procrastination or disobedience?

July 22, 2012 1 comment

Yesterday my wise and dearly loved husband asked me something profound.  We were having a conversation in which I confessed to being a bit bored with my life in general – I love my job but am finding life outside of work somewhat less than exhilarating.  Sam said to me, “Did not the holy God, Creator of the Universe tell you to write a book?”  I said, “Well… yes…”  He said, “Then I don’t think he’s going to give you anything else to get involved with until you obey him about that.”

Huh.

The thing is, God has been telling me pretty much the same thing for a while now, and I’ve been making excuses.  The main one is that I work on a computer from 8:30 – 5:00 every day and the last thing I want to do is get back on one when I get home.  (That’s also why my posts have been, well, pretty non-existent lately).   I tell myself that I’m going to do it, I just haven’t gotten around to it yet.  But I will.  Soon.

As has been so wisely said, delayed obedience is disobedience.  I do believe that God has a purpose and calling for me, and I need to get moving and do my part.  So – I’m once again saying at least a temporary goodbye, as I am going to put my time and effort into what God has told me to do.  Please don’t unsubscribe, however, as I hope to come back one day in the not terribly distant future and say “It’s done!”

Pray for me if  you will.  Much love in Jesus to all…

 (Jesus said)“But what do you think about this? A man with two sons told the older boy, ‘Son, go out and work in the vineyard today.’  The son answered, ‘No, I won’t go,’ but later he changed his mind and went anyway.  Then the father told the other son, ‘You go,’ and he said, ‘Yes, sir, I will.’ But he didn’t go.   “Which of the two obeyed his father?”  They replied, “The first.”  Matthew 21:28-32

Categories: Book

putting verbs in those cliches

My last couple of posts, about love being a commandment, have been pretty timely for me.  When I write my posts, I’m hearing as much or more than I’m sharing, and I had much I needed and still need to hear on this subject.

There are people who are just hard for me to love.  It’s easy to sit here, with my laptop on my lap (as the name implies) and write nice little sentences about loving the unlovable and showing the heart of Jesus.  But there are people who just plain aggravate me.  I don’t like people who think that their opinion is the only one that can possibly be right, and try to make others who don’t think the same way feel somehow less intelligent or less informed.  Especially when I’m one of the others.  I don’t like people who think that saying “I’m just being honest” justifies their rudeness.  I don’t like people who are all about themselves, who talk only about the details of their lives, without even asking how you’re doing.  I don’t like people who have a sense of entitlement, who are never satisfied and are always being wronged in any situation, without ever having any responsibility.  I don’t like people who are critical and intolerant of other people’s shortcomings.

Wait – I think that last one might be me.

Here’s the thing about what Jesus asked – no, commanded us to do.  He didn’t say anything about feelings.  He didn’t ask us to like people.  He didn’t ask us to be all warm and fuzzy.  He asked us to love.  Not to feel love, but to do love.

Watch what God does, and then you do it, like children who learn proper behavior from their parents. Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn’t love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.  Ephesians 5:1-2

God is talking about giving here.  Giving of myself.  Doing, pouring out.  Not looking at whether a relationship is equal, if I get as much as I give.  Not paying attention to how much a person annoys me when I decide how to treat them.  And that is SO much easier said than done.  I’m just not so good at handing out warm and loving greetings to a person who often irritates me or, even worse, makes me feel invisible.

Just a few days ago I was discussing with a friend a problem I’m having with another person, and I said that I wished that person would just go away.  Just leave the situation, so I wouldn’t have to deal with them or the problem.  Obviously I have more to learn about really watching and learning about a life of love.

So this is my prayer: that your love will flourish and that you will not only love much but well. Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush. Live a lover’s life, circumspect and exemplary, a life Jesus will be proud of: bountiful in fruits from the soul, making Jesus Christ attractive to all, getting everyone involved in the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11

And that is the main purpose of love – to make Jesus Christ attractive to all.  Nothing can show the beauty of a renewed heart more than a kind, loving spirit that treats others with gentle goodness.  Very little can make others lose respect for my witness quicker than harsh words, unkind actions and vindictive attitudes.  Love will draw those who will never listen to a sermon, read a book or open a Bible.

 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other.  Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.  John 13:34-35

Jesus is pretty clear here.  If I want the world to believe that I really know him, I need to live that life of love.  That’s going to take some work, and some prayer.

did you ever… part 2

Yesterday my pastor said something that wasn’t what you might expect to hear from most pulpits.  In fact, it was pretty much the opposite of what I hear from a lot of preachers, teachers, Facebook posts, and general “Christian” discussion.  He said, “Accept people.  Love them for who they are.  Let them be themselves.  Let them think differently than you, dress differently than you, hold different political opinions.  Let them be messed up if they’re messed up.  The job of the Holy Spirit is already taken.  You don’t have to fix them.  You just have to love them.”

I wanted to jump up and down for a couple of reasons. One – I totally loved what he was saying.  Two – it fit completely into this post I was planning.  Isn’t God’s timing great!   (In another BTW – my life and those of a few people very important to me would probably be different in some really positive ways if I had learned this twenty years ago.)

So, we’re supposed to accept people, love them even, when they don’t fit our ideas of acceptable?  What if they are pro-choice or strongly behind a candidate that I spent the last several years forwarding emails against? (Ok, that was an editorial “I”, personally I don’t forward any of that stuff…)  What about the ones who show up for church dressed so inappropriately?  Surely it’s ok to speak up about that- it’s respect for God’s house, right?  What about people who don’t believe at all, who live by completely worldly standards?  Am I supposed to accept them with their tattoos and piercings and wild lifestyles?  What about the gays?  What about Christians who do things that I consider worldly?

What about…people?  Every single one in the same boat as me.  Sinful.  Unable to live up to God’s law.  Some of them haven’t had the amazing gift of grace become real in their lives.  Some haven’t chosen (yet?) to receive it.  Some don’t know about it.  But none, not one, is righteous – and neither am I – except for the blood of Christ which gives me HIS righteousness.  I have done nothing – not one single thing – to be considered “good” in God’s eyes, and yet he loves me totally, unconditionally.  And he asks, no – commands, me to do the same for people.  All of them.

At the end of yesterday’s message, Pastor Curt read the lyrics to a Steven Curtis Chapman song that I had never heard before (strangely enough, being a huge SCC fan).  Even without music, it made me cry.  It talked about seeing other people and remembering where we were before Jesus.  Here’s a link to the video.   It’s called “Remember Your Chains” and it’s definitely worth your three minutes.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4FRAYGLMjP4

So, how do we do what Jesus commands?  If you remember the last blog, Jesus didn’t ask or suggest that we love each other, he commanded it.  That’s a pretty big deal.  He said he was making a new commandment (incidentally, something only God could do.)  I said we would talk about that in the next blog – but I guess I really meant the “next next blog” :)  So, next time.

Remember Your Chains – Steven Curtis Chapman

I couldn’t help but wonder what he was thinking
As he stared out the window through the sky
It seemed he was taking his last look at freedom
From the hopeless, longing look in his eyes
There were chains on his hands and chains on his feet
And as I passed him by the thought came to me

[Chorus:]
Remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone

There’s no one more thankful to sit at the table
Than the one who best remembers hunger’s pain
And no heart loves greater than the one that is able
To recall the time when all it knew was the shame
The wings of forgiveness can take us to heights never seen
But the wisest ones, they will never lose sight of where they were set free
Love set them free

[Chorus:]
So remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone

[Bridge:]
And in the light of all that we’ve been forgiven of
We will find our hearts fuller and freer
To give and receive God’s love

[Chorus:]
So remember your chains
Remember the prison that once held you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember the place you were without grace
When you see where you are now
Remember your chains
Oh, remember your chains
When you remember your chains
Remember your chains are gone

Imagine what your life would be
If Jesus had not set you free
Remember your chains are gone
Remember all that once help you
Before the love of God broke through
Remember your chains
And remember your chains are gone

did you ever stop to think?

You know how sometimes you hear something so much it loses all meaning?  How many times have you heard that you need sunscreen?  Last week my stepson Bryan was here visiting, and before he and his friend left with my husband for the College World Series, I offered sunscreen.  Bryan didn’t quite roll his eyes, but he said, “Yeah, no thanks” in the tone that meant, “You’re doing that old-person unnecessary worrying thing again.”  He comes by that naturally – my husband used to give me the same attitude when I tried to get him to wear sunscreen.  He’d say “I need a little color”.  Then he got skin cancer.  Thank God it was the kind that was not dangerous and could be treated easily, but still… now he is very good about the sunscreen.

Or how about good things?  Nice sayings?  Things become cliches because they’re true, but because they’re true, they get said until they’re cliches and we don’t really hear them.  For instance, “If you haven’t got your health, you haven’t got anything”.  I’ll tell you, when I was getting toward the end of chemo and felt like I could barely sit up, I never once thought about my checkbook balance or going shopping for new cute clothes, or getting some fun electronic gadget.  A new car wouldn’t have meant a thing. Or  “Treat people the way you want them to treat you”.  It works, and even when it doesn’t change the way people treat you, it’s the right thing to do.  But sayings like that are just so tired and even kind of corny.  It’s hard to pay attention to the truth they contain.

Today I was thinking about a section of scripture that is so familiar that it can just slide in and out of my ears without really touching my brain, or my heart.

 What if I could speak all languages of humans and of angels? If I did not love others, I would be nothing more than a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. What if I could prophesy and understand all secrets and all knowledge? And what if I had faith that moved mountains? I would be nothing, unless I loved others.What if I gave away all that I owned and let myself be burned alive? I would gain nothing, unless I loved others. I Corinthinans 13: 1-3

Those are some pretty big “what if’s”.  What if there really was an evangelist who was supernaturally able to preach to any nation, any tribe, no matter how remote, without an interpreter.  China one day, Zimbabwe the next, newly discovered tribe a week later.  He would be world-famous, at the very least.  But without genuine love for people, not only those to whom he preached, but those around him, in his life, his home, his ministry, God says he would just be making noise.  So what about those of us with smaller (much smaller) ministries?

What if I was able to tell you spot on what God wanted you to do and what he had in store?  What he was thinking about your life?  What you needed to change, accomplish, learn?  What was going to happen in the country, in the world?  What if I could go on television and make 100% accurate predictions about politics, or natural disasters in time to save thousands of lives?  What if I had the kind of faith that was literally unstoppable – that I could pray for anything and see it happen?  That would probably be pretty impressive.  Could it influence people, bring them to faith?  I would think so.  Would it count for anything in God’s eyes?  Not unless I lived in love.

Even if I gave everything I owned to charity – everything, even my Donny Osmond blanket – and lived on the street, or went to a country where Christians are persecuted and preached the gospel until I was executed for doing so, God says that I gain nothing.  Not if I don’t love others.

When Jesus knew that the time was near for the end of his ministry and he was telling the twelve the last things he wanted them to know, he didn’t say “Here’s how to run an efficient megachurch”, or “Make sure that you don’t let these sins become rampant in society, whatever you do.  Keep people in line.”  He didn’t even say “Before I go I need to teach you the Sinner’s Prayer and the 4 Spiritual Laws”.  He said “So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples..” (John 13:34-35)

A new commandment?  (That’s another verse that’s way too familiar.)  Can you imagine what the idea of a NEW commandment meant to those good Jewish men?  Jesus didn’t tell them “It would be really great if you could get along.” No, he made a new commandment – up there with “Thou shalt not commit murder” – “Love each other”.

It’s harder than it sounds.  But more on that next time.

this is me ranting

June 29, 2012 3 comments

One of the benefits of having my own blog is the chance to say what I think, and occasionally that includes being really frustrated.  You may think this is totally silly, but to me it’s not.  I have this deep-seated thing about fairness and I get a little crazy when I think something is unfair.

Ok, what I’m upset about is America’s Got Talent.  I know, it’s just a TV show.  But it’s not like I’m having a fit over who didn’t get a rose on The Bachelor or whether some Real Housewife with big hair was nasty to someone with even bigger hair.  A) I don’t even watch that stuff and B) “Real” Housewives??  Who are they kidding?  I’ve been a housewife.  AGT is serious, this is for a million dollars and a life-changing career.

I realize they only have 45 slots to put people through to the live show and not everyone will make it.  I realize that some people’s favorites won’t go. I understand all of that.  But there was one young man, Andrew DeLeon, who looked like a goth, spoke like a gentleman, and sang like an angel.  (click here to watch – you won’t believe it.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LsCVaWKHMg0&feature=related ) He had never sung in front of anyone, even his own parents, and in his audition he sang opera in a soprano range, perfectly, bringing the audience to their feet screaming and cheering.  He got put through to the second round of auditions where they perform for the judges only, and like many others, he got nervous and although he still sang with amazing natural talent, he stumbled slightly on his words.  He was sent home.

Yes, I was disappointed, but I would be all right (not really, I think talent like his deserves a chance, but I wouldn’t be this mad) – but here’s the list of who they kept instead of this ridiculously talented young man:  They did NOT send home a man with a very average voice who sings 70’s TV theme songs, or a man who “sings” (actually kind of howls) so badly that Sharon Osborne put her hands over her ears, or a group of young men whose entire talent lies in taking turns finding different ways to strike one member in the genitals, including with a bat, a sledgehammer and a bowling ball.

Now seriously.  What are they thinking?

I’m sure I get more upset by this than many people would because I am (well, was) a singer, used to be married to a singer, and am the mother of a singer.  I feel for talent that deserves a chance.  It makes me just plain mad when someone who is truly good gets pushed aside because “they aren’t a million dollar act” (but the guy who gets kicked in the you-know-whats is??)  I confess that when the dude who seriously can’t sing at all and made Sharon put her hands over her ears went through, I kind of lost it.  I declared I was done with the show (which I’m not, I will keep watching because I do like it and want to see how others I like do), and I admit I even said a word that caused my husband to rebuke me.

I have no spiritual tie-in at all, other than to admit that I didn’t react well to feeling like something unfair happened, which shows me an area of weakness in my own life that I need to address.  Thanks for listening.

where no man has gone before

A couple of weeks ago Sam and I, along with another couple, had a unique experience.  We were guests of a chef at an excellent restaurant, and had a five-course meal  prepared especially for us.  Most of what we ate was totally delicious.  Some was just unusual and interesting.  There was only one thing I didn’t like, a tiny cube of beet and cabbage gelee (when it’s expensive and classy jello, you call it gelee).    Say I don’t have refined taste if you like, but I just don’t think jello should taste like beets and cabbage.  Actually, I don’t think anything should taste like cabbage, even cabbage.

However, the evening was an adventure.  Every course was exciting, and nothing I would ever have thought of ordering.  Ever.  Except for dessert, which couldn’t have been more made for me if the chef had read my mind – it was every possible way to do something fancy and delicious with chocolate.

I am generally a very picky eater.  When I go to a restaurant, I have one thing (sometimes two if it’s a really great place) that I know I love there, and I always order it.  My list of what I won’t eat on a pizza is a lot longer than the list of what I will.  But when this opportunity came up, I decided to trust the chef and try everything.  If I had trusted my own normal way of thinking, I would have ended up with Jimmy Johns again.

So, because I tend to think this way, (as you may have gathered if you read this blog much), I started thinking about how this is like what God does for me.  When it comes to my life, I have a very small menu of how I think things should be, and a pretty long list of what I don’t want.  But God has an entire plan of things that I would never have imagined on my own, and if I am open to them and to him, my life will be an exciting adventure.  It won’t all be chocolate – but it will all be exactly what is good for me, and it will be a life of meaning and character, a life that glorifies God and puts others first.

One of the friends who was also at this chef’s dinner with us didn’t like much of the food at all.  And the thing is, the chef was preparing what he thought would be fun and tasty and interesting for us, but he didn’t know us or what would actually appeal.  He did well with three of four, which is pretty good.

But God is not guessing.  He knows exactly what will be right for my life, and it’s not the same as my friend’s life – or your life.  He has a plan for each person that is exactly for them.  It’s up to us to choose to trust his loving wisdom.

 God planned for us to do good things and to live as he has always wanted us to live. That’s why he sent Christ to make us what we are.  Ephesians 2:10

thoughts that go bump in the fog

June 18, 2012 2 comments

My beloved husband has been reminding me that I am neglecting my blog and you wonderful people who actually take the time to read it.  This is true.  It’s not that I don’t love writing, or that I don’t enjoy this blog, or even that I’ve run out of things to say.  (Ask Sam – never gonna happen.)

But for a while now, I’ve been going through kind of a down time mentally.  I’ve been in a mild fibro flareup – nothing bad, no cane (for those of you who know me), I’m walking upright and haven’t missed any time at work.  But fibro has many aspects besides pain, one being that it messes with the ability to think sharply.  Fibro people call it brain fog, and it’s a very descriptive term.  It’s like trying to see your thoughts in the fog instead of in clear daylight – and the thoughts just bump around into each other.

Last week I forgot my Kindle at work (in the bathroom, no less) and thought it was gone forever – but thanks to an amazing and honest cleaning woman, got it back.  The very next day, I microwaved my iPhone.  Yep.  I have this nice little heat pack that I use on my neck which gets warmed in the microwave.  I put it in and 1 minute 40 seconds later, opened the door to see my iPhone sitting right there on top of it.  Quite dead.  Fried, even.  Amazingly, the microwave still works and the kitchen didn’t start on fire.

So, even though I keep having ideas that have, attached to them, the additional thought, “I should write about this in my blog!”, somehow they’re getting lost in the fog.  I need to write them down.  Or tell them to Siri.  That’s what I have an iPhone for, right?  (I did get it replaced.)

I also seem to be just kind of struggling lately.  I’m just, I guess you’d have to say tired.  My faith isn’t any different – I believe everything I ever have and that will never change, but I’m finding it hard to feel the enthusiasm.  I’m not sure if this is physical, or a dry spell, or something wrong in my life I need to find and work on.

But – and this is a big but (wink) – that’s the fantastic thing about Jesus.  He is there when you feel so full of joy that you can’t believe your feet are still touching the ground, when you want to sing at the top of your lungs and throw your hands as high as you can.  He’s still there when you’re hurting so much you can hardly think about getting through the next hour, much less the next day.  And he’s just as much there when you don’t feel much of anything.  Because he’s reality – not a feeling.  My feelings could be (with thanks to Mr. Dickens), “just a bit of undigested potato”.   I change with the temperature and how hard a day I had at work, and whether or not I talked to my kids, and what’s for dinner.  Jesus never changes.  Never.  That’s why his name is I AM.  He never “was”, he never “will be”.  He always is.

And I am so incredibly glad that my relationship with him and my standing with God don’t depend on how I feel, or what I do; whether I feel like spending a lot of time praying today or barely bless my lunch, or if I spend hours studying the Word or forget to open it.   Obviously there are choices that will make me spiritually stronger, help me know God better, help me understand him and his will for my life, and let me develop into a more mature Christian.  I am not trying in any way to say these aren’t important, because they are – very much so.  What I am saying is doing them or anything else can’t make me any more loved, wanted, forgiven, chosen, called, adopted or free than I already am.  Thank God!

 Jesus Christ never changes! He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  Hebrews 13:8 CEV