29 March 2008

Preparing for Fear

For several years I was a member of a volunteer fire department. It was the 70's and not too many women wanted to be firefighters. In fact, I wasn't there because I wanted to be a firefighter. I was there because I wanted a job with the county's emergency dispatch center and I needed some emergency experience to get my foot in the door.

Being a volunteer was a transforming experience. Not only did it prepare me for working in public safety, it helped me to think systematically. The hours spent training and drilling were helpful to me, though most of the things I learned to do, I never had to use. I could put on my SCBA (self-contained breathing apparatus) in the same time as the rest of the crew, making certain the seal was good and the regulator working, but when it came right down to it, I wanted to be in the dispatch room, not the room that was on fire. Years ago there was a 20 minute rule; if the fire was 20 minutes old, you assume the structure was unsafe. I had the 20 second rule and assumed a structure was unsafe the very moment it caught fire. It would be perilous to your health if you were in my way as I planned on exiting the building in well under 20 seconds.

We had state mandated training to keep our skills and safety knowledge in top form. You do the training because in an actual emergency, your brain is going to revert to what it knows by rote. You memorize protocols because fear and adrenaline mix together in a deleterious cocktail and put you into a fight or flight mode. Since you are being paid to fight, you have to train yourself to get through the flight stage. Without proper training, you are likely to make bad decisions and react to the emotions of those around you, instead of what you know is right. I know because I have personal experience with this phenomenon.

The first time I was alone in the firehouse and the fire phone rang, my heart was in my throat. I had to answer the phone and with all the training I had done, nobody had taught me how to field an emergency call. I had always assumed there would be someone there to help me. They had assumed I knew what to do. This was long before 911 and there was only one emergency line . The 'hot phone' sat in a cubby hole accessible from either inside the office or outside in the apparatus room. It had a special Claxton alarm bell that rang loudly enough to make certain it would wake up the soundest sleeper. The fire phone was also connected to a siren that had to be blown. The siren was like an old air raid siren. While it was blowing the whole firehouse shook and you could hear nothing else. Once you had the information from the caller, you would set it off twice for a medical emergency and three times for a fire. I knew how to blow the siren but I didn't know what to expect from an emergency call. The sound of the Claxton was like fingernails on the chalkboard of my soul. I had to answer, no one else was there. My hand shook as I reached into the hole and picked up the receiver. In my most officious voice I said, "Fire Department, emergency..." all the while hoping it was a wrong number. Before I could finish there were screams and scuffling noises and the hysterical caller was shouting at the top of her lungs. "Help! Help! Help!" She was obviously scared to death. "Hello! Fire Depart..." "HELP! HELP! HELP!" My anxiety level increased and I shouted back, "Hello? What's going on? Hello? Hello? What's going on?!!"

Back and forth we shouted at each other for what seemed like minutes, each time the drama and intensity increased but little information was exchanged. I stood in the apparatus room, screaming like a wild woman, "What's the problem??" Finally she yelled, "MY HOUSE IS ON FIRE, COME QUICKLY!!" So glad to finally have a piece of information I screamed back, "Get everyone out!! We'll be right there!!" I hung up the phone just to realize I had no idea in the world where the woman was calling from. Other volunteers had heard the bells of the fire phone going off and had run in and grabbed their turn-outs. They stood waiting for me to tell them what was going on and what type of equipment they would need. All I could say was "Structure Fire!" They began to scramble for the engine. Fortunately, fires normally get reported by multiple callers and before I could panic about not knowing where she was, I had multiple neighbors calling with a location. No one else knew what a stupid and potentially catastrophic thing I had done, but I did.

As I continue my studies on fear, I've been thinking about my public safety training. I see a correlation between training for emergencies and training our minds to think biblically. We need to prepare our minds for the bumps and bruises of life let alone the traumatic events. Although we have no way of knowing what they are going to look like, we know they are coming. "For man is born to trouble as sparks fly upward." (Job 7:5)

Lord willing, my first post on fear will be in a couple of days. I only hope that it will bless my readers as much as the Lord is blessing me to prepare for it.

27 March 2008

Stones of Remembrance

In preparation for my posts on fear I have been doing some reflection on the path my life has taken and how different fears have motivated me. There are healthy fears, reasonable fears and unreasonable fears. I have been compelled to act by all three with varying measures of success and/or catastrophic results. One thing that has remained a constant, God's faithfulness.

The college I used to work for had special chapel services once a semester. They were called "Stones of Remembrance." As I reflect on my time at the college, besides some people, those chapels are the thing I miss the most. The idea was that someone would select a stone to be added to a pile that was placed in a prominent place on campus. He or she would give testimony to a time in their life that God demonstrated His faithfulness in a unique way. Then their stone would be added to those of other students, faculty and staff who had also given their testimonies. The idea was based on Joshua 4:9ff and 1 Samuel 7:12.

Last night I had a wonderful chat with a dear friend and sister in the Lord. We talked about disappointments. We talked about how hard it is not to pout when we are disappointed. It wouldn't be a wonderful conversation if we had stayed there or if the conversation had degraded into a pity party. Instead we found ourselves talking about various times in our lives that God has demonstrated His faithfulness to us. She suggested I write a post about what I shared with her. I decided she is right, it was time I put up a 'stone of remembrance.'

My family had one love that united several generations. I wish I could say it was the Lord, but it was gardening. My mother used to call me Luther Burbank because she said I could grow anything. The women in my family were superstitious and if ever you were given a plant, seed or cutting, you couldn't thank the person that gave it to you for fear that the plant wouldn't grow. I loved to tease my grandmother and step-mother (who was my aunt, my mother's full sister) by taking plants and thanking them for them. My grandmother would get so mad she'd take the plant away from me. It was good natured but serious. She wouldn't have her plants dying on account of my lack of superstition.

My great-grandmother had a beautiful Christmas cactus that had outrageous fuchsia-colored blooms. My grandmother admired it and eventually her mom gave her a cutting. Grandma's Christmas cactus grew into a gigantic plant that lived in an old galvanized tub on her front porch. It had to be 4 feet wide and 3 feet tall. My step-mom was given a cutting from the plant and started her own monstrous beauty. I always wanted to be given a piece of the cactus, but knew I had to wait my turn and prove myself. My grandmother died before I was offered my cutting and though he tried to do right by it, grandpa killed the plant with long periods of neglect followed by bouts of over-watering.

One day while I was visiting my father and step-mom/aunt, she offered me a cutting that she had started. It was the Christmas cactus and I was thrilled. It solidified my adult status and it was the only heirloom I was likely to receive from my great-grandmother, grandmother and mom. I was living north of San Francisco in wine country, the very place that Luther Burbank had decided was best for his horticultural research. My plants and gardens were lush and thriving. I had my Christmas cactus under my covered front porch where it bloomed and made me the envy of my neighbors. And then it happened.

One January in the late 80's or early 90's we experienced a cold spell that dropped our temperatures into the single digits. Living in Kentucky now, I watch the weather daily. In California, unless you depend on crops for a living, you just don't have to be diligent about the weather. Thinking my beloved plant was safe under the cover of the porch, I didn't bring it in the house until it started turning yellow. I was panicked. I brought the plant in and began emergency intervention. I fussed and worked on it and put it in the best spot in the house, which was in the middle of my dining room table, and then quickly sought divine intervention.

This was before I had taken my girls into my home to raise. I was single, made way too much money, drove a sports car, traveled the world and had an apartment in the old part of town that could have been featured in House Beautiful. In the center of my new, solid oak table, in a pot that was way too expensive but beautiful, was my dying Christmas cactus. My friends, who were not Christians, made a great deal of fun of me. I told them they could laugh all they wanted. I was praying for the cactus and God was going to bring it back to life for me. I prayed, I fussed, I watered that cactus for months until one day when I went to take care of it, it literally disintegrated. Despite my gentle, loving care it crumbled into teeny little pieces and I crumbled right along with it. All hope for the plant gone, I was heartsick . . . and then anger took over.

Crying and sobbing I snatched the pot up off the table and stomped into my kitchen with it. I threw the dirt in the garbage and started washing the pot, all the while yelling at God. "You knew how much that plant meant to me. You didn't have to kill it! I know I should have brought it in earlier, but you didn't have to teach me this way! You raised Lazarus from the dead, certainly a Christmas cactus was no big ticket! My friends are going to laugh at me and ridicule me." On and on I railed until I guess I came to my senses and said "You could have brought my plant back to life if You wanted to and You didn't. I guess I have to accept that and learn the lesson." I no sooner spoke those words than I heard a voice tell me, "Go outside."

Now, I am not in the habit of hearing voices. That's something reserved for crazy people- so I did the only sensible thing and ignored it. "Go outside." I couldn't say that it was an audible voice that I heard. It was more like my own inner monologue but it wasn't me talking. I know that because my inner monologue was singing "la la la la I can't hear you, I am not even listening!" "Go outside." I couldn't take it any more and I went out and stood on the front porch and said "OK, what?! I am outside!" "Look down." I looked down and saw the big geraniums that had survived the cold. They were blooming and gorgeous. Because I am a jerk my response was, "Oh no! If You are trying to get me to be thankful for these geraniums, I am not going to do it. These cost me $2.98 and they didn't mean anything to me!" And then I heard, "Look down." So I took a sharp, annoyed breath, pursed my lips and looked down.

Something compelled me to move the big leaves of the geranium to the side. There, in the soil where it had gone undetected and been sheltered by that geranium that meant nothing to me, a piece of my Christmas cactus had broken off, fallen to the soil and taken root. It was thriving there. I know that I gasped when I realized what I was seeing and then I heard, "Before you knew to ask me, I had taken care of this for you."

I wish I could say from that day on I have never worried or complained about God's providence in my life. I still suffer disappointments and need to be reminded to take inventory. Until now I have only shared that story with a few people. Some of whom have taken cuttings from the plant. While I was working at the college, there was a picture of it in bloom on my bulletin board. When people would comment on the picture, I would tell them the story. It's a good story to have when you're a counselor.

I had to part with the plant when I moved to Kentucky. I told the story to one of the couples I have adopted over the years as they were helping me move. I met them at the college before they were married and they remain dear to me now. Melinda heard the story and picked the plant up and said, "We'll take it." She also took a small piece of it, wrapped it in a moist paper towel, placed it in a zip lock bag and hid it in my car before I drove off. I found it a couple weeks later. Although my cat has tried hard to kill it, a very small piece of it remains and I have great hope of seeing it bloom once more.

26 March 2008

Books, DVDs and Fear

I am not feeling very good. I think I have picked up the virus that has been going around. Lucky me. Normally when I don't feel well I have some ritual behaviors I indulge myself in. I make Lipton Chicken Noodle soup, drink Seven-Up and watch my favorite dvds. Band of Brothers is on the top of that list. I know, women aren't supposed to like war movies. I am not like most women. Band of Brothers is one of the finest productions I have ever seen. I get thoroughly involved with the characters and my favorite parts are the interviews with the actual men the story is based on as they recall what it was like.

Today I decided it was too much work to change the dvds. I have been dvr'ing the series John Adams that HBO has running now. I have watched the first three episodes and am looking forward to the last four. I am going to be sad when it is over. I think I would like to read the book. Ah... so many books, so little time. Speaking of time, it's time for a confession. It bothers me that I don't approach the things of God with as much enthusiasm as an opportunity to sit and watch John Adams or Band of Brothers. And... it should probably bother me more than it does.

I am currently reading Respectable Sins: Confronting the Sins We Tolerate, by Jerry Bridges. My friend, Keith, over that The Christian Mind was the first person to try and get me to read a Jerry Bridges book. He recommended The Joy of Fearing God. I was wrestling with God then and didn't want to be convicted, so I postponed reading it... indefinitely. Next, David King suggested that I read Pursuit of Holiness. I declined for a while and then saw it in a sale bin and picked it up. It was wonderful. Before I knew it I had several of his books and even had to read The Joy of Fearing God while studying for my master's in biblical counseling.

Carla over at Reflections of the Times recommended Respectable Sins. At first I was excited by the idea. Then everything God was bringing into my life had to do about repentance. Everything. When God repeats something He is usually trying to get your attention. I began skillfully avoiding what I knew would be a convicting read. I didn't get away with it for long. I also began to wonder why something so in line with my view on counseling would be something I avoided so strenuously. The answer? Fear. Not the reverential fear of God that I learned about from reading Bridges' previous works, but the not entirely baseless fear of having my identity lost completely or having things I like taken away. This is one of the reasons I want to do some posts on fear.

Meanwhile, encouraged by Carla (who said it would 'get me-in all the right places'), my resolve strengthened and fueled by prayer, I have started reading. You'll never guess what one of the topics Bridges addresses in the first chapters of the book. If you said fear, you're right.

25 March 2008

Phil Johnson On Politics and the Church

I have to share this because Phil Johnson nailed it. He delivered a sermon on how pastors should shepherd their flocks during an election year. It is wonderful. Because he is a brilliant, clear thinking communicator he is easy to listen to, because he is a solid believer what he has to say is valuable. He has succinctly put what I have been trying to say regarding the Obama/Wright controversy. His first point is preaching not lobbying is how we make the truth known. You'll find the link here. He is teaching a group of pastors. If you're not a pastor, don't let that keep you from listening. It is valuable for all. By the way, you can find more of Phil's mp3's to download here and his Pyromaniacs blog here.

I will warn you, you will be challenged and stretched, but you'll be blessed.

24 March 2008

Bad Company Corrupts Good Morals, Even in Politicians

The news is still buzzing, bloggers are still writing and television talk shows are still discussing the Obama/Wright controversy. I suppose that our ability to discuss the issue is evidence of how far we have come since the Civil Rights Movement and how much further we have to go. It is also evidence of our inability to think logically let alone biblically on the matter of racism.

The political arena is a messy one. Let's face it, we all think our politics are better than those who disagree with us. I maintain there is room for disagreement on some political issues. The bible says that we are to be as iron sharpens iron to one another. The sharpening process happens because of friction. Conflict does not have to be unhealthy. Conflict was assumed and written into our constitution as a way of making certain there would be checks and balances in our system. We call that conflict bureaucracy and we complain about it, but it was placed there for a reason; to keep one party or person from hijacking what belongs to us all. That something is Democratic Freedom and while that is important, those who profess faith in Christ have an even higher standard to uphold; the Word of God. The commands to love one another and love our enemies do not come with caveats for ethnic or cultural distinctions.

Our country is full of double standards because it is full of double-minded people. A predominantly white church posts a sign that says they are "unashamedly white and promote a white agenda" and that provokes the anger of those who are not white, and well it should. The non-white people shout that they have constitutional rights. White people respond by standing up and saying: "I do not identify with nor believe those things that the church promotes" and the non-white people say, "Then do something about it. Talk is cheap. We see your lips moving and yet this church still exists!" So the white people hear their cry, read the constitution and change. Most determine to think about the non-white people differently and strive for equality. A minority of white people are not moved to change, but thankfully their numbers are diminishing.

Later, a predominately black church posts a website that says they are "unashamedly black and promote a black agenda" and that provokes the anger the people who aren't black, and well it should. The people who previously heard the outrage of those who are not white speak out and say "Hey! This is wrong! This is racism! We cannot tolerate this! We have a constitution!" And the black people say, "You have no right to speak out against black people! You are racists! Besides, you non-black people treated black people shamefully before and we're still mad at you for doing it!" The non-black person says " Wait! I am not a racist! I agreed with you, racism is wrong so this is wrong!" But their cry is drowned out by the yelling and name calling and media spinning stories in 30 second sound bites. And Satan laughs because it is so easy pique the flesh of men. He watches with glee as men and women on both sides chase their pride and constitutional rights while forgetting all about their responsibility to God.

My friends, truly we are at the mercy of the Almighty to change hearts over amending and enforcing constitutions. God's law condemned us, it didn't change us. It is the fear of God that keeps us from breaking the law. We are transformed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and renewing of our minds. The gospel taking root and transforming lives is what will set us free from this mess. It will take nothing less.

Geraldine Ferraro made an assessment of Barak Obama's presidential readiness or fitness. She voiced her opinion that Obama has only remained in the competition for the presidency because he is black. What did she mean by that comment? I think she was saying a black man with minimal political experience and achievement can be considered a presidential candidate because the country is rife with "white guilt." Is that true? Are there voters in this country who want to be done with both racism and guilt for racism? How many are willing to vote for a candidate to assuage this guilt? I think there are many. Does her evaluation of why he remains a viable candidate make her a racist? Do my questions make me one? I think not. Being elected senator is no mean achievement but what have we heard of this man's accomplishments while in office? Oprah likes him, but so what?

At the very beginning of this battle for a party nominations I said to a friend that this would be an interesting time for historians and sociologists to reflect upon. There are so many ways to spin this. Would a woman have a better chance than a black man against the white male politicians in the competition? Would experience win out over charisma? How would sympathy play out? For a black man? For a white woman? For a white man whose wife has cancer? For a man who was a POW? For a man whose religion is considered a cult? Now that we are down to two Democratic candidates, are we at the part of the nomination process where people who cannot distinguish between political positions vote for the person with whom they most identify? Are blue-collar white men more likely to identify with a white woman or a black man? Are black working women more likely to identify with a black man or white woman? Both senators have lived privileged lives, how will the poor relate to them? How do believers identify with either of them or the Republican nominee? In this particular case I think the swing votes belong to the blue-collar working men but make no mistake, it is God who puts people in places of authority. (Daniel 2:21)

Whether it is Senator Clinton or Senator Obama that receives the nod and becomes the Democrats' nominee, there will be more ugliness. Politics is ugly business and we can't help ourselves. We fight the wrong fights, willing to strain gnats and swallow camels. (Matthew 23:24)

Meanwhile, I hold my ground, Obama's church affiliation matters. You cannot equate the relationship between Wright and Obama with John McCain and Oral Roberts or Jerry Falwell. Neither Roberts or the late Falwell were McCain's pastor (to the best of my knowledge). The relationship with the pastor of your church is an intimate thing. A pastor is a mentor and shepherd who cares for souls, not an old uncle or grandfather who speaks out of place. He is an instrument or tool to help shape biblical integrity and character. The goal of the godly pastor is that his sheep become more Christlike. It is a pastor's responsibility to do this in accordance with God's Word and the responsibility of those being shepherded to be discerning and test what the pastor teaches by that same standard- the Scriptures. In this regard both Wright and Obama have failed and I see no evidence of repentance. Bad company does corrupt good morals (1 Corinthians 15:33). Bad theology condones sinful behavior.

This post is for you, Jenn. Hopefully I cleared things up for you. Don't be afraid to post your comments publicly.

22 March 2008

The Day After - Knowing How the Story Ends Changes Everything

The disciples and those on the periphery of the ministry must have been miserable the day after their friend and Lord was crucified. The shock and horror of Jesus' treatment, their abject fear for their lives all coupled with their grief and despair had to leave them physically spent and emotionally vacant. Have you ever been there? When you've cried so hard that the only thing you feel is the knot in the back of your throat? Your body all but shuts down and you move through essential activities as though you are operating on tracks. You are walking wounded.

I can only imagine what they felt and what they talked about. Surely there were some in stunned disbelief and some who were making plans on what to do if the crowd should turn on them. For three years their lives had been focused on one thing and now their one thing was gone. How would they survive? Who would they be? Where would they go? Would the pain ever stop? They had no idea what was in store for them.

For me the Easter story wondrous. It means my life is secure. Sure, parts of it are difficult but I often pass over the unpleasant details. I don't do that to diminish the significance of them, it's just that I know how the story ends. Jesus will not be held in the bonds of death. Satan will not prevail. Christ will rise again and in doing so, He secures the peace of my eternal soul and the souls of all who are His. Hallelujah!

Knowing how the story ends makes all the difference. We don't grieve as those who have no hope. In my life there have been and will be times I need to be reminded that I know how the story is going to end. My battles here aren't fought for a victory, those victories have been secured. I fight from a place of victory. That knowledge makes it easier to put on the armor and fight. The shield of faith protects me. The breastplate of righteousness has been custom fit for me by my Savior and I will spend my day rejoicing. I think I will play The Easter Song as loudly as my stereo and neighbors can handle it. My hope is in the Risen Savior, Jesus Christ. Amen!

Romans 8:37-39
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

21 March 2008

Good Friday and Diamonds in the Dust

About two months ago I lost the diamond out of my ring. I was out with my sister and this was the second time we had gone out together and I had lost a stone from my ring. It wasn't a tiny chip that fell out. It was the 1.5 carat center stone. I was heartbroken in the sense that I liked the ring and could never afford to replace the stone, but that particular ring didn't have a single bit of sentimental value. It wasn't the one a prior love had given me or the stone from my grandmother's ring. It was just something I liked and so I let it go. I put the setting away and wondered if one of the loose stones I have inherited would fit in the setting or would it be something my kids find in my jewelry box after I am gone and wonder what happened. OK with the loss, I said "Thank you that it was just a rock, Lord."

I have learned to let a lot of things go. I have learned when you try to grab too tightly, your hands are closed to the possibilities of something else better being put in them. I have lost everything I owned in a flood and I survived it. I have walked away from fortune and never gone hungry. The Lord has given me an incredible life. I have seen and done things that would surprise you. If you saw me on the street you would pass me by without much thought at all. I am not one who employs false modesty. There is nothing special about me. I am a perfectly ordinary, overweight, woman whose hair is graying. It is the God I serve who is spectacular.

I woke up thinking it would be a beautiful day. I knew I wanted to spend some time reading and thinking about the significance of Good Friday. In order to motivate me to get my chores done, I started to anticipate sitting on my deck to pray and reflect on my salvation. In the afternoon the sun would be warm enough to enjoy spending my time there. First I had to go to my sister's home for some business. She is a CPA and this time of year is very hectic for her, so it was a quick visit for official reasons. She told me she had lots to tell me and that she was sensing God in a series of events but that she didn't have time to explain. She just wanted me to know.

As I was leaving she came out with me. My dog was with me and she had her three, all four were in her front yard romping and playing. Karen and I chatted a moment while the dogs enjoyed their play. We were talking about the weather and what torrential rains we had. Karen wanted to show me the new shoes she picked up for working outside. We were standing in front of her open garage so she ran to her back door and came up wearing some really fun garden clogs. They have wild flowers embossed on them. We laughed as she modeled them and then I started to load my dog in the car. Karen said again that she was sensing God was up to something, but she couldn't say more. I was about to comment about it being Good Friday when she kicked something with her foot and reached down. We both gasped as we realized Karen had kicked at a rock that turned out to be my diamond.

We both stood transfixed in the moment, trying to imagine the odds of finding the diamond after nearly two months of flooding rain and car traffic and dogs romping and people walking. She held out her hand and there it was, mud covered and dirty. For some reason I broke the silence with, "Karen, it's Good Friday." She nodded and smiled and said, "I know it is, thank you, God."

Now the ring will always have special significance. And I have even more to thank Him for as I sit on my deck. Meanwhile, I hope you enjoy this.

And another thing.....

Steve Camp has this posted on his website. It's definitely worth a look. Steve's blog is always worth a read. Thanks Steve!

Link: sevenload.com

20 March 2008

More Opinions On Obama

The folks at Triablogue have a post worth reading on Barak Obama's speech. You can find it here. My posts are here and here. The more I think about Obama's speech the more I want to rail. Geraldine Ferraro may not have been politically correct in her statements regarding his candidacy, but she was right on the money. If Obama was not black, he would not be running for president as a serious candidate. Not now any way. Those people who have been grooming him for this political move were either too quick or they were willing to sacrifice him to test the waters.

It seems that there are a few black pundits who are willing to speak out and some of them agree with me. Shelby Steele has an article in the Wall Street Journal. Ken Blackwell has weighed in as well in a post on the Family Research Council. To be fair there are more speaking out that do not agree with me. Some are ardent Obama supporters and some are suspect of the motives of white people when it comes to politics. One blog I have perused is African American Political Pundit. There is a lot of information on his blog and those he links to. I have also found some blogs that are written by black reformed pastors or reformed pastors of multi-racial churches. You can find them here and here.

And lastly, my friend and former mentor of sorts, Keith, has a book recommended on his blog, you can find his post here. The book is The Decline of African American Theology. I promised myself I wouldn't buy any more books until I have read the ones that are already here. That doesn't mean I can't recommend them, right? You can find the book here.

I am still praying for a venue in which solid believers- of every ethnic background- have a platform to discuss this situation biblically. I am saddened and resentful that my disagreement with Wright and Obama can be reduced by anyone as a black and white issue. It's a an issue of being right or being wrong.

The Bruised Reed- When You Feel Overwhelmed and Under Able

I woke up this morning with a headache that made me understand why headaches are often described as 'splitting.' I felt so miserable I considered amputation at the neck as my only option. Of course, that would be a permanent solution to a temporary problem and the side effects outweighed the benefits at that point. I opted for some Advil and some caffeine. It took some time, but eventually they worked. There is no mistaking that I am coming down with something.

Once I had the headache under control, I made my way to the pharmacy to purchase more medications. If I become "Nearer my God to Thee" sick, I don't have anyone to run to the store for me. I appreciate the wisdom of preemptive strikes. I registered my identification and runny nose with the pharmacist in exchange for the right to purchase some Pseudofed. It irritates me to have to write my name in their little book but it's the law. Besides the stuff you can buy OTC doesn't work nearly so well as good old fashioned Pseudofed. While I was there I bought a couple seed packets for my garden. Somehow buying something I need and like makes doing things I don't like more palatable.

I am still not used to the differences between Kentucky and California. In California my vegetable garden would be in the ground and underway. Here I am just gathering supplies. The locals tell me that gardens go in on Derby Day, the first Saturday in May. Today is beautiful and tomorrow we may have snow. If you don't like the weather in Kentucky you just have to wait a few minutes. I came home and put the supplies in the garage and realized I don't really feel like gardening today anyway.

I am enjoying the sunshine a little, but not enough to do anything physical. I have a house that needs cleaning but I don't want to be inside. I have some issues to work out and I can't find the solutions. I am in that restless place where your 'want to' and 'need to' get trumped by feeling overwhelmed and under able. I am worrying about and having empathy for my kids.

My youngest is doing well, but she has some choices she made as a very young adult that are making things difficult for her now. Nothing major, she is paying debts when she would like to be saving money. Being a mom has been a big eye-opener for her and she has shifted all her priorities. Sometimes she needs to be encouraged that doing the right thing is difficult but worth it. My oldest girl and her husband have made a hard life for themselves. They are caught in some loopholes and cannot find a way out. I know the way out, but they can't find it. When asked I tell them the way out, but they can't understand it. The don't see the cost of making things right now will be cheaper than waiting until later. They are being penny wise and pound foolish with their souls. Both of my kids grew up with the gospel but neither of them is following the Lord. All I can do is pray for them.

With my headache under control and the sun warming my face, I read something in The Bruised Reed, by Richard Sibbes

"Suffering brings discouragements, because of our impatience. 'Alas!' we lament, 'I shall never get through such a trial.' But if God brings us unto trial he will be with us in the trial, and at length bring us out, more refined. We shall lose nothing but dross (Zech. 13:9). From our own strength we cannot bear the least trouble, but by the Spirit's assistance we can bear the greatest."

It is good to be reminded that I am not alone in my spiritual discomforts. The concern for my kids and the desire to see them through their life difficulties is nothing compared to the care and concern my Heavenly Father has for me. Signing my name in the pharmacists book is a small nuisance. My name has been written in the Book of Life. Whatever this world brings, no matter how difficult and hard, my soul has been provided for and my debt to God paid in full. It doesn't get better than that.

Romans 8:35-39
35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
36 Just as it is written, "For Thy sake we are being put to death all day long; we were considered as sheep to be slaughtered."
37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.
38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,
39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

19 March 2008

Vote for Ashley Not Obama

I wasn't able to listen to Obama's speech live. I am sorry I missed it but I am grateful for the internet where transcripts of his speech can be found here . Limited analysis can be found in several places. A sampling of them are here, and here, and here. And of course YouTube has posted the speech. I am sure it's gone viral by now. Since I have earlier posted that Obama's church affiliation matters, it seems only fair to me to comment on what he's done to address the issue.

My first reaction to the speech was to want to applaud his writing staff and then I read that Obama has written the speech himself. The compliment stands. He did a great job of trying to diffuse and distance himself from the controversy. He delivered the message with poise and charm. What he failed to do was address the core problem of the double standard I pointed out earlier and as such, he is no more trustworthy now than he was prior to clarifying his position.

Look, I do not dislike the man. I am not trying to bash him personally. I want to point out the inconsistency with his profession of faith and his actions. He talked about his pastor's anger at having been treated poorly because of his race. I do not doubt that by the world's standards the man has every right to be angry. Wright is a pastor, a man of God and therefore has no such right, real or perceived, to be hateful. That doesn't mean he is without recourse. He has every right and responsibility to do his part to end racism by preaching the truth. The gospel is what sets men free, not hyperbole and rhetoric. Wright's anger is not just "counter productive" it is sinful and should not be tolerated or condoned by God's people!

Obama's intimation that his association with Wright is a distraction that will continue our country's stalemate about race is a straw man argument that should be burned to the ground. It is exactly because we are being asked to gloss over this issue that the infection will continue to rot and grow. You cannot repudiate someone's words and actions while trying to justify or condone them. It still shows me a lack of true conviction and willingness to do what is right. You cannot end racism by condoning 'black anger' even while your lips keep saying the words like repudiate.

I just about fell out of my chair when Obama intimated that we all have heard things from our pastors that have made us cringe and yet we still listen to them. I have to agree, but only partially. My pastors have made me cringe. Each time they held up a mirror in one hand and God's standard in the other and I see where I fall short, I cringe. I have never and would never sit and let a pastor use his anger to spew venom and remain silent about it. I wouldn't remain associated with a church that continued to allow it. I hope with all my heart that God would never allow me to remain silent when such a deplorable thing was being done. I certainly wouldn't offer things like "he is always respectable to white people when talking to them face to face" (my paraphrase).

Obama's speech ended with a touching story about one of his staffers. The story is touching, Obama's commentary about it sealed the deal for me. He has an utter lack of ability to see this race issue clearly. I cut and pasted this from the transcript of his speech. I have used a different font and the red text is what makes me crazy. Here it is :

There is one story in particularly that I’d like to leave you with today — a story I told when I had the great honor of speaking on Dr. King’s birthday at his home church, Ebenezer Baptist, in Atlanta.

There is a young, 23-year-old white woman named Ashley Baia who organized for our campaign in Florence, South Carolina. She had been working to organize a mostly African-American community since the beginning of this campaign, and one day she was at a roundtable discussion where everyone went around telling their story and why they were there.

And Ashley said that when she was nine years old, her mother got cancer. And because she had to miss days of work, she was let go and lost her health care. They had to file for bankruptcy, and that’s when Ashley decided that she had to do something to help her mom.

She knew that food was one of their most expensive costs, and so Ashley convinced her mother that what she really liked and really wanted to eat more than anything else was mustard and relish sandwiches. Because that was the cheapest way to eat.

She did this for a year until her mom got better, and she told everyone at the roundtable that the reason she joined our campaign was so that she could help the millions of other children in the country who want and need to help their parents too.

Now Ashley might have made a different choice. Perhaps somebody told her along the way that the source of her mother’s problems were blacks who were on welfare and too lazy to work, or Hispanics who were coming into the country illegally. But she didn’t. She sought out allies in her fight against injustice.

Anyway, Ashley finishes her story and then goes around the room and asks everyone else why they’re supporting the campaign. They all have different stories and reasons. Many bring up a specific issue. And finally they come to this elderly black man who’s been sitting there quietly the entire time. And Ashley asks him why he’s there. And he does not bring up a specific issue. He does not say health care or the economy. He does not say education or the war. He does not say that he was there because of Barack Obama. He simply says to everyone in the room, “I am here because of Ashley.”

Has the senator taken leave of his senses? Does he really believe that Ashley might have blamed her mother's cancer or lack of health benefits on black welfare recipients or illegal immigrants? Or is he telling us that white people all think so illogically that they might make a connection between the two? Does he think that Americans are just that gullible as to believe his assessment of what Ashley might have done? Or is he simply willing to do anything to try and make himself look better? Talk about a distortion of racial issues. What a pity that a man who professes Christ and to whom much has been given in the way of opportunity, can only offer this nonsense.

I may disagree with her politics, but at least Ashley is willing to sacrifice to do the right thing. I say we vote for her.

18 March 2008

The Dirt and Snowflake Principle.

Some posts I mull around for days and days before I actually write them. Some just come flying out as I rant with my fingers clicking the keys on the keyboard. You're not likely to tell the difference in the execution of my writing. I have grown careless in my old age. I suppose that it is proof of my rebellious nature. I resented having to learn to write in APA, MLA and Turabian styles. It would be so much easier if there was one style to learn. A common expectation among disciplines is that you're going to have to write a paper, but one style of writing and documenting sources will never do. Or so it appears. If you ask me it is just one more way we try to separate, categorize and distance ourselves from others.

In the United States we value our individualism above all else. Striving to be recognized individually while desiring to be part of a herd has us conflicted. I think this is why we struggle so much with being offended. We want acceptance and yet, we want to stand out on our own. We want our autonomy as long as we can be autonomous with others who are just like us enough not to make us feel singled out for our difference.

Somewhere between the Great Generation and the Boomers the idea of living in community has been lost. The Great Generation had it and they lived their lives accordingly. I am a Boomer and I know it was taught to me, but I am not certain that I did my job instilling this idea in my children. Perhaps we can blame the advances in technology occurring quicker than our moral compasses can keep up. When survival was more difficult, there was a greater sense of community. We treat our neighbors better when we might need their help. We are less likely to care what they look like or what their socio-economic status is when we need them for our survival.

In the women's bible study I attend on Tuesdays, we have been talking a bit about our prejudices and preferences. We talked about how we all have presumptions about people and generally look for clues and proof that we were right in our surface, intuitive assessments. It is good to be with Christian women who are willing to look at their lives and their beliefs and line them up with Scripture. When we understand the depth and magnitude of our sinfulness, we know we have no basis to judge others. We are all made from the same dirt and are all in need of the same gospel to save us.

I have talked about this before, but it bears repeating. Have you ever wondered why God made us from dirt? I have. I think about it often. He could have made us from anything he wanted. Heck, He could have made us from nothing at all. Instead, He made us from dirt. There is everything from poop to gold in dirt. Ever look at dirt under a microscope? We are all at our base, the same, made from the same dirt and have the same need for salvation. We are common. We struggle with the same things- no one of us struggles with something that isn't common to another (1Cor 10:13). We bring nothing of value with us when we stand before God, nothing of our own. We who are saved have no idea who God's elect are and thus should treat everyone as if they are His.The playing field is even when we think biblically. We're as common as dirt and as unique as snowflakes.

17 March 2008

Wild Irish Rosemarie- and her reformed heritage

Following family history is fascinating to me. If you were to see me you would have little doubt of my Italian heritage. My father's family came to the United States through Ellis Island. What may not be so obvious at first is my Irish heritage. I can trace my maternal heritage back to Isaac Taylor Taylor Sr. was born October 08, 1710 in Armagh, Antrim, Ireland, and died October 08, 1781 in Virginia. Isaac served in the Virginia militia and it is my relationship to him that would allow me to be a Daughter of the American Revolution should I ever desire to join. It's not clear to me when, but it seems Isaac's family immigrated to Antrim, Ireland. They were Scottish Covenanters. So it looks as though I am Irish but only by way of being a Scot and a Presbyterian Scot at that. Since the Scots don't celebrate St. Patrick's Day, we'll just stick with my Irish heritage for now.

Isaac built a life in Virginia and had several children. Each of those children spread out from their father's home until eventually a branch of the Taylors built their lives in Lemoore, CA. I have pictures of the old Lemoore homestead and I stood in a field surrounded by cattle when we buried my grandfather in the old Taylor Cemetery. By the time I arrived in this family, there was no evidence of anyone having faith in God. Quite a departure from their roots who vowed to hold to the Protestant Reformation.

Born and raised in California, I have recently moved to Kentucky. My move was prompted by the same thing that prompted Isaac's; the chance for a better quality of living. In the genealogy records I have inherited, it seems that quite a few of my Taylor kin have lived in the Blue Grass state. I have returned home in more way than one. Though I am not Presbyterian, I am most decidedly Reformed in my theology. So in celebrating St. Patrick's day, you can keep the green beer and the leprechaun's pot of gold. I will marvel in the way God weaves the tapestry of His family and be grateful for an eternal heritage.

Romans 6:22-23 22 But now having been freed from sin and enslaved to God, you derive your benefit, resulting in sanctification, and the outcome, eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NAS)

16 March 2008

Profound Thoughts...... or not....

I have been searching for something profound to think about all day and I haven't had much success. I know there are many things worth thinking about, it's just that I can't seem to hang on to one today. Normally my brain is flooded with too many topics at once and I weed most of them out to find something to peruse. Today the garden of my mind lies fallow. Perhaps I have finally spun out and just don't know it? I am quite prone to information overload but if I am to be honest, I enjoy it.

I enjoy learning. If it weren't for the outrageous student loan balance I have already accumulated, I would return to school for yet another degree. It hardly matters to me what it would be, so long as it's not mathematics. Despite my quest for knowledge I am never tempted by math. I get the concepts, it's just those silly numbers that get in the way.

My mind tends to retain the bizarre and useless facts it encounters. Did you know they used Jello to change the "Horse of a Different Color" different colors in the movie The Wizard of Oz? I read that in third grade. I keep waiting for the moment that piece of information becomes valuable. No, the valuable stuff slides out of my brain. So, should knowing how they colored the horses in The Wizard of Oz be important you can rest assured I will forget how it was done. But for now, it was Jello and they had to hire people to hold the horses heads. Much to everyone's consternation, the horses licked the Jello off when they were left unattended.

Now.... where was I?........ perhaps I better just call it a day.

15 March 2008

Barak Obama's Church Affiliation Matters

The news is full of stories regarding Barak Obama's association with his pastor, Jeremiah Wright. You can read about it in Europe, or in the US. You see and hear it on the Net and your nightly news. I am glad it's out there. I anticipated it. You might have even read my take on it here in my little blog. I was shocked that the church the senator attended had such a racist agenda and no one had said anything about it. They have now.

Obama is now trying to do damage control. They have changed the church's website. They have added some videos of a white, female pastor to speak for the church and Obama. The senator is denouncing his pastor's remarks. For twenty years Jeremiah Wright has pastored a church whose very mission statement betrays the racism it promotes and suddenly Obama is saying my pastor doesn't speak for me? Give me a break. I wish with all my heart that my black brothers and sisters in Christ would call him on it. Why? Because my calling him on it is likely to be dismissed as racist too, which is far from the truth. Instead of denouncements and repudiations I would love to see some repentance. I am sick to death of the double standard in the world and cannot keep quiet when I see it in the church. Racism is a sin. Period. It doesn't matter how subtly it is packaged.

I am angry. I have done everything in my power to raise my kids to respect people for their humanity- for the magnificent reason that they bear the Image of of God. I have done my level best to make certain they understood that evil comes in every shape, size and color. Given the right set of circumstances we are all capable of doing horrible things. Doing the right thing is difficult but it's the one standard we should hold all men to-what God decrees is the right thing.

Doubtless I will offend someone with this post. I am anticipating the arguments already. It's not racism, it is just pride in ethnic heritage! It will be assumed that a white woman can't know what she is talking about, never having been black. Some will think I am naive and not living in the real world. I assure you, being born in Oakland, CA and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area, I have a clue. I know about the pressures of poverty. I know what it is like not to feel safe by virtue of your race. None of that is the point though. My point is you can't have it both ways. You cannot scream foul for racism and then promote it, even if it is under the guise of pride in your heritage. (For the record I was angry at the pictures of Obama dressed in the clothes of his heritage being made into more than what they were.)

Yes there are still problems with racism in this country. I am not denying it. Supporting someone who belongs to a church that promotes a racist agenda isn't the answer. Electing a candidate who attends such a church to the office of President of the United States of America because he denies association with the message of the pastor is not going help. He either doesn't have the courage of his convictions or the sense to recognize racism on his own. Please stop supporting this man.

Post Script: I realize that I may not have clearly articulated my objection to Senator Obama's church's mission statement. My objection first and foremost is that it is not biblical. The color of a person's skin should have zero bearing on the treatment they receive from a Christ honoring church. As believers we should see the first need of all men and woman as gospel of Christ. The bible does tell us to minister to those in need but never suggests we distinguish the race of the needy as a way to set priorities.

13 March 2008

Random Thoughts While Driving Home

I had a series of random thoughts today. I was driving down a highway that is being upgraded from two small lanes to four divided lands. I seldom drive that way but I was trying to avoid being caught behind a school bus on my way home. Ever have a landmark on a familiar drive that you really look forward to seeing? On this drive mine is a second-hand appliance store. Someone has carefully painted "Refiguators for Sale" on the front window. It cracks me up each time I see it. I have decided if ever I need a 'refiguator' I am buying it there! I began wondering what would happen to the merchants along the old highway. Surely their business was dependent on drivers stopping in to see what they sold. The old highway will almost certainly be deserted in favor of using this new bypass. Tourists would cease stopping in to see and businesses will likely fold.

From there my mind went to the old saying "location, location, location" as being the most important consideration when buying real estate. I began to recall businesses and homeowners I know that have done well because of their locations and some that have disappeared for want of traffic. Then I skipped to all I had learned in history about how towns would thrive or perish based on their proximity to the next important event or resource. Before I knew it I was thinking about the location of Christ's earthly ministry and his crucifixion. Major trade routes and thoroughfares like the Via Maris and The Kings Highway allowed news about Jesus to travel far and wide. They were the 'information super highways' of their day.

My mind hopped and skipped through a lot of thoughts until I was wondering why Jesus was born then and not now. Now we have the ability to receive information and 'see' things in record time. I began to do some wild speculation about what Peter would be like in 2008. What mischief would the "sons of thunder" be up to in order to earn that title if they were here now? Between cell phones and the Internet, there wouldn't be a moment of the disciples lives that weren't televised and broadcast.

Not all speculation is profitable. I reminded myself that I had said that last week at the women's bible study I attend. We were asked by the author of the study to speculate on what Barabbas was thinking when the crowd released him and demanded Jesus be scourged and crucified. They also asked what we thought Peter felt after denying Christ and when Jesus asked him "Peter, do you love me?" I readily admit the questions bothered me- so how were my speculations different?

As I approached home I decided that our sinful natures would never appreciate the sanctification process that occurred in the lives of the apostles if we had a modern day play-by-play. We would pick each action apart, bickering and debating while endlessly rewinding and pausing different moments to offer proof that we were right. Or, worse yet, we would completely miss the point of sanctification being a personal work of the Holy Spirit. We would try to duplicate our favorite apostle's life in some vain, formulaic attempt to reproduce their sanctification in our lives.

My last thoughts as I backed into the garage.... Dang! I forgot to see if my favorite store was still there! I wonder how many people have told the owner of the appliance store they misspelled refrigerator?

11 March 2008

A Lament for the Frito Bandito

I am fed up with political correctness. It has never been a good thing and it never will be a good thing. I want to shake people who are willing to throw away the hard won freedoms we have in the United States because they think that they have a right to go through life without being offended. I have news for you. Going through life without being offended isn't one of your inalienable rights. For that matter your happiness isn't an inalienable right, the pursuit of happiness is. There is a difference. People died to give you the freedom to be different from me. The whole point was to get away from intolerance and you're trying to breed it back in! Diversity tolerance does not equate with the right to go through your life unoffended.

I have been building up to this rant since I was a kid and the Frito-Lay company took the Frito Bandito away. Why? Because some Chicano or LaRaza political activists thought that the character had a negative social impact for Latinos and Hispanics. I have news for the political activists. I was totally willing to go without table grapes and lettuce to support your seemingly more legitimate causes. Your idiotic decision to get San Francisco television and radio stations to boycott the Frito Bandito was just that, idiotic. Sure, it was effective. You got rid of him- but then I associated the inability to think clearly with you. The causes you told me were important became suspect. Nice trade off. I never associated the Bandito with the Hispanic community any more than my friends associated my Italian heritage with the guy who was in the Alka Seltzer commercials saying "At'sa spicey meat-a-ball!"

Here's the thing that scares me; we (our society) haven't stopped trying to eliminate being offended ever since. Instead of teaching our kids to value human beings because of their humanity and thus to appreciate the differences between our various ethnicities, we have widened the chasm between us. We're not fixing the real problem; we're trying to legislate opinions instead. It's ludicrous.

Romans 12:1-2
1 I urge you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, {which is} your spiritual service of worship.
2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.

10 March 2008

Thunder Snow, Crashing Points and Near Normality

Unhappiness is when your back finally heals enough that you can walk, drive and sit without screaming in pain... Sunday morning comes and your driveway is covered with 2 inches of ice. I really don't want to complain though because the ice was part of an amazing demonstration put on by Almighty God. We had thunder and lightning while it snowed. Prior to the snow fall was a bit of freezing rain. When the lightning flashed it lit the night sky so the freezing rain looked like glitter flying in the wind. The resulting slab of ice was worth the price of the light show. However, when your driveway looks like an ice-skating rink, there are choices that have to be made and none of them are good. Do you risk sliding down your driveway in your automobile and hope that your car doesn't slide into the telephone pole? It only helps to have a four wheel drive when some of the wheels can get traction.

Speaking of traction, the other option was to risk putting my back out again by grabbing the shovel and clearing a path. Like I said, no good choices. I decided to be safe but disappointed. I made the hard choice not to attend church. To console myself, I decided to listen to some sermons online. I would have some private worship with John Piper and John MacArthur. That's when I went to my handy dandy computer tried to download a sermon from Desiring God. I couldn't get the website to open so I tried Grace To You. Hmm... detecting a pattern I started to open something else. Of course that would be when my computer crashed. Not a normal "I just stopped working and there's little you can do about it crash" but an "it's impossible computers can't do that!" type of crash. No, really... it was bizarre.

I clicked on control panel and AOL Instant Messenger opened. I thought I made a mistake and tried again. This time I got an error message that my printer wasn't hooked up correctly. Knowing what I was seeing wasn't good, I started trying to get important information off and that's when the blue screen appeared. Before I could scream "no!" a red screen appeared and I was being told that Windows had detected a problem and would be recovering itself. I am not a geekazoid. I eventually will figure out how to get a computer to do what I want it to do but it takes me a while. When your computer is in self-recovery, it is too late. Helpless, I watched as it lied to me.

First lie was when it said it was copying my data files and they would be ok. Next it said I would have to reinstall all programs I had added to the computer; also a lie. Lights flashed, something went whirrrrrr! and then there was my computer telling me it was on Arizona time in 1980. I hated the 80's the first time. I'll take Kentucky in 2008 over Arizona in 1980 any day. When my computer had finished, the only program that worked was mIRC, which was a blessing because the chat channel I frequent there is full of computer geekazoids, the kind that get paid for being Silicon Valley techno savvy.

Only one was brave enough to rise the challenge, though lots of people had suggestions. Micah is a hero. His official diagnosis? "Your computer is really sick!" Now that's what I am talking about! A geekazoid that speaks techno friendly to computer idiots like me and is kind enough to spend hours on remote access trying to recover files for me. I went to bed at about 3:00 am on Eastern time, thank you very much, while Micah played with my computer on Pacific time. He has recovered files for which I am very grateful. Including a pictures, w00t! His only comment to me was "do me a favor and make a back up, regularly next time." What a gem! Little does he know that I will be backing up my back ups and printing all those adorable pictures of my grandson so no blue screen can erase him ever again! As for my computer, it is still sick. It has a hard drive with a fault on it. I think that and the loose nut at the key board were a bad combination.

Today? Today was nearly normal. I managed to get my laptop working so I could take care of some banking and bill paying. I got some housework done. My attitude of gratitude is still there. I am grateful for Micah and his willingness to help. My driveway was icy, but my house was toasty warm. My oldest is recovering and showing much strength and courage. She is incredible. My youngest is so grown up! She and her family just moved into a nice place. It is wonderful to hear her make great choices for my grandson. My doggie isn't limping any more. I am able to walk without pain. Most importantly, I am saved. The worst day here is better than one second in hell.

07 March 2008

Happiness is Being in the Right Church

I know I am in the right church.
Want to know how I know?

---I am growing from equal parts of conviction and encouragement.
--- I miss the teaching as much as the people when I cannot attend.
---My pastor reads my blog- so I know I have accountability.
---My countenance is quieter though my trials are not fewer.

06 March 2008

Confrontation and Repentance in Action

I read a lot of blogs. Today I read a post on Challies blog that ties into my theme of repentance. He posted a portion of an audio of Mark Driscoll speaking to his congregation. You can find that here. Unless you live under a rock or have little to do with Christian blogs, you know that Mark Driscoll and his preaching have received a lot of attention. The whole of Mars Hill Church where he pastors has been under scrutiny. As a matter of fact, I have commented on Mark Driscoll here, which is why I want to comment on what I read and listened to on Challies.

The point that Challies seems to be making is that Driscoll's friends, who are men of God, C.J. Mahaney and John Piper, went to Mark and confronted him about sin they saw in his life. Yahoo! I get goosebumps when men (and women) of God act like it! Confrontation is exactly what they should have done. It is the biblical command and standard to which believers are held. All believers, laymen and clergy.

I have already posted here and here about confrontation. Biblical confrontation is a loving and effective tool that needs to be coupled with the encouragement and hope found in Scripture. I will not go into speculation about the details or scope of Dricoll's repentance. I will pray that his heart remains tender to the Holy Spirit and that his friends will continue to encourage and confront him. I will also continue to pray for the sheep at Mars Hill Church.

05 March 2008

Ophidiphobia , Hamartology, Repentance and Fearing God

I am an ophidiphobe. Snakes of all shapes and sizes terrify me. I have to admit though that I also have a strange fascination with the creatures. I do a pretty good job of disguising my fear of them though. I have never wanted to admit I am afraid of them because I am certain that knowledge could be useful to my enemies or friends with warped senses of humor. In fact, in what could ultimately be the world's best acting performance I actually held a live rattlesnake to prove that I wasn't afraid. The man who had the snake held the working end, and I held the part that rattled. He was impressed and thought I was cool. What he didn't know is that I went home from that experience and trembled for hours.

When I was in kindergarten I walked to and from school with several older children from my neighborhood. I lived with my grandparents at that time and they were not inclined to drive me nor walk the five or six blocks with me. It was a small, rural community in the East Bay Area. It was also a different world then. It was a world where kids went o the corner store and bought penny candy. Or where you could go out on Halloween and trick-or-treat for hours without parental supervision. Everyone walked or rode bikes to get where they were going, and you knew every shortcut to every destination. We had basic rules we followed: Stay out of other people's yards, don't get into cars with strangers, don't yell or otherwise make a nuisance of yourself and don't come home late. I didn't break rules. I feared my grandmother's temper and wrath.

One day my neighbors weren't going to be walking home. My grandmother told me I had to walk home by myself, then she reminded me of the rules and told me to come straight home. I was looking forward to some freedom and thought my dream had come true until she told me to come straight home. Still, I looked forward to walking home all day long.

Finally! School was out I marched out like a trooper making a a bee-line for home using my favorite shortcut. It was hot and I had a jacket to carry but I didn't mind- until I encountered the snake. There was some new home construction happening in a field that was between the school and home. A big king snake had no doubt tried to escape the earth moving equipment only to be hit by a car as he slithered across the road. These were very small lanes with room for only one car at a time and no sidewalks. To my frightened eyes this snake was enormous. It had been stretched out across the road and there was no way for an ophidiphobic child to get around it. I stood in the middle of the street paralyzed with fear and began to cry. I would have been there for days if I hadn't remembered my grandmother's warnings to come straight home.

This memory is as fresh for me as the day it happened some 45 years ago. I was terrified and wanted nothing to do with that snake. I could smell it, I could see it, I knew that if I got anywhere near it it would spring to life and bite me. I also knew that getting home late was not an option. I found myself wishing I had gone home the long way because I would not have encountered the snake. Now the only way for me to get home on time was to step over the snake or turn and go back and take the long way. Getting close to that snake was not an option. I turned and went home the long way, running as if the snake was chasing me.

Hamartology is the study of sin. As I enter into this study of repentance it's important that I look critically at my thoughts about sin. Thomas Watson has this to say:

"A tender heart is ever a trembling heart. The penitent has felt sin's bitterness. This hornet has stung him and now, having hopes that God is reconciled, he is afraid to come near sin any more. The repenting soul is full of fear. he is afraid to lose God's favor, which is better than life. He is afraid he should want for diligence, come short of salvation. He is afraid lest, after his heart has been soft, the waters of repentance should freeze and he should harden in sin again. 'Happy is the man that feareth alway...' (Proverbs 28:14)...A repenting person fears and sins not; a graceless person sins and fears not."

As I read that I thought of the day I walked home. How much better would my life be if I treated sin like I did that snake? If my reverential fear of God compelled me to avoid sin at all costs. If cared less about impressing people and more about obeying my God?

04 March 2008


A while back I posted something on an anticipated big change in my life. God has been laying out a theme for me and each day it becomes more difficult to ignore it. The one constant in all the material I am being sent, in each book I decide to read, and most of the blogs I frequent is repentance.

It shouldn't be too surprising to come across the word repentance in the Christian world. It is easy to see there are a lot of people out there who need to repent. Now, I could delude myself into believing that God is bringing this idea of repentance to my attention so I can point out the sins and faults of others. You know, like He is grooming me to be a crusader of sorts . That's it! I am being called to start a new club for super-Christians called "Speck Patrol." Ha! I wish. No, the more I try to wiggle out from under the conviction, the more pressure God is placing on me to re-evaluate my concept of repentance. Not mine alone, but how we as the body of Christ view repentance.

Sure, we can connect the dots when we fall into one of those big sins we are familiar with, like adultery, murder, and the like. We are fairly quick to repent when we are in crisis. We forget that as we stumble and bump through our day-to-day lives, we Christians need to consider our need of repentance. We need to know what constitutes repentance by biblical standards, and to be able to identify true repentance when we see it. The more I read the more I am convinced that repentance is one of the most neglected necessities for living a fruitful life. Why? Because we don't hear enough about it from our pulpits.

The very words, 'repent' or 'repentance' seem to have become obsolete. Instead of being told that the cure for sin is faith in Christ coupled with repentance, we are more likely to hear about our "issues, conditions and syndromes." It is our ADHD or low self-esteem that cause us to behave the way we do. We are victims of our metabolism, cursed by our genetic make-up and at the mercy of our environments. It's garbage, but we like it. We build mega-churches where we can get our egos stroked and our feathers smoothed and we're dying as a result. Unless and until we are ready to cowboy up and take responsibility for our own thoughts, deeds, actions and inaction, we will never enjoy the life-renewing, hope sustaining joy of repentance.

"For thus the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, has said, 'In repentance and rest you shall be saved, in quietness and trust is your strength.' But you were not willing" Isaiah 30:15.

It's scary and I will be honest enough to tell you that my first inclination is to run away from what God is teaching me about repentance. That's my flesh talking. That's the enemy whispering his poison into my soul. The command in Scripture is clear. We are to repent and believe. Too often repentance is only for those who are being evangelized and are becoming Christians. The truth is that the root of every sin in a believer's life, is the sin of unbelief. If we truly believed God's promises, how would we be motivated to sin?

Tell me, what would your reaction be if you were to see a man, freshly deposited from the belly of a great fish, tromp up to you and say; "Repent!" Would you be compelled to do just that or would you want to tell him that you were also believer? Perhaps you would like to chat him up and ask him just what it was like to be in the belly of a fish?

No recriminations here. You can see what my reaction is to this material the Lord has deposited at my feet. I have a bit of fear about what I will have to give up, but the knowledge that He has my best in mind is comforting. The book pictured above is is one of the things God is having me revisit, The Doctrine of Repentance. It is written by one of my favorite Puritan authors, Thomas Watson. I also want to leave you with a link to his work "The Nature of Repentance." Both are well worth the read.

03 March 2008

When Hard Things Happen

Sometimes this world is ugly and I don't want to be here any more. I know this seems a sharp contrast from the post I made here about how everything we do matters. It's not really. I still believe those words. In times like these, I cling to them. It's just that I know that heaven will be so much nicer. Here I am free from the penalty and power of sin, there I will be free from the presence of sin and sin is very ugly business.

Today my oldest girl miscarried her baby boy. She was 5 1/2 months pregnant. I am heartbroken for her and her husband, they are grieving the loss of their son. I am grieving the loss of my second grandchild. His death was traumatic and trauma always changes people. Always. I know that this is something that his parents will survive, but they will never be the same, nor should they be. Life can and will be good again. There will be time to enjoy the blooms of spring and the warmth of sunshine on their faces. Time will pass and the pain will subside but this side of heaven, there will always be the grief and loss of a beautiful baby boy.

I try not to ask why. Instead I remember what truths I know about God. He is a good, kind, loving God. Nothing he does is capricious. I honestly believe this baby's life counts. His brief time here has united the ties we have as a family. He's taught me to be tender and compassionate in a new way. He's driven me to my knees to pray for his mom and dad.

When hard things happen there is only one place to go for comfort. Only the Sovereign God of the universe who makes everything count together for good can offer the necessary solace. I don't have to understand it all to have hope. God has his reasons.

02 March 2008

More Deep Thoughts

It's been a few days since I have posted anything, not that I have been missed. It's more that I have missed the chance to put some thoughts down and think them through. There is a nagging feeling I have that that I am missing something important. That somewhere in the list of strange things I think about, there is one worth pursuing. Do you think about things you never hear anyone else mention? I do.

I had a lovely conversation with my friend, Carla. You know you are building a great friendship with someone when you feel comfortable in sharing those strange things you think about and they don't run away in terror.

So what do I think about? What does God think is funny? Can you know everything, be sovereign in all matters and have a sense of humor? Our humor is tainted by sin, God's is not. Does he laugh at pratfalls? Or does he have more of a sense of enjoyment? I laugh when I watch little piglets play. Does he?

What does God think is beautiful? Are some things more aesthetically pleasing to Him than others? In Philippians 4:8 we get a list of things to think about. What does God consider lovely? " Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, let your mind dwell on these things." (NAS)

These are the thoughts that will keep me busy for hours.