Thursday, January 31, 2013



I have them.

Who doesn't?

I stopped blogging last May because there were some people who didn't like it when I expressed my opinions.  I get that people don't like conflict.  I sure don't.  Conflict can make me positively sick!  But somehow disagreement, or merely holding to an opinion, has morphed into conflict.  This is a disservice to everyone. How might we ever learn and grow if we eliminate free discourse from our lives?  I don't think anyone should be fearful of expressing herself.  The flip side of the coin is that we all need to learn how to listen when others express themselves to us, without it becoming a source of conflict.

Sometimes it seems that our society interprets the word tolerance to mean accepting all ideas as equal. I know many Christians who believe that tolerance is a bad word because it would compel them to agree with every opinion and idea out there.  (Sadly, I see this evolve into the natural next-step of ...yep... intolerance.  Righteous and angry intolerance, at that.) 

Actually, I think tolerance requires disagreement.  Follow me here.  Without disagreeing, there is no need for tolerance.  If we are all the same, after all, what is there to tolerate?  To me, tolerance means accepting the person with love and gentleness, but not agreeing with all of his or her ideas or actions.  In order for this to happen, there has to be a free exchange of ideas.  And that mean lots of listening--which might be the real problem people have with differing opinions and exercising tolerance.  We would rather share our own brilliant perspectives, wow the audience and move on to the next topic.  To hear another side requires humility, and even sometimes some compromise.  *gasp* 

I am learning and exploring and may change my mind on issues. I don't think that the possibility of change or making mistakes relieves me of the duty to make judgment calls in the here and now.  Just because I don't have it all figured out, it is not an excuse for stagnation.  To move forward, I need traction, which means connecting to something, even if only temporarily.

So, for this blog, if you disagree with me, let us talk about the idea.  If you think I am wrong in the way that I have analyzed or evaluated an idea, we can talk about the debatable validity of my process and conclusions.  But if you don't care to talk about issues and prefer to just let me know that I am over-opinionated, please unsubscribe and forget about me.  :)

Here is the deal.  I will strive to be clear, respectful and loving.  I would appreciate you not telling me that I am stupid, ugly or judgmental.  Don't tell me I am wrong because of what others believe or do.  I am happy to hear other opinions, perspectives, logical reasons and even personal stories.  You want to talk ideas? This is the place.  You want to attack me as a human being, please keep moving.  If not for my sake, for your own.  Negative comments will never be published, so you are only spoiling your day by reading words from someone you hate.  I am sure you have far better things to do with your time.

If you need another reason to let me speak my mind on my blog on my time, I'll just borrow some words from the pretty Lesley Gore.  I love the scarves.  :)

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Evolution of Language

Max was drawing a smile in the dust of our van window.  I said, “Guess who’s washing the van?”

He asked what would happen if he drew on the dust of someone else’s car.  Brian and I emphatically told him that he was absolutely never to do that.  Madi chimed in to let him know it was graffiti.  Max said that it wasn’t because it was ok to do on our own van.  We reiterated that it was not.

His response? “Well…it is ok-er.”

To Boldly Go…

Check out this Psalm I copied from from the New Living Translation. The emphases are mine.

Psalm 17
A prayer of David.

1 O Lord, hear my plea for justice.
Listen to my cry for help.
Pay attention to my prayer,
for it comes from honest lips.
2 Declare me innocent,
for you see those who do right.

3 You have tested my thoughts and examined my heart in the night.
You have scrutinized me and found nothing wrong.
I am determined not to sin in what I say.
4 I have followed your commands,
which keep me from following cruel and evil people.
5 My steps have stayed on your path;
I have not wavered from following you.

6 I am praying to you because I know you will answer, O God.
Bend down and listen as I pray.
7 Show me your unfailing love in wonderful ways.
By your mighty power you rescue
those who seek refuge from their enemies.
8 Guard me as you would guard your own eyes.[a]
Hide me in the shadow of your wings.
9 Protect me from wicked people who attack me,
from murderous enemies who surround me.
10 They are without pity.
Listen to their boasting!
11 They track me down and surround me,
watching for the chance to throw me to the ground.
12 They are like hungry lions, eager to tear me apart—
like young lions hiding in ambush.

13 Arise, O Lord!
Stand against them, and bring them to their knees!
Rescue me from the wicked with your sword!
14 By the power of your hand, O Lord,
destroy those who look to this world for their reward.
But satisfy the hunger of your treasured ones.
May their children have plenty,
leaving an inheritance for their descendants.
15 Because I am righteous, I will see you.
When I awake, I will see you face to face and be satisfied.

This isn’t the only Psalm in which David declares himself righteous and blameless.  When I read Psalms especially, I pray for the blessings He gives; the protection, the guidance, the provision, the close relationship.  But I find when I am reading a chapter like this, I can’t bring myself to say those bold words to God.  I haven’t followed His commands, my steps haven’t stayed on his path and I am only righteous by His Son’s blood.

I understand that we may come boldly to the throne and trust His goodness and love.  I am just not convinced He’d be cool with me flat out lying to Him.  *chuckle*

Monday, January 28, 2013

To Hide or Not to Hide

Yesterday for school we did a little study on Jonah.  He was something else, man.  He refused to obey, tried to run from God, only obeyed after a totally crazy miracle, then got mad and dared to 'I-told-you-so' to God, threw a fit about God's compassion--even though without it he wouldn't have had the breath to complain--and cried over the death of a plant while burning with a lust to watch thousands of people die.  Quite a guy, right?  But he was God's prophet.

Is he really all that different than I am--or you are?  Do I have a leg to stand on when I judge him?  I don't think so.  I am prideful and lazy.  I like my plans better than God's and too frequently lose focus on the big picture.

But this is how it is with so many of the special people we read about in the Bible.  Abram was a lying frady-cat.  Moses had a 'who, me?' attitude when God asked him to serve.  We all know about David committing adultery, then murder to try to cover it up.  Paul, well... Jesus asked Paul why was Paul persecuting Him.  Woah!

So, it is pretty well established that God chooses flawed people--as if He had any other choice. Does He make seemingly arbitrary decisions, plucking out unlikely servants for reasons beyond our discernment?  I am not so sure about that. If He doesn't (or can't) choose wholly righteous people, who does He choose and why?  What is so special about them?

I think that God chooses honest people.  I know Abram lied about his wife being his sister, and the charade David tried to pull off could hardly be called honorable or virtuous, but something that distinguished these guys is how transparent they are with God.  It is really kind of silly to be anything but perfectly straightforward with an all-knowing, ever-present Creator, but we do it all the time.  

We prefer to hide some things from our Lord--or like to think that we can hide.  We reserve, mask, sneak, fake and pretend.  We might try to be more high-sounding or defensive and call it something like compartmentalizing.  No matter what we call it, the bottom line is that we are not fully ourselves with our Lord and Savior.  The reasons vary widely.  Sometimes I feel He is so holy that doesn't want to see the ugly part of me, or (most often for me) I got myself into this mess, so I will have to fix it myself.

Frankly, I am having a hard time coming up with good excuses or analogies, because it is all bunk anyhow.  He knows.  He cares.  And we can't fix much of anything on our own.  That brings me back to my point.  These flawed men had lots of problems, but they held nothing from God.  They got impatient, scared, indignant, prideful and any other unacceptable attitude you can name.  And what did they do with that?  They poured it all out to God.  

I imagine this has to be pretty refreshing for God.  It isn't like He doesn't already know what we are thinking.  But when we withhold our ugly thoughts and feelings from Him, we own them and store them up like treasure.  Only by handing them over to Him will we ever be free.  And that is what so many of His chosen people seem to have in common.  In the end, they bring it all to Him and don't bother dressing up the ugly to make it acceptable.  They just are who they are, fully.  

The cool thing about this type of behavior is that it is a most excellent way of worshiping and praising God.  The very act of honest expression conveys trust, love and an acknowledgement of the character of God.  The notion of doing anything else is really rather insulting.  Like He doesn't already know, you know?

Anyhow, if I am right, this is pretty good news for me.  I want to be chosen and since I literally can't pull off righteousness to save my life, now all I have to do is bare it all.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Good v Best

A long time ago I read a devotional style book and the author prefaced it by discussing the practice of replacing good things with better things, and then ultimately reaching for the best things.  For example, she progressed from listening to inoffensive music on the radio to more ‘wholesome’ music to only Christian music to devotions and sermons to Biblical commentary to finally ending up listening exclusively to the audio Bible.

Now, I personally don’t feel the need to only read or listen to Scripture.  On the contrary, I would have a problem with anyone insisting that I do so.  However, the idea of having to choose between good and best is a theme I have experienced time and again in the years since reading that book.

There are simply a bazillion gillian good things out there.  Scientific fact!  I mean, just the categories of good things makes a very long list.  We can get involved in team sports, individual sports, academic classes, arts, service projects, charity works, parties, learning new skills, and elective classes are just a few that pop into my head.  Those are all kind of in the form of homeschooling, which hardly encompasses all the wonderful things in life! 

Unfortunately, there are far fewer hours in our lives than there are good things to do.  So we must choose.  For all the good out there, there are things that are better; and there are things that are best.  What that best is can change to fit the seasons of life, so regular assessment helps keep the ‘striving for best’ on track.

This is why we live the way we live.  We recognize the good and I even wish that we could participate in most of it.  But that good could squeeze out some of the best, and once I tasted the best, there is just no going back.  What I have witnessed, though, is that if all I taste is good, I seem to just stay hungry. 

Looking at life like it is this huge buffet where I gorge myself on every item on display for fear of missing out on some yummy new taste isn’t actually freedom.  It breeds a frantic atmosphere where worry about missing out rules all my decisions.

To continue the food metaphor, I think it is easy to imagine just about any other setting that affords a finer fare of delicacies and a more relaxing and restorative atmosphere than a buffet restaurant.  You may prefer an intimate fancy restaurant with candles and cloth napkins and maybe a violinist in the background.  Perhaps a picnic in a meadow or a BBQ at the beach complete with sand and surf is more your speed.  Midnight snacks with a best friend eaten in bed over a movie is something I personally would choose.  But in any of these cases, the food choices are limited, fit to the environment and truly enhance the real focus of the day.  The food is filling, even if in smaller portions, and the memories are lasting.

I notice that when I get into the mode of not wanting to miss any good thing, my focus changes from relationships to activities; from people to things.  Whenever I let my eyes slip in this way, I know that in my quest to not miss out, I missed it all.  If I can adopt a more discerning palate, so that I can pass over much of the good, the rewards are well worth it. 

So, what constitutes best?  What makes it stand out from the good or even the better?  Well, I think that takes some time to figure out.  I also think that it can be widely varied for different people and change with life seasons.  For my family, we want God’s Word to be the final authority in our lives in all things.  We don’t always succeed, but it is a driving force in our decision-making.  And it has led us to where we are now.  We continue to watch and pray, waiting to see if and when He will steer us in a new direction.  He is good and worth waiting for.  In the meantime, we are really enjoying His best for us.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Future and His Will

I have been spending a lot of time thinking about the future--thank God for Matthew 6 to keep me a little balanced, though that last verse I always take to be a doozy--'today has enough trouble of its own!  Thanks for that.  I have a stack of books that are giving me a lot to digest.

I have two homeschooling-through-highschool/college-prep books that manage to be polar opposite on some major themes while putting exactly my own thoughts into words.  If I were to think about this for too long, I could grow concerned about my sanity.  Both are written by Christian homeschooling moms who have graduated at least a couple of kids from their own homeschool high schools.  One book is virtually spilling over with a boisterous personality.  She is more than a little defensive about her conversational writing style that includes a deluge of italics, commas and a seizure-inducing number of font changes--totally up my alley.  She is all about freedom and learning and screwing the system.  Requirements for graduation or college entrance?  We don't need no stinkin' requirements!  We love Jesus and ts'all good!  I am making light, but I actually agree with the fundamental philosophy of seeking God's will in our lives and not worrying about man-made rat races.  Her book is choc-full of a dizzying number of charts and forms for keeping track of secondary education.

The other book is just as devoted to Christ, but not as colorful in its delivery.  The philosophy embraces learning and loving the Lord with all our minds, as well as with our hearts, strength and soul.  While acknowledging that college isn't for everyone, and even cautions against sending kids to and spending money on college without careful prayer and forethought, the instructions for maintaining a solidly competitive edge academically with institutionally schooled peers are thorough.  The foreword to this book is by Michael Farris of Homeschool Legal Defense Association and Patrick Henry College fame.  The value of civic responsibility isn't emphasized, but rather assumed and is a present undertone througout the book.  You go to college and get involved to make a difference for the better.  Me likes!  This book contains templates for documenting high school work, but its real treasure is all the information about when and how to test, research, apply and gain entrance into the college of your choice.  This one makes me think I can actually do this. 

I also grabbed a book that is full of tests to help choose a career.  It has tests and chapters on things like your values, interests, personality and skills.  I can barely read the text because it is just filler.   I started to take a couple of the tests, and I have hope that it may help give some direction to the kids just by having them take the time to assess themselves as objectively as possible.  My real hope is to offer an opportunity to turn over some previously untouched stones to gain a broader understanding of all the options available out there.

The final book is one I actually read at the beginning of the month on God's will.  The author suggests that God's will can be clearly seen in Scripture, and there are five elements--so nice when things are succinct and neat like that, right?  These are even alliterated. Imagine!  Again, I make light, but I don't mean to undermine the veracity of the ideas. (Oh my goodness!!  I just had a 'supposably-moment!  I am alone, and still so embarrassed.  I always thought it was undermind, not undermine.   My spell checker refused to agree with me. *blush*  Moving on!)

Anyhow, here are the five things God wants for everyone.  The five words are his, the explanation is more my interpretation of the author's.
  1. Salvation: He wants everyone to be reconciled to Himself through Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, who took the punishment of death for all our sins and then beat death so that we may have eternal life.
  2. Spirit-filled: Understanding that all who call on Christ as Lord and Savior receive the Holy Spirit, and believers can submit themselves and invite the Spirit to move freely in their lives, in whatever way He wills.
  3. Sanctified: God desires that we are set apart from this world for Him.  We keep our eyes on the big picture, and do not invest or seek the treasures and rewards of a dying earth.
  4. Submissive: God teaches through Scripture that we honor the laws and authorities of the land, so that we do not soil our testimonies.  When we are disrespectful to matters such as speeding or paying taxes, it undermines our words when we urge people to allow Christ to be their Lord.  So we submit with with love and humility as long as it doesn't go against His higher law.  This idea seemed specifically in regard to civil authority, acknowledging both that God puts leaders into position and that mindless civil disobedience makes Christians look bad.  Titus 3:1 Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good,
  5. Serving: The New Testament is is packed with references to serving, caring for the poor and tending to one another.  Putting them together, there are most conservatively over one hundred separate commands to live a life of service.  There just aren't two ways about it; if you love Jesus, you better be serving.  A lot.
So, the author postulates that when we obey these five points of God's will, the rest just follows.  That brings us back to Matthew 6.  You can sing with me: Seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousne-eh-es, and all these things shall be added unto you. Ah-le--eh-lu, Ah-le-looo-ya!  The idea is that your choices regarding college, career, marriage partner (or not), kids (or not), home and all the rest fall into place when you get yourself in line with God's Big Picture Will.

It's a lot to take in, all these books.  I am thankful I don't have to do it alone.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Go, Girl, Go!

We started a new school year earlier this month and the reality of high school is upon me.  It is both exciting and intimidating.  In a very real sense, I find myself thinking that this is what I have been working for all these years; this is it!

Gradually moving my children to adulthood has become more purposeful now.  I want to give them more opportunities to make, carry out and experience the consequences of decisions.  I don’t believe that rebellion is a needed part of growing up and independence is not my goal.  (Independence ranks among one of Satan’s greatest lies, in my opinion.  I hope to raise responsible, contributing people who recognize the need for all humanity to exist in an inter-dependent manner. Another soapbox for another day.)  Rebellion is not from God, but He does call for a personal relationship with Him, so the kids can’t just ‘coast’ on their Christianity based on our faith; they must evaluate and choose to have Christ as their Savior and Lord.  While we won’t tolerate disrespectful attitudes that mark rebellion, we actively encourage questions, exploration and thoughtful disagreement.  I want my kids to know what they believe and why they believe it.  I want them to maintain humble countenances and be open to learning, while also remaining firm on foundational truths and capable of holding to an idea in the face of an opposing majority.

Lofty, almost nebulous goals.  But they are my goals nonetheless.  How do we do it?  I am not entirely sure, but for now we are pushing the kids to take ownership of their education.  Instead of spoon-feeding lessons, I expect active learners to ask questions, check sources and know themselves well enough to compensate for their various weaknesses. 

My boy’s biggest struggle is motivation.  That is a nice way to say that his biggest struggle is laziness.  He is easy-going and tends towards the path of least resistance.  This is an admirable trait in some areas in life, and a huge improvement from when he was younger and so easily upset by any perceived hint of injustice.  Now he simply needs to find the hunger to push himself through whatever version of writer’s block hits him.

My girl’s biggest struggle is her own view of herself.  She decides that she can’t, and successfully fulfills that prophecy.  Getting her to see herself in a different light is an ongoing process.  She likes categories, and once something is filed, it takes an act of God for her to re-examine it.  The trouble with this is of course, well….life!  Things change, and she doesn’t always deal with that very well.  Her learning disabilities have her convinced that she is stupid.  She can’t.  With that filed away neatly in her mind, it seems no number of successful forays into education can sway her opinion of her own abilities.  We have been working on this for a blessedly long time.

But today, I was sitting next to her at the table while she wrote her spelling words.  She shared that she came up with a plan to sort of test her ability in the moment and was pretty proud of herself.  I was excited to see her take charge of her own learning by experimenting actively to improve her spelling.  First word: score!!  Next: right on!  Third: no problem.  She was on a roll and really excited about her method.  She declared, “I am going to do better on this test than I did last week.”

If you know anyone who has been down on themselves, you know the flutter of joy that I experienced in my soul to hear those words of confidence.  I told her I was so proud of her.  Before I could expound on it, she continued, “…Mostly because it would be hard to do worse!”  I followed her eyes to the test last week showing only two words spelled correctly.  I had to laugh.  Life can be so hard sometimes and we can so easily focus on ‘evidence’ of our unworthiness.  I am thankful for her grit to rise above and press on to greater things. 

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Peace Child

We just finished the book Peace Child by Don Richardson for school today. I have enjoyed it immensely; and the author saved the best for last.  You can check out the book just about anywhere, and I recommend you do, but I will give a brief and relatively inadequate summary here. 

The book is about Don and his wife going to the Sawi people in Indonesia during the 60s to share the Gospel of Christ.  The Sawi were a people group so isolated that their language had very little in common with even the languages of the people in nearby areas, signifying generations upon generations of isolated development.  They had stone age technology and practiced headhunting and cannibalism while celebrating treachery as the trait that most exemplified their heroes.  

Don shares how at one point he lamented that there seemed no way to reach these people who offered no cultural foothold on which he could share a message of love, forgiveness and redemption.  He practically envied St. Paul, John the Baptist and St. Luke, because their jobs were so easy compared to what he was facing with the Sawi people.  At least John the Baptist could reference the Lamb of God while ministering to the Hebrews; Paul could teach about the unknown God to the Athenians; and Luke could expound on the Logos to the Greek.  Here Don was faced with a people who admired Judas Iscariot for so expertly betraying Christ!

In time, though, as Don and his wife prayed, the culture unfolded traditions that revealed Christ to this seemingly hopeless people.  First, the Richardsons witnessed a heart-wrenching ceremony in which a man gave his own child to an enemy tribesman to raise as his own as an unbreakable bond of peace between the two tribes--unless that child died, of course.  This was the peace child after which the book is named--or a shadow of the ultimate Peace Child Himself.  Don finally saw the key he had been seeking for so long.  He gathered the men to share with them that God had also given His only Son for peace.  This was profound and the first believers were born at this revelation.  

After a while a new tradition was carried out that truly disturbed the Richardsons--in fact, it disturbed the Sawi!  As part of the grieving stages over a dead relative, mourners stayed close and keened over the rotting body as flies engulfed it.  The final stage involved plunging one's hands into the corpse and then eating with the soiled hand.  Don and his wife understandably didn't sleep very well the night after they heard about this ceremony.  They ached with confusion.  Why would anyone do this?  Don was determined to find out.  

While investigating, he discovered that there was an old legend about a lizard who represents eternal life and a bird who represents death.  They fought over humans and whether they should decay or renew.  The lizard gave up, leaving humanity to death.  But there was hope in a promise that the secret word would come back into knowledge that would allow the Sawi to be renewed and to live forever.  

I just get chills as I think about this.  I see two lessons that are so very profound.  The first is that God is super-cultural.   There is no people group outside His reach.  He matters.  He is relevant.  He goes even further than that.  1 Timothy 2:4 says that God "...desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth."  No One is more aware that we cannot attain relationship with Him by human strength, so in order that all may be saved, He made a way.  There are legends, traditions, stories, mores and any number of other qualities in each and every culture and sub-culture in Creation that serves as a key to Truth that eventually supplants the inferior legends!  It is brilliant as only He can be! He plants these treasures to be discovered and reveal His saving grace so that truly all will hear and all can know.  How amazing is that?

This leads me to the second lesson.  When we move in to change what we see as unacceptable behavior without discovering the reasons for that behavior, we may unwittingly be burying that all-important key.  The Sawi despised their own tradition for mourning the dead.  It was dreadful!  The government would have eventually come in and outlawed the practice.  If that had been done, what a devastating loss it would have been.  The corrupt thinking would never have been addressed, because the behavior that revealed the false teaching would have been eradicated.  

This is treating the symptoms and preserving the disease; decidedly killing the patient who has been well perfumed to mask the stench of death.  We must not do this!

It is for this reason that I struggle so fundamentally with the legislation of morality.  (Please do not choose to interpret that to mean that I advocate the legalization of murder or theft. I believe the government's job is to protect our God-given right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  My murder would impair my earthly life and I imagine my pursuit of happiness, though my liberty would be secured.)  When we choose to perfume the stink out of people so that we are comfortable in their presence--not that we would hang out with anyone who stinks--we fail miserably in our ministry to love one another.

Instead we must humble ourselves and refuse the compulsion to react with repulsion (I am a poet!).  We need to ask why and then actually listen and learn.  And before anyone is going to trust us with an honest answer, we have to build a relationship based on love and acceptance--yes, acceptance!  The first thing we may learn is that the behavior wasn't all that bad in the first place.  But if it is sinful, and we can lovingly reveal truth that is founded in their own lives and experiences, no legislation is needed at all! When the Sawi heard Truth, they stood up and said, 'when I die, don't stick your hands into my rotting carcass!'  They only had to say it once, believe me.  

People do awful things often because they believe deep down that it is all they deserve.  When we yell at them for doing awful things, we only confirm what they already knew.  They go into hiding and continue to do awful things because now there is no other obvious choice.  However, when we love them and show them that they are worth more than all the treasures of this earth, they will cheerfully cast off behaviors unbecoming of royalty.  No laws are even needed.  Who needs to be told to not eat rotted flesh, really?  I don't.  Because it stinks. 

If we continue to choose to make our society pretty and acceptable to our way of thinking, we will continue to marginalize our own selves to irrelevancy.  Remember that we don't actually belong here.  We are the aliens passing through.  We have no right to comfort.  We have no right to not be offended.  This is an offensive world, ruled by the Liar.  Let it be out in the open, for goodness' sakes!  At least then we know where to go to bring healing.

Please don't chastise the stink out of your life.  See it as a symptom in need of the Great Physician.  Love.  Learn.  Really hear the breaking hearts behind ugly acts that cause harm.  See God in it.  He is there, if you take the time to look.