Wednesday, June 29, 2016


Sometimes when we get hurt, we act out.

Pain provokes us.

I've heard it said that the best way to get a grasp of someone's character is to view him under duress.

Seriously, though, it seems ungracious to condemn people for failing when they are under attack.  Sometimes when we are attacked, we fall.  This is a natural course of events.  It is admirable to remain standing under attack.  It is admirable to suck it up and be gracious even when someone has hurt you, but I'm not sure it should be expected or demanded.

At least, not the first time.

And therein lies the heart of it, for it is not an initial failure that defines our characters.  We all fail sometimes.  We all hit bumps that knock us flat.  We all have regrets about how we handled ourselves in certain situations.

The question is not so much whether you were a "good enough" person to remain gracious in the face of hurt the first time it slammed you.  The question is: what did you do thereafter?  What did you learn from the situation?  How did you resolve to change and do better in the future?

What have you learned from your failures, and how have you resolved to do better in the future?  Now.  That is a much better test of character than whether someone fell on an early try.

This is probably why people who have suffered are often the kindest and most gracious.  God exercises and trains us through trials.  I'm not sure He expects us to get it right on the first shot.  Sometimes it is good for us to mess up, so we can have compassion on others when they mess up.  This is not an excuse for behaving badly. We need to identify our bad behavior and plead for God's grace to help us change it.  At the same time, it is valuable to remember that we, also, have at times behaved badly, and to remember how hard it felt to be in the situation that took us down, and to have compassion on others who also struggle and stumble along their way.

The true test of a person's character is not so much whether he can hold it together under duress, but rather what he learns from his failures in duress.  The true test is whether he gets up, tells the Lord he is sorry, asks the Lord to help him change, and then tries again and does better.


Trying again.


Doing better.

These are the true marks of character.

Monday, June 27, 2016

On alcohol and polygamy

People.  We need to get it straight, what the Bible says, and what it does not say.

Also, where the Bible is concerned, we need to realize: this is the revealed heart of God.  The Revealed Heart of God.  Thus, one should not read the Bible with an eye to looking for loopholes.  One should read the Bible humbly, recognizing the beauty of the authority it holds.

One must not bring preconceived ideas to the Bible and insist that they exist in the Bible, simply because they existed one's mind first.  This is folly.

Revelation 22:18-19 warns us neither to add to nor to take away from the words of the scroll.  I believe that this specifically applies to the book of Revelation itself, but I do not think I am adding to the scroll if I suggest that it would be a safeguarding principle to apply this standard to our approach to all of scripture.  There are dire consequences for tampering with the Word of God.

You must not throw out parts of God's Word that you don't like.  At the same time, you must not claim that God's Word says things you wish it said, but that it does not say.

For instance (I will offend 99.9% of people by the time I've reached the end of this post; I'm sorry):  Claiming that the days in Genesis 1 are 24-hour days is going beyond what the text tells us.  Could they have been 24-hour days?  Of course!  Of course they could have been.  I am not saying that they weren't.  I am only saying that there is not definitive proof in the text that they were, and therefore I think we should be cautious about making claims about how accurate it is to interpret "day" as a 24-hour period of time, rather than as an epoch or something else; for instance, I don't think anybody assumes that the "day" in the phrase, "Day of the Lord," is necessarily 24 hours.  Again, please hear me: I am not saying that Creation did not happen in 24-hour days, I'm just saying that the text does not make it definitively clear that such was the case, and thus we should be careful about what we insist on.  We should firmly maintain that God is the Creator of all things, and that everything that exists has its origin in Him.  We should not insist on 24-hour time periods.  We can ponder the possibility and discuss the implications, but we should not proclaim that the Bible says something that it does not say.

Political activists who are distraught over the definition of marriage in the United States make me similarly crazy.  They try to bolster their arguments against homosexual marriage with bumper stickers sporting stick figures and the phrase, "one man, one woman."  This is insanity.  I'm sorry, but it is.  You cannot read the Bible and come away with the idea that it clearly defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman.  The Bible is rife with polygamy.  Abraham had two wives: Sarah and Hagar.  ("Wait!" you say, "That didn't turn out well!"  Well, no, it didn't, but God did not condemn Abraham for his union to Hagar.  In fact, God extended blessings and mercy to Hagar and Ishmael.)  Abraham also had a wife named Keturah.  As far as I am aware, Isaac was only married to Rebekah.  However, Jacob had two wives and two concubines: Leah, Rachel, Bilhah and Zilpah.  Again, maybe it didn't turn out ideally, but God never prohibited it, nor did He condemn Jacob for his family situation.

Moses had at least two wives: Zipporah and a Cushite.

King David was married to Saul's daughter, Michel, and also to Ahinoam, Abigail, Maacah, Haggith, Eglah and Bathsheba.  That makes seven.  The only one he got into trouble over was Bathsheba, because she was another man's wife and David committed adultery with her.  David was called a man after God's own heart.

When Moses presented the Law, among the guidelines God gave was that a king must not take "many" wives, lest his heart be led astray (see Deuteronomy 17:17).  This--the giving of the Law--would have been a perfect opportunity for God to define marriage--the ideal marriage situation--as one queen for one king, if He so desired.  But He did not.  God only warned kings not to get carried away taking too many wives.  Solomon got carried away and took 700 wives and 300 concubines.  After his wives led him astray to idol worship, Solomon did lose the kingdom, but I think we can all agree that his was the type of extreme case that the guideline had been given to prevent.

Even in the New Testament, where qualifications for overseers are listed, it says that they must be "husbands of only one wife," (1 Timothy 3:2), and the same for deacons (1 Timothy 3:12).  This leads one to assume that there must have been men in the church who had more than one wife, hence the clarification.  Why would you even mention the requirement if it was prohibited for someone to have multiple wives in the first place?

The Bible does warn that homosexuality is a sin and an abomination to the Lord (Leviticus 18:22, 2 Kings 23:7, Romans 1:24-27, 1 Corinthians 6:9, 1 Timothy 1:9-10).  This is because God is the great Husband and Provider, and He created the marriage relationship to be a picture of His relationship to His people (Ephesians 5:31-32).  God wants husbands to provide for, protect and be faithful to their wives in the same way that the Lord does these things for His people.  He wants wives to respond to their husbands' faithfulness and goodness with love and honor, reflecting the way believers should respond to Christ.  These are sexual roles God has created for a specific purpose, and in God's design, the roles of husband/man and wife/woman are not casually interchangeable.  This is true.  This is what the Bible says.  The metaphor exists throughout both the Old and New Testaments.  However, if you combine this point--which is true--with the idea that polygamy is wrong, you discredit yourself.  The Bible does not say that polygamy is a sin.  The Bible demonstrates that polygamy is an arrangement that does not usually breed peace and harmony, but the Bible does not command people not to participate in polygamy.  To suggest that it does is to lie. When you combine a truth with a falsehood, you should not expect to be taken seriously as a truth-teller.  If you want to help people understand how homosexuality is outside of God's will, you ought not combine your argument with blatantly unbiblical claims about polygamy.

Polygamy is not recommended or encouraged, but it isn't prohibited either.

And then there is alcohol.  If I haven't offended you yet, I suppose I will now.

Like polygamy, alcohol consumption is not prohibited in the 10 Commandments.  Jesus famously  turned water into wine at the wedding feast of Cana (John 2).  Some folks try to argue that this was not strong wine, not consumed for a mood change, but John 2:10 would suggest otherwise -- these people were drinking to get drunk, and the master of the banquet was very confused as to why the best wine was brought out after the guests were too inebriated to appreciate it.

There is another affirmative mention of alcohol in Proverbs 9, where Wisdom prepares her banquet and calls people to come to it.  Proverbs 9:2 says that Wisdom has prepared her food and mixed her wine, and in Proverbs 9:5, Wisdom calls out, "Come, eat my food and drink the wine I have mixed."

Ecclesiastes 9:7 says, "Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart, for God has already approved what you do."  But one must be careful about pulling verses out of context, especially from Ecclesiastes, which also says that bread is made for laughter, wine gladdens the heart, and money is the answer for everything (10:19).  We know for certain that it is not Biblically sound to operate under the premise that money is the answer for everything (Matthew 6:24, 1 Timothy 6:10).  Likewise, wine may not gladden the heart in a completely healthy and wholesome way.  We should be careful, but all the same, the Bible clearly does not prohibit alcohol consumption.

God does not condemn or prohibit alcohol consumption in His Word.  That may bother you, but it's the way it is.  Perhaps it doesn't bother you.  Perhaps it makes you very happy.  If so, now it's your turn to have your thinking challenged.

Although alcohol appears in a relatively positive light a few times in scripture, most of the time when the subject of alcohol comes up, it is related to someone giving his enemies a "cup" to drink, so that they will be drunk and reeling, and easy to defeat in battle.  People use alcohol throughout the Bible to exploit others, and even when someone isn't specifically using it to exploit, it results in shame and humiliation for those who drink it (compare the stories of Noah in Genesis 9:20-27, and Lot in Genesis 19:30-38).  Nabal, who got drunk during sheepshearing season, was described as an utter fool (1 Samuel 25).

Like polygamy, alcohol consumption is not prohibited, but (also like polygamy) it is shown to be commonly detrimental, something to be approached with caution.  Proverbs 20:1 tells us that wine and beer result in fights and foolishness, and that the wise will not allow themselves to be so led astray.  Proverbs 23:29-35 tells us that those who linger over wine bring all sorts of unnecessary strife and sorrow into their lives, in the end losing all judgment and sensibility.  Drunkenness is condemned outright (Romans 13:13, 1 Corinthians 5:11 & 6:10, Galatians 5:21, 1 Peter 4:3).

In Deuteronomy 17:17, we saw that God warned kings not to take too many wives.  In Proverbs 31:4-5, we also learn that it is not for kings to drink wine or crave beer, lest they lose their judgment and fail to rule justly.  Just as 1 Timothy 3 outlines that elders and deacons should be limited to one wife, it also explains that they must be temperate and not indulge in much wine.

Priests were prohibited from drinking wine while they were serving (Leviticus 10:9).

I believe that the Bible demonstrates that the better, safer path is the path that eschews alcohol.  At the same time, I cannot argue that the Bible condemns alcohol categorically, because it clearly does not.

It comes down to convictions, and convictions are tricky things to navigate.  Convictions are impressions that the Spirit of God lays on individuals for how they, personally, should live, in areas where scripture does not state clear commands.  Romans 14-15 and 1 Corinthians 8 give us guidelines for handling our convictions.  We are to listen to the Spirit and obey His promptings.  I am not to force on others the promptings that the Spirit lays on me.  However, believers are also sternly warned not to belittle a conviction someone else has--which they themselves may not share--because to encourage someone to act against a conviction that God has laid on him would be to encourage him to sin.  Above all else, we are to walk in love and humility, looking not to our own interests but to the interests of others, making up our minds not to put a stumbling block or obstacle in our brother's way.

My own conviction--that alcohol is dangerous and best avoided--stems from the following:

(1) Alcohol is highly addictive.  When a person becomes addicted to something, that thing becomes a major "need" in his life.  When we need something other than God for satisfaction, comfort or fulfillment, then it is, by definition, an idol.  God categorically condemns all idolatry.  Perhaps I would not become addicted to alcohol if I used it, but statistics show that approximately 20% of people who drink become alcoholics.  I do not want to open myself up to a 20% chance of shackling myself to idolatry.  God is my source of satisfaction and joy.  ("And do not get drunk with wine, which leads to debauchery, but be filled with the Spirit," Ephesians 5:18.)

(2)  Because of the high number of people in our culture and society today who struggle with alcohol addiction, I do not ever want my actions or example to lead anybody else into bondage to addictive sins.  ("It is better not to eat meat or drink wine or to do anything else that will cause your brother to fall," Romans 14:21.)

(3)  I have enough trouble keeping a clear head without adding chemicals to the mix.

I am not telling anyone else what his or her conviction must be.  That is between you and the Holy Spirit, and you need to take it seriously, but it's not my business what He tells you.  I understand and agree that the Bible does not say, anywhere, "Thou shalt not partake of a glass of wine."  I will not condemn you or think ill of you for doing so.  At the same time, I ask that if you do not share my conviction, you would still respect me in my conviction, and not ask me to do things with alcohol that would trouble my conscience.

We need to get straight on what the Bible says, and what it does not say.  We need to speak the truth in love, extend grace, love mercy, seek justice and surrender humbly before the the Lord.

Also, I'm counting on my husband never to take a second wife while I'm alive, whether it's prohibited or not.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Battle weary

Sometimes I get tired.

I don't say that to complain.  I used to have a friend who said, "I'm not complaining.  I'm just stating facts."  I also am stating a fact, and I state it not because I think that I get more tired than other people, or because I think my tiredness is more significant than other people's.  On the contrary, I state this fact because I think others besides me probably get tired too, and we need to encourage one another to keep on in hope, despite our fatigue.

Have you noticed how good things make you tired in one way, a good kind of tired that often leads to deep sleep, while bad things drain your energy and leave you empty and hurting?

Lately, I have experienced both highs and lows.  My soul has sung in praise to God.  My heart has also been torn and bruised, crying to the Lord for help and for mercy.  I've seen blessings poured out; concrete, measurable answers to prayer; the sovereign hand of God directing circumstances.  I've seen the words of the Bible come to life in the events of my days.

I've born witness to the acts of God, given glory to His name, and I've been told to stop, that wasn't God after all, nevermind, just a coincidence.  Like Elijah after Mount Carmel, when Jezebel remained unaffected and rebounded by threatening his life, I flee to the desert exhausted and longing for an angel to cook me a meal, longing to hear the whisper of God's gentle voice in my ear.

God can direct the heart of a king like a watercourse.  He is in control of all things.  Yet, He does not force a stubborn heart to bend.  He holds out the power of the Holy Spirit as a gift to any who will humbly enter into relationship with Him, yet He does not force Himself on anyone, ever.  He opens blind eyes, unstops deaf ears.  He enables the lame to walk, and cures those with leprosy.  Yet, it is those who call to Him whom He answers, those with a desire for healing.

God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked (Ezekiel 18:23).  Indeed, He takes no pleasure in anyone's death (Ezekiel 18:32).  He wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth (1 Timothy 2:4).  He is patient, not wanting any to perish, but everyone to come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).

I stack these truths against verses like Isaiah 46:10, where God says that His purpose will stand and He will do all that He pleases.  In Psalm 115:3, we read that God is in heaven, and He does whatever pleases Him.  He does not get frustrated about things that do not go His way.  He has the absolute power and ability to make things go His way.

Here's the question:  If God desires that all men be saved, and if He has the power to do whatever He desires, then why won't all men be saved?

I don't know.

The Bible does clearly state that not everyone will enter the kingdom of heaven.  In fact, the Bible says that the road to life is a narrow road beyond a small gate, and only a few find it.  The gospels record ominous parables about wedding banquets that people can't get into, and about the separation of sheep and goats, wheat and tares.  Revelation tells us that nothing impure will ever enter heaven, nor anyone who does what is shameful or deceitful, but only those whose names are written in the Lamb's book of life.

And yet, God desires for all men to be saved.  It is the deceiving wile of the devil that prevents salvation.  God's Holy Spirit illuminates truth, convicts hearts with the truth, and battles deception on every level.

Our battle, Ephesians 6 tells us, is not against flesh and blood, but against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.

God is mighty to save.  Long ago, He saved Israel from slavery to Egypt with His outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.  In our day, He will save His children from slavery to sin with His outstretched arm and with mighty acts of judgment.

Psalm 60:12 tells us that with God we will win the victory; God will trample down our enemies.  Remember, our enemies are not flesh and blood.  Our enemies are the spiritual forces of evil.  But God is greater.  God is above all spiritual powers, infinitely above, and He always has been.  As the jewel in the crown of God's absolute authority, Jesus has battled Satan and triumphed, clearly and decisively, by dying on the cross, carrying the cumulative sins of all humanity down to hell, and then bursting forth, free, perfect, pure and resurrected.  Jesus has already done this.  If God is for us, who can stand against us?  There is no power that can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Greater is He that is in us, than he that is in the world.

And yet, I get tired.  Because God is able.  He is almighty.  He is sovereign, glorious and victorious.  He is also compassionate, merciful, gracious, loving and zealous to save.  He is the healer, the restorer of souls, the deliverer from evil.

But He doesn't force Himself on people.

And, remarkably, people reject Him all the time.  Even when He is actively reaching out to them, even when He answers prayers and performs miracles.

This makes me very tired.

Hold me together, Lord Jesus.  Oh Lord Jesus, have mercy and help us all.

Help us not to despair, because You never do.

Help us always to pray and never give up (Luke 18:1).

Sustain us in our tiredness; let us find rest in You.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Full heart, exceedingly full.

A lot has been going on.

Now and then I have an idea for a blog post, and then it evaporates.

I want to write a post about the Holy Spirit, but it probably belongs on Seeking Wisdom.

My health has been a bit pesky of late, but that belongs on To Sleep.

Today will be scattered, more of a diary entry than a blog post.  Messy.  Incoherent, perhaps.

Back when we went on our trip to Zion National Park for our 25th Anniversary,  I never finished writing about it.  I hope I can get at least one more decent post out of our trip to the redwoods, before the images and memories fade.  I need to write about the Best Hike in the World.  The exuberant man on top of his camper.  The white-faced, black-eyed teenagers near Patrick's point.  Our secret discovery of barking seals, spouting whales and swooping eagles.  Cooking Petrale sole at the Trinidad Inn.  The man in the elevator who asked us, "Sprechen Sie Deutsch?"  The midnight desk clerk at Embassy Suites Dallas Airport.  The British lady who needed some help with her walker, coming off the airplane in Chicago.

So many pictures in my mind.  So many stories.  So little time.  So little energy.

Lupus.  Bah.  And the bills that go with it.  Boo.  And the insurance companies that consistently deny claims the first time they are submitted.  Hissssssss.

In April, Shawn and I went to the beach, the Atlantic Ocean, and spent some time with David and Ashton.

In May, Jon and I went to Minnesota and saw Aunt Nunie as she was packing up to move out of 2715 Wingfield.  We said good-bye to Great-Grandma Herbold's historic house.

Also in May, Shawn and I went to San Francisco and the redwood forests of northern California.  Within two months, I touched the water in the oceans on both our east and west coasts.

This is not my life.  I am a run-of-the-mill housewife.  I do laundry, clean toilets, and shop at Aldi.  I am not a big traveler.

But wait.  There's more.

In June, Shawn and I went to Georgia.  (We also crossed through a corner of Alabama, adding two more states to my list of places I've been.)

We met Ashton's lovely family, and David asked Ashton to marry him, out in the pasture, under the spreading oaks.  She said yes!

It was a happy, happy time.

Oh, the plans He has for them.  The plans He has for us all.

Smiles all around.  We all smiled up a storm!

If the engagement was this joyful, we'd better hold onto our hats when the wedding day arrives!

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Bucket List

I have had one item on my bucket list.  Well, maybe two, but the second is on hold, possibly permanently.

The second item on my bucket list is a trip to Israel.  I would like to see where Jesus lived, walk the roads, smell the air.  But I have lupus, and such a trip--jet lag and all--would be very ambitious even were it not for the volatile political situations in the world.

The other item on my bucket list was to see the Redwood Forests on the west coast of our own country.  Last week, I did.

We flew to San Francisco.  Here is proof of it:

We were in San Francisco for a few days while Shawn worked at a trade show.  When the show finished, we drove across the Golden Gate Bridge and away to the north.  Whew!  I like the country better than the city.

We drove north into Mendocino County, and came to a town called Ukiah.  There we turned left, and drove 13 miles on a treacherously high and twisty road called Orr Springs.

Eventually, Orr Springs Road descended on the far side of a high range, and (although this is what we came for) quite surprisingly we found ourselves nestled in a grove of giant redwood trees.

We did not have the hang of photographing them, although we quickly learned why so many pictures of them look like this:

And like this:

And sometimes like this:

There is practically no way to take a picture that does not show the trees to be wide at the bottom and narrow at the top.  They are that big.  Taller than I'd ever imagined.  Literally breathtaking, as in: I can't breathe and my chest hurts from the immensity of them.

We learned that it helps to take pictures with familiar objects in them, for perspective:

Here, a redwood next to Shawn (a "familiar object") for perspective.

And a bigger one, behind me.

And an even bigger one.  They kept getting bigger and bigger.

So that was our first encounter, and it was beyond my wildest dreams.  I wondered where we could possibly go from there.  But wait.  There's more.

The next day, we drove through a tree.

We visited a tree house, which was very much reminiscent of a hobbit house:

And then we drove up the Avenue of the Giants.  This is what it looks like:

You drive through grove after grove of giant redwoods, their trunks reaching up directly from the side of the road, which is wide enough for two lanes, but sometimes just barely.

Avenue of the Giants winds through Humboldt Woods State Park, where we stopped and did a few hikes, and took lots of pictures.

Shawn is standing in front of the roots of a tree that fell over many years ago.  I wonder what could have caused it to fall like that, pulling its roots out of the ground.

A friendly tree, almost small enough to hug.

You feel rather insignificant in such magnificent surroundings.

See me looking up at this tree?  Being in the redwoods does something to your posture.  Also, my glasses (which I generally wear on the top of my head to keep them handy) kept falling off the back of my head, over and over.

The sunshine was magical, dappling through the leaves and landing on fronds and ferns.  I was inclined to feel a bit like a bug, darting around beneath these silent, dignified beings with their verdant heads lost in the light above.

Trees like this were still alive, with branches and foliage above.  I think I'd like to roll out some bedding and take a nap inside one of these trees.

You can't possibly take it all in, the height, the silence, the cool shade, the lush undergrowth.  Even if you are right there, you can't see it all, and you get dizzy looking up and turning around as you try to.  Pictures fall far short.  I am overflowing with gratitude to God for allowing me to see and experience this, and to my husband for being the Lord's instrument for getting me there.

There were many beautiful, blooming wildflowers, too, and so much more, so much I could not contain my heart.

I will continue this post soon . . .