Feb 27, 2008

Isolation Sickness & Spiritual Health

"And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching." Hebrews 10:24-25

What happens when we are isolated from the body of Christ (even other denominations), or from people in general? Mal perceptions. In the absence of healthy others, ill-informed emotions and opinions emerge. We desinegrate into neurosis, perhaps without even knowing. It is impossible to be spiritually, emotionally, or physically healthy when we spend all of our days alone because there's no one to tell us we're wrong, in left-field, no one to encourage us when we need it most.

Life-giving nourishment comes from being immsersed in the body of Christ. Probably the only reason that we would withdraw from the body is if we're homebound for one reason or another. Otherwise, let us not merely attend church, but immerse ourselves in the body...let us spend out lives together. Our health depends on it.

Feb 21, 2008

O death, where is your sting?

I've been stung by the death of one our closest friends. Carole died overnight in her sleep. I talked to her two weeks ago, telling her how much I loved her and her husband, Christy, and how thankful we were to spend part of our Christmas vacation with them. Carole said, "We love you too, come again anytime." We said our good-byes. Little did I know it was the last time I would say good-bye to her.

She and Christy were the most hospitable and generous people I have ever met. If they saw a need, they met it. We received two laptops from them, as working poor graduate students, we couldn't afford our own--we never asked for them. We didn't have internet, we used it at their house or at the church. Did we need a car? "Use the Bravada" even when we never asked. "Are you hungry? There's some food in the fridge or stay for dinner. We'll order pizza or get subs from Wegman's." "Do you need a place to host youth group events, come to our house." "Do you need to print things off or pictures? Use our paper free of charge." They had a community pool--parents and youth could come anytime. I never knew who I'd find in the pool during the summers when I stopped by. In the winter, all had access to the hotub. We spent countless hours at the Mathewsons talking about God, theology, the mundane, church, people, policies, computers, food, dancing with the stars--innumerable conversations. We did youth work there. We knew the dogs and they knew us. It was a home away from home. Being there I realized--this is how the church is supposed to be--comfy--in peace and sharing whatever we have with those who are in need, or just those who happen to show up on our doorstep that day. Encouraging one another.

If we had to tally line-by-line all the material things they gave us and pay them back, it would be in the thousands. Although we were extremely close, they showed love and generosity to hundreds, maybe thousands of people. They were parents to the badly parented. Friends to all. All sorts of students, people and acquaintances were free to roam in and out of their house any time-- day or night. You don't believe me? Well jazz musicians from Eastman School of Music could be found in their living room playing the piano and all sorts of instruments at 2a.m. and beyond. They were listening ears full of great advice and wisdom.

Why did Carole have to die so young? She was in her mid-fifties. There's plenty of more times that we and hundreds of others will need her and Christy. She was a smiling face, with a speaking voice of an angel--that greeted us when we stepped into the living room. She had her first two grandsons born this year and another on the way in a couple of weeks. Her grandkids won't know the love we experienced. It doesn't seem fair. I know her ways will live on through her children and Christy, but still.

God says to all of us, "Do not mourn like those who have no hope." We're not prevented from mourning, only from hopeless mourning. If there is no after-life, if this is all there is--how depressing. We really will never see those who died in Christ again.

But, Jesus says that he came to give us life...not only life in this life, but life after death (John 11:25). There is some comfort in that for those of us who are mourning. But none of us is ever ready for when death knocks on our or another's door.

I am almost 30. Not guaranteed another day of life. Perhaps half my life is gone already. There is so much to do! So much to be! So much love to give and receive! So much to experience. I know that I will never do and be and love and experience as much as I want to.

But it reminds me that life is precious. We can't waste it being depressed (I am not talking to those with chemical imbalances) or fighting. It is to short for that.

O Lord Jesus! Help us to live, really live, really love, to really be, in this short life--it is a passing breeze that does not return.

Feb 19, 2008


"But godliness with contentment is great gain." -- I Timothy 6:6

Do we despise what we have because of what we don't have? That's wrong. But isn't it funny how the lack of one thing--a certain deprivation can discolor our world so that we are ungrateful? We become depressed. We hate our lives.

If we go on depressed because of that one thing that we do not have, we are wasting our lives. We are wasting moments of joy. We can be pretty godly--with little contentment. So in that way we're not as godly as we could be.

Are we going to be miserable the rest of our lives because we don't have that job, look, weight, virtue, relationship, money or success? Life is too short for that.

If we find ourselves steeped in a discolored negative world, let us begin to thank God for everything we can possibly think of. When we have a daily posture of gratitude, we begin to see millions of things all around us to thank God for.

Feb 17, 2008

Murderous Words - Slander

"LORD, who may dwell in your sanctuary? Who may live on your holy hill? He whose walk is blameless and who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from his heart and has no slander on his tongue, who does his neighbor no wrong and casts no slur on his fellowman, who despises a vile man but honors those who fear the LORD, who keeps his oath even when it hurts, who lends his money without usury and does not accept a bribe against the innocent. He who does these things will never be shaken." Psalm 15

This Psalm is deep. Alot here to contemplate. That is why I come back to it again and again. Right now, though, I have slander on my mind. And the reason is this: There is this blogger, who claims to expose modern day heresies. She desires to protect the minds of naive college students and other Christians who purportedly cannot think for themselves. Some of the things she says are right on, others not so. The problem is, she slanders her way through blogging and broadcasting. She vitriolicly speaks the truth from her heart heaping slur upon slur on her brothers and sisters in Christ. She has done much damage pigeon-holing those she disagrees with. She has demonized them--creating one-dimensional characters out of human beings. Her methods defeat her purpose. She hopes to alert readers and hearers to heresies and apostasies by her tirades. Yet she alienates me and many others. If her tone were loving, if she would concede that she is probably wrong about some things as well--just like those she opposes, if she were humble, maybe she'd have better credibility. She does not seem to be acting like Jesus. I wish she would. It's hard to believe that she genuinely thinks she is acting Christianly. It doesn't seem like she is dwelling in God's sanctuary on his holy hill even though she acts like she's right smack dab on his hill.

It is a reminder to me and to whoever reads this: we will have to give an account for our words. James 1:26 says that if we don't control our tongue, our religion is worthless. Seriously.

Feb 16, 2008

On Loving Others

"This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers." I John 3:16

It easy to "love" those far away, those we have little interaction with. We can be patient and kind with those hard-to-love people we run into infrequently. The real test of our love for others is manifested in our day-to-day lives. How do we love those we experience everyday? Do we lay our lives down for our spouses, children, parents, neighbors, members of our church community?

Obviously loving is not merely having positive feelings for a person, not merely wishing good upon someone. Notice in the above verse, John indicates that our love is measured by how well we lay our lives down for our brothers, not our enemies, even though Jesus tells us to love our enemies.

So how are we doing? When we're impatient and annoyed--that's when the real test of love comes. When we're tired and would rather be refreshed than refresh others--do we consider others above ourselves? Choosing to love is a cure for selfishness. Love is a choice because more often then not, we don't want to expend the energy it takes to love others. It is only through the power of the Holy Spirit that we can love consistently. And of course, Jesus is our prime example: he laid down his life for us. And out of love and appreciation for him, we lay our lives down for others.

In the Lord's prayer, when we request our daily bread, we need to ask for the strength and energy to love those we encounter. Otherwise, we'll fail miserably.

Love begins by taking care of the closest ones - the ones at home.
-- Mother Theresa

Feb 13, 2008

Taking Up My Cross

"Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; anyone who loves his son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and anyone who does not take his cross and follow me is not worthy of me. Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it." Matthew 10:37-39

I daily pledge to follow Christ closely. But now that he has given me a heavy cross, I balk. I realize that I wanted to pick and choose my cross. The cross that I am currently bearing isn't the one I would've selected. It's unbelievably harder than I imagined. I left all to answer this call, I sacrificed my Isaac, but now I'm complaining daily about it. I have a bad attitude.

You know, I always thought I would've been Caleb or Joshua in the wilderness. Yet upon reflection, even though I would've never dreamed it possible, I know that I would've died in the wilderness with most of the Israelites. Why? Because I've treated God with contempt by complaining which displays ugly unbelief.

When we ask God to give us our daily bread, one thing we are asking for is the nourishment that will provide the strength for us to carry our cross to our death.

After he puts to death in us what he will, he'll raise us to new life. That's what I believe. That's what I remind myself of today. I need strength for today, tomorrow has enough evil of its own (Matthew 6:25-33).

"When we follow Jesus, it means that we don't know exactly what it means, at least in detail. We follow him, letting him pick the roads, set the timetables, tell us what we need to know but only when we need to know it . . . . When Jesus says 'Follow me' and we follow, we don't know where we will go next or what we will do next, that is why we follow the one who does know."

--Eugene Peterson The Jesus Way p.240

Feb 5, 2008

Running Ahead of God

“Give me my inheritance . . . .” (Luke 15:12)

Are you contemplating taking your inheritance and running off? Like the prodigal (Luke 15:12), you think, “My Father is just taking too long to give me the desires of my heart (Psalm 37:4). He is robbing me of enjoyment now.” You've prayed, searched the depths of your soul and have concluded that your desires are not sinful. So why is your Heavenly Father delaying? Thoughts like, “If I do not do this now it is not going to happen,” and “Maybe I just need to get the ball rolling” enter your mind. You have grown impatient. Don't do it! Don't snatch your inheritance and run off to the far country(Luke 15:13)! Perhaps you don't believe that taking action now would take you to the far country. But be warned! If the Father has not given you permission to go ahead, or if you are in the midst of doubt, by running ahead you would be acting out of unbelief and will not receive his blessing. Living in unbelief without his blessing is the far country away from your Father.

Do not be like the Israelites who tried to prematurely take their inheritance. After Moses warned them, “Do not go up, because the Lord is not with you. You will be defeated by your enemies . . . ” they disobeyed (Numbers 14:42). “Nevertheless, in their presumption they went up toward the high hill country, though neither Moses nor the ark of the Lord’s covenant moved from the camp. Then the Amalekites and Canaanites who lived in that hill country came down and attacked them and beat them down all the way to Hormah” (Numbers 14:43-45).

Again, if you're contemplating making a decision and know that you don't have the Lord’s blessing, stop! Do not presume upon the Lord. He wants you to wait on him and trust him to give you the inheritance he has for you at the proper time, lest you be beaten down. If he has not answered yet, he wants you to learn about him in the wilderness. Thereafter, you will be able to enjoy the land that flows with milk and honey (Numbers 13:27).


Dear Reader,

I apologize for a lapse in posts. My computer died and my e-mail along with it. Right now, I sit in my husband's office typing this update. I will try to update it more frequently. Please check back for entries.

In Christ,