Loving Involves Getting To Know


The idea for this blog post was born just after hearing a testimony from a female friend about how she was treated by some men in her church leadership–how they basically made some assumptions and some decisions affecting her life, based on those assumptions.  My mind went on a huge rabbit trail about how “all men” do that to women.  They don’t understand us, but rather than asking questions and trying to understand us, they write us off as stupid or silly or in some other way “less than” how they see themselves.

Then I realized, after I calmed down a little bit, that, first of all, not “all” men do it.  Second of all, it goes both ways.  I’ve seen wives roll their eyes at something their husbands say or do, rather than taking the time to understand what their husband’s were thinking.

Asking questions and trying to understand doesn’t always bring about the desired results–we still might be perplexed.  But when we don’t understand, does that give us the right to dub the other as “less than” in any way?  Are we so sure that our understanding is that spot on?  How prideful!

Jesus’ second commandment was “love your neighbor as yourself”.  I heard one preacher give a reason for the importance of that commandment: all people are made in God’s image.  All are sacred.

Part of loving a person involves getting to know them–not banking on your assumptions about them.

Next time you notice yourself thinking less of a person because of an opinion they have or an action they took, pause for a minute, back up, and ask them some questions in order to better understand them, and therefore start loving them more completely.

Men: stop doing this to women.

Women: stop doing this to men.

People: stop doing this to each other.

And while I’m at it: stop doing it to God, too!

Just stop with the assumptions and get the facts! (I’m including myself in this admonition.)

End of rant. 😛

My Young Earth Arguments


This blog is going to reflect my belief that the earth was created around 6,000 years ago and each day of creation represents a 24 hour period.

Before you come to a point of thinking you have wasted your time reading this, let me tell you up front that I am not a scientist.  I don’t have any credentials to offer you for reasons you should put any stock in what you read here.  I only intend to share with you the things that have me convinced our earth is young, based on facts I know about from reading books or my own observation.

There are four things that come to my mind that I’d like to record here.

First: The old earth view is a relatively new theory.  Up until a few hundred years ago, it was dogmatically believed that the earth was young.  I know that, in itself, isn’t great proof.  Some dogmatically believed the earth was flat for a time, too.  (And there are those who still believe that despite evidence to the contrary.  😦  )  So the majority believing something to be true shouldn’t be convincing evidence.  (Wow!  Sure wish people today would grasp a hold of THAT truth!–But I digress.)

Second: The Biblical account of creation lists creation this way: Day 1–earth, space, time and light; Day 2–atmosphere; Day 3–dry land and plants; Day 4–sun, moon and stars; Day 5–sea and flying creatures; Day 6–land animals and man.  Based on the laws of science, I do not understand how plants made on day 3 could survive for thousands of years without the sun that was created on day 4.

Third: The Jewish calendar this year is at 5777.  Their calendar claims to be in sync with when the earth was created.

Fourth: And this is the most compelling reason for me: God is all about faith.  All through Scripture you read how important trusting in Him is.  Adam and Eve failed the test. Rather than trusting what God said, they leaned on their own understanding (persuaded by the devil).  What if God created the earth with the appearance of age?  He created Adam already “old”.  What if–now stick with me here–what if God in essence is saying to us, “Are you going to believe what you see, or are you going to believe what I say?”  Are we going to believe our senses or what God says?

Faith is “…the conviction of things not seen.” (Hebrews 11:1)

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5

Deterrents


Our tandem bike broke quite a while ago and we have not been able to fix or replace it, so I have had to ride my regular bike “alone”–only, I am never “alone”, technically.  God is always there.

We’ve been given some excellent riding weather, lately, so I’ve gotten to go out on my bike almost daily.  I have a favorite bike route that I frequent, and I usually spend the time listening to Christian music and talking to God.  It is healing to my mind, body and spirit.

But my bike route starts with two ginormous hills.  OK.  Perhaps that’s a stretch.  But they both tax my leg muscles, even when I have my bike in the lowest gear possible.  (Which is 2, because my gear shift won’t go past that.)  Neither of them take me more than a minute or two, I suspect, to get up.

Sometimes, though, those two hills have been a deterrent to my going on my bike ride.

I *think* I have finally realized how ridiculous I am being when I let them keep me from riding, though.  (I say it that way because I have only had a week or so of success in overcoming the negative thoughts that once hindered me.  That’s not quite something to bet on, yet. IMO.)

Two thoughts spur me on: 1) They are just two hills! Once I get over them, most of the rest of the ride is a breeze!  (And I only face one hill at the end of the ride on the way back.) 2) I LOVE that sweet time with God!–away from all distractions; hearing birds chirping, seeing squirrels and such scampering around; listening to edifying, uplifting music–it’s heaven on earth for me.

When I am in the middle of the ride, my heart is so full of joy–I’m in a different world for a while.

Remembering the absolute delight of the bulk of the ride, gets me to put those two hill deterrents in their proper place–the delight of the ride that follows, far outweighs the dread of those two hills.

How often do we allow “hills” in our lives to keep us from enjoying “the rest of the ride”? How silly we are!

Today I had a really cool thought while I was on my ride, too.  A thing in the road caught my eye, so I kept starring at it while I sped up to it and past it.  As I was going right past it at a good clip, I first thought it was a squished animal.  I thought I saw a tail and some paws and it was belly-side up.  My initial thought was “Ew!” and I scrunched up my nose while I mouthed the word.

But then my brain caught up with what my eyes had actually seen, and it was just a small portion of a leafed tree branch that was “squished” in the road.  [:)]

I laughed at myself.  Then I pictured God laughing at me–delighting in me, like I have delighted in my children when they are “tricked” by something in a humorous way.

That was all followed by the thought that God knows all things.  He knows past, present and future.  He knew about that moment in my life before it even happened.  So all of that made me wonder if He could truly be delighted with such things.

Here’s where my really cool thought came in!

I started thinking about how I have some favorite movies that I watch over and over again.  One of my favorites, almost 100% of it, is “Enchanted”.  Another is a movie called, “Facing The Giants”.  I know what’s coming in those movies, but I *still* wait with anticipation for those favorite scenes and smile or cry or what-have-you when I see them–even for the 20th time!

I bet God is like that.  Only.  I think all His children’s lives are His “favorite” movies.  And I think each moment in our lives are delightful and special for Him.

I’m glad I didn’t let those hills deter me from today’s ride!  I might have missed out on that special thought if I had!

Vineyard Parable


Recently, while reading A Lifelong Love, I gleaned a new perspective on loving God’s way.  Here is the author, Gary Thomas’s definition: “True love is found in absolute benevolence, which is a state of the heart that is bent toward loving someone’s highest good, regardless of the person’s actions or character.  It is the disposition to do what is best for the other…to serve this person’s best interests.”

This new perspective has caused me to look at other things through a love-lens.

During this morning’s sermon at our church, the speaker used the passage from Matthew 20, verses 1-16.  Here it is in full for your own easy reference:

20 “For the kingdom of heaven is like a landowner who went out early in the morning to hire workers for his vineyard. After agreeing with the workers on one denarius for the day, he sent them into his vineyard.When he went out about nine in the morning, he saw others standing in the marketplace doing nothing. To those men he said, ‘You also go to my vineyard, and I’ll give you whatever is right.’ So off they went.About noon and at three, he went out again and did the same thing.Then about five he went and found others standing around, and said to them, ‘Why have you been standing here all day doing nothing?’

“‘Because no one hired us,’ they said to him.

“‘You also go to my vineyard,’ he told them. When evening came, the owner of the vineyard told his foreman, ‘Call the workers and give them their pay, starting with the last and ending with the first.’

“When those who were hired about five came, they each received one denarius. 10 So when the first ones came, they assumed they would get more, but they also received a denarius each. 11 When they received it, they began to complain to the landowner: 12 ‘These last men put in one hour, and you made them equal to us who bore the burden of the day and the burning heat!’

13 “He replied to one of them, ‘Friend, I’m doing you no wrong. Didn’t you agree with me on a denarius? 14 Take what’s yours and go. I want to give this last man the same as I gave you. 15 Don’t I have the right to do what I want with my business? Are you jealous because I’m generous?’

16 “So the last will be first, and the first last.”

The speaker applied the usual “lesson” from this parable: that it shows God’s grace and generosity.  But it struck me that it showed God’s love.

As the quote above from Gary Thomas says, the owner of the vineyard (representing God) loved those men’s highest good (giving them their daily bread), regardless of their actions or character. (standing around “all day doing nothing”!)

I think that is absolutely beautiful!  God’s love is amazing!  *GOD* is amazing!  I am so thankful He wants to be known, because He sure is delightful to know.

 

A Book Recommendation


I just finished reading A Lifelong Love by Gary Thomas.  This is the most excellent Christian self-help book I have ever read.  It is promoted as a book about marriage relationships and growing in intimacy, but, in my humble opinion, it is a book every Christian should read, married or not.

He argues, with Scripture-backing, that our most important need is not to BE loved, but to learn to love.  In the process of fleshing out his argument, he inspires the reader to surrender more fully to God and His ways.

I have the Kindle version of this book and wish I had a hard copy.  This is the kind of book I like to be able to underline and highlight in for quick reference over and over again.  I know Kindles are set up for that kind of thing, but my aged brain finds it hard to navigate electronic devices.

However, that didn’t stop me from making 119 notes in this book!  That is more than I have ever made in any other book–testimony to how good this one is.

This man has a heart for God that shines through in pretty much everything he says.

I used to highly recommend another book by him called Sacred Marriage.  But this one is going at the top of my list now.  This one deals a little more than Sacred Marriage did with abusive situations–leaving no question about how he feels about such things.  Here is one quote from him on that subject: “When we assume that God hates divorce more than He hates domestic violence, it shows how little we understand His passion for His daughters.”

He includes emotional abuse in his definition of “domestic violence”, too, as it should be!

Here are a few more quotes from his book that I found especially profound: “When you try to serve your own interests in marriage rather than the interests of Jesus, you are likely to find that your marriage is making you less holy and, I would argue, eventually less happy too.”

“If you want to overcome the natural limitations of your marriage, you need to believe in the supernatural power of God to change.  You need to have the attitude of being more than a conqueror.”

“If you are in a solitary marriage, you have to get this down–learn to shop every day at the farmer’s market of God’s provision.  So let’s tap into this divine resource.  We’re not alone in our marriages, even in our so-called solitary marriages.  There may not be two engaged humans, but there can be–with your initiation alone–two engaged parties: you and God.”

“True love is found in absolute benevolence, which is a state of the heart that is bent toward loving someone’s highest good, regardless of the person’s actions or character.”

He goes on to explain that in cases of abuse, it is “best for your husbands not to hit you; so if the only way you can stop them from doing that is to remove yourselves from their presence, that’s what you do.”

“The pursuit of a sacred marriage is the pursuit of God in marriage–seeking to experience His love (not our desire); His presence (not our happiness); His glory (not our selfishness).”

I’ll end with this one: “Some people talk of holiness as a burden to marriage–holiness is a burden to marriage as laughter is a burden to conversation or a loving caress is a burden to skin.”

The book is packed with wisdom and encouragement, but I’ll stop with those.  I hope that was enough to intrigue you to buy the book and read it for yourself.

Thank you, Gary Thomas, for writing this book and thank You, God, for laying it on his heart to do so!

What Is Your Name?


God’s Word has so much more going on in it that often escapes me, until some wise preacher shares the insights with me.  This time the wisdom came from Ravi Zacharias.

He was retelling the story about Jacob wrestling with God which you can read about in Genesis 32.  I’ve heard the story multiple times since I was a little child, but I never heard anyone make this connection before.

In verse 27 we read that God asked Jacob, “What is your name?”  Ravi points out that the last time someone had asked him that question, Jacob lied.  Years earlier, Jacob’s aged, blind, father was planning to give the blessing to his oldest son, Esau, as was the custom. But Jacob’s mother came up with a scheme to trick the ailing man into blessing the younger son, Jacob, instead. You can read about that story in Genesis 27.

Jacob went along with the scheme, which involved lying to his father after his father asked him who he was.

When God asked Jacob his name, I wonder if Jacob made the connection.  Nothing gets past God.

I also wonder *how* God asked Jacob that question.  I like to think it was with a twinkle in His eye.

My Two Cents


Reading through Oswald Chambers’ daily devotional, My Utmost for His Highest, I read this a few days ago: “Perseverance means more than endurance–more than simply holding on until the end.  A saint’s life is in the hands of God like a bow and arrow in the hands of an archer.  God is aiming at something the saint cannot see, but our Lord continues to stretch and strain, and every once in a while the saint says, ‘I can’t take anymore.’ Yet God pays no attention; He goes on stretching until His purpose is in sight, and then He lets the arrow fly.  Entrust yourself to God’s hands.”

I would amend his words just a little to say, “He goes on stretching, as long as the saint stays put, until His purpose is in sight.”  Many people bail during that stretching and straining process, missing out on what God had for them.

Also, Mr. Chambers says, “Yet God pays no attention.”  That really struck me the wrong way.  I don’t believe God doesn’t pay any attention.  I believe He sees our pain, but He knows it isn’t going to kill us.  In fact, He knows that once it is over, we will be very glad we hung in there.  It might seem like He doesn’t pay attention, but when the Bible tells us that He sees the sparrow that falls and He knows the hairs on our heads, that communicates to me that He is very aware of the details and His attention is on us.  When I read about His love and compassion in the gospels, I can not believe He “pays no attention”.  It might *seem* that way–*feel* that way–but things aren’t always what they seem and feelings can lie.

A little later he writes, “Disaster occurs in your life when you lack the mental composure that comes from establishing yourself on the eternal truth that God is holy love.  Faith is the supreme effort of your life–throwing yourself with abandon and total confidence upon God.”   Amen.  That I wholeheartedly agree with.

Pursuing Truth


The quest for truth is a treacherous journey, sometimes.   Who is trustworthy?  What can I trust?  Do my own senses always tell me the truth?  What can I rely on to be absolutely certain I am following the truth, rather than a lie?

My standard for spiritual truth is the Holy Bible.  But where can I go for a trustworthy standard for worldly truth?  Can I trust any news report?  Can I trust any one person?  Can I trust my feelings?

Here is how I answer these questions: Only God is trustworthy.  Everyone else needs to be questioned.  Only the Bible can be trusted.  It’s God’s Word.  Everything else should be questioned.  My own senses lie to me all the time!  No, there isn’t a spider crawling on my leg.  No, I’m not seeing a penguin in the middle of the road.  (It was a large snapping turtle and I was 6 years old!  Obviously I was missing some context and some facts!)  No, that wasn’t a jungle parrot I heard in the NH woods.

To a degree, facts, or rather, documentation of facts can be relied on to know the truth.  But even documentation can be fabricated/altered.  While I am in this human body, I don’t know that there is any way I can be absolutely certain I am following truth, instead of a lie, when it comes to worldly truth.

My answers to the next group of questions are these: There is no guaranteed source that I can rely on for worldly truth.  There is no news station or website or author that any of us can fully rely on to present us with 100% truth, 100% of the time.  Nor can I trust my senses.

I like the story I once heard of some blind men feeling an elephant.  As I recall (and I might be recalling incorrectly), it goes like this: One man had the tail, another had the trunk and another had a leg.  They were all arguing about what the thing was they were touching. One was sure it was a rope, another was sure it was a hose, the last was sure it was a tree. All of them lacked some crucial facts.

What about trusting our feelings?  I came across this today in a cute book I have been reading called, Feel Free To Laugh: Laughter and Lessons From Motherhood by Jordan Baker Watts: “There can be a problem, though, with feelings.  It’s far too easy for us to allow our feelings to color our perceived realities; in other words, I feel; therefore, it must be true.”

She continues on to quote John Piper: “My feelings are not God. God is God. My feelings do not define truth. God’s word defines truth. My feelings are echoes and responses to what my mind perceives. And sometimes – many times – my feelings are out of sync with the truth. When that happens – and it happens every day in some measure – I try not to bend the truth to justify my imperfect feelings, but rather, I plead with God: Purify my perceptions of your truth and transform my feelings so that they are in sync with the truth.”

It seems to me that people in our country are living by their feelings, rather than truth, and the double whammy is that they are letting others dictate their thoughts that fuel their feelings, rather than thinking for themselves and gathering facts.  I see many people speaking and acting out of fear, anger, or hate, fueled by sources other than truth.

This blog post is my attempt to put an end to some of it.

Somewhere over the decades I learned this useful bit: Consider the source.  Ask yourselves some questions:  Is this source 100% reliable?  Is this source bias?  Does this source have an agenda?  Is this source sharing facts that can be proven?  My findings with some of the biased sources are that they write articles based on supposition and/or assumptions.  Be discerning.  Don’t swallow everything you read or hear hook, line, and sinker.  Test it. Question it.  And if it can’t be proven one way or another, dismiss it.

And may we all do what we are able to do to help this world become a better place at this moment in time. *hug*

 

I Am A Pinky Toe


The older I get, the more I see how the devil distracts us in numerous ways.  One of his numerous ways is to get us looking at others and either feel proud that we are doing more than so-and-so or feel inadequate because we aren’t doing as much as so-and-so–or doing things in this way instead of that way.  And on and on it goes.

I’ve said before, in other posts, that we are like a mosaic of Jesus Christ and it takes differences in each of us to make up the various needed colors to complete this mosaic.  So, I’m not really saying anything new with this post.

But, just recently, I thought of two biblical examples that I wanted to throw into the mix. The first example I thought of comes from Revelation: “And the four living creatures, each of them with six wings, are full of eyes all around and within, and day and night they never cease to say, ‘Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord God Almighty, who was and is and is to come!'” (Chapter 4, verse 8)

It seems to me that those beings were created specifically for that purpose.  That is their only function.  They don’t seem to mind that that is all they do.  And it stands to reason that God is delighted in the fact that they are doing exactly what they were created to do, even though it is only that one thing; they aren’t out fighting battles like the arch angel Michael or delivering messages like Gabriel.  They aren’t Jacks of all trades!  They are masters of one!

The other example I thought of comes from the gospels.  This person is Anna-a widow who chose to live at the temple after the death of her husband and spend the rest of her life worshiping God with prayer and fasting.  (Luke 2:37 “and then as a widow until she was eighty-four. She did not depart from the temple, worshiping with fasting and prayer night and day.”)

Some people today would say, “Shame on her!  She’s not out feeding the hungry!  She’s not ministering to the poor!  She’s not evangelizing!” And on and on they’d go!

Maybe I am reading the passage incorrectly, but it sure sounds to me like she was being acclaimed for her choice and not ridiculed.

At one point in my life, I might have classified myself as a hand or a foot in the body of Christ.  I was diligently serving on the front lines, so to speak.  But in recent months, I have been sidelined.  I now see myself as a pinky toe.

There isn’t a whole lot of obvious need for a pinky toe.  And technically, a body can still exist without a pinky toe.  But while the pinky toe is attached to the body, it does serve a purpose–albeit minute.

That’s the function God has given me right now, and I’m learning to be quite content with that.  Discontent only starts in when I start getting distracted by all the parts of the body that are crying out to get me to function like they are functioning.

I’ve been practicing tuning them out.  But while I am tuning them out, I have been turning my complete focus to God.  Like a well-trained sheep dog, my eyes are fixed on Him and I am waiting for His next command.  My heart and my soul are devoted to Him.

Meanwhile, I am going to enjoy being a pinky toe.

1 Thessalonians 4:11 says, “Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before.”

 

A Child’s Understanding


“Mom! Mom!  This–Mom!”  Urgency could be heard in the child’s voice, but the mom kept chatting with another adult.

“Mom!  This door!” His voice ended again as his panic grew and he couldn’t formulate the words to inform his mother of the danger they both were facing.

The mom continued chatting, finishing her conversation.

Mom!  We’re trapped in here!  Mom!  I think we’re trapped!”  Great fear oozed out of every word!

At that point I hear the mother say, “I think we can figure this out, Bud.”  She calmly walks a few steps to join her son who is pushing on the wrong door at the Post Office–the door that only opens one way–the door that invites people into the Post Office, but doesn’t allow people to leave.

He hadn’t noticed the other door.

Perhaps if he hadn’t panicked–if he had taken a moment to collect his thoughts and study his surroundings, he might have saved himself that adrenaline rush.

Who knows what his next level of panic would have been if Mom hadn’t been there.

Thankfully, she was there.  And thankfully, he had the good sense to trust her with his problem and call out to her.

Who do you call out to when you believe you are trapped, or are in some other panic-infused situation?

God says, “Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known.”  Jeremiah 33:3