Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunglasses and Sunscreen

Maybe you've seen it.  One of your friends comes up to you on a summer's day and his face is all red except for a raccoon-like mask around his eyes.  The day before he'd been out in the sun, wearing his sunglasses, and gotten a sunburn.

Why was he wearing sunglasses?  To protect his eyes from the sun.

Is there nothing to protect his skin from the sun?  There is, but he didn't use it.

Why not?  I suppose he was uncomfortable with the brightness of the sun in his eyes, and sunglasses relieved that.  But the sun on his skin was less troublesome at the time - and sunblock wouldn't relieve the discomfort from the heat.

So the friend took care to make sure that he was comfortable in the moment, but had no thought for the comfort of tomorrow.  He went on feelings.  The only good he would accept was immediate relief.

What can we learn from this?

To God be all glory.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Game (Guest Post)

(a guest post by my brother)

...Maybe...Maybe...the silence is part of the game. What fun is hide and seek if you can see what's around the next corner? The fun is not only in the excitement of finding the one you're looking much of the fun of the game is the suspense of not knowing what the next minute will bring. Where would the excitement be if you didn't have to search? If you didn't know the sorrow of failure? If you never felt the surge of pure exhilaration of knowing you're close to the one you're searching for. The joy is intensified by the separation...Success would be just another senseless word if we didn't know the crushing sorrow of being defeated and alone. The closeness you feel when you are finally standing beside your friend is intensified by the gut-wrenching frantic searching, wondering if you will ever be together again.

So try it. I know it sounds simple, silly even. Just try it that game that many of us forgot...Hide-and-seek...a simple name...with divine overtones of something much deeper. The silence is part of the game! =) - NOTW_7-1

Courtship Roadtrip

My brother called yesterday.  He is a Marine finishing up training in Virginia.  And he’s had a lot of time to think the last few months.  His conclusion is that I am jinxing the rest of the family.  Because I, the oldest, am not married, none of the rest of my brothers and sisters have a chance. 

The truth is, I’m not avoiding marriage.  I believe I’m doing everything I can do.  There are still some questions about whether I should do things differently: Talk more or talk less?  Wear more skirts or fewer?  Use makeup or not?  My (single) best friend and I read a book a while back called “Get Married,” which suggested that single women be very careful not to throw away the interest of a good man.  We were comparing notes recently and wondering whether there really are girls who get that chance!  Anyway, on the major things, I’m doing what I can.  I don’t hide.  I am friendly.  I speak to men.  I let it be known that I want to get married.  I prepare to be a good wife. 

A lot of my friends are on the lookout for a good husband for me.  “When did this plan start?” brother Marine asked.  I shrugged and told him that when my friends ask how to pray for me, I tell them that I want to be married.  They get the idea.  Several of them tell me, “I wish I knew a man to introduce you to.”  During the past year or so, I have gotten about a half dozen suggestions of potential mates, thanks to my helpful friends.  Unfortunately, they all live out of state.  That fact inspired my brother’s plan.

It’s something like how high school students are choosing colleges.  They load up the car, bring their dad along, and travel the country side visiting the schools on their short list.  This is the Courting Roadtrip

You gather from your helpful friends the names and addresses of every out-of-state man they have suggested you may be destined for.  Plot them on a map and work out a route.  Show up at each door and say, “I’m Lisa.  Hear you’re looking for a wife!”  Then you try to get to know them and let them get to know you, before you move on to the next victim of matchmaking.  I think you might have to do some explaining to the poor unsuspecting men.  I’d say to have your friends call and warn them, but that might take them off your list of “potentials” too quickly. 

All in all, my brother’s plan sounds a bit more aggressive than my personality, and I don’t want to give false first impressions.  So I might just wait this out.  Actually I don’t mind if a single man takes a Courtship Roadtrip.  (Without the startling introduction, “Hear you’re looking for a husband!”)  Go find a wife.  That’s what I say. 

The truth is I believe in responding.  I believe in being pursued by a man, not the other way around.  I believe I’m waiting on God and His timing for this.  My younger siblings aren’t really bound by my singleness.  They’re waiting on God’s timing, too.  Knowing that, it is all the more important that I wait well, setting them a good example, at the same time being honest with them about how hard it is.  Meanwhile, we're laughing a lot.

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Unfruitful Works of Darkness

“Have nothing to do with the unfruitful works of darkness.”

I’m a discernment person.  Heresies are a big deal to me.  I tend to notice when teachers or authors or pastors are preaching a different gospel.  But there are other issues, too.  Focusing on tolerance and friendliness with the world – the “seeker-sensitive” movement, for example – is dangerous.  Christians are a light set on a hill, not light camouflaged to look like darkness.  Or another popular… what should I call it?  Not a heresy in the traditional sense, but a dangerous and unchristian worldview or spiritual practice?  Anyway, another one is the borderline gnosticism.  This encompasses mysticism and individualism, focusing on poetic ideas of light versus darkness, denial (or even mistreatment) of the physical, and meditation.  I see connections between seeker-sensitivity and the postmodern mysticism.  Primary in these connections are the exaltation of human effort and experience.  They are ancient perversions of the Christian life, not new, but addressed in the New Testament.

Lately it has become popular to cite “church fathers” in theological debates.  This even if the quote or position contradicts the New Testament.  Though I’m not persuaded of the “sola scriptura” of the Reformation, it did rescue us from centuries of heretical tradition enforced as the authority of the fathers.  (Jesus rebuked the same sin in the Pharisees.)  Many of those historical theologians flirted with or embraced the para-Christian spirituality mentioned above, emphasizing either their personal wisdom or their own mystical experiences as sources of truth superior to the revelation of Scripture.  They practiced this outside of the protective peer-regulation of a Spirit-led Church.  Somehow the doctrine of the indwelling Holy Spirit got exchanged for a belief in inner divinity belonging to an individual.  All of which was much more compatible with the pagan religions encountered as the ancient “Christianity” spread.

And isn’t that something to be concerned about?  Rather than being excited that the enemies of God, the spiritually dead men of planet earth, have portions of truth preserved in their religions, shouldn’t we be devastated at the subtlety of the deceits of the Evil One that has kept men captive to their sin?  (“What fellowship has light with darkness?”)  Instead of finding commonality in spiritual practices of meditation and monasticism and sacrificing to appease the gods – shouldn’t we question those practices?  If the pagans do those things, and if those things are not prescribed by our Lord in the early letters to the churches affirmed by the apostles, why not rather fear a resurgence of paganism within our faith – that the spiritual forces of wickedness have been also distracting us and leading us astray?

In our modern times we tend to disdain the primitive superstitions of pre-Christian peoples.  We think they should have been able to see through the cheap tricks of the medicine men, to rise up against the oppressive shaman and assert reason, the intelligence and ability of individuals.  But a Christian worldview suggests a different interpretation.  It teaches that the devil and demons are real, powerful, able to produce counterfeit signs and wonders to deceive men.  Demon possession is real.  And maybe those pitiable people, observing that reality, live with rituals and talismans approved by their devils – for a time – as a tax on the slaves of the Devil before they are consumed.

For us who have known only the relatively Christian Western world, it is difficult to remember the spiritual battle that is engaged even here.  We are not trained to recognize the spiritual activities of our enemy.  This may be because we haveadopted it,  or excused and tolerated it…  False teaching, we believe, has been perpetrated by confused but well-meaning people.  Cultists are mostly nice people whose theology is just a little different from ours.  We wouldn’t want our children converting, but no big deal if our neighbors and coworkers believe in Jesus andgood works for their salvation, God and their own divinity.  Many who identify themselves as evangelical Christians see no cause for concern when their church services begin to incorporate incense, or a ladies’ conference suggests repetitive chanting of a spiritual word or phrase as a means of getting closer to God.  Millions of us read and identify with a book that includes a manifestation of Sophia, the Gnostic “goddess” as the incarnation of wisdom.  These ideas and practices are more attractive to the unsaved world, after all (and to many inside the church).  And why shouldn’t they be; they’re familiar whispers, that we are like God, that we come to God on our own terms.

The word profanity is known as a synonym for cussing.  But who knows the word profane?  Who believes that there is a way God wants to be worshiped, a way He has set for people to come to Him – and any other way is so offensive to Him as to bring His righteous wrath?  What is fallen man to tell God why He should accept him?  Who is the liar and deceived to believe he has a hold of truth and wisdom apart from the deliverance and revelation of God?  How dare we think our filthy rags – our own righteousnesses – are acceptable sacrifices to pay for our trespasses against the ways of God?

But it is hard to reject these things, hard to point at those profanities and warn that they are part of the wide path to hell.  I don’t want to believe that my church leader is a false teacher.  I like to believe that my friends are going to heaven.  But how does that honor God?  Is my allegiance to Him or to men?  And how is that compassionate, to ignore the condition of my friends?  Making excuses is easy.  If a man says he believes in Jesus, is it such a big deal if he tolerates sin, if he keeps company with the world?  Also far too simple is reassuring myself that even though a person has not trusted in Jesus, he still seems to be a good influence, telling people to pray and read their Bibles and love their families and be wary of governments and religions out to destroy us.

Yet more and more I believe that those excuses and those subversive people are the biggest threats.  By them people are led from the power and truth of God, or worse – away from the gospel of the grace of God.  People are soothed into ignoring their spiritual neediness.  Those people, those false prophets, are the enemies of God.  And if they are enemies of God, they are enemies of His people.  They are not in your fellowship to encourage you or point you to God.  Though they may feign friendship, it is for diabolical purposes, and they can turn on you at any moment.

So what can we do?  Monasticism and individualism belong to the false religions.  We cannot run away from these dangerous people.  Tolerance and acceptance also correspond to the faith that exalts man over God.  So we cannot be silent or friendly.  Truth and God’s glory invite us to discern the lies and cast them down.  Holiness insists that we take our cues from God, supported by those men and women who exhibit the fruits of being His.  Love demands that we warn people of destruction.  Faith in God teaches us to hope for revival and redemption.

To God be all glory.

Head Coverings - An Experiment

Head Coverings – an Experiment

It’s been over a year now since I began my experiment.  I began it without telling anyone, and only a few people have even asked about it.  (That may be because I am generally so independent in dress and practice that my friends think nothing of an additional quirk.) 

Years ago when asked about wearing jewelry in church, I suggested to a group of ladies that we ought to follow the Bible and see what happens, even if we don’t understand it.  To be honest, I have never yet given up braids or gold or other jewelry in church.  And if the spirit of the rule is to avoid displays of wealth, in our American society to have a strand of plastic pearls is not wealthy.  If the rule was to uphold modesty, eschewing distracting appearances even in church, then it might be argued that wearing skirts and hats draws more attention than a braid or bracelet.  But I don’t know.  Maybe my next experiment will be to avoid jewelry and fancy hairstyles. 

I’ve known for years that when men take off their hats out of respect: for the Pledge of Allegiance or for a prayer, girls are exempt.  This is a fact I learned from a friend when we were both fourth graders, and her family attended a church that practiced head-coverings.  What has baffled me since is the militant way in which church members of the older generation will go after men and boys wearing their hats in the church building.  They are indignant at the disrespect.  All the while women walk right by without hats or scarves or even those ritualized doilies some denominations employ.  Their own wives sit through church and prayer uncovered.  Women speak in church and teach in church, present special music in church – all without head coverings. 

Now I can understand confusion about head coverings.  The passage in 1 Corinthians that goes into the subject is about as unclear as any Scripture you can find.  Hats and hair.  Glory and order of creation.  Nature and angels.  You can do this but we have no such (or other?) practice…  What is strange is the modern hypocrisy.  The same passage that instructs women to cover their heads teaches men to uncover theirs.  And we enforce the distinction for men but completely overlook the women? 

This is a relatively new practice, this lack of head coverings.  Even a half-century ago women wore hats to church.  In some parts of the country and in some denominations you can still find the women in proper Sunday attire, where hats are absolutely required.  The “Easter bonnet” is not a unique holiday accessory, but like the rest of traditional Easter dress, it is a fancier edition of the weekly affair.  (We can debate whether Easter ought to be celebrated in this way, or whether Sundays should be distinguished with a unique set of clothes, but not in this article.)

Once upon a time I began to wonder what it meant to be a grown woman.  Or a good woman.  I made myself a list, in theory to refer to it frequently to hold myself accountable.  The list referenced numerous passages of Scripture specifically addressed to women.  It categorized specific instructions under general virtues.  Rather than ignoring the verses about head coverings, I said that a woman ought to respect men and to wear a head covering in church (or some other symbol of her submission).  Then I never tried to practice it, in general excusing myself by reason of having long hair (paralleled with head coverings in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians). 

And one day just over a year ago some friends and I were talking about head coverings, how confusing the passage is and how so few Christians we know keep the ordinance.  It was then I remembered that obscure item on my list of godly femininity.  I felt hypocritical to have acknowledged the instruction and never tried to apply it, especially as I debated the subject.  In addition, I became curious.  If I couldn’t deduct from the biblical text the reasons and implications of head coverings, maybe I should try submitting to the custom and see what happened.

First a few superficial observations:  My hat and scarf collection is much larger than it used to be, but I rarely wear the larger hats because I feel so self-conscious in them.  Deciding what to wear to church (or Bible study or prayer meeting) is much more difficult since I must coordinate my outfit to an available head covering.  And when I do other things with my day, my hair and hats must fit with a multi-purpose outfit.  I try to keep at least one hat or scarf in my car in case I spontaneously decide to attend a Bible study. 

Some questions that arose:  I don’t want to draw attention to the fact that I’m wearing a head covering, especially since it is more an experiment than a conviction; but isn’t it the point, that there is an outward and observable sign of submission?  Since the instruction is, to be specific, given to women praying or prophesying, if I am listening to prayer at a gathering or not saying anything, should I be covered?  Is the head covering supposed to be only for prayer time and church gatherings, or is it ok for me to have worn the hat all day?  If I’m praying silently to myself, as in spontaneously throughout my days, should I have my head covered?  And if I don’t happen to be wearing a hat when someone asks me to bless the food, should I decline? 

In the months since I began my experiment, there have been a few times when I forgot or neglected to wear a hat.  It bothered me.  Partially because perhaps I am developing a conviction on the matter.  The other part is that I feel different.  On occasion I have been at a party when friends started discussing spiritual truth and I felt the lack of something on my head.  I wanted it there.  If you have grown up like me, invited to close your eyes when you pray, you may be able to relate.  Have you ever tried keeping your eyes open during a public prayer?  It’s hard to focus, and you feel a self-conscious.  Or I could compare the feeling to the one I get when I want to lift my hands in worship – or fall to the ground as I pray. 

I like to sit on the floor while I’m being taught about spiritual things.  (Which isn’t the same as sitting on the floor during a sermon.)  If I start to realize I’m being taught – or if I crave a Bible lesson from someone who understands something I’m wondering about – I get a mental image of myself getting out of my chair, and going to the floor, back against a desk or a wall or something.  I also get this feeling on my head as though a book has just been lifted off of it.  And I want it back.

Even though Paul says that head coverings are a sign, for other people, I can testify to its effect on me.  I am reminded to be submissive.  To speak for the purpose of edification.  To be mindful of the Holy God I serve.  It helps me to rejoice that men were created first, and women for men – though we certainly benefit from them in their leadership and teaching. 

I had been curious whether people would treat me differently if I wore hats and scarves all the time to church.  But it has been hard to determine.  The small reason is that I know that I behave differently wearing them, so that might have something to do with different reactions.  A larger reason is that I have nothing to compare it to.  I started this experiment at the same time that I left my old church, and I have been attending other churches only occasionally.  My regular Bible study is comprised of dear friends who know me so well that nothing like a hat will change how they treat me. 

One friend noticed the first time I ever went to church with her that I had my head covered.  She asked whether I always did.  It was early in the experiment and I haltingly said something about trying it out.  Another friend also mentioned it, but not as a question.  Like so many things, she had just taken this aspect of my behavior in stride, made note of it, and accepted it as a reality not requiring discussion.  My parents and siblings and other friends have never brought it up.  I don’t know if they’re afraid to, don’t need to, or haven’t noticed. 

For me, I like wearing head coverings when I pray and study the Bible with other people.  I haven’t gained any great insight to the topic.  But it isn’t too hard to keep doing it, so I suppose I will.  With the promise of updates if I ever learn anything else.

To God be all glory.


I was at the dollar store the other day.  Some things at the dollar store are great deals.  Ceramic plates and glass cups for only a dollar when anywhere else they’d be three or five.  Other items are a bit scary.  Their soaps and lotions and cleaners tend to be of lower quality.  Lotion that is greasy and dries out skin.  Cleaners that don’t actually clean.  Soaps that smell funny. 

But on this trip I found some soaps made by Yardley of London.  I looked down and saw the Lavender scent.  I sniffed it, though I’m not a fan of lavender.  Next to it was a stack of bars scented of almond and honey.  When I put that to my nose, it brought back memories of Grandpa and Grandma’s little house in Kansas.  They may have used the same brand of classic soap all the years I was growing up. 

Grandpa and Grandma just moved this last year out of their house – my haven of familiarity and stability.  I miss them and I miss their home.  So I bought a bar of the memory-soap and put it in our bathroom at home.  (I have no idea whether one dollar is a good price for a bar of soap!) 

That very night I was out shopping again.  The thrift store called to me this time.  (All these shopping adventures – and there were many more, were for a wedding this past weekend in which I was a bridesmaid.  So I was working on a gift and on decorations and preparations, all sorts of last minute needs.  Followed this week by a stack of returns to make.)  I looked up and lo, there was a box full of Yardley of London lavender soap hanging from a hook.  Can you believe it? 

To God be all glory.