Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Trying to be heard above the din

My heart is burdened and here are my thoughts:

I am in a sea of drowning people. A lot of us have life preservers on, but they don't feel like they are holding us up any. There are 2 or 3 life boats that are full. Everyone is scrambling and fighting over the life boats. We are all, including the ones with life preservers, going under. The people who are safely in the life boats, knowing that we could swamp them, push us away and hurriedly try to row away. They would gladly accept and take on whoever they could if everyone would just quit fighting. But because of all the thrashing about, they reject everyone and look back at us with disdain.

I suddenly see the futility of what I am doing, give up and decide it's not worth the battle. I am just too tired and it's not getting us anywhere. We just can't all fit on the boats. I fully expect to sink and die, but instead I find that when I quit fighting and clamoring for the safety of the boats, my life preserver holds me up effortlessly and I am fine.

Desparately I begin to try to share my revelation with everyone else. A reach a few without life preservers who cling to me for dear life and eventually relax themselves while my life preserver keeps us all afloat. But few people will listen to me. They can't even hear me over their own yelling and screaming.

As some begin to sink, they reach out and grab each other and take each other down with them. The oarsmen in the boats even begin bashing them on the heads to keep them from sinking the craft. All they have to do is relax and trust the life preserver. They still won't all get taken into the boats, but maybe a few of those without the vests would and the people in the boats would stop bashing them in the heads! The vests would also even hold up two or three of those who don't have them. But the people in the water just keep bickering and clawing amongst themselves, both those with and without the safety of the life vests. In fact, the wealthier ones are the ones with the life vests and they seem to be fighting the hardest.

I try and try to shout out to them that all they have to do is trust the life vest. "We aren't gauranteed spots on the life boat!" I shout, "but we do have the life preservers! They will hold you up! You can even save a few more with it!" Very few hear.

Matthew 5 (King James Version)

39But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.

40And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak also.

41And whosoever shall compel thee to go a mile, go with him twain.

42Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away.

43Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy.

44But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you;

Luke 6 (King James Version)

27But I say unto you which hear, Love your enemies, do good to them which hate you,

28Bless them that curse you, and pray for them which despitefully use you.

29And unto him that smiteth thee on the one cheek offer also the other; and him that taketh away thy cloak forbid not to take thy coat also.

30Give to every man that asketh of thee; and of him that taketh away thy goods ask them not again.

31And as ye would that men should do to you, do ye also to them likewise.

32For if ye love them which love you, what thank have ye? for sinners also love those that love them.

33And if ye do good to them which do good to you, what thank have ye? for sinners also do even the same.

34And if ye lend to them of whom ye hope to receive, what thank have ye? for sinners also lend to sinners, to receive as much again.

35But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil.

36Be ye therefore merciful, as your Father also is merciful.

37Judge not, and ye shall not be judged: condemn not, and ye shall not be condemned: forgive, and ye shall be forgiven:

King James Version (KJV)

Public Domain

A Public Domain Bible KJV at Zondervan Zondervan

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Tower of Babel

I have yet to really introduce myself on this blog and since this post will really involve alot of who I am, I will fill you in a bit. First of all, I am a Christian. That in itself will evoke varied responses which is the overall theme of this post. Second I am a wife of 17 years this Friday. Third, I am a mom of 5, two of which are homeschooled. I am alot of other things as well, and maybe some would call me a few things that I wouldn't, but these are the 3 major occupations I have.

I have come to see that alot of the things we learn in history, completely tie in to what we experience in daily life. Certainly, there is nothing new under the sun where human behavior is concerned...or is there? I will expound on that later. But I have come to believe that, from a creationist standpoint, that statement applies to EVERYthing.

Now I hate Christianese, but having grown up with it, alot of the things I know about "Christian" things are associated with it, so bear with me. I often try to break away from it with a poor ability to describe what I am thinking in other terms.

All of these thoughts have stemmed from an argument among Christians right now about a stupid movie. Of all things, you would think Christians would be the first to get along, but I have found that we argue amongst ourselves more than Democrats and Republicans. What is wrong with us?

First of all, I see nothing in the scripture that tells us we are to legislate, command, compel, or impose our beliefs on the rest of society. Don't get me wrong, I am a conservative Christian and do not like the way our country is going. I do believe in the political system and am appalled that our government does not uphold the moral standards agreed upon by, yes I'm going to say it and based on election results it is true, the MAJORITY. Special interest groups have ruined this country as far as I am concerned and the judicial system has either been taken over by them (in most cases) or been bullied by them. I do believe we have a right and responsibility AS AMERICAN CITIZENS (not as Christians) to fight against such things in the political arena. I do not, however, believe that Christ's command to go into the world and preach the good news, meant that we are to require everybody else to live like us. I DO believe we are required to TELL about Jesus and the Salvation message, but I believe that it is up to the Holy Spirit to convict.

Let me put this as succinctly as I know how. I do not believe that any form of persuasion will sway a person who is not ready to hear. I DO believe that when we share the Gospel, if it is not heard right away, it will be when the time is right. I do not believe that the Word of God EVER returns to Him void. If the Word of God is spoken, the seed is planted and God Himself is able to cause it to grow in His time.

Ask any Christian and you will get a different point of veiw on this matter. Oh yes, they all say they love the sinner and hate the sin, but how many would actually reach out to a woman in the church if they found out she had a secret addiction to sex, or a young boy in the church who thinks he is gay? How many of them would not hesitate to preach at them about their sin and leave them to struggle with the guilt? How many would look them in the eye and say, I am going to stick with you through this all the way? Moreso, how many would go outside of the church and reach out to someone who lives a remorseless, sinful lifestyle? How many would even associate themselves with a person like that? I would venture to say that most would turn thier stiff, haughty backs to them and boycott whatever they do.

I speak of myself. I am just as guilty. I have done that very thing. But if God disciplines those He loves, He must really love me. It has not been easy, nor is it complete, but I am learning that God's command to love Him, and to love those around me, were really the only commands. The other 8 all fall under those 2. And those commands were from my God to me, not for me to give to everyone else. All I can do is share those commands, they are not my commands to enforce. I am simply to love and to show God's love. There is nothing else I can do to make someone want Christ. NOTHING. In doing ANYthing else, I risk weakening my testimony. I am human enough as it is, I don't need to add to the risk. It is a delicate balance and I have to say that failure is imminent.

The only way to imagine how I am supposed to be is to imagine how Jesus would have been. It is very easy to imagine Him just hanging out with a bunch of friends, laughing and having fun. Can you imagine Him carrying a picket sign or sending e-mails asking people to boycott? Can you see Jesus, at ANY time looking with disgust at any human being? What about the hooker on the corner on your way home from work? Would He make a face and offer up a half-hearted prayer for her? What about the guy that walks by you with a months worth of grime on him and is obviously drunk? I don't think Jesus would have even held his nose. What about the guy in your office that is obviously having an affair with the girl down the hall? I could go on and on.

I have a theory that the disagreement all goes back to the tower of Babel. Humankind had just come through the flood and was flourishing. We all know that Godliness is not necessarily passed from one generation to the next and it obviously hadn't back then either. Man had not forgotten God, but had lost his reverence for God and had grown proud of his own accomplishments. Everyone spoke the same language and, here is the possible exception to the "nothing's new" idea, everyone agreed.

God had told man to reproduce and "fill the earth", but man was having such a good time together that they decided to just hang out together instead of spreading out. So they all decide to build this big city and, "oh by the way, let's build this tower thing to heaven so we can hang with God too!" (At least that's how I imagine it.) But God said to Himself, "if they aren't gonna do what I said, We're gonna make it so they have to do it." God confused the languages and no body has gotten along since. Well, maybe. I have to wonder though if when He confused the languages, the confusion ran so deep that even when we could communicate, we still misunderstood each other.

Perhaps the whole reason we can't agree is due to the fact that we just can't communicate our meaning well. Perhaps that is why we can't even grasp the meaning of scripture the same way. Maybe the only real language it can be completely understood in is the language God gave man from the beginning.

I have one more thing to point out. American Christians have it made. I wish they would all take a look at history. No where in all of time past have Christians had it so good. No where in all of the world are Christians the majority like they are here. I want to know where this idea that we have a mandate to make sure everyone else is doing right came from. We (Christians) have been the minority, the martyred, the persecuted, throughout history. Jesus told us to go share the gospel and not to deny Him, but nowhere do I see that we are to be the moral police.

I recieved an e-mail today concerning that previously mentioned movie. The writer said "the world has gone so far toward accepting homosexuality that now it is being shoved down our throats." Well, the Christians have always had stuff shoved down their throats. We always will. Does that mean we are to respond in kind? Jesus Himself had an awful lot shoved down his throat. He never even spoke back. Never argued. Never demanded His rights. Never preached at those who were doing the "shoving". He never even said the condescending "I'm going to pray for you". But as He was dying, he prayed for God to forgive them cause they didn't know what they were doing. "They" still don't know what they are doing. Even when we tell them. They still don't KNOW and until God reveals that to them, they won't. Even then, it is THEIR choice, not ours.

She went on to say:

"NOW we are expected to
tolerate it and embrace it. It is no longer an issue
of love. Loving the sinner doesn't mean supporting
his every decision, loving the sinner is speaking the
truth gently and consistently."

Yes, we are expected to tolerate it. Not by any human, but by God Himself. He gave man free will. He tolerates it and He doesn't even have to. He will be the judge. Not us. We don't have to support anyone's decisions. We are just told to love. Speak the truth, yes, but we are told we will be despised and hated for that. We cannot, and should not, expect anything more.

Go see the movie "The end of the Spear". Then write to Chad Allen and tell him God loves him and so do you. His choices are his to make.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

fire and ice

We don't get much snow in Tennessee anymore, but when I was little I remember some really big ones. Well, tonight is the first snow of the year. It is an extremely wet and sloppy one so it probably won't be much to play in for the kids. But I wouldn't place bets on school being in session tomorrow. Here, if snow is even predicted, school lets out. It isn't that we don't know how to handle snow (for all your northerners who might sneer at that fact), but who could blame us for not being able to. We may see 2 inches all year, and probably not all at once. In reality it is because of the ICE that we so often get underneath whatever snow we get. Not to mention the fact that wet snows ARE harder to drive in than dryer ones. Besides, WE don't have snow tires and chains to put on OUR cars. It would be a waste of time and money to buy them and we would just be getting them on and have to turn around and take them off. So to our credit, it really is harder to deal with down here.

Before this winter, we had the gas logs removed from our fireplace so we could burn wood. With the cost of gas going up, we thought it would be cheaper. The gas logs we had didn't really heat and they were very expensive to use. We hardly ever used them for those reasons. We have had fires this year, every time the temperature gets below 45. If smell is the sense that is the strongest memory trigger, it has been well put to use. But let me tell you, sight is a pretty strong trigger too!

I grew up in this house. A fire in the fireplace is just as much a part of winter to me as Christmas and the hope of snow. The first fire we had, the moment I smelled that wood smoke, all those memoried came rushing back to me. Christmas, cracking nuts and tossing the hulls into the fire, wondering how Santa would get down the chimney, the smell of smoke drifting on the cold winter wind, wet mittens and socks hanging all around the mantle to dry after a romp in the snow, hot chocolate and snow cream...! I could go on and on. The funny thing is, that the one thing that I never dreamed would come to mind as I stared, mesmerized into the flames, is that I keep remembering Roger's and Hammerstein's Cinderella! Not the Disney one, but the one that used to come on TV every year around Christmas time back in the early 70's. Where did that come from?!?! I hadn't thought about that show in eons and here I was wishing for it so bad it was like a bad chocolate craving. Well, guess what. With the snow outside, it was just too much to bear. Tonight I finally broke down and ordered it.

So here's to memories, WHATEVER they may be, and to the fire and ice in your life that brings them to mind. ;-)

Friday, January 13, 2006

The Sound of Silence

We are going to Gatlinburg at the end of the month. Last year we went for our anniversary and this year, well we are having to take the kids. Not exactly the kind of anniversary I expected, but I find that I really don't mind sharing it with them this year. I really only have one expectation for this trip, aside from seeing the mountains of course.

Last year we went to Cades Cove while we were there. I'd never been there before and had no real excitement over it, but that visit there has become one of the treasures I have locked away in my soul. I learned, after the fact, that for the majority of the year, the place is packed with cars and people. When I heard that I considered myself quite lucky that our anniversary is in January. Were it not for that fact, I would probably have never found the gem there that I hold so dear. You see, due to that fact, Cades Cove was almost completely empty. I think there may have been 5 other cars in the whole area.

Before the Smokies Nat'l Park came along, there were homes and churches scattered around. I'm not sure if the people sold their land to the park or if the Gov't declared immenent domain, but the homesteads, many of which were there during the civil war, are abandoned. Even though it is sad to think about anyone losing their home, the park has been prudent to take care of the buildings and keep them intact.

It is beautiful. There are deer and other wildlife everywhere. In fact, the deer walked to within 10 ft. of us before becoming skittish and bounding away. There are several side roads back into the woods where you can see various homes, mills, cemetaries, and churches. Each so far apart they seemed isolated.

It was cold the day we visited there and since we got a late start there, we didn't stay long. But there is one thing that has haunted, no, obsessed me since we were there and compels me to return. We stood in a church cemetary about a mile off the beaten bath. As I stood reading some of the markers it dawned on me that I was experiencing something I never had before-SILENCE. Most of us don't even know what that sounds like. Even I didn't till that day.

I mean REAL silence. So utterly complete and profound that it nearly brought me to tears. As I started to file out each normal sound that fades into the background of everyday, I became more and more aware of it. I realized that the things I hear all the time, but don't really hear, were not there. No distant sound of people, cars, no trains, no airplanes...! Then I began to realize that other sounds, natural sounds that I would expect, were not there as well. I had to mentally check things off before I fully understood that this was truly SILENCE. No sound of sound of wind in the sounds of birds...not even the rustle of leaves! Later I wondered that I did not feel fear, standing in a graveyard as I was. No, fear was no where around, but unnerving in in that I was completely absorbed by the sound. I was enthralled by the fact that SILENCE HAS A SOUND! And it is DEAFENING! My thoughts rushed to fill the void and at the same time I was fighting to quiet them all so I could just listen. It was breathtaking. It was fleeting but I was so caught up in it that I was not aware of the passage of time until the silence was broken by my impatient husband. He was ready to go. I felt as thought I had taken flight and made the journey of a lifetime in the space of a few short moments. In a way, I was ready to leave too, but yet I so wanted to stay. I felt a grief about making such a profound discovery and having to leave it behind. This was not just silence, but it was peace. I shushed my husband and breathed in one last breath of it, hoping to hold on to that memory. I knew he would not understand enough to get him to stay and though I vowed within myself to return to that place, I feared I never would.

From that moment, I had a new perspective on the Cove. Every stop, every cabin, every field began to come to life with visions of life for the people who had once called it home. It was nearing dark and we made one last stop at a two-story cabin with a cantilever barn across the road. I made my way into the cabin. It was large and well-kept, appearing much as I imagined it would when it was once full of life, save for the lack of furnishings. My husband was outside, roaming around the grounds, I was alone inside. I allowed my mind to wander back in time. Suddenly, shadowy children were running through the house, a zephyr of laughter on their heels. The apparition of an annoyed mom wiped her hands on her apron and shooed them out the door with an admonishment about muddy feet as the screen door slamming shut echoed behind them. A ghostly scent of bacon wafted through the house as the vision faded and I couldn't help but smile. This home probably had many days of laughter and joy and the walls could probably tell stories of both contentment and hardship, if they could only talk.

I walked out on the front porch and envisioned the man of the house standing beside me, leaning against the post with a pipe in his mouth. After spending the day laboring in his fields, a hot meal in his belly, his children finishing up their chores, he had a satisfied smile on his face. I felt a smile cross my face as well.

Since that day, understanding of the treasure I held in my hand that day has grown. Regret for leaving so soon fills me when I think about it. It was those unseen boundaries we place on ourselves that pulled me away, somehow feeling that I was outside of those boundaries. Those same boundaries keep me from following my dreams and venturing into the unknown. My frail imagination didn't know what to do with that gift and now I just want to go back and sit with my journal and just listen. I just know that one could hear the whisper of God in that sound. I yearn to hear it again. At times I am obsessed with it-for the first time in my life, I heard SILENCE! Something I never even really thought about, yet God allowed me to experience it. Even now I can't even conjure the imagination of that sound. The understanding of is just unfathomable unless you are hearing it.

There really are treasures here on earth...if we only slow down long enough to see...or hear them.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Never enough time

I am a frustrated journaler. Always have been. I want to journal. Feel compelled to journal. I even have the words in my head that I want to use. But there is always an excuse. No time to do it right, no paper handy or the wrong kind of paper, paper isn't good enough I need a journal.... Over the years I have managed to churn out a few pages in a few journals, but have never completed a single one. Often, I feel I have missed the really good, creative things I wanted to say and oh, I can't tell you how many of those things I wanted to remember forever that I have not remembered because I didn't journal them. Maybe, this being January, this will be a new start. Journaling was one of my New Year's Resolutions. :-)