29 March 2011

Discomforture- The Stuff of Nightmares

The danger sign devoid of meaning flashing brightly in a language you don't speak. The unsettled feeling that something is wrong but words are inadequate to describe what that might be. Thinking you're hungry and going to the refrigerator to graze, but finding nothing worth eating on the shelves- no matter how many of your recently favorite foods are located inside. Jumbled feelings. Longing for something you cannot identify. Wanting someone you have never known to hug you. Shield you. Translate the message that makes your skin crawl but bounces off your intellect. The dream that doesn't make sense but leaves your heart racing with the anticipation of something evil being closer than you can see. Tears that escape. Sobs that can't find their way to the surface. Discontent. Anxiety. Fear. Sorrow. Spun together like cheap paint and splattered Pollock style on your soul.

What is it? Why is it? Where did it spring from? I don't know. Something I ate? Something I saw? A thought not held captive? Taproot of bitterness? Iceberg of doubt? Struggling to get back to where things made sense.

Psalm 139:11-13
11 If I say, "Surely the darkness will overwhelm me, and the light around me will be night,"
12 Even the darkness is not dark to Thee, and the night is as bright as the day. Darkness and light are alike {to Thee.}
13 For Thou didst form my inward parts; Thou didst weave me in my mother's womb.

Prov 17:28 Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is {counted} prudent.

Daniel 2:20-22
20 Daniel answered and said, "Let the name of God be blessed forever and ever, for wisdom and power belong to Him.
21 "And it is He who changes the times and the epochs; He removes kings and establishes kings; He gives wisdom to wise men, and knowledge to men of understanding.
22"It is He who reveals the profound and hidden things; He knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with Him.

Hebrews 4:13-16
13 And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are open and laid bare to the eyes of Him with whom we have to do.
14 Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession.
15 For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as {we are, yet} without sin.
16 Let us therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.

28 March 2011

Captain Nemo's Final Lesson

I have been thinking today about the value of pets. My sister's dog, Captain Nemo, is making his final trip to their country property. My sister is the sort of woman who loves animals like I do. I hate that she and her family have to say goodbye to someone hey have loved and cared for so well. I hate that I won't get to see the big bruiser come greet me as only he could. He loved his auntie as much as I loved him. I have been dreading this day as much as I dread the passing of my own furry heroes. Today it dawned on me as I thought about the way animals suffer because of our sin and how grossly unfair that is...that it is only a glimpse of the way Christ suffered to save those whom the Father has given him.

It doesn't change the way I am grieving for my sister's loss, or the loss of my four-legged nephew. It hurts and it makes me feel guilty mingled with a good dose of puny. He's 14 1/2 and a pit bull/lab cross. I have seen Nemo uproot a tree and carry it with pride to his mom for a chance to play fetch the stick, leveling anyone who didn't get out of his way. No malice, just brute strength and joy trailing 10 feet of tree limb beside him. It was our sin, not his that caused his body to betray him. Until a couple days ago his spirit was willing but now his too weak body has taken even that from him. It's just not right.

I'm not trying to play the fairness card. That's a fool's bet. I just didn't realize until today why it is that we animal lovers have to have our hearts break. Why our sin causes our pets demise. Christ,obedient to the point of dying on the cross, took our death sentence so we wouldn't have to, and how unfair to Him was that? Sinless perfection racked by our sin and guilt. Suffering because of us. Suffering because of me. Nemo gave me just a tiny glimpse of what my Savior went through on account of my sins. Captain Nemo was like that, a model of unconditional love used by God to teach me about the grace and mercy of the cross.

Isaiah 53:3-5
3 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face, He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.
4 Surely our griefs He himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.
5But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being {fell} upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed.

Hebrews 10:10
10 By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:14
14 For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified.

1 Peter 3:18
18 For Christ also died for sins once for all, {the} just for {the} unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit;


24 March 2011

Sobering Moments

Yesterday I was sound asleep in my recliner. I lost the battle to maintain consciousness while watching a documentary about Kindertransport. A lover of history, I was fascinated. I was also heavily medicated and the medication won. It was a gorgeous day. The young neighbor boy had come over to mow my lawn. The windows and doors were wide open. The birds were chirping. It was pure bliss. We knew we were going to have a weather change. Anytime you have weather in the 70s and a prediction of a drop to the 30s you can bet a severe thunderstorm will pop up. That's why I have a weather alert application on my too-smart-for-me-to-operate cell phone and a NOAA weather radio.

There I was, sedated to the point of snoring and drooling, fully kicked back in my recliner and sleeping through not one but two blasts of the tornado siren. Forget the cell phone and NOAA radio. The tornado siren is about a quarter mile from my house and is the sort of alarm they used to warn people of air raids during the war. Me? I was absolutely oblivious. Comatose. At this point my BFF and roomie, Barbara, decided to take the kid gloves off to get me to wake up. Apparently she had been using my name at increasing levels with no response. Knowing that I wake up swinging if touched she had to come shout next to my ear.


Now there are two important details to know if you want to visualize my response to her shouting. The first is that I was a volunteer firefighter for many years and got started back before there were pagers. We used a siren just like the tornado warning to alert firefighters to respond. I got really good at jumping out of my bed and into my turnouts in one fell swoop. Of course I was many years younger and many pounds lighter then. I didn't have degenerative disc disease causing me trouble then either. The other thing to know is that my recliner works off a motor. It doesn't lift me up but the foot rest comes up and down- albeit slowly- at the push of a button. It's great because the action of kicking a recliner back into position kills my neck and angers all my pinched nerves. It is not, however, the best chair to be in when you are old, fat, have a bad back and neck, semi-conscious and spring to life thinking the world is on fire. In a nano second I was airborn, like I had been shot from a cannon, and fully expected to land in my turnouts. Ha! I found myself on my hands and knees on my living room rug, remote controls scattering off my lap like they were alive and fleeing for their very lives. My recliner was still in the fully reclined position. Had Barbara been recording the event, it would have gone viral in no time. Dazed, confused and contorted in what had to resemble a special yoga position, I found myself yelling back.

"Barbara, you scared the (place the unsanctified word of your choice here) out of me!!"
"The tornado siren has blown twice already and there's a tornado in Science Hill."
"(Use the same unsanctified word here)! We are there, that's us!"

Now I am grasping why my roomie wanted me awake. As I tried to untangle my limbs and find something to help me brace myself and stand up, I look out the front windows and it doesn't look too bad. For a split second I think I haven't heard Barbara correctly. "Is Josh still here?"
Barbara, who is scrambling to get the dogs safely in the hallway while gathering lights and radios says she thinks he went home. The tornado siren is blowing again. That means I have indeed heard Barbara correctly and the weather folks are serious. I went to the back deck to look at the sky and found Josh- iPod on and weed-eater going.

"Josh, did you hear the tornado siren?"
"Yes ma'am."
"Go home, Josh. Don't stay here and take care of my yard when the tornado siren is blowing!"
"Are you sure?"
"Josh, I am certain."

Josh heads back to his house and I am looking to make certain he can get home without being caught up in anything. About that time police cars go with lights and sirens northbound up our highway. I look at the sky behind the house and it's not looking good. Barbara and I scurry around getting ready for the worst case scenario. Next the hail hit. The hail in the picture is from the same storm but from a different house. Ours wasn't quite that large. Let me tell you though, when hailstones of any real size comes hurling down out of the sky with enough velocity that they bounce 5 feet high after impact your natural inclination is to step back from the windows. Your next inclination is to thank Almighty God that you are safe inside and ask Him to forgive you of those unsanctified words while confessing if the tornado comes your way, He's likely to hear them again. It's a sobering thing to know how completely helpless you really are and there's nothing like a storm or an earthquake or a tsunami to remind you that you are not in control of 'your' world.

Today it's 40 degrees and gray out. My Bradford pear trees which were starting to bloom look like Edward Scissorhands has had a go at them. I wasn't the only one one who had been visited. Bits of leaf debris were all over the roads as I drove to town. I had to go have a mammogram today. That's where my next sobering moment occurred. I was filling out the paperwork that they always want to get. The family history part. There was one question that took my breath away when I had to answer it. Has anyone in your family had breast cancer? Age of diagnosis? Check all that apply:

Mother:X Age: 49 Sister:X Age: 56 Aunt: X Age: 50s Grandmother:X Age:60s

There was only one I could leave blank it was labeled "daughter" and since I have no biological children, I won't ever have to mark that box. There was also a place to check if you had been diagnosed with any other type of cancer. I have. I have 7.5 years cancer free. My sister was diagnosed with her cancer late last year. I would covet your prayers for her. Radiation has made her wounds difficult to heal.

Sisters, I implore, beg and beseech you, if you haven't gone for your yearly mammogram or PAP, please go. If you've reached the big 5-0 and it's time for that colonoscopy, please get it done. No one in their right mind enjoys these things, but the cost of not having them is too high. Brothers you need to have your annual tests as well. Don't ignore symptoms if you have them. Don't try to tough it out. I fully believe that God ordains the number of breaths I am going to take and how I am going to leave this rusty broken down body. I believe the same is true for you, too. I also believe that being diligent about these tests will make the breaths I take easier and my time here more productive. I believe your time here is just as important.

2 Corinthians 5:1-9
1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.
2 For indeed in this {house} we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven;
3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked.
4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life.
5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge.
6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord--
7 for we walk by faith, not by sight--
8 we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord.
9 Therefore also we have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him.

22 March 2011

Blast from the Past

Going through my old books, papers and stuff. I am finding curious things. This particular one caught my attention and here it is:

Duties and Responsibilities Bring Results. Romans 12-15

Romans 12:1 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.

Presenting yourself to God results-> become a living, holy sacrifice that pleases Him.

Romans 12:2 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.

Transformed by a renewed mind results-> able to discover and display the will of God.

Romans 12:6-8
6 And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, {let each exercise them accordingly} if prophecy, according to the proportion of his faith;
7 if service, in his serving; or he who teaches, in his teaching;
8 or he who exhorts, in his exhortation; he who gives, with liberality; he who leads, with diligence; he who shows mercy, with cheerfulness.

Grace and spiritual gifts bestowed by God results-> employ gifts as part of Christ's body

Romans 13:1 Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.

Obey civil law results-> Honor God.

Romans 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled {the} law.

Love others results-> fulfill God's Law

Romans 14:19 So then let us pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.

Pursue peace results -> serving to edify all

Romans 15:5-6
5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus;
6 that with one accord you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

Become like minded results -> Glorify God with others- unity with Him, through Him.

18 March 2011

Kentucky Humor at Its Finest

One of my California friends sent this link to poke a little fun about how we Kentuckians do things. I think this is priceless. Kudos to actors, especially the dog who seems to have been in on the whole deal!

16 March 2011

Surface Dwellers and Self Portraits

We've all heard variations of the expression, "Under that gruff exterior lies a heart of gold." It sort of goes with the old standby "Don't judge a book by its cover." The idea being that the ugly, drab, rough exterior often covers something beautiful. I understand the attraction to these idioms. There is a suggestion of hope, an implication that things are not always as bad as they seem. We like those stories. We like to find our heroes and heroines in unlikeable people whose likeability increases the more we come to know them. We like them almost as much as we like stories about 'underdogs' transforming into 'wonderdogs' but why? Because we are enamored by the prospect of being loved despite our unlovable character flaws and with winning against the odds. How else do we account for the number of people playing the lottery and the ever increasing self-help and self-acceptance industry? There are billion dollar industries banking on our predilections for ourselves and our desire for happiness. Sadly, cheap grace and Jesus junk are trying to get their piece of the pie.

It would be really easy for me to chime in on the Rob Bell controversy as an example of what happens when we care more about soothing ourselves than saving souls. He's hawking a very attractive notion that hell isn't available to those who don't care to go there. Bell is the disease of the weak (week). He's the next Joel Osteen. What these men teach are symptoms or the next mutation of a pervasive malaise that plagues the church- that God needs us and wants us to be happy. Easy believism. Fire insurance. I believe in Jesus. I have been good. A loving God wouldn't send anyone to hell. It's all about us. What we want and what think God should do. We get to impose our standards on Almighty God. Really?

None of us, not even the most reformed or orthodox believer, live consistently or congruently with our beliefs. If we did we would live in sinless perfection, which the bible clearly states is not happening this side of heaven (1 John 1:8; Psalm 143:2; Eccl 7:20; Romans 3:23). We are called to live according to God's standards. He made us with a thought and he can take us out the same way. We do not get to dictate to Him how He gets to run the universe and He makes that abundantly clear in Job 38. So why is it that we have such difficulty getting it through our heads that we are not necessary to God's survival? He wasn't lacking anything and decided to make us for some company. He does not pander to our wants. He supplies our needs. Why then can't we spot the problems in what an Osteen or Bell have to say? Because most of us never get below the surface of anything. We take what we see and hear as gospel if it makes us feel better... no matter how little sense it makes or contrary it is to the Word.

Beneath our gruff exterior lies a heart that is desperately wicked and deceitful above all things and we let that heart carry us away to what we love best, sin and ourselves (Jeremiah 17:9; James 1:14-15). We want to excuse our behaviors on our bad day, lack of sleep, difficult childhoods, etc.. All surface level observations. We need to get off the surface and go deep. God instructs us that our behaviors stem from our hearts. Our situations in life- the trials; the tribulations; the challenges; the sorrows and the joys are all the fabric or canvas where we paint a self-portrait of our souls. We display the depth of our hearts in the day to day issues of life. Don't like the way your portrait is turning out? Be encouraged, if the Holy Spirit lives within you, He is transforming your heart.

Post Script: If you want to read about Rob Bell and his recycled heresy of the weak or week... some good places to start are here, here and here. Or listen here.
Prov 28:26 He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but he who walks wisely will be delivered.

Ezek 36:26-29
26 "Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.
27 "And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances.

2 Corinthians 3:18
18 But we all, with unveiled face beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.

11 March 2011

Conviction and Compassion

I have a pastor friend who hates to be fussed over in any fashion. He is a no nonsense, tell it like it is sort who really doesn't give a rip if the truth offends you, but don't confuse that as being the same as whether or not he cares about the disposition of your soul. I will take his surgical style of preaching over any warm fuzzy, seeker friendly, make you feel good about yourself sweet tasting poison available in most churches.

Conviction and compassion are my ultimate mix for encouragement. I am blessed to have listened to him and heard both. You can find them both here.

10 March 2011

Blind Standards

Been a while since I have been up to blogging. It's not that I am on death's door or have a lack of things to work out through my fingertips hitting the keyboard. It's that I keep wanting to find the topic that will make a difference in the way I go about life. The trouble with that is it takes effort and discipline and I have already confessed all I care to about being a lazy sloth. There is part of me that wants you to commiserate with me about joys and detriments of being lazy, but thanks to God's nagging Holy Spirit, the part of me that wants you to rejoice in my repenting of these besetting sins is gaining ground. Is it OK to call the Holy Spirit a nag? I think I am supposed to use the standard Christianese and say He's wooing me.

Seems like a whole lot of wooing is going on in the world and most of it ain't good. Charlie Sheen wants to woo us into believing he's doing just fine. He's winning. Winning what? The honor of having his manic melt down considered news? I guess Lindsay Lohan should be grateful to have someone else's foibles taking center stage. Except that neither of the exploits should be of import to so many people. I was watching the news and saw Miley Cyrus dress down a photographer who, in his rush to get the perfect shot of Miley doing something ordinary like have lunch with her mother, bumped into her mom as he rushed to get the shot- absolutely oblivious that he had done so. While Miley was giving a well deserved lecture to the photographer another got the million dollar shot- photographing the event in living color. Seems like a case of damned if you do and damned if you don't. If Miley hadn't stood up for her mom the tabloids might have said something about how callous she was... or something else that would sell a paper. But really, how is that news for me? It seems more like gossip.

Know what else it seems like? It seems like everyone is trying to sell me something that I don't want or need. Everywhere I turn someone is bastardizing something important to me by making it a commodity for the wrong reason and trying to shove it down my throat as if they are doing me a favor. If you read history you know the founding fathers weren't above strategic moves to get what they wanted for us, their posterity they wrote about. However, it completely frosts my posterior that some pusillanimous elected officials can vacate their positions, hiding in another state rather than to do the job they were elected to do. Why do we let the people we put into office pull such shenanigans? Why do we let the media spin stories like it is laudable to be a coward? Why do we the people elect such idiots? Why are we so easily deceived? Why can't we see a lack of basic character? For all that we get to see on television, on the net and in print... how is it we are so blind?

I think we are blind because we want to be. It's our preferred method of navigation in this ugly world. If we don't look at it for what it is, it can't be that bad. Right? Even when we dare to look we have lost sight of the standards by which to make comparison. The "I'm OK You're OK" mentality is so pervasive but it is not new. Read the book of Judges. What is it that was happening there? Everyone did what was right in their own eyes. How'd that work out for them? Time to take things back to where they make sense and to measure truth by the standard of God's truth. God's truth without embellishment or artificial attractants. God's truth and the Spirit to have it take root in our hearts. That's the difference I need. Woo me, nag me, cajole me...whatever it takes, Lord. Whatever it takes.

Deuteronomy 28:1-2
1 "Now it shall be, if you will diligently obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD your God will set you high above all the nations of the earth.
2 "And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, if you will obey the LORD your God.

Luke 11:28
28 But He said, "On the contrary, blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it."

Galatians 3:10
10 For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, to perform them."

Psalm 119:6
6 Then I shall not be ashamed when I look upon all Thy commandments.

02 March 2011

Ouch! Did I Write That?

I am trying desperately to get rid of things. I am trying to make my life more manageable. I didn't expect to be compromised with a bad neck and back so early into my adventures as a retired person. It's an aggravating experience because it magnifies my flaws. I should have done this decades ago. Somehow I have been too occupied with procrastination and/or attaching emotional significance to things to be able to see them for what they are... dust collectors.

Time brings change. I used to work for a Christian college and had a ministry where students came over for dinner and a night away from the dorms. I was the luckiest woman in the world to have these young folks over. Wait, I don't believe in luck. I was blessed. I am learning to be careful how I say things. I fail miserably but this is an easy goof to make and to fix. It wasn't luck but providence that brought these young people into my life. Anyway, besides watching ER and other favorite television programs there were lots of movies to see. I got into the habit of buying new release DVDs and having them on hand. For a while I had hundreds. I have culled the herd a few times, but the truth is I haven't watched one of the DVDs that I have hung onto in over a year. I vacillate between keeping them and getting rid of them. Having Netflix makes the decision even more difficult. Time has changed my perspective and my need for DVDs.

I really do cherish the time I had with the students. It is an amazing treat to see who they have become and how their walks with God have progressed. I appreciate that I am getting to see some of those student friends become husbands and wives, and moms and dads. It is rewarding to see the college romances bloom into marriages of commitment. I admire strong, resilient relationships founded in the principles and foundations of God's Word. It is a marvelous thing to behold.

While I was cleaning I found the outline of a talk I gave to the women of the college. The topic was "Healthy Relationships." Have you ever found something you penned years ago and upon seeing it for the first time in years, sat down to read it immediately? It's almost like receiving a letter from someone you haven't heard from in years....or like getting a collections notice. It can go either way. For me, it was a moment of conviction. God coming to collect on something I have put in writing and haven't lived up to myself. Some of these bullet points caught my eye:

-Why all this talk about healthy relationships? Galatians 5:13-26.
-God created us to be relational; first with Him and then with other people.
-Outside of Himself, relationships are the greatest tool God uses to sanctify and refine us.
-The 50/50 myth is a lie, You have 100% responsibility for your interaction with others.

Then I came to some notes I had written and reading them pierced my heart like shots fired from a high powered conviction gun. I told the young women that God must be their primary relationship. Knowing how easy it is to blow off 'devotions' when you're a busy college student I had written this down:
" Quit starving your soul. If you cannot spend 15 minutes a day with the One who loves you perfectly, how do you expect to have healthy relationships with sinful people?"

Ouch. I didn't make it to church or bible study this week. I haven't spent time in the Scriptures nor have I made prayer a priority. I hate it when I shoot myself with my own words. It proves I know better. So, if God can use the dust collectors in my house to convict me, what do you think He would accomplish with a diet of prayer and truth?

James 3:1 Let not many {of you} become teachers, my brethren, knowing that as such we shall incur a stricter judgment.

James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another, so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.