29 June 2010

Desperate Choices

When I worked in public safety I never understood why women would dial 9-1-1 and ask for help because their husband, boyfriend, and/or baby daddy was beating them and then beat the officers to the jail to post bail for their man. Often they were there before the booking process had begun. And then I became an instant single parent and I got it. "He may beat me on Friday night but Monday there will be food on the table to feed my kids." Choices of desperation.

When I worked at a Christian university I never understood why parents would pay outrageous sums of money in tuition to send their adult children to a Christian school that they wanted no part of attending. They had no intention of taking their education seriously, especially their spiritual education. Then my kids became young adults and made choices not to follow or believe in God and I got it. Mom and Dad are willing to pay big bucks to expose their beloved offspring to a little bit of Jesus...hoping that faith will rub off on them and they will live in obedience. Again, choices of desperation.

I once took a call as a volunteer firefighter. It was so long ago that it was before 9-1-1. A woman called the firehouse screaming and begging for help. Her ex-boyfriend couldn't deal with her decision to break up with him. He was parked in front of her home, he handcuffed his arm to his steering wheel, doused himself with gasoline and promised to use the lighter in his hand if she wouldn't agree to come back to him. She lived in a rural area, she was terrified and needed help. While she was on the phone to me I could hear the explosion. He wanted to control her and when she refused to let him, he gave her something to remember for the rest of her life. His final choice was desperation. A desperate attempt to prove he had the power.

Desperation and logic seldom travel together. It isn't impossible but it is unusual to see them working together congruently. Extreme emotion seldom allows itself to be bridled and contained. It demands expression and notice. It looks for a quick pressure relief valve and bubbles to the surface using character flaws and besetting sins to find freedom. My professors taught me that the situations of life don't cause our behavior, they are merely the context that allows the content of our hearts to be seen. When you squeeze a sponge and dirty water comes out, it's not the pressure that made the water dirty. The dirt was there to begin with.

When King David saw Bathsheba bathing he could have averted his eyes but he allowed himself a moment to admire a beautiful woman. That admiration turned to coveting, which turned to adultery which led him to make choices of desperation and a man was sent to his death. A man who was loyal and true, literally serving King David with his life- Uriah the Hittite was dead in an attempt to cover David's sin. What if the story ended there? What if Nathan had never come and exposed David's sin? Perhaps Psalm 51 would never have been written. How sad that would be for all of us who have found ourselves face down, repenting of sin and crying out for a new heart. It's really speculation but the point is a worthy one. Without Nathan's confrontation of David, who knows if repentance would have ever followed? Who knows what other choices of desperation would have been made before David did repent.

The topic of Liberty University and Dr. Caner is already all over the net and my blog has been no exception. It is amazing to me that so many would rush to defend the nonsensical statement made by Liberty and see it as exonerating Dr. Caner. Now I see on Face Book that Dr. Norman Geisler has stated publicly that he "totally supports" Dr. Caner. I can only shake my head. First of all, what makes Dr. Geisler think that those who have confronted Dr. Caner and are asking him to be accountable before God for the things he has said are not supporting him? It is more loving to confront someone in sin than to pat them on the back and tell them, "It's OK, we all misspeak from time to time." Dr. Geisler says that Dr. Caner has corrected his statements. Where? I would love to see them and post them on my blog for everyone to see.

I honestly can't comprehend why this situation is so difficult for so many. Why can't those defending Dr. Caner understand the magnitude of the offense of a man misleading people from a pulpit? Listen to Dr. White spell it out for you on this Dividing Line. Try to bridle your emotions and listen to what he says without presupposing his agenda. Why is it so hard to understand that there is no animosity in confronting him. Quite the contrary, a call to repentance is a loving act. When you call sin what it is, there is a solution to it in the Word. There is no solution for mistakes and misstatements. What's more, desperate choices get bigger and more desperate until and unless repentance occurs. Read the desperation in Psalm 38 and the beautiful plea for repentance in Psalm 51. That's the kind of desperation I pray for Dr. Caner and us all.

Psalm 51:10-17
10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.
11 Do not cast me away from Thy presence, and do not take Thy Holy Spirit from me.
12 Restore to me the joy of Thy salvation, and sustain me with a willing spirit.
13 {Then} I will teach transgressors Thy ways, and sinners will be converted to Thee.
14 Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, Thou God of my salvation; {then} my tongue will joyfully sing of Thy righteousness.
15 O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Thy praise.
16 For Thou dost not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; Thou art not pleased with burnt offering.
17 The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, Thou wilt not despise.

Bad Flags, Corks and a Good God

I don't quite know what to make of today. It's had a few unusual events already. I was sitting, sipping coffee and watching the news this morning when I noticed the neighbor's outrageously cute basset hound puppy playing in their yard. For those of you unfamiliar with Kentucky, we don't have fences as a general rule, not unless you have livestock. Our subdivision yards are a bit bigger than most of my California friends can relate to. I have a small lawn and it's half an acre. There is a home being built in the lot next to me and so our quiet cul-de-sac has lots of heavy equipment and delivery trucks going up and down most the day. We don't often get a lot of travelers and as I am the last house I seldom see this much traffic.

Just yesterday I was talking to the basset's young owner. I said to him that I wanted to meet his pup because I like animals but I told him not to bring the dog to me, I didn't want the pup to get hit being on the road. Kentucky folks let their animals wander, something I can't get used to. My dogs have an invisible fence and they stay behind the line- when they have their collars on. My particular fence works by first beeping a warning and then sending a low warning shock to the mutts. Lots of dog owners use these here as an alternative to chaining your dog up. At first I thought these were the cruelest devices and then realized having my little buddies on a chain or splattered on the road was exponentially worse than training them to respect the boundary to avoid being shocked. Training your dogs is the important part. You put little flags in the lawn all around the safe perimeter. Then you leash your dog, walk up to the line, let the collar beep and/or zap them while saying "Bad Flags!!" and running back toward your home. My older dog sort of gets it, the younger dog has it down pat. I can send her out without her collar and she will run full speed and lock up and stop at the perimeter line. My poor old Chet gets it most of the time but he's 14, has had a stroke and forgets.... or pretends to forget.

Anyway, while I was watching the news there was the basset, "Elvis Bob," playing on the neighbor's driveway some 100 yards away and across the street. Just as I giggled at him I saw him pick his head up, look toward the street and begin to gambol across his yard. To my horror the lumber and bricks the builders needed were coming up our street and to little Elvis, they seemed like great big playthings. I was up and running down the street in an instant, my old sleeping tee shirt on and with bare feet. The contractor was screaming and waving his hands to get drivers to stop and I am not sure if what he did worked or whether it was the sight of the short, fat, Italian woman running at them full speed ahead.... curly hair uncombed..... looking like a graying Medusa screaming "STOP!! ELVIS-BOB, STOP!!!!" that worked so well. The drivers slammed on their brakes, Elvis came running into my arms and that was too much for my dogs. Not closing the storm door all the way was what my dogs needed to be able to crash through to find out who the interloper was in their mom's arms. Elvis took one look at my charging duo and left me standing in the roadway, feeling nekkid and now having to chase after my dog.

Thibodeaux stopped at her boundary and Chet the Wonder Dog didn't have a collar on so he ran after Elvis like he was 'puparazzi' trying to get a pic of the new celeb that came to visit. Next there I was, chasing Chet who is chasing Elvis-Bob and now the contractor is chasing me telling me how "that pup is gunna get hisself hit an kilt" and how he can't want to be responsible for that.... I stopped short and wanted to ask him, "Is there something about me being out here in my jammies and barefoot chasing after two dogs that would lead you to believe I don't understand the seriousness of this situation????" Instead, using my best command presence voice taught to me at the CHP academy I yelled at Chet, "BAD FLAGS!!" The contractor looked at me like I was an alien and asked "You're the woman from California, right?" Chet turned around and ran to the house. Elvis-Bob stood in the street looking at me. "Did you just say, 'bad flags?'" The contractor was walking away from me before I could answer. Moments later Chet and Thibby were back in the house and Elvis-Bob came running into my arms when I used my best 'puppy voice' to call him back. I put a lead on him and walked him back to his house, waking his groggy but grateful mom.

My next adventure happened when I took my dogs to the vet to get their nails trimmed. With a disability in my hands and a dog that took 4 trained professionals to hold him down the first time they tried to trim his nails- it has seemed like a great investment to pay them to wrestle with this 15 pound dynamo. Neither of the dogs likes going to the vet but both of them have been compliant and not too dismayed. This was Chet's first return since his stroke. He's not been the same dog and that's OK with me as long as he is happy. Well, it appears my dog has developed some anxiety where the vet is concerned and that anxiety caused him to ...... well... relieve himself on the lobby floor.....all over the lobby floor. Great, Lord. Is this the sort of day I am going to have?

I got home and started reading for my next seminar which happens to be on hope. I came across this quote: "Despair looks on things with black spectacles and gives all up as lost. Hope is like the cork to the net which keeps the heart from sinking in despair." I am reminded that the worst day here is better than one second in hell. It's all good after salvation.

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

28 June 2010

The Hunt for Red Watermelon

Each summer I search for the elusive watermelon. You know the one I am talking about, the one that has perfectly firm flesh but melts in your mouth like sugar. It is the one watermelon that you judge all others by. The flavor is intense, the seeds are few and all other watermelons before and after are measured by that one.

What do you do when your first watermelon is absolutely amazing? Hope for more of the same or better? Or give stop and be satisfied that you didn't have to go through any disappointments? I am so conflicted! I have never found my elusive watermelon on the first try and so much of the season is still before me! Is it a trick? What would Tom Clancy do?
Y'know, I seen me a mermaid once. I even seen me a shark eat an octopus. But I ain't never seen no phantom perfect watermelon."

Ping me, Vasili! One ping only.

26 June 2010

Camels Swallowed, Forest Still Missing and Presumed Lost

I have posted twice on the Liberty University / Ergun Caner controversy. If you are interested enough to be here now and are unfamiliar with my previous posts, you can find them here and here. Yesterday, Liberty University released a statement regarding the investigation into the veracity of some of Dr. Caner's claims regarding his testimony and accomplishments. You can read that here and here. There are several places you can read about this. If you are ignorant of the whole thing, consider it a blessing and decide if you really want to know.

First of all, for all the Christians who have insisted that Dr. James White had speculated about or that this scandal was in any way about whether or not Dr. Caner was ever really a Muslim, I am at a loss for words. Actually that is a fib. I am at a loss for kind words. I cannot conceive that you can be intelligent enough to have blogs but not intelligent enough to read clearly. Not just that but the man (Dr. White) has gone on record verbally that he has never doubted that Dr. Caner was indeed a Muslim. I get that you don't like Dr. White and his theology, but do so on the merits of what he does say. At least be honest about that.

Next let me say that I have no hidden agenda where Dr. Caner is concerned. I do not dislike the man. I only know him from what he has posted on Twitter and what has been posted about him in blogs and YouTube. The man has a quirky sense of humor and spins a good story. I think his doctrinal position is wrong. Were he and I to sit and chat, I could and would give a a defense of my doctrinal position and listen to his... and trust the Holy Spirit to do His work between us.

Here is my agenda. I love college students. I had the honor and privilege of working in Student Development at a Christian university. I believe that the entire administration, faculty and staff at any college purporting to provide a Christian education has the responsibility to model Christ-like behavior in word and deed. I do not expect them to be perfect but when they are not, when they fall in sin and are confronted, I expect repentance. I don't expect that repentance will be easy. I don't necessarily expect that all repentance will be made public. But I do expect repentance. I also expect anyone working on faculty or in administration at a Christian institution of higher learning to know the difference between sin and mistakes, misstatements and lies, as well as apologies and repentance. It seems my old professor was right, expectations are premeditated disappointments- when we expect anything except for God to remain true to His character.

I have said it several times before, but here it comes again. The purpose of an education is to be able to discern right from wrong and truth from error. I have no idea the breadth and scope of the investigation done by the folks at Liberty regarding Dr. Caner's public statements. I have no idea whether Dr. Caner has only apologized or has repented as well. I have no idea if the folks at Liberty had any intention of continuing Dr. Caner's contract as Dean before these events. Based on Liberty's statement, I have no reason to think that Dr. Caner has been made to see the importance of choosing his words carefully; accurately representing himself in a God honoring fashion. Nor am I able to discern that the folks at Liberty have considered that such monumental 'misstatements' made in public, where most prudent folks are careful in how and what they communicate, could be indicative of a larger problem that could manifest itself easier in smaller venues like classrooms.

Look folks, this all could have ended months ago with Dr. Caner saying two words, "I repent." He could have saved himself, his university, his supporters, his students and not least of all his family this turmoil. I don't want his head on a platter. I don't want anything but to know that the students of Liberty are getting what they are paying for dearly, a Christian education by men and women who themselves know the difference between right and wrong.

I am, therefore, begging you all to spend more effort praying for the students at Liberty than you put into endless speculations about the motivations of people on all sides of this debacle. Do I think Liberty University handled this correctly? No. Do I think they should have fired Dr. Caner? If he wasn't repentant I would have, but I don't know if he was repentant based on their statement so I cannot speculate or respond to that question. My hope is that he was. My trust is in a Sovereign God. He is sovereign in all things or He is sovereign in nothing. He works all things together for good for those who believe and are called according to His purpose.(Romans 8:28). My prayer for Dr. Caner would be that he take his teaching responsibility seriously and not suffer his pride to keep him from swift repentance when necessary.

James 3:1-8
1 Let not many {of you} become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.
2 For we all stumble in many {ways.} If anyone does not stumble in what he says, he is a perfect man, able to bridle the whole body as well.
3 Now if we put the bits into the horses' mouths so that they may obey us, we direct their entire body as well.
4 Behold, the ships also, though they are so great and are driven by strong winds, are still directed by a very small rudder, wherever the inclination of the pilot desires.
5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and {yet} it boasts of great things. Behold, how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!
6 And the tongue is a fire, the {very} world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of {our} life, and is set on fire by hell.
7 For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed, and has been tamed by the human race.
8 But no one can tame the tongue; {it is} a restless evil {and} full of deadly poison.

23 June 2010

Apologetics, Women and Theology

I have been thinking about why women have difficulty with theology and do not seem to be great apologists. I do know several women who are excellent theologians but I cannot think of a single female who is a formal Christian apologist- an orthodox Christian woman apologist. Well, there is Summer. She masquerades as a barista but she has a first class apologetic mind just like her dad. And, like her dad, she's an intellectual anomaly. She also had the benefit of growing up and knowing an apologist as Daddy and not just a lean, mean debating machine.... but I digress. Yesterday I read an exchange that occurred on a young woman's blog and I began to understand why women and apologetics don't seem to mix well. It's the male apologists they encounter who unwittingly scare them away.

Before I explore this further and before I am accused of being a man-hating, male bashing feminist who blames men for every sort of evil under the sun.... I want to go on record as saying that women have responsibility before God to study and show themselves approved. No ifs, ands or buts. Women have the responsibility to measure their beliefs and behaviors by the standard of God's Word. Men are not at fault when women shirk this responsibility. Also, let it be known that I am for apologists. I love apologists. Some of my best friends, mentors and teachers are fabulous apologists. This isn't an anti-apologist article. Just as you apologists would beg your audience to consider the context of Scripture, this article is a plea for you to consider your audience.

Brothers, you are intimidating to us. Peter exhorted men to dwell with their wives in an understanding way. This should be a clue to men that you will have less frustration if you approach women differently than you approach men. Generally speaking we are fearful creatures. We shy away from confrontation, terseness, and things that seem unnecessarily rough. I know you want to respond by saying you are not terse, merely succinct! And you want to charge women not to respond with emotion to what is an intellectual pursuit. I get it. You must also concede God made us respond differently than you guys.

It has taken me a lot of time, work and repentance to come to my complementarian position. I am finally OK with saying that woman were designed to hold a different role than men. I am not saying that we are not as smart as men. It's not that we aren't as capable as men. It is that we are different. Our minds work differently. We receive and process information differently. The way you approach us for exhorting, correcting and encouraging is going to determine how safe we feel to sit and your feet and listen or if we should fight or take flight.

I would also ask you to consider that we may not know that we don't know. I suppose that's true of men as well, but sadly the chances are greater that a woman will have less theological background and no real idea of her doctrinal position. We may use the wrong vocabulary to convey our thoughts because we are repeating what we hear and don't know the classical definitions that you do.

And now for my sisters. Please do not be afraid of learning theology and doctrine. Please do not be afraid of apologists nor the field of apologetics. I know it seems that these men of God are constantly going for the throat. They do hone in on error. For them it is like wounded fish signals to a shark. Unlike sharks their aim is not to rip you to shreds. Quite the contrary. They want to separate you from incorrect ideas and beliefs you hold. They want to give you the truth because freedom lies there. Most of all, do learn to be able to discern truth from error so that no matter who approaches you or how they approach you, you can be ready to give a defense for the hope that is within you.

2 Tim 2:15
15 Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth.

John 8:31-32
31 Jesus therefore was saying to those Jews who had believed Him, "If you abide in My word, {then} you are truly disciples of Mine;
32 and you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."

Fear Down, Hope and Peace to Go!

Last night I had the honor and privilege to present some information to the women of my church. I cannot begin to tell you how much I love and appreciate them. The seminar I did was on fear. God is clever and He had me present the information to them because I needed it. It's not that I don't want to study things for my own benefit and growth, but whenever I do a topical study to teach it, I see how badly I needed it and how much more I have to repent of than I realized. Sometimes you don't know what you don't know. That's a topic I want to return to in another post.

I want to talk about the ladies for a moment. They are an incredibly loving group of women. Women who seek God and are teachable. They have gone out of their way to include me and love on me, which speaks volumes of their characters because I am not all that lovable. I am not being self-deprecating here. I am a mix of endearing and maddening qualities like anyone else. What I am telling you is that I have a difficult time being loved. I don't make it easy. I honestly do not know what to do when someone is kind to me. It makes me uncomfortable and I want to run away. That's one of the reasons I have always preferred the company of men. I understand them and they know how to keep their distance. When they don't, I know how to remind them thanks to learning pain-compliance holds at the dispatcher's academy. (Just kidding. I did learn how to cuff and manage prisoners and to help them decide to be compliant, but I am not an amazonian type who goes around arm wrestling men.) Anyway.... the women of our fellowship and community bible study are an encouragement to me. God uses them to keep me soft and pliable and I am actually learning to like it.

It is a very different thing to give seminars and present information to people in your own fellowship. I found it a bit nerve racking- which is ironic since the topic was fear, anxiety and worry. It's far easier to go in, set off an information bomb of ideas that are new and will cause folks to have reaction whiplash after I have gone than to "return to the scene of the crime" so to speak and see the same lovely faces. Especially having been vulnerable about my life, struggles and craziness while up there talking...it is going to make it more difficult for me to be invisible.

I have someone to thank in particular. She is not a part of my local fellowship but she is a part of my cyber-fellowship. Carla, over at Reflection of the Times, was my constant encourager, sounding board, critic and personal graphic artist. I told the ladies last night that they would be able to tell the slides in the PowerPoint presentation that I did from the ones Carla did in a nano second. The 5 that were mine were just plain information in bullet form. Carla's were gorgeous. She had a beautiful background, the information easy to read and a joy to behold. You really should check out her t-shirts and other things at her stores. She rocks. Just don't make her so busy designing for you that she doesn't have time for my next seminar on hope!

Lastly, to my pastors and to those pastors I know who faithfully cut the Word of God straight and deliver it to their congregations every week. I don't know how you do it. Yes I do, God is the only way to do it correctly. Oh how I pray that you will continue your work in the strength of our Almighty God! Three seminars and lots of time to study before I deliver them and I am exhausted. I didn't have a funeral or wedding or church discipline or boarding meeting to attend. I didn't have anyone in crisis or confused about a decision they needed to make. I am so much more appreciative of your service to the Lord and ministry to us.

22 June 2010

Learning From Students

Occasionally I stumble across a blog written by someone I don't know but wish I could sit down with them over a cup of coffee and just chat. There's a certain honesty to what they write and it comes through in a way that it highlights what I imagine are the best things about them. Things I wish were part of my character. That happened for me today when I came across portrait of a magnificent obsession.

After working at a Christian university for several years, I have to admit that I am tenderhearted for college students. They rock my world. This young woman has reminded me why I like them so much. They have reached adulthood but haven't yet lost their wonder. They have passionate opinions and haven't yet learned the social constraints that make everything happen with restraint and decorum. They are still willing to learn. They are, for the most part, still teachable.

Reading this young woman's blog was encouraging to me. It has reminded me of the wonder I once knew- it has helped me remember the joy of my salvation. I am always amazed at how God will use folks who may be less educated than I am and who may hold drastically different doctrinal positions than mine, to humble me. Humble and remind me that they've got something more right than I do... their exuberant, unashamed, unpretentious love of their Lord. I have always learned more from college students than they have ever learned from me.

Thanks, faith_to_move!

03 June 2010

Grieving for Pyrex

I collect glass. Depression glass, milk glass, carnival glass, china- anything old. Old glass is like catnip to me. I love that it is such a fragile thing and yet it survives so beautifully. One careless move and it's gone. I use most of my things. Why have it if you don't use it?

I have some Pyrex storage containers that I have had for at least 20 years. I have always preferred using glass to using plastic. I used to like Tupperware but so many of my pieces have been lost to pot lucks, dishwashers and stains that glass seemed to be the best storage solution. At one time I had a 50s kitchen and I thought it was the most chic and marvelous place in my home. It was full my grandmother's hand me downs. Refrigerator Glass. Corningware. The old stuff.

Because of my neck and back injury, I have been having a difficult time with hanging on to my Pyrex things. My hands don't work very well. I am likely to drop things as I attempt to pull them from the shelf. I have had a few close calls. Spaghetti sauce almost made it to the floor as the weight of the bowl and the sauce caused my hands to cease functioning. The lid opened and some sauce did spill out on my shirt as I trapped the bowl between the counter and my body, halting its descent to the floor. My poor little dog had assumed his monitoring position and almost got beaned with a couple of pounds of glass and spaghetti sauce. He had no idea how frightened I was that he would have been hurt by my inability to hang on to the bowl. The noise and the scuffling to catch the bowl didn't even alarm him though. He simply started cleaning up the mess and the sound of him slurping up the sauce from the floor brought his little sister in to help clean things up. For me, it's changed everything.

I am giving away my Pyrex storage bowls. I have purchased some lightweight and easy to use plastic storage containers that my poor hands can keep hold of. I'll be slightly less dangerous this way. . . but the end of an era is sad.

I knew I was grown up when I purchased my first vacuum cleaner. By the time I purchased a washer and dryer, I was pretty certain I had "Genuine Adult" tattooed on my forehead. Having to give away my Pyrex marks the end of an era for me. I am old and I am grieving it.

I gave away some books and some clothes today too. I want to get rid of all the extra stuff in my life. I can't manage it. You don't own things when you get old, they own you. I want to divest myself of all the things that I purchased being certain I couldn't live without them and I want to get on with the business of living without them. It will feel good once it is done. I am wise enough to know now that I need very little.

But... I am grieving for my Pyrex storage bowls and shuddering at the thought of having to give away my grandmother's Pyrex mixing bowls. Grieving, shuddering and understanding. It has become painfully obvious why she bequeathed her set of nesting bowls to me and her Corningware casserole dishes too. It was a right of passage for me to receive them, I felt so grown up. Now I know why she did it and I only wish my kids were closer so we could repeat the cycle.