Wednesday, November 30, 2011
While researching various views on anger and struggles with it, I came across a very interesting conversation about the “warrior gene.” For all the excuses we make for getting and being angry, this one really takes the cake. Apparently some people are born with a gene that “fires” them up and they “can’t live without” lots of anger. They even have “every right” to be angry because it is genetic.
And I thought I had excuses! I never even considered that one. The night I “blew off” my anger that was not at all on my list of excuses: my Mom did… my Dad did… my brother did… the stupid did… the uncaring masses did… the world did. But never did I think to blame my skinny genes. By the way, how do you sit down in those unbending, iron clad armor style skinny jeans anyway? But I digress.
Eventually the Gene expert and the psychologist finally came down to an agreement that even though the people they were interviewing had this horrible gene they didn’t have to give in to it. They could choose to avoid the issues that kept them angry. Meanwhile they agreed that the true issue at hand was one of twisted expectations. Personally, I could have told them that before they ever went looking for that ridiculous gene. The world’s failure to meet our expectations is the number one trigger for anger in every case. But let’s look at a classic example that was given during the show:
This gentleman’s issue was super classic, over blown “road rage.” (Another had “sidewalk rage” issues, but that is just too much, even for me.) Whenever he set out to drive somewhere he determined exactly how the drive would go by mapping it in his head. He left no room for adjusting to what was actually going to happen once he was on the road. He was prepared to “stomp out” any other drivers who “got in his way.” He was choosing anger even before he got in his car. It is his road. He owns it and NO one better get in his way.
He told how one woman “cut him off” and “made him angry.” And so, his need to “set the record straight and force others to learn to stay out of his way” kicked in. He chased her down and pushed her to the side of the road. He pulled off as well and ran back to tell her exactly what she did wrong and why she should never to it again. Meanwhile, she was calling 911. Smart lady. He was arrested and put in jail. But he still thinks he was right to do that because “If I don’t tell them what they are doing wrong they will never learn not to do it.”
I admit that I, the queen of anger, was shocked at how far these people would take their vengeful anger in order to correct and instruct the rest of us on how stupidly we behave. To me, “Be ye angry and sin not,” has a lot to do with premeditated anger and vengeful, “set the record straight” thinking. May God bless us with peaceful response to upsetting situations that we might allow the Holy Spirit to do His work of growing His gifts within us: Love, Joy, Peace, Kindness, Goodness, Patience, Gentleness and Self-control. Against such there is no law.
Monday, November 28, 2011
After a 21 year break from touching a Bible, let alone reading it, I came to the table starving for what it had to say. I spent hours upon hours reading through the New and the Old testaments. I could not get enough of it. Most of it was so exciting to me that I could not put it down; especially Genesis, Exodus, Joshua and Job in the Old and the Gospels and Acts in the New.
My hunger was insatiable. The study groups I was in helped to feed that hunger, as did the Sunday sermons and the emails I got from my missionary preacher cousin. I read and read and drank and drank and marveled at the wonderful things I was learning and relearning. I was enchanted by the fact that wherever I looked or listened, it all fit together and made perfect sense over all. I was amazed.
Then one Sunday a Missionary friend of my close friend came to visit and agreed to speak in our Sunday school class. When class was over, I happened to mention that I found it exciting to realize that what she said fit so well with the sermon that morning, almost like they had planned it. She simply replied, “Don’t we find that all of God’s Word fits together that way?”
Talk about a “light bulb” moment! Of course it does. Whatever we learn from one place in the Bible we can learn from at least one more place, and probably from more places than we can count. Our Bible is not a bunch of books put together to make a bigger book. Our Bible is a cohesive unity of thought very carefully woven together by God, Himself, to show us who He is and what He is about, plus who we are and what He is about with us.
The wonder of it all! No wonder I can know what I believe and I can be sure that what I learned in all these different study situations within my church is truth that is well grounded by the wholeness of our scriptures. If someone tries to slip something by me that doesn’t fit, knowing God’s Word will help me to discern that. Knowing the context of all that is in the Word is what sustains us as we try to discern lies and misrepresentations. Untruth becomes clearer and clearer the more Truth we devour.
How do we get there? How do we develop this discernment that we must use in looking around us as the world goes crazy? We eat and drink His Word. We Feast on it like a Thanksgiving dinner. We drink it in until we think we have covered it all and then we start over again.
Now just for fun, let me point out how important understanding the whole is to getting the part right: In a sentence above, the computer did not like the word “doesn’t” in the next to the last paragraph. I am absolutely confident that the computer is wrong. You see, I understand the context of the English language, so I can discern bad grammatical advice and ignore it. But what if I were a young person who depends on the advice of a computer to get my spelling and grammar right in my reports? I might just get an error for changing to “don’t” in place of “doesn’t.” Being young is good. Staying that way forever could get us a serious error in life. Be brave and study on, day and night, thinking and praying your way into knowledge of God’s Word. And always keep sharing what you learn.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
As the news reports proclaim the build up of sand at the beaches on the coast, I am reminded of these thoughts I wrote recently…
Having just read the book, The Hope, by Herman Wouk, which captures much of the determination of the newly returned 20th century Jews as they try to settle into the homeland they had held dear, but had scattered from, I find myself wandering in my thoughts about God’s promise to give them the land in the first place. As I study the book of Genesis and the Patriarchs I cannot help but wonder at the promises of God that He cannot fail to keep.
The whole story of Abraham is quite intriguing. This apparently unknown man was seemingly chosen “out of thin air” and given a promise that would astound the world for centuries to come: “I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore… and to your descendants I will give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the Euphrates…”
“As numerous as the sands on the seashore” is particularly poignant as I have recently been to the beach and discovered a very natural, but amazing fact: One of the beaches I have walked on over the years has changed greatly since the last time I was there. Back around 1980 the beach was practically non existent around the base of the motel where we stayed. Taking a walk there required perfect timing between the tides. There just wasn’t much of a buffer between the waves and the cliffs.
Now, however, there is a lot of sand built up along that part of the shore and even huge rocks that used to be prominently exposed are now buried in the sand. The storms, which can seriously erode the sand have instead brought more in and built up the beach to be a great place for walking and playing. I was amazed. The beach can be easily eroded and decrease, but it will also be built up and replaced over periods of time
Knowing that the people of Israel were removed and brought back so many times over the centuries, causes me to wonder about the WWII effect in the “promised land.” At the time of the war it could be said that only a “cupful of sand” remained in Jerusalem and their very survival was precarious to say the least. But the war had a widespread effect on the Jewish people, including reminding them where home was supposed to be. They were also reminded firmly that the people where they were living did not want them at all. This was not a new thing for them through the centuries. They were, as Abraham was, sojourners in foreign lands. But getting home would not be an easy task because others living in that area did not want them around either.
Never-the-less, they began to take themselves home. They found many ways to struggle to live in a place that is at the core of their existence. But even with their astonishing victory in the seven day war, they still struggle to keep this piece of their promised land. The sand has returned to fortify the beach and they are hanging on for the completion of the promise of the God who said, “I will…” and cannot fail to keep His promise.
Sunday, November 20, 2011
Please let me share a little more about myself before we go on. I want you to know that the purpose of this blog is not to teach, preach or even bring conviction on anyone. The purpose is to share with friends the many quizzical things that come up in my mind when I settle in to think through some of the lessons I, myself, confront. I enjoy these patterns of thinking and I hope that you will, too.
The story of my life is pretty boring. Even I fall asleep thinking about it. Therefore, I will share pieces of it in small quantities as we go along.
There are two main things you all need to know: One is that I am a Christian and I have been since I was eight years old. Jesus Christ is everything to me, and my heart’s greatest desire is to bring Him the Glory He deserves and plans for me to bring Him. I love Him because He first loved me and He continually reminds me that I am forever His.
The second thing you should know is that I spent 61 years growing severely dependent on a slave master called Anger. Anger is a true slave master and a very demanding ruler. I was addicted. I was driven in all that I did, to express myself in anger. By the time God sat me down and pulled the plug on that life style, I had destroyed people, jobs, my health and every relationship I ever had with anyone.
My life has not been a shinning example of what He really means to me, but He is graciously giving me the opportunity to share with you His Grace working in me, changing me, while drawing me closer and closer to Him.
In the last 6 years, God has “grown me” into peace through lesson after lesson about Him and I and what a fabulous relationship we actually have. I am not a person who never, ever gets angry. I can set myself up for anger so easily that it is frightening.
But I have discovered that I prefer peace.
And peace is what God offers us on a daily basis. My hope is that these notes might help you to discover the self-sabotage that keeps peace at bay in our lives and perhaps will help you to find the hope that is God. God is Love and Love has come… for us all.
In Galatians 5:22-23, Paul tells us that the “fruit of the Spirit is…” and it includes Peace. He will bring peace into our lives as He grows us to be more like Him.
So I will close for now with, “Choose Peace…”
Friday, November 18, 2011
WHY? – Because I said so!
Before we get too far away, let me share a thought I had during the remembrance of 9/11:
In September, as I watched the many tributes to those who did and did not die on 9/11, one man’s words really stood out to me. The fireman said, “I must not have done enough. My friends died, I didn’t. I must not have been doing enough. That must be why I lived.” It broke my heart to hear that and to realize again how confusing life can be without faith in God.
The simplest answer in all of this is that your mother was right. Remember when you were young and would ask “Why?” every time she told you to do or not do something and she would give you an answer which you followed with another “Why?” And then she ran out of answers and said, “Because I said so?” You had to do it or not do it “because” she said so. Reasons and explanations were not any help to you. You could not yet connect the dots. (Plus you really enjoyed driving her nuts asking, “Why?”) That answer usually ended the conversation. She spoke with authority and you had to obey.
Well, we cannot yet connect the dots on God’s answers to why. His ways are above our ways and beyond our comprehension and His answer is, and always has been, “Because I said so.”
Ever since Cain slew Able, (and Able had every right to wonder: “Why? What did I do wrong?”) there has been a string of tragedy and catastrophe through out the history of this world. Whether natural or man made, calamity and “unfair” loss has plagued the human race.
It is very important for us to remember and know that when a disaster strikes, it is God who decides who will live. The one thing we can cling to is that God has plans for those who survive. Even many unbelievers will realize that “somehow” they were kept alive in order to accomplish something and it will change their lives drastically. What they don’t realize is that all who survive, survive to the Glory of God:
Isaac survived the altar to carry the line of Abraham which would eventually become Israel, God’s chosen people. Joseph survived his brothers’ plans to kill him and was sent away to Egypt where he eventually became the tool that God used to save the entire Hebrew clan from perishing in a famine. Moses, a Hebrew boy, who should have been drowned in the river (like hundreds of other Hebrew baby boys,) instead survived to become the voice of God to Pharaoh and the Hebrews and he led them out of slavery in Egypt and into a relationship with their God like no other nation on earth has had.
And Jesus survived death on the Cross, rising up from the grave to love us and lead us through our lives and into His arms one day. “Why?” Because God so loved the world. “Why?” Because God had a plan. “Why?” Because He created us, loves us and wants us to be with Him always. “Why?” Because he said so.”
Ease up on the guilt and look up to God and accept His wisdom in the choices He makes in your life. You will find Joy in Him. Now smile and say "thank you."
Wednesday, November 16, 2011
What to do? What to do? What to do? Yesterday I purchased some fresh vegetables and when I got home I discovered that I had not paid enough for one of them. (Yes, one… I am single, so I think small.) It was a sweet potato which had been rung up as a russet potato, which had been selling at fewer cents per pound. Sigh. What to do?
The argument could be made that “it was their mistake.” But my heart was not in that. I had to take it back and correct the situation. “But they would be so annoyed with me for that, and I want to eat that tonight, which is why I bought it in the first place.” No, that won’t work either. Back it goes. Tomorrow. And I cooked something else last night. What a pain.
Then, this morning, I am reviewing Matthew 5:17-48 for my Growth Group Bible Study which will meet tomorrow night and lo, and behold, Jesus is telling me that I had better get that straightened out before I eat that sweet potato. You see, He doesn’t care how small the infraction, sin is sin, and stealing is stealing. They are going to be severely annoyed at that store… But He won’t let me steal, no matter how many excuses I come up with. He loves me too much for that.
As I read more and more, I began to think of ways in which we try to avoid the letter of the law. One major area was written about recently in the news. “How fast can I drive above the speed limit and still not get a ticket?” Did anybody else see that story? Well, to quote Jesus, “You have heard” that you can go 4 to 9 miles per hour above the limit (depending on whether you live in WA or OR) before they will bother to ticket you”. But (Jesus would say,) driving above the speed limit at all is breaking the law. And setting your Cruise Control to 74 in a 70 MPH area is seriously compounding that sin. As detectives might say, “You were deliberately planning to break the law. You are guilty of ‘first degree’ speeding.” Smile.
Do we need further proof that we are incapable of meeting the requirements of the law? That we need to rely on Jesus to keep us out of trouble as much as possible in this life on earth and to bring us into the presence of God in the next? Can we now see that without Jesus and His death, burial and resurrection, we are lost? We cannot find our way through the maze of sin alone. May God help us to see our weakness and to come to Him for our only possible salvation through the blood of Jesus and into the power of His Word and His Spirit.
Now off to the store I go… as soon as I finish my laundry.
Monday, November 14, 2011
Right now, you are thinking about money. Right? As Christians and even non-Christians, we tend to be aware of this principle of giving God back at a rate of 10% of what we earn or are given in life. Our reaction to that is usually, “R U Sure?” That is an awful lot. I (we) could never keep up with our expenses if we gave back that much! Then we proceed to bring up dozens of excuses why that would never work in our case. (Not the least of which is that the idea of cutting our expenses is like planning surgery without anesthesia.) Obeying the principles and instructions of God does not even enter in.
The reality that we see about what our needs are and what financial support we need to meet our monthly, yearly and long term goals pretty much wipes out the question of simple obedience, and the consequences that follow that obedience. We simply don’t trust what God may do if we obey, so we dig in our heels and say “No.” And we say, “that was under the Law” and now we are not under the Law and we can make up our own principles about how to handle our money.
But some do give a least “some” of their income back to God. Some of that is regular and a set amount (short of 10%) and some of that is dependent on what we feel we can spare, week by week or month by month. God’s principle of 10% is just more than we can handle when it comes to simply obeying Him.
However, money is not the subject of this discourse. Money and possessions are not the only thing God has given us that He expects us to give back to Him. Keeping in mind that He owns everything and nothing is really ours, let’s consider the “least” we can do:
Besides things, He has also given us TIME. This morning I was struck by the fact that time is a very important possession. We are not privileged to know how much time we have to live. But we are privileged to know that as long as we live, we have time.
Then I began to wonder, “How many of us give God at least 10% of our time every day. Let’s see: Every day has 24 hours and 10% of that would be… That would be 2hrs and 24 minutes. WHOA!
Now, remember, I am just thinking this through here. Maybe I had too much coffee this morning and my brain is over active, even jittery. Maybe we should go to minutes in an hour… Oh, well, maybe that is better because that is only 6 minutes at a time. But, wait, we would have to do that 24 times in a day. Well, just a minute (pun intended), I have to work and I have to sleep. I can’t stop to spend time with God every single hour. (Actually, I don’t have to go to work, so I am just imagining that possibility.)
10%? R U sure? Yes. I am sure. It is ingrained in the Will and the Word of God that we give him at least 10% of our time and our money as a gift to Him. But He does this from the position of knowing that our time and our money are His anyway. He already owns it all. He just loans it to us to use to Glorify Him. So actually, what He wants us to do is to hand it all right back to Him to use however He wants… 100%
So, are we 100% surrendered, knowing that God is God and what we have or do not have is entirely up to Him? Or are we making dozens of excuses why that is just too much to give and then take our lives and our possessions and run off with them, hoping to control our presence on this earth our way while we are here? Hmmm…
How much more can God love us than He already does? Yes, He loves us unconditionally and forever so there doesn’t seem to be room for more. But do we realize how much that really is? Maybe not...
Let’s consider the love of Elke. Elke is a beautiful piece of white fluff who dearly loves her master and mistress. It has been a great pleasure to love them myself, even though I have never met them in person. They are part of a family I love deeply and so God has encouraged me to love Elke’s family just as much. Now one of Elke’s family is gone. There is a great hole in many hearts and healing is underway knowing that he has gone on to our beloved Savior to be in peace and joy for ever and ever after many years of pain. He was Elke’s master. Elke hurts, too. But her only hope is that he will return someday to be with her again. (hmm...that sounds familiar.)
Meanwhile, Elke still has her mistress and the rest of the pack (family and friends) so she is adjusting to life without him. She is very aware that there is pain in her human family. She is aware that she misses something important herself. So what does she do? She sits on laps.
As a dog, she knows that comfort and safety come from being together. The pack lives by that code. They sense their way along... sensing danger, sensing possible food sources, sensing water, bad weather, a need to move on, a place to go. They also sense human emotions. That is at the center of the great friendship they have with man. And it is certainly the reason they make such wonderful “helpers” for humans with problems.
As I wonder at the sensitivity of dogs, I cannot help but wonder even more at the sensitivity of God. If Elke has the good sense to seek out her mistress and be close when they are feeling the loss of the one they both love, how much more does God sense our need for comfort and a renewal in our hearts of the truth of His enduring love for us. How much more does He realize that He needs to draw us close as we cry out to Him.
So here’s what I’m thinking: God can only love us as much as we let him. Elke can comfort her mistress and the rest of the pack only if they let her get close to them. And God can hug us and hold us tight only if we let Him get close to us. Holding our heads up with our “back off” hand out, just leaves us lonely and hurting. And that often leads to pushing God away altogether because we blame Him for the pain we are feeling. If we do not cry out to Him, we miss the great opportunity to be comforted and refortified by Him. We must cry out. God will hear the music of that cry and will answer it forthwith.
Why constraint? Constraint is restriction… Repression of natural feelings or behavior. We have God given emotions and some of those, as with grief, cause us to cry. That is natural. God even promises us that Jesus will be there to “catch” our tears. If we do not grieve, if we do not cry, He cannot catch our tears or comfort us as He has promised. “Blessed are those who morn, for they will be comforted.” This verse from Matthew refers to a specific need today that will change our tomorrows.
But it is also very clear in scripture that God desires to comfort us. This is because He knows we will need it as we continue in this life. Do not be constrained, pretending that the hurts do not exist. Choose joy, growing in the fruit of the Spirit, but let God bring that joy through acknowledging the pain and being comforted by Him, as He desires. Joy to the world!
Saturday, November 12, 2011
One of my most joyful experiences in life is settling down in my favorite chair, shortly after rising, and spending time with God. My Bible is in my lap and my coffee is nearby. It is quiet and anticipation in high. God is there with me and I am there with Him and we are bonding.
But sometimes I do not pick up the Bible in my lap right away. And I do not set my coffee aside. Instead, I hold the coffee in both hands, sipping quietly, while staring out the window day dreaming about God. That’s when my thoughts wander and my imagination gets involved in our relationship.
Unlike teachers at any school anywhere, God does not chide me for my wandering thoughts. Instead, He enjoys the opportunity to prod me into thinking “outside the box,” or a little deeper. Every time I read a book of the Bible again, or study it with a different study group, He is pleased to give me yet another eye to see things a little differently than I have before. At this time I am going through the book of Hebrews, which I have read through at least four times before, yet it seems as though I have never seen it. One thing that helps is that I now have a study Bible that gives me a more succinct introduction to the book and many notes on the passages within. But what I see is a new glow as I read and a brilliant picture of Christ, the Messiah, which is almost causing me to squint in its radiance. What a joy this living Word is to those who love Him and feed on His truth.
God is so much more than we can ever imagine in our finite minds, but we can ponder many things about Him, so join me here in a visit to your imagination and mine as we do some not necessarily scholarly thinking about our God.