faith, the friends

Doxology

Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
Praise Him all creatures here below,
Praise Him above ye heavenly host,
Praise Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

If you know anything about Dixie, you know that she was diagnosed with colon cancer in February.

If you don’t know anything about her, it’s time to catch up:

There is no remedy for love but to love more.

We’re Not Just Whistling Dixie

One minute you’re getting your face bit off and the next minute you’re living in Hintzville.

Is this my new calling? ‘Cuz I’m gonna’ need superhuman strength.

Big Love & Fruit that Lasts

Stuck in the Kitchen Again…

McDonald’s has its pink slime, I have purple.

When I last wrote about my friend, I was cooking like her life depended on it.

And wondering whether she would be incontinent forever.

But then the blessings began to flow on two creatures here below.

On a little beagle and me.

Dixie is now pooping like a normal dog – well, almost like a normal dog. And that is a huge blessing right there.

But there’s more.

Wednesday morning I took her for the 4th of 6 chemo treatments – each 3 weeks apart.  As per the protocol, her oncologist did an ultrasound and some chest x-rays prior to the treatment to make sure the treatments have been working.  If not, he’d switch to something else.

The ultrasound results?

There is no sign of recurrence in her bowels or lymph nodes – lymph nodes are all of normal size.

The doc said a radiologist would look at her chest x-rays to confirm but he saw nothing obvious on them.

So he proceeded with injection number four.

And then yesterday his assistant called with the radiologist’s findings:

Her lungs are completely clear!

Good food, exercise and chemo are keeping the cancer at bay.

And Love. Lots of Love.

Love is healing her.

Praise God from whom all blessings flow…

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Stopping to smell the roses after this morning’s happy walk.

She’ll get the final two injections and then she’ll just be monitored from there.

Hopefully for many happy, healthy years to come…

#grateful #hopeful

 

 

 

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Jesus

Smiling at Ugly

I saw God once. He was sitting on a throne and He looked pleased.  Contented. As though there were no terrorism or exploitation or child/animal/spouse abuse or abortion or addiction or disease.

He was smiling as though all is right with the world.

From His perspective, perhaps it is.

Perhaps what makes the world right in His eyes is not our behavior, but His.

He sits with a serene smile because all is right in His world.

We mock Him in our world and He loves us in His.

We exploit and terrorize here, He redeems and forgives there.

His conscience is clear because He has always done the right thing.

So He smiles.

I was a little like that when I was young, smiling at the world with a soft heart.

But somewhere along the way my smile became based on the behavior of others.

I was only as content as my husband was faithful, my child was grateful, my friends were loyal.

As my contentment became based upon things I could not control, I stewed more than I smiled.

I stewed because people aren’t being how they’re supposed to be.

I’ve been wanting to get back to smiling, even at an ugly world, and God has shown me how He does it.

He doesn’t smile because we are being how we’re supposed to be.

He smiles because He is faithful.

He smiles because He is grateful.

He smiles because He is loyal.

And because He has redemption up His sleeve.

“Look at them,” Jesus said as He looked out over the crowds of rich, poor, healthy, lame, righteous, grateful, unrighteous, ungrateful, faithful, adulterous, loyal betrayers at the start of Matthew chapter 5, “Blessed are they.”

“Blessed are they because I am here to do the right thing.”

And He did.

And now He smiles.

And I want to smile with Him.

Blessed are we.

Amen.

 

 

 

 

 

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Jesus

On the Brink

I watched a young boy approach a precipice.

I watched him take a long, measured pause.

I watched him take a step.

In September I told a true story about an experience my daughter had in kindergarten.

She was the youngest in her class – only 4 years old when the school year began – and she was small. A sweet little peanut who hardly weighed anything, with a sensitive heart.

One of her classmates was six when the school year began. She was big – tall and strong – and a bit of a bully. Some days she made my sweet-hearted little girl cry.

So we started mentioning her name in our bedtime prayers. We asked God to soften her heart.

“By the end of that school year,” I told the group of 8-and-9-year-olds who were sitting in a circle on the floor, “the two girls were good friends.”

The child who was not seated in the circle, the one I was sort of told had ADHD, stopped whatever it was he was doing in the corner of the room and looked up.

“Did that really happen?,” he asked with great interest.

“Yes it did,” I replied.

In the following weeks he sat in the circle for the Bible lesson. He interrupted, he disrupted but he was interested and engaged. He mentioned something about his dad. I reminded him that God can soften harsh hearts.

Meanwhile, his kindhearted grandma was teaching him about Jesus. He often came to class enthusiastically sharing the things she told him.

Most weeks he was disruptive and disobedient.  He wanted to draw during the Bible lesson. I told him he could draw as long as he was drawing something related to what he was hearing.  He drew Pokemon characters instead.

He had good weeks and bad weeks.

In January he paused in front of a large picture of Jesus as we were walking down the hallway, headed to our classroom.

I watched as he stood on that precipice, wheels turning in his head. I knew what he was contemplating.

A week or so later I asked him to step into the hallway during the Bible lesson.  My co-leader was teaching and he was disrupting.

“Do you know why we are out here?” I asked. It was our familiar routine.  Most weeks he did know and we came up with a plan to curb his behavior.

But that week he said, “I almost did it.”

I knew what he meant.

“I almost bowed down to Him.  I almost bowed down to Him but now you’ve made me come out in the hall.”

Oh no you don’t, I thought, you aren’t going to pin your decision on me.

He started drawing pictures of Satan during the Bible lesson.

“You are not allowed to draw Satan while I’m teaching about Jesus,” I told him, week after week to no avail.

In March my co-leader had each student write a question they wanted to ask God.

He wrote that he wanted an angel to come and tell him whether he would be married some day, whether he would have a son.

And I understood the precipice. I understood the edge upon which he was teetering.

Align himself/his life with the kindhearted, God-loving grandma who brought him to Bible study or align himself with his harsh father.

He apparently chose the one he falsely perceived as having the power.

Counterfeit power.

There is a lot more actual power in being his grandmother than there is in being his dad.

He came to class with a mysterious gouge on his nose. He didn’t know what happened.

Once or twice he came with gouges all over his face.

Was he harming himself?

At times he paired his disobedience with a maniacal laugh.

By now every week was a bad week.

Many times throughout the year I wanted to excuse him from the program to protect the learning of the other students but my concerns were always overruled.

In May I shuddered.

It was one of our last evenings together before the program adjourned for the summer. We were seated around the table. He was successfully charming one of the volunteers and as he did so, he shot me a smirking glance.

The look in his eye, the calculated charm, the glimpse into what next year would hold.

I shuddered. His glance reminded me of a 4-year-old I met years ago when I was a social worker. I was at his foster home visiting the 9-year-old on my case load.

The foster mom and I were sitting on her porch discussing the progress of the 9-year-old. The 4-year-old was on the porch with us.  The foster mom went to get us some iced tea. As soon as the 4-year-old and I were alone on the porch, he started to ogle me in a way that still gives me the creeps. Then he propositioned me. It was disturbing on a level I can’t begin to describe.

When the foster mom returned with tea I asked to speak with her privately. I told her what happened and then she told me that the boy was back in foster care after a broken adoption.  The adoption failed because the boy had been propositioning his adoptive mother. The adoptive parents had not been told enough about his history, they had not been told that it included sexual abuse.

The shudder I felt at the Bible study table was almost as chilling as the shudder on that porch.

I made a final plea on behalf of next year’s teachers and students.

To no avail. I won’t be back next year, but he will.

Children aren’t diagnosed with personality disorders because as children their personalities aren’t fully formed. Behaviors that would be deemed narcissistic in an adult are typical of some developmental stages.

But one day this child might be diagnosed with a personality disorder, because ADHD does not begin to cover what I observed.

Watching him being coddled by those who overruled me, I wondered whether narcissistic personality disorder is groomed by well-meaning adults.

I believe in offering support to children who have learning and behavioral difficulties, and I also believe that if we don’t expect them to exercise self-control, they will never have the muscle to stand on their own. If the treatment we give them is too special, will they narcissistically grow to believe that they deserve special treatment, that it’s all about them, all the time?

It’s tricky.

On the one hand, no one wants to exclude a child from learning about Jesus, on the other hand, not every venue is appropriate for every child.

My daughter told me about a program called Brain Balance. Maybe that would help him succeed in structured venues.

At the end of the last night of class his grandma thanked me for putting up with him. She said she knew what a difficult year it had been for me.

Then why did you continue to bring him week after week? Why did you let me keep paying the price?, I thought, as I smiled and said nothing.

I’m not saying that she brought him in order to give her daughter a few hours of free weekly respite, because I don’t know that for sure.

But it seemed that way.

I don’t know all that went into the boy’s choice, but I pray Jesus, his grandma’s love and some skilled mental health intervention will one day pull him out of the abyss.

One on one sharing of Jesus, grandma to grandson.

This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live and that you may love the Lord your God, listen to his voice, and hold fast to him. For the Lord is your life, and he will give you many years in the land he swore to give to your fathers, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. 

Deuteronomy 30:19-20

#precipice #adrift

 

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life

Doubly Blessed

 

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My daughter snapped a picture of her graduation cake before we headed to the ceremony. She posted it on Instagram and immediately got tons of likes and an occasional, “I don’t know if I should laugh or cringe.”

“Laugh!,” she replied, “it’s hilarious.”

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“It’s not every day you get hooded,” she said.

And she was right. It was a special day.  Seeing the procession of hooded faculty entering the arena and then watching my daughter exit wearing a hood of her own.

I felt grateful all day.

“Do you feel more important now?,” I asked on the way to the restaurant.

“Not more important,” she replied, “just more accomplished.”

Good distinction.

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Celebratory dinner at The Common Grill. So delicious.

This morning I said, “I get why being hooded yesterday felt special. It’s kind of like you’ve entered the realm of sages, like you’re Obe Wan Kenobe.”

So my daughter is now a Jedi Warrior therapist who will begin her brand new job at 6:00 tomorrow morning.

This morning she got up early to run an errand.

When she returned she presented me with a Mother’s Day card and a beautiful bouquet of flowers.

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I handed it right back to her.

“I didn’t get you flowers yesterday so these are for you.”

“We’ll both enjoy them then,” she said, as she put them in a vase.

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Happy Mother’s Day to me!

Happy Mother’s day to you!

 

 

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life

Traveling Light

A friend shared something kind of interesting yesterday morning: Researchers asked a sampling of people what three words they most wanted to hear. The most common response was, “I love you.”  The second most common response was, “I forgive you.” The third, “Dinner is ready.”

Those 3 phrases sum up the gospel:

John 3:16: “For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son…”

Luke 23:34: “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”

John 21:12: “Come and have breakfast.”

Later in the day my daughter and I were discussing her aversion to the word doctrine. Aware that there is nothing wrong with doctrine per se – it’s just a set of beliefs – she supposed the thing that makes it aversive is the way we Christians bog down our beliefs.

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My honey vanilla latte, her toasted coconut latte and sustenance.

She told me what her friend’s professor said about doctrine: “I used to try to carry all the church’s doctrine the way you would carry all your grocery bags into the house at the same time. But I kept dropping some.  Now I carry very few bags. Like three.”

Three is enough.

Bag 1: God loves us.

Inside the bag: He stepped into our mess of a world to show us what He’s really like.
He’s actively redeeming and restoring His creation.

Bag 2: God forgives us.

Inside the bag: The cross and three words: “It is finished.”

Bag 3: God has prepared a place for us.

Inside the bag: Our daily bread and an invitation to the wedding feast of the Lamb.

I love that Jesus prepared breakfast for His friends after He was resurrected.  You’d think after such a glorious feat He’d do something a little more regal.

But nope.

He made them breakfast.

I’ve been teaching the Bible these last two years via an international Bible study. Next year they’ll be studying the book of Romans. And I’m not going to teach.  I don’t want to bog kids down with a heavy load of doctrine. I just want to carry three light bags.

Dinner is ready.

 

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life

Kool-aid, a Fiver, 3 Quarters and an Immoral Marriage License.

“Some people are so extra,” my daughter said as I was eating a quick cheese and mustard sandwich on this cold, rainy afternoon.

“What do you mean?”

“I’m reading an article by a pastor who doesn’t think Christians should get marriage licenses.”

“Ho boy.” “What does ‘extra’ mean.”

“It means ‘too much’.”

She sent me the link.

The pastor, I’m sorry to say, is more than too much, he’s mixing himself up some kool-aid.

Case in point, item 5 in his Five Reasons Why Christians Should Not Obtain a State Marriage License:

5. When you marry with a marriage license, you are like a polygamist. From the State’s point of view, when you marry with a marriage license, you are not just marrying your spouse, but you are also marrying the State.

The most blatant declaration of this fact that I have ever found is a brochure entitled “With This Ring I Thee Wed.” It is found in county courthouses across Ohio where people go to obtain their marriage licenses. It is published by the Ohio State Bar Association. The opening paragraph under the subtitle “Marriage Vows” states, “Actually, when you repeat your marriage vows you enter into a legal contract. There are three parties to that contract. 1.You; 2. Your husband or wife, as the case may be; and 3. the State of Ohio.”

See, the State and the lawyers know that when you marry with a marriage license, you are not just marrying your spouse, you are marrying the State! You are like a polygamist! You are not just making a vow to your spouse, but you are making a vow to the State and your spouse. You are also giving undue jurisdiction to the State.

Under item 3. he wrote:

As a minister, I cannot in good conscience perform a marriage which would place people under this immoral body of laws. I also cannot marry someone with a marriage license because to do so I have to act as an agent of the State! I would have to sign the marriage license, and I would have to mail it into the State. Given the State’s demand to usurp the place of God and family regarding marriage, and given it’s unbiblical, immoral laws to govern marriage, it would be an act of treason for me to do so.

Coincidentally, just yesterday I was reading How to spot a sociopath – 10 red flags that could save you from being swept under the influence of a charismatic nut job

#lifestylesofthedangerouslydelusional

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church nonsense

The Drip, Drip, Drip of Dogmatism

I’ve been too knackered to read or write anything these past two weeks.  I won’t go into the details but it has to do with my mom falling and injuring her hip (CT scan next week), both of my dogs having a nasty bout of diarrhea (clean-up in aisle 2), and me working just about ’round the clock to prepare for a presentation.

Profound exhaustion.

But then last night I went to the newly renovated Strand Theater in the newly rejuvenated Pontiac to see Phillip Phillips. Just Phillip, Dave Eggars, a guitar, a cello and a voice. In an intimate setting.

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It was outstanding.

Brian Vander Ark opened with skills of his own.

So today I had enough rejuvenation of my own to read a little something and I read this:

“Here’s the thing: Christianity is not about a personal relationship with Jesus. The phrase is never found in the Bible. And the whole biblical witness runs contrary to it.”

I was only three paragraphs into the article and I was exhausted again.

Because I’m tired of statements like that one.

Untrue overstatements to support a point.

Correct, the phrase “personal relationship” is not found in the Bible (lots of phrases to which Christians adhere are not found in the Bible), but that doesn’t mean the whole Biblical witness runs contrary to it.

When God rebuked Aaron and Miriam in Numbers 12 He said, “When there is a prophet among you, I, the Lord, reveal myself to them in visions, I speak to them in dreams.
But this is not true of my servant Moses he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face…”

In Exodus 33, “The Lord would speak to Moses face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”

Isaiah wrote, “But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, you descendants of Abraham my friend...” and in another place, he wrote “look to Abraham, your father, and to Sarah, who gave you birth. When I called him he was only one man, and I blessed him and made him many.” [emphasis added]

God said of David: “I have found David son of Jesse, a man after my own heart; he will do everything I want him to do.”

John referred to himself as, “the disciple whom Jesus loved.”  When Peter, learning how he would die, looked at John and asked, “What about him?” Jesus replied, “If I want him to remain alive until I return, what is that to you? You must follow me.”

And there was Job who, after a long personal discourse with God said, “My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you.”

A quick survey of the whole biblical witness (and these are just the first few that come to mind)  reveals that God had many unique, personal relationships.

Oh, oh, oh I just thought of more: Jesus revealing Himself personally to Mary at the tomb and then to the disciples minus Thomas and then to Thomas personally with a personalized revelation tailored to his specific need to believe…

We know from Scripture that He made promises to individuals as well as to nations.

He still does.  He still has unique, personal relationships with individuals AND He has corporate relationships with nations and with the church at large.

Things are rarely one or the other when it comes to the way we practice religion.  They’re almost always a little bit of both.

Which is why dogma wears me out.

#knackered

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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