. The body is not intended for sexual immorality, but [is intended] for the Lord, and the Lord [is intended] for the body [to save, sanctify, and raise it again].
And God both raised the Lord to life and will also raise us up by His power.
Do you not see and know that your bodies are members (bodily parts) of Christ (the Messiah)? Am I therefore to take the parts of Christ and make [them] parts of a prostitute? Never! Never!
Or do you not know and realize that when a man joins himself to a prostitute, he becomes one body with her? The two, it is written, shall become one flesh. [Gen. 2:24.]
But the person who is united to the Lord becomes one spirit with Him.
Shun immorality and all sexual looseness [flee from impurity in thought, word, or deed]. Any other sin which a man commits is one outside the body, but he who commits sexual immorality sins against his own body.
Do you not know that your body is the temple (the very sanctuary) of the Holy Spirit Who lives within you, Whom you have received [as a Gift] from God? You are not your own,
You were bought with a price [purchased with a preciousness and paid for, made His own]. So then, honor God and bring glory to Him in your body.” – 1 CORINTHIANS 6:9-20 AMP

Day of the Dead?


Love, like death, changes everything.” ~Kahlil Gibran

This time of year has always been my favorite. I love the fall colors, the fall food, the fall sweaters, smells, etc, etc. My anniversary is November 1st (5yrs tomorrow!). Halloween, on the other hand, used to be a big question mark for me. Do I celebrate, as a Christian? Do I make a point of telling others about my faith? Do I pretend I’m not at home? Do I celebrate as my non-Christian friends and neighbors do? I’m not sure why I tend to over-think things like this, but that’s the way I am. I like to analyze.

This year is a little different. There has been a LOT of death recently in my community and in my own life as well as the lives of my friends and family. It quite honestly frightens me. Like a divorce, the death of a friend or loved one (or the friends and loved ones of friends), death makes you reevaluate things in your life like relationships, priorities, hopes and dreams, and the unknown clock that is running out for each and every one of us. We each carry a skeleton around on the inside.

If the focus, for you or me or anyone else, stays on death, then no, Halloween/Samhain/Day of the Dead festivities are not fitting for a Christian to celebrate perhaps. There is, of course, more to the story than a skull and crossbones at the end of the trail. Our story continues after death. For those who have decided against popular culture and chosen Christ, there is no fear of what comes after death, because of the love of God.

“It will happen suddenly, quicker than the blink of an eye. At the sound of the last trumpet the dead will be raised. We will all be changed, so that we will never die again. Our dead and decaying bodies will be changed into bodies that won’t die or decay. The bodies we now have are weak and can die. But they will be changed into bodies that are eternal. Then the Scriptures will come true, “Death has lost the battle!Where is its victory?Where is its sting?”Sin is what gives death its sting, and the Law is the power behind sin.But thank God for letting our Lord Jesus Christ give us the victory!My dear friends, stand firm and don’t be shaken. Always keep busy working for the Lord. You know that everything you do for him is worthwhile.”1 Corinthians 15:52-58

 

The Nature of Me


My Blog, aka, Sorry My Mind Must Have Wandered

I once wrote a biography for English in my junior year of high school. Naturally, it wasn’t a very long story and maybe not even a good read, but it was interesting to make an effort to see my life as it might look from the outside, to an impartial observer. It took some years for me to finally figure out that, contrary to science journals and social experiments, there is no such thing as an impartial observer. Bias makes us human, and also interesting. We can relate to one another through our bias, or preferences. I might like Chinese and Mexican food but the thought of trying a certain Ethiopian crock pot recipe (again) makes me want to just pitch my slow cooker in the trash! Quirks and eccentricities are what give us all our unique personalities and ourFLAVOR!

I remember desperately trying to be like everyone…

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The Trap of Offense


The fox condemns the trap, not himself.   William Blake

If you happen to look up the online Merriam-Webster definition of the word “offense” (http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/offense), you will have quite a lot to chew on. An offense is more than just a feeling of outrage, anger, insult, etc. An occasion for offense is an invitation to step into a trap. Offense, like unforgiveness, is something we hold on the inside of us to our own detriment.

We always, of course, have perfectly good reasons (read excuses) for the things we might or might not do, which offend others. People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? Others, naturally, do not receive such largesse. They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!

Additionally, when we are offended by someone, a business, government, church, etc., we tend to want to tell other people all about it. Offense is catching. Now the offense has grown. Don’t try to kid yourself. you haven’t done the newly offended party any favors. Offense is a stumbling block that keeps people angry and closed off from others. When we are offended our relationships suffer, all of them. We turn a critical eye on everyone and everything. We even shut out God, the Lover of our souls. It only makes sense that the newly offended are also keeping God and other people shut out. Then they share their offense with someone else, and so it spreads, like a cancer, like gossip….the only truly appropriate medium for so much badness.

The Bible says in Proverbs 6:16-19 “These six things the Lord hates, indeed, seven are an abomination to Him: A proud look [the spirit that makes one overestimate himself and underestimate others], a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood, [Psalm 120:2, 3.] A heart that manufactures wicked thoughts and plans, feet that are swift in running to evil, A false witness who breathes out lies [even under oath], and he who sows discord among his brethren.”

When we give in to our offended, hurt feelings instead of reserving judgement, being merciful, and trying to see things from the other party’s point of view, and moreover share these hurt feelings with others, we become proud, deceitful, violent, scheming, and evil in our hearts, the place where God looks. (1Samuel 16:7) Now wait, don’t throw out what I’m saying, aka, don’t be offended. 😉 Pride tells us that we are capable to decide what is in another person’s heart and mind AND we are perfectly within our rights to be upset because WE are much too important (them, not so much). We lie to ourselves (or listen to the enemy’s lies) and convince ourselves that we have been wronged, so much that we hold it against the other party, like a weapon behind the door. We might possibly forgive but we will never forget. (Ouch, that one hurt a little; it’s OK, me too.) All of this holding on to offense tends to make us stew or mull the situation over and over in our minds. We hold a grudge. We come to the conclusion that other people should know about it so they too can hold their secret weapons. We cause trouble between other people. The reason we are separated from God is because when He looks in our hearts to see who we really are, He sees a festering, stinking mess. Remember the Golden Rule and that whole thing about being forgiven as we forgive others? Yeah, He actually meant it. (Ouch some more.)

It’s not all about finger pointing and bad boy this and bad girl that, though. God truly wants our hearts to be healed and our spirits free from the traps we enter of our own volition. Unlike us so many times, God understands the naturally mucky tendencies we all have: and He wants to help. (Psalm 103:14)

First, He gives us instructions: “If we [freely] admit that we have sinned and confess our sins, He is faithful and just (true to His own nature and promises) and will forgive our sins [dismiss our lawlessness] and [continuously] cleanse us from all unrighteousness [everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action].” 1 John 1:9

Second, He gives us salvation: “And He raised us up together with Him and made us sit down together [giving us joint seating with Him] in the heavenly sphere [by virtue of our being] in Christ Jesus (the Messiah, the Anointed One). He did this that He might clearly demonstrate through the ages to come the immeasurable (limitless, surpassing) riches of His free grace (His unmerited favor) in [His] kindness and goodness of heart toward us in Christ Jesus. For it is by free grace (God’s unmerited favor) that you are saved (delivered from judgment and made partakers of Christ’s salvation) through [your] faith. And this [salvation] is not of yourselves [of your own doing, it came not through your own striving], but it is the gift of God; Not because of works [not the fulfillment of the Law’s demands], lest any man should boast. [It is not the result of what anyone can possibly do, so no one can pride himself in it or take glory to himself.] For we are God’s [own] handiwork (His workmanship), recreated in Christ Jesus, [born anew] that we may do those good works which God predestined (planned beforehand) for us [taking paths which He prepared ahead of time], that we should walk in them [living the good life which He prearranged and made ready for us to live].” Ephesians 2:6-10

Third, He gives us Himself: ” But this I recall and therefore have I hope and expectation: It is because of the Lord’s mercy and loving-kindness that we are not consumed, because His [tender] compassions fail not. [Mal. 3:6.] They are new every morning; great and abundant is Your stability and faithfulness. [Isa. 33:2.] The Lord is my portion or share, says my living being (my inner self); therefore will I hope in Him and wait expectantly for Him. [Num. 18:20.] The Lord is good to those who wait hopefully and expectantly for Him, to those who seek Him [inquire of and for Him and require Him by right of necessity and on the authority of God’s word]. It is good that one should hope in and wait quietly for the salvation (the safety and ease) of the Lord.” Lamentations 3:21-26

For these reasons, we need to revise the previous statements: [People should understand that we have extenuating circumstances. Why is he/she so touchy?? What’s their problem? They have no excuse. They should have known. They should know better. Who do they think they are? We don’t have to put up with that!]… The attitude that these statements, and similar ones, display is unseemly for a child of the Living-Giving-Loving God. Instead, we should change things up a bit.

I should understand that they have extenuating circumstances. Why am I so touchy?? What’s my problem? I have no excuse. I should have known. I should know better. Who do I think I am? They don’t have to put up with that! See the difference that makes? Now, maybe other people will see us the way we would like them to see us. All of this, truthfully, is difficult. Sometimes there are definite trespasses it’s hard to get past. That is where the amazing and free grace of God kicks in. (Amen!)

“The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and plenteous in mercy and loving-kindness. [James 5:11.] He will not always chide or be contending, neither will He keep His anger forever or hold a grudge. He has not dealt with us after our sins nor rewarded us according to our iniquities. For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great are His mercy and loving-kindness toward those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him. As far as the east is from the west, so far has He removed our transgressions from us. As a father loves and pities his children, so the Lord loves and pities those who fear Him [with reverence, worship, and awe]. For He knows our frame, He [earnestly] remembers and imprints [on His heart] that we are dust. As for man, his days are as grass; as a flower of the field, so he flourishes. For the wind passes over it and it is gone, and its place shall know it no more. But the mercy and loving-kindness of the Lord are from everlasting to everlasting upon those who reverently and worshipfully fear Him, and His righteousness is to children’s children–[Deut. 10:12.]” Psalm 103:8-17

Fortune Favors the Prepared


You had better live your best and act your best and think your best today; for today is the sure preparation for tomorrow and all the other tomorrows that follow.  Harriet Martineau

Remember the story of the Ants and the Grasshopper? It’s one of my favorites. The foolish grasshopper only wants to play and laughs at the ants as they “waste their time preparing for winter during the warm summer months. They don’t get to enjoy themselves. They don’t have any fun. Soon enough the snow falls and the ants are inside their well-stocked homes, warm and well fed, as the storms rage outside. The grasshopper, poor thing, soon enough comes to realize that his playing has sealed his fate, and sadly freezes to death.

I am always reminded of this fable whenever the weather starts to change in preparation for fall. It is almost time for the kids to return to school. It is almost time to dust off all the soups and stews and cold weather recipes. It is time to start the yearly battening down of the hatches. Time to take stock of our food and the condition of our homes and automobiles and wardrobes has come. We still have the last little bit of summer in some places. We still have a little more time. There is still something to be said for hard work and the payments we receive for our investment in it.

This was brought on, in part, by a certain smell in the air and feel of the wind…..not to mention the fact that there was wind at all. Fall is on it’s way, and change is in the air, again.  A friend and neighbor posted something about her apple trees and tomato plants and preparing for their harvests. We used to live in a house with more apples and pears in the fall than we knew what to do with them. We miss them dreadfully now, of course. It would be wonderful to enjoy the same kind of bounty again.  (Hey, I’m always up for sharing.)

As we think about being prepared, working toward it, planning for it, we must eventually realize that there is more to our lives than our homes and cars and wardrobes and pantries. In the same way, there is more to a person’s life than their day in day out sleeping, eating, working, playing cycle. We are more than we are on the outside, and our insides could do with a bit of preparing as well. This doesn’t have to be the mule at the flour mill daily trudge many of us picture. Our soul and spirit’s preparing can be a wondrous journey full of adventure, discovery, and yes, challenging ourselves to stretch, stretch, stretch! Think of it as the beautification of the inside of yourself, which will eventually be so radiant as to shine out through the windows and give light to those around you.

In your relationships, your personal feelings about yourself and your ultimate worth, your willingness to forgive and be forgiven, and your views of God and the universe around you, your investments of time and study and working things through for yourself (or lack thereof) will bring fruit of their own. You may not ever learn the exact answers or gain perfect understanding in this life, but you can make a good start. Don’t leave the preparation of your inner self on the back burner until it’s too late!

And He said to all, If any person wills to come after Me, let him deny himself [disown himself, forget, lose sight of himself and his own interests, refuse and give up himself] and take up his cross daily and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also].For whoever would preserve his life and save it will lose and destroy it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he will preserve and save it [from the penalty of eternal death].For what does it profit a man, if he gains the whole world and ruins or forfeits (loses) himself?Because whoever is ashamed of Me and of My teachings, of him will the Son of Man be ashamed when He comes in the [threefold] glory (the splendor and majesty) of Himself and of the Father and of the holy angels. ” Luke 9:23-26

 

Mirror, Mirror…


“Nothing is more capable of troubling our reason, and consuming our health, than secret notions of jealousy in solitude.” Aphra Behn

As we go about our lives, we often hold onto visions of our true selves as the heroes from stories we have heard all of our lives. Stories like Snow White and Sleeping Beauty and the Little Engine That Could teach us wonderful lessons about courage and bravery and the rewards of faithfulness and perseverance.  These are all good things to hold inside and mull over, to be sure.

However, there is more to any story than a happy hero going off to be brave, unselfish, and finding true love (not to mention a throne) without a hitch. Without danger, there is no bravery. Without a need for sacrifice, there is no unselfishness. Without a struggle, there is no victory and ultimate happy ending. Many times, these struggles come to the hero in the form of a nasty piece of work known as the Villain. As villains go, it’s hard to come by nastier examples than the ones we see in fairy tales…..except the ones in real life. Of course there are the ones notorious throughout history. We should definitely learn our lessons from them. By and large, though, the majority of us face villains much more tame and boring (thank God!).

If we are truthful with ourselves, we must eventually admit that just as often (perhaps more-so) as we are the heroes of life, so we too are also sometimes the villains. Yes, Snow White, I’m talking to you. You, also, sometimes find yourself looking jealousy at the blessings of others, their friends, position, status, reputation, looks, spouse, and on it goes… Sometimes, you have wished that bad things would happen, the truth to come out, loss of reputation, loss of position, loss of love, loss of fortune, even loss of life. How, then, does this make you any different than the Evil Queen who once sought your own life?

If we look at the other side of the stories we cherish from our youth, we see the repercussions of pride, thoughtlessness, arrogance, greed, jealousy, and all the rest. These should be lessons to us as well, perhaps even more dear to us than the ones we glean from the heroes’ stories. When we gaze into our mirrors, we need to see the truth of who we actually are.

Many of our world’s villains thought themselves to be heroes in one way or another. They felt misunderstood, wronged by fate, persecuted, maligned, talked-about, misused, abused, and unlucky. Many of them were, but it is what we DO that makes us a hero or a villain. Every hero has odds to overcome as well.

Our reflections should show us more than how good we look. We can also see where things are out of place, dirty, missing, or broken. When we reflect on the person we have become, we would be wise to take a brave look at our true selves so we can see the things we should be working on. The point of a mirror, after all, is to help us look and be our very best.

But be doers of the Word [obey the message], and not merely listeners to it, betraying yourselves [into deception by reasoning contrary to the Truth]. For if anyone only listens to the Word without obeying it and being a doer of it, he is like a man who looks carefully at his [own] natural face in a mirror; For he thoughtfully observes himself, and then goes off and promptly forgets what he was like. But he who looks carefully into the faultless law, the [law] of liberty, and is faithful to it and perseveres in looking into it, being not a heedless listener who forgets but an active doer [who obeys], he shall be blessed in his doing (his life of obedience).”  James 1: 22-25