Thursday, March 29, 2007

In Texas

I'm in Texas and it's hard to get onto the Internet. The past three days I have been in Salado at the Stagecoach Inn and true to the name, they are living in bygone days. There was no internet access. Today I went to a coffee shop with my laptop and spent more than an hour trying to get on-line and for some reason couldn't. I don't know if it was my computer or their server or what. I do know that it was frustrating.
I did have a chance to try and get some photos of the bluebonnets...but, it decided to rain today, the day I had set aside to go out. And now it's supposed to rain the rest of my time here. Sigh of frustration.
I was the youngest one at the reunion though! We decided that it was very fitting that I be there since it was the class of '48 and I am 48. I was sort of an honorary member for this reunion. My dad sold quite of few of his book, which is great. One of the ladies who had read it couldn't quit raving about it.
Well, I'm really tired. No questions tonight. Oh wait, this came up today. Give a one word answer to this question. What did Jonah preach?

Monday, March 26, 2007

War View and How Far is Too Far?

My church, through families in it, has 'adopted' five or six of the 'lost boys' of Sudan. It is so cool. And because of that we have an active ministry in Sudan. We have dug a well and are building a hospital for a village.

Six or so of our men were just over there. One of the Sudanese men asked one of our church men what he thought about the war in Iraq. Our man said he didn't know anymore.
The Sudanese man said something to the effect of, "When your President showed that he was courageous enough to go into Iraq, it stopped our war and the killing here in southern Sudan."

I found that interesting.

And then, how far is too far? I read this article this morning. A sheep that is 15% human? I know that they say the purpose is to make organ transplants better for humans, but I think this crosses the line. As much as I love the Chronicles of Narnia, here on earth there is a clear line (in my mind) between human and merely animal. What are we doing? The ends does not always justify the means. If it did, and you took it a logical conclusion, and human life is dispensible, then it would make sense to take one person, divide up their organs and save multiple lives. Not a dead person, a living one. If it's simply a matter of keeping the largest number of people alive for the longest time, that's where we would be.

God gave us knowledge and wisdom. But He also gave us responsibility. How do we decide the proper use of the intelligence we have been blessed with? What are the guidelines we need to use? How do we know when to say 'enough is enough'?

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Two more spring photos

First things first. I was nominated for the Thinking Blogger Award which originated here. It was given me by my cyber friend Matt who's site is here . Two ironies. First, I didn't even think anyone really read my blog and two, ever since being nominated my time to post has sort of disappeared. Isn't that the way it is. Anyway, thank you Matt, for the honor I appreciate it. It just goes to prove than even high school drop outs can think, I guess!

Okay, so lots of thoughts. Too many to post in the time I have. But I'll touch on a few of them.

First, in my reading of Joshua, there are several times that God sends natural disasters or occurrences. In chapter 10 it says that He sends a hailstorm that kills more of the enemy than the soldiers did. So I have to ask myself, how does that work? Was that just then? Did God use the atmospheric conditions to cause a hailstorm? Did He supernaturally bring it out of nowhere? Is every disaster the result of the direct will of God? Does God usually just let things happen and then every once in a while, intervene? I'd appreciate any thoughts. Of course, the easiest explanation is that the people just thought that a naturally occurring storm was the work of God, but if I am to believe that the Bible is literally true, I don't see how that can be the answer.

The power of names. That's the other thing I've been thinking about. I'm finally going to get my dog, on or around May 1. I am definitely letting my heart rule my head, this is crazy. He's going to be big, he will probably drool and I will have black dog hair all over my house. But that isn't the point. The point is the effort I am putting into choosing his name. He's just a dog, but I want his name to be right.
So that makes me think of something I've often thought of in the past, especially this time of year. The word 'Easter' comes from the word Ishtar who was the goddess of fertility. I wonder how God feels about that? The crowning work of His love is named for a false god. I can't believe that's good. God puts a lot of stock in names. If He didn't, He wouldn't have always been giving folks new ones. So is it honoring to Him to use that name for the day that Christ rose from the dead. I do sometimes call it Resurrection Sunday but it's often awkward. So many things bother me that don't seem to bother the rest of Christendom. I'm not sure why. Am I being legalistic and picky, or is there something to this?

You know, I don't think I should have gotten the thinking blogger I think I should have gotten the questioning blogger. I don't post thoughts so much as questions. If only I could find some of the answers. These things are hard to talk about because people often become defensive. I don't know how to couch my questions with people IRL the right way I guess. It seems like people feel threatened.

Well, we are heading back to church for a lunch about the missions trip to Sudan. Our church here is very contemporary. I didn't expect them to do much other than a Sunday service to celebrate the resurrection of Christ. But they are doing some awesome things. A Maundy Thursday celebration, a Seder supper, a celebration of art with the resurrection theme, other things that I would have expected of a more liturgical church, but not ours. I'm so disappointed we will be at the beach. If it weren't for our kids, I think I would cancel our plans just to be here. I think we perhaps put too much emphasis on the birth of Christ and not enough on His death and resurrection. I am so glad to see this in our church.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Internet connectedness

I've been having internet problems. I think I've got it taken care of after spending some quality time with a very patient man in India this morning. First it was intermittent and then last night as I was posting here I totally lost the connection and couldn't get it back. I was so frustrated. Computer problems usually mean hours on the phone squinting to see numbers and letters to small to discern (at least at my age) without a magnifying glass and endless minutes as I wait for my computer (old and slow) to reboot. So, I didn't respond well. I was frustrated and too often that means I get frustrated with other things that would normally not bother me. What a duality I have in me. On the one hand I have tried to live my life trusting it to God and His sovereignty and love for me. And then I encounter something like this and I can't even trust Him in it. Instead my humanity rises to the surface with irritation. It's sad.
So...I had posted several things here. I'm not sure I remember all of them. I know one thing was about our attitude towards money. I'm at the end of Deuteronomy now, I actually just got into Joshua. But at the end of Deuteronomy it makes several points that I think are valid as I look at finances, in light of the talk I'm going to give on wealth and poverty. The first is that we are to acknowledge that God is the source of all we have. It's so easy to take pride in ourselves, to think that if others just had our attitude or abilities or wisdom, they wouldn't be in the financial spot they are. The truth is that any of us could lose everything we have at any minute and no matter what we do, there is no guarantee of prosperity. So, number one, give credit to our Provider. The second was to give the tithes and then celebrate with your family the bounty God has provided. (All of this is obviously Paula's paraphrase, I don't have my Bible in front of me.) It actually commands that, to celebrate. So obviously it's okay to enjoy at least a portion of what God has given. We don't need to feel guilty if we do something just for fun. We don't need to beat ourselves up if we eat out knowing that there are people starving somewhere. But then it also talks about giving an extra offering for several groups, including the foreigner, widows and orphans. So while we are allowed or encouraged to enjoy the gifts God has given, we are also commanded to share generously, not just the minimum. I guess, as with all things, it comes down to the heart attitude. Am I greedy and self indulgent or do I care about the welfare of others who are less fortunate. It is surprising to me how often God tells us to give to the poor. Not in order to win them to faith, not for any motive, just to do it. I was raised that everything should be done in order to get people to become Christians, so to just do a good deed without specifically telling them about Christ and the good news He brings was almost wrong. But I'm not seeing that. What I'm seeing is that there is value simply in the physical act of caring for the needy.
Last night we went to the Boys and Girls Club of Annapolis. We fed about fifty kids and played with them and gave them lunches for the next day. We didn't preach or teach, we just gave. Part of me thought we should be sharing Christ, but part of me thinks it's okay to just give. I know that ultimately they need Christ, but maybe last night wasn't the time. We are going to see if we can sponsor one or two of the kids. Have them over to our house, take them to do things, just befriend them. It was so awesome to see our girls playing with them and interacting and enjoying it. They wanted to do it. I am so grateful to God for that. It made me so happy. Instead of having a bad attitude they entered into it with enthusiasm and hurt for the kids who were obviously love hungry. I'm so grateful that they have tender hearts.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Katie's birthday

Today my oldest daughter turns 24. It's hard to believe.

I remember the day she came from Korea. We waited in the airport, with love and excitement mixed so thouroughly that the air was thick with it. For us, it was a dream delayed. Katie was supposed to come a month earlier, but on the day of her anticipated arrival we received word that she was too sick to travel. I fell apart, pretty completely. But now she was arriving. On the drive to the airport, I warned Art not to expect much. To be prepared for a wasted, moth-eaten bundle of rags with no comeliness to draw us. How shocked I was to find in my arms a chubby bundle of contentment, sucking on her two fingers. Why, she was the most adorable child that came. How could we have been so fortunate as to get the most beautiful child there? (Looking back, I wonder if every waiting mom felt that way?)

I remember the years of her increasing imagination. Stories of monkeys in trees and monsters with pink eyes and amazing feats. Years of spontaneous hugs and exuberant energy and determined willfullness. Her voice was a delight, every note hit with perfection and sung with earnestness. I remember a youth filled with talent and ability and enthusiasm and laughter.

There are years I'd rather not remember. Years of conflict and pain and misunderstanding and despair. Times of rejection and anger and apparent hatred. Years of wondering what had gone wrong and where I had failed.

I remember watching and waiting and praying as she discovered her own path. Of giving up on making her stay with me on mine. Of releasing her from my control, but not from my heart.

I watch now with wonder as she comes home with joy, wanting to be with us. I store up memories of her calling with excitement to share news with us first because she knows we care most. I stand amazed and silent as she pays verbal tribute to her upbringing and exonerates us of our guilt. I watch in wonder as she seeks our counsel, treasuring our views. I delight in the dimension she adds to our family, a spice that gives it depth.

I wait with anticipation to see how she will grow. To see the path she will take, to find how she will give and contribute. I remember the little girl entrusted to our care, completely dependent in our arms. I remember the love and excitement with which I anticipated the future. It's still there.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Babysitting today

I'm away from home, babysitting. This darling little girl usually takes a three hour nap, but of course today is the exception. That's okay though, she's really good. Right now she is very happily entertainng herself with Thomas the train engine and gang.
I read my Bible at home prior to coming and couldn't post right away. But I've gotten to the parts where it keeps saying 'the life is in the blood'. That could have profound implications. If it's literally true, and I don't see why it wouldn't be, then life does not begin at conception but on the day that the blood is formed in the fetus. I think that is somewhere around day eight. That is a huge difference, especially in cases of rape.
I'm going to be teaching our church's ladies Bible study one week on wealth and poverty. Should be interesting because there are so many verses and perspectives on the subject in Scripture. I always feel the weight of the responsibility to accurately teach God's Word and not lead anyone astray.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Continuing thoughts

It's funny, I didn't expect this blog to become a Bible journal, and yet that seems to be the main thing I write about. It's just that I enjoy putting down my observations and questions as I read. So, before I get to that, I think I'm finally getting my puppy! He will be ready to be 'adopted' on May 1. After Art said I could get one, I began having second thoughts. But, you know, when I was a kid, I was afraid of growing up. I didn't want to be like the adults I knew who were always governed by what was practical. And so I'm going to go ahead and do the heart thing instead of the head thing. I'm getting a puppy. A beautiful, big, impractical Newfoundland!

My dh and I are in an era of our lives I would call one of 'plenty'. That is, we have more than enough to supply our needs and even our wants, because our wants aren't extravagant. So I really liked these verses I read yesterday from Deuteronomy 8.

"Beware that in your plenty you do not forget the Lord you God and disobey his commands...for when you have become full and porsperous and have built fine homes to live in...that is the time to be careful. Do not become proud at that time and forget the Lord you God...Do not forget that he led you...he gave you...he fed you. He did this to humble you and test you for your own good. He did it so you would never think that it was your own strength and energy that made you wealthy. Always remember that it is the Lord you God who give you power to become rich...It is not at all because you such righteous, upright people...I will say it again: The Lord you God is not giving you this good land because you are righteous, for you are not-you are a stubborn have constantly rebelled against him. (Chapter 10) Therefore cleanse you sinful hearts and stop being stubborn. Be careful to obey all the commands I give you; show love to the Lord your God by walking in his ways and clinging to him."

I have been thinking about the OT and the NT and how much we can apply, or rather how we can apply the OT. Obviously, Christ changed things. In the OT, the Israelites were to set up an earthly kingdom. Jesus makes it clear that the kingdom of God is within us. So the way God was working out His plan was manifest differently.
The most obvious example is the change from an eye for an eye, to turn the other cheek. So I think we are inconsistent in how we apply the OT. We pick and choose and say that one verse is for today and another isn't. I know people who will say that the OT prohibition on taboos is still applicable but think nothing of wearing a poly/cotton shirt, which is prohibited in the same chapter. The missionaries to Hawaii tore down all the idols and temples and I can see why if we look only at the OT. But Paul took a different approach. So I need to figure out what we today (or at least I today) am to do with the OT and how I'm to apply it to my life.

So, on a different level, I am babysitting all day today and tomorrow. I have a steering group meeting that I have to prepare the food for on Saturday and company coming in on Friday night, possibly for dinner. And Katie is coming over on Sunday to celebrate her birthday. I haven't gotten her a gift yet. I don't know when I'll have the chance either. And I need to get Andy's gifts wrapped so that Betsy can take them tomorrow when she heads down. Andy is in KC right now. I'm hoping things will become very clear to him this weekend.

I woke up this morning from a nightmare and I couldn't shake it and I was pretty much a basket case for a while. Not so good. I don't know where these dreams come from. But I wish they would stay away.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Pity party?

Reading in Deuteronomy 3 and 4 it seems as if Moses is at his most human. He's whining about not getting to go into the promised land! If I remember correctly it was because Moses struck the rock and in so doing dishonored God by not trusting him, that he wasn't allowed into the promised land. But even Moses, Godly, humble and patient man that he was, couldn't resist the temptation to blame someone else. He says it in 3:26 and then again in 4:21. "The Lord was angry with me because of you." Wow. It started in the garden of Eden and it's here with Moses. So I have to wonder, what am I blaming on someone else that I need to take responsibility for?

That's the kind of question that I ask myself and never discipline myself to take the time to answer. Because it does take time to answer that kind of question. Time to think and ponder and pray. That meditative time is something I want to incorporate more of into my life. I'm at a place now where I have the luxury of doing it. Instead I'm afraid that I fritter away my time. I don't want to waste my time.

Also, there is a verse here, 4:9 that seems to speak to the distance that we often feel from God. It says, "Be careful never to forget what you have seen the Lord do for you." If God was going to be constantly interacting, I don't think there would be the call to remember, because it would be present, not past. But it seems as if it is natural, in God's view, for there to be times when He is not obviously present. It is during those times that we have to live on the 'storehouse' of the knowledge of what He has done in our lives and in the lives of our parents and others. It's so important to share with our children the times that God has answered prayers, or spoken to us, or changed us in a way that we couldn't have changed ourselves.

Later, "If you search for Him with all your heart and soul you will find Him." Doesn't seem to agree with the TULIP model, that verse.

Why do we still honor all of the Ten Commandments except the one about the Sabbath day and keeping it holy? Even if we agree that it's now Sunday instead of Saturday, why is it not set aside as a day of rest dedicated to the Lord? It's interesting that eight of the commandments are 'do nots' and only two are 'do' commandments. Do we just ignore that commandment because it's harder to keep?

I just recently faced up to my own priorities. I was going to go to Viet Nam on a mission trip. I really wanted to go. But I realized I couldn't do both that and go see my folks. I thought about the verse that says But you say that if a man says to his father or mother, 'Whatever help you might otherwise have received from me is a gift devoted to God,' and I felt convicted. I love my parents, it's not that at all. I want to go see them. But I was so busy doing 'Godly work' that I wasn't giving them the honor and attention they deserved. So I took the loss of the money I had put down and cancelled the trip. The money isn't really a loss anyway, I'm sure the mission group can use it. And as often as my thoughts turn toward Viet Nam, I know I made the right choice.

I just have to add one more verse, that doesn't seem to me to fit in with TULIP theology.
Deut 5:29 Oh, that their hearts would be inclined to fear me and keep all my commands always, so that it might go well with them and their children forever!
It sounds an awful lot to me like God desires something He has put in the ability of man to give Him, that is, obedience. There are just so many little verses like that throughout the Bible. Little snippets that just don't fit into the narrow parameters of man made systematic theology. Anyway, I'll save that for another time, maybe another place.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Orphans and widows

I found out today that you can build an orphanage in India, that will house 25 children for $7,000. That's it. $7,000. And then it would take another $7,000 a year to keep it, salaries, everything. My daughters go to a private school. If each of the kids there gave up four Starbucks coffees a year and gave the money to a project like this, instead, it would cover the cost. Or two nighttime movies. Or one pair of inexpensive jeans. Amazing.
My dh and I are one on this. We want to be involved. Isn't that what true religion is? Taking care of the orphans and widows?
It seems like there should be a way to incorporate the two. Maybe use widows who would otherwise be homeless to be caretakers for the children. It would provide work for them and love for the children. I'm wondering how one could visit different orphanages to see what works. I know there are good ways of doing things and bad and it's probably better to do nothing than do it incorrectly, I think you could do more harm than good. But there must be a way to find out what works. I want to figure it out.
"Every man...knows there is that within him which falls far below even his most careless public behaviour, even his loosest talk...We have never told the whole truth...I do not think it is our fault that we cannot tell the real truth about ourselves; the persistent, life-long, inner murmur of spite, jealousy, prurience, greed and self-complacence, simply will not go into words."
C.S. Lewis

As I read this today, I said, in my spirit, "Yes!" I can't even own up within myself to just how much there is within me that is ugly. I am frightened of and disgusted by my own nature.

But I'm not sure about the 'every man' concept. I don't think most people have that same feeling about themselves. And that's okay. I'm just not sure whether that nature doesn't reside in them or whether they are just unaware of it. But when I have tried to express this idea on one or two occasions, I have been met with a blank stare.

It's not my business though, to try and see what is in others. I have a big enough job asking God to look inside of me and scour me out, painful as that may be and then use me as He wants.

Friday, March 9, 2007

My Bible study journal

Bible study thoughts

I guess that's the title I should have given my blog. I'm usually motivated to write when I read something I don't understand. I have always felt like Bible study leaders felt threatened by me. If I ask unorthodox questions they seem to feel threatened and like I am just a trouble maker or trying to be disagreeable. Maybe to them the answers are obvious, I don't know, but I've learned to keep my mouth shut in most groups. I can remember only two teachers who have even not only welcomed my questions but seemed to delight in them. I wish I could find a teacher like that now. Of course it could also be that my questions are just boring to others and they don't wonder about them at all. I would love to have a Bible study group of strong Christians where we could talk about these things. Another reason I often stay quiet in Bible studies is so that I won't hinder the growth of younger or less secure Christians. I would hate it if my questions caused them to doubt.

In Numbers 33 it says that God had 'defeated the Gods of Egypt' when he killed the firstborn sons in every household.
Okay, this as well as several other passages treat the gods as if they are real, not just the figment of man's imagination. What glory is there in defeating something that doesn't exist? Wouldn't it say something more to the effect of 'God proved the God's of Egypt were man's vain imaginings' instead of talking of defeat?
I think too often we pooh-pooh the idea of 'real' gods, instead we settle in comfortably with the idea that money and television and power are our gods. And those things no doubt are. But even in them I think there is perhaps a spiritual god behind them. Spiritual warfare is real. In other cultures at least, curses often work. It's not that there is no power in the forces of evil, there is. It's just that God's power is far greater. And because we are covered by the blood of Christ, Satan and his minions can't prevail against us. It's a bit frightening to even write about. I don't want to draw any negative attention to myself or my family. But we are in Christ Jesus so there really should be no fear.
Later in 33 God says, "If you fail to drive out the people who live in the land, those who remain will be like splinters in your eyes and thorns in your sides." I believe the OT is literally true. But I also believe it is often symbolic. This is one of those places. When we come into the fullness of the Gospel (coming into the promised land) we still have work to do. One of those jobs is to rid ourselves of certain things, (in NT jargon, 'put off' or 'rid yourselves') If we don't do that, those very things will be constant pain and irritation to us. The sooner we destroy them, and root them out, the sooner we will live at peace.

Personal thoughts
On another level, much lower I'm afraid, I was confronted with an aspect of my character, or personality, that I'm not sure I like.

There is something in me that really doesn't want to take classes. I haven't figured out the root of it yet, I think it has several dimensions. Things I think I believe, even if they aren't valid are:

If someone has to teach you then it's not really yours

If I don't have instruction and do well, then I've done very well. But if I take a class and do well, then I have no excuse for not having done very well.

So, I think at the root of both of those road blocks is the ugly sin of pride. Sort of a reverse pride, I guess. Feel of failure in the second and wanting complete ownership in the first.

In the first, I think that deep down I believe that creativity and intelligence should be instinctive and self-contained, not grow out of the thoughts and ideas of others. But I guess that's hogwash. Everything about life, whether we like it or not, is influenced by others. I think this might have it's roots in a story I wrote as a child in fourth grade. I got a very good grade on it. But the teacher had obviously never read Lewis or she would have flunked me for plagiarism. I didn't copy anything verbatim, but I definitely took many of his ideas and wove them together. When I later reread the story I was ashamed of what I had done, though at the time I don't think I had realized it was wrong. But I saw myself as a cheater and was chagrined.

On the second, I have a deep fear of failure. Instead of causing me to try harder, it generally causes me to not put forth much effort at all. If I haven't really tried, then I can't fail, right? But if I give something my all, if I really want it and I don't acheive it, then it would be awful. I haven't sat down and looked at 'awful' to see what the reality of that would look like. I think I need to do that. I would, no doubt, find that the consequences wouldn't be so bad at all. So that is a task I am going to assign myself.

I remember when Art began buying so many properties and I was always in stress that several would be empty at the same time and we wouldn't be able to pay all the mortgages. When I finally thought through what could happen, I got to the fact that we could lose everything we own. And in the end I realized I could handle that. And so, that worry was pretty much banished. I had faced the fear, imagined it and overcome it. If it came to pass, I knew that I could deal with it. I think that's what I need to do here. It's pride that makes me want to excel and false humility that keeps me from trying.

As long as I am judged on the basis of being a high school drop-out I'm quite impressive. I'm far more intelligent and well read than statistics would lead one to expect. But if I have an education, ah, then I've raised the standard, and I think I'm afraid to see how I will do.

I don't think that if I get this right in my head I will necessarily return to college. But I will be thinking correctly, and that will be a very good thing.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007


From reading the Old Testament, I can understand the fanatacism of many of the Puritan type leaders. In Numbers 25 the story is told of Phineas and his fury at seeing an Israelite man bring a Midianite woman into the camp and into his tent. It says that he "thrust the spear all the way through the man's body and into the woman's stomach." Yikes. And then God says that Phinehas had turned God's anger away from Israel by showing 'passionate zeal' on His behalf. So I can see why people looked for the cause of God's anger against them when a plague broke out.
I guess the problem is that this isn't the way God works anymore. The New Testament doesn't show any of this that I can think of. Christ never tried to change society that I can see, He tried to change people. There is such a difference between Old and New, I'm trying to get my arms around it. But I remember being surprised, when I read straight through the OT the first time how much love and grace was found there. Not so much in Numbers but in Isaiah and Jeremiah.
Also, it's interesting that the sons of Korah were not killed in his rebellion. It almost looks as if they had separated themselves from him and so they didn't bear the consequences of his sin.
And then I have always found the story in chapter 27 interesting where the daughters of Zelophehad came and asked for their father's property since he had no sons. God changes the rules! From that time on, daughters could receive the inheritance. So, I have to wonder. Why didn't God put that in the law in the first place? Surely He hadn't just overlooked it. : ) He knew what He was doing when He wrote the law. So what is the lesson here for me? To go ahead and ask? That I don't have because I don't ask? It certainly elevates the role of women in society and culture. I'm just not sure why He waited until they brought it up to address the issue.

Moses didn't get to go into the promised land because he failed to demonstrate God's holiness to them at the waters. I'm not sure quite how he did that. I mean I know that he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, but after all he had done right, that seems so small. I want to understand why it was such a big deal. I think of the times I haven't demonstrated God's holiness both in my home and other places. It makes me cringe in fear and sorrow. My actions have often smeared the name of selfishness, losing my temper, my depression. God forgive me.

When Joshua was chosen to lead Israel, he already had the Spirit in him. I don't think the Spirit was given then as it is now. I wonder if it was Joshua's faith as a spy that caused him to be filled?

God says, "the offering you you present to me by the fire are my food" which I find interesting. Jesus said something like, "My food is to do the will of my Father." I never think of "God" as needing food of any sort.

I have to stop now, but I may add more later.

Tuesday, March 6, 2007


Today I had Bible study. I like my study and I like my small group. We are an interesting mix. We have a South American young lady, new to our country, a young woman pregnant with her second child, a great lady that I already love that is a 'biker chick' type (although she's selling her bike), we have the pastor's wife, the co-owner of two very successful fast food franchises, a lady who moved here from eastern Europe at 19, and elderly woman, widowed once and married twice and me. It's a pretty diverse group.
But anyway, today as I drove there I felt happy. Just really happy. That may not strike you as unusual, but for me it's not the norm. In fact, I called my dh to tell him so. I wondered if other people feel that way often. I don't know. I guess we can never know the baseline for others. And so we don't know how successful they are being in 'overcoming' since we don't know where they started from.
But feeling happy felt so stinking good. I wish I could be there all the time.

Balaam and more

Reading about Balaam in Numbers, he doesn't sound like such a bad guy. In fact, if I had no other verses, I would say that he had behaved in a righteous manner. He refused great riches when bid to do what God said not to do. He said only the words God told him to say. He sought God every time.
But later, Balaam is killed in Numbers 31 by the Israelites.
It is only in other verses that we find that Balaam turned the Israelites away from God by tempting them to eat food sacrificed to idols and with sexual sins, probably including temple prostitution. And we find that Balaam was coveting in his heart the riches that he turned down. I am glad God gives us the extra verses because if it weren't for them, I would think of Balaam as a hero.
Balaam is mentioned 59 times by name. That's an awful lot, and yet we don't study him a lot. The most I knew about him for years was that he was the guy the donkey talked to.. But I'm thinking this is an incredibly valuable story.
Our actions can all be correct. Our words can sound righteous. But if we harbor the wrong desires in our hearts, in the end, they will take contol of us. I have no doubt that this is what brings down so many church leaders. Now, we all have sinful desires that creep into our lives. I don't think there is anyone that doesn't. But the key is to not hide them. If nothing else, take them out and put them in the full light of God's Word. Look at them honestly for what they are. Confess them to another, if at all possible. Be honest.
But I think what Balaam did was to try and hide his own desires from himself. He felt them, but he hid them behind a false self-righteousness. He wasn't just all talk, he even had the right actions. But in the end, his secret desires destroyed him.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Perceiving our badness

Here is a quote from Lewis.

"When we merely say that we are bad, the 'wrath' of God seems a barbarous doctrine; as soon as we perceive our badness, it appears inevitable, a mere corollary from God's goodness. To keep ever before us the insight derived from such a moment as I have been describing, to learn to detect the same real inexcusable corruption under more an dmore of its complex disguises, is therefore indispensable to a real understanding of the Christian faith."

Okay, this is where I am. I don't pretend to have explored the depths of my own sin. But what I've seen of it is enough. I have had my eyes opened enough to catch a glimpse of my own failings, utter and complete, and that is enough. I don't want to see any more because I am dismayed at the bit I have seen.

But I have to wonder. Are all as sinful as I? The Roman Centurion was called a 'righteous man' if I remember it correctly. I want to cling to the idea that everyone would do the same as I given the same circumstances. But I think that is really just another sign of sin in me...pride. I cling to finding some excuse for my wrongdoing.

I don't think this really makes any difference. I am desperately in need of a Savior and I've been given one. My mind shouldn't even wonder about the failings of others. It's enough for me to know that I have been given a way of escape.

So I guess, in a twisted way, it is a gift that I have seen my failings so clearly. If I were a 'better' person, I might not realize that I had such a need of Christ, so much to be grateful for. It's had to think of being thankful for being revealed in my sin, and maybe I'm wrong in that, and yet it makes it so much easier to be grateful. I have so much more to be grateful for.

This little thought process hasn't been very succinct or straightforward. I guess what I am saying is that though everyone falls short of the glory of God, not everyone is equally sinful. I have seen that I am about as sinful as they come and totally without excuse. I am grateful (which seems a strange thing to be grateful for) that I have seen my total failure to be righteous. Seeing my sinfulness makes it so much easier to be grateful to God. I'm not saying that my sin is good, only that it has revealed God's goodness. Which is all in Scripture, now that I think about it, it's just that it has come to life for me.

Sunday, March 4, 2007


Tonight we had our pastor and his family for dinner. They are a lot of fun. He just got back from a mission trip to Sudan so he was bursting with stories. I had planned to have a Mexican Fiesta, but found at church this morning that he's getting over the stomach flu, so I had to quickly change the menu to something bland. That was no fun!

But just before they got here I checked my emails. I got one from H. Her humvee was hit by an IED. She sounds shaken and bruised, both physically and emotionally. Praise God that no one was killed. Praise God for the extra armor they have put on those vehicles. Praise God for every day that He sustains our lives in big ways and small. I know that she is struggling. I can't put her struggles on my on-line log, that would be an invasion of her privacy. But I hurt for her and I want to help. I want to help her in her life and in her walk with God. I want to help her be freed from the demands that she places on herself and help her understand grace. I want to be salt and light and love in her life.

Saturday, March 3, 2007

Optimism and other thoughts...Numbers 14

There was a post at LP recently that got into the topic of positive thinking. It was a good reminder for me because my mind is often fill with negative thoughts, especially about myself and my abilities. Allowing those thoughts to fill my head undermines what I am doing and colors my thinking with grey.
In the OT, the Israelites seemed to consistently get it wrong. They had a few shining moments when they trusted God and had their confidence in Him. Take Jericho, where through obedience they did the impossible. But they immediately followed it up with Ai. And they suffered a crushing defeat because they began to believe that the victory was theirs and not God's. And then as they came to the promised land, God promised it to them, but they listened to the negative voices among them. So God basically said, "Forget it, you aren't going to have victory if you go in now." At that point they became optimistic, decided they could do it, even though God said He wasn't going to help them for another forty years, and they once again suffered defeat.
All the positive self-talk in the world wasn't going to help them if God wasn't with them. In fact, that is the root of pride, isn't it? To believe that your future lies in your own hands? That you are in control of your destiny? On the other hand, it is the sin of lack of faith to be filled with doubt when God has said go ahead.
So there are two different problems at the ends of the spectrum. At the one end we are full of pride, trusting in ourselves and at the other end, we are empty of faith, lacking trust of God. So, I'm thinking that the issue isn't positive thoughts or talk, the issue is, in whom do you have your confidence? We ought to have the most positive views in the world about God and what He can do, but being cognizant at all times that He is the reason for our confidence, not our confidence itself. It's sort of like believing that our cheering will win the game for the team, rather than cheering because we know our team has what it takes to win.
So I do think that positive self-talk is important. Too often, I fall prey to lies that fill my head. But confidence and optimism are useless if not based in truth.

Different topic. I came across a few more verses today. One I love. "Please pardon the sins of this people because of your magnificent unfailing love..." Magnificent unfailing love. What an incredible phrase. How could that not bring hope?
But it also, for me, brings up some theological questions. Not that verse, but the whole passage. God tells Moses that He IS going to destroy Israel with a plague. Period. No maybe's. Then Moses intercedes in their behalf. And then God says that He will pardon them as Moses has requested.
How do TR's deal with that? I've heard them explain it away, but it sounds just like that...that they are explaining it away. And later, Moses says, "The Lord will abandon you because you have abandoned the Lord." That sounds an awful lot like they rejected what was being offered. What happens to irrisistable grace?
It seems like there are many verses, throughout Scripture that put pinholes in the ultra reformed theology. But because the TR's have few proof texts they throw out, without putting them in context of the whole Bible, they can neatly package everything up. I think it's much more complicated than that.

And another idea I'm grappling with is the idea of God's omnipresence or immanence. It is a basic tenet of Christianity that God is everywhere and in all. But I can see that there are few complexities to that. First, in the OT at least, God dwelt in certain places, in the tabernacle, on the mountain, and I'm sure in some others I'm not thinking of right now. So was it that He dwelt in His fullness in those places, but just roamed in the others? Or was He only in those places it talks about Him being? And did that change in the NT? I'm sure it's possible that it did. In the OT the Spirit was sent and removed from people's lives. In the NT we are assured of the Spirit's presence in our lives, and indwelling, as believers. But where does that leave the unbeliever. I have always understood that God did not dwell in them. So is that at least one place that God's omnipresence does not not extend? And God cannot tolerate the presence of evil. So does the presence of evil drive God's immenance from that place? How do those two ideas coexist in harmony. What I am not talking about here is pantheism. I'm not even hinting that God's presence in something makes that thing God, any more than ice tea in my pitcher turns the pitcher into a beverage. It is simply a place where the tea resides. But are there places where God does not dwell?

Thursday, March 1, 2007


Who was it that said that if you just start writing, the story will come? Or maybe they said that if you develop the characters, the plot would come.
Anyway, I have wanted to try some writing, so tonight I just started writing what came to mind. I got a paragraph done and then I was done. That's it. De nada. Zippo. Nothing else to put down. Here's what I wrote:

In a tree near the edge of the rain forest lived a monkey. Not just any ordinary, wimpy sort of tree with flimsy branches, but a tree of stature and strength with wonderful pockets formed by spreading branches where one could curl up for a secure nap or store fruit for later munchings. It had perfectly balanced limbs that curved upward to form an umbrella of almost impenetrable thickness above, except when the wind blew, and then a delightful mosaic of shadows would play on the branches below. A latticework of vines surrounded the tree making it a wonderful launching spot for swings and soarings through the air. The tree was mostly straight, mostly that is, except where it should have been curvy, for there is was curvy. And up, nearly at the top, before the trunk split into the myriad branches that sprang from it was a strategically placed hole. One that had occurred naturally, but nonetheless was in just the right spot. Into this hole the monkey sometimes crept in the worst of weather and was quite snug when he did so, for over time he had lined it with softest mosses and leaves and made it into a quite habitable home, even though monkeys don’t usually live in holes. But he didn’t spend much time there, for he loved the space and freedom and vision that his perches outside provided.

So there the monkey will sit for the rest of his days, wrestling with no problem larger than whether to retreat into his nice mossy hole or venture onto a vine for a little swing. I can't think of one solitary conflict that I want to foist on the cute little guy. And I'm not sure I want to introduce him to any of the other characters in my imagination. He has such a nice little world, I want to just leave him there.

Rattling around in my head

There are several thoughts simultaneously in my head right now. Some are practical, some are theoretical, and one seems to bridge the two.
On the practical side, my ddil had a heart 'episode' two nights ago. Though she is only 23 she is on beta blockers. We invited our ds and ddil for dinner last night with some other guests and ds came be ddil did not. Erik told us that the night before she had been having some bad palpitations and couldn't control her eyes and couldn't walk. He has been through many lesser episodes with her but this was the worst. She went to work but came home early because she had strong tingling in her legs and arms. She still had it last night. I told Erik I thought she should really go to the doctor. So this morning they got an appointment and that's where they are now.
We also have a guest here. He's a great guy, a retired Air Force General who is the Executive Director of a nonprofit we work with. So, part of me feels like I should be down with him, but part of me thinks he's happy to be left alone, so he can get some work done, and most of me knows I needed this time to have some quiet time. And part of me knows I need to get some housework done.
Which is where the bridge comes in.
I am still trudging through Leviticus and Numbers, not the most inspiring books of the Bible. But in my reading today I was reading about the Gershonites, the Kohathites and the Merarites. Nothing profound, but God gave them such exciting jobs as 'general service and carrying loads', removing ashes from the altar, and wrapping utenils. Doesn't sound like very holy work to me. And yet it was. It was because it related to the Temple of God. Because they were caring for God's dwelling place, their work was sacred. So I'm thinking that the application is relevant. God's dwelling place is now the hearts of believers. So just as these clans had menial work that was sacred, so all I do for those who bear the image of God is sacred. Carrying loads doesn't sound like a high calling, and yet it was. So whether I physically carry a load for my family...laundry, cooking, whatever...or an emotional one or prayer, it all becomes a sacred duty. So while missions may feel more spiritual, or leading a Bible study, it's not if it isn't what God called me to do. And if I am doing the dishes to care for Christ-bearers, it is holy.
Another truth that hit me again was about betrayal. Numbers says, "If any of the people-men or women-betraythe Lord by doing wrong to another person, they are guilty." Our sin in ultimately never against someone else, in the end it is against the Lord. I am not denying the hurt and pain we may cause another or that we can sin against them. In fact it goes on to say that we must confess and make restitution. But the biggie here isn't our sin against them, it's our sin against God. Because everything we do to harm another person does several other things as well. It is a sign of rebellion against God's laws, it harms His name and it shows a lack of faith that He will handle our situation for us. I wonder if that last one isn't the one that hurts Him the most. I know that when I have sinned, it is the betrayal of God that has grieved me the most. I have repented of my wrongdoing but I have been abject that I couldn't take back that lack of faith, the turning away from trust. I was thinking yesterday about the questions that I have about the Bible. They are real. I struggle with them. But not in the sense that they make me doubt God or His Word. Rather it's a struggle to understand, to comprehend, to unlock the complexities of His Word. And one of the main reasons I want to understand is so that I can help others as they grapple with His Truth. I think that for myself, I'm content to just trust and know that in eternity I'll understand. But when someone else asks, I want to have an answer. As I was thinking I thought about losing faith and how awful that would be. I can't even imagine it. God is so real to me, even when He is distant. If I removed the reality of Him, my life would collapse. I would be like a body with no skeleton. There would be no framework for life. When I was eighteen I wrote a poem. I don't know where it is now, but I think I remember the beginning.
Misty clouds draw night to earth, shrouding from my view,
the clear cut image of a tree of multivaried hue.
A tree so straight, so hard, so fierce, against the winds of time,
now softens in this darkest gloom, this mist within my mind.
It sinks and wavers, fading fast, without the ebbing light,
I turn... and find nothing to watch amid this darkest night.
The crosscut image of my mind, has left an empty void,
now filled with thoughts and dreams and goals
with which my mind has toyed.
I drift in stillness now alone, at last I'm on my own.
And ice cold waters fill my veins and stiffness fills my bones.
No center point, no new direction, every space is black.
There is no axis for my life, I walk with back to back.

I wrote that after a really hard time in my life. I had tried to leave God alone. In fact, I had said, "Listen God, You forget about me and I'll forget about You, okay?" I'll just say it didn't work too well, and the poem above was the best way I could find at the time to express what I was feeling. But that was thirty years ago. Amazing isn't it? Lewis says that there are three things necessary for morality. One must be in harmony with the others working towards the same goal, one must be at harmony within oneself and one must have the correct objective. That may be simplistic but I think that as far as it goes, it is true. For me, at this point in life, I think my biggest struggle is the one within myself.
And just one more thought I had which is just sort of a point for exploration. I was thinking of scientists and philosophers and theologians. Let's see if I can put into words the beginning of my thought. Both scientists and philosophers begin with the physical. From what I understand the scientist (speaking in generalities of course) separates the physical from all else and only wants observable data. I believe that most philosophers study the physical and try to derive eternal truths from what they observe. But the flaw here is that nothing physical is an absolute, nor is anything physical eternal. So a scientist studying only the physical learns only how uncertain things are and likewise, the attempts to obtain a complete understanding of life, from studying the physical, is doomed to failure. Those who say that there is no absolute truth are correct, in what they understand. But what they don't understand is that there is a Truth that is before and after the physical. So even though there may not be a fixed physical frame for the universe, there is something beyond the universe that is fixed and is unchangeable. They are just blind to it. Tozer talks about all of this and does a much better job of it.