Going my way? (Better not.)

singer-63055_1920.jpgThe days of the Crooners were a bit before my time, but I still love the old movies with them as the stars.  Of the best well known, Frank Sinatra probably had one of the longest careers among them.  One of his (many) hit songs was “I Did It My Way”. 

Now if that’s not the American motif, I don’t know what is. 

Not to dis Old Blue Eyes, but really, we all have that one in us.  Even the Most Beautiful Three Year Old On The Planet, (our eldest granddaughter), showcases her opinion of her opinion…regularly.  Actually, the Most Fabulous Infant In The Universe, (our other granddaughter), already does the same thing….loudly. 

Certainly, I see it in myself—uncomfortably so, I am quick to add.  It rears its ugly head (and it can get pretty ugly) in all sorts of relationships: with my children, friends, Bob…God.  Even with myself.  (Think about that one for a minute—all sorts of repercussions there.)

Culturally, this attitude of “doing it my way” spills over into our theology as well.  Truth is often defined by opinion, rather like one who prefers ice cream over Brussel sprouts.  (After all, I know which one I would choose.)  Even if I accept the Christian definition of truth, it’s still an easy trap to try and “earn” God’s acceptance by my own goodness, rather than that of Jesus alone.  Which means I’m still trying to do it my way.

However, even in the Old Testament, God was setting us up for this.  Here the Hebrews were (still) getting ready to head into the Promised Land.  But to live there, they are told~~

 “Your pattern of worship will change….you must bring everything I command you— your burnt offerings, your sacrifices, your tithes, your sacred offerings, and your offerings to fulfill a vow— to the designated place of worship, the place the LORD your God chooses for his name to be honored.”

BINGO.  They couldn’t do it “their way” anymore.  If they wanted to live in God’s presence, they had to do it God’s way. 

New Testament interpretation: Jesus is God’s way.  Period.  Not crystals.  Not Buddha.  Not Mohammed.  Not reductionism.  Not capitalism.

Not even the Republican Party.  (Wow.  I might take some heat for that one…)

The only way to live and move and have our true being in God’s salvific presence is in Jesus alone.  It’s one of the many things I so appreciate about Jesus—His directness.

“Jesus told him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one can come to the Father except through me.’”

This is in no way an intolerant statement, at least not anymore than in saying that “my begonias are red and not lavender” is an intolerant statement.  Or the rain is wet, and not dry.

Or that Frankie-baby had unbelievably blue eyes…(swoon.)

Deuteronomy 12:8,11; John 14:6  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

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Rear-view mirror grace

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280One of the (many) things I love about the Bible is the unadulterated openness of the ungodliness of some of God’s most godly people.  I really love it.  It gives me hope.  It also makes me appreciate the honesty of God as well as His patient love and affection.  Some choose to see only His anger and frustration.  Well, heck, if I had been the parent of these kids for several millennia…well, best not to go there.

Here’s another good example.  Many of us Continue reading “Rear-view mirror grace”

What color is your cheese? (and I can’t even find my parachute…)

Dawncartoon[1] (1)The past decade or so I’ve read a few books that have touched on the idea of following your heart, professional choices, changing careers, all that, (although, not the ones alluded to in the title, but their titles are rather clever.) Since I work in a middle school, I also see similar encouragements  for the kids.  I love that, because I think it’s just so very important for that age group to start evaluating and exploring and looking at life and the future in those terms, and how their choices now effect their horizons later. 

From where I stand, 58 years down my own path, I guess I should know…

I don’t recall ever having those kinds of tests or questions or books to read back in the 70’s.  The reason I chose nursing was (at least in part) because it looked exciting on TV and I thought Star Trek’s Dr. McCoy was pretty cool.  So there it is.  Such a well informed decision of a 17-year-old would surely have nothing but successful results.

Needless to say, the Continue reading “What color is your cheese? (and I can’t even find my parachute…)”

The closing

wood 2In January of this year, the gavel at Wall Street fell for the first time on 20,000.  20,000 what, I’m not quite sure; I just know that it was the historic high water mark of the Dow Exchange to that point. 

Now, I have lived through more than one recession, and my parents through “the” Depression.  Our personal investments are modest, but I suppose we have done our middle-income capitalist part of moving the American economy forward through our adult years.  One thing I do know is that once you invest, at least wisely and conservatively, it is important to leave it there; that is, it will need to weather some ups and downs.  Constantly pulling it out and plugging it in somewhere else, similar to the relationships showcased in the grocery store tabloids, is not typically considered wise investing.

Alright, I know this is not a perfect analogy, but it does help me to understand this other concept that comes from the Old Testament prophet, Malachi.  God is lamenting over His people (again) concerning their unfaithfulness, and since at this juncture they don’t even recognize how they have been disloyal, which is even scarier, God has to spell it out for them:

 “You have said, ‘What’s the use of serving God? What have we gained by obeying his commands…?’”

It’s those words, “what have we gained” that really get me.  They (like me) miss the whole point when I look at my temporal ledger sheet instead of my eternal one.  OUCH.  Our culture’s mantra “he who dies with the most stuff wins” tries to infiltrate my thinking in very pernicious ways, and I’m not just talking about material stuff here.  In other words, I’ll be the first in line to protect my reputation, my relationships, my home, hearth, job, etc.  But, (and here’s the rub) what if God calls me to an act of obedience that puts even those things in direct opposition to His expressed purpose?

In the first century church, Paul puts it this way:

“Yes, everything else is worthless when compared with the infinite value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord.” 

Those are tough, tough words.  But intelligent investing can be costly and takes sacrifice.  It takes diligence and wisdom and counsel and (here’s a fun one) patience persistence in the face of those who choose to buy on credit and go into moral debt.  And our culture is deep, deep into moral debt.  Just turn on the news.  

The same Old Testament prophet goes on to say this… 

“But for you who fear my name, the Sun of Righteousness will rise with healing in his wings. And you will go free, leaping with joy like calves let out to pasture.”

newspaper-1834656_1920And when it comes to smart investing, it’s the end result that counts.

Malachi 3:14; Philippians 3:8; Malachi 4:2   Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Teach your (siblings’) children well

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280If you really want to get back at your older siblings for all those mean things they did to you as kids growing up, what one thing should you teach their own pre-school children?  No, it’s not where daddy keeps his favorite fishing tackle, or how pretty mommy’s new lipstick looks on the freshly painted patio deck, or even how to safely use a blow torch, as fun as all that would be.  The grueling, tortuous payback is much easier than that…

Simply teach their little cherubs the word “Why?”

And then encourage them to use it, frequently.  Which is not so far-fetched when you consider that we humans are a naturally inquisitive lot to begin with anyway.  Why, what for, how come, and the other various derivatives are simply part of our internal vernacular, both positively, from our curiosity, (giving us, for example, “E=mc2”) and negatively, from our wounded sense of inconvenience, (“how come I have to study this stoopid stupid geometry?!”)

Either way, we keep asking. 

In this instance, God anticipated our “why”.  (He did, after all, make us this way.)  The Hebrew people all but have their toes on the boarder of the Promised Land as God is using Moses for a few preliminary instructions:

 “In the future your children will ask you, ‘What is the meaning of these laws, decrees, and regulations that the LORD our God has commanded us to obey?’”

Not that the Creator needs to explain to the created, so the fact that He anticipates their inquiry shows gracious condescension.  He reminds them that they were brought out of their brutal slavery in Egypt so that God could bless them with an abundant goodness (which was already prepared for them, BTW).  Then we read this, which is in the same paragraph, as in almost the same breath—

“For we will be counted as righteous when we obey all the commands the LORD our God has given us.’”

Am I hearing this right?  God’s saying, “I pulled you out of a very bad place and I’m putting you in a very good place.  Here’s the stuff you need to do to maintain that, and thus I will consider you as in right standing with Me.”

In other words, being counted as righteous is NOT the same as intrinsic righteousness.  Nope, that issue was decided a L-O-N-G time ago.  I find it interesting, then, when our culture tries to damn the very God Who attempted every which way to communicate and connect with the people who rejected Him to begin with; as if we expect Him to change Himself to fit our image instead of the other way around.

Oh wait…He did that too, only not in the way we expected.  (He does that a lot.)

“So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness.”

Of course, that was the plan all along, which makes that plan even more beautiful.  And so now instead of being counted as righteous because of the things I do (which never worked anyway—the first half of the Book bears testament to that arrangement, again, no surprise to the Author), I am counted as righteous because of what Jesus has done for me. 

If you’ve never seen it, great, here it is.  If you haven’t seen it recently, let’s marvel in a super review:

“But now God has shown us a way to be made right with him without keeping the requirements of the law, as was promised in the writings of Moses and the prophets long ago.  We are made right with God by placing our faith in Jesus Christ. And this is true for everyone who believes, no matter who we are.

For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard. Yet God, in his grace, freely makes us right in his sight. He did this through Christ Jesus when he freed us from the penalty for our sins. For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past, for he was looking ahead and including them in what he would do in this present time. God did this to demonstrate his righteousness, for he himself is fair and just, and he makes sinners right in his sight when they believe in Jesus.”

Back to the original question, why?  Only one answer suffices:

Deuteronomy 6: 20, 25; John 1:14; Romans 3: 21-26  Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

On second thought, perhaps not.

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Too bad life doesn’t give us rewinds, at least not in the sense that we can actually go back and change history.  That’s the stuff of fantasy sci-fi like my husband writes about.  Which is probably a good thing, actually.  If I could go back in an attempt to correct my mistakes (of which there are many) I would probably just muck things up even worse.  So, in that sense, being stuck in the present must be part of God’s good grace.

Having said that, if you’re old enough to be reading this, then it’s safe to say you’re in the burgeoning company of folks that, at sometime in our lives, have breathed out the words,

“Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time….” Continue reading “On second thought, perhaps not.”

On the way out the door~~

IMG_20150103_172451138Remember sending your kiddo off to kindergarten that first day?  Or camp?  Or that first solo in the car? (GAG!) Or college?  I remember the anxiety of allowing our teenage girls to go on month-long mission trips out of the country. The first one was to Hong Kong when it was still under British rule, and I found out (after the fact) that my 14-year-old smuggled Bibles into China.  She assured me it was safe. 

Because 14-year-olds know these things.

On one such excursion, one of our daughters reported that when she arrived at the staging complex, there signs posted everywhere that read “CALL YOUR MOTHER!”  Somebody there must have compassionately understood.

Now, by the grace of God, all three of our children have Continue reading “On the way out the door~~”

And the beat goes on…

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I get all kinds of requests for money, you know, you make one donation and the scent of blood is sensed for miles.  Some of the requests are causes with which I would agree, some not so much.  But even the ones I would tend to support, well, let’s face it, there’s only so much to go around.

Which really isn’t the point.  The real issue is the fact that it’s not “my” money anyway.  Sure, it’s in my name, my account with my beneficiaries and all that.  It goes to pay my bills, my taxes, and my retirement (such as it is).  It puts food on my table and gas in my car.  It’s not that I haven’t worked hard for it all; sure I have.  And yes, some of that hard work has taken a toll I’d care not to admit, but there it is. 

Still, the truth is, it’s not mine.

Not any more.  Because I actually belong to a larger government than any on this planet—the kingdom of God, (which is, I might add, far more just than the IRS…just saying.)

Yes, it’s easy to get to a point in life Continue reading “And the beat goes on…”

Where are my sticky notes??

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280I like to consider myself I an at least somewhat responsible parent, but for some reason, I don’t know why, I seemed to have a mental block when it came to remembering orthodontic appointments for my kids during that phase of our lives.  Thanks to our dear orthodontist (and his secretary!) for their good graces and common sense to make routine phone reminder phone calls.  I’m sure it saved them money for missed appointments and I console myself that I probably was not the only one.  But even if I was, I’m still glad I had the reminder!

To this day, I’m not offended with reminders.  I live with sticky notes.  I email myself from work to home, and vice versa.  I tell people to call me.  If I don’t write it down, it’s a gonner.  There are just so many brain cells for Continue reading “Where are my sticky notes??”

Decisions, decisions!

neuschwanstein-castle-467116_1280Moses, what a guy.  Talk about job stress—the perks were pretty great but so were the occupational hazards.  (And I think I have tough days!)  At least there was clear communication with the Boss; no lost email trails or intra-office misinterpretation of body language, all that.  God’s instructions were always unmistakably clear, right down to what colors of decorative embroidery thread to use for the big church tent!

One year into their miraculous escape/rescue from centuries of Egyptian slavery, God now has them positioned to pull up the stakes and start their journey in earnest to the Promised Land.  He has also promised to be their Guide, a cloud by day and something that looks like a pillar of fire by night.  Again, fairly distinctive, even for someone directionally challenged, like me.  When Continue reading “Decisions, decisions!”