Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Who Told Me?

Back, way back, at the end of October, I wrote on this blog that there were three things I would like to write about: dishonesty, "God told me," and negative testimonies. I've written about dishonesty and negative or balanced testimonies. Two months later and only two blogs later, I want to write my thoughts about the phrase, "God told me."

I could say, "God told me to write this blog." I prefer to say, "I've been thinking about what to write and I think now is the time."

A pastor in our area, wrote this comment on one of my previous blogs: Your post made me think of a recent experience with my oldest son which is along the same lines as your frustration. (He) recently told me about his former small group leader who went to a Slavic country this summer because "God told him to go". He was going to work with alchoholic guys on the street and planned on staying for a couple of years as "led by God". He was back in less than one month after experiencing the extreme discomfort. He now was saying that it was "God's will" for him to be in Colorado. (My son's) comment to me was: "Dad, next he is going to say that God wants him to get an XBox."

Perfect example of what I'm talking about!

Why do believers say, "God told me"? It's been my experience that often it seems that some people say this to lend veracity to what they're saying. Years ago there was a young man in our church who kept saying that God told him he was going to marry one of the young ladies in our church. She, however, did not have that same message from God. The young man insisted to the point of harassment. Truth be known, that young man just wanted to marry that young woman and was attracted to her. Thank goodness, she didn't believe the nonsense that God told him he was going to marry her.

Other examples I've had is to be in prayer groups or church leadership meetings and someone will propose something and introduce it with the phrase, "God told me" we are to do so and so. I've noticed how that kills all discussion. What can you say if you happen to disagree with the proposal without in essence calling that person a liar or to call into doubt their "message from God"?

My supreme or change-point experience was with a man who impressed me tremendously by telling of his life and ministry and saying he was in constant touch with God, even about little things like which way to turn on a road and what to wear for the day. He had life-saving experiences and testimonies and books. I was so impressed and so wanted to have that type of close relationship with God. However... !! When he left his wife and six children, one who is handicapped, to travel with and live with a younger, model-type woman, and was still proclaiming "God told me," was when I decided something's off here. That may have been the life-changing experience for me. I was so disillusioned and felt betrayed. I began to question all of this extra ordinary sharing of God's special leading to certain special individuals.

Saying so strongly "God told me" has definitely become one of my pet peeves. When I'm listening to a preacher who says that, I almost have to turn him off or get away. I experience anger that "God's shepherds" or pastors or leaders of people would use their position and this phrase to try to make people believe that they have a "hotline" to God. I do not believe that anyone has special privileges with God. We are all believer priests who can enter into God's presence.

What's wrong with saying something tentative like, "I think God would have me to..."? Or better yet, just saying "I think I would like to..." or "I've prayed about this and my impression is ..."

Preachers often say God is leading me to go to another church. I wish they would say I am going to investigate whether I will go to another church or stay where I am. Funny how going to another church always seems to be a bigger church and probably a better salary, etc. It just seems to me that God gets blamed for a lot of believers' decisions to do what they want to do. Then if it goes well, everyone is sure God led. But if things do not go well, then what? Well, maybe God had some experiences to teach and led in a different direction.

I do believe "all things work together for good." I really do. My discomfort and disagreement is with our trying to make God the decision maker in our lives when we really are. Often this phrase reminds me of the old Flip Wilson phrase, "The devil made me do it." To me it's quite similar. God told me to do it. Really? Hmmmm...

There are many preachers in my family so I do not speak as one distanced from that profession. My favorite type of message or sermon is one where the speaker often says that his belief or opinion is so and so, but encourages the audience or congregation to search the scriptures and come to their own conclusions. Sometimes a speaker will even give several opinions and then encourage listeners to compare scripture with scripture and let the Holy Spirit guide them to their own interpretations. How respectful and encouraging is that?

In conclusion, did God tell me to write this blog? No. Do I want to honor and please God with anything I write? Yes. The reality check is that I wanted to write my thoughts and opinions about this phrase and about people who use it. That's it.

I often wonder what God's response is to phrases like, God led me to... or God told me... If He has a sense of humor, I could speculate some responses. Whatever His response, this will be one of my questions for Him.

As we start a new year, I want to be sensitive to God's leadership and at the same time take complete responsibility for my decisions knowing that God is with me and loves me and will never leave me.
Mary B.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Balanced Testimonies

I started to entitle this post Negative Testimonies, but decided that would be undermining the point I hoped to present.

For years I have experienced some frustration and disappointment when I hear people attempting to give God the glory when something good happened to them. The reason for my negative thoughts? Not because I don't like to hear people thanking God for what he has done for them, but because there are many more people who are believers and who have not experienced the same thing.

Here's an example: Say there's a car accident and only some survived and some died. The survivors might be heard to say, "God was with me, and I lived." That kind of statement bothers me. Are we to think that God was not with the ones who died? Hmm...

Another example: Say a woman's husband leaves her and she prays he will return. He does return and she says that God blessed her and had her husband return. Are we to think that a woman whose husband leaves and she prays and he doesn't return that God was not as good to her as He was to the other woman?

Final example: Say a child is ill. The parents pray and the child is healed. God is good. He healed their child. Another couple has an ill child, they are strong believers, they pray and their child dies. Are we to think that God heard one prayer and blessed and heard the other prayers and didn't bless?

These examples and the resulting attempt to give God the glory sometimes seem to me to do more damage than good. Here's what I mean.

What about in the first example having two people speak about the same experience, one about being a survivor and one about losing a loved one. Cannot both say God is good? Cannot both say God blessed them? Isn't that the God we serve?

Here's what I think is the best biblical example: Peter and James were in jail in the book of Acts. Peter was miraculously released. James was beheaded. The story told in Sunday School and in sermons seems to always be about Peter. But, what about James?

Another biblical example: Peter preached on the day of Pentecost and 3,000 souls were saved. God blessed! A few chapters over Stephen preached, maybe much the same sermon, and he was stoned to death by the religious leaders. Did God bless Stephen? Or...what?

What do we do with these two examples?

And a final point I want to make is the entire chapter in Hebrews 11. This chapter is commonly what is called the Hall of Faith Heroes. The summary towards the end of this chapter in the version, The Message, reads: We have stories of those who were stoned, sawed in two, murdered in cold blood; stories of vagrants wandering the earth in animal skins, homeless, friendless, powerless––the world didn't deserve them!––making their way as best they could on the cruel edges of the world. Not one of these people, even though their lives of faith were exemplary, got their hands on what was promised.

So, now what? I think it's great to give God the glory when someone is healed, when someone survives, when someone returns. But wouldn't it be more biblical, more realistic, more accurate, to always have examples of both types when giving God the glory.

When we have someone passionately speak how God has blessed her because her husband returned, wouldn't it be real and honoring to God to have someone just as passionately speak about how good God is good and has blessed her and that her husband didn't return? Same thing with surviving and with healing.

Doesn't the unbalanced type of testimonies of hearing only positive and good things that have happened leave listening people thinking, well God didn't do that for me so He must not love me as much or He would have blessed me like that. My child died. Where was God? My husband divorced me and married a younger woman. Didn't God hear my prayers? Doesn't God love me?

We should always remember and speak of the balanced teachings in scripture. Where did we get that only good things and blessings happen to those whom God loves and cares for. Terribly misleading and wrong teaching. Would we have as many followers and as large churches if we preached balanced truth? Probably not, but we would have true, God-honoring believers, who really make a difference.

Thoughts to ponder. My opinion only.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Good or Evil?

There are three topics I was thinking about addressing in posts on this blog. The first was dishonesty. The second topic was spurred by Wade's blog post, how people say, "God told me," and how they use that. The third was prompted by a comment on this blog by Bobby about negative testimonies. All three of these are topics I like to wax eloquent on, as eloquent as I can be, which is questionable.

I think I'll tackle the first one right now and save the other two for future posts.

I watched Sixty Minutes on CBS last Sunday evening and saw a Miami man interviewed who said he had robbed the government of $20 million in Medicare payments and then he proceeded to tell how he did it. It was scary to realize there is a whole network of groups who cater to people to help them defraud the government in big ways.

Then I was watching the local morning news and saw a report about how large earth moving machines, large tractors and such, are being stolen and resold for a fraction of the cost. A farmer was interviewed and he said his $60,000 machine was stolen and when it was later found, it had been resold for $800. Drug users are usually the culprits.

Then at work I have been bombarded the last six months with spam e-mail. It seems a virus invaded our work intranet/internet via someone's personal download and despite all the firewalls and security, that worm or virus has invaded every part of our system. I daily get about ten spam e-mails telling me I'm eligible to receive millions because of some wonderful thing I have done. One I received yesterday started out saying how bad it is today how people try to scam others, but for sure this is legitimate. Hmmm...

As I was thinking on these, I'm still astounded at how basically evil human beings are. I'm rather Pollyanna-like wanting to believe that if given a chance, human beings are basically good. That's totally anti-scriptural. I know that. But, still...If you really think on this and take it all in and really listen to things going on around us, it would be much wiser for me if I accepted the fact that if given a chance, human beings as a whole are basically selfish and sinful or evil.

And then when I consider all the stuff I know that has gone on in the organized church, not necessarily the local churches I have belonged to but the bigger organizations, I realize that this basic evil bent permeates anything that human beings are a part of.


Makes a good case for the need of the true gospel. Isn't this what accepting Christ and living the Spirit-filled life is all about? Isn't this what we are saved from? Doesn't our "new nature" or our "default" change to basically good, as evidenced by our love for others instead of self?

So instead of being cynical about the evil of man, I have excitement and great hope that I (we) have the solution, the Person!
Enough to make us jump for joy. YES! Enough to make me want to spread the "good news."

Wonder if anyone will listen? I think they will only if my life causes them to ask me "a reason for the hope that is in me."
My thoughts.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Payback or Freedom?

Can it be? A month ago was my last blog post? Where does the time go?
Lots has happened, but obviously not blog posting. Think I'll write some thoughts today since I'm off work for Columbus Day.

Yesterday at church we had the privilege of being guests in a different Flock than the one where we're members. (Some of my friends chuckle every time I speak of attending Flock on Sunday. That's our church's version of Sunday School. When teased about being members of a Flock, I respond with something like isn't that what sheep are, members of flocks? Anyway...)

Paul was the guest speaker and the absent leader had earlier told Paul he had been addressing how Christians are changed when becoming believers. That is one of Paul's favorite subjects, and he gave a great talk. There were some questions at the end, and it was a great time of meeting new people, of being in a nice home, and of getting to hear the greatest communicator share.

One of the questions that was asked of Paul was how does or did this new-covenant living vs old-covenant living affect your ministry. The reason the question was asked was explained that a pastor acquaintance who had developed some physical problems was convinced that this was God's payback for his teenage sins.

This reminded me of some of my friends who have what they would call "moral" sins in their past and anything bad that happens to them or theirs later is immediately thought of as God's payback.

Where did we get that notion?

I think we got it from the old covenant or many scriptures in the Old Testament. If you will or if my people will...then I will (God speaking). We live by, we hear preached, and we base our Christian beliefs and living on performance based teachings.

Things like if you have a daily quiet time, God will bless you with a "victorious" day. This type of thinking leads to the opposite that if you don't, for some reason, have a quiet time, then bad things will happen. How sad! Or, if you've done some bad things, you will pay for it the rest of your life with guilt and shame.

Where is the freedom that's promised in the new covenant, in the New Testament? "You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free." Where is the living by the new laws that Christ gave? Love the Lord your God and love your neighbor as yourself and in doing that you will fulfill all the law. Doesn't that just smack of freedom and grace?

I hear comments like yesterday, and I long to "set people free" in the freedom that Christ bought and paid for in full. By accepting his offer of grace and love and freedom, we have changed lives set free to love others.

Isn't that the true Gospel?

Is that our main teaching to new Christians? Or, is it what they need to "do" in order to live out their new life in Christ? No wonder people are not being drawn to our message.
Just some thoughts.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Memorable Anniversary Today

This morning we got a phone call from Tom, our brother-in-law, who wished Paul a Happy Anniversary.

Paul was puzzled until Tom said twenty-three years ago today you had triple bypass surgery.

That comment brought back a lot of memories. I immediately pulled my daily devotional book that I haven't read for awhile and turned to September 12.

I used to write important events that happened on the devotional page. Sure enough. I verified Tom's phone call info.

Twenty-three years! Unbelievable.

Since then Paul has had another heart attack in 1990, a stroke in 2005, carotid artery surgery in 2008, and knee surgery in 2009.

But for all that fixing of his physical body, that man has a great heart.

I don't know what condition his physical heart is in today (seems great), but his emotional and spiritual heart are quite healthy. I'm extremely grateful that we've had twenty-three years together since that day that was so scary twenty-three years ago. After that and being the obsessive, compulsive person that I am, I made him eat his three oat bran muffins every day. I even packed them in his suitcase for days he was traveling. We ate from the heart healthy recipe book. We did everything by the book for a solid year. At his next annual checkup, his blood work showed that all of our hard work did not one bit of good. His numbers were worse.

I'll never forget Paul's comment after that report: "You mean I've deprived myself of all the foods I love and it did no good?!!"
Needless to say, after that we were much more balanced.

Reality check: Our days and times are in God's hands. To each there is a season, a time to live and a time to die. We're enjoying the time we are given. We are grateful. Life is good and is a wonderful adventure. We're celebrating this anniversary today. Glad someone reminded us what it is. LOL

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Listening and Hearing




Years ago I ran across this definition of Encouragement.
Exposure plus Acceptance equals Encouragement!

I was recently part of a group in which people shared with others things that were important to them. I watched and listened as other members of that group quickly jumped in and offered words of advice and fixing words.

Phrases such as "Don't feel bad. You should ..." or "Don't worry about that. Just know that ..." or "I'm sure that will soon pass. Things will be better soon." And on and on.

I checked with two of those who shared and asked them later how the responses to their heartfelt sharing affected them. Both said no, they didn't feel heard, accepted, or encouraged. They felt like others were trying to fix them or make them feel better, and it didn't work.

The same thing happened to me. I answered a question that had been asked, and in context my answer exposed some mistakes I had made. Later two people came up to make sure that I knew that I had done much good, that I shouldn't think bad of myself for my mistakes. Hmmm... I stood there responding politely, but thinking I only answered a question. I wasn't saying my whole life was a failure. I'm not depressed or despondent. Whatever. I certainly did not feel heard or understood but definitely misunderstood and that they thought I needed fixing.

I'm amazed at how often we think it's our job to make sure people don't feel bad, thus totally missing the gift of themselves that they have shared with us.

I want to learn from this. I want to realize and always be alert that when someone is sharing something about themselves that they are sharing a gift with me, a very precious gift. They are exposing their vulnerability. They have opened themselves to me and are letting me share something that's very important to them and about them. Now what do I do?

I hope I can learn to receive that as a precious gift and hold it as very valuable. All I need to do is receive that gift, and in some way that's unique to me and to the one I'm with, show acceptance. Perhaps that just means saying something like, "Thanks for sharing with me." Or, perhaps just give a sincere hug, if appropriate.

I love the saying, perhaps by now a cliché, "People don't care what you know until they know you care." I don't want to 'act like' I care and learn a few 'tricks.' I want to learn to really care and show I care.

What a challenge! Life is a wonderful journey and adventure.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Forgive and Forget, or Forgive and Remember?

The old saying, forgive and forget, has been around a long time.

Is that a good thing? Is that the emotionally healthy thing to do?

I was thinking about this the other day, and I decided that forgive and remember is a better philosophy to live by. Why is that?

In a nutshell: if you forgive and forget, you might not learn all that could be learned from the situation.

But, if you forgive and remember, which is much harder, think of all you can learn.

If I encounter a hurtful situation and forgive the offender but remember, maybe I could learn:
• How not to be an offender in a similar situation
• Figure out why I was hurt by the offense and use it for growth
• Learn how to respond better when being hurt

These thoughts remind of a book I read years ago entitled Don't Waste Your Sorrows. I think that capsules what my thoughts are around this subject.

As I continue my journey through life, I want to forgive and remember. That's a very hard balancing act like walking a high wire. If I start leaning too heavily on the remembering side, I could fall into bitterness. If I start leaning too far on the forgiving side without remembering, I could fall into being gullible and deceived.

Isn't life a wonderful adventure? Learning and growing that keeps going, kind of like the pink bunny.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Grandson Logan

Isn't this a great picture?

Logan, one of our seven grandsons, has spent several weeks in Peru on a mission trip. He's heading home tonight.

Friends and relatives could follow the trip by reading the leaders' posts on a blog site, see pictures taken during each day, and then could write comments, which were read to the team each evening as they gathered.

This picture is one of the pictures that was posted.

I was quite taken with this picture. We see and hear so much about teens doing crazy and odd things and not being very serious about life or their faith. I thought this picture really captured a teen's heart and actions, at least for this day and this moment.

A comparable picture could probably be taken of any and all teens at a particular time or moment in their life, but this happened to be of Logan and proud Grams wanted to share.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

What? That's In Me? NO!

My, my, where does the time go? I can't believe it's been almost a month since I wrote a post on this blog. I have been busy. Who isn't? And I have had lots of thoughts and ideas of things to write about, but just haven't.

Today in My Utmost for His Highest the reading is something that especially spoke to me because it speaks to a basic struggle of mine. I'm a perfectionist by nature and that is good for my job as an editor. That particular character quality however plays havoc with personal relationships. It's as natural to me to size up a situation or person and to make a snap judgment, which way too often leads to judgment and criticism. An editor is supposed to do that. A relational person cannot do that.

Thus, the reading for today speaks to me. Here it is:

"Judge not, that ye be not judged." Matthew 7:1

Jesus says regarding judging - Don't. The average Christian is the most penetratingly critical individual. Criticism is a part of the ordinary faculty of man; but in the spiritual domain nothing is accomplished by criticism. The effect of criticism is a dividing up of the powers of the one criticized; the Holy Ghost is the only One in the true position to criticize, He alone is able to show what is wrong without hurting and wounding. It is impossible to enter into communion with God when you are in a critical temper; it makes you hard and vindictive and cruel, and leaves you with the flattering unction that you are a superior person. Jesus says, as a disciple cultivate the uncritical temper. It is not done once and for all. Beware of anything that puts you in the superior person's place.

There is no getting away from the penetration of Jesus. If I see the mote in your eye, it means I have a beam in my own. Every wrong thing that I see in you, God locates in me. Every time I judge, I condemn myself (see Romans 2:17-20). Stop having a measuring rod for other people. There is always one fact more in every man's case about which we know nothing. The first thing God does is to give us a spiritual spring-cleaning; there is no possibility of pride left in a man after that. I have never met the man I could despair of after discerning what lies in me apart from the grace of God.

Is this not a great writing?

I have already discovered an interesting thing in others, which is probably as evident in me to others as theirs is to me. That "thing" is when I hear someone complain loudly or long about something or criticize another, I usually see that characteristic strongly in the one talking. Paul and I have had a good time discussing that fact.

Personal lesson in that for me is when I find myself criticizing or angry at another over a certain thing, I have learned to look at why that is so disturbing. Way too often I find that I have that very same thing within and to a larger degree, but unrecognized. It's been an interesting journey down this road. My unrecognized characteristics that I'm blind to are touched and make me angry and upset with someone else who shows those characteristics. Methinks this wouldn't happen if I didn't already have something similar in me to touch. Interesting, interesting.

Don't you think that's amazing? As I am open to letting myself think this through, I am learning a lot about myself. That's what most of Oswald Chamber's writings do for me. He puts into words what I'm already learning intuitively, so that when I read it, I say YES! That is so true!

Did you notice I used present tense in the previous paragraph? I wrote, "He puts" as if he's still alive. I think relational truth remains active and present no matter when it's written. With that, I close. MB

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Tough Times

The present economic crisis has hit home!

This last week I had to lay off three of the fifteen people under my supervision. Another was released but renewed for a short time to help us get through the summer.

This is one of the hardest parts of being a manager. I don't do this easily. And one of the ones I had to lay off was my own sister. Ouch! I know this is all just business, but for me it's hard to make these decisions and then let the people know that they no longer have a job. One of the team members I had to let go immediately made plans to sell her car and cancel their cable subscription. I have to distance just a bit and not feel so responsible. But, it's hard.

As I've said before, I read Oswald Chambers almost every morning, at least most mornings. This morning the subject was the verse about "seek ye first..." I've always read that verse like don't even think about the physical things of life, just be concerned about the spiritual and all will be taken care of.

Well, I've lived long enough to know I'm not reading that right. I've seen too many people abuse the interpretation of that scripture and literally become "spiritual" beggars. I watch that and think that something is wrong here. So I've hit the middle of the road on this one. My philosophy is to be very responsible and take care of yourself so you can be free to help others. BUT you must be personally responsible!! We're not to worry about our physical needs, but we are to be responsible.

Imagine my surprise when I reread this devotional. That's exactly how Oswald Chambers seems to be interpreting this verse. I think the point of my post this morning is to show how much our personal filter interprets for us what we're reading and hearing. I would have sworn that OC was saying don't even think about your personal needs, just let God take care of them. Put your mind on the things of God and don't even think about physical things. But that was how I was reading what he was saying through my own personal filter.

Today I read it quite differently. I read it the very same way I've grown to interpret that verse. Imagine that! OC didn't change; he's been dead a long time. So what changed? My whole way of thinking and living, and now I read what is really being said. May I remember this lesson for a very long time: I'm not to be anxious or to worry over the physical things, I'm to be very responsible about them as I put the things of God as a top priority.

Here's OC's devotional for today:

"But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and His righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you." Matthew 6:33

Immediately we look at these words of Jesus, we find them the most revolutionary statement human ears ever listened to. "Seek ye first the kingdom of God." We argue in exactly the opposite way, even the most spiritually-minded of us - "But I must live; I must make so much money; I must be clothed; I must be fed." The great concern of our lives is not the kingdom of God, but how we are to fit ourselves to live. Jesus reverses the order: Get rightly related to God first, maintain that as the great care of your life, and never put the concern of your care on the other things.

"Take no thought for your life. . . ." Our Lord points out the utter unreasonableness from His standpoint of being so anxious over the means of living. Jesus is not saying that the man who takes thought for nothing is blessed - that man is a fool. Jesus taught that a disciple has to make his relationship to God the dominating concentration of his life, and to be carefully careless about every thing else in comparison to that. Jesus is saying - "Don't make the ruling factor of your life what you shall eat and what you shall drink, but be concentrated absolutely on God." Some people are careless over what they eat and drink, and they suffer for it; they are careless about what they wear, and they look as they have no business to look; they are careless about their earthly affairs, and God holds them responsible. Jesus is saying that the great care of the life is to put the relationship to God first, and everything else second.

It is one of the severest disciplines of the Christian life to allow the Holy Spirit to bring us into harmony with the teaching of Jesus in these verses.

Today's reality check for me is that feeling responsible and being responsible is very much a part of a believer's life. I cannot take that lightly. But foundational is that God is in charge and I can be responsible and let go of the anxiety and worries about myself and others. It helps in these tough times!

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Intimacy: Discipline or Enjoyment

I recently heard a sermon on intimacy with Christ, and it was all about the disciplines.

I've ruminated on the theme of that sermon. I remember when I thought the Christian life was all about the disciplines. I tried so hard. I had my checklist. I had my prayer list. I had my 2959 notebook. I did, I did, I did.

Then one day I realized that my Christian life was not about performing and doing. It was about being and enjoying.

As Paul and I were discussing this and expressing what we've come to understand and live, I used the illustration of a piece of chocolate pie. Do I have to discipline myself to enjoy that piece of pie? Do I have to learn about chocolate? Do I have to inspect the recipe? Do I have to question who made it? Do I need to talk about it? OR do I need to eat and enjoy? I love the verse, "O taste and see that the Lord is good."

My handsome feller, not to be outdone by my illustration, suggested that he thought of kissing his wife. That's me. (To be grammatically correct, That's I. Sorry, I do digress.)

His is a much better illustration because "intimacy" sometimes involves kissing the one you love. His questions: Do I time how long our kisses lasts? Do I study the anatomy of a kiss? Do I worry about if I'm doing it right? OR Do I just kiss and enjoy?

Both of us left a long time ago the thought that you meet God at church or you meet God in your closet. You might actually "meet" Him there. But you don't necessarily "enjoy" him there. We have learned that we meet God and enjoy Him every minute of every day in every activity we are involved in. There's no such thing to us as being disciplined to meet God. That's almost a foreign language to us any more. Our struggle is just forgetting to enjoy Him, always and forever.

So, whether Paul's riding his motorcycle or I'm busy at work editing math books, we're fellowshipping with Him and enjoying Him. Or whether we're at church or with our family, whatever we're involved in, He is with us and we are called to enjoy intimacy with Him without interruption. What could be better than that?

As I exit talks, sermons, and teachings on being with Christ our Saviour, I want to do the excitement dance and leap for joy. I don't want to go away shamed, sad, and sure I will never be able to perform or DO what's required. That's the gospel I've embraced and am enjoying living.

Eating chocolate pie, kissing my feller, intimacy with Christ––all enjoyable and exciting experiences in my life. Nothing I dread or have to discipline myself to do.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Give Me Liberty...

For years I have read the daily devotionals of Oswald Chambers in his book My Utmost for His Highest. Now there's a Web site where the daily devotionals can be read online. My personal book is earmarked, dated, has notes in it, and a few pages are even a little tear stained.

I thought today's reading, May 6, is appropriate and timely because of some arguments and discussions making the rounds in some SBC circles. Interestingly Oswald Chambers died in 1917, so his devotionals were written a long time ago, but remain relevant.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free." Galatians 5:1

A spiritually minded man will never come to you with the demand - "Believe this and that;" but with the demand that you square your life with the standards of Jesus. We are not asked to believe the Bible, but to believe the One Whom the Bible reveals (cf. John 5:39-40). We are called to present liberty of conscience, not liberty of view. If we are free with the liberty of Christ, others will be brought into that same liberty - the liberty of realizing the dominance of Jesus Christ.

Always keep your life measured by the standards of Jesus. Bow your neck to His yoke alone, and to no other yoke whatever; and be careful to see that you never bind a yoke on others that is not placed by Jesus Christ. It takes God a long time to get us out of the way of thinking that unless everyone sees as we do, they must be wrong. That is never God's view. There is only one liberty, the liberty of Jesus at work in our conscience enabling us to do what is right.

Don't get impatient, remember how God dealt with you - with patience and with gentleness; but never water down the truth of God. Let it have its way and never apologize for it. Jesus said, "Go and make disciples," not "make converts to your opinions."

Here's what the Web site says about the author:
Oswald Chambers (1874-1917) was a Scottish minister and teacher whose teachings on the life of faith and abandonment to God have endured to this day.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Biblical Theology OR Relational Love??

A couple of weeks ago Paul and I traveled to Jackson MS to attend a conference. We were drawn to the conference because Malcolm Smith was one of the speakers. We credit Malcolm Smith tapes with starting us on the grace vs performance journey way back in the late seventies and early eighties. We hadn't heard of him for a few years, so we made a spur of the moment decision to go. The conference was entitled "The Shack" and featured William Paul Young, the author of The Shack.

The conference was put on by a ministry that has an interesting name, Perichoresis. (I had to look that one up.) Seems the conference wanted to focus on the Trinity, one of the subjects that is causing many problems to theologians who read the book, The Shack.

I downloaded the audio book to my iPhone so we could listen again to The Shack as we made the long road trip to and from Jackson. I got a lot more out of the book listening than I did reading it. We also stopped the recording and had discussions along the way. Great way to get the most out of a book.

Some of my friends and family have been asking when am I going to write about our trip and the conference and about the book. I found this blog written by DeHaan, the organization that puts on Radio Bible Class and publishing Our Daily Bread. These have been staples in my life since I was a child. After reading this blog and the comments,
Mart DeHaan, I decided I could not improve on it. If you're interested, read the blog and the comments. It's a pretty thorough coverage of Mr. DeHaan's view of the book. His excerpts were some of the ones I would have chosen. He does a great job and then the comments have some good arguments. Why repeat something that's already been done so well? I'll just link to it. :-)

My question: The book and the author are about the love relationship of the Trinity with humans. My desire and longing is to encounter someone or a group who has good strong Biblical theology PLUS a good strong relational walk and talk. One could almost begin to believe these are mutually exclusive. I've seen so many who have sound theology but somehow that too often translates into critical, harsh, unloving, and sometimes downright mean ways of relating. Then on the other side of the coin, those who show love and have great relationships seem to be weak in sound Biblical theology, or at least I have some disagreements about some of the ways the Bible is interpreted and then set forth as teachings and theological stances.

All of this prompts me to question: Is there a group or a theological way of thinking that emphasizes both? I'm on a hunt!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

A View of The Shack

I was surfing on YouTube and put in The Shack. Up popped many links and things to choose from. I watched a few and they were mostly saying to stay away from it, or as one put it, "Stay Out of The Shack."

I then found this one:

It's worth watching. The writer identifies himself or rather his credentials, and he talks about the strengths and weaknesses of the book. I was braced for another video that gave all the scriptures and the reasons one shouldn't read the book and should steer completely clear of it. Pleasant surprise.

I copied the link. Hope it works for you if you're interested.
Mary B.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Lessons from The Shack

I've had an interesting few days.

Last Saturday and Sunday we drove to Enid to hear William Paul Young, author of The Shack, speak. It was an incredible experience. I was so touched and so moved and wanted to write about it, but I had to wait and absorb and think about it. I had to sort of analyze exactly what I had responded to. Was it the message? Was it the speaker? What was it? While I was thinking on this, Wade posted about the conference.

I couldn't wait, so I attempted to write something of what I felt and why.

Then one of the commenters posted a comment about what I had written:

He said: (quoting me) "I experienced love. I was immediately reminded of the verse, 'Did not our hearts burn within us?' I don't experience that very much." (He continued.) Oh, give me a break. The Christian faith may have subjective elements but we do not define what is true or false by some sort of "burning in the bosom" but rather we have an objective faith based on the word of God which the venerable Mr. Young derides as reducing the voice of God to mere words on paper. Besides, couldn't your burning heart have as much to do with that Nuclear sauce you had with your chicken at Zaxby's? You know it could. Don't front like you don't know.

Hmmm...My dear sweet handsome feller took great umbrage at these remarks and immediately wrote a strong response, which he didn't post. His mistake was waiting to tell me what he was going to do when he picked me up for lunch. I said, "No, not on my account, you're not. I don't need protecting, and I can take care of this myself." It took quite a bit of "funning" and strong argument to convince him that it was okay. He finally agreed to let it drop.

I must admit that at first I was a little taken aback that someone would write like that and make fun of something that was so meaningful for me. It's not easy for me to talk about my feelings in a public forum like that, but I thought it worth the risk. And then this comment appeared.

I went back and read what I wrote and actually thought that someone like the commenter could get the impression he did. He doesn't know me, he didn't experience the weekend, and he already has something against the book and the author. Understandable.

I kind of wanted to say "Touché."

The commenter exactly proved my point. Isn't that funny?

Now, I can truly say what happened to me last weekend. I'm not angry at the comments made to me and about me. It's okay. I think I'm experiencing love for others, even those who mistreat me, albeit just with words. I love this guy and honestly wonder what is "his story" that he could comment like that to someone he doesn't even know, and especially in this context.

Lessons learned: It's okay to expose my feelings to others, no matter their response. It's possible to love and not to get angry at someone who ridicules or treats harshly my tender feelings. Perhaps I had a change-point in my life last weekend. I met God and experienced His love in a new and fresh way. That's what happened to me last weekend.

Thanks to the blog commenter for helping me come to understanding. It helped me clarify what happened to me last weekend. And would I have known had this event not happened?

Best lesson learned: don't waste any of life's experiences to share the love I have been given and continually receive. How great is that?

Friday, April 3, 2009

Teaching Socialism

My brother in Austin sent me this article in an e-mail. I think the application is self-explanatory. MB

An economics professor at Texas Tech said he had never failed a single student before but had, once, failed an entire class. That class had insisted that socialism worked and that no one would be poor and no one would be rich, a great equalizer. The professor then said ok, we will have an experiment in this class on socialism.

All grades would be averaged and everyone would receive the same grade so no one would fail and no one would receive an A. After the first test the grades were averaged and everyone got a B. The students who studied hard were upset and the students who studied little were happy. But, as the second test rolled around, the students who studied little had studied even less and the ones who studied hard decided they wanted a free ride too; so they studied little. The second test average was a D! No one was happy. When the 3rd test rolled around the average was an F.

The scores never increased as bickering, blame, name calling all resulted in hard feelings and no one would study for the benefit of anyone else. All failed, to their great surprise, and the professor told them that socialism would also ultimately fail because when the reward is great, the effort to succeed is great; but when government takes all the reward away; no one will try or want to succeed.

Could not be any simpler than that....

Saturday, March 28, 2009

NOT! I Beg To Differ!

One of the comments in the comment section of Wade's blog recently read:

"At another point, Ware also said one reason men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband’s God-given authority."

And the writer was agreeing and proving a point. And the writer was a pastor.

I counseled a woman who drove to my home from her hometown to verify with me what her pastor told her. She was being physically abused by her husband and they were both members of the church where this man was the pastor. His advice to her was, "Didn't Jesus die for you? Why aren't you willing to die for your husband?"

I was aghast, but tried not to show my disgust at the pastor's advice to this woman.

What is wrong with people? What is wrong with some pastors and their advice?

I've also counseled a woman who discovered her husband was sexually molesting their child, and this wife was told that he sought tender care and love from someone who could give it to him since she wasn't.


I counseled this woman that no matter what she did or how she acted in her marriage, there is not a reason under heaven that allows this man to sexually abuse their daughter. NONE!

And to the woman above who had suffered severe injuries from her husband trying to make her "submissive" I carefully and quietly told her no one could die for another like Jesus did. Also, Jesus' death sufficed for all. That type of reasoning by the pastor is way off base.

Saying that sometimes a man abuses his wife because she is rebelling against his God-given authority is ludicrous. There is never any reason that excuses or allows a man to do this. I don't care if she's being the worst wife imaginable. NONE! No excuse and no reason. I think a man thought this up. Poor fellow. Don't you wonder sometimes what drives people?

I thought this type of thinking was changing over time and that no one seriously entertained these thoughts any more. Then I read the quote on Wade's blog of one pastor saying what another pastor had said, and they both truly believe it.

I guess you can tell, nothing riles me more than hearing statements like this. Even more galling is hearing or reading that spiritual leaders of people espouse this as Biblical truth.

Take the quoted statement above: " reason men abuse their wives is because women rebel against their husband's God-given authority." I would like to ask for Biblical exegesis to prove this statement. I would like to ask this man's family how he lives this belief. I would like to ask the community in which this man lives if they are drawn to this man to ask of him "a reason of the hope that is in him."

I work in corporate America and attending church and hearing "truths" like this makes me think I've stepped back fifty or more years. It's sad to me that being a professional woman I have to think that our "gospel" is presented in such a way and interpreted in such a way as to turn people away instead of drawing them in because of the true message.

Heaven help us! And I mean that literally.

Well, that's my sound-off for this writing.
Mary B.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Expressing Sympathy

Many people have called and expressed sympathy about our losing our coworker in death last month.

Most have been genuine expressions of sympathy and were well given and gratefully received.

However, some expressions were attempts to help or to fix the grief-stricken, I being one.
One commenter said, "Well, God just needed Sherri more in heaven than on earth!" I reacted inwardly to that statement and wanted to (but didn't) say, "And how's that?" And also, "And how do you know that?"

Others, also meaning well, said don't dwell on missing her, just remember the good times!!

You know what? I want to cry. I want to grieve. I want to miss her. I need to feel the hurt and pain of losing someone very special!!

And, I don't want someone trying to fix me or to hurry up my personal process of letting my grief do its work and letting my memories and my feelings get into place, and I'll be okay. Let me be the judge of my own process, my own timing, and my own grief!

Do I sound a little angry and cynical? I probably am, but I've been through this before with other deaths in my family, and I'm not near as reactive as I used to be. Now I mostly just chuckle and shrug and pray that I'll remember how those comments made me feel and that I won't make the same mistake when I comment to someone in grief.

So, what is a good response?

My opinion is when you go to express sympathy to someone, just cry with the one in grief, give them a big hug, and say something simple like, "I know you'll miss them," or say nothing at all. Just feel with them and be there. That's the best possible response. IMHO

I received a long-distance phone call and the person said a few "right" phrases rather quickly and then was gone. My immediate thought was that she could now check that off her to-do list. That's what it felt like. Again, maybe nothing said is better than saying canned phrases.

Perhaps this post is really for me to remind myself anew about how to express sympathy to someone in grief. Maybe it's a good reminder for you if you've stopped by and read this.

Just thinking through some things...

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Truth and Freedom

"You shall know the truth, and the truth will set you free." I've always loved that verse. It's comforting and foundational to me.

But there is a point or process you have to go through to get to the truth.

Recently I got "taken" by an ad that said "get this free, only pay postage." I rarely order things like this, but I did. Here was the hook. This was guaranteed to help you lose that 10 or 20 pounds that is so hard to get rid of, and especially someone who's my age. And it's this wonderful discovery from an acai berry that has all of these benefits. It's natural and it will do wonders. Hooked!

But, my thinking was, how can I go wrong if it's free?!!

Here's how! The fine print.

The fine print said that you get the first two weeks free, but if you keep the bottle, that free bottle you ordered, then you will owe for the whole bottle. Not only that, but you have, unknown to you, signed up to receive every month another bottle for $44.95. Not only that, but you have now joined something called Fit-Fac online, which you are charged $29.95 a month every month. I've yet to figure out what this is.

Luckily I charged this to a credit card and not to my bank account. I returned the second bottle I received and I sent it through registered, certified mail where I get a receipt. The recipient is supposed to sign a card that they've received the bottle back and then I get the card back in the mail, as proof of returned merchandise. I've yet to receive that signed card, but I have my proof! I then called the Fit-Fac number to stop whatever that was, but I was always put on hold and had to listen to terrible static, skipping music. I never could get a person to talk to.

I then contacted my credit card company and talked to a very helpful customer service person. He was very familiar with the complaints I was making. It was almost funny how well he knew what I was going to say before I said it. He filled out the papers and said he was "contesting" the charges. I thanked him, and I said that no matter what happens with the charges already made, I want to file a "no-pay" to these two charges. Grrr....!!!

What a price of time, energy, and money to get out of something that was "free" and going to give me wonderful benefits.

Reality check: this lesson could be applied to many things in life. Much seems free and enjoyable. Are we always sure we know the fine print that comes with it and the hidden prices we will pay?

Reality check #2: Being "taken" once is just a mistake. If I get taken twice, I might be called stupid. Being open and sharing my mistake may make it possible for someone else to be spared. Hopefully you don't have to have a personal experience to learn this lesson; you can learn from mine.

Pulling myself out of a mess, but I have gotten to the "truth" and I'm being set free!! at least from products and charges I didn't knowingly agree to. Good lesson to translate into more important life experiences.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Good Sermon

Being married to a preacher for many years, I've been exposed to many definitions of what is a preacher? what makes a good preacher? what constitutes a good sermon? and many more.

A friend of mine sent me this quote in an e-mail:

Preaching is the art of making a sermon and delivering it. Why no, that is not preaching. Preaching is the art of making a preacher, and delivering that. Preaching is the outrush of soul in speech. Therefore, the elemental business in preaching is not with the preaching but with the preacher. It is no trouble to preach, but a vast trouble to construct a preacher. What then, in the light of this is the task of a preacher? (or of anyone sharing his or her faith). Mainly this, the amassing of a great soul so as to have something worthwhile to give. The sermon is the preacher up to date.

Bishop Alfred Quayle
American Methodist Bishop (1860-1925)

I really like this quote.

Over the years the many compliments I've heard on my "preacher-man" have mostly been about how real he is, and how people forget they're hearing a sermon. They think he's speaking individually to them; others say they're amazed at how he shares who and where he is in life and how that pertains so much to their journey.

I'm married to a great sermon; i.e., a preacher who is up to date.
Guess that's why I liked this quote.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

True Love: Fruit of Eden

The title of chapter 14 in the book, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart", is True Love Is the Apple of Eden.

That title fascinates me. First, we don't know that the fruit eaten by Adam and Eve was an apple, just a point to clarify.

As I read the chapter I laughingly agreed with what the author, Dr. Gordon Livingston, was saying.

In a nutshell, I interpret what he's saying is that we as human beings have such a desire and longing for true love that we will sacrifice everything in order to get it, even the anger of God by disobeying Him.

The author then proceeds to show how foolish we are. He doesn't say this, but he does ask in a way, "Is there such a thing?"

One of the paragraphs says: When I listen to comments from elderly people who have been married fifty, sixty, or more years answering the inevitable question about "the secret to a successful marriage," it seems to me that a high tolerance for boredom often heads the list. Such bromides as "We never went to bed angry" or "Moderation in all things" convey a philosophy more geared to survival than to pleasure. Where, one wonders, is the idea of endless, renewable love?

I've laughed and laughed at that paragraph. We will celebrate our fifty years of marriage in May. If we were asked that question, we could definitely not say we never went to bed angry or that we have been moderate in all things. We've been very angry many times with each other and sometimes it took days to resolve. These days it takes much less time. Progress. And moderation has rarely been our motto. We tend to go from one extreme to another, but we have fun. Eventually we sometimes come to a moderation type of thinking. Sometimes.

I think I would answer that "inevitable" question if asked on our fiftieth, that it was very, very hard work. We both decided to grow in healthy emotional ways on our own, and from that we hoped to grow healthy in our partnership.

I think either one of us could have probably made a good relationship with someone else. It so happens we chose each other and it's been an adventure. I look back at my early thoughts about finding the "right" person and finding "true love" that would last a lifetime, and chuckle at how silly that type of thinking is. I do think I have the "right" person and that we do have good, true love. However, I do believe that is the result of sticking with it, working hard, and always growing individually without blaming or depending on the other one.

The result of the hard work and staying with it has rewards and benefits too long to list. I highly recommend it. Enjoying a relationship is the result of staying with it and putting some work into it.

Bottomline: As long as one thinks that true love is some elusive thing to hunt for and if you're lucky, found and enjoyed and you'll live happily ever after, it will be to that one the fruit of Eden. Would that we could all learn this lesson early and well.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Relationship Control

No. 5 in the book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart, is "Any relationship is under the control of the person who cares the least."

Isn't that an interesting thought to think about. The author's comments on this concept are pretty negative. He brings out that when a couple marries, they have a fifty-fifty chance of making it. And his perspective is one of a counselor who sees people who are desperate and need help. He brings out that the one wanting the relationship to work is pushing the other less interested party. Thus the control issue.

After I read this, I've been ruminating on it. And I've decided I really agree with this. I don't think I would have ever phrased it this way, but it is so true. I mentioned in the comments section of the last post that usually when we hear something said or taught, it strikes us as real truth because we've already experienced it in our lives, but just haven't put it into a thought or expression. And our response in those situations is YES! And that's my response to this truth. Yes!

I've done some talks on the giver-taker relationship. And I end up saying that a true relationship is one where each person is giving at times and able to take at times. And it should be about equal with each person in the relationship.

My personal experience in this area has been one of usually giving and very uncomfortable with saying I needed help and taking help, advice, or comfort from others. My awakening experience in that area was a time in my life when I was hurting, more than I ever had. I needed someone.

But those I turned to ran from me because they weren't comfortable with a needy me. That was quite a learning experience. I changed gradually over time and took myself out of the always-advising role and made myself vulnerable in areas where I needed help.

Another relational area where I learned this is when my children became adults. I continued in the parental advising role even though they, especially my girls, had established their own families. I remember well the day I said to my oldest daughter that I had no words of advice, that I had confidence in her and her decisions, and I would be waiting to hear how she had resolved the situation. Her response to me was that she didn't like this new way of functioning. I held to my stance and we "untangled" an unhealthy way of relating that we had established. It wasn't easy, but I'm here to say, it's the very best and it works very well.

I guess that's why I knew intuitively that this concept that Dr. Livingston presents is true. I have already experienced it in different areas. I would have said it this way: work on your relationships so that you are a giver only fifty percent of the time and that you are a taker equally as long. Of course, someone who's a taker all the time needs to work on being a giver.

Hope you see how all of this relates. Makes sense to me. : )

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Courage of Laughter

Of all the forms of courage, the ability to laugh is the most profoundly therapeutic.

This quote is Number 28 of 30 in the book, Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart.

Here are some of the ideas presented in this chapter:

People find it hard to entertain two emotions simultaneously.

What is important about laughter in our lives? If you ask people, even when they are depressed, if they have a good sense of humor, the answer is nearly uniformly "yes." ...even though ample evidence to the contrary.

What gives humor its power in our lives is that a capacity for laughter is one of the two characteristics that separate us from other animals. The other, as far as we know, is the ability to contemplate our own death. There is a connection between these two uniquely human attributes that cuts to the heart of the great paradox of life: It is possible to be happy in the face of our mortality.

To be able to experience fully the sadness and absurdity that life so often presents and still find reasons to go on is an act of courage abetted by our ability to both love and laugh.

Humor also is a form of sharing, an interpersonal exercise. To share laughter is a way of affirming that we are all in this lifeboat together. The sea surrounds us; rescue is uncertain; control is illusory. Still, we sail on--together.

Those are some of the high points in this chapter.

A personal word: We are finding in these our later years that as long as we can find humor in a situation, we are able to enjoy life. Interestingly, we laugh a lot. Everything seems funny, and it's mostly at ourselves. We often say, "As long as we can keep laughing, we will be okay."

Of course there are sad times and occasions, but we don't dwell there too long. We move on.

The other day we were watching TV and Paul made a comment of observation. We looked at each other and then started laughing and we couldn't stop. I couldn't catch my breath. It wasn't the words, it was the interaction and we both interpreted the same funny way. Quite enjoyable. And we missed a few minutes of the TV program until we could quit laughing.

I've often heard that growing old is only for the courageous. I agree with Dr. Livingston, this author, that the most profoundly therapeutic form of courage is laughter.