Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Logic vs Emotion

In recent days I received two gift cards to two different bookstores, and also a gift certificate from the publishing company where I work. I immediately used the gift cards and selected my company gift books. I'm overloaded with great books just waiting to be read and enjoyed.

One small book I chose is entitled Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart. The title caught my attention and then the thirty chapter titles clinched my decision to get that book. This is one book I have already read. It's great. Yes, I'm definitely too soon old and too late smart.

One of the best chapter titles is "It is difficult to remove by logic an idea not placed there by logic in the first place."

We couldn't quit laughing at that one. I'm well known for being a logical, practical thinker and speaker. When a problem arises, I immediately shift into the non-emotional, practical and logical way of looking at things. Drives the people close to me, who are more attuned to their emotional side, a little crazy.

The author of the book, Dr. Gordon Livingston, makes some interesting points and observations:

In fact, it sometimes seems that we are so trapped in ineffectual life patterns that we are playing out the old military adage: If it doesn't work, double it. The motivations and habit patterns that underlie most of our behavior are seldom logical; we are much more often driven by impulses, preconceptions, and emotions of which we are only dimly aware.

He ends the chapter with:
Finally, when struggling to overcome maladaptive behaviors by the use of logic, one is often confronted with the fact that some ignorance is invincible. People can become so wedded to their particular view of how things should work that they ignore all evidence that suggests that change is necessary.

So what is the reality check here? For me, a logical person, it helps me understand that I'm coming at things quite differently than other, more balanced friends and loved ones. I need to get more in touch with my emotional side, I need to listen and understand other's emotional viewpoints, and I am helped by understanding that logic sometimes leaves others feeling misunderstood and not heard.

It's true that others may need more logic in their outlook on life, but I'm realizing I need a more balanced approach to communication and connecting to the important people in my life. It's a great lesson and a fun one to learn and apply.

I want to share more fun things I'm reading in this book. Hopefully, it won't be so long in between posts. We'll see.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Big Three

Have you ever heard in business that there are three basic things a business wants and needs as it produces products, but in actuality can only have two of those.

The three are: good quality, fast service, low cost.

It's common knowledge in business that you pick the two you can have because having three is impossible. You can get good quality and have it quickly, but it will cost you. If you want something quickly and cheap, you won't have good quality. And finally, if you want good quality but you don't want to pay so much, you'll have to wait for it because it will not be done quickly.

Then what happens when you're with a company is you soon learn what their emphasis is, or what their two choices are.

The company I worked for a few years ago obviously chose quality first and foremost and second they chose a good schedule or fast service no matter the cost. The founder had a story told about him that when one of his books was published and he found numerous mistakes in them that he built a big bonfire and burned them all. He then had the team start over and produce a quality book. At that time excellent quality was the one and only consideration.

I've worked for several different companies since then. Nowhere has quality been the number one priority since that first experience. That was quite a culture shock. I was continually called on the carpet because I was taking too long to make sure there were as few mistakes as possible. The transition was quite frustrating and actually somewhat painful.

I've now adjusted and I tell my work team: Let's do what we can the best we can within the time we have. We often have to let too much go by, and once a mistake is in the product it almost takes an act of Congress to get it corrected. It becomes extremely important to do excellent work from the get-go and then let it go.

How does this apply to a reality check? We are in relationship with a God who does all three. He is the epitome of quality, the very best. He always delivers on time, exactly on time. And do we even need to discuss the "cost"? Having this relationship as a foundation makes the rest of life, including the allowances that have to be made in other areas, acceptable because we know that the things that really matter are covered.

My thoughts at this time-

Monday, November 10, 2008

Colorful Living

We could learn a lot from crayons.

Some are sharp,
some are pretty,
and some are dull.

Some have weird names and all are different colours,
but they all have to live in the same box.

Just a thought.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Look Alikes?

Below are two baby pictures. The first is a picture of me as a baby. The second is a picture of my youngest granddaughter.

When I first saw this baby picture of Sierra, I was struck at how much it reminded me of mine. I quickly dug through the old pictures and found the one I was remembering.

Although we are 58 years apart in age, this little girl grabs my heart each time I am with her. She's very caring, and last Sunday we treated her to a banana split and a couple of presents celebrating her ninth birthday.

She had never noticed Paul's carotid artery surgery scars, and it was a movie in the making to watch her discover them. She did it all with looks, a look of discovery,  then a look of questioning, and when explained, looks of loving and caring. She laid her head on Paul's chest and just loved on him. It was such a freeze frame moment. Paul was raw emotionally from having buried his Mom a few days before, and just watching the two of them was special!


My reality check was going to be that I hope I'm a good role model to this young girl. As I've written this I've changed my mind. My reality check is really that I hope I can be as transparent, as loving, and as caring as this little girl. One of my favorite sayings is "Love like you've never been hurt." That's so much harder to do than to say. Seeing that attitude in a young girl is a real challenge to me. I hope I can be like her.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fans and Family

Yesterday, we attended the OU/TX football game at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. Our grandson bought the tickets and told us that he got tickets in the Texas section and he hoped that was okay. From our picture here, can you tell whom we are for? Pretty obvious, right?

Now, look at Ty's picture. Whom do you think he is for? We walked by one fan outside the stadium and he remarked when he saw Ty, "Now, there's an obviously neutral fan." Ty didn't have on the burnt orange of UT or the crimson red of OU.

Now, here's the "reality check" I want to write about in this post. Ty wasn't neutral, but I didn't catch on until well into the first quarter. He was yelling loudly for UT. OU made the best plays right at first, making a touchdown on their first possession, so I didn't realize that Ty was not for OU because I was so busy standing and yelling and yelling "Boomer-Sooner" at the top of my lungs that I didn't notice that Ty was calm and just watching. I think I thought he just wasn't going to be a loud fan, and than I had the thought I might be embarrassing him. But, I quickly dismissed that and went right on being a good OU fan. :)

Then a strange thing happened. When UT made a good play or stopped OU, Ty would stand and yell and give a loud "YEAH!" What? And then it dawned on me, he is for UT and maybe he purposely bought tickets smack dab in the middle of UT fans. Huh? How could this Grams be so dense? Ty lived almost all of his developmental years in Texas and was never very fond of Oklahoma. He's a die-hard UT fan! Well, duh!

Here's the point of this post: (finally :)
An interesting phenomenon took place in my thinking and feeling, although it took just a little transitional time. I began to laugh and enjoy the TX fans and didn't feel the previous animosity I had had toward them. Reason? Someone I loved was enjoying UT's successes. Completely changed my perspective. In the end when UT won, it was okay. I was glad for Ty. Do you find that as interesting as I do?

As all this was happening, I made the application to the SBC and all the fussing and differences within an organization that's supposed to be "family" and showing the world how to celebrate differences, rather than fighting about it. I think when your heart is really committed to the "brother" or grandson, as the case may be, that it's easy to accept and live with the differences. 

Makes me wonder what's just lip service and what's real. Just a reality check taken from being football fans to other areas of life. Whether we wear our preferences out where others can see or whether we wear neutral so others have to guess, when our differences become apparent, how do we respond? I think I discovered my response shows my heart, my reality.  

Sunday, October 5, 2008

On Birthdays and Deathdays

Yesterday, my mother-in-law, Paul's mother died. She had a peaceful death and as some would say, "a good death." I think what is meant by that is that there was not a lot of physical suffering at the end, but just more sleeping and finally a final breath.

Interestingly, the day Margaret died was also my 67th birthday. Some birthday present!! At first, I thought this is going to be bittersweet in the future, celebrating my birthday and always remembering that's the day Paul's Mom died.

But, on the other hand, it will be easy to remember what day she died, the anniversary of her death. For me, death days are hard to remember. I always have to go back and refigure or think of some signpost that helps me get the date right. That won't be true of Margaret's death date. I know!

This has caused me to wonder about something. Wonder why we don't celebrate deathdays as we do birthdays. Especially if our loved one was a believer, a Christian.

Think about it: we celebrate someone coming into this world with all its pain and suffering and we grieve when someone leaves this world to go to a better place, free of all tears and sorrow, pain and suffering. Now, how strange is this?

What would a "deathday" celebration look like? Perhaps on the death day each year later, the family would gather and reminisce about that loved one, looking at pictures and sharing memories. I know that when I go to the cemetery to the graves of my sister, my dad, my grandparents, and others, that's what I do somewhat. I think back to who they were and what they meant to me and how much I miss them.

Just a thought as I start the process of working through grief and sadness. 

Monday, September 8, 2008

Friends vs Parents

Recently at Paul's ministry board meeting, a board member asked our family members who were there to gather so she could take a picture. This picture was taken August 16. Front row: Melody (our daughter), yours truly, Paul, Cherri (our daughter). Back row l to r: Tony (Mel's husband), Wade (our son), Rachelle (Wade's wife), Kelly (Brett's wife), and Brett (our son). Mike (Cherri's husband) is not in the picture. He was with his mom in an unscheduled call for help she needed from him.

This picture is priceless to me as it represents people I love very much. It also prompted me to write another post regarding adult children and our relationship to them.

Early on when our children started marrying and establishing homes of their own, we began to experience something that was different for us. It didn't seem right to keep advising and treating our children as children and not as adults. It was awhile in coming, but we finally did get there. 

Paul and I talked about it and realized our "parenting" days were over and had been for some time. We had done what we could, we had made many mistakes, we had done some things right, but all things considered, the time for that opportunity was over. We now wanted to be "friends" with our adult children and treat them as such, and not do the "parenting" tasks or talk any more. 

So as much as we could, we then began treating our adult children as our adult friends. We didn't start out that way, especially I didn't. I was "Miss Advice-Giver." I knew how to do it all, and I was still very much in that mode. I gradually quit just giving advice and began waiting to be asked, but I was still quick-on-the-trigger with what should be done. I was going through many changes in my own life, one of which included attending a listening seminar where I learned a wonderful truth: "Don't should on people." I was such a you should person, that was a real change-point in my life. I also learned that listening was a learned relational skill that I needed to learn, to practice, and to incorporate into all my relationships. What a challenge!

Today, I think I can honestly say to and about all those other people in the above picture, these are all my adult friends. I love them very much and enjoy their friendship. 

A serendipity of this is that I, the Mom, have had such a release of feeling responsible. I can truly enjoy the relationships, and I do.

Of course, we've had some criticism. Other parents and grandparents tell us and our friend-children that once a parent, always a parent. We agree with the distinction that we will always be our children's mother and father. We love that and are so glad that doesn't change. We view parenting as a role and responsibility. All we're saying is that parenting ends when the child leaves the parent's home. Relationships continue and roles change. 

We love it and highly recommend this way of life. Just sharing...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

On Being a Woman in Certain Circles

How fun is this?

The Republican pick for VP is a woman!

Now, let's see what all the arguments will be against her. The glass ceiling is being challenged, with 18 million cracks no less.

The debate within religious circles about women leading is an interesting one. I'm a woman. I'm in the minority as far as this debate is concerned.

Speaking of minorities: We have traveled some outside the United States. Several years ago we went to Brazil on a mission trip, and we went by ourselves without a guide. We found ourselves several times in difficult situations because we did not speak Portugese. Our contact at the airport didn't make it, and we had to get to another airport without the benefit of knowing how or where and we couldn't speak the language. We made it, but I gained a new appreciation of what it means to be laughed at, to have the feeling of not belonging, and to be a minority. Not a good feeling or situation.

And being a woman in church, I've also experienced very much the same thing although under the guise of being Biblical and doing what God wants. Hmmmm.

But in the corporate world, it's very different. I'm an executive, I'm respected, I'm listened to, I'm asked for my opinion, I'm asked to lead teams and projects, and I find myself enjoying being a capable leader.

Then I go to church.

If a woman speaks up in the traditional Sunday School couples class, she's often only acknowledged and appeased, but not necessarily listened to or respected as being anyone with an opinion worth listening to. (Just my opinion.) The situation is quite different when a man might volunteer his opinion. All seem to listen with rapt attention. Hmmmmm.

Women are asked to cook and bring food. Women are asked to accompany their husbands. Women are pitied if they're left as widows.

Needless to say, it's an interesting contrast to be respected and listened to five days a week, and then go to a place where we're to relate in the deepest sense and minister and be ministered to, but to be treated like a minority person without the credentials necessary to be "someone" in this environment. And, we're supposed to invite others, our women friends, to come to this life-giving, life-changing, wonderful place? This causes me pause.

My thoughts on a woman being a leader in different settings.

A fun postscript: I have my "handsome feller" read my posts before I post them as fresh eyes to catch any mistakes and to see how the "spirit" of the writing comes across. He read this one and commented, "I hope they know you are respected and listened to at home." I can honestly and firmly say that is very true. I am respected as an equal and am a co-leader in our relationship. It's a change from how we started, and it's a place we've grown to. It's a good place!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Saddleback Debate

Last Saturday night the two candidates for president answered questions on the Saddleback Civic Forum. I thought that was a very well done event. Personally, I was encouraged by both candidates' answers.

But I was really watching Rick Warren, the moderator. Years ago in Fort Worth, Rick was a seminary student at Southwestern and he was a member of the church where Paul was pastor.

I remember Rick as a slight, light-haired, rather timid young man. He was asked to sometimes play his guitar and help lead on Sunday nights. I remember he seemed shy and I often had a hard time hearing him. That's my memory.

When Rick finished seminary, he and his wife Kay packed all their belongings in their car (I think it was a Volkswagon) and headed for California. They said they felt God calling them to start a new church in CA.

Over the years we would hear how the church was growing. When it was just beginning, Rick and Kay encouraged casual dress and tried to invite each visitor and new member to their home to get better acquainted.

Once over the years, Kay called to ask me a question, and she started out saying you probably don't remember me. They were already getting famous. I quickly responded that of course I remembered her. I always think that's a funny memory.

Coming back to the present–Saturday night was an exciting time for me. It was great watching the presidential candidates, but it was extremely pleasing and satisfying to watch Rick and see what a wonderful pastor and person he has become. Time magazine called him the most influential religious man in America today, the next Billy Graham.

I remember when. . .

Just wanted to share a fun memory.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

The Shack

I've been reading comments and blogs criticizing people who are reading and enjoying The Shack. Mostly the critics are theologians or pastors who are trying to warn people about false theology.

I find this quite interesting. I do think it's wrong to create your theology from books like The Shack, but I also think it's wrong to condemn people for reading and enjoying these books.

Who's to say what different books, events, people speak of the love of God to different people?

I read one blog where the author wrote:
I will say that, as an allegory, it was brilliant. I don't imagine many people were too happy with Bunyan when he wrote Pilgrim's Progress either, but as an allegory, it was also brilliant for its time.

I do not read The Shack as a book on theology. I read it as fiction and as an attempt at allegory. Much like I do when I watch movies or listen to songs or anything else. Even in the most unexpected places, I am always looking for a glimpse of God; not a full description or manifesto of theology. I have seen things in Shawshank Redemption, Bruce Almighty, and Narnia that have served to bring me closer to the heart of God. I have heard songs by bands like The Brand New, Pedro the Lion, and various others that have served to help me recognize God's love and grace in new ways.

This book is no different. I wrote several quotes from the book in my journal, and this book, because of its vivid allegory has revived my spirit and soul in places that had felt stagnant and dry. It made God and his great love a step more tangible for me. . .

. . .even a book that is decent fiction and is only a story.

Where are all the haters for Narnia? Oh. . .but that's C.S. Lewis. . ."

This writer captured exactly what I think. Who can say what means God uses to speak to people? I know several people who had life-changing experiences from reading The Shack. 

A couple of those people are very close to me and one has suffered extreme, unexplainable hurt in her life. This book helped. The other person suffers from performance pressure and guilt. Reading this book helped. 

Who am I to say it's wrong to read this book? Or for that matter, who are these "shepherds" who are telling people, as if they're God's spokesmen and they alone speak the oracles of God, that we shouldn't read that book? 

Sometimes it's difficult to control my gasping astonishment at the gall of certain leaders. I do believe there are things much more harmful in this world than reading a book that speaks to certain people of the love of God.

Seems like I read in the Bible that certain Pharisees criticized Jesus because he did things and said things that didn't correspond to their ideas of correct theology. Hmmm. . .

How about a reality check on this?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Truth or Consequences

Remember that old TV show that broadcast out of New Mexico? That title reminds me of what I wanted to title this post, Changes and Consequences. Thought the old TV title might "grab" you.

Paul has been writing on his blog, vtmbottomline, about his old school/new school thinking on some subjects. One subject is the role of women in the church.

My reality check for today is to say I so agree with him and what he is saying. It's been a lifetime for me of coming to this viewpoint. I'm definitely an egalitarian. And I apply my way of thinking to every area of my life, not just the church.

In the past I've taught the total opposite and was all caught up in roles and a certain legalistic interpretation of scripture. I would often proof-text some verses, and in hindsight I see that I was making that verse say what I needed it to say.

I became aware of this change-point in my life when Paul had his first heart attack and bypass surgery. It was a scary time. I had built my life so much around him and "under" him that I remember that first night at the hospital thinking that if he died, half of me would be in the grave. What would I do? 

Although as I look back now, this change had started many years before this hospital stay. I just wasn't as aware of what was happening, and it became very clear at that point.

That whole thought process of being dependent seemed to be so wrong, and it started my serious thinking about what I had believed, accepted, and taught. Nothing like a near-death experience to wake you up or make you aware of how much you, yourself, are changing and have changed.

From that point I became aware of changes I was already making in varying degrees:
  • Thinking for myself
  • Making my own decisions
  • Taking much more responsibility for my own life
  • Quit blaming him for my problems
  • Changing many of my ways of thinking and acting
As I have the time and opportunity, I plan to write more posts on some of my experiences and how some of these changes came about and the consequences resulting from the changes.

That's all for now.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Do I Like Me?

Usually our thoughts go something like, "I wonder if others like me." I'm old enough (and wise enough ??) to know that if I don't like myself, others will find it difficult to like me. Usually that's because relating to others with the hope that they will like me makes one "leak" that "I'm needy," and that usually drives others away. I've learned if I like myself, I "leak" that. One of the things I've learned for sure: We all leak who we really are.

In John Powell's book, Happiness Is An Inside Job, the chapters are ten practices, and
Practice 1 is "We must accept ourselves as we are."

And at the beginning of each chapter he writes a summary, a looking forward to, what he will write in detail within the chapter. Here's the summary for the first chapter:

We tend to hold on to things, including ideas. 
We are reluctant to give up ideas like who I am. 

Yet giving up some old ideas is essential to growing. 
I must learn how to let go of the static image of who I think I am. 

If I am to grow, I must get unhooked from my past. I must come to realize that I am the one and only me, a person in process--always and forever learning, changing, growing. 

The only important reality is who I am right now. I am not who I used to be. I am not yet who I will be. And above all I must know this: I am who I am supposed to be, and I am fully equipped to do whatever it is I am supposed to be doing with my life.

This sounds like some of that ya-da, ya-da stuff; you know yeah, yeah, we've heard this many times before, that self-acceptance stuff. But, for some reason, this really hits me as not the same ole', same ole'. Not sure if it's because I'm so familiar with the whole book or because I'm old enough to see and know the real thing when it crosses my path. I also like Powell's use of everyday language and not religious code talk that so often makes the writer sound spiritual, but too often also turns off many readers.

May I "chase a rabbit here?" But first, surely everyone knows what "chase a rabbit" means, right? Just in case: it means I'm going to go off subject here just a little and write/talk about something else. But, sometimes that rabbit is "juicy" and worth the rabbit-chase. 

The rabbit: I read once that all the religious talk and all the religious rules that legalists tend to put on others produces one of two kinds: those who hear and then gladly accept all the rules and become proud that they can do this, or those who hear and know that they can't and don't want to keep all those rules and say, "I'm out of here." Results: Pharisees or rebels. The first time I read that, it gave me pause. Then I thought, that is so true! Too often people who talk or write in the religious-coded language are those who come across as not so real, at least to folks like me. I think I thought of this because the religious-talking crowd are the ones who tend to put the shoulds on others.

Anyway, Powell's short summary of the practice of self-acceptance is one of those summaries that was definitely one of the change-points in my life a few years ago. Worth sharing. May not mean much to others, but when something really grabs you and really means something to you personally, you just want to share and you hope others see it as you do. But obviously that doesn't always happen. Again, just sharing.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Happiness Is an Inside Job

The title of this post is also the title of a book by John Powell. It's one of my favorite books, and it's one that I credit with having a major influence on the changes in my life.

Recently I read this quote:
"He who has so little knowledge of human nature as to seek happiness by changing anything but his own disposition will waste his life in fruitless efforts and multiply the grief which he purposes to remove." ~Samuel Johnson~

How many of us realize that our own happiness is our responsibility. We often blame our mate, our circumstances, our job, our church, and/or our friends for our lack of happiness. But, if happiness is really an inside job, then that means we have the key to our own happiness.

How revolutionary is that?

My absolutely favorite quote in Powell's book is, "Growth begins where blaming ends." So if I quit blaming others for my unhappiness, perhaps I can begin learning how to enjoy the happiness that's mine from the inside out.

I think I'll write about this concept in my next few posts.
Fun ideas to think about.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Real Talk or Religious Talk

In recent days I've had several friends and family members who have faced sickness, surgeries, losing a loved one, and other life-changing events. As I have.

I've interestingly observed the differences in conversations and communication. A few fill their words with many religious phrases. Sometimes this just leaves me wondering, where's the grief? where's the natural fear? where's the sadness?

It often seems that the more religiously one talks, the less of real humanity is being experienced.

Rare is the believer I've encountered who seems real in his/her humanity and equally real in his/her God relationship. I have met a few, but not many.

Some years ago I became aware of this in my own life. I noticed that in some group meetings if someone said they had prayed about it and "God told me..." that immediately stopped all conversation and that person must be the "chosen one" because they had God's Word on it.

I also noticed that in other groups if there was a tough decision to make, someone would say let's just pray about it and let God speak. That ended it! If you had an opinion to offer, the obvious climate was, not now! I became cognizant of favorite phrases and religious talk that permeated Christian groups. I began to question, where is reality here? Can we not be who we really are, who God made us to be, and still be Christian? I sometimes wanted to scream, "Stop the canned talk! Just be real!!" But, of course, I didn't. I usually was the pastor's wife and I just kept the smile on and was questioning inside. However, I did make sure when I talked that I didn't go into that mode.

Some of my "Christian" friends would say, "Do you still believe the Bible?" I would laugh and say, of course. They had noticed my dropping and not using the language and phrases. On the contrary, non-believers would sometimes say, "You're really a different kind of Christian, not like those we can't stand to be around." Hmmm... Food for thought.

To the point I'm making today, too often (in my opinion) we as believers pull out this coded language that masks real human thoughts and feelings, and though we might think it's a testimony to how we're trusting God, it often comes across as nonsense and non-reality.

Are you now thinking I'm a heretic? I hope not, but I respect your opinion. =)

In these my latter, wisdom-filled years (JK) I have come to believe and experience that you can be fully human, fully alive, and fully Spirit-filled. You can weep and grieve and question and hurt and still know you are accepted and loved by God.

Of course, my recent experience of Paul facing two back-to-back surgeries has caused my rethinking this. Some said to me, "I know God won't let anything happen to Paul. Don't worry. He'll be okay." Oh, really? 

Here's my thinking: I know Paul and I both are in God's hands. What He does and when He does it may be tough and it may not be what I would like, but it's okay. He's there. He loves both of us and He has a plan. If His plan is death, I'll hurt and grieve and cry and be sad. I'll feel my human-ness and let my humanity show. And at the exact same time, deep in my inner being I will know that I'm in His Hands! 

Two examples come to mind: two sides of the same coin, and you cannot look at both sides at the same time, but you hold the entire coin.

Another example: two train tracks–one track is my humanity, the other track is God's sovereignty and control. You need both to carry your train of life, and you need both completely. If either track becomes more important than the other, the train of life is lopsided.

Well, enough of this. Those are my thoughts today and my reality check. Am I really real or religiously coated? 

Monday, June 16, 2008

Question to Ponder

Do I really believe what I say?

I hope so, but there come certain times and events in life where that is tested.

This is one of those times.

Today Paul, my soul mate for 49 years and counting, has surgery. The surgeon has given us the spiel including the risks. I've been here before. Paul had bypass surgery back in 1986. Since then he's had a heart attack and a stroke, both requiring hospital stays.

Each time these things happen, I'm face to face again with the question, Do I really believe what I say I believe? And I know the answer is, Yes, I do! I believe that death for the Christian is a rite of passage into a better place and a better life.

As I ponder, I realize that's not my real question. My real struggle is, Can I go on without him? If at any time Paul precedes me in death, I know I can go on, but it will be very different and not what I want to do. I jokingly tell him that if he kicks the bucket, I will kill him. He can't do that to me. We laugh, and I realize I really mean that.

My reality check today is that I have to face the small risk that something could happen. Yes, I can handle it. Death is a very real part of our lives. I don't want to, but I will and I can.

But, you know what? I hope that time is a little later for us. Whatever...

One thing I do know, that time is set. I don't know when that is, but thinking about it and realizing that is reality helps me to be prepared. 

With that reality check, I'm now prepared to face what life brings for us this week. It is an adventure for sure!

Monday, May 26, 2008

Thoughts Following the Sermon

Yesterday the morning sermon was from Romans 1. The subject was how does the Christian face the question of homosexuality. Is it an alternate lifestyle? Is it genetic? Can one change? What is to be our attitude?

Our pastor did a terrific job in handling this very sensitive issue. One statement he made was to "get rid of your repulsion." And he suggested that Christians pray for the people they know who are in this lifestyle.

I wrote in my notes an additional thought: we need to pray for ourselves that we will truly love all people as people and respect them and their choices.

Homosexuality in the scripture is noted as a sinful lifestyle, along with adultery, hatred, and many other sins. I do believe that homosexuality is a learned lifestyle through environment and personal tendencies. I do know a few who have been in this lifestyle and have changed. I also have several personal acquaintances who continue in this lifestyle.

I think the challenge for the Christian is to accept and love the person and at the same time hold to the truth that homosexuality is wrong. That's an almost impossible task. And one reason is that oftentimes the one living in this lifestyle insists that if you really love them, you will see and agree with their view that this is natural and is okay. They fight for acceptance.

I see a lot of the problem as the holier-than-thou attitude many Christians and whole denominations have toward people who say they are homosexuals or lesbians. Sometimes these same condemners are lenient toward heterosexual people who have affairs or who live together before marriage or who are married and have adulterous affairs. That's quite a double standard in my opinion.

In my world and my generation, the condemning of homosexually oriented people was hateful, repulsive, and filled with slurs and bad jokes.

The current generation seems to express total acceptance with no reference to a standard of morality.

The challenge to me and for me is to show grace and love to all (and not only "show," but to really BE loving and gracious from the inside out). And the second part of this challenge is learning how to hold a moral standard and to struggle with the pain of doing this as I also show love and acceptance to the person. Whew!

Is this possible?

"[Not in your own strength] for it is God Who is all the while effectually at work in you–energizing and creating in you the power and desire–both to will and to work for His good pleasure and satisfaction and delight." Philippians 2:13 Amplified

This, to me, is great food for thought and a true reality check.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Mother's Day 2008

Today's a special day of the year, a day in which we honor our Moms. I'm always curious how things started and found the history of Mother's Day very interesting. If you're interested, check it out here: Mother's Day in the US

On this day every year I think of my parenting and ask myself if I did well as a Mom. If I look at my four children and evaluate that way, I would say I was a terrific Mom. Of course, the problem with that is that I don't think Mom's are responsible solely for how their children turn out. In fact, I think Moms do influence children, but there are so many other factors involved with how children end up that I think the kind of Mom you have plays a part, but not a huge part.

Anyway, I'm grateful for my four children of whom God allowed me to be their Mother. I'm glad they survived all my mistakes and hopefully used them to make better decisions and to become better adults.

This is a day to celebrate my Mom and to celebrate motherhood. I am a grateful child and a grateful Mom, counting my blessings.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Switching Themes

I've decided to wind it up on writing about The Shack.

I've read some entries on the Internet that take to task many of the concepts and themes in The Shack.

I don't completely and wholeheartedly agree with the theology presented, but I learned a long time ago that I can glean much from many sources without requiring that the piece be 100% where I am in all areas. I think The Shack really hits readers in the emotional area of relating to God and how to do that in the midst of great heart pain and terrible events. Hopefully, we know how to read and enjoy and accept truths needed by us at that particular time, and sifting through what we might disagree with but not letting that affect our accepting wonderful insights and gaining from what we're reading. 

I like to contrast doing that with thinking, praying, and relating to others with our coded "religious" language. I much prefer the first way, which is what works best for me.

As I end these posts on The Shack, it might be fun to hear from you your bottom-line statement of how reading this book has impacted you. Tell us if you have time and want to.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

The Dance of Being

Continuing on pulling concepts from The Shack to ruminate about. . .

I was struck by the words in Chapter 14, Verbs and Other Freedoms, especially on pages 204 and 205. Sarayu (personified wisdom) is speaking and says "For something to move from death to life you must introduce something living and moving into the mix. To move from something that is only a noun to something dynamic and unpredictable, to something living and present tense, is to move from law to grace. …"

The discussion in this chapter and on these two pages captured me. Since I work daily with words, grammar and parts of speech, I loved the truth presented in terms of nouns and verbs.

Sarayu shows that when nouns are used when referring to relationships, they are rules. Rules instead of living relationships (verbs). That made me think about how much of our teaching and practice in life are responsibilities and expectations. What a wonderful thought and realization!

The discussion goes on to point out that setting priorities is not what Papa wants. He doesn't want to be at the top of the list, or even "first among a list of values."

Do you know how much of what I've believed and taught is being challenged by this chapter? Intuitively, I know this to be true, but I haven't been able to put such words to my intuition. Every time I would try, it seemed wrong.

I have grabbed on to bits and pieces at various times. When I read a few years ago that religion makes us either Pharisees or rebels, I thought YES! Pharisees think, "Look at me. I can do all that is required of me. Why can't you?" Rebels say, "I can't do any of this. Who cares? Not me."

This chapter in The Shack says much the same thing, just in a different way.

I especially liked on page 206 when Mack says, "But if you don't have expectations and responsibilities, wouldn't everything just fall apart?"

Sarayu responds, "Only if you are of the world, apart from me and under the law. Responsibilities and expectations are the basis of guilt and shame and judgment, and they provide the essential framework that promotes performance as the basis for identity and value. You know well what it is like not to live up to someone's expectations."

I'll conclude my synopsis with what Jesus says on page 207, "Mack, I don't want to be first among a list of values. I want to be at the center of everything. … Rather than a pyramid, I want to be the center of a mobile, where everything in your life … is connected to me but moves with the wind, in and out and back and forth, in an incredible dance of being."

I love that phrase, an incredible dance of being. Who has ever described our Christian life in those terms? No one I've ever heard. But doesn't that draw you? It does me. Yes!

Am I there? Are you? I'm not. I'm far from it, but what an exciting, alluring invitation.
May I continually accept and never forget.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Fortress of Lies

I want to write just a couple more blogs from quotes inside the book The Shack. 

In the chapter, A Meeting of Hearts, Papa and Mack are talking about lies. Papa says, "… Lies are one of the easiest places for survivors to run. It gives you a sense of safety, a place where you only have to depend on yourself. But it's a dark place, isn't it?"

Papa continues, "Lies are a little fortress; inside them you can feel safe and powerful. Through your little fortress of lies you try to run your life and manipulate others. But the fortress needs walls, so you build some. These are the justifications for your lies. You know, like you are doing this to protect someone you love, to keep them from feeling pain. Whatever works, just so you feel okay about the lies."

I think the lies Christians tell themselves are the lies seasoned with all the religious talk that we've learned. And the sad thing is that we really believe that we are spiritual and believing the truth.

When you pull out of religion and decide to try to walk in grace and truth, you gradually begin to see how lie-covered most of what we say and do in the name of religion really is.

I've done a moderate amount of personality studies. I was drawn to the teaching that we build our personalities as a house around us to protect and to hide ourselves from others and from really living life. My personality type is perfectionistic and analytical. That works well for my profession, but plays havoc in relationships and life. I have to work at tearing down the walls of my protection of personality and seek to live life transparently and honestly. That is tough stuff. It feels exposed and uncomfortable.

I have family and friends who have other types of personalities or walls of protection such as being a helper, or being a controller, or being fun and funny, or being smart, or others. One writer said we're like bumper cars, bumping into each other's personalities and never really getting to know each other.

This paragraph in The Shack reminded me of some of my personality studies. Most people, and I for a long time, didn't consider personalities as something that could be changed or as lies we had built up around us for safety and protection. There has been a measure of freedom since embracing that idea. Food for thought.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Judging and The Judge

Chapter 11 in The Shack is entitled Here Come Da Judge.

The two quotes preceding the chapter:
Whoever undertakes to set himself up as a judge of Truth and Knowledge is shipwrecked by the laughter of the gods. Albert Einstein
Oh my soul, be prepared to meet Him who knows how to ask questions. T.S. Eliot

As I was reading The Shack, I kept wondering how the author would have the central character, Mackenzie, get unstuck. I think this chapter is the key. What a masterful way of handling the Biblical concepts that God is love and how evil is viewed and how God judges compared with how humans judge. Masterful!

Toward the bottom of page 155 –She sat back, beaming. "You are wise in the ways of real love, Mackenzie. So many believe that it is love that grows, but it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it. Love is just the skin of knowing."

To me, this really speaks to what I believe the Bible teaches, that when we accept Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord, that we are born anew, i.e., that all His attributes are supernaturally given to us and the rest of our life is spent in the exciting adventure of knowing and growing in discovering all that He is and all that He has given us. Yes! I loved that phrase: it is the knowing that grows and love simply expands to contain it.

Sophia, personified wisdom, was presented incredibly. She asked questions, but they were gentle questions, not probing I'll get you to see type of questions. Mackenzie, while answering her questions, came to his own conclusions. I have friends who think that asking questions is the way to communicate. It's mine. But I am learning that there are ways to ask and there are certain questions that are really caring questions and not judging questions. Quite a difference.

Mackenzie comes to realize through Sophia's gentle persuasion that "Papa (God) has never needed evil to accomplish His good purposes. It is you humans who have embraced evil and Papa has responded with goodness."

The paragraph in the middle of page 165 is perhaps wisdom's call to us all. "Return from your independence, Mackenzie. Give up being his judge and know Papa for who he is. Then you will be able to embrace his love in the midst of your pain, instead of pushing him away with your self-centered perception of how you think the universe should be."

When Mack came to the place he realized he was judging God and thereby was acting as God when he judged others, he says on page 165, "I don't want to be a judge any more. I really do want to trust Papa. ... But I'll need help."

Sophia's response: "Now that sounds like the start of the trip home."

Is that not wisdom beyond words?!

Stop judging and trust. Know that God loves me and will never leave me. Trust Him. Let go of all the judging that shows that I think I know better and how much better I would do it. This is an unbelievable foundation on which to live my life. It is changing me daily.

I was captured by the truths set forth in this chapter and the way in which they were presented. I realized that I don't often read the Bible, pray, or communicate with God with a soft, receiving heart, but perhaps with an anxious, judging spirit. What am I doing wrong? What more do I need to do? How can I be better? I thought the spirit of Mack's meeting with Sophia overall was a great dramatization and revelation of a very different sense of a human being's interaction with God, with Papa, with wisdom. 

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Forgiving God

Does the title grab you? Forgiving God? Who in the world forgives God? 

I'm continuing writing posts about some of the truths found in the book, The Shack. This isn't exactly a one-liner, but it's the text found on page 82 in Chapter 5. Mack is struggling with how to address God when he will meet him in the cabin. "No longer concerned or caring about what to call God and energized by his ire, he walked up to the door. Mack decided to bang loudly and see what happened, but just as he raised his fist to do so, the door flew open, ..."

This text reminded me of a time in my life when I was struggling with how God was showing Himself and how none of it seemed fair. Abusive people taking advantage of innocents was always so perplexing to me, and I was questioning God as to how He could let that happen. And, I had had some really troubling things happen in my life, things that I thought I was protected from because I was a believer and tried to honor God with my life.

I was waiting in a doctor's office and picked up a magazine, which had an article entitled, Have You Forgiven God? That caught my attention.

I learned from reading that article. It's not really that you forgive God, but it's a situation where you are angry at God and you can't figure out stuff. The essence of forgiving God is that you come to Him and discuss it with Him and it's actually that you listen to Him and get His perspective and in doing that, you have forgiven God. What you've really done is come to Him and opened yourself up to Him to receive what He has to say and to show you.

I was reminded of that in this section of The Shack. That was a change point or a turning point in my life. I didn't forgive God, but I was able to release my anger and open up to Him and receive His view of life and what He wants. That's a very different place to be.


Monday, March 17, 2008


Continuing with a few posts on some one-liners from The Shack...

On page 24 the quote that starts the chapter is, "Nothing makes us so lonely as our secrets." by Paul Tournier

I remember a similar quote from John Powell, "We are as sick as we are secret." If I remember correctly, that's a quote from his book, Happiness Is an Inside Job.

Powell's quote is one of those one-liners that grabbed me a few years ago, and it's one of those I remember. It has served me well. Does this mean that I never keep anything to myself? I don't think so. Have you ever known someone who tells you absolutely everything, and you're pretty sure you didn't want to know about three-fourths of the info. I love the text-messaging abbreviation for too much information, TMI.

I think what's being referred to here are the secrets we keep so that others will think well of us, or so that our loved ones will continue to love us. 

Some secrets that are very unhealthy to keep are:
  • Relational abuses
  • Actions that require cover-up or lying
Families and churches are full of these kinds of secrets.

The other day we were visiting with friends and we were discussing a movie where the star did what was right by the letter of the law but his action seemed to be harmful to some innocents. It was a disturbing end. 

When I was asked what would I have done, I thought I would protect the innocents. But after some thought, I realized that I would have had to lie and have cover-up actions. With that incident I think there was a way to stay within the law and to follow-up to protect. There was a right way. That was a tough one. But it's a good example of what I'm speaking of here.

Of course, keeping relational abuse secrets is pretty obvious. This can sometimes be very hard, and it's in the secret keeping where the abuser gains power. 

For years it was considered a "sin" by Christian conservatives for believers to take an anti-depressant. (That's hard to believe now, but it's true.) I have taken several counseling courses and that's how I unraveled that wrong concept. But I still watch others struggle with this.

One time in the beauty shop I was waiting my turn and the nail technician asked the customer what she thought the difference in Methodists and Baptists was. She said that was easy to answer. Both Methodists and Baptists drink a little, but Baptists say they don't and Methodists admit they do. Isn't that an interesting outsider's observation? I thought it was pretty funny.

I'm not saying anything about anti-depressants or drinking. I'm just using them as examples of how sometimes we box ourselves in to having to keep secrets to "belong." Pretty sad state of affairs, isn't it?

Harmful secrets that are kept inside are like mushrooms in a cave. They thrive on the darkness. Often bringing our harmful secrets out of our cave into the light can bring healing. 

Lonely? Unhealthy?

Do you have secrets that need to be brought out of the cave and shared with discerning and loving friends (an appropriate audience)? 

It's a fun thought to know that God knows our hearts. We have no secrets from Him, and since He loves us and will never leave us, I do believe He'll help us empty our "caves" if needed.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Inside Places

The next phrase in The Shack that caught my attention enough to want to post about is toward the bottom of page 12. "I will tell you honestly that being a part of this story has affected me deep inside, in places I had never been before and didn't even know existed."

That phrase or sentence caught my attention and gave me pause. 

Somebody famous, I can't remember who, said one time that the longest journey anyone will take is the journey inside and not too many choose to take that journey.

I like the quote from Young, the author of The Shack, because it reminds me of those deep inside places I have been. I was chatting with a very dear friend recently who was telling me that every time he's sure he's opened himself up to what he needs to learn and it's a deep lesson, soon thereafter he finds another entire room he didn't even know existed where the door needed to be opened. I liked that analogy. 

Young's statement helped me rethink some of the very, very hard experiences in life that spurred me on my inside journey and helped me discover my own inside places or rooms. Some of those included:
  • Losing a sister to suicide
  • Having a granddaughter born severely handicapped 
  • Acknowledging that my sixth grade male teacher molested the girl students and how that affected my psyche
  • Thinking I don't believe in divorce, but paying for my daughter's
  • Experiencing church leaders' rejection for standing for what's right
  • Having a sister turn against me because I set healthy boundaries
Okay. I'll stop there. This could get depressing. =)

Each one of these experiences caused me great distress and anguished questioning. But each one, when worked through opened me up to empathy, sympathy, and understanding of others who might be experiencing similar emotions and events.

For example, losing a sister to suicide was devastating, and I learned how hard it is for people to support and encourage the survivors. I now know how to hug and empathize with suicide surviving family members. That inside room was hard to acknowledge and then air out.

Having a handicapped granddaughter, as much as it hurt in the beginning, has brought unbelievably wonderful changes in me. That inside room was pretty tightly locked, even padlocked. I steered clear of handicapped people and unknowingly had prejudices. One cerebral palsied young man in one of our churches spotted that in me and worked on me and with me to help me overcome that, even though I was not very willing. I would actually start sweating when I would see him racing on his crutches to get to me. I couldn't understand his speech and it made me so uncomfortable. He helped me a lot. We even went on a "date" about which he bragged to everyone in the church.

But the life of our granddaughter has changed me major from the inside out. The way she's been treated and the way people stare and the way people avoid her really hurts. But can I blame them? That's the way I was before the gift of having her was given to me. That room inside me is open and full of sunshine!

I could easily take many experiences in my life and remember how hard that journey was and how difficult the bumps along the way. I did and do get sidetracked, but I do know that no matter the life experience, each is another opportunity for discovering an inside room or place that is ready to be enjoyed.

I'll close with this: I was walking with Sierra, one of our granddaughters, when she was about 5 or 6. We went to a nearby park and found a wooden bridge that took us back into some woods. There were high weeds and bugs and scary stuff to a little girl. She held my hand tighter and moved closer. I was trying to be positive and said the things you say as Grams. Sierra looked up at me and said, "Grams, this is an adventure, isn't it?"

I thought that was perfect. She was scared. She wasn't sure. But she had my hand and apparently she felt safe. She had picked up on my being positive and decided this could be an adventure.

My mantra since then has been, life is an adventure. And today I will add that discovering new places within, though they can be very scary, can add spice to our life adventure and our journey within.

Bon voyage.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


Okay, fellow on-line book clubbers. I want to write a few blogs just pulling some good one-liners from the book, The Shack. This may not interest you, and if it doesn't, you can of course surf on to other places. If it does interest you, I invite you to also share in the comments section.

One of the first phrases or one-liners I liked in The Shack is found on page 11, and the context starts on page 10. The author is speaking of Mack and his wife and how she's stuck with him even through some fierce hurts in the early years. Then he continues, "I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing, and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside."

It's the second clause in that sentence that grabs me, "…and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside." So true. So true.

Have you ever found yourself in the position of trying to explain "grace" to someone? I mean what grace means to you and how you see it life-ing out in yourself and in others? I do not mean the old standbys which will suffice for a Sunday School lesson or even for a sermon. The acrostic God's Riches At Christ's Expense (taking the first letter of each word) is often quoted. Another definition, God's unmerited favor, is also a good one. These have great meaning, but to those of us who have grown up in church, these phrases almost become automatic and we say them easily. I did for years. And I think perhaps without realizing to any degree what I was saying.

Then I began to understand what grace really was for me, but it came in the back door. 

I think my first step in that direction was learning the meaning of the word shame. I read a book, Parenting Without Shame, and it socked me between the eyes. It nailed me. I realized I had shamed my kids to obedience. I could almost shame anyone into responding or acting like I wanted them to act. I was a shame tyrant. But I didn't know that. I was raised that way and I just continued the shaming style. It seemed the natural way. Realizing how not loving that was, I began the long road to change. At first it was a sense of not even knowing how to act. I was shocked at how much of my relational style was shaming.

The second step for me was understanding what respecting the other person really meant. I can remember when I really began to get a glimpse of this. Paul and I and our two daughters were riding some place together and the girls started talking about how to get their kids to respect them. We ended our discussion realizing that you don't teach respect, you respect others and in doing that they learn respect. When they're respected, they will respect others, or at least will have a fighting chance to learn and do. That discussion was the start of another long road of relational style changing. Wow! What revelations!

Now what does this have to do with grace? Everything. At least for me. I began to realize how God loves me without shame and without dis-grace. Totally accepting and without shame. May I repeat that, without shame. Unbelievable! And then on the heels of that, learning respect. God respects my person. I learn to respect myself and I then give respect to others. In this process I also learned that I cannot give to someone else what I do not have. I must love myself without shame, and respect my person before I can give love to others or respect others. I learned this by trying to stop my bad relational styles and then realizing that's the way God loves me. It has been an incredible journey!

That's grace! At least to me! Love without shame and respect for the person no matter who the person is or what that person does. Grace, the gift! And I can give that when I've received it from God to me and for me and I realize, fully realize deep within my inner person, that God has that for me, then I have it for myself. Then, I'm a giver of that gift to others. What release! What freedom! But a hard road to travel and many the potholes along the way.

A few years ago we were with another couple that we had known years ago when they were seminary students. Her name was Mary like mine, and his name was Paul like Paul's, and their last name started with a B and we had the same wedding anniversary. We had a lot in common. Mary said that day, "How do you explain grace? It's unexplainable! You just recognize in another person that they know. And you know. You can't teach it. You can't write it down. You live it and you experience it." I looked at her and thought, yes, yes, yes. So true. That's one of those "freeze-frame" moments that I will never forget.

In these last few years since my style of life and belief system have changed so drastically, I've had people ask me: Are you still a Christian? Do you still believe the Bible? Are you one of those wishy-washy people with no convictions? Do you just speak of love and don't hold people accountable? I always say, yes, yes, no, maybe. The "maybe" is because it depends on who is accountable to me? Not too many I dare say. 

That is why the phrase, "and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside" rings so true with me. Grace-based living is the opposite of shame-based living and performance-based living. Totally opposite. Most religious people I know are married to performance, perhaps to prove something. Most preaching I hear is somewhat shame-based and usually performance oriented. Most of my friends who knew me then and who know me now perhaps think, she's lost it. Yeah! Yes, I've lost it. I've lost performance-based living and religion. 

The truth of grace has been a truth that has set me free, and yet it's difficult to explain or outline or teach. But it's a wonderful way to live and it's wonderful to experience. I've still a long way to go to plumb the depths, but the journey is quite an adventure.

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Memorable One-Liners: An Introduction

I mentioned in an earlier blog that I thought I might write a few blogs on some of the really good one-liners in the book The Shack by William P. Young.

The author of The Shack is named William Paul Young and on his MySpace many refer to him as Paul. In the foreword of the book the author talks about the main character and says it's family tradition for all the men to have the same first name but to be commonly called by their middle name.

Oddly, this author has the same two names as my husband, William Paul. And just as interesting is the fact that it's family tradition in the Burleson family to name the first boy born to each family William (Something) Burleson. Thus, in our family we have William Paul and William Wade. Paul's Dad was named William Reed and his Dad was William Arthur and his Dad was William Painter, etc. Common things catch your attention and the thought "Well, look at that!" crosses your mind. Links you right off to what you're about to read.

In this post I want to tell how I came to hear about and to read this book.

Cherri, our oldest, called me one day and said something like, "Mom, stop what you're doing and go buy this book, The Shack, by William P. Young." I of course immediately say Why? Why do you like it?

Her response was that a friend with whom she had been sharing life experiences and who has gone through some recent tragic events, said he had a friend recommend this book and he wanted Cherri to read it. He wouldn't tell her why, he just said read it and then let's talk.

Cherri went to the bookstore that day and bought the book and read it that day and into the night. She said it captured her and she experienced many emotions as she read it. She even cried as she told me snippets from the book and how it touched her. She didn't even want to talk about the book until she was able to process what she had read and what it meant to her. When she saw her friend, she could only say, later. She just wasn't ready.

She then told me she told Mike, her husband, about the book, and as he was reading it, he was overcome with emotion and couldn't talk about it. He would just walk into the room and nod his head and give a motion that meant it was really touching him and then turn around and leave and continue reading.

I immediately bought the book, but it was on the table and I didn't get to read it that day. Paul picked it up and got to the sixth page of the foreword and said, "I can tell I'm really going to like this book." He then started to read me the phrase that caught his attention and couldn't finish because he was overcome with emotion. When he could finish, he said something like he thought this was such a true statement but he had never read it in print. The statement: I suppose that since most of our hurts come through relationships so will our healing.

One of the first statements that I want to write about in future posts is the one following that one: …and I know that grace rarely makes sense for those looking in from the outside.

I was telling Cherri what her Dad said about the statement he read, and she said to me, "Now Mom, don't let Dad read this book for you." I think she was afraid I was too busy and wouldn't get the full impact of reading it for myself. I promised her I wouldn't. She continued with what she had discovered, that each one who reads this book is touched in a different way, perhaps where their hurting points or needy areas are. She then shared with me what had spoken to her.

So, I then read the book.

I have been a part of book study groups before and I love them. It's so fun to read a book at the same time your friends are reading it, and then coming together to discuss what you've read and how it affected you. To me, that's so beneficial because we're all at different points in our journey of life and we learn from each other. Writing posts about the truths in this book and how they've affected me I hope will prompt any who are reading to share how they are affected. It will be my substitute for being able to participate in a book study group.

That's the intro to a new string of posts to come.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Guarantees Conclusion

For the past twelve postings I have written about some common beliefs that many Christians, at least the ones in my circle of friends, hold to. They even claim them as promises saying that the Bible guarantees that God will do that certain thing for them. They even, very often aggressively, insist on saying they know what's best and claim promises for others.

I wrote my posts hoping to encourage the many who have been hurt and disillusioned by such teachings. It's difficult to make the case for the fact that there are no guarantees in scripture except the ones expressly stated. In my reading I can only find two that are stated clearly and repeated often in the New Testament, meaning in the new covenant under which we now live. Those two are simply that God loves us and God will never leave us.

Some people I've shared these truths with are adamantly opposed to my interpretations. Others are a little shocked since it's so different from what they're hearing from TV evangelists and from most pulpits. A few others are greatly encouraged. For the first time they are able to believe that what's happened to them is not because God is punishing them or because they're not one of God's favorites.

I'm currently reading The Shack by William P. Young and the author has this same premise. I'm going to finish reading this book and then go back and highlight the great one-liners I've read. I think this might be the subject of my writing on the next few posts, using the one-liners that are so good and that provoke my own thoughts and ruminations. We'll see.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Guarantee #12: Quiet Times

Back in January on one of my posts I posted 12 guarantees that many people see in scripture. I have addressed eleven of those and today I'm writing about the last one which was listed as:
If I have a quiet time in the morning, I will have a good day.

This guarantee is held by many. They might not say they hold it as a guarantee but their many phrases would indicate that they do:
  • I wasn't surprised that happened to me today. I didn't have my quiet time.
  • It was such a bad day. I didn't have my quiet time.
  • The devil got to me today because I didn't put my armor on in my quiet time.
  • I goofed. I read the newspaper before I read the Bible. My bad.
  • God lets me know that He's disappointed in me when I don't have my quiet time.
  • If I don't have my quiet time in the morning, it doesn't count.
  • Oops. I forgot to pray for so-and-so in my quiet time. That wouldn't have happened if I had prayed. I've apologized.
  • If I don't spend at least thirty minutes in bible reading and prayer, I'm not spiritually ready to meet the day.
Those are just a few of the comments I've heard over and over and have had many of them said to me and taught to me as scriptural truths.

None of the above are guarantees. In fact, if you look closely at most of them, you will see that the emphasis is on what I do so that I can guarantee a result. That's just not true in scripture. The New Covenant teaches me that because Christ has done it all, I can be free and enjoy all the benefits.

The day that I realized that if I never have another quiet time the rest of my life that God will still love me and be close to me and never leave me and that was one of the most freeing days of my life. Then I could have a quiet time because I wanted to and enjoyed it and if I missed having one, nothing changed. Wow, what freedom is that?

There's a big difference in you have to or you are invited to. Another way to say this is this is an opportunity, not an obligation. 

I use this often even in my business office. When we're gathering donations for something, I write the information and conclude it with: remember, this is an opportunity and not an obligation. You are invited to participate and you do not owe an explanation if you choose not to.

I suffer just a tad from ocd (obsessive compulsive disorder) in a casual way. If I hear I should do it, I will do it. If I start something, I have to finish it. I have to do the right thing. Are you surprised if I tell you Monk is one of my favorite TV shows? I laugh a lot at that because it's so funny and I so identify with the basic premise of that show.

My personal freedom comes from releasing myself from the have to's. One of the most freeing things in my Christian life is to realize God loves me and nothing I do will make Him love me more, and nothing I do will make Him love me less. It's settled: He is Love and He loves me and accepts me as I am. 

I now think of a quiet time in my spiritual life as something like vitamins in my physical life. (I also take vitamins.) Do vitamins help me? I think so. Does taking vitamins guarantee that nothing bad healthwise will happen to me? No. Does taking vitamins guarantee that I will do better in my physical life? No guarantee, but maybe so.

No doubt that believers benefit from spending daily time in communication with God, through Bible reading and prayer. But to hold up that time as a guarantee that God has to honor and do what we think He should is to misuse and abuse the teaching of scripture. Of course, that's my opinion only. But, I think that's why you're reading this blog, right? You expected to see my opinion. ;-)


Thursday, February 14, 2008

Guarantee #11: Pray Hard, Get Healing

The next guarantee I posted earlier that people are taught and believe: If I pray hard enough and have enough faith, God will heal the one I'm praying for.

I've seen so many abuses of this teaching. 

One I remember from back in the seventies. A well-loved believer died, even though large numbers of people were praying for his healing. Well, he couldn't die! That couldn't happen! So, they unlawfully kept his body in a home for many days, and prayed hard. They were sure he would be raised up. Yes, that's what I said. Raised up from the dead. He wasn't. And many disillusioned believers were discouraged.

The other example of the misuse and abuse of this teaching is quite personal with me. Our granddaughter was born in 1988 and was severely, physically handicapped. The attending pediatrician said she wasn't human, that she was a thing and to let her die. She is a wonderful human being and she turns 20 in a couple of weeks.

She had surgery at a hospital in Dallas and the part of her spine that was outside her skin had to be removed, so she is paralyzed from her mid-chest down.

Through this most difficult time for our daughter and our family, many well-meaning believers told us many lousy and religious (not scriptural) things, such as:
  • Your daughter didn't pray enough for her daughter prior to birth.
  • If you would get a lot of people to pray, your granddaughter could walk!
  • God never intended this. Sin made this happen
  • What sin did your daughter commit to make this happen? (They were serious!)
  • This is a wonderful opportunity for God to work a miracle. Just pray and believe!
This was not encouraging, but very discouraging. 

We're all strong believers. We would not have wished this to happen. I don't believe we were sinful or that this is any kind of punishment from God. I don't really know why this happened, and it's very difficult to look into your granddaughter's eyes and answer her when she asks you why she can't walk like others. It's hard to help her know how much God loves her. This also brings up some hard questions from her hurting heart. Very hard to try to answer.

However, God is good and God works and God loves us and God never leaves us. We've never had a "word" that our granddaughter will be healed or will walk. What we have had are wonderful lessons on a whole new world of handicapped people. Are we better for having had this in our lives? Absolutely! Are we more loving? Yes. Are we more sensitive? Yes. Are we more accepting? Yes. Would we prefer a physically "perfect" granddaughter? That's hard to answer. I want to say no, but then I would love for her to know what it is to not be teased and pitied. That's difficult.

I now wonder if praying, believing, and getting healed isn't the easy way out. It's much more difficult to accept what is yours and to give God the glory through it all and still trust and believe that He loves and cares, which He does. 

Does God heal? Yes, I know of instances where He has. Yes, current instances of this, not just long ago in the Bible. Should we expect it and should we claim physical healing as a guarantee in the scripture? I think not. Just some thoughts.