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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I don’t have these answers for Christian Churches and Christian Schools, but I know they are worth finding.

Because I’ve been in church my whole life save for a few years of trying to determine whether or not there was still a place for me there, and because I believe spiritual matters are the deepest most significant of all, I can’t just let disturbing things that come to bear on the soul go.

Sunday was communion at my church. I sat waiting to take part reflecting on the reality that the church where I was saved years ago wouldn’t offer me a place at the table. I remembered the scripture that said for everyone to examine himself (herself) before participating in The Lord’s supper. With deep, abiding peace and thanksgiving that transcends words, I took of His body in humility. I gave thanks in reverent obedience by remembering His sacrifice that pardoned all my offense. May I live this out daily in my walk with Him. Is this not what being His follower requires?

I now teach in a Christian University, my son did attend and my grandson still attends a Christian school, so I’ve had to consider the ramifications of tacking the term “Christian” on to school as well.

We opted after having Noah in school outside of home for 7 years, to bring him home to homeschool for many reasons. I’m so thankful we did.

I was with a child recently who was expelled from a Christian school. I’ve known this child for many years and he had a contagious joy about him for all that time, but not anymore. There is now a deep sadness; maybe some regret, maybe some shame, but most certainly some confusion about what this all means about him as a person. I get it. I remember when I was an unusual kid, a difficult kid who caused adults trouble they didn’t have time for. I was too much trouble and I knew it, but I could not help it. Lord knows I tried. So I have a tender spot for these struggling kids, and I have intense anger over what they are coming to believe about themselves as a result of how they are viewed and treated. It matters. It matter so very much.

Kids are incredibly perceptive and sensitive to hypocrisy. They know when others are given a pass for bad behavior while they are held to account. The question is why? Do they simply not matter as much? Are they expendable somehow in ways that another child isn’t? What about grace? Where’s the line? How do we know? How much is a church to put up with, or a school? Those are the questions I’ve not been able to answer. But when I turn to scripture, to Jesus, I realize I better consider it carefully, and I best not show partiality, not if I’m claiming to be a follower. Herein lies the crux of the matter. We are held to a higher standard because of Who we say we represent. And we are dealing with tender young lives, embattled souls. Oh. How. It. Matters.

The stone throwing is an offense of man, not God. Jesus didn’t accuse. He pardoned. Had I not found this truth for myself in His Holy Word, I still wouldn’t be in church and I wouldn’t be teaching in a Christian school because what I learned from other “Christians” is that I am not fit. That’s truth. And that’s sad.

I’m still looking for answers to the questions that haunt. I ask you all to do the same.

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This Deep Valley (tired ramblings at year’s end)

We get to revisit our past when we journey through childhood with our young ones. I wonder how different I would be had I not been partner to these who have come behind me and had not made these backward journeys with older, wiser eyes. I would no doubt see differently; with less compassion, less understanding.

Noah was sensitive to spiritual things from very early. He was inquisitive and serious to be so young, and he brought not only curiosity but feelings to the subject as well. This was a clear reminder to me of what I had been like and so I knew how important it was to shepherd him well. Confusion concerning spiritual matters makes for some miserable times and I didn’t want that for him. I got it nevertheless…

I’ve done a great deal of listening to Noah over the past year. Having him home was not just a good decision. It was a necessity. He had so much to work out and we are still wading through. It’s hard.

I know enough about human nature and life on planet earth to realize no life is perfect and all suffer. Yet I also know some of us are made with a bent toward the serious side of things and experience valley wanderings to a far deeper degree than others. Being this way does not hinder us from wanting to have fun. To the contrary, it makes us crave it even more. The greater jubilation we can get caught up in the farther away from the heaviness that’s always lurking we hope to get. So we try, maybe a little too hard, and some folks just don’t understand.

I feel as though the year has been a time of pause, a time to step back and see where we are and how we got here. Understanding is crucial. Noah made a comment this week that was clarifying. He explained how he once knew right from wrong from being told as opposed to knowing it now “from on the inside.” I smile knowing…a little discernment is developing. That’s good.

We’ve spent so much time on honesty, sin-what it is-that it’s common to all. I’ve also said to Noah more than once, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9) This is true. Though we can discuss, and rightly so, the state of moral decay and depravity in our culture and the world, it’s always been. Let me state that again for emphasis: it has always been. Another thing I’ve said to myself as an encouragement in this difficult age is this: “no temptation has overtaken you except what is common to man, but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” 1 Corinthians 10:13

I wonder sometimes if we give kids the impression that things are harder for them than has ever been on other generations. Though it is true that technology makes access to impure things quite easy, 40 years ago there was plenty of impurity being found and shared. It’s what we choose to do with our time and our opportunity that must be stressed. Young people CAN make wise choices. Expect them to.

Many complex questions have been raised. We’ve talked about sin nature vs. premeditated, habitual sin. We’ve grappled with whether or not some sins are “bigger” than others and how and when to confess sin; how to know when sin is forgiven; how to even know when it’s sin nature vs. chosen sin. Man…deep, tiring stuff! But I’m thankful he asks. I’m thankful he cares enough to ask. I’m thankful that I’ve been able to understand “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” in a way I never have before; how I’ve come to see sin breaking Christ’s heart out of deep, abiding love for us rather than just from the standpoint of us transgressing against His holiness. His love is tender and ever so perceptive. He understands our temptations because He, too, was tempted. I’m not sure I realized this so well until I looked at my own son through understanding eyes; understanding from having been there as a young girl myself, hurting under the weight of my own conviction.

In the past year, we’ve left a church home of 10 years and a Christian school where we had been involved for 7. It’s been a lonely time of deep sadness, but a time of learning, a time of seeking, and a time of growth. I knew already but know even more so now that love never fails. I knew already but also know more so now that The Lord draws us closer to Himself for deeper communion to prepare us for the next part of a journey that only He can see.

I believe to grow stronger, though I don’t like it to be true, we must struggle. I remember the Easter of several years back when we watched some butterflies go through their metamorphosis. Just so happened, the final opening of their wings occurred on Easter Sunday. The evening before there was movement and before church I noticed the beginning of opening. We came home to fluttering wings in flight within the netted enclosure. What had appeared as death and waiting gave way to a vigorous, shaking struggle and culminated in open flight. This life is no different. The process of learning and unfolding occurs over time and we don’t get to soar before we wrestle our way free.

If only…if only we could love a little better; judge a little gentler, and hold a little closer, I believe life would be a little sweeter for us all. May we do it…

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The Honest Heart…

It’s true that only the Heart-Maker enters in with perfect understanding. Though words allow us to connect to a degree, the deeper meanings of experience cannot be fully articulated.

On my bed in the dark of night, waking, I offer prayers to the One who never sleeps. I ask for all the help I’ll need in the light of the following day. I remember my son who sleeps across the hallway unaware that Mama is awake praying on his behalf.

Noah says quite a lot and though he thinks I don’t understand his experience, I do far more than he can imagine. The anger over injustice and the woeful lacking of those in authority who gravely fail to acknowledge their own lacking while holding little ones to account for theirs. I remember…

I remember holding my tongue when my chest was filled to near bursting with anger. I knew I was defeated by a system in place that allowed my silencing regardless of the rightness and truth of my disallowed words. I knew that respect was a one way street. Children are often discounted though in truth they may see more clearly than those who make the rules. Might we adults do well to listen?

Thinking this morning on the drive in to work about Jesus and His Words. An angry world hurls insults at us “foolish” believers insisting restraints on behaviors that He (and His followers) call for are oppressive, divisive, and antiquated, yet without behavioral restraints all value is laid waste and here we are…nothing secure; no objective reality; no moral truth; no dignity.

I’ve measured the competing worldviews and find relief only in the one that reassures of good that will, in the end, overcome evil. I delight in the loving-kindness demonstrated by Jesus and His pure and perfect wisdom that welcomed the children and corrected the Pharisees. I adore the image of Jesus bestowing forgiveness on the humble sinner and rebuking the accusers who were turned away in shame by one simple statement, “let he who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Noah sometimes questions my seeming lack of fear. I temper what I say to him about my past knowing he is still so young and wanting to spare him from my former hurts that would hurt him, too. I answer, “a life lived in fear is no life at all.” So true…

Gifts that result from longsuffering are many; gifts of depth, compassion, courage, and acceptance. We learn not to ask if others are trustworthy. The only question to ask concerning trustworthiness is, “am I trustworthy?” Similarly, I am not to concern myself with other’s intentions, just my own. This life of mine is about developing within myself those values and qualities worth having. I have no control beyond this. I can ask of God to use my life as He wills, knowing He works all things together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purposes (Romans 8:28). It’s all in His Hands. Leaving matters where they belong is a lesson each one of us must learn for ourselves. Judgment and vengeance belong to The Lord, alone. As much as it is within my power and yours, we are to live peacefully with all. We do this by trusting God’s sovereignty and recognizing our personal limitations.

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Wise Words from A Son of Divorce

Both of Erick’s parents were married and divorced from multiple partners. When he and I married, he was marrying for the first time at age 30. He asked that I never mention the possibility of divorce. I so wish I could say I honored that, but being my old sinful self, lacking in deeply needed control at the ripe old age of 25 when our journey together began, I admit I have mentioned the words he most hoped to never hear again. Of course I readily apologized after anger ceased on the few occasions that I rose up in hostility and hurled hurt at one so kind and true with regret I still carry upon every remembrance…

I hope it’s clear to all who read my posts, both facebook and blog, that this is not about me. If, with my failures and the grace that relieves me and continues to guide me toward Christ’s ways and away from my sinful inclinations, can spare someone else from making the same errors, then so be it that my sin be laid bare. It’s no secret, my failures are grave and many.

Thankfully, though, I’ve learned some things worth sharing. I’ve learned there are things Christian folks should never utter. We shouldn’t invite, encourage, or even joke about breaking fellowship. It’s not okay, especially when children are listening. Inviting others to depart sheds light on lack of love and care. It’s that simple; when it was me saying what my dear husband asked me not to ever say and it’s that simple when anyone else says it.

I’ve grieved this past year and continue to as I see and hear of divisions deepening and widening as a result of love being secondary to other agendas. Scripture could not be more clear than what it is about love among Christ followers.

Churches and schools that bear the name of Christ carry a heavy responsibility, unparalleled by any other entity. I cringe to think of the devastation that is done to young minds and hearts when the message of love is compromised. Again, my own life bears this weight of guilt in the past and I never want to add to it by what I do and say now. I know better. For all of us who do, now is time to speak up, stand up, and call on others to minister grace and heal instead of inflict wounds. Our words matter.

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For His Name’s Sake

First of all, I’m rising from rest to write what is pressing to be shared. I woke before the sun not feeling well and have battled this bug all day, but far more troubling than this physical distress is a troubled heart. I make no apologies for the journey I’m on or the many grapplings I readily share as I see it all as gift. I’m pressing for truth, to know what matters most in spite of the hurt it may render. Quite a long journey already at my forty-six year mark reminds me the quest for truth began 40 years ago in a young and tender place of questioning.

 

Interestingly enough, I’m teaching a psychology of religion class this semester as I’ve done in the past but using different texts and coming to it further along on my journey than before. We are examining the writings of Freud and C.S. Lewis. Lewis honestly admitted his reticence to believe in a Sovereign God because of what it would cost him, yet the truth refused to be denied and surrender brought not only relief, but surprising joy to him as well. The Lord is gracious like that, always giving what is best when sought.

 

I never wandered into the field of atheism as Lewis did, but surely spent much time in anguish over the condition of my own soul. Though “saved” I was according to the doctrine of the church I attended, the feeling of conviction of sin always brought again a question and sense of impending doom. “Am I safe?” This question would wake me in the night and terror engulf. I would pray yet find only further turmoil in my mind. Scripture proved helpful at times, but others it added to my confusion. What I found in The Book didn’t always square with what came from the pulpit, so I suffered on…

 

These matters of the soul are no doubt life’s most pressing for all whether all realize it or not. No way could I be convinced that there is no universal moral law and that evil and good do not exist. The evidence is overwhelming and individuals far superior in intellect to me have concluded the same.

 

I finally got to a place of so needing clarity that I plunged deeply into scripture looking for answers to my many unanswered questions with something I had never before had. I was willing to find and honor truth regardless of what that truth had to say about me and my soul. I was already completely convinced that Jesus was The Christ of the Cross, The One Righteous, that I put it this way to my husband: “Jesus is worth honoring even if I cannot spend eternity with Him.” What an odd statement that must sound to others, but it was something I had to acknowledge as I determined, still with insecurity about my “salvation” to find resolve in truth regardless of the pronouncement truth might make on my own soul. Another way to say it is this: even if my sins were determined to be unforgivable, I wouldn’t want anyone else to end up in the same condition so truth was worth finding and sharing.

 

See…I’ve been in some very dark places. I feel no better than anyone regardless of what their life is like, what they do, what they believe, etc. Yet, “for His Name’s Sake” truth matters.

 

As silly as this may sound, too, because I was married very young, divorced, then later remarried, and the church rules of which I had been a member no longer extended membership to me and those in my state of “sin.” I couldn’t shake that feeling of being outside, somehow less. Though they said of course I was still “saved,” I couldn’t participate in communion or have membership in the church. (I’ve been married to Erick for almost 22 years and as I write these words the tears threaten and spill as if this wound were fresh.) How can I be heaven-ready and not welcome to the table, not allowed to wash my sister’s feet? I could not reconcile these two messages. I still can’t.

 

I share this not to criticize my dear folks from home nor to cast a negative reflection on them or their ways. I simply share to get to the heart and depth of my journey. So you can believe me when I say I take seriously how my words and beliefs and behaviors come to bear on others. Everyone matters to me, and in a sense, everyone is just another war-battled soul in a fallen world, some struggling more than others, all having great need. Oh how truth matters, for His Name’s Sake.

 

So I struggled and suffered, and dug into scripture and autobiographies written by Christian theologians and people like Corrie Ten Boom. My list is long. The hours in study uncountable. And I continue…

 

What I’ve found is grace beyond measure. I’ve found Jesus loving me through my questions and attending to both my tears and prayers with unparalleled compassion. I’ve gone into His life and ministry through the New Testament Scriptures and found His message startling, convicting, humbling, and restoring. Indeed…I am His. I’ll never get over the gift of His grace, and I’ll never tire of sharing His goodness with others.

 

I also found, though, that He cares very much about what we do and why we do it. Sin really is a big deal. His nail-scarred Hands proof of my sin and yours. The answer to the question, “what did Jesus save us from?” must be addressed. He saved us from our sin. Sin nature remains as long as we have this body of flesh. But we are no longer slaves to sin once freed by His Sacrifice and filled with The Comforter, The Holy Spirit, The Spirit of Truth. I didn’t earn my salvation. By grace through faith alone, He did it all. How could I believe yet He drew me? The dawning of my condition, conviction, was the beginning of faith. His grace, unmerited favor, saves…So we are saved from sin unto good works. So we are saved from and for (there should be a stark difference between the sin from which we are saved and the works we do after.) I guess there are many good works, but I tend to see good works as being those that minister grace and beckon to others to follow Him. There is no better work than living for His Name’s Sake, always pointing others to a grace so amazing; no other can compare.

 

So why hurt over sin? Why concern over celebrations that degrade and dishonor (especially when it claims to do the opposite?) The answer is “for His Name’s Sake.” Either Christ is Lord and we are surrendered to His Lordship, or we are walking our own paths, carving out our own way, declaring our own “truth,” and in so doing, being our own god. This, folks, is what it’s all about. If sin doesn’t break my heart, my heart is not surrendered to Christ. How do I know? Because I know what price He paid on Calvary. He hasn’t forgotten. Neither have I.

 

Someone must continue to honor the greatest love, freeing love, love that does not seek it’s own and does no harm. There is no greater harm than deception. May we seek Him for His Name’s Sake, not our own. I wept this morning asking Him to bring about in me, in us, pure worship. We cannot serve two masters, not even when those two masters are The Lord and ourselves. Just one can be Lord and certainly only He is worthy. So, might we seek to know what matters most to His heart? It’s all right there in His Word. Anything that is not just, merciful, and humble that we do opposes Him. It’s that simple and, for me, sobering. Even in what is required of us, He gave us clear instruction in old and new testaments alike. Micah 6:8 tells us to do justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. Jesus clarified the greatest of all concerns that we should have: Love The Lord ¬†above all else and love our neighbor as ourselves.

 

What we glorify in our nation disturbs The Holy Spirit that dwells in me. I watch and listen and I remember truth that says our bodies are not our own, bought with a price, precious to The Lord. He died to cleanse and cover us, to protect us, to free us. A great value He placed on our bodies, souls, and lives. Are we His? Do our hearts break over what breaks His? Do we honor purity or do we celebrate the opposite? These are clarifying questions answered by the lives we live. May we answer well for His Name’s Sake.

 

 

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This Fine Line

When I look back honestly over the course of my life and reflect on the changes in my thinking, I’m sometimes overwhelmed by it, sometimes ashamed of where I’ve been, and cautious over what I think and say now as a result of understanding I still have so much more to learn. This process has truly given me caution and for that I’m grateful.

Noah made a comment yesterday about something he saw on television, quite a condemning comment. As he was leaving the room I gently said, “their sin is no greater than mine.” He turned to look at me with confusion. I added, “it’s true” and Erick spoke up and said, “yes, Noah, sin is sin.”

In all our effort to teach right from wrong, we must carefully address the natural inclination in us all to count ourselves a little better than another. This, too, is sin with as much harmful reverberation as any other.

These spiritual matters are rooted in the down and dirty world of the human experience. I realize every single day while raising my son that I battle the very same nature in myself that I’m trying to help him learn to discipline in himself. We are journeying together…

We aren’t drinkers. He knows that. We have a history of alcoholism on both sides of our families so we choose to simply abstain. He has questioned us about others who don’t make that same choice. I’ve been known to honestly say of a dear family member that occasionally does that she is a far better person than I am. I say it because it’s true and I hope it communicates something essential for Noah to learn. I stand by our choice, but I don’t feel superior as a result. I’m not.

Politics is another touchy subject. I’m quite conservative in ALL realms. Erick says he is conservative but I’m on an altogether different level of it than he is, yet some of my dearest friends in all the world are liberal. Not just friends, people who threw me a life raft at a time in my life I would not have survived without their intervention. I have not forgotten and I will not allow political differences to sever relationships. By the way, Jesus didn’t either.

I’m listening. I am listening to all who are offering information and I’m trying to listen through the aid of The Holy Spirit. Caring enough to hear and obey when you know it’s gonna cost you isn’t easy. This past year more than any other I’ve been tested on whether or not I’m seeking to please people and avoid criticism or to please God and grow in grace. Painful…oh how painful, but necessary.

I was thinking this morning how sobering it is when you grow up enough to realize no one is above gross error. No. One. That means we have to seek truth for ourselves. Listen to others? Sure, but not without filtering messages and meanings, and the spirit of both through the sound teaching of Jesus’ life. Jesus’ life…context matters. I hurt in my heart when I see scripture used to accuse and to cast a negative light on someone. That was never Jesus’ intent. Remember the cross? Remember how He forgave those who harmed Him. His love never wavered. He still wanted the best for those who did Him the worst. What an example. How poorly I/we follow. Help us, Lord, to remember that with loving-kindness you drew us and that is your will for us toward others…

Love wishes no harm on others. Love is not puffed up. It seeks not it’s own. It is patient and kind and bears no ill will.

I’m also lifted in encouragement when I know there’s more hurt to come but I don’t shrink back in fear. He’ll walk with me. He promised, and He is faithful. Now, that is something for which to give thanks. That’s fairly new in my faith journey. I thank Him for it.

Back to my liberal friends…I have a beloved friend who visits periodically. She has told me she is not a believer. We’ve had multiple conversations over a period of many years, each of us shedding tears as we worked together to remain united as friends while holding different beliefs. She has lovingly accepted my gifts of books by Christian authors that are dear to me in order to help her better understand my experience, and I’ve assured her my love is steadfast for her whether she embraces my beliefs as her own or not. We’ve gained much ground through honesty and loving patience going both ways.

Might I take her to church with me sometime if she agrees to go? Yes, when I can trust she will be offered the gospel of peace without being shrouded in any political context. Just Jesus. Why? Because that and that alone is what matters most. Without that, we have nothing of peace to offer. If she hears political speech from a pulpit, she will hear nothing else and the trip will be a waste and likely her last. That’s not something I’m willing to have on my conscience.

I will continue, as long as the Lord blesses us to have a home, to open it to those who seek our company, believers and unbelievers. I will offer smiles and hugs and as much gentleness as The Lord will grant me to give. Is this not what He calls us to do?

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