What I Want For My Boys

I heard a speaker (Jim Birchfield from St. Andrew's, speaking at Forest Home) say that, for our children, we all want a story like his wife's story (a faithful Christian since her youth who avoided all the pain of a time of sin and rebellion) rather than a story like his story (a convert in his 30's after times where he disappointed himself, wife, and girls.) I have been considering that "truth" ever since, because I realized then that I was an exception to his understanding of what we all want for our kids . . . and I needed time to be able to explain why.

What I want for my boys -- especially for Mike, Josh, Noah, and Brooks, but for Tyler and Cody and for my husband, too -- is that they would all be well-prepared for an eternity of loving and serving Jesus in resurrected bodies living in the new earth and new heavens that we are promised in scripture. I don't just want them to make it there, rather than to end up in "the second death" into which death and Hades are to be cast. I want them to be prepared to thrive and enjoy fully our "forever and ever". This is no different than most parents not just wanting their sons and daughters to survive to adulthood without dying, but also wanting them to be happy, productive, loving adults.

I do want a joyful life this side of the resurrection for all of us, of course . . .

Real joy requires sorrow and failure, because we do not understand life until we have experienced great sorrow and failure.


I was just cleaning the little boys' room, and thinking about what life was like for me when I was the age of my oldest son Mike. I had a baby, a toddler just 12 months older than the baby, and a husband who was "dying" of acute myelomonocytic leukemia. I remember getting our lawyer to come to intensive care to have him sign his will, and being told he would not survive the night. I remember a year later the dire predictions of the doctor for his survival. And I remember a year later, when he finally had achieved his first good remission after a couple of miserable years of illness and treatment, and the predictions that -- even with a good remission -- he would not survive another year.

He is still alive . . . married to another woman, and with two children that they had together. He survived. Our marriage didn't. But God is good!

I would not be who I am without having gone through the misery of those years of his treatment, where his parents and mine took care of our boys and I "lived" with him at the hospitals he was in. In facing his always-just-around-the-corner death, I also learned to face my own. I have kept that perspective. I see things from the end of this life looking back, even when I first wake up each morning. It casts conflicts and choices in a very different light.

And other experiences of mine have taught me the reality of my own depravity. I don't have to hide the fact that I am a sinner. I know it. I'm okay with you knowing it. And I know that God loves me so much that He did everything that He needed to do to rescue me from bondage to sin and to set me free to the abundant life I find in walking with Him each day.

Knowing that I am capable of the worst things people do, and knowing that I will die, and perhaps die soon . . . or perhaps not . . .

There is no one that I can sustain anger against for long. It could have been me that did that to them.


There is no need to focus on following all the formulas for "a good life" that we get from our cultures and religions and communities. I have found the Good Life.

I love understanding the Kingdom Values that Jesus taught about before His death and resurrection . . . they are TRUTH.

But they are not one more "secret to the good life" that just work better than the kind of new-age stuff in the book The Secret that I've written about in older posts. The Christian life -- our Abundant Life lived in His Kingdom, right here and right now -- is not about all the characteristics of our values and behaviors and outlines of how things work best for everyone. The Good Life is not something I can wish for my children to enter into without experiencing failure and suffering . . . it is not something that they can attain by studying Jesus' lists of Kingdom Values and being smart enough to avoid experiencing life's negative stuff.

My prayer for my boys is that they will let all their experiences point them to the One that made them, and that they will increasingly walk through life with Him as their comforter and guide. In tagging along after Jesus like a toddler tags along after his mommy, they will experience Him, and He is the good life.

My prayer for my boys is that, when they fail morally -- when, not if -- they will not be able to cover it up. If they can cover it up, they may walk on putting on the act of the "good life", and never know the Way, Truth, and Life.

Our church is full of people who think the Christian life is just a better, truer philosophy than that found in The Secret . . . that will create a better world for us all, and that once we have our "ticket to heaven" our duty is to work together with each other toward that better world for us all. They think that's God's agenda. And so it makes sense that what they would want for their kids is for them to get their "ticket to heaven" early on, and make a good contribution toward that better world for us all, and avoid the pain of moral failure and suffering.

A real reading of Jesus' teachings about the Kingdom would blast that perspective to pieces, so it is no wonder that the Bible is so confusing to them. It doesn't fit.

But when I surrender myself to Jesus, and my kids to Jesus . . .

I see what discipleship for them means. It means that they experience moral failure clearly enough to get their utter dependence upon Him. It means that they experience the sufferings that will give them His heart for a suffering world. And then their lives and choices will not be motivated out of a fear of anyone figuring out what they really are. Then their lives and choices will be motivated by the joy of knowing Who Jesus really is.

May it be so.


What are your addictions?

We do live in a culture of shame, don't we? Otherwise people wouldn't be so hung up on insisting they aren't "addicted" to anything or "obsessed" with anything or unhealthy in any way. I have had some interesting conversations in the wake of my post on "choosing our addictions". I had forgotten what it was like to live in a world where we are supposed to hide anything that doesn't fit the "perfect Christian" or "successful and happy and productive" man or woman image.

I don't have anything too horribly shameful to hide that's part of my daily life these days -- or that's even something I "relapse" into. There's nothing that my most pharisaical acquaintances would be able to judge me for, even if they had the view from God's perspective of what I do at every moment of my life. There's no sexual acting out, no drugs, no alcohol, nothing outside the ethical norms of my very-conservative-evangelical upbringing, no obvious sick behavior, nor even any "sick" stuff going on in my mind -- so there's nothing to hide. My kids and husband know all the details of my day-in, day-out reality . . . and my friends know as much as they want to know, and sometimes much more. But all that says is that our standards are all screwed up! Our view of what's shameful is shameful. It doesn't reflect things the way God sees them, and doesn't reflect a "good life" that has anything to do with the abundant life that could be ours.

And my use of the phrase "illicit emotions" in my earlier post was interpreted as a synonym for lust, when in reality most of us 40- and 50- and 60-something women (and men) have much more powerful "illicit emotions" in their anger or greed or jealousy or pride or self-righteousness and desire to be seen in a favorable light by others. My own most powerful "illicit emotions" are all bound up in my desire to be respected intellectually and to be able to influence and direct others toward the TRUTH as I see it . . . so this blog is fruit of my own worst addiction! But, like all emotions and desires, there is a time when they are in proper perspective and fulfilled out of obedience, and a time when they rule and are acted upon out of ignoring my Creator. "Illicit" is not so much a matter of the nature of the desires themselves as it is a matter of how they are handled in submission to God's agendas in my life and the lives of those I impact.

My other worst addictions are to your "good life", but I am struggling out of them! I have let go of the idea that a happy marriage, a beautiful home, a successful career, financial security, beautiful kids, smart and successful kids, a "successful ministry", wonderful friends, a nice car, a nice body, a pretty face and hair and nails, nice clothes, nice jewelry, "making a contribution to a just society", figuring out a true systematic theology or a sound and true world-view, achieving educational goals, living by the ethics I have chosen, etc, etc, will actually satisfy me. (Yes, those are the addictions that I am referring to in all my earlier posts!)

All those "addictions" are to good things, though, aren't they? But the good things become bad things when I am going after them at the expense of obedience or out of the belief that any of those things will fulfill the hunger that was designed to drive me to know and enjoy the God who made me.

So which of those things are you most addicted to?

I could tell you what I think, person by person, but I'd be way out of line to do that . . . even in private. Because you could be acting out of faith and obedience, and not out of a need to satisfy a hunger for meaning in the wrong way.

God is the One Who sees each of us -- sees our hearts and minds and actions with complete clarity! And He is the Judge . . . the Judge Who wants us to let go of all of those things when they get in the way of knowing Him, loving Him, and following Him. He is also the Provider Who delights to give us many of those things, when they are in the right order in our lives.

When all of those good things are really received in faith and gladness, but our drive is for Him, then all of those things that He gives us satisfy in a way that they can't otherwise. And when any of those things is missing -- not because we are lazy and disobedient, but because of some other reason -- then He is there, and the pain or disappointment are bearable. There is grief, but His presence is of much greater value than would be anything that we could go after.

So now, what are your addictions?

Are you the woman addicted to her kids and their success and pleasure and freedom from pain? Can you leave the parts of their lives that should be under God's control and their control and the control of others at His feet, and just do your part to be the mother He wants you to be . . . and the servant to Him that He wants you to be?

Are you the man addicted to being seen by everyone as the perfect husband, even at the expense of obedience when the expectations of your wife or the culture you live in make being that "good husband" cost you more than God intended marriage to cost? Can you risk a disappointed wife or a judgmental group of friends and obey in the things that a "good marriage" keeps you from obeying in?

Are you addicted to appearing to be the perfect Christian man or woman? Or are you addicted to a pretty and perfect house? Or are you addicted to a successful career? Or are you addicted to good friends? How about a nice, healthy body? Or a pretty face, nice hair, pretty nails, nice clothes? Or to always being up-beat and nice? Or just to the most balanced presentation of the "Evangelical American Dream" you can pull off?

Don't get me wrong here! Sometimes knowing God and obeying Him does mean doing everything I can to achieve one or several of these goals. I obey God when I work on meeting my husband's needs and desires. I obey God when I decorate and clean my house. I obey God when I enroll in an academic program and complete it. I obey God when I take a job and work responsibly and skillfully to do what I was hired to do. I obey God when I care for my children well. I obey God when I am a good friend, and when I care for this body He has given me. I obey Him when I am a good steward of His resources.

But, just as often, limited time and resources means obedience calls for moderation or even chosen or accepted failure in one or many of these "good goals". Perhaps that means forsaking academic or career goals to care for a sick parent. Perhaps that means living in a messier house than you would like, having fewer close friends than you would like, and never having time to go to the gym -- because obedience is calling you to use your time for someone or something else . . . like simple survival for many single working moms!

I asked my husband what he thought I was addicted to. He said: coffee, antihistamines, decongestants, church, friends, and being right. I can cop to all of that, but I actually think my earlier list of addictions is much more of a distraction to knowing God -- right here and right now -- and a much bigger impediment to Him doing in me all that He would want to do in me and to Him doing through me anything He would like to do through me.

I would just as soon not hear what my sons -- either the young adults or the little guys -- think I'm addicted to . . . but I do frequently, because kids see things the way they are, and my kids aren't afraid to hurt my feelings.

Real love isn't afraid to speak the truth, either. And so, even though my boys' motives are not always kind, God uses them to speak His truth to me regularly.

And I am learning to give up all my addictions daily to the One Who created me and loves me. Maybe it will be "catching", and my boys will find themselves doing the same!

How about you? If you have to choose either to keep "being nice", "being responsible", "being successful" or to surrender all that to just being whatever He wants you to be today as you walk after Him, which do you value more?

Choose your addictions wisely!


A Qualifier on Substance Abuse

I just rejected another comment . . . . one that linked to a website on substance abuse. I don't feel comfortable using my blog to link to anything that I don't know I'd want a friend to view, and there is no way for me to investigate this site or blogger before I click "publish", so I clicked "reject" instead. Sorry!

I will say this: I have never used any illegal drugs nor really abused alcohol or any other substance except for caffeine. (I am addicted to caffeine, and if my supply ever dries up I will suffer a few weeks of headaches and lethargy and grouchiness. I moderate my intake consciously, but this is one of the addictions in my life that I choose to tolerate rather than choosing to learn to abstain from it completely. This is based largely on the belief that God is okay with that in these circumstances of legality, availability, and effects upon me. But I will cop to the fact that I love caffeine from just about any liquid source.)

Not having ever tried something like cocaine or heroin or meth or even marijuana, I recognize that I have no knowledge of what it is like to fight that kind of powerful addiction. My caffeine addiction just can't compete. However, I have people in my life who are decades into recovery from those kind of addictions, and they say that -- however much I am a "normie" in regard to alcohol -- I still exhibit and voice the same issues that drive any addictive behavior, as do most humans. And the ones who don't exhibit or voice those kinds of issues just hide it well, and may be much worse! It is the ones who end up addicted to something that is highly socially unacceptable and that really messes up their lives that have the quickest route to recognizing the things in life that really matter, and in walking into the life of Kingdom Living.

I am comfortable recommending Teen Challenge as a resource for those who are fighting substance addiction, and am also comfortable recommending AA and NA. All three can be found with a simple web search if you need help to recover from substance abuse.

For all the rest of us . . . .

May we recognize the things in life that we abuse by making them fill a role they should not fill or by allowing them to rule us rather than serve us in serving God's purposes in us and through us . . .

And may we recover from our addictions by surrendering to the Real Triune God and learning today to live in His Kingdom -- right here, right now.

Making Choices -- or Choosing My Addictions Wisely

I am lucky to have an intimate view of life from so many perspectives -- all the perspectives shared with me by friends and family and all the wonderful and horrible perspectives I have exposed myself to. When I add that variety to my own very-active imagination, I can project a pretty complete view of life that satisfies my desire to see the whole map before I chart a course, and also allows me to pick my goals each day from that perspective.

I am friends with someone who is romantically attached -- passionately can't-let-go attached -- to someone who has multiple illegal-drug addictions and many other dysfunctional habits. She can't let go because she knew him when he was young and full of potential, and because of the frequent glimpses she gets even now of that man she knew and fell in love with. She feels like letting go of today's reality is to allow that potential to go to waste and never have the possibility of being lived out. And we women are so very bonded to the men we fall for, aren't we?

We each get to make many choices, but I don't think there are choices any more significant than the passions we allow ourselves to cultivate, and the order we allow them to assume in priority in our lives. There is a huge degree to which this is intuitive and not something we feel like we can control . . . but even that intuitive side is something that God and His wisdom can redeem for each of us. We are not simple rational creatures, but are creatures empowered by the emotion that God has gifted us with, and so a big part of "obedience" and "abiding" is in doing what the psalmist did . . . pouring out our emotion to God, so that our motivations and actions will flow out of our intimate conversations with Him, and not out of repressed or illicit emotions.

"Illicit emotions" -- what do I mean by this? Well, "illicit" is normally defined as something contrary to the rules of the game or the law of the land or the generally accepted ethics of the group. I think it is a perfect way to categorize emotions that are not accomplishing the purpose of our Creator in our lives . . . emotions that drive us away from His best for us, rather than emotions that drive us toward the abundant life He calls us to enjoy. Although I can choose a course of action by my rational and analytical thoughts and decisions, I will not have the power to keep going in the that direction without the motivation and power provided by my emotions. And it is exactly that purpose for which God created human emotion: to give the power and drive to change direction when called for and to persist in a direction when that is called for.

I think we have minimized this understanding of emotion and glorified our cognitive, rational minds, and that that is one of the major causes of depression and other mood disorders among us, as well as the cause of ineffective living. Our depression could signal a need for real change, but because we have locked up our understanding of life and faith in tight little categories that we refuse to even let the Holy Spirit challenge, we deal with the depression with either medical help or self-medication, and avoid hearing the Holy Spirit's words to us that would draw us closer to truth and closer to the abundant life.

God made us to be passionate about "addictions"! But we get to choose the addictions that we believe will most satisfy, and cultivate them. Some addictions end in a swirl of despair, and some addictions end in the joy of seeing their fruit in the light of His Truth, today and tomorrow. And we are made to be passionate about something, so a choice to stop being passionate about the dysfunctional addictions just doesn't work. What works is to cultivate new addictions until the satisfaction from those new addictions eclipses the old addictions, and the old addictions fall by the wayside because they can't hold a candle to the satisfaction provided by the new passion.

I am cultivating these addictions:

1) I am passionate about Jesus. Everything I do goes by Him for conversation about it and for direction or for a plea for help of some kind. And I am learning to listen for His plans and goals and to ask for my place in His purposes -- right here and right now.

2) I am passionate about the people I love, in all their varying ways of being connected to me. I am learning to show them love in the ways that they will appreciate when they look back on it 20 years from now.

3) I am passionate about this moment -- right here and right now. I believe in an eternity where I will live with Jesus and all the other sinners who He allowed to follow Him, in our resurrected bodies in the new heaven and new earth that He brings. But I also believe that even there I will only possess the moment in which I find myself, and that His call to me today is to be faithful and grateful right here and right now . . . or the promise of eternity will be one that goes unappreciated and unfulfilled.

Condemnation of myself or others for the "sins" we commit misses an understanding of His Kingdom. We are not to focus on getting ourselves or others to stop doing all the "don'ts". Even when we're willing to do that -- stop doing the things we are repenting of -- it just doesn't work. "Repentance" requires walking on. It requires movement. And so "fixing my eyes on Jesus" I move on in the direction He calls me to move this moment. And the "sin" I repent of goes unnoticed, because the new vision I have of something that satisfies (Jesus!) actually DOES satisfy.

If I step back into an old addiction (like a recovered heroin addict being stupid enough to inject himself again after 5 clean weeks or after 5 clean years) the way to satisfaction and peace doesn't disappear. He calls to me and offers me everything I've been experiencing with Him, and points the way to new heights of satisfaction. Salvation . . . Healing . . . His Kingdom Come . . . They are not a stern religious leader or parent or therapist standing and shaking their finger at me, admonishing me about my sin. They are the greatest passion -- the passion that really satisfies -- within my view, beckoning me away from something ugly and unsatisfying.

(Christians don't keep on sinning . . . not because of great will-power that keeps them from doing what is wrong, but because humans are made to pursue what satisfies and neglect what doesn't satisfy, and Christians know the One Who satisfies and over time see the futility of all the other things that just don't.)

We are all so hungry for love and acceptance and encouragement. We should be! We were made for relationship with the God Who provides the ultimate in love and acceptance and encouragement. And we point the way to Him for others by being His channel of love and acceptance and encouragement to every other sinner . . . both the ones still very mired in sin and the ones struggling to overcome some new obstacle in their walk after Jesus.

So the call of obedience each day is easy! Spend time with Jesus. Tell Him how you feel and ask Him to change that or use that in the ways He sees as best. Let Him tell you how He feels and what He wants. Do what He asks you to do -- right here and right now. And offer to your fellow sinners that love that He has given to you.

He isn't asking you to "get your act together" -- either before you follow Him or even as a result of many years of following Him. He doesn't want you to finally figure out how to do it right without His constant help. He wants to give you His constant help and His constant presence, and what He's after is for you to finally let Him have that constant intimate presence in your life.
And, just like any addiction, and addiction to Jesus will have results that everyone sees. Like it or not.

But you will. He is the only addiction that will satisfy. He is the One you were made to be addicted to.

You get to choose your addiction, not choose to be a rational being who can motivate your will without the inconvenience of those bothersome things called "emotions". If you insist on trying to be motivated by anything less than real genuine emotion, you will be prey to the parts of reality you are trying to pretend aren't real!

But the addictions God created you for -- the things you were made to be passionate about -- will motivate you toward all that was right and pure and satisfying.

Choose to be passionate about the One who created you!


Freedom and Ministry

This post is not really an attempt to share anything of value to anyone but me, but rather a rambling prayer request directed to others who are committed to abiding daily in Jesus and living out a life of intimacy with Him and usefulness to Him. If you read it and it doesn't make any sense to you, skip down to older posts and leave this one to anyone who feels called to pray for discernment for me as I struggle with choices for today and for the future.


A friend recently told me "There are two kinds of Christians . . . ones who minister to others, and ones who are comfortable being ministered to. I am of the first kind, and it's how I cope with the places I have needs." I responded by saying that a life of faith requires both "kinds of Christians" to learn how to receive God's love through the hands of other sinners and to learn how to step outside themselves and be used by God to minister to other sinners. We really are all just "one beggar telling another beggar where to get bread" -- to quote my grandmother, who was probably quoting someone else -- and we cannot afford to forget our own neediness, nor can we afford to hoard all that He gives us out of His grace and mercy.

Another friend -- who is a "professional Christian" -- recently confessed that she needs accountability to go beyond 15 minutes a day of study and prayer as her average. I can see how that would happen as one makes commitments to serve others that are commitments upon which one's self-esteem, paycheck, relationships, and legacy are all based. Time and energy are limited, and if my time and energy are all committed to vital things, then there is no time left over to draw energy from the God that called her to full-time ministry. I don't have the arrogance to believe I would be any different if I took on the same roles and responsibilities that she has taken on.

I read Paul's words in I Corinthians about staying unmarried unless marriage was required to not be overcome by lust -- and his main point that our objective should be that we are as free as possible to focus on pleasing Jesus and accomplishing His purposes. Lust can get in the way of that freedom. So can marriage. So can many other things . . . like a commitment to academic goals or career goals or to please a group of people or even an individual person. Am I free to please Jesus and be useful to Him, or am I bound to fulfill other goals and responsibilities and promises? In the midst of those commitments, I am not always free to shirk fulfillment of others' expectations . . . but when I have not yet made a new commitment, do I dare make any commitment that will limit my freedom to be obedient in the moment unless circumstances or my sense of direction from the Holy Spirit really leave me at a place where the new commitment is not an option but is a requirement?

I love my time of study and prayer. My problem is not to consistently spend large-enough blocks of time in solitude. I have been given a life -- through God's goodness and through my own choices -- that allows me to manage my time and focus so that I am free to read, pray, study, serve, give, speak, love and follow any other possible command from Jesus with very few boundaries upon me. I am as rich in time and opportunity and as rich in a sense of intimacy with God and connectedness with people as I ever could be. I am rich in a sense of daily abiding and His daily word to me. He has given me everything I want.

Why would I make any change that might hamper me from the freedom to follow daily as He leads me moment by moment? Would I be more useful to Him if I had more credibility with others but less ability to be obedient?

May I be obedient today in how I use every minute, and may I be wise enough to not sell my birthright for a meal. May I have wisdom coupled with gratitude!


Spiritual Intimacy

I have "moderated comments" on this blog -- which allows me to choose which comments to publish or reject -- and I just rejected for the first time. The comment was from the author of a book on going deeper with God to a place of spiritual intimacy, but the "God" was not necessarily the Triune God of my faith. The book understood that we live in a world that has a spiritual plane that is even stronger than the material plane (because the material derives from the spiritual, and not the spiritual from the material) but, like the author of "The Secret", this author used the appeal of the very-real spiritual world to call its readers to a journey of deception (although a journey of self-deception more than deception by the author or by evil spiritual powers outside of the reader.)

I am grateful for the gift of imagination and creativity that God has given to all of us. It bears rich fruit, and those who neglect their own imagination are neglecting one of the great resources God has asked them to steward. However, anything that that can be powerfully used for good can also be powerfully used for evil, and the use of one's imagination to create a "secret world" within themselves where they meet with the God that their imagination reveals to them is a use of the imagination that will spiral one's real life into grief and death. It is not all that different from injecting oneself with heroin . . . there is the emotional sense of safety and peace and joy, even if the reality is broken relationships, a filthy environment, and death.

Jesus offers us His Kingdom to live in now and for eternity. That Kingdom requires a specific King, and requires loyalty to Him that results in listening to Him and doing whatever He asks me to do. That Kingdom requires that I look at the home I'm in, the church I'm in, the relationships I'm in, the daily activities I'm in, and the whole real picture of my life, and requires that I seek to be His servant in turning all those realities -- bit by bit -- into the reality that His imagination sees and moves toward.

The writer of the comment I rejected has probably studied the Bible as well as the sacred writings of other religious faiths. (He would have had to, in order to have the credentials he holds.) His conclusions are very different than mine, but I do not mean to disrespect his ability to form a world-view that is intelligent and sound, based on the evidence that he has analyzed. If I could hand him a book to read to challenge his conclusions, it would be The Divine Conspiracy by Dallas Willard. I think this book does the best job of looking at Jesus in the context of reality, and examining His calls to each of us.

So I do delight in the ways that spiritual intimacy floods my life with all that a shot of heroin would give me . . . but I delight more in looking out from my "secret place" into the reality of my life and seeing the real God at work in real ways. He does not bring the fullness of His Kingdom rule and all its benefits until He brings the New Heavens and New Earth to us in our resurrected bodies, but He does invite us today to live in the reality of the fullness of His Kingdom as He begins the process of transformation.

One of my delights this last month has been the albums from the Christian rock/worship group Kutless, and the wonderful lyrics of their energetic songs. I have other songs by them I like more, but it is the lyrics of this song that I would like to share with the author of the book on spiritual intimacy. The song is "smile", and you can see the full lyrics here, but the phrase that has been running over and over in my mind regarding this subject is from the chorus:

"Though everything's the same
Inside there's something real
A faith which causes me to change"

And that is what I want! A real faith that changes me in the ways that the Real God wants to change me, and a real faith that uses me in the ways that the Real God wants to use me. This won't protect me from pain, or from mess, or even from failure (which is one of His most effective tools in molding us -- much more effective than success!), but it will let me live today in the reality of His Kingdom which is available for ever and ever! (And, you know what? Even 500 years into the New Heavens and New Earth, in my resurrected body, I will still only be able to live that one day that I am in that day. Eternity is just as available to me today as then.)

The Triune God -- Father, Jesus, and Holy Spirit -- revealed Himself in creation and history, revealed Himself in the incarnation of Jesus Who Is Resurrected And Alive Today, and reveals Himself to any of His upon whom He pours the Holy Spirit (all of us who are believers!) His grace and love are fully expressed in TRUTH, and indeed, Jesus is THE TRUTH. We are called to use our imaginations to enter fully into a real relationship with the REAL GOD, lived out fully in the reality of our real lives of housework and bills and quarrels and tedium.

Spiritual intimacy with an imaginary God just won't cut it for me!


Spiritual Formation

I am still interested in all the things I can read on philosophy and ethics and religion and psychology and sociology and human biology . . .

I am grateful that I can have putting-the-pieces-together-into-a-new-theory-and-then-testing-them-out as a life-long pursuit, and that God has given me a life where there is time and there are resources for me to enjoy that pursuit frequently.

But I am so glad for a daily walk with the One Who already has it all figured out, Who made it all, and Who made me.

The Way, the Truth, and the Life promises me daily comfort in my pains, daily direction in my walk, and the ability to "find" meaning in life as I lay down my own agendas and perceptions and choose to follow His.

What an interesting journey! ... daily discipleship where I am permitted some of the time to indulge my desire to analyze and understand "how it all works". But to get there, I have had to learn that often obedience means "just do what I say, and let me explain later", and that often later may mean on the other side of the grave and the resurrection of my body.

Ethics is one area that I'd like very much to understand and be able to teach effectively, point by point. That was one of the areas that Jesus taught on extensively, wasn't it? But I am increasingly convinced that ethics boils down to one central value that drives all others (I know, nothing new here for those who've read the Sermon on the Mount, or pretty much anything else of Jesus' teaching). LOVE of an object, acted out in real ways . . . not just a floaty, non-specific "love" of all men or of the world or of God, even . . . but LOVE of God and the people He brings in front of me each day acted out by acting in their best interest, which may be contrary to my personal desires, but is not contrary to my best interest in the long run (the long run of millions and millions and billions of years of existence in His eternal New Heavens and a New Earth in our resurrected bodies.)

I love and I hate how intuitive living that out is! I love and I hate that it takes intimate time with Him to inform the intuition in the moment of choice and to power me to make the right choice. I love and I hate that, the more I am alone with Him and the more I practice walking with Him each moment, the more the choices I make are almost made for me, as it becomes increasingly illogical and increasingly repellent emotionally to walk the wrong direction. I love and I hate that a daily walk with Him unites me in greater and greater ways with the sinners around me who are also caught up by His Spirit into their individual walk after Him, and so we are -- in spite of ourselves, almost -- formed into that bride of His that is the CHURCH.

Each choice each of us makes forms us spiritually. We set ourselves upon trajectories that point out into those billions-and-billions-of-years New Heaven and New Earth. I can justify things ethically that have nothing to do with the directions the Holy Spirit is taking me and my brothers and sisters in faith. I can analyze things psychologically and sociologically with long, drawn-out explanations and conclusions that have nothing to do with that Eternity that I am already living in. I can chart courses for myself and my church and my friends and children that have nothing to do with His Kingdom come among us for us to live in and live out each day.

Intimacy with God, and action out of that intimacy . . .

His Kingdom is indeed here, right in the middle of the mess of all the wrong choices and all the illnesses and accidents and all the other evidence of the Fall. He has won. And now, today, I get to live in His Kingdom and have my part in clearing the wreckage from the Fall, not by figuring it all out and acting out of human wisdom, but by learning finally what I never learned as a child . . .

full intimacy and full trust and full obedience to the One Who cares for me more perfectly than any mother or father or lover, against Whose breast I find the contentment and satisfaction that all others only pointed toward . . .


I'm Not To Blame

Okay, a confession: I think this video is funny and I like it.

But: If you are someone who would just as soon not watch anything that has a definitely liberal theme and is mildly vulgar, don't play it, okay?

And if you do play it, remember that what it is saying is "I can't blame my problems on someone else." Period. It is a snide look at the way we find people and situations that have little to do with our own lives and avoid taking responsibility for our own lives by focusing on theirs. That's all.

The details make it funny. Look at the husband's T-shirt. Watch the whole video a couple of times to pick up on the ironic details. They are all geared to "put the lie" to his statement about who's to blame in each situation he encounters.

As for my "stand" on whether or not gays should be getting married, and what we should do about that (if anything) . . . that requires a post of its own sometime.


Real Life and Walking On

Last week my 2 little ones and I went to Forest Home for a week of family camp, and it was wonderful! But the week before -- a week of getting ready to be gone and finishing up some stuff here -- and this week after family camp have been just "real life" in all its tedium and in all its joy. Today was fun -- I am typing this on my laptop that is about to expire, because I've used up most of the battery, and my home has been without electricity all day due to a scheduled outage for electric company work in the area.

So it has been a day of reading and praying and appreciating all I take for granted with my electricity -- like my washer, dryer, hot water, air conditioning, refrigerators, etc. And a day of assessing all that is wrong in my life as well: the ways I have allowed routines and priorities to be daily impediments to the movement of the Holy Spirit to make me whom He wants me to be and to use me daily in the ways He wants to use me.

The theme of "judgment" is on my mind again, through my Bible reading and meditations. The passage where Jesus talks about the judgment of the sheep and the goats is a big one, as is the 2 places where Paul talks about deferred judgment (let a person's works be judged by God alone, which will not be fully revealed until we are on the other side of the grave) and clear judgment by believers of others who call themselves believers (associate with unbelievers who are immoral, but do not even associate with one who claims to be a believer but lives in a way that is shameful.)

The church (that is, you and me) seems to pretty much make up the rules here as we go, and not do much consulting with the Holy Spirit but do lots of consulting with each other. And our motivation seems to be that we would please each other and experience community approval, not that we would prayerfully determine God's leading in each situation and minister His grace in obedience to Him, either by clearly deferring judgment to Him on that final day and leaving it to the conscience of the believer we examine, or by clearly speaking out against a behavior and stating why we are abandoning a relationship with the one we determine to ostracize out of obedience to God's clear leading to us as a community.

What we do instead is gossip and ostracize those who make us uncomfortable or who just don't "fit" or who are being ostracized by those that we see as the right group of friends to be associated with. We hear public prayers for comfort of those who are lonely from those who are stewarding their own lives in such as way that they are leading in creating a social community that clearly has its "haves" and "have nots". We have the idea that all those whom Jesus talked about us ministering to in some way in the judgment of the sheep and the goats -- where "in as much as you have done it to the least of these, you have done it unto me" -- were strangers to us, but that those we know and find annoying or dispensable are clearly not people to whom that call to minister to Jesus Himself could apply.

Why is this? Isn't the story of God's loving kindness in the Old Testament and all Jesus' and the apostles words and examples of agape in the New Testament clear enough for us? Isn't the clear examples of the working of the Holy Spirit resulting in agape-filled lives throughout Church History and in our day clear enough? What teaching are we looking for?

Our church is in a "visioning process", and I have a high regard for those on the teams involved. I have a high regard for our program staff and session. We need to do all the analysis and planning and later the execution of those plans. This is good stewardship, executed in faithful obedience.

But let's not lose sight of Jesus clear teaching! The "stewardship" that He says separates the sheep from the goats were simple daily acts of ministering to others in His name. There is nothing to indicate that any of us are so gifted or powerful or useful in other ways that we are exempted from this way of being evaluated by our Lord and evaluated instead by standards of business or "real ministry".

All those annoyingly needy and broken people that just won't shut up and leave me alone to do my "real job" -- what if they are Jesus Himself asking for my love? What does that change in my day today? What does that change in how I judge them? What does that change in how He will judge me? Whose approval do I really want, anyway?