Monthly Archives: January 2014

Why do you expect the World to be Godly?

Okay.  We’d all like to live in a world that was more godly, because it would be nicer.  God’s ways work, they work for everyone, even those who don’t believe in Him.  Order, charity… yeah, it would be a better place.

But we don’t live in that world.

So, why are you so shocked when someone whose career is based on garnering attention does something to garner attention?  Why did you make that person the arbiter of what is good in the first place?

Why are you surprised when someone whose career is based on making people like them does a lot of lying?  Do we live in an alternate universe where the truth is suddenly popular?  You don’t put sugar in medicine because medicine is so gosh darn yummy that everyone is eager to drink it down.

We are all complicit in making entertainment “important” and entertainers “wise” and to be looked up to.  We are all complicit in allowing our politicians to say one thing and do another.  We have permitted this.  We give them our attention, we give them our votes, we allow them to act like monkeys in a zoo.

And although it’s a bad thing, it has made one thing very clear.  The World is a muckpit.  No more delicate veil of “it’s not that bad”.  Yes.  It is.  Anyone can see it.

So what do we do?

Either A) we clean up the muckpit or B) we pull out of the muckpit and show the World what “clean” looks like.

Personally I don’t think the muckpit is going to be cleaned until it’s done being as mucky as it be.  But that said, I think we need a lot more hands to clean it than are currently on board, and if we want change, the first thing we have to offer is something better.

That’s option B.  We need to stand tall, stand proud, and *ACT LIKE CHRISTIANS*.  We’re on display, we can’t afford to slip up.   Here’s some marching orders, courtesy Paul, to have a start on:

Galatians 5:13-25

13 For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh [g]sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you [h]please. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. 19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: [i]immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, [j]factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who [k]belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also [l]walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

There is to be a difference between Christians and the World. The World has done us the favor of blackening up, we need to do our part and shine more brightly.  In the meantime, spending emotional energy on “how dark it is!” out there is a waste.  It’s the World.  Duh.  WE need to be shiny bright, and each one of us needs to get with God and let Him clean us as only He can.

 

More Praying

I think we should pray more, and more boldly, in greater faith.

Excuse, please.  I think *I* should pray more, I think I should pray more boldly, and I think I should have greater faith when I pray.  I think I should pray in the kind of scriptural faith that thanks the Lord for the answer to the prayer before I say “Amen”.

Sometimes I do pray like this – and when I do, it grows my faith.  When I listen for the answers, listen for the Restrainer when He doesn’t want me to ask, and pour out my heart.  Honesty in prayer.

You know, it’s totally possible to *both* pray, “Thy will be done” *and* ask for whatever it is that you want?  Just because I really want something doesn’t mean I should have it – it is possible for me to want *more* to please God, want *more* to be in His will for my life, than it is to want whatever it is that I’m asking for.

But if I don’t ask, then I’m lying to God.

Yeah, I said it.  Not asking for something that is seriously on your heart, not bringing it before God is A) totally unscriptural and b) lying by omission.

Maybe you’ve asked for whatever it is a lot, and it’s not shown up yet.  You could say, “God what do You want me to learn?  Is it patience?  Are you growing my faith?  Should I be learning contentment in my situation?”  Maybe you’ve just asked for something that is out of His will for you.

I think we should ask Him why more often.  Not like whiny little kids, but like grown adults.  “Lord and Master, why have you chosen this for me?  Will you teach me the lesson You have for me in this hour?  Will you please guide me to glorify You?”

From what I see – from what goes on in my own, Christian since ever heart – I think we are very weird and unreal about prayer.  God’s real.  He’s not a force, He’s a person.  He’s our Lord and Master and Creator, but He’s a personality, and He loves us.  Can’t we combine respect with honesty?  He’s good, all through – He’s not going to get His nose out of joint because we were honest with Him, especially since He knows everything already.

And I think He wants us to stand up and act like adults, act like His children.  Ask for what we will, don’t stress about what He chooses to do, and get on with it.

For a start, I have any number of friends that I need to drag up in front of the Throne for conversion….. not that I haven’t before, but I don’t figure that’s something He minds being asked twice about.  Somehow.

Boldness in prayer leads to faith.  Pray more, pray more honestly, and get more real.

God is not a means to an end

God is not a tool we use to get what we want from life.  Godliness is not a tool we use to get what we want from life.   While He will sometimes allow those in training wheels to get by with this way of thinking, I don’t think that the mature believer gets to get away with this.

Now, obviously doing things God’s way = doing them the right way, and doing things the right way is more likely to yield a positive result.  But sometimes we can twist things so that we’re using God to get things, and if you think about that a sec, you realize that that makes the *things* your gods…

But God’s the only god that there really is, and He describes Himself as jealous…..

Sometimes you end up at the end of the alley, weeping and moaning that “you’ve done everything right” and “you still aren’t getting what you want” and God stares you right in the face and says, “Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness…” and you realize that you never *were* seeking Him, you were using Him.  There’s a mirror moment for you.  An ugly one.

Anyone who thinks that God says we are promised temporal happiness and sparkles hasn’t read any of the epistles of Peter.  Just sayin’.  Not that a good and loving Father doesn’t love giving good gifts to His children, but that love is a costly love and He won’t let us walk around settling for sparkles when we could have gotten closer to *Him*.

I’ve been down the end of this alley with the most precious thing in my life, but there’s some other stuff I’ve been rubbing up against, and … dang if God’s not staring me down.  Is this process about being a better servant to Him and bringing Him glory, or is about bringing me glory?  Is it about making God look good – or me?

OUCH.

You know, we’re humans and we are constantly creating new desires, new things to want more than we want God.  It’s shameful, but it’s true.  That’s why the process of confession and renewing our minds is a continual one.  We never arrive – not in this life!  It’s not “okay”, but it happens.

And when you turn up a stone while plowing the field – you deal with the stone.

I think, once I am not sick any longer, that I have some stones to bring up and have some solid – and very unpleasant – chats to my Lord about.

-sigh-

God is NOT an means to an end, and no matter how we try to make Him fit in a box, He created the world and He doesn’t fit in the universe as a whole – much less our little boxes.  GOD is the end.  He is the point.  God.

It’s not all about me.

Deal with what’s real

Has anyone noticed that in contemporary Christian (particularly feminine) culture, there is a list of stuff that we’re “supposed to” work on and that list doesn’t change very quickly?   It’s not a bad list.  Hear me, very clearly.  It.is.not.a.bad.list.*   But eventually you’re done – at least for now.  It’s like cleaning your house.  Yeah, it’s going to get dirty again, but if you spend all your time deep-cleaning your spice cabinet, those weeds outside are never going to get dealt with.  Once you get things sorted and in good order, it’s okay to leave it and go work on something else.

You know what’s also okay?  Saying, “This thing here is a problem.  I know I should be confessing my lack of perfection in the womanly graces, but I’m really having a problem with fear.”  Confessing to a problem off the list is dangerous in some circles.    That’s why I am talking about radical honesty.  There are so many things that I “should be beyond” by now.  And I’m not.  Those words still hurt, because I still care what you think of me.  I still have to forgive (will-to-forgive, including praying for their good) certain people when I think of them.  “Fake it until you make it” is a world-thing.   I still lie, because it’s easier than telling the truth.

If I’m faking it, faking health, I can’t get well.  The *first* part of changing our lives is confession.  When I tell my doctor what’s wrong with me, she can prescribe the right medicine.   Although God knows more about what’s wrong with me than I do, when I suck it up and admit it, He can make the changes that need to be made.

Sometimes you have to change outside things to effect inside things.  There’s nothing wrong with doing stuff ’cause it changes you.  Doing stuff DOES change you.  But it’s all about the heart.

The point of looking in the mirror and finding out that you have a rash is to do something about it.  You can make a choice – are you going to follow the progression of your medication (once you know that it’s working) every second, or are you going to check back periodically and keep applying as needed until the rash goes away, then check back just to make sure the rash stays gone?  Your choice.  And it’s not an either-or thing, where you “throw your mirror away” or turn into Narcissus.  The question is *why* are you staring in the mirror?

Maybe all you need to do is stay out of the poison ivy, and it’s not a mirror problem at all…

So what’s your real problem?  And if it’s not one of the problems du jour, are you brave enough to speak its name?

 

*Hat-tip Elspeth:  This is the stuff I really consider the ‘milk’ in Christian circles.  Not the gospel.  That’s good meat no matter how long you’ve been saved, you can get more out of the gospel.  But the laundry list of stuff to fix?  Milk city.  Nothing wrong with it, but eventually you need something with a more teeth.

Hypocrisy is way too easy: Jello Salad Edition

Do you have any idea how easy it would be for me to play at being the perfect little Christian housewife?

I grew up in the Baptist church.  Saved at 4.  Baptized at 6.  AWANA through Jr. High – and I volunteered in AWANA through HS.

I’m married to my HS sweetheart.  We married 1 year after my graduation from a four-year college.  Five years after that, we bought a house.  Five years after that, we were delivered of our first child.  Three and a half years later, another joined.  Two kids, boy and girl.  I’m a stay-at-home-mom who homeschools and cooks from scratch and reads theology for fun.   I read my Bible every day, pray and serve in a minor capacity in my local church.

And I have well over 100 recipes for jello salad.  😉

Other than, perhaps, the variety of jello salad – this is what we call a life “win”.  You know what my old church didn’t really care about?  They didn’t care about my heart.  Outward obedience was everything.  Now, I’m all for obedience – just take a read through my older posts.  But making all with the nice and keeping everything superficial, keeping everyone outside and the problems in life wrapped safe and warm ’round your heart of hearts… that’s HYPOCRISY.

I don’t want to be a “whitewashed tomb” or a clean-looking cup filled with filth.

Nothing was wrong with how I was grown and trained… until *I* chose not to follow God, but follow my own will while taking the easy path of non-confrontation.  Want to know a life-truth?  So long as you give the World what it wants to see, you can do anything you want.  The World wanted a smart young woman who went to college and that’s what it got.  There were plenty of teachers at my HS who knew that I was hypocrite #1… they didn’t care.  Freaked one out pretty badly by working at  local craft store while going to JC though.  You’d think I’d knifed her.

But Christianity isn’t about being clean on the outside… until after you’re clean on the inside.  It looks like the stuff that Christians do is what matters, but it’s not.  It’s the relationship we have with Christ that matters, because He’s the one who cleans us up, starting on the inside.

So I want to talk about the inside of my cup, the inside of my life.  And I don’t want to talk about the outside, and I don’t really want to share my recipes for jello salad (unless you  ask).  You can get that elsewhere.   I want to be so real, so raw, that you, my reader, are prodded in the spots you’ve hidden away, the ones you want to think that no one else has.  The weak places that we “good Christians” aren’t supposed to have.  ‘Cause we are all tots perfect already.  -rolls eyes-

AND I want to do that without telling you things you don’t need to know about my life.  If you’re waiting for some sort of internet confessional, keep clicking your mouse – it won’t be here.  This is ideas not memories.   Now, not past.

I told my husband that I was working hard on being more transparent, more honest.  He laughed.  Told me that I was the kind of girl who sat in the corner chewing her nose (those are his words) after making sure that everyone else was happy.  And that is entirely true.  It is very, VERY easy for me to do that.  To be quiet, to not make any waves or say anything or stir the pot.  I don’t have to think about it.  It comes naturally.

BUT… I’ve left that town and I’m on my way to Truth.  The journey begins.

Approval

I think by typing (or talking) and I got to the real point yday at the very end of my blog, when I said, “Who am I trying to please?   How do I unplug myself from the desire to please myself (because approval-seeking behavior ultimately is about pleasing myself) and let go to please God alone?”

CS Lewis differentiated between self-denial and the denial of self (aka humility) when he compared the latter to a state where one could design and build the most beautiful building the world, know it to be the best, and feel exactly the same pleasure in that building as if it t’were the work of someone else’s hands.

I’m not there.  Sometimes, if I make something really awesome I can get close – because you know if I make something with errors I hyperfocus on those and am (like half the other crafters I know) really annoying about pointing them out.   When I make a beautiful garment and am praised on it and refrain from saying, “I made it!” I count it a win – but really it’s not a true win until I stop *wanting* to say, “I made it!”

I want praise.  There, I said it.  I don’t think that’s totally a bad thing, so long as it’s in its place, so don’t take this like I’m talking to you unless the Holy Spirit pokes you with this, k?  I speak for myself.  Ordo Amoris.

I can so easily slide from the humility of child-like pleasure in being told that I’ve done well into actively seeking for praise.  Who is to give me praise?  Well, someone human.  If not my husband (poor husband, puts up with me saying, “Look!  I made pretty!” ) then someone I know, or someone online… or even, if I really have to go there, myself.

So, why am I not seeking God’s praise?  As Sis said in the comments yday, God is pleased with quality craftsmanship.  Is it that I associate “good enough for God” with absolute perfection?  I should… if it involves anything for His church.  But sometimes, in private life, “good enough for God” is my effort, and my process.  You don’t start out with straight seams… is God displeased that you’re learning to sew?  Does He frown at you until it’s perfect?

How do you tell that you’ve pleased God?  That’s one of my issues.  I listen for that still voice but mostly I hear my own voice, especially when I’m tired, or emotionally needy.*  I read His Word every day … I *do* know what’s kosher and what isn’t.   So I can say, “this will have pleased God” but how does that translate into feeling it?

I don’t know.  But I have a theory… I have a theory that if I start like a child, not seeking approval as my identity, but am humble and honest and transparent and stop trying to be such a grownup about everything… I think that might be a faster route to the simplicity of living in the approval of God than trying to *pretend* that I don’t care.   Eventually I want to get to the place where my work is to me as the work of others is to me – but you know, sometimes I’m gobstopped by the work that other people do, aren’t you?

Wonder is an incredible gift.

Pretending = lying.  Lying = sin.  Lying = hypocrisy.

I’m going to strip off as much of the “stuff” that adults throw on to their desire to please and be as honest as I can, and hope that in that honesty, in that nakedness of soul, that I eventually switch my approval seeking to God and not to man.

 

Steward or owner?

How far will we take, “I am the bondslave of Christ”?  How seriously will we take the idea of stewardship vs. ownership?

I’m still processing my walkthrough with the lady who cleans the church (N).  Two hours of hearing her talk about doing it right for Jesus – and two hours of watching her get down on her hands and knees to realign the dirt-catching rugs in front of the doors and retie the trashbags in the trashcans so they were not just tied, but tied perfectly.

I’ve said before that I’m anything but a perfectionist – I get frustrated or tired and I’m just ready to be done.   I don’t mind taking pains to get things right, but taking pains and seeing the thing I worked so hard on get messed up?  Drives me bonkers.  Yes, of course I clean my own house – it’s my job.  But I don’t perfectionist clean anything except when I’m Spring Cleaning.  It’s only going to get dirty again.

But.  Over and over and over, you know what N said?  That she wanted the church cleaned perfectly because it was being cleaned for Jesus.  When we left the bathrooms, she said she wanted those bathrooms clean enough that if Jesus came, she didn’t have to stop Him and say, “just a minute while I fix this up for You”, she wanted things that way all the time.  Why?  Because this church didn’t belong to *her* – or to me.  It belongs to Jesus.

But so do I.  And thus, so does everything I “have”.  Nothing really belongs to me, does it?  I’m a steward over everything that God has given to me.  So, properly, I should keep everything maintained perfectly… but when I (to be brutally honest) focus on the physical things in my life, I forget to take care of the non physical.

This hangs with something else I’ve been confronting – where do I get my approval?  I was telling my husband what I’d done when he got home from work the other day, detailing every little task that got completed, and he turned to me and said, “Honey – you don’t have to tell me that you worked hard today”.  Mrph.  What do I do with that?  I want some messy combination of being approved (“Good girl!  Worked hard!  Nice job!”) and to prove that I respect *his* hard work (“Good girl!  Worked hard just like me!  Nice job!”).  And he doesn’t want me to tell him about reorganizing the bookshelves.  Even if it DID take three hours.   So I guess my physical work isn’t for him.  (Okay, unless I weed the roses.)  Is it for me?  Is it just … stuff?

How do I direct my tasks?  If I focus on the physical because I can see it and feel it and touch it and get approval from it… I am unable to give energy to the non-physical.  If I tell myself that I really needed to spend that time taking a nap and a bath, ’cause I need to be at my best, how long until I’m lounging and eating bon-bons?

Who am I trying to please?   How do I unplug myself from the desire to please myself (because approval-seeking behavior ultimately is about pleasing myself) and let go to please God alone?

Who owns me?