Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Singles, Widows & Widowers, and Married People, Too


I have been pondering the relationship between singleness and widowhood (or widower-hood) for about a year and a half, maybe more.  Several friends have lost spouses and been willing to share bits of their post-marriage life with me.  My grandma has way less experience with singleness than I have, but entered it when my grandpa died over a year ago.  In some ways these people can mentor me.  They can look on single life with the wisdom of more years than I have.  In other ways I get to encourage them, with the perspective of someone who's had plenty of time to think about the consequences of singleness.  I can point them to finding their identity in Christ rather than in their relationships.  I can share with them that I know relationships with every other single person suddenly got more complicated.  I can pray for them as they seek God for what to do with their new-found time.  I can pray for them as they wait on God for remarriage (if that is what He is leading them to do), just as I pray for my single friends waiting for God to bring them their husbands or wives. 
 
One way or another, there is more commonality between widows and single people than between those who are married and single people.  We always-been-single people have less acute grief, but, if we desire marriage, still have a sort of long-term sadness over the years we have been alone. 
 
A year ago, teacher and author RC Sproul, Jr. lost his wife to cancer.  He's been blogging on and off about the experience since then.  Today he said this: "The wait that I have has now multiplied, because I am without her. This past year has been not just the hardest, but the slowest of my life. I wake earlier than I wish, and lie awake at night while wanting to sleep. The things I once looked forward to no longer appeal. Isn’t half the blessing of a blessing having someone with whom to share it?And as I read that I thought that he was well expressing something that I'm coming to understand.  Maybe he noticed it because it was a change from what he was used to, and I have not noticed it so clearly because I just gradually came into experiencing life this way. 
 
But life and waiting seem expanded because the waiting itself keeps me awake, distracts me.  Time is going slowly for me - but too fast when I look backwards.  I'm grateful my days are full.  Grateful that most of the time waiting doesn't distract me completely from living.  I'm grateful even for the earlier mornings or the later nights when I am praying about the loneliness and the waiting. 
 
I don't think that it is wrong to notice that some activities aren't as appealing when you're single.  It isn't necessarily discontent - though it could be, and it is worth guarding against! 
 
This is the life that God has given me.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it!  Let us be honest about what it is and isn't.  Let us present to God the desires of our hearts.  Let us not grow weary in doing good.  Let us embrace waiting, and fully grieve things that are truly sad.  Let us celebrate the things that are true blessings! 
 
Two of my bestest friends got engaged this month.  The two friends who honored me by allowing me to be a bridesmaid in their weddings have each come to Colorado to visit recently.  These circumstances are giving me opportunity to rejoice in the blessing RC Sproul, Jr. talks about: the double blessing of sharing a blessing with someone else.  I'm the voice of "awww!" when a husband holds a door open; when a fiance chooses something that her beloved prefers even though it isn't her favorite; of celebrating the good plan of God in bringing people together and building love and unity between them.  I'm laughing and giggling and sharing with them my perspective of the value marriage has.  I know marriage is hard work, but it is a privilege.  It is a work of faith in a trustworthy God.  It is rewarding.  It is mysterious and amazing! 
 
This practice, of encouraging my almost-married and newly-wed (relatively) friends, may be rubbing off.  It may be hard for me to stop noticing love and forgiveness and cooperation and complementing gifts and servant-heartedness and fruitfulness - and pointing them out: amongst longer-married people, and between friends, and in the Church.  I'm excited!  God is revealing to me more and more that He desires His people, His image, to be recognized in our love for one another!  I pray for it and seek it and delight in it!   
 
To God be all glory.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Ladies' Christmas Tea


There’s this thing I do on Facebook pretty often.  I call it “Practicing gratitude,” where I list a whole bunch of recent things I’m thankful for.  Last Saturday this was my list: the stubborn way that human beings will choose not to wear socks for a while even when it's chilly; feeling empowered by just wrapping my hands around a warm mug or teacup; cups with straight lips; what Gene Edward Veith said and Ann Voskamp quoted: "Motherhood is a rebuke to everything gnostic, the heresy that says only ‘spiritual’ things are worthwhile… Motherhood is the perfect illustration of vocation. God has empowered a woman to be a mother, and God works with a mother to sustain that fragile life."; meeting Christmas music softly playing in the living room when I came upstairs this morning; half a dozen warm sweaters to choose from; plans to make scones tomorrow and to talk about the miracle and labor of birth; God who takes His workmanship, His poems, seriously; God who does crazy things sometimes and made us in His image – I suspect – even in that craziness.

Yes, empowered by a cup. 
A huge room full of women
talking and it's a little dark and I know faces but I realize I don't know people - and sometimes it's the reverse: I realize I do know people that I’d not spoken to in years, that I’d remembered and felt the impact of, but not related to...
And I’m at a table and I’m supposed to converse, but I’m not sure why I came or why God wanted me to come or what my friends expect of me…

And then there is tea in my cup and it is something to tinker with, to swirl the tea bag and sip to taste for sweetness or flavor, to meditate on which herbs are releasing their gifts to the water at this time and which will wait for later…

And it's kind of a shield that I hold between myself and people,
and kind of a revelation at the same time: this is me, holding tea, and this is how I treat it and what I think of it and you're holding a cup, too, and the common thing bridges us into each other's thoughts and lives and maybe even spirits.

So I don't feel small and uncertain anymore the rest of the night.  I pray while the man up front sings about Christmas.  I pray about the way the songs penetrate my friends, too.  I pray far away, about the things that always sit on my heart, and
I thank God that He is here, Jesus come to be present.

And when the "program" is complete there is a swirl of women: finding serving bowls and putting on coats and using the ladies’ room and crossing paths in hallways and marveling at snow out tall windows. 
I find it easy to smile; to open doors; to help and to not;
to look for my dish patiently; to hug a young girl I scarcely know but who seems to want to know me and I don't know why because I'm clumsy and silly and she's lovely and capable and assured;
to be thinking of others and not just about them, but of them - if that makes any sense. 

It all starts with wrapping hands around a cup and not putting it down between sips, which isn't very formal, and maybe that's what does it - that this tiny gesture is rejecting formality in the interests of sincerity and love and me choosing to be present with Jesus and with these women He has brought... wondering why He has brought...

To God be all glory.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Asking God What to Pray


It was pretty revolutionary.  One night a few years back we were taking prayer requests at Awana, and I thought, “Why don’t I ask God what to pray?”  I could see if He included any instructions in the Bible on what to pray for.  I could also ask God to let me know.

When I studied the Bible for insights into prayer – specifically for instructions on what to pray – I discovered that God expected His people to know what He wanted them to pray. 

James holds up Elijah as an example to us of prayer.  He was a man, just like we are men and women, but he prayed and God answered, even though his prayers were for incredible things.  When I read the story James referenced, I saw that Elijah was a prophet, to whom the word of the LORD came regarding the famine.  1 Kings doesn’t even say that Elijah prayed, but that the famine would stay or go at his word!

John testifies that if we pray according to God’s will, we can have confidence that He hears us and that we have whatever we have asked.  I’m incredibly discontent with the interpretation that if in our prayers we happen to stumble upon what God wanted to do anyway, we can have confidence that God heard our prayers in doing it.  No.  I believe we can know, in at least some cases, what God’s will is, and pray for Him to bring it about.  It is in these prayers that we can have confidence. 

Again and again I see the promise that we will receive what we pray.  Jesus says that if we pray in His name, we’re assured that God will do it.  That these prayers will yield fruit.  

Now – I don’t refuse to talk to God until I know what He wants me to ask.  There are different kinds of prayer.  I like to talk to Him.  I tell Him what I’m thinking and feeling and confused about and having a hard time with.  I lay my desires before Him.  I ask Him to use my prayers, and to guide my prayers.  And He doesn’t always tell me right away what to pray.  I suspect He wants me to keep seeking Him. 

Prayer changes me.  It humbles me to come to God and confess that I need Him.  I need Him even to help me to pray.  I can’t demand of Him when He will reveal His will, or what that will shall be.  I get to offer to Him my own preferences and requests and surrender them to be changed, if they are not aligned with His will. 

At first I was just experimenting with a bright idea, asking God to tell me what to pray.  However, it’s become something that is shaping my life, enlightening my understanding of God’s relationship with His people.  It’s not something I’m just trying out or wondering; I’ve experienced it, and I believe that God has ordained for prayer to function this way. 

To God be all glory.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Day Now.


I resigned my job.  This happened over a month ago now.  For the first three weeks or so I decided not to work on discerning God’s will for my future.  I focused on God – lots and lots of praying needed to happen and partly motivated my choice to stop working two days a week.  And I focused on people. 

For three weeks now I’ve been living in November, the first month of the rest of my life when I’m supposed to be figuring out what else to do.  I’ve made some discoveries, like the need for about $90 in gas money each month or to dramatically cut back.  Friends have been in town and many will come and go from now through early January.  It is convenient to bend my schedule around others, and also to feel, by being at home, that I have time to accomplish things like dishes and laundry and cooking and other little projects here and there.  There are stacks of books waiting in my room for me to read.  Some of them are, I sense, rather important to whatever life God will call me to
Any
Day
Now.

Some friends are talking with me about what it means to LIVE in hope.  We see God working and we hope for what He will do next.  I try to keep myself open to the changes I pray for.  And we still want to live as God’s instruments right now.  We want eyes that are wide open to the work He is doing all around us, and the part He calls us to play.  How do we live content with the path God leads us on, the way God loves us, even though sometimes it feels incredibly slow or like being left behind (by everyone but God)? 

With these eyes opened to the God who grows people in His garden, I start to notice people who are un-miss-able.  They protrude into my life and I wonder what God wants me to do with them since I have no clue.  So I beg God for insight into the spiritual strengths and weaknesses of these people.  I cry out to be filled with God’s love for them.  My friends help me to understand what I see and hear and where I am failing to esteem others.

I keep on realizing so many things I have no clue about.  The times when God clearly leads me I rejoice, and I cling to those revelations with as much sightless faith as I can muster.  He faithfully provides all the assurance and help I really need to trust Him.  And I wait.  God hasn’t made everyone’s life a parable of waiting, but He keeps on blasting this theme through mine. 

To God be all glory.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Exercises in Hope


Why it’s ok to look at engagement rings and date ideas as a single girl…

You hear it, if you’re a single woman, that the secret is to be content where you are.  Marriage can be an idol, after all, and you just have to be busy forgetting that you’re a woman whose calling is to be a wife and a mom.  That way you’ll not waste your life.  That way you’ll be like everyone else.  That way you’ll convince God that He can safely give you a husband and you won’t love the man more than the Giver. 

I’ve been single long enough to be tired of hearing it.  I also don’t agree.  If it is true that God is calling me to be a wife and a mom, then it seems like I should be justified in preparing for that.  I ought to be expecting God to do what He says.  My life should reflect that future, just like a man called to missions studies the language and the gospel – or a woman called to nursing learns how to start an IV (and maybe even purchases a set of scrubs). One might compare this to the wise virgins having oil in their lamps, from Jesus' parable.  

Some days I get kind of discouraged about the whole thing.  And doing something that I would do if I knew from circumstances that I was getting married, even though circumstances aren’t showing that, is an act of faith in the invisible reality God knows about.  So it actually cheers me up to look through simple, inexpensive engagement rings and date ideas and to pick up the little useful-for-a-wedding-thing cheap at a thrift store.  It’s pretty useful to be doing things preparing for that life: read a parenting book; practice meal planning; learn better ways of communicating.  I expect to be a mom, so I can learn about pregnancy and attend a friend’s childbirth.  I expect to have a wedding, so I can brainstorm how I want the food at the reception to go. 

I wouldn’t encourage a single person to do this every day.  (Married people probably shouldn’t do such things every day either!)  I don’t want to encourage discontent.  But can we please, please believe that God will do what He says?  Can that belief affect the choices we make with our lives? 

To God be all glory. 

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Praying Together


One of the reasons I love praying with people is you can hear how God is leading their prayers.  Sometimes it’s the exact thing He was leading you to pray!  And then you get goosebumps from knowing that God is communicating with you and your friends.  Plus you can have so much more confidence in receiving the things He’s leading you to ask for.  This is what I think. 

To God be all glory.  

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Spaghetti - Another Short Rant

I can't believe that people are still buying spaghetti.  Don't get me wrong; I love pasta.  It's just the long skinny strings of pasta that I don't understand.  Forks and spoons alike are no match for the floppy mess.  Winding a pile of it around your fork is an exercise in frustration as the noodles are not laid out at even lengths, so that no matter what you do, a couple are dangling from your utensil ready to splatter against your chin.  Any sauce you were hoping would flavor the noodle slips right off back onto your plate, bowl, or desperate fingers.  Storage and transportation of the uncooked noodles is a nightmare, since the thin sticks will easily shatter (ever tried that trick where it's so hard to break a piece into just two pieces?).  Al dente is harder to determine than other pastas.  Leftovers get stickier.  And it's the same thing, except a different shape, from so many other pastas.  Eat more penne.  Rigatoni.  Macaroni.  Anything but spaghetti.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Responding to Spiritual Attack


I’ve been learning a lot, since June, about spiritual warfare.  God told me to focus on learning about it and practicing it.  The other day I wrote down a list of what I’ve learned to do when I recognize attacks.  I thought it might help you out.  Or you might help me out by adding to it or correcting anywhere I’ve overstepped. 

Responses To & Wards Against Spiritual Attacks:

Prayer
            Obviously there are so many kinds of prayer.  First of all, I can simply ask God for what I want or need.  Jesus truly says, “Ask and you shall receive.”  I want to try to live that, to find out the fullness of what it means.  Talking to God keeps me close to Him, keeps my perspective pointed His way.  I pray Scripture sometimes, as God leads (Ephesians 6:10-20 if I can't think of anything else).  I call out for help from the God who is mighty enough to deliver me from my enemies.  He is a shield, a help, a comfort, a refuge.  And He can guide me to the purposes He has for me – the things His enemy is trying to distract me from.  He can show me how to move past the ambush.

Thanks
            So many of the spiritual attacks come in the form of doubting God’s word and character.  Thanks remembers who God is and what He has done and what He has promised.  It names them like a claiming for my collection. 

Praise
            Praise takes thanks a step further.  It shouts to the world that my God is good.  I feel like it’s less defensive and more offensive in this spiritual battle, a tactic that has the enemy of God wishing he could avoid bringing the subject up. 

Rest
            God created rest.  It’s just a fact.  He made us to need it.  Rest is related so intimately with waiting and trust.  It is an outward submission to the fact that while I do nothing, He is able to work.  He doesn’t need me; I need Him.  And so I still my body and even sleep sometimes, committing my concerns to my good Father.

Enjoying Good Gifts
            If one of the lies is that God isn’t good, it gains power when I refuse to take the good that God gives.  He uses these gifts to refresh us and to speak to us of His love.  I have to be receiving from God.  If I am dependent on Him, it doesn’t mean that I just let Him do everything.  It doesn’t mean that I only take from Him the things I perceive as useful for the battle.  I take everything He gives.  In the midst of sorrow, if He gives laughter, I take that too.  I remember that the battle isn’t a punishment; it’s a privilege.  So I don’t act like a child pouting in time-out; I taste chocolate and dance in the yard and I thank God for His wisdom!

Encouragement
            I’m so glad that God didn’t make us to fight these spiritual battles alone.  I heard a preacher say once that God called the Church to spiritual warfare – more than He called individuals.  I haven’t figured out what that means or if I agree entirely, but I do know that the members of the body of Christ have been given gifts to build each other up for the ministries God has prepared for us.  I love it when my friends tell me they are in this with me, when they remind me of truth, when they admonish me to persevere.  Sometimes I even beg them for it. 

Prayer Together
            This one has been coming up in my thoughts a lot lately, and I feel conviction that I’m not very good at making it happen.  I believe that when we recognize spiritual warfare, we should come together to petition God together for strength, guidance, and victory.  For whatever reason, I think we’re supposed to be doing this in groups and not just alone. 

People
            Sometimes I get to be around people who aren’t aware of the battle in my life, and even that can be a bulwark against spiritual attack.  It is good to be around humans.  We minister to each other.  We are made in the image of God, objects of His love, and instruments of His righteousness.  It is good to be reminded that God is at work in lives, in situations completely unrelated to my battles.  He grows people.  He answers prayers.  He wins. 

Speaking/Writing/Remembering Truth
            When I’m in the midst of the weightiest attacks, sometimes the only things to cling to are prayer and truth.  I can start small, naming the truth I see about me: “That is a window.  Today is Thursday.”  And then I can tell myself, journal, or tell others truths I know about God.  I can remember things He did in the Bible.  I can remember what He did for me yesterday, last month, last year, or when He saved me the day I turned six.  One very important thing to remember is that God freely gave His Son to pay for my sins.  Paul springboards from that truth to asking, “Will He not with Him also freely give us all things?”  It doesn’t make sense for God to give us His most precious possession and then to hold little things back just to be mean!  The final type of truth that I focus on is who I am in Christ: “I am chosen.  I am sealed.  I am empowered.  I am loved.” 

Fasting and Self-Denial
            Mostly my experience with fasting is experimentation.  I ask God whether to fast.  I don’t understand all of how it works or why God made fasting to have power in spiritual warfare, but Jesus said it, so I believe it.  Maybe it has something to do with recognizing my dependence on God for the sustaining of my life.  I think there is something to be said for self-denial, for practicing being led by something other than the impulses of what my body or mind want.  Plus, since the body is pretty good at sending those impulses, I can use them as a reminder to focus on God and to pray. 

Obedience
            The Bible warns me to take heed lest I am also tempted, when I’m pro-actively engaged in the spiritual battle.  So I regularly evaluate whether I’m being obedient.  How have I failed to do what I know God wants me to?  I put on the breastplate of righteousness, believing that pursuing good works God has called me to puts me in the places where He can readily use me to intercede for others.  When I am obedient, I am not so distracted with repenting – and I am not fighting to regain the foothold I had given over to the Devil.  But I also remember that my God is merciful.  When I fall, I cry out to Him and He forgives.  His grace strengthens me for obedience; it isn’t something I do apart from Him and then bring myself before Him well-armored in my own good works and strength.  Unless the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain.  I have to let it be Him working in me. 

Reading and Hearing Truth
            I want my mind to be saturated with truth so much that it can’t even hear the lies of the Devil.  I want to be so confident in the truth that deceits are easily identified and turned back.  So I read the Bible, read books about factual things, listen to Christian lectures or good Christian music. 

Work
            Rest is important, but so is staying busy.  The last thing I need is down time when my prayers are exhausted and I’m bored and the temptation comes to chase after my own pleasure.  Work is therapeutic.  It is a taking-back from the chaos, a living out of the dominion God called the first Man and Woman to.  In a way, that’s the same thing happening in spiritual warfare. 

Calling On Jesus’ Name
            This one is potent.  If I feel strongly oppressed, I need to speak Jesus’ name aloud, to claim the authority of the King of Kings to fight this battle for me.  It’s also pretty potent before God.  If I’m confident enough that my prayer is for Jesus’ sake, for bearing fruit in His kingdom, I present my supplications in Jesus’ name.  And Jesus promised that whatever we ask the Father in His name, we can have confidence that we have from Him.  This is another form of acknowledging the truth of God’s promises.

Rebuking Demons
            Sometimes I need to take seriously that there are personal creatures scheming against me and that they do not have authority to oppose me, because I am a chosen ambassador of God in the world.  I openly resist the Devil, and trust that the Bible is true when it says “He will flee from you.”  I don’t know how long it lasts, or exactly how this works, but I try it because it is taught in Scripture.

Prayer For Others
            The spiritual battle does not just affect individuals, so I pray for others potentially involved to be guarded against the schemes, temptations, and opposition of our spiritual enemy.  I pray for them to put on and take up the armor of God, being strengthened with His might.  I pray for them to be vigilant.  I pray that God would hedge their families, their health, their jobs, their travel – and anything else that seems relevant or that God leads me to pray for them.  I pray that they will be in right standing with God, repentant of sins and practicing righteousness.  Intercession is one more thing that I think the spiritual warfare is opposing in the first place, so to go forward doing it seems to me a good idea in resisting the attacks. 

Attention to God’s Works
            Like remembering what God has done in the past, and being around people in whom God is active at present, I can look around me right now and observe the wise and powerful works of God.  These things don’t have to be spiritual, though sometimes they are.  I gain encouragement watching God change the seasons, open up wildflowers, bring a bee buzzing by.  I watch Him move the hearts of “kings.”  This isn’t quite the same as praise or thanks, because it precedes them.  First I slow down and give heed to what God is doing – I set out looking for it. 

To God be all glory. 

Kicking


My favorite Bible story these days is about Saul of Tarsus.  He’s the villain of the story. And the hero, though rather a passive one.  

The Christian Church is just getting started.  People are learning to pray together and preach the gospel boldly and see some miracles happen.  But Saul has been trained to be a Pharisee, and they know the rules, and the gospel of Jesus Christ is not so big on rules.  Plus Jesus claimed to be God, something Saul didn’t approve of.  He knew the chief priests were on his side, so he decided to do something about it.  Executing Stephen for blasphemy had seemed to him to be a huge success; now the Christians were on the run, and with a bit more pressure, the whole blasphemous sect might be a thing of the past.  After acquiring official sanction from the Jewish leaders, he started hunting down the Christians. 

But I think he knew better.  He’d studied the Scriptures.  He’d probably been around enough to at least hear of – if not personally witness some of Jesus’ miracles.  There was part of him that wanted God to be pleased with him.  He really believed in God.  A testimony like Stephen’s as he was dying doesn’t go without effect.  So he was zealous, and he was pushing forward in something that seemed godly to him, something he thought would be especially pleasing to God, something that, unfortunately for Saul, wasn’t God’s idea.  I suspect that there was some pretty intense spiritual warfare assembled, to discourage Saul from the calling God had yet to communicate to him. 

And my favorite part is coming up here.  God was merciful to Saul.  Not only merciful; He had big plans for Saul.  Even Saul tracking down God’s elect to imprison them or worse wasn’t enough to keep God from accomplishing the ministry He intended through Saul.  In the Bible we see God doing lots of different things to people displeasing Him.  Sometimes He sends them prophets.  Sometimes He just has the earth open up and swallow them.  Or they die more natural deaths.  He spoke personally to Moses about His displeasure.  A lot of people in rebellion against God just continue on their wicked path, accumulating judgment for themselves.  Here we see that God took some drastic measures to bring Saul to Himself. 

Saul is on the road between cities.  He has a few companions to help him with the Christian round-up.  But a light stops them in their path.  A loud noise frightens all of them.  Saul is literally blinded by the light, but he hears words.  “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?  It is hard for you to kick against the goads!”  Basically the God of the universe is speaking to him from heaven, and he’s using his name.  That’s pretty special.  Then he asks him a question – one of the gentlest things He could do.  It also implies that maybe if Saul had stopped to think about it before, he could have figured out that he was persecuting the Son of God.  Finally one of my favorite lines, “It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”  From what I can tell, God had been prodding Saul in one direction, and by chasing down Christians, by resisting the gospel of Jesus Christ, he had been resisting that guidance.  But God still nails him on it!  There seems to be so much firm tenderness in that sentence, that I just can’t get over it! 

And the end of the story is that Saul was convinced.  (I don’t know what it would have taken if being blinded by a heavenly flash and hearing the voice of God out loud didn’t work to wake Saul up!)  A few days later God persuades one of His other vessels, the prophet Ananias, to heal Saul’s blindness and to see that he receives the Holy Spirit.  Thus begins the ministry of the Apostle Paul (his Greek name he soon started to go by). 

Isn’t that a fantastic story? 

To God be all glory.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Without Warning


I took a walk last week, on the day after our first snow here in Colorado.  The air was nippy but not wintry yet, fighting its way back to sunny seventies soon.  My boots beat along the sidewalk, until I came beneath a certain tree.  No one had warned it about the snow the night before.  It had been bearing the glorious fruit of autumn only a few days prior – the air a balmy 80 degrees.  Who knew that cold would come? 

I picked my way around fallen fruits, darkened by separation from the sap – whether because of the cold hardening the nutrients yesterday or from today when the branch let go, I couldn’t tell.  But what was plain to see was that the tree had surrendered to the surprise.  It didn’t keep on with its job of growing fruit.  Instead it let them splatter the ground, making an ugly mess. 

So I pulled my jacket close against the wind, bowed my head beneath the somber scene, and prayed to not be like that tree.  Don’t let me give in to bitterness just because hard things were unexpected.  Please, God, let me be useful to You no matter what, to be drawing near and bearing fruit of love and joy and truth and glory to You.  Give me faith to keep trusting even when things look bleak. 

You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain, that whatever you ask the Father in My name He may give you.” ~ John 15:16

To God be all glory.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Cry Out


Paper doesn’t tell me. 
Facebook doesn’t know. 
I have all these questions, and just
endlessly writing lists,
or refreshing web pages
doesn’t bring me to the answers. 
“Please, please, just speak to me, YHWH.”

I’m waiting on God,
thinking in circles,
praying on my knees again
and again. 
My fists are almost always clenched,
every ounce of me waiting
and wanting so badly to just
get beyond where I am. 
“How could You do this, Lord?”

I think somehow if
I get past this one thing,
that I’ll be able to breathe
once more. 
But what if it is just moving on
into something harder? 
“You freely gave me your Son…”

After a long day I lay down
and concentrate on breathing:
deep breaths,
living here
and now,
knowing that God has promised
this struggle will not be for eternity. 
“You have known the end from the beginning.”

I’m weak and
He knows it. 
His mercy gives
just enough grace to endure,
doesn’t remove sorrow
or trouble
or the call to do
the hardest of things.
To those who hope,
God draws near.
“Father, enfold me in Your love.”

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Two Rants


I am about to go on two rants that will not be thought much of if we think of them as rants.  Because all I want to do is to make a statement, and a few related statements that brought me to my conclusion, and to have everyone agree with me.  I don’t want to huff and puff about them.  I certainly don’t want to go to all the trouble of trying to persuade people with carefully researched arguments – which usually doesn’t work anyway. 

1.  Laughing at people should not be thought rude unless it is clearly intended to be so.  Children laugh with delight – at fun things, at spectacles, at themselves, at comedy.  It is associated with being in good humor.  I know I am not often in very good humor, and I would like justification for expressing it when I feel it.  If something you say makes me laugh, please do not think that I find you merely comic – or that I am intending to tease or ridicule you.  You delight me.  Please continue.

2.  I used to think I was conservative: a conservative Christian, conservative in politics.  It’s possible I am conservative about language, or conservative with resources.  But when conservation and ideals share ground, if you are an unsuccessful conservative for long enough, you have to stop!  I can’t be conservative for the sake of conserving!  I’m not conservative just to oppose changes.  The idea is that I want something to be stable, for goodness to be maintained.  But for quite a while, evil has been gradually overwhelming my ideals.  The status quo isn’t ok with me, either in our nation’s government or in our churches.  So I am a revolutionary.  I am a submissive revolutionary.  Some people rather derisively (or at least dismissively) call me an idealist. 

To God be all glory. 

Monday, July 30, 2012

Ten Reasons Not to Carpet Your House


1) It’s cleaner.  Cleaner is usually healthier, especially if you have allergies to dust, or breathing disorders.  Cleaner smells better, humid or dry.  Cleaner looks better than a dingy or worn carpet. 

2) The need for cleaning is more evident.  You can see the dirt, hair, and spills sitting on top of the floor, not buried in a forest of fibers and absorbed into the very makeup of your flooring.  It is especially useful to see messes caused by pets or children.  Because you can see this, you can remove harmful dirt (that makes flooring wear faster), thus prolonging the life of your floor. 

3) Cleaning is easier.  Brooms and even mops used to clean hard floors are lighter.  You don’t have to find a plug for them. 

4) Cleaning is quieter.  You can sweep up while other people are in bed sleeping, or watching a movie – whereas a vacuum takes over the sounds of the house. 

5) Cleaning is cheaper.  You can get a decent broom for $10 to $15.  Vacuums that work well begin at over $100.  Plus you have no bags or electricity or filters to pay for.  Brooms require minimal maintenance. 

6) There are so many steps to carpet installation/replacement.  One of the worst is carpet tacking: strips of wood with tacks sticking out the top and nails sticking through the bottom into the floor. 

7) On occasion, especially as carpet ages, the seams in the carpet wear significantly and expose the tacking to pierce bare or stocking feet. 

8) “Wood” looks better.

9) Furniture is easier to move on a hard, flat, smooth surface.

10) It is more versatile to not have carpet.  You can leave it bare, or put a rug on top of it.  Rugs are moveable.  They are washable (or beatable in your back yard).  They can be changed to fit a changing d├ęcor. 

To God be all glory. 

Monday, July 23, 2012

Still

On Friday night I asked some friends which Bible character they related to most. Mine was Mary sister of Martha. 


On Sunday I sat on a porch, the last trickles of rain spilling off the roof-edge, noise from a busy kitchen through the door at my back, and a still, sad friend sitting next to me. 


I've never thought before whether Mary felt the tug to get up and do/work/help, but chose over and over, that night, to be still and sit at Jesus' feet, to do what appeared to be nothing, because it was the one thing needed - the good part. 

I am struggling to learn the lesson of stillness, of trust, of prayer, and of waiting.


Work and waiting have the same source for the spiritual man: dependence on God, abiding in Christ.  They have the same end as well: bearing fruit.  


Later on Sunday night, some friends looked up this Hebrew word sometimes translated "wait": chuwl.  It has so much nuance of meaning and implication that I could just swim in it!  


To God be all glory.  

Wednesday, July 04, 2012

Hope for the Manifestation of the Glory of God


God has had me thinking about suffering and persecution, again.  I’m going to be honest here; I don’t want to suffer.  Nope.  I don’t even want to be unhappy.  I want to have adventure, but I want to be able to push “stop” “eject” “rewind” and control the volume, too.  I know in my head that God uses suffering.  He makes us to know Him more, to be more like Him, to be refined from the worldly desires and crutches that keep us from the pure fire of desiring His glory.  He uses the way His people suffer (with grace and faith and rejoicing) to be a witness to the world.  But I’d still rather not go through it.  Part of me always insists that God could do those things in other ways.  He’s God.  He could do things differently.  But this is the way He has made the world, made us, written this story.  Jesus asked for another way, besides the cup of suffering.  Even Jesus went through the excruciating agony of the cross.  So it seems like God’s pretty committed to the suffering theme.  And it is actually a privilege to get to experience some things that Christ did.  This goes back to how we know Him more through suffering. 

Anyway, that’s the background:  I have suffered, though not much.  I know that God uses suffering.  I know it’s likely He isn’t done sending me through painful experiences. 

So when I’m coming up on the next part of my life, but I can’t see what’s going on, I start to seize with fear.  I get really afraid that it’s coming.  What I can’t see is something bad, something painful.  If people are keeping secrets from me, it’s probably because they’re handling things so dreadful that they are even trying to shield me, but it will affect me anyway, and everything will come out, and I will hurt.  Again. 

I don’t know exactly what to call this reaction.  It’s definitely fear.  And it is fueled deeply by distrust.  And what I ought to do in a situation like that is something completely different, and almost entirely absent.  On my best days I might be able to reason myself into a theology of faith: I should trust God.  I should know that He is doing good.  I should desire His glory in whatever way He wants to make it known.  But my feelings have never caught up. 

If I trusted Him, I would see a problem and rejoice with anticipation at how God is going to work it out.  Or I should be on the edge of my seat, maybe with my chest searing at the pain of it, maybe with tears stinging my eyes, but watching all the same for the way God is going to explode forth with a revelation of His glory (even if He doesn’t do what I would consider “working it out”). 

That’s what I’m hoping to see in my life someday.  I figure, objectively, this means I’ll go through a lot of hard things.  I have practice surrendering control, clinging to God when things don’t make sense and I feel so hurt that it borders betrayal.  And I think God will build on those lessons to move me deeper towards His heart, to form in me a heart of joyful trust. 

It’s nice, I guess, to have something you know you’re not good at, but you’re working towards. 

"Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:  By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God.  And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that tribulation worketh patience;  And patience, experience; and experience, hope:  And hope maketh not ashamed; because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us." ~ Romans 5:1-5

To God be all glory.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Beyond Hope


I read once that Tolkien wrote with the pessimism of the pagan poets [1].  They uphold honor in despair, dying well, the heroic quest at the cost of losing everything you love.  But I read Tolkien and see hope scribed into every chapter.  No light, whimsical child’s hope: Tolkien’s hope is not ignorance of all things capable of clouding the good.  It’s a “fool’s hope,” [2] where anyone can see that in all likelihood, if things go on as they are, the fool will be disappointed.  In Tolkien, the fools know themselves to be fools. 

Elven-King Fingolfin’s story weighs on the side of hopelessness.  The Silmarillion describes him as “fey” [3] when he challenges Melkor himself, living up to the epic’s heroic virtues.  What hope has an elf against a Vala?  But the Vala ought to be contended, resisted, fought.  Though the high king of the Noldor (elves) finally fell, his fight was not without effect.  The Dark Lord Melkor limped forever after. 

At first reading, it seems that Aragorn commends this sort of despairing courage when he instructs his friends, “There are some things that it is better to begin than to refuse, even though the end may be dark.” [4]  But Gandalf, the wizard who knows his life-encompassing hope is foolish, lends a bit of insight early on.  Recognizing he is a fool, he embraces humility.  Do you hear it in Gandalf’s words? “Despair, or folly?  It is not despair, for despair is only for those who see the end beyond all doubt.  We do not.  It is wisdom to recognize necessity, when all other courses have been weighed, though as folly it may appear to those who cling to false hope.” [5]  He acknowledges that he may not have all the facts.  Indeed, thinking that he knew what the end would be was the prideful downfall of Denethor, who let his enemy select the facts he discovered, and so turn him to despair, and madness.  Tolkien’s works regularly discourage the assumption that we know the future. 

He also discourages despair.  I know it doesn’t seem true.  There are some pivotal scenes driven by characters that rashly pursue death and glory.  Aragorn is accused of it when he takes the Paths of the Dead, but that perspective is refuted.  Though the way had been shut for long ages, the time had come.  Such is the way of hope.  Things go on in a certain way until the due time, and then change springs upon the world.  

Perhaps most potent is the image of grey-eyed Dernhelm.  The warrior’s silent, calm assurance going in search of death chilled Merry.  And it awakens our empathy.  Why shouldn’t it?  Who hasn’t felt that life is going from bad to worse, and decided to rush forward to the end instead of waiting to be burned with the house?  I think maybe Tolkien intended to carry us along with this character, so that we could reach the same end.  Dernhelm was proud, seeking glory before duty, though demonstrating loyal love to King Theoden by staying close to him.  And glory was achieved.  And darkness did descend on the desperate hero.  Even as Dernhelm revealed herself as Eowyn, golden hair glittering in the storm-piercing sunrise like a figment of hope; she was cast down, poisoned, and taken for dead.  [6]

But now we come to it:  Tolkien’s hope is the kind that stands further and deeper than all those things – than despair and darkness and loss.  He knew about a resurrection hope, about seeds bringing forth fruit after they have fallen into the ground and died.  Maybe he knew that fruit is more glorious than merely putting an end to your enemies.  His hope embraces grief.  It accepts hard things.  Good is not determined by the outcome, but by some transcendent standard.  And this hope joyfully trusts that there is someOne good who may intervene yet. 

For Eowyn woke, and repented her destructive ideals.  Day came again.  Darkness was not unescapable.  Faramir described the moment, “I do not know what is happening.  The reason of my waking mind tells me that great evil has befallen and we stand at the end of days.  But my heart says nay; and all my limbs are light, and a hope and joy are come to me that no reason can deny.  … in this hour I do not believe that any darkness will endure!” [7]  So Eowyn moved and married, healed and tended gardens. [8]  Her story is a fuller exposition of the transformation the Fellowship underwent in Moria.  They lost their way and lost their guide.  They had descended black depths and awakened demons so that they lost hope.  But on the field high on the mountain slopes, “they came beyond hope under the sky and felt the wind on their faces.” [9]

[1] Hopeless Courage by Loren Rosson, III (http://www.hollywoodjesus.com/lord_of_the_rings_guest_03.htm)
[2] The Return of the King: “The Siege of Gondor” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 797)
[3] See etymology of “fey” at http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?term=fey&allowed_in_frame=0
[4] The Two Towers: “The Riders of Rohan” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 430)
[5] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Council of Elrond” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 262)
[6] The Return of the King: “The Battle of the Pelennor Fields” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 823-824)
[7] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 941)
[8] The Return of the King: “The Steward and the King” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 943-944)
[9] The Fellowship of the Ring: “The Bridge of Khazad-Dum” by JRR Tolkien (Houghton Mifflin One-Volume Edition 2001; p. 323)

See also, The Silmarillion: “Of the Ruin of Beleriand and the Fall of Fingolfin” by JRR Tolkien, edited by Christopher Tolkien

To God be all glory.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Missed Marveling

I missed marveling at the blossoms on the trees this year. I didn't walk under them a single time. I saw them, soooo early this year in Colorado, and I delighted in the rows of varying pink down the edge of the street - as I drove on by. I thought to myself, "It's early. A heavy snow is coming, a frost. They'll be gone. Promise of fruit, these flowers, will wither and brown. Too good to be true. And I'm not ready for spring yet." Now having evaded spring's normal reprise of winter, it's summer for all intents and purposes, and I sit at work wishing I could lie in the grass but on my days off I'm too busy. I need to say "no" to other things, and go out and play. I need to embrace the wonder of life and growth and the God who authored them. Scratch the to-do list; press into God. To God be all glory.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Why I Chose Not To Go To College


A friend asked me the other night to tell her why I chose not to go to college.  My answer was so long it reminded me of a blog post.  So here it is.  

In order of chronology or importance: 

1) I couldn't decide what I wanted to study.

2) I wanted to be lots of different things.

3) I didn't want to waste my time or money.

4) I prayed that God would show me what He wanted the desires of my heart to be.

5) God showed me that all the things I couldn't decide between had to do with being a wife, a mom, and a friend - and doing those things well. 

6) I didn't believe that God would give me an MRS degree just for going to college, especially if He didn't lead me there.

7) I wanted to prepare for the life God was calling me to.

8) Not going to college gives me lots of time for ministry as well as for preparation. I realized so many of my acquaintances focused on getting good grades instead of keeping up relationships. God absolutely calls Christians to be in relationship with one another. 

9) I don't believe a woman needs a degree as a back up to provide for herself "in case" something happens to her father or husband. Rather, I believe in a Church that is called to care for orphans and widows - and fathers who are expected to provide for their own. 

10) I believe in remaining part of my father's household until I join someone else's through marriage. I've been indecisive about whether this means I must live in his house (not go away to college). There aren't a lot of good schools in the Denver Metro Area, especially for the subjects I was interested in. 

11) I have a sufficient job for the mean time. There are many people I have heard of who graduate and cannot get a job as good as mine for quite a while. 

12) Libraries are free. Internet learning is cheap. Practice and experience are good teachers.

13) Public schools require me to submit, in a way, to ungodly counsel and instruction. Christian schools claim to promote the truth, but are sometimes more subversive than openly secular ones. 

14) The economics of college tuitions and degrees is shifting. The cost of school goes up to disastrous levels, especially when debt is used to fund it. And the improved employment I may have been able to receive (should I have ended up working after college) isn't enough to compensate. So many people go to college now. It doesn't really make a person stand out on an application. I'm a sort of rebel hoping to reform the system by boycotting it. I think we would have a work force more prepared for their vocation if they were trained in ways other than classroom lectures, books, and tests. 

15) Having saved money and not gone into debt for school has left me with more freedom - to give, to only work part time, to do ministry, to be ready to go where God sends me. 

16) College tends to put off making decisions and taking responsibility. The path is decided for a person, when college is the expected next step. And it's still school, just like a child has been doing for the past twelve years. So it keeps grown-ups in a more child-like setting. This doesn't mean that a person cannot behave in a mature way while in college; it's just another intermediate step between childhood and the kind of life that an adult will spend most of his or her time on.

I hope that doesn't sound judgmental. I don't think that it is inherently wrong to go to college. My answer is just ten years of thoughts on the subject and how God has shaped my life through the question.

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Ode to Cinnamon


Cinnamon, such a versatile spice!
It can be strong and nutty,
Or you can find it light and fragrant;
The flavor can burn, bitter against your tongue,
Or it can be sweetened into a refreshing bite like mint.

To God be all glory.

Gardening and Independence


Several summers ago, I attempted a garden.  The endeavor was something I thought God wanted me to do, though I wasn’t sure why.  I bought all these seeds and soil and planned (but didn’t study), tilled soil, planted, watered, and never harvested a single thing.  Most of it died in the July heat.  Only one head out of three rows of lettuce ever came up at all.  I discovered that oregano blooms.  I’m still learning things from the experience. 

When I had my garden, I did it all by myself.  I’m a naturally independent person.  I have my own ideas, and I can make them happen.  But in several ways I would have had a better garden if I hadn’t been so on my own.  First, I would have read or gotten advice on how to plan a garden.  Next, I would have asked someone else to water it for the week I was gone in July.  Finally, I didn’t care.  And the reason I didn’t care what happened was because no one else cared.  There was no one else looking forward to the produce.  No one else was putting in any effort with me.  No one even asked me how it was going, or praised me for my good idea.  Everyone who knew about it just watched with amusement at my new fad project. 

There’s a TV show that was made in Great Britain decades ago called The Good Life.  A husband and wife decide to become self-sufficient without leaving their home in the suburbs of London.  Part of what makes it so exciting is that they’re doing it together.  She wants to see his idea succeed.  He wants to impress his wife.  They make a plan together, talk about their goals and their problems and their failures.  He thanks her for the hard work she puts in.  She praises him for his improvisation. 

I’ve coached Awana teams in games and Bible Quizzing, been a camp counselor, gotten together to cook for people, sidewalk counseled.  Those were all things in which I got the benefit of feeling a sense of shared purpose and effort, of everyone doing their part and experiencing the outcome together.  Community is such a blessing. 

Sometimes I wish I had someone full time who would notice the work I do.  I know that the Christian ideal is to work heartily as unto the Lord.  And I can generally do that.  I just know that I do so much better when someone else is supporting me – or criticizing me – or excited about the reason I’m doing something enough to care whether it works out or not – and helping me evaluate or troubleshoot.  I want to help other people in the same way. 

My belief is that God made families for this purpose.  And on the spiritual side, He made the church to work together in the mission of making disciples.  When this level of community happens, it’s fun and exciting and fulfilling.  Don’t you want it, too? 

To God be all glory. 

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Given Away

“That’s ours flower pot.  We gave it to them.” 
– some little boys I was taking on a walk around their block

Once you give a flower pot away, it is theirs.  Once you give friendship away, it is theirs.  The moment is irreversible.  The deed has been done. 

I used to be very selfish in my friendships.  I wanted people to listen to me, to entertain me, to help me not notice that I felt timid or overwhelmed.  Back then, whatever I put into a friendship was seen as a necessary cost of having friends in the future.  When I graduated high school, most of those friendships changed substantially.  In a lot of cases, we weren’t really friends anymore.  All that lost investment left me feeling disappointed, and lonely. 

Some few years after that I realized that God commanded Christians to be loving to others without considering whether we get anything out of it.  I had been afraid to get to know people, to give them attention and consideration, to pray for them or praise them – because what if this doesn’t last?  What if they move away and we never speak again?  What if they aren’t there for me when I’m having a hard time?  What if that man isn’t the man I spend the rest of my life with?  The answer was clear and daring: walk the line of pouring yourself into people without demands. 

Give love away, and it’s theirs.  The character of your friends is forever impacted by how you bless them.  And at the very least, you were there to help them to survive, or excel, even if that is someone else’s role in the future. 

Loss and betrayal are excruciating.  And even as good friendships continue, there are some disappointments.  People aren’t perfect.  They will neglect you or say something harsh when you need comfort.  They’ll tease you instead of teaching you.  These things happen.  They hurt.  Pain is increased, the more of yourself you’ve given to them.  You’re more vulnerable, the more they know you. 

The Bible says “perfect love casts out fear.”  The things to be feared are still real: pain, loss, being taken advantage of.  But love says people are worth the risk.  Maybe they won’t take advantage of you.  Maybe they won’t move on or away or die before you.  It is only a risk.  Yet you’re willing, if you love someone, to lay down your life living or dying.  You say that whatever you can do for them is worth more to you than protecting yourself.  Being with them for this moment in friendship is more important than the things you fear. 

I’m abundantly grateful God has given me friends who likewise keep on loving me.  By His grace, He has made Christian community, when healthy and striving to please Him, to be mutual.  My friends are merciful to me.  We love being together.  They do give back, encourage me, listen when I’m discouraged or self-absorbed.  I do have friends who point me to truth.  They invite me to invade their lives with my needs.  It’s amazing. 

To God be all glory.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Abdicated Discipleship


This week I read an article at The Wall Street Journal, spring-boarding from Rick Santorum’s recent controversies about birth control to a commentary on the societal effects of contraceptives.  For my purposes, I’m going to sum up part of their report:

            Before birth control, women stipulated that they would only have sex with a man willing to take care of any resulting children (either only married sex or sex with the promise of marriage should she conceive). 

            After birth control and legal abortion, many women became willing to have sex, feeling like there was less potential responsibility attached. 

            These women’s willingness to fornicate raised the pressure on other women to also fornicate – even when they were less able to use birth control, or unwilling to abort.  Men began expecting sex as part of a premarital relationship – and if one woman wasn’t willing to give it, they could leave her and find someone who was, without commitment.  Why sacrifice yourself to take on the responsibilities of marriage? 

As I read the above view of history, my brain worked to find the solution.  Obviously my hope is to marry a good man who believes that sex is sacred to marriage, and hasn’t jumped on board with the trends in this country. 

Men in the secular world pressure women to have sex or do without relationships.  Men in the secular world make marriage hard to come by.  But what’s the excuse for men in the Church?  Why is marriage hard to come by for a Christian woman? 

The norm, the expectation, for a man living in the United States is to go through a series of dating relationships, enjoying the benefits of intimacy, eventually getting around to marriage when he’s been with a woman for a long time and has a good job to (not support her and her children; she works and there will be far less children than in marriages of the past; but:) fund the engagement ring, wedding, and honeymoon.  Men in this country are not taught self control or responsibility – nor the value of marriage and fatherhood (only obligations of the two).  They are not equipped. 

Because our secular world doesn’t tell stories about good men pursuing women with purity, marrying them, and fathering children – our Christian men are also unequipped.  No one is training the men outside the Church, so the men inside the Church aren’t being taught the necessary life skills either. 

Isn’t that last point part of a much bigger problem?  Since when did the Church depend so much on the unchristian world to teach and disciple people?  Why don’t we have an alternative story, an alternative school of sorts? 

Is it because the Church has made it our goal to blend with the world around us?  Is it because we have refused to be separate and holy, refused to be creative, and refused to labor in building the kingdom of God?  We convert citizens of the world to belong to the kingdom of God – but is our task to transform their institutions as well?  Or have we been given a different kind of material to build a completely unique society?  Are we building their culture or God’s? 

In God’s kingdom, singleness has great value – not in avoiding responsibility and commitment, but in refocusing those virtues to the building of this other culture.  In God’s kingdom, marriage is part of the typological design, where institutions and interactions breathe testimony to and imitation of the love of God.  It is to be sought and desired by those called thereto, prepared for and invested in.  Bearing children in a stable family is made to bring the next humans up in the fear and admonition of the Lord.  It is not supposed to be a regrettable consequence of giving in to lust. 

Are there common features of the Christian community and the kingdom of the world to which the Church has lazily abdicated its roles?  Of course.  One of the powerful tactics of our Enemy (against whom we are supposed to be waging offensive war – in other words, building God’s kingdom for His purposes using His ways) is to take things that were created to be an instrument in the godly culture, and to take them out of their context and twist them just enough that they are ineffective.  By doing this, he gives people the impression that they are still practicing the good things God ordained.  They are also in little danger of those practices accomplishing what God intended them for.  And the more we get used to the twists and decontextualizations, the more the Enemy can bring the things farther away and the more he can morph what they actually are, still lying that they are the things we read in the Bible. 

1 Corinthians 10:31, “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.

1 Timothy 4:4-5, “For every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving:  For it is sanctified by the word of God and prayer.

To God be all glory.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Job

I’ve been reading Job.  One of the Bible's most complex poetry books, about suffering, usually attracts people when they feel afflicted.  That’s not really why I started in on it this time.  Job is one of my favorite books, mostly for the last few chapters at the end.  (The discourses in the middle typically confuse me.)  This month some friends have been talking about sermons they heard about Job at their church.  On a quiet night a few weeks ago I turned on an online audio Bible.  As I listened, Job 13 resonated with me.  In one verse, I felt like Job summed up his plea.  He said that he wanted to ask and have God answer - either that or for God to speak and Job to get to listen.  This righteous man had lost almost everything, and what he wanted most was not to get everything back, but to know God better than he ever had. 

So I’m excited to read Job each night, delighted that it makes more sense to me than it ever has.  Here is this man I feel I can really respect.  You may have encountered in your life the scarcity of godly older men to be examples of faith.  And here he is.  This man isn’t all about doing – though he makes it clear he knows right from wrong, and has spent much of his life pursuing goodness.  Job was interested in knowing God more.  The more I read, the more I see it.  Even if by coming to him, God was going to humble Job and reveal his sin and judge him, Job was willing to take that risk for the chance of knowing God.  I know the end of the story. 

As I read of Job pleading for God to visit him, I get excited about the moment when God does all that Job asks.  YHWH Almighty comes and reveals His glorious wisdom to Job.  He asks questions and Job answers.  Then at last Job is content.  Then Job lays his hand over his mouth and says “How can I reply?”  All along Job has wanted to know who he was, especially relating to God.  He knows now.  He responds with more humble worship. 

The end of it all is that God is pleased with Job’s faith.  The man who met with God (perhaps more a theme of the Old Testament than I ever noticed before) is restored.  Blessings of prosperity, family, and usefulness to others’ spiritual lives return upon Job.  I assume the devil was astounded by this incredible mercy, that mere man may speak with God and live.  Take away the hedge God had placed around Job, and God surrounds the righteous man with His own presence.  This is not only Job’s heart; it is God’s as well. 

To God be all glory.

Not Knowing Right Away

When I was in junior high, I remember telling a Bible study leader that if a Christian was walking with God, she wouldn’t have to “pray about it” before she knew whether God wanted her to do something or not; she would already know.  Back then I was pretty biblically ignorant, and didn’t have much experience as a Christian trying to walk with God.  I don’t agree with what I said then.  Sometimes, no matter how closely you are walking with God, He wants you to wait on Him, to seek Him.  So He is quiet on what you should do, for a while. 

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Soda Pop

Where to begin?

Ever since I was little, I've enjoyed pop.  My favorite (probably because that's what my parents let me have) was Caffeine Free Pepsi.  When I got older, and started eating combos at fast food places, I began to enjoy the extra bite of regular Pepsi.  Coke doesn't compare.  Caffeine Free Coke is even worse.  Cherry Coke is tolerable as a substitute.  Dr. Pepper is my second favorite.  I don't touch Mountain Dew.  And Sprite is for treating illness or spicing punch.

There's 
this boycott out about Pepsi, and I've reluctantly joined.  At first I figured I'd just ignore it, but Pepsico was so blatantly not sorry, so flaunting of its research endeavors, that I just had to write them and tell them that, sad as I am, I'm not buying their products anymore.  I even wrote my three favorite grocery stores to tell them about why I'm not buying Pepsi from them anymore.  And before you try to gently reassure me that drinking Pepsi is ok, Pepsi is lying to people who write to them.  There are legal documents establishing Pepsi's connection with Senomyx, and what techniques that company uses to test its flavors.  Also, I know that Pepsi owns almost everything, and that I'm very unlikely to be boycotting all of Pepsi.  I'm focusing on not buying or consuming Pepsi drinks.

A few years ago I drastically cut back on my soda intake.  Late last year I fasted from it altogether for a few weeks.  I can do it.  When I get to craving pop, I know that I can substitute something else with lots of flavor - or preemptively drink so much water that I'm not even thirsty.

Soda is not so good for you, though it does have its tummy-settling uses, and it is a yummy way to consume caffeine (to treat headaches or heavy eyelids).  With government-run healthcare coming soon to a doctor’s office near you, I am starting to lean more towards a healthy lifestyle, avoiding the need for a doctor as much as possible.  So I have been trying to slowly cut back on my intake of things like high fructose corn syrup and other highly processed foods, eating fruits and vegetables and grains instead. 

I went on a search for some inexpensive “natural” soda, for those days when I decide to do the less healthy thing and splurge.  Safeway’s Refreshe brand has a natural soda.  But it only comes in four flavors: Cola, Lemon Lime, Root Beer, and Strawberry Kiwi.  The Cola flavor is ok, but not wonderful. 

So I have a plan.  I’m going to make Cherry Cola.  Natural.  I found bottled Black Cherry juice concentrate (not frozen) from Knudsen at Sprout’s this week.  And I bought some.  I figure a teaspoon or less per glass should sufficiently flavor my soda, but I’m going to start experimenting soon. 

To God be all glory. 

Friday, March 09, 2012

Temptation Makes Sin Manifest

I’m not perfect, you know.  But my YHWH is merciful.  One of the ways that He demonstrates His mercy is by revealing my sin to me.  He treats me like He did David.  Sin is seeded in my heart when I don’t trust God, when my delight is in something besides Him.  And I don’t notice.  (When I’m slipping down the sin track, I don’t often take time for self-evaluation.)  So God allows me to be tempted.  There’s the way of escape, of course.  I have access the whole time to the power to resist the temptation.  But I don’t.  I give in.  I speak an unkind, impatient word.  I spend recklessly.  I think lustfully.  Thus God shows me myself.  Repentance isn’t real when it holds back.  When my sin causes me to sorrow, God invites me to kneel before Him and be cleansed.  The cleansing often goes much deeper.  Making-up is precious because it heals up the breach that had been between us before I acted on it. 

The sermon I heard this last Sunday pointed out that in Psalm 51, David acknowledges the hidden sin of his heart which led to his ghastly outward trespass of adultery and murder.  The story in 2 Samuel 24 and 1 Chronicles 21 about David taking a census of the fighting men in Israel suggests a similar thing, that there was sin in Israel that made God angry, but it was not obvious sin.  He wanted to bring it out, so He could deal with it.  So God allowed Satan to provoke David to do this thing that offended YHWH. 

I believe that God has the power to prevent us from being tempted.  This is what Jesus taught His disciples to pray for.  However, I think that prayer is not sincerely being prayed or desired when I am keeping doubt and distance in my heart toward God.  I am not trusting Him for my daily bread; if I think of mentioning it to Him, it is a demand.  I am not begging Him for His will to be done on earth; I think my will is better.  And I am not zealous for His glory, His kingdom, and His power.  These things go together with being preserved against temptation and evil. 

Pleasing God is much more than outward things.  It is the direction of my spirit.  When I “walk in the Spirit” and “abide in Christ” and “delight myself in YHWH,” then I will successfully serve God and bear fruit.  These will be to His credit, and that will bring me joy. 

To God be all glory.

Wednesday, March 07, 2012

Hit You Not Hurt You

A woman sits in a room lit by lights from other rooms.  She’s sitting on the floor with her back to an empty chair.  And she’s crying.  The man happens by and notices.  “Why are you crying?” he asks.  That’s when it happens.  Her fist swings with all the force swelling her tears, straight into whatever part of him is nearest.  Words just won’t cut it; they haven’t been, for weeks and months.  She wants him to realize her emotion, to force him to feel it.  But she doesn’t want to hurt him.  Too bad her fist is bony and his ribs were nearest and the bruising will keep him sore for days.  I mean it; it’s too bad.  She shouldn’t have done it.  She needed to find a way to accomplish her goal without this contrary side effect.  Is there one, though? 

To God be all glory.   

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Voice

‎[to God:] 
"Then call, and I will answer; 


or let me speak, 


then You respond to me." 

~ Job 13:22