Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The %&@!$ election

This. Horrible. Election. Wherein I am offended daily at the nastiness, hypocrisy and bias clearly evident therein. Facebook is on fire with the stuff the mainstream media won't report, and I've been busily re-posting it—including some things that I suspect may not be quite strictly true but would take too much time to verify, and there are only so many hours in the day to read about the next outrage. I was Paul Revere, galloping pell mell down the information highway, shouting my warnings, until the Spirit whispered a warning of His own. Why are you so upset? Why does the media bias shock you? Why did you think politicians wouldn't stoop to dirty tricks? In what exactly, are you trusting? 

When I stop and think about these things, I know the answer immediately. I know better than to think that the American political system holds the key to my rights. I know that the government is not my provider. I know this world is not my home. I know these things, yet I've been upset, anxious, and offended at each new piece of evidence that the system is broken and corrupt. Did I really think something invented and run by sinners (just like me) would be any different? The world might rage, but the world has nothing else to rely on. What’s my excuse?
                  
So in my mad rush to spread the word that the system is imperfect and biased against conservatives in general and Christians in particular (shocking!), I've been pulled up short by the Spirit. I've always believed it my civic duty to vote and had been trying hard to figure out whether I could this time and then who the heck to vote for. Mostly I was resisting voting for Trump.* He's not presidential. He's not moral. He's not even very nice. How embarrassing would it be to admit to voting for him? And with that last thought, the Spirit connected a hard right to my jaw. I wasn't asking what God was doing in this election. I was trying to make sure that my vote demonstrated my intelligence and cool, as well as impeccable evangelical cred. God gently pointed out that every candidate looks basically the same to Him...broken sinners all. And the Bible has many examples of God using ungodly people as blunt instruments to hammer home a point. Sigh. Now I don't know why I was making such a fuss...God is well aware of the imperfections of both candidates, yet I'm pretty sure that one of them, warts and all, is going to be the next President anyway.

The reality is that Christians are in for trouble no matter who wins. Trouble has already come and will increase with a Clinton Presidency. But it would be a mistake to believe that a Trump victory will make America some sort of Christian paradise. I think one of the worst outcomes would be the church believing it’s dodged a bullet with a Trump win, heaving a sigh of relief and then returning to life as usual. We need God. We need revival. We need preparation for the end of the end times, which draws ever closer. How could life as usual do any of that?

We must become the church in deed as well as in word, loving our neighbors, aiding the poor, generally spending ourselves living out the gospel. I confess I find it easier to retreat into the Christian subculture, collecting stuff for myself and being glad to be left alone by a world that does not seem to want what I have. But that's not the assignment. And the world is increasingly unwilling to leave us alone. It is no longer enough to live by Christian principles and precepts. For the trouble yet ahead, we must have God's presence. We were meant to be vitally connected to our Father and King, through Jesus our Messiah. We were meant to interact with our nation as those who possess a precious resource they desperately need. They were supposed to look at us and beg to know why we were different. Instead we became pretty much just like them. So while I hate trouble and avoid it when possible, this trouble is actually good news. This is God gradually removing our ease and comfort, shaking us awake so we will seek Him as our greatest need.

The tide is moving ever more swiftly towards a post-Christian culture, in which no place has been reserved for us. But with God as our source and resource and recourse, what have we to fear? Our faith has always been counter-cultural—even revolutionary. Maybe if we stop trying to fit in, we can be free to be the believers we were always intended to be—strong in faith, humble in adversity, sacrificial in love and service, and full of joy that our God is knowable and has chosen intimate friendship with His people. Such a church would make the demons tremble.

Polls are inaccurate and both candidates are greatly disliked—even within their own parties. Despite over-sampled polls and media pronouncements, it is not at all clear which one will win on November 8. It is therefore encouraging to remember that God is not shocked by the shenanigans that are Donald Trump vs. Hillary Clinton. He knew we would face this choice in 2016. He knows with absolute certainty how honest Hillary is and how selfless Donald is. So I’m voting for the platform I most agree with and leaving the results to God. He knows what He's doing. My rights are God's responsibility. My reputation is His to care for. When Jesus faced the cross, the impossibly difficult became possible because His heart was held safe by God. He trusted completely in his Father's love and wisdom and power. And we can do the same. 

Still hate this election though.


*This is not an admonishment to vote for any particular candidate. I trust that every Christian is praying and will vote as they believe they should. I am simply recounting my journey. 

Monday, October 24, 2016

Thank you, Father!

Each year observant Jews read through the first five books of the Bible, or Torah. This is done by reading through a specified portion each week, along with selections from the prophets. Each week at synagogue a large scroll is removed from its special cabinet or ark, rolled to the selected text and portions read aloud to the congregation. The liturgical year ends at the conclusion of the Feast of Booths (Sukkot), then the reading schedule resets for the new year in a celebration called Rejoicing in the Torah (Simchat Torah). It is celebrated by singing, dancing, eating and bringing the scrolls from their ark and carefully re-rolling them to the beginning, to start the cycle of readings once again. 

To our Gentile minds this holiday might almost seem like an odd little afterthought tagged onto the end of  Sukkot, but it definitely has something to teach us. The Bible is not just a book among many books, not a collection of pithy sayings, not a compendium of religious instruction, not a dry and dusty history, not a handbook of do's and don'ts. The Bible is unique among all books because it is alive, powerful, almost vibrating with the fervent love God has for us. His Word contains the power to re-order our thoughts, renewing our minds. Its blessing to us cannot be overstated and it is good to be reminded to thank God for this gift. 

Our Bible contains the story of God's interactions with Man. It outlines His plan to redeem the Earth--from the Garden to the Millennium. It is full of examples to help us walk our way to God. It is the means for learning who God is, how He feels about us, how He thinks and acts, how we should respond and most importantly how we may connect ourselves to the source of life and power and peace. We can encounter God in many ways, but the first and best way to learn about Him must be what He says about Himself. Without this direct revelation, we would be left blindly feeling our way toward God and missing Him more often than not. 

The Bible can be studied and enjoyed as fine literature, but that sadly misses the point. Even reading and giving mental assent is not sufficient. The Bible is meant to be our road map to God. Its purpose is to draw us to Him, finding at last the satisfaction of our souls. It's meant to illuminate His beauty, tune our ears to His voice, demonstrate the difference between good and evil, and warn us of pitfalls. The Word is His love letter to us, drawing our hearts to fall deeply in love with our Creator, the King of the universe.

God has given us a great treasure! We must drink deeply until we are sated and changed...until we behold His face and are dumbstruck at His beauty. Rejoicing in the Torah is not meant to elevate a book, but to acknowledge the wonderful provision of our amazing Creator. I love that God created a people and gave them His word and set about inviting the world entire to be blessed and included in His plan for them. 

Thank you Father for giving us Your  Word--a way to learn about You, find You, know You and love You. That is definitely something to celebrate!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

She flies through the air with the greatest of ease, the daring...old lady...on the flying trapeze?

(for all my fellow aerialists, especially Karen) 

I am routinely surprised at how quickly life has passed. Didn't I just finish high school? Wasn't it just yesterday that my children were babies? And who is that old lady I keep seeing in the mirror? In what seems like a blink, I went from a competent, full-functioning adult to—well, early-stage decomposition. At age 60, I find myself very high up in life’s circus without a net. And those who don’t think growing older is a high-risk, high-wire act simply haven’t grown old enough yet.

I used to be a fairly competent person. I was pretty good at organizing my life (and my family's). I managed a small law office and kept the house going and the kids fed. Not perfectly, mind you, but enough to keep our heads above the sea of dust bunnies and have clean underwear, mostly folded and in the dressers. I had good health and believed that that too, was somehow a sign of competent life management. But health and memory and stamina and ability are all fading as I grow older, and it's scaring the holy heck out of me. I now have issues: memory issues, joint issues, digestive issues, hair issues—everything seems to be slowing down, breaking down or sagging down. This is alarming, as I'm pretty sure I'll need my physical and mental abilities for some time yet.

I've been experiencing spiritual issues as well. I had assumed my youthful composure and contentment were the fruit of 'leaning on Jesus,' but now I'm not so sure. I'm beginning to suspect it's more that I was happy because things were going more or less the way I directed them. Don’t get me wrong, I did understand that middle age would be a new season…a time to accept I couldn’t do quite as much as I could when younger. The problem was that I understood what I thought that meant...which is not at all the same thing as actually understanding. I visualized myself gliding gracefully through those years—arm in arm with Jesus—my hair turning a distinguished silver; my gifts and talents coming to maturity as I finally gained victory over anxiety and besetting sins. Let's just say that reality has proved somewhat less romantic—more like an animal caught in a trap, chewing off its foot in an attempt to escape. I see now that it was easy to believe I trusted God when I had myself to fall back on. I discovered that I like fixing things myself. I like being in charge of me. I'm comfortable bringing my own resources to the table and making thing happen...or stop them from happening.

Now I sometimes feel I've become my grandmother, complaining with querulous voice that things aren't as they ought to be. What I didn't know—couldn't know until I got this old—is that God seems to have designed life so that we are forced to let go of every competency, every gift, every strength, until at last all we have is the breath in our lungs and dependence on Him. I know that sounds terribly depressing, and I confess I became cranky and morose. I began to look at younger people with envious eyes...their lives were still before them. Mine seemed, most unfairly, to be largely behind me. I mean, just about the time I gained a decent amount of wisdom, I forgot where I put it. My complaint levels were at an all-time high, and God seemed far, far away. But He wasn't really. He was just waiting for Queen Lynda to stop acting like a stubborn toddler and get her ample, middle-aged bottom off the throne. 

God wants all of me, even (or mostly) the parts I've been inexpertly handling on my own. So He is intent on removing those props I've relied on, even if that makes me fall...so He can pick me up. He is, after all, in the redemption business. And since there is no retirement in the kingdom, I have to let go of the old (hah!) and reach out for the new. I needed to stop looking at my life and toting up all the things I was losing and begin looking to God and asking Him what I was gaining. A new season more centered on the Lord and less centered on my own plans. A new wisdom, not my own but His. A new relationship based on my humble recognition that it's always been more about Him than it has been about me.

I'm not there yet. I'm still cycling through periods of discouraged resistance to this aging business, but I'm fighting to cross the line into acceptance. The alternative is not one I care to embrace. I’ve encountered older people eaten up with bitterness and regret—and it's becoming clear just how easy it is to join that chorus. I want my older years to be full of peace, strong in faith and growing in intimate friendship with Jesus. Old age is not some sort of cosmic punishment, it's an accomplishment not everyone gets to achieve. So I am asking for the ability to receive with gladness that the aging process is simply part of the race I must run...the course marked out for me. It is part of His plan to pry my white-knuckled grip off my life, teaching me swing out with abandon on the trapeze of life. I can let go, knowing deep in my knower that He will catch me—He has never yet failed. 




Since the day you were born,
    I have carried you along.

I will still be the same

when you are old and gray,
    and I will take care of you.
I created you. I will carry you
    and always keep you safe.
Isaiah 43:3b-4 CEV




For Karen, fellow aerialist and 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Confounding the satan

On Yom Teruah, the Day of the Trumpet Blast, shofars will sound in synagogues, messianic congregation and homes all over the world. The eerie, wavering notes will pierce the air, signaling the beginning of the High Holy days of the Fall feasts. The sages say that the sound of the shofar ‘confounds the satan,’ and I had always assumed that this is because it is a call to watchfulness or battle, something I had learned long ago in Christian circles. But I recently read an article which put the shofar in its original context, giving it an additional meaning I didn’t expect.*

The article’s subtitle is “There truly is a spiritual war taking place. It is not taking place in some heavenly realm; it is a battle for our hearts.” Its point is that the sound of the shofar confounds the satan, because it is the cry of repentance. When I read that, I felt a stab of recognition and agreement. As I grow older, I am indeed finding that my biggest battles aren’t with others, or society, or politics—not even with the devil. My biggest fight is with my unruly heart.

In my younger years it never occurred to me that I could grow so weary in well-doing that I would be tempted to give up. That I would say with the scoffers, “What good does it to do serve the Lord?” Unthinkable! Yet as I stand at the threshold of old age, that is the battle I’m fighting. The enemy points to my aching body, my fuzzy brain, injustice in the world and the myriad disappointments inherent in life to build a case against God. It’s subtle, because the things he says are true…I am aging. My physical form is wearing down. Life has not always turned out as I thought it would. Wickedness seems to run rampant in the world, with no rescue in sight. It is tempting to relax into habit and just go through the motions. But God does not want my duty. He does not need my reluctant devotion. He wants me, and He wants me to want Him. My battle then, is to choose to believe in, rely on and rest in the character of God. To find my way once more into the delight of the Lord; to make Him the joy of my heart and my portion forever. Which was a lot easier when I was young and strong and things were going the way I thought they should. The depth of my rebellion, as well as the astounding magnitude of what Jesus did for me have become breathtakingly clear. Now I’m battling to subdue my will, to choose God’s way over my own, to guard my heart and finish my race—not as a dutiful death march, but running with joy to meet my great Redeemer.

On Yom Teruah (also known as Rosh Hashanah) the shofar warns that there are only ten days left to reflect and repent before the most solemn day of the year, the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur). For the Jewish people these are days of reflection, repentance and restitution. For me these days are an opportunity to reflect on where I’ve come from and where I’m headed, days of gratitude and celebration, days to gather with friends and talk of the good things God has done for us, and days to acknowledge the staggering debt we owed and how marvelously and completely Jesus paid it. This is also a season of re-commitment, a sort of renewing our vows to our Bridegroom King, days to say, with greater understanding than ever before, “Not my will but thine be done.” I am encouraging myself—and you too—to lift my eyes above the false glamour (and horror) and this present age and remember that my hope is above, where I am seated with Christ my great Messiah.

So the sound of the shofar makes the demons tremble, because a repentant believer humbly returning to joyful, willing obedience to God is deadly dangerous. I want the sound of the shofar to be the sound of my choice—to continue to rest in God’s goodness, to refuse to give up, to reject the comfort and satisfaction of this world, relying instead on God’s faithful provision. I want my testimony to align with the Psalmist, “I won’t die—no, I will live and declare what the Lord has done.” God is good, despite the giants in the land.

Rosh Hashanah begins at sundown tonight. I'll closing with my take on the traditional greeting. May you have a sweet and joyful new year, rejoicing that your name is inscribed in the Lamb’s book of life.




*to read the article in full, go to http//ffoz.org/discover/messianic-jewish-calendar/rosh-chodesh-elul-confounding-the-satan.html  

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