James 5:16 Being Open and Vulnerable (Holy Week Monday)

25 03 2013

vulnerable

I need to make myself vulnerable.  I need to admit that I am weak and fully dependent upon God.  I need the prayers and intercession of others.  I need restoring for my soul.

 

“Confess to one another therefore your faults (your slips, your false steps, your offenses, your sins) and pray [also] for one another, that you may be healed and restored [to a spiritual tone of mind and heart].  The earnest (heartfelt, continued) prayer of a righteous man makes tremendous power available [dynamic in its working].” James 5:16 (AMP)

Traditionally Holy Week has been a time of prayer, contemplation and reflection.  As we reflect upon Jesus’ journey from the Triumphal Entry on Palm Sunday to His Passion on Good Friday, we are called to examine ourselves as well.

The apostle Peter (who was anything but a wallflower) thought that he could hang tough with Jesus when the time came, but his reaction was very different when he was thrown into the time of trial.

“Peter said to him, ‘Though all become deserters because of you, I will never desert you.”’ Jesus said to him, ‘Truly I tell you, this very night, before the cock crows, you will deny me three times.’ Peter said to him, ‘Even though I must die with you, I will not deny you.’ And so said all the disciples.” Matthew 26:33-35 (NRSV)

I don’t blame the apostle Peter for acting as any scared human being would.  Sometimes we speak with a crocodile mouth, only to discover we have a canary patoot.  I know I’m a coward.  I know that the only way I can muddle through trials is by the power of the Holy Spirit, and even then I struggle.  I could only pray to have as willing a heart as Peter, though my flesh is infinitely weaker.

If I were to enumerate my faults, sins, false moves, bad judgment, poor decisions, and so on, one by one, it would take years.  I do mean years.

I think that it’s important for us to see the apostles and other heavy hitter characters in the Bible for who they are- simple, human people who GOD used for big purposes.  Apart from meeting up with Jesus on the shores of the Sea of Galilee, the apostle Peter would simply have been an obscure fisherman like so many other fishermen of his day, and his name would be lost to history forever.

That’s why I have a little bit of cognitive dissonance with putting “saints” on a pedestal.  We should examine the lives of the people who are part of the Biblical narrative.  We should thank God for their record and their witness, but to see the players in the Biblical story as serene figures on stained glass windows misses the point.  They were flesh and blood human beings.  They made mistakes.

Saints in stained-glass

I enjoy the aesthetic of stained glass windows, but we miss the point if this is the only way we see the “saints.”

The calling to the Christian life is a bold calling.  It is a calling that requires us to be open and vulnerable if we are to allow the power of the Holy Spirit to transform us- not only through our own prayers but through the intercessory prayers of others.

The Christian community is important- it is the Church Militant here on earth.  Although the military reference is rather un-PC, we are called to fight, not with weapons but with healing actions and gentle words.  We are the ground forces here on earth who live out the Kingdom of God here and now.

I would rather see the apostle Peter as he was- a tough, barely educated, coarse, fisherman who worked with his hands.   I can relate to a guy like that.  He wasn’t some guy with pretty clothes and a halo on a window when he was living and acting down here on earth.  He did some things right.  He made some pretty drastic mistakes.  He was human.  What made him and his witness special was God working in and through him.

This Holy Week I pray for my friends and fellow Christians that we would look to Jesus for our courage- because I know I don’t have any apart from Him.  I pray that the Holy Spirit would open our hearts and make us vulnerable- not so anyone can take advantage of us- (been there and done that too many times)- but so Jesus can give us a new heart and new strength, that He would transform us and invite us into His story.

“A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you; and I will remove from your body the heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh.”  Ezekiel 36:36 (NRSV)





Colossians 3:2-4 Heaven on Earth, Colossians 3:11 One in Christ

21 03 2013

jesus-ascension01

“Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth,  for you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life is revealed, then you also will be revealed with him in glory.” Colossians 3:2-4 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

On what is your mind usually focused- on the heavenly or the earthly?  How can you focus more on “what is above?”

Perhaps this is not quite the right question, at least not for me.  I would be perfectly happy to lock myself away- just “me-‘n-Jesus”- and meditate on the glory of heaven, and anticipate the day when I don’t have to deal with all the crud and misery that this life brings. It is a huge temptation for me to set my sights on the limitless and eternal joy awaiting me in heaven and to shut my mind and heart off to the injustice and suffering that’s going on in this world.  I can lock myself up in that figurative ivory tower very easily, until I look at the prayer that Jesus taught us: “Pray then in this way: Our Father in heaven,  hallowed be your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” Matthew 6:9-10 (NRSV)

Then I go on to the book of James (James was likely Jesus’ half-brother, and had much to say about living out one’s faith right here in this lifetime) and he has this to say:

“What good is it, my brothers and sisters,  if you say you have faith but do not have works? Can faith save you?  If a brother or sister is naked and lacks daily food, and one of you says to them, ‘Go in peace; keep warm and eat your fill,’ and yet you do not supply their bodily needs, what is the good of that? So faith by itself, if it has no works, is dead.  But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I by my works will show you my faith.

You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder. Do you want to be shown, you senseless person, that faith apart from works is barren?  Was not our ancestor Abraham justified by works when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?   You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was brought to completion by the works. Thus the scripture was fulfilled that says, ‘Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness,’ and he was called the friend of God.  

You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone.  Likewise, was not Rahab the prostitute also justified by works when she welcomed the messengers and sent them out by another road? For just as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is also dead.” James 2:14-26 (NRSV)

I will say that it is good to find solitude and meditate on the things of God, but one must find a balance between contemplation, solitude and prayer and living the Christian life in this corrupted, complicated and discouraging world.  Faith necessarily leads to action (as Martin Luther said) just as light necessarily generates heat.  Good works are inevitable byproducts of faith.

Unlike a majority of people, I am at home with solitude, contemplation and study.  It is a bigger challenge for me to get out and be the answer to living out God’s Kingdom “on earth as it is in heaven;” to keep one foot in the Kingdom that is to come, and the other in that we are called to help build here on earth.

Lord, help me live out Your Kingdom here on earth.

jesus_loves_the_little_children_song_1

“In that renewal, there is no longer Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and free; but Christ is all and in all!” Colossians 3:11 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What cultural differences are you allowing to separate you from others who are part of Christ’s body?

All human beings alive today are hypocrites, and I am definitely included in that classification.  The idea of people of all races and cultures and ideologies living together peacefully sounds so wonderful in theory, but the devil is literally in the details.

I grew up in a very rural, very white community.  Virtually everyone was some kind of Christian, be it Catholic or Protestant.  Most of the people I grew up around were just like my family- their families were of mostly northern European descent and had been in this country for generations.  I was in third grade (7 years old) before I actually encountered a real live person who was born in a foreign country- a girl from Korea who had been orphaned and then adopted by a local pastor and his wife.  She spoke absolutely no English.  On her first day in school, she would not drink the cafeteria milk (prepackaged, in a half-pint carton, from a local dairy) until someone else drank out of the carton first.  She told me later, as she eventually learned to speak English very well, that she wanted to be sure no one was trying to give her poison.

I remember feeling very sorry for this girl, at first, but my pity didn’t last very long.  I was very impressed with how quickly she learned English, (it was really important for her to learn, because no one within probably a hundred miles or more could speak Korean) and with how other people helped make her feel comfortable in her new home.  I was one of the kids who volunteered to help her learn English, using picture flash cards for names of common objects and helping her with correct pronunciation.  Within a year her English skills- both spoken and written- were almost as good as the rest of the kids’, and she no longer needed extra lessons and tutoring.

Growing up, I never had too much of an opinion of other people based on their race or customs, because almost everyone that I was exposed to growing up was white and of northern European descent just like me.  The few “different” people I met up with- we had a few black and a few Asian families in town- seemed to be just fine too.

I wasn’t prepared for the culture shock I got when I moved to Columbus in the mid-1990s.  I was now a part of a much more racially and culturally diverse community.  Not (almost) everyone was white. Not everyone was Christian.  Not everyone was straight!

I have to admit that sometimes when I see young black men milling about in a parking lot with their pants half way down their patoot, I hit the remote lock switch one more time just to make sure the car is locked.  Of course, not all young black men are thugs on drugs who are just waiting for the opportunity to pilfer through my car.  Most probably are not. Worse yet, when I do this I am acting out of racism, which goes against what the apostle Paul teaches.  Black or white shouldn’t make any difference, but in spite of myself, sometimes it does.

After the tragedy of 9-11 I admit I have been very wary of those of the Muslim faith.  When I see the women wearing the long dresses and veils, I know they are Muslim, and that more and more immigrants from other countries who are Muslim are making their way to central Ohio.  Being around Muslim people makes me uncomfortable, and I have a very real fear of those who subscribe to radical Islam, even though I am sure that it is not every Muslim’s aim to destroy this country and kill every Christian.  Even so, I admit, I am afraid.  I believe it is a justifiable fear, because there is much in the Quran and other Islamic teachings that advocates the persecution and murder of Christians.  I pray that Muslims will see beyond the deception of Islam and hear the Good News of Jesus, but I am still afraid of them.

I never encountered openly gay people until I moved to Columbus in 1994.  Since I come from a very conservative background, where homosexuality is regarded as an unspeakable sin, at first it was very difficult for me to be around people who are gay.  Then I remembered that God is my judge, and everyone else’s.  We are accountable to Him for who we love, what we do, and for what we accomplish with our lives.  Even though I struggle with how a Christian should regard the condition of homosexuality, the answer for me is to love God and love people- straight and gay.

I admit that I am still working on my attitudes toward people who aren’t like me.  It’s easier when they are also Christians, but what about loving the unlovable? What about loving people who have been taught that it’s OK to kill me?

I pray that the Holy Spirit will give me the right attitude and help me to see people the way God sees them.





Matthew 16:21-23 To Suffer and Die

19 03 2013

 

jesusgarden

“From that time on, Jesus began to show his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and undergo great suffering at the hands of the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.  And Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him, saying, ‘God forbid it, Lord! This must never happen to you.’ But he turned and said to Peter, ‘Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; for you are setting your mind not on divine things but on human things.’”  Matthew 16:21-23 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

How is your mind’s focal point reflected in your attitude toward suffering and death?

I don’t think anyone (other than  masochists) looks forward to suffering or dying.  Even when Jesus was in the garden of Gethsemane, He prayed that God would take the cup from Him.

“Then he (Jesus) said to them, ‘I am deeply grieved, even to death; remain here, and stay awake with me.’  And going a little farther, he threw himself on the ground and prayed, ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.'” Matthew 26:38 (NRSV)

jesus-in-garden-of-gethsemane

If Jesus, the Son of God, was so distressed by the prospect of His own bodily suffering and death that He sweat blood, then how are we ordinary, weak, fallible people supposed to take it?

(As Jesus was anguished in the garden of Gethsemane)

“Then an angel from heaven appeared to him and gave him strength.  In his anguish he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat became like great drops of blood falling down on the ground.  When he got up from prayer, he came to the disciples and found them sleeping because of grief, and he said to them, ‘Why are you sleeping? Get up and pray that you may not come into the time of trial.'”  Luke 22:43-46 (NRSV)

This isn’t the reaction of a guy heading off to summer camp.  This is unspeakable terror.  Given what would happen to Jesus as He suffered and died, His reaction was more than understandable.  He knew exactly what He was walking into.

The fact is that those of us who follow Christ will also follow Him (in varying degrees and manners) into suffering and bodily death.  While one need not be a Christian to either suffer or die, for the Christian there is a purpose in suffering (even when we don’t understand it) and there is hope beyond death.

The key to that purpose is in what Jesus says in Matthew 26:38: ‘My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from me; yet not what I want but what you want.’

That’s the very same conundrum we face when we pray the Lord’s prayer: “thy will, (not my will) be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

I don’t know what God’s purpose is in either suffering or death.  I have to wonder why suffering is necessary at all.  Is it merely to build people’s endurance and character? There should be an easier way to do that.  If suffering is meant to build human endurance and character, why do animals suffer?  Is it part of the curse brought on as the punishment for original sin?

And what about physical death?  If God’s all about this Kingdom business, why not start now and forgo the preliminaries?

The only answer that even begins to make sense to me is God’s answer to Job. (see Job 40-41) In synopsis, God is saying to Job, who are you to question Me?  Where was Job when God created the universe?  Where were we when God brought animals to life?

Doubt is part of faith.  When we question God, He does answer us, just not always in the manner and timing that we expect, which is exactly the point.  God is God, we are not.  He is the One Who did the creating.  He is the One Who brings that mysterious process of life together in the secret depths as the psalmist tells us:  “My frame was not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, intricately woven in the depths of the earth. Your eyes beheld my unformed substance. In your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed.” Psalm 139:15-16 (NRSV)  

He is the One Who keeps that slight electrical charge that causes one’s heart to beat going.

It is His prerogative as to when to turn off the switch, because He is the One Who turned it on to begin with.

 

 





Matthew 6:19-21 Eternal Treasures

16 03 2013

 Jesus

(Jesus said:)

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.  For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6:19-21 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What is your “investment strategy” for investing in things that are eternal?

I am not a wealthy woman, at least not in material things, according to the standards of my community.   According to the rest of the world though, I am better off than most.  I have food and clothing, a car to drive, reasonable access to medical care and shelter including indoor plumbing and central heating and air conditioning.  Even though I do not live in poverty today, I do struggle with a deeply ingrained scarcity mentality that began in my youth.

When I got clothing (with few exceptions) it had already been through both older sisters, and it was generally ill-fitting and threadbare by the time it was passed down to me.  I was sickly and weak and sometimes my parents couldn’t afford appropriate medical care or glasses.  There were times that my parents had to make a choice between food and/or scripts or keeping the utilities and mortgage paid.  Everything was always hard won and acquired at the last minute, and even if it was “essential,” you might still have to go without.

poor child

Poverty sucks.  Believe that.

Growing up with scarcity taught me that I didn’t care for going without.  It gave me an intense drive to achieve, to never run out, and to be able to provide myself all the things I could not have as a child.

I came to a point where not only did I earn enough to be able to have the “essentials” (at least most of the time), but to feed my own ego, I had to be the biggest, baddest one around professionally.  It wasn’t even so much about money as it was credibility and prestige.  I wanted to be taken seriously instead of being mocked for being an awkward, badly dressed geek.

The problem with my quest for prestige and professional achievement was that in that pursuit I became cut-throat and ruthless.  I didn’t care about anything but professional success.  I worked 60-80 hours a week.  I did everything I could to make money for my employer as well as I did everything I could to advance myself.

celica

I had a Celica like this at one time.  It was a tasty car.

I didn’t care about anything except professional success- until I had a series of catastrophic health failures.

I have essential hypertension- a severe and pernicious form of high blood pressure that is inherited and extremely difficult to keep controlled.  By age 29 my blood pressure was so out of control (despite being on multiple medications at ridiculously high doses) that I was having bleeds into the scleras of both eyes- where the whites of my eyes would suddenly become blood red.  I also had two incidences of phlebitis in my right leg that were associated  with my uncontrolled blood pressure.  I had severe and constant sinus infections and bronchitis from chain smoking.

sclera bleed

Gross, but this was happening to my eyes pretty regularly from out of control blood pressure.

My health got to a point where at age 30 my family doctor warned me: Change your lifestyle and your outlook and most importantly, your job, or you won’t live to see age 35.

That warning was the tipping point.  I was killing myself- physically, emotionally and spiritually- over what?

By the grace of God He brought me to a realization of what I was doing to myself and to those around me.  I found a different job where it wasn’t necessary for me to be there so many hours, and where I didn’t have the stress of managing employees and dealing with customers face to face all day long.  I suddenly had the time to stop and examine what was really important, and God dealt with me over it.  I knew that after seven years of pig pen living I needed to run back to the Father’s house, including getting back to involvement a Christian community.

Slowly and eventually God brought me to my church.  He led me to become free of a long standing addiction to cigarettes.  He got me to the point where I wasn’t so obsessed with work. My health improved, but more importantly my focus changed.

It’s not about my personal status or my personal ability to provide for myself.  It’s not about me at all.  Sola Dei Gloria.  She with the most toys doesn’t necessarily win, and acquiring toys that I can’t take with me is pretty much pointless anyway.

I still have issues with scarcity mentality.  Sometimes I get so worried and afraid about what I can’t do, instead of trusting God.  Unbelief is a sin.  God help my unbelief.

Love God, love other people, and love myself.  It sounds easy in theory, but in practice I can only do these things by the grace of God.

love of god





Colossians 3:6-7 Lead Me Not Into Temptation

15 03 2013

divine comedy inferno

“On account of these the wrath of God is coming on those who are disobedient.  These are the ways you also once followed, when you were living that life.” Colossians 3:6-7 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What moral issues that tempted you once has Christ helped you overcome?  Have you thanked Him for these victories?

I do believe in a literal hell.  Some Christians, and even many Lutherans, do not, but I do.  Jesus talked about hell more than anyone else in the Bible, so as far as I’m concerned, there’s your sign– hell is real.  The good news is that hell doesn’t have to be the end of the story.

As a child the very real possibility of eternity in hell scared the holy bejeebers out of me.  As I was raised by a very staunchly Catholic mother, I knew a lot more about hell than my non-Catholic friends.  Catholicism does not teach the assurance of salvation.  A Catholic is considered to be presumptious if he or she claims to be saved- so you’re always wondering where you’re going to end up if you drop dead all the sudden.  The issue I have with not knowing if I’m saved or not is both Jesus and the apostle Paul teach that salvation is all due to the grace of God- not on what I do or don’t do but on what Jesus has done for me.  He took my place- and my punishment.  Because of the grace of God I become a part of His Kingdom forever- today as well as for the rest of eternity.

jesus

The big problem with overemphasizing the reality of hell is that it minimizes the reality of the grace of God.  I learned much about penance and mortal and venial sins as a child, and much about the omnipresence and the wrath of God, but not a whole lot about grace.   Fear is a great short-term motivator, but it’s not so hot in the long term.   Worse yet, attempting to hold someone’s salvation contingent upon anything other the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross is false.  We can’t “earn ourselves saved,” no matter how many good works we do.

busy ants

“We have all become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous deeds are like a filthy cloth.  We all fade like a leaf,and our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.” Isaiah 64:6 (NRSV) 

Nothing we do is ever going to be good enough to earn ourselves saved.

busy

Busy doesn’t earn you brownie points in God’s economy.

Some would argue that, “Well since you’re saved anyway, why don’t you just do what you want?”

The problem with that is, a person who belongs to Christ is going to be transformed by Christ- one way or the other.  The easy way or the hard way.  Take it from me, cynical, stubborn and obstinate fool that I can be- the hard way is not fun.

The Bible teacher J. Vernon McGee (well known for his Thru the Bible five year verse by verse study that is still available on the radio and online every day) puts it like this: “You can take a trip to the pig pen, but you won’t be comfortable there.  A son belongs in the father’s house.”

I understand pig pen sojourns very well.

in-the-pig-pen

The good news is that God loves His own too much to let them stay in the pig pen.

I picked up some not-so-nice habits during my sojourns.  I’m not going to come out and say anything ridiculous such as, “a Christian can’t smoke,” because what a person does is between his/her conscience and God.  There is no “Thou Shalt Not Smoke” among the Ten Commandments, but I was a hard core chain smoker for many years- two packs a day of 120 menthols, down to the filters.  Smoking was something that I put above just about everything.  I planned my day and activities around when I could have a smoke.  Smoking was also contributing to some of my preexisting health conditions as well as costing me money, turning my teeth yellow and stinking up my car and my clothes.  By the grace of God He set me free of smoking over 10 years ago.  I am so very thankful for that freedom, because cigarettes were a huge bondage and source of frustration for me.  When I think about it now it’s hard to imagine that at one time I couldn’t even go to bed without having a pack and a lighter within reach if I would wake up in the night.

I have to rely on the Lord to keep me from the temptation of lust and to keep me living in chastity.  That’s been a very difficult road, because I have had deep issues with lust and the trouble it can get one into in the past.  It’s not that there is anything inherently wrong with sex.  It is a sacred and beautiful thing between husband and wife, and it is a gift God meant for us to enjoy, in the proper context.  Unfortunately, my husband has ED, and no interest in doing anything to correct it, so relations are not possible for him.  So whether I like it or not, I have to live a celibate life. The only way I have any chance of staying free of temptation is in God’s strength.  I must repent daily- and ask Him for daily strength to overcome it.

If I repent (turn away from,) sin, God will provide the means for me to overcome it.  I am thankful for being set free of an overwhelming addiction to cigarettes, and for the day by day ability to come to terms with the celibate life and to have peace and joy in the midst of it. I know that I can only get along by the grace of God.





Colossians 3:5 My Will vs. Thy Will- Get Rid of What is Not of God

14 03 2013

Hieronymus_Bosch_Seven_Deadly_Sins

“Put to death, therefore, whatever in you is earthly: fornication, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed (which is idolatry).” Colossians 3:5 (NRSV)

Today’s question:

What worldly passions do you struggle with the most? What needs to happen for you to have a victory over those passions?

“Sin” isn’t a very politically correct word.  Heaven forbid that we tell ourselves that something we’re doing is bad or wrong- or only that it’s bad or wrong because it’s out of context or to excess.  Criticism might hurt our little self-esteem.  Unfortunately there are times the word “sin” is exactly the word we need to hear, and we need to take the admonition of Scripture when it comes to correcting our behavior, even when it’s not politically correct or “nice” to point out the ways in which our behavior falls short of the glory of God.

The apostle Paul didn’t exactly come up with the same Seven Deadly Sins we know today.  But as a fan of Dante’s Divine Comedy, I see the Seven Deadly Sins as being helpful in understanding human nature, and the nature of sin, and for examining my own sin.

The most comprehensive list of noteworthy sins that the Apostle Paul enumerated can be found in Galatians 5:19-21: Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness,  idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy,drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (NRSV)”    The Apostle Paul wasn’t one to either be politically correct, or to mince words.

seven deadly sins

The current Seven Deadly Sins list actually goes back to Pope Gregory I, who was working from an earlier list of sins – “Eight Evil Thoughts,” written by Evagrius Ponticus back in the 4th century.

While the specifics of fleshly lusts to avoid are different in both the Colossians and the Galatians text, and the Apostle Paul does not specifically mention pride, he does mention idolatry, which is a form of pride.

Pride is the root of all sin, and it was the heart of the original sin of the Garden.  The serpent promised Eve that she would be as God.  That desire to take the place of God, is the definition of pride, and is idolatry. At the center of the heart of human sin is one primal and fatal desire that says: “I want my will, even when it is contrary to God’s will.  I want to be in the place of God.”

I’m guilty of idolatry when I put anything I want, anyone, or anything above God.  I’m guilty of the sin of pride when I assume my way of doing things is the best way.  I’m guilty of the sin of pride when I think that somehow I am above judgment when I indulge my lusts even when I know that what I want is wrong.

beanie babies

No, I am not into Beanie Babies, but I can’t think of any logical or sane reason to have this many of them.

I may not have 1000 Beanie Babies cluttering up my shelves, but I am guilty of the sin of greed when I stock up on things I may not really need because I am afraid of running out, or that I might miss out on something “everyone else” already has.  I know full well nobody on earth needs 50+ pairs of shoes- but I have them nonetheless.  Having too much stuff is a problem for me.  It comes from growing up poor and always being worried about not having enough food or appropriate clothing or other essential needs, but what makes the acquisition and stockpiling of stuff wrong is that it demonstrates my lack of faith in God’s provision.  Jesus said He would provide for my needs and I shouldn’t be obsessed with the overwhelming need for anything.

(Jesus said:) “Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things.But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:31-33 (NRSV)”

at The Sixth Annual Chrysalis Butterfly Ball. The Home of Susan Harris and Hayward Kaiser, Mandeville Canyon, CA. 06-02-07

Didya think I would show a pic of a chick when I’m talking about lust?

I am guilty of the sin of lust when I am consumed with desire for something- or someone. (No, I don’t lust after Charlie Sheen- any more!)  Lust is not as huge of a problem as it was for me at one time, and I’m very thankful for that.  As someone who was married and lived many years involuntarily celibate before my husband died, lust has been a huge temptation.  It is only by the grace of God that He has kept me from making unwise choices that might seem exciting and fun at the time, but that I know I would regret later.  I’ve been down that path in the past, and it leads to nothing but guilt and shame.  By the grace of God, I don’t want to go there ever again.

In all seriousness, I’m a work in progress.  I know I need to go through my stuff and get rid of those things I really don’t need.  I have issues with the acquisition of stuff and I am bound up in the tyranny of stuff.  I need to get rid of a lot of stuff. I don’t need to stock up on every single item that goes on sale even when I have the means to do so. I struggle with scarcity mentality every day and it’s difficult for me to trust God for daily bread instead of wanting to stockpile for months and years to come. When I’m struggling to pay for scripts and bills it’s really hard to trust that God will provide even though I know He does, and He will.





Vanity and Knowledge vs. Innocence and Humility

13 03 2013

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“I, the Teacher,when king over Israel in Jerusalem, applied my mind to seek and to search out by wisdom all that is done under heaven; it is an unhappy business that God has given to human beings to be busy with. I saw all the deeds that are done under the sun; and see, all is vanity and a chasing after wind.

 What is crooked cannot be made straight,  and what is lacking cannot be counted.

I said to myself, ‘I have acquired great wisdom, surpassing all who were over Jerusalem before me; and my mind has had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.’ And I applied my mind to know wisdom and to know madness and folly. I perceived that this also is but a chasing after wind.

For in much wisdom is much vexation, and those who increase knowledge increase sorrow.” Ecclesiastes 1:12-18 (NRSV)

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“He (Jesus) called a child, whom he put among them,  and said, ‘Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.’ Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 18:2-4 (NRSV)

Ecclesiastes is one of my favorite books of the Bible.  At first it seems rather depressing and despondent, but I can see and feel where Solomon’s coming from.  When I was growing up my family always had high standards, and the pursuit of education was especially prized.  Failure and mediocrity were not tolerated.
Because I had unusual gifts, my parents placed higher expectations on me (at least academically) than on my older sisters.  I didn’t always appreciate the dog-and-pony show that accompanied my precocious reading ability- “Oh, show Mrs. so-and-so how well you read the dictionary!,” got old very quickly.   I got tired of hearing how I should help my sisters (the same ones who would beat me up and take my stuff the minute there were no adults around) with their homework because they struggled with spelling and writing.
I got noblesse oblige and self denial pounded into my head as a child, and I didn’t like it.  I felt as if I were expected to show up on stage 24/7, give what I didn’t have, and then give some more.  I did, too, partially out of fear of my parents’ wrath, and partially out of the fear of hellfire, because not fully utilizing one’s gifts was a Grave Sin.  I kept up that impossible pace until my early 30’s when my physical health crashed.  Me- the unwilling, doing the impossible for the ungrateful.
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This is how “normal” kids see the world.
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This is how I saw the world when I was a kid.
Nobody understood how completely terrified I was of virtually everything- especially of being deemed inadequate and unworthy.  I spent my entire childhood being the geeky little nearsighted poor kid with the bad clothes who everyone used as a punching bag.  I was bound determined not to spend my adult life being the rest of the world’s doormat and sick joke.  But behind my carefully cultivated professional façade of impenetrability and capability, the little geeky kid was looking around the corner for the next beating. Nobody understood that my mind is always going a million miles an hour and that it drains every ounce of energy I have when I am around people- just to filter out the noise around me.  I don’t read body language well at all, and what comes naturally and subconsciously for most people is an acquired and conscious skill for me.  I can interpret and (usually) send the proper non-verbal signals when I interact with other people, but it is an energy draining and somewhat “artificial” process.
I have, and can acquire the necessary technical knowledge I need to function, but I am a poor navigator when it comes to relationships and the complexities of dealing with other people.
IgnoranceIsBliss
I don’t know what “normal” is.  I know that I’m not normal and most of the rest of the world is. One thing that I wish that people would understand about “abnormal” people like me is that usually when a person is given an exemplary gift in one area, that person is likely to have a profound deficit in another.  I am more than aware of my deficits, and they are limiting and severe.  I may know a lot of things, yes, but in my knowledge I know all too well just how inadequate and unworthy I am.
Some of the happiest people in the world are small children and those with cognitive deficiencies, which is telling. They haven’t been burnt enough by the world and the malice of others to become cynical and jaded and wary.  Ignorance may just be bliss in certain circumstances.
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The quest for the knowledge of good and evil led humanity to the first sin: wanting to be as God. (see Genesis 3)  The problem with that is that humanity, while made in the image of God, is not God.  We are finite and limited both in our physical presence and in the knowledge we my attain.

“Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, ‘He catches the wise in their craftiness,’ and again, ‘The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise, that they are futile.'” 1 Corinthians 3:18-20 (NRSV)

I can’t help but to think of all my atheist and agnostic friends who say things to me such as, “Don’t you know anything about science?  Why do you believe creation stories that involve some guy in the sky and a chick and a dude and a snake?”

God, I trust.  The Bible, I trust.  Science is valuable but…the only problem I have with putting faith in science is that our knowledge is limited and fallible.  Science does not have all the answers, and sometimes what is taken as scientific fact today is disproven tomorrow.

One has to have a lot of faith to believe that something arose from nothing for no reason at all.  I don’t see how creation was possible without some sort of sentient Force or Designer behind it.  For me it is far less a leap of faith to believe in a Creator God than in random chance.

Faith is a gift of God. It is purely of God to be able to surrender to Jesus and follow Him, especially when the rest of the world thinks you’re touched in the head for doing so.