Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not As Cool As I Thought

Several of us gathered daily in Bertrand Commons, where many of Dominican University of California's Day Students, as well as students who lived on campus, congregated in the 1970s. As a Day Student, I used the room as my  home base between classes, and enjoyed my affiliation with the popular group, Back then, there were only 800 undergraduates, so the group had a high profile.

After slinking through high school as a less popular person, being embraced by the "cool" group at Dominican was somewhat heady. I'd been a Christian since tenth grade, and held firm on the more obvious morals like sex, drinking and drugs, but I willingly made compromises in less apparent ways. For the first time in my life, I enjoyed the attention and admiration of those who commanded everyone else's attention and admiration, and I wanted nothing to jeopardize my social standing. Not even Jesus.

I recall sitting around the Bertrand Commons tables, inhaling second-hand smoke from my friends' cigarettes as I drank Coca-Cola and shrugged off thoughts that I "really should" study for that exam in Baroque art history or read that selection of John Donne's poems. I was entranced by all the marvelous ways my friends found to complain.

Of course, I never regarded their complaining as actual complaining! In my mind, "complaining" was something my fussy grandmother did, and she annoyed me greatly as she voiced her dislike for everything from Beatle's music to my mother's Siamese cat (although I didn't much like the cat either). No, what my friends in the Commons did was far more sophisticated (in my estimation) than Granny's old-lady whining. They had much more conviction and passion as they railed against their tyrannical parents, expressed righteous indignation at the policies of the college administration, or satirized various professors. Surely their form of complaining had a nobility about it that justified it!

Well, surely, it was nothing more than spoiled brats, so accustomed to privileged lives (after all, Dominican was a private college) that our sense of entitlement overpowered the gratitude we should have nurtured. Sadly, I carried my complaining habit with me long after my graduation from Dominican, coupling it with unfounded self-pity. The more blessings from the Lord I experienced, the more I'd spew dissatisfaction. Talk about grieving the Holy Spirit! The 'skill" I'd acquired in Bertrand Commons greatly dishonored the Lord Jesus Christ, showing my distorted attitude toward His generosity and kindness.

In His inexplicable mercy, however, the Lord has blessed me with a husband who doesn't know how to complain. John sets an example of thankfulness, contentment and joy that makes me wonder what I possibly could have found so appealing in the cynical conversations at that smoke-filled table so long ago. I see now that God is as distressed by my complaining as I was by Granny's. What seemed so cool back then now shows itself to be repulsive. Funny how growing older changes one's perspective, isn't it?

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

What I've Gone And Done

This is an interactive blog post. That's right, dear readers, I'm going to make you think! (Facebook and Twitter followers, hold your tongues--let everybody put on their Thinking Caps.) Now, study this photo John took of me as we wandered through the North End in Boston yesterday afternoon, and see if you can tell what's "different" about me.
Can you see it? Look very closely. No...I'm not talking about the sprinkling of gray hair, though admittedly that's also there. But I'm turning 58, people! Of course I'm getting gray hair! Anyway, focus. Do you see it?

Okay, we'll try another view:

Does that help? Click on the photo. Maybe seeing it full-size will help. Still wondering what you"re looking for? Try squinting your eyes. It's there, I assure you. But yes, I really am having fun making you look for something when I know jolly well that you don't have a clue what I'm trying to show you. (I've always been somewhat of a tease.)

Oh very well! Look at a closer picture:


Yes...I got my ears pierced yesterday! It's taken nine years to convince John to let me do it, but my post, Kicking And Screaming, gave him the desire to do something to help me feel young again. (Well, also my evening Personal Care Attendant has been helping me wear him down.) So yesterday, as an early birthday present, he took me to the Claire's on Washington Street, paid for everything related to the procedure. and watched it being done. Do I have the best husband on earth or what?

Actually, now he's just as delighted as I am!

Sunday, September 25, 2011

The Death Of Mercy

All of us desperately need God's mercy, whether we admit it or not. We may flatter ourselves into believing that we don't really sin...at least not as badly as "other people." But Scripture tells us that, apart from Jesus, all  our supposed righteousness appears to God as used Tampons, smelly and disgusting. It's when we face our sin in harsh honesty that leaves us no choice but to acknowledge our helplessness to rectify it that we appreciate the unbelievable, wonderful mercy of the Lord Jesus Christ dying as our Substitute, accepting the wrathful punishment that rightly belongs to us.

And the sweetness of confessing how deeply we require His mercy is in receiving it. When He assures us that He's paid our massive debt by His blood shed for the remission of sin, the joy and relief overwhelm us! Sometimes, as we celebrate His mercy, we stand amazed that He would voluntarily allow those nails to pierce His hands and feet and that spear to be plunged into His side so that you and I (stubborn sinners at the very core of our beings) could be marvelously acquitted! To bestow mercy, God the Son had to die.

I ponder the point that I receive His mercy because of His death each day. I don't ponder it because I'm exceptionally spiritual. I'm not. But my prayer list consists of four categories: Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving and Supplication. Tucked under Confession, I've listed my recurring sin of lacking mercy on people who offend me. It shames me that, even when they apologize, all too frequently I browbeat them, making sure they comprehend the "enormity" of offending me.

The Lord has shown me, through His Word, how angry my unmerciful attitude makes Him.

Matthew 18:23-35

New King James Version (NKJV)
23 Therefore the kingdom of heaven is like a certain king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants. 24 And when he had begun to settle accounts, one was brought to him who owed him ten thousand talents. 25 But as he was not able to pay, his master commanded that he be sold, with his wife and children and all that he had, and that payment be made. 26 The servant therefore fell down before him, saying, ‘Master, have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 27 Then the master of that servant was moved with compassion, released him, and forgave him the debt.
28 “But that servant went out and found one of his fellow servants who owed him a hundred denarii; and he laid hands on him and took him by the throat, saying, ‘Pay me what you owe!’ 29 So his fellow servant fell down at his feet and begged him, saying, ‘Have patience with me, and I will pay you all.’ 30 And he would not, but went and threw him into prison till he should pay the debt. 31 So when his fellow servants saw what had been done, they were very grieved, and came and told their master all that had been done. 32 Then his master, after he had called him, said to him, ‘You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you begged me. 33 Should you not also have had compassion on your fellow servant, just as I had pity on you?’ 34 And his master was angry, and delivered him to the torturers until he should pay all that was due to him.
35 “So My heavenly Father also will do to you if each of you, from his heart, does not forgive his brother his trespasses."

As I read this parable, which my Lord Jesus Himself told, I find it impossible to escape how closely I resemble this self-centered, unjust servant. So when I reach the part of my prayer list that brings my sin of being unmerciful to the Lord, He routinely reminds me of the story, letting me know that He desires me to show mercy to others because He has shown me such abundant mercy.

In response to this obvious instruction, I pray that I will follow His example. His example, of course, is dying on the Cross in order to extend mercy. Over the past several months of praying this prayer almost daily, the Lord has helped me realize that mercy indeed calls me to die. I must die to my desire to be proven right. I must die to my desire to leverage power. It kills my ego and my pride when I exercise mercy, because I prefer the other person's comfort and vindication over my own.

But when I see my sin, and then the Lord's tremendous, tender mercy towards me, that death to myself is the least I can do.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Unwelcome Season And The Wrong Attitude

Fall arrived today, and my attitude about it is less than honoring to the Lord. In my not so humble opinion, we didn't really have much of a summer, and certainly not a good enough one to make up for last winter (which was thoroughly wretched). So I'm disappointed to see the leaves starting to change color, and I hate the thought of wearing socks and jackets again.

Furthermore, my heart sank Wednesday when one of our train buddies remarked, "Not many days left for you two to be out." I fear he's correct. For the past month, there has been a slight feel of autumn in the air, and it's slowly becoming more pronounced. I keep feeling like Thanksgiving is just a few days away. And consequently, those wonderful trips into Boston will dwindle, until that time comes when it will be too cold and snowy for buses, subways and Commuter Rail trains. The fact is: I just don't want to say goodbye to Boston!

Of course I know that my complaining attitude breaks the heart of God. That's why my attitude troubles me! The Lord has been very good to me, and I should be thankful for the amazing and numerous blessings He's placed in my lap. Let's hope my attitude changes as quickly and beautifully as the color of New England's foliage. Those colors glorify Him; so should I.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Spiritual To-Do Lists

Each morning, John reads a portion from the Bible aloud before we pray together. We started incorporating Scripture reading into our devotional time together perhaps a year and a half ago...maybe two years ago (time flies when you worship the Lord). We've read  most of the New Testament during those morning devotional times, and have dipped our toes in Psalm 119, Proverbs, Genesis, Joshua and Deuteronomy. What rich fare, huh?

This morning, realizing that we'd just finished Colossians, John suggested Isaiah. That book should keep us busy for a few months! As my husband read Chapter 1:11-20, Isaiah's words of correction challenged me:

11 “ To what purpose is the multitude of your sacrifices to Me?”
      Says the LORD.

      “ I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams
      And the fat of fed cattle.
      I do not delight in the blood of bulls,
      Or of lambs or goats.
       12 “ When you come to appear before Me,
      Who has required this from your hand,
      To trample My courts?
       13 Bring no more futile sacrifices;
      Incense is an abomination to Me.
      The New Moons, the Sabbaths, and the calling of assemblies—
      I cannot endure iniquity and the sacred meeting.
       14 Your New Moons and your appointed feasts
      My soul hates;
      They are a trouble to Me,
      I am weary of bearing them.
       15 When you spread out your hands,
      I will hide My eyes from you;
      Even though you make many prayers,
      I will not hear.
      Your hands are full of blood.
       16 “ Wash yourselves, make yourselves clean;
      Put away the evil of your doings from before My eyes.
      Cease to do evil,
       17 Learn to do good;
      Seek justice,
      Rebuke the oppressor;[a]
      Defend the fatherless,
      Plead for the widow.
       18 “ Come now, and let us reason together,”
      Says the LORD,

      “ Though your sins are like scarlet,
      They shall be as white as snow;
      Though they are red like crimson,
      They shall be as wool.
       19 If you are willing and obedient,
      You shall eat the good of the land;
       20 But if you refuse and rebel,
      You shall be devoured by the sword”;
      For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

At first, I applied Isaiah's indictment to "other people," self-righteously thinking of those who attend church and dutifully perform all the proscribed rituals as if those rituals, in and of themselves, secure God's favor.  It made me feel good to look down my sanctimonious nose at such people! Obviously, I had escaped such false religion, I assured myself, and could rest in the thought that I've pleased the Lord.

But as John continued reading, the Holy Spirit adjusted my attitude. He caused me to ask myself how often I mistake Bible Study, praying through my prayer list, Scripture memorization and church involvement for obedience to the Lord? Do I think those outward behaviors, as commendable and important as they are, could ever possibly substitute for confessing my sin to Him and allowing Him to cleanse me?

Following the Lord, you see, isn't about the rituals of religion. It's about having a grateful heart that recognizes the high price Jesus paid to atone for our sin. It's about knowing that, even though our sins left glaring scarlet stains embedded in our souls, Christ's shed blood cleanses us so completely, so thoroughly, that He regards us as being white as snow.

In trusting my religious rituals to keep me in good standing with God, I totally miss the point of Christianity. God doesn't really care if I check off certain items on my spiritual To-Do List. Rather, He cares that I listen to what His Word teaches, and that I'm transformed as His Word renews my mind into His values, His perspectives and His priorities. Will I repent of those thoughts, attitudes and behaviors that, according to the Bible, He hates? Will I set my heart on Him, rather than expecting my token performances of religion to suffice? These are the questions Isaiah prompts me to ask.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

New Glimpses Of An Old City

John took about twenty photos of the Public Garden and, subsequently, different points of interest along Boylston Street yesterday, making us both grateful that we'd opted not to get to Prudential Center on either the Commuter Rail (from South Station to Back Bay Station) or the Green Line (from Arlington to Prudential). Bear in mind, our original proposal had been to get off the Red Line at South Station and take the Commuter Rail to Back Bay, trusting Channel 4's forecast of 60-some degrees. Upon getting off the bus at Ashmont Station, however, we discovered that temperatures we surprisingly pleasant, so we asked the inspector at the station to have someone unboard us at Downtown Crossing Station.

We went to Boston Common, thinking we might walk with our friend who does Freedom Trail Walking Tours, but he had the day off. That's when we reverted back to our plan of lunch at the Prudential Center, passing leisurely through the Public Garden on our way. We crossed Arlington, and seriously considered taking the elevator down to the Green Line. To be honest, I chickened out; last time I used the Green Line, the bridge plate to get off was so steep that other passengers had to hold my wheelchair so it wouldn't flip.


Going "overland" from Boston Common to the Prudential Center takes about an hour, but in that hour yesterday John and I enjoyed less familiar (and consequently more intriguing) Boston sites. One very exciting edifice was Five Hundred Boylston, which is evidently an office complex.


What a gorgeous piece of architecture! I longed to explore it, but didn't think anything in there was really meant for the general public. John, always better than I at finding reasons to be grateful (I so wish I would discipline myself to follow his example!), expressed joy that we hadn't taken the Green Line. I wholeheartedly agreed!

Continuing towards Copely Square, I looked to my left and saw a sight that our Duck Boat guide had pointed out in July: The "new" Hancock tower (which now no longer actually belongs to the Hancock Insurance Company) reflecting the old Hancock Building in its mirrored windows. As the Duck Boat waddled past it that day, I hadn't gotten John to photograph it, so this time I wanted to seize the opportunity. Although the pedestrian light invited us to cross the street, I asked my husband to take a photo.


We took photographs of the Boston Marathon markers at Copely Square, but time (and lack of energy) prevents me from sharing them this afternoon. A few blocks later, we found the Prudential Center elevator, which took us within yards of the Food Court. We savored chicken quesadillas from Qdoba and a white chocolate chip and cranberry cookie from Paradise Bakery and Cafe before wheeling through the building and arriving at Back Bay Station for a train to South Station. At South Station, we got our usual train home, enjoying conversation with one of our train buddies.

John may have taken about twenty photos yesterday, but I've shared the three that give me new ways of looking at my adopted city. Could I have included more? Certainly! But sooner or later, I'll give you just enough of a taste of Boston that you'll decide to explore it for yourself!

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Kicking And Screaming

A musing, properly defined, ponders a point without necessarily arriving at a conclusion. It engages active (and dare I say, critical?) thinking--not a popular function in today's culture of sound bytes, mysticism and/or pragmatism.  By not always reaching a resolution, a musing can be messy and dreadfully uncomfortable for someone (like me) who has been taught that all good writing requires a beginning, a middle and an end. So with profuse apologies to my college professors, who labored four long years to teach me good writing skills, I embark on the following musing lamenting my upcoming 58th birthday.

Truthfully, no one is more surprised than me at my resistant emotions regarding this birthday. I went through these feelings 28 years ago, as my 30th birthday forced itself on me, but back then I understood the reason I feared the milestone. I was single. To make matters worse, I was in love (or thought I was in love) with a man who later admitted that he simply couldn't see himself married to a woman in a wheelchair. Oh, I attended the Garden Party my friends threw for me that year, but in the subsequent twelve months I pitched a very public spiritual temper tantrum, muttering acidly about biological clocks, spinsterhood and the Lord's apparent failure to "give me the desires of my heart."

Naturally, I did survive that 30th birthday, and I'm quite certain I'll end up surviving this coming birthday as well (hopefully minus the prolonged tantrum). Admittedly, I tell you with a sorrowful sigh of resignation, age has a way of referring me back to the past, where I can't help but recognize the Lord Jesus Christ's faithfulness. Clearly, He brought me through nearly 19 more years of involuntary spinsterhood, and I  actually enjoyed the last  ten of those years.

So what's my problem with turning 58? After all, I'm happily married and living near Boston! I can look back on so many tremendous blessings He's given me, while looking forward to the eternal inheritance that He has promised me. Yet, my emotions ignore His objective truth (and yes, I know better than to listen to subjective emotions), and I unwillingly move toward my birthday inwardly clenching my fist as I declare angrily, "I do not want to be this close to 60!"

A closing paragraph, my college professors taught me, should neatly tie up a piece of "clear, cogent prose." But it's been 34 years and four months since I've been cloistered in the marbled halls of academia, and age has taught me that sometimes the conflict between my irrational emotions and the calm sovereignty of God cannot be tied with a pretty satin bow. So I'll leave you with this photo taken at my 30th birthday party, where, ironically, I'm laughing.


Friday, September 16, 2011

He Could Have Turned Away

Each morning, he'd be there promptly at 7:30 to feed his wife. I never really saw her, though I lived at that nursing home for two years, but I knew she was in a "vegetative" state. If she knew he was there, she had no way of showing recognition, so it obviously follows that she couldn't express appreciation, let alone affection or companionship. He'd feed her, change her Depends, and leave carrying a bag with her soiled diaper. Then he'd return each evening, shortly after 5:00, to feed her supper. Again, he'd leave with a bag.

He was good-looking, probably in his mid-sixties. He could have had an active social life....if he'd chosen to divorce his wife. Instead he'd come to the nursing home seven days a week, always cheerfully, and sometimes with goodies for the staff. If he came grudgingly, nobody ever could have detected such an attitude, for he had a lightness in his step, a smile on his face, and  gentle wisecracks calculated to entertain the nurses.

Over the years since I left the nursing home, I've regretted the fact that I never told him how deeply I admired him for his selfless devotion to his wife. He modeled the Biblical command for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved His Church (Ephesians 5:25), gaining nothing for his efforts but sacrificing more than anyone would attempt to imagine. I wish I'd told him how his faithfulness touched and inspired me, for I still think of him as a powerful example of how married love should manifest itself.

Today he's on my mind, this time in vivid contrast to the deterioration of Biblical standards among those who claim to represent Jesus Christ and His Word. Specifically, Pat Robertson yesterday advised a husband of an Alzheimer's sufferer to obtain a divorce, assuring him, "She's not really there anyway." Somehow, I think Robertson has missed the mark. And that the man I watched twice a day hit the bull's eye.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Good Rap Of G.O.S.P.E.L.

Rap music isn't my genre of choice, but it needs to be judged in terms of content not style. Phil Johnson's Pyromaniac blog (which I link to in my sidebar) today includes a Christian rap video that cleverly and quite accurately explains the Gospel. I love it! So, let me share it here, demonstration that theologically correct teaching can be fun, entertaining and, yeah, even cool without compromising doctrinal purity!

G.O.S.P.E.L. from Humble Beast Records on Vimeo.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Elephant Whimsey

Last month, my oldest niece had her second daughter. Being the procrastinator I am, I'm only now getting a baby gift mailed!

As with John's great-nieces (he also has two), we didn't want to ignore "big sister" when sending the baby gift. In contemplating "big sister's" card (of course she won't read it, but my niece and her husband will), I thought the theme of an elephant not forgetting might be cute. So my project this weekend was to digitally draw this Whimsical Elephant:

So she's not in proper proportion, and the smile is goofy. That's part of her charm! Anyway, I had so much fun creating her, and I expect she'll show up on belated birthday cards from time to time.

It felt good to get away from "serious" digital painting, I must confess. Doing digital portraits make me feel more accomplished, but sometimes they overwhelm me. And maybe the touch of humor in creations such as my Whimsical Elephant is just what I need.

Too bad my great-niece won't appreciate it...

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Must Summer End?

John gives me a modest monthly allowance, which I keep track of using Microsoft Excel. Just a few moments ago, I typed in an expenditure, reflecting yesterday's birthday lunch for John in Boston (the weather delayed our celebration). Excel subtracted the cost of the lunch, leaving a balance that was still fairly comfortable. For a moment, I thought, "Gee, I can afford to treat myself!" That thought, however, was immediately followed by the realization that Christmas is just around the corner.

I don't have a problem with saving money in order to spoil John at Christmas. Actually, I'm looking forward to doing precisely that! My discomfort over Christmas is that summer never seemed to get started this year, and yet it's almost mid-September. I'm not ready to give up glorious Boston Adventures, nor do I want to wear socks and sweaters and jackets. I don't look forward to fall foliage and crisp air and the last surge of tourists on Boston Common.

Yet, kids are back in school, and I needed the sweater I wore yesterday. No amount of my complaining will stop the summer from slipping into autumn, nor will the winter blizzards be delayed. But I grieve this summer's passing. It was too brief this year, and had too many rainy days. Please, can't it be extended?

Monday, September 5, 2011

Dedicated To The One I Love

Sixty-two years ago today, as most of the country celebrated Labor Day with hot dogs, hamburgers, family and friends, my mother-in-law experienced a quite different sort of labor, delivering a 10-pound baby boy.  Obviously, that baby was John Andrew, the wonderful man God allowed me to marry. In honor of his birthday, I thought I'd dedicate today's blog post to him by telling you a few highlights of his remarkable (and somewhat entertaining) life.

John grew to be an inquisitive boy, very interested in how things worked. Once, standing at the edge of his driveway, he noticed that the fog was thicker at the other end of the street. Fascinated, and wanting to be in the midst of such thick fog, little John ran down the street as fast as he could, chasing the denseness. Naturally, once he arrived at that end of the street, the fog's thickness then apparently migrated back to his house, forcing him to run back to his house in hopes of "catching" the fog. Back and forth he ran, unable to figure out why the fog would stubbornly dissipate around him.

His leanings toward scientific inquiry offered a potential loophole in relation to his mother's prohibition regarding stomping in mud puddles. Not wanting to frighten him with the explanation that Massachusetts was, at that time, besieged by the Polio Epidemic, she told him that she didn't want him to soil his shoes. But he had observed the principle of displacement, and therefore reasoned that he could avoid getting his shoes wet if he withdrew his foot from the puddle quickly enough.

His failed mud puddle experiment, regretfully, is the most likely reason John contracted Polio two weeks after his sixth birthday. Totally paralyzed, and dependent on an Iron Lung (which they coaxed him into by telling him it was a rocket ship), he wasn't expected to survive more than a few weeks. But he kept living.

One day, during a visit, his mother saw him move his finger. Overjoyed, she ran to tell the doctors. His recovery had begun, eventually resulting in the restoration of his arms and hands. But he never walked again, except with the aid of crutches.

Through all that, John's interest in science continued to grow, perhaps causing him to declare himself to be an atheist in his early teens. For a period of time, he believed science had all the answers to life. He relished science classes at school, finding great pleasure in debating with his teachers on various points. He was even transferred back to the high school in his town (which was not wheelchair-friendly) because the science classes at the more accessible school in the next town bored and frustrated him.

Although John's love for science never left him, he began to realize that science couldn't answer all of life's questions. So he investigated the great philosophers, such as Plato and Aristotle. One day, he came across a New Testament lying around the house, and decided to see the Christian perspective on the origins of life. He opened to John's gospel and read:


In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. ~~John 1:1-3

That simple text met with faith, and John surrendered his life to the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ, he found all the answers he needed. plus an awe over God's miraculous intervention at sparing his life when he'd been stricken with Polio.

During young adulthood, John had several hospitalizations, some of which seemed to signal the end of his earthly life. He faced the possibility of death knowing that he would awake in the presence of Jesus. To him, that was a wonderful prospect! But the Lord kept him here, even through his stroke at age 40.

The Lord has brought John "through many dangers, toils and snares." Therefore each birthday John celebrates reminds us of God's power and goodness. I am profoundly grateful that the Lord brought us together, and has given us nine wonderful years of marriage! As we read his birthday cards, our hearts well up with joy and gratitude. I'm thankful for the honor of being his wife.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Popular, Unbiblical Quote

Someone quoted it again yesterday, saying it was from the Bible--she just didn't know exactly where. "God never gives us more than we can bear." Admittedly, I got too forceful in refuting it, and I probably need to ask her forgiveness there.  But I'd been thinking for some time about that quote, and frankly, it's more than I can handle!

The only Scripture that comes anywhere close to this popular idea that God knows what we can handle (which implies that we have some inherent strength which God recognizes) is 1 Corinthians 10:13. Let me first examine this verse in isolation.

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

As I demonstrated Friday, however, the emphasis in this verse is really on the Lord's provision, not on any ability we suppose we have. His faithfulness, rather than our ability, is the centerpiece of the thought. Furthermore, the subject of the sentence is temptation, not general suffering. And, because the Holy Spirit living in us gives us His power to resist sin, the ability to escape temptation ultimately originates  from Him.

Consider, therefore, the  preceding verse:

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall.
The promise of God's faithfulness hinges on the acknowledgment of our weakness. In all honesty, we can't resist temptation without the Spirit's gracious intervention. Notice also that bearing temptation requires escaping from it. God makes a way to escape sin, rather than bravely attempting to live with it under the misguided assumption that we can handle it. As a matter of fact, in verse 14, Paul commands us to flee idolatry, not to co-exist with it by thinking that we can withstand its seduction. God is faithful to help us run from temptation!

So now, consider trials in a broader sense than temptations. Does the Lord measure them out in proportion to our inner resources. Not according to Scripture. As an example, look at the Apostle Paul's own experience, which he recorded in 2 Corinthians 1:8-11:

For we do not want you to be ignorant, brethren, of our trouble which came to us in Asia: that we were burdened beyond measure, above strength, so that we despaired even of life. Yes, we had the sentence of death in ourselves, that we should not trust in ourselves but in God who raises the dead,  who delivered us from so great a death, and does deliver us; in whom we trust that He will still deliver us,  you also helping together in prayer for us, that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the gift granted to us through many.


How can a person be "burdened beyond measure' if God never gives us more than we can handle? Isn't Paul's very point precisely that God permitted him and his co-workers to suffer so intensely in Asia in order to expose the fact that they couldn't depend on their own ability to handle it. The suffering forced them to be dependent on the Lord!

Later in his Second Letter to the Corinthians, Paul narrated another personal experience he had with an unbearable trial.

And lest I should be exalted above measure by the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore most gladly I will rather boast in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me. Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in needs, in persecutions, in distresses, for Christ’s sake. For when I am weak, then I am strong. ~~2 Corinthians 12:7-10

Paul's strength found its home in God's grace, not in his own ability. His trials served to showcase the Lord's loving activity in his live, so that Christ would receive all the glory.

If God never gave us more than we could handle, the eyes of the watching world would rest adoringly on us, extolling our strength and marginalizing His power. But when we acknowledge our brokenness, confessing that He is our only hope, we glorify Him. I'm thankful that He gives me so much weakness, so that I can't avoid constantly turning to Him in humility, fully aware that all my strength must come from Him, and must glorify Him.


Friday, September 2, 2011

Bravado

Spiritual victory is a strange thing. After emailing my last post to nearly everybody in my address book, as well as posting it on both Twitter and Facebook, I find myself struggling with worry over Katia, the next potential hurricane. Does that mean I learned nothing from Irene, and my post was nothing but empty bravado and spiritual pride? That scenario, sad to say, is certainly possible. Something tells me (like my knowledge of Scripture, perhaps) that I'd do well to acknowledge my human frailty and admit that Katia scares me.

Paul wrote to the Corinthian church about the danger of spiritual pride.

Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he fall. ~~1 Corinthians 10:12

Truthfully, as I wrote about God's provision for us during Irene, part of me did feel puffed up, as if I'd never succumb to the sin of worry again. Subtly, I was congratulating myself for having matured so much from that cynical young adult who accepted God's deliverance "this time," but questioned whether or not He'd continue to take care of me. And now, as a friend of mine posts screenshots of Katia's projected track on his Facebook page, the familiar feelings of insecurity well up in me, and I find my confidence buckling a bit.

But 1 Corinthians 10:12 is immediately followed by verse 13!

No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.

I review this verse almost daily as one of my memory verses, and need to digress momentarily from the main point of today's post in order to explain how God has used those frequent  reviews to develop my understanding of its message. As a correspondence counselor for Love In Action, I often used 1 Corinthians 10:13 to assure the people I wrote to that, since every type of temptation is "common to man," God doesn't give exemptions to anyone. No sin is justifiable. He does not consider "extenuating circumstances." And that application of the verse has a level of validity. As a matter of fact, I chose it for memorization so that I would always be mindful not to excuse my sin for any reason.

But as I've spent time living with this verse almost every day for the past two years, the Holy Spirit has convinced me that the pivotal phrase is "but God is faithful." He is the one who helps me escape my sin of worry. I don't have to figure out how to quell my anxious feelings about Katia, because He has already given me the answer to my feelings through another memory verse of mine:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus. ~~Philippians 4:6-7

Again, the peace comes through Christ Jesus, not through any spiritual maturity I fancy myself as having. The anxious emotions are there, dear friends, and I'd be a hypocrite to pretend otherwise, simply to preserve any image of myself I may have created earlier this week. If I learn to overcome my besetting sin of worry, may God receive the glory. Meanwhile, may I remember how wonderfully faithful He showed Himself to be during Irene so I can resist the lies my feelings will probably tell me if Katia comes to Massachusetts.

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