Author Archives: hearthie

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….

 

 

Book Review: Wild – From Lost to Found on the Pacific Coast Trail

Another Birthday Book Review… this time gifted by Mom.

Mom doesn’t know that reading books from Oprah’s Book Club is a bad plan.   Her intentions were good… pre-celebrating the results of the foot surgery I’m having next month, she got me a book about hiking the PCT.   Good thoughts, I embrace the hope and the idea, even if I didn’t like the book – except the part about the actual hiking.

To summarize my review of this book, I’d say that this work is:

  1. A novel of the modern type, where the subject matter is interwoven with autobiography, heavy on the autobiography.
  2. A feminist novel.  I could have read this in college.   Stereotypical Oprah’s Book Club.

I’ve hiked a bit of the PCT with my folks as a teen.  Living in California, if you go camping much (which we did), you’re bound to hit this famous trail and do a few miles.   It’s well worth the effort – I have walked the path winding along the top of the mountain, overlooking the desert below, the path that meanders between the two climate zones.   Glorious.   I’ve walked, similarly, some of the bits in the Sierra.  Amazing.

When Wild talks about the experience, I feel utterly at home and simultaneously homesick for the wilds of California.   I admire her tenacity, pushing through hardship to reach a goal.  I identify with that kind of heroine.

But the drug addiction, the divorce, the abortion… they make this a story about Ms. Strayed, not about the PCT, and not about hiking.   Sixty percent of this book is written about her life off the trail, and though I’d be happy to hear about “I worked through this on this climb”, it’s too much.  I want to read about the PCT.   I want to read about the rigors of hiking.   I don’t want to read about casual sex.   Trite.  Meaningless.  I know the modern feminist novel makes much of these events, but to me they’ve become tropes – yes, yes, you’re exerting your independence.   Shall I pat you on the head?  The hike exerts her independence, her perseverance, her strength!  The other stuff is detritus, best left behind forever.

This winding together of 70% autobiography 30% subject has gotten dreadfully common.  This is far from the first book I’ve read written in this style.  It must be the new non-fiction format.   I’ve read books by nice Christian ladies in the same style – books about houses and gardens, theoretically.    If I pick up a book about making a house a home, I want to read about making a house a home.  One doesn’t have to erase oneself as the author, but I didn’t buy the book to read your autobiography!!   Some is good, a sprinkling.  But all together?  No.

And so.  If you’re stuck in Oprah’s Book Club, this isn’t a bad book, and Strayed does have a solid backbone.   But that’s the nicest thing I can say about it.

Book Review: Dressed – The Secret Life of Clothes

Continuing through the pile of Birthday Books, we come to the dud in the room.   Beauty was such an incredible read that it’s only fair that one of the others would utterly fail to be palatable.

Pros:  It’s a beautiful book.  The pages are thick, turn well on nice stitching, and the photographs are interesting, well-labeled, and plentiful.

Cons:  In short?  This is written by a feminist philosopher and … that’s what this is.  Now, I could manage that if it had a point.  I remember (back in the day) enjoying Naomi Wolf.  (These days I’d disagree in the main, but again – she had something to disagree *with*).

One should listen carefully to ideas with which one disagrees.  Sometimes there are pearls in the muck…. and at any rate, your own thinking is sharpened.  “Why is this wrong?” is an *excellent* question to ask oneself.   It’s an even more excellent question to give oneself as an essay prompt.  Reason it out!

But Bari didn’t have an argument to chew on.  I got through half of chapter two (suits) before I had to give up.   The text (past the introduction, which did have some pearlettes) is a discussion of the symbolism of popular culture, bit after bit, with no cohesive argument to be made – just the understanding that the argument has already been won, and the author is only piling evidence up.   Frankly, I got bored.  “Are you still piling up evidence for an argument you’re not planning to make?  Okay – I’m out.”

Bari spent very little time talking about CLOTHES qua clothes.  Clothes in art.  Clothes in cinema, yes.   But then she mentioned clothes in contexts with which I am extremely familiar… and she told 2/3 of the story, missing the point entirely.   Or was flat wrong.   Besides which, reading symbolism into every.single.thing gets old.  It’s pretentious.  Certainly there is symbolism to be found in most stories – particularly old ones.  But feminist symbolism in every object, five layers deep?  Um.  No.   K.I.S.S.   Wisdom is found in simple truths.

I’m having good fun reading for research, it’s extremely inspiring – even when the books aren’t much use for anything except decor.

Book Review: Beauty – The Invisible Embrace

 

Beauty – The Invisible Embrace by John O’Donohue  Ten stars out of five.  😀

I instagrammed a picture of this book when I was in the first chapter, remarking on the fine sweet pain of reading the book that you wish you’d written.    More on that later… but suffice to say that I took *pages* of notes out of this book.   Written by a man who’s about to become my new favorite non-fiction author, this work covers Beauty from stem to stern – very nearly every aspect of beauty other than those popularized by the beauty industry.

A philosopher, once a priest, O’Donohue goes DEEP with his analysis of beauty.    He goes wide.  The list of works referenced alone is a trove of riches.   Well, it is for those of us interested in the philosophical and theological aspects to beauty.

Now to besiege you with quotes…

p. 193 “Beauty shines with a light from beyond itself.   Love is the name of that light.  At the heart of beauty must be a huge care and affection for creation, for nowhere is beauty an accidental presence.   Nor is beauty simply its own end.”

p. 127 “Architecture is one of the most public and permanent stages on which a culture displays its understanding of beauty. ”  [I found that statement both true and excessively depressing].

p. 67 “The soul is never fully at home in the social world that we inhabit.  It is too large for our contained, managed lives”.

p. 3 “Perhaps, for the first time, we gain a clear view of how much ugliness we endure and allow.   The media generate relentless images of mediocrity and ugliness in talk-shows, tapestries of smothered language and frantic gratification.   The media are becoming the global mirror and these shows tend to enshrine the ugly as the normal standard.   Beauty is mostly forgotten and made to seem naive and romantic.

That last… that last is where my fine sweet pain was born.  This … boxing up of beauty as naive, as weak, as romantic – that’s what I wanted to put to death.  Beauty has power.

Beauty touches all aspects of our lives, at least it does if we don’t deliberately wall ourselves off from it.   Sometimes we do, in the name of mediocrity, in the name of anger, in the name of intentional numbness.

I have spent the past few days (I read quickly) walking around my house forcing my family to listen to me read passages out loud to them.   One might say I’m excessively fond of this book.   It *will* be influencing my future work.

If you are at all interested in Beauty in any of her forms, this book will be a song in your heart.   Go.  Read it so that I don’t have to find you and follow you around and read it to you.   Because I might……. I might indeed.

Book Review: Life Together

Life Together by Dietrich Bonhoeffer is one of those books that “everyone” has read – unless of course everyone includes me.   Somehow I missed memory-holing that it’s one of El’s favorite books – for every reason!

In my search for more wisdom, the first book out of the gate was a great choice.  It challenged me, it educated me, it enlightened me.   This book made me wonder why people talking about Christian community don’t … you know… read it?  It seems like most efforts to form/maintain Christian communities (either full-out, living together or just as a church body or part thereof) are stepping right onto the mines that Bonhoeffer points out in this (short) work.

I’m spending a lot of time thinking about community right now, so this was amazingly useful.

Some quotes:

“But it is part of the discipline of humility that we must not spare our hand where it can perform a service and that we do not assume that our schedule is our own to manage, but allow it to be arranged by God.”

“The final breakthrough to fellowship does not occur, because, though they have fellowship with one another as believers and as devout people, they do not have fellowship as the undevout, as sinners.   The pious fellowship permits no one to be a sinner.   So everybody must conceal his sin from himself and from the fellowship.   We dare not be sinners.”

“The more isolated a person is, the more destructive will be the power of sin over him, and the more deeply he becomes involved in it, the more disastrous will be his isolation.”

I recommend this book heartily to anyone who wants to be challenged and grow wiser.  It’s counter-cultural and uncomfortable.

 

 

Book Review: Hinds Feet In High Places

I decided I needed to spend a bit more time getting serious about taking in good Christian writing and my pursuit of wisdom.   So, I’m starting a bit more serious reading … but while I was trying to make my list, I realized I’d already read a good many of the books.  So, for as long as it amuses me and you… here’s a series on Christian classics.

..

Hinds Feet on High Places by Hannah Hurnard is a classic allegory of the walk of sanctification specifically aimed at women.  I expect a man might make use out of it – there’s good to be taken – but it is an *explicitly* feminine take.

If you haven’t read this, and you’re a Christian woman, it is worth your time.  It is a short read, and intense.   Yes, it is emotional.   However, it’s not sticky and inappropriate.  It deals with the real emotions that we have to conquer to walk forward in the Christian life.

The protagonist must repeatedly make choices – painful choices – in order to continue to follow Christ.   He is always ready to help, and sends her daily helpers, but He also asks her to take a journey that winds through some strange and perilous ground.  As she continues to walk, she grows stronger, until she is finally transformed into the woman Christ had planned for her – and … well, I won’t spoil the ending, but it’s good.

I’ve read through this numerous times for my own benefit and enjoyment, and I recently worked through it as a devotional with my mentee (if you’re interested, this is the link to the study we used).   I don’t agree with every word in either the book or the devotional, but it took me through a good solid soul-searching, and helped both my mentee and I grow spiritually.

Again, this book is *short*.   It’s sweet, written for a woman’s heart and understanding.  And it is challenging.    I find all too many modern works about as strong as watered milk.   Hinds’ Feet is strong – especially if you allow yourself to see your own weaknesses in the protagonist’s struggles, and the areas of choice you’ve avoided (or been stuck on) in hers.

It’s not about marriage, it’s not about children, it’s about becoming strong in the Lord.  And it’s for women.

Five stars.

Take It For Granted

We use the phrase “take it for granted” as an insult.   As something that we shouldn’t do.  “Oh, she takes that for granted”… meaning, “she’s an ingrate”.   But that’s *not* what the words mean.

Take it for granted.  Granted.  Granted is GIVEN.  “I take this as given”.  As it has been given to me.

Who gives?  God gives.   He gives richly.   Should we thank Him for His gifts?  YES.   Can we possibly thank Him for all of them?  No.  Should we make an effort to thank Him for everything all the time?  No.   Because in so doing, we’re being Pharisees.  We’re practicing a sensible discipline to help us develop gratitude and humility and sitting in it ad infinitum, never moving forward.

We should thank God.  All the time, because He gives so richly that there’s always something new to appreciate.     But put reverse this – do you want your kids to get up every day and thank you for the shoes on their feet?  Every day?  Every.Single.Day?  No.  If they came up to you and said, “you know, these shoes are so comfy and I really appreciate you taking me to the good shoe store so my feet don’t hurt – thanks, Mom!” randomly three months after you bought new shoes, that would make you warm and squishy.   But as a ritual?  “Thank you, dear mother, for the shoes on my feet”.   Bleh.

We need to accept the gifts we’ve been given.   To TAKE them as granted.  To say, “Thank you, Lord Father” and not pretend He does take-backsies.

Sometimes rehashing old ground is … rehashing old ground, and not useful at all.

Choice

My reading of books selected by other people has finally paid a major dividend – a dividend beyond seeing into the souls of my friends, which is lovely in itself.   I finally FINALLY figured out what, in all the “good books”, I could not stand.

It goes beyond the endless (and endlessly boring) literature of adultery, which is what I thought my problem was.  I don’t like reading about people without virtue.   It’s the idea that one “just finds oneself” doing things.  I can’t relate.  You can find yourself experiencing an emotion without choice, but you do have a choice about what to do with the emotion.  “I found myself in love with him”.  Okay.  And you then refused to see him at all and took up underwater basketweaving in Peru to get your mind off of things they needed to be off of?  No?  Don’t whine to me.  I am not impressed.

Unless you drug me, I’m not going to “find myself” doing things.   You can reduce my choices radically – you can throw me in a jail cell, you can rape me, you can impoverish me… yes, you can cut my number of choices to the bone.   But I still retain choice as long as I am awake and alive.

I retain choice of attitude.  Choice of thoughts.  Choice of speech or silence.

I don’t TAKE action without thinking about it first.   I just don’t.  And even if I did – I could always change course.  I’ve had to do that in life.  Not fun, but it’s doable.

So when I’m reading about a protagonist who “just finds him/herself” doing something reprehensible (or something counterproductive), I lose interest.

Sure, you make bad choices in life.  I do, you do, everyone does.   I don’t require my protagonists make GOOD choices.   I can get behind, “I did this because of that and it led me here”.   But you still made a choice.   And now, enjoying the consequences of that choice, you continue to have choice… what will you do now?  More choice.

So, I learned something about myself today.  And that’s always a gift.

Thanks, L.  Thanks Dr. Jordan of Alias Grace.