Is This God’s Judgment or A Time To Fight?

Artwork: Gustave Doré, Final Judgment

Recently, I have come to believe that the difference between a Christian pacifist and an activist is found, at root, in the titled question.

Now, this post has emerged from more than one conversation with dear friends as well as my own personal experience. Based on such, I understand the debate to go a little something like this:

If THIS (whatever THIS happens to be at the moment: a virus, a war, a decapitated economy, etc…) is God’s judgment, how then can we justify fighting against God? The only proper recourse to God’s judgment — truly — is repentance. Is it not? This view also holds that indeed wicked leadership may be used to accomplish God’s purpose of judgment.

But if THIS (whatever THIS happens to be at the moment: endless civil divisions, unhindered and applauded immorality under the guise of virtue, the political choking of a nation, etc…) is simply the result of wicked and godless leadership, should we not fight? Is there any time we ought to stop fighting for Godly just and right laws and leadership — regardless of what our nation, what all the nations, deserve?

Both ideas have their Biblical placeholders, and I have observed the course of our world for most of my life in the perspective of the first: Our nation under God’s judgment. Today, I’d like to present an argument challenging that view, however, as it was shared to me by a friend.

Acts of Fallen Humans or Acts of God?

In defense of the second view, we can say that God allows some events to happen that He does not originate. This also can be substantiated from scripture. Many, however, respond to such a statement with the belief that God allows Satan to do harm and evil to humanity and ascribe this permission as God’s retribution or judgment against man’s sin and rebellion.

But does God need fallen angels or sinful man to carry out His sovereignty?

Let’s examine the case of Job.

God placed a hedge of protection around Job and blessed the works of his hands (Job 1:10). God protected him from the accuser, who is Satan, and it was when that protection was removed that suffering and death came upon Job, his family, and even his servants — not from God but from the evil one.

Now, consider how Job is deceived: He believes it is God who has afflicted him.

(Really, I feel I could put a giant SELAH there and the point would be well made!)

God, while conversing with Satan (Job 1:8), calls Job a blameless and upright man who fears God and shuns evil. It is safe to say that Job was born into sin along with all of humanity — right? “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So, at some point, Job has a conversion from unbelief into belief and becomes a target of destructive hate from Satan and his evil agents.

Let’s recap the threads of this story:

We have a blameless and righteous individual, Job;

We have Satan, an accuser and revengeful enemy and destroyer of God’s people;

We have a holy and sovereign God who protects Job’s life but permits a time of severe testing of Job’s faith and loyalty;

And we see Job deceived as to the source of his affliction.

Though we cannot make a perfect parallel here, it may be worth considering our present circumstances in light of Job’s own story.

While we cannot call America blameless nor righteous, it is true that, to some degree, she was founded upon godly principles as a nation. Many who began here were God-fearing men and women seeking to escape persecution elsewhere. So, while the parallel is not perfect, let’s consider the beginning principles of our nation as we seek to uncover our own potential deceptions as well.

Satan remains the accuser and destroyer;

God remains sovereign, perfect in justice, and is the Defender of His own.

Now, we must ask whether we are deceived as to the source of our own afflictions. Is our nation’s present circumstances mere happenstance? Judgment directly from God? Or the battlefield of the destroyer, Satan — who comes to steal, kill, and destroy?

Many sincere Christians believe that we are now living under God’s direct judgment, and that is hard to argue against when considering all of the corruption and evil that has permeated every sector of our society. It would seem to the listening ear and the watching eye that we may have reached the level of Sodom and Gomorrah. Since we don’t have a truth-telling media and since it is biased against Christians, we have to go further behind the scenes to capture a measure of truth…

Is It What It Is?

What percentage of our society are really LGBTQ? The news and entertainment media present these individuals as though they are dominating our society — but are they? Do their numbers even qualify as a minority? Certainly, not all of society is in harmony with the mindset of the LGBTQ community — even when tolerant.

To quote a Biblical picture: Not all have bowed the knee to Baal, as God said to Elijah in I Kings 19:18: “I have kept 7,000 men who have not bowed their knee to Baal.”

Paul repeats this verse in Romans 11:4 and follows in the same spirit in verse 5, saying, “In the same way, then, there has also come to be at this present time, a remnant, chosen by grace.”

In short order, things simply aren’t always as they seem to be…

According to statistics, just 3% of the population control liberal leadership positions. Thirty percent of the population in our country are Christian. If true, and if these are genuine Christians, then we have a 10:1 ratio of those who have not bowed to Baal. Does that seem a situation where the Lord of Heaven would find cause to personally destroy America or permit her to be destroyed by Satan?

Perhaps… I realize my opinion doesn’t count for much unless it can be substantiated with scripture and spiritually discerned. There is more than one variable hidden within those first few paragraphs. I only mean to point out that the media is using a megaphone at close range while many of us tip-toe in whispers feeling deafened and defeated…

Israel was allowed to experience tremendous hardship and, at times, the Lord empowered Israel’s enemies to defeat her. This was the Lord’s attempt to bring His people back to the reality of their need for Him in all areas of their lives. We might refer to these times of hardship as probationary periods or the testing of their trust and loyalty to God.

So, back to America — Are we in a period of probation and testing? Does the duration and severity of hardship push people to the place where they only see the hope of deliverance by God Almighty? And at what point do they cry out for help?

Is it time to repent or fight?

Or is it time to repent and fight?

The State of the Chatter Address

America faces real enemies. Our world is at war with itself. On the one hand, our nation is scorned for its meddling and superpower-hungriness. On the other hand, we consume more than any other nation and, thus, line the pockets of every other nation — as seen in the major development of the up-and-coming countries. Truly, to destroy America will be to shoot every other nation in the foot, as the saying goes…

There are entire empires of media built around the proclamation that we are in the ‘last days’ — God’s final judgment has come upon all of mankind. With one vision, prophecy, and news reel after another, they claim Christ’s hand here or there and coming soon to a rapture near you…

Don’t fight it. Just relax and smile. Jesus is coming! Get right with God!

There are also empires of media built around the proclamation of revival in the land. Many who claim to be prophets are saying that God is not done with America and that He will yet fight for us if we will help out a bit. Perhaps, the train wreck of events can be put at a standstill and reversed. Most in this mindset do not preach only repentance but also call for the Christian invasion of every political arena:

Don’t just stand there! Do something!

For sure change is coming, one way or another. Pacifist, warrior, SAHM, or prophet, we each play a part in that change.

For certain we have an enemy who wants us dead — spiritually and physically (many).

Does America stand in the way of a global government and agenda? I think so… But for how long?

One of the interesting things a friend pointed out to me recently about God’s judgment, Biblically, is that before God destroys, He warns:

Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secrets to His servants the prophets.

Amos 3:7

Also, when it was time for judgment, God often worked supernaturally — as in the case with Sodom and Gomorrah (and Egypt). Fire from heaven isn’t the working of man — just so we’re clear.

(On the other hand, with geo-engineering, rockets, bio-weapons, sonic weapons, nano-weapons, and technology, even what once could only be explained as an ‘act of God’ has now been thrown into questionable light: Was that terrible storm God’s heavy hand or the result of cloud-seeding and mad scientists?)

I think it is pertinent to ask: Has God warned us of impending judgment? (I would say yes, despite my uncertainty that THIS is it…) Do we only have past prophetic written accounts in the scripture as warnings or are present words being spoken by prophetic voices? Or both? Are we in for the final gasp judgment in our day or is this just another passing blip on the historical radar?

Some pray for discernment while others look for signs and events to draw conclusions. Some look for signs of the power of God, signs that He is at work…

In Matthew 24:3, the Disciples ask Jesus, “What will be the sign of your coming and the end of the age?”

Jesus’ first words back to them? — “Take heed that no one deceives you.”

“For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and will deceive many.”

Has anyone recently claimed to be Christ? — You might ask.

Do many claim to speak for and in Christ’s name today? — I might counter.

“For Jews request a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified; to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Gentiles, foolishness. But to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men and the weakness of God is stronger than men.”

1 Corinthians 1:22-25

It is one thing to fight against an enemy that is visible and a whole other thing to be muted, sidelined, and destroyed by an invisible agent. One is war, the other cruel deception. Much of the chaos happening in our nation today has all of the earmarks of a planned, evil, and somewhat esoteric plot to terrorize and demoralize and subdue the people and destroy the economy (and, subsequently, the economies of the world). Who exactly is pulling the strings — well, that’s a guess and an opinion everyone carries, though the World Economic Forum speaks plainly for itself.

Whether one decides to protest, join a convoy, send aid to foreign countries, join the military, become a philanthropist, or just watch and pray: I believe in freedom insofar as God’s sovereignty and His Word does not restrict it. And I very much believe with Solomon that there is a time for all things — including war. Indeed, that is the very thing Jesus returns to take care of, isn’t it? — A great war?

Nonetheless, I very much agree with my husband and other friends who echo the sentiment that our primary necessity is to be right with God, to be sure our own calling in Christ is secure. (There are several proofs; I highly recommend studying it out in the Bible.) I believe this because remembering to look after our own spiritual house first puts the rest into better focus.

In other words, when my own soul is at peace, whether today is the last day and I am gloriously raptured within dancing skies or China and Russia join forces, trample America, reset the map, and enslave us, or the WEF gets their way, establishes globalism and a darling anti-Christ figure and the ‘last days’ truly get under way, or I die of some unheard of disease tomorrow — It’s all superficial really if I am found in Christ.

“For our light and momentary affliction is producing for us an eternal glory that is far beyond comparison. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen.”

2 Corinthians 4:17-18a

Believing that God’s judgment was upon our nation made me act passively so far as it regards our nation’s concerns. Reconsidering whether I was right about the times has caused me to see the things happening in our nation in a whole different context.

Which is right? (I very much doubt that I have laid the debate to rest here, but.) Well, I suppose that’s a bit like the question of salvation itself:

I guess we’ll know when we see who has endured until the end.

In the meantime, follow the cause of Christ, remember that the weapons of our warfare as it regards spiritual forces (our truest enemy) are not guns and daggar-laced mouths, and our battle is not against flesh and blood either… though we do indeed, like Job, face those enemies under the guise of skin and mortal affairs. Final judgment — the physical and spiritual sort — belongs to Christ.

“Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be as wary as serpents, and as innocent as doves.”

Matthew 10:16

(So far, The People’s Convoy’s leadership has heeded these words, by the way… Pray for them!)

I am not willing to die for my country; you won’t see a military recruit here. I’m not about that war. When I say that only Christ has my allegiance, I am dead serious about that one. Nonetheless, I do not believe in passively letting the children be trampled by men and women and confused people with wicked schemes. Love is not mutually inclusive of abuse — unless God leads you to your own literal cross.

That’s a bridge to cross another day. But before that day, I think we are amiss to just lay down and die because the government says so… There is more of cowardice than godliness in that course.

Before their time had come, Jesus and Paul many times escaped the angry mobs. I suppose they did that without even trying… ;-). Selah.

Be blessed. And thank you to my writing contributor — You know who you are. =)

News Real Reel

He who answers before he hears [the facts]— It is folly and shame to him.

Proverbs 18:13

Most news should be rebranded as social commentary rather than news.

I used to watch the news when it was more news than commentary. I still recognize it on occasion: I try to listen, my mind wanders, and I begin to tune out the monotonous script – that’s how I recognize it.

Another earthquake today in Timbuktu…

Flooding saturated roadways along the coast today…

The Prime Minister was hospitalized today for…

Oil prices are at an all-time high due to rising inflation…

The late 80s called to remind you that AIDS will be the death of you…

And the 90s want you to know that California will fall into the sea at any moment now…

Yes, those were the good old days… and you were about to tune out, right? (Remember when the news was ‘boring’? – Or at least relegated to once a day!)

The days before 24 hour news cycles and hysterical anchors reporting the end of all we know and love, of all that is decent and right in the world, within – quite possibly – the next 24 hours. Sure, there was still CIA-initiated propaganda in the mix, but back then it was easier to tune out. Now, some raving personality gives us the news covered, smothered, and smattered beneath a great deal of ranting, spinning, a foaming at the mouth.

“Fake News!”

That’s not fake news!

Hey, those numbers are real!

Hey, those people are real too!

Hey, that earthquake really happened!

Well, since these are rebuttals I’ve actually seen typed out, let’s parse out a Spin-For-Dummies commentary on the news real reel commentary…

I’m tired tonight; I’ll be brief.

SPIN-FOR-DUMMIES

(No offense intended. Just spinning off the name of those popular books…)

OBJECTIVE NEWS: There was an earthquake in California today. Fifteen people lost their lives and dozens more were injured…

SPIN #1: There was an earthquake in California today… Experts believe that these kinds of events will increase due to climate change and it’s all Trump’s fault.

SPIN #2: There was an earthquake in California today… while Biden was at Martha’s Vineyard playing golf and has no plans to visit the site.

Of course, the earthquake may indeed be influenced by climate change, as the climate runs in cycles like my washer and they’re not all the same; however, the obvious spin here is to strike the chord of climate change fears AND blame the unfavorable politician.

Likewise, Biden may have been playing golf and may not have any need to visit the earthquake site; nonetheless, the obvious spin here is to imply that he just doesn’t care –

Playing golf while an earthquake he didn’t know would happen was happening? How dare he… (??)

It’s not that “Fake News” is all fake news; it’s just that it’s all misrepresented and skewed by personalities, opinions, and scripts now. (Maybe it always was…)

And once you see it, you can’t unsee it. That’s just life.

I find it increasingly difficult to watch any news station. One’s almost as bad as another, though CNN – God banish them – is by far the biggest Joker in the lot, and I don’t think a rebranding can save it though I hear they’re trying.

Co-to-the-vid was real. The tyrannical screams about what should (and shouldn’t?) be permitted as a remedy, however, were entirely sus and gus.

(Suspect and bogus. Come on, Gen Z. Counting on you to hang with me…)

What kind of governing body of the people distorts and shuts down an effective remedy for the people anyway? (Personally, I know dozens of people now who opted for Ivermectin and none of them ended up in the hospital. In fact, they got over the Co-to-the-vid faster than I did! Ick.) And then hypes up a totally sketch and risky experimental med? Not a trustworthy governing bodythat much is certain.

Also, the numbers weren’t real. Even the fakestream media reported that guys… come on now.

But grandma died…

Yes, and she might have died from the flu too… or a bad fall… or any number of other incidents that commonly occur in this world.

I am not calloused, and I hope you won’t read it that way. I’m just wondering when enough is enough for some people… on both sides.

Spin Happens

Pay attention and don’t give an opinion until you have a reasonable amount of facts. Well, at least admit it’s an opinion (which, let’s be real, isn’t worth much these days).

Facts are not the things the media tells you any more. You will have to look those up and verify information yourself these days… and, even then, best of luck to you. Oh, yeah, and you’ll have to cut through a lot of thickly sliced bologna even when facts are presented.

But we’re not dummies. God gave us brains, His Spirit (if we’re in Christ), and His Word. We don’t have to know every detail of every scheme or what will happen next to know how it all began and ends – and WHO begins and ends it.

So, when you want the real real news, tune into the Alpha and Omega..

The yipping dogs, rabid cats, and vultures will still be there when you need to know the current talking points of the latest social spin artists.

Grace To You

Trauma is the abused whipping dog of media. A personal trauma unfolds into a shared trauma which spreads into a campaign, an awareness, a cautionary tale from a mounted platform which is then retold in a thousand and one news clips — repinned, retweeted, reshared — and passed beneath the covers of a thousand ‘fictional’ short stories and novels, soon TV shows and movies, inspired by the same trauma.

She told me her trauma; I told you so; and soon enough we all experience the same trauma on the big screen or in a story we half wish we hadn’t read…

And yet, why should we get the comfort of not vicariously reliving that trauma since these things are real, weighty, torment many, and can provide insight and grace to those working with a bonafide victim?

In other words, will reading about the twelve year old girl standing alone in Central Park in her pajamas and picked up by a pimp change the way we see the world moving around us? Will we see her once we know? Will we see him? What can we do?

I don’t make a habit of standing in Central Park. Even as I read the stories, I feel another world away in my own troubles of the day…

Nonetheless, the knowing shapes my worldview. It forms the shadows and fears surrounding what I permit my kids to do and what I do not permit them to do. It colors the way I filter the real people in my life: SAFE | UNSAFE | UNKNOWN | A STATISTIC WAITING TO HAPPEN | STRANGER DANGER | RED ALERT! — STAY AWAY! The story of someone else’s abused and neglected kid makes me hyperventilate while trying to keep my own safe…

That is, the world’s traumas are now my vicarious traumas.

What about the video of the man beat to death by a few men while a mob stood around recording it on their phones? Or the little girl ran over by a dump truck in broad daylight? Or the woman raped on the subway while everyone turned a blind eye?

Please do not be naive: These stories leave an impression upon us all, whether we can rightly recognize it. It was a frequent topic when we worked in residential care: Secondary Trauma. You can’t unsee the video. You can’t erase the memoir or your memory of it. You can’t untangle the girl’s tears from your own now that she’s told you the truth…

These are the things that weary me about the online world and our global awareness. It can be secondary joy and encouragement or secondary trauma and torment; it’s hard to say which it’ll be today, though there is certainly more of the second I think. (And that’s not even adding our personal lives and contacts into the mix.)

Worse still, however, are the ancient questions born upon such traumas: Why does God permit such things? Why do these things happen? Why are people so cruel?

Grace To You

I need to preface this part with a very clear disclaimer. There is a common grace Christians speak of that God has bequeathed to all of mankind. The graces of life, of health, the enjoyment of His creation, the basic functioning of the human body and whatever joy and comfort we find in His works might be put under the header of Common Grace towards all.

That is NOT the grace I speak of here. The grace I speak of here is designed for the Believer, for the soul that trusts in God alone to deliver, to heal, to save. Grace, when defined properly, is ‘power beyond your ability’:

Imagine that you’ve fallen down, scraped your knees, and dropped the fragile things you were carrying. Then you see God’s helping hand extended from heaven to help you up… That’s grace.

Imagine you’ve been walking with God for years, many years, and you’re tired. You’ve been beaten, tried, challenged, and life has not handed out so many ‘common’ graces; your health is poor and everyone seems to look down at you as if it’s all your fault (let’s assume it’s not). Then you see a vision of Jesus. He places a white robe of comfort over your shoulders. He speaks His words to you and, suddenly, you see your life from His perspective. He reminds you of the people you have time to befriend and care for because you aren’t so busy with other things… Oh friend, that is sweet grace.

One of the wisest things I’ve ever heard from the pulpit was a straightforward reminder that God will give to His saints the grace they need to face their unique and individual trials. Indeed, Peter’s path was not the same as Beloved John’s, but they were each given the grace they needed to endure their own fates —

You do believe God has a plan (fate) for your life, right? It’s a common mantra…

Speaking from the book of Job or Jeremiah (I forget now), the wise man’s point was that when we examine someone else’s trauma and injustices, we must remember still that God will give them grace for their personal journey.

And God will give you grace for yours.

Their grace won’t be the same as yours. Your grace won’t be the same as theirs. Their ‘Follow Me’ journey will not look the same as yours. Your ‘Follow Me’ path won’t look the same as theirs. As I’ve noted many times, any time we fall prey to making comparisons we trip over ourselves — whether in pity or pride.

Of course, the heartache of this is knowing that so many do not turn to God for their comfort or defense and do not experience such graces in life. Nonetheless, ‘This is My Father’s world’ and we can continue to pray, to do unto them as we would like done for us, and to fight for what is holy and right in our society and nation but especially for our families — a vital and often unseen work!

It has been recorded a thousand times over that the family unit is the make or break it of society. It has never been less true or more evident than in our society now.

Personally, I advise limiting the secondary traumas you and your children are exposed to. There is very little benefit in the exposure, if any. To say that we can avoid it altogether, however, would be naive; it’s everywhere. As a writer, I read others’ short stories and it’s depressing, even alarming, how many are first or secondary traumas being stylized to share with the world…

Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn. Love your traumatized friend but don’t let their trauma lead you to question God’s own grace toward you. He is the “I AM”, remember… He is what we need at all times, in all circumstances, in all places.

But never compare God’s grace for one child with your own. As we understand the weaknesses and strengths of our own children, so indeed our Creator in heaven knows His children. What hardens one, softens another: Only God knows the full composition of your dust and bone.

Grace to you, friend.

Virtual Commentary

It’s hard to believe that these words were penned in 1997. They feel fresh and, perhaps, that has much to do with the last two years of the social mantra, We’re in this together.

Family, community, and unity are the key words. But be careful. Christians are not the only ones using them. Have you noticed that many people are getting tired of individualism and self-focus? Self-interest, self-worth, self-esteem, what’s in it for me, the “me” generation, unbridled introspection and personal analysis – we are finally ready for a change. Individualism is out. From a strictly pragmatic perspective, we have found that individualism doesn’t work. As an antidote, the new buzz word is community.

The problem is that unless there is a radical change in the way we see God, ourselves, and others, community will become just another strategy for us to feel better about ourselves. It will relieve loneliness, and we will feel more “connected”, but if we pursue community for self-fulfillment rather than God’s glory, the community movement will simply be a passing fad…

Edward T. Welch, When People Are Big And God Is Small

I wonder whether Moses the Leader, Joseph the Dreamer, Esther the Queen, Jeremiah the Prophet, Jonah the Evangelist, Mary the Mother, or Lydia the Purple-Clothier had to endure and grapple with such tiresome social introspection…

We have all wearied of endless analysis (social and personal) and self-reflection. How often do we examine wrinkles, blackheads, unruly hairs, and blemishes in the mirror only to leave the room virtually unchanged to those around us (yet imagining that we have made a difference)? How often do we scrutinize, sanitize, or slur the wrinkled, blemished, black and white marks of our social walls, then walk out of our front doors, flesh and blood, to encounter the essential flesh and bone that makes up our tangible world – not realizing that they are one-in-the-same soul? The soul of our social media is as real as the soul of our body and blood, however masked. The one we ridiculed or snubbed or mistreated online was the same as the one we offered smiles and condolences to in person (or vice-versa); we just didn’t know it.

Is this cause for more soul-searching? Or less? More analysis and commentary or less?

No level of self or cultural analysis has ever provided for me the grace, energy, empowerment, and heart-change that I find in God’s words. It all falls short; His words are the standard. It is only by His words that we are sanctified (Ephesians 5:26).

In short, I believe that the only way we see a ‘radical change’ in how we view God, ourselves, and others is by washing our minds more with God’s words than with the nightly news, praying more than we commentate, and remembering that worrying about ourselves – no matter how that is disguised – is virtually and realistically a fruitless venture in the end.

Where It Leads…

Confession: I’ve never read C.S. Lewis’ Screwtape Letters. From what I’ve heard of it, however, I could probably gain from the perspective on devilry in the Christian life.

(Did I just pen more introspection? O God, deliver me… from myself.)

Welch’s book is insightful and helpful. For me to say otherwise would be dishonest to the ways in which it wrote volumes upon my own heart in the past. Truly, many would benefit to read it…

Commentary, analysis, reflection – these are not sins or worthless things. As many a good preacher will note: God did give us brains for a reason – and, surely, that reason wasn’t only math. So much depends upon the heart, the foundation, of things in everything – doesn’t it?

Ladies, do we serve our husbands in their desire for ‘togetherness’ to appease them, to prove love with a little whitewashing, to feel less guilty, because we too desire that time together, because we want to keep the peace, or because we can say our service to our husbands is an extension of serving God (or a Free-Pharisee card to shirk the thing God actually told us to do, even at their expense)?

Men, we’ve all heard you use at least two of those reasons up there to deal with a pesky wife… Let’s keep things kosher when we cut the bull (on both sides).

Tribe leaders and commentators – Same questions. Is it for us or for them? Is it for God or for our kingdom building? Did we make new lines to excuse us from the ones God wrote (Free-Pharisee)?

The Holy Spirit may indeed lead us into such reflections, convictions, and analyses, but then these things should also lead to the repentance that grows from ‘godly sorrow’ – right? If navel-diving leaves us depressed and unmotivated, then we may be dealing with ‘worldly sorrow’, which leads to death (defeat) rather than repentance (life) (2 Cor. 7:10).

Note the fascinating order of events of this verse:

Commit your works to the LORD, And your thoughts will be established.

Proverbs 16:3

‘Just Another Strategy’…

So, what of it? Has community, togetherness, the group, our tribe’s ideals swollen over individualistic expressions, callings, or experiences? Insofar as socialism seems a nifty idea to naive pockets, perhaps… The herd over the individual’s freedoms was also a screeching mantra of the past year…

Still, I think Welch is right in that this present form of herd mentality and tribalism only serves to prop up the underlying fearful, lonely, and fatigued individual selves harping on golden chords of virtual togetherness they don’t mean…

Or, perhaps, it is simply a ‘togetherness’ we no longer know how to grasp and hold tight in the ‘real’ world. Virtual virtue is so much easier to attain….

Is it?

It’s also easy to lose…

THE RELIGION OF HYPOCRISY

Don’t get me wrong, it’s always been here –

Between my ears –

In your heart –

Before our eyes…

I walked out of the theater the first time I saw The Lord of the Rings because it felt so dark, yet Edgar Allen Poe was my favorite author…

I walked out on contemporary Christian radio decades ago for its shallow and out-of-context Churchy tripes, yet I entertained a few Adult Alternative secular artists in my heart…

I watched preacher after preacher denouncing porn, adultery, and homosexuality every Sunday, then suddenly caught in their own net at the strip club, online, or in the closet…

And I’ve sat in the armchair of my heart pondering these things in a padded room with nicotine-laced emotional placations, half bewildered and half repulsed…

The Religion of Hypocrisy is the status quo – to borrow a line from my husband.

Churchianity At Its Best

Recently, since following The Chosen series on TV, I’ve been made aware of several videos or articles online denouncing the show for its extra-biblical content or hypothesizing that a Christian, a Mormon, and a Catholic can’t walk into a bar onto a movie set together without having a sinister purpose at heart…

Some making these criticisms make them believing that they uphold the truest of doctrines in the land and hypothesizing that their brand of Christian (be it zealot or fisherman) is the right-ness (like hotness but better).

Others, however, make these criticisms from the teetering high chair of double-standards, doubling down on anything branding itself as ‘Christian’ while simultaneously turning blind eyes towards their preferential secular fare.

Then, along came Redeeming Love, the film… and a flood of vitriol from Christians within minutes of viewing.

(I have seen The Chosen; I have not yet seen Redeeming Love, though I read Francine Rivers’ book in my youth.)

I recall that the book, Redeeming Love, was shocking and sometimes uncomfortable, so I can imagine that the film is more-so. I would agree that extra care should have been taken with the film; I am not arguing that some shots shouldn’t have been more discreet or edited out entirely. I have not seen the film, but I imagine that that much is true of the critiques.

What I am addressing here is the hypocrisy of the viewers, friends, not-so-much whether their critique was warranted for Christian audiences.

The Chosen, a film about Jesus, and Redeeming Love, a film based on the book of Hosea, are two very different offerings, yet the polarizing and excoriating rebukes of both have been very similar…

Christians criticizing The Matrix? …I don’t recall that.

Christians against Bond007? …I don’t recall that.

Christians sounding alarms about The Game of Thrones?… Okay, I saw more Christians enamored with this show than not, but the debate did exist somewhere…

Christians renouncing Harry Potter? …Me. But I’m one of the few.

Christians alarmed by the subversiveness of Frozen II and the witchcraft therein?… Hm, a few… but I feel alone.

Two Responses

There are two primary responses, I think, to contrasts such as these. The first is to weaken our criticisms; the second is to fortify them.

The first: We can realize that we’ve played the hypocrite when it comes to entertainment and decide to lower the bar – accepting in ‘Christian’ films what we would accept from the table of the world. After all, we’ve been noshing at both, right? So… might as well drop the illusions and self-delusions.

The second: We can realize the whoops of our double-standards, show more grace to Christian brothers and sisters, and cut out the worldly fare. So maybe we don’t throw the whole TV out, but we throw away anything with subversive messages, worldly messages, and ungodly messages – which will be most of what’s on TV and in film.

I’ll admit to taking a third route with Redeeming Love...

An Author’s View

It’s a good thing the book of Galatians was not written to the Corinthians. For the Corinthians, the book of Galatians is practically a license to sin… or so it seems to the liberal…

And, it sounds like it’s a good thing the book of Corinthians wasn’t written to the Galatians too. The Galatians had something to prove – namely, their own works and righteousness. The message of Galatians was fitting.

Both of these books are beneficial to us as Believers, but they were not written to us. They were written for a specific audience.

Any Bible teacher will confirm.

The first rule of writing is knowing your audience. It’s a rule I understand the importance of because I’ve spent a lot of decades trying to figure out mine. If you cannot define your audience as a writer, you will speak in too many generalities or try to say too much at once –

Hi. My name is Rose, and I am a recovering audience shirker.

I know who my audience is for my fiction book now… and, because of that, my text has changed, my methods have changed, my focus has changed, and my criticisms (even of myself) have changed.

And it changed the way I heard the critiques of Redeeming Love

So, for this alternate route, I would simply like to suggest that the film – maybe even the book – was not written for you.

Maybe it wasn’t for you.

Because, here’s the thing…

Some women grow up in Angel’s world (the whore of Redeeming Love)…

Some little girls grow up in sex-trafficking rings, abused before they even know how to read or write…

Some children grow up being repeatedly, explicitly, and horrifically abused by their own parents or other family…

What about those still trapped in these lifestyles who think redemption is but a fairytale for body and soul?

Do you think the film will be shocking to them? Do you think they won’t be able to hear the redemptive message of it? Do you think it will be too explicit for them?

(‘Triggering’ is a different issue; I said ‘shocking’.)

Conclusions

Again, I don’t say these things to whitewash whatever was not necessary about the film.

I note these things to check our hearts…

If it’s not for you, it’s not for you. You probably shouldn’t send your husband to review the film. Some things are better restricted to the written word.

But…

Were the characterizations accurate? Might God yet redeem it for those to whom the corporal has become anything but sacred ground? – You know, the sick ones (rather than the healthy)…

Let’s be real. Plenty of ‘Christian’ men are watching porn in the closet, so… I’m not sure why y’all shocked – to be blunt.

Oh – because it’s a ‘Christian film’?

I see…

And what about our Christian men and women?

Or is that in name only too?

If we are to assess the splinter, we must first asses the log, dear ones.

Your log before their splinter.

That’s what Jesus said.

Same goes for The Chosen.

If you’re complaining about extra-Biblical story-telling, I hope you are first assessing the extra-Biblical activities in your own life. To do anything less furthers only The Religion of Hypocrisy –

Not the Gospel of Christ.

He calls many to repentance and, last I checked, He still uses various means…

Shalom.

Faith in God or Man?

[Sermon given by Devin Jump on January 2nd, 2022.]

What do the miracles of Jesus, a government program known as “Project Sunshine”, and dinosaurs have in common? Turns out, it may be more faith than science…

The main point that I’d like to make today is about where we choose to place our faith, even trust.  This isn’t a matter of being ‘open-minded’.  This isn’t a matter of having to choose sides between God and science.

After hearing that definition for the word SCIENCE you may instantly be aware just how little science actually exists in the world today, at least out of that which is called science. 

SCIENCE: A very overused word that means “what is known, knowledge (of something) acquired by study; information;” also “assurance of knowledge, certitude, certainty,” (etymonline.com).

What Is Known

The phrase “We know” shows up more than 400 times in the Bible, we can rest assured that we can know things. For instance: 

In 1st John 5:19 [John says] We know that we are of God, and that the whole world is under the power of the evil one. And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true— in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the TRUE God and eternal life.

Do you know it? 

In 1st John 2:2 [John says about Jesus] He Himself is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. By this we can be sure that we have come to know Him: if we keep His commandments. If anyone says, “I know Him,” but does not keep His commandments, he is a liar, and the truth is not in him.

Do you know Him? 

In John 14:4 [Jesus said to Thomas] You know the way to the place where I am going.” “Lord,” said Thomas, “we do not know where You are going, so how can we know the way?” Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.

Do you know the way?

At the beginning of 1st John 5:1 Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father also loves those born of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God: when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome

Do you know this love? 

The second half of verse 12 in the first chapter of 2nd Timothy: I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed, and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him for that day.

Do you know that trust?

Incredibly relevant to our daily lives, Paul warns Timothy at the end of chapter 6 in verse 20, O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid irreverent, empty chatter and the opposing arguments of so-called “knowledge“…

I’m actually going to pause here and reiterate this verse in a few other translations, I find this verse very important. Consider this for a moment. Consider the magnitude and the scope. This is a life or death matter, not the little death but the difference between life eternal or death eternal.  

You and I, we have all been entrusted with the Gospel, the good news of Jesus Christ. Now listen to these other translations of 1 Timothy 6:20: 

Timothy, guard what God has entrusted to you. Avoid godless, foolish discussions with those who oppose you with their so-called knowledge.

New Living Translation

O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge”…

English Standard Version

O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called

King James Version

And…

Timothy, guard what God has placed in your care! Don’t pay any attention to godless and stupid talk that sounds smart but really isn’t.

Contemporary English Version

Things We Don’t Know

Now, there are certainly things we don’t know, and, not only do we not know them, there are some things we can’t know: 

In the book of Ecclesiastes, chapter 8 verse 17, Solomon says: I saw every work of God, and that a man is unable to comprehend the work that is done under the sun. Despite his efforts to search it out, he cannot find its meaning; even if the wise man claims to know, he is unable to comprehend.

Let that one sink in for a moment…

In the book of Romans chapter 11 verse 33: O, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and untraceable His ways!

And we don’t know when our time will come, as Solomon also says in Ecclesiastes chapter 9 verse 12: For surely no man knows his time: Like fish caught in a cruel net or birds trapped in a snare, so men are ensnared in an evil time that suddenly falls upon them.

And Jesus tells us in the book of Matthew chapter 24 verse 36: No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.

Miracle Science

There are about 37 primary miracles of Jesus within Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. For quick reference you can find a nifty list at gg.gg/miraclesofjesus.  Here’s a few of them: 

1 Jesus Turns Water into Wine at the Wedding in Cana 

2 Jesus Heals an Official’s Son at Capernaum in Galilee 

3 Jesus Drives Out an Evil Spirit From a Man in Capernaum 

4 Jesus Heals Peter’s Mother-in-Law Sick With Fever 

5 Jesus Heals Many Sick and Oppressed at Evening 

6 First Miraculous Catch of Fish on the Lake of Gennesaret 

7 Jesus Cleanses a Man With Leprosy 

8 Jesus Heals a Centurion’s Paralyzed Servant in Capernaum

9 Jesus Heals a Paralytic Who Was Let Down From the Roof 

10 Jesus Heals a Man’s Withered Hand on the Sabbath 

11 Jesus Raises a Widow’s Son From the Dead in Nain 

12 Jesus Calms a Storm on the Sea 

13 Jesus Casts Demons into a Herd of Pigs 

14 Jesus Heals a Woman in the Crowd With an Issue of Blood 

15 Jesus Raises Jairus’ Daughter Back to Life 

16 Jesus Heals Two Blind Men 

17 Jesus Heals a Man Who Was Unable to Speak 

18 Jesus Heals an Invalid at Bethesda 

19 Jesus Feeds 5,000 Plus Women and Children 

20 Jesus Walks on Water 

21 Jesus Heals Many Sick in Gennesaret as They Touch His Garment 

22 Jesus Heals a Gentile Woman’s Demon-Possessed Daughter 

23 Jesus Heals a Deaf and Dumb Man 

24 Jesus Feeds 4,000 Plus Women and Children 

25 Jesus Heals a Blind Man at Bethsaida 

26 Jesus Heals a Man Born Blind by Spitting in His Eyes

27 Jesus Heals a Boy With an Unclean Spirit 

28 Miraculous Temple Tax in a Fish’s Mouth 

29 Jesus Heals a Blind, Mute Demoniac 

30 Jesus Heals a Woman Who Had Been Crippled for 18 Years 

31 Jesus Heals a Man With Dropsy on the Sabbath 

32 Jesus Cleanses Ten Lepers on the Way to Jerusalem 

33 Jesus Raises Lazarus from the Dead in Bethany 

34 Jesus Restores Sight to Bartimaeus in Jericho 

35 Jesus Withers the Fig Tree on the Road From Bethany 21:18:22 11:12-14

36 Jesus Heals a Servant’s Severed Ear While He Is Being Arrested 22:50-51

37 The Second Miraculous Catch of Fish at the Sea of Tiberias 21:4-11

I’m going to restrict commenting on those miracles for a moment to prove a particularly important point…

So at this point I’m sure everyone is just wondering when do “Project Sunshine” and dinosaurs come in? 

Well, if we take God’s word seriously and follow His advice in Psalm 118:8 — It is better to take refuge in the LORD than to trust in man — then we can confidently agree with God when he says by the hand of Moses:

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.

At hearing those words you may not be all too surprised.  And I have little awareness of your beliefs in this matter, but let me run by you a few “scientific” (science so called) claims that are made: 

(And these claims are just off of a typical “science communication” website “livescience.com”.)

They say things like:

“Earth is old researchers calculate the age of the earth by dating both the oldest rocks on the planet…their findings? Earth is about 4.54 billion years old”…

“The pole flip-flops … a pattern of pole reversal about every 200,000 to 300,000 years…”

“Something once collided with the moon…Many researchers think some large object crashed into Earth long ago, and the resulting debris coalesced to form our moon.”

Let me take a moment to draw to your attention how lies work. 

A lie is told to accomplish a goal; there’s a motive, always.  If someone asks you if you brushed your teeth, and it is true that you did, no motive is involved when you reply “Yes” — but the reverse isn’t so.

To really drive the point here, I’m going to clarify that lies cover other lies, because they need to until the truth is exposed. For instance let’s say you didn’t actually brush your teeth, and the follow up question after you just claimed you did is “Why is the toothbrush dry?” and you say,  “Well, I didn’t use that toothbrush” or “Well, I dried the toothbrush thoroughly after using it; I always do that”. 

You see where that conversation could lead I’m sure.  Anyone in this room that is a parent likely knows all too well about this. The motive of a lie is often to cover another lie.

Provided enough time I could individually dismantle and expose each one of those “LIEscience.com” claims.  

I’ll provide the short version for ease. 

“Earth is old” is a lie to move the goalposts (if you’re familiar with the expression “moving the goalposts”) to fortify the unobserved “theory” more commonly known as the ‘theory of evolution’ or just simply evolution. (But let me be clear, anything unobserved cannot be a theory in the first place, so really it ought to be called the fantasy of evolution.) We know this for many reasons, but I’ll provide two primary reasons:

  1. No kind has ever changed to another kind. 
  2. And, more to the contrast of the original claim that earth is “old”, well, we can know better than that if we trust God. A little academic study will help reveal to you that Moses served as a historian, and poetry, hyperbole, even allegory are NOT features found in the text of the Pentateuch (the first 5 books of the Bible). They are narrative in form, meant to be taken as historical fact, later validated by Jesus Himself. 

(If you’d like to learn more about this topic, in addition to reading the Bible, I recommend Creation.com as a helpful resource.)

“The poles flip-flop”: I suppose I’d just say that the claim is far outside of any observable timeframe. The foundation of this belief, again, is used to justify claims of ice ages and similar alleged events.  

“Something once collided with earth”: This is a funny little story about why we have the moon.  Certainly, you know why we have a moon, and how it got there. We have a moon because God made it, and, specifically, for the purposes of performing as a lesser light to rule the night and to operate as a time piece in the sky. 

I’ll also take this time to explain why I mentioned dinosaurs at the beginning. 

Within biology, life science, history, and even psychology textbooks, you will find mention of dinosaurs.  You’ll read that they lived millions of years ago, and that birds, crocodiles, and some sea creatures are common “ancestors” of these ancient creatures. 

You may have heard things like such and such creature is related to so and so; maybe the lobster and the roach come to mind for instance. The most specious claim of all is that human beings share a common ancestor with apes. 

A little known fact: Robert Plot thought to be the first discoverer of “dinosaur bones” actually deduced that the only explanation for the thigh bone that he found was that they came from giant humans.  There may be a few verses in the book of Genesis that come to mind regarding that interesting tidbit. Don’t get me wrong: I couldn’t know whether Mr. Plot was indeed observing evidence of the famed Nephilim or of the creatures known today as dinosaurs. 

This we do know: reptiles and amphibians are both “indeterminate growers”. That means that until they die they never stop growing.  Many lizards live a few years, some live over 100, but imagine the possibilities of these creatures living as long or longer than humans when humans were living over 900 years old…

Lies are required to support the first lie.  That first lie is foundational in modern academia: The lie that existence is an accident. 

The belief that many famous people throughout history have taught (such as Georg Hegel the teacher of Karl Marx) is that we evolved through “order out of chaos”. We find this philosophy in many places and, at its heart, is a hatred of God.  It is inherently Satanic for one to pursue Truth, Order, and Logic, apart from the One who is the Truth, ο λόγος  the Word.

The belief that nothing… … … … … … exploded… … … … …and everything became (known as the ‘uncaused cause’) is both illogical and has never been observed, cannot be observed. I will say that this sneaky doctrine of mockers and haters of God will sneak into unexpected places. If you pay close attention you will find this “something from nothing” philosophy, this ‘uncaused cause’ sophistry one only could hope would be hiding in the shadows, instead hidden in plain sight for the discerning person to expose. 

From the soup of such a fantasy of unobservable (but widely dispersed) ‘knowledge’, mankind has excused and justified many darker illusions…

Deception and evil often appear under the guise of virtue. Under the leadership of Franklin D. Roosevelt, ultimately being officialized under the leadership of Dwight D. Eisenhower, ‘Project Sunshine’ was a covert “research” project involving the illegal procurement of bodies, from preborn, newborns, and young adults. ‘Body-snatching’ is the actual quoted term within the 112 page declassified government document titled “Worldwide effects of atomic weapons: project sunshine” dated August 6, 1953.  Carried out on nearly every continent in the world, this project and related projects concerning research studies on the effects of radiation on the human body, took place over decades. 

What’s the point?

When you scrutinize the “scientific” community, the ventures of science historically, but especially in the past few hundred years, one may become quite jaded.  That needn’t be against science or “knowledge” whatsoever…   

Yeah, But…

Are you thinking, “Yeah, but… I’m not a scientist, I’m not an expert, how could I know what is true or not?” 

The first step of the scientific method is observation.  If it hasn’t been observed or cannot be observed, that’s test number one. If it fails the rest is fiction. Science, as the scientific community would define it, involves testability too. If you can’t reach out and touch and manipulate the objects related to what’s in question, that’s not science either. Once again, that’s fiction I’d cast into the Fantasy genre.

Whose arms of knowledge do you lean upon, rely, and trust?

Faith Science  

Now back to Jesus’ miracles.

He did those things. 

Do you believe it?

He literally did everything you read in Scripture.  There isn’t exaggeration when it says more than 5,000 people were fed with a boy’s lunch, and 12 baskets of scraps were leftover. 

When it says someone was dead, and Jesus rose them from the dead, Jesus did that.

When it says that Simon Peter cut off a man’s ear and Jesus put it back, and that it was healed — that happened, just as you read it. 

When it says that people were deaf or blind from birth, never before knowing such things as sound or sight, and that Jesus healed them — that happened. It is testimony to Jesus’ life.

When the Bible says that people with ghastly, grotesque, incurable diseases, banned from society, persona non grata, filthy outcasts, not even to be looked upon, were touched and cured, made whole and clean again, by Jesus — that’s real, that happened.  

Modern “science” and the “experts” will tell you that none of these things could actually be true because they are impossible. They’ll further insult you by saying that it is unscientific. You can’t prove it, right? We can’t go back and observe it, can we?

Hm. That sounds familiar….

First of all, I hope by now I’ve taught you that some people don’t use the word “science” appropriately, but, secondly, presuppositions truly get in the way. Someone’s presupposition that miracles are anti-scientific for instance.

Denying God poisons one’s every thought, and the result is lies supporting lies. 

And to really drive the point home, here’s some words of Jesus Christ, that will keep you up at night found in the book of John chapter 14 verse 12: Truly, truly, I tell you, whoever believes in Me will also do the works that I am doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father.  

And then a little later Jesus says: I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Advocate to be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot receive Him, because it neither sees Him nor knows Him. But you do know Him, for He abides with you and will be in you. 

This, this ‘Spirit of truth’ is important, this is true living, living true.  Living in and with the truth.  This is something that sets us apart, something that allows us to identify the liar anywhere he may be creeping, lurking, waiting. 

Wrap It Up (It’s Lunchtime)

I’ve addressed a lot, and I’ve tried to emphasize the important parts, but I want to be sure that this isn’t just coming across as a complaint, but rather an exhortation. 

This gift of life that God has given us, the awesome and wondrous beauty of all that is, from the forests to the tiny veins in the leaves on the trees — there is so much to discover.  However, this fingerprint of God evident in all of creation isn’t meant for us to boast about deciphering or to build up ourselves to become like God: That isn’t how He told us to be like Him. 

As we learn in Ephesians chapter 4: verse 17: So I tell you this, and insist on it in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking. They are darkened in their understanding and alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts. Having lost all sense of shame, they have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity, with a craving for more.

But this is not the way you came to know Christ. Surely you heard of Him and were taught in Him—in keeping with the truth that is in Jesus— to put off your former way of life, your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be renewed in the spirit of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.

Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one another.

And in Romans Chapter 12 verse 9 to the end: 

Love must be sincere. 

Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. 


Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Outdo yourselves in honoring one another.

Do not let your zeal subside; keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord.

Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, persistent in prayer.

Share with the saints who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Bless those who persecute you. Bless and do not curse. Rejoice with those who rejoice; weep with those who weep. Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud, but enjoy the company of the lowly. Do not be conceited.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Carefully consider what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.

Do not avenge yourselves, beloved, but leave room for God’s wrath. For it is written: “Vengeance is Mine; I will repay, says the Lord.”

On the contrary,

“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;

if he is thirsty, give him a drink.

For in so doing,

you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

In the words of Paul:

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers.

Amen.

Talents & Skills

“Mom, what are my talents?”

My face must have flashed through sixteen contortions before landing, frozen, back in foundling traumas of insecurity. If I never head the word ‘talents’ again, I wouldn’t be disappointed; I might even sweat less.

“Talents?” I asked, trying to bide my time to give answer.

“Is it singing?” she asked, wide-eyed and eager.

Oh precious girl…

I didn’t think my heart could be fractionated any further as to crack again, but teensy bits of it crumbled again, wringing the last ounce of pain from my youth out into my mouth as honey… or was it vinegar? (It can be hard to see the difference in the moment.)

“I don’t think we know your talents yet, sweetie.”

Her face dropped fifteen dollhouse floors.

Ugh.

Thus, commenced the discussion of talents and skills…

Youthful Lies

In my youth and young adulthood, talent was everywhere and everyone seemed to have it but me. Well, almost everyone; but youth tends to deal in absolutes: everythings and nothings, everyone’s and no one’s, the whole world and the whole weird world of me.

For a long time, I bought into the lie that I had no talents to speak of. My friends would ask this weird ‘talent’ question, and I’d shrug it off: not a clue.

That one was a master of music…

That one was a goddess of speech…

That one had so many letters behind their name that they must hold several talents by the tail…

This one was an artist…

This one, a business wizard…

This other one was going to make it in media one day…

Somewhere behind the word ‘talent’, a magical, super-easy, I-didn’t-have-to-try-ism lurked.

I think this pitfall is probably common among youth, though I can only speak for myself here. Sometimes, talent is simply mistaken for something one likes to do…

Example: I like to sing, so singing must be my talent.

The very erroneous thing I was trying to safeguard my own daughter from thinking, even at this early age. Because, while she may like to sing and, while singing may be a talent she proves to possess one day, the long road of talent discovery will always intersect the road signed Skill.

They must cross. They must reason together. There simply is not one without the other.

You doubt it?

Well, I could say that I have learned the skill of teaching my children through homeschooling, but that does not mean I have the talent for teaching. (I don’t.) I could likewise tell you that I have a talent for riding horses, but — alas — I have lost much skill over time in that fun venture. (I wonder if that talent has died…)

You may have one without the other in these kinds of ways, but isn’t it always true that to showcase true talent one must marry that talent with skill (practice, effort, the finer elements of the craft)? And to be truly skilled at something, one must also have ‘a knack’ for it, as they say — the marriage of talent — No?

I hope to marry my talent for writing with skillfulness, so I will speak of what I know.

I can read two equally well-written, properly punctuated, and grammatically perfect short stories written by two different individuals and tell you — instantly — which one has ‘the gift’ for it and which one, perhaps, has skill, nice form, but lacks the razzle-dazzle of innate talent.

Think about your own talents and skills. I’m sure you can think of a parallel example from your own arena of expertise and giftedness — especially, if you’re over 30. 😉

Hey, these things take time (you 20-somethings and under)… Remember, that long road of discovery? Yeah… It’s like that. (Well, for some of us anyway…)

Marriage Is No Picnic, Baby

You’re gonna have to work at it — even if you are talented, dear one!

And that was the message I tried, through my own newfound intersections, to pass along to my daughter that day. Life is hard enough without being misinformed about talents.

I recently sat down to figure out a song on piano ‘by ear’ that I had never played before. So much of that process has been demystified for me over time, and, it turns out, it wasn’t magic or some strange acoustic voodoo at work. While I can easily admit to not being as talented as some in this department, I have realized that much of what I thought was mystery was simply missing theory and lacking mastery.

After ten minutes, I could play the verses and most of the chorus. Given a week of consistent practice, I have no doubt I could learn the whole song.

How?

Easy. Once you learn all of the major scales on the piano (something I was taught long ago), figuring out most songs by ear is a simple matter of figuring what key, what scale, the song is being played in. There are only so many chords and notes within a scale, right? So, that narrows it down a bit. If you have ears for music at all, they will do the rest of the work.

I have two pitfalls of SKILL here:

  1. I don’t know all of my chords in every scale
  2. I lack consistency and diligence in practice

Am I talented at piano playing? Maybe. It’s hard to say yet…

I haven’t honed the skill. 🙂

Follow Jesus’ words; He won’t steer you wrong — in any matter.

“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”

Matthew 7:7

You have a part to play in your story of talents and skills…

Shalom.

The Original Misinformation Campaign

The original misinformation campaign began with God’s words (Truth) to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden…

Then, the devil said: ‘Ain’t so’ and the like (Lies)…

Admittedly, Eve found that the devil’s words aligned with her inner-desires, so she took the serpent’s soundbite and ran with it (Spread)…

To Adam — wherever he’d been excusing himself with his own special blend of fermenting ‘I was going to do that’ vibrations, in tune with his wife (Apathy).

Then, the Truth showed up all decked out with light, betraying the shadows…

And Adam said it was her fault (Blame)…

And Eve said it was his fault (Blame)…

And the devil didn’t say much because he knew he’d started it, mostly (Proof of lie: The serpent is not like God)…

And then, God spoke again and cursed all three participants for their part — because they each played a part (lest any doctrine of Adam-splaining befall ye: ye have heard).

Well, you know the story, don’t you? But do you know what’s great about this story? Do you know what gives this story teeth?

God had the first and the last word. He spoke the truth at the beginning; He spoke the truth at the end; and all parties were taken to task, each for their own folly.

What great about that?

That it encapsulates the whole story of history — past, present, and future. That’s what.

God gets the last word.

(Of course, that’s also terrifying, which is why Jesus is Good News! But that’s a different post.)

Today’s Soundscape

Nothing has changed. What began back in the Garden of Eden with one God, one serpent, one man, and one woman, has morphed into a million Medusa’s on a million platforms tweeting out their ‘Ain’t so’ and the likes to a million ears.

We’ve all been baited into folly at some point, and with the ease of dissemination we see today, we’re as likely (if not more likely) to be wrong than right about any number of things…

While I find blatant misinformation hard to accept from the Justices of the Supreme Court (sound bytes available to prove it) this week, the truth is, we’ve all been there — taking an irresistibly delicious sound byte, blacking out with excitement, seeing red in bloody retribution or rightness, and running with it to share…

Moments before we run to hide.

(I’m not saying that makes it all okay, of course – this misinforming blindness. I’m just noting it’s not actually new…)

What’s the point?

Only the reminder that Truth will return to His garden one day…

When He comes calling, will He find us petting favored soundbites, decked out in fig leaves, or tending what He placed in our collective and individual domains?

He gets the last word, friend… so it’s His words we do best to guard in our hearts.

Besting 2022

A new year is peeking through my frosted window panes. The north wind of 2021 is frozen in place this week, but it will not stop 2022 from coming.

I stand upon the hard middle ground of 40 years now. New Year’s Day no longer appears as the undulating silhouette of mystery – tall, dark, and handsome. Rather, I see that what is true of today is true of that day too: My shadow follows me and God’s nature remains unchanged. Seeing the truth has changed my hopes for every year.

I don’t want to live by checklists or efficiency protocols. After years of following behind the hollow church ritual of naming and claiming a superstitious word or supernatural mantra for the new year, and after enough failed mantras of my own, I don’t want to live another second tied up in those kinds of one-size-fits-all shoelaces either.

Even so, a question many have no doubt pondered (all-the-more over these past two years) has kept me up at night for many years: How best to live?

In light of Scripture,

In light of all I’ve learned and heard,

In light of this shadow’s brevity,

In light of who God is –

How best to live?

There are many ways that seem right to mankind, after all. There are many ways to live called ‘right’, you know… They depend upon who is doing the calling.

Ways of Living

I think every adult dreams of living as a child again in some way. Perhaps things were simpler then, less entangled, less scripted. Perhaps we only seek to escape the DMV lines and recipe books of adulthood in such dreams. Even so, the longer my chin hair gets, the more I delight in the thought of returning to a childlikeness… Don’t you?

The world wants to homogenize everyone; they seem to be ever-striving to make everything and everyone same-sies. Even as they cry for “diversity”, they demand that we all hold to the same ideologies and social mores and viewpoints as the worldly: It’s “Happy Holidays” not “Merry Christmas”, right? (It’s an easy target, I know…)

Some just want everyone to do their part, like Martha busy for Jesus while Mary was lazin’ around at His feet… And let’s be honest, if we look around our own community we know exactly who plays the roles of Martha or Mary in our own estimation. Don’t we?

I have a degree in Sociology, which is the study of people groups. I love to people watch; if you catch me staring, it’s not personal: It’s research. (Not that that’s encouraging…)

But I did not need a degree in sociology to see that every family, every community, every church, every grocery store has its own unique ethos of values and beliefs which they tend to trumpet above the rest, even if some trumpet more loudly than others. Even when they hold to the same basic tenets as the rest, such as in a denomination, each body tends to highlight some cherished conviction or standard over all others:

Grace, Faith, Forgiveness, Belonging, Baptism, Healing, Sovereignty, Compassion, or the Great Commission, etc… in churches;

Work Ethic, Modesty, Health, Civic Duties, Recycling, Family Time, Hospitality, or Arts, etc… in homes;

Beautification, Fiscal Responsibility, Events and Programs, Learning or Service opportunities, etc… may be emphasized, one or two more than the others, in various communities.

Yes, grocery stores too. Some refine the atmosphere of lighting and flooring, while others boast in bulk; some appreciate ‘the bottom line’, while others post politically polarizing mantras in their windows. Some are quick on data and quickly stock the things that fly off the shelves, while others catch on too late or remain the stapled general store of the past. See? These too have their ideals, which is why — by the way — we have our preferences about which to shop; it’s not arbitrary, even when it revolves around our pocketbook.

For some, like my dad, an excellent work ethic is the supreme value of life. One may have many things but without a sharp work ethic, one deserves nothing. This shows itself in some communities where the women all have a full-time job and a side-hustle; it betrays itself in discussions about the national welfare program; and, sometimes, it shows itself in beautifully landscaped lawns (which I do not begrudge in the least but admire).

I’ve met many Christians for whom fostering children is God’s work – and, to hear some of them say it, tend to communicate that it is the only God work that counts for anything. You may serve in the nursery or have seventeen kids of your own, but if you’re not also fostering the stranger then you haven’t really surrendered to God’s “true religion” as penned by James.

There are others for whom peace reigns supreme – whether that peace means disengaging from social events, keeping the emotionally unstable person at arms’ length, never posting anything controversial on social media, staying away from spotlights, OR not holding one’s peace in any arena to keep one’s peace by speaking one’s own ‘truth’ no matter the occasion or whom it offends: Either way, “peace” is the stated goal, the only true honey of life.

In our own little family, lying and loudness are egregious sins; thus, honesty and tempered sugar-rushes are fostered…

And we could go on and on.

Some feel that to have no civic life, to not engage in politics and community events, is to err grossly; some spend their weekends shut away in their prayer closet eating and drinking one spiritual experience after another and feel something like pity against those who don’t know well enough to do the same; some go to church every time the doors are open for the sake of God’s words; others neglect ‘institutionalized’ church also for the sake of God’s words

And guess what? If we look, we can find scripture verses to prop up any one of these preferential lifestyles. Can’t we? Indeed, some today have managed to construct entire theologies from things God never said.

“But to what shall I liken this generation? It is like children sitting in the marketplaces and calling to their companions, and saying:

‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance;

We mourned to you, and you did not lament.’

For John came neither eating nor drinking, and they say, ‘He has a demon’. The Son of Man came eating and drinking, and they say, ‘Look a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’

But wisdom is justified by her children.”

Matthew 11:16-19

Interestingly, Jesus contrasts two different kinds of children here: The children who sit in the marketplace and cannot be satisfied by their companions and the children justified by wisdom….

The children of the marketplace are not hard to spot; sometimes, we see them in our own mouths.

Today, if John the Baptist were here many would say that he was being legalistic and practicing some form of pagan asceticism with his weird honey and locust diet.

Today, if Jesus were here, we might indeed call him a glutton, a heretic for claiming to be the Son of God, or even one of those pesky Charismatics for all of the signs and wonders rumored…

But I wonder sometimes if the children of wisdom are so easily identified…

Even a fool can seem wise when he makes silence golden, so that’s no sure tell…

We could say that those healthy and wealthy and influencing must be among the wise… but is that always true?

We could say that those lettered and acclaimed with vast and academic knowledge must be among the wise… but we know that isn’t always true. Don’t we?

We are often tempted to believe that those whose lives appear to be well-financed, emotionally stable, and even-tempered are wisest of all… I suspect, however, that there are many an ungodly person we’d have to subscribe to if we truly believed that to be wholly the truth. Oprah represents such an ideal, doesn’t she? But she sold out years ago…

So, who are these mysterious children of wisdom anyway?

Wisdom’s Children

Well, we can first define them by the obvious:

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”

Proverbs 9:10

So, FIRST, the ‘children of wisdom’ are those who fear the Lord.

Hm… Not as specific as we’d like is it? That’s a fairly generous identity at face-value. Nothing in that tells us exactly which church to attend, how to keep our lawns, where to school our children, or whether decluttering our homes is really the best way to spend our time — like ever or bi-annually.

For we do not presume to rank or compare ourselves with some of those who commend themselves; but when they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they have no understanding.”

2 Corinthians 10:12

Some versions say “they are not wise” rather than “they have no understanding”, but by Proverbs 9 we can see that these two things are virtually synonymous.

So, NEXT, we find that those who make such comparisons – that is, who form their standards and measures by the simple contrasting of another’s life OR against their own supposed progress in life – are not among the wise nor understanding.

In other words, a child of wisdom can see John the Baptist as adhering to his convictions because of his specific calling and Jesus adhering to his character because of his specific mission as the God-made-man, and bless and have peace-at-heart with both testimonies working in tandem.

Did not both callings and missions come from God, though both men served uniquely?

How then should we live? Those are two very different examples…

Examples, Contrasts, or Principles

Life isn’t a beauty pageant, a chapter in the Lord of the Flies, or an occupational resume in which we must best another. Life isn’t fair, isn’t cut and dry, and is rarely so neat and sterile as our memed favorite verse or mantra.

There are many ways to live exemplified in the Bible.

Ruth’s life looked nothing like Hannah’s; Moses’ life was nothing like Benaiah’s; Jeremiah’s life looked nothing like King David’s; Eve’s testament would not read the same as Deborah’s or virgin Mary’s; and what Job and Ezekiel each had to work out in their own love for God did not look the same. Without doubt, Peter and Paul had their disagreements and frustrations with one another, even as they recognized God’s calling upon each other.

Why, then, do you judge your brother? Or why do you belittle your brother? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.”

Romans 14:10

Judgement is passing sentence; it’s saying, “You must not be a true believer if…”

If it doesn’t entertain us by reflecting and affirming our own song and dance of chosen ideals, perhaps – As the children of the marketplace whined in Jesus’ parable?

Well, many definitions, examples, and sermons can and have been taught on the subject of judgment. For this piece we will confine the definition to making assumptions about another’s authenticity based upon what we can see with our eyes and what we believe to be wisdom based upon our own preferential sensibilities

After all, is it unsensible to want to bury your father before following Jesus? – Jesus seemed to say so in that specific interaction, though all of society, even today, would argue the point (Luke 9:59-60). In fact, we would say Jesus was being unloving in such sentiments… Would we not?

(I speak, of course, of differences in ‘working out salvation’ among those IN Christ; not of the wolves parading sin under the banner of His Good Name falsely. That is a different post.)

We are told to live by many principles, precepts, and wise advisements in the Bible.

Here are but a few examples:

“Love your enemies…” (Matthew 5:44)

“…Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you…” (1 Thessalonians 4:11)

“Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat or what you will drink… But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you.” (Matthew 6:25; 33)

“Pray without ceasing.” (1 Thessalonians 5:17)

“Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition.” (Ephesians 6:18)

“Earnestly pursue love and eagerly desire spiritual gifts, especially the gift of prophecy.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

“My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations…” (James 1:2)

“And indeed, have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them from the fire; and to still others show mercy tempered with fear, hating even the clothing stained by the flesh.” (Jude 1:22-23)

“If anyone comes to you but does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your home or even greet him. Whoever greets such a person shares in his evil deeds.” (2 John 1:11)

“Do not be too quick in the laying on of hands and thereby share in the sins of others. Keep yourself pure.” (1 Timothy 5:22)

“And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” (Ephesians 5:11)

“Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)

“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (2 Corinthians 7:1)

“Since you call on a Father who judges each one’s work impartially, conduct yourselves in reverent fear during your stay as foreigners.” (1 Peter 1:17)

“For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” (1 Corinthians 6:20)

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5:25-26)

“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor. For each will have to bear his own load.” (Galatians 6:2-4)

These quotes don’t even make up the tip of the iceberg in guidances, commands, or principles we can find in God’s word. And this question has kept me up at night for years, well, decades now…

How then do we live?

If we take every passage literally, especially Jesus’ own words, do we have to live as homeless nomads? Constantly praying and preaching? No dance recitals? No bling? No time for burying loved ones? No hands or feet because we had to cut them off and no eyes because we had to pluck them out?

Are we to parade in thanksgiving to God and dance in the nude down Main Street? (Anyone in your town will be pleased if you don’t.) Are we to rally impossible odds against the powers of the day like Gideon trusting the God of Angel Armies? Are we to tend our own garden, work quietly, and mind our own business? What about the places that actually need an ass’s jawbone to take a slew of mockers, boasters, and reprobate’s out of the picture? Is there really ‘a time for everything’ (Eccl. 3:3)? Are we all to teach and preach and baptize and call many to repentance? Should we all be fostering? Adopting? Should we all prophesy? Taking casseroles to all the widows?

Paul spoke in tongues more than y’all. Was that an intentional jab at Southerners?…

Plenty of arguments ensue over how we are to love our enemies – And what does that look like if we’re also supposed to pull the fluffy white fur off of the cloaked wolf bearing the works of wickedness? Should we or shouldn’t we shake hands? – I don’t want to be complicit in your sins too, after all; I have plenty of my own to confess.

There is a verse for every hidden mantra-at-heart. There is. If you doubt it, just open the Good Book: the devil will surely show up in the details, as he did with Jesus in the wilderness, and quote sonnets in your ears…

But the lie he tells to each of us is the same one told from the very beginning, isn’t it?

For God knows that when you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”

Genesis 3:5

Was that truth? The whole truth?

Of course not. Rather, mankind ‘fell’ from God’s good graces, our eyes were darkened, and in ‘knowing good and evil’ some “loved the darkness” (John 3), making more of devils than of gods among us.

So, a lie that was and is and always will be… yet we still try to act as gods with our extensive knowledge, don’t we?

In closing, what offended and overturned the religious rulers of Jesus’ day was that He spoke against and dealt less with the obvious and visible sins, while underscoring, slicing, and dicing the hidden sins of their hearts. He forgave prostitutes and called a tax collector, while silencing the Pharisees on more than one occasion…

So, how best to live?

He did not call us to be sinners, after all; He still condemns sin. Neither did he call the Pharisees to continue in their vain traditions; He still says He is the only way, our Righteousness…

At that time the disciples came to Jesus, saying, “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”

And calling to him a child, he put him in the midst of them and said, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me, but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Matthew 18:1-6

There are many different kinds of children and the difference between childish and childlike behaviors to consider, but, clearly, Jesus had something definite in mind…

The minor prophets, Amos and Micah, were no less vague. When calling Israel to repentance, Amos says:

“Seek good, and not evil; hate evil, love good!…Seek Yahweh, that you may live!”

Amos 1:14, 6

Good?

Oy vey.

There’s more than one school of thought on that word, isn’t there? So, we must place it in context of what the nation of Israel and Amos’s purview would have known to be ‘good’ based on God’s laws.

He has showed you, O man, what is good and what Yahweh seeks from you: to do justly, to love kindness, and to walk humbly before Yahweh.

Micah 6:8

Do justly?

Love kindness?

Walk humbly?

Even in Christian circles, people argue about how best to do these things and what they look like… and, being that this prescript comes from the roots of Christianity, we will not consider the world’s ideas about these Godly traits valid here.

“There is no demand here for ‘ethics’ instead of a cult, as if the prophet’s desire was to lead men from one set of laws into another. No, something quite simple is contrasted with the arduous performance of works which can end only in destruction – a way along which men can walk before God.”

The Message of the Prophets By gerhard von rad, pg 155

“Before God” is my favorite part of that quote because it does simplify our quest, doesn’t it?

If I am walking with, for, through my heart laid bare before my Creator God, my Father God, my Savior, and Comforter, then I will not err in walking my walk as if before mere men and mortals –

If I walk before God as a child, desiring to do justly, desiring mercy, and accepting humility, then I am less likely to make the error of comparing my mission and calling to someone else’s: I am less inclined to walk before men, as if humanity were my Final Judge.

But I am also less inclined to forget my calling, less inclined to embrace my sins with affection, if I walk “before God” – in remembrance of who He is and what He has spoken.

How then to live?

Ever before God, as His child.

That is best.

And there are many parts of the Body and many callings within that easy yoke…

Blessed New Year, saints! I pray you enter it with the trusting affection of children before a Good Father.

That’s A Wrap: Christmas 2021

This year we bought a house for $15,000.00 in North Dakota, we financed the newest vehicle we’ve had in many years, and I lost a few pounds of emotional baggage (though I can’t say the same for my hips) – which is saying something because the last three years have been rough physically, financially, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually.

This is the first Christmas that I have felt whole and well. Not richer. Not smarter. Not in any exceptionally different circumstance yet better somehow…

I realize that so much of my former anxiety revolved around comparisons, around everyone else’s advising and chastising voice in my head. This has been a progressive revelation that began years ago but seems to be cresting now. A few surface-level examples:

No real Christmas family traditions? – The incriminating voices of all those celebrating beautiful and liturgical Christmases shoot daggers at me: I am robbing my children of something meaningful, I can hear their silences assert…

No social extra-curricular activities? – The eyebrows of others’ voices crescendo into a cacophony of disapprovals behind my eyes: How will my kids learn that ‘team work makes the dream work’?…

No long-term residence thus far, resulting in the usual consequence of no long-term close friendships, nothing familiar to hold on to during cold nights? – Those who’ve put down blessed roots and already blossomed toss unintentional shade as we cling to one another somewhere below their estimation: No one says these things, but this has been part of the baggage I’ve carried every time I walk into a perfectly settled and decorated home, every time I encounter those too busy with their own family ties to entertain a strange family new to town, every time those with seniority in a neighborhood, church, or social event draw firm lines around what must be earned – and the length of time they calculate is necessary to earn it (which I could never prior meet).

No one has to say it. It’s just the law of circumstance, the laws of the rooted and the nomadic teasing each other. I make lists of places I’ve been to impress; they make lists of social engagements and entanglements to feel important. Six in one hand, a half dozen in the other.

And that’s without unraveling the maniacal chords of my own disorderly triune – spirit, soul, body – shouting me down with my very own formulaic or fantastical standards. Who knew so many quarreling voices could form such a united wrecking ball in one’s own mind?

My sister said that I was Elsa the first time we saw Frozen; she was right. I guess I’m simply saying that I told those voices to shut-up. I can’t run away to an ice castle, but I can run to my High Tower and tell all of those discordant voices – that drown this child and cause me to lose sight of Jesus’ hand extended to me – to shut the hell up.

I hope friends past, present, and future will not mistake that necessary line for an ice-bolt directed at Anna’s heart (the hearts of my friends): It is not. My quarrel is not with any of these, not with any of you. My quarrel has been with myself, with God, and with the damned ‘Accuser of the brethren’ (and sister-en, if you must, joker).

You know what’s funny? Since telling those voices to shut-up, I realized none of them were telling the whole truth. That’s freedom, friend.

This year, we had a true white Christmas. Not only was there snow on the ground but the snow also fell today in those perfectly large flakes. It was beautiful. While I have a healthy fear (the kind that says not to skate on thin ice) of the frigid temperatures en route, I have no reason to fear today: Today, the house is warm, the landscape outside is frozen and picturesque, the kids are happy and fed, and I have all I need…

I found it too often impossible to enjoy these things before: Foreboding was my middle name.

There are many ways to live and they all appear to be right in a mortal’s eyes. Those who strive for excellence and security feel they do so rightly; those who strive for peace and simplicity feel they do so rightly; those who strive for position and social standing do so for a ‘right’ cause; those who shun the world think they do rightly, and those who clutch the whole world between their thighs, riding high, know they do so rightly: Every one of these ways ends in death.

All of our ways end in death, fellow mortals.

When you see all mortals as naked as the day they were born, what is important shines a little clearer. (We dim the mirror with our illusions, I think…)

“Unless you repent, you also will perish,” (Luke 13:3) – Jesus. Solomon had it right. Only one thing actually matters: Fear God (Ecclesiastes 12:13). The rest is anxiety-producing nonsense, and on this matter I agree entirely with Elsa in Frozen:

Let it go!

Let it go!

Let’s let these comparisons with one another go… (Me first! I know.)

As members of one body, we each serve God uniquely as He equips us – some in highly visible and shiny vessels and some more obscurely in hiddenness. And the belly button will never see what the elbows see; they just won’t – and it’s not even their fault! – and it doesn’t mean that they’re not functioning properly! But each one must give an account to God. He reigns over all of these matters, so let us be content with what God has given, whether in blessed rootedness or dependent (but also blessed) sojourning since we all sojourn Earth and we each take our strength from the Root of Jesse (Isaiah 11:10), else we die.

As for tradition:

Next year, I’m cooking frozen pizza for Christmas because whoever started this let’s-use-more-dishes-than-the-whole-year-so-we-have-to-clean-all-day-on-a-holiday tradition was total bats.

As for social activities:

Being an introvert is not a birth defect, social blight, crying shame, or a sin. We can’t dance you under the table… but we do know how to cry with you, how to laugh with you, how to hope with you, how to wrap our arms around you…

As for these wispy roots:

The wealth of extended family God has given us in our travels was worth it. We’ve been privileged to witness many different ways of living, many different family traditions, and many kinds of blossoms… One day, I believe, our family’s traditions will be more meaningful because of the many children of Our Father who have shared their special days with us.

We are so thankful for each of you and for God’s abundant goodness in our lives.

Merry Christmas.