Monday, May 29, 2017

To my son at his high school graduation


As you know, we named you after my dear grandma Mac when I was halfway through my pregnancy. So, you were Max for about five months before you were even born. This is a thread in your life that connects you to a woman you only met once, but who shaped me, loved your dad and consequently shaped you. 

Your first years were a mixture of tumultuous and steadfast. When you were 18 months old, your dad had been in three different jobs and you had already lived in four place plus we were at Aunt Diane's often enough to call it a fifth home. Amidst all those changes, you and I spent every single day together. We rode out the changes in stride. You knew your parents loved you and were there for you always. I am so thankful for this thread of constancy we have been able to give you because I stayed home. Without the steadfast provision, support and leadership of your dad, your entire life would be different. This thread is something we can almost ignore because it spans your entire life and there is no comparing it to its opposite: I was always home, thanks be to God and your dad. 

You were a sweet kid. You had energy and a sense of humor. You were sensitive and intelligent. You had obsessions and cared to be precise, something that seemed odd for a kid who could not yet speak clearly.  You would become so frustrated when we would imitate your pronunciation in the hopes of guessing your meaning.  These are the threads God wove into your being before you were even born. They are precious and make you you. 

When Madi came, you added to your personhood the role of brother. Big brother. So many people warned me about rivalry and jealousy. It was assumed you two would fight and have nothing in common since you were boy and girl. Well, didn't you prove them all wrong!  You were the best big brother from the very first time you met. You were careful & attentive; you shared with and delighted in her. She was your baby sister and you never looked back. Another thread hooked into the fabric of your life as though it had always been there. 

That is when you and I began to school. We did it our way. No one schooled quite like we did, but it was perfect for us. You loved to learn and you loved stories. As long as you were allowed to wiggle up one wall and down the other, you were golden. Again, there were nay-sayers who thought I was making up your accomplishments since they could not understand what you were saying and could not believe anyone moving as much as you did could retain anything being said. But I knew. Daddy knew. God knew. Aunt Diane knew. Grandpa Danny knew. The threads of your academic accomplishments are beautiful and unique. 

Speaking of Aunt Diane, she was the one who first said you would make your life all about words. She believed that the challenge in talking made you a peerless communicator. God wastes nothing. He works all things for your good. The challenges in speech Diane knew were part of the beautiful tapestry God was creating to be your life. 

You didn't always fit in with kids your age. You couldn't always make people understand you. These struggles meant you didn't mock people who were different. And you didn't need people to be exactly like you to connect with them. More threads included that make you tender, approachable and open-minded. 

You did at least 16 years of school in twelve. I don't even know how to calculate the time you spent at college while wrapping up your high school years. These threads of academics, learning, hard work and time well spent give strength and shape to the fabric of your life. You have the proven ability to persevere, give your best and go the extra mile. 

I am going to break with the thread analogy for a moment. Max, you are capable of so much. You have accomplished so much. You are amazing. But all that has gone before was just the training ground. It mattered. Believe me, it mattered!!  Can you imagine soldiers facing a battle without having been through boot camp? Remember what the author of The Outliers said about all the people who are success stories?  They could never have done what they did without the thousands of hours in training. 

You trained well. But training is made worthless if training is all there is. Fifty thousand hours of piano practice is pointless if the pianist never plays. Four sturdy legs are literally firewood without the board to make the table.  So what comes next for you is what matters now. 

I am eager to see what you do with these 18 years. I pray with all my heart you press deeply into the Holy Spirit and breathe in His companionship and guidance. I hope you share yourself with the world God brings you to. Banish fear from the driver's seat. Kick laziness to the curb. Keep the slate clean by regular confession and honest relationships with people who will love you enough to hold you accountable. You are far too valuable to waste and I think fear and lazy are two enemies who lust to lay you flat. 

You leave in a week to your first job, first time away from home, first independent ministry. It is mind boggling to think of what you are engaging in this summer. New people, new challenges, new accomplishments, new skills, new wins. 

I know you will mess up. But, you are like David, who God called a man after His heart. I know you take good care of your conscience, which takes good care of you. You will handle the mistakes with immediacy, honesty and humility. And that will be another win.  

So far, there is a beautiful tapestry made of countless threads representing people, books, experiences, fears and dreams. But what has been woven so far is merely a framework for what comes next. It is like the straight edges in a puzzle, we can see the border. You get to fill in the middle, the real picture. You get to decide how the frame will relate to the subject, the message, your life.  I can hardly wait to see what you make. 

I love you, Max. Forever and for always. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

I miss you.

I wish I could talk to you. You have been gone over two years and your birthmonth is approaching. I dread it. This grief is threatening to define me and I do not want that. You and God wouldn't either, I know. Maybe those are the only reasons I don't want it. And that my family deserves better. 

A lot has happened to me since you left that I wish I could have talked with you about. Big things have happened like deciding to move (truly a big thing by itself) and then actually moving.  Brian's job change has been so challenging. The adjustments  the kids have made are admirable. I became a mentor, which is simultaneously exciting and laughable. I am anxious about a medical exam and I could really use your guidance in how much grace I should give myself. See? Just that sentence would have set you off on a sermon. 

Max is graduating high school and turning 18. Eighteen!!  We are fast approaching the last day in all the world that I can say my son will be an adult in months!  Other big things is that a guy wanted to ask Madi out and Brian told him no. Then it happened again months later and Brian said yes. Then Madi said yes, so she is going to a high school dance this weekend. My little girl is going to a high school dance!  That is something this homeschooling momma never anticipated. Nor did I expect to have a 15 year old girl going on a date of any sort. I would like to talk with you about it all in excited rushes and in quiet confessionals. 

The kids are so full of personality. They make me laugh and I know you would love to listen to their ideas. They take becoming adults seriously, but attack the tasks from such different perspectives, it is fascinating. I would love your wisdom in how to best mother them through these transitions. 

My marriage is really good. Work, for sure, but shockingly, blessedly good. We are so thankful for the hand you still play in that truth. 

We are going to buy a car. Since we haven't done that in 15 years, that qualifies as a big thing, too. 

But even more pressing are all the little things. The nothings that do not even need to be talked about are what I want to talk about. I miss you much because of these. Yesterday my poop looked like a circumcised penis and I think you would have liked to have known that. I came up with a game show idea called 'Do You Trust Yourself?' and NO ONE has any interest in hammering out the details with me. Just because my initial plan involved wiping a contestant's memory. What's with that?  Ever since Caleb gave me whooping cough, whenever I get sick, my lungs snore. I want to tell you my thoughts on Grimm since you wanted me to watch the show so badly and I refused. I finished HIMYM just for you, too. I couldn't do Hawaii 5-0, though. 

Walking across the many bridges at my apartment complex in the rain scares the shit out of me. They are so slippery and I think falling would ruin more than my day. It rains every week here and never snows. It is an effort to not be burdened by that. It rains all day and all night. All night. 

Our new neighbors got two dogs and one is a pit!  Part of me wants to rip my shirt open in the ever-falling rain while collapsing to my knees and wailing 'Why?!?' to the sky, half hoping to drown like a stupid chicken. The other part is all fat little determined Disney fairy, determined to go all out Jesus on their asses. Like, I am gonna learn whatever lesson God has for me so that I never have to live under a fricken dog for the rest of my life!

Oh, I really want to tell you about Buttercup. She is precious. Glimpsing from my angle into the foster system stirs up so much in me, it would be such a help to talk it all out with you. There are quite a few things I cannot even bring myself to type that I would talk with you about. These things are so mysterious and confusing that I only whisper them to God and Brian. 

We started attending a new church. We want to be involved in a church family so much but we are terrible misfits wherever we go. I have hope and fear that I would really like to carry to the Throne with you. 

Brian is sick.  So....  you know. That sucks. 

I could really use your words, too. I want to hear about David and Kiso and Cher. How you are proud and when you are concerned? I want to pray for your friends who are moving through crises. I want to be inspired by your choices to grow. And I could stand to hear one more sermon on how great I am. 

I want to end this like David did, with praises to God. He supplies. He is faithful. He is loving. Yup. All true. But I still miss you. 

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Three Lessons

“A soft wind from the south began to blow, and the men thought that they could carry out their plan, so they pulled up the anchor and sailed as close as possible along the coast of Crete. But soon a very strong wind — the one called “North-easter” — blew down from the island. It hit the ship, and since it was impossible to keep the ship headed into the wind, we gave up trying and let it be carried along by the wind. We got some shelter when we passed to the south of the little island of Cauda. There, with some difficulty, we managed to make the ship's boat secure. They pulled it aboard and then fastened some ropes tight round the ship. They were afraid that they might run into the sandbanks off the coast of Libya, so they lowered the sail and let the ship be carried by the wind. The violent storm continued, so on the next day they began to throw some of the ship's cargo overboard, and on the following day they threw part of the ship's equipment overboard. For many days we could not see the sun or the stars, and the wind kept on blowing very hard. We finally gave up all hope of being saved.”
‭‭Acts‬ ‭27:13-20‬ ‭GNB
How Difficulty Can Make You Better, Not Bitter
Life is not fair. You will have problems, difficulties, and hurts that will make you better or bitter. You will either grow up or give up. You’ll either become who God wants you to be or your heart will become hard. You have to decide how you are going to respond to the tough times in your life. How will you handle it?
When you go through those difficult times, what happens to you is not nearly as important as what happens in you. That’s what you take into eternity — not the circumstances but your character.
In Acts 27, we learn three ways you shouldn’t respond:
1. Don’t drift. “The ship was caught by the storm and could not head into the wind; so we gave way to it and were driven along” (Acts 27:15 NIV). The ship carrying Paul and other prisoners to Rome was in the middle of the Mediterranean and hadn’t seen the sun for 14 days, so they couldn’t get any bearings, and they started to drift.
When they face difficulty, some people start drifting through life. They have no goal, purpose, ambition, or dream for their life. Today, we call this “coasting.” The problem with coasting is that you’re headed downhill. Life is not a coast. Life’s tough. Don’t lose your ambition or your dream just because life gets hard.
2. Don’t discard. “We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard” (Acts 27:18). The men in charge needed to lighten the ship, so they threw the cargo overboard, then the tackle and the food. They were discarding things they needed because the storm was so tough.
When you get in a storm and the stress gets unbearable, you tend to start abandoning values and relationships you would not let go of in better times. You say, “I’m giving up on my marriage. I’m giving up on my dream to go to college.”
God says, “Stay with the ship!” Have you done that in your marriage? Have you said, “Divorce is not an option for us. We’re going to make it work.” If you haven’t, you’ll always be tempted to walk out. If you don’t throw away the key, you’ll never develop the character God wants you to have. God can change situations and personalities. He can change you. But he won’t if you’re always abandoning ship! I’ve learned from personal experience that it is never God’s will to run from a difficult situation. God wants you to learn, grow, and develop. Stick with it.
3. Don’t despair. “We finally gave up all hope of being saved” (Acts 27:20). After 14 days in total darkness and after giving up their cargo, tackle, and food, the passengers finally give up hope. But they’d forgotten one thing: Even in a storm, God is in control. He hasn’t left you. You may not feel him, but if you feel far from God, guess who moved?
God is with you in the storm, and he’ll help you through it. He is testing you to see if you’ll trust him. Will you pass the test?
Earlier in this plan, "God's Dream For Your Life," Rick Warren used the passage immediately preceding this one to teach how we should obey God. He taught that Paul had given a word from God to not sail that season, but the sailors did anyway because they trusted the "experts" and the changing circumstances over Paul's warning. As I read that lesson to my kids, along with all the others from this plan, we were blessed by the encouragement.
Now we find these same characters used for another lesson.  I disagree with the applications Rick supplies. 
To begin, the three accusations against the sailors were behaviors wholly appropriate to sailing. In a storm, as when hitting black ice, one does not resist the gale (or skid). I agree wholeheartedly with Rick's teaching to not drift.  I object only to the reference and analogy. It is true that without a goal, there is no direction; without direction, we are taken along by a fallen world. This is not the life of a believer and follower of Christ!
The next point is to 'not discard', siting the sailors' acts of lightening the load to avoid sinking. Again, I am pretty sure this was a wise move on the part of the sailors. Paul does not object, as he does later when they try taking to the lifeboat. So, it is a bad example for the lesson. 
And here, I can only agree with the lesson conditionally, and on one point I must disagree vehemently. The general lesson to stick out difficult situations is a good one. If quitting is always an option, then it will likely become reality, especially if quitting is the plan when things get 'too hard.'  It will always get hard and who gets to define what is too hard?
But the author then says, "it is never God’s will to run from a difficult situation."  This is simply not true. Peter was spirited from jail. Jesus escaped both a stoning and a crowning!  1 Corinthians 10:13 says that God will provide an escape from temptation (which I personally define as a hard situation).  2 Timothy 2:22-24 tells us to flee temptation. In fact, Rick Warren himself gives a teaching to leave situations and choose friends wisely in this teaching here:!
I want extreme caution taken whenever teaching about escaping or avoiding difficult situations. It is a good and worthy lesson, but is so very dependent on circumstances and requires such intimacy with our Lord for discernment, that a blanket instruction seems foolish and dangerous. Considering the staggering statistics on the perpetuation of abuses and addictions generationally, to advise someone (notably, someone with children) to stay in a home with addiction and/or abuse is to inflict untold harm on those children and the generation to follow. To bring it home, if I told my daughter to stay with her abusive husband because quitting is not God's will, I could be laying the groundwork for my grandchildren to be abusers of their own children!  Generational curses are biblical realities that require attentive obedience to the Holy Spirit to break.  Let us not perpetuate them with generalities as this. 
And, finally, the third point is one with which I can agree conditionally again. In the biblical account, Luke says they gave up hope of being rescued. I see this as a limited loss of hope and acceptance of truth, rather than losing hope in God altogether, as Rick characterizes it. They were not going to be rescued by a coming ship or even by a supernatural display of calming waters or walking on the water to safety. This was reality, and hanging to a false hope would have led to poor decisions. I cannot fault the sailors. 
To our own lives, hope is vital. But in what do we hope?  This is key. I do not think Rick gives a clear indication of the distinctions here. We never need to abandon hope that God is near. We never should lose hope in our salvation or the goodness of God or the promises of His Word. But we can and should embrace truth, which often may mean giving up hope in human-made plans and dreams. The truth sets us free. Holding to false hope is a prison that limits our vision and options and should be abandoned with vigor. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Your value is indestructible

I am not sure I understand this. The opening line is terrific.  Then I am not so sure....

The teaching begins with a lesson on forbidding bread to be on the table. It expands to encourage us to avoid (or 'keep off the table') things that are not of value. I can get on board with that. I have been inspired by the minimalist/simplify movements that advocate a 'museum' mindset to life over a 'warehouse' mentality. Quality over quantity, discernment, best over good....  I am with it. 

But then the teaching says what makes one valuable is what one responsibly deposits on the inside.  Wait... What??  So, *I* make me valuable or not valuable depending on how much I pray, who I call friend, what I eat and how long I spend on the treadmill?

Next we are lead to pray that we not harm our worth and after that we have to write five things that destroy our worth. Destroy our worth! Ouch!!  

I do not know about this. I am pretty sure that if even a bit of my value depends on me, then all hope is lost. I'm shot. Reading the teaching as a whole, it seems to imply that being fat destroys your worth. Oh, my!

Paul tells us in Romans that all fall short of the glory. We cannot make our worth, no matter how well we choose. When women struggle so much with feelings of worthlessness, poor body images, guilt and keeping up with the ever increasing demands of life, this teaching clothed in biblical wording seems harmful to me. What am I missing?
Day one from Proverbial Girl: Wisdom, Values and Being Fabulous

What you’re actually worth is more valuable than anything on the earth, and that’s priceless. 

BREAKDOWN: My kids love bread, and although I hate bread, I love it, too. I especially hate bread when they place it on the table at restaurants. I usually give the waiter or waitress the evil eye as I say to myself, “Now you know you’re wrong for putting that delicious, buttery, hot bread on my table”. As tempting and delicious as that bread is, it has absolutely no nutritional value. So, I stopped allowing the servers to put it on the table altogether. “For her worth is far above rubies” (Proverbs 31:10). 

How is this possible, and what makes this Proverbial Girl so valuable? What makes her valuable is not what’s on the outside, but everything she responsibly deposits on the inside, like personal quiet time with the Father, healthy friendships, good mentors and even healthy diets and exercise. 

A Proverbial Girl must be willing to stop allowing things of no value to be placed on her table of life and be willing to invest quality “ingredients” on the inside. A Proverbial Girl also takes proper care of herself because she knows that her body, soul and mind are the temple of God. 

QUALITY INGREDIENTS + PROPER CARE= GREAT WORTH AND VALUE. Are you investing quality ingredients and taking proper care in your life? All of these things play a role in producing an excellent and valuable you. 

Thank you for being my example of greatness. All that you are is excellent. Show me ho w to be a person of excellence and great value. Thank you f or t he strength t o deposit good things in my life, and even greater strength to walk away from things t hat harm my worth. In Jesus’ name, Amen. 

LIVE IT OUT: Take a moment to write down 5 things that make you valuable and 5 things that can destroy your worth. Make a conscience effort to be more involved in the things that make you valuable and begin to pull away from the things that can destroy your value.

I have showered and have more to say!  Lol

First, I think many of the elements in this teaching are spot on. Prayer and Bible time are valuable and whatever you may need to sacrifice to get that into your daily life is probably worth it.  Healthy friends who encourage you into the arms and truth of Christ are more precious than rubies. Get 'em and keep 'em.  Eating well and exercise are very good manifestations of the truth that you are valuable and the shell that houses you on earth is worth the upkeep.  I am not pooh-poohing these practices. Jesus said to seek His Kingdom first and all these other things will be added to us. So do go after the best without distraction!

I also agree that avoiding excess and harmful influences is wise and worth it. The Bible tells us to flee from temptation. Drugs, toxic relationships, idols of any kind that bind you to this world should be vigorously avoided. Jesus says whatever good things we may give up to follow Him will be regained. (We can assume bad things we abandon for Him will remain rubbish.)

So, while I agree with much of the suggested practices championed, I protest the motivations this teaching emphasizes. It is fear-based and perfect love (from God) casts out all fear.  The author says things destroy your worth. I could not disagree more!  I think our worth is more like a diamond than crystal. And I have a good reason. 

Our value is indestructible because its *source* is indestructible. In fact, the Source of our worth has no beginning as well as no end. If our worth came from our friends and our diets, we would all be trash, eternal enemies to the Holy One.  That is pretty much the crux of the Gospel foundation in the Old Testament, which makes this teaching as close to heretical as I can imagine. 

Please do not let anyone lead you to believe that you can do anything to diminish your own value. You are worth the lifeblood of the beloved and only begotten Son of the King. What is worth more?  Our weak eyes may see value smudged or disguised. Our value may be hidden. But praise be to God, His eyes never fail. Jesus is the Light, sitting at the right hand of our God, interceding for us, shining on us and revealing the glory He gave us through His completed work. It is done.  

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Poop might be just what you need!

“Then Jesus told this story: “A man planted a fig tree in his garden and came again and again to see if there was any fruit on it, but he was always disappointed. Finally, he said to his gardener, ‘I’ve waited three years, and there hasn’t been a single fig! Cut it down. It’s just taking up space in the garden.’ “The gardener answered, ‘Sir, give it one more chance. Leave it another year, and I’ll give it special attention and plenty of fertilizer. If we get figs next year, fine. If not, then you can cut it down.’””
‭‭Luke‬ ‭13:6-9‬ ‭NLT‬

When the ax is ready, Jesus steps in and says, let me dig around her roots and poor fertilizer around them. If she doesn't bear fruit for another year, then I'll chop it down. 

Jesus works to give us one last chance, but we may fail to recognize it, since from our point of view things will be quite uncomfortable. Who wants their roots disturbed? Who wants soil removed to expose the buried parts of oneself? When that is done, the final step is to apply fertilizer. We know how good that is for a garden, but would you sign up for having poop applied all around your core? I wouldn't. 

But without it, we won't bear fruit. And by 'it,' I mean digging, rousting, removing and exposing. I mean having stinky circumstances that are embarrassing, painful, confusing and life changing. These are the things that wake us up to an eternal perspective and inspire us to work more for the Kingdom than this ashen world.

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Who Needs the Church?

We are taught to have faith in God alone. We are taught to not rely on people for success or happiness because people fail. God is reliable because He is God. He never casts a shifting shadow (James 1:17). He is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will not crush the weakest reed or snuff out a flickering candle (Isaiah 42:3; Matthew 12:20). His word never returns void (Isaiah 55:11). He keeps His promises (Deuteronomy 7:9). So, that is God. Trust Him. Obey Him. Rely on Him. He won't let you down. 

We are taught with equal emphasis to not trust people. We cannot realistically rely in others for our happiness or success. All that God is, people are not. (Romans 3:10-18) In fact Scriptures admonish people to not even trust their own hearts!  (Jeremiah 17:9; Mark 7:21) Wow!  If we cannot even trust ourselves, it seems pretty foolish to lean on anyone else. 

But then there is the Church. This is where it gets really messy. -1-Trust and obey God, -2-do not rely on people, -3-the church (essentially the people of God) is God's gift to people to help them get through this life on fallen earth. What are we supposed to do with that?

On the one hand, we trust God.  I mean, let's say I am going skydiving for the first time. I listen to every word the instructor says like my life depends on it--because it does!  So, as he hands me my gear, declaring, "you'll want these, that, and this," I will agree wholeheartedly that I want them all and grab up everything he offers. I'd be crazy not to. 

I trust God, and I am jumping into a free-falling world. So, I hang on to the Instructor's Words. I grab onto every piece of gear he offers and tuck them close to my body. I fix the earpiece firmly in place so that I will hear any further words of guidance. 

What is the equipment god gives?  I see three main things that every Christian receives as help to live an abundant life here and now: the Holy Spirit, the Bible and the Church. 

The Holy Spirit is God in us loving us as Counselor, Advocate, Comforter.  John 14:16 says "And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you.  He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.  The world cannot receive him, because it isn't looking for him and doesn't recognize him.  But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you."  Further in the chapter, at verse 26, Jesus continues, "But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative--that is, the Holy Spirit--he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you."

The Bible is the Word of God.  It is a reliable, breathing text we use to grow one another up in the Lord. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 says "All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives.  It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work." 

Now we come to the Church. We are the Body of Christ, reaching into this world with the Gospel of forgiveness, healing and reconciliation to the One True God. Jesus built the Church, and almost all of the New Testament is written to the Church.  These letters were expected to be read to the gathering of believers.  The instructions and encouragements are for all who call Christ Lord and Savior. 
Check out 
Romans 15:14 
And concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge and able also to admonish one another.
Colossians 3:16
Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God.
Luke 17:3
Be on your guard! If your brother sins, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him
1 Thessalonians 5:14
We urge you, brethren, admonish the unruly, encourage the fainthearted, help the weak, be patient with everyone.
All of Romans 12 and 1 Corinthians 12 speak to the form and function of the church. 
After reading just these few excerpts, knowing there is so much more of the same, I am thinking the Church is some 'gear' that I will 'be wanting' to get me through this 'jump.' 

I have no issue with working alongside people who share truth and love, ministering to the lost. But here is the trouble. Remember all that wisdom from the beginning?  Rely on God alone. He is my rock.  My all in all. He says I need this Church, not only as co-workers, but as encouragers, companions and givers of love.  They aren't co-workers. The Church is not a business. They are family (Ephesians 2:19). I am to submit to the people in my church (Ephesians 5:21). I am to confess to them and ask for prayers (James 5:16). These things call for interdependence, vulnerability and transparency. But the Church is made of people. People!  Flawed, selfish, lying, betraying heart breakers. And I need this?   I'd like to argue.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Beware the yeast

“Guard your heart above all else, for it determines the course of your life.” Proverbs 4:23 NLT

“Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty is divided between God and the world.”
‭‭James‬ ‭4:8‬ ‭NLT‬‬

Remember Daniel's interpreting the king's dream of the statue with the clay and iron feet?  We can read about it in chapter 2. In verse 43, we hear Daniel explain that the blending of theses two materials makes both weak. They do not mix at all, so it is just a whole mass of seams that work like perforations: highlighting weaknesses to be attacked.  When I think about Christians trying to absorb the values and lifestyle of their culture, I think about iron and clay. What God offers is strong and perfect, like iron.  The baked clay of human tradition is less so, by a lot.  And they do not blend.  We can try to comfort ourselves thinking that if we are attacked that the weak clay will be the only thing to crumble and the iron will survive any smashing. But picture it:  what will the iron be after being crushed?  Raw material, twisted remnants that cut and injure. The spaces that the clay occupied will leave gaping holes that separate the iron, leaving it strewn about without a form or a function. 

These are just my ponderings, though.  The Christian life was never compared to iron and clay in the Bible.

Jesus went further. 

Matthew 16:6-12; Mark 8:15; Luke 12:1. 

Jesus warns us to beware the yeast of Pharisees. What does that mean?  Is it the people who are Pharisees?  I do not think so, because Paul was a Pharisee, as was Nicodemus. Jesus ate in the homes of Pharisees. Jesus also talked with, taught, and healed at least one roman's servant.  He is not against people. He came specifically to save them.

But he did scold people.  Why?  For their practices and teachings! He does not like sin and really does not like people in authority leading others into sin. Jesus took special interest in Pharisees teaching and practicing laws that were added to Moses' laws delivered by God. Luke 11:46, mark 7:7 ff. 

So, the yeast we must beware of is the teachings of the Pharisees. False teachings that do not blend with the Truth of God. 

One problem with man-made traditions is that they seem so harmless. More than that, they often seem good and wise.  Just thinking about a new rule that will eliminate confusion brings sighs of peace. Men are pretty smart. We are creative. This is no surprise, since we are made in God's image. So our traditions often make a lot of sense!  We go along because it is a well-worn path. And often, there is no conflict to our consciences in doing so.  So, what's the problem? There isn't one; until we are lulled into trusting the ways of men. Have you ever heard anyone say, 'I do not know why we do it that way; it's just how we have always done it.'  

That leads us to the other problem with man-made traditions: we cannot serve two masters. There is a point when there will be disagreement, and you have to choose what or who is supreme. Sadly, we realize this after following along so blindly and so easily for so long, our minds are asleep to the conflict. 

In Galatians, Paul affirms Jesus' assertions to avoid the yeast that would re-enslave us after Jesus' work that freed us. He speaks specifically about circumcision, but I believe it is reasonable to apply it to any false teaching.  “For when we place our faith in Christ Jesus, there is no benefit in being circumcised or being uncircumcised. What is important is faith expressing itself in love. You were running the race so well. Who has held you back from following the truth? It certainly isn’t God, for he is the one who called you to freedom. This false teaching is like a little yeast that spreads through the whole batch of dough! I am trusting the Lord to keep you from believing false teachings. God will judge that person, whoever he is, who has been confusing you.” Galatians 5:6-10 NLT

Yeast.  It is a leavener that permeates every iota of dough to which it is added. There is no compartmentalizing. Remember those feet made of iron and clay?  While not strong, and not blended, we can physically point to what is iron and what is clay. It is obvious.  In a blend with yeast, however, there is no distinction. Yeast touches everything. You cannot make a loaf with yeast and find a piece of that bread without it. 

So, when we try to blend the world with the Way, we have a real problem. Jesus said beware. False teaching comes in and touches everything. It is messy.  And once in, it is hard to identify.  It blends so smoothly. 

I would like to end with Psalm 101 by King David. It is easy to dismiss the idea of living this zealously because it talks about hating people and ridding the city of evil. Since The work of the Messiah, we are not to hate any people, and none of us has servants of any caliber.  But does that mean we cannot internalize this Psalm for our own lives in Christ?  Do we really want to be this focused on living for God?  Listen to all the 'I will's. Will you?

“I will sing of your love and justice, LORD. 
I will praise you with songs. 
I will be careful to live a blameless life— when will you come to help me? 
I will lead a life of integrity in my own home. 
I will refuse to look at anything vile and vulgar. 
I hate all who deal crookedly; 
I will have nothing to do with them. 
I will reject perverse ideas and stay away from every evil. 
I will not tolerate people who slander their neighbors. 
I will not endure conceit and pride. 
I will search for faithful people to be my companions. Only those who are above reproach will be allowed to serve me. 
I will not allow deceivers to serve in my house, and liars will not stay in my presence. My daily task will be to ferret out the wicked and free the city of the LORD from their grip.” Psalms 101:1-8 NLT