Saturday, December 31, 2016

Blessed Beyond the Promise

Most of us will take a moment to look back over the year today. You may have already done so, perhaps during a family get together. You'll find good times and bad. Days of extreme happiness or devastating sorrow will come to mind. You notice that, in the course of 365 days, most of us will run the gamut of every emotion. Be thankful.

No matter how horrible your year, how straightened your circumstances, how great your loss, be thankful. There is no greater blessing than life and if you've lived in the desert, wandered the valley, climbed the mountain you have lived. If you survive past midnight tonight, it will have been a great year because you were blessed with 365 days of life, however hard it was or was not.

My view of things has changed much in the last year. Not because I'm well or richer or happier. Because at some point I recognized that I am blessed beyond measure and highly favored. I am a daughter of a king, a child of the most High. In the good times, in the bad times, in the darkest place imaginable, I am blessed and I'm so very thankful for the protection and provision that God has given me in 2016.

If you survive to see 2017, go forward knowing that God is able to provide whatever you need. He did not promise to do more than provide your needs. The truth is you don't need nearly as much as you have and if you have more than you need, you are blessed beyond the promise.

Imagine that... blessed beyond the promise! How can you not be happy with that knowledge! God has provided you with more than he promised!

Happy New Year to you all! May God grant you the grace to see beyond the superficial and recognize the supernatural.

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Face in the Mirror

For years I looked in the mirror every morning and wondered who was staring at me. The face was familiar. I thought I knew it. And she had titles: Jerry's wife, Jerry's social security number (Army wife), Mike & Dave's mother, office manager, Housing Specialist, writer, sister, aunt, Jerry's widow. I'm surprised at how many of them I had and that there are more. Maybe that was why I'd always been secure and certain. I'd felt safe. I was safe. Wasn't I?

One night a storm came and the world changed. When the sun came up everything was shaken, turned upside down, and life was frozen into glittering shards tearing me apart. There was no confidence, no courage, and certainly, no thankfulness.

The face in the mirror was tired, strained, and afraid. It was the face of a woman alone and devastated by things she never dreamed could happen to her. I didn't know her. I couldn't begin to understand her.

Sometimes, the things that happen to us seem so pointless. We're inundated by whys to the point we feel we're drowning in them. What purpose did that serve? Why did that happen? Where is God when you need him?

There are books designed to help you find answers to those kinds of questions. I've read a few of them. They don't know either. When you're searching they seem trite and a bit arrogant. What do they know? They haven't looked in my mirror.

This year some things happened to force me to change my perspective. . . and my position. The face in my mirror was beginning to show the stress. I had to make a choice that placed me in a new environment and I wasn't happy with it. This change had been pushing at me for at least 5 years. I always resisted. I knew me. I knew what was best for me. Didn't I?

Life got complicated. I got sicker. I had to make a decision. I cried. I moved.

There is a moment when we've actually done the right thing, made the right decision, or changed our perspective that is unlike any other experience. A clarity and a buoyancy washes over you and everything glows. Colors are vivid. The sun shines brighter, the sky is bluer, and clouds are fluffier. We even feel lighter. I suspect this is what some call a "light bulb moment".

Life has a way of twisting back on itself so that we often end where we began but in a different state. That's how I felt. I was back where I started but this time, all alone. I looked for a term that defined this sensation and the only thing that came close was equilibriumThe condition in which all acting influences are balanced or canceled by equal opposing forces, resulting in a stable system. From:

We refer to this state as balance. Life is constantly seeking balance. We're constantly seeking to shift this balance because we think we know best. We push ahead, seeking our own way. Life pushes back to reestablish true equilibrium. Sometimes it pushes hard. It hurts. Things we don't like happen. We're out of balance. If we stop pushing, life will stop pushing. Balance will reassert itself. You'll feel better, maybe not well, but better. Things may even make sense or you'll feel like they do. Life will still be hard but it will be less confusing, less frustrating, and less disappointing. And you might find peace. Not happiness, peace. They're not the same.

The face in my mirror now is older. There are these lines that were not there 7 years ago. The emotional chaos of my life has left an impact but then, so has the weather. I never used sunblock. However, the strain has lessened. The effects of the storm are swept away and new construction replaced the destruction. It is a smaller existence. I'm still tired but I take naps. I'm still sick but I'm feeling better in many ways. I'm still alone but there are worse things. Slowly, balance is reasserting itself. I'm not exactly happy but I'm satisfied.

I don't know how those darn mirrors survived the devastation but they polish up well. The face that looks back at me is acceptable. Finally, I'm content with who I am and where He is leading me. I'm confident that He knows the way. And I am more than thankful.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Piece of Cake

I must be getting old.

Why do you think that?

I don't like change.


What's that supposed to mean?

Nothing. Just understanding.

You don't like change either?



I presume that you have a point?

.......... I find my ideas about certain things have shifted. Changed, I guess, you'd say. But that feels too strong a word. And it makes me feel old.


You know, I don't think happiness is what we think it is.


{sigh} No.

So... what is it? 

I'm not sure I know actually but I'm pretty certain that real happiness is something you feel even when you feel like . . . horrible.

Hmmm, that's an interesting concept.

{sigh} Not really. Please don't raise your eyes like that. No telling what could happen.

What do you mean?

I mean anyone who can snap his fingers and create the world... well, what havoc might raising your brows cause?

Ah ...I never thought of it that way. I didn't actually snap my fingers, you know. I did a bit more work than that. But let's get back to your idea.

I'm pretty sure that our perception of happiness is . . . well, a fabrication.

You mean a lie?

Well, no, yes, kind of....


I think somewhere along the way we've been taught or convinced ourselves that happiness is  . . . well, like a present that someone hands us and we unwrap it and inside is exactly what we've been wanting.


No, no, no. I can't explain it. Think of it this way. There is a beautiful box with our name on it. We get so excited and bubble over with what we call joy. Someone hands the box to us and the feeling grows. We open it and it grows even more. Inside is what we've always wanted and we almost explode with happiness at this point. The whole process is what we perceive as happiness. If someone smashes the gift, takes it away from us, or tells us it was a mistake we perceive that as an absence of happiness.



And you think this is all a fabrication?

I think it is a construct of our own making. We create this idea of happiness and it is wrong. Real happiness isn't fleeting. Real happiness isn't transitional.  It remains. As long as we allow it.


Well.... I don't know. I don't know what brings it. I don't know how to keep it. And I don't know what makes it leave. Yet.

I see. You're optimistic.

Not usually.

How did you arrive at this ... conclusion?

That's strange.

Some folks think these conversations are strange. Humor me.

Despite being ill for weeks, having people annoyed at me, dealing with situations that frustrate me, and being very tired I feel something I can't explain. I feel . . .


This will sound crazy, too, but I don't like that word.


Because I think it is a lie. It isn't a real thing at all. It is just a word we give to express a feeling that is temporary and ephemeral. What I feel I'm afraid to call happy.

That is interesting. What would you call it?

I'm not sure there is a word. Let's just say there is something inside me . . . singing.


Yes. That's as close as I can come. But I don't feel "good". I'm kind of bummed, in fact. But it is like my brain isn't getting it.


I told you, crazy.

I think you should keep thinking this way. 

I think I'm going to get a piece of cake.

Friday, November 4, 2016

What is Blessing?

For the last couple of days I've been reminded several times of how blessed I am. The sensation of being blessed has just been overwhelming. This set me wondering why it is often so hard to notice when we're blessed. I know many of us say, "I'm blessed." But as Inigo Montoya* once said, "I do not think that word means what you think it means."

We're all blessed just to be above ground and breathing. That's not what I'm talking about. We are here by decree. God placed us here. He didn't place us here as a blessing. At least, I don't believe so. He placed us here so he could spend time with us. That is a blessing of sorts but may folks don't believe in God, are not religious, or have miserable lives. So, just being alive and present is not necessarily a blessing to many.

What is a blessing? Pentecostals often say, "He got a blessing" when someone shouts under the influence of the Holy Ghost. Others say a financial windfall is a blessing. Some of us considered the "A" on our report card a blessing. I guess those can all be defined as blessings. The report card probably occurred because you worked hard, not because God gave it to you. He gave you the intelligence to achieve it but  believe me, he didn't make it easy. The windfall could be because of hard work made possible by the strength he gave you. Winning the lottery... not so much. It is a game of chance. Many folks think the universe came about the same way, by chance. So, that's isn't a blessing either. Chance negates God's participation. Nothing God is involved in is subject to chance.

The dictionary defines blessing this way:
1 a :  the act or words of one that blesses
   b :  approval, encouragement
2    :  a thing conducive to happiness or welfare
3    :  grace said at a meal

I think the words approval and encouragement are what I recognize as blessings. We designate so many things as a blessing that I think we lose sight of what the bare bones of the concept really is. God's approval and his encouragement are the basis of real blessing. To have his approval and be encouraged by him when life is a mess is an amazing blessing. You may not recognize the blessing at the time, but eventually, you can look back with clarity and see just how much you are blessed.

Face it, it is easy to feel blessed when the bills are paid, there's food on the table, and a roof over your head. It is much harder when the bank account is empty after you paid for all that. Writing that tithe check is a struggle when a bill collector just told you to sell something to pay them. When the baby is sick and you have no one to call it is hard to feel blessed. When your spouse dies and you sit in an empty house alone you don't feel blessed. You don't even feel God at times.

I've experienced every one of those things. I know how I felt. Alone, forsaken, and destitute. Not blessed. When I couldn't take my kid to the doctor because I had no money and no insurance. When my husband and I had nothing but temp jobs for over a year. It is a horrible feeling. But I remember we still managed to survive, pay the bills, and keep our house. I remember getting a job I applied for after I promised to pay extra tithes for one year if God would give me the job. Do you know, when faced with it I hesitated. But I did it... for two years. We were better off financially than we'd ever been before.

Was it a blessing? What was the blessing and who was blessed? Check the first definition. An act by which one blesses. I wasn't the one getting blessed. God was. He took me at my word and I had to follow through.  I blessed him.

And he blessed me. With his approval and encouragement. I wanted to pay the extra that second year. I loved being able to do it. I recognized the graciousness of God allowing me the ability to do so.

I have RA, fibromyalgia, and take tons of medication. I've asked for healing. Over and over and over. God hasn't healed me. Standing in church last Sunday I had to sit down. With no warning, I felt as if I'd been hit by a bus. In moments, pain swept over my whole body. I was in church, worshiping God and was hit with terrible pain. I thought I'd have to leave immediately. Where's the blessing?

My son saw how sick I was and asked the pastor to come pray for me. Did the pain leave? It eased up but it did not leave.  I went home in pain. But I feel so blessed.

In recent months I've begun to think that being blessed is not a state of being. It is a state of mind. It isn't something you can see, taste, or touch. Blessings are not things, places, or people. It is a brain thing. How your mind sees your condition and situation determine whether or not you're blessed. You can look at a broken leg as a disaster. Never mind that the other person in the car crash died.  Perhaps they went home to be with the Lord.  Who got blessed?

Blessing isn't location based. It isn't positional. It isn't health based. It isn't wealth based. Blessing is relationship based. How you view the chaos around you is important because it determines your relationship with others, particularly God. Wallowing in pity may feel good for about a minute. If it didn't we wouldn't do it. Admit it, you feel justified in your misery. Well, I do. But it doesn't matter. Misery doesn't affect blessing. Because it is relational, not emotional. God loves me when I'm miserable, probably more than when I 'm happy. Because he wants to comfort me.

That is blessing.

Stop thinking your situation is hopeless. Maybe it is. Maybe there is no cure, no fix, no money, no friends. But God wants to comfort you right where you are because your relationship is where you find him.

It is ok to feel bad. It is ok to cry. It is ok to be angry, sick, disgusted, annoyed, frustrated, or furious. Those are emotions God gave us. The Bible says "Be angry and sin not." Recognize that God is in the storm and in the calm. He's in the fire and the flood. In the midst of turmoil he seeks to hold your hand and walk you through it. Or he's waiting on the other side for you to walk to him.

That is the blessing.

*The Princess Bride

Monday, October 17, 2016

A Star to Steer By

It's been interesting, you know?
I try to make it so. What, exactly, have you found interesting?
I'm different.
At least, today I am. I have been for a little bit.
How so?
I'm not sure. Something is different.
In a good way, I hope.
.... I think so.... Yes.
Well, I'm glad to hear it. 
The medicine has given me a chance to breathe.
And we certainly want you breathing.
That's funny.
I try.
I was. But we're digressing. What is different.
I'm in the right place. For the first time, in a very long time, I feel I'm in the right spot. Or at least on the right road.
Oh, well, that's good. You must have been reading the map.
{sigh} I always read the maps.
Sure you do.
Anyway, at some point in the last several months, something shifted and I knew the decisions I'd made were the right ones. That, whatever else happened, I had turned onto the right road and was headed .... north?
It's a direction.
Yes, well, as a southerner one might say the wrong direction. But the north star is used to navigate. If one is lost, find the north star and get your bearings.
You've found your bearings?
...................... I think so. But I'm still afraid.
No surprise there. It is one of your most endearing qualities.
I mean it in the nicest way. When you are afraid, you always call me. 
I'm sorry. I try very hard not to be afraid.
You don't trust yourself very much and sometimes you don't trust me either. I'll tell you a secret.
You've actually started trusting me more. 
Are you being funny again? Because...
No, I'm serious. You're still a little terrified. But overall, I'm very pleased with your progress.
Me, too.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Hiding in the Fig Tree

I was doing my morning devotional today and a thought came to my mind as I was praying .

We think we are hiding things from God. In reality, we're hiding them from ourselves. 

In every life, even Christian lives, there are things we do, say, or think that we stick in a trunk in the farthest reaches of our mind or heart. We know they aren't "right". Not just horrible sins most people think of, but the little things, like neglect, unkind words, bitterness. Those are sins too. We may or may not regret these things but they're still wrong. And sometimes, no one may ever know about them. They are our secret sins, the ones that don't show, at least not too many folks.

So we stick them in the darkest corner, in the back of the attic of our heart and mind and forget about it. They're hidden. No one knows and eventually, even we will forget it is there. But like the tale-tale heart in Poe's frightening short story, or Able's blood from the earth in Genesis, they send out a signal that demands to be heard. These sins, big and small, are hidden but they cry out from the recesses of your soul for justice.

I grew up picking figs for Mama to make jelly and preserves. We had this enormous tree that was higher than the house. We'd climb around in there like monkeys and eat as many as we could while filling buckets with the fruit. You couldn't see us when we were in the tree but let me tell you a fact about fig trees. They have the most irritating leaves and sap you ever want to come in contact with. The sticky sap makes the prickly leaves stick to you.  After a few moments exposure, you are itching like mad and will continue to itch until you wash your skin off.

It is an irony that Adam and Eve prepared a garment of fig leaves to wear to hide their sin. Covering their shame made them feel better even though they had some of the most uncomfortable garments I can imagine. Their sin was hidden, from them and other prying eyes, but I have no doubt they couldn't forget it. After a while, every move would be an agony.

But God called them out. He gave them more comfortable garments and tossed them from the garden. They moved on and I suspect, they packed their sins in those trunks, shoved them in the far corners of their mind, and locked the door as tightly as the garden gate. They probably even forgot those little things. Their clothes were more comfortable, life, although hard, settled into a routine, they had all they needed. They could forget the past, ignore the present, and plan for the future.

And once in a while, when a sound in the attic disturbed their concentration... they'd pick up their phone and check their text messages, or Facebook, or tumblr ......

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

I Am Blessed

It has been a rough month... and it is only half over. I won't go into all the things that have hit me . It would take too long and range from the physical to the emotional to the spiritual and affected several relationships. You name it, I've dealt with it in the space of the last 6 weeks.

But there is a strange thing that has happened during all of it. The same words kept coming to my mind every time I was overwhelmed by stress, distress, anxiety, frustration, and annoyance.

I am blessed. I am highly favored. God has been so good and provided for me in every way possible.

 No, he didn't heal me of the horrible pain I've been dealing with or the emotional stresses that assailed me. Yet, the feeling of being so very blessed was there, in the middle of pain, in the middle of the stress.

I hate anxiety. I hate the shortness of breath, the tightness in my chest, the creeping fear that causes the hair on my arms to stand up. I hate the sensation that something is about to pounce, something dark and scary that I can't see. It is the most horrible feeling in the world. Fear that has no direction, no limit, and no discernable source. It is the "Something is coming" feeling of every horror movie you ever saw.

But I am so blessed. God, for some unimaginable reason, smiled on me at some point.

Oh, I wish I could tell you the stories that would shock you, the ones that would make you stare open mouthed at me. I don't dare. I try and forget those. But how could all that happen to someone and they still say they are blessed.

I don't know. I really don't. I ask myself how and it makes no sense. I just know that the reality hits me in the chest at the most horrible times in my life. When I'm out of control, when I'm prostrate from grief, pain, or fear, I know if I listen carefully, shut out the chaotic sounds of my life, I can hear the words.

I am so very blessed. God is still in control.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Set A Watch Over Your Children
I really love this little chart I found on Pinterest!  I often pray with Sarah before she leaves the house for school, particularly on days when she seems to be having a bad morning. I'm sorry I didn't do that with my boys. I've learned a lot since then but I did pray for them. In hindsight, maybe not enough. I've made a point to pray with Sarah before she leaves for school.

Why pray for your children before they leave for school? School, particularly in the 21st century is a hard place for children and they need a lot of help to get through it. If you are too old to remember how hard it was for you, something is wrong.  It is also no longer a place where wholesome and ethical values are likely to be taught. Rather the reverse is more likely. In fact, it is a place that your child could die.

Certainly, today our children need a prayer covering more than any generation ever has before. The spiritual attack on them is designed to corrupt every area of their lives: mental, emotional, spiritual. They face stress, anger, low self-esteem, resentment, jealousy, hatred, malice, and even sexual attacks both physical and mental. Bullying is clearly spiritual in nature for both the bully and the person bullied. Every area of their life is under attack in a school environment, particularly if they are attempting to live as a Christian. They are a target.

It is your responsibility to protect your children from any attack on them from any source. So, if you aren't praying for your children before they walk out that door, remember you are sending them into the lion's den. You are leaving them defenseless against attacks from all areas of their life. The stress will affect performance. Sometimes, the stress kills them.

The above chart is a really good guide to what kind of things to pray about and really, you don't have to have an hour-long prayer to cover these things. Read it with your child, let them know why you're going to pray about these things for them and follow the KISS method. Keep it simple, silly. Every point can be prayed for in a few words before they go out the door. You can add any points that you think need to be added.

Also, let them know that you will be praying for them during the day. Later, when you have prayer time you can expand on it but the important thing at this point is to let your children know that you are sending them out with a prayer covering and that you will continue to pray for them while they are at school. I promise you, the benefits to your children are enormous. The faith of children is legendary and if you've raised them to believe in prayer, the comfort they get from knowing you've prayed for them is huge.

Here is the link to School Day Prayer  blog where you can print this chart off for yourself and read the blog post about it. The site has other great items you might be interested in.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

It is Never Better Late Than Never

Notice anything interesting about that sign? If you came across that what would you do? I mean, one of them must be left. Right?

Sometimes we're faced with two perfectly good paths, going in different directions. We have to decide which is right. The path we don't take is the one that is left.

Decisions are not my strong point. I will gnaw them until they're ground as fine as flour. I try to see every angle, determine the every pitfall, every turn in the road. Of course, it is impossible. I've walked dark paths, terrified and trembling every step of the way. Others I've taken with my head high, my smile bright, and my eyes devouring the scenery. The decision to take those paths was equally difficult.

You can't see around the bend in the road, over the hill, or through the forest. You must choose and go blindly forward, either anticipating the journey or dreading it. The way you approach the path will most likely determine the quality of the trip. And timing is everything.

Most days my journey is fraught with pain and despair. I get so tired of hurting and I don't understand why I can't be the person I was before RA. I really don't understand. Medicines designed to control the symptoms of the beast eating my joints don't work.

Days go by and I can't leave home because to walk hurts, exhaustion threatens my concentration, and depression saps the joy out of everything I contemplate doing. I've gained nearly 30 pounds as a result of steroid use. Because steroids work. I have to make a choice in damaging organs with steroids or damaging joints without it. What to do? Decisions. Decision.

Recently I made a major decision to attend a church closer to home. I have missed so much church in the last several years, too much. I reached a place where I was staying home more than I was going. Since Sarah lives with me, she also missed too much and the guilt became heavy. After months of struggling with the decision, I surrendered.

Now, a month later, I realize that I should have made the change after Jerry died. All the signs were there and I can see now that I stayed for all the wrong reasons. It was a decision that cost me.

Some decisions are harder than others, even when we know which is right. The spiritual and emotional relief I feel now, tells me that I made the right choice, although later than I should have and I see that the need to move was for my benefit.

How many times have we heard "better late than never"? Recently, I read that "to obey God late is the same as disobedience". We all know that disobedience has a price. I will never know what I missed by not acting when the promptings began. My only defense is that emotionally I was a train wreck as a result of Jerry's death. I can't be sure that it is an adequate defense. I have to trust God on that. I just don't want to make a habit of ignoring the signs.

If you find yourself with an urgency to do something but you resist it because you think the status quo is where you need to be, check the signs. Don't risk missing something that God has for you just because you think you're right. You don't know what you will miss. Make sure that where you are is really where God wants you. Don't be left.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The Things You Find

I ran across this post this morning written by a witty, intelligent, and enlightened woman and thought I'd share it. Amazing what you find on the Web.

Sunday, July 31, 2016

My Struggle to Escape The Web

On July 30th I deactivated my Facebook account for an unspecified time. I'd like to think I can last for 30 days. I'll be happy to last a week. What drove this decision? Let's just say I received several signs, although, maybe it was more like a billboard.

On a trip to Arkansas to pick up my granddaughter and to see my son I ran across a library book sale and picked up a half a dozen books for $1.00. Several were Christian books. One of these I'd been looking for but it is out of print. Interesting, huh? A second I'd never heard of but it struck a cord.

As soon as I started reading the first book several things began to happen. First, I was hit with problems I didn't understand. The devil knows where the chinks in my armor are located and he managed to get his spear into them. It was two days before it dawned on me and although I was upset, at least I understood. Sometimes, knowing makes painful things bearable, sort of like an analgesic.

I finished the first book very quickly, but the second one I'm still working on. I'm totally blown away by the content because it is filled with things I've wanted to know, prayers I've actually prayed.

The second event the billboard. God wanted my attention. While in Arkansas a woman I have never seen before, whose name I do not know, and who I probably will never see again walked up to me and made a statement of two sentences. Then she walked away. I won't share what she said but there is no way she could have known what she knew. I've prayed about it and gnawed on it but I can't find any sense to it. She knew something about me she shouldn't and couldn't possibly have known. In fact, there is not a single soul in the world who knows what she knew but me and God. She didn't know the people I was visiting and we did not converse outside of her statement to me. It disconcerted me.

Why now? Well, for the first time in a long time, I was without the ability to get on social media for a week. What do you know, I hear a Voice. One I should have heard all along. If I'd been paying attention to something besides memes, politics, or the endless stream of meaningless status updates.

The cumulative impact of these events propelled me. I wanted to go home. As soon as I got home I knew I had to make changes. I decided I needed to cut out as many distractions as possible. I want to finish the book I'm reading and I want to explore the ideas in greater depth. I want to increase my time reading and studying my Bible. I want to pray more. I want to listen even more. I'm setting some goals in regard to these and my writing. I have to factor in dirty dishes, laundry, cleaning the house, my illness, my pain, and naps.

I'm three days in. I wish I could say the last few days without Facebook have been a breeze. They haven't. Things present themselves with the tag, "You could put this on Facebook if you hadn't deactivated your account." It is annoying, so much so that I am using it as a tool to keep me off. That statement alone tells me how much Facebook has wrapped itself around my life, into my spirit and mind.

A friend once told me he smoked and I was surprised. I told him that I never thought he'd be controlled by anything. He wrote me later and told me he was trying to quit smoking because of that statement. I've reached that same place. I refuse to allow my mind and spirit to be trapped and distract me from what is really important.

Yes, I miss hearing from family. I miss contact with my "friends". I miss sharing special things with them. And yet, have I really been doing that? Do I actually hear from anyone? Does anyone really "contact" me? Who exactly am I sharing with? I don't want to admit that I don't really know. I no longer even know my family. Do I know people on facebook? No, I can count maybe 20 people that I've physically met, that I am unrelated to and some of my relatives, I've never met.

The truth is none of us have ever shared anything real on Facebook. We post photos, memes, other people's opinions, other people's values, and other people's ideals. We've offered condolences, prayers, and encouragement. But how sad that we've never felt a real pat on the back, a real hug, a real smile and thumbs up. We've said it is because of distances. But how many of us are sitting in a room with someone right now and we're all staring at a computer or phone screen? We are fakes. The more apropos name for Facebook would be Fakebook. Even the name is false. It is neither a book nor a real face.

As a writer, I'm told that I'm required to have a following on social media, the bigger, the better. Do the "followers" even realize they're nothing more than a number? They have no value outside the internet. Oh, they're told they do... by form emails and sales pitches. But the truth is, it is the numbers that matter. We are just a number in "You have X numbers of friends". Shut off the computer and you're nobody.

I'm not saying you can't develop relationships online. There are dozens of folks I've had internet conversations with, some for more than a decade, that I have come to call friend. I've made an effort to learn more about who they are, what is going on in their lives, their troubles, trials, and triumphs. We've talked on phone calls. I appreciate their sharing themselves. Many I'll never meet face to face but I value them. But there are far more I don't have a clue about.

What I'm saying is that any object or hobby that demands so much attention without offering anything to improve me as a person, that takes away from improving my life or the life of those around me, and that prevents me from living a real life doesn't deserve my attention. Any app/program that insist I drop real interactions to follow the latest drama of someone I don't know or even someone I do know is not profitable and a waste of time.

I've been facing a shortage of time for a while now. Autoimmune diseases rob you of everything. I got more done when I had a full-time job than I do now. I accomplished so much when my husband was driving a truck and I was a full-time student with two adolescents. He was home twice a month for three days. I had to do it all but it got done. I remember getting up at 6 a.m., putting the boys on the bus at 7:30, getting to class by 8 a.m, home by 3 p.m. cooking supper, helping with homework while I cleaned house and got the boys in bed by 9 p.m. I started on my homework then and my bedtime was 1 a.m. 5 days a week. We had time to play games and read stories. Saturday was laundry day and Sunday was God's. Know what was different back then? I didn't have any social media. I graduated with honors and went to work and still did all that work. And the world never knew.

I suppose it boils down to priorities. I'm resetting mine today. When I hear or see things that are blatantly the voice or presence of God despite my lackadaisical attitude, I need to pay attention. I should have been paying attention. Time is in OUR control. How we use it is up to us. Everyone has 24 four hours a day - 168 hours a week. The average job is 40 hours a week. That leaves 128 (equivalent to 3 more full-time jobs) for God, cleaning, cooking, laundry, and family time. And in my case, college. If something isn't getting done, we need to reset our priorities. What is going on that required 168 hours a week?

For anyone calling themselves Christian these things can be counterproductive spiritually. I need to ask questions: What did I neglect today in favor of social media? Did I read my Bible today or Facebook? Did I pray today or check Facebook? Did I spend time with my family without social media or my phone? How much time did I actually spend on Facebook compared to the real world demands of living and time I spent with or for God?

How dedicated are you, really? I can't answer for you, but I know I can do better.

They call it The Web for a reason. It is a snare, a trap for the unwary. Being wrapped up in a web is one step away from death. The spider eventually spears the victim and sucks the life out of them. I'm cutting myself loose. I refuse to be ensnared by social media or anything else. I refuse to have my life become a tangled cocoon that can't carry on a conversation with the people in the room with me. It is both insulting and disrespectful and the cocoon looks stupid. I want to experience life, with living breathing people.

More than anything else, I want to keep having these conversations with God. Pardon me while I cut the web away.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

The Hiding Place

My morning started pretty rough at 8:30 a.m. I felt awful when I got up. Even now, at 5:30 p.m. my hands are still swollen and holding certain things hurts. I knew I wasn't going to make the 30 mile round trip to Henderson today. The steering wheel is one of the things that bother me and Mike was working today. So, I had no one to drive for me.

I sat down and felt sorry for myself. I've been praying about this issue for a while now, trying to decide what to do. I don't function for nearly 2 hrs now when I get up in the mornings. There are times when I have no problems but those days have become fewer and farther apart. In the last few months, I haven't been to church but two or three times.

After about 30 minutes of moaning over something I couldn't fix, I decided to visit another church about 15 minutes from my house. We attended there for about 8 years when we moved here from South Carolina in 1988. Their Sunday service starts at noon, plenty of time to get my body to cooperate.

I took my time dressing and getting my hair fixed. This is now a task I don't like but I also don't like not fixing it. Hair loss coupled with clumsy hands takes more and more effort  and it can be painful. Once I was patched together, I sat down with my coffee to give my body time to catch up with my brain. By 10:30 I was feeling better. No, my hands still hurt but I could cope. Some days I can't even do that and some days that's all I can do.

I drove to McDonald's, where I ordered juice and breakfast and drove to the cemetery to visit Jerry's grave. I think I wanted company. He offered no advice. I ate my breakfast there. It was a pretty day.

After a quick stop at home to brush my teeth and take a restroom break, I got to church around 11:30 and could hear the service from the parking lot, two house from the church. That's a good sign. They've redecorated since I was there last and it looks good but what was nice was seeing familiar faces and having them say hello. Mike and David's former babysitter, now a mother herself, came and hugged my neck. She looked so much like her mother, who has already gone to be with the Lord. She is still such a sweet girl.

I can't tell you how wonderful it was just to sit and listen to the service. Yes, I prayed and I worshiped and I sang a bit but it felt so good to just sit and listen to the Word preached. If you aren't a person of faith, I can't make you understand. When I've been too ill to go to church, I've listened to YouTube ministers of my faith and in a pinch, that's a huge help. I'm grateful for it. Only, it isn't quite enough.

There is nothing that can replicate the experience of God's presence when believers gather to worship Him.  It is true there is strength in unity. You can have an experience on your own. You can worship, you can praise, you can be blessed in isolation. But the Church is designed to broaden that experience and to serve as a hospital where the weary, the wounded, and the battle scared can heal. I came home feeling much better, not physically, but less stressed, less frustrated, less anxious.

The Church is not a social club, although it is an enormous comfort to know people care about you and are actually interested in you. That isn't the real purpose. The Church is a retreat from a world that has gone mad, a hiding place for those pursued by chaos.

I've had my share of insanity and chaos in recent years. What a relief when I can escape for a brief time. I was glad when they said to me, "Let us go to the house of the Lord."

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Sunday Services

Today has not been unusual. I've spent it alone and in relative quiet. Although, when I got up I did not feel well at all. For two weeks I had virtually no pain and this week I've been slammed with pain. Yesterday was horrible. This morning I slept late and I think the extra rest may have helped.

If you've followed me here or on Facebook you know that for months I've battled severe pain from rheumatoid arthritis. Virtually every day I am in pain in my feet, knees, hands, or hips. Or all of them. Moving is not fun most days, particularly if I have to get up and down very much.

I stayed home from church and it is very frustrating. All my life I've gone to church, missing only for serious illnesses or unavoidable issues. Now, it is almost a way of life, one I do not like. I'm isolated and my only Christian contact is via Youtube or the internet.  Thank God for those. I don't even like Facebook but sometimes people share Christian posts or videos. They are like water in the desert to this starving girl.

This morning I read my Bible and prayed. I listened to Samual Rodriguez, a Hispanic preacher that I've been following on YouTube for a while. He is a great little preacher and there is always such a wonderful spirit in his preaching. Every time I've listened to one of his messages, I am blessed. What would people like me do if it weren't for Youtube? I am always scouring for good preaching on there.

My pain seemed to lessen and around 12:30 I decided to attempt another walk in the cemetery. I visited Jerry's grave while I was there. They've put the flags out in preparation for Memorial Day and they'll hold services tomorrow. I don't know if I'll go or not. I usually do but it just depends on how I feel. I can carry a comfortable chair, at least.

After my walk, I decided to see if there was a place I could sit and have lunch. Lunch with the dead... the ideal dinner companion. You can say what you want, they listen, and they don't talk back or criticize you. 

When I got my lunch, I came back to the cemetery and found a seat. It was a beautiful day and I have to say, the best company I've had in a long time. 

And we got the shower, too.

Monday, May 23, 2016


If you read my previous post, you know that I've started a new Bible reading plan. I talked at great length about it in that post.

 Today, I started thinking about it again. Anyone who has been a Christian long thinks about reading the Bible through in one year. Among the faithful it is almost a rite of passage to do so.

 In fact, our obsession with this rite is so enormous that we've actually created a demand for companies to create Bible Reading Plans of all shapes, sizes, and colors. Just go Google it. Check out or other suppliers. Many of these plans are free so it isn't a great expense but now they're making actual Bibles with the scriptures organized into daily readings for you, just in case you can't do that on your own.

Do I sound a bit sarcastic? I guess I am. Because when I realized how silly this whole process is, I got snarky. I apologize. It is, in my humble opinion, very important that Christians and even non-Christians read the Bible through, from cover to cover, at least once in your life. It, like Shakespeare and Dickens, should be part of every education. And they could toss Dickens if it were up to me. For the Christian, if you continue going to church or reading any material where it is a reference before you die you will have heard or read the majority of it many times over.

However, I've come to the conclusion... in the last week, that we're really silly about the whole thing. In fact, my feeling that we're silly about it grew to the point that this morning I actually took my calculator and calculated exactly how many chapters per day we would need to read to finish the Bible in exactly 1 year (not including leap years).

Of course, Bible reading plans do this for you but how many chapters will vary as with as many plans as there are available. Most have you reading four or five a day. Some give you weekends off. Some, like my current plan, have you reading even more. If you check the last post I put up, you can find a link to the one I am trying now.

The truth is, it isn't that difficult to come up with a plan. First, you need to know what you're up against. There are 1189 chapters in the Bible. They vary in length considerably. Psalms 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible and runs for a few pages, depending on the font size on your Bible. Jeremiah is the longest book in the Bible and if you consider he has a second book, Lamentation, there is no competition. Both books are heavy reading.

Anyway, if you divide 1189 chapters by 365 days you will need to read 3.2575342466 chapters a day. You should finish on December 31. Since it isn't a round number you might as well just read four chapters and be done a day or so early to prep for your New Year celebration.

Just stop struggling with the whole thing. Chart out your own plan and read 3.25 chapters a day. You could start by reading all the short books first: the Minor Prophets and the short History books. You'd kill a big chunk of the Bible in a month or so. Follow up with the Letters, except Romans isn't short. Mix it up any way you like because for those driven to participate in the BIAY (Bible in a Year) competition, the truth is, it doesn't matter what order you read it in. As a bonus, you could read 5 chapters a day finish in 237.8 days, just in time for the Thanksgiving & Christmas holidays!

Remember the Minor Prophets, Paul's letters to individuals, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, general letters, and Joshua, Judges, Ruth, Ezra, Nehemiah, and Ester are all some of the shortest books in the Bible.  Wisdom books follow.

Here's a graphic that divides the Old and New Testament into their proper divisions. Study it and create your own plan.

Saturday, May 21, 2016

Baking Bread

Every year, usually around December, folks start talking about beginning a Bible reading plan as their New Year's Resolution. I don't make resolutions but I do try and read my Bible regularly and I believe everyone should read the Bible through at least once. 

I've read it straight through once when I was young because I thought I should. This was before plans became a fad but if you consider the years I've been reading my Bible in total, I've probably read it through a few times in random order just not in one year. I'm not sold on the idea that reading it through in a year has any real merit. 

I honestly can't say I read my Bible daily because some days I can't read a pill bottle with any clarity. Due to health issues, I often suffer from a brain fog that limits my ability to focus for more than a few minutes on any task. Bible reading is disappointing in that respect. On those days, when I read anything I can't remember what I've read by the time I put the book down. 

Several years ago I bought a One Year Chronological Bible to help me read it in a year. Because... everyone thinks you should. I love that Bible. Not only was it set up in daily readings, they were in chronological order. I discovered immediately that the order made things so much clearer and gave me a much better reading experience. Even better, it was a really easy to read translation. 

As with most plans, they often go awry. I did read it but I also got behind. Because that is what we do. Life happens and things get behind. I tried to catch up but let's face it, once you're behind on the reading plan, there is no catching up. You have to keep the pace or you're lost. 

About nine years ago I bought a Chronological Study Bible. I have several Bibles but that one has become my favorite to read. It is a treasure house. There are notes on history, geography, archaeology, social activity, religious behavior of the period, timelines, and photos that supplement the scriptures. It is chock full of so much information there is no way I could read that version in one year. I'm halfway through it and if that sounds bad to you, I have to tell you my goal in reading this Bible has not been to cram it into one year but to learn things I never knew about the Bible. 

No, I don't read that one every day either. But I try. It is is the heaviest Bible I own and I have a rough time holding it but it is one of the most enjoyable reads because it puts things in order and provides details about things I never knew. 

Of course, the challenge is still there. I don't know it happens to you, but when folks start talking about reading the Bible in one year, I feel guilty. For about the first six weeks of the year, I feel as if I'm lacking in some fundamental way where my faith is concerned. Everyone is making this big production of reading it in a year and I'm sitting over here hoping no one ask me about how it is going. Because.. it isn't. 

Plethora of Plans

If you Google Bible reading plans, you will get every imaginable plan out there. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds. Everyone has a sure fire fix. And they all work for a while. I do know people who read their Bible in a year, every single year but the numbers tell me the percentage is minuscule. I've been in places where they gave certificates, too, and believe me there are not a lot of winners. It is a difficult task, made more difficult by some of the material. Let's face it, we all hate Numbers and Deuteronomy. Do I really need to know who begat who begat who? 

I ran across a blog post yesterday that discussed a plan I've heard about. I actually know someone who tried it. I don't know if they still use it but they did try it and recommended it to me. It is called Horner's Bible Reading Plan. I was already using another plan and this one didn't appeal to me at that time. It just seemed so counter-intuitive. It still does. 

But... I printed it off yesterday and started using it today and found that, although it is a bit odd, I think it might actually be easier than any other plan I've tried.

If you follow the link you get a PDF of the plan but you can Google it also and come up with numerous sites that discuss it. Some love it, some like it but tweaked it to suit them, and some really think it isn't a good plan to use to study the Bible.  

Inherent Flaws of Plans

Finding a plan you like takes time but any 1-year plan has inherent problems. Here is my take on those.  

1. Keep in mind that plans are goal orientated (a finish line). They are designed for one purpose only: to read the whole Bible within 12 months. I don't care what anyone says, it is not a Bible study plan. 

2. You will be reading fast, cursory, and not for content. Readings are supposed to take less than half an hour. Some days you will not be able to read and will fall behind. You will have to devote more time to catch up. For every day missed, you are 30 minutes behind. If you miss a week, you're looking at hours.

3. The failure rate is high and predictable. Those who quit will do so at about the 3-6 month mark. I know because I've tried plans several times. 

4. For those who reach the finish line, you will not be as well versed in scripture as the person who is plodding along, taking the time to study, cross reference, and digest what they read and who takes several years to finish the whole book. You'll just be able to say you read it in 1 year. And that's ok but don't gloat over those who prefer quality over quantity.

4. Reading in this fashion will not necessarily make you understand it any better. Understanding only comes with real study. Study takes more than half an hour of reading. 

It Takes Time

When I was 18, I told a woman in my church I didn't like reading the Bible because I didn't understand a lot of it. She said, "Don't try to understand it. Don't worry about that. Just read it. When you need a scripture, it will come to you and so will the understanding." I can remember that day, in her kitchen as clearly as a picture. And I took her word for it because this was a woman with great spiritual power and insight. 

So, while you won't become a Bible scholar reading the Bible in 1 year, you will develop a habit of reading the Word. And you will pick up bits and pieces that make sense, that you remember from Sunday School, from your Mama pointing her finger at you and quoting it to scare you straight, or quoted in other material you've read. 

In the 40 years since she told me that, her advice has never, ever failed. Not because I followed plans, but because I just kept reading, regardless of my comprehension. Time brought wisdom and understanding.

Positives of Honer's Plan

All plans will get you to the end if you follow them. However, after looking over the Horner plan I realized that it is only 250 days long. 

The Bible is divided into ten lists, and you read one chapter from each list each day, or 10 chapters a day. They are not in order because you skip between Old & New Testament and between books. Some lists are shorter than others. Acts requires 30 days to complete. So, when you finish a shorter list, you are to start over on that list and continue with the ones you haven't finished. 

Of the 10, the longest list is 250 days. Remember you are reading the lists concurrently. So, in 250 days you will have read the whole Bible and some books you will have read more than once if you follow his plan. If you're just in this to "finish the whole Bible" in a 12 month period, this is far more effective than the standard plans because it is 115 days shorter. You will get the same benefit as the other plans. 

What I do find most exciting about this is that you don't have to start over after you finish a list. You could just stop after one list is finished and continue with the remaining ones until you finish them all. This will still get you through the whole Bible in 250 days. 

You can also reduce the number of chapters your read. Reading only 5 a day. This will, of course, increase the time to more than a year. Or you could, when finishing a list, double up on the remaining lists. This would get you finished in nearly half the time, or about 6 months. This is of particular advantage if you get behind at some point. You can easily catch up by not restarting finished lists and by reading more chapters from longer lists. 

I think it is safe to say that the biggest advantage of Horner's plan over all the others is the flexibility it offers and the ability to complete the Bible in far less time. And if you like doing it every year, you'll be well ahead of those who start fresh on January 1. 

So, I'm going to try Horner's plan and see what happens. I don't know if I'll adhere to his method strictly or manipulate it a bit to avoid falling behind. But the ability to do that is why I find this very enticing. I'll have to set a reminder to follow up with you to see how it is working... if it is working. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

Buried Bothers

Written January 12, 2016.....

Sometimes I wonder why I bother. Things are just hard and the older I get, the harder they get.

And you didn't expect that?

No, of course not. I thought when I grew up, life would become easier. I mean, that's why kids are always in a hurry to grow up. Life is hard when you're a kid. Yes, you have someone to take care of you and you don't have to work. But there's a lot of learning going on and learning is difficult. It takes a tremendous amount of energy. Children sleep so well because they work so hard.


We think, when we're small, that when we grow up we won't be subject to all the learning, and rules, and frustrations of not being in control.

Ah, control.

We see these grown-ups going about their business, no one telling them what to do, hanging with friends, buying things. It all looks so ... awesome. "When I grow up I'm gonna..."

Isn't that normal?

Must be since every kid does it. 


It's an illusion. We're deceived into it and then when reality hits us... well, it is a bit like a train wreck. Is a train wreck for some. Life isn't easy as an adult. It is hard. You think every day about how great it was to be a kid and as a kid, you were thinking how great it would be to be an adult. There is never a moment when you say, "Ah, I've arrived. I've reached the place I was headed." 

Well, wouldn't that mean you're... finished?

Yes! You could sit back and enjoy all that you struggled to learn. 

No, I mean... dead.

You know, I don't get the whole "we can't be happy until we are in heaven" thing. Is that even in the Bible?


See I didn't think so. I've read it a few times and never found that.

You can be happy here. Why aren't you?

Because we spend our whole lives looking for something that simply isn't there. We are given this list of opportunities, goals and the behavior of the adults around us make it sound as if once we attain those that our problems will be over and we'll live happily ever after. It just isn't true.

Is that how you were taught?

....................Life was hard and unpleasant much of my childhood. I have a lot of good memories but so many more bad ones. The way out was to love God, get an education, marry a good man, get a good job. I did all that. I worked hard. 

And it didn't work?

Not so much. There were probably more good memories than bad ones. The road was just as hard. And now it is so much shorter and I've come full circle. I was never a very optimistic person to start with and as it turns out...

So, you got what you expected.

Well, we all do, don't we? I do think the dice are loaded, though. I don't think we have much choice in the matter of how things turn out. We know now that certain chemicals in our body, once out of balance, can totally derail a person. You can give them something to create balance but the truth is you've created a false balance. The body is still out of whack. Just stop taking the pill and you're back where you started.

This is a pretty negative post. 

Yeah, that's probably why it ended up in the draft file for five months.

Breaking the Law?

I watch the things that come down my Facebook stream and sometimes I am intrigued by some of the religious posts by my fellow Christians of the Apostolic faith. I'm Apostolic so I read these with interest and either amusement or shock. More often than not they are so typical of our group they are predictable and laughable. We're such a
mixed up, foolish bunch of people who think we're better than any other religion. There, I said it. In fact, there are so many sects of my faith that if you threw them all in a pot, the stew wouldn't be fit to eat.

For a while, much of the "discussion" was on legalism/holiness. Now, if you know any Apostolics, you know we cornered the market on this argument. Just ask any one of us and we can point fingers at someone who is one or the other. Just for clarification, you can break us down into fairly well-defined categories. Here's my personal description of some of these:
  • Pharisees (unbending rules that make you holy, cause it is all about the dress/hair)
  • Loose as a goose (no rules - cause they don't make you holy)
  • Cafeteria style (take it or leave it - rules but you pick the ones you want) 
  • Strain at a gnat/swallow a camel (rules but mine trump yours - similar to cafeteria only less forgiving)
The posts this week all boiled down to the Law/Grace argument. Cause among the "faithful" that's really the only argument you can drum up with any semblance of righteousness.

         "That doesn't apply anymore because we're under Grace. So I don't have to do that."
         "You can't eat, wear, do, see, hear, etc..."
         "But that's Old Testament and we're under the New Testament! That's not a sin anymore."

The Law/Grace argument has a long shelf life. Personally, I think it's pretty stupid. My views thus far offended many of you seconds after reading them. The rest recovered quickly and will use my statement to keep your views afloat. Cause that is what we do; we find a way to justify our position.

Let me just take a moment to push you off the boat. If it is in the Word, it is. If it isn't in the Word, you can't insert it. I don't care how you interpret it, it is what it is, what it is. The Old and New Testaments are Part 1 & Part 2 of ONE document. They are both relevant. They are both valid guides to the faith. I am always confused by people's inability to grasp this. The Pharisees see this and use it as a weapon to beat you to death. Virtually everyone else rips those pages out.

Am I a Pharisee? I hope not. I do believe in the Law. I don't believe in murder, adultery, stealing, lying, and cheating. The 10 Commandments must be followed and they are Old Testament laws. If you tell me the Law doesn't matter I question not only your faith but your character. You're a lawbreaker. A lawbreaker is untrustworthy in all his/her dealings. Furthermore, as such, you are subject to judgement. Not by me. By the highest court and the righteous judge - God.

"How can you say such a thing! You're judging me! JUDGING! JUDGING! You can't judge me! Only God can do that!"

In the first place, that isn't a personal judgement. It is simply the facts. So, get over it. I have an opinion on appropriate behavior and if you don't like it, oh well. But let me use the New Testament to clarify to those of you terrified someone is judging you. 1 Corinthians 6:2 Don't you realise that someday we believers will judge the world? And since you are going to judge the world, can't you decide even these little things among yourselves?

If you read the whole chapter, you'll find he quotes the Old Testament Law as an example of what is allowed and what is not allowed in a believer's life. You can't throw out the Law just because it disagrees with your "personal beliefs". You can't pick and choose which laws you want. Let me use another New Testament Law.  James 1:10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all.

You got that, right? If you break ONE law, you are a lawbreaker and guilty of breaking ALL the Laws of God. This is why it is such a miraculous thing that only ONE Lamb was needed to deal with the sins of the world. He wasn't dealing with just one broken law. He was dealing with the whole law, of which the whole world - past, present, and future - was guilty.

"But that is OLD TESTAMENT! When Jesus died, those laws disappeared and we're not required to follow them! We don't have to pay attention to them anymore. They don't count!"

Show me a scripture that says the law was done away with? Show me one place where it says you don't have to obey the laws of God?

1 Timothy 1:8 & 11 But we know that the law is good if one uses it lawfully, knowing this: that the law is not made for a righteous person, but for the lawless and insubordinate, for the ungodly and for sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, for fornicators, for sodomites, for kidnappers, for liars, for perjurers, and if there is any other thing that is contrary to sound doctrine, according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God which was committed to my trust.

The law is for the lawless. If you are obeying the law, you're not lawless. The law doesn't apply to law abiders! Cause they're following it. But please note in that verse he uses "lawless and insubordinate" as if they're distinct from the "ungodly and for sinners". In fact, the whole verse is a list of the different kinds of lawbreakers, including anything that fails to follow "sound doctrine". Who but professing Christians would be following a doctrine? He's talking about more than just the unchurched here. He's talking about us all.

But... the Grace of God forgives us of our lawlessness and we bring our lives into line with the Law of God, not out of duty or obligation but an overwhelming desire to serve God. Once again we become law-abiding citizens of the Kingdom. The Law doesn't go away. It is still there, judging the lawbreaker for his lawlessness. Breaking any of God's laws makes you a criminal under the Biblical law. Even criminals may be citizens, lawbreakers but citizens.

As for not having to pay attention to the Law after you're born again, sorry, but you're wrong about that, too. Proverbs 28:9 One who turns away his ear from hearing the law, Even his prayer is an abomination.

Ever wonder why you can't get your prayer heard? You might want to see if you're doing something illegal.  Yes, it is in the Old Testament and it isn't actually in the Books of the Law. This is an observation by one who should know. Solomon was a pro at lawbreaking. As a law abiding citizen of the Kingdom of God, you must continue to hear the Law and obey the whole law to remain a righteous citizen of the Kingdom. Remember James 1:10 above? If you break one of them, you've broken them all. And tell the truth, we all have broken at least one.

Don't go all silly and start telling me about animal sacrifices and smearing blood on alters. The New Testament is a codicil to the original Testament (will). It delineates what laws God expects us to follow, how we're to act, think, and believe. The old Priesthood is gone. The old priestly rituals of the Old Testament are gone, the animal sacrifice is gone. God revised the means whereby we could be saved. Instead of animals, he sacrificed his Son who is the new priest. God did not revise his laws. The verse in 1st Timothy reflects this continuation of God's laws.

I'm not going to debate the dress code here. God's law is pretty clear on what is modest and what isn't. Cover your nakedness. I'm not going to fix your hair, either. I've learned, as I told someone this week, that God is more concerned with the filthiness of our flesh and the corruption of our hearts than he is our closets and mirrors. If we get those right, God will do the rest. Anyone who ask God for direction and wisdom on how to live and is sincere about it, will receive it. The Law is the foundation for righteousness. If preachers had kept teaching Law instead of personal convictions, we'd have more law abiding saints in the pews and fewer squabbling ones on Facebook.

So, for all those Old/New Testament antagonists, get over yourselves! God's Law is the Whole Word of God, Old & New. For you to argue over this is simply stupid. And it is unBiblical! I refer you to this Ephesians 4: 2, 3, & 13 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;  . . . Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: (I provide you with the full chapter for context below.)

What is important to God is not your petty theologies, but how you live in peace and unity of spirit with one another and that you be a righteous citizen of the Kingdom. I like that part that says, "with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;" We are to overlook our differences, to tolerate the annoyances and disagreements we have with one another on things that will not save us. We are to find the places where we can be unified in our spirit and let God fix the breaches so we eventually come to a unity of faith. Remember, a divided army can't defeat its enemies.

People have focused on the legalism label so they have a license to sin. Sin is still sin, whether you call it legalism or liberalism. You can wrap the Old Testament in a weighted sack and toss it in the ocean. It will still be Law. It was written in stone for a reason by the finger of God. You can't erase the Law. God knew that we needed rules to remind us of how to act because when sin came, we totally forgot. We're human.

The Law is  for the lawless. We were the lawless it was designed for. It is still designed to keep law-abiding citizens on the right path. It is for our protection. If your home is broken into, you resort to the law for aid. If someone makes an attempt on your life, you resort to the law. The law is ever with us, Thank God. Without the law, you have anarchy. And that is what has happened to many Christians. They've tossed the law and are living in anarchy because the law was painful. 

What I find as an enormous irony is so many people want the 10 Commandments reinstated to government buildings and schools and historical sites but they run around screaming "Legalism! Legalism!" when someone suggest they aren't living according to God's Law. The other side is running around yelling, "They're loose! They don't have any standards!" and gossiping, pointing fingers at them. No unity. No longsuffering, no forebearing in love. Because to do that would make it look like we are condoning their "sin". Grace baiters scream judging, Pharisees scream ungodly. Good grief.

It is no wonder the world mocks us and ridicules us. Forebearing is not agreeing. Longsuffering is not acceptance. Doing more than you have to do for God is not legalism. Doing less for God than someone else thinks you should is not liberalism. Learn the difference, practice the concepts. Obey the Law and become a law-abiding citizen. Let the Righteous Judge pass judgement on the rest. 

So, does this mean I'm a legalist? No, actually, I'm quite liberal in my view compared to many of my peers. You see, I know what the law says and I obey it. I know what liberty means, and it doesn't mean I can do what I want regardless of other's beliefs. I have lived all my life under a set of standards and I know that now matter what I look like, if my heart in not right, regardless of what I die wearing, I won't make it. That's a heavy thought. I also know that my liberty to do what I want doesn't mean I should.

The next time you want to accuse someone of legalism, how is that affecting your walk with God? Does it make you less a Christian? The next time you accuse someone of being loose, how is that going to affect your walk with God? Does it make you less a Christian? 

So why are you bickering over it? 

Ephesians 4 King James Version (KJV)
1 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, 
2 With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love;
3 Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.
4 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling;
5 One Lord, one faith, one baptism,
6 One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all.
7 But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ.
8 Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men.
9 (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended first into the lower parts of the earth?
10 He that descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.)
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
14 That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
15 But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
16 From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.
17 This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind,
18 Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart:
19 Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.
20 But ye have not so learned Christ;
21 If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus:
22 That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts;
23 And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;
24 And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness.
25 Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another.
26 Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath:
27 Neither give place to the devil.
28 Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.
29 Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers.
30 And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption.
31 Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice:
32 And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

The Search for Happiness

I've been missing Jerry a lot of late. I usually do between November and February. I suppose it came late this year. It isn't a continuous pain but a sudden, stabbing in the hollow places of my heart. 

Yesterday, as I drove home from work through a neighborhood with some lovely homes, I was assailed with longing for something I think I was unaware that I had ever possessed. The average-middle class homes arrayed along a gentle, curving street with neat yards that had received years of attention were a bit above the lower middle-class income we had but it wasn't about that. It was more.

Yearning is a little used word these days but that is the only word that works for what I was feeling. As I drove along, my mind filled in blanks with children tumbling on a green carpet and a small dog barking and scrambling to be a part of the excitement. The windows glowed with evening lights and the smell of fresh cut grass and barbeque seemed to drift on the air. But it didn't. It was all in my head and I ached with the thoughts of it all. 

I left the neighborhood and entered my own, slightly more modest section. As I did so, in the midst of all that painful yearning I heard myself say, "I've had a good life." There is a sense of disbelief even when I write it because I don't remember ever thinking that in my whole life. Life has been hard. At times, nearly impossible. There is not enough time, nor am I inclined to share the worst of it. 

Recently, my mind began to trot out memories that I didn't really forget but rather, had neglected in favor of less appealing ones. And ... the truth is ... I've had a great life. I'm overwhelmingly blessed and favored. I know this. That was a new feeling, an almost devastatingly painful feeling. It hurt terribly to think it. Not because it wasn't a wonderful realization but because I had failed to recognize it until I am an old woman. This is something we should know when we're young. Maybe other people do. I don't know. I just know I never knew it. At least, I don't think I did.

The feeling clung to me the rest of the evening and today but I still had trouble believing it. My life had so many twists and turns that it was hard to imagine it as "great".

I was given away to grandparents and it was the best thing that could have happened to me, despite a childhood filled with the ugliness of alcohol. I had wonderful aunts, uncles, and cousins, the memories of whom still make my heart smile. 

I was 17 when Mama died but I married a wonderful man who only wanted to make me happy the rest of his life. And he tried every day, for the next 35 years.

At 21, I was in Europe and I walked the halls of ancient castles and palaces. I climbed trails in the Bavrian Alps, slaked my thrist from an icy artisian well, and gazed over parapets at beautiful green valleys. I strolled the Champs Elysee, climbed the Eiffel Tower, and stared at the flying buttresses and stained glass of Notre Dame. I shopped in Germany. I lived in five US states. I've slept under stars, hiked woodland trails, and swam in the ocean. I've played in the sand, dug in the dirt, and laid on the grass and painted clouds. I've laughed, cried, and raged over wonderful, foolish, and dreadful things.
It is a mystery to me how I missed all that. Although, I think the truth is that I didn't miss it... then. I miss it all now. I crave the excitement and the laughter and the mystery that each of those days provided. I long for the feeling of walking along a Paris street on Jerry's arm. Now life seems so tame, so bland, so predictable. For someone who stood in the throne room of a once great king, today feels anticlimatic. 

Yet, today whispered a secret in my ear. "I've had a great life." I've been blessed with more than wealth, more than fame. I've rocked my babies and watched them grow into wonderful men. I sang to my grandchild and am amazed at her beautiful soul and smile that blinds me. I'm blessed to find a new friend when my son remarried, and gained two grandchildren. I still have aunts, uncle, cousins, and siblings that shower me with love.  

No, I have not done all the things I wanted to do but I have done a lot of things I never dreamed I would do. So, perhaps happiness is not something you look for, but rather something you find. And a wonderful life is determined solely by your perspective.