Careful

As is often the case, it is when the struggle is real I turn to this place to pour it all out and see what’s worth keeping and what should be filtered away. We are to the midpoint of a semester. Much has steeped long enough to make a worthwhile cup of knowledge.
As is always the case, relevant cultural, social and political issues provide evidence of the need for critical thinking and for truth finding. We need clarity that only wisdom can bring.
I’m deeply thankful for scripture; for timeless truth. “For whatsoever was written aforetime was written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
I’ve spent countless hours of time in the pages of books, but none so worthy of honor as this. Don’t misunderstand. There have been some sorrowful hours recognizing myself in the stories penned. From the fall of those who came before me that are recorded in scripture, I find my own story and those of others whom I love. It’s not all easy to swallow, but it is all true and written for our ultimate good, hope, and deliverance.
I’ve looked at the cross, even at its foretelling in the book of Isaiah, and counted the cost of my sin that was suffered by my Savior and I’ve wept bitterly.
“Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed? For He shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground; He hath no form nor comeliness; and when we shall see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from Him; He was despised and we esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows: yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of our peace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” (Isaiah 53:1-6)
I appreciate those moments of truth that drew me to repentance and from there to praise. How can I love Christ sufficiently if I don’t first recognize my need and His provision of grace? I cannot. If God does not mind how we live and how we behave, why was it necessary for Christ to suffer, to pay the penalty for sin, to buy our pardon?
I’ve seen so many times arguments in favor of all kinds of sinful practices by referencing Jesus’ company with sinners. What is left out of those references is the fact that He did not leave them as He found them. He called them to a new life, one that required them to take up their cross and follow Him. They had to leave the path they were on and go in a new direction in order to become His followers. Otherwise, they continued on a path leading to destruction, to harm, and He did not abandon His ways to accommodate them, nor did He continue on with them. He could not. He is truth.
The grief I feel over mishandling of truth is deep. When I look back, again and again, to the cross and I remember that Christ died to save us from sins that people still insist are worthy of celebration, my soul aches; my heart grows weary, and the only way forward is constant prayer. We pray for eyes to be opened to the greatest love ever given. The Lord always has something better for us than what error, sin, or self-gratification can give.
I’m struck by the same old deceitful schemes employed by the serpent in the first garden. If ever the human mind can be persuaded to doubt what God has really said, nothing but sin will result. If ever the human mind can be persuaded to believe that God is withholding good, nothing but sin will result.
How important are beliefs? How important is it for beliefs to be true? Scripture answers:
“But without faith, it is impossible to please Him: for He that comes to God, must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6) His love is better than life. His sacrifice paid the penalty for our sins, freed us from being slaves to sin, and reconciled us to God.
“Because His lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise [Him.]”
Psalm 63:3

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For Better or Worse: Thoughts on the Kavanaugh Hearing

As a student of psychology with interest in trauma and memory, I’ve closely watched and listened to both Ms. Blasey Ford and those who questioned her. I must admit I found it deeply unsettling, sad, and regrettable. I watched Mr. Kavanaugh and his wife as he, too, endured questions, some deeply humiliating, and his reactions that seemed to equal or surpass the pain of that demonstrated by Ms. Blasey Ford.

I’ll begin by addressing the questioners and the audience. Again and again, I listened to people applaud, praise, and validate Ms. Blasey Ford for speaking out. Her words were repeatedly referred to as “truth” by members of the Senate. I watched her reactions. I watched her body language, facial expressions, sometimes confused and often fragile emotions play across her face. I listened with pity to her quavering voice, and I hurt for her. Anger was my reaction to all who encouraged or allowed this very public display of her testimony. She stated that it had not been her desire. She also attested to much emotional anguish of many years. From my study,  I know such a public and stressful appearance could easily be her emotional undoing. I wonder about her history prior to the alleged event, and following, that might shed light on what appears to have been a lifelong struggle with anxiety.

I tried so hard to listen with an unbiased, yet informed, ear to each person. I listened with intent to hear each as a human being with all that goes with that condition. I listened considering the alleged event took place 36 years ago, and considered myself as I was so many years back and how different I am now from who I was then. An honest appraisal of any life history should mark change and hopefully progress along with a deepening understanding of self and others. My training has taught me to recognize the difference in perspective and perception from that of an adolescent and that of a mature adult. It has taught me that memories are fluid, meaning they are subject to alteration/change every time they are recalled, and trauma experienced at any time in one’s life may have an impact on that person’s memory processes. These are important things to know when trying to ascertain truth about any event especially one many years past.

The most disturbing to me of the entire ordeal is the willingness of many to believe without clear evidence anything other than the truth we all know: two lives and many who love them are devastated by a process that took us not one step closer to knowing what, if anything, took place between the individuals making opposite claims. They can’t both be telling “the truth.” One is not. I don’t know which. Do I believe a person can think they are telling the truth and not be? Absolutely. Which one? Either. How? Intoxication or false memory (which can result for a number of physical and/or psychological reasons). I will not simply choose which one to believe because of gender. That is prejudiced and discriminatory and deeply harmful. Truth matters enough to admit what we don’t know. Truth is worth seeking whole-heartedly. Every life equally matters.

Finally, regardless of what took place thirty-six years ago, two human beings much like the rest of us are now middle aged, have families, careers, hopes and hurts, times of triumphs and regrets. Neither is fully innocent as no human being is, yet neither is a menace to this world as is evident in the many years of life and service that stands as testimony for each of them. As I watched and listened to a mom of two boys and a dad of two young girls, the ache over the condition of our nation grew. Unless we throw away the notion of personal truth in favor of absolute truth, we will have nothing of value to offer those coming along behind us. Feeling a particular way does not make something true. The reality of prevalent sexual abuse does not make every accusation true. My feelings of sympathy and empathy toward Ms. Ford makes no difference in determining whether or not what she recalls and states is accurate, nor does my similar feelings for Mr. Kavanaugh have any bearing on his guilt or innocence.

We ought to be most careful in our handling of matters of truth, guilt, and innocence. We, of all people, as Americans, should understand the injustice of prejudging and discriminating and should uphold the dignity of every person. I was thankful that no one questioned the legitimacy of Ms. Ford’s suffering or even that at some point she had endured a terrible event, simply offering without explicitly stating it that memories can be misplaced or have significant errors in details, especially memories involving trauma. I just wish the same grace had been offered to all involved for sake not just of the two giving testimony, but for all young boys and men, young girls and women who were watching.

 

 

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Not so fast and not so simple

I’m just a regular ole person out here in a chaotic and sometimes cruel world still listening, as I did as a child, to those in authority as the least of these (the children) pay the price for indecisiveness or poor decisions made by parents, governments, etc. I remember being a kid. I think its a bit of a curse to still be so connected to those feelings of complete vulnerability and dependence.

I’m not even sure all people ever feel all of that. Maybe those whose needs were so completely and consistently met, both physically and emotionally, throughout childhood are spared the brutality of knowing…Ah, so maybe because of lived experience we have different perspectives. Maybe differing perspectives could offer benefits if only we listened to each other and didn’t go about interpreting other’s motives and twisting their words.

Struggling yesterday as I read several articles from differing perspectives on the border crisis and watched snippets of news between chores (painting a section of the deck, cooking, laundry), I was ready to talk to the person whose opinion I deeply value, my husband’s. I asked him, “Erick, what do you think Jesus would say if He were there at the border?” Silence set in and lingered there between us, and he then said, “He would deal with everyone.” Indeed…

The great Law-Giver and the great Redeemer; who would He defend? Without a doubt, Erick and I agreed, He would defend the children. If I’m communicating in the posts I’ve shared what I’ve intended, I’ve simply offered my heartbreak for the children. I’ve not said what the government should do nor what the parents should do.

We can all reasonably agree that law is necessary and obeying law is necessary, but we cannot forget that sometimes laws are unjust. I’m not for “open borders’ as I’ve been accused of being 🙂 I am for offering asylum to those who are oppressed and persecuted; whose lives are in peril. I am for fair and timely legal immigration procedures. But I’m not intent on making political arguments. I’m intent on compassion. For me, it is a matter of my Christian faith. I cannot look at those precious children and not suffer right along with them. For me, I cannot callous my heart so that I can simply say, “well it’s the parents’ fault so let it be.” I cannot. That does not mean I hate my president, or my country. It does not mean I am a democrat or a republican. It means, for me, that I am a Christian Mother. That’s all.

Erick raised the topic of children frequently being separated from parents when abuse is occurring. Yes, another deeply troubling reality. That we live in a world where children are secondary to other priorities for many is a tragedy and a mark on our culture that cannot be ignored. I can’t help but see that foundation to all our woes is what Jesus told us would be; lack of love for God and for others. We have been weighed in the balance and found lacking. Many in our nation value wealth, financial stability, and prosperity far above the well-being of the poor, the orphan, the suffering. I’m guilty of not doing enough, not giving enough. When pressed to look in my heart by The Holy Spirit, the root of my error is always selfishness; lack of love. I’m haunted by the scripture that says in the last days the love of many will wax cold. It is here. It is here. And for me, the deepest hurt comes when disagreement proves to be stronger than our love for one another.

Lastly, I continue to see the abortion issue raised when mention of children at the border being separated from parents. The horror of abortion is real and is another perpetual mark of disgrace on our nation, but all children matter equally and the ones at the border are still breathing. There is help and hope for them. May we commit to lovingly praying together for our nation and all the nations of the world; for our president and all leaders of the world; for parents who face hard lives and what seems insurmountable challenges, and for those who have plenty, and let us not forget to pray for our enemies as Jesus commanded…Sometimes I think our prosperous nation may be more spiritually bankrupt than any of us would dare admit. God help us. We need to love…

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For the unsung heroes with their warrior hearts…

We’ve made it to that time of year again. A time of celebration and reflection. We gather to honor achievements and to look forward in hope; all good things, but yet…

I sat and listened to another award’s day message. I applauded with sincere joy for those receiving recognition for hard work and achievement. I looked around the gymnasium and saw many proud families; parents, grandparents, extended family, etc. I also saw the empty spaces, and I heard the hollow echo of the unsung heroes. I saw many of them sitting among friends and fellow classmates with kind smiles offering their applause and congratulations. Dignity, I thought of them, such beautiful and amazing dignity…

I haven’t quite been able to free my mind of those images as I’ve carried a bit of sorrow for the missing words and acknowledgment of their meaningful and rich contributions to this place. How many achieve the highest awards? How many have all that is required for those achievements to be won? Isn’t there more to it than simply who worked the hardest or has the greatest potential, work ethic, intellect? Oh yes…So. Much. More.

Remember those empty seats I mentioned? Maybe the emptiness gives a hint to what is missing from some of these precious young lives. All do not have the same family support, strength, and commitment. Some families offer wings to their young. Some, for various reasons, weigh heavily instead.

I listen and I watch even as I teach. Some, it is necessary to mention, are distracted by frivolous or selfish things, and this stunts their academic progress. Others, however, are distracted by very real problems that require incredible emotional strength and mental discipline to bear. These are the ones for whom my heart pains…

Still pondering all of this on the drive in to work this morning, I recalled learning of how different names used for God in scripture reveal different aspects of His character. One of those names, El Roi, means “The God Who Sees Me.” Tenderly, I gave thanks for this truth: The God Who Sees both knows and cares for ALL. He sees the struggles and efforts not rewarded by human hands or by voiced accolades. I’ve often heard that God’s economy is very different from ours. He doesn’t measure anything superficially. He doesn’t have to. He sees all…

We can’t measure effort, but God can. We look at outcomes; test scores and grades. He looks at motives, obstacles, and the process. He knows who worked the hardest. He knows who overcame the most. He knows who made the most diligent efforts and the cost of everything earned. He knows our deepest needs, and He meets them. He sees, and He gives eyes to see to those who seek Him. In the grand scheme of worldly knowledge, I know little. But I give the deepest thanks for this seeing ability that brought me to these words this morning. The God who sees also remembers, and with the gentlest of Hands He heals the heart, renews the mind, and strengthens us for lives of worthy work. These are the greatest rewards of all.

Tender our hearts, Lord, that we may truly honor You in all we do.

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Weary Ramblings…

Things I think about when too tired to push it away:

It is often said that good health is the goal, yet most neglect the essentials for physical and mental well-being.

We know that oxygen-rich blood supplying the brain and body is necessary, yet how many days pass without exercise? Without exercise, we deprive the body of oxygen-rich blood.

Nutrients found in fresh fruits and vegetables and lean meats are essential for proper body functioning, but it is easier in hurried moments to gulp down processed food that has been sitting on a shelf somewhere, dead, for months, and expect it to nourish life. It won’t. It can’t.

We value slender, lovely bodies, but to have them we have to forego the sugary sodas and sweet teas and supersized meals that lull us with their fizz or flavor.

We want stable moods but instead rise and fall like a see saw from the sugar rush and following crash that comes from eating for taste rather than health.

The same is true for the mind and soul. We say we want wisdom and sound minds, but what do we feed them, literally and figuratively? Do we consume a steady diet rich in goodness, truth, light, grace and love? Or do we spend most of our time consuming messages that rot rather than replenish the soul? Music lyrics, tv and movies, even books and magazines; what are they selling us, and what are we buying for ourselves by consuming them? How are they persuading us? Are they making us better human beings or corrupting us from the inside out?

We say as a culture that we want respect to be the rule, yet what do we peddle? Who do we promote? What motivates and drives what we do?
Is it fame and money and self? Or is it serving one another, honor, and the good for many over the good for self? Do we promote fidelity, lasting families, sacred unions, and mutuality? Or is it more about fulfilling the flesh for a moment despite the cost to others and the long-term cost to self? Which is it?

Are we getting better or are we getting worse?

The answer is obvious and heart-breaking. Only a change of heart will change a mind and better a soul.

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Can you see it?

Can you see a life of mending and tending?
Can you see mothers and fathers loving one another, building lives together?
Can you see hope lighting children’s eyes as they play unhindered in safety?
Can you see joy shared among neighbors who come alongside one another to offer helping hands with no expectation of anything in return? The reward is that you had the means by which to help, the gifts, the talents, the time and the treasure.
Can you imagine genuine goodness warming hearts and homes making havens of peace for all?
Can you imagine authentic concern for the entire human family where no one considers self above another?
Can you imagine exploring nature’s bounty as a daily practice and giving thanks for the wonder of it all?

I like to imagine the immense freedom in a life without strife and attempt to live it out and offer it to others from day to day.

Without a clear goal, a life is aimless. May our goal be peace and our steps ordered toward that end. How deeply and eternally it matters…

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On my mind…

I really cant recall a time in my 47 years where criticism was so prevalent. It’s everywhere. It’s in our hearts and coming out our mouths and dividing those who should never be divided, and I hate it.

I kept remembering what is recorded in Matthew chapter 16. In that chapter Jesus asks “Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” Then He asked His disciples, “But whom say ye that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus called Peter, “blessed” and said back to him, “…thou art Peter, and upon this rock I build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it…” A beautiful picture of Jesus and Peter is found here, but just a few verses later in the same chapter Peter is said to have rebuked Jesus and Jesus turned and said back to Peter, “Get thee behind me, Satan: thou art an offense unto me: for thou savourest not the things that be of God, but those that be of men.” What are we to learn from this???

Maybe we should be so very careful to consider our own steps and how from moment to moment we are susceptible to persuasion that leads us away from truth and goodness, from fellowship and honor. Even when we know, as Peter did, Who The Lord is and have moments of communion and ascent to Him as Lord, because of our sin nature riddled with pride we often fail. Every one of us fails.

How might this world be different if followers of Jesus examined self instead of other, walked humbly and at peace knowing our own need was and is great enough for Christ’s sacrifice on the cross to be necessary for our redemption. Staggering, truly, when we look honestly at ourselves and is the only way to be right with The Lord and gracious toward others.

When Noah (so much like me when I was younger) comes criticizing others, I say, “be sure it isn’t you, son. Be sure you’re not the instigator.” I don’t do this because I think he is bad. I do it because I know he is human. We are SO inclined to cast stones forgetting we live in glass houses. Lord help us to live the humility seeing self rightly demands. One righteous. The rest sinners. That settles a whole lot when we are still and know…

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