Saturday, March 31, 2012

Crushed with Blessing

O give thanks to the Lord; call upon His name;
make known His deeds among the peoples!
Sing to Him, sing praises to Him;
tell of all His wondrous works!

Glory in His holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice!
Seek the Lord and His strength;
seek His presence continually!
Remember the wondrous works that He has done,
His miracles, and the judgments He uttered,
O offspring of Abraham, His servant,
children of Jacob, His chosen ones!
Psalm 105:1-6

Do you ever feel just crushed with blessing?  I don't even know what to do with myself.  God has been so good to me.  We bought a Grand Cherokee yesterday for me.  T won't take it for himself.

I have been perfectly content in my Caravan, and I would have been content to drive it into the ground.  

I will remember all Your wondrous works and Your loving care for me, Lord.  You give me what I don't even need, and I praise You.

This, on top of giving R the help he's needed, rescuing L from the dangerous path she was on, allowing T's job to continue to be steady.  And our marriage is solid.  

We found out the other day that one of our oldest couple friends is getting divorced.  Breaks our hearts.  Makes me (and I'm assuming T too) remember the stormy seas and arid deserts our marriage has come through, and it breaks our hearts, because we know, we know, it is worth it to hang on during those tough times.  God has blessed us beyond what my feeble mind can even comprehend.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and all that is within me,
bless His holy name!
Bless the Lord, O my soul,
and forget not all His benefits, 
who forgives all your iniquity, 
who heals all your diseases,
who redeems your life from the pit,
who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy
who satisfies you with good
so that your youth is renewed life the eagle's.
Psalm 103:1-5

Oh, oh, oh.  Read my Happy Moments blog if you want to know the wonderful thing God did today.  How is it I get afraid and doubt Him?  My heart twists with fear and imagines the worst.  I pray, but I also question how, how even He could remedy the situation.  But He is so much greater than my feeble imagination can even begin to conjure.  He always has all the answers.  When will I learn to relax in His good care?

My consternation motivates me to pray, to entreat Him desperately though.  That is a good thing. 

God rescued L from danger today, danger she wouldn't believe and T and I didn't like to believe.  Experience told us otherwise though, so we were afraid.  Sadly, it appears we were right.  

My joy is tempered by sadness for the boy though.  I will pray for him, that God would get hold of his heart and create in him a desire for God.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Feast on the Bread of Life

 Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but My Father gives you the true bread form heaven.  For the bread of God is He who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.  They said to Him, "Sir, give us this bread always."  

Jesus said to them, "I am the bread of life; whoever comes to Me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in Me shall never thirst.  But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. 


I am the bread that came down from heaven. 

I am the bread of life.  Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.  This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.  I am the living bread that came down form heaven.  If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever.  And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is My flesh.


Truly, truly I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.  Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For My flesh is true food, and My blood is true drink.  Whoever feeds on My flesh and drinks My blood abides in Me, and I in him.  As the living Father sent Me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on Me, he also will live because of Me.  This is the bread that came down from heaven, not as the fathers ate and died.  Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.


John 6

And this is the judgment: the light has come into the world, and people loved the darkness rather than the light because their deeds were evil.  John 3:19

Abide in Me, and I in you.  John 15:4



Why do I resist abiding in Him?  Is it purely forgetfulness?  Sometimes, but sometimes isn't it something more?  As Jan says, do I love the darkness?  Sometimes. I have to admit what I would never display to the world around me: sometimes I do love the darkness.  The recesses of my heart sometimes nurse evil thoughts that I am not always willing to forsake.  And in those moments, I am not abiding in Him, and I am not feeding on the bread of life, on Him. 

Am I ready to forsake the evil in my heart?  I feel like a character in a Bible story:  Saul chooses to pursue David, David takes Bathsheba, David kills Uriah, the rich young ruler chooses his wealth over Jesus, the Israelites build the golden calf, Peter denies Jesus.  Whenever I read these my heart screams, "You big dummies!!!  Do the right thing!!!"

But here I am.  I am at a crossroads.  Which am I going to choose?  Do I want to feast on the bread of life, to abide in Him?

Nothing should be more real to me than Christ in me.  I get that.  I understand it.  But times come in the day when I am not willing to live it and I turn back to my fleshly nature.  I love the darkness more than the light, and I turn back.

O Lord, help me to not turn back.  Teach me to feast on the bread of life all day every day, to abide in You continually.  You are my life, my reality: You in me and I in You.  Nothing should be more real to me than that.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Self-deception

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil.   John 3:19

See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in Him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, and you have been filled in Him, who is the head of all rule and authority.  In Him also you were circumcised with a circumcision make without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, having been buried with Him in baptism, in which you  were also raised with Him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised Him from the dead.   Colossians 2:8-12

Jan's teaching today in CBS was awesome to the point of being scary.  I feel like I have so much to say that I only barely grasp, this post may be a little incoherent.  I'm going to give it the old college try in the few minutes I have tonight though because it will help me gather my own thoughts.  Mostly I think I'll write out my scribbles from this morning's lecture. 

Jan started out by talking about how Paul was not content just to see that the Colossians were saved.  He wanted them to be solid and mature in their faith, and involves eradicating self-deception in their faith.

Here in America we tend to get saved, and then immediately become distracted with church-y arguments, theological debates about non-essentials, such as when the rapture will occur, or how to do communion or the best Bible translations.  This, rather than experiencing a crucifixion of our heart, a circumcision of our heart.  Without this crucifixion we fall into self-deception.  Who is winning the battle for our heart?  Is it the old man or the new man?  Is it the Gospel or religion?  Many self-deceptions are couched in God-words and Jesus-sentiment that take our minds off God-truth.

[A little aside here:  she began the whole lecture by saying that as a teenager she appeared to be Godly and righteous.  She had stellar grades, was involved in church and spoke often at Girl Scout gatherings.  She appeared to be what every mother wants her child to be.  But this outward appearance masked an inward rebellion against God.  Specifically, she was in love with a "bad boy" from the other side of town, and she had reformulated Christianity in her own mind such that this boy and her love for this boy were all good in God's sight.  She was steeped in self-deception.  So relevant to the discussion below, but it also gave my heart hope that my silly L, so in love with her "bad boy," could also turn around and be as solid in her walk with the Lord as Jan is!]

We have been made complete in Christ.  We have access to God's fullness now.  Jesus is the Head, and He has rule and authority over us.  The Gospel is Christ in us, with His rule and authority over our lives.  Are we experiencing that Gospel?  The Gospel of Christ's in us with His rule and authority?  Or are we going the way of sappy religiosity (my words, not Jan's) and self-deception?

The Gospel becomes a reality through death: death of the old nature.  And that death is like the removal of the foreskin in circumcision, but this is a spiritual circumcision, a circumcision of the heart.  Physical circumcision is an illustration of the removal of what is unnecessary.  Another illustration of the death of the old man is baptism: down into the death of the old life, and up into new life in Christ.

God obliterated the charges against the old man by obliterating the old man altogether.  We are a new creation.  Rebirth.  New life.  His life in us.

The death of the old man should take with it the deceptions of Satan, but we love our darkness!  We love those deceptions!  Our opinions!  In the darkness we do not have to die!  We can hold on to our opinions, our control.  In the end, it's all about holding onto that control, our control over ourselves rather than giving control and authority over to Him.

I hope I'm not being too cryptic here even to understand.  I have literally been typing out my notes from lecture.  Jan then talked about how all the rituals in the Old Testament were a shadow of what was to come.  For example -- just one example -- the Sabbath in which one day per week is set aside for rest.  This is a shadow of what we have now, which is continual rest in Jesus!  Her point was, why hold on to the shadow now that we have the substance!??  Jesus has come, and He is our substance.  We have Him, so we no longer need those things that remind us of the possibility of Him.  We have the fullness of Him!  We no longer need the shadow!

So what fights deception?  Knowing the substance!  She said there are so many ways to fall into deception, but they all come from the same source:  not knowing the substance, not knowing Jesus, not living in Him fully.

This world is not our home; it is not our reality.  Our reality is in Christ.  Here we are only vessels for the King to live in and through us for a time, but our ultimate reality is in Christ.

How easily we deceive ourselves.  It is always a control issue; always, "I want to live and not to die."  There is a fear of submitting wholly to Him.  But if we are not in Him and submitted to His authority, we are adrift in a sea of self-deception.  How willing are we to die to self?

I love that: If we are not in Him and submitted to His authority, we are adrift in a sea of self-deception.

And it goes along so beautifully with what she said last week that struck me: There should be nothing more real to me than the reality of Christ in me.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Circumcise Your Heart

And now, Israel, what does the Lord your God require of you, but to fear the Lord your God, to walk in all His ways, to love Him, to serve the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, and to keep the commandments and statures of the Lord, which I am commanding you today for your good?  Behold, to the Lord your God belong heaven and the heaven of heavens, the earth with all that is in it.  Yet the Lord set His heart in love on your fathers and chose their offspring after them, you above all peoples, as you are this day.  Circumcise therefore the foreskin of your heart, and be no longer stubborn.  For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great, the mighty and the awesome God, who is not partial and takes no bribe.  Deuteronomy 10:12-17
 I was struck by this passage as I did my CBS Bible study today.  We read it for the purpose of comparing it to Genesis 17:1-14, where God makes a covenant with Abram, changes his name to Abraham, and commands him to circumcise himself and all the people. The question wanted us to notice how in the Genesis passage the circumcision was a sign of the covenant, but in Deuteronomy (and in Jeremiah 4:3-4) God refers to a circumcision of the heart.  It is heart worship that He is looking for.

I loved our CBS teaching last week, and this passage reminded me of one thing our teaching leader, Jan, said: "There should be nothing more real to me than the reality of Christ in me."  That has stuck with me all week, and I think that is what God means when He says to circumcise the foreskin of our hearts, that nothing is more real to me, nothing more important, than Christ in me.

I may have mentioned before that Jan has a way of turning standard Christian thought and verbiage on its head, pointing out how it isn't really true at all.  I love that about her.   One thing she said last week was that God does not clean up our sin.  The Christian life is not about putting away our sin, our old sin nature.  That is Old Testament thinking.  He never intended to fix us up to make us presentable to Himself.  He always intended that the old man be done away with completely, that the old man be crucified and that we live a new life in Christ.

It was never our evil deeds that separated us from God as much as our evil nature that caused us to do those evil deeds.  Jesus' death was not as much about wiping the bad deeds away as much as calling us into His crucifixion with Him.  He doesn't fix us up; He calls us into His death and resurrection.  We live through Him because we live in Him and we walk in Him, moment by moment.

We are Christ's body; as Jesus was God's communication to us, now we are God's communication to mankind.  We are God's letter.  In line with this, Jan has talked before about how we are the church as we walk in His light, as we walk in Him, in the new life He gives us.  The church is certainly not a building, but it is also not simply a collection of people who come together on Sunday and put on VBS's and have potluck dinners.  We are the church as we walk in Christ, not as we gather to sing hymns and teach Sunday school.

I wonder if all this is what God means by circumcising the foreskin of our hearts.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Feed the Beast!

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.  And no creature is hidden from His sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account.   Hebrews 4:12-13

L is so in love, and I am so afraid for her.  I am so afraid I can hardly even pray.  I find myself just praying, Oh Lord, help her, O please help her, help her help her.  I'm so afraid for her.  I'm afraid, I'm afraid, I'm afraid.

She is the only one of our children who apparently is not embracing our ideas about dating being serious business, business that really should be avoided until one is ready to think about marriage.  She has received a little attention from a boy she likes, and she is pursuing him.  Tears have been flowing in torrents around here.  Accusations are flying.  It's been terrible.  And I don't know what to do for her.

What is most galling is that I am supposed to be a willing participant in this pursuit.  That's what she's asking me to do.  Suddenly she's obsessed with spending time at this girlfriend's house (whose brother she is in love with), and I'm supposed to do all the driving to get her there.  No matter what day, what hour, or what else needs to be done, I am supposed to cooperate fully in getting her to M's house.

And there is no talking rationally to her.  She immediately gets mad and says, "I'm not stupid, Mom!" as soon as I broach the topic of wisdom in this area.  "I have a good head on my shoulders!"  And yet she is proving herself stupid by pursuing him!  No rational thought interferes with the free reign of emotion in her world.  But she's not stupid!

I am creating rebellion in her by trying to squelch this though.  I think I have to let her go make mistakes.  It's not like she's on the verge of immorality; it's only a flirty little friendship at this point.  But how do you stop a train once it's rolling?  Better not to let the train roll at all, but I don't think I have that option right now.

Thankfully, I don't think she likes discord with me any more than I like it with her.  So after last night's storms I am hopeful she'll want to talk and find peace with each other today.  After a night of fitful praying on my part, I think Hebrews 4 contains the wisdom I need to convey to her.  If she is going to pursue, maybe I can strike a deal with her that somehow she is at least feeding herself the Word every day.  The Word has power, where I obviously do not.  And, as v. 13 points out, the nakedness of her soul is not hidden from God.  He knows her, knows her motives, and knows how to speak to her.

And also, I think God's wisdom in this is that His love for her is the antidote for her wanting a boy's attention.  If she could know and believe His love for her, that would go a long way toward loosening the grip any boy will have on her heart, especially before the right time.  I can talk wisdom until I'm blue in the face, but the beast needs to be fed if it's going to keep quiet.  God's love will feed that beast better than any boy.

Oh Father.  You are love.  And You do come to me.  I praise You that You are always near and You are full of wisdom.  You help me in my time of need.  Thank You.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Salt of the Earth

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored?  It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people's feet.

You are the light of the world.  A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.  Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.  Matthew 5:7-8, 13-16

Was I very merciful the other day with my daughter's old whopper-telling friend?  (See Happy Moments for the full low-down on my nastiness.)  Even with her entire family?  Hmmm. 

But God has called me to be the salt of the earth.  The light of the world.  A city on a hill to represent Him.  He has called me to see her with the compassion that He feels when He sees her.  It doesn't take a Ph.D. to see that she's hungry for attention and approbation.  Sadness in some form, whether it's loneliness or insecurity or something else, propels the lies.  My role is love and compassion and good attention.  God will heal her of the sin.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Be gone, Satan!

And the tempter came and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread."  But He answered, "It is written,  'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'"

Then Jesus said to him, "Be gone, Satan!  For it is written, 'You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.'"  Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and were ministering to Him.    Matthew 4:3-4, 10-11

I would have rationalized.  I would have said, Well, I am hungry, and eventually I do have to eat.  After all, the verse says man shall not live on bread alone, not that man shall not eat bread at all.  And I do need to eat, so why not take care of matters now?  Very expedient of me.

But Jesus said, "Be gone, Satan!"  And the devil left Him, and angels came and ministered to Him instead.  Through the angels, God gave Him what He needed.  Way better than taking it for Himself through the ploys of Satan.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Love Letter

Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving.  Colossians 2:6-7
This verse came up in our Bible study last week.  The discussion was about the surprise that Paul would say this in admonishment to new believers to be firm in their faith.  Walk in Him just as you received Him, freely.  Freely.  Wow.

I know as a new believer I wanted rules.  The ends of the epistles were my favorite parts because they gave me clear instructions.  Do this.  Do not do this.  The grander, more spiritual aspects of who God is and who Jesus is were difficult to understand, but I understood Be kind, Be patient, Bear with one another, Read the Word. But Paul is telling the Colossians just to walk in Him freely.  Be established in the faith, be rooted and built up in Him, abound in thanksgiving, and walk freely.

It makes me wonder if somehow spiritually we short circuit our ability to walk as a new creation when we try to exercise fleshly control over our actions in order to clean up the old man, if somehow that prevents the glory of the new man from shining forth.

For example, yesterday I ate appropriately until, as usual, about 5:00.  Then I got a Frosty and a Diet Coke from Wendy's and I came home to an empty house.  No one would be home for dinner until R was home from baseball, and he was the only one to really cook for, so I was sort of at loose ends.  There was plenty of work to do, but I wasn't sure I wanted to start a new project.  (In fact, I was sure I didn't want to start a new project.)  What to do?  Nibble.  Still at loose ends, so nibble some more.  You get the idea.

So am I going to fix this bad habit of mine by imposing rules on myself?  I haven't been very successful at that so far.  Or, and this is a radical new idea, maybe it will take care of itself if I forget about it and focus instead on abiding in Christ.  Just live in the new man.  Walk with Him, breathe with Him, speak with Him, listen to Him.  And when I fall away, like last night and my little food fest, come right back.  That's all.  Forget what I ate or didn't eat -- just jump right back into sweet fellowship with Him.  Because I suspect He doesn't care what I weigh, only that I've broken fellowship.  Maybe that's what Paul is telling the Colossians.

On a different note, T said something today that made me sad.  I don't talk to T about my blogs because he's called them stupid in the past.  (Actually, he has called it stupid.  He doesn't know I have two blogs now.)  And I've been careful to only write in them when he's not around for the same reason.  But this morning I was feeling a little behind, so I kept typing even after he came downstairs.  I knew the clickity-clack of the keys was annoying to him because he was trying to read at the same table.  He didn't say anything about me stopping, but he did insist on knowing what I was doing (although he knew).

Later he referred to my blogging as writing love letters to myself.   =(   Maybe it is.

                                   

                             

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Abide

I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser.  Every branch of Mine that does not bear fruit He takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit.  Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you.  Abide in Me, and I in you.  As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me.  I am the vine; you are the branches.  Whoever abides in Me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 

By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be My disciples.  As the Father has loved Me, so have I loved you.  Abide in My love.  If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love.   John 15:1-5, 8-10


I posted last night what impressed me in Jan's talk about experiencing Jesus, that the purpose of the Word is to communicate Jesus, and the purpose of Jesus is to communicate the Father's love.  The Word should never be revered for itself, and if we're reading it without allowing it to penetrate our hearts and give us the full benefit of the experience of Jesus Himself, we are completely missing the point.  The Word is holy only because it communicates Jesus, and He is holy.  Am I right? 

But you know, I have to admit that blogging every day about a new passage of Scripture is pushing me a bit.  I drove R to school this morning with Small Dog on my mind, feeling a little bit of unwelcome  pressure.  I'm not used to having significant encounters with God every day, and I felt a bit resistant to it.  As I thought about why, I realized it was because I felt like it was up to me to read the Word until something penetrated my thick heart.  Somehow it was up to me to make something good lodge in my think skull.

As I thought about that this morning, it dawned on me that I had it backward.  I meet with God everyday so He can speak to me.  As I've been committed to this daily post project, God has been so faithful to speak to me, no matter how few minutes I have.  That is what has struck me.  As I've encountered difficulties with L and her schoolwork, or R and his ADD, every day God has been so kind and faithful to lead me to exactly the passage that will soothe the rough seas in my heart, reminding me of His perspective, His protection, His sovereignty, His love.  I haven't opened my Bible to go rummage up the verses I knew I wanted to hear that day.  He has brought them to me.  I'm telling you, I don't know if I can recommend this as a plan, but on many days I've simply opened the Word and BAM, there is the passage right in front of my eyes that speaks to the very moment.  That is God speaking to me, not me looking through the Word for the passage that tells me what I want to hear in order to validate my own fat self.

Jan said yesterday, "You can't walk in yesterday's light."  Experience Jesus always.  I was going to say "daily," but it's more than daily.  Experience Jesus constantly.  Abide in Him.

This notion of abiding in Christ has been a stumbling block for me in the past.  I have wanted Him, wanted to experience Him more fully, that abiding.  I have wanted it desperately, and it seemed to elude me.  I felt like it eluded me.  I eventually gave up on it altogether and told myself that the fuller, maybe more emotional experience of Jesus is not something He has granted to everyone.  I will be content to wait until I am with Him in heaven, and until then I will not complain.  I will just do my best to obey Him.

But maybe I was looking in the wrong place for Him.  Without admitting it even to myself, maybe the emotional experience is all I was looking for.  That's the place that feels closed off.

Well, I can't explain all that -- that falls into the category of "things too difficult for me" (Psalm 131:1).  But I do know that this commitment to blog every day -- which, by the way, has begun to border on the obsessive-compulsive! -- has brought me closer to abiding in Him than I have been before.  I have at various times been committed to reading the Word every day.  But blogging requires having something to say about what I've read.  It requires more than just reading -- it requires a daily encounter with God.  And I think what I am discovering in doing this is that my intimacy with Him is limited only by my willingness, not His.

So today, and again I cannot recommend this as a regular plan, but today I flipped open my Bible and BAM, there is John 14 and 15.  Is that or is that not completely relevant to what struck my heart about Jan's talk yesterday?  Abide in Me.  Experience Me.

O Lord, I tell You I want to abide in You.  I don't want to read about You but remain ignorant and obtuse and childish about spiritual realities.  I want to know You because I walk and talk with You every day, not because I've spent many years reading and talking about You.  Make me sensitive to Your Spirit. 

I love You, Lord.  Teach me to love You better!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Experience Jesus

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.  For by Him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities -- all things were created through Him and for Him.  And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.  And He is the head fo the body, the church.  He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent.  For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross.  Colossians 1:15-20

I love Jan Henderson, our CBS teaching leader.  She has the most amazing mind and the most amazing walk with Christ of anyone I've ever known.  She has a way of taking what I know about Christianity and turning it on its head, and I love that about her.

So today she spoke on Colossians1:15-2:7.  I won't be able to do justice to everything she said, but I'll try to highlight a few points she made that especially struck me.

She began by saying that many people's interest in Christianity wanes when they realize that Christianity is really all about JESUS, not about themselves.  It's all about Him, not about what He does for us or what we get from the bargain.  What we get from the bargain is significant!  But we are not the point.  He is the point.

But she went on to talk about how hard it is to communicate spiritual realities with clumsy words.  But it is not about the Word, or words.  It is only about Jesus.  Jesus is God's communication to us, and the purpose of the Word is that we know Him, not that we know the Word.  In knowing Jesus we experience the fullness of God.  Learning things about Jesus is useless without knowing Jesus Himself.  Do not be so in love with the Word that you miss knowing Jesus, she warned.

She related her experience in Costa Rica just last week.  Apparently she had painful encounters with no fewer than three scorpions, one on her face!  That 5-inch sucker had sneaked its way between her pillow and pillowcase, and made its presence known when she rolled over!  Jan pointed out that no reading about scorpions could compare with the firsthand knowledge she now possessed about them.  =)  And it's the same with Jesus.  No reading about Him can compare with knowing Him, with experiencing Him firsthand.  Words cannot adequately convey spiritual realities.

I'm pooped.  Time for bed.  I am not even sure this thought was complete or coherent, but I wanted to get it down before the night is over.  This discipline of blogging about one verse a day has been a real blessing to me.  Through it God has spoken to me in ways I could never have imagined or expected.

See you tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Weak Things of the Earth

For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth.  But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God.     1Corinthians 26-29

Tomorrow is my CBS Bible study, and true to form, I did the entire weekly lesson this morning.  None of this little bit every day business for me!  Way too sensible.

The lesson always begins with a commentary, and today's commentary was on Colossians 1:1-14.  They began by talking about the word "saint" as it is used in the New Testament.  I must say that that was the most encouraging part of the entire lesson.  It has stuck with me all morning.

Here's a quote:
Character of a Saint (Colossians 1:2)  The phrase "holy man" may bring to mind the image of a man with long hair, sitting in a lotus position in a cave, and saying wise things to pilgrims who come seeking "truth."  But the Bible gives a very different picture.

The Greek word translated holy in the NIV is word also used for saint.  It is hagios and is used 279 times to describe ordinary people in the New Testament.  In classical Greek, hagios indicated a person who caused awe, amazement, respect.  In the adjectival form, it means clean.  In the Greek religion, it was used of the most beautiful and sacred items in a temple -- things not accessible for public use, reserved for the use of the gods.

Therefore, when Paul calls the Colossians holy or saints, he is calling them vessels cleaned and set apart for God's pleasure and personal use. So holy means clean and set apart and faithful means adhering firmly and devotedly to a person or a cause -- in this instance, Christ.
Somehow this just rocked my world this morning.  The idea that I am in God's eyes I am clean and set apart for His personal pleasure and personal use.  That's the part that got me.  It really makes me want to live up to the reality.  Sort of backward, isn't it?  It's already true, but it's also true that I have the opportunity to live up to the reality moment by moment.

Knowing that I am set apart for God's pleasure fills me with joy at the thought of pleasing Him.  Crazy!

But it also makes me laugh that I am so one of the weak and foolish things of the earth.  On earth, in this world, I am absolutely a nobody.  I have all the makings of nothing.  I am not especially pretty, my personality is flatlined, I am overweight, I am smart but way too timid to do anything with it.  And God, in His wisdom, has chosen the weak and foolish to shame the wise and strong.  That would definitely be me.  A pleasant, non-threatening nobody.  And God has set me apart for His personal use and pleasure.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Colossians 1

May you be strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, for all endurance and patience with joy, giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.  He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.          Colossians 1:11:14

I woke up this morning in an un-good mood.  Not foul, just depressed and inclined to see the dark, hopeless side of life.  I mourned the absence of D, pondered the meaning of his growing up, that we have become obsolete to him now.  I wondered if he would ever have need of us again or if we are now and forever only a burden, a source of guilt to him and a burden for which he has to periodically interrupt his real life to drive two hours to see us for a weekend.

I inwardly fumed at L and R, my unwilling students.  Dragging them through these high school years is exhausting.

Then driving home from dropping L off at dance this afternoon, I thought I was going to fall asleep at the wheel.  I closed my eyes at stoplights, trying to time it so I would open them again in time for the green.  When I got home I had exactly one hour before I had to leave and get her again.  I said hello to R, then went upstairs and collapsed on my bed, dropped off to sleep immediately and woke up 55 minutes later feeling completely renewed.  Happy day!

But those stressful morning hours when I was doing my best to slog through L's schoolwork with her, really nothing more than sleepiness was the root of the trouble, but it reminded me that this work God has given me is not easy and it does require endurance.  L and R are beautiful, gifted individuals, but they are not academically inclined.  It's my job for now to drag them through these necessary academics, no matter how unwilling they are, and it does require patience and endurance.

I was thankful for this verse in Colossians because it reminded me that I can have joy in this work as I do the work God has assigned me with patience and endurance, because He has transferred me from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of His beloved Son.  It is my joy to do the work He has given me even if some days are trying, because someday this will all be over and I will be with Him in His Kingdom.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Robert S

Blessed is the one who considers the poor!
       In the day of trouble the Lord delivers him;
the Lord protects him and keeps him alive;
        he is called blessed in the land;
        you do not give him up to the will of his enemies.
The Lord sustains him on his sickbed;
        in his illness You restore him to full health.
                                         Psalm 41:1-3


It was a joy to sponsor Robert Ssimbwa last night.  And it was a kind of funny experience.  I don't know if it was the Spirit or my own inclinations, but as I was looking through the stack of pictures of kids needing sponsors, none of them struck me until I came to this one.  It was the weirdest feeling, like, This is the one.  Sponsor him.

His father is dead, and his mother makes what money she can selling small items in the local market.  His grandmother is a peasant farmer.  The card says neither of them can afford to keep him.

The man from the organization who spoke last night, Justus, grew up in Uganda and was abandoned by his mother as a baby.  He spoke to us in this beautifully low, breathy voice with a melodic accent but perfect English.  His skin was as black as pitch, and somehow, even though he was a fish out of water here in Suburbia, USA, he seemed perfectly at ease with himself and everyone else.  He was truly an impressive character and inspired trust.

He talked about the culture shock of coming from Africa to the US, of seeing refrigerators stocked with enough food to last a week or even a month, of seeing children with shoes and shoes and more shoes, two cars in every garage. 

And he talked about going back to Africa and having to turn away children for whom he could not find sponsors.  He said the school had grown from 500 children when he first joined the organization to over 2600 children now.  And yet there were still so many children in need.  The sponsorship provides these children with two meals a day, schooling and access to a medical facility on the school site.

So it feels good to sponsor this little Robert.  He's only one; maybe we should've taken five.  But we also support our church's orphanage in Zambia.  And I think I'd rather commit to Robert for the next eight years than take on too many kids and possibly have to drop some.  And it felt like the Holy Spirit's leading that Robert be ours, so I'll go with that.

Justus did leave some questions unanswered.  In particular, while I am excited about helping, he did not address the issue of why there is such pervasive, chronic need over the course of generations in Uganda, with no end in sight.  I don't think in my lifetime, or my parents' lifetime or even in their parents' lifetime, there has ever been a time that the citizens of Uganda have been not in desperate need.  How come?  Is there any hope that Uganda will ever be able to right itself and provide the means for its own citizens to care for their own families.  The world is a much smaller place now.  Is there a reason it is being held back from industrialization? 

The answer doesn't change my desire to help, but I do think if he is going to lay a guilt trip on us wealthy westerners, we at least should be privy to why they as a country cannot seem to help themselves.  I understand that the people, like Robert's family, could never affect change, but the country does have a working government.  What the heck have they been doing for their people all these decades?

I guess that's a question for another day.  The point today is that it is a joy to have the opportunity to help the needy.

More on Last Night

This morning I am still touched to the depths of my soul over God's tender care for my sad heart last night.  It isn't that my collision of heart with L was so nasty or vitriolic.  It's just that it's happening so often.  Even when I walk on eggshells, when I am so careful not to say anything motherly or preachy or protective.  Even when I am so careful to avoid a whisper of admonishment or warning in my words.

It all started with this crush on Niko.  She is imagining all this admonishment and warning in anything I say because she knows he is a bad boy.  So she keeps accusing me of not trusting her.  Well, my trust in her has been shaken a little, not because she has even remotely done anything wrong, but just because of her judgment in allowing her heart to be taken by an openly rebellious kid, rebellious to God even more than his parents.  And it's not like Niko is cute.  He has round chubby cheeks even though he himself is skinny, tiny, pale, rather deep-set eyes, and terrible acne.  So it is not his looks that she's attracted to. 

What it is is that he is not a nerd.  So many homeschooled boys this age are terribly socially awkward, both in the way they carry themselves and in the way they look.  To L, being socially adequate is paramount, and this is the first socially adequate boy who has shown her any attention.  In fact, he might be the only socially adequate boy she knows.

So, my trust in her judgment has been shaken, and my confidence in her naivete and romantic stupidity has been shored up.  This is true.  But I am not preaching to her.  I have talked about my concerns a couple times (more tears), but really, they hardly see each other, so it is not Niko himself that worries me.  I only want to know that L herself has a heart for God's will for her life regarding her future husband and that she will be careful to preserve her heart for that one special man.  I also do not want Hollywood morality to callous her to immorality.

So last night's difficulty began because she had come upstairs the night before when her friend was sleeping over to ask if they could rent the movie Dear John.  Well, I know Dear John is a sappy romance, which is what they wanted, but I also know that in almost every sappy romance Hollywood produces, the couple in question are "coupling" on screen within 20 minutes of knowing each other.  Sex is treated like a need as fundamental as water, even as essential as water.  To the Hollywood crew, morality, self-control and the sanctity of marriage are antiquated notions relegated to the few crazies in the country who still believe in that tripe.  I just don't want that garbage rubbing off on L; I don't want her to become calloused to the offense to God that immorality is.

Turned out On Demand didn't even have Dear John, so it became a non-issue and they rented Leap Year, which is clean and darling.  But she was determined that my issue with Dear John had to do with my not trusting her anymore because of Niko.  Mmmm, no.  Like I said, Niko has shaken my confidence in her good sense, but I would've been worried about Dear John anyway.

But last night's torrent of tears was over this.  That I don't trust her, that I don't believe in her heart for what is good and Godly, I don't know her.  She didn't say this, but I know she is hurt because she thinks that I think she's a bad girl for liking a bad boy.

I keep telling her the opposite.  I tell her I have complete confidence in her good sense.  I know she has a good head on her shoulders, so I am not worried about Niko.  But I also tell her that while I am not worried about Niko himself, the situation has alerted me to her inexperience and naivete.  I only want to warn her that she doesn't know as much as she thinks she does about boys and how their minds work.  And they do not know girls.  Girls think boys think like girls, and boys think girls think like boys.  It can cause catastrophically mixed signals.  That's all.  But I tell her I trust her good judgment.

She doesn't believe me, and you know why?  It's because she knows she's not displaying good judgment right now.  She's is not happy with herself and this flirty thing she has going on with a bad boy.  I am just the fall guy.  Yep.  That's what this is all about, isn't it?  She isn't happy with herself right now.

It's a tough job, being a mom.  Your heart is consumed with your work, and sometimes your work turns around and bites.  Sometimes it spends years biting, doesn't it?  =)

She was telling me last night, and this was before things got ugly, that she wishes I were more I Mrs. S, her friend's mom and my friend.  I like Mrs. S a lot, and she has an admirably close relationship with her daughter, Olivia.  But 1) her daughter is two full years younger than L, only 12, and 2) her daughter draws close to her and agrees with everything she stands for.  I said to L, do you really think Mrs. S and I have different views of things like sex in movies?  Mrs. S and I are completely on the same page with that.  The difference you see is that Olivia embraces her mom's mores without resistance.  Olivia wouldn't want to see a movie her mother disapproved of.  Olivia would disapprove of it along with her mother!

But getting back to God's sweet touch to my heart last night -- after things blew over, we had our heart to heart and were back on even footing with each other, she came back downstairs and we decided to watch Leap Year together since we love it and they didn't really see it the night before.  While we were watching, I opened up my Bible and Small Dog, determined to fulfill my commitment to posting a verse a day, even though I truly didn't have my head in the Word at all, hadn't all day.  I just flipped open the Bible and it landed on Psalm 42.  I read the passage where David is asking his soul, Why are you cast down?  Hope in God, for you shall again praise Him.  Then it talks about God's breakers and waves having gone over him, but God commands His steadfast love.  He has it all under control.

O Lord, You are so good to console me with that passage.  I hadn't even been looking to You for comfort or wisdom until that very moment, and You are so faithful and kind.  You cared for my aching heart.  I praise You and I thank You.  I am steeped in Your love.  Thank You.


Saturday, March 17, 2012

His Breakers and His Waves

Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.

My soul is cast down within me;
therefore I remember you
from the land of Jordan and of Hermon,
from Mount Mizar.
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands His steadfast love,
and at night His song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
                             Psalm 42:5-8

Well, my soul was not cast down within me and in turmoil until tonight.  Life with a pretty 14 year-old daughter is hard.  It is heart wrenching, tumultuous and ego bruising.  Today was a very fun day.  It was a happy day even.  Until...  I don't even want to go into it.  Partly I can't go into it too much because I don't understand it completely.  What happened to produce the torrent of tears?  I am not sure.  I could repeat the conversation verbatim, but unless you are also a pretty 14 year-old girl, I doubt it would make any more sense to you than it does to me.

Suffice it to say, it has something to do with attention from boys and her mom trying to protect her from what she doesn't understand. 

Anyway, it upsets me to be at odds with her.  Thankfully, the upset lasted less than 30 minutes.  Part of the trouble was exhaustion on her part.  She went directly upstairs to get ready for bed, and then asked me to come up to say good night, by which I knew she wanted to "make up."  Her first words were, "I'm sorry," and we were able to talk about what upset her.  More tears, but they were good tears this time.  Just raw emotion and exhaustion. 

So all's well that ends well, you say?  Oh I don't know.  I have a feeling this is going to go on for awhile.  I can't seem to do or say anything right these days with her.  It's a lost cause.  And every time it does happen, I'll be temporarily devastated.  I should commit this passage to memory, that while I am downcast for a time, I will again praise Him.  When I am downcast, I will remember Him and His steadfast love.  They are His breakers and His waves that are rolling over me, and He is trustworthy.  He commands His steadfast love, and it will be okay.  Just like it was tonight.

Friday, March 16, 2012

It is Good to Give Thanks to the Lord

It is good to give thanks to the Lord, 
to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;
to declare Your steadfast love in the morning, 
and Your faithfulness by night,
To the music of the lute and the harp,
to the melody of the lyre.
For You, O Lord, have made me glad by Your work;
at the works of Your hands I sing for joy.
                                      Psalm 92:1-4

You have made me glad by Your work, O Lord.  I do thank You for Your loving care for me and all You have made.

I will trust You with L.  I pray for her that You would draw her heart into fellowship with You.  Fill her with a desire to know You and to walk with You day by day, moment by moment.  Fill her heart with a desire for You that supersedes her desire for attention from boys.  Draw her inexorably to Yourself, Lord.  Break through her resistance to be open emotionally and spiritually, and fill her with a desire to know You and proclaim Your glory.  Protect her from danger, especially the danger of casual flirtations.  Help her to believe what T and I tell her about preserving her heart for the one You have chosen for her.  I pray that You would bring her a godly young man who would fall head-over-heels in love with her, even early in her life.  I pray for her future marriage, that it would be strong, full of You and Your strength, and a glory to You.  Bring the right young man to her.  Protect her in the meantime, I pray.

And I pray for R.  O Lord, bring him healing.  Allow him to be relieved of the burden of not being able to concentrate.  Give the doctor wisdom in choosing the right medication, even on the first try.  Let R find some relief and help him improve his grades.  Heal him in his heart too.  Draw him also into close fellowship with You.  Fill him with a desire to know You that overwhelms him.

D and B too.  all this.  Draw them inexorably into Your presence, into Your love, into fellowship with you.  Use them for Your kingdom.  Make their desire be You and only You.  And bring them Godly spouses.

I praise You, Lord, that You are faithful.  You call me to pray that Your will be done, and Your will cannot be thwarted.  Your power is unstoppable.  Be with these children of mine.  Make them all Yours.  Let Your love and power permeate their lives.  Let Your glory shine forth through them, that the world may know of Your greatness and Your love.  Amen.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Grace, please.

Two verses today:

Be strong in the grace that is in Christ Jesus.  2 Timothy 2:1
                                                   and
He will deliver us if you will cooperate by praying.  2 Corinthians 1:11

Each hand delivered by my two favorite Christians: Charles Spurgeon and Elisabeth Elliot.  Just in time for my internal "disconcertment"  over R and now L.

First Charles Spurgeon on 2 Timothy 2:1.  He says:

Christ has grace without measure in himself, but He has not retained it for Himself.  As the reservoir empties itself into the pipes, so has Christ emptied out His grace for His people.  "Of His fulness have all we received, and grace for grace" (John 1:16).  He seems only to have in order to dispense to us.  He stands like the fountain, always flowing, but only running in order to supply the empty pitchers and the thirsty lips that draw near to it.  Like a tree, He bears sweet fruit, not to hang on boughs, but to be gathered by those who have need.  Grace, whether its word is to pardon, to cleanse, to preserve, to strengthen, to enlighten, to quicken, or to restore, is ever to be had from Him freely and without price.  Nor is there one form of the work of grace that He has not bestowed on His people.  As the blood of the body, though flowing from the heart, belongs equally to every member, so the influences of grace are the inheritance of every saint united to the Lamb.  Herein there is a sweet communion between Christ and His church, inasmuch as they both receive the same grace.  Christ is the Head on which the oil is first poured, but the same oil runs to the very skirts of the garments, so the the humblest saint has an unction of the same costly moisture as that which fell on the Head.  This is true communion when the sap of grace flows from the stem to the branch, and when it is perceived that the stem itself is sustained by the very nourishment that feeds the branch.  As we day by day receive grace from Jesus, and more constantly recognize it as coming from Him, we will behold Him in communion with us, and enjoy communion with Him.  Let us make daily use of our riches and ever to to Him as to our own Lord in covenant, taking from Him the supply of all we need with as much boldness as men take money from their own pockets.   
                                                                               From Morning and Evening

And from Elisabeth Elliot:

He Will if You Will

All through the Bible we see the interworking of the will of God and the will of man.  It was God, Creator and Sovereign, who conceived freedom for man -- the glorious likeness to Himself in "the dignity of causality," to use Pascal's phrase.  All things are so arranged in God's universe that He may work His will through man's exercising his gift of a free will.  It is a gift, and one which, while it confers staggering power on us humans, also limits the Almighty.  Here lies the tremendous mystery -- that god should be all-powerful, yet refuse to coerce.  he summons us to cooperation.  we are honored in being given the opportunity to participate in His good deeds.  Remember how He asked for help in performing His miracles: Fill the waterpots, stretch out your hand, distribute the loaves.

This little word of Paul's to the Corinthian Christians contains the whole kernel of that truth: "He will deliver us if you will cooperate by praying" (2 Cor 1:11)

Is there something you are hoping for today?  Perhaps here is a condition you must fulfill before the Lord can grant it.  He will if you will.

I will.  O Lord, please help us with R.  Guide us, prepare his heart to order his steps in Your prescribed path.  Let us have a good relationship with the doctors.  Help R understand what's going on and cooperate with the help that is required.  Please help me today.  Let me get him an appointment today, let there be no hold up with the office staff, no more hoops to jump through.  Give the doctor wisdom to choose the right medication to help R on the first go.  Please help us, Lord.  Please let R succeed.

And Lord, I lift up L to you.  She has a crush.  Her heart is full of him and empty of You.  O Lord, please help her to see the dangerous path she is on.  Turn her around, I pray.  I pray You would help her and be with her.  Help her see things from Your perspective, Your truth.  Preserve my relationship with her so I can help her.  Give her the courage to come to me for guidance and help.  I pray that You would end this crush, put an end to this relationship.  I pray You would put an end to this and help her to see the wisdom of avoiding these flirtations in the future.

Thank You, Lord, for revealing what was hidden, both in L and R.  I praise You for that faithfulness.  Thank You.  You are looking our for us, for them.

O Lord, be with this family.  Keep us in You, in Your will.  Preserve us, these kids.  O Lord, I am weak and impotent.  Be my power.  Be these kids' heavenly Father.  Intervene on their behalf.   Thank You.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Homeopathy, anyone?

My sister, Becky, has been really into constitutional homeopathy lately.  She is studying the homeopathic personality profiles and "curing" all the members of her family (and herself) by administering small doses of the appropriate remedy.  Apparently, in homeopathy the idea is that "like cures like," so taking a small dose of your own constitutional type mitigates the negative aspects of that type.

She sent me a book by Philip Bailey called Homeopathic Psychology: Personality Profiles of the Major Constitutional Remedies, and I've been doing my own reading too.  Bailey's book seems to be, while immensely readable, maybe a little less objective and scholarly than some others.  Becky feels like he colors the personality descriptions with a little more of his own spin.  Nevertheless, for my purposes it certainly fills the bill.  I do not plan to delve into the science quite as deeply as she has.

I'm telling you though, it's spooky.  One of the first ones I read was Calcarea Carbonica and I thought, Oh. My. Gosh.  This is Pam (my older sister).  This is totally her!  The nuances and motivations behind her personality and behaviors were spot on.  It was more than uncanny -- it was spooky.

Then I read Graphites and found myself.  I read Lycopodium and was absolutely blown away.  T.  It was like Philip Bailey had known T all his life and knew him the way only a wife of 23 years could know him.  Even his mother doesn't know these things about him.  I thought, if T were for some reason to go to a professional counselor, after years of regular sessions the counselor still would not understand what Bailey encapsulated in 20 pages here.

I was settled on being Graphites until Becky said she thinks of me when she reads Natrum Muriaticum.  So I read that and had to agree that I could identify with a good part of that too.  P.B. sums up this personality as "suppression of emotional pain," and it seems to encompass a huge number of types of people.  He spends 47 (often unflattering) pages on it.  My overarching impression is that in suppressing this emotional pain, Nat Murs wear a mask, which is sometimes strained.  They try to hide their pain.  Poor babies.  Their lives are also often marked by perfectionism and over-achievement.

Sadly, while there was a lot in those 47 pages that didn't resonate with me, I could identify with enough of it that I began taking Nat Mur.  First I took a few 30C doses, which only last a few hours.  Then I graduated to 200C which works for 40-50 days.  And last week I took a 1M dose.

Maybe I'm crazy, but I think it does something.  It's really hard to put my finger on, but I just feel more relaxed.  I feel like something that was tense way deep inside me, not really physically but emotionally, somehow the tension has completely eased.  I feel healthier psychically.  Somehow the vague sense of self-loathing and ever-so-mild depression that had so come to be my norm that I would not have even recognized it -- somehow that has lifted.

In short, I'm happy.  Certainly happier than before, but even just plain happy!

Again, I'm no expert, but my impression is that I really am a Graphites at the core, but a layer of Natrum Muriaticum was blanketing it.  Would that make sense to a homeopathic expert?  The Nat Mur seems like it was a layer of damage, a layer of hurt over a healthy interior that wanted expression.

And I have to smile at the idea that my Graphites interior wanted expression because the one-word description Philip Bailey uses for Graphites is blandness.  Shy and BORING!  Is that sad?  Nah.  It's me.  Maybe I am shy and boring.  But pleasant.  =)


And now I must interrupt this riveting discussion for the VERSE OF THE DAY!!!!  Today's verse is really a passage: Colossians 2:20-3:10.

If you have died with Christ]to the elementary principles of the world, why, as if you were living in the world, do you submit yourself to decrees, such as, 21 “Do not handle, do not taste, do not touch!” 22 (which all refer to things destined to perish with use)—in accordance with the commandments and teachings of men? 23 These are matters which have, to be sure, the appearance of wisdom in ]self-made religion and self-abasement and severe treatment of the body, but are of no value against fleshly indulgence. Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. 2]Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. 3 For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4 When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.  5 Therefore consider the members of your earthly body as dead to]immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and greed, which amounts to idolatry. 6 For it is because of these things that the wrath of God will come upon the sons of disobedience, 7 and in them you also once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you also, put them all aside: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, since you laid aside the old self with its evil practices, 10 and have put on the new self who is being renewed to a true knowledge according to the image of the One who created him—
 What strikes me about this is that Paul is telling the Colossians is to not submit to human regulations as a substitute for their worship of Christ.  He is denouncing self-made religion born of asceticism and severity to the body.

He then, in 3:1-4 tells them to seek what is above where Christ is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.  And then in vs 5-10 gives them a list of abstentions -- sexual immorality, impurity, passions, evil desire, covetousness, anger, wrath, malice, slander, obscenities -- which could look a lot like asceticism and severity to the body, self-made religion, the very thing he just told them did not make up their worship of Christ.

What struck me was that all those abstentions come from seeking what is above!  If we are seeking Christ, then those things will become a part of us, they will flow from us naturally.  Unlike what was going on in 2:20-23.  Paul never meant for us to try to manufacture all those things from our flesh, and then call ourselves holy.  If we find ourselves blowing up or falling into gossip or impurity, the answer is not to squelch it through pure force of will.  The answer is to SEEK HIM!  Spend some time at His feet and see what happens!

Spent too much time on homeopathy this morning, so I have to run now.  I hope I explained my thought well enough to make sense!

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Your Face, O LORD, I Shall Seek

Not feeling very well today.  L was a little under the weather yesterday, and I wonder if I caught something from her.  Hopefully it's nothing more than a short-lived feeling of malaise.  But in keeping with the theme of the week, I know I can remain connected to the Head, in the Spirit, when emotional storms swirl around me (like last weekend), and I can remain in the Spirit when I don't feel well.

When You said, “Seek My face,” my heart said to You,
“Your face, O LORD, I shall seek.”  Psalm 27:8


Monday, March 12, 2012

The Body

Today I am still thinking about our CBS lecture from last Wednesday.  One thing Jan (the teaching leader) talked about that really hit me was the body of Christ, how we are each members of it.  Her main point had to do with remaining connected to the head actually.  She had a cute illustration.  She said if somehow her arm were to become disconnected from her body and thrown into a waste basket across the room, there is little chance someone who happened upon the arm in the waste basket would say, "Oh, look! There's Jan!"  =)

That made me laugh, but what really hit me last week was her discussion about how, as members of the body connected to the head, we are each most effective, most fruitful, when we are doing exactly what we were created to do.  She pointed out that on the "servant's" team (their name for leadership team) they often say that each of them serve the whole best when they do their own job well.  Nobody else's, only your own, and do it well; that's the way to be most fruitful.  A shoulder helps the elbow and the hand and the fingers do their jobs by doing what?  By doing a good job being a shoulder, nothing more.  The knee and foot can do their jobs best only if the hip is doing its job well.  The hip may consider its job fairly unglamorous, but without it functioning well, the body is greatly impaired.

Of course we've all heard these analogies before, that as members of the body of Christ we all have different roles.  But for the first time in my Christian life when she said it last week, I believed it.  I understood it and believed it, just "got" it in a way I never have before.  It was such a great relief.

I serve Christ best when I do the job He has given me well.  That's all I need to worry about.  I'm not a missionary to far flung places, I have no impressive role in church, I am a complete nobody.  But I do have work to do, and the body of Christ is served best when I do my work well.  What a joy, because that is exactly what I want to do!

So today's verse is actually a passage from 1 Corinthians:

For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.  14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another.     1 Corinthians 12:12-25

You'll notice I didn't cut'n'paste the next part of the passage about some being apostles, some prophets, some teachers, some workers of miracles.  That's the part that has always thrown me, I think, because I am certainly none of those things.  After reading about how some are apostles and teachers and prophets and workers of miracles, and I was always left feeling like nothing more than a lowly armpit hair or the eyelash that gets caught under my contact.

Eh.  My constipated heart would twist this passage to ferret out the very opposite meaning from what Paul intended.  So for the first time when Jan mentioned this last week (although she actually didn't reference this passage), I understood it and accepted it and it gave me joy.  I certainly have my work to do, and me doing my work well contributes to the fruitful and effective functioning of the whole. 

Thank you, Lord!  Gotta run!

Sunday, March 11, 2012

I love you like, ridiculous

I just want to tell a fun story that warmed my heart.  My sister, Pam, has son named Andrew who has worked at Best Buy since he was in high school.  He is now in his early thirties and is some kind of manager there, very popular with all his co-workers.  It's been a good job for him and he was set to make that his career path.

His plans were interrupted when the general manager of his store was replaced with a short little Napoleon who wanted to get his buddy a job, presumably a managerial job, but he needed to rid himself of one of the current managers to make room.  Apparently Andrew, being the quintessential nice guy, truly a gentle giant, looked like the easy target, so Napoleon fired him.  Oh, he danced around all kinds of budget balancing reasons, and gave Andrew a few extremely unattractive, low-paying options to stay with the company, but the bottom line is that Andrew is being forced out.

Happily, he got hooked up with a woman who was hiring new Farmer's Insurance agents.  He interviewed and was deemed to have potential in the industry.  So he can begin training if he wants, but he knows that starting out in the insurance business is no easy road.  The test to be licensed alone is very difficult, but then the grueling task of finding business is nothing to take lightly.  But the reward of years of hard work should eventually pay off handsomely, certainly a more comfortable future than he was looking at with Best Buy.

So his sister and his mom were full of encouragement.  His dad, on the other hand, not so much.  Mr. Safe Sally.  Go for the sure and steady meager income.  Don't take a risk.  You can't do it.  You will surely fail. 

Poor Andrew was deeply discouraged.  If he doesn't go for the insurance gig, his options are dismal since college has never quite been his thing.  So he called his mom one night last week about midnight, and they talked until three in the morning.  He told her his discouragement, how he felt like he was just stupid, and that throwing himself off an overpass might not be such a bad option.  She told him that no, throwing himself off an overpass is a very bad option, that he has wonderful people skills, that he can make the insurance venture work, not to listen to his dad.  She, I'm sure, told him everything he needed to hear.  And they hung up the phone.

Soon after they hung up she received a text from him.  He said, "I love you like, ridiculous."

Is that not the most precious thing you've ever heard in your life?  Brings tears to my eyes!  I'm so happy for him that he has a mom that can build him up when he's down.

Anyway, I do have a verse for the day.  It's really the same as yesterday, Romans 15:13, and I have good things to say regarding it.  But I have to run now.  Will have to finish later.

**************

Hey again.  It's later now and I'm here to finish with my verse for the day.  But being the lazy coot that I am, I went to Biblegateway.com to cut'n'paste Romans 15:13 rather than look it up in my Bible or type it from memory (which is sketchy).  Lo and behold, the front page of Biblegateway had an awesome verse that I'll include here too.

 “Know therefore that the LORD your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments;" Deuteronomy 7:9

  Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Romans 15:13

So here's the deal.  I'm all mixed up about which blog I've written what in, but I know in one of them, either this one or Happy Moments, I talked about today being our 23rd wedding anniversary and the fact that T and I had a bit of a tense morning on Friday.  The tension eased when we went out with friends last night, which always seems to be the case for us -- we put our minds on other people than ourselves and things straighten themselves out between us.

The thing with T and me is that we get along just fine 99% of the time.  We've figured out how to make this work, in spite of each of our warts and foibles.  Our expectations of each other have adjusted and we have, apparently and tacitly, decided to be content with what we have in each other.

What God has struck me with, however, is that even if we are content to limp and drag ourselves along, He loves T too much to leave him in such a state. (Okay, me too, but we're talking about T right now.)  My hope in Christ is not necessarily that T and I would have this emotionally amazing bond, but that T would himself be healed of the wounds that strangle his spirit and prevent him from giving or receiving God's love.  Those wounds impact my relationship with him, but God is concerned more about His relationship with him.

I know that for most of these 23 years I would not have been able to say that.  For most of them I had a lot of trouble praying for T at all, my prayers being reduced to limply whispering, "Oh God, please rescue him.  I don't know what else to say.  Just please rescue him."

But I am in a better place now.  I am myself now much more emotionally independent, like I reported the other day.  The beauty of that is that I can pray for T for his own sake, not because my heart is bubbling over with anger and pain that I don't get anything from him.

So Friday night I was reading our pastor's monthly prayer e-mail, and they mentioned a book they're interested in now called How We Love, by Milan and Kay Yurkovich.  For all my resistance to marriage self-help books, especially ones that involve drudging up ancient history, I had to admit this looked like a winner.  This looked like exactly what would speak to our insurmountable obstacles.  So I ran right out and bought it.  (This is feeling familiar as I type.  I must've already talked about this before, so I'm sorry for the repetition.)

Anyway, I did indeed show it to T this morning, telling him I bought it for us for our anniversary.  And as expected he said, "Ohhhh PUL-EEEEZE! You've got to be kidding me!"

I explained that I really thought there was something to this, that they talk about everything that is so true of us, that we've been doing the same dance over and over and over for 23 years, we keep going over the same ground and never making any progress with it.  I told him what I've told him before, that I remember saying certain things to him our first months of marriage as we took walks around the apartment complex, and I say them still 23 years later.  Nothing has changed.  We've been stuck.

I told him about what they say that what we know about emotional connection with others is imprinted on us by our primary caregivers in our very earliest years, and what our parents were unable to do is also passed on to us.  And we bring all that baggage into our marriages.  But we come in singing different emotional songs, so to speak, and we hurt each other.  And probably most of us, at least in T and my cases, are pretty crippled in that way. 

And I pointed out the chorus of the song T has sung every since our earliest days together goes like this: "You don't love me."  No matter what I say, do or sacrifice, that's his mantra.  Now, c'mon, it doesn't take a PhD to figure out that 1) that has something to do with the song he learned in childhood, but also, 2) it's a defense.  If he can convince himself that I don't love him, he's off the hook when it comes to loving me.  Much easier than actually connecting with me on any emotional level.

Not that I am all that easy to connect with, mind you.  I have certainly brought my own baggage into this marriage, and I pointed that out too.  My mom, bless her heart, for all she loved me and my siblings, absolutely could not endure any display of emotion, any inkling of any of us allowing a breach in the crusty exterior.  Nothing made her blow up faster than tears of sadness.  Hello, baggage.

So I said all that as we lay in bed (skipping church, by the way).  The amazing thing was that he didn't explode.  He listened.  Then he picked up the book and looked at it for a second or two.  No more than that, just a second or two.  But it was enough to let me know that I had got his attention.  He heard the truth in what I was saying.  He almost immediately put it back down and said, go ahead and read it if you want.  Okay, I think I will!

But what God has struck me with today is how important T's emotional health is to Him.  (Like I said, mine too, but let's stick with T for the moment.)  But this isn't about me and our marriage.  This is about T and his happiness, his ability to connect with God, to know God loves him.  And if he can't know God loves him, where is he?  Where can he go spiritually if he can't get that? 

Well, I did make a mis-speak as we lay there talking.  He said derisively something to the effect of that book is stupid, all we need is to read the Bible.  And I said, "Yeah, and look at all the good it's done you."  I immediately retracted, because of course the Bible is all of everything and I want T to keep reading it.  But we both knew what I meant:  he's a compulsive gambler and a compulsive over-eater, and all his faith and Bible reading hasn't touched those problems.  There's an emotional issue there he isn't addressing.  Duh.

But it's important to God.  God cares.  God understands.  God has compassion on those wounds in his soul, even if he refuses to acknowledge them.  And here's the point of my post here: I can abound in hope that God will heal him.  And that hope, for the first time in our life together, gives me joy for T's sake, not my own. 

And, Deut. 7:9, our God is faithful and full of lovingkindness for all He has created.  He will not leave T unhealed.  I will pray and I have confidence that God will heal T's broken heart.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Abound in Hope

Romans 15:13  
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Yesterday I ended my Happy Moments post by saying, "It's hopeless."  How's that for irony?  I was venting.

Anyway, that moment of brutal honesty turned my thoughts toward the spiritual truth that we are not without hope in Him.  I will hold on to Galatians 6:9, not growing weary of doing good [read, walking in the Spirit, staying connected to the Head], and I will remember that He has not given up on us or on T.  He is still working, even after 23 years of marriage.  And even if T and I finish our days having made not having made any emotional progress in our relationship, God will still have accomplished His purposes in our lives, whatever those may be.  We live for a higher purpose than to be fulfilled emotionally in each other. 

Galatians 6:9  Let us not lose heart in doing good, for in due time we will reap if we do not grow weary.

I am not without hope.  And I will not grow weary in doing good.


Friday, March 9, 2012

I am weary

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.  Galatians 6:7-9
 Still hanging out here in Galatians, and still thinking about what it means to not grow weary of doing good, to not grow weary of holding onto the Spirit, even when things are strained and unpleasant and frustrating at home.  

What does it mean to hold on to the Spirit, to continue to walk in Him when I am not happy, when I am conflicted and confused and frustrated?  In the past it has meant to plow my face into food wherever I could find it, then repent and pray for forgiveness and do my best to continue on from there in the Spirit.

Today I am conflicted and confused and frustrated with T, and I'm worried about R.  I'm worried about L for other reasons, but those are on the back burner for the moment.  And my worry about R does not involve interpersonal strife, so it's much easier to pray, pray, pray for the kid and trust that God will be guiding us and providing what we need for him.  It's the conflict with T that has me turned inside out.

It has me turned inside out because it is more complicated than trusting God to provide or guide or trusting that God has a plan that is better than my own.  It involves misunderstanding and hurt feelings that can't be assuaged.  T asks what is unreasonable sometimes.  If I don't give it to him, he gets mad and holds it against me.  We never talk through anything, things just get buried.  So it happens over and over and over.  And even if I do give it to him, it's not good enough.  Or I'm not doing it enthusiastically enough.  He doesn't listen when I talk or let me finish a thought before he's interrupting with his opinion.  If I disagree with him he gets mad and says I'm a bitch.  So I do my best to keep him out of things, and I regret when I do involve him, like this morning.  But there's no fixing it.  Nothing I can do to fix it at all except to always give him everything he wants and to never let him know if I disagree with him.  Be wise and not talk to him about anything important, like R.

So on paper it sounds easy.  Keep my behavior pure, do what is right before God, and stay connected to Him no matter what emotional cataclysms T chooses to engage in.  The sticky part is figuring out what does it mean to do what is right?  Does it always mean to give T whatever he wants to keep him from pouting?  Is it right to not involve T in R's life just to avoid fireworks?  There is no fixing this, nothing easy about it.  But somehow, even amid the internal turbidity, there is a way to walk in the Spirit.

So this morning I am thinking about this.  God is not mocked.  I must sow to the Spirit even in this difficulty, and not grow weary.  I did do some things clearly wrong this morning.  I walked out of the bathroom and slammed the door.  So I can repent of that.  If God gives me the power of Super Woman before the day is over, maybe tonight I can even apologize to T for that.  I did disagree with T and told him that screaming at R is not going to help R be more organized, which is in reality all he was proposing.  I don't know that there is anything to apologize for in that. (What would I say, I'm sorry you're so inter-personally stupid?)

We'll get through this.  I'll text him my apology right now and hopefully we can have a sweeter conversation about it tonight.  Sunday we celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary.  Here's to another 23 years.  We really are good for each other, in spite of our fracas this morning.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Doing Good


 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.    Galatians 6:9

I'm still stuck on the teaching from CBS yesterday.  This was another verse our teaching leader, Jan Henderson, put a spin on that I had never thought about before.  Her argument was that in Galatians Paul was hammering away at the new believers to walk in the Spirit, to let their abiding in the Spirit be the sign on their salvation, rather than any outward custom or ritual, particularly circumcision.  And that when Paul gets to the end of his letter and appears to be changing tacks, focusing more on practical applications, he actually is not at all!  He is still pushing just the pure, walking in the Spirit.

Even in this verse, she argues, Paul is actually speaking of the good we do as being our continuing to walk in the Spirit.  After all, even Jesus, when asked what good deed would gain a man entrance into heaven, responded by turning the question around over the meaning of the word "good":

And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good.”  Matthew 19:16-17 
What can we do that is good?  Anything I think I'm doing for God is as a filthy garment, right?
For all of us have become like one who is unclean,
And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment;   Isaiah 64:6
The only thing I can do that pleases God is to remain connected with Him by walking in His Spirit and abiding in His Word.  As long as I am a part of Him, I am good, because only He is good.

Let us not grow weary of doing good?  Let us not weary of walking in Him.  Stay connected, moment by moment.

And do not give up!  Paul ends the verse by saying do not give up!  Doesn't that suggest that sometimes it will be hard, even hard to stay connected?  I think it does, and that encourages me, because life day-to-day is emotionally taxing.  It's hard to live with sinners!  And it's tempting to fall back into old habits to console myself when the emotional seas begin to pitch and roll.  But God says keep connected to Me (do not weary of doing good), do not give up, and you will reap a harvest.

Thank You, Lord.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Boasting

If I were a reader of blogs, which, selfishly, I am not, but if I were I would be attracted to a post titled "Boasting."  It sounds like it should be all about some womanly drama, some Queen Bee who thinks she's all that and wants to make sure everyone else gets the memo, or, if we're talking moms here, it would be all about some mom who thinks her kid is all that.

Sadly, this is not a reality TV post.  It's about Galatians 6:14, in keeping with my month-long commitment to blog about a verse a day.  Here it is:
But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
This is a verse that has always left me muddle-brained.  What exactly does it mean to boast in the cross of Christ?  To boast about something would seem to mean that I am proud of it, and that just doesn't seem appropriate.  Can I be proud of what Jesus did for us?  Not really.  I'm grateful for what He did, but actually horrified at what had to happen to Him and that He had to do it at all.  Can I be proud to be a Christian?  Yes, but that's not appropriate either.  My salvation is a gift and has nothing to do with anything I accomplished in the least.  In the absence of any more cogent idea, I have always glossed over this verse figuring Paul meant he had no interest in himself or his old worldly status, but only in his new status as a believer in Jesus.


Well, I was given a better answer today by our CBS teaching leader, Jan Henderson, who is absolutely, completely amazing.  Let me see if I can do her thoughts justice.

She began by pointing out that chapter 6 of Galatians is no bunny trail from the rest of the letter.  He does not end this letter with practical tips for Christian living, as he does in some others.  He is still laser-focused on the problem of the Galatian church being threatened by Judaizers who want to pull some of the new believers into adherence to the Jewish law as a part of their new-found faith in Christ.  These are Gentiles, pagans, who had no history or foundation in the law, no preconceived notions that God demanded certain rituals or that certain ceremonies be followed in order to gain acceptance.  But the Jewish believers wanted to have them believe that in addition to faith in Christ, these believers also needed to be circumcised to be accepted by God.

Jan discussed their probable false motives.  One false motive would have been to avoid persecution themselves.  As it happened, the Roman government allowed Judaism, but no other new religion to be practiced other than paganism.  So to force the new believers to be circumcised would have been easier, I suppose.  And while there is no law against circumcision, Paul is adamant that the new converts not believe that circumcision or any other ritual gains them acceptance before God, that their salvation is only through the death of Christ.

Here comes the good part, the part that has always gone over my head before:  when Paul speaks of boasting in the cross of Christ, he is not referring to the historical event of Jesus' crucifixion.  He is speaking of the spiritual event of his own crucifixion with Christ, the daily separating of light from darkness, flesh from righteousness, good from evil.  He is encouraging them to walk in the Spirit, to allow the Spirit to do His work in their hearts, to continue to cut away the old man, the flesh.  Paul says our lives are to be marked by an internal circumcision, one of the spirit, not the one of the flesh.  He is encouraging them to stay connected to the Head, to manifest the will of the Head, by daily participating in the crucifixion of Christ in their own hearts.  Then they will know peace.  Then they are the true Israel of God.

And now I understand more.  In regard to my pitching and moaning about not understanding the law of the Old Testament versus the difficult strictures of living in a manner pleasing to God, how they differed from one another -- yesterday I understood that that was at least partly a smokescreen.  I was unwilling to abide in the Word and thereby live in the Spirit.  But this morning I understand more.  That the pain of those difficult strictures, the agony I was resisting was my flesh dying.  It didn't feel good, it wasn't joyful, and so I determined that I was misunderstanding something about this supposedly joyful Christian life.  But what I was experiencing was exactly right; it was the daily cutting away of the old man, the internal circumcision of the heart that allowed me to stay connected to the Head.

So when Paul says he boasts of the cross of Christ, I think he means that it is by this daily, personal participation in Jesus' death that is a sign of his salvation, not the external sign of fleshly circumcision.  He is saying to the Galatians (and to us), do not fall back into outward signs and ceremonies and rituals as an assurance of your standing before God.  Stay connected to the Head through the cross as it has its daily work in your heart.  That is your assurance.