Guilt and Going On

sunset kw

Key West – 2008

…my faith is so frail and flawed that I fall away over and over again from my God. There are times I feel that He has withdrawn from me, and I have often given Him cause…

So I struggle with my theology of failure and the Noes of God.

from The Irrational Season by Madeleine L’Engle

These words resonate with me. But, I have to think that it isn’t that God has withdrawn from me but that I have withdrawn from Him. That’s not to say He doesn’t have reason to withdraw and leave me in the dust. There is no reason to keep pouring into me. But He does. He gives me more grace. And sometimes I don’t even realize it.

Grace comes to us at different stages in our spiritual pilgrimage, and it accomplishes different effects and evokes different responses. But it is all grace. – Steve Harper

I not only struggle with failure but with guilt and doubt. I long to know confidence. That No from God, His holding back of my confidence, must be for my good. I need to use that No to stay humble, but not to doubt. To draw near and to go on.

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Little Snippets

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In my day-to-day life as a substitute teacher, there are little snippets here and there that give hope. It may be seeing a kind child who does something nice for a fellow student without being prompted or acknowledged. It may be the words of appreciation given me when I am able to help with a math problem or give away a pencil.

Even, on a rare occasion, I find a gem in a textbook. The eighth grade World History book gave me some things to think about recently. The kids were in the section on ancient Israel and I came across these words about David (King David) :

“…David was admired for his military skills and as a poet…”

Now, David certainly had military skill, no doubt about that. He was also a great poet – just read any Psalm in the Old Testament that he wrote. Yet, I wonder if any kids who had no background knowledge of David would wonder at the combination of military skill and poetry. And, if those who did have some background knowledge would remember all the other aspects of David’s life. Did any of them know that he was in the lineage of Jesus?

For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. – Acts 2:11

Or that he is described as a “man after God’s own heart?”

… He raised up for them David as king, to whom also He gave testimony and said, ‘I have found David the son of Jesse, a man after My own heart, who will do all My will.’ – Acts 13:22

Another excerpt spoke of Ruth, also in the line of Christ.

“…Ruth, who left her people to care for her mother-in-law, was seen as a model of devotion to one’s family”

Yes, Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave you, Or to turn back from following after you; For wherever you go, I will go; And wherever you lodge, I will lodge; Your people shall be my people, And your God, my God. – Ruth 1:16

Snippets, little snippets. I keep looking for them.

Unseen

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I have always admitted that I just can’t grasp the simple concept of beautiful music coming out of a vinyl record, much less a cassette tape or a cd or via the internet. It boggles my mind how the music can be played over and over. It is fascinating to think of all the sounds passing across the air 24/7. Werner and Marie-Laure, in All the Light We Cannot See, thought along the same lines.

Werner like to crouch in his dormer and imagine radio waves like mile-long harp strings, bending and vibrating over Zollverein, flying through forests, through cities, through walls.

Marie-Laure imagines their electromagnetic waves traveling into and out of Michel’s machine, bending around them, just as Etienne used to describe, except now a thousand times more crisscross the air than when he lived – maybe a million times more. Torrents of text conversations, tides of cell conversations, of television programs, of email, vast networks of fiber and wire interlaced above and beneath the city, passing through buildings, arcing between transmitters in Metro tunnels, between antennas atop building, from lampposts with cellular transmitters in them, commercials for Carrefour and Evian and prebaked toaster pastries flashing into space and back to earth again, I’m going to be late and Maybe we should get reservations? and Pick up avocados and What did he say? and ten thousand I miss yous, fifty thousands I love yous, hate mail and appointment reminders…

Recently I was telling my husband that I think sometimes about how we are walking around every day – in and out of all kinds of wifi waves and radio and TV and I don’t understand it at all. Right now I might be walking through a jazz song or an I Love Lucy rerun or somebody’s email. Ever think about that?

When I was pregnant with my last child, I had to lay in bed on occasion to rest on my left side. I could swear I’d hear jumbled voices – like the muffled voices of newscasters. Yet, when I sat up they disappeared. I wondered if I was picking up sound waves via my silver fillings. I’m sure it was just the air swishing through the vents, but it drove me mad. Yet, it also sparked my imagination. Years later, I developed an interest in stories involving time/space travel. Some of my favorites are Michael Crichton’s Timeline and Madeleine L’Engel’s A Wrinkle in Time and the movie Frequency. This fascination spills over to old buildings. I love to imagine what went on in buildings that have been around a long time. When my son was renovating the kitchen of a 1940’s home, he knocked out a wall and discovered some items that had been hiding inside. Among his findings were silver serving spoons and some toy cars circa the late 50s/early 60s. I imagine some little kids dropping them inside the wall when it was opened for some sort of repair.

Though Werner and Marie-Laure are fictional characters, I know that at least the author, Anthony Doerr, thought about things the way I do sometimes. That’s comforting to know; I’m not alone in the allure of invisible sounds or in the enchantment of historical buildings.

To Drink or Not to Drink

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A relative of mine posted an article this past year about why Christians should not drink. I didn’t agree with most of it and want to add my thoughts to some of the points.

  • Drinking leads to drunkenness. Well, it COULD, but it doesn’t always. That’s like saying eating leads to obesity. It COULD, but it does not always.
  • It will cause others to stumble. Well, it can, so that is why we as Christians are told to look out for our weaker brother. If your drinking might cause another Christian to stumble, then you should not drink around them. Do not flaunt the freedom you have if it in any way will harm another believer.
  • It harms our bodies which are the Lord’s. It can if we drink excessively. But, we could say eating harms our bodies if we use that same mentality. Wine actually has many healthy benefits. It’s the excessiveness that is harmful, whether food or drink.
  • Alcohol is addictive. So are sweets. Actually, almost anything has the potential to become addictive and thus harmful.

Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.– Philippians 4:5

And be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit. Ephesians 5:18

Read a previous blog on this topic: Unexpectedly Better

One Way

renjith krishnan

There are “many roads to get from point A to Point B” works well on maps. But, as Woodrow Kroll says, “As soon as you begin to drive, you will have to choose which road you will take. When you decide which road to take, you have excluded all others.”

Religious pluralism goes beyond simple toleration. It’s the active seeking of understanding across lines of difference.

I’ve not given much thought to pluralism before, and don’t claim to be an authority. I just know what scripture has to say.

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. – John 14:6

Matthew 5: The Poor in Spirit

matthew5photo by LittleVisuals

We have been slowly going through Matthew chapter five on Sunday mornings at my church. It’s something that just can’t be studied enough – I learn something new every time.

Who are the poor? Here the scripture talks about the poor in spirit. These are ones who tremble at the Word of God. They admit their true state; they see who they truly are in contrast to Christ. Many will be hated and persecuted just as Christ was.

Those who rest in THEMSELVES are the opposite of the poor in spirit. The Pharisees were like this, and many a day I am a Pharisee in my heart.

The Pharisees meant to obey God, but in the end they became so stanch and radical in very limited parts of The Law (plus all that they themselves added to it), that they became blind to Christ when He was right there with them.

My prayer is to be poor in spirit – not a Pharisee.

Do you ever feel like a Pharisee?

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” Matthew 5:3

Mime Ministry??

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I saw the book pictured above in a bookstore in Alabama and I couldn’t help but laugh! It’s no wonder that the world snickers at Christians with troupes of “Christian Mimes” running around. This kind of thing makes a mockery of spreading the gospel.

But, let’s pretend to take a look inside this book. The cover says it’s an illustrated guidebook for organizing, programming, and training a troupe of Christian mimes.

Start with organization: put them all into the correct box

Programming: well, programming is another word for brainwashing. I can easily see that the mimes might be brainwashed

Training: Perhaps they take classes such as Face Paint 101; yoga, Dress for Success.

Seriously, over the years I‘ve seen “puppet ministry”, “clown ministry” and a bunch of others. Why the need to fluff up the gospel? This is what seems to be going on:

For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; II Timothy 4:3

I hope I have not taken a verse out of context, but I think it applies here. The “itching ears” refers to those always wishing for new things; something easier to swallow and less offensive. Many won’t mind being entertained by mimes and puppets, but they will not want to hear the straightforward truth.