Friday, December 20, 2013

Disobedience Equals Unbelief

I've been reading through Hebrews with Don, John, and Bonnie over the last few months.  This morning I found myself back in chapter three where the writer talks about the Israelites who had left Egypt by way of the parted Red Sea.  They are now wandering around for 40 years just outside the Promise Land.  God is waiting for them to die off before the next generation enters the land.  

How could this happen?  After God showed Himself to be God by the 10 plagues and subsequent departure from Egypt via a parted sea, the destroying of the Egyptians who pursued them, the sustaining by daily manna and quail, their clothing and shoes not wearing out while they wandered - YET, the writer of Hebrews quotes Psalm 95:

Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
 do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion,
    on the day of testing in the wilderness,
 where your fathers put me to the test
    and saw my works for forty years.
 Therefore I was provoked with that generation,
and said, ‘They always go astray in their heart;
    they have not known my ways.’
 As I swore in my wrath,
    ‘They shall not enter my rest."

 "They always go astray in their heart; they have not known my ways."

The proof of our knowing God is our obedience.  The Gospels clearly say that if we love the Lord we will obey his commands.  Sometimes we sin like we really don't get it.  Jesus says there is going to come a time when some will be telling God all they did for Him and He is going to say "Depart from me, I never knew you."  To ensure we do not run that risk we need to take seriously our call which is to deny ourselves, take up our cross and follow Jesus. 

Sometimes life is going to defy logic. We need to keep returning to The Book during those times of confusion.  If we decide to listen to our hearts and heads instead of to The Book we run the risk of  going astray in our hearts like those who wandered in the desert.  We run the risk of God saying, depart from me I never knew you."

The writer of Hebrews closes chapter three with this warning:

"Take care, brothers, lest there be in any of you an evil, unbelieving heart, leading you to fall away from the living God. But exhort one another every day, as long as it is called “today,” that none of you may be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin.  For we have come to share in Christ, if indeed we hold our original confidence firm to the end.  As it is said,
“Today, if you hear his voice,
do not harden your hearts as in the rebellion.”
For who were those who heard and yet rebelled? Was it not all those who left Egypt led by Moses?  And with whom was he provoked for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness?  And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?  So we see that they were unable to enter because of unbelief."

Consider this friends:  disobedience is unbelief.  It matters not to God if sometimes our lives defy logic, current trends, and philosophies.  Every age has had to grapple with Truth.  Let us commit to the hard work of wrestling with God over feelings, events, and circumstances.  Then when the wrestling is over, commit to obedience.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

His Yoke Is Easy and His Burden Is Light

Sometimes the circumstances of life generate feelings that are hard to bear.  Feelings of frustration, anger, fear, discontentment, envy and a host of others that can feel heavy.  "How can I face another day?"  "Things are never going to get better."  "Will I have enough money to live in the future?"  "I am done with this."

This morning I was reflecting on Hebrews chapters one and two.  The end of chapter two in The New English Bible caught my attention:
17 And therefore he had to be made like these brothers of his in every way, so that he might be merciful and faithful as their high priest before God, to expiate the sins of the people. 18 For since he himself has passed through the test of suffering, he is able to help those who are meeting their test now.
Since I have been in a time of testing the last phrase "he is able to help those who are meeting their test now" jumped out at me.  So I sat with that.  Jesus is able to help me now.

Which lead me to think of the words of Jesus in the Gospel of Matthew chapter 11:

30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”

Easy?  Light?  What I was experiencing was anything but easy and light.  Then the light bulb moment.  "I am carrying burdens I am not meant to carry."  The verses right before these in Matthew 11 give the solution.
28 “Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

Contemplating this made me recall days decades ago when I felt so weak, weary, and just plain burdened.  During a Bible study a friend read from I Peter 5:7 in the Moffatt translation and hearing it was like balm on my soul.
"Let all your anxieties fall upon him, for his great interest is in you."

In this version it did not tell me to cast my burden.  No.  That would not have spoken to me at all at that point because I was too weary to cast.  But to let them all fall off, fall upon someone else; well, it was in my power to just let go.  

What is this easy yoke, this light burden Jesus speaks of?  This is a question I have never considered.  I just took the words as a fact.  The yoke of Jesus is easy and light.  Now I wondered, what is this yoke?  Here is my answer.  Jesus came to do the Father's will.  Jesus is our example.  Our yoke and burden is to do the will of the Father like Jesus.

I turned this thought a little and combined it with all the ideas above.  We are told in beautiful words in the Sermon on the Mount that we are not to worry in this life.  We are to be confident that the Father knows our needs.  Jesus ends Matthew 6 with the command:
31 Therefore do not worry, saying, ‘What will we eat?’ or ‘What will we drink?’ or ‘What will we wear?’ 32 For it is the Gentiles who strive for all these things; and indeed your heavenly Father knows that you need all these things. 33 But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 “So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.

 So, my friends, do the will of the Father today and if you begin to worry and fret about tomorrow or feel that today is just too heavy to carry, "let all your anxieties fall upon him, for his great interest is in you.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Trying to Find Truth in Our Politically "Correct" Culture

The longer I live in this new century the more I am left scratching my head in confusion.  How did white become black and black become white?  Why are so many common sense issues now gray?  Were they always gray but I hung with a group that painted the issue black and white?  I am so confused.

Most of the voices I hear today are poles apart in their take on the truth on any given issue.  I recently began reading Thomas Sowell's A Conflict of Visions, a book which one reviewer thought would be better titled A Conflict of Mindsets.  This book is helping me understand the underpinnings of what Sowell calls the unrestrained and the restrained visions.  It's not exactly like the right and the left or the liberal vs. conservative view of issues BUT I think it is close enough for this blog post. Sowell explores why people end up on one side of the fence of an issue or the other and how usually if you are on one side on one issue, you will probably be on the same side of the next issue. 

I don't think reading Sowell is going to help me know which side of an issue to take because there is truth on both sides of issues.  How can I ferret out the real truth?  I don't want to adopt the agenda of the right or the left.  How can I know the truth?

I'm not sure one can know the truth on all things but I know that we can come much closer to the mark, as Christians, if we leave our political camp fortresses and seek God and His mind.  Think of any current event issue that is polarizing America.  I believe that if we want to know how to respond, the media and our preconceived action steps are not the places to look.  The Bible is clear about how we can come to know truth.

While reading Sowell's book I also began to read the book of Proverbs in the Bible.  Hear this passage from Proverbs 2:

My child, if you accept my words
    and treasure up my commandments within you,
making your ear attentive to wisdom
    and inclining your heart to understanding;
if you indeed cry out for insight,
    and raise your voice for understanding;
if you seek it like silver,
    and search for it as for hidden treasures—
then you will understand the fear of the Lord
    and find the knowledge of God.
For the Lord gives wisdom;
    from his mouth come knowledge and understanding;
he stores up sound wisdom for the upright;
    he is a shield to those who walk blamelessly,
guarding the paths of justice
    and preserving the way of his faithful ones.
Then you will understand righteousness and justice
    and equity, every good path

According to this passage the only way to know Truth is to seek God for it with all your heart.  How many of us, if we are being honest, have actually cried out to God to show us His mind about our current event issues?  Don't we just have an idea of what truth is and then pray to that end?  Politics of all stripes have influenced the Church and the net result is the staggering polarization of people who claim to know the Lord Jesus.  Brothers and sisters this ought not to be!   What a horrible testimony to the world!

At the very least we should be crying out to God together to know truth and how to respond to our current events.  There should be a place for every Truth-seeking believer at the prayer rail and the discussion table.  

God help us to call good good and bad bad.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Some Things Are Best Done In Secret

I made a commitment to read through the Sermon on the Mount with others and the last few weeks have dealt with doing things publicly verses privately.  Here is the beginning of Matthew 6 (minus the Lord's prayer in verses 7-15)

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your Father who is in heaven. Thus, when you give to the needy, sound no trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing,  so that your giving may be in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
"And when you pray, you must not be like the hypocrites. For they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, that they may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward."
"And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly, I say to you, they have received their reward.  But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face,  that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you."
Our giving, praying, and fasting should not be motivated by wanting to receive the praise of men.  It seems that God is more pleased if we do these things privately.  In the example of the giving to the needy it seems like God thinks we should even keep these acts secret from ourselves. 

As I pondered these passages, a verse from I Samuel 16 came to mind:
"For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.”
Because we know this to be true, that men do look on the outward appearance, maybe that is way these example and their outcomes are repeated in three different ways.  Be careful to do your good deeds in private if your motivation is for the glory of God.  If you do, God will reward you.  If you do good for the praise of men, you will have the praise of men.  This praise will be your total reward.

That thought led me to recall these verses in the next chapter of Matthew:
"Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess to them, I never knew you: depart from me, you that work iniquity.
I wonder if we couldn't even say something like, "Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not give to the poor, pray and fast in your name.  And I will profess to them, yes, and you had the praise of men. Depart from me I never knew you."
The people in Matthew 7 were actually doing things in the name of Jesus. 

Sobering, isn't it.

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Continuing Revelation (This post was written in 2010-don't know why I never posted and I don't know where the pics went, if indeed there ever were any!)

I do not believe in "sola scriptura". The reason I say this is because it has become more and more obvious to me that that is not how I live my life. It might sound good on paper and even be the right thing to say, but in reality it is scripture plus any number of other things.

I do believe in the Bible as final authority. Yet there are other tests or measures by which I conduct my life.

Visualize a sieve. This sieve is the Bible. All things that make it through the seive are "good", things that don't make it through or contradict the Bible are rejected.

I am continuously bombarded with choices as I live life. Some choices are immediately blocked by Biblical edicts. I don't have to pray or look for a sign to know that lying about how old my kids are in order to get into a movie cheaper. It is wrong and I don't need to look for some sign from God that it is ok.

What about those other kinds of choices? Who shall I marry? Should I try to get that job? How would I make that choice? There are alot of ways that might fit through the sieve of scripture. I might do research, I might consult friends and family, I would pray. All of this new information would point me toward a decision. If the information was conflicting I would wait.

As I'm living my life with this unanswered question or choice I try to keep my eyes and ears open for God. My heart resonantes with Oswald Chambers

The destiny of my spiritual life is such identification with Jesus Christ that I always hear God, and I know that God always hears me (John 11:41). If I am united with Jesus Christ, I hear God, by the devotion of hearing all the time. A lily, or a tree, or a servant of God, may convey God's message to me. What hinders me from hearing is that I am taken up with other things. It is not that I will not hear God, but I am not devoted in the right place. I am devoted to things, to service, to convictions, and God may say what He likes but I do not hear Him.

How can I know if what I hear is from God? Does it fit through the sieve of God's word? If it does and I want to do it, I do it. If it doesn't I don't.

Today I was tickled to read in Matt. 2:10 "When they saw the star they rejoiced exceedingly." Earlier in the chapter the magi had seen the star and had begun to follow it. I'm guessing they either lost it and went to Jerusalem to get more information about the details of the new Kings birth or they were passing through and wanted some collaborating evidence that they were on to something. After speaking with Herod they resumed their journey and saw that the same star was going before them and that made them rejoice exceedingly. That star was confirmation. That star was guidance. That star was guiding them to a place and a person prophesized many years before.

Was God leading them by that star? Is God leading me by the counsel of a wise friend? Does finding out that piece of information on the internet the last piece of the puzzle to make a good decision about having a surgery? What about that song with lyrics so convicting I decide not to divorce my mate? Could all these things be God's guiding hand? I must believe that because that is how I order my life. Sola scriptora or God uses many means to speak if we are listening?

Friday, June 14, 2013

He Makes The Rain Fall on the Just and the Unjust

Before I launch into my latest musings I will say I just finished a book from 1938 by Brenda Ueland called "If You Want to Write".  Anyone who knows me well knows that I want to write, do art, re purpose things, take pictures, travel, and many more great things.  When you have that many interests it is really hard to do anything well.  I want to try to write more often and not be thinking "I don't have time to do a good enough job now."  I wish I was motivated enough to want to polish my writing but I'm just not.  So here's to hoping to write more.

Here are my musings on Matthew 5:43-48
43 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ 44 But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, 45 so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. For he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. 46 For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? 47 And if you greet only your brothers,[a] what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? 48 You therefore must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.

It is irrelevant what the word "perfect" means in this passage.  We know from it that God is perfect and we are told to be like Him.

And what is it that sets Him apart from us and makes Him perfect?  He makes rain fall on ALL and sun shine on ALL people whether they deserve it or not.

I objected at first.  How can He help that?  It's not like rain could just fall on good people, right?

Maybe that is part of the point - if we could be so God-like, so perfect, we would just greet ALL in the streets, we would love ALL, we would do good to ALL.  It wouldn't cross our minds to ask/consider goodness or evilness.  We would just BE.  We would BE who we were meant to BE.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Understanding Spiritual Formation

I continue to marvel at how God forms me spiritually.  My beliefs are constantly being challenged by reading, relationships and circumstances.  Over the years I've hardened then softened then hardened again.  Many thoughts and ideas morph.  But when a light bulb moment comes, well, I cannot remember ever changing on one of those.  

Because God gives me TRUTH in pictures that is how I speak this truth.  I am so confident about it, at least for my own life, that I have no shred of interest in defending it.  It just is.

One of the first pictures I remember is "God's truth will rise to the top."  Decades later I believe this more than ever.  Why is this so important to me?  I need not defend what I believe because it is not my truth, it is God's.  I may or may not believe the true Truth about this or that issue.  I am a work in progress and I promise you I am doing the best I can.  I want to know what is true and I believe that God's truth will rise because the Holy Spirit will lead me into all truth.  Why argue and defend ideas as if the truth is MY truth.  I want to listen to others because maybe what they are saying is the cream, after all.

Have you ever been perplexed about something that the majority of people around you seem to understand?  This doesn't happen to me often but when it does I can get pretty vocal.  Take the A.C.T.S. model for prayer.  Specifically the "A".  About fifteen years ago I was involved in some pretty large prayer gatherings.  We would start out with the "A" Adoration.  We would drone on.  "You are lovely."  "You are holy."  "Your power sustains the universe."  I did not understand it at all.  We were praying to God and yet we were telling the God who knows everything snippets of information about Himself.  About a decade later I had an epiphany about the whole process.  We are saying these things to REMIND OURSELVES of God's great attributes.  In a way it still feels a bit hokey to me.....we are praying to God not each other, correct?  But at least now it makes more sense to me.  Is this what others understood all along?

My latest piecing of events and my thoughts together has to do with the Lord's Supper.  It is a pretty solemn event that I've never really understood apart from New Testament incidents of it taking place. I just have never been able to conjure up great enough feelings to go with the retelling of Jesus' last few hours before his death.  Lately a small group has been discussing the resurrection of Jesus.  It's pretty scary to listen to people ask hard questions, make unfamiliar statements and all the while remember that the cream of God's truth is still truth even if we miss it right now.

During my musings about our discussions I came to another really big idea that is going to help me understand why I participate in the Lord's Supper.  Our culture is unfriendly to Christian thought.  The lines are getting so fuzzy about right and wrong.  We are so hammered by unchristian thoughts that it seems to me the Church is becoming diluted by the age we live in.  The farther we get in history the further we get from the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.  For myself, my spirituality and my face is toward God and God alone.  Yes, of course I know that the reason I have a relationship with God is because of the work of Christ on my behalf.  BUT I live in the now of my relationship with God.  My ephipany of late has been that the reason Jesus told us to "do this in remembrance" of Him is because we were going to lose track of the fact that it is because of Him we have this new life.

Maybe my "aha" moments are "duh" to you.  That is OK because probably many of yours are not light bulb moments to me.  The point is the Holy Spirit is moving, leading and teaching us into the path of Life.  

Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Positives (?) of Being Bi-Polar

Mental Illness.  I'm going to admit to having a lot of bias when it comes to this subject.  My family of origin has 6 siblings.  All but one have varying degrees of mental disorders, problems, illnesses.  Call it what you want, just please don't call it "positive".

Lest you think I jest, my most mentally ill sibling told me 2 days ago that sometimes he is glad that he is mentally ill.  Today I got a status update from a bi-polar group that asked its' members to list the positives of being bi-polar.

HELLO!!!!!  Even if you can stay up for 72 straight hours and paint pictures, is that REALLY a positive when you think of all the negatives of being bi-polar?  Do we really want to entertain this kind of logic?  Take your meds, go to groups, and be as healthy as you can be.

Think about it! Having the flu has a few perks.  You can stay in bed and watch T.V., you don't have to go to work, and sometimes people will make food for you.  BUT REALLY, do we ever actually want the flu?  NO!  So let's not act like there is a positive aspect to it.

Is there anything about any people any more that can be considered negative?  How PC do we have to be?  Geez!

END OF RANT!  Remember, my family history before you take me to task about this.  I am way to close to the forest to see the trees.

The Word of God

For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. Hebrews 4:12

What is the word of God?  When I think of the word of God I think of The Bible.  Not that words of God cannot come from people, etc.  It's just that if someone brings you a word from God you should make sure it doesn't go against clearly revealed words from God in the Bible. 
Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.  Acts 17:11

Last weekend during our devotions Joelle picked the story of Noah to read out of the Bible Story book you see above.  In the story, after all the animals and Noah's family have entered the ark, God closes the door.  I was pretty sure that even in a Bible God does actually close the door.  Joelle had brought her Bible so I told her I thought we should look it up.  I explained to her that not everything written in a story book, even a story book of Bible stories, can necessarily be counted on to be true.  So we looked it up.

The animals going in were male and female of every living thing, as God had commanded Noah. Then the LORD shut him in.  Genesis 7:16

This week I have been reading Matthew 5:13-16
“You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled underfoot.
 “You are the light of the world. A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.  Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house.  In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven.

I have been reading it in various translations.  Today I ended with The Message by Eugene Peterson.  I actually like Eugene Peterson.  I have read some of his books.  I even like The Message as a commentary on The Bible.  But I sure do not believe it is a translation.
“Let me tell you why you are here. You’re here to be salt-seasoning that brings out the God-flavors of this earth. If you lose your saltiness, how will people taste godliness? You’ve lost your usefulness and will end up in the garbage. “Here’s another way to put it: You’re here to be light, bringing out the God-colors in the world. God is not a secret to be kept. We’re going public with this, as public as a city on a hill. If I make you light-bearers, you don’t think I’m going to hide you under a bucket, do you? I’m putting you on a light stand. Now that I’ve put you there on a hilltop, on a light stand—shine! Keep open house; be generous with your lives. By opening up to others, you’ll prompt people to open up with God, this generous Father in heaven.
 Thus ends my morning thoughts on the power of scripture, searching the scriptures to see if things are true, what constitutes scripture, and teaching kids to question what they read.  Simple approach from a simple person.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Friendly Fire

I recently started a group on Facebook of people who wanted to read and respond to the Sermon on the Mount over the next four to five months.  The idea sprang from Hollie's interest in memorizing and while I don't want to memorize right now, I wanted to support her desire.  Hence a group who can respond to the Sermon on the Mount in whatever way they feel led.

I began my reading on April 15th.  An incident with a  friend took place a week earlier.  It was still percolating in my mind while I began my reading of  Matthew 5:1-12.  The more I thought about it the more I knew that what I had experienced a week earlier had felt like persecution (verses 11-12).  Once I remembered that the people who had killed the prophets in the OT and the people most wanting Jesus dead were not the heathen of the land but the religious leaders, the more I knew I was on to something.

Here is the snapshot of the incident.  I was discussing with this friend some views that some other friends were now entertaining and I summarized it with the statement "it all comes down to the authority of the scripture", to which she responded something like "you don't believe in the authority of the scripture."  I was so taken aback by this I don't remember what I said, if anything.  I knew what she meant and because I know how well she knows me, it stung.  Really badly.

Some of you reading may remember the crisis of faith I had in the fall of 2004.  I was challenged by a group of very smart unbelievers on the truth of the scriptures.  It was a very dark time.  If what they were saying was true then who I was and how I had lived (including my parenting) was all being called into question.  If the Bible was not true then maybe all was in vain and I had led my kids down a false path.  A paragraph can not do justice to the paralyzing effect this had on me.  One quarter century of a life of study and mentoring on the life of Jesus being called into question!  After a month I came to the conclusion that they could not prove the Bible was false and I could not prove it was true.  It came down to faith.  I chose the path of putting my confidence in the Bible and moved on.

The reason my friend told me that I did not hold to the authority of scripture is because I have some unorthodox beliefs.  This does not mean I don't hold to the authority of scripture.  It means I do not see Biblical evidence to hold to the creeds which have become the litmus test for orthodoxy. There is no point in trying to tell her that she reads the Bible through the creeds.  For people who have "gone to church" most of their lives, this is just the way things are.  It's like the mind is set to default to reading the Bible through the lens of  the creeds. You don't even realize you are doing it and because 90% or more of Christians do it, you don't have to even challenge yourself to consider the possibility that could be the case.  The burden of proof somehow becomes the responsibility of the minority.

Another reason why this friend brings this up is because she believes she must defend the faith.  I do not believe I need to defend anything especially to another follower of Jesus.  What is important is that Christ is preached.  It did not even bother Paul what the motive was.  Check this passage out: 

12 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 13 so that my [i]imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole [j]praetorian guard and to everyone else, 14 and that most of the [k]brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my [l]imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even [m]from envy and strife, but some also [n]from good will; 16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition [o]rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my [p]imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.

Philippians 1:12-18

For me, holding to the authority of the scriptures means that I will bow the knee to what the Bible says regardless of my own personal views.  If the King says it, wants it, etc. I am the servant and I bow to that authority.  It's not what I think that counts.

What does holding to the authority of the scripture mean to you?  Is it important?  For me it is absolutely essential to my life as a disciple of Jesus.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My last post had to do with connected events that led me to a conclusion.  This post has to do with the connectedness of the things I am reading and how those connections inform my life and relationships.  

Over this past month I have been reading the first four chapters in the Gospel of Luke, Mindful Jewish Living, A Generous Presence, My Grandfather's Blessings, Tattoos on the Heart, Crucial Confrontations and The Element.  All of these works have been mingling in my brain as I have been going about my days. What follows is the way I believe God has been impressing me with words to address the four things I've been wrestling with:

1.  How can I be more mindful in situations and see what God wants me to see as opposed to feeling turned off, irritated or annoyed?

Have I been able to be more mindful at work?  No.  Epic fail.  I know how I am supposed to respond.  I know I am supposed to be trying to see the divine spark in everyone instead of the story in my mind becoming what I see.  (Mindful Jewish Living).  I was also impacted by a chapter in the Tattoos on the Heart book.  The author, a Catholic priest, walks the reader through his days of being in community with gang members.  Time and again these hardened people would "crack" or soften to God.  I would like to be a part of this process in my community but I am never going to get there with my human feelings about the people I come in contact with.  I need some God-sized feelings.

2. How can I have a relationship a better relationship with Dawn?

Over the past month I have come to realize just how hard it is to know that I have failed my child and continue to fail her.  It was difficult to realize how my parents failed me.  In an epiphany moment in my early 30's I realized my father was never going to be the father I wanted and it was OK because I realized he was doing the best he could with the cards he had been dealt.  Over the years I have been able to come to that with my mom but it was harder because her influence in my adult life had more negative moments.  Eventually I got there.   I don't know how to "get there" with Dawn.   I'm pretty sure I need to go back to counseling.  While reading My Grandfathers Blessings I realized that because my expectations for this relationship and my relationships with my grandchildren have not been met I need to get to a point of acceptance and that is not going to happen without grieving the loss.  I am not having the relationship with Dawn or with her kids that I wanted and hoped for.  That is a big loss to me especially given the fact that I had intended this to be a very big part of my life.  If I can move on then maybe I can just pray about my concerns instead of  trying to get Dawn to see things the way I see them.  If I can do this then maybe I can give Dawn the gift of acceptance that she deserves.  In Tattoos on the Heart the priest asked a gang member how he thought God viewed him.  He thought long and hard.  "God...thinks...I'm...firme." (could not be one bit better)  I want to feel this about my children and my grandchildren.

3. How can I best help my sister as she is going through another life transition?

It's great to have some healthy relationships in life and one of my best relationships is with my sister Patti.  She has really been struggling and I have tried listen well, which is part of being mindful or present. (Mindful Jewish Living and A Generous Presence)  When she has said things that are only partial truths I have been able to give her a better perspective by showing her where she has not been failing.  Usually I can give myself the same gift of perspective and whole truth but with Dawn and the grand kids, she often has to remind me of the support and love I have given over the years.  I loved a section in A Generous Presence that talks about the coach as a light bearer.   First they shine a light at the edge's of the clients life by asking questions that help bring clarity.  Second they illuminate the path.  I believe I have done this for Patti in word and deed.  And she for me. 

4. How can I support Hollie's desire to memorize scripture?

Hollie and I had a plan to memorize scripture together.  I had the BIG idea to memorize The Sermon on the Mount.  Both of us struggled with doing this and eventually I just told her I didn't want to do it, that I had been reading the Bible for forty years and it just wasn't a priority to continue to memorize scripture.  It was very important at one point in my spiritual development but I just didn't want to invest time in it any more.    What do I happen to be reading in Luke right after we had this conversation?   Chapter 4 about the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness.  How does Jesus, the Son of God combat the devil?  He uses scripture.  BAM!  Jesus had the presence of mind after 40 days of not eating to quote the truth to the devil.  How often am I confronted with similar temptations when the evil one finds an opportune time to attack me.  Perhaps part of my inability to respond to my patrons with the light of Christ is because I am not memorizing and meditating on scripture.  OK Hollie, I've changed my mind.  Let's come up with a new plan.


I would like to thank God for the books he puts on my radar, how my brain processes the books and how the Spirit brings my life circumstances into contact with what I've read.  The result is a desire to grow or change areas of my own life and if I'm really blessed the opportunity to bring light to the paths of others so they can do the same.  What could take this process to an even higher level would be to read the books with others and discuss how we are being impacted.