Monthly Archives: August 2015

Something that bothers me

Slightly OT for this blog, but this bothers me…

As a parent, I want to give my children every advantage that I can.  My husband works so I can stay home and do the things like drive my kids to places where they can be around other kids, go to the charter school HS, sit at home and keep an eye on the smaller one… you know.  The things.  I watch their diet, nag them about exercise, and keep a sharp watch on what they see.  Filling them with good stuff and keeping the bad stuff out – that’s my job.

But there’s part of life that is now a huge advantage for my kids, and it breaks my heart.  Not because I don’t want my kids to have it, but because it breaks my heart that other kids don’t.  It shouldn’t be an advantage.

My kids have a mom and a dad.  They know both of us!  My kids have a mom and a dad – they see us both every day.   My kids have a mom and a dad, and we love them.  My kids have a mom and a dad, and we love each other (and are demonstrative about it).  My kids have a family that puts the group ahead of individuals, where the members of the family enjoy doing nice things for one another, and work to take care of each other.

All that *should* be normal.  It’s not.

There are so many things in my kids’ lives that should be normal – and they’re not.  Did you see that study about how having a parent who read to the kids when they were little was a huge boost?  Why is that a huge boost?   Who isn’t doing… oh.  Oh.

Usually I try to write blogs where I give some idea of “what comes next” or some such, but I don’t have anything.  I just wanted to say – I notice.  I notice that the bar of achievement has been set so low that what you want to do is not trip over it.

The haves and have-nots of the society that my children will inherit won’t be the haves and have-nots of just money or power…. they will be the haves and have-nots of the riches of a loving family and good childhood.

I don’t regret for one second that my kids have these things, but oh. My heart bleeds for all those children who do not.

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Mistakes Were Made: Well-Meaning Pharisees

The older I get, the more I see that every command in the Word of God is given for the benefit of mankind – nothing is there because God arbitrarily wanted it that way.   All is given for our good.  And the Law (OT and NT) is good.

But the Law does not save.

Galatians 3:3 Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?

The efforts we make, to follow the Law, to do right, to use our lives to the glory of God – those efforts are good.  But as those efforts are not, in themselves, gospel, when we hold our efforts up for imitation, when we hold up our personal convictions as universal rules of behavior, we slide away from the Truth.  In our well-meaning stumbles, we recreate the error of the Pharisee.  So in love with our own righteousness, we lose the understanding that only shed blood is sufficient to cleanse us from sin.  So intent on being good, we forget that there is only One who is good.  We lose the ability to humbly admit our failures.

Being human, anytime we strive for anything, we want to look good.  Think of athletes, striving for athletic perfection… if they slip, do they want it known?  Same thing goes for those striving for righteousness.   No one wants to fail at what they care about.

Because we fail … we invent new rules, rules that aren’t in the Bible.  Drunkenness is forbidden… so we decide never to have a glass of wine.  No dancing, no movies, no playing cards.

Matthew 23:23 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cummin, and have neglected the weightier provisions of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness; but these are the things you should have done without neglecting the others.

The temptation to sweep sin under the rug, to never admit that we are tempted by evil, is great.  It’s so much easier to whitewash the outside than deal with the ugliness on the inside.  Dragging our ugliness and darkness out to be dealt with is embarrassing and painful.  And it forces real change, which is intrinsically uncomfortable.

For the past thirty or forty years, it seems like there has been a never ending parade of those who we had called heroes… we see them unmasked as hypocrites.  We see those who we were so proud of, because they were winning at tithing tiny dill seeds… we find out that they failed in justice.   And because we followed them, because we identified with them, we are tarred with the same brush, the assumption of hypocrisy.   True or not, the label sticks.

We forgot that we can’t do life without Jesus.  Our efforts at perfection?

 Isaiah 64:6 For all of us have become like one who is unclean, And all our righteous deeds are like a filthy garment; And all of us wither like a leaf, And our iniquities, like the wind, take us away.

And we become Pharisees.  We allow ourselves to believe that we’re good people, and that as good people, we can make the world over into a better place.  Not from the inside, by introducing others to the joy of salvation, the beauty of the path of sanctification, the love of Christ… no, we focus on the outward.  We focus on what “good people” do, and then we try to force everyone to comply.

The late 19th and 20th century were the crucible of this belief.  In the 19th century, they called it the “White Man’s Burden” – to see all the world “civilized”.  This at least had the germ of goodness, because it included the spread of the Word of God.  But it incubated the belief that humans could make of this world a paradise, and that belief was taken by the secularists and they ran with it.

Read early 20th century fiction – you’ll see how the modern way of doing things is deified.  Not that I burn to do my family’s laundry in a tub, but there was no difference made in mechanical improvements and “improvements” in the way we raise our children, or feed them, or work, or how we arrange our personal lives.   One trial failed, and the next “new and improved” method took over.

We’re still doing it, and if you don’t believe me, what do you call Common Core or Round-up Ready Corn?  We throw baby out with the bathwater, all because somehow we, fallible humans, are somehow going to make everything perfect.

We forget that the Lord told us that we’d always have the poor – so we leave behind the duty of charity, the demands of loving the others in our community, for the ideal that we can make poverty disappear.  Ahem, that “someone else” can do that, and we’ll just throw a bit of money at the problem and have our duty done and over with.   A hundred years ago, our foremothers decided Prohibition would keep those dreadful drunken men from hitting their wives… now the same drugged men hit their baby mamas.  God would have us administer justice and mercy – but it’s so much easier to clean up the outside, and anyway we can’t *make* people accept Jesus (we tried that too), so what are we supposed to do?

What is inside always spills out, doesn’t it?

We’re Pharisees, and we don’t want to admit that we are, by nature, Fallen.

So what do *we* do?  I think… I think we admit that we’re just folks, saved by grace.  I think we admit that the only real change comes from within, from the way that the good Lord rips out our filthy old heart and puts in a shiny new one.  I think we admit that we all struggle with the old tendencies that come with living in these flesh suits and that sometimes we fail.

I think we admit that we get angry and sad and sometimes we could just about do with a drink… whether we choose to partake or not.

1 John 1: If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.

And I think, though it kills me, that we admit that *we* can’t make people come to Christ.  Everybody, from your beloved to your child to the stranger checking out the cauliflower, has their own relationship (or lack thereof) with Christ – and every one of them has to do that on their own.

And I think that this deal where the “good people” tried to make everyone else “good” on the outside while the “good people’s” insides weren’t in order, I think that is about to reap the whirlwind.  And all our insides are going to be revealed, for good or ill.

We earned it.   We were well-meaning Pharisees.  I guess we just stop being Pharisees and hold on to the Lord with everything we have, knowing that every day we should strive to obey the greatest commandment… and that every day we will fail.

Deuteronomy 6:You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.

And what more, in the end, can we wish for?

Maintaining the Social Information Conduits

Skill set Acquisition:  Networking

Networking:  The process of creating and maintaining relationships

Networking has become a dirty word in some circles because of how it’s been ravaged by business use.   Personally, as an introvert, I find networking difficult.  I like people, but I forget to do the touchstone maintenance on relationships.  But networking is a skill borrowed by the business world from the world of family and friends.   It belongs, properly, in the social realm.  (I recommend reading Miss Manners’ rants about the side effects caused by business stealing actions which belong to the social sphere).

I’m supposed to love my neighbor… and if I don’t know a thing about my neighbor, that makes that difficult.  I would pray for Cousin Sue if I knew she needed praying for, but if I never speak to Cousin Sue (or Aunt Betty, her mother).  Our communities are broken – we are friends transiently with people with whom we work or do hobbies, but bonds of blood become neglected – as does physical association.  (Do you even know your neighbors’ first names?)

I’ll explain.  Think of a cobweb.. every strand connected to every other strand, but there are matrixes where many strands come together.  The strands are maintained by regular conversation.  “How are you?” “How are the kids?”  “Oh, Great Aunt Sue has lumbago?  Terrible.”  But if you don’t do that maintenance, the strands dry up.  And suddenly you realize that you haven’t heard from that friend (or relative!) for ten years.  And maybe someone you cared about died – and you missed the funeral.  Or someone was sick, or needed help… and you could have helped, but you didn’t know.

This used to be women’s work.  And yes, I’ll get this right out front:  Some part of its ruination is how easy it is for social conduit maintenance to slide into gossip.   That’s (my mother tells me) what goes wrong in small towns… everyone knows everyone’s business and has an opinion.   If you don’t want to slide into gossip, it’s easy enough to ask yourself, “Can I help X with this issue, and if so, has God made it my business to do so?”  If not, do the socially appropriate thing and return to your muttons.  (In other words:  Drop a sympathy card in the mail, bake a casserole, show up with some flowers or a kitchen appliance, say congratulations… you get the idea).   Having enough to do of your own does prevent many a sin – it might not be Biblical, but idle hands ARE the devil’s playground.   Worse still, an idle mind.

Returning to the personal:  This is something I’m stepping up to, a skill I’m reluctantly learning.  My mom is the Grand Central Station of information for my family, but she’s in her 70s.  I *could* be in direct contact with my cousins, it’s not that I don’t like them.  I do, quite a lot.  My husband has an enormous family.  We used to let his mom be GCS … but she’s been gone to Glory these 14 years.   We have a wide circle of friends.  And I love each and every one of them.   So then, if they are going to feel loved, I have to stay in contact.

And it’s not just my job as a middle-aged woman to do this!  It’s also my job as counselor/encourager.  If the people in my various circles have drifted off, then they won’t feel comfortable coming and finding me when they need a shoulder.   This is particularly important for those who don’t know Christ.  How can I give them whatever words God has for them, how can I show them God in my life, how can I be a blessing to them… if they don’t feel free to come talk to me?

Another skill set, another “job” to add to the rest.  Fortunately I enjoy it, once I get over myself a bit.  🙂

 

Confess, don’t repress

I wind myself up trying to be perfect pretty frequently.  To be all things to all people, to get all the things done, to reach out to everyone, to be creative and studious and friendly and … um, you get the idea.  And then I have a fine fit of self-flagellation when I fail.

This time, as I was coming back out of the swamp of despair, God was on me to be more confessional, to spend more time in prayer with Him, to be more real.

Why wouldn’t you be real in prayer?  With an omniscient God who already knows?

Because you’re prideful?  Because you’re trying to shove your desires and raw self under the couch because you’re ashamed?  Because you’re trying to “fix yourself” in front of Him who created you?  Because you want to have control of one little corner of your life, and if that’s by denying yourself before you even ask… well, that’s still control.

All of that.

I figure I must have a real wide streak of Pharisee in me, because God has had to drag me out of the path of Pharisee-dom (various denominations) more times than I can count.  It always hurts, burns down to the core, and makes me ashamed.  How could I?  (Begin self-flagellation routine).

Today, I’m thinking… maybe one of the reasons God insists on me being real with Him, being raw and just saying what I’m thinking right away instead of trying to clean it before I take it to His feet, it’s because what He’s gifted me with is the role of intimate friend and counselor.  It would be too easy to act like I have it all together.  It would be too easy to be (as Pastor Dan was preaching tonight) a referee only calling fouls and not in the game.

My calling is to be there to walk with folks through whatever they’re going through, to love unconditionally, to encourage and exhort and counsel – not to be the ref.  I’m supposed to be the coach, if anything.   A big hug, a little advice, and a smile as I send (x) back into the game.

If I for one minute forget that 1) I’m not better than anyone and that 2) there but for the grace of God go I (for I have been greatly blessed and protected) then I can’t do my job.  I become Scary Church Lady, not a conduit for the love of Christ.   It’s not everyone’s job to exhort and encourage, it *is* my job.  And there are prerequisites and a skillset.  (About which I’ll talk soon, I have a post in draft, it’s all tangled with kittens – I’ve been fighting to make it somewhat linear).

Now my job is to catch myself up short when I try to repress all the wants, all the ugly, all the “things I don’t think fit who I am want to be”.  It’s all to go to Jesus.  Good for my humility, I expect.  /shrug.

Confess.  Don’t repress.  (God knows anyway).

PS Those of you who know me, know – I don’t have boundaries.  Well, I do.  But they’re farther in than most people’s are.  I am really like this, and it really weirds people out all the time.