Monthly Archives: July 2013

Blooming on the Briar

Hebrews 11:13-16 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city.

We are citizens of this far land… and we must help one another along the way. Being wrapped in flesh tents, it is too easy to stay locked in the concerns of the flesh. Exhortation has a purpose!

Hebrews 10:22-25 Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;) And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Much of the point of my writing is found in Hebrews 10:24 (which I offer here in context). “provoke unto love and to good works”. One Christian, holding themselves to a lifestyle of love and goodness, that Christian is a solitary rose in a briar hedge. Achingly beautiful, more so for the contrast… but from a distance, hard to see. A dozen Christians, each blooming where they are planted? Better. A dozen groups of Christians? Better yet.

We all want to return to a time when the hedges were covered with roses. Flowers and fruit in abundance, with thorns only occasionally. (Was there ever such a time?) Even if the time before was not as perfect as we imagine it, this time is very dark. No one argues *that*. It takes so little light to show up in the darkest night. Even our smallest offering can bless those around us. In a time when the spiritual landscape looks like one of those post-apocalyptic video games, every one of us makes a difference. Every move towards love, towards beauty. I exhort you, my siblings, bloom! Even if your blooms are less than perfect, they’re better than briars.

Remember – this flesh, this earth, this is as close to Hell as you’ll ever come. Embrace your future, your eternity, and act like a citizen of that far country, obeying your true Master with your heart, not just your hands.

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The odor of a faraway land…

In my proposal that we embrace our citizenship in another Land, I am suggesting that we bring the odor of that land with us so long as we live in this one. In dancing to the music of a far-off land, perhaps we can create a curiosity that will draw others into the Wedding Party.

“In speaking of this desire for our own faroff country, which we find in ourselves even now, I feel a certain shyness. I am almost committing an indecency. I am trying to rip open the inconsolable secret in each one of you—the secret which hurts so much that you take your revenge on it by calling it names like Nostalgia and Romanticism and Adolescence; the secret also which pierces with such sweetness that when, in very intimate conversation, the mention of it becomes imminent, we grow awkward and affect to laugh at ourselves; the secret we cannot hide and cannot tell, though we desire to do both. We cannot tell it because it is a desire for something that has never actually appeared in our experience. We cannot hide it because our experience is constantly suggesting it, and we betray ourselves like lovers at the mention of a name. Our commonest expedient is to call it beauty and behave as if that had settled the matter. Wordsworth’s expedient was to identify it with certain moments in his own past. But all this is a cheat. If Wordsworth had gone back to those moments in the past, he would not have found the thing itself, but only the reminder of it; what he remembered would turn out to be itself a remembering. The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Weight of Glory

Worldlings use Niceness and Coolness to create a sense of unworldliness. We’ve established that both of those states of being aren’t open to the Christian, so may I suggest a few things we can do?

1) Pay attention to the moment that you’re in. Eternity is most reflected in the Now than in any other time. You, as an immortal, have less concern for what happens in 100 years or even in 5 than those condemned to live no closer to Heaven than this mortal coil. You’ll live to watch the Sun flicker out… but what you do with this moment will resonate in eternity. Be now.

2) Delight in what is on your plate, should your moment be anything but misery. Accept what you have been given as a gift, and enjoy it to the fullest. You don’t have to be shy, you are beloved and can rest in that truth. Be known for your laughter, your smile, your ability to take the good from any situation. “Pollyanna”? That’s a compliment for such as we.

3) Rejoice. Rejoice at all times.

4) Reflect beauty. Care about it and let it live in you. Love is so beautiful… let the light of love shine from your every pore.

5) Diligence. Whatever your work, do it with all your might. Be known for your care.

6) Kindness and love. Be known for your consideration for others over yourself. Remember that your future is secure. Be an ambassador for your King, who is Love itself.

When I was a girl, there were a few elderly ladies in my home congregation that glowed with Holy Light. It wasn’t their skin, it was a near-visible presence about them of Goodness. That is what I want for myself. That is what I want for all of us, dear sibling.

To get out of the way and let His Light shine through us, to let that blessed scent of Paradise waft from the corners of our clothes as we pass by, that’s what will bring the lost Home. And what else have we to do?

The time is so short. So short. We must allow ourselves to be transformed *today*, not waiting for the weight of years to sand off our selves. Leave our baggage behind, and dance to the music that we have been given, create an appetite for those far shores in those around us.

You’re an ambassador of Christ. How should you represent your King and your Country?

Heretics Unite

I originally posted this at TC http://traditionalchristianity.wordpress.com/2013/04/01/heretics-unite/

I thought it went well with the post about Coolness. https://hearthtobelovely.wordpress.com/2013/07/26/christianity-is-inherently-uncool/
…….
John 18:38 Pilate said to Him, “What is truth?”

Welcome to the new society of heretics, circa 2013. The new religion is Niceness, and those of us who dare to question will be shunned.

The tenets of Niceness (a partial list):
•Everything will work out in the end somehow. (This divides into the Eastern Nice and Western Nice – the Eastern Nice believe that we’ll get another go at life, the Western Nice believe that we all go to a Nice place after we die).
•Everyone who is basically Nice – which is very nearly everyone – should be encouraged to do whatever-it-is they wish to do, so long as it doesn’t physically harm anyone else. (“Anyone” is somewhat fluidly defined. See: denominational differences).
• Those who aren’t Nice probably had a poor upbringing, and should simply be reeducated about Niceness, after which they will surely be more Nice than they were.
•Truth is relative. I have my truth, you have your truth, and as long as our respective truths please us, we should keep them.
•You should be Nice to the Earth and the animals too. (Denominational differences apply).
•People who question Niceness and have been educated about Niceness are Mean. Means should be scolded or shunned until they give up being Mean and learn to be Nice. (Pretending to be Nice is of course Nice – so long as you keep your mouth closed on disagreement, you’re Nice).

Until you recognize that the dominant religion in Western society is Niceness, you will end up in baffling conversations where people tell you that, “your religion seems to work for you, and that’s Nice, but it doesn’t work for me, so you shouldn’t bother me with it”. These people will also get very upset at you if you insist that Truth is objectively verifiable, and by definition, isn’t relative. (Relative truth is what Means call “opinion”).

Members of the Niceness religion will also get terribly upset at you if you say that there are right things and wrong things to do with your time, and that this matters after you’re dead. Remember, one of the central tenets of the Niceness religion is that “it all works out” – disagreeing with this is extremely Mean.

Some members of the Niceness religion confuse the issue a great deal by calling themselves by the name of older religions such as Christianity. Beware!

Means find other Means of different denominations much easier to communicate with – belief in objective Truth enables them to have disagreements that are meaningful. This may occasionally escalate, which gives the Nice ammunition. The Nice are, of course, very offended by the Means’ insistence that these things matter, and concentrate primarily on the social discord caused by the various Means arguing amongst themselves. Discord isn’t Nice.

Welcome to the land of the heretics, my dear Mean friends. This changes everything.

Christianity is Inherently Uncool

“Coolness” is a difficult state of being to tie down, but a certain not-caring, an ease, a been there, done that, attitude are part of it. “Cool” does not follow, “Cool” sometimes leads, but generally Cool hangs out being fabulous. Cool is definitely not on fire! When I think of “Cool”, I think of Fonzie on Happy Days. Someone who has the aspects of a leader without assuming the responsibilities. Someone admired for their detachment from the dominant social matrix. We all want to be “Cool”, don’t we? Effortlessly in-style, self-confident, self-assured, never taken by surprise, never overcome by anything. Cool has seen it all, done it all, and excelled in every bit of it. The World’s Most Fascinating Man? Extremely Cool.

But I am a Christian, and Christianity is not Cool. I am enjoined to treat the God of the universe with awe, wonder and fear. I am required to obey various levels of earthly authority* with careful thoroughness and good cheer. Obedience to authority? Sooo not Cool. Next you’re going to tell me that Christians are told to ask for things and be thankful and rejoice in what they’re given. (Uh oh). I’m also supposed to be diligent in my work and to be humble, giving the glory to God alone.

Worldlings, at least the Western versions, have been striving for Cool for the last fifty years at least. We, as Christians, need to separate ourselves from this paradigm. Instead of Cool, may I suggest Unearthly? After all, this Earth is not our home. This isn’t our final destination. Like travelers to another land, we can enjoy the sights and the hotels. We should do our best to live how we ought in this foreign land. But we will go Home someday. However long our stay, however pleasant, someday the ship will sail – and we’ll not even take the clothes on our backs.

Let us each strive to be ambassadors from that foreign land. Into this world, which has become a cesspool, we can bring Light and the faint fragrance of Paradise. Laughing, working, stopping and staring at the moon or a blossom or a baby’s face… walking through life without masks but with an overabundance of joy, we can remind the World that there are immortals** in their midst.

*insofar as they don’t violate the prime directive: obedience to God
** Yes, everyone is immortal, but some of us are going to enjoy it.

Testimony (partial)

I have an odd testimony. 

On the one hand, I was saved at four.  At six, God called me to be baptized (the first and only time I’ve ever walked up the aisle in a lifetime of emotional altar calls – imagine a shy six-year-old walking up the aisle in a 300 person church… it was God, not me).  At twelvish or so, God started calling me to surrender my whole life, and I wouldn’t.  I was hoping for boys, and all the things you can do with boys if you’re not surrendered to God.  Yes.  At 12.  God eventually stopped pestering me about surrender, He just waited until I was ready to say, “Okay God.  I’ve completely screwed up.  Here’s the keys to my life.  You drive”.  I was 30ish at that point? 

I’ve always been the “good girl” – at least on the surface.  That’s why you’ll see so much difference made between being nice and being holy.  I don’t like conflict, and I do like approval, and I’m a fairly quiet soul.  It was easy to be Miss Goody Two-Shoes.  But that wasn’t who I was in my heart.  At about the point I refused to obey God’s call to surrender, what I really wanted with all my heart and soul was to be married.  Golly, I spent hours every day fantasizing about being married.  Thinking up ways I could be married at 15 or 16, instead of having to (horrors!) wait until 18. 

I knew that that daydream wouldn’t go down well with anyone, and I kept it to myself.  It became an idol.  One day, a tall boy came into my life and found me pretty – it didn’t take long to make *him* my idol.  I’d have knelt at his feet and begged for a touch of his hand – if he’d let me.  (He didn’t).   What I wanted more than breath and life was to mark him *mine*. 

At the same time, I was getting on with the stuff everyone wanted me to do.  No skin off my back, I was good at school.  I knew I “had to” do school in order to get what I wanted out of life.  “Had to” jump through these hoops to get the ring.  (Literally). 

We married young (yes, I married that tall boy), shortly after I finished jumping through all the hoops.  (I have a BA, which I’ve never used.  All I wanted was to jump through the hoops as easily as possible). 

I found myself in possession of everything I’d idolized.  You know what?  Idols are  PROBLEM.  They’re a problem when you get them as much as when you chase them!  It’s not that marriage or my husband are bad… it’s that I wanted him more than I wanted God.  All the while acting like a good little Christian girl.   Go to church, memorize verses, listen to good sermons, learn about the Bible… and live for my passions.

It took time and tears to get right.   Lots of time, lots of tears.  *Lots* of tears.

I used to be a gummybear person, chasing an idol.  Now I’m a daughter of the King, and I know what’s truly precious.  And now I don’t have to hide what I really want out of life, because what I really want out of life is to please Him.  (Although a greenhouse and a craftsman home in Idaho wouldn’t be snorted at – lol).  (Hey, still in this mortal coil!)

Order of Operations

The paradigm in Christendom for the past thousand years has been to make folks have a “Christian” life on the outside in order to encourage them to accept Christ on the inside. I’m going to be silent on the efficacy of that approach – I’m not God, and He’s the judge. However, excepting a brave few, I believe that the time for trying to arrange the world at large in a “Christian” fashion is over.

Yes, the world would be better off if it followed either the Law of Moses or the commands in the New Testament. Hello, God wrote those laws – of course they’re good. God is good. He tells us to do things for our best. Planet Earth would be a lot nicer if we followed the rules. Duh. But if we aren’t to try to make this world follow the Law, what are we to do?

What we must do is call people to a knowledge of Christ, to be saved. First saved, then sanctified. First we get you out of the muckpit, then we’ll talk about modesty and humility.

How do we do that? I’m not a great evangelist. I wish I were. I’m not a great apologist. I’ve been saved too long. But I have a theory. I think we have to stop pretending to be just like the Worldlings next door, just “nicer”. We’re quite often not so much nicer anyway. They’ve gotten a bit tired of being told that we are. And if *we* are, our sibling in the town over is kind of a jerk. But Christianity isn’t about being “nice”. Christianity is about utter transformation and total surrender.

We have to surrender to the transformation that God wants to make in each one of us. We have to give over ourselves and let Him shine out from our eyes. We have to understand that our strength isn’t the strength of our arms or our morals or our pasts. Our strength is the strength of God, or it’s nothing. What does the Scripture say? That our righteousness, done in our own strength, is filthy rags.

I am tired of talking to Christians the way I’d talk to Worldlings. Siblings, you aren’t limited by your temporal power. At any moment, you can ask the Creator of the universe to intervene on your behalf. He might choose not to – but if you don’t ask? Your chances go way down. * You’re not even mortals anymore! Why are you acting like this pitiful life is the only one you get? Heaven is real, and we’re headed Home! This is but a moment. We have eternity! This is *very* good news. This is, in fact, a good portion of the good news that we’re supposed to be proclaiming to the World. “Our Lord has taken your punishment, and He welcomes you into His family – if you accept His grace. He died. He rose again. For you. And you can join Him in paradise forever. Put your faith in Him”.

I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy the moment – in fact, in future essays, you’ll see that’s the very opposite of what I’m advocating. Wonder is a Christian emotion. Joy is a command. But – grabbing, holding, trying to get the “best” from this life? That’s not what this life is for! This live is for works. This life is to get the Word out to our potential siblings. This life is to show the World what God is doing, has done, with our lives.

We must be transformed. We must shine. We must put off these chains, because we have been freed.

We must, MUST, make the World wonder at what might be going on inside of us. Love us or hate us – and if you’ve read 1 Peter, you know the latter is more likely, at least at first. But wonder. We must let our old selves die, that the selves that Christ died to give us can live and shine.

Let His Light shine.

*If anyone thinks I’m advocating a prosperity gospel, know that I find the very though abhorrent. Having access to the Throne doesn’t mean I get a Mercedes. I’m a child, I’m not in charge.