Religious?: Logs & Splinters

John 8:58 “‘Very truly I tell you,’ Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” 59 At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds.”

I’m reading John 8, where Jesus calls Himself “I Am,” and then has to slip away from the temple to avoid them stoning Him.  Think about that.  He comes to His creation, and is in the temple – where the whole purpose of the people there is to love and serve the Lord – and they don’t recognize Him at all, in fact, they want to kill Him.  They hate Him!

It’s absurd, and sobering.  It’s why I get offended when someone says I’m religious.  Sure, I attend church.  I lead in the music part of worship.  I certainly would hope that if Christ came to visit in my church in bodily form that, as He says there in John, I would recognize Him and love Him!’

But would I?  I’ve worked with a few pastors, elders, deacons, whom I know intended to be serving God in what they were doing, but the choices they made were scary, totally not what God would choose.   Blinded by the ways of the world, perhaps by how they were brought up, or some chemical imbalance, something I couldn’t see on my end, they chose what seemed good in their own eyes to accomplish the end goal of serving God.  

And in the truth of taking care of the log in my own eye before I go picking at the splinter in someone else’s, I have to ask, “Am I doing the same?”  Am I?  

It’s not easy to see ourselves as others in the world see us.  How do people see me?  Am I kind and gracious, full of love for them, so that they know in an instant that I would forgive any stumbling, any misstep – even if imagined?  Do they see kindness and long-suffering (patience) in my demeanor, or the surety that they are stupid and disappointing me in how I respond?  Do I choose the good of others above myself?  Do I cling to my temporary treasures or freely give them away, knowing that my treasure is actually in heaven and I gain more, the more I give away?  

How do I define love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control?  If I’m honest, I most likely redefine them each in light of what is easiest for me, not in light of how much further I need to change to reflect them truly.  I choose comfort over stepping out and making sure that my neighbor is comfortable.  I choose security, rather than insuring the safety of my neighbor.  

My head says I belong to the Lord, that I choose to obey Him and honor Him with my life.  That my life is no longer my own, that I have forfeited it to Him in deference to the gift of Life He has given me, and I claim and hold to that in selfishness, because everything I do for Him makes my life better, benefits my soul, makes me whole.

But my heart betrays me, as I sit for hours watching TV, eating yummy food, sending checks, but not myself.   “Checking out,” as it were. 

“But I pray!”  

Yes, that is true, and that is more necessary than most would think, AND it is more half-hearted (quarter-hearted, or is that still too generous?) than it should be.  Yes, I pray.  And then I go on with my life, moving around the perimeter of being changed, but not truly being changed, or at least not showing that change in tangible ways.

Where is my log?  How much of my sight is it blocking?  Am I simply a religious person, living in the world of religion, but not truly loving the Lord as I should, not knowing Him if I tripped over Him?  Have I cut corners, thinking that the end justifies the means?  

Or am I listening intently to the Giver of Life, being obedient as I wait, and then acting when I am led, determined to give everything for the One who has truly Given Everything for me?  

I am tormented by the thought that perhaps I will never truly know the answer to this until it is too late . . . am I “Dangerous*,” or just giving off that impression without any substance?

DANGEROUS, lyrics by DecembeRadio

I see a world in need out on the wire
I’ll take a leap of faith into the fire
I’m going over the edge now
Yeah, I’m ready to reach out

I wanna be dangerous
Unashamed to proclaim Your name
I wanna be dangerous!
I can’t hide or deny what’s inside
I wanna be dangerous!

So many times I fail to even try
I compromise my faith by standing by
I’m going over the edge now
Yeah, I’m ready to reach out

I wanna be dangerous
Unashamed to proclaim Your name
I wanna be dangerous!
I can’t hide or deny what’s inside
I wanna be dangerous!

My mind is made up and I’m ready
I’m goin’ over the edge
I’m steppin’ out on the wire
Come on

I wanna be dangerous
Unashamed to proclaim Your name
I wanna be dangerous!
I can’t hide or deny what’s inside
I wanna be dangerous!

I wanna be dangerous!   I wanna be dangerous!

I do know that the One who lives within me is far more Dangerous than the prince of this world would have me believe, would have me rely on.  And that to become Dangerous only requires that I rely genuinely and only on Him.  Loving as He teaches me to Love, growing every day in my understanding of that Love, and each of the other fruits of the Spirit.  Because they are from Him and can only be perfected in me by Him.

Religious?  No!  Dangerous?  Hell, yeah!  (And, yes, I am grinning . . . !)

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“Life is Pain!” Reflections on FAIRness

“It’s not fair,” a good friend said to me the other day.  I hadn’t heard that in a while (my kids are all grown up and I’m more likely to say that to them than the other way around now-a-days.)  But this friend WAS all grown up and still caught deeply in the snare of FAIRness.

Perhaps it’s our culture, so enamored with giving everyone an award.  Perhaps it’s just this friend’s childlike heart.  How could I find fault with that?  Christ says unless we become like little children we cannot enter the kingdom of heaven!  

“Whoa!  Back the maturity truck up here,” my ‘friend’ Tim the Toolman Taylor would say.  “Aren’t we suppose to grow up and become mature adults, having a more civilized outlook on life than our kids?”  (Like Tim will ever grow up – insert grunts here)

I digress.

So I thought about FAIRness.  Are we entitled to FAIRness?  

Was it FAIR that my Dave had to live unhappily with me for twenty-five years before we figured out how to maybe get it right? 

Is it FAIR that Tony Campolo gets snubbed and thrown out of evangelical circles because he used a word in public that is found in scripture – twice! – but is deemed unmentionable by our whitewashed evangelical ears?  

Is it FAIR that those little children died of starvation, even though Tony Campolo risked saying the “s” word in order to bring to our attention that we care more about convention than we do about lives?  (Apparently he had a valid point.)

Is it FAIR that I got to grow up in a home with running water, good food and yummy heat all winter long?  How is it FAIR that some kids get to grow up in San Diego and never have to worry about snow, and some kids get to grow up in Haiti and never have to worry about snow, but go hungry all the time?  And running water means a very different thing there . . . (shrug) Just sayin’.

What in life is guaranteed to be FAIR?  Our parents?  I know some pretty sucky ones – and some awesome ones and some who are okay, but no one’s going to give them a prize.  My kids got read to and given all sorts of encouragement in education and music.  The kid down the street from us was lucky he graduated from high school  (or – did he?) and got a job.  Period.  Maybe he could read, but comprehension and the ability to discern truth from fiction?

Well, you’ve seen our political world.   Discerning truth from fiction is NOT even taught in our schools!  And speaking of politics, is that world FAIR?  How about if you are born in Iran?  Are there some things that are more FAIR somewhere else than they are where we are born?  Do we have some things more FAIR than others who are born in other countries?  How about states?  Is Georgia as great a place to grow up in as Massachusetts?  As California?  Texas?  Ooooooklahoma?  (Sorry, Kermit moment there)

Should we even CARE if something in our lives is FAIR or not?  

I’ve worked at a business I don’t really enjoy, with competitors who consider lying, cheating and outright dishonesty, contract breaking, you name it, to be the normal course.   Is that FAIR?  They lower their pricing below what it costs them and then wait until we squirm and go out of business and then raise the pricing through the roof.  Is that FAIR?  Should I have had to spend all those years learning how not to be anxious in EVERY SITUATION?  (It took about nineteen and a half years for me to get a passing grade on that one!).   Is that FAIR?!!

And what about the people whose spouses do not meet their needs, or become incapacitated in some way, or suffer all the time with depression or sickness?  Should they use the excuse that this situation is unFAIR and get a divorce?  What about nasty spouses?  Where do we draw the line?  I believe I know quite a few people who have used this idea (in some form or other) of unFAIRness to severe their marriage and try again elsewhere.  Always seeking the elusive FAIRness of a happy marriage.

Is it FAIR that my beautiful grandson lives in sunny California and we suffer here in the Northeast with the horrors of snow and blistering wind and temperatures lower than a puritan’s hem?  No.  I would contend that this situation in particular is beyond the boundaries of unFAIRness and should be corrected at once!  (Only because I really like my kid’s kid!)  

But it will not be corrected any time soon.  Perhaps even in my lifetime.  Should I rail against the authorities about the unFAIRness of this?  Should I petition the economists and get them to lower the cost of living (or at least of real estate) in the world of California?  Should I stomp my feet and demand that my children suffer in the Northeast with me because I want it to be so?

Some people do.  They even, sometimes, get their way.  

Does it make them happy now that their life is more FAIR?

In the immortal words of Rob Reiner and Goldman’s Westley, “Life is pain, highness.  Anyone who says differently is selling something.”  – The Princess Bride

So if life isn’t FAIR, how are we do deal with the unFAIRness?  Is railing against it a productive activity?  Complaining until we get our way?  Harboring anger deep inside at our loss or inability to overcome the unFAIRness?  Pointing our finger at those who have determined unFAIRness must touch our lives?

I think a different approach is healthier for our hearts, our minds and our souls.   Paul the Apostle said that he learned to be CONTENT in whatever circumstance he found himself in.  And I would go further to push for the idea that when we allow ourselves to be CONTENT in our circumstances, no matter how uncomfortable they may be, unhappy they make us feel, unconnected they force us to become, unfed even, if we, in ALL circumstances, lay down our call to FAIRness and accept that the Lord IS our Lord and He opens some doors and closes some doors and walks with us through life’s circumstances, good and bad, FAIR and unFAIR: when we give the fighting for FAIRness over to Him, we receive PEACE.  

I spent many years crying about my marriage, crying about my work, crying about my finances, crying about my health, etc, etc, etc.  But those difficult, unFAIR circumstances gave me the JOY of FAITH, of knowing that no matter what I do, where I find myself, how much money I don’t have, how close or far away I am from those I love, no matter WHAT – I am loved by the Lord of the Universe and He walks with me every day, every moment, through every good and bad thing.  Sometimes He delivers me from the bad things that tear at my heart, and in miraculous ways that seem incomprehensible.  Sometimes He simply holds me with the arms of the Comforter and helps my frail frame make it through.   

FAITH is worth more than getting my way and having FAIRness in my life, hands down, every time.  And by saying, “Okay, God, this is not where I would like to be, but it is where You have me to be right now, so help me make it through.  And thank you right now for helping me make it through, because I believe and trust that You will,” by doing that, I gain even more FAITH.  Because God is always FAITHful.  Masterfully so.  

BTW, being GOD and giving it all up to become a MAN, growing up with MEN, getting pushed around, spit on, beaten up and eventually allowing MEN to crucify YOU = NOT FAIR.  We deserve death, not the gift of LIFE held out to us by the God who was willing to make the sacrifice in our place, on our behalf, so that we – who could not possibly have made that sacrifice and have it count for anything but that word Tony Campolo is not allowed to say in evangelical circles – we can simply accept that gift and walk arm and arm with God and spend LIFE truly living right now, as well as eternally forever.  

Not FAIR.  But I will take it.  Because FAIR would be eternal damnation with no hope of redemption.  “I’ll take NOT FAIR for 2000, please, Alex”. 

Thank you, Lord Jesus, for not grasping after FAIRness, but giving up all that You deserve and more to choose Death, so that I can Live.  I deserve death.  We deserve death.  That’s FAIR.  So, thank you God, that life is NOT FAIR!

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A Christ’s Birth Card (in December where it doesn’t belong) (You’re welcome, Dave)

So, Christmas cards, such a wonderful old fashioned tradition.  I used to be amazing at it, though sometimes my “Christmas letter” became a January one instead.  

Wonderful things happened in our families this year.  July 1st our very first grandchild, Remington James Spaulding was born and we were thrilled to spend ten days out there just about a week after he was born.  Mom and Dad were grateful to get up, feed and change him and then hand him off and go back to bed, leaving Dave, Alyssa and me to envy whichever one of us got to hold him for the next two hours.   Just about the best “vacation” I’ve ever had!

Then October 13th my very first grand-nephew was born, Liam David Corr.  I haven’t had as much of a chance to hold him, but that’s understandable since Lisa Willson-Doe is his grammy!  ; )  Thanks for sharing Lisa!  (Oh, and Mel & Chris, too.  Right.)  ; )

Okay, I might have had a bit too much fun with that one.  

The rest of my life . . . well, Aly moved to Cali to be Remington’s nanny.  So that was great for her, hard on us.  

Spiritually I have been doing a search through the Bible from start to finish, marking down whenever music or singing is mentioned.  Had a bit of a conundrum about the word “praise” which happens a lot, but eliminated it because quite often it is referring to saying grateful adoring things to the Lord, not necessarily in a musical way.  I’m in Proverbs at the moment and not finding anything there yet about music . . . leading me to wonder certain things.  Like “Are musicians just so obviously unwise, that we aren’t even mentioned?”  OR  “Perhaps a life of music leads to folly?”  I decided to decide that we are on the creative side of wisdom and the folly/wise line runs straight through the middle depending on mostly the other factors in our personalities.  That’s my story and I’m stickin’ to it.

Speaking of stories, I took a writing class this Fall at the Boston Public Library, which was extremely helpful and encouraging.  Nothing like reading what you’ve written off the cuff in the last fifteen minutes and have OTHER WRITERS say “Wow, that’s great!  I really liked . . .”  And the technical information was invaluable.  And has given me the impetus to write twenty-three chapters in the novel I’m currently working on.   (Okay, it was a total re-write and I stopped in the middle and wrote the last eleven chapters before going back to work the middle again, but it seems to have worked, so judge away!)  

But writing and babies aside, it has been an extremely difficult year.  Painful.  Get in an RV and just drive away painful.  Which, of course, we can’t do because we are responsible adults and people are counting on us.  But we can dream.

Dream, and pray, and wait on the Lord, trusting that He truly does delight in those who fear Him, who put their hope in His unfailing love.  (Psalm 147, verse eleven)  (Make all your verses found in rhyming places – it’s so much easier to remember where they are!)

Dave has been doing a LOT of playing both on guitar and on keyboards, as well as singing.  He is amazing at all of it, and more than just me says that and often.  He has been writing songs too.  Great songs.  The highlight of my day is when I crawl my weary aching body into bed and hear him begin to play and sing them down in the living room.  As a wordsmith he is right up there with “All Time Low.”  (One of my favorite, if irreverent, bands.)  Mostly blues songs, but he does have a few praise songs that are really cool, too.  

I say a BIG word of thanks to the really awesome people at the Newton Campus of FCC Kingston Church for allowing him to try them out on them from time to time.  They are oddly good at the one fashioned after an Irish drinking tune . . . but I digress.  (Just picture Martin Luther in your mind, lifting his humungous stein filled with beer – I mean water – and shouting, “To Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior!”)  Yes.  He did do that – and more than once!

Anyways.  

We are hopeful (super extra prayerful) that things will change soon, get less painful, less stressful, less of a constant heartache, but we state emphatically that if they do not, we will still praise our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ because we know we are only looking at the bottom of the tapestry, where Satan likes to make our minds dwell, but He is creating the whole tapestry and making beauty from the ugly, knotty, underside.  I may not see that beauty until I see Him face to face, but I know it WILL be worth it.

And, no, I’m not mailing this to anyone (well, maybe – nope, I won’t) but to all who have enjoyed my intermittent blogging and to those who have not yet tasted of the wandering mind of Cher, thank you and ENJOY!

Merry Christ’s Birth (which Dave would like you to know is not actually in December), May the Lord Bless you richly with His wondrous lavish Love throughout the coming year.  

Please feel free to text or call us (if you have our cells,) comment, PM us, email us, or even stop by.  We would love to hear from you, get caught up on your lives and praise God together for the amazing way you make us better.

The End.

(I have to say that or I’ll just keep on writing)  (Cher, stop it!)  (Okay.  I’m done now.)(Really.  I am.) 

; )

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