Following and Abiding

… because He said to

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A New Kind Of Sacrifice

I’ve been planning it out for a few days now. Not exactly what I’m going to say to this person that has so purposely pushed my buttons, but the tone I can’t wait to use and the words that I know will hurt the most. I might not even say it to the actual person, but complain to someone else. Pour out all my anger and hurt so that someone, anyone, will know just how rough I have it. I cry in my alone moments, I remind myself of how difficult and complicated my life is. How the world is just unfair to me. I haven’t yet had the opportunity, the right moment to strike. And I read…

Be angry, and do not sin;
ponder in your own hearts on your beds, and be silent.

“Ok, I can do that. I do that all the time, God.”

Offer right sacrifices,
and put your trust in the LORD. (Psalm 4:4-5)

“Well, I try to trust you, but it’s kind of a vague word with very little practical action for me. Sacrifices… I’m not sure about that. We don’t really sling dead animals on an alter anymore, but there is that whole thing about sacrificing time and money and all that.”

Then I had one of those moments where I look at a passage of scripture that I’ve read 2 dozen times and suddenly see it with new eyes, new revelation.

Being angry, and not sinning, is a right sacrifice. Trusting that God can handle what I think I get to meddle with is a right sacrifice.

This is rough. This means that if I want to offer a sacrifice to my God I have to shut my big mouth and let Him deal with both of us. He is devoted to caring for this person that I want to blast with my own self-righteousness.

“On your bed”… chew on this commentary, it’s pretty meaty.

“In the silence of night; in solitary musings on our bed; when withdrawn from the world, and from all the promptings of passion and ambition, and when, if at any time, we cannot but feel that the eye of God is upon us, the mind is most likely to be in a proper state to review its plans, and to inquire whether those plans can be expected to meet the divine approbation.”

This is a greater sacrifice for me than opening my checkbook or rearranging my schedule.

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The Giver: How my daughter learned about abortion.

My daughter is 10. She knows a lot of Justin Bieber lyrics. She knows how to style side-swept bangs and make a bowl of raman noodles. She knows how to make her guests feel welcome, Skype a friend, walk the dog.

There are other things she doesn’t know, things she’s only lets me tell her about in small pieces, manageable nibbles of the whole thing. When she wanted to know about babies I would tell her one small thing and then ask, “Do you want to know more?” Often the answer was, “Ew! No!”

She heard the references of abortion during our last presidential campaign. We were sitting on the couch curled up in a fuzzy blanket and I told her that “Sometimes when a woman gets pregnant she realizes she doesn’t want the baby. So… she does something to get rid of the baby. Do you want to know more?”

“No.”

Conversation over.

I always think I’m going to be ready for these kinds of conversations, but then they pop up out of no where and I find myself stumbling over thoughts, wondering if the words are coming out right and then analyzing what I said afterwards.

Her 5th grade class started reading The Giver by Lois Lowry and she couldn’t talk about it enough. I ended up buying the Kindle version so that she can read ahead, outside of class, and so I can read it also. I want to know about this book that has so taken my daughter captive (and also because several reviews I read online tagged it as ‘controversial.’)

**spoiler alert!**

The story takes place in the future, where the government has so taken control that there are no more mistakes, pain, lawlessness, etc… In fact, no choices at all really. Families are not families. They are individual people put together by the leaders. Children’s jobs are to learn to be productive citizens, adults contribute by working or making more babies, and when they are no longer able to do either they are sent to live in the House of the Old until they are ‘released.’ Basically, anyone who does not contribute to society or breaks the code of behavior is ‘released.’

11 year-old Jonas and his friends aren’t sure what being ‘released’ means. It doesn’t seem like anyone else does either. All he knows is they disappear. Perhaps they are sent away somewhere pleasant. Like a permanent vacation. His assigned father works in the infant nursery, where babies are kept till they are 1 year-old and are assigned to a family. He makes remarks that babies who will not, for various reasons, be fit for placement are ‘released.’

Through a series of events, Jonas is given permission to watch a video of a ‘release.’ It turns out to be a recording of his father ‘releasing’ an infant.

“His father turned and opened the cupboard. He took out a syringe and a small bottle. Very carefully he inserted the needle into the bottle and began to fill the syringe with a clear liquid.

Jonas winced sympathetically. He had forgotten that newchildren has to get shots. He hated shots himself, though he knew that they were necessary.

To his surprise, his father began very carefully to direct the needle into the top of the newchild’s forehead, puncturing the place where the fragile skin pulsed. The newborn squirmed, and wailed faintly.

… He pushed the plunger very slowly, injecting the liquid into the scalp vein until the syringe was empty.

… As he continued to watch, the newchild, no longer crying, moved his arms and legs in a jerking motion. Then he went limp. His head fell to the side, his eyes half open. Then he was still.

… His father loaded the carton containing the body into the chute and gave it a shove. “Bye-bye, little guy.” Jonas heard his father say before he left the room. Then the screen went blank.”

I read this section before my daughter did, and I knew it was going to be time to tell her the whole truth about abortion, and I was sad. One evening I was sitting at my sewing table, she was at the computer, and I heard her chipmunk voice,

“Mom. We read chapter 19 today.”

I dropped my project and sat her on my lap. This time I did not feel I was stumbling over my words. Thhey were coming out exactly right.

“What Jonas’ dad did to the baby in the nursery? That’s what abortion is. Only in real life the dr. does it while the baby is still in the mommy’s tummy. These people kill babies, but they aren’t bad people. They’ve been told it’s ok, and, just like for Jonas’ dad, it seems normal. They don’t know what they’re doing. But we follow Jesus and it’s never ok to take someone else’s life. Ever. And we need to protect babies.”

And then it seems like she is the one stumbling over her thoughts, wondering what the right words to say are.

All she said was, “Oh.”

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My Dog Died (otherwise entitled The Right to Grieve)

On September 22nd I had to have my sweet doggie put to sleep due to complications of myasthenia gravis and megaesophagus. (Big words, eh? They make me sound smart.) She was my 30th birthday present and my precious little baby.

I mean, I loved this dog.

Saying goodbye to her was utterly tragic. I got to hold her for awhile first. She still had her IV inserted, listless from 7 days without food and water. All I could think was, “This is the last time I will see her wag her little tail. This is the last time I will feel her fuzzy ears. This is the last time she will look at me with her chocolately brown eyes.” There are only a handful of times when I have been so broken-hearted.

Mixed with my tears, however, was a nagging guilt that I didn’t have the ‘right to grieve’ over this. Part of me acknowledged that my heart was torn in two, but a larger part of me felt pinned under the guilty feeling that grieving over a dog is silly. Maybe even stupid. People are starving, children are trapped in sex trafficking, someone is losing their wife to cancer… and I am crying. Over. A. Dog.

But here’s the thing… death is wrong. Death is the evidence that something is not right in the universe, that something has gone terribly awry.

Death is the antithesis of life.

I have every right to grieve over the loss of life.

I lost my niece a few months ago. She was born and died at the hospital, gone before mommy and daddy could bring her home to dress her, bathe her, tickle her little toes. It wrecked me, made me ask questions I couldn’t put into words.

I lost my nephew many years ago. He was born and died at the hospital. He was 15 oz. and his head fit in the palm of my hand. He was perfectly formed… fearfully and wonderfully made. While my sister was unconscious I cradled him, dressed him, counted his fingers and toes. He was pink and slightly warm when I first took him, and cold when I handed him over.

It wrecked me.

For years I believed I didn’t have the right to grieve over him because I wasn’t his mother. He wasn’t my son. I believed I didn’t have the right to grieve over my niece either… because I didn’t carry her for 10 months, didn’t choose her name, didn’t rearrange my life around her life.

Recently the inevitable happened… I broke. In my mind I was holding my little nephew again, closed eyes and dainty little mouth, unmoving chest, raging against Jesus, yelling at Him, “THIS IS NOT GOOD!” and he so gently says, “I know. But I am good.” I just argue, crying out over and over, “But THIS is not good!” and He just replies, over and over, “I know. But and good.”

I cry so hard and for so long that I break the capillaries under my eyes… that I end up vomiting. Jesus says to the lukewarm Christians in Laodicea, “I am about to spit you out of my mouth.” The literal translation for ‘spit’ is ‘to vomit’ and ‘to reject with extreme disgust.’ I am like Jesus, I have to get this out and away from me.

I reject death with extreme disgust.

“Then the end will come, when he hands over the kingdom to God the Father after he has destroyed all dominion, authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death.” 

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.

Presidential Thanksgiving Proclamation

WHEREAS it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favour; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me “to recommend to the people of the United States a DAY OF PUBLICK THANKSGIVING and PRAYER, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:

NOW THEREFORE, I do recommend and assign THURSDAY, the TWENTY-SIXTH DAY of NOVEMBER next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed;– for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish Constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted;– for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge;– and, in general, for all the great and various favours which He has been pleased to confer upon us.

And also, that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions;– to enable us all, whether in publick or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shewn kindness unto us); and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as he alone knows to be best.

GIVEN under my hand, at the city of New-York, the third day of October, in the year of our Lord, one thousand seven hundred and eighty-nine.

(signed) G. Washington

The Authenticity of Jesus Christ As the Son of God… a mini-lesson in theology.

View #1 – Jesus Christ is the the son of God.

View #2 – Jesus Christ is not the son of God, but was a great teacher.

[Jesus says] who do you say that I am? ” Simon Peter answered and said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus answered and said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.” (Matt 16:15-18)

“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

View #1 Jesus Christ tells the truth and is the son of God

View #2 Jesus Christ is a liar and is therefore a terrible teacher.

One of my favorite quotes of all time,

A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on the level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or he would be the devil of hell. You must take your choice. Either this was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us.” C.S. Lewis

Stay

start

There were once 7 of us here.

Now there is 1.

Just little ol’ me out of a family of 7 that has stayed in my hometown.

First 1 moved away to college.

Then 5 left in one fell swoop a year after John and I got married.

And I’m still here. I love that I’m still here. I love that I could probably drive down our main streets with my eyes closed (no kids in the car.) I ride on my bike past our old house, talk to people who knew me when I wore leg warmers, pick my boys up from my old high school.

It makes me feel grounded and safe, but  I think I could leave if He told me it was time. Until that happens, I stay.

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Christmas and Consumerism

Every year, the day or so after Christmas, I give myself this little pep talk,

“Next year I’m going to tone down the gifts, spend less money, and concentrate on family.”

Umm… yeah. I’m really not so very different from this little lady:

“I give myself very good advice, but I very seldom follow it.”

Why is that? One reason is that advertisers are incredibly good and I am not above their tactics. A Target ad convinces me I need shiny home decor, my table should be overflowing with food on which to over-indulge, my kids will glow and love me when they open their eye-popping presents.

Can I blame it on the ads though? No. I make the choice. 

My parents used to take us on a drive to look at everyone’s Christmas lights and we absolutely loved it. I don’t remember thinking, “I need to have a yard display like that.” Maybe I don’t give my kids enough credit. Maybe I’m projecting my own consumer-driven decisions onto them.

I read an article recently by Tony Compolo where he said this,

“The American economic system could not continue to exist without keeping us constantly dissatisfied and somewhat unhappy.  Consider the fact that if you are happy with your life; if you enjoy spending time with your children, playing with them and talking with them; if you like nature; if you enjoy sitting on your front steps; if your sexual life is relatively happy; and if you have a peaceful sense of who you are and are stabilized in your relationships; if you like solitude, enjoy praying and just like talking to people—spending time in conversation with them; if you enjoy living simply; if you have no need to compete with your friends or neighbors; you haven’t spent a nickel.” (Read the article in its entirety here.)

I’m thinking about how I can incorporate these things into my consumer-obsessed holiday season.

Slavery In the Scripture

There is an argument that I’m seeing pop up a lot these days. It’s like the understudy in the theatric production of any moral issue debate that uses biblical scripture for reference…. keeping it’s fingers crossed that the lead actor will come down with a last minute flu.  I heard it sneak a few days ago from a caller on one of my favorite radio shows over the matter of a one-world government. I read it most recently in an online discussion about gay marriage.

It goes something like this, though the actual lines vary from act to act,

“You say the bible says (fill in the blank) is wrong, but slavery was allowed in biblical times and we all know that is wrong.”

First of all, why do so many people think that if something took place in the bible that God is ok with it? The scripture is not an instruction manual on how to live your best life, it’s a commentary of actual events. Did slavery occur? Yes. Was it God’s original design? No.

Our definition of slavery and the biblical definition of slavery are different. If you’re like me the image you get in your head as soon as you hear the word ‘slave’ is close to this:

But biblical slavery doesn’t fit the definition of modern slavery because it was voluntary servitude.

In the Old Testament. God actually prohibited forced slavery. (and assume that references to God commanding the slaughter of entire nations will have to be an entirely different article.) “And he who kidnaps a man, whether he sells him or he is found in his possession, shall surely be put to death. Exodus 21:16 With the acception of some extreme cases (ie. the entire nation of Isreal being enslaved) a man or woman generally became a slave voluntarily. It was a method for paying off a debt or providing for a destitute family. It was not to last more than 6 years (released on the 7th year… The Year of Jubilee, whoo hoo! Another different discussion, but I wonder what our world’s economy would be if we cancelled all debts every 6 years? Ok, back on topic…)

Examples:

  • A man who is poor Lev. 25:47
  • A man could sell his daughter as a servant Ex. 21:7
  • If a thief could not pay back what he stole he could sell himself Ex. 22:3

It was not a mandatory institution, but a solution to some sticky situations, and the Hebrew word for ‘slave’ in the Old Testament is frequently misinterpreted and should be ‘servant.’

Hebrew slaves/servants were fiercely protected by God. They could not be harmed or sold, and if they were mistreated they were granted freedom. Masters never had freedom to abuse their servants.

I don’t see quite as much about slavery in the New Testament. There’s that odd little book of Philemon that I would’ve never studied had it not been an assignment in school. Onesimus is a slave who runs away and the Apostle Paul pleads with his master to let him return not as a slave, but as a ‘beloved brother.’ Obviously, Paul opposes such servitude.

As do I.

I believe our intolerance of slavery stems from our very Creator who sent his Son for our freedom. I think Jesus gave the best inaugural speech ever…

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor.

He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind,

to release the oppressed,

to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

They keep piling up

#145 picture day hairstyles & clothes

#148 going to bed early

#175 giggling

#184 falling asleep to Little House

#209 Melody chopping vegetables

#213 discipline & love

#227 doodles in Johnny’s biology notes

#234 John staying home from work

#270 belting out Spin Doctors with Eden & Maddie

#276 the capacity to love

Scripture and a Snapshot

In my anguish I cried to the Lord, and he answered by setting me free. 

Psalm 118:5

By setting me free.

Any scripture that reminds me of all that Christ has set me free from stops me in my tracks. I see the printed words, and I can go no further.

He set me free.

I sit back and I look up at the ceiling and I breathe out, “Thank you for setting me free.” Although he knows every beat of my heart, I have to say the words out loud. I want to make sure he can hear me. Is that a little silly? I don’t think so. He loves the sound of my voice.

He set me free from my obsession with death… released me from those beastly claws that were sunk so deep.

He set me free from impulse to harm myself… invited me to place my fingers where the nails pierced his hands.

He says, “I can carry it all.”

He lets me fall against His chest at the end of a hard day, bury my weary face into the folds of his robe, feel his chin resting on my head.

I call him Abba.

 

 

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