The Novel Reader’s Error

You know a few things… you know that the end will be good.

You can see how things are being put in place – just exactly so – so that SOMETHING is going to be reaped.   Stones in the river ahead of you that you’re crossing.   A step, then another… but you can’t see very far.  What lies ahead?  How far is the other side?

The temptation is to see those bits as pieces of a puzzle, and to try to figure out what is missing.  What is to be seen.   To figure out the next thing that will happen, the next step, so as to prepare oneself.

You want.  Oh, you want.  You want the things you tell everyone about, and the things that you don’t.  (The things that you tell, less so).

And you forget.

You’re not just piecing your puzzle.  In fact, you’re not just crossing your river a stone at a time.

You’re in a dance.  A dance with every other person in the universe, and you’re not the star of the show.  Or the not-star, for that matter.

You want to know, so that you can see where to put your foot next – but you’re not competent to have that information.  You would stop before you performed the grande’ jete’ – not thinking yourself able to leap so far.   Only your Creator knows your abilities and your limitations, how the wind of someone else’s passing will lift you higher or when to bow your head so that you will slip out of the way.

It’s not just that faith is a virtue, it’s that you can’t give yourself fully to the dance without it… and don’t you want to dance?


Being Out as a Christian

Are you out as a Christian?

We’re in a weird, weird place in America.   We have total freedom of religion, most of the people in our country are nominally Christian – and yet we feel uncomfortable being out as serious in our faith.

There are reasons for that.   There’s a public relations campaign going on to cast serious Christians of whatever stripe as ugly, bigoted, ignorant, or all of the above.   I mean, I get you.  Who wants to be tarred with that mess?  Who wants to have to explain the actions of someone you don’t actually agree with?   Who wants to be held accountable for some member of the family who was a total doof?  It’s not fun.

But if we hide quietly in the corners, then the only Christians that the world will know are ones who put their feet in their mouths.  (And let’s not even talk about the intentional way this is being manipulated, it gives me sadness).

If we want our neighbors to think of Christianity as good, we have to be good.  We have to be on our A game – and we have to be OUT.  We have to be representing.   We have to take a little of that flak, and be ready to explain our beliefs in a calm and rational manner.

Social media re-posts won’t do.  Memes?  No.   You have to live it.   No yelling, folks.

1 Peter 2:12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

You have to live it, so that when your friends and neighbors hear about “those ugly Christians” they’re challenged by the fact that they know you.   And you’re not ugly.   In fact, you’re loving.   You love the brethren, you love outsiders.   Yeah, you have weird rules, but you actually live them out.   And if they ask you about those weird rules, you can explain the why.  Politely.

1 Peter 3:14 But even if you should suffer for the sake of righteousness, you are blessed. And do not fear their intimidation, and do not be troubled, 15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence; 16 and keep a good conscience so that in the thing in which you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ will be put to shame.

Probably it’s getting to be lions time again.   Okay.  Whatever.  If so, we’ve fought and won that battle before.   How?   By standing firm.   By identifying ourselves with Jesus, and not letting anyone or anything take us away from Him.

Don’t be afraid for others to know who you are.


New Pastor, New Emphasis

It was prophetic that the last book that Pastor Mike lead us through was Joshua.   Even as we got well into the book, his Caleb and Joshua (pastors Dan and Abel) had to hold up his arms by preaching for him as his health began to fail.   Pastor Mike was a Moses.  Not someone you could believe was up to leading a flock – but he did, and brought it health and increase.

It’s been a month since he died.   A good man.  A good life.   But … the sheep need a shepherd.

And now we have Pastor Dan as our new head pastor.

And things will change.   And people will leave.  And people will come in.  And the church will change.

And that’s okay.

Our city is blessed with several excellent churches.  I don’t begrudge them a few congregants as things settle out.   When you get a new pastor, you get new priorities, new ways of doing things.  And that annoys folks.  Whatever.  As long as you’re in a Bible believing, Bible living church that pushes you to grow in the faith?  I don’t care where you go.

Pastor Ralph (before Mike) had an emphasis on Loving the Lost – we had numerous  recovery ministries when he was the pastor, and we brought in a lot of folks that “didn’t look like” they’d be your typical Christians.    You want sold out for Christ?  “She was forgiven much, so she loves much” is applicable to those folks.

Pastor Mike worked hard to equip the saints.   We were trained up right.  And the love in our church?  Seriously.  I think you can get a love high by touching the walls.  He was steeped in the love of God, and he taught us how that was done, in action.

Pastor Dan is in love with the gospel, and with evangelism.  I can feel the altar calls getting more frequent as I sit here… and HOORAY.  I was raised with regular altar calls.   And yelling.  He exhorts pretty hard.  So?  I was raised Baptist.  If you don’t yell, do you even care?

I was rooting for Pastor Dan just as hard as I was rooting for Pastor Mike back in the day.   He’s going to be an amazing pastor, and I’m so happy that we have a good man to lead us as we take territory for our Lord.

Oh, and YES.  I know how much I’m blessed with my church.   😉

Boundaries, a book review

Raise your hand if you’ve heard of this book… “Boundaries” by Henry Cloud.

Now raise your hand if you’ve not been bothered to read it, because you figured it was the standard bit of Christian self-help puff.

Yeah.  Okay, the latter was me.  And then after the third person I knew talked about how awesome it was, I figured, well… let’s have a read.

Will it change my life?  No.  Because I’m already all about boundaries.  It helped me with my ongoing project of communicating more clearly, so that’s good.  But OY.  I want to get this book in the hands of as many people as possible.

Why?  Because the lack of boundaries is a major problem for about 70% of the people I know, in one direction or the other.  I have *been* that person, and it took some nastiness to get that rooted out of my psyche.   Now I’m more “let your yes be yes and your no be no” even while I inwardly writhe because I’d really rather say “yes” all the time.

What it is:  300 pages of dissection of problem/instructions on change.  Brutally honest.

What it is not:  Fluffy and short and easy.

If you want guilt to stop working on you?  Get this book.

If you want to know why people in your life act the way they do?  Get this book.

It’s a good read.  Very Christian, but useful for non-Christians too.


Gone to Glory

As of this writing, Pastor Mike has gone to his reward.  Well deserved rest, no more pain, a body that works properly for the first time since he was 10yo… but I wanted to let you know, as some of you had offered prayers on his behalf.

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Dearest Church, It is with heavy hearts that we share with you that our Sr. Pastor Mike Reed has gone home to be with Jesus. 1 These 4:13-18 But I do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning those who have fallen asleep, lest you sorrow as others who have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who sleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord will by no means precede those who are asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words. Please keep his wife Hannah and their daughters in your prayers. Please respect their privacy at this time.

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Man’s Search for Meaning

My dad got me “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankel for my birthday.  It’s a short read if you’ve not read it.   I was very pleased to get it – lots of talk about philosophy, and I haven’t swum through as much as one might have thought.

But every time I READ philosophy, I feel like I’ve had a large dinner of lettuce.  Lots of chewing, but I’m still not full.

What gives?  Why is it initially so interesting to me and then … nothing?

I think it’s that I already HAVE meaning in my life.

Frankel’s book is a series of snapshots of his emotional life while in the concentration camps during WWII.  He talks about how he got through the horrors, and how he saw other prisoners do the same.

He observed deeply religious prisoners and how they maintained their meaning (although often not their lives) but that wasn’t the focus point of his book – his focus point was his own inner life, how he maintained enough self-care to continue to get up and try to live for just one more day.

It’s an interesting book, if unpleasant as are all books about the camps.  I learned about the protective shell of apathy as one goes through horrors.

But still… there is this nothingness.   There’s no higher calling, no eternal lesson.   Just plodding forward, and a greater clarity of understanding one’s self, and other human beings.

I don’t know.  I’ll read it again and see if I get more out of it… but for now?  Man’s Search for Meaning didn’t find God, and thus – it didn’t find meaning after all.

Fish Knives and Marital Bliss

” It is not, in fact, very different from the conviction she would have felt at the age of ten that the kind of fish-knives used in her father’s house were the proper or normal or “real” kind, while those of the neighbouring families were “not real fish-knives” at all.”  Screwtape Letters, CS Lewis

Home is where you get to have your mashed potatoes exactly the way you like them.   But what happens when you make a home with another human, who likes their mashed potatoes differently?  I know this sounds stupid.   If you moved in with a roommate, you’d talk over your recipes and get it all sorted out before time to put dinner on the table.  But how many people, when they get married, don’t talk over this little stuff – and then get snorky because the potatoes are “wrong”?

Let the old married lady walk you through this minefield….. because it is a minefield, and it doesn’t really ever stop, because human preferences and needs evolve through their lifetimes.  (This is, by the way, not merely about mashed potatoes).

My husband and I got married a few days after his 23rd birthday, and a few months before mine.   He’d never lived outside the home, and my “outside the home” was limited to sharing an on-campus apartment with a bunch of other girls, with whom I didn’t share food or chores.   We each came burdened with a stack of assumptions about the “way things just are” (fish knives) that reached the ceiling of our first apartment, and they caused a lot of abrasions on their way out of our lives.

There was the Fuzzy Salsa Incident – or, if the cook assumes the non-cook will automatically do the cleaning up without being asked, how long will the jar of salsa sit on the table?

There was the Butter vs. Margarine throwdown.  (Does one save money by putting margarine on the table or in the food?  One saves marital joy by not buying margarine).  (This was in 1995 – well before we knew how bad it was for us).

Lots of things show up here – from how often you change the sheets to how clean is “clean enough” and what bugs who.   It all comes down to, “but this is how it has always been done in my home, and this is my home now, so why are you doing things ‘wrong’?”  Not to mention, “why do you keep buying those vegetables I hate?”

You’ve got to talk it out.  All of the things.   Sometimes you give way, sometimes you compromise, sometimes you end up with two versions of mashed potatoes on the table.   Mashed potato preparation doesn’t matter, but conflict and hidden resentments do.

This stuff doesn’t stop.   We finally got our food system down, which ended up being different from either of our families-of-origin, and then we went Primal for a few years, which permanently changed our taste buds and ability to tolerate carbs/sugars.   And then DH had his gall bladder removed, which has substantially changed all of that – we’re still settling those feathers – the lady weightlifter who prefers to keep her carbs around 150g/day does not appreciate a low-fat diet, and the guy without bile storage can’t handle most beef, and forget pork or lamb.

We’re changing how we do chores right now, as we adjust to this new season of habits.  Aging and accident have changed how we do stuff too.   There is no “one right way” to make mashed potatoes or change the sheets – there’s Bible admonition to obey the husband and love the wife.   How you live that will look different in every house.   So, you have to be flexible, and communicate honestly.

Forty-six is different than twenty-three.   We don’t get snorky about the differences now, we work together to find a way forward that hits both of our needs and respects our preferences.   If one person REALLY cares about a thing – or needs a thing – then that’s how you do it.  Otherwise, it’s all up for modification.

What kind of fish-knives are right for your house depends on what kind of fish you eat, or if you eat fish at all.