Monthly Archives: October 2013


I was reading Esther today and I saw something that dovetails with the parable of the talents.  

We’ve all been through the bit where Esther was put in the position as Queen of Persia in order to save the Jews… but do you remember that she was *terrified*?   She was terrified to use her talents to serve God.  If she messed up, the consequences would be swift and heavy – and she hadn’t asked for the talents she’d been given, or the position she’d ended up in because of those talents.

She made the choice to use what she’d been given (her beauty and her charm).  It worked out.  

All our talents are like that, you know.  It’s not just the talents we think of, intellectual or physical.  Who made your face?  I surely didn’t make mine.  I like my face.  I guess I can say that because my face is pretty near a copy of my maternal grandmother’s face.  Different crayons, she was a fair blonde.  But … same features.  Do I get to take credit for something I didn’t make?  Nope.  Should I use what has been given to me by God for good?  Yes, yes I should.

That means that the extra goodies you get because you’re pretty – stop feeling guilty about it.  You didn’t make your face.  But how about you use pretty for something useful?  Smile at the old man who doesn’t get smiled at.  Pass a word with the guy in the corner.  You can do this stuff with perfect propriety as a married lady – keep your spine straight, that’s the main thing.

We have all sorts of talents.  How are we using them for God?

Guilt and Redemption

Matthew 6:31-34 Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek:) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Repentance has been defined as turning 180 degrees and walking away from whatever is being repented from. Christianity is based on our faith in Jesus’ grace… but our conversion is demonstrated by our repentance, our turning away from went before. We have been redeemed from our sins, from who we used to be.

I find that sometimes Biblical Christians can get really wrapped up in our old sins, endlessly rehashing the evil that we’ve done. There’s a place for that, and a time. We do need to process our sins and understand why we fell, what weaknesses have been revealed and need bouying up. But after that? Well, get back in the fight! It’s like a solider who was dealt a nasty blow on the battlefield, first he repairs his armor, then he figures out what weaknesses in his fighting style allowed the blow to land, and then he gets back out there.

Sometimes we forget that last step, and we let fear control our actions – or lack thereof. We let guilt control us.

One of the reasons that Christians who have come to their conversions later in life, particularly those with “interesting” lives, are so joyous is that they viscerally understand the weight that’s been lifted off their shoulders. They no longer bear their guilt, they’re done with that! They can inhabit the new person that Jesus has made them into. Why do we, who were cradle Christians, forget that the same thing applies to us?

Is it because we have too many hypocritical pseudo siblings who don’t repent, who just wallow in sin and say that everything’s covered by grace so why worry? Do we concentrate on these things so that we don’t forget that we will reap what we have sown? Are we trying to make absolutely sure that we don’t try to wiggle out of responsibility for reparations as necessary?

I’m not sure. None of those things are bad, but what happens is we end up fiddling endlessly with the old stain on our conscience, completely ignoring today’s problems, today’s duties. We don’t take the lessons of past evil and figure out how not to repeat them, we lock ourselves in a closet and stare at them. I find, personally, that when I do that, I block whatever God wants to talk to me about my sin *today*. Oops.

And this should not be. There is a lot of work to be done, right here, right now. There is someone you should be witnessing to – right now. There is someone you should befriend – today. There are phone calls to be made, emails to be sent, life-stuff to *do*. Yes. I’ve failed when I’ve stood up for Christ, and of all the evil I’ve done, the evil I’ve done with my Christian t-shirt on grieves me most. But if I decide that because I’ve failed once, I can never get up, never get on with it, ever again – I fail forever. Once again, I hide my talent in the dirt. Investments are rarely straight lines up and up and up… or am I missing something? There is always an element of risk.

We *should* strive to be perfect, but in our striving, we cannot forget that we are not yet made new. Another thing to remember is that we are children of God, daughters of the King, and we don’t have to do this on our own. Strength and help are there for the asking. We’re supposed to be asking!

Each day, its own problem. I think that works for the past just as much as it does for the future. So take care of what’s on your plate *today*. Learn from yesterday, hope for tomorrow, get on with it today.

B-I-B-L-E, yes that’s the book for me….

Ahem. I’m still talking to the folks who have been Christians for a while.

You’re up on your Bible, yes? I mean, you’ve read it through, at least once – even the boring* bits, right? You have some idea about what the usual metaphors mean, and you can look things up in a concordance, you know how to study, you’ve gone through some of the more popular books? YES? Because I really don’t want to hear that you’re a Biblical Christian who’s been in the family for a decade or more… and you don’t have that down. No excuses. Start *now* if you’re not up to speed.

It’s **embarrassing** when worldlings know more about our Holy Book than we do. Sure, the family quarrels about what some of the bits mean, and how literally to interpret things – but I’ll tell ya what. Most of the really Biblical Christians I know, from *whatever* brand name? They all agree that it’s important… and they tend to agree, more or less, about what it’s saying.

Learn your Bible.

Listen to some Bible studies. I’m personally fond of Dr. McGee for beginners – he’s been on the radio for decades (he’s been *dead* for decades, he’s still on the radio) for a reason. Good, solid, basic truth. I’ve got a few other favorites. Hey, my own preacher has multiple books of the Bible on the web (see tab at the top for “come to church with me” surf around, you’ll find ’em). It’s not like the study materials aren’t out there. Esword is a free download – KJV complete with the Greek if you want it. Resources? We got ’em. Excuses? None to be found. Stick the studies on while you do the dishes or sweep the floors. (That’s how I console myself when scrubbing the kitchen).

When someone unchurched comes and asks us (and it does happen) “What do you believe about X?” we have to have an answer for them. Citing chapter and verse is preferable! There’s so much garbage out there. I had a friend tell me that she’d heard that the NT didn’t say anything about homosexuality. -blink- Uh, no. So I spent an hour, gave her two pages of chapter and verse, with the Greek. Has she changed her mind? Nope. But she knows what the Bible says – and what it doesn’t. People respect this. People respect it when you know what you believe and why you believe it.

We can’t afford to be drifters, saying that we’re Christians and just being Christians because our parents were, just because that’s what nice people are, and what nice people do. Our religion is based on truth. Our “religion” is a relationship with a living God! That’s mindboggling. We need to boggle some minds, family. We need to know our stuff, and be ready to have an answer….

*technically none of the Bible should be boring. I’ve heard that the more you know, the more fascinating it becomes. That every chapter has Jesus in it. I’m down with that, and I’ve seen some of it play out in my habit of reading it constantly… Joab was David’s nephew, which is probably how he got away with all the hijinks. Thank you, bloodlines. But let’s just say there are places that are a bit slow to our flesh. At first. So what? It’s all Holy, all written by God, therefore it’s all important.

The starting point

Galatians 3:24-5 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

No one who is not an idiot goes to school, graduates and then deliberately forgets everything that they learned in school. Did you stop reading, stop doing math, stop writing, the day after you graduated? No. But you no longer had to do schoolwork, and you no longer sat around comparing your test scores. Because you’d graduated. Now you’re supposed to be using the knowledge you acquired during your school sessions.

So is it with the Law and the Christian. I don’t think this just means the OT law. It’s not like we can meet the requirements of the NT law, it’s that we’re supposed to keep trying, to keep ourselves open to the Holy Spirit, to allow Him to work His fruit in our lives. We’re not taking a test in grammar, we’re writing a book. And if we fail, we have the stupid little blue lines to show us where we went wrong, so we can fix things and move on.

I’m writing this blog to the mature Christian, and more particularly the mature Christian woman (although my subject matter tends not to be terribly girly). I expect that you’ve already got the “do not steal” thing down. Sure, sometimes you have to remind yourself to bring the pen you absentmindedly stuck in your purse home from work, but … you have this. GOOD. But that’s not where we were meant to stop. We’re supposed to *build*, not stay static.

Everyone has a job. My job is not to tell you how to keep house or iron the cat. My job is to remind you that you’ve got other work to do which is to be done simultaneously with the work you’re working with your hands. It’s the bigger purpose. If you do your housework as unto the Lord, if you’re remembering that you’re raising children up in the admonition of the Lord, if you’re being kind to the people around you because God said so… then guess what? People notice. I don’t think that it’s much use to stand around competing with one another as women in the shininess of our kitchen sinks. Clean the sink, go be nice to a shut-in. People are forever, dishes are for today. It’s not that we don’t need clean sinks – we *do*. And the bar for decency is set so low at the moment, we *really* need to show the younger generation, the young in Christ, how to be a decent wife and mother. Yepperoo. But we don’t *all* need to do that. And that’s not all we need to do.

Because we live in a time when Christian decency isn’t something that can be taken for granted. Common human decency can’t be taken for granted. The “bar”? It’s around ankle level. Don’t trip on it, please. See, we need to be standing tall – for Christ. That means not just being good wives and mothers, but saying, “I’m a Christian”. *This* is how Christians do life. Because life is being done very poorly now, we have a chance to shine very brightly for our Lord. Even those of you who consider yourselves ordinary, know that ordinary is now extraordinary. You don’t have to be perfect before you admit that you belong to Christ. In fact, I don’t think it does any harm to admit that you’re not perfect while you call on Christ.

I’ll give an example. I like nothing better than a bit of gossip. That’s why both my blogs have the “no shooting fish in barrels” policy. It’s not that I mind debate (I don’t. Go right ahead and disagree with me). It’s that I can be quite catty when I get my tail in a twist, and I know that’s not Christian living. That rule is for ME. That’s why I stopped reading most of my fashion blogs… they combine with celebrity gossip, and I don’t need that trash in my brain, encouraging the inner cat. I know that it’s wrong. James 4:17 Therefore to him that knoweth to do good, and doeth it not, to him it is sin. I know not to gossip. Therefore, I have a no-gossip policy. But since I put it in place, I then ignore it. I’ve never mentioned it, not because it’s particularly embarrassing (although I prefer to pretend to be perfect, like most people) but because it’s not very important. That’s the point. You’re doing something wrong? Confess it, turn away from it, get on with it.

And then … well, maybe you have to do what I just did. “Oh yeah, I don’t watch those shows. I just end up being really gossipy and catty, and that’s not who God wants me to be.” Just be real about it. You can say stuff like that very straightforwardly, and go on with your life – or you can say stuff like that as if it’s *everyone’s* burden to bear. If you can watch the Fashion Police and not gossip, and you enjoy that sort of thing – well, have fun with that. Not my cup of tea, but I’m not the Holy Spirit and it’s not my job to convict you. You don’t need to get self-righteous. I don’t skip the fashion shows because of my strength, but because of my weakness. But I don’t bother talking about it (except now, for an example) because it’s not terribly interesting, it’s not something new that I have to process, it’s just a thing.

And you can tell a non-Christian that and be a witness. Really. You can.

After all… there aren’t too many Auntie Ems around, refusing to tell Elmira Gulch off because they’re Christians. It made a witness to old Elmira, even if she didn’t do anything about it. Now? Now it would probably cause someone’s jaw to drop. Specially if they knew that’s how you *always* acted, and that you weren’t sugar-sweet about it, you just sometimes shut your trap when you’d really rather not.

Think it over. 🙂

Stand up and be counted

I hate to tell you this, gang…. but you might be the only Biblical Christian that your friends have ever really gotten to know.

If you think that “someone else” will stand up for what you believe – they won’t.
If you think that “someone else” is going to tell people what the Bible says – and what it doesn’t – try again.
If you think that “someone else” is going to live the Christian life and do the hard work of showing fruit – nope.

You’re caught between the nearly comic villains throwing temper tantrums on the TV… the ones whose spiritual forefathers enjoyed the Inquisition… and the ones who take the Bible and cut more out that Thomas Jefferson, arranging what little they leave into origami. Anyone hanging out being serious about loving Jesus and showing His love to the world, *while* standing on the truth? Not so many.

I’m mostly writing to Christian women here, although my topic isn’t typically girly. I’m actually writing to mature Christian women. We already know how to keep house and iron the cat. What we need is a little gentle shaking to stop being so nice and start being real. Not “oh really I suck” real, but “really I love God and do the best I can”. We need to stop pretending that we don’t have any power outside of ourselves. We have Almighty God as our Creator, Lord, Liege, and He has stuff for us to do!

We need to be the incredible PTA mom – and say, “Nope, can’t do Sunday, we’ll be at church. 79th and Main, the Baptist church. Yep.” We need to be the lady who goes back into the store to give back over-change.. wearing long skirts and smiling nicely. We need to have the decent family dinner out at a restaurant – that begins with heads bowed saying grace. We need to be the one “they” see consistently being *real* and being *good*. “No, she’s not just acting like that, she’s always polite”. “Oh Sadie will help you… she’s always got time for a cup of tea and a friend”. We MUST set an example.

“Someone else” is NOT going to do it.

You’re it.

Step up.

So Far… what do we have?

Item 1: Be Ambassadors – understand that the West is post-Christian in culture, and you can’t assume that your neighbors and friends know what a Christian looks like. You’re it. Stand up and do it right.

Item 2: Be Real – For good and for ill, show your whole self. Let your Christianity be visible, invite folks in to see how it operates in your life.

Item 3: Get up and Get On with it.

I’ve thought of a few other things to say here and there and then the thoughts have drifted off like butterflies in the wind. Maybe there’s not a lot left to say, or maybe I need to do some review/editing before I can start again.

The point has been that the West is a place where Bible believing Christians are few and far between, at least insofar as the world is concerned. Have you see the media and how we’re portrayed? If that doesn’t profoundly embarrass and/or enrage you, you aren’t awake. But we can use this ignorance to the benefit of the kingdom. We can be public about our Christianity, and about the ways in which is profoundly affects our everyday lives. *We* can use our differences to make people interested… at least if we’re willing to live like Christians, all the time. Even when it gets hard.

And maybe I have enough content to print this stuff out and start editing it. Opinions/thoughts/anything I should write about first? GO!

Start the conversation

In this post-Christian culture that we inhabit, Christians must stop assuming that the folks around them know what it means to be a Christian, or what it means to be a good Christian. They don’t.

So we need to start talking about the experience of our Christian walk in our daily lives, just like we experience it – as dailyness. No Christianese, at least if we can help it. No glossing over the bits that aren’t so easy, either. “Yeah, this is really rough. I’m glad God will turn it to good, but right now I’m having a hard time”. “I’m glad that forgiveness is what you do, not how you feel – I sure am angry”.

We’ve been the Shiny Happy People for so long that everyone thinks of evangelical Christianity as plastic. Or they see folks talking in Christianese to a Christian audience about one bit of the walk of faith and get totally confused. We can’t undo the Shiny Happy People – but we can be honest that that isn’t what Biblical Christianity is about.

We’re going to have to learn our Bibles better, of course. If we’re going to talk about what we are and aren’t supposed to do as Christians, we have to know the answers to those questions, and have source material. I know that Catholics have tradition to draw on as well, which isn’t the same thing IMO, but at least it’s *something*. “Pastor Bob said we should do it this way” isn’t good enough for me as a fellow Christian, I guarantee you it’s not enough for your non-Christian friends. They might disagree with the Bible, but being able to have a real conversation based on what it does and does not say is a big deal. I’ve done that, you know – said, “Let me get back to you” and researched something for non-Christian friends in my Bible and given them chapter and verse. “This is what we believe, this is why we believe this, this is what our Holy Book says” is something we need to share! No, it’s not going to instantly evangelize someone, but they can think about it and chew it over. It’s not vague. Christianity isn’t vague. We can no longer take for granted a general knowledge of the Bible and its contents.

So, it’s okay to assume that your neighbor isn’t a Christian, and to say, “this is what the Bible says I’m supposed to do. I know it will work out for good, but it’s not easy right now”. Or, “yeah, I’m not down with the way marriage is treated in that show”. Make ’em think! No one else does.

We have to be out there showing that we have reasons for what we do, that they’re not emotional fuzzy bunny reasons, and that we’re serious about obedience. This is a war, and the enemy has taken a lot of territory that we’ve assumed belonged to us.

Hey. Being serious about obeying ANYTHING is a big deal now, and it marks you out. Take advantage and be real with folks while they’re curious.

Mistakes Have Been Made

If we’re going to be ambassadors of Christ and we’re going to be real, we have to be ready to admit when mistakes have been made – by us, and by other Christians.

That doesn’t mean that we have to be ready to point the finger at Christians in the public eye (I won’t do that, mostly because it’s very tempting), but it does mean that when someone says, “X was a Christian, and they did Y and it made me never want to have anything to do with this Christ person” that we have to be ready to say, “Ugh. No, we’re not supposed to do that.” People need to hear this stuff! Particularly people who have been hurt by people using our Lord’s name.

As Christians, we know that human nature is a black and evil thing, and we know that although we are given the power in Christ to overcome human nature, we still struggle with it. We have a personal relationship with Jesus, and we know His holiness, justice, love and light don’t have any truck with darkness… but guess what? The people who don’t know Him? They don’t know anything except what they see in the media, and what they’ve seen in their experiences. Someone tried to beat the demons out of their kid? Guess whose friends think Christians are (at best) dangerous nutjobs? Yep. Someone drops in on every tithing sermon ever? Guess who thinks Christians are all about getting the money out of your wallet? And on. And on. And on.

We don’t operate from a standpoint of strength anymore. The white hats are gone, they got ripped up and thrown into the mud. Quite a lot of American Christians don’t realize this yet. We might *be* the good guys, but we have too many folks who have done too much bad stuff that hang out in our posse.

So, what should we do? If we were a regular organization, we could have a bureau of internal affairs. We’re *supposed* to have a bureau of internal affairs – that’s what we depend on to discipline the members of the Church who are out of the will of God. But excepting members of the Catholic church (who have to admit that their bureau seems a bit cracked ’round the edges) and the Amish (who aren’t reading this) we don’t have solid church authority any longer. No parish priests with connections to the Vatican and thus to all other parish priests. No small towns, where word can get around – nope, we live in a highly mobile society where members of churches who get disciplined usually just leave their church.

We try hard (at least every church I’ve ever been in tries) to give as much education on Christian living and how to be good parents and spouses and workers and evangelists… but even though the classes are popular, let’s stay honest – our track record is lousy. (Okay. The track record of those who say they’re Christians but don’t read their Bibles regularly or attend regular church services is lousy. Hm. So … what I’m saying here is that people who don’t do the things they know they should do in religious terms also don’t do the things they should do in secular terms. Wait. That’s totally consistent).

The only thing that I think that we *can* do is admit that there is an advantage to saying that you’re a Christian, especially if you’re not planning on making any of the sacrifices that go along with *being* a Christian. Just like in the times of the early Church, it was advantageous to burn a little incense to Caesar… now it’s advantageous to show up to services on Easter and Christmas if nothing else. People who want to take advantage of the popular (albeit waning) religious clique are always going to do that. *That* is part of human nature. And yes, it’s dark and black and … you know, painting it white makes it exactly what Jesus called the Pharisees – white washed graves. Pretty on the outside, rotten on the inside.

And yes, some of the true believers are a bit nuts, mostly because they’re badly educated and they don’t understand Grace. If you’re working frantically for your salvation, if you’re trying endlessly to be “good enough”, you can get yourself into all types of creative trouble.

So, as far as I’m concerned, although the Church has done amazing stuff, some members are … well, they’re humans. And it’s okay to say that humans are fallible humans, even if the humans in question are members of the family. We need to admit our failures, if we’re going to be real. We need to own the bad stuff as well as the good stuff. We need to talk about the stuff we did that was awesome, admit the stuff that we did that wasn’t awesome, discuss how the latter *does not fit* with the instructions in our holy Book, and show that we’re going to keep trying to make our God proud. We need to make ourselves real, so that the world can see that He is real.

Christianity is all about confessing our sins and repenting from them, right?

No one ever said that honesty was easy.

Boundaries and Expectations of the Self

I had an interesting experience yesterday afternoon, and it ruffled my feathers pretty badly.

A man came to my door and asked me for money for food. I’ve had any number of pathetic sales attempts, I get evangelized with great frequency and my block gets a lot of foot traffic of the more questionable kind (I live on a cross street between two bus lines), but this is the first time anyone has knocked on my door for money. The gentleman who asked for money didn’t hit any of my danger signals… he wasn’t dressed like a gangbanger, he was older, heavy, no tattoos… he even carried a tattered Bible. His body language was very non-threatening.*

Except. A stranger knocked on my door for my money.

Why did it bother me? Strangers accost me for money all the time in parking lots and there I’ve not the luxury of a security door and a dog. But I don’t get rattled, just simultaneously sad and annoyed**. So why did it bother me so much at my door?

Because he stepped past the social norms – even the social norms of beggars – and entered my private space. He sent his gaze into my home. My expectations of being home do not include being the target of panhandling. Even polite panhandling. In my home, I take off my armor. My walls, my door – they are my armor. Emotionally, crossing the property line is an intrusion – you enter my space.

How does this relate to being real? I was raised with the idea that I should be open to help all those around me, the story of the Good Samaritan. Stories of 1930s era housewives known for kindness to the poor… that sort of thing, that’s the person I want to be. Helping is important to me.

But you have to set boundaries. I don’t like pushing people away, especially people in need. I don’t like putting up walls. I like my pleasant version of reality where everyone knows where the lines are, so you don’t need walls. I can’t expect myself to be constantly available – it’s not possible. I have to prioritize, I have to be able to say no. My “yes” is meaningless unless my “no” is meaningful.

It doesn’t feel “Christian”, it doesn’t feel right. My emotions want me to give to all who ask of me, to not turn anyone away. It hurts me when I have to give in to good sense and turn away in the parking lot. Should I have to wall my emotions away in my own home?

I could write a theological argument on both sides of this experience. But I’m listening to the lesson of this season of life – priorities. Boundaries. Changing what I expect of myself – because I can’t expect myself to be the “perfect Christian” – I have to be real in the negative as well as in the positive.

I’ve learned a lot – and not just adding another set of husbandly instructions to my “what to do if” file.

*I gave him a paper bag with cheese, apples, and oddments. My husband was vexed with me, and has told me to make such sit on the sidewalk, should that happen again. I hope it doesn’t!

Bubble, Bubble, Toil and Trouble

There’s a very excellent discussion going on over at Elspeth’s place in regards to the Christian Bubble.

There’s a dichotomy: On one hand, we have folks who haven’t ever lived off the island. Their lives are “perfect”, their families are “perfect”. When they see someone who doesn’t have as externally perfect a life as they have had, they just don’t get it. They might have plenty of Christian kindness and compassion, but they don’t relate. I’m pretty sure that was what E was talking about.

On the other hand, we have churches set up to deal with folks who have had no Christian education whatsoever, and who are relating to God very emotionally. You start to get a reverse Bubble mentality, where if you haven’t been saved from your life of drug addiction and homelessness, you don’t know what it’s really like to be a Christian.

Ahem. Do you see anything in common here? “This is what it means to be *really* Christian”. Um. No. What it means to be really Christian is that you have a transformative personal relationship with Jesus Christ, and you place your faith in Him, utterly. That’s it. We’re not supposed to be exclusive. Once you’re in the family, you’re in. Done. He came for the sinners, not for the righteous. But – there aren’t any righteous. We’re all sinners. And we’re all *different*. Hands, feet, hearts, brains, eyes, ears, bellybuttons. We’re *different*, and we have different talents, different purposes.

We’re humans, and our churches are where we congregate for community, to get together not just with those in the family of faith, but with those who are like us. One sees the benefit to the parish mentality… but we don’t use the parish mentality as modern Protestants, so … onward. The tendency to make our friends like ourselves and to then define “real folks” as the folks that we hang out with is entirely natural. Notice I said, “natural” – not good.

The other thing that isn’t good is setting different fences around where you “should be” as a Christian. You know – I’ve been saved since I was four. If I don’t know more about the Bible than someone who got saved last week, I should hang my head in shame. (There are churches where people stay all their lives and never crack open their Bibles. That’s shameful, and no sugarcoating it). There are things that someone who has been addicted to heroin and come to Christ can teach me about utter dependence on the Lord and the Lord alone that I just don’t know from my safe and pleasant experience. We’re all one body.

Hypocrisy and self-assurance *are* something the church has to guard against. Who were Jesus’ biggest enemies? The Pharisees. None of us want to go there. But pretending to be what we are not, and have never been, is just as wrong.

Strive for temporal good – including temporal spiritual good – as you are ready to drop it all at the call of God.

(speaking of reality, I was interrupted while in the middle of thought and it’s run off, so … I’ll catch it later. For now, you can have this).