Balancing Act

I’ve been curious about friendships lately.  It seems to me, as it is with so many things, that there are two extremes in friendships.  I want to know when each extreme is the right response.

Scripture has a lot to say about friendships.  We all know the verses.  “A friend loves at all times”  or “Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins. times” or “Greater love has no man than this: to lay down his life for his friend.”  The Bible is full of stories of friends.  Ruth and Naomi, Jesus and Lazarus, Jesus and His disciples, and of course, Jonathan and David.  Friendship is a beautiful thing– a blessing from the Lord.

Proverbs says (and I can’t help but lapse into my KJV version of Proverbs 27:6): Faithful are the wounds of a friend, but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

You know, that’s a pretty strong statement.  Friends don’t sugar coat truth.  As Knightley did in Jane Austen’s Emma, when a real wrong has been committed, a true friend will confront it.  Knightley’s correction is a beautiful blending of Proverbs 27:6 and Matthew 18.  He went to her, privately, and showed her kindly but firmly where she was wrong.  Friends do that.

However, sometimes we seem to use these verses as an excuse to whip our friends with the Word.  We take out our scriptural six-shooter and fire it at will all in the name of “being a faithful friend.”  Where’s the balance?  There has to be a SCRIPTURAL balance between being that “faithful friend” who speaks the truth and corrects a friend even if it hurts and allowing our love for our friend to overlook a failing.  I love 1 Peter 4:8.

Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.

So which is applicable when.  We know that scripture covers all of life, so clearly there are times to confront and rebuke and there are times to cover someone’s fault in love.  After all, isn’t that what Jesus did for us?  Isn’t that what the whole point of Him dying on the cross was all about?  Covering our sins in His blood because of His great love for us?  You know, Proverbs talks about these too.

Well…

Hatred stirs up strife, but love covers all offenses.  (Prov. 10:12)
Whoever covers an offense seeks love, but he who repeats a matter separates close friends.  (Proverbs 17:19)

And then there’s my beloved James.  I really do have a deep love for that book.  It really seems to address so much of the Christian walk.  I remember when we had to memorize it in the ninth grade.  I was so frustrated.  Why couldn’t it be Psalms or Proverbs?  Those were such “practical” books.  Now I thank Mr. and Mrs. Bills for choosing James.  I truly believe God knew how much I needed it infused into my life.

let him know that he who turns a sinner from the error of his way will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.   (James 5:20)

There is clearly a time and a place for both.

One of my favorite hymns is flowing through my head right now.  I can’t stop thinking of one line in it…

Angry Words

Angry words! O let them never,
From the tongue unbridled slip,
May the heart’s best impulse ever,
Check them ere they soil the lip.

Love one another thus saith the Savior,
Children obey the Father’s blest command,
Love each other, love each other,
’Tis the Father’s blest command.

Love is much too pure and holy,
Friendship is too sacred far,
For a moment’s reckless folly,
Thus to desolate and mar.

Love one another thus saith the Savior,
Children obey the Father’s blest command,
Love each other, love each other,
’Tis the Father’s blest command.

Angry words are lightly spoken,
Bitterest thoughts are rashly stirred,
Brightest links of life are broken,
By a single angry word.

Love one another thus saith the Savior,
Children obey the Father’s blest command,
Love each other, love each other,
’Tis the Father’s blest command.

You know… this song is about speaking in anger, which isn’t what I’m pondering, but those lines really keep reverberating in my mind.  Friendship is too beautiful– too much of a gift– not to take it seriously when our friends are straying from the Lord.  It also works the other way around.  Friendship is also too much of a blessing to damage with our meddling when love can cover.  It’s just so hard to know which is appropriate.

I’ve had a thought these past few weeks, which is what prompted this.  I have no idea if I’m out in left field or not, but I think I might have stumbled on one little nugget.  People talk a lot about Matthew 18.  It’s almost as if that’s the excuse to whip their friends with the Word.  “Well, we’re COMMANDED in Matthew 18…”  Well, I wonder.  You see, if I know I’ve offended a friend–KNOW– I’ll go and apologize.  Even if I can’t confess I’ve done wrong if I don’t think I have, I can apologize for causing pain.  I can ask forgiveness for HOW I said something or WHEN.  There is usually a legitimate way to mend that fence.  However, when someone has “offended” me (I usually am more a little irritated than anything), I tend to wait.  Take a deep breath.  Go to the Word.  It rarely takes me long to get from the “offense” stage to the “forgiveness” stage and almost never after saying something.  I don’t need to.  I can get over it by myself.  When I CAN’T… that’s when I think Matthew 18 applies.

When I thought about that, I wondered.  Is that what these two ideas are about?  When someone does something that is wrong– AGAINST ME– can I allow my love for them to cover it?  Can I say, “Lord, please help them see where they need You in this” and let it go?  Wouldn’t I want them to do that for me?  Do I really want people coming to me and beating me up with what I probably already know I need to correct?  No, they probably don’t mean to beat, but when you’re already under conviction for your own sin, someone else coming along and dropping it back on your head as you’re trying to work through it FEELS like you’re being beaten.  No, I don’t want my friends to ignore sin in my life.  I don’t.  If they see me gossiping, I want them to confront me.  If they see me dishonoring my husband, I want them to confront me.  If they see me damaging the name of Christ by my actions, I WANT THEM to confront me.  I do.  I won’t like it, but I want it.

However, if I said something that hurt… I’d appreciate it if they took it in context.  Stepped away from the situation.  Thought about how I’ve spoken to them in the past.  Considered how ready I usually am to recognize that I’ve hurt them, and just maybe assume the best about me.  I’d like it if they recognize that I usually do attempt to make things right when someone is upset with me– even if I disagree!  I’m ok with that.  Sometimes it is a very huge burden to hear, once more, just where you’ve failed a brother or sister.  You can’t be all things to all men all at once all the time all by yourself.  You just can’t.  Sometimes you’re going to fail.  I’d love it if my friends realized that when these little things come up and say, “She probably didn’t mean it how it came off.”  I know many of them do that for me– and maybe even more than is warranted.  I thank you all.  It’s a blessing.

But, that’s where I’m starting to see a difference.  Jane comes along and says something hurtful.  This isn’t a habit of hers.  She’s not always sending stinging jabs to people.  She hurts me.  I can do one of two things.  I can confront it (which, after all, is Biblical) or I can cover it in love for her, knowing she probably wouldn’t have said/done that at just about any other time.  I think that’s a good thing.

But if Jane is engaged in something that is a breach of her relationship with the Lord… ok… example… how about she is involved in a sexual relationship and is not married.  I think that’s when that “faithful wounding” comes in.  We go straight to our friend, with the Word, and we show them, in the Word, where they are in sin.  We pray, we beg them to repent.  We’re loving but firm about their sin.  And, we hope, that a James 5:20 results!

I think the difference is that one is about us and one is about them.  I mean, if Jane (my apologies to all real Janes btw) had a habit of hurting people with her words, I’d say that Biblical rebuke and confrontation might be appropriate there, but then it wouldn’t be about us anymore, would it?  It wouldn’t be about how she hurt me.  It’d be about how she is hurting the Body of Christ– and therefore Jesus himself.

I don’t know… I’m just trying to figure these things out, but it seems to make sense.  What do you think?  When do we risk wounding our friends with faithful counsel and when do we allow love to cover a multitude of sins?

Attitude Adjustment…

It’s something I hear me say often… much too often for my taste.  Kid start snipping at each other, have an ugly face when I tell them to do something– they’ll hear it.  “Change your attitude.”  That’s usually all they need to at least attempt to show a better attitude.  Well, that’s fine and good, but what about me?

Yeah.  Me.  Something happened the other day.  I was in my room making cards when Lorna came in.  It’s important to note that I was in a perfectly fine mood.  All was well, nothing bothering me.  Lorna asks in a happy little voice, “May I have a drink of your Coke?”

In the space of a second or two a bunch of thoughts went through my mind.  My first response wasn’t pretty.  I heard myself think, as I was about to say it, “Fine…”  in a heavy sighing voice.  Even as I was thinking that and opening my mouth, another thought crashed in on top of it.  “Why can’t I just be pleasant?  She didn’t say anything or do anything wrong.  If I’m going to say yes, why  can’t it be a happy yes?”

I said, “Sure!”  Total happy tone.  I meant it by then.

She took a sip, said thanks, and asked about my card.  It lasted maybe six seconds but it left an impact on me that I hope doesn’t fade anytime soon. That one decision to respond with a happy sound made me happy.  The right action prompted the right attitude, but even if it hadn’t, my daughter didn’t get a guilt trip for asking an innocent question.  No, I would have been giving her the answer she wanted, but at what price?  Who can enjoy “getting their way” if it’s loaded with a heaviness like that?

I was thinking about the reverse.  Let’s say I was going to say no.  Would I have said a simple, “No” or “No, not this time” with a pleasant tone, or would I have sounded impatient?  I don’t know.  That’s the problem.  I should know.  I should know that if I’m NOT irritated, I’m not going to sound like I am.  I should know that if I am irritated, I probably will manage to have the self-control not to let it control my reaction.

I guess I don’t understand why we do this?  I know I’m not the only one.  I  hear it from all of my family, friends, their families, online, in stores, at church… it happens too often.  Why is it so easy to make a yes sound like a burden or a no sound like a rebuke– even when we have no intention of doing either.

What surprised me most was the way my attitude changed when I changed my sound.  I was pretty ambivalent about the whole thing.  Didn’t care if she had a drink or not.  It sickens me to think of how easy it was for me to go from “ho-hum” to “sighville” in the space of a second.  What amazes me is how quickly my heart was changed with my words and tone.  While I didn’t mind Lorna in the room with me before that, afterwards, I wanted her around– enjoyed “playing” with her.

What I hate about realizing this is that I usually have the thought that I should work on it in the future.  Stop myself.  Take that thought captive.  Change my own attitude.  Use the proper response.  And yet, I don’t.  It seems as if I notice something like this and purpose to make that change in my life, I’m worse than ever.  Well, this time I’m determined to pray myself through a change.  Somehow, some way, I pray that when I start to say, “all riiiight…” for no reason… I’ll stop myself first and say, “Sure!”  When I have to say no, I’ll be matter-of-fact rather than letting it come out smug or rebuke-like.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t intentionally do these things– sometimes I don’t do it at all.  However, my reaction to my instinctive response tells me that I need the Lord to work a change in my heart.

So tell me, why do we do this?  Why do we sound affronted when we’re ambivalent?   Why do we sound rebuking when we are simply saying no?  If we’d never allow our children to whine at us, why do we whine about having to do the things that come with parenthood?

Food=Fuel

Image: healingdream / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I was just thinking about the point of eating the other day.  You know, food is necessary to keep a body going.  That’s why we eat.  We don’t eat to store it up for some odd day sometime when maybe we’ll use what we ate.  It’s a little like manna.  You know?  They were given just the food they  needed to make it through that day.  Similarly, food we eat that we don’t burn is wasted– and becomes revolting.  You know… those rolls and rolls of extra rolls around our guts.  Yeah, I was thinking about it AFTER getting ready for an “event.”

But then my mind swerved to scripture.  Just how often do we gorge ourselves on the Word but never use it in our lives?  I have to admit, I know I’m guilty of it.  Isn’t that what James called being “hearers of the Word and not doers?”  Makes you think, doesn’t it.  It seems weird to consider yourself a “spiritual glutton.”  I don’t think the point is to read the Bible less but to use it more.  Just like (for me anyway) the point isn’t to eat less food (I don’t eat a whole lot of it anyway) but to exercise more.

Yeah.  Time to get me some new walkin’ shoes so I can do some real exercising.  It’s time.  And as I start walking, perhaps it’s also time to do a little praying, memorizing, and meditating.  It’s time to put “feet” to that Word I claim to love so much and show my faith “by my works” kind of thing.

Oy.

Oh, and another silly thought I had when I was analogizing… there is no such thing as “junk food” in scripture.  Isn’t that great!  It’s all wholesome food!  Some might be milk, others might be meat or honey, but none of it is “junk.”  YAY!

Two Shall Become One

Today my husband flew out of Inyokern to West Palm Beach, Florida.  From there, Monday morning, he’ll fly to the largest of the islands in the Bahamas (with the smallest population of course).  A navy base.  Yes, my husband’s first out of country trip is to another navy base in a paradise that he might not even see.  Very sad.  However, that’s not really what I wanted to share.

See, I’m female.  I know that’s a shocker to most people, but I am.  I’m that lovely *cough* mix of contradictions that really does make up the majority of females that I know.  You see, when I’ve gone to spend a weekend with a friend or at a homeschool conference, I’ve been fine being away from my husband.  It doesn’t faze me at all really.  Ok, I miss him, of course.  I wouldn’t want to imply that I don’t, but I don’t feel “empty” without him.  Isn’t that strange?  Oh, it’s not?  Well, let me share the other side of the coin.  Perhaps that’ll clarify a few things.  When Kevin has been gone for a few days (three times in the course of our marriage?), I’ve been miserable.  In fact, the last time he returned, I spent quite a while sobbing once he returned home.  I still don’t know exactly why, but I’m guessing the relief of having him home again, how much I’d missed him– all of it just crashed down on me.  Oh, I should mention to those who don’t know it– I don’t cry.  Almost ever.  At all.  Just don’t.  So half an hour or so of constant sobbing was freakishly out of character for me.

I was thinking about this all weekend, wondering how this week will go.  I think it makes sense, really.  After all, I think there’s a lot to the whole “become one” thing aside from the obvious.  I think in a lot of ways, half of me won’t be here this week.  And that’s what really got me thinking.

Ok, I know that Christians are called the bride of Christ primarily due to the authority structure of people/Jesus/the Father, and because of the sacrifice that Jesus made on our behalf– much like (of course in a smaller sense) our husbands are to give up themselves for their wives and do so often.  But, this oneness of marriage, it got me thinking… couldn’t it be another picture of our relationship with the Lord?

Would I miss the Lord as deeply if He went away for a week?  Would I notice?  I pray I would.  I would hope that I’d notice His absence immediately, but what if I didn’t?  Have I grown enough in my walk with the Lord that I would miss fellowship with Him if He wasn’t there every time I prayed?  Do I pray enough that I’d notice if He were gone for a few hours or days?

No, the Christian walk isn’t exactly like a marriage, but there are parallels.  I’m finding new nuances all the time.  It’s fascinating.  Oh, Lord make me desire that closeness with You– more and more every day.

‘Til What Do Us Part?

When we got married, we thought we were surrounded by solid Christian marriages.  Even the couples that we knew were struggling seemed absolutely committed to their marriages regardless of the difficulties.  Within a year or two, only one of the local couples that we’d thought would be our support as we learned this new thing called marriage were still married.  By the way, that same couple is still married.  I watched long-term and short term marriages crumble– including my parents’.  Thankfully, Mom and Dad reunited a few years later and have been back together ever since.

“We just drifted apart.”  That was the excuse for leaving a husband for another man.  It tore me up.  Years went by and one after another, more marriages around town dissolved.  Why?

What makes someone invest years and years of their life in a relationship– make vows even– and then discard them?  I’m not pretending that it is easy for them.  I’m sure, at least for some, it’s quite difficult to make that decision.  But, considering it happens so often, it must not be so difficult that they don’t let it happen.  When we marry, we vow– VOW– for as long as we both shall live.  It seems that now people make the mental vow, “For as long as we both shall love.”  Actually, I’ve heard of secular marriages using that as their vow.  At least it’s doable.

Don’t get me wrong.  If Kevin found himself a honey on the side and committed adultery, I can’t imagine staying married to him.  I suppose if there was genuine repentance, I would try.  I would want to be the wife who could do that, but I don’t know if I could be.  If he started beating me, I’d be gone– our kids with me.  I have no idea HOW I’d do it, but I would.

I just wonder whatever happened to “for better or worse” and “for richer or poorer.”  What about, “in sickness and in health” and (since it seems to be a huge problem in our day) “forsaking all others?”

I don’t know the answer, but I do beg Christians to take heed lest they fall… I need to keep alert, watchful, and prayerful before I become the next statistic.

Why?

Sometimes I ask myself questions.  I’m sure everyone has those moments when something they see or hear prompts another “why” of life.

  • Why are people so selfish?
  • Why do we do the things we hate most?
  • Why can’t that man see how his indifference is causing his wife to wither?
  • Why can’t that woman see how her constant nagging is driving her husband away emotionally?
  • Why can’t that child see that his parents have years of experience to draw on?
  • Why make vows that you are unwilling to keep?
  • If you don’t want an answer, why did you ask the question?
  • How can people cause so much pain for others that they claim to love?
  • Why do we think it is ever right to be cruel?
  • Why do you claim to believe in Jesus when you ignore His Word?
  • Why are so many men blind to the needs of their wives?
  • Why are so many women so insecure that they must emasculate their husbands to feel better about themselves?
  • Why is one person’s pain license to inflict pain on others?
  • Why do our families get the worst of us rather than the best?

I could go on all day.  The worst part of it, the answer is the same for every question.  Sin.

Psalm 51: 10–  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.

A Matter of the Will…

One of my favorite verses is in Romans 12:1-2

I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.

Nine words in the middle of that seem to be the question that haunts Christians throughout their walk with Christ.  What is the will of God concerning this?  I mean, I remember how many times I’ve gone to the Word, praying, seeking, but unsure if I was using God’s Word to back up my will.  That’s how we are as humans, isn’t it?  We’re good at justifying our own desires–deluding ourselves that the Lord’s will is paramount in our minds.

I don’t think I’ve cornered the market on discerning the will of God for my life much less anyone else’s, but I have found a question that I like to ask myself after I’ve discerned that it indeed is supported by scripture. So, I now look to Luke 10:27 to help me judge the truth in my heart.

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

I mean the Bible tells us to go into the world and make disciples of all nations.  However, is me going into foreign missions because I have a personal desire to “do something big” or because by doing this I am loving the Lord with ALL my heart, soul, mind, and strength?  Am I loving my neighbor as myself or just loving myself?”

Yeah, it’s not rocket science, nor is it full proof, but it helps.  It reminds me that in discerning God’s will, I need to be seeking to glorify HIM… and not feeding my flesh.  I need to remember that my flesh sometimes wants what SEEMS scriptural or “spiritual” but is often just full of self.  Who am I kidding.  I’m usually full of self.  Looking to Luke 10:27 HELPS take my focus off myself.  It isn’t full proof, but it helps.

How do you help discern between “spiritual-sounding” desires of the flesh and the true will of God?


A Time to…

Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

1For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven:
2a time to be born, and a time to die;a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; 3a time to kill, and a time to heal;a time to break down, and a time to build up; 4a time to weep, and a time to laugh;a time to mourn, and a time to dance; 5a time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing; 6a time to seek, and a time to lose;a time to keep, and a time to cast away; 7a time to tear, and a time to sew;a time to keep silence, and a time to speak; 8a time to love, and a time to hate;a time for war, and a time for peace.

 

This has always been one of my favorite passages.  I remember my father using it to explain appropriateness.  I imagine the part about a time to keep silence inspired his lesson that day.  I had a particular talent for the “time to speak” part… I just seemed to imagine that all of life was a time to speak.  All through my life I’ve used this to remind me of things specific to my circumstances.  As a student in school, I would remind myself that there was, “A time to study and a time to read” or “a time for Literature and a time for Science.”  Yesterday after scrubbing the shower for some time, my arms worn out with the effort of scrubbing  the fiberglass enclosure free of the build up of soap, rust, and grime, I chided myself about not having spent the “time” to maintain the cleanliness of it.  This passage came to mind and I wondered about the “Time Tos” of my life.

For everything in my home and life there is a season, and a time for every matter under my roof.

  • a time to arise and a time to sleep
  • a time to teach and a time to learn
  • a time to procure groceries and a time to prepare them
  • a time to clean and a time to educate
  • a time to rebuke and a time to encourage
  • a time to write and a time to read
  • a time to work hard and a time to relax
  • a time to declutter and a time to acquire
  • a time to enjoy hobbies and a time to put them away
  • a time to pray and a time to sing
  • a time to wash and a time to fold
  • a time to advise and a time to listen without speaking
  • a time to be home and a time to get away
  • a time for chaos and a time for peace

 

It’s nothing so profound, but when I do this, I remember that every good thing, whether work, play, fun or miserable, has an appointed time and there is nothing virtuous in spending all my time killing myself with work any more than there is something sinful in enjoying things that enrich my life and bring me joy.  God has given me all the time I need to do what He wants me to do.  I simply need to ensure that I do those things.

Just Sayin’…

I’ve read it a million times in various books.  Someone says something like, “Well, things are just going downhill.  In my day…”  Invariably, the impression is clear.  Only “old” people are bothered by the relaxing of standards once considered important.  Well, I think I’m old.  Call me a hypocrite, but I’ve never been bothered by words like darn and heck.  For one thing, they’d been around for several generations before me and were far removed from the original words.  I get that language is fluid.  I get that things change.  I just don’t agree that all change is good.

It started with a so-called mild form of excrement.  Not as offensive as the “S” word, this word I’ve heard spoken glibly by nearly everyone.  I hate it, but I tried to keep my opinion to myself.  After all, just because I don’t like it doesn’t make it wrong.  Then there came the spin-offs of the vulgar “F” word.  I hate them.  Cannot stand them.  However, I have to say, they are still preferable to the more modern “F-ing” or “WTF.”  I hesitated typing those out.  I feel like I just used nasty language.  You know why?  Because I did.  I’m sorry, but it’s quite obvious what words are meant there.  The mind fills them in for you.  I have actually heard people say both aloud. Text-speak has invaded modern speech in new ways.  People actually vocalize “LOL” or “OMG” as if they are words.  I’m sorry, exclaiming “OMG” is frankly no different than saying “Oh, my God!”  Let’s hope that is a prayer on your lips.

I know that a lot of people say, “So what?  It’s just a matter of taste.  You’re just judging/putting your standards on others/etc.”  Um, actually, I’m quite certain that Scripture is clear on this kind of thing.

I know, I have a love-affair with the book of James.  People who know me well could have guessed I’d start there.  James 3: 5-10

5 So also the tongue is a small part of the body, and yet it boasts of great things. See how great a forest is set aflame by such a small fire!

6And the tongue is a fire, the very world of iniquity; the tongue is set among our members as that which defiles the entire body, and sets on fire the course of our life, and is set on fire by hell.

7For every species of beasts and birds, of reptiles and creatures of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by the human race.

8But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison.

9With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God;

10from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way.

When I think of these verses, the first thing that comes to mind is how easily our tongue controls us rather than the other way around.  When you take Luke 6:45 and read it with James in mind, it becomes quite sobering.

“The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.

Gulp.  When we’re throwing out words that refer to irreverent usage of God’s name, excrement, and the most vulgar words in our language, what does that say about our hearts?  Can we truthfully stand before the Lord and say, “I knew You’d use that language, so I was good with it?”  If Jesus wouldn’t use our choice of “phraseology,” then what makes those of us who call ourselves “Christ Ones” (Christians) think that it is acceptable for us?

I’ve actually heard Christians defend the use by saying that the Bible doesn’t forbid it.  Seriously?  We have movie and even TV show ratings that both signify and warn about “Profane speech” in their choices.  You can expect to possibly hear a few “mild” profanities in PG, possibly quite a bit with PG-13, and if you get to R, well it could be like the time we went to see the movie Phone Booth, expecting to have to overlook a few obscenities and left after just a few minutes and about 50 F-words.  It was ridiculous.  If the world can see that certain words are “profane” why are we so quick to dismiss it.  Ephesians 5:3-5 has something to say about that.

Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.

Um… no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk which is out of place…

What about the ESV?  I thought it was interesting to compare the NAB to the ESV on verse 4.

Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving.

What the NAB calls obscenity, the ESV calls filthiness.  What the NAB calls silly, the ESV calls foolish talk.  What the NAB calls suggestive talk, the ESV calls crude joking.  OUCH.

Ok, I’m going to be horribly transparent here.  Occasionally someone will say something that sounds “just wrong.”  You know what I mean.  Thank the French for the concept of the “double entendre.”  Usually, I wish I could truthfully say always, I don’t comment.  I mean, really.  Just because one person’s words sounded suggestive when I knew it wasn’t meant to does not mean that I have to send everyone else’s minds around me into the same “obscene/crude” place that mine went.  And, I’ve noticed that the less often I let my mind stay in that place, the less often it goes there.  It’s as if crudeness begets crudeness.  Imagine that.

Look, I know we have what we call “free speech” in America, and I believe it is a wonderful right that the citizens should protect to the best of their ability.  However, as CHRISTIANS, we do not have that right.  As Christians we are specifically called not to be “of the world.”  We are told to keep our thoughts and speech pure.  I’m sorry, but even text-speak abbreviations for things that are impure don’t sanitize them.  Your spouting “WTF” when something goes wrong or astounds you puts the actual words in my mind.  As a Christian, you are defrauding your sister.  You are being offensive.  You are making it next to impossible for me to keep the impurity of such words out of my mind.  If you cannot see the need to restrain yourself for your own benefit, can you not show Christian charity to your sister in Christ?

When you tell a sexually implicit or explicit joke, turn everything into a double meaning, or use words that send others’ minds in those directions, you’re causing brothers and sisters in Christ to stumble.  Would you really do that if Jesus was right there taking part in the conversation?  I know you can’t “help” what jumps into your mind before you’ve had a chance to dissect it, but you can help putting those same inappropriate images and thoughts into the minds of those around you.

Hey, I’m talking to myself on that one.  Even my (truly) shocked, “Aaak” can do it.  I remember watching a movie once.  All the innuendo (or most anyway) went straight over my head.  It usually does.  However, when we went back to see it with friends and my kids, one person with us caught every single one– and made bothered noises to that effect.  Hey, I don’t blame her.  When you “get it” it’s hard not to be offended by it.  However, every single one of those “ugh” type sounds alerted me to the ugliness I’d missed.  On the one hand, since I’d brought  my older girls, I was glad of it.  On the other hand, I wonder how much of the ugliness they’d have ignored if they weren’t being alerted to its presence every few minutes.  My guess is that most of them would have been like me.  Clueless.  And that’s how I’d have preferred it. I do it often without realizing it until it’s too late.  As a mom, there’s a fine line between not drawing attention to crudeness or obscenity and pointing out what we avoid.  However, between friends, there’s just no excuse for sending one anothers’ minds into the gutter.

Or, in the words of one of those Disney cartoon characters.  “If you don’t have something nice to say…”

Just sayin’.

To God Be the Glory!

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)

My daughter and I were having a conversation the other day. She told me about a sermon she’d heard that discussed how quick we are to believe things that are bad and accept them as a part of life, but when something good happens, when someone says, “The Lord did such and such for me,” we grow skeptical and are wary. The conversation is still swirling in my mind. Why do we do that? Why are we so quick to accept the bad, the negative, the ugly? Why can we so easily see Satan’s hand in the evil of this world, but when something lovely, encouraging, or good happens, we don’t expect it to last, we hesitate to see the Lord’s hand, or we see it as a curse in blessing’s clothing.

Philippians tells us we’re not supposed to do this. We think on what is true. If something good just happened, it’s TRUE. No amount of skepticism will change the truth that the good occurred. Commendable, excellent… praiseworthy… who do we think we are to spit on the blessings of God? Who do we think we are to pull the, “The devil made me do it” when bad things happen because of our own sinfulness, but when a blessing occurs, the Lord doesn’t get the credit? He’s God Almighty. ALMIGHTY. How can we have the audacity not to give Him the glory?

Don’t get me wrong. I know we don’t always do this, but I think Braelyn was right. It happens enough though, that a preacher had to write a sermon about it and the facts of it resonated with us. I’m a pretty positive person. I tend to assume the best of people, tend to think things will work out in the end, and while I love to tease about Murphy, his “law,” and its effect on people today, the fact is, I really do expect things to go pretty well most of the time.

So, why then am I so slow to give God the glory He deserves?

*now THERE is a case where I can say deserves and not cringe!*

The Ultimate Love Letter

Tomorrow is Valentine’s Day. I’ve found a lot of stories and legends about the origins of the day, and it seems like there is no clear answer as to who the true “Saint Valentine” is and the true story, so I’m going with the one I was told when I was little.  It was said that in the early centuries A.D., a priest was imprisoned for some reason or another, and wrote letters back to his congregation, encouraging them in the Lord.  Heedless of his own dire circumstances, his thoughts, even to his death, were of his people.  His “love letters” to his congregation supposedly began the tradition of sharing love letters from “your Valentine.”

It’s a discouraging day for many people.  Thanks to the commercialization and romanticizing of the day, a lot of expectations seem to follow it.  Great hopes are rooted in those expectations– everything from expecting a “great date,” to gifts and proposals.  It seems as if there is so much pressure out there to “perform” in some way.  Don’t get me wrong, there is something beautiful in wanting to do something for another person to show your love and appreciation for them, but when the day becomes about expectations of others, it can be so discouraging.  If that “love letter” doesn’t arrive, what hopes and dreams are crushed?

Thankfully, the only One Who truly matters has written us a true love letter.  Within its sixty-six books full of love for us, are nuggets that truly show just how deeply the Lord loves and cherishes us.  Man will fail, but the Lord never does.

Jeremiah 31:3-  the LORD appeared to him from far away. I have loved you with an everlasting love; therefore I have continued my faithfulness to you.

Wow… how beautiful is that?  “An everlasting love.”  Unlike the fictional protestations of love in romance novels, we can trust that when the Lord says He loves us with an EVERLASTING love, we’re cherished.  It’s so hard to believe, and yet we must.  Otherwise, we call the God of Heaven and Earth a liar.  Who are we to doubt the Word of Almighty God?

Lamentations 3:22-24-  The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. “The LORD is my portion,” says my soul, “therefore I will hope in him.”

That’s just so beautiful.  “His mercies never come to an end.  they are new every morning.”  New.  Endless Mercy.  That’s just something that no man or woman can possibly hope to promise.  We want to– at least I would hope we do– but we’re human.  We will fail.  We will “keep a record of wrongs,” and because of that, we’ll hold a grudge or refuse to forgive, but the Lord has promised us that His mercies are endless.  It’s a bottomless pit of beautiful mercy.  How often can we say anything is a bottomless pit– and it be GOOD?

In the Psalms, the Psalmist speaks of the “Steadfast love” of God one hundred twenty-five times.  If you go look at BibleGateway.com, there is a huge page of entries for “Steadfast love.”  Humans love, and love deeply, but no matter how much we want to have a love that is pure and true, we cannot hope to come close to the kind of “steadfast love” of the Lord.

Of course, there is the Song of Solomon– that beautiful example of Eastern poetry that is an amazing testament of the Lord’s love for us.  I can’t appreciate the beauty of it as fully as I wish I could.  I read it and am turned off by images of “teeth like sheep.”  Sorry, sheep aren’t white… they’re actually quite dirty and fuzzy.  Fuzzy teeth aren’t lovely to me.  I know there is poetical imagery in that, but I don’t “get it.”  I do, however, get the heart behind it.  Somehow, some way, the Lord loves us enough to consider us a beloved bride.  He could have chosen friendship– using the example of Jonathan and David– to compare His love and affection to us, but instead, He chose deeper human relationships.  Bridegroom to bride.

There are so many people in the world who will feel unappreciated, unloved, and rejected tomorrow, but there is One who loves us beyond comprehension.  One who can fill that longing for love that no human could ever replicate.  He waits for us, and yet we turn to those who cannot help but fail us.  That is so amazing.

Happy Valentine’s Day is so inadequate.  Happy Lord’s Day to all.

A Meal of the Word

I tend to get crazy ideas in my head.  Sometimes, they’re little things I need to do in order to accomplish something– other times they’re ideas that really don’t make sense in the grand scheme of things.  One such thing as been my idea of how Christian maturity works.  See, I learned the verse 1 Corinthians 13:11 “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I gave up childish ways” and applied it to my life.  Combined with verses like 1 Peter 2:2 “Like newborn infants, long for the pure spiritual milk, that by it you may grow up into salvation—” it is easy to see where my erroneous idea came from.  What is that idea?  Well, I’ll tell you!  It’s a simple concept.  When you’re a baby, you eat “baby food.”  You start with milk, go onto pre-mashed foods, and eventually after learning how to crunch and chew, meat.  So, in my mind, maturity means meat.  You need meat and crunchy vegetables and such to keep your more mature body going.  Babies couldn’t eat that stuff if they tried.

I forget, however, that there are other times that the body needs gentler foods.  When we grow older and our digestion no longer works as well as it once did, we often go back to oatmeal, chopped chicken, and rice.  There’s nothing wrong with that!  And, even when we’re in our prime and are strong and healthy, for a few days after a stomach flu, going back to simple gentle foods is perfectly acceptable– even good.

So, when we’ve had a hard time spiritually speaking, when life has battered us until we’re exhausted and/or ill, why do we think we still have to wrestle the deep theological ideas of the word– things like eschatology or predestination?  Why don’t we go back to the more simple concepts.  At times when I’ve been “spiritually sick” I find James to be a very encouraging and stimulating book.  I love James.  First Corinthians 13 is another one.  Philippians 4.  Matthew 7.  Mark.  Psalm 119.

What verses encourage you when you’re too weary to tackle Revelation and Thessalonians?

Golden… It’s Golden…

But the LORD is in His holy temple; let all the earth keep silence before Him~ Habakkuk 2:20

We used to sing this as a call to worship back when I lived in Noel, Missouri.  I can still hear Dickie Lett’s voice from the front pew, left side, right end start singing.  Everyone would pick up the tune and sing with him as they gathered their things and made their way to their pew.  I think almost everyone was always seated by the time the last “… before Him…” ended.

I learned so much from that one tradition.  I remember feeling stressed and overwhelmed at various times of my life and also remember the absolute amazement when I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and sang that verse, sometimes a dozen times in a row, until I felt calm and able to put my complete faith in the Lord.  At times, my voice wavered as I began.  I’m sure I’ve sang that with tears running down my face.  I know I’ve sang it with tears pouring from my heart.  Every time though, every single time, that one little verse put to a very uninteresting tune, has been a balm to my spirit.

Psalm 46:10-  “Be still, and know that I am God.  I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!”

We hear the first part of that verse often.  I believe in it.  We need to be still.  I remember Mom trying to settle me down when I was a child.  I heard it often.  “Be still.”    God told us to “Be still.”  Why?  It seems that we need that calm quietness that comes with stillness in order for us to “know [He] is God.”   There is also the rest of that verse that I’ve never really noticed.  “I will be exalted.”  We need to be still.  We need to rest in WHO God is, and doing so EXALTS the Lord.  I often wonder how to glorify God in my life, but it seems as if Psalm 46 says that being still and knowing who my God is DOES glorify Him.

Being still is difficult for us in our time.  Everything is go, go, go.  Hurry.  There are books on how to have a 48 hour day, and let’s face it… none of them are about being still!  However, have you noticed?  There’s a new influx of books on the market.  They have intriguing names with key words to attract us to them– words like simple, quiet, peace, and calm.  They have covers with verdant meadows, babbling brooks, and sunshine streaming through lines of snowy white laundry.  There’s a battle cry of “less is more” but we make that less so much more that is it really any less?  When I figure out what I just wrote, I’ll formulate a stunning reply.  😉

What’s the point of all this quietness?  Well, several things come to mind.  I think we don’t know how to be quiet anymore.  I think we fear it.  We wake up to the blaring sound of an alarm clock, get ready for the day with hairdryers, to the tune of music playing or the early morning news, and start washing machines and dishwashers.  In our cars, we play the radio.  We keep headsets on in the car so we can talk all the way to wherever we’re going and inside.  We don’t have to hang up when we get to Wal-mart… we can keep talking all the way down the socks aisle, into the crackers row, and even while checking out.  Oh, sure, it confuses the cashier when we say we don’t like pickles as we hand her a jar and then ignore her response, but that’s ok.  We’re connected.

Photo courtesy of Istock photo. I buy all my photos from Istock

When are we quiet?  When do we sit in a room and hear nothing?  When are we without phones, iPods, laptops, or other media?  How can we hear the Lord if we are never quiet?  When we read our Bibles… is it quiet around us?  Can we stop reading long enough to let the Words of our Lord sink into our souls and speak to us?  Even our reading can be too much “noise.”

Or, in the brilliant words of Lily Maskovitz of The Princess Diaries,  when will we “shut up and listen?”

Matthew 18 Revisited…

One thing I’ve always struggled to keep straight is the admonition in Matthew 18 to go to a brother who has sinned against you.  You see, my mind always thinks of it in reverse.  If you know you’ve sinned against a brother, you go to him and confess your fault etc.  The problem is, that’s backwards.  Don’t get me wrong, I think that if you know you’ve offended or sinned against someone, you should go confess your wrong.  I think that fits in with James when he says, “Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” (James 5:16) However, it’s clear that Matthew has the opposite admonition.

Matthew 18:15-20

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

 

Why do I do that?  Why do I think in terms of sinning against someone instead of them sinning against me?  Is it because of my natural dislike of confrontation?  Probably.  I really don’t like the ugliness that almost inevitably comes with it.  Why is that?  Why does it have to turn ugly?  Why, when someone comes to us and tells us that we’ve hurt them, can’t we say, “I am deeply sorry.  Please forgive me.”  I  mean, if it was unintentional, the apology is not negated by the lack of intention.  If we didn’t mean to hurt someone it doesn’t make us a liar if we apologize for having done it anyway.  If the allegations aren’t true, USUALLY we can still apologize and say, “I apologize for hurting you.  Please forgive me.”  You may not have said the things they claim you said or did the things they think you did, but you can still apologize for hurting them.  Sometimes, it makes sense to say, “Oh, that would hurt so much to hear someone say that.  I am so sorry you think I said that.  I assure you that is not what I said,” but other times Ma Ingalls’ maxim is best.  “Least said, soonest mended.”

There’s also another element to my reticence.  You see, I was taught to let things go.  I was taught that it’s ok for people to be wrong– just make sure you’re in the right.  If at all possible, let someone’s offenses against you go– it’s not usually personal, and if it is, the person is rarely worth the angst.  So, when someone does something that offends me or if they “sin” against me, I tend first to be irritated (I’m human!!!) and then my childhood training comes in.  I really do just tend to let it go.  It’s not worth it.  They either didn’t mean to do it or if they did, do I really care what someone who is willing to be ugly toward me says or does?  Yeah, sometimes I do.  Sometimes I can’t let it go.  I think THOSE are the times I am COMMANDED to go to them ala Matthew 18 and say, “When you did this to me, it was wrong.  I am here to tell you that it hurt me and I’m having trouble getting past it.”

I guess what I’m trying to reconcile is how Matthew 7:12 comes into play with Matthew 18.  Me, I’d rather someone overlook a fault, assume the best of me and trust that I wasn’t trying to be deliberately hurtful.  I mean, am I characterized by snapping at people when they are in my home?  Well, then if I did that, is it possible that I was really under a lot of stress and didn’t even realize I’d been so rude?  Can you overlook that in me?  If I’d want someone to do that for me, I need to be willing to do that for them.  When they are demanding and expect things of me without asking, can I overlook that?  If they said something unkind about my husband or children, can I ignore it as false and someone not recognizing the truth of who that person is?  Is that not a I Corinthians 13 response as well?  1 Peter 4:8 reminds us to “Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins.” We’re told love is preeminent.  Furthermore, it covers a multitude of sins.  So, I would assume it isn’t wrong to overlook an offense.

But let’s face it.  We’ve all had it happen.  Someone says or does something that cuts deeply.  No matter how hard we try to let it go, no matter how badly we want to let it go, we can’t.  We pray that the Lord would take it away from us, but we still can’t.  I think this is why Matthew 18 was written– for these occasions.  It was written to help us and show us that there is a time to confront sin.  Notice that Matthew 18 actually says “sins” against you.  Against you, not against someone you know or someone you met once or even you just saw them sin against someone else.  I think this was probably put in there for thunderpuppies so that they wouldn’t go around confronting everyone on every nitpicky thing. If you steal from me, and I can’t cover that in love (or don’t think it’s loving to cover it), I am REQUIRED to go to you and say, “You stole this from me.  That was wrong.  Let’s work this out between you, me and the Lord.”  If you don’t, I’m required to bring someone with knowledge of it.  My guess is someone who knows that I owned that particular book with my name inscribed in the front cover that you’ve now covered with a sticker.  😉  Snort.  I may find out that you thought you bought it at my garage sale and are mortified that you were going to keep what wasn’t yours.  I may find out that you don’t really care.  Frankly, I hope I’d be willing to give you that book and assume the best of you.  That was probably a bad example.  Oh well.  The principle holds.

I just wonder if we don’t spend too much time holding onto our rights and “talking” everything to death instead of covering people’s sins against us in love.  Then again, it isn’t loving to excuse or ignore habitual sin in someone.  And on it goes.  Sigh.  I still wonder why I always reverse the order in my mind.  Why do we do that with scripture?  Why aren’t we more careful?