Thursday, March 27, 2014

Ode To Joy

I attended a graduate class last night at Belmont University. It was a blessing, to be among other adults who love words. I entered, not knowing what an "ode" was and left loving the "ode" so much that I wanted to try my hand at crafting one. I learned last night how every writer indeed has a voice and each has their own beauty that no one can copy. We are all unique, by creation and then by experience. Each voice has value for it speaks about a life lived --worthy to be heard. So here is my first ode:

(Unbelievable Joy by phantastes on deviant art)

Not happiness--
That charading counterfeit
Of pleasure, which we
Lust for.
Hypocritical and proud,
Aware only of yourself--
Subtly irritable, Fickle
Given over
To circumstances in sight.
This World

Oh, to joy!
Absolute surrender
Self-sacrificing offered
For the One,
Who sent Him to do.

Who for joy,
He endured the cross.
And we--you and me--
What can we do
Any less or more
If it is truly He
Whom we adore?

He delighted,
Do we?
To do God's will,
Oh my,
God's Joy!

He prayed,
That His Joy
Might Remain--in you and me,
That our joy
Might be full.
Do we
Have that Joy?

To Joy,
Living a full
Does not rest in circumstances,
Nor success, but
Understanding of God, and
Fellowship and
With Him, like Jesus Himself

Fellowship and Oneness--
A right relationship with God--
Out of it will flow
Rivers of living water--
A fountain through, you and me,
That Jesus can pour Himself

Joy--as natural as a breath,
A life hidden in Christ,
Blessing others, yet
A having been a blessing.

Monday, March 24, 2014

Tolerance and Truth

When can you agree to disagree? When can you tolerate a difference of opinion?

(by reoplusone by d4aygea on deviant art)

We can always agree to disagree with people, but when God reveals truth to us we must yield to Him.

It is stiff-necked and sinful to be shown truth by God, clearly in His Word, and for us to choose to believe differently. The Holy Spirit is an able teacher. God's Word illuminates Itself.

I can always agree to disagree with another person's opinion, but I should never agree to disagree with God. What right do I have? When I stand before the King of Kings and the Lord of Lord, my creator and the creator of the universe, what arrogance it would take to try to convince Him that He is "old fashion," not 21st Century, not relevant to the trends and times.

God does not ordain homosexuality, just as He does not condone adultery, pre-martial sex, or perverted participation in porn. More strongly than not ordaining or condoning, God commands his believers --his children-- to not participate in these activities and calls them sins. Therefore, it is right in the eyes of God for his children to take strong personal stands against these.

However, forcing the beliefs of God on another has never been God's desire. From the beginning of mankind, He wanted Adam and Eve to CHOOSE to love and obey Him. He gave them freewill. Actions have consequences. Choosing to sin results in great loss. Nevertheless, God still operates under the natural laws of human freewill and its resulting consequences of blessings or curses.

How is this practical in today's world?

Among large groups of people --like political parties, schools, communities, organizations -- individuals will never be in the same place of their knowledge of who God is and how yielded they are to His sovereignty in life. We can speak truth and pray for others to be revealed God's love, acceptance and will for them, but we cannot constrain another's heart.

Personal Experience

Conviction comes from the Holy Spirit; Condemnation comes from Satan. I think sometimes in meaning well by wanting someone to see God's truth, I can become condemning in my words. When someone insults my faith or twists the teachings of God's Words, I must exercise great caution and be exacting but loving in my response. Sometimes I will be asked by God to remain silent; other times I will be urged to speak the truth, but never should I use truth to destroy a person or beat them up.

These are very hard lessons to learn. And when I fail to speak the truth in love I cause hurt to others, which is damaging to their soul and unloving. Therefore, I am so grateful that God is forgiving, gracious, patient, long-suffering and merciful toward me. In repentance before God, I realize my absolutely helplessness to function apart from Him. I have to come to the end of myself, dragging the wrong I have done into the light, and asking for forgiveness. But, I must also ask the person I hurt to forgive me.

Let's Be Practical

It is very possible to agree to disagree on policy and political matters, when a consensus is not reached. This does not mean you are surrendering your beliefs. You are simply allowing another person to have their own beliefs and allowing them to respect yours that are different.

I am grateful to always be open to God to learn and grow.

Tolerance is touchy. Today, tolerance has pushed its way into being "a forced acceptance of opposing beliefs". That is not tolerance -- that is a demanding that one person give up their conscientious beliefs and be forced to swallow down and condone an opposing view -- that is oppression. When we agree to disagree we don't flaunt or shove our believes on others. We respect the fact that we have differences and honor one another enough to not force others to accept our opinions as facts.

We still have a lot of improvement to make on understanding how tolerance is being used as a tool to indoctrinate and how intolerant it is of any differing point of view. God created a man with the ability to reason. Topics should be able to be discussed widely and deeply, without penalty of condemnation if everyone does not come up with the same conclusions.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Fasting - An Ash Wednesday Experience

We have a lovely Anglican Liturgical Orthodox church in our town, St. Patrick's Anglican Church, which is a new growth out of a separation from an Episcopal congregation several years ago. Some of the members and leaders felt the Episcopal church in America had drifted too far from the Scriptures in their teachings. Out of a desire to cling wholly to God's Word several wonderful Anglican Churches have sprouted. St. Patrick Anglican in Smyna, TN is one of them.

Ash Wednesday art by Ladyofshadow at DeviantArt

This morning I attended the Ash Wednesday Lent Mass. It was a blessing.

Being raised a Roman Catholic, I remembered much of the symbolism but did not understand the meaning. Now, an evangelical Christian of 30 years, I understand the deep Biblical meaning and at the same time am endeared to the liturgical ceremony of the service.

I was brought to tears as I returned to my pew after being crossed on the forehead by the Priest with ashes as he spoke, "Remember that thou art dust, and to dust thou shalt return."

We recited the beautiful repentant Psalm 51 together, and then responded in a Litany of Penitence asking God to have corporate mercy upon us for many specific sins, such as:

  • sins by our own fault in thought, word, and deed; and what we have done and what we have left undone.
  • for not loving God with our whole heart, mind and strength; and not loving our neighbors as ourselves.
  • for not forgiving others as we have been forgiven.
  • for being deaf to God's calling to us to serve, for grieving the Holy Spirit.
  • for our self-indulgent appetites, 
  • for our negligence in prayer and worship for false judgements and uncharitable thoughts toward others.

You get the idea. Sincerely, it was a very meaningful and solemn mass.

I also loved the sermon. We were reminded that salvation is through faith and grace, and that works do not get us to heaven. Everyone chuckled when the Priest said if we gave up Starbucks for 40 days we did not get into heaven. I think we all got the point. He reminded us that Jesus first message was to repent and that talking about sin and repentance was not real popular in America today. He, also, told us to have an eternal focus and to see repentance as the way to life and love. We are to be led to more freedoms by giving up bad habits.

I headed home with a full intention of trying to fast today.

When I noticed my hunger about 10 am, I recalled that Jesus went through a lot more for me than a hunger pain.

Fasting is for a purpose, but it is not legalism. It does not earn us a closer relationship with God nor make us more righteous. Anyone who fasts need to be careful not to make it public and showy.

So, it was just a few minutes later that my college-aged son, who I have been praying will repent and turn to the Lord, calls me as I am writing this post and asks me to go to lunch with him. Do I break my fast? Do I tell him I am fasting for lent and just go sit with him and not eat or would that make him feel uncomfortable? Do I simply say yes? 

I must confess I did not ask the Lord. Truthfully, I forgot to ask God.

I simply, as most moms would do if a child calls to ask to go to lunch, especially one that she has not been alone with in several months, told him I will meet him. And we pick a place and time to go.

Thirty minutes later I am on the way to the restaurant (I am driving the old dump truck--all the other cars are taken already). Just a block before I turn for the restaurant blinking blue and white lights appear in my rearview mirror. I am in the far left lane two cars away from the light that is currently red. The turning lane is on my left in the middle of the road is empty, so I slide over into the turning lane. I simply don't know what I am suppose to do. His intercom starts to talk but it sounds like "blah blah blah" and I don't even have a radio on. I put my hands up in the air indicating I don't have a clue what to do. When the light changes green, I slowly turn left and find a place down the road to pull into -- another turning lane that enters into the medical complex and hospital.

The local sheriff says I have been texting and swaying. I am tell him I was not texting, which I was not. He said he was next to me and saw me on my phone. I tell him I was looking at the screen but I was not texting. He then tells me when his lights come on I should have went to the left, but I explain to him that the traffic lanes were full and we were at a red light. He says I should have waited  for the light to turn green and then made my way to the right and pulled over. I simply tell him I had no idea what to do.

In talking to me, he asks me where I am going. I tell him to meet my son for lunch. He indicates that I am driving like I am intoxicated. I tell him I have had nothing to drink, so he asks if I am on medication. I hesitate. Does he have the right to know if I am on medication? I say yes and he wants to know what for. Again what are my rights, do I have to answer? I wonder. 

He tells me to call me son and have him meet me where I am although I am only one block away from the restaurant. I am so embarrassed. I don't want to call my son.

He sees my hesitation and tells me that he can book me for DUI even if I am on medication prescribed to me by my doctor. I tell him I did not know that. I embarrassingly tell him I am on some psychiatric medications. He asks if I am diabetic or have low blood sugar. Then it dawns on me, I have been fasting.... it is possible that I am low in blood sugar.

In slight tears I explain that I went to Ash Wednesday Lent Service this morning and that I was trying to fast. He mumbles something about God; I think he says something about Him blessing me. He hands me back my license and lets me continue on to the restaurant to meet me son. Before I pull away I look into my side mirror, the sherrif honestly looks a little shook-up himself standing there besides his vehicle.

I manually move the broken flashers up and down to indicate I am turing right and move along. I am in tears, probably not seeing or driving better than before he pulled me over but trying to regain my composure. I don't want my son to know I have been crying. He is not the sensitive type and would probably make fun of me.

I feel so deflated, so humbled, so exhausted, but as a good mother I greet my son and go eat lunch without sharing my experience. Needless to say it was not easy. I ask lots of questions about his life; he sparingly gives me answers. God alone know how He will work through such flat encounters.

How frequent do we meet with people and never know what they have been through before we see them? Isn't it like a parent to pretend everything is alright and to simply make the best of the outing? God sees the whole picture but we simply see the part we are allowed. 

More happen today, but I have shared enough. Most of it bumpy and challenging. This didn't end up being the prefect "fasting-ash Wednesday" experience that I thought it would be... whatever that is... but as always, what I share about my life is real.