Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Thoughts on God

In less than twelve hours, I have experienced three different individuals telling or asking me about God, asking or mentioning the "hard" things.  Only two of these encounters were conversations; the other was someone railing against God for all His wrongdoing (in that person's opinion.)  These conversations left me feeling as though I should share my thoughts.   

The first conversation was last evening.  I was asked why God allows bad things to happen.  Why are children born with handicaps?  Why are children abused?  Why did Adam and Eve have to be so stupid and sinful?   That one made me smile and ask back, "Because you have never disobeyed God, right?"   The way I read it, God spent days (2 Peter 3: 8) making a beautiful world, full of numerous varieties of plants, animals, insects, birds, wild beasts, trees, flowers, climates; He made the sun, moon, and stars to give us light and to set our time and seasons.  And then He wanted to pour His love into persons made in His (Our) image.  "Our" suggests plurality.  God, the Father, Jesus, the Son, and the Holy Spirit were all present.  Their desire was relationship with Adam and Eve and all their offspring such as they had together--unity, peace, and love.  And they wanted people to have unity with one another.  

But They did not want relationship with robots.  If your spouse or child loved you because they had no choice, how would that be rewarding?  The reward of love is when it is given by free choice.  God desired our love and trust, freely given.   So "stupid" old Adam and Eve had a choice to make.  They could look around and see all that God had done for them:  the beauty of the created, the sun for light and warmth, the plants for eating, the shade for cool rest.   We are told that the work was not difficult in the beginning.  The animals were amazing and varied so I imagine life was not dull.   

God provided man and woman with love, daily relationship with one another and with their Creator, and every need met in paradise.   They had a choice, just as we still do -- obedience and trust or sin, AKA disobedience.  We have the audacity to blame God for our wrong choices, their wrong choices.   He made paradise; we made the mess.  And yes, I maintain that all the mess of this world, hate, violence, mental illness, birth defects, and on and on I could go, it all originated with sin, not God. 

He knew we would make the mess; He knows our hearts.   He saw our need for redemption in the beginning.   And He provided.

The second conversation began with a friend saying that she does not believe that people should say God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.  (Hebrews 13: 8)   She cited that God was totally different in the old Testament writings than Jesus (God with us) was in the new Testament.  She brought up the extreme violence of the OT.    

I shared that I understand where she is coming from but I think of it a little differently than she does.  The violence of the Old Testament had to do with the heart of man, not the will of God.   Men chose from the beginning of time to go their own way, live by their own standards, laws, tenets.   We often think of God's law as obtrusive, mean, heavy.   I believe God's laws were for man's protection and well-being.   God knew man's needs; He created, He understood.   He also wanted His people, the Israelites, to survive and worship and thank Him for deliverance.   Again, sin (disobedience of God) was rampant, in God's people as well as all others.  Wars happen.   I know this is over simplified, so go ahead and call me whatever you want.   But I do believe that God allows men to make their choices; He knew that the Israelites would not be "given" the land by those already living there; they would not be accepted as new settlers; so He allowed war and killings.  Again, it was a function of man's heart and God's provision for those choosing to follow Him.   

The third non-conversation left me sad.   The person attacking walked away from God and Christian faith years ago and feels superior for having done so.   That person was railing about God and His (perceived) injustice in the mistreatment of women.  Names were named and stories of abuse of women were mentioned that have nothing at all to do with one another; but I get the gist of the complaint. Also mentioned was Jezebel who is mentioned as a strong woman (by the accuser) and therefore is deemed by God to be wicked.  Well, no that is misaligning the facts of the story; Jezebel was a strong evil woman who chose wrongdoing and that is why God found her displeasing. Again, the stories have to do with the heart of men, not God's heart.   God's heart for man has always demonstrated love, faithfulness, peace, and a desire for unity and relationship with Him. 

We see through the example of Jesus that women are to be respected, cherished, and protected.  And in Jesus we see what God's intent for us was all along, love, peace, and unity.   We are the ones who choose to make a mess of life.  

Friday, July 22, 2016

Battling Through This Life

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6: 12

In talking with one of my mentors recently about wrapping up my son's junior year of high school, she reminded me of the Bible verse above.   She reminded me that our "battles" in this world are not against one another, not against our spouse, our children, our friends, relatives, or our neighbors.  The battle is against the ENEMY- God's enemy.   And ultimately, we must submit to God and let Him fight the battle against the enemy for us.  He has already won the battle, we just need to follow our leader, Jesus.  

Just need to follow our leader Jesus...  Wow!  It sounds so simple, doesn't it?  But it's not.  It takes a daily relationship with the Creator and His Son. Thankfully, through relationship with Him I am daily washed in the blood;  I am a sinner, a redeemed sinner, but a sinner nonetheless.  God has provided a daily washing through walking in the light, living like and in Jesus.   Thank you Father God for your provision.

But the battle is ours to fight in our own minds and actions.  We must submit to God's plan.  Submit is a dirty word in our culture; we don't want to be demeaned or disrespected.  And yet, the peace that passes all understanding comes only through submission.   HIS plan works (if we live it.)   

So when my husband is disrespectful to me by "calling me out" in front of our children, do I fire right back at him?   I've been doing that for 22 plus years.   It has not made our marriage strong or peaceful.   The movie War Room began my understanding that my battle has been with the wrong person in my marriage.   My husband is not my enemy; the one who enjoys and creates the strife and unrest between us is the enemy. 

When my children don't comply with my wishes, whether just "not hearing me" or deliberately just not doing what I say to do (is that the same thing?), they are not my enemies.

When my friend or my friend's friend (on facebook) or in real life says something that feels like an  insult or put down, that person is not my enemy.  
When one group of people in society feels abused and neglected....  I guess that's another day's writing.  But, people are not the enemy.

We have one enemy and our battle is with him through the Lord.  Our battle with him is really in our minds, resisting his lies and the chaos and hate that he thrives on us buying into.   

I have been fighting for a long time and I am tired.   I hate when my husband and I have no peace between us.  I hate when my friends feel put down or misunderstood by one another or by me.  I hate when I make stupid comments and lead people to feel like I am not a true friend.   I hate when I mess up!   And that happens often.  This life is hard - balancing work, home, play, school, hobbies, friends, family, church.  It seems it just gets harder when we lose sight of whom the battle is really against.  

I just want to rest from it all for a while.   I want to get quiet and dwell in the peace that passes all understanding. (Philippians 4: 7)  

Friday, July 1, 2016

What Does It REALLY Mean to Help Those Living in Poverty?

The last 36 hours have brought some interesting revelations our way. Nothing earth shattering or tragic exactly, just disheartening. The saying, "No good deed goes unpunished," comes to mind but is overly dramatic. Trying to help people is largely a thankless endeavor at times. I told a friend and mentor today that throwing money at people's problems just seems to exacerbate their problems. It seems that the best (only) way to really make an impact on the lives of others is to love them, teach them about Jesus, help them however you can to seek Him and His way of life. That's it. 

Problems are more complex when others are hungry, homeless, unclothed, etc. Basic needs must be met before a person can seek deeper relationship and spiritual matters. But throwing money at problems just seems to delay the inevitable.  I once paid a lot of money to keep someone's utilities on and six months later, the individual was right back to having the utilities cut off and "no one to help them."   I politely shared that I could not pay again.   

The same seems to be true whether paying utilities, rent, daycare, or buying food.  The crisis is avoided for a month, or two, or six, but ultimately, the story unfolds with disaster striking the previously "helped" individual.  

It feels like the equivalent of beating one's head against a brick wall in order to rid oneself of a headache.  It just seems to cause more problems in the long run.  It feels like I have only enabled others to be irresponsible.   It feels bad to think that I really believed I was helping a person through a hard situation and that it was a turning point for them and then later find out it is apparently a way of life; that is, living from from crisis to crisis is a way of life.   It seems to be the norm for those living in poverty in the U.S.  

There are studies about this sort of social phenomenon; there are programs to help the middle class and the upper class to understand why our friends in poverty live this way.  There are programs to help those living in poverty to find their way to different thinking in order to achieve different outcomes.   

It just seems that the changes come slowly once a person takes the class.  It's a one step forward and three steps back process.   I can relate in some ways, for instance, in my quest to lose weight.  

And I don't mean to imply I am above some of the same issues.  I have debt I should not have.   I have the desire to just not pay the bills and just have fun some months.   But I can see the outcome of making a decision like that; and I don't desire to be without food, utilities, a place to live, gas for my car, or having creditors hound me for hours on end.   I have lived in poverty as a young 20-something wife and mother/ single mom.  I praise God for putting me in the "family of origin" that I was born into.   My parents taught me to create a stable home for my kids, pay my bills,  that fun comes after responsibilities are met.   The funny thing is, I don't remember ever having a discussion about these things.   I can remember my mother laughing at me when as a very young child, she told me one day she didn't have the money to buy me the toy I requested.  My response was, "Just write a check for it Mama."   She laughed and related, "That's not how it works."   But by modeling the art of living within their means, my parents raised me to pay my bills and at times to do without. 

During my single mom days, my priorities were simple on paydays:  rent, daycare, utilities, gas/oil, groceries, doctors, repeat....   It was a never-ending cycle which made me weary.   Occasionally we had money for new clothes and shoes.   Sometimes, the doctor had to wait a bit longer for full payment.   But we survived.  My kids felt loved and I don't think they realized they did without until they were older.  We had fun together; we walked a few blocks to the playground down the street.  Very occasionally, we got to go to McDonald's or Burger King for supper.   They had clothes, toys, a house to live in that was warm in winter and cool in summer.  And they had bedtime stories and goodnight kisses.  They had a mom who checked their homework and signed their folders, and reviewed sight words with them.   We managed life.   It wasn't easy but it was necessary.  They deserved the stability; I deserved the stability.   

I know children who don't live with that stability and it's heartbreaking.   I wish there were simple answers.