Sunday, July 26, 2015

Sunday afternoon again

It's Sunday afternoon again, and the time when I most feel at loose ends.

I remember Sunday afternoons in Anoka.  I remember my dad taking me to Grandma and Grandpa Rainbow's house, where there were always relatives, visiting, on Sunday afternoons.  Sometimes there were babies, which was my favorite.  Grandma taught me to appreciate babies, laying them out on blankets and drawing my attention to the sweetness of their bare toes, teaching me how to make them smile and laugh.

My cousins Willy and Molly were not babies; they were only slightly younger than I.  We had grand times playing in the basement, which was very clean for a basically basementy-basement.  There was shuffle board on the floor down there, and a washer and clotheslines, and all the fodder for imagination you could possibly want.  Along the side of the stairs down, shelves lined the wall, holding some cans of things, and in the autumn, decorative gourds drying.  Willy and Molly and I were famous for putting on plays, which the elder Rainbows always received with gracious delight, encouraging us and praising our creativity, thrilling our little souls and assuring us that we were special.

I've had many dreams of adventures in that basement, dreams of swinging from a rope like Tarzan, wearing a cape and saving the day.  As an adult, remembering, I can't separate the dreams from the reality, but it doesn't matter.

The Rainbows had a certain timbre in their voices, slightly raspy, and if I were a musician I could tell you the key, which was probably something like G sharp, a cut above the normal.  I can still hear it, vaguely, in my imagination when I cock my head and listen hard.

Uncle Doug and Tip, and their babies, Luke and Ben, were often there.  It seems to me that Doug and Tip and Luke and Ben, and Dad and I, were the standard fare.  Others came and went with less regularity, but it was always such fun to see who would turn up.  Now and then Bud and Joy came from Iowa, or Jack and Teda from California.  Grandma Rainbow seemed to be able to fill me in on who everyone was, and what was special about them, and why were were lucky that they were coming.  As a result, I was always excited to see them, and not nearly as shy as I would have been without her preparation and coaching.

Grandma kept a clear glass jar of jelly beans on the wooden shelf in her dining room.  They were the spicy flavored ones, because that's what Grandpa liked best.  White peppermint, yellow spearmint, green wintergreen, orange clove, red cinnamon and (Grandpa's favorite) black licorice.  I'd often eat a number of them throughout the afternoon, and the effect would be a terrible stomach ache during evening church later on.  One day I made the connection, stopped eating jelly beans, and felt much better throughout the evening.

I remember so many things about Grandma's house, not in chronological order.  I remember the way the front door opened and closed, and the texture of the braided carpet under my feet.  I remember the feel of the cabinet handles in the kitchen, and the smell of the refrigerator, which smelled different from our refrigerator at home, but still so very familiar, American cheese singles and jello and cranberries and (for some reason) the aroma of powdered milk.  I remember Grandpa in his chair in his den, and the TV broadcasting a game, and the faint smell of pipe tobacco.  I remember the blue bathroom with Browning's The Year's at the Spring framed over the bathtub.

And there was a big circle of uncles and aunts--or perhaps two circles: one in the den and one in the living room--visiting and laughing, happy.  It was a happy place, a place where you were welcome and loved.

I didn't know I could lose it all; I just took it in stride, took it for granted, the way a kid does.

The New York years were lonely, especially on Sunday afternoons.  I never completely got over feeling homesick on Sunday afternoons.  Sunday afternoon is when you should be with your extended family.  But sometimes this is not possible.

We had one baby, and then two, and by the time we had three, it was rare for our acquaintances to want any part of us anymore, so we duked it out alone, and it was rough a lot of the time.  However, as the years passed, a miracle occurred: the kids became people who could dress and potty themselves, tie their own shoes, fasten their own seatbelts, and eventually even share ideas and stories from their own lives with us.  We became a family of people who could support each other.  Unbelievably, instead of me running to Staples to buy posterboard for a project for one of the kids, one day it was one of the kids driving up to Wegmans to get me an ingredient I was missing for a recipe I was making. 

But Sunday afternoons.  We had the SSYO years.  SSYO was the Syracuse Symphony Youth Orchestra, and it consumed Sunday afternoons.  Having kids in SSYO meant that you couldn't have gone visiting of a Sunday afternoon even if you'd wanted to.  You had to rush out of church, drive to Manlius, and then figure out whether you were going to find something to do in Manlius for the duration of the rehearsal, or go all the way home to Liverpool and back out again.  We spent a good deal of time driving highway 481 during the SSYO years, the busy-ness filling the void of loneliness.

Then they all started leaving, and then we moved to Illinois, and they finished leaving.

Laura and Matthew came to visit this weekend, which was a blessing and a joy.  We didn't take a single picture, which is typical.  They left after lunch this Sunday afternoon, which is the way it is now.  Sunday afternoon seems always now to be a time of tearing apart, a time for saying good-bye.  But still I am thankful to be able to see them.  Good-byes stink, but not having any occasion to say good-bye stinks much worse.  So we watched their little car--a new blue Elantra they recently purchased and drove out to show us--watched it drive down our street, turn, drive up to the end of the neighborhood and turn again, onto the main road that would take them to the highway and away.  Blinking stinging eyes, I hiccuped as quietly as I could, giving a soft tug to little Piper on the end of his leash panting in the heavy humidity, stumbling with his age as we headed back into the house and the air-conditioning

Sometimes it feels like grief is a huge icicle pressing down on my sternum, and it's hard to suck breath.  I'm so tempted to say, "Why do I have to give up my kids, when other people have their children and grandchildren right down the street, there for every birthday and holiday, and even ordinary Sunday afternoons?  Why me?  Why do I have to lose my family? Why do I have to lose my family twice?"  More than tempted, I succumb.  And I want to feed my kids.  I want to wash their clothes and make their beds.  Also, I want to touch their hair, but I can't do that (except sometimes I do touch Jon's because he only complains a little bit, and also he is often here on a Sunday).  I want to iron for them, and I never even ironed in my life, hardly, except before a music audition or something, and even then, usually Shawn did it because he is a better ironer.

God doesn't want me to make family an idol.  I realize this.  I also realize that I am at risk of doing so, because I often allow myself to think that I cannot be happy if I don't have any family around.

I need to be content in the Lord.  I keep a bookmark in my Bible; it has a quote on it from someone named Jeremiah Burroughs who lived in 1648.  He wrote:

Christian contentment
is that sweet, inward, quiet, gracious frame of spirit,
which freely submits to
and delights in
God's wise and fatherly provision
in every condition.

Oh, how I wish I could attain that.
I am neither sweet nor quiet nor gracious.
I don't freely submit to what the Lord provides for me.
Certain family members have, on occasion, needed to remind me, "Think inside your head."  Thus, I suspect I do not have an "inward" frame of spirit, either.

I have so far to go.  Yet, I have hope.  Yes, I do.  I have hope.  I have hope that I will learn to be content and to delight in what the Lord provides for me.

And I also have hope that when I learn to delight properly in the Lord, and to cease my grumbling and fussing and complaining, then perhaps He will allow me to live in proximity to family again.

But maybe He won't, and I have to surrender to that, too, if it is the case.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Chastening

I did not have a good weekend.

I could make a list of all the things have gone wrong in the last few days, and it might even be a little bit humorous.  However, I am going to restrain myself, because other people have real problems.  I pretty much only have attitude problems, except for an occasional exception.

Also, I'm reading Martin Lloyd Jones' book, Spiritual Depression: its causes and its cure.  I had put it away awhile ago and just recently got it out again.  My current chapter is "Chastisement."  Yep.  I guess that might be why I had put it away for awhile.  I guess I didn't want to read about being chastised until I was smack in the middle of being chastised, at which point I guess have less to lose.

To top it off, my phone isn't working, which has spun me into a mild panic attack.

I am thankful that prayer doesn't depend on what kind of reception my cellphone is getting.  God is always near, always watching over me, always listening for my prayers.

This is true even when He is chastising me.

Whom the Lord loveth, He chasteneth.

Sigh.  I am supposed to be thankful for that.

I am thankful to be loved, but I do not enjoy being chastened.  Which makes me think of the old saying, "The beatings will continue until morale improves."  God is not like that, but there are days when I could forget and despair.

The irony?  One of the premises in the Martin Lloyd Jones book is that we Christians are a poor reflection of our beautiful Savior when we get down in the dumps.

Jesus, could I please just not continue to fail in my attitude?

Bring Joy to Your servant,
for to You, O Lord,
I lift up my soul.
~Psalm 86:4

Friday, July 17, 2015

Grace and Beauty

One of my friends is dying.

When we moved to Syracuse in 1988, she and her husband were almost our very first friends.  They'd moved here from Great Britain and I don't even know how long they'd been here.  They had a new baby girl, Diana.

Her name was Fizzy, which was a nickname for Frances.  I think she didn't like the name Francis, because years later, after they had moved to Pennsylvania, she changed her name to Elizabeth.  I am sure that this was easier to explain when meeting people for the first time; and yet, I will always think of her as Fizzy, because the adjective suited her so well.  She was bubbly and bright, witty and charming, refreshing like a perfectly chilled carbonated soda.  Effervescent.

She hosted a baby shower for me when I was expecting Shannon.  She was fun, so it was fun.  I remember coming into her house and seeing a large punchbowl on the counter in her kitchen, with fog rolling out of it, over the edge of the bowl and the edge of her counter, creeping down to the floor.  They'd put dry ice into the punch to make a big impression, and it worked, because 25 years later, the image is etched in my memory.

My life, during the time that we knew her best, was consumed by nauseous pregnancies, so my memories are hazy.  I do remember that they helped us move from our apartment into our first house.  By "helped," I mean that they did the work, along with Shawn and two other couples, while I lay, nauseated, on whatever horizontal surface was available.  At the time, I had a job with an advertising agency and I was storing my ad clippings in a box under my bed.  One of our other volunteer movers found this box filled with pieces of newspapers, and went to toss it in the trash.  In the nick of time, Fizzy recognized that it was significant.  She quietly saved it for me, and then alerted me to where she had put it for safekeeping.

Oddly, many of my memories of her are of stories told after events that I missed, like the time she met the actor who played Javert in Les Mis (Shawn and I couldn't go because the show conflicted with Shannon's birth).  I've written about it before.  She was always sort of charmingly brash and witty, and she'd had dinner with the actor before the show because he was the brother of a friend of ours.  She joked and jibed with him, unselfconsciously, just being her sparkly self.  But after the show, after she'd seen him perform and heard him sing, she was dumbstruck.  Everyone got quite a kick out of that, the idea of Fizzy being dumbstruck!

Another time, a group of us girls were going to go out for dinner together.  For whatever reason, I wasn't able to go in the end.  But I heard afterwards that Fizzy had turned up to the restaurant in a gorgeous deep blue evening gown and sparkling jewelry, completely out-dressing everyone else.  If it had been anyone but Fizzy, it might have been interpreted as an attempt to intimidate.  However, she was not like that at all, and thus everyone found riotous delight in her glorious finery.

They had a spacious blue living room with comfortable blue furniture.  We sat around in that room and had small group Bible study.  It was usually at their house, and it was my favorite when it was at their house.  Anthony was a good leader, too, well prepared and organized, insightful in his questions, but never dominating as a teacher.  They had a blue sofa and a blue loveseat, and at that time in our lives it became a joke that Shawn and I should avoid sitting on that loveseat together, because every time we did, I seemed to turn up pregnant shortly thereafter.

I even babysat her children for a short while, when Laura was a little baby.  I remember teaching Timothy that our baby's name was "Baby Lo-Lo." I was pretty overwhelmed with life at that point in time, and the babysitting gig couldn't last.  Still, it was truly a high point of each day when Fizzy poked her cheerful face in my door while dropping off or picking up her children.  Shawn was a direct report to Anthony at work in those days, and Anthony was an excellent boss who has remained a life-long friend.

Time passed, and they moved to Pennsylvania.  Each year, faithfully, a Christmas letter would arrive, full of news and humor and Elizabeth's unique way of finding joy in the paradoxes of life.

She changed her name sometime after moving to Pennsylvania.  I have never before known anyone who changed her (or his) name, but then, I have never known anyone like Elizabeth, or Fizzy-Elizabeth, as I have cataloged her in my mind.  It has a ring, doesn't it?  Fizzy-Elizabeth.

Every year, her Christmas letter would arrive, and this past year it arrived as well, witty and upbeat as always, but candidly explaining that she'd come home from a cruise last summer with what she thought was a stomach bug and discovered it was cancer of the appendix.  It was so very Fizzy-Elizabeth, the way she spoke of it. Right there, in the middle of the letter, no pussy-footing around, no complaining, a well-placed joke here and there to keep our spirits up (she would be very concerned about that).  She thought it would have been handy if one of her kids could have found a cure for this a year or so ago, but it wasn't the kind of research they did.

That was December.  They were also in the middle of selling their house, for Anthony had received a job-transfer to Denver.  Pennsylvania to Colorado, trans-continental move, with incurable appendix cancer (there was so much cancer, they couldn't even take out her appendix; it was like salt and pepper, the surgeon said).

In March, they moved.  Thinking back on the trauma of my own move in 2013, I cannot imagine how this came to pass, but I do know that God works miracles and gets you places you never thought you could go.  I think back to how Fizzy helped me move when I was incapacitated with pregnancy in 1989, and I just pray, because when you want to be the hands of Jesus, but you are separated by so many miles, then prayer is the thing to do.

Since the move, things have gone downhill.  Elizabeth can no longer update her own Caringbridge journal entries, so Anthony has taken over.  Of course, Elizabeth used to write with cheeky humor, noting such things as the incongruity of how they put her on a clear liquid diet, but still made her drink barium before her stomach scans.  Anthony writes with quiet realism and perceptive awareness of the punctuating details as this journey progresses--a neighbor's dog following him home from a walk and into their house, a golf ball bouncing onto the deck between them as they sat enjoying the mountain view.  It is real.  It is happening.  Our friends are experiencing this in all of its oddly intermingled pain and strangeness and ordinariness and excruciating beauty.

She may have hours, or days.  They are all together, there in Colorado, Anthony, Elizabeth, Diana and Timothy.  I imagine her formerly robust self, now cancer-skinny and wordless, hooked up to tubes, unable to move her limbs, each breath a miracle of a sort.  Anthony writes that they are quite sure she is not in pain, not that they can tell.  Yesterday she rallied and walked to the bathroom, with support.  She has fought the good fight.  Today she is resting.

I think of a beautiful life, a life lived in kindness and hospitality and concern for the hurting.  She served, she prayed, she encouraged, she cheered.  Now it is time for the rest of us to do these things for her.

God gives us flowers and sunsets across billowing clouds, mountain views and skies of azure.  He puts beauty in the world around us, and somehow, this comforts us.  I don't know why, but it does.  Perhaps it is because He is beautiful, and the beauty reminds us that He exists, and He has a kingdom, a perfect, beautiful kingdom.  Fizzy-Elizabeth will be there soon, but we will get there, too, by faith.


The righteous perish,
    and no one ponders it in his heart;
the devout are taken away,
    and no one understands
that the righteous are taken away
    to be spared from evil. 
Those who walk uprightly
    enter into peace;
    they find rest as they lie in death.
~Isaiah 57:1-2

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Fourth of July

Last year at this time we were in Ohio.  It was the day before Laura's wedding.

This year we are in Illinois.  I guess it's actually our first Fourth of July here in Illinois.

Also, we are alone, just Shawn and me.  We may or may not get to see Jon.

I am struggling with this empty nest phase.  I don't like it.

Back in Syracuse, on the Fourth of July, we never really did much.  School was finally over, which was a great relief and a blessing.  The pool was open, sparkling blue and usually quite warm.  The Fourth of July often involved sleeping in--a late morning to celebrate no school and a day off work for Shawn.  After a lazy breakfast, we would swim, relax, bask in the heat of mid-summer and the luxury of not having a schedule to keep.  On Memorial Day there was always a parade, but on the Fourth of July we stayed home and played, all six of us.

At some point, we would pull out the grill and cook up some hamburgers, which we ate with everything we could pile atop them, especially cheese, tomatoes, pickles, lettuce and condiments.  Hamburgers, often corn on the cob, nasty salad, potato salad, watermelon, a veritable feast.

After sunset, we'd scramble to figure out where we could go to see some fireworks.  Usually we parked at the Liverpool library and watched the show at the Fairgrounds from our side of Onondaga Lake, lugging lawn chairs up the parkway and drenching ourselves with bugspray despite the futility.  Sometimes we'd finish with root beer floats back at home after the show.

Traditionally, I stand at the sink and eat a quarter of a watermelon all by myself on the Fourth of July.  That's the only tradition we've been able to retain this year.  Slightly depressed, I didn't get my usual full quarter of the melon down; I barely cracked an eighth.



With the extra day off work yesterday, we should have gone to see someone.  Shawn's parents, my parents, and Matthew and Laura all live about an eight hour drive away (in completely different directions).

But.  There is stuff to do here, and a vacation day is awfully good for getting stuff done.  Ugh.

Clearly, this is why I am writing on my blog.

We've needed to repaint the laundry room ever since the disastrous kitchen remodel, because the electricians dug a big hole in the wall around the laundry room light-switch when they were wiring the kitchen.  I was not enamored of the color of the laundry room anyway (it was green).  So we decided that this was the weekend to tackle it.  We will paint it "Berkshire Beige" to match the family room on the other side of the kitchen.

Yesterday we started priming.

Now, I can get a nice line when I paint.  It is not the particular line that I am working on that is the problem.  No.  The problem is all the paint I dollop elsewhere in the process, the paint that somehow finds itself randomly running down the middle of the wall in gooey globs while I am working on edging the baseboard.  The paint that dribbles onto the floor, under the dropcloth, that I then step into and track into the kitchen: that is the problem.

It reminds me of the time I tried to dye my hair.  I always wanted brown-black hair.  One day about ten years ago, I decided to do it.  I bought a box of dye to darken my locks and took it into the kids' bathroom.  I read the directions very carefully.  By the end of the process, I had ruined a bathroom rug and the jeans I was wearing.  Splashes of dye had hit the wall behind me and run down next to the towel bars, brown-black stains on the sky-blue walls, and Mr. Clean could not get them off.  Like the cherry on top of everything (only not really), the next time I showered and washed my hair, it fell out in handfulls, thinning by at least 50%.  Ever since, I've been thankful to have any hair at all, regardless of color.

Ultimately, Shawn sent me out of the laundry room and did the priming himself yesterday.  By leaving, I did get the dogs out of the way, since they go wherever I am.  All four of us in the tiny laundry room, trying to climb in behind the washer and dryer where they stood pulled out from the wall, was too much of a crowd.  Can I blame my clumsy ineptitude on the lupus?

I retreated to the living room where I laid on the sofa and prayed for my family while my husband painted.  Then we went to bed.  We awoke early, to bright sun and the sound of Piper vomiting bright yellow stomach bile onto our bedroom carpet.  The laundry room being in disarray due to the painting project, we had to scramble to find the things we use to clean the carpet.  By the time we'd exerted ample damage control and obtained a couple of cups of strong coffee, there we were on the Fourth of July, 2015, all alone with only a painting project to keep us busy, and I can't even paint. 

So I made a ridiculously huge potato salad and stuffed myself with watermelon for old times' sake.


Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What I learned in June

1.  June flies by faster than all other months, except perhaps July and August.  (I didn't really learn this particular fact this year, but I experienced it yet again with profound certainty.)



2.  Love, fear, faith, hope, dread and acceptance all live in my heart at once, and this is why I need Jesus every single moment of every single day.  Honestly.  I've been around a few years.  I've even read the Bible a few times.  But every day I have to die to my fears, my desire to control outcomes, my disappointment at my inability to control outcomes.  Sometimes I wonder why I can't get my spiritual act together, already.  But God is full of grace, and He loves me, and there are times when I think He is telling me, "This is right where I want you, just the way it should be.  You always need to remember that you can't do it without me. You need me, and your need for me is a good thing."  Yes.  He says, "Abide in me, for without me, you can do nothing."  Amen.

3.  Everybody, even I, can win something once in awhile.  I was chosen to be part of Emily Freeman's launch team for her new book, Simply Tuesday.  They sent me a book in the mail, a preview copy for "advance readers."  Yes, I have a title: Advance Reader.  I never win anything, but somehow I won this.  They gave me a book to read, and they want to hear what I think about it.  Did you get that?  They actually want to hear what I think.  This is a little scary, since I am jumping in with a bunch of people I don't know.  What if they find me offensive?  Stupid?  Boring?  (haha -- see #2 above)  Still, it is a special thing, and I am grateful and amazed to have been chosen.

4.  I really, really like making my bed, folding clean laundry and doing dishes.  This was a very encouraging realization to come to.  I do not like organizing anything, not closets or bookshelves or drawers or bills, and especially not the basement.  But I do like making my bed, folding laundry and washing dishes.  It's not that I simply don't mind doing these things (I don't mind cleaning toilets and sinks, or making dinner), but I actually get happy from doing them.  So I hope this means I am not utterly lazy, which--if it were so--would assuage some of the guilt I usually carry, although perhaps not in the healthiest way.

5.  Gmail has a lot of great features that I didn't know about.  I finally figured out how to add contacts so that they come up by their names rather than some of them coming up randomly by email address (and then being hard to locate if I can't remember the person's email address).
  • In the upper left corner of your Gmail screen, under the Google logo, you click on the Gmail logo (it has a down arrow).
  • From the menu that appears, you select "Contacts."
  • In the Contacts screen, in the center, you can scroll through your contacts (from the box on the left you can select "all contacts" or a subgroup, but "all contacts" works pretty well most the time).
  • When you put your cursor into the row of a specific contact, icons appear.  You can select the little pencil to edit your contact.
  • By clicking on the little pencil, you will bring up a window for that contact.  In that window you can set the name (the name the contact is stored as), as well as the person's email.  You can also add additional contact information like phone numbers, street addresses and birthdays.
  • Boooo Yaaaaaa.  You did it.  Organize that mail system, baby!
Another great Gmail feature that I learned is this:  you can print a Gmail very easily!
  • Next to the "reply" arrow on the right, there is a down arrow.  I had often used it to forward an email, but I had never read on down the list.
  • From the drop down menu off this down arrow, you can select "Print"!  Yes!  It's just that easy.
  • Decide how you want to print: select the printer you would like to use, or save to a pdf and store in a file folder where you will someday be able to retrieve the gmail again when you need it.  I do not know why "save to pdf" is a print function, but it is.  That's also something I learned this month.
Well, probably everybody in the world except me knew all about Gmail already.  But I learned it this June, and I think it might even help me with some of my organizational angst (see #4 above).




Tuesday, June 30, 2015

About laws and hearts

I'm weighing in late on this.

I debated whether I would say anything at all.

Of course, for a person who takes the Bible seriously
and believes that it is the inspired Word of God and the source of all truth,
it is disturbing that our nation is legalizing things that are sin in the sight of God.

This does not make me angry, only sad.  I am sad that people cannot see the beauty of the way of Christ.  I am sad that people are so blinded by their present feelings and conditions that they cannot look ahead to the promise of perfect and complete fulfillment in the future.  Jesus wants to free us from ourselves, yet we want to cling to all of our "selfness" as hard as we can, not understanding how this limits us.  As C.S. Lewis explained, we are so busy playing with a stick in the mud on the street corner, we cannot imagine why a person would leave to go on a holiday at the seashore.

There is no such thing as a "Christian Nation."  We need to get this straight.  God never, never said, "I will create a country and call it the United States of America, and it will be my country, and the people living there will be holy."  He did not say that, did not even hint at it.

Of course, as Christians, we are morally obligated to vote our consciences which, I hope, would be shaped by the truth of God's Word.  However, it is not for us to become angry and vindictive if the majority of people do not agree with us.  We are not called to go out and say, "You are disgusting and bad and stupid, and you are all going to hell."  This is not our calling.  We should not say these things, and we should not even think them.  God makes it quite clear in 1 Corinthians 5:12-13 that we are not to judge those outside the church; He will take care of that.  It is His job, not ours.  We are to live holy lives of love and bring glory to God.  We are the salt of the earth.  We need to bring the vision of the seashore to those wallowing in city gutters.

How do we do this?  I am not sure.  But I am quite certain that we do not do it by being angry, unkind and insulting.

We need to stop being surprised when the culture at large departs from Christian principles.  Matthew 7:13-14 tells us that the gate is wide and the road is broad that leads to destruction, and this is the way the majority will go.  The road that leads to life is narrow, and the gate small, and only a few find it.  God's people are not the majority.  We are a rag-tag band, few and weak and only viable because of the Spirit of God at work in us.  As we walk the narrow road, we should be careful not to drive away any who might join us.  I do not think God is pleased by those who would stand at the little entrance to the narrow way and holler angry epitaphs at people who pass us by.

There has never been a Christian nation.  The nation of Israel was the nation of God's special, chosen people.  He called them personally, through their ancestors, and gave them His Law so they could live holy and protected lives.  It didn't work, particularly.  Of course there was always a remnant, and there still is.  That's what we are, we the rag-tag band, the minority, the aliens and strangers, the remnant.  God preserves for Himself a remnant (Romans 9:27, 11:5).  We are growing into the Kingdom of God, like a mustard seed, through faith and the power of the Spirit at work in us.  The Kingdom of God is a spiritual kingdom, not an earthly one.  There never has been and never will be an earthly nation that will successfully follow the Lord and His ways.

If the Biblical history of the ancient nation of Israel proves anything, it proves that laws are insufficient to control behavior, even laws straight from the Lord Himself.  Laws are powerless.  Only the Spirit of God bringing life and light to our souls can affect our choices and make us righteous.  Only through Jesus can we access the power of the Spirit.  Only God Himself can fix the human condition.

Laws do sometimes affect our perception of the difference between right and wrong, and as they are passed and repealed, people become more confused about how to live well.  For instance, most American Christians did not drink alcohol during prohibition, because it was illegal.  Now it is legal to drink alcohol if you are over 21.  Does that make it right?  Many people think that it does, that it is a fine thing to do.  So, if marijuana becomes legal, does that mean it is also a fine thing to smoke marijuana?  How do the laws of the land contribute to the public definition of right and wrong?  What about abortion?  Abortion is legal, but many people do not believe that it is right.  I think that even some people who are not Christians are horrified at the idea of ending a life in the womb.  Yet, it is perfectly legal and people do not go to jail for doing it.

As Christians in a democracy, we need to recognize that our governmental laws do not reflect right and wrong.  Laws reflect how the majority of citizens decide to live and relate to one another.  They are simply a barometer that shows the condition of the heart of the nation.  The majority may make decisions that are contrary to scripture.  Actually, the Bible tells us that this will happen.  The Bible tells us that we will be hated and persecuted for our beliefs.  The Bible does not tell us that we have a right to go around fighting and loudly condemning sin in fallen man.  I suspect that we fight because we are afraid of what will happen to us, afraid that we will be persecuted.  But the Bible is all about standing firm in our faith in the face of persecution.  Perhaps it is in embracing the suffering that comes to us, in sharing in the suffering of Christ, that we will be able, finally, to make a real difference.

We should expect sin in fallen man.  Our responsibility is this: "Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day He visits us." (1 Peter 2:12 NIV).  Stricter laws will never cure a sin problem.  Only changed hearts will cure a sin problem, and the best way to change someone's heart is by knowing and loving him.

Lord Jesus, please show us how to live lovingly and peacefully in a world that suffers from sin.  Please show us how to share the light and life and hope that we have in You.  Please make us beautiful and holy and pleasing to You.  Please shed Your grace on us.

Monday, June 29, 2015

A surprise for somebody!


It's a GIVE-AWAY CONTEST!

Read below to learn how you can win a free, personalized gift 

from me.

***Contest closes at noon tomorrow (6/30/15), Central Time.***




I never mentioned this, but I'm trying to write 8 posts per month.

If I'm going to make my goal this month, I have to write today and tomorrow.

Unfortunately, I have neither time nor material.

So.

I'm going to do a reader survey with a  GIVE-AWAY!

Tell me your favorite family game, and you may win a surprise!

Here are the rules:

  1. Please post a comment below, telling me about your favorite family game: what is it, and why do you like it?
  2. Then click on the "contact" tab above and find my email address.  Send me an email and answer the three following questions:  What is your favorite color?  What is your favorite candy?  What is your favorite thing to do for fun?
  3. If you have trouble making my comments section work, you may just send the email, but if you only send an email, please also tell me what your favorite family game is, in the email.

One lucky winner will receive a surprise gift in the mail.  I am not saying what the gift will be, because I am going to try to buy something special and tailored to be a treat for the individual who wins.  I will explain how the winner was chosen when I reveal the winner, but every participant is guaranteed a chance to win.

Go!