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Thanks for stopping by, whether you got here by a link or hitting "next blog" -- I am glad you are here. I've also done some writing on homeschooling, and what I learned thinking I was teaching.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

The Sabbath

 
How Christians keep the Sabbath holy is a continuing debate in some circles, albeit fewer and fewer.  We are many and varied in our obedience to it – the keeping of the Sabbath. .  When our states no longer enforced the outward rules protecting the Sabbath – giving citizens one day in seven to recover from life -- many of us relaxed a few of our habits too.  Keeping the Sabbath holy is a commandment I keep imperfectly. Sadly, it is an indicator of how well I obey the other nine.  

Christ said the Sabbath is a gift – Mark 2:27. How I use these 24 hours shows me how trusting I am of God to be sufficient. So, an article on the Huffington Post by Alison Cayne drew me [again] into a reflection on how I spend this one day of the week – although the point of the piece was not worship. The author was describing the value of there are in acknowledging and promoting limits in life and childrearing:  

Rabbi Sacks said Sabbaths, "are to time what parks are to space: something precious that we share on equal terms and that none of us could create or possess on our own."

Resting in an ancient agrarian society was a limitation with consequences; it was an act of faith that’s hard to appreciate for one accustomed to leisure and convenience. Setting one day aside so that I may enjoy God, and do nothing that will distract others from thinking about God, and all the great things HE did – and does, is hard work – especially for when others with whom we live look forward to eating.

Growing up when the Blue Laws limited activities, I thought Sundays were a drag – more evidence that a divine despot who despised pleasure ruled the universe.  Isaiah and other prophets helped me see the divinely appointed day of rest differently: Keeping the Sabbath is a heart matter – not a rule matter.

13-14 “If you watch your step on the Sabbath
    and don’t use my holy day for personal advantage,
If you treat the Sabbath as a day of joy,
    God’s holy day as a celebration,
If you honor it by refusing ‘business as usual,’
    making money, running here and there—
Then you’ll be free to enjoy God! . . . (Isaiah 58:13-14 The Message)

Six days of the week, I can do all my work; one day of the week, God invites me to spend in His company. It’s a limitation for sure – but it is the theme verse of my life; it is a reminder that all I enjoy – LIFE - is a gift, something precious that we share on equal terms and that none of us could create or possess on our own."

 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Returning to a Favorite Campsite


The recent trial that just ended in Florida show how tragic an ending can be for two men, one older, and one younger who did not guard their steps – and for a nation whose media permitted uninhibited words to color our consciences.  George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin made choices – that cost each dearly. Trayvon literally lost his life – and George lost one reputation, and gained another -- one no one would want.   Those who love them will bear the consequences for the rest of their lives.  

One quote seems apt: If things go wrong, don't go with them.  ~ Roger Babson 

I’ve heard some commentaries that hurt to hear, some that goad me to examine my conscience – Juan Williams expressed some thoughts I had – it goes for whites too: Cry for Help. So did Cal Thomas : “You have white trash, we have black trash.”

All remind me that Solomon’s counsel and commentaries remain a good campsite this summer too. His words make more sense than any self-help book I’ve ever read:

Guard your steps, guard your words – for neither you nor I are in control of much. (Ecclesiastes 5:2)

See The Message’s rendering of Proverbs 1 which captures what I hope God’s people can offer our confused and hurting hearts, (emphases added):  

1-6 These are the wise sayings of Solomon,
    David’s son, Israel’s king—
Written down so we’ll know how to live well and right,
    to understand what life means and where it’s going;
A manual for living,
    for learning what’s right and just and fair;
To teach the inexperienced the ropes
    and give our young people a grasp on reality.
There’s something here also for seasoned men and women,
    still a thing or two for the experienced to learn—
Fresh wisdom to probe and penetrate,
    the rhymes and reasons of wise men and women.
Start with God
Start with God—the first step in learning is bowing down to God;
    only fools thumb their noses at such wisdom and learning.
8-19 Pay close attention, friend, to what your father tells you;
    never forget what you learned at your mother’s knee.
Wear their counsel like flowers in your hair,
    like rings on your fingers.
Dear friend, if bad companions tempt you,
    don’t go along with them.
If they say—“Let’s go out and raise some hell.
    Let’s beat up some old man, mug some old woman.
Let’s pick them clean
    and get them ready for their funerals.
We’ll load up on top-quality loot.
    We’ll haul it home by the truckload.
Join us for the time of your life!
    With us, it’s share and share alike!”—
Oh, friend, don’t give them a second look;
    don’t listen to them for a minute.
They’re racing to a very bad end,
    hurrying to ruin everything they lay hands on.
Nobody robs a bank
    with everyone watching,
Yet that’s what these people are doing—
    they’re doing themselves in.
When you grab all you can get, that’s what happens:
    the more you get, the less you are.
Lady Wisdom
20-21 Lady Wisdom goes out in the street and shouts.
    At the town center she makes her speech.
In the middle of the traffic she takes her stand.
    At the busiest corner she calls out:
22-24 “Simpletons! How long will you wallow in ignorance?
    Cynics! How long will you feed your cynicism?
Idiots! How long will you refuse to learn?
    About face! I can revise your life.
Look, I’m ready to pour out my spirit on you;
    I’m ready to tell you all I know.
As it is, I’ve called, but you’ve turned a deaf ear;
    I’ve reached out to you, but you’ve ignored me.
25-28 “Since you laugh at my counsel
    and make a joke of my advice,
How can I take you seriously?
    I’ll turn the tables and joke about your troubles!
What if the roof falls in,
    and your whole life goes to pieces?
What if catastrophe strikes and there’s nothing
    to show for your life but rubble and ashes?
You’ll need me then. You’ll call for me, but don’t expect
        an answer.
    No matter how hard you look, you won’t find me.
29-33 “Because you hated Knowledge
    and had nothing to do with the Fear-of-God,
Because you wouldn’t take my advice
    and brushed aside all my offers to train you,
Well, you’ve made your bed—now lie in it;
    you wanted your own way—now, how do you like it?
Don’t you see what happens, you simpletons, you idiots?
    Carelessness kills; complacency is murder.
First pay attention to me, and then relax.
    Now you can take it easy—you’re in good hands.”

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Seeing Myself in Another’s Suffering


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Doug showed me an image of 115,000 Syrians who are living refugee camps.
Seven thousand children, under the age of 15, are estimated to have lost their lives in the Syrian conflict – many thousands more have been injured and orphaned. (UN Report-AP story) Enjoying my coffee and calm, listening to John Rutter’s splendid music, especially, “Look at the World,” what stirs in me?

Can I see myself living in a box – in the summer – in Jordan, without water or facilities, or loved ones? Can I see the images and say, “That could have been me?”

No.

But, only because of where I mercifully am in time and space: America.

I am not enjoying this wide place because I was smart enough to arrange it. I live in peace because God permits it.  

Alas, I see the images of Detroit. Can I imagine myself living in a city without many of the services I take for granted?

And, I see the images and hear the cacophony of voices following the Martin/Zimmerman trial.   Can I imagine myself as the mother of George or Trayvon? Or, can I imagine how the mothers in Chicago feel when they hear gunfire outside their homes?

The President of the United States saw himself as one who could have been Trayvon Martin decades ago. He and Mrs. Obama sent their prayers and thoughts to the Martins – Listening to his thoughts on this I hoped to hear him mention the Zimmermans – for they too need prayers. But for God’s providence, any one of us could have been the Zimmermans’ shoes, or the Martin’s.

I took risks – take risks – that could have ended badly. And I live in times where strangers can and do have the power to harm Americans in ways we can’t imagine.

Empathy is really the opposite of spiritual meanness. It's the capacity to understand that every war is both won and lost. And that someone else's pain is as meaningful as your own. Barbara Kingsolver

The late George McGovern said, “Empathy is born out of the old biblical injunction 'Love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Before we can though, we might want to consider the whole of the biblical command, and its context:

And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27 – the Parable of the Good Samaritan)    

I don’t understand how so much pain and so much suffering – worldwide and personal can continue even with the hope of an infinite and personal God who is love. But I believe and trust in the Lord Jesus who warned of trouble and promised His help. Seeing and recognizing another’s suffering– let’s also DO something – if only offering a cup of cold water. 

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Stumbling in Faith

Disappointment, sadness and fear gnaw at my faith in God. Therefore, focusing – obsessing on –what isn’t working, hurting, or scaring me is not a wise use of time or emotion. But it is an impulse that seems as powerful as what drives lemmings to the sea.  That impulse can also be aptly described as “emotional flu,” according to Heather Koop:

Nothing’s wrong. Really. But nothing’s right, either. You think of numerous things you could do to lift your spirits. But some small, hard ball of rebellion in your chest resists the idea of trying to feel better . . . [It’s] having a pity party without a real problem. (When it Feels Good to Feel Bad)


Or, as is often the case, throwing myself a pity party because I can’t fix all the problems I see,  many of which I started.  

Mary Englebreit
Instead of owning my part in creating a mess, I can perseverate on what the mess is, to the point I couldn’t recognize a solution if I saw one.  Instead of cleaning up what I can and trusting God and others to do what He will enable them to do, I waste time worrying.

Then I wonder why nothing ever changes.

I get very clever about how I worry . . . repackaging it so it looks different. But the worry is always that little rebellious ball that resists turning things over to God today, including people. Worry won’t do just the next thing, and worry will not let go of what I cannot cure or control. Worry is a stupid habit – but there it is.

Habits are at first cobwebs, then cables.  ~Spanish Proverb

Letting worry go into God’s hands is how things change. (Zechariah 4:6) It’s the only remedy for the kind emotional flu that debilitates and defeats my faith in a power greater than myself, who is infinite and personal. It may seem like a small start – again – but so is taking the first step away from a pity party. (Zechariah 4, esp. verse 10)