Thursday, April 30, 2015

People change, part 2

People change.

Please read this Bible passage and think about what it shows about how people change:

But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed 
and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, 
he shall surely live; he shall not die. 
None of the transgressions that he has committed 
shall be remembered against him; 
for the righteousness that he has done he shall live.  
Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord God
and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?
But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness 
and does injustice and does the same abominations 
that the wicked person does, shall he live? 
None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; 
for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, 
for them he shall die.
~Ezekiel 18:21-24, ESV

A wicked person can turn away from his sin and become obedient to God, and live.

A righteous person can turn away from his righteousness and do the same things that a wicked person does, and die.

There are three things we need to learn from this:

(1)  We should not categorize people as righteous or wicked.  

Perhaps this is part of what the Lord means when He admonishes us not to judge.  We know neither the backstory, nor the end of the story.  Only God knows everything, past, present and future.

We should be discerning about people based on what we observe in the way they live each day.  People are not our example; Christ is our example, and scripture is our standard.  If people live in obedience to scripture and walk in the footsteps of Christ, we can let them be an example to us for as long as they walk well.  A tree is known by its fruit, and a man is known by his walk.

Never just set up a man as "my righteous example," and then follow him blindly.  No man is Christ, and no man ever will be.  Rejoice when a man walks well, grieve when he stumbles, and always evaluate everything under the light of the Word of God.

(2)  Be ready to forgive a sinner who repents.

Just as we need to avoid categorizing someone as a righteous, infallible example, we also need to avoid categorizing someone as a bad person.

People make mistakes.  We all do.  I surely do, and I'm willing to bet a million dollars (which I don't have) that you do, too.  Some people let us down or disappoint us more often than others, but always remember that God is at work, and everyone has equal access to grace.  You never know when someone might avail himself of grace.

Children who hate vegetables can grow up to be adults who love salads.  And sinners can turn to Christ and be changed.

We must never withhold forgiveness from someone because we decided twenty years ago that he was not a nice person.  (We must never withhold forgiveness anyway, but this is a particularly bad reason.)  God always forgives, and He tells us to, too.  Yes, we need to forgive the person who used to be a complete jerk.

(3)  The only way to be sure of our own salvation is to abide in Christ who is our righteousness.

We are helpless to be consistently righteous on our own.  A person without Christ may do a kind or generous thing now and then, but consistent righteousness cannot happen apart from Christ.  At best, without Christ, a person can do lots of righteous things and be motivated to continue because of pride in himself.  The pride undoes all the benefits.

Christ has come to impute His righteousness to us, to wash us from our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  He bore our sins so we could be clothed in His righteousness.  There is no other way we could be pure enough to enter into fellowship with God, but because of Jesus we can.  Because of Jesus, the very Holy Spirit of God comes to abide in our hearts and direct our desires and bear His fruit in our lives.  God does it all, and yet there is a need for us to actively respond to His work in us, to cooperate with Him and seek His face.  This is a great mystery, the mystery of faith which comes from God, draws us to God, and sustains us in God.

To abide in Christ is 
to live in the protection of His love, 
to have confidence in His perfect faithfulness, 
to soak my mind in His Word and my soul in His Spirit, 
to pray without ceasing, 
to seek His beauty and apprehend His worth, 
to turn my desires over to Him and rest in the goodness of who He is, 
to allow Him to propagate peace, joy and obedience in all my days.

This is the only way to consistently change in a good and positive way.  Abide in Christ.

Mom sayings

Things I've always said:

1)  Don't stand between me and the thing I'm working on.

2)  I can't go faster than the car in front of me.

3)  Don't leave without saying good-bye.

4)  Better late than dead.

5)  Goodnight I love you.

Things I wish I'd always said:

1)  Remember Jesus.

2)  Remember that you're Jesus' child.

3)  Be kind.

4)  Forgive people.  Let go and forgive.

5)  Be thankful every day.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

People change

Yesterday I said I'd try to write this, but today I spent a long time writing something else, and now I have less than an hour.

I used to have a soap box about how to feed kids.  I probably said that wrong, but what I mean is that it made me crazy when the mom of some two-year-old would say, "Brittany doesn't like applesauce."  Seriously.  She's two.  Two.  She thinks she doesn't like applesauce today, or she's feeling ornery and refusing applesauce whether she likes it or not.  If a child knows there will always be chocolate milk and gummi bears if she holds out long enough, obviously she isn't going to try new foods or admit to liking them.

Kids' tastes change.  I remember as a kid, sometimes orange juice tasted good.  I drank it as long as it tasted good.  One day it would not taste so good.  Then I'd switch to apple juice.  I'd drink apple juice as long as it tasted good.  Conveniently, usually when apple juice stopped tasting good, orange juice started tasting good again.  When I hit adolescence, everything tasted good.  I remember sitting down to dinner and being amazed that every dish my mother had prepared was delicious, when only a few months ago I had been picking my way around my plate trying to find something I could chew without gagging.

Kid's tastes change, and when you are trying to teach them to eat, your best bet is to introduce a variety of foods, but don't give any reaction when they don't like something.  Never tell them that they don't like something.  Just say, "Oh, doesn't that taste good to you today?" and then put it away and don't offer it again until a few weeks or months have passed.  There are some things that they will legitimately dislike and you should not try to force them to eat those things!  But, seriously, you should never reinforce to them that they don't like something.  If you don't convince them otherwise, they might very well enjoy it next year when Aunt Anna serves it at the family reunion.

(There is no need to avoid convincing them that they dislike asparagus.  The less people who like asparagus, the more for me.)

So.  That's my advice on how to develop better eaters.  That, and plant a vegetable garden and let them eat sun drenched vegetables as they pick them outside, right there in the yard. 

But the reason I brought it up is to illustrate that people change.  They do.  Nobody is static.  People are not rocks, or mountains, or boat anchors.  And, for that matter, even rocks and mountains and boat anchors can change.  Due to the second law of thermodynamics, everything in the Universe is tending toward some sort of decay.  Even rocks.  You see it where they erode from water or wind.

People tend toward decay as well, both physically and spiritually.  The physical decay is unavoidable.  But spiritual decay can be reversed--not halted, but reversed--and this is the plan God had for us when He sent Christ.  This is the meaning of everlasting life.  Jesus is the bread of life, and He is the Word of God.  Moses said that man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

When we feed on Christ, we grow in spiritual wisdom and beauty. When we shut Christ out of our lives, we atrophy to selfishness, loneliness and destruction.

People change.  In fact, people are constantly changing.  Just yesterday, a friend of mine said, "I've realized the importance of never assuming that I have arrived.  I will always need to cling to the Lord and learn and grow.  I will never be able to say that I've figured it all out where God is concerned, that I'm set and I can put my Bible away now."

This is true, and we must remember it.  We will discuss it some more tomorrow.  For now, remember: You are changing.  Are you growing closer to Jesus, or farther from Him?  You are surely doing one or the other.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Glory, regrets and hope

Today was an almost unutterably beautiful day.
Not too hot, but warm and pleasant . . . even for a cold-blooded person like me!
Cloudless blue sky, crabapple trees still rosy with blossoms, luminous green grass, and my very late daffodils are hanging in there like champions.
The outside air is fragrant with all that's blooming, and despite being hard on allergies, it is delightful.
When I walk down one street in my neighborhood, something smells like candy--sugary and pink; the aroma triggers deep, curious breaths that struggle to identify the scent while relishing it.
I saw a tractor pulling a disc over a field on my morning drive, and the fertile black dust rising in the early sunlight was like happiness and memories, wholesomeness and a return to joy.

If ever a glorious day like this dawned in Syracuse, where we used to live, the entire population would have stopped what they were doing and rushed outdoors in wonder.  Exuberant children would have spilled out onto neighborhood streets, running and shouting and riding their bikes, throwing their balls, chasing, hiding, trying to hawk lemonade at a makeshift stand by a stop-sign.  Their parents, too, would come outside, looking up at the sky distractedly as they shared a conversation with the folks next door (also outdoors, of course), poking at the landscaping or scrubbing at the grill after a long winter or simply sitting in an Adirondack chair with a glass of Arnold Palmer.

Here, people comment on the niceness of the day, but they don't have the same urgency to experience it.  Such weather isn't so rare in the Midwest, although I can't get used to that fact.  I feel a little frantic not to let it slip away.

Two things came clear to me today.

One is that I like to be by myself because I always put my foot in my mouth when I am not.  I can pray, hope, plan, ask for the mind of Christ, and determine to be quiet, to be a listener, to guard against careless words.  And still, every time, afterwards I replay my conversations and think, "I wish I hadn't said that," and, "What did they think when I said that?" and, "I hope they knew I was joking..."  It's excruciating.  It keeps me up at night, this tendency to replay my words like a tape-recorder and regret them.  Think before you speak.  Pray before you speak.  Listen before you speak.  Or, simply, don't speak.

I did already know that, but today reinforced it.

I also knew that people change, which is the other thing that came clear to me.  Our Teaching Leader in Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) mentioned it in class this morning.  She said, "You should never quote a person before he dies, because people change, and sometimes someone who seems very solid and trustworthy turns from what he had believed and starts to teach something else, something that is not trustworthy or true."  That was interesting to me, because I've been cogitating on a post about this very subject.  Not only do good people slip from truth, but terrible people can repent and become wholesome and trustworthy.  This is quite a mystery, but it is important to remember when we are trying to forgive someone.

Perhaps I will write about it tomorrow.

Friday, April 24, 2015

On spring, and trying

It is fully, delightfully, miraculously spring.

I cannot get over the beauty of the spreading mist of new leaves.  A friend walking in the park with me said, "Look!  The trees are furry!"

The grass is green.  Ours is bright green and lush, because Shawn fertilized it.  Growing up, I had a neighbor, Mr. Johnson.  "Rootie," he used to say, "Rootie, you need to tell your dad that he wouldn't have to mow so much if he didn't put so much fertilizer on his grass!"  I think of this every time I step outside and see the verdant clumps of moist blades bushing over the edges of the walkway.

Trees, in their glory, spread pink and white blossoms to the sky while lower down, rosy tulips, yellow daffodils and blue grape hyacinths display their colors across the ground.

And dandelions.  So cheerful, yet so unwelcome, yet so innocently reminiscent of childhood days when we made wishes and blew seeds mixed with our spittle into the neighbors' yards.

Last weekend we got all torn up trying to prune the roses.  We have some ferocious roses here, but we were ferocious right back at them, and I expect it will be to their benefit in a few weeks.  In the meantime, there is calendula oil for the stinging, swelling scratches.

Sometimes I have a fear that I will never accomplish anything, that my mind is stale from lupus drugs and the odd stupor of sleeping off the years of sleep deprivation that went with child-rearing and the six months of trauma that encompassed our cross-country move in 2013.  Yes, I'm still sleeping those off, it seems, to my shame.

Now and then I catch glimpses of myself in mirrors, and I think, "Who is that old woman?"  Inside, I still feel so young, awkward, uncertain.  How can it be that I've gotten old without ever growing up?  How can I have gotten old without ever figuring out what to do with my life?

I want to write a book, something significant, not just "a book," that people buy and read and toss away saying, "That was fun."  I want to write something that is true and meaningful, lasting, and (dare I reach?) important.  I want to write a book, but I don't even read books anymore, and I have barely been writing blog posts, let alone chapters.

I pray.  I pray a lot.  That is the thing I do, and I am learning more about it as I go along, how to listen to God, and how to catch myself when I start presenting my agenda to Him, and how to back off, trusting, accepting His plan as preferable to my own.  I am learning to recognize when my prayers are not really prayers, but mostly a cover for worry.  At times, I need to stop praying and just leave it in the hands of God, to know that I've brought it to Him, and that He knew what was needed even before I said anything.  Then I exercise my faith by resting in Him, meditating on His attributes instead of the particulars of the problem.  The more I focus on Him, the bigger He gets, and the smaller the problem becomes.

If God wills, I will write something.  I don't want to write something trendy or shallow or temporary.  I want to write for His glory.  I just read an amusing Christian pulp fiction book.  It was actually really good for its genre, well done if not exactly what I would call theologically sound.  I read it because I hadn't read a book for awhile, and I need to read if I'm going to write.  Musicians need to listen to music, artists need to look at beautiful things, and writers need to read.  So I read this book, and I enjoyed it, but it isn't the kind of book I'd want to write.  There's that.  Not that I could write a book like that (I'm not saying I'm better than the author; she had talent), but just that it isn't what I want to offer the world.

Do I have something to offer the world?  Can I create the form that my soul longs to lift up in praise, not pedantic prescriptiveness, and make a difference?  I used to have stories that roiled in my head at night, but they aren't there anymore.  I can't remember.  I can hardly remember my shopping list.

Once I had a dream, and I woke up feeling deliciously filled, consciously thinking, this is my story, this is what I need to write down.  But as I tried to catalog the memory of the dream, it wafted away, uncatchable.

If God wills, I will write something.  If God wills, He will give me the story.  And if God is the source, it will be good!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Rhubarb Cobbler (Gluten Free, but only Gluten Free)

I finally have rhubarb!  Real, wonderful, vibrant rhubarb, transplanted from my dad's garden in Minnesota.

For 18 years on Sugar Pine Circle, I was unable to grow rhubarb, even though I paid exorbitant money to buy plants on more than one occasion.  Prior to Sugar Pine, when we lived in North Syracuse, we had rhubarb, but after that we had an 18 year rhubarb drought.

Last spring we went to Minnesota and got rhubarb, and this spring, I can harvest it!

It's gorgeous.


Sadly, I am now gluten free.  My old rhubarb cake and rhubarb pie recipes are, from now and forevermore, off limits.


I made up a gluten free rhubarb cobbler recipe.  

And . . .

It was good!  

[Disclaimer: this recipe is not sugar free, or dairy free, or egg free, but it is gluten free.]

Unfortunately, I don't have any mouthwatering photos because, well, life.  I do have this photo, though, which, although it is sorely lacking, does portray the beauty of baked fruit bubbling up around the edges of a cobbler.

I will tell you how I made it, mostly because I want to be able to look up the recipe myself again, and this is a good place for me to find it.

Rhubarb Cobbler

  • A bunch of clean, chopped rhubarb, enough to half-fill a glass 9x13 baking pan.  4 cups?  6 cups?  Something like that.
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup tapioca
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon

Mix these together in a large bowl and set aside.  You can sub strawberries for part of the rhubarb, if you wish.  It needs to sit with the tapioca for 15 minutes, at least.  More won't hurt anything.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 9x13 glass baking dish.

  • 1 and 1/2 cups oats
  • 1 cup softened butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar

Process oats in food processor until they are pretty fine.  Process in butter, eggs and sugar.  Remove to a large bowl.  Sift in, from a sifter,

  • 1/3 cup coconut flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt

Stir together and add:

  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

Stir lightly to incorporate, and then add:

  • 1 and 1/4 cup plain kefir (buttermilk would also work)

Stir until mixed--be gentle.  Quickly dump the rhubarb mixture into your greased baking dish and portion the cobbler mixture over the top.  If you wish, sprinkle the top with ground cinnamon and granules of raw sugar.

Bake at 350 for an hour.  Serve warm with whipped cream or ice cream.

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Yes there is a God, and He loves His people

I've written about reasons why I believe that there is a God.

Yesterday, I wrote about Shannon's missing car keys, and the fact that God is in control.

This morning, Shannon texted me.  She had located her keys in a lost-and-found drop box at a Boston transit station.  "Thank you for praying," she texted.

Of course, I suppose this could be a coincidence.  If you believe in coincidences.

I believe in a sovereign, attentive, loving and faithful God, a God who is powerful and intelligent enough to design and control the entire Universe, from huge galaxies to tiny DNA strands.  He tracks and guides it all, and He knew where those keys were, all along.  He knew when they fell, and He knew where they landed.  He knew who would pick them up and eventually toss them into the lost-and-found box.  He directs the affairs of men, and He directs hearts like watercourses.  This is not even hard for Him.

Lots of times, God does not answer my prayers the way I want Him to.  But this does not mean that He didn't hear, or that He doesn't care about me.  It only means that He knows what is best, and I do not.  He does what is best, and we have to live by faith in His goodness, even when it doesn't make sense to us.

It is so nice when it does make sense to us, when His mercy grants our desires, and we feel the warmth of His smile on our heads.

Great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised.  His mercies are everlasting!

I've begun saying, "Some day, I am going to become a mature Christian, and when I do, my desires will be God's desires.  The things I pray for will be the things He wants to give me, and I will experience lots of answered prayer and fullness of joy.  I look forward to the day!"

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Losing keys

Somewhere between her door--which she locked--and work, Shannon lost her keys.

Somewhere adrift in the transit system of the greater Boston metro area, Shannon's keys have fallen.

They could be under something, behind something, in a dank and dusty concrete trench, or jammed into a tight corner.  Perhaps they fell down among the rails and have been thundered over by many trains.

Maybe they are lying on the seat of a train. Maybe someone brushed them to the floor and sat down.

They might have fallen into someone's hands.

Just yesterday, I was walking with a friend.  We passed a house in her neighborhood, and she told me a story:

One day, my friend was out walking and noticed that the front door of this house had keys stuck in the deadbolt, just hanging there.  She went up on the porch and rang the doorbell, to let the people know, but nobody answered the door.

My friend went home and told her husband, who asked her, "So did you just leave them there?"  After talking to him, she returned to the house to see whether the keys still hung from the door.  The keys were still there, and the people were still gone.  Conflicted, she pulled the keys out and took them home.

The next morning, she stopped over again, trying to return the keys, but still nobody was at the house.  Finally, after about a day and a half, my friend was able to find someone at home in the house, a lady.  The lady was aghast to realize what had happened, but very thankful to have her keys back.

My friend is a kind, loving, honest, responsible person.

Perhaps a kind, loving, honest, responsible person will find Shannon's keys and turn them in to a lost and found.

Perhaps Shannon's keys will be kicked around the floor of a train car all day, and at the end of the day a transit employee will find them and turn them in.

It could be that someone will pick up Shannon's keys, meaning to turn them in. . .  and then forget to, proceeding to carry them around in the bottom of her bag for the next three months.

Perhaps someone will pick them up and toss them into the trash.  This is probably not very likely.

It is possible that a bad person will find them, a thug or a cat burglar or even a serial killer.  Obviously, this would be the worst case scenario, but even were it to happen, God is still in control.  God is always in control.  Also, I do not think that the keys have identifying information on them.

Here's the truth: God knows where those keys are.  God knew when they fell, and He saw where they landed.  He can turn a specific person's eye to notice them, or not to notice them; He can spur a particular heart of His choice to pick them up.

The end of this story has not been written.  It could be that Shannon's keys are simply gone forever, or it could be that God has a different plan, a divine plan, an unstoppable plan.

We will have to wait and see what the Lord will do.

...casting all your anxieties on Him, because He cares for you.
~1 Peter 5:7 ESV 

Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. 
Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. 
The Lord is at hand; 
do not be anxious about anything, 
but in everything by prayer and supplication 
with thanksgiving 
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, 
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
~Philippians 4:4-7 ESV 

Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies?
And not one of them is forgotten before God.
Why, even the hairs of your head are all numbered.
Fear not; you are of more value than many sparrows.
~Luke 12:6-7 ESV

Jesus looked at them and said,  
“With man it is impossible, but not with God. 
For all things are possible with God.”
~Mark 10:27 ESV      

The Lord will keep you from all evil;
    He will keep your life.
The Lord will keep your going out
and your coming in
    from this time forth and forevermore.
~Psalm 121:7-8 ESV 

What then shall we say to these things? 
If God is for us, who can be against us?   
He who did not spare His own Son 
but gave Him up for us all, 
how will He not also with Him 
graciously give us all things?
~Romans 8:31-32 ESV 

It will be okay.