Christian living- dealing with one 'oops' at a time…

Archive for August, 2012

My Encounters With the Holy Ghost (con’t): A Word of Knowledge and A Word of Wisdom

A Word Of Knowledge:

On another occasion I looked at a Face Book picture and the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart and told me that this girl was going to mean something in my son’s life. Being a Christian mom, I assumed that this was ‘the one.’ No. This was the girl he had already gotten pregnant and wanted nothing to do with. I would have this girl in my home for a time while the two of them tried to make things work out, and be there for the birth of the baby. The Holy Spirit prepared me to handle this situation and accept the girl with love, but did not promise everything I read into the message. In retrospect I again realized how much I had assumed. I had added to what the Lord had told me in my mind.

Same son, different day, a long time ago. We had just adopted this son, and he had asked to go upstairs to his room to do his math homework because it was too noisy for him downstairs. This seemed like a reasonable request so I allowed it. As I was making dinner the word ‘calculator’ popped into my head. I knew it was true, but the boy in question had been in so much trouble that I hesitated, not wanting to add one more thing to the list of things he had been in trouble for lately. But I knew it was from God, so I called him down. Sure enough, all of his work with fractions had answers that were not fractions, but decimals, always to eight digits, a sure sign that a calculator is being used. Because he was so stunned the conversation was brief, but it made an impact. This, and a few other times things like this have happened, now have my adult son saying, ‘God always tells my mom…’ (But He does not do the same thing for my non-adopted kids!)

A Word of Wisdom

Knowledge is knowing something when you should not. Wisdom is knowing how to apply it. King Solomon showed wisdom when he asked the women to cut the baby in half knowing that the true mother could not allow this to be done. Now it may not have been the birth mother who stopped him (ever think about that, adoptive mothers often have!). But it was the mother who cared the most for the baby’s safety, and the one the baby would do best with. This is a true ‘mother.’ And hopefully it was the one who gave birth to the boy, because that is how it should be.
Wisdom is therefore the ability to apply God’s laws to difficult situations. Many people know the Word, but not everyone can apply it well.

My Encounters With the Holy Ghost: Prophecy

We are Pentecostal. This week our pastor preached on the subject of the gift of the Holy Ghost (or Holy Spirit- your choice). It is a difficult subject, and one that is hard to explain to those who have never experienced His power. So I thought I would give it a try by just explaining the things that have happened in my life…

Let’s start with a tough one: Prophecy

Now I do not receive prophecies from God on a regular basis, so I do not consider myself a prophet. I have never asked God for a message and received one either; they have always come unbidden and at the oddest times. But the thing is, when they do come, I just know that I know that this is from God. There’s not a question about it. I just look at people like, ‘How could you not know that these are the words of God?’ People who are not convicted do not like this attitude by the way…

Let me explain.

One of my first prophecies occurred while talking with an unbeliever about Christ. I was reading through the Bible for the first time. (I have a weird salvation story, and decided if I was going to say I believed what was in the Bible I had better actually know what it said! Maybe I will share my salvation story later, but right now I was talking to an unbelieving person.) During this conversation I said something. Something I did not plan to say. I thought about what I said, and thought to tell the woman that I don’t know why I said that. Then I thought ‘no,’ that’s right, and it sounds like something that is in the Bible. Well the woman went ballistic. I did not think that what I said warranted such an emotional response, but it certainly struck a nerve. I thought again to tell her that I had no idea why I said that, but then realized that I could not say this, that what I had said was right, and that it would not only be wrong, but painful to me (a grieving pain, like I was betraying someone) to take it back. So I stood there, and she ranted. Later, as I was finishing my reading of the New Testament I saw the words I had said, but not known were there. It was a verse from scripture, a direct quote, and one that obviously struck a nerve and hit a secret spot in this woman’s life that I did not know about.

A bit later I was with a group of new believers in a karate do-jang. I turned to a man and told him, ‘You need to clean your house.’ Everyone in the group, including the man, immediately realized that this was a word from God, and we were excited to do what He said. Now here is where we went wrong. Instead of praying and asking God to reveal exactly what He meant by this, we used our own logic. We examined the man’s life and decided that it was time for him to break up with his unbelieving girl friend who was pressuring him to do things he was committed to not do now that he was a believer. Well, breaking up with the girl might not have been a bad thing, but it was not what God meant. A few days later the police arrived at his home. Apparently his ex-wife was spreading lies and accusing him of things that he did not do. While no evidence of what she accused him of was found, there were many things from his old life tucked away in corners of closets that did not make him look good. When we heard what had happened we instantly knew that this is what the Lord had been telling us. We were to literally clean his house! Oops.

Another prophecy came to me in a dream. We had adopted a daughter with Reactive Attachment Disorder. (Let’s just say ‘Extremely Tough Kid.’) Many people were encouraging me to put her back into the system and focus on the rest of the children. (Some decided she was bad because I didn’t know how to parent, but that is another story.) So this daughter was giving us much trouble. God woke me up from a dream where He said, ‘She was Macaah. She is now Merabah. She will be Merab-Manasseh!’ I had no idea what these words meant, so I trudged down the stairs to get my concordance at two in the morning, not happy about being up. (Remember, I had small children and a full day.) Also, I had encountered a group of people in our church who, in my opinion, just made this stuff up, and I did not want to be in that group, so if this wasn’t right, I was not going to be happy. (God and I argue a lot. I’m glad He and David did too.) This is the translation I found. ‘She was dull-stupid.’ When we adopted our daughter the school system told us that she was borderline mentally retarded and that she would fall into the mentally retarded range as she aged because of her emotional problems. She would never learn to read, and would have to live in a group home for the emotionally handicapped for the rest of her life. Shortly after adopting her I realized that this girl was not lacking in intelligence. No one who is mentally retarded could think up this many creative ways to tick me off! The next part of the prophecy was that she was ‘Merabah.’ This name means, ‘Strife, rebellion, one who cuts down.’ This is exactly the type of behavior we were seeing in our home! But, there was hope. (And she is still not here yet, though she does read and is a wife and the mother of a huge baby boy!) The hope is that she will be Merabah- one who brings abundant blessings, and Manasseh- one who makes you forget the past. Now the Lord also reminded me that Moses did not begin to fulfill his prophecy until he was eighty… But I knew that I was to keep her, and even though it was tough, there was hope.

Two Stories That Help To Remind Me How I Want to Live

My friend, Chris, once told me that you can do a lot without being ‘busy.’ How? By focusing on each task as you did it as if it were the only one you were doing that day.

This African parable reminds me of his theory: that one’s perspective determines how one perceives their life.

A man came to the tent of a tribal elder asking for a divorce. The man complained that he could not take it anymore. His hut was loud and chaotic with all of the children and he needed out. The elder said he would grant the man a divorce if he would try a few things before going through with it. The man was desperate and would try anything if it would get him the divorce and the peace he sought.
The first thing the elder wanted the man to do was to bring a goat into the hut to live among them. The man acquiesced, though he did not see how this would help, and agreed to try it for a week.
At the end of the week the man returned claiming that the goat had only made things more chaotic than before. ‘Hmmm,’ said the elder, ‘Why don’t we try some chickens this week.’ The man was desperate for the divorce, so he went home and shooed the chickens into his home where the goat and the rest of his family were living. At the end of this week the man returned to the elder stating that this was even worse!
The elder than told the man to try one more thing. A donkey in the home might just do the trick. So the man went home and the donkey moved in. Again he returned, and again the man stated that the additional animal had only made things worse.
This went on for quite some time, until finally the elder sighed and said, ‘I am out of ideas, and you are out of animals. Let them all out and then return to me next week for your divorce.’
Weeks past, and the man did not return. After much time had gone by the elder came to check up on the man. He asked if he still wanted the divorce. The man said ‘no.’ Apparently after all of the animals were returned to their proper places the house became quite and peaceful, and the man quite liked it there!

The other story is one I remind myself of when I am tempted to judge someone without knowing much about them. It reminds me to have grace.

A man was on an airplane with his four children. During the flight the children were obnoxious. They refused to sit still, went to the restroom multiple times and were generally loud and disruptive, yelling back and forth to each other and passing things over the other passengers. Their father just sat there, unmoving, seeming not to notice the chaos around him. Finally one of the passengers gained his attention and demanded that he get his children to behave. His response, “I’m sorry, you see their mother just died and we are on our way to meet her body and take her home. They usually don’t behave this way, but I guess I have been so out of sorts that I have not been paying them the attention I should…”

(This one always makes me cry!)

The truth is we don’t know where people have come from and what has happened in their lives. Today I explained to my girls why taking young ladies into our home who have just been saved from sex trafficking would not be the ‘best’ plan, and that this is why the shelters are important. Many are not ready for the love of a ‘normal’ home (if there is such a thing) and might be overwhelmed and bolt, heading back to the life they once knew. This is why there are people who specialize in helping these girls. Not that I did not want to take these girls and give them a home as well. But I have learned that there is a better way, and that some times good things are scary when someone has learned not to trust. You have to understand their situation if you truly want to help.

This story also touches my own life. We adopted children when they were older and then moved to a new church. Because we seemed like a family they did not want, some people attempted to pray us out of the church. (Why they would tell me this later is beyond me. I know they thought it would somehow make me feel good that we had ‘improved’ so much, but really?) The people who did this did not know our story, and assumed what they saw today would be the reality of tomorrow. There was no room for grace, and no thought of helping us ‘improve.’

The truth is we don’t know what someone has walked through, or what it would take to get them to a better place in life unless we ask. There is no need to condone sin, we just need to get the facts and be educated enough in their issues to know how to help appropriately. Yes it is hard, and it does take time. But isn’t coming along beside someone what we are called to do? You can’t do that by making quick assumptions and trying to run people you consider ‘unfit’ for your company off. Will everyone accept your help? No. My adopted children have pulled away at times, and decided to do things I did not find acceptable. But you can try. Even if you only help a little, it is better than not at all. Help given inappropriately, with judgment or thoughts that we are the ‘better’ people trying to help the unworthy- that is what wounds and makes things worse.

Poop In the Bible

There are a few instances where ‘poop’ is mentioned in scripture, and a few things we can learn from them.
The first instance of ‘pooping’ in the Bible is when Saul goes into a cave to poop. He is alone, and David is in the cave. While he is pooping, David sneaks up behind him and cuts away part of his cloak. David immediately regrets what he has done. He realizes that he has no authority to remove Saul as king and has no business passive-aggressively making a fool out of a man whom God has placed in authority over him, no matter how awful that man may be.

Saul is awful, and in the cave he is at David’s mercy. He is alone, vulnerable, and in an embarrassing position. Still, this does not give David the right to take advantage of it. Ham was punished for much the same thing when he found his father passed out naked from drinking in his tent and then decided to call his brothers over to laugh at their father’s lowly state. Noah is a good man who has made a mistake. Saul is an ungodly man who, because nature called, is in a compromised position.

What this tells us is that God does not want us to do things lightly. We do not take matters into our own hands when we have no authority to do so, nor do we make fun of the person we dislike when he is in charge. We also do not allow the mistakes good men make to become defining moments that are used to make fun of them. This advice comes into play during the election season. While issues of policy are fair game, good or bad we do not seek to belittle and put down the men who are in charge by repeating their mistakes or taking advantage of them when they are vulnerable. So, picking on verbal mistakes, replaying the time they tripped on the steps or taking pleasure in their stomach upset is not a godly thing to do.

The Bible also tells us (twice) to take a something to dig with as part of our hiking equipment to bury our poop. (Dt. 23:13) God cares about the environment. Keeping it clean and preventing disease are important to him. Notice that Jesus’ disciples clean up the people’s scraps after He feeds the thousands.

We also see poop in the book of Ezekiel. The prophet is told to cook his food over human excrement (his own poop) when he is laying on his side to show the people how disgusting God finds their behavior. Ezekiel protests and God allows the prophet to use animal poop instead. (Ez. 4:12-15) Poop is used here as a metaphor for something God does not want close to Him. Used menstrual rags are used in much the same way elsewhere in scripture. (Is. 64:6)

Poop shows up again in the New Testament. This time Paul tells us that everything is ‘poop’ compared to knowing Christ. (Phil. 3:8) While most translations use the word ‘rubbish’ instead of poop, the point is clear. The substitution of a less offensive word for poop also begs the question: ‘Are we trying to be better than God by using less offensive words than He did?’ Times change, and so does how people see certain words so I will let you ponder this for yourselves.

Underwear is also found in scripture. Jeremiah is to take his loincloth and do things that will ruin it. God then tells him that wicked people will face ruin in much the same way the loincloth was ruined. He tells Jeremiah that the relationship He wished to have with the people was to be as close (intimate?) as a loincloth, but the people rebelled. So God wants to be very close to us, and is not afraid to use underwear as a metaphor to describe this relationship! (Jer. 13)

So what can we learn from this:

First, metaphors are just that, metaphors. We may therefore use whatever people will understand to get our message across without worrying about other implication that people may make. A metaphor only goes so far. To point out the ‘good’ aspects of poop would be to misunderstand what Paul is saying, and to point out that underwear are not the most respected piece of clothing would be to miss the fact that God wants us to be in a very secure relationship with Him.

The other thing we need to examine is our choice of wording and translating. By cleaning up the language in scripture we muddy the point. Poop and used menstrual rags are disgusting, and underwear is a lot closer to us than a waistband or a belt. We also need to consider the words that we refuse to use that are common in society. Paul used the word ‘poop’ or some version thereof while talking to the Philippians. Are we being too uptight by refusing to use some of the common words that non-Christians frequently use in our society? Yes, there are words that everyone agrees are offensive. But then there are the others. When appropriate should we pussy-foot around them, refusing to say them because we are Christian? When we do this, is it because we truly do not want to offend, or because we are trying to be better than others? If it makes us look pretentious and uptight then we need to knock it off. If we find ourselves talking about others who say questionable words as if we are better than them, then maybe it’s time to get over ourselves and expand our vocabulary, lest we become self-righteous and hateful? Just a thought.

The Four Things the Earth Cannot Bear Up Under (Proverbs 30:21-23)

So what does it mean when scripture says that there are four things that the earth cannot ‘bear up?’ It means that if these four things are occurring, the laws that God has put into place have been violated to such a point that wrong looks right and life will begin to be very bad in that area.
So what are these things and why are they bad? (As you will see, we do some of these things today and call them ‘right.’ I will try my best to explain exactly why they are wrong, but society has had a lot more time to teach you differently…)

1. A servant (slave) who becomes king.
Okay, so why is this bad? Most of the movies we like have the poor, oppressed but good person ending up in charge, and we love it. The problem here is that a person who ends up as a slave in this passage is not a godly person. They have mismanaged their own finances to the point where they were forced to sell themselves (and likely their family as well) into slavery because there was no one who would help them out. Now remember, in Israel you live surrounded by your entire extended family, and family members are expected to ‘redeem’ you and your land when things get bad. If you are in this serious a financial situation then you have not only mismanaged your money, but have ticked off everyone you know who would be motivated to help. You make bad decisions, and are brick-headed. This is why it is bad to have this type of person in charge!
The other way to become a slave is to be captured. This means that you are a foreigner, likely an enemy, and probably ticked off at the people who captured you. It will go bad for the people if somehow this type of slave becomes powerful. (Joseph is a righteous exception. He is an example of what you should do if you wind up in power after being oppressed and unfairly treated. Most people don’t behave this way though!)

2. A fool who is full of food.
Fools cause trouble. They do stupid, sometimes evil, things that make other people’s lives miserable. Keeping them busy, working to feed themselves keeps them out of trouble. If they have all of their needs met, and want for nothing, they will do things you do not want them to be doing with their free time. It is not that we want them to go hungry, but they need to be kept occupied, or else bad things happen.

3. An unloved woman who is married.
Again, many, many movies show this to be a good thing, and in the Song of Solomon we see a woman who is not treated well by her family becoming the ‘beloved’ of a king. There are two problems that may be occurring here, and neither is good.
In the Song of Solomon, it appears that her father has passed away, and her brothers are the ones not treating her well, so this woman knows what it is to be loved, but is not experiencing love now. This is not an ‘unloved’ woman. She is just in-between loves (her father’s and her husband’s) and has brothers who are schmucks.
Unloved people are children who do not experience love at an early age. They develop something we refer to as ‘reactive attachment disorder,’ (though they are trying to change the name of this disorder so it doesn’t sound so ‘final’). The problem is that very few people ever overcome RAD. Children who are not held, who are in abusive homes, or orphanages, or who are ripped away from multiple families through foster care do not learn to bond with people. They crave love, but are so afraid of it being taken away that they destroy relationships rather than letting anyone get close. People who suffer from this are self-destructive and often hurt others as well. (Google this. It is an impressive problem.)
The other way a married woman is ‘unloved’ is to be in a marriage where her husband does not love her as he should. Human beings crave love, and love is expected in a marriage. To be denied this leads people to become bitter, self-focused and harsh. Not the recipe for a ‘healthy’ society, and not the type of mother who will be ideal at raising children. Though a few may overcome and do well, generally an unloved wife will have too much personal pain to fully and joyfully devote herself to be the parent she wishes to be, and her husband is setting a horrible example for his children regarding how people are to be treated.

4. A maidservant who replaces her mistress.
Today this would be the man who cheats on his wife with his secretary, divorces the wife and then marries the secretary. The woman who replaces a wife in this way can never be sure that she will not be replaced herself. This leads to insecurity and an unhappy household. It is not a healthy way to live, or raise children as it teaches them that people are ‘disposable’ and can be traded in for a ‘better model’ any time one likes.
Notice that two of these things have to do with the family unit. Problems in the family affect more than you would expect. Not only are the adults who are hurt in these situations less productive because their minds are occupied with other issues, but the children do not receive the care and attention that they deserve. (While you may think your children are doing ‘just fine’ ask yourself if your goal for them is ‘just fine’ or if you want them to have the most optimal conditions to grow up in. I think you know the answer…) The next generation will therefore suffer, and likely repeat the mistakes of their parents, usually doing worse than the previous generation did.

So what does this tell us?

First it tells us not to elect , or put into power people who have messed up their own lives. The people we place in power over us should be financially sound (excellent at handling large sums of money would be good since that is essentially what we elect them to do), and they should get along well with others. They should be the type of people who, if their fortunes suddenly changed, would have plenty of people offering to help them out with no thought of taking advantage of them later in return for the favor. Greedy, selfish people do not have these types of friends.
We also learned that some people don’t behave and it is best to keep them busy. There must therefore be wisdom in our social programs.

It is also clear that marriage and family are the bedrock of our society. Loving your spouse is important, as is loving your children. Cheating on her causes problems that are bigger than even I may have indicated since the world cannot ‘bear up’ when a society is full of this type of behavior. Guard your marriage. Get counseling if needed. It is too important to let it be less than God intended it to be. Your marriage will be the example though which your children learn how to treat others. It will therefore affect more than just their later love relationships. Remember, Isaac and Rebekah’s marriage was arranged and they were happy. Following godly principles leads to love. Feelings are not the bedrock on which a marriage lasts. Trust and commitment are. Knowing that your spouse will never intentionally do anything to hurt you, disrespect you or lose your faith in them is an incredibly sexy thing! And teaching your children to do the same leads to stable individuals who are free from the drama that consumes some people’s lives. ‘Drama’ and our focus on it keeps us from spending that time concentrating on what it takes to be all that we were made to be. Work hard to be a person who brings peace and security to all of those around them, especially those they are supposed to love. (There is also an argument to be made that we need to fix our foster care system so that children have a more stable environment when the family does fail them…)

Fight Fair

Let’s not be naive, when any two people are in any type of relationship, especially marriage there are going to be rough spots. The key to getting through these rough spots is to do things as right as we possibly can, even when there are strong emotions involved. This is why Joshua 22 is one of my favorite passages in scripture. It is one of the few times Israel does anything right.

So what happens in Joshua 22?

First the people who live on the other side of the Jordan River (outside of the main part of Israel) build an altar. They got scared and worried that, because they were across the Jordan, future generations would not remember that their children were a part of Israel. So they built an altar. It was a Jewish altar, one any Jew would recognize. They meant for it to just be a memorial, a reminder that they were Jewish too. They never intended to sacrifice on it, but it did look like an altar that people would sacrifice things on…

Now the problem is God just told them not to make sacrifices at any altar other than the altar at the Temple. To the Jews on the opposite side of the Jordan River it looked like their relatives were trying to do something seriously wrong that would cause Israel as a whole to be punished by God. They were mad, but they checked their anger and appointed men to go over and ASK what the people involved what was going on, and OFFER to help them. Their offer was to allow them to live on the other side of the Jordan River with them if being across the river was going to lead them to sin.

So, we have an extremely mad group of people, ready to kill their relatives going over and ASKING why they were doing something that looked so bad, and OFFERING to help them if they needed help avoiding sin.
So what would this look like in real life? It would mean that when you discover something that looks incredibly bad you calm down, talk and actually listen to what the other person says. You also realize that sometimes sin comes as a result of unmet needs. This does not excuse the sin, it merely means that there are ways that you can help fill the voids that often tempt people to sin. Each person is different, so you must listen if you are going to help someone. Some people need accountability. Others need support and reassurance that they are loved. I’d love to give you the recipe for helping everyone with every type of sin, but there is none. Listen, and see if you can help. Some people are determined to sin, and that is different. But for many, the temptation comes along with a lot of other baggage. See if you can help ‘unpack’ some of those bags and make life easier on them.

Now remember in Joshua 22 the people had done nothing wrong. It only looked that way. They are being accused of something they had no intention of doing. Often when people are falsely accused they become upset. These men did not. They became humble. They EXPLAINED what they were doing and why. This is important. When you are accused of having motives that you did not have for doing something, do not fly off the handle and let your pride get in the way. EXPLAIN what you were thinking and why you were doing whatever you did. There is no guarantee the other person will listen, but it is the best thing to do.

Now remarkably the other people did LISTEN. (This is often not the case, and is why counseling is so important since counselors, for the most part, make you listen.) They understood what the people were doing and decided it was okay. Now this is also remarkable. Usually when we have decided that someone is wrong we do not want to change our opinion so we ‘nitpick’ and find reasons why it really was wrong even though it was not what we thought it was. Don’t do this. Be prepared to re-evaluate the situation and change your mind. Do not let your pride force you into being so stubborn that you cannot admit you might have made a false assumption. This is stupid and does not help the relationship. Now the Israelites on the opposite side of the river did have things they could nitpick. They could have said that the altar, being an altar, would be a temptation to them or to later generations since it obviously looked like something one should sacrifice on. But they didn’t. They accepted the explanation and went home. They did NOT NITPICK and neither should you. If small changes need to be made give the person some time. They have likely just realized that what they are doing could give someone a false impression and they are hurt that you would think they would be capable of doing wrong. Don’t make it worse by shoving minutia (stupid little things) down their throats.
The people who made the altar also did something right. They did NOT GET OFFENDED that they were falsely accused. This is tough. We want everyone to think well of us and it hurts when we realize that someone, especially someone close to us who is supposed to know us, could believe that we would do such a thing. But they didn’t get offended, and this is good.

The people who accused them then went back to their side of the river and told the other people who knew about the altar what was actually going on. They CLEARED UP ANY MISCONCEPTIONS anyone who knew about the situation might have. This is important. We do not leave people thinking that something bad has been done when it was not, especially if we were the source of the erroneous information. One of my former pastors, when counseling would make the person who had made false accusations make a list of whom they had discussed the matter with and made them promise to clear things up with them as well. This not only kept false information from spreading, but once it was known that he did this, it kept people from ranting to whomever was listening. It is not that you cannot talk to others about your problems, but there is a difference between seeking ‘wise counsel’ and letting everyone know you were wronged. A person seeking wise counsel will have a short list of people to inform when they realize they were wrong. A person who ranted immaturely to everyone they knew will have a lot of explaining to do…

So this is how a ‘good fight’ goes:

1. ASK CALMLY. No matter what it looks like, there may be a better explanation than the one you are thinking of. (Or maybe not, but at least you will know.)

2. BE WILLING TO HELP. Often sin does not occur just because the person is evil. (Occasionally it does.) Sin is sometimes a cry for help. Be open to the possibility that the person may need help refraining from sin, and that there are issues that you may be able to help solve.

3. EXPLAIN. When you are accused, or even when you are accusing, make sure you explain why you did or said whatever it was. Explain calmly and well. You may even have to explain more than once because people who are upset do not tend to listen as well. Be mature and try to master your emotions so that the conversation may be fruitful.

4. LISTEN. You cannot resolve anything if you are the only one doing the talking. Too often in an argument people think about what they are going to say next while the other person is talking rather than actually listening. Listen! If you want to save this relationship (and relationships are so important to God that you should) then you need to listen and hear what they other person is trying to say.

5. DO NOT NITPICK. Nitpicking usually occurs when we do not want to admit we were wrong to get mad. The problem is really that in our minds we tried and convicted the person before we even listened to what they had to say and we do not want to admit that we have made a mistake. Keep yourself open to the possibility that you might be wrong, and do not look for little excuses to ‘prove your point.’ It takes maturity to look at the facts and change your opinion. Be mature.

6. DO NOT GET OFFENDED. When someone accuses you it is easy to get offended. Don’t. Everyone makes mistakes, let this be theirs and let it go. Getting offended does not solve anything, and it makes it less likely that other person will talk to you about things in the future since they ‘do not want to offend you.’ Easily offended people rarely have close friends. Relationships involve getting through missteps until we more fully understand one another. You cannot do this without ever going through some misunderstandings. Accept that misunderstandings will happen, explain and move on.

7. CLEAR UP MISCONCEPTIONS. Typically arguments and misconceptions do not happen in isolation. When you realize that you have made something look like something it was not and have told people about it, clear it up. If you do not it will typically come around to bite you someday in the future. Remember, a person who thinks your spouse is awful will likely not vote for you for elder, or sign your adoption reference, or help you obtain a gun permit. Additionally, if they find out the true story on their own and think you have lied about another, they will not think much of you. There is also the other person’s reputation to think about. Clear things up as soon as possible, and when you think you are wounded try not to tell the entire world.

Hiring a House Keeper

Now I know the Proverbs 31 woman had servants who helped take care of her house, but if you are a woman living in a Christian society today you have probably felt the pressure to do it all yourself too. Somehow we have made cleaning your house into the ultimate womanly virtue, and we use it, meanly, to compare our worth to others. So hiring a house-keeper becomes a huge emotional issue for most Christian women. It’s like admitting you are a failure as a wife and mother. Except it isn’t.

The irony in my life is that I am finally taking this step at a time when I have the least I have ever had to do in life. Maybe I am just burnt out, or maybe I just don’t care anymore. I tried having someone clean my house once when the children were little. There were seven of them and I was over-involved in both the church and home school community and wanted to stay that way. A woman from the church was starting a cleaning business so we signed on as her first client. She was wonderful, but soon began receiving job offers that were nowhere near our house, making ours a difficult location to clean. This was fine with us as I had grown tired of hearing all of the little remarks made by the other Christian women about my choice to have her clean. My favorite was, ‘If you work with her maybe you will learn how to take care of your house yourself.’ Now I ran the church karate club, was in charge of the Sunday School (and wrote the curriculum), taught two classes at the home school co-op and home schooled seven children. Obviously I was not doing enough.

Today I am older. My children are growing and most have moved out of our home. It would seem that this would be the time of life where I needed a housekeeper the least, but not having as many children to help with the chores makes for a much longer day, and having cleaning be the only thing I do makes it oh so tedious. Believe it or not the ‘breaks’ chasing the toddlers provided helped me keep my sanity! (Who knew?) It also gave me an excuse to not have finished everything I wanted to get done. Now all I have is, ‘If I scrubbed another thing I was going to go nuts.’ It’s just not the same. So I hired someone to clean.

Hiring someone has its advantages. I now have time to do more things, things I really want to do, like writing this. It also provides employment for other people. I do not know the women who come to my house well enough to know if they are supporting a family, or if this is money for extras, but does it matter? They want to earn money doing something they are good at. I want to save time eliminating something I detest, so it is a win-win.
Are there some downsides to this? Yes. I am a bit territorial and like my home the way I like it, even if it is a mess. I need to get over this. There is also the feeling like I am surrendering something I should be doing to someone else.This is a false teaching I have unfortunately internalized, but before I consider myself a failure I ask myself what has eternal value. Raising godly children and writing books that will hopefully lead people to live in a more Christ-like manner is ultimately more important than my feminine pride. And I like it. I like coming home to a clean toilet and a shower stall where I can actually see through the glass surround. It’s a little thing, but it does make me happy.

God Can Use Anything: Even Me (Part 2)

Today we’re going to get personal. This is a story from my life.

Years ago when my husband and I were young Christians we were providing free medical care to a friend. My husband is an osteopath and I am a physical therapist. We were looking at the same knee from slightly different perspectives. With both of us being Type A personalities and not being raised in fundamentalist Christian homes the discussion became heated and at some point I cursed. (Not typical patient care either, I know.)

Now what we did not know is that from the outside this friend thought we were ‘perfect.’ We went to church, had adopted three older kids in addition to our four young ones etc. Hearing me use a ‘not made for church’ word she decided, ‘If Judy can curse then I can go to church.’ And the rest is history.

I am not saying that curse words should be added to the Roman Road any time soon. I am just saying that God can use anything, even our mistakes to accomplish His will.

God Can Use Anything (Part 1): Jonah and the Ark

One of my favorite preaching stories comes from a friend of mine’s friend. He was having a great day at the pulpit. Or so he thought. After the sermon he gave the standard altar call and 15 young men went to the altar to accept Christ as their Lord and Savior. In rural areas this is a record number. Feeling pretty good about himself he went to greet the rest of his parishioners before they left for home and buffet. An elder then pulled him aside and mentioned, ‘You do know it was Noah and the ark, not Jonah…’ Stunned he thought back to his sermon and realized that he had repeatedly replaced Noah with Jonah throughout his sermon. Years later he thought back to the group that came to the altar that day and realized that every man was now serving at some level in ministry. The take home point: God can use anything, even your mistakes.

Holding the Door and Other Nice Things

I just finished reading CBE’s post about women helping menĀ and it brought back memories of a conversation I overheard (in my defense they were speaking very loud) at an ETS convention. The theology students were talking about holding doors. Apparently, in the male evangelical world a true man cannot walk through a door held by a woman for any reason. What? Is it just me, or is this a little extreme?

Here in New Mexico everyone holds the door for everyone. The rule seems to be that if another person is anywhere near the door it is polite to wait for them rather than let it shut. When we are a small group (1-3 people) we walk through and say, ‘thank-you.’ When our whole family is together, we say, ‘Let me get that for you,’ and hold it for us and anyone behind us. If it is a child holding the door (and many times it is) they receive more praise for doing such an honorable thing. It’s a little thing, but it gets us all through doors without being awkward.

Occasionally there is a gap between us and the next person that is not big enough to allow the door to close and still be polite, but the person is far enough away that the person exiting would need to wait a few seconds to hold the door for them. In this case the person coming speeds up a little to get to the door, and says, ‘Thanks so much,’ or something like that. No one taught anyone to do this. We just learn by example.

So why is this so difficult? It is difficult because some people in the Christian world have taken chivalry to a ridiculous level and made it a source of pride and test of manhood (neither of which are Biblical attitudes). We have taken what should be a servant’s heart, and a loving gesture, and turned it into an opportunity to get our feelings hurt if someone less than us does it in return. This is not love. This is all about you.

So what do I teach my boys? I teach them that holding the door, the chair, helping the girl with her coat are good manners. Why? Because they are gestures that, in our society, tell a person that they are important to you. The more of them you do, the more you say you care. They are not a badge that says, ‘I am a ‘man.’ That is useless puffery. They are things people do, especially male people, to communicate that other people have value. While a stranger may hold the door for me at a restaurant, if they opened my car door, or pulled out my chair I would think they were weird. Small gestures are for strangers. The more we pile these gestures together the more we say. ‘I love and respect you.’ It is a societal convention, and the girl allowing the boy to do these things says, ‘Thank-you, I appreciate your affection.’ A girl who is not that interested in the boy will not wait and will do more of the little things herself. It is part of our mating ritual.

Now we can change how we do our little romantic dance, but couples who do this frequently need to discuss which portions of the ‘rituals’ (such as the man paying for the date) are to be followed and why. The discussion needs to occur because like it or not, our society has ‘norms’ and these are them. It is okay to change the dynamic, but we need to realize that it is there. Hence the need for a discussion. It is when these cultural norms become something they should not, whether it is a test of manhood, or a woman assuming that the man’s intentions are to oppress rather than one of the few ways he has to show he likes her early on, that we get into trouble. When our pride rears up, these things turn from niceties, to something I would rather not be a part of.

The other day I went with my son to the auto parts store. He had to return some routers (heavy brake things). He had four heavy boxes in his arms so when we got to the door I went ahead and opened it for him. He thought nothing of walking through with, not only a girl holding the door, but his sainted mother! (Okay, maybe not so sainted, but still.) Should I have watched him struggle, demanding he hold the door for me? Should he have put the boxes down, then tried to dead-lift them off a flat surface to save his honor? Of course not. Mom holding the door for almost adult son in this situation was the right thing to do. And since he has not made door holding a thing that potentially offends his honor and pride he had no trouble with the gesture. (I doubt he even remembers it…)

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