Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Closer Than They Appear


It's an interesting paradox...the way(s) some life events leave you very much in need of human companionship, compassion, and understanding yet also have a way of leaving you desirous of no such thing. You just want to be left alone...well...at least I do. 

Though I'm typically friendly and open when I encounter new people, my overall nature is extraordinarily introverted, so high levels of tension, stress, anxiety, or grief will drive me quickly inward. You will never see me at things like divorce care, grief share, 12 steps, life skills—nothing that involves putting my "stuff" or my inner life up for group conversation. Yeesh! Makes me bristle just thinking about it!

But when I think about my social circles of neighbors, co-workers, and even close friends then I can see the ways in which my tendency to withdraw—though it has some valuable benefits found 
only in the stillness of solitude—has a way of distorting how I feel and think...how I see not only my circumstances, but the people around me. When solitude slips into a propensity toward isolation, everyone and everything looks different to me...dangerous, intrusive, and untrustworthy. Distant.

It's a slow fade from solitude to isolation, but (for me) it almost always begins with a tendency toward negativity and ascribing questionable motives to even the people closest to me...perhaps especially the people closest to me. For example, if they are enthusiastic about something, then I am apathetic at best, and all out discouraging at worst. "Why do you want to go to that? You're not gonna like it." "Don't invite ____ _______. He/she is too _____ and then we'll have to _______." In sum, I turn even the simplest things into a burden and a criticism.

Of course, I don't realize I'm doing it at first, but by the time I do the darkness has settled in and I no longer care or have strength to combat it. In due time, everything is distorted, and I have all but completely lost not only my redeeming outlook on life and my interest in others, but also my hope and my joy in living. I have no expectations for anything other than a dark life of strife, sorrow, and betrayal in a world marked by sin. It's not pretty...unless you count pretty negative.

Plenty of people come to such a place in the midst of trying times, but as a woman of faith with a mission and a ministry, God keeps it impressed upon my heart that I have a responsibility to dig my way out and get back on the path of redemption. Sadly, that doesn't always mean I come quickly or quietly. Surrendering to God means vulnerability all over the place, and who can stomach that when they're already in a dark place? 

So I have learned how to let my sin and darkness fly under radar—saying and doing just enough of the right things to keep from arousing too much suspicion. But eventually even that breaks down. The "Enter At Your Own Risk" sign begins to flash above my head.


You can only imagine how these behaviors begin to inbreed...and the mutant products of conception they yield. My relationships with self, others, and God all become tenuous. Some ultimately grow troubled, and it is my fault. I'm ashamed to admit that everyone suffers the consequences of my isolation whether I realize it or not. And ultimately, if it gets bad enough, I don't really care.

I make this confession knowing full well that it exposes a darker side of myself—one that isn't very attractive—but I share it knowing with certainty that many other people struggle similarly. And anyway,at the end of the day, this pattern replicates the trouble that came with the first human sin...a belief in the lies that told to us in our darkness.

The best wisdom that was ever shared with me was four simple words: Don't believe the lies. These are the lies that erupt like weeds from the first moment I begin to converse with the darkness and discount the Truth. From that moment on, I begin buying stock in lies—creating options to purchase a full blown campground of lies where I put up my tent and 1 Corinthians 10:13 is left at the curb like trash.

1 Corinthians 10:13

New King James Version (NKJV)
13 No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

The way out is always in the Word, in confession, and in repentance. The lies cannot stand in the light of the Truth found in Scripture. The Truth has much power in its confession/expression/profession, but most importantly in its movement in the opposite direction of the lies...repentance. A half turn will never cut it. What's required is a full sprint away from the darkness—a sprint where we are shouting the Truth the whole way, crying out to the Savior for rescue. He will always come.

When we flee from what is evil and cling to what is good we begin to see God's love, and the people and circumstances He brings into our lives, as much closer, safer, and truer than we see them when we looking at them through the side view mirrors. We use the mirrors to avoid collisions with people and feelings that want to know us. But these are also collisions with love and grace...truth and peace...hope and joy, so...don't believe the lies.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Trouble with Forward



While I was driving to work this morning my thoughts turned to a number of people and situations in my life that might be best categorized as stuck. Each stuck scenario I considered had its roots in some very deep grief. Grief for past wounds. Grief for abuses suffered. Grief for betrayals. Grief for broken marriages. Grief for broken relationships. Grief for wayward children. Grief for deceased parents, siblings, family, and friends. And, what I consider to be the absolute worst grief of all, grief for children who have died. So many wounds to the soul.

"No wonder so many of us seem to be stuck, or operating in a sort of surreal, frame-by-frame slow motion," 
I thought.There's a heck of a lot of grieving going on."

It's not like me to be prescriptive when God gives me an insight, so I don't claim to have a cure for stuckness. In fact, though it may just be me protecting my own "right" and propensity to be stuck, I can't help thinking that getting unstuck has more to do with a combination of things coming together at just the right time, rather than any single action or determination of the will. But if I were to make any valuable contribution to the pool of wisdom on unsticking and moving forward, I'd have to say that a significant part of the trouble we have (or at least I have) with moving forward is really our perception of what forward is and entails.

When we're stuck we often create unwittingly an inaccurate pathology of forward. The smallest steps away from an uninterrupted relationship with grief—pulling away from grief's perpetual hold upon our thoughts, decisions, actions, reactions, relationships, spirit, soul, health, energy, etc—seem to trigger a belief that forward means, among other things, fast forward. And the thing is, fast forward anxiety makes a TON of assumptions and presuppositions that do more to add weight to the pain and suffering of grief than to help us see the next step, take the next breath, or face the next day. Fast forward anxiety propels the vortex of fear that whirls so violently when we come face-to-face with precisely how much in this life is out of our control.



Fast forward anxiety operates under the assumption that something beloved, important, incomplete, or necessary will be left behind and cause us more trouble and pain later. It presupposes how we will feel in each yet-to-be-experienced moment, and says that all painful feelings, thoughts, and experiences MUST be avoided. Fast forward anxiety also presupposes that all the new (and probably normal) anxieties that emerge will make things impossibly worse and hinder a more timely effort to disentangle from grief later. 

For example, fast forward reasons that if someone sees us enjoying ourselves they will believe we are "over it" and fully able to participate in "normal" life again. What fast forward anxiety doesn't tell us is that we have the ability to say, "Hey, I'm just trying this out today. It's exhausting. I can't promise you I'll feel like doing it again soon."  Fast forward anxiety decides in advance to tell no one about its assumption because it doesn't want to be questioned or challenged. Fast forward anxiety says that if we expose it to others they will trip some sort of mine that makes everything worse. I would venture to say that fast forward anxiety tells the greatest lie of disempowerment: If you move forward, you will lose control.

Of course, the irony is that the situations that lead us into the deepest griefs are very often the sites where we learn that so little of life is ever fully within our control in the first place. The situations and occurrences that trigger the most disabling griefs are very often a tangled web of things that operate from both within and without our control. A spouse cheats. Health fails. An abuse takes place. Someone dies. Someone leaves. Something ends. The lies of grief speak fragments of truth into a network of reality that has many complex contributors operating outside our control. Fast forward anxiety, then, is birthed out of that same flawed system where bits of truth are caught up in half-truths and all-out lies of the mind, and the darkness of the spirit. It draws us away from God and love and hope and people...life.

Real "forward" is probably best characterized as something other than linear progress. Real forward is more like journeying. Whenever we journey we never travel entirely alone, no matter who or what we choose or do not choose to take with us. We can push away from the people and places that trigger our pain, but the fact is that memories—faces, places, histories, events, etc—tag along with us anyway. So does God. And because God is our constant companion, even amid our most profound grief—a time when He seems most veiled—we can put fast forward anxiety in its place...behind God, not ahead or instead of Him. Over and over and over again in the Bible, God tells us not to fear. Anxiety and God don't mix.

The call to fearlessness tells me that the one who knows me best of all because He "formed my inward parts [and] knitted me together in my mother's womb" knows that He has made a way for me to be unafraid.

He has given us the best and most immutable motive/reason to be unafraid...because He is with us. His very presence in our lives—with us—means that there is no basis for buddying-up with fear...in fact, it's kinda disobedient and adds to our troubles. (And I'm not just talking to my sisters and brothers here, by the way. I'm talking to me...the Disobedience Cover Girl (ok...middle aged woman...Ugh! Whatever!).

At the end of the day, the trouble with forward isn't really trouble at all; it's a plain fact. Whether we stay stuck, move backward, move forward, go in circles, rock side-to-side, jump up and down, or roll over and play dead, the one earthly life that we have been given continues on its linear progression, and (like it or not) we go with it. The sights we see are the variables that we can and must influence by fleeing from fear, because fear is about punishment and imprisonment, not reconciliation and freedom.

What a waste, then, to give fear the reins and allow it to entrench us in all the angriest, darkest, loneliest, and most misbegotten sites of grief
rather than the inexpressibly beautiful ones— the places where we find that we can love God and enjoy Him forever in the here and now, by loving others and by forgiving and reconciling with both the living and the dead, and all the skeletons in our closets. 

Whatever we grieve and lose, God also provides us with a treasure trove of healing gifts and comforts and people to help us access the realms of gratitude, peace, and  joy that make the journey forward a journey that is safer, more tolerable, often interesting, and nearer to the Savior than if we pitch our tents in fear and camp among the people who allow us to live there rent-free, and without responsibility.

1 Corinthians 10:13

Amplified Bible (AMP)
13 For no temptation (no trial regarded as enticing to sin), [no matter how it comes or where it leads] has overtaken you and laid hold on you that is not common to man [that is, no temptation or trial has come to you that is beyond human resistance and that is not adjusted and adapted and belonging to human experience, and such as man can bear]. But God is faithful [to His Word and to His compassionate nature], and He [can be trusted] not to let you be tempted and tried and assayed beyond your ability and strength of resistance and power to endure, but with the temptation He will [always] also provide the way out (the means of escape to a landing place), that you may be capable and strong and powerful to bear up under it patiently.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

Indispensable. Non-disposable.




Ecclesiastes 4:9-12

New Living Translation (NLT)
Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. 10 If one person falls, the other can reach out and help. But someone who falls alone is in real trouble.11 Likewise, two people lying close together can keep each other warm. But how can one be warm alone? 12 A person standing alone can be attacked and defeated, but two can stand back-to-back and conquer. Three are even better, for a triple-braided cord is not easily broken.

Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in human relationships, maybe most particularly in our harried, 21st century lives, is appreciating the people God brings into our lives--those who are absolutely indispensable...NON-disposable


Most of us don't wake up in the morning planning to discount our fellow human beings, but with so many demands upon our lives, so little time, and SOOOO much popular wisdom (even in evangelical circles) encouraging a "me first" way of life, it's easy to let some of the most important, yet often invisible, people in our lives go unnoticed, unappreciated--perhaps casually thanked, but essentially dismissed. None of us wants to admit it...but we all do it. And THAT really is NOT OK!

Some of us don't have to do much thinking about who the under-appreciated people are in our lives, because conscience throbs at the sound of their names. But even if we can call them to mind before reading the end of this sentence, it's worth performing a little gratitude test to get a complete picture.

I stumbled upon the appreciation test while my job was in jeopardy some time ago. My boss at that time--someone whose methods of encouragement and inspiration required a good bit of imagination--was holding my job in the balance and challenging me to prove myself indispensable to the organization so that I would not become disposable...unemployed. Let me say that my self-esteem absolutely plummeted as I tried to process the fact that I'd been deemed dispensable and so the most disposable among an already skeletal staff.  It wasn't until God intervened, in ways I could not have predicted, that I gained the insight and the confidence I needed to fight for my job.

In the throes of my self-pity, self-righteousness, and despair, I'd failed to be my own best advocate. I'd already discounted the long chain of mostly unseen contributions that I'd taken on and sustained throughout the course of my employment. My contributions ran the gamut from crafting executive level documents, to forging connections with other organizations, to taking on jobs no one else was interested in, to actually cleaning the bathrooms! And there were a whole host of small things I was doing on an individual level for other staff members--things for which I sought no public acknowledgment, but believed to be valuable because they were investments of time, talents, and treasures that enabled them to deliver their best work.

Throughout my Christian walk, I'd been consistently taught the importance of selflessness, humility, and un-lauded service and generosity as hallmarks of Christ's likeness. So in an effort to truly live as one willing to be a suffering servant, I'd learned to swallow my pride more often than not--finding myself again and again on my knees repenting of anything that appeared to me as the desire to be recognized and appreciated.

As noble (or martyred...?) as that might seem, I was failing in one extremely important way. I had no confidence...no genuine assurance of my significance through Christ, or sense of any real value that my work and ministry added to the lives of others.  I'd been silently and unwittingly choking to death on the reality of being human...the daily assaults upon my dignity, worth, and purpose by others struggling in the same tangled web. Where was the line, I wondered, between Christ-like humility and and my unavoidable humanity?

While endeavoring to live my faith and be like Jesus, I lost the confidence I needed to walk tall in my job, share my ideas with conviction, and demonstrate my worth to the organization. I didn't know how to fight for my job when the time came, so all I had was a  prayer closet filled with the brittle bones of my pride, and the raw flesh of my perceived insignificance. I'd forgotten to bring out of that closet the confidence that comes with knowing who I am in Christ. I forgot to carry the words of Jesus out with me from the closet into the workplace and all my relationships.

Luke 12:6-7

English Standard Version (ESV)
Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? And not one of them is forgotten before God.Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.

But the reminder of my worth to Jesus was not the only lesson I'd learned when I'd suddenly been shoved to the threshold of looming disaster and unemployment. I also had the chance to think about the invisible, indispensable people in my own life--the folks who never ask for my time, treasures, or talents, but continuously gave me theirs. I had to take a good hard look at how much appreciation and gratitude I'd expressed (and genuinely felt) for people who were invisible...the ones who pray regularly for me and my family, who are the first to jump in and help with some time-consuming, unrewarding, and unglorious chore again and again and again, the ones whose greatest demands upon my life are the hope for simple acts of listening, and who keep secret their longing to be included in meaningful parts of my life and assured that their contributions to my success, safety, and well-being are meaningful.

I discovered that I'd developed my own casual habits of dismissive and ungrateful behavior. And while I'd never said to someone, "Prove to me that you are indispensable, or I will dispose of you," I certainly found that I'd treated some pretty indispensable people as if they were entirely disposable. My gratitude was scarcely measurable in relation to what I'd been receiving. I was no more generous or inspiring than the boss who'd left me feeling so worthless.

I'm not here to lay on the guilt, but I challenge you to do two things the next time you're feeling unappreciated. First, pray for insight and revelation as you search the scriptures for evidence of your value and purpose in life. Do you truly find your greatest worth and sense of significance in Christ? Or are you depending mostly upon the assurances of your worth from others whose good opinion you seek? Next, dig deeper and ask God to show you the invisible people in your life...the ones you treat as disposable, but who are part of an important, invisible network of support that God has crafted to keep you from falling.
It isn't enough to simply drop them a note of appreciation (though that's a start). Create opportunities for them to enjoy some of the first fruits of your time and talents. Share your treasures...most of those treasures are things like your confidence, vulnerability, and family. Overlook the ways in which they may not fit in with your other friends and fans. Forgive their weaknesses, short-comings, awkwardness, and mistakes, and focus on their consistent contributions. Build them up and allow them to become visible and equal among the important people in your life. Whether you realize it or not, these people are indispensable to your success, your safety, and your well-being. They are non-disposable.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Puzzled

I'm sure plenty of folks think I'm na·ïve (at best) and maybe a little up-tight, and undoubtedly there are a few folks who would say I'm judgmental and prudish. What's a gal to do?  I am what I am...whatever that is.

Mostly, I'm a sinner saved by grace.  Whew!



And often what I am is puzzled. I think too much.

OK, granted...I'm a high "i" on the Myers Briggs Type Indicator--pretty gosh darn introverted (despite what anyone thinks or says) so I'm comfortable spending time alone with myself and my thoughts. Maybe I spend a little too much solo time, but typically the decisions I make, the conclusions I draw, and even the judgments I decide to reserve have been carefully considered...very often put to prayer.

But enough about me.

The thing is, it's election time, and not to be self-focused, BUT, I'm also smack-dab in the middle of child-rearing time. In my economy, that means it's serious thinking time!

Serious ACTION time! REALLY SERIOUS PRAYER TIME!

There's a here-and-now that's in trouble, and a future hanging in the balance--for my nation, for humanity...and for the little girl I've devoted my life to loving and protecting.  Seriously...am I the only one who's feeling an overwhelming sense of responsibility???

So what I'm wondering so much lately is why folks don't seem to be putting all of the pieces together.

I find the disconnect most evident among my Christian peers and friends, and in my own life. Why, I wonder, do we seem to have this adjustable sensibility that can get its knickers all in a twist about gay marriage and abortion, but not about things that hit super close to home...like ethics, personal accountability, modesty, purity, reverence, humility, loyalty, respect, honesty, etc? I'm not even going to ask about the pursuit of holiness!  Here's who I am there: FAIL!

But here's where I want to be...

So, I ask myself: 

Why are things like self-examination, self-control, self-sacrifice, etc seemingly secondary to public outrage over the sins of others? How can it be that these aspects of public and private life are SO out-of-sync with both the logic and the mysteries of faith that so few people seem to be making the critical connections that have tremendous power to move the hand of God to heal our families, our souls, and our nation?

I can't speak for anyone else, but when I read 2 Chronicles 7:14 my first instinct is never to look outward at my country or my community. To my mind, this verse smacks of a call to self-reflection that leads to personal repentance...on a wide scale! I get convicted.

If Christians put the pieces together it is likely that the picture of responsibility for so much public dissatisfaction will become clearest in our own homes.


We preach abstinence in our churches, but do we instill a preference for modesty into our children? Do we insist on modesty and model it? Do we ask ourselves what modesty should really look like?

OK...I do NOT expect my daughter to walk around in the equivalent of a body bag in order to protect her from being objectified and sexualized. I cannot honestly say to her that wearing a one piece bathing suit, as opposed to a tankini, or a bikini, will assure her of sexual respect or personal dignity.  But I can teach her about the attitudes that her fashion choices project, and how these attitudes can become a slippery slope...personally and for girls who aren't even born yet!



I can teach her that the fashion choices we make in our home have dramatic social power to maintain modesty, or expand its boundaries.

I can also teach her that she can join all the city-wide and church-wide initiatives to feed the homeless, stop abortion, protect marriage, improve entertainment, and end human trafficking, but if she isn't first feeding her next door neighbor, engaging in healthy relationships, treating others with dignity, forgiving others, reconciling relationships, loving her enemies, governing her thoughts--her tongue, her actions--and living a winsome life for Christ inside her home...then little by little she is receiving less of God's best. She becomes a less authentic model of the way of life she claims as best for everyone.  When she's old enough to vote, her decisions will become increasingly against this or that position rather than for God's standard.

Believe it or not, 12-year-olds are capable of having deep moral and ethical discussions. I dare you to try and bring candy from home into a movie you attend with my child. (SHE was the one to challenge ME about the M & Ms tucked into my purse!)  :-/

Am I the perfect model of what I preach? Nooooooo! Not by a long shot! Am I some amazing Christian mom who has it all together?

<Insert my gagging gasp and guilty expression here!>

As a Christian woman who chose divorce to solve a marital problem (even though it was a very big and complicated problem) I humbly and sadly confess that I failed to uphold my own values. There's a high cost associated with that failure. I don't take it lightly. I work hard to set as much of it right as I can, and take the brunt of the consequences as much as it is humanly possible. It's not perfect. I deserve no applause. 



But failure in one area of my life doesn't have to be a wide open door to social or spiritual ambivalence. Sin never has to be a prison. Our heavenly Father is always ready to hear our humble confessions, and walk with us away from the ways of spiritual and societal death!

If we want to restore and cash-in on our founding fathers' faith, then we have to examine the ways in which our personal lives fail to reflect their values...publicly and privately.



God's "if my people" call to prayer, humility, and repentance is the call for a gut level plea for Him to guide ME away from the things like godless and irreverent entertainment, immodest dress, unedifying talk, clickish friendships, unforgiveness, financial irresponsibility, workplace laziness, personal entitlement, and relational strife that make ME a hypocrite of the highest order before God and man. It's not a call for Pharisees and hypocrites to demand more of others while perched upon a stump of faux-piety.

God's offer says that if His people--all of us who bear the name Christian--cry out in humble prayer that MUST result in personal confession, repentance, and soul-level willingness to change...THEN He will hear all of our cries for restoration of the values we say we hold high (a land governed by His laws) and He will set things aright and heal our land.

Should we be concerned about political wranglings that influence social norms and the resulting government of our nation?  You betchya! Christianity is NOT a call to social in-action or silence.

But if we genuinely desire a national turn toward one nation under God, then we need to first ensure that we are living personally under God ourselves. That's how strength in numbers works from a heavenly perspective...one by one, home by home, clan by clan, community by community, city by city, state by state...

Never doubt the depths of grass roots, or their strength.


Thursday, July 19, 2012

What We Say to Dogs

...What They Hear





When Christian folks start working the (biblical) "S"ubmission word around Facebook, I can't seem to just say nothing. This failure to shut up is probably...well...a failure. 


Oh well. 


OK, so here's the deal with me and the whole submission thing in a nutshell:


It sounded good when I was a newlywed Christian woman and heard Bunny Wilson talk about her book Liberated through Submission: God's Design for Freedom in All Relationships


Honestly, she was so engaging, and what she said sounded reasonable enough...and then life got real...really, really, real. None of your business. Just spot me some belief for now.


IMHO: a gal can suck up a whole lotta submission, and probably put up with a whole lotta crap in the process, provided it has nothing much to do with sex or money. 


Show me a Christian wife who's been "yes, Dear-ing" her way through a serious financial crisis of her husband's making, or a one who has been treated like a receptacle for her husband's sex drive, and I will point out the well-worn paths between the psychotherapist's office, the church leader's office, the doctor's office, and the lawyer's office. 


NOTE: These are the paths where zombie wives are staggering and gasping for a life of biblical faith to make sense of their experience, but often find themselves betrayed, broken, confused, crushed, and demoralized. 


But that's just me. Maybe I'm wrong. Maybe. 


And I digress...





Let me dive into this conversation again, only this time from the point on the continuum where my thoughts began this afternoon.


If you follow any of the prominent folks in the Christian blogosphere, you may have read a few that are published through The Gospel Coalition--a pretty conservative Christian organization that generally seems to know and write well for their reading audience. But, of course, sometimes writers misjudge their readership...and that seems to have happened on July 13th...big time.


Blogger, Jared Wilson, left quite a few jaws dropped and fists up with his commentary on biblical submission. They finally closed the comments on his post. 


Ya. It got pretty intense.


I'm too tired to take on Jared Wilson's entire argument, and the wealth of responses from readers and bloggers like Rachel Held Evans. (If you're really interested in this topic, and a savvy Googler, you can find the follow-up posts, and a few others, but the two I've linked here should keep you going for awhile.) However, I need to confess up front that I'm sympathetic (to greater and lesser extents) with several diverse points of view that were shared in their conversations. For this reason, I feel rather fair and just in sharing my views.


Confession over. Now my visceral response: 

Jared Wilson! 
What the heck is the matter with you?

<Insert my dope slap here>



I have trouble wrapping my head around how anyone could fail to realize IN ADVANCE that the following statement would send quite a few folks blasting off from the blogosphere into the stratosphere:


"A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts."


And now...My open response to Jared Wilson...sans gagging noises


DUDE! 


You can concoct all of the biblical doctrine and theory you want, but I can't even type that quote from you without throwing up in my mouth! 


Your ideas may play in a Peoria where no women have ever been violated or subjugated, but gimme a fricken break!


Let me offer some sisterly advice...  


When you start throwing around words like penetrates, conquers, colonizes, and plants...you lose me before I can ever even THINK about receives, surrenders, and accepts!!! 


There is NO "BENIGN" THEORY in the world that can divest the baggage of penetrates, conquers, and colonizes enough for most of us to choke down what you wrote, let alone keep it down. 


Umm...sorry (kinda...not really). Just being honest. Please pass the Emetrol.


Granted, not all women (THANK GOD) hold the distinction of being a survivor of incest, child abuse, domestic violence, rape, emotional abuse, and spiritual abuse. What can I say? I'm special.


Even so, I can virtually guarantee that among survivors of any one of those horrors, there are surely few (if any) who would be prepared to congratulate you on your spiritual insightfulness. 


Penetrates, conquers, colonizes, and plants MY EYE!


Seriously, I'm not one to promote cowing to pressure, especially since you really seem quite convicted and convinced of your correctness. 


Uummm...but what you wrote wasn't exactly Luther's treatise nailed to the church door. Just sayin'







When you get a pile of folks riled up into Linda Blair mode...well...that might be your cue from Mr. DeMille to BACK DOWN


Maybe go pray...a lot.


It seems as though it never even occurred to you that what you've written might be read by someone like me...a devout Christian woman who sat in "counseling" meetings and listened politely while a pastor whose biblical authority I was TRYING HARD to submit to endeavored to convince me that I had to suck up my (ex)husband's live run of your PCCP/RSA theory. Pardon the run-on. Feeling sick all over again.


Ahem...


You might also want to check in on how many women (a rough estimate will do) have found themselves betrayed by their own kind...Christian girlfriends, family members, and counselors who either can't comprehend their own screwed up spiritual circumstances, or have been bullied (or brainwashed) into buying the kinda stuff you're selling. These are the things that women often do to maintain spiritual community, or to survive in a patriarchal environment, but I suspect you don't know that.


I could go on and on...but I won't.

I will, however, say that I'm neither a dyed in the wool egalitarian, or a true blue complementation. I'm not fully convinced of either view...and I don't underestimate my human propensity to stumble within my own beliefs even if I held firmly to one or the other. I'm probably just a humanitarian. I hate to see people treated badly. I love to see people treated with love, dignity, and respect.


So here's the deal... 


Apologize, for crying out loud!


...not for the fact that you were misunderstood, but for the part that only you can own...the fact that you were so busy being right that you didn't seem to care who you hurt among your Christian sisters. Enough already! Snap out of it!





Here is what a real apology might look like, as modeled by Tim Challies to Ann Voskamp


See what you can come up with to do your part in cleaning up some of the barf so many of us have hurled. 


Vulgar sentiment...? Ya...but I'm guessing that a little genuine humility from you will inspire a whole lot more humility from me.  You want to lead women, right?


So go ahead and lead. Please. I insist. Who knows? I might even help you with your chores. That's my job anyway...isn't it?










Thursday, May 10, 2012

Love & Loyalty


Psalm 85:10

New Living Translation (NLT)


Unfailing love and truth have met together.  
Righteousness and peace have kissed!


"Psalm 85" by John August Swanson.

I'm thinking much, tonight, about what a big deal it was for Jonathan to deceive and betray his father--who was also his king--in order to protect his beloved friend/brother, David. 


Perhaps some people would say that Jonathan was acting out of righteousness...defending his friend against his father's bad behavior for God's sake. Perhaps. But honestly, nothing and no one defends righteousness, truth, and holiness better than God defends them himself. In his treatise on Ephesians 6:10-20, William Gurnall said that God's power exists for its own defense. It is by His defense of his own character and nature that we too are defended. 


God did not give Jonathan the job of defending righteousness. Jonathan was entrusted with the heart and life of his friend. Big difference.


The story of Jonathan's loyalty to David focuses on the deep love Jonathan had for his covenant friend. God had knit their souls together. 


Jonathan gave David the best of all he had...all that signified his status as the son of the king, and all the best armor that served to protect the son of the king. Jonathan's oath and his sacrifice were huge because his heart and soul were even bigger!


I'm sure that Jonathan knew his father was acting sinfully, but I am just as sure that he loved his father very much. It must have been truly painful and confusing to have to decide between loyalty to his father and honoring his covenant...acting on the love and truth God had knit within his soul.






Jonathan was probably eager to see righteousness triumph, but I'm sure he felt badly about disobeying his father. I believe very much that this young man still desired to be loyal to his father and king. Young Jonathan must have been a person of great honor because he died on the battlefield with Saul.


Even so, by following his heart, honoring his covenant, and helping David, Jonathan risked being disowned. He risked his life at the hand of his own father! History has shown that when it comes to power, many a father, son, and brother have turned against one another to a brutal, bloody end. 


Given Saul's erratic fits of jealousy and rage, there was no way Jonathan could be certain of his own safety. Yet the truth of his unfailing love for David gave him peace that God would take care of the righteousness. And God did just that.
We seldom hear stories of love and loyalty like this one. Jonathan's heart and his covenant (his feelings and his promise) stood up against even the close and powerful bond of father and son, and the honorable expectations of allegiance to the king. 

No one would have faulted Jonathan for obeying his father and hanging David out to dry. In fact, I'd say that Jonathan's reputation was more than just a little bit on the line. Undoubtedly most people then, like most people now, expected blood to be thicker than water. Jonathan managed to honor blood and water...at the expense of his own life.

I guess I wonder how many of us, myself included, would sacrifice ourselves for the love of a friend, the way Jonathan did, and still honor the ones we are bound to by blood, or by service. 

Would I risk dishonoring a relative in the wrong for the sake of a soul mate in need? Would I take a stand against my boss in order to honor a covenant and show love to a friend? 

In the end, I hope I'd decide, as Jonathan seemed to have decided, to put his life and his honor in God's hands. He risked his life and honor for his friend, for his father, and for his nation...all without question.


"Forward, the Light Brigade!"
Was there a man dismay'd?
Not tho' the soldier knew
 Someone had blunder'd:
Theirs not to make reply,
Theirs not to reason why,
Theirs but to do and die:
Into the valley of Death
 Rode the six hundred.

*****

And one can ride just as well.






Monday, May 7, 2012

Watching the Horizon

I was talking recently to my friend, Shelby, whose life experiences I'd never wish to live. Shelby and his sweet wife had to do the unthinkable a few years ago...bury their previously healthy 22 year old son, Paul, who died suddenly from a stroke. Paul's family donated his organs and have even met the recipient of their son's heart. Bravery personified.


Just two years later the Shelby's family was hurled again into the matrix of grief when their oldest son, Ben, went missing after a cave diving expedition in Florida. Despite countless efforts, investigations, and increased rewards for information, Ben's body has never been recovered. More bravery.


Shelby and I try to connect and catch up every few weeks. We have been encouraging each other in our shared Christian faith, and praying for one another's deepest burdens. You can guess what Shelby's burdens are.


My burdens have been for the hearts and spirits of dear ones in my life who also know the anguish and suffering of parental and sibling bereavement. Several precious families in our lives carry this pain. We have been praying and clinging to faith for them and with them for a few years.


The sorrow often catches me as if it were my own because when those nearest and dearest to you walk through the Valley of the Shadow of Death, your heart walks with them. You learn something no one ever tells you. When parents face this sort of horror there may be a few memorial events, but there are many deaths. Nothing is ever the same.


As someone whom God has chosen to leave behind for the comfort and care of our precious ones, I can tell you that the emptiness has a long reach. We miss the ones who are in the Lord's care...and we miss the sweeter days with those whose hearts are aching so painfully now. It's like waiting for someone you cherish to come home, but not knowing whether or not they will.  


I asked Shelby if he thought the father of the prodigal son continued praying for his son's return, or if the father grew depressed and gave up. Shelby said, "I'm sure he was watching the horizon." 


That thought--that beautiful image of hope--has sustained me through countless nights of fitful sleep and all night prayer vigils.  


I think Shelby is right. That father was surely watching the horizon and keeping up with his work. If he had grown idle and hopeless, he'd have been in the house, and there would have been no special robes or fatted calf...no feast or rejoicing.  


Only a man with hope could feast at a moment's notice.



Friday, May 4, 2012

Logic: Anything, everything, ever, every, all, everything

[7] Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances, and it endures everything [without weakening]. ~ 1 Corinthians 13:7 (Amplified Bible)


Each time I return to this verse I am convicted. Love's measuring rod is long! Tonight, as I focused on the repetitious assertions of love's scope, I couldn't help thinking about the things that draw us away from our promises of permanent love and devotion.  Here is what I came up with...


BUT 

Our problem is the "but" because what but really means is no.

Imagine the verse above as follows...

[7] Love bears up under anything and everything that comes except <Fill in the Blank>, is ever ready to believe the best of every person except <Fill in the Blank>, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances except <Fill in the Blank>, and it endures everything [without weakening] except <Fill in the Blank>.


Isn't it interesting that the instant you add an exception, even just one, the whole thing is negated? The logic breaks down. It can't be anything, everything, ever, every, all, everything AND have exceptions.  Exceptions, by default, mean NOT anything, everything, ever, every, all, everything.

And once it's not...then, if we take the Word as HIS word...then it's not love. 

I guess we can throw our hands up in the air and just say, "Oh, well...no one can love like that..." or "maybe I didn't know what love was when I professed it before, so I take it back."  But doesn't that open up a long, hard slide to all kinds of other exceptions?  Yikes!  Sounds dangerous.

Today, I'm thinking about the ramifications of doubling back on love, and what it means eternally when we give ourselves permission to add exceptions where God stated none, or to revoke our love based on this new understanding.

I can't say that I have all the answers for this one, but it sure seems worth thinking on for awhile. For the moment, it sure seems like there is more harm to come (personally, and on a much broader scale) when we add the exception to relieve the pressure of an immediate situation, than when we let anything, everything, ever, every, all, and everything suffer a bit under the burdens each may bear.  

Legalism...?  I hope not.  Challenging...? For sure.  

No + anything = Temporary
Yes = anything = Eternity

Go figure.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Unforgiven

To be unforgiven is hell.


To be unforgiven is to be cast off with the most vicious criminals, twisted sociopaths, and disordered psychopaths...the ones most people wish dead.


To be unforgiven is to be counted unworthy...not worth the time, not worth the effort, and not worth the risk.


To be be unforgiven is to have your humanity denied...as if others in this world are allowed to make mistakes, but not you; others are allowed to have faults, but not you; others are allowed to have weaknesses, but not you.


To be unforgiven is to be thrown mercilessly into a vortex of fear and confusion...Don't other people make mistakes? Was mine the worst ever? What if I make another one? What if I make a worse one?


To be unforgiven is to be terrified...like being buried alive, like being rejected for being human, like being haunted by your own ghost, and like being abandoned in a crowd.


To be unforgiven is death...for everyone.