Sunday, June 26, 2011

What Mama Decided

Naked toes curl in the ooze of mud, fists clench berries all dripping with ripeness and swell a little boy's head with notions of a steaming pie....

Another boy is a hunter; he is serious. He will feed the family with the new skill he is acquiring, and young girls are intent on cramming baskets with Summer's bounty....

A mama walks behind, slow...and thoughtfully taking it all in, drinking mirth and delight of childhood..heart filled with the meanderings of her own mind...

And this time...This time she's thinking about labels...
How labels are good for cans, and appropriate for tags on clothes, and perfect for identifying animals and plants and such...
Yes, labels identify; they tell us exactly what we're getting. I know that when I open a can labeled "dog food," I will not find tomatoes inside (hopefully!)
I know that when I order a size "small" dress in the mail, I will not get a size "extra large."
So labels can be a good thing....for things.
Labels are not helpful for people.

He's lazy. She's dumb. They are ignorant. I'm fat. He's a troublemaker. On and on it goes...until we stuff people in cans, like a bunch of sardines, and slap a sticker on them. We all do it. It's part of human nature to want to define and categorize others by appearances or even actions:

"But the LORD said to Samuel, 'Do not look at his appearance or at the height of his stature, because I have rejected him; for God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.' " (Samuel 16:7)

Isn't it good to know that God doesn't label us? And if He doesn't label us, why do we insist on labeling others? When we label others, we cannot see the richness and depth of who they truly are; we do not see them with dignity, as beloved creatures made in the image and likeness of God. When we label others, we are actually refusing to see others as God does...with eyes of love.

I've had it with labels...
It's time to stop using them for people and keep them on cans and dress tags....where they belong!!!

That's what the mama decided on that walk...
and that thought made her heart happy.

Friday, June 17, 2011

To Be Exact

Well, since I can't get Ben to start his own blog, I am using my blog to showcase his amazing photography. He uses an ipod to take all his pictures, then enhances them with an application right on the ipod! He even got a nifty copyright symbol that goes on every photo he takes!'s topic... seems a little strange. I often wake up with a word or thought on my mind that must somehow percolate overnight. The children were telling me yesterday about a person they know that bothers them, but they could not put their finger on what it was that annoyed them about this person. After describing several interactions with this individual, the conversation turned to something else. I didn't think about it after that, but I guess my brain was working on it subconsciously, and this morning I woke up thinking about the less than noble quality of being exacting.

So what does it mean to be exacting?
An 'exacting' person constantly keeps score:  "I did this for you, so now you need to do this for me." Of course, this isn't stated out loud (in most cases), but even worse, the tension of being 'even' is always there.

An exacting person, in the name of justice, equality, respect, and virtue, demands perfection and accountability for all actions- even to the point of sacrificing the relationship. The law is to be upheld at all costs, excluding charity and love of one another.

I think the pharisees must have been an exacting sort of people. Even when Christ performed the most amazing miracles, they could only see the breach of the law (healing on the Sabbath, etc..) But God never said that the law is supreme; the law is not an end in itself. In fact, when questioned regarding the greatest commandments, Jesus responds:

 “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.  This is the great and first commandment.  And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

The law is dependent upon love of God and man; love is not dependent upon the law!

The Lord does tell us that if we love him we will keep his commandments:

 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. (24) Whoever keeps his commandments abides in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us. (1 John 3:23-24)

 But in conjunction with this mandate he says that God has commanded us to love one another.

He also tells us that without love, anything we do is fruitless:

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. (2) And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. (3) If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

So the bottom line is, I need to remember in all my actions that love must be the driving force. Things may not be "exactly" right, or even as they should be, but are made perfect in His love.

"It has been told you, O' man, what is good, and what the LORD does require of you, only to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God".  (Micah 6:8)

"The quality of mercy is not strain'd, It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven..Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest: It blesseth him that gives and him that takes."

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Hemmed In

Oh, it feels so good to be back "home!" We finally had our new computer hooked to the Internet...and then I waited a bit to start blogging again...trying to adjust to the Summer routine and plant the garden, things like that. But it does feel great to be back!

I wasn't sure what direction the blog would take this Summer, and my sister asked me, "So, are you just going to keep the blog more of a family blog when you go back to blogging?"
I paused...and then gave her a truthful answer:
"No...I don't like to be hemmed in. I'm going to write whatever the mood suits..."

And I thought a lot about that phrase the last two days..." Not wanting to be hemmed in." I don't want to unravel, either. Metaphorically speaking, I don't want to fall apart at the seams. Now I am no longer talking about blogging. I am speaking of life.

Many bad decisions in life are made out of not wanting to be "hemmed" in: extramarital affairs, drugs, alcohol abuse, etc.. But where do the big mistakes begin? A person doesn't go to bed sober and wake up drunk. At some point a decision is made to step out of those safe boundaries God has provided for us: the fences sheltering the vulnerable sheep, Christ our shepherd protecting us. Why would we ever want to leave the safety and security of his verdant pastures?

 I woke up this morning with a Bible verse in my heart:

"Therefore, God handed them over to impurity through the lusts of their hearts for the mutual degradation of their bodies. They exchanged the truth of God for a lie and revered and worshipped the creature rather than the creator, who is blessed forever." (Romans 1:24-25)

God "handed them over" sounds to me like resignation. God doesn't give us to sin, but because of the freedom he has entrusted to us, he will not keep us from choosing to "break fence." 
But here's the crux of the problem:
Why were they given over to the lusts of their hearts in the first place?
Because..."they exchanged the truth of God for a lie."
And why did they begin to believe lies instead of the truth? Because "they worshipped the creature rather than the creator."

I can't pretend to be a Bible scholar, and there is certain danger in interpreting passages of scripture on our own; however, these passages speak so clearly that interpretation is not even necessary! Paul states it plainly in this letter to the Romans that sin begins with a lie, a distortion of who God is, and the root of that distortion has to do with loving that which is created rather than the creator.

So how does this teaching apply to my life? When I make decisions based on what I want, what I feel, what I am desiring or even lusting after rather than what God wants, I am worshipping the creature (me) rather than the creator. When I make decisions based on my desires, I am stepping out of that safe pasture, prey for the hungry wolves (sin).

And then what happens? Once I have made myself the center of my life, made my desires my God, what next? I take the very attributes of a holy God and distort them for my own purposes: His loving kindness becomes a perverted mercy (I can do whatever I want and God will always love me), His forbearance becomes presumption (just this one last indulgence, and then I won't commit this sin again), his patience is taken advantage of. In short, I have exchanged the truth of who God is for a lie.

And God  has all these wonderful attributes...He is " gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love." (Psalm 145:8)  But the very attributes of God that we use to tolerate sin are meant to exhort us and lead us away from sin! :

"Or do you hold his priceless kindness, forbearance, patience in low esteem, unaware that the kindness of God would lead you to repentance?" (Romans 2:4)

Let us, then, pick up the threads of our unravelling and allow God to stitch us back together, hemmed in by his loving kindness and fathomless mercy!