Saturday, November 21, 2015

Red and Yellow, Black and White

Enormous white flakes are cascading down outside. It's the first snow of the year and it's beautiful. Our metal roof is still rejecting the notion and every so often it sends big lumps sliding down to plump wetly on the ground. At the moment, that is the only sound. The rest of the house is quiet as my family is still cozy in bed. Even the dog and cat, both lolling on the floor nearby, are still.
I have a good cup of coffee and a delicious Krispy Kreme cake donut to go with it.

I'm sure that later, with the task of cleaning out the garage no longer avoidable, I will hate the cold and wet, but for the moment, all seems right with the world.

Except that it's not.

Does every mother feel this same sense of contentment because her family is safe and well? Are all fathers looking forward to weekend projects after a week at a job that allows him to provide for his loved ones? Are the young ones all planning a day of romping in the snow with friends or getting lost in a book?


The words of the Sunday School song come to mind: "Red and Yellow, Black and White, they are precious in His sight..."

How I long for a day when not only the current refugee/terrorist crisis is over, but all of the war, poverty, plague and injustice that this broken world contains are a distant memory. A day when the sin, lies and brokenness of Satan's regime are washed white as the snow outside.

Even so come, Lord Jesus.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

God, Faith, and Bunnies

It's never a bad thing when circumstances or events cause us to think less of ourselves. Even better if we come out thinking more of God.
One of the difficult parts of my job as a rabbit breeder is the humane euthanasia of certain animals. It is necessary and unavoidable. The rest of that discussion is for another time and place.

In the rabbit show world (aaand we'll pause to let you wrap your head around that concept), breeders are working toward a standard of perfection (SOP) in their animals for the betterment of the breed. That, too, is necessary...and to be discussed elsewhere.

Where the two above statements collide is when a rabbit does not live up to the SOP in matters of aesthetics like nail color, and coat pattern. Those "faults" are removed from the herd so that the culprit genes are not passed down and perpetuated in future generations. Also necessary. There are different methods of culling an undesirable animal. Some are sold as pets. Some are euthanized.
Do you see where this is going?

A week ago, I was seconds away from disposing of an animal who has too many faults against him to be used as breeding stock. I didn't think his temperament would make him a good pet, so he was going. We won't talk about how close it was.
This, in spite of an ingrained belief that every life has value.
Let's pretend that I will never get over the guilt of what I almost did.

"Almost" is the key word, though. I couldn't do it. Because I believe in a God who operates by a different set of rules, and expects his followers to do the same, regardless of what the accepted practice is in the prevailing culture of the day.

I spent a good deal of time that day studying the story of Gideon, decided against the whole fleece idea (yet another discussion for another day), and instead chose to make a promise in faith.

I will not ever destroy an animal for aesthetic reasons. That I even considered it once makes me ill. I cannot avoid the necessity in cases of injury, illness, or on rare occasions, violent temperaments; but my responsibility as a steward of God's creation calls me to a different Standard of Perfection, even if that means feeding an animal that is just "taking up space".

Will God make me successful because I promised to do things His way? I don't know. I didn't ask him to. No fleece, remember? But I did receive confirmation that I'm doing the right thing. Last night, that rabbit with all the faults went home to a little girl who is thrilled with him.

I don't know why God puts up with me, but I am humbled and grateful for his care and attention.

"Look at the birds of the air: they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?And which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?And why are you anxious about clothing? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin,yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which today is alive and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, will he not much more clothe you, O you of little faith? Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?'For the Gentiles seek after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. "Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble."~ Matthew 6:26-34

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Jar of Change

As followers of Christ, we are supposed to hold to a different set of values than that of the world.What is important to us often seems foolish to them, and what they hold in high regard is not necessarily the same for us. At least, that is what we hear often enough from our spiritual leaders. Scripture backs them up as well.

I find it rather paradoxical then that professional sports works it's way into such a large percentage of our worship services. For something that matters so very little in this world, and even less in the one to come, it gets an awful lot of air time. And please, don't cite the example of the Apostle Paul's brief mention of sports as a precedent. I'm not talking about the occasional illustration.

Just to make sure that I am not being a grumpy, non-sports fan, stick-in-the-mud, I'm going to propose an experiment. I intend to designate a jar for this purpose, and fill it with 52 little footballs, basketballs, baseballs, and hockey pucks. What form they'll be in, I'm not sure yet. Each piece will represent a predetermined monetary amount--because I want this experiment to carry some weight. On the first Sunday of January, I'll begin. One piece will be removed on each Sunday in which professional sports is mentioned during the worship service. At the end of the year, whatever amount is left in the jar (by its representational pieces) will be given to our church.
Some stipulations:
  • If I miss a Sunday, and don't listen to the recorded message, a piece will not be removed, even if sports was mentioned (because I won't know about it, will I?)
  • Relevant illustrations relating to the sermons don't count. Heavy emphasis on relevancy.
  • References during announcements should count, but I'll be lenient and let them slide.
  • Outside guests speakers get a pass too.
  • This is the only time, and only place that I intend to discuss this experiment until it's over. I don't want to skew the results. (I'm pretty sure that my Pastor is not one of the three people who read this blog. If he is, I'm not sorry.)
This feels a little one-sided, and judgmental, which is not my intention. I'm merely trying to see how pervasive sports is in our culture and how much it effects the Church. If would be more informative if I could find people from other churches to keep a tally of the same kind of information (even if it didn't involve money for them). I seriously doubt that my church is the only place this happens.
To level the playing field (sorry), I'm going to think of a task for me to work on as well.

I'll revisit this topic with the results at the end of next year. Let's hope the jar is still really full.

**Nevermind. After thinking this through some more, I have decided not to do it. It puts me in the wrong frame of mind from the start and sets me up for having a resentful attitude. I also puts me in a position of judgement. None of which is what I want. It is enough that the people who care about me know that it is a distraction from worship for me. I can leave it at that.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Rhetorical Answer

Rhetorical questions are dangerous. The person asking might not be expecting an answer, but that doesn't mean that my brain isn't going to devote hours to thinking about them anyway. Recently, a dear friend posed just such a question. And while I believe that she understands the depths this question plumbs, I don't know if she is expecting a response. This is for her.

The question is, can you miss someone you've never met?

My DH has several relatives that meant a great deal to his whole family, but they passed away before I met him. I wish I could have gotten to know them. So, in a sense, their absence creates a hole that cannot be filed. Does that longing mean that I miss them? I have friends across the globe that I know only through means of electronic communication. Can their distance cause pain? Do I have a right to grieve when they are gone?
Can you miss something that you never had in the first place? I dare you to ask that of any mother who has lost a child in the womb.
By extension, can you be homesick for a place you've never even seen?
"By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God....These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city." Heb 11:8-10, 13-16
 The writer of Hebrews also tells us that "Faith is the assurance (substance) of things hoped for, the conviction (evidence) of things not seen."  There is no need for faith where there is not a desire for things not realized yet. Look at that another way and you could go so far as to say that deep longing for what we have not experienced yet is the essence of faith. And that longing is centered around the person of Christ.

I Corinthians 13:12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I have been fully known.
I John 3:2 Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. (Hallelujah!)
There is no doubt that there is a precedent for this idea. I know that not a day goes by when something does not remind me that this is not my true home and that my family is not complete here.
Our relationship with the Divine informs our human, earthly experience (or it should). Which brings us back to our original question.
Can you miss someone you've never met?

With every beat of my heart.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Christmas Anonymous

Christmas Anonymous 12 Step Recovery Program *

  1. We admitted we were powerless over Christmas—that our lives had become unmanageable.
  2. Came to believe that a Power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity. To that end we reread the Nativity story in Matthew, Luke, and John.
  3. Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God. (Romans 6:17, 18; Ephesians 2:13)
  4. Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves; then did the same for the pile of newly accumulated gifts, culling and assimilating as required.
  5. Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs. We then worked out on the treadmill and had a low fat, low sugar, low sodium, high fiber, but delicious none the less meal.
  6. Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.
  7. Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.
  8. Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.
  9. Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others. Replacing the offending gift given to Aunt Hattie and setting up a fundraiser through our favorite charity tops the list.
  10. Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.
  11. Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.
  12. Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to Christmasoholics, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

*I mean absolutely no disrespect to anyone who has taken part in any of the 12 step recovery programs, or to the organizations that provide such needed assistance.
Our modern day practices at Christmas, sacred and secular alike, seem to have drifted so far from the original intent as to appear in many ways strikingly similar to those of one suffering from an addiction. Weight loss or weight gain, changes in mood, behavior or sleep patterns, financial difficulties caused by the addiction, inability to fulfill ones obligations...those symptoms could just as easily be applied to someone suffering from a misuse of the holidays.
My revisions of these 12 steps is merely my attempt at tilting at windmills.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Heaven on Earth

Yesterday morning our pastor began his message with an illustration about what Heaven on Earth is like for him. If you want, you can listen to the message. While there were several things that I really needed to hear, it got me thinking. What would Heaven on Earth be for me? That is a much more difficult question than I had imagined.
It has been suggested that, for me, it would be no more doctor's visits, lots of hiking and plenty of Jelly Bellies. To that list I would also add dark chocolate and snuggling in front of the fire with my family while we read a good book together. However, when I examined that list more closely, I came to a painful realization. All of those things are an escape.
In fact almost all of things that I enjoy doing are a means of escape in some way. Sure, they serve other purposes as well; but carving, working on embroidery, or reading all require a level of concentration that shuts out reality for a time. Even chocolate creates a temporary retreat where for a brief moment you are entirely focused on savoring the silky sweetness. All else slips away, however fleetingly.
Not that my reality is all that bad, mind you; especially compared to some. So I'm not sure what it is that I'm escaping from. Laundry. Boredom. Nagging questions and bills. Watching my DH suffer. Bad weather. Sickness and death touching friends and family. Brokeness.

The point is that I do not want my thoughts of Heaven to be only that of escaping from the unpleasant things this world throws at me. There is a preciousness in learning to value the suffering in this life in order to collapse on His grace and treasure the rest that is promised. Do I only long for Heaven because it will "get me out of here"? Some days the answer is Yes. But what about the rest of the time? More than thinking about what I'm running away from, I want to be focused on what I am running toward; which is an eternity of communion with my Savior not hindered by my sin.
That leaves my original question still unanswered, but it can't be helped. My idea of Heaven is not just experiencing a moment that is the way it would be in a perfect world, but rather a restoration of the perfect fellowship between man and his Creator. And that can't be reproduced here on earth; not with all the Ghirardelli's in the world.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Christmas Contemplation

Perhaps you've seen the discussions and polls on the social bulletin board sites about whether our president should continue to call it the national "Christmas" tree or change the name to "Holiday" tree instead. While I haven't participated in those polls, I have done a great deal of thinking about this subject. Here are some of my conclusions*:
  • I don't give a hoot what the president does. His life and actions as well as the actions of a large percentage of our nation do not revolve around bringing honor and glory to God. What he chooses to call the tree won't change that.
  • The argument that calling it a holiday tree is just taking one more thing away from the Christians is only valid if the government is the source of the Christians' faith. If recognition or approval from the government is necessary to authenticate one's beliefs, then I would encourage a reexamination of those beliefs. Following God has never been the popular thing to do and Christians are never promised support from the leadership of our world. In fact, the opposite is true. (Ps. 20:7, 8; Gal. 1:10; Acts 4:26; I Pt. 3:14-16)
  • Christians belong to a kingdom other than those represented on our globe. We are strangers and pilgrims here. Temporary exiles. If we get too comfortable with secular contemporary customs and society and we risk being like Lot's wife.
  • I call into question the possibility of the Gospel being spread merely through the name of an object. The heavens declare the glory of God, but I don't think that includes an electrified evergreen on the White House lawn.
  • Religious freedom...oh, I am not even going to open that can of worms.
*These comments are not aimed at any specific person or persons, et cetera. And by all means, feel free to disagree with me.