life

Need Some Cooks in this Editorial Kitchen

I’ve been struggling with the intro to my Bible study. I didn’t love it so I rewrote it. But now I’m thinking maybe I should have left well-enough (but not great) alone.

The intro has two sections – a prologue and instructions on getting started. Will some of you kind souls put on your editor visors, read both choices and HELP ME? Please!

Prologue: This?

In late November 1997, I spoke at a lovely Advent by Candlelight gathering.  At the end of the evening one of the event organizers pressed a book into my hands in a way that told me I was supposed to have it.  The title of the book was Fashioned for Intimacy, by Jane Hansen and Marie Powers.  Since I was not married at the time and since I did not feel compelled to read it, I took it home and stuck it on a shelf.

In March 2002 I drove home from a sexual abstinence conference, my head spinning with information on human papilloma virus, cervical cancer, cervical dysplasia and all the STDs that are epidemic among teenagers.  I gulped at the thought of friends who had cervical dysplasia and had no idea it was associated with HPV and cancer.  I thought about all my young clients at the pregnancy help center who were putting themselves at risk for grave diseases and didn’t know it.  Statistically, many already had them.  The reality of it suddenly overwhelmed me and I started to cry.  Through tears I pleaded, “Lord, you have to warn them!”  In that moment I knew that He was planning to do just that, and He was going to use me to do it, and it wasn’t going to be easy.  I left my position as the executive director of a pregnancy help center and started a ministry of speaking to teens and their parents about making healthy choices.

In May 2009 I spoke at a Christian school, where I had been speaking annually for several years. That year, as one of the teachers walked me to my car on the fourth and final day of presentations, she expressed dismay over two graduates who had gotten pregnant just out of high school.  As I drove home, I wondered why, when it comes to dating, so many Christian kids go the way of the world.  Why the divorce rate among Christian marriages is almost identical to that of the general population. Why Christian young women – who know they are treasured by God – chase after defilement.  Why do they hear and not heed? Why is the church so ineffective in preparing our youth for healthy, lasting marriages?  Why, when we have such a big and able God, are so many relationships a mess?

As soon as I got home I fell to my knees and asked God those very questions.  I asked Him to please explain to me what our purity programs are missing.

He did.

He took me right back to the beginning of Scripture, showed me what went wrong and how it still plays out today.  He compelled me to read the book that had been pressed into my hands twelve years earlier.  Through that book, He introduced me to Dr. Katharine C. Bushnell’s 100 year old book, God’s Word to Women, which He used to get this ball rolling.

Or This?

It was a course fraught with danger and I was running scared – hurdling razor-sharp wires, dodging swinging pendulums, carefully and precisely maneuvering through intricate laser webs.  I moved with focused intensity and the terrifying expectation that I would make a fatal mistake.  As I approached each obstacle I braced myself for the big “Game Over.”

When I finally made it to the end I was mentally exhausted yet exhilarated over having survived with only a few cuts and burns. I wanted to do it again.  Once I knew it was possible to survive the maze, I wanted to see if I could come out completely unscathed.

But a knowing told me I couldn’t.  It told me that everyone gets only one turn.   I could, however, go back and cheer others on; talk them through it; warn them of impending dangers.

That somewhat prophetic dream pretty well sums up what I’ve been doing these last fifteen years – talking teens and parents through the minefields of adolescence and dating, cheering them on in hopes of getting them through unscathed. And yet with all of the genius that I and others impart, why, I wondered, do so many young people continue to rush toward defilement?  Why is the divorce rate among Christian couples almost identical to the divorce rate at large? Why, when we have such a big and able God, are so many relationships such a mess?

I seriously wanted to know, so I got down on my knees and asked. I begged God to show me what our purity programs are missing and He did.  He took me right back to the beginning of the Scriptures and showed me where the church has gotten some things wrong.  He shed a radically new light on my old understanding.   Now I am extending that light to you.

Which prologue do you like better? Does either one pique your interest in the study?

Getting Started: This?

This Bible study is my attempt to share what God taught me.  My prayer is that as you embark on this study you will set your mind to understanding and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth.  We are going to dig deep so put on your thinking cap.

Some of the lessons are going to be a bit heavy.  On those days, grab the hand of the One who loves you.

Some lessons will challenge what you may have previously been taught.  If so, don’t be afraid.  Genuine faith isn’t so fragile that it will fall apart if you take a fresh look at Scripture and even question a few things.  Jesus often challenged the understanding of the religious leaders of His day and opposed the status quo.  Sadly, fear and/or love of the system of belief they had established did not allow them to consider new Truth.   Be brave.  Open your mind and let God shed fresh light on the Scriptures.  And please don’t just take my word for it.  Be a Berean (Acts 17:11).

Search the Scriptures and see for yourself.  My aim is not to convince you to think what I think. My aim is to set you in the Scriptures to seek what God thinks.  The last thing we need is more man-made doctrine.

I hope you will come each week ready to share what God has said to you through your study.  The Lord bless you and keep you and make His face shine upon you as you begin this journey. Heaven esteems you when you set your mind to understanding.

Or This?

This is no fluffy, feel-good Bible study, though I hope parts of it will make you feel good.  Parts of it might make you mad.  It will definitely challenge you spiritually, mentally and emotionally.  If you are young, I hope it will greatly improve your future.  If you are older, I hope it will bring healing to your past – and greatly impact the futures of the young people in your life. My prayer is that as you embark on this study you will set your mind to understanding and ask the Holy Spirit to guide you into all Truth.

We are going to dig deep so put on your thinking cap.  Some of the lessons are going to be a bit heavy.  On those days, grab the hand of the One who loves you.  Some lessons will challenge what you may have previously been taught.  If so, don’t be afraid.  Genuine faith isn’t so fragile that it will fall apart if you take a fresh look at Scripture and even question a few things.  Jesus often opposed the status quo and challenged the understanding of the religious leaders of His day. Be brave.  Open your mind and let God shed fresh light on the Scriptures.  And please don’t take my word for anything.  Be a Berean (Acts 17:11).

Search the Scriptures and see for yourself.  My aim is not to convince you to think what I think. The last thing we need is more man-made doctrine. My aim is to lead you through the Scriptures to discover a more accurate understanding of what God thinks.

I’ve lead enough groups through this study to know that it’s going to be a really tough task. We Christians have a very strong tendency to hold the Scriptures up to our understanding rather than holding our understanding up to them.  When we read a new interpretation of them our knee-jerk reaction is to declare, “That’s not what I’ve been taught!” And then we dismiss the new interpretation, or worse yet, we hate it.
The aim of this Bible study is to rethink some of the things we have been taught; to hold our preconceived notions up to the light to see how well they actually match Scripture.  The goal is not to hold this Bible study up to see how well it confirms our preconceived notions.  Did you hear me? The aim of this study is to rethink some of the things we’ve been taught! If that is out of the question for you at this stage in your Christian walk, then put the study aside until the Spirit nudges you to pick it up again.

As you proceed, ask the Holy Spirit to show you heaven’s perspective.  It’s His job to guide you into all Truth.

I hope you will do this study with a small group and share what God says to you. Each chapter is broken up into five sections, that way you can do one section per day and still have two days for catch up if life gets busy and you get behind.

The Lord bless you as you begin this journey. Heaven esteems you, dear scholar, when you set your mind to understanding.

I wrote the second “Getting Started” after I lead a few groups through the study and realized just how hard it is for people to rethink. Is the rewrite too harsh?

Does either “getting started” pique your interest in the study?

I’m hoping the choices are obvious to you because they aren’t obvious to me – which makes me wonder whether I should go with option 3: neither.

Be kind, be gentle and be HONEST! And if you can’t be kind, gentle and honest then just be honest.

Thank you and God bless you for reading all 1780 words!

#notobvious

 

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life

A really good walk unspoiled.

The hub and I skipped church this morning and headed over to Oakland Hills to watch the final round of the US Amateur.

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The two remaining players are University of Oklahoma’s Brad Dalke (go Brad) and Perth, Australia’s Curtis Luck.

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It was a beautiful morning – lots of fresh air and sunshine, lots of exercise. It was a really good walk unspoiled.

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We had to leave after the first 18 holes because the hub had a mandatory meeting at 3:00. A mandatory 4 hour work meeting on a Sunday afternoon!

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It was all square when we left after those first 18. Which was good, because I’m rooting for Brad and he was down by 2 for awhile.

All Square

On the short drive home I stated that it seems a tad unfair because Brad, a college student, is a true amateur.  Curtis, who passed on college in order to play golf full-time, is more an unpaid professional.

“He should just stay in Australia,” I said, “play in his own stinking Amateur. But don’t worry, hub, once Donald Trump is elected Australians won’t be allowed to play here anymore.”

I crack him up.

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When we got home I went online to find out what time the second 18 would be televised. As I scrolled through the photos from the morning half, I saw the hub! He’s the good-looking guy in the black polo. I’m the good-looking gal (I can make that claim because I am almost completely obscured by Brad) in the blue cap and the peach sweater.

They have just completed the 27th hole and Curtis is up 7. It looks grim but I am not in despair.

Gotta’ go. Don’t want to jeopardize Brad’s chances by not paying attention.

#USAmateur

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life

Cake and Ice Cream

Back in June my daughter shared a bit of local news:

A woman drop-kicked a birthday cake at Kroger because it didn’t turn out as she imagined.

When they couldn’t fix it to her liking she pushed her way behind the bakery counter and attempted to fix it herself. She was then told she could not be in the food prep area so she took her cake, headed toward the front door and then… you know.

“They ruined my son’s birthday,” she yelled, as she stomped on the cake.

“Whoa!,” I commented, “There’s a lot more there to ruin that child’s birthday than the cake.”

Wound tight and wound cheap.

If your Batman vs. Superman cake HAS to be perfect in order for your 7-year-old’s birthday party to be anything but ruined, you order from Charm City Cakes, not Kroger.

Kroger prices and reasonable Kroger expectations do not warrant drop-kicking anything.

Charm City expectations and prices – airfare and all – do not warrant drop-kicking anything either for that matter. But disappointment would be understandable.

If your Batman vs. Superman cake HAS to be perfect in order for you to give the illusion that you are the perfect mom and/or the perfect birthday party thrower, then you need some perspective. And a very large chill pill.

We shrugged and laughed – another high maintenance customer. Sightings are frequent around here.

I chalked it up to a frayed rope; the straw that broke the camel’s back.

But today she is back in the news.

Last summer she smacked a worker in an ice cream parlor because they didn’t have the flavor she wanted. Just smacked and ran. No birthday party pressure that day. Stopping for an ice cream cone – alone – has got to be about as pressure free as it gets.

Eleven months later the manager of the ice cream shop read a newspaper article about the Kroger incident and recognized the assailant as the same woman from the attack in her shop.

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The look on her attorney’s face says it all.

You can see the ice cream surveillance tape here: Cake and ice cream.

What the heck?

I was in the customer service line at Walmart one day a few years ago. A man was trying to return a television set.  He had no box, just the TV- the old, heavy, hard-to-get-your-arms-around kind.

The young woman behind the counter explained that the TV could not take be returned because Walmart no longer sells that particular television – hasn’t for years.

The man did a lot of yelling, grabbed the TV off the counter and took a few steps toward the door.

Suddenly he turned, walked briskly back, flung the TV over the customer service counter while yelling, “It doesn’t do me any good if it doesn’t work!” and then stormed out.

I don’t know whether he was stopped on his way out or whether the very young customer service worker was too stunned to react, but he should have been. He should have been charged with disorderly conduct, with disturbing the peace – my peace – and for destruction of property.  He should have been made to sweep up the broken glass.

My friend, Helen, used to run impulse-control groups at a prison on Saturdays.  (Just imagine that for a minute – a woman alone in a room with a group of men who lack impulse control.)

According to her, lack of impulse control is a huge issue among inmates. Well, yeah.

At the bond hearing for the ice cream assault, the judge said the woman is not allowed to own a firearm or any sort of weapon.

So now I’m wondering a few things:

  1. At what developmental stage is impulse control acquired?
  2. What factors prevent acquiring it?
  3. Is there a test for impulse control – or lack thereof – that could be administered before the issuing of a gun license.  Not that those who lack impulse control would have the patience to apply for a gun license. Or the self-control to refrain from striking the person who denied it.

All this over cake and ice cream.

The world has gone mad.

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Jesus

Hell hath no fury like a politician scorned.

My pastor has stated, more than once, that God has no enemies.

I assume he means that God is no one’s enemy. And that, I think, is true.

But Enemyville is paved with both one and two way streets, and though God does not wage war against us, some of us wage war against Him.  Making some of us His enemy. And then there’s Matthew 13, beginning in verse 25.

Whoa and Woe.

A Pharisee invited Jesus to dinner.  Probably to vet Him.  Jesus was doing a lot of speaking and teaching at the time and He was starting to draw large crowds. A good Pharisee cannot let anyone teach to large crowds – or even small crowds – without careful vetting.

So Jesus went to dinner and He didn’t wash His hands before eating.

Whoa! The Pharisee was shocked.

Jesus, feeling the judgment that oozed from His host said, “You guys wash the outside of the cup and dish, but inside you are full of greed and wickedness. Now, as for what is inside you—be generous to the poor, and everything will be clean for you.”

“Be generous to the poor and everything will be clean for you.” That’s a statement worth pondering. But not now because Jesus had more to say.

He went on to slam the Pharisees for giving a tenth of their herbs but neglecting justice and love.  It would be better, He said, to skip the tithe and focus on the other two.

He slammed them for enjoying celebrity treatment.

At this point, another guest at the table, an expert in the law, spoke up: “Hey, wait just a minute, when you dis the Pharisees you dis us, too.

“Now that you mention it,” Jesus said, turning His attention to the experts in the law, “woe to you, too, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

Raise your hand if you go to a church that loads you down.  Raise your hand if you were reared in one.

God gave Moses ten commandments. Ten.  To those ten the “experts in the law” piled on a whole Leviticus and Deuteronomy worth of regulations and feast observances.

It’s like legalese making contracts so difficult to understand that you must pay an expert in the law.

It’s like when you have a theological discussion with a blogger who’s been to seminary and they attempt to put you in your place by pulling out words like hermeneutics…

Unlucky for them Jesus didn’t call anyone who had been to seminary to be His disciples, there wasn’t an expert in the law in the bunch. My guess is He considered it a liability.

And then there’s all the vetting that some churches do before they will allow a member to serve in any way – big or small – to prevent the slightest breach, the slightest hairline crack in their carefully crafted doctrine.

As if God is unable to repair hairline fractures.

But I digress.

Jesus said a lot more stuff about them being responsible for the deaths of the prophets and then He finished by saying, “Woe to you experts in the law, because you have taken away the key to knowledge. You yourselves have not entered, and you have hindered those who were entering.”

“They’ve taken away the key to knowledge.” Hm.

“They have not entered and hinder those who are trying to enter.” More to ponder.

After dinner the Pharisees and the teachers of the law began to oppose Jesus fiercely and to besiege Him with questions, waiting to catch Him in something He might say.

Later they plotted as to how they might kill Him.

Yep, God has enemies.

Politics.

All this vetting and pouncing and hindering and plotting and fierce opposing has turned my thoughts to our election.

Contrary to what the polls say, THIS middle-aged-white-woman (and former social worker) intends to vote for Trump.

Because what former social worker can resist rooting for the underdog; can resist standing up for the one who is being attacked from all sides – the media, the opposing party and even, shamefully, from within his own party?

What seeker of justice can reward smug, elitist, political “experts” who are arrogant enough to ignore the will of the majority of their party and desperately scrape up and push forth “independent” alternatives?

Plus, everyone in the womb is counting on me.

I’ll say no more, lest this stream of consciousness – prompted by the word “carry” – gain me some enemies.

“Woe to you, because you load people down with burdens they can hardly carry, and you yourselves will not lift one finger to help them.”

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life

Intolerance

It was a hot and steamy Saturday, too hot to do anything but go to the movies. So to the movies we went.

We saw Indignation.

I am about to spoil the ending, and maybe most of the middle, so if you are thinking of seeing it, stop reading now. But before you go, hit the “like”switch on your way out, just for the heck of it.

As we were exiting the theater my daughter labeled it a “sad, strange movie.”

When asked what he thought of it on the car ride home, the hub said he wanted to shake the guy.

I suggested that the movie might have been better named “Intolerance.”

Perhaps the misnomer was calculated, to lure an audience. The brief plot summary paired with the title gave me the impression that it was going to be about the unfair treatment of a young Jewish man at an Ohio College in the 1950’s.

That would have been something about which to be indignant.

And who doesn’t like their indignation riled once in a while in the confines of the movie theater?

But this was about a young atheist, who happened to be Jewish, who was indignant at the requirement to sit through 10 hours of chapel per year, 40 hours of chapel in all.

Indignant even though, when he accepted a scholarship to the college, he surely knew chapel was a requirement. I say surely because he was a bright, serious, studious, logic-driven young man who surely would have read the student manual, the requirements, the fine print.

He would have read the terms and accepted them in order to be the first in his family to go to college and, more precisely, in order to escape the draft.

The narration at the start of the story set up the ending.  All the little decisions along the way, the narrator said, make a difference in one’s life, bring about one’s death.

There were scenes I could have happily lived without, included perhaps to confuse the viewer – to suggest that the demise of the bright-futured young man would be at the hands of a beautiful, messed up woman (a la The Natural). Or perhaps merely included for those who enjoy gratuitous defilement. But the decision to pursue a beautiful, messed up woman is not what lead to his demise. It wasn’t the decision that revoked his scholarship, got him booted from the college, landed him on the battlefield.

It was his religious intolerance.

His intolerance of religion.

Indignation is a cautionary tale; a warning to all religion-intolerant atheists; to all imtheists.

And perhaps to all the modern college students who demand to be protected from ideas/beliefs that are contrary to their own.

#confused

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life

My heart is broken today.

Experts say the minimum age to allow your children to start dating is 16. Those who start dating before they are 16 are much more likely to become sexually active before graduating from high school than those who start dating after age 16.

But I gave my daughter something better than a minimum age, back when she was in high school, I gave her a minimum standard. I told her she could start dating when she was mature enough to hold another person’s heart in her hands without wrecking it.

It takes a lot of love and maturity to be truly careful with someone’s heart.

I wish ALL mommas would teach their children to hold hearts with the utmost care.

To not use and abuse.

To not bide their time in a “lie.”

To see the holding of another’s heart as a precious, sacred privilege.

I wish ALL young men would take the same care that my daughter takes.

My friend Dale used to say that he could tell within 3 dates whether a woman was right for him. If he wasn’t feeling “it” by the third date he would end things right then, before the woman’s heart became attached.

By “it” he meant potential marriage.

If most men know within 3 dates whether or not a woman is right for them, then anything beyond a third date is just plain selfish.

And reckless.

Because you can’t detach an attached heart without doing some damage, without leaving some scar tissue.

It seems so unfair that a beautiful, kindhearted young woman, who has always held the hearts of others so carefully, has had her own heart smashed into a thousand pieces.

The only thing that comes close to the excruciating, soul-crushing pain of a breakup is watching someone you love walk through it.

Even when you can see a bright future ahead.

Next time a young man comes along I’m going to want to advise her to bail after the third date.  Make him work for it. Make him prove he really wants her before she allows him into her heart.

I’m going to want to build a protective hedge around her.

But then I’ll think about my husband and how impressed I was that he was brave enough to open his heart to me after all he had been through.

And I’ll remember that Jesus knows something about giving one’s heart to the reckless, the clueless, the unworthy.

And yet He keeps taking the risk.

The Lord is close to the brokenhearted
and saves those who are crushed in spirit. Psalm 34:18

 

 

 

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life

Iridescent Clouds

 

I borrowed this clip from Out of a Great Need the other day and posted it on Facebook with this note:

“I love Maya Angelou. I met her on a bus when I was a student at MSU. As soon as I boarded she motioned for me to come sit with her. I didn’t realize until years later who it was who spoke to me with such wisdom and caring. She has been one of the rainbows in my clouds.”

Then yesterday the hub and I saw two “rainbow clouds” when we were at the Farmers Market.

The hub commented, “I didn’t know God was psychedelic.”

“Apparently He is.”

I unloaded my stuff onto the hub so I could snap pictures with my phone.

The pics I took didn’t do them justice, but the clouds we saw looked a lot like the one in this photo – which I snagged from crisfulton.com.

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According to news.nationalgeographic.com, spotting them is rare:

Like common cloud-to-ground rainbows, iridescent clouds usually accompany thunderstorms. According to atmospheric phenomena expert Les Cowley, they often appear in the late afternoon, on very hot and humid days. This stems from the fact that most rainbow clouds form on top of cumulus clouds—the fluffy cotton-ball-shaped clouds we often see in children’s drawings.

“What happens is that the cumulus cloud, boiling upwards, pushes the air layers above it higher and higher,” Cowley explained. “As the air gets pushed upwards, it expands and cools. And sometimes moisture in that air suddenly condenses into tiny droplets to form a cap cloud.”

This “cap”—which scientists call a “pileus”—is the source of the brilliant spectacle.

“The droplets in the cap cloud scatter sunlight to form the gorgeous colors,” Cowley said.

Though the ingredients for rainbow clouds seem simple, they’re not spotted often, and are even less frequently photographed.

The iridescent clouds we saw yesterday were cirrus, not cumulus, and there wasn’t a thunderstorm in sight.

It was a gorgeous day with interesting cloud formations. White, puffy cumulus clouds were layered upon wispy cirrus clouds, which made them look like they were outlined in blue.

As we approached home the hub said, “The sky doesn’t look real.”

It didn’t. It looked like a painting.

Very cool sky. Very cool day.

Delicious burgers and Michigan corn on the cob for dinner.

#Godpaints

 

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