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The Dark Underbelly of the Super Bowl

30 Jan

The Dark Underbelly of the Super Bowl

Enjoy your parties this weekend, guys and gals, but don’t be naive.  There is still a lost world out there that needs Jesus.  

Are We Godly Because of What we Do or Because of What we Don’t Do?

1 Jan

First of all, let me get this out of the way and answer my own question that we are godly only because of Christ’s righteousness imputed unto us as hopeless sinners.  Just in case anyone thought I was about to get into a discussion of “works salvation.”  That issue was settled on the cross and needs no further discussion from me.

But the further discussion concerns what a godly life in Christ looks like to others from the outside.  A friend posed this question on her Facebook page yesterday.  She narrowed it down to asking how godliness might look in a woman (not excluding men, but just wanting to know how she should aim her efforts as a woman).

There were many thoughtful answers and . . . as thoughtful answers will do, they made me think overnight.  

Some of the answers could be easily categorized into active vs. passive categories.  Things godly women do vs. things godly women do not do.

In particular, there were some general answers that can be both active and passive (wisdom, humility, handling disappointment).

There were answers that were primarily passive (knowing when to remain silent, not judging others–that second one was mine but I later changed my vote. And, in my favor, I did mention exercising empathy in place of judgment).

The qualities that must, by nature, be active were love for others (love for self and taking care of self was mentioned with this one) and compassion (my favorite, and the one to which I eventually changed my vote).    

Thinking this through, I became convicted that we, too often, in our eagerness to cultivate godly traits, scare ourselves away from many of the active traits because they run the risk of misfiring and embarrassing us publicly.  When we act or speak, we open a thousand possibilities for what we could do or what we could say.  And, if we are of the mindset that only one action or one set of words would perfectly fit the framework in which we find ourselves, we can see that the odds of our finding that one action or that one phrase out of thousands are pretty slim.  

The odds, of course, increase when we are filled with the Holy Spirit but how many women often find themselves at places in their lives where they say, “I am totally filled with the Holy Spirit at this moment!”???  Even if that were the case, women (and men) are full of such self-doubt (and healthy humility) that we don’t often speak of ourselves that way.  

So . . . we enter into that area that is so familiar to so many of us.  The area of doing or saying nothing lest we do or say the wrong thing (or lest a person/persons whose opinion we highly value might think we did or said the wrong thing).  We immobilize ourselves, by fear of embarrassment and by fear of man, into doing nothing.

The Bible clearly says that the fear of man brings a snare.  Even if we are in the situation of trying to maintain a flawless reputation for godliness with our best friend/friends.

I am going to suggest that, often, an action or set of words empowered by the Holy Spirit may come out in many different ways and still have exactly the result toward which God is leading!

If I sit with a suffering fellow saint and speak words to her, they won’t be the same words as another believer would use, or even the same words that I would use earlier or later in my life.  But they will be used of the Holy Spirit to perfectly minister in that situation. He can change the imperfect offering of my words, my time, my attention (and maybe a hot meal) to perfectly minister to another soul.  

The same thing happens when I witness to an unbeliever.  If I were to wait until my life were perfectly “squared away” (a subjective judgment anyway), I would never witness to anyone.  Remember that in the First Century the world was turned upside down by believers who started witnessing the minute they were saved.  And most of them were saved out of paganism.  

The Samaritan woman led her whole town to Christ before she even had a chance to get with her common law husband and straighten their relationship out to line it up with God’s Word . . . 

It is a simplistic saying, but God really does write straight with crooked pencils.

I just know that will encourage someone somewhere.  Please don’t be immobilized into inactivity by the fear of saying or doing the wrong thing this new year.   

Happy New Year! 

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What is a Vapid Narcissist?

26 Sep

What is a Vapid Narcissist?

I have been dialoging with a precious friend who is doing this year what I did last year–losing 100 pounds.

She wrote something fascinating in her blog this week, something timely that gave me pause to think.

She has been focusing on the idolatrous affair our society can have with food. And, looking ahead to when she has finished her weight loss, she asks, “What next?”

She wisely does not want to switch from one idolatry to another, so she wants to avoid switching her worship from food to clothes or makeup or just the satisfaction of seeing a small body in the mirror.

She used the phrase “vapid narcissist” to describe what she most of all does not wish to become.

That phrase both startled me and pleased me. It was both expected and unexpected at the same time.

You see, when you grow up in certain sectors of our society, that is the first thing you think of when you think of having a small, visually lovely body: “How many ways can I misuse my newfound freedom from obesity?”

And, while I agree with John Calvin when he said that the human heart is an idol factory, I have come to the point where my greatest fear is no longer how I will misuse my thinness. My greatest fear is misrepresenting God’s grace in all of this. And I struggle with that constantly because there is so much I don’t know, both about God and about this world He has made and how His principles interact with it.

Lately I cling to the verse that says He has freely given us all things to enjoy. In fact, if He leaves something open in His Word and does not address it one way or the other, I have been consciously trying to not argue from silence. If He does not forbid someone from doing something, neither do I. I leave that as a matter for each man’s conscience. It is not as easy to do as it sounds.

For example, the enclosed link would sum up about everything I believe about narcissism (a secular term, thus a secular article).

I don’t believe anymore (as I did while I was being raised by one of the most frugal mothers on earth) that owning and wearing pretty clothes automatically indicates that someone is vain.

With God, it is so much more complicated than that, since God looks on the heart. Some of us can be totally given over to nice clothes (or nice makeup or nice jewelry) to the point we don’t even see Him or His work in our lives. Yet someone else can have just as many nice things to put on, yet without the slightest tint of idolatry.

Vapidness means emptiness. Narcissism means putting myself at the center of everything as though other human beings were mere things to operate for my convenience.

So what is it when a group of ladies, out with their husbands, converges on the ladies’ room for giggling conversations, while adjusting their lovely dresses over their trim figures? Is it empty and selfish when they emerge from that ladies’ room and bask in the appreciative looks of their own husbands?

Ya know, I don’t think it is.

If I am dressed up and fellowshipping with my similarly dressed up girlfriends, then enjoying the healthy appreciation of my husband’s eyes, that may very well be one way of seeing how God has richly given me all things to enjoy.

Narcissists separate themselves from others, feeling special. If I am giggling with my girlfriends, enjoying how lovely we all look, then that is not narcissism.

If I am flirting with the husband God has given me, that is not emptiness.

I only point this out because we can tend to act as though God is the big spoilsport in the sky. We can unconsciously kill every buzz life gives us, lest God see us having a good time and move in to squash us like a bug. Only, that would not be a loving God. That would be a monster.

Oh, yes, we certainly need to avoid becoming a vapid narcissist when we lose weight, or at any other time. But we need to make sure we define the term accurately, too.

For some of us who have been raised with values that tend toward Puritanism, those definitions can make all the difference.

Not to discredit the accomplishments of the Puritans, but no age was a golden age.

In every age, the idea is to walk closely with the Lord and feel His pleasure in our relationship with Him.

The Father really is as good as Jesus said He is!!!

When Marriage Becomes Idolatry . . .

21 Sep

“And the prince and the princess entered the castle together as husband and wife and lived happily ever after, surrounded by their moat and their seven wonderful children . . .”

Isn’t that how the fairy tale ending usually plays out?  

Or, of more relevance to those of us raised on the beautiful love stories of the golden age of Hollywood, isn’t that how the movie usually ends?  Except the prince and the princess are usually commoners in the movies . . .

Regardless of the social status of the central characters, both fairy tales and Hollywood’s best movies convey the same idea– that marriage is a state in which two people spend the rest of their lives gazing into each other’s eyes, oblivious to the rest of the world out there, except for those gorgeous children who come along to complete the couple’s family circle.  

And this idea is one that I have long sought to balance in the thinking of the younger women with whom I have been privileged to have a friendship.  

It is a short step from loving someone with all my heart to idolatry.  And it is a short step from love to obsession, if love is anchored by Hollywood’s standards instead of by the Word of God.

God gave us the Great Commission to reach a hurting world for Christ.  That alone should tell us that we Christians were not created to spend a lifetime gazing into someone’s eyes.  There are times that is lovely and appropriate, but not an entire lifetime.  And it hurts my heart when I see younger girlfriends who seem to judge the health of their marriages by whether their spouses make them the center of their lives.  

Ummm, it’s Christ who is supposed to be the center of our lives as Christians, both as Christian men and as Christian women.  When we derail that truth, we go over the line into idolatry.  Or worse, into obsession with another human being, making him the center of our life and trying to force him to make us the center of his life.  

Not healthy.  Not tenable.  Life won’t work that way for long.  It isn’t meant to work that way.

I once heard the definition that a healthy Christian marriage is not two people gazing at each other, but two people, shoulder to shoulder, gazing outward at the world and the place in it where God has called them to serve together. 

Yet I still hear of situations where wives (most commonly wives, although husbands probably do this, too, and I just don’t hear about it as much) have absolute meltdowns over the fact that their husbands don’t do everything with them when not at work.  For those who work together, say in the ministry or in a family run business, the wife can end up totally doubting her husband’s love if he is not at her side 24/7.  

That may have worked in Eden before the Fall but it is not the way marriages work today.  If we put a stranglehold on a relationship we, umm, strangle the life and joy out of that relationship.  

The answer for a wife demanding that her husband put her at the center of his life is not more time and attention.  She needs to be drawn to the Word of God and challenged to put the Lord at the center of her life, as her husband needs to do. God has given us sufficient grace to live in relationship to Him and in relationship to each other without getting out of balance and into idolatry.  

He has a plan for each of our lives and that plan continues even if our spouse should die.  

The primary relationship is with Him, now and forevermore.  We need to be looking at Him,  as first in our lives, to stay on track with what He has called us to do.  

It is in that primary relationship that we find the reason He created us.  Our marriage is part of that reason, but it is not, nor will it ever be, the central reason of our existence.  In marriage, we help each other fulfill God’s plan for us as individuals, and as a team.  

And that is a very great grace.      

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Hunger is Not an Emergency!

11 Jul

Hunger is Not an Emergency!

A friend at Weight Watchers came up with the above motto or borrowed it from somewhere.

I just love that. Reminds me that I can always wait another half hour before eating, even when I feel hunger pangs . . .

Yesterday I took my son to get his TB test checked before he had had his breakfast. After we had had his check, just before the doctor’s office opened at 9, I took him through the drive through at Chick-Fil-A next door. A typical young man of 21, he wanted a couple of chicken biscuits and an orange juice.

Time was, I would have joined him in something high fat and delicious.

As it was, I remembered that I had a packet of nuts and apple slices–one of those Nut-rition products that are pretty good!–in my desk at work, so I waited till I got there, then had a lower calorie snack.

That seems to be the key for me–waiting a bit longer to eat when I feel hungry and substituting something a bit lower cal for most of the foods that we Americans typically grab!

I will always be a foodie, but I am learning that I can eat a granola bar mid-morning and something with nuts mid-afternoon without blowing my daily Weight Watchers points.

Yes, I do believe I can do this for a lifetime!

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Losing 110 Pounds in 20 Minutes!

28 Jun

Losing 110 Pounds in 20 Minutes!

I got my new base ID today and, with it, a new picture of me, replete in a new red dress. The ID I turned in had my picture 110 pounds ago, in a red jumper that was precisely 10 sizes bigger than the dress I wore today. In essence, I lost 110 pounds in the course of a 20 minute photography session!

I was thinking about the fact that there are no shortcuts to weight loss. And wondering why God designed the universe that way.

Weight loss (and weight maintenance in a healthy state) are decisions we make one mouthful at a time. And daily when we decide whether we can find a half hour to work out before we flip on the television or the Netflix stream on our computer.

With very rare exceptions, most of us carry weight that is mathematically related to the quality of what we eat, how much of it we eat, and how much we exercise.

I have learned to shudder when I see most snack foods–full of sugar and salt for cheap flavoring, full of preservatives so that they will last on a shelf for years, full of . . . zero nutritional value.

Never say never . . . but I want to make my consumption of processed foods a rare thing. It grieves my heart that they are the cheapest foods in the stores, even in the convenience stores where they are marked up pretty high. Teens and poorer people without cars often buy their food in convenience stores. Teens and poorer people without cars often don’t have access to education about the nutritional value of various foods (or, in the case of teens, they may hear nutritional information but choose to not process it!!!). And those poor brains, when all they get for nourishment is potato chips and Coke!!!

I am hopefully not becoming a food snob, but I want to be a voice of reason in a crazy world of idolatry.

You see, I think the reason God made it so that we have to partner with Him to lose weight, one small decision at a time, is because we would otherwise make an idol of our food, rather than worship the giver of that food.

We still can and do. I read in the paper today that 41% of Americans regard themselves as overweight or obese when . . . it is actually 68.8% who are! Seven out of ten. No wonder the American Medical Association just gave in and declared obesity to be a disease. There is no fighting a statistic like that. We love our food in this country!

I have spent years at weights far higher than what my body was built to carry. I could do it again. I am not home free till I go to be with Jesus someday, to that world where temptations, sin, and idolatry no longer exist.

In the meantime, I struggle, one mouthful at a time, one decision to work out at a time.

But that is good, for the struggle directs me to the foot of the Cross, where I see Christ, who triumphed in my struggles for me.

I truly believe that, if we could eat anything we wanted and never gain weight or if we could will ourselves to lose 110 pounds and have it come off in a week, we would be neckdeep in food idolatry. I believe the struggle helps free us from the idolatry.

Food is a wonderful gift and, in one way, I will always be a foodie! I love cooking and trying new recipes and trying new herbs and spices and trying new combinations of things . . .

I just know that I can’t eat high density calories every day of my life. Either I eat them in smaller portions or I choose to eat something else instead.

And God is faithful, oh so faithful.

I am so totally ordinary, if I can do it, anyone can.

Keeping our Spouses Off Balance

10 Jun

At the end of this month, I will complete my 55th journey around the sun.

I have learned a few things, but I have seen a lot more things that I don’t understand.

I am so glad I have a sovereign Lord who understands them all. I can rest, uncomprehending, in His arms!

I tend to collect friends. I mean, I make and keep them for life.

And as I learn about their lives and families, I see a pattern far too often.

It is the marriage in which one or more of the partners constantly strives to keep the other off balance.

I think I understand a few things about the dynamics of such a marriage, but if I am right, the concept is not flattering to the people involved.

I think some people, often female people, can’t give up the idea of being pursued by someone, even after they have him.

They have enjoyed courtship and the deep sense of longing their man conveyed at that time. So they go ahead and create drama that leads him to believe he is in danger of losing his woman’s love or that he has to work to get back in her good graces.

Problem is, when God created Christian marital love to reflect Christ’s love for the church, the picture didn’t quite work that way. Instead of being thrilled by a man pursuing me, my marriage is supposed to mature me to the place where I am thrilled to be part of that man’s team, striving together for the common goal of reflecting Christ and His love to a fallen, broken world.

Working together, you see. Putting my energy into being on a team instead of putting it into running ahead of someone with hopes he will chase me.

Men may not play the “keep the marriage off balance with drama” game as often, but I have heard of many men withdrawing, often into depression, and keeping the marriage off-balance that way, with their silence.

I have finally understood how this works, after seeing many, many marriages break up over a partner’s depression, often the man’s.

I optimistically thought that a marriage would provide a safe place to be depressed, without realizing that depressed men are in no position to feel safe.

I thought the gratitude of being in a loving relationship would be a natural antidote to depression, without realizing that depressed people can’t feel gratitude or count their blessings. That is part of why depression is so disabling.

Depressed people are stuck people. Without the grace of God, they can’t get unstuck. They need a power outside of themselves, greater than themselves.

Truly God sanctifies Christian marriage and uses it, just not always in the ways we think He will.

But, back to our drama queen wives and our depressed husbands, we all need more of Jesus and less of ourselves.

And we all need to try to work with God in His pattern for sanctified marriage, doing our level best to lay aside game playing.

He will carry the burden of the work. He always does. His yoke is easy on us because He carries the heavy end!

And we proceed in balance, heavenly balance, not in cheap, momentary thrills and adrenaline surges cooked up by our own deceitful hearts.

For the biggest thrill turns out to be walking, in balance, with Him!

on His end!

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