Mercy in a time of fear

I’ve been sorting out my responses to the crazy going on… it’s not like I’m not stressed, although coming down with Corona isn’t what fusses me.  It’s the other humans.

I have to admit, I have lacked grace.   I have let a lot of anger come into my heart and take up residence.

I don’t like it when the people around me aren’t chill.  I feel like I have to DO something to fix… when sometimes, that’s not my job.  I want us all to work together!  I want us all to be positive!  Let’s make the best of things and help each other!    Rah!

-puts down her pompoms-

But the folks who don’t have hope – those folks aren’t cooperating.   They’re sitting in fear, feeding it.   No amount of pompoms and positivity is going to change how someone whose hope is in this life feels when mortality knocks on the door.

I’ve been letting other people set my emotional tenor.  My reactions to other people’s reactions.

I’m not going to beat myself up – in the flesh – because it is natural that my flesh responds like this.  It is natural to pick up the vibe when you’re in a crowd (well, not in a crowd, in the grocery store separated by blue tape on the ground).   That’s flesh.   Okay.  That’s MY flesh.  -deep breath-  But from where should my attitude – and my actions – originate?   Not my flesh.  Not MY strength.   God.

I’m going to have to lean very very heavily on Him to get through this with mercy.    To speak, act, and THINK  with grace.

It’s time to give up doing on my own strength, holding on to my own ability to self-control, and turn myself over to God.  That’s my self-control now – controlling my thoughts enough to say, “God’s ways, not my ways” and asking for His perspective.

I’m not going to do it on my strength, and I’m not going to try to grit my teeth and force it.  I know where I stand – and I’m angry.   I’m hurt.  That’s as it is.   I can’t fix me, but God can.  I choose to let Him do what He will.

Ecclesiastes 7: 9-10 Do not be eager in your heart to be angry,
For anger resides in the bosom of fools.
Do not say, “Why is it that the former days were better than these?”
For it is not from wisdom that you ask about this.

We’ve been put here for such a time as this.   Time to play the cards we’re dealt.

Book Review: Social – Why Our Brains are Wired to Connect

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“Why do we do what we do?  What are humans hungry for?  Why?”   Lieberman wrote a book taking a physiological tack at the human problem.   What is this social urge?  Where does it come from?  What makes our brains do the things they do?  He did testing with MRI machines and looked at which parts of the brain lit up for various events.

Lots of items of interest in this book!   I picked up any number of great nuggets of information, including the fact that, “Our brains evolved to experience threats to our social connection in much the same way they experience physical pain”, as well as confirming other reading I’d done about the approximate maximum size a person’s friend group is (150 – not much different than Aristotle would tell you).   It’s INTERESTING how much of our energy we put into other humans, and how profound our need is for other people.

Reading fiction and avoiding botox is good for your social IQ, and a mirror can help you with your efforts in self-control.   Change in your personal income doesn’t actually make you happier.   Watching people makes you better at figuring them out, which makes you better at life.    Some very interesting observations about the autistic community.

So what have we learned thus far?   PEOPLE ARE IMPORTANT.  Community is important, incredibly important.   But what do we do about that?  Hmmm… well, first one identifies the problem, then one works on solving the problem.   That’s not what this book is for, although it did have some interesting things to say on theories of education.  (Teach them WHY and WHAT will follow – this is true for me, I do much better if you tell me “why”).

Having given Bowling Alone five stars, this book gets four.   It didn’t go in depth as much as I’d have liked on the results of the tests, preferring discussion of the brain itself.   There were any number of paragraphs and pages that could have been twice the length they were!  Not bad info, just… hello – can you expand on that a bit please?

Would you be interested in this book?   If you’re interested in the info nuggets, yes.  I think if you were just there for the nuggets, you could easily skim the other 1/2 the book about the way the testing was set up and which bits of the brain did what.  Grab it from the library sometime if you’re bored.

Book Review: Bowling Alone

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20 years late to the party is better than never….

It’s the habit of most of my readers and friends online to discuss the whys and wherefores of community involvement, religious involvement, and “how did we get into the mess we’re in”.   This book looks at the correlative and causative factors in the demise of community involvement (from politics to religion to the Lion’s club) and gives some theories about what we might do about it, now that we’re here.

A short quote to sum things up:

“To predict whether I am likely to give time, money, blood, or even a minor favor, you need to know, above all, how active I am in community life and how strong my ties to family, friends, and neighbors are.”  (p. 120-121)

In other words, being a member of the Bumble Bee Association makes you more likely to vote or pick up trash – even those things have nothing to do with the Bumble Bee Association – at least, it does if you have to go meet with the other association members, not just cut a check and put it in the mail.    It’s extremely good for your children – and the other children in the neighborhood:

“Statistically, the correlation between high social capital and positive child development is as close to perfect as social scientists ever find in data analyses of this sort”.  (p. 296-97).   Correlation is not causation – but if you have that strong a correlation, it’s certainly worth sitting with!

Having social capital is a strong predictor of your income, your happiness, and your health.   Yes, joining a club is good for your health!  VERY good for your health.  Disturbingly so.

“Statistically speaking, the evidence for the health consequences of social connectedness is as strong today as was the evidence for the health consequences of smoking at the time of the first surgeon-general’s report on smoking”  (p. 327)

It’s not surprising that social capital benefits society.    It did surprise me how far the tendrils creep.  It surprises me further that this isn’t being trumpeted – perhaps that’s because the three things that seem to have the strongest correlation with a reduction in social capital were:  1) Watching TV as your major source of entertainment* 2) Increased commute times (even by as much as 10 minutes) and 3) Living in major urban areas (at least outside of close-knit neighborhoods, which have – to be fair – largely disappeared anyway).  Women working outside the home was somewhat correlative, but not causative – PT working moms were the most involved, more so than fully SAHM or WOHM, both of whom saw equal rates of decline in social connectedness.

That might be cause for some behavior change – if we took the information seriously.   You can’t do this alone – you can’t make social capital by yourself.  But you can take advantage of what appears, and you can encourage others to do so. .. Can you not?

The book itself was 400+ pages of social research with charts and discussion.  As a sociology nerd, I enjoyed it but it was …. long.   I recommend it to those prepared to do the work.   Or even those prepared to scan and snag ideas.   To those looking for a fun read?  Nah.

Data is always good.   Has anyone else read this?  I know I’m really late to the party.   What did you get out of it?

 

 

*This would, I should think 20 years later, include watching Youtube videos online or gaming as your major source of entertainment…. but I don’t have data.  In June, an update with a chapter about the internet will be available.

 

Book Review: The Knowledge of the Holy

The Knowledge of the Holy, by A.W. Tozer, belongs on every Christian’s bookshelf.   It’s a very short book, less than 150 pages, but it is dense.   The book is about the nature and attributes of God, and Tozer makes the excellent point that we spend too much time thinking about how God affects us, and not nearly enough time thinking about God Himself.

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Some excerpts:

p. 78 “If He is unchanging, it follows that He could not be unfaithful, since that would require Him to change.”

p. 18 “Secularism, materialism, and the intrusive presence of things have put out the light in our souls and turned us into a generation of zombies.  We cover our deep ignorance with words, but we are ashamed to wonder, we are afraid to whisper, ‘mystery’.”

p. 69 “God is spirit, and to Him magnitude, distance have no meaning”.

In other words, it’s clear thinking about God.   The author starts out by saying that he is standing on the shoulders of giants, and bemoaning the Modern’s lack of interest in chewing their way through Anselm and Aquinas.   Fair enough, I’ve been lectured thoroughly on my lack of reading classical theology and philosophy quite a bit of late, and as I dip in, it is all pleasure to do so.

But the reader should take note – this may be a much shorter (and perhaps easier to read) work than that of Aquinas, but it is by no means an “easy” work to encompass.   I took notes, and I’m glad that I did.  This is a book that rewards a thorough chew, and would reward many a re-read to fully digest.

Five stars, if we’re keeping track of that sort of thing… if you haven’t read this, and you’re serious about your Christian faith, you should do so.

The Pain of Duration is not a Failure of Faith

Not a long post.  Just a rush of brains to the head…

I’m very good at beating myself up.   I’ve been waiting for some stuff to come down the pike for years.   Even as I see things lining up (finally!) the duration *still sucks*.  And I was blaming myself for a lack of faith.

But it’s NOT a lack of faith.  It’s a plain statement that walking through the distance from point A to point B is not fun.  It’s that feeling you get that the workout will NEVER end, and that you’re not going to finish this mile.  You *know* you can run a mile, and you’re not planning on quitting, but you’re at the end of your strength and it sucks and you don’t want to be in this moment…

As for other self-flagellation, gilded cages are still cages.   It is possible to appreciate the place one is in while simultaneously wanting something other.

Spiritual Gifts: Why?

I’m writing about this to sort out my own thoughts, to leave this here for anyone who needs it, and to open a discussion on this with my dear friend  over at Dark Brightness who is still in a cessationist church.

I grew up in a cessationist church.   We didn’t discuss the spiritual gifts much, if at all.   When I moved to my current church, the spiritual gifts were taken for granted, but because we’re a very orderly church, unless you went to certain services, the more supernatural gifts weren’t on display.   But you were encouraged to figure out what yours were, and gradually I met people who had the more … interesting… gifts.

It was comfortable to do the tests and say, “I have the gift of counsel!  I have the gift of organization!” – they aren’t very woo-woo.   Pretty normal, everyday “things I’m good at”, really…   But any life that is truly alive grows and changes, does it not?  And you *are* exhorted to ask for more gifts, more of what the Spirit wants to see in you.   We are supposed to be walking the path of sanctification, not sitting in the pews of complacency.

1 Corinthians 14: 39 Therefore, my brethren, desire earnestly to prophesy, and do not forbid to speak in tongues.

And eventually… something pops up that can’t be explained by natural means.  And then you have to deal with that.

“Dealing with that” isn’t a simple matter.  *Would that it were*.    There are charlatans to the skies, and I neither wish to be deceived by one of them nor do I want to become one.  God forbid.  Literally.   I am HORRIFIED by the idea that I might be out of sync with God.

What I learned from the folks who have the more supernatural gifts, back when I was just talking to them, is that, one and all, they were uncomfortable with sharing them – especially at first, and most especially with strangers.   (First test:  Is the person who is talking to you brash and overconfident?  Fishy).   And I heard them say that the experience was that you would get an assignment from God, and usually you’d argue until it didn’t get done… about that time, you’d see someone else step forward to do what you’d refused to do.   And OF COURSE I thought, “well, I’d not do that!”

Until I did… until it was my turn to have a Word for someone and (since it was God’s word, *not* mine, and I didn’t know anything whatsoever about what I was called to say, I didn’t want to say it – especially not to a stranger I happened to be praying with) I argued in my head for a couple of minutes and the woman sitting two places down from me opened her mouth and gave that word.  The Word I was supposed to give.    And then the shame comes – I was commanded, and I disobeyed.

But you still have to DEAL with the mess that is this fallen world.   Words (and other supernatural gifts) can come from God – or they can come from the enemy (read your Bible – he does have power).   Words can also come from one’s own fevered imagination and not be supernatural at all.    Of course one’s commitment is always and ever to follow Christ, but how do you KNOW when it’s God, and when it’s not???

I’m very much still working this out (please leave any input), but I have hints:

  1. Did I go looking in the crystal ball?   Highly Fishy – and the “crystal ball” is metaphorical here.   God’s Words come from Him, not me trying to sort something out – except when I ask and get an answer much later.  They’re also not MY answers – they come from Him, not me.
  2. Did I get a date/time?  At least for me, super fishy.
  3. Anyone who acts like a medium between you and God can go jump in a lake.
  4. Would I *really rather not* but I’m feeling pressured, and it’s outside my comfort zone?   Ah, that sounds more likely…

So why, with all the effort and headache of discerning truth from falsehood, what’s the point of the more supernatural spiritual gifts?  Why do we have them, and why do we have them today?

  1. I think it is good for us to be reminded that we serve a God of miracles, to be reminded that this bread-and-porridge world is not all that there is.   That yes, our lives can – and will – be interrupted by the miraculous, and we should open our eyes.  This keeps us humble and awestruck.  “My help is from the Lord”.   I, at least, need frequent reminding that I am NOT supposed to be doing this life thing on my own (entirely natural) strength – and that I CAN and SHOULD ask (and expect) help on the daily.    The attitude that “God’s got this” is helped along when you see His -unmistakable – hand.
  2. Encouragement.   A little bit of “God hasn’t forgotten you” can go a long way when you’re in a desert place.  Even knowing that it can happen to someone you know is very encouraging.   A close relative has been granted miraculous relief from some things that should be quite painful, and is developing Healing as a gift.  Praise God!
  3. Confirmation.  “I’ve been praying on this, and reading my Bible and I think this is what’s going on but… Oh Hi Susie, what?  Oh.  Wow, yeah, that’s helpful!  Thank you”.  (I’ve heard many the time that people can hear God well enough on their own.  I sure hope so!  But see the list above – sometimes you’re pounding hard on something and you can really use a backup to your own research – or am I the only one who questions herself constantly?)

Now if all this hasn’t been sufficiently clear – TEST THE SPIRITS.   Test, test, test.   Go through all of my tests and test again with your own.   Do *not* just accept what anyone says to you or does for you or..  But having tested – let God be God, and accept that He gives gifts as He will.

It sure does look like things on this planet are about to get “interesting”.   I think we’re going to need all the gifts, active and working, to get through.   Not just the “gift of service” that unflinchingly cleans the church bathroom for 20 years – but the stuff that looks right weird to the outside world.

Anyway.   I am dealing with this, and it’s not especially comfortable, but I figure God’s got a reason for what God does.  I’d love to hear how you’re dealing with your own walk and your own giftings.

I don’t do vision boards

I have it on excellent authority that they’re more New Agey than is appropriate for a Christian to be messing about with.  I asked a witch.   She was gobsmacked to think Christians were doing that, the whole “setting intentions” thing.  It’s pretty close to what she does to cast spells.   The idea that pasting up pictures can change your reality is … uh, yeah.  It’s not Biblical, kthx.

Now, I don’t mind a good New Year’s resolution.  After all, what can we change?  Ourselves!   Goals, desires, hopes… all good.

I even like vision.  I mean, I have a vision… everyone has a vision.  But to put it on paper and then stare at it and focus, it feels kinda idoly to me, y’know?  Or, again, spelly.

I feel left out though.  Everyone’s doing it!  That’s how you get where you’re going!

Unless… you don’t.

1 Corinthians 3:19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness before God. For it is written, “He is the one who catches the wise in their craftiness

I am in this super weird space where I have total confidence in God’s plans for this year.   GOOD STUFF COMING.   But I don’t know exactly where.  I definitely don’t know when.   The flesh would like an explanation, and the spirit isn’t giving one.

Goals are the awesome.   But for 2020?  I have dreams, entrusted to God.

I’m  not going to put those dreams on paper, though a few minutes on my pinterest would give you a hearty clue.   I choose not to do that.   I don’t want to cast a spell.  I don’t want to “create a vision”.   I rejoice in trusting my future to God.  I’m excited about what He has for me (us) next.   And I think that He has something better than I can imagine – so why limit Him?

It feels weird to not have the structure.    But maybe “weird” is exactly where I need to be….