Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Confessions of a spiritual chikin

My spirit is tired of all the bickering about politics and economics and morality and what's right and wrong. I have my opinions and beliefs on the issues of the day, but I've become hesitant to express them, especially at work or on Facebook.

If there is a safe place, I'm thinking my limited  readership blog should be it. As far as I know, everyone who reads it knows me pretty well and appreciates my musings and loves me for who I am and refrains from judging or condemning me, at least to my face.

So, I will carefully and prayerfully weigh in on the Chick-fil-A situation and why I will or won't "eat mor chikin" there Wednesday and questions it has caused me to ask myself.

You probably know the story. Chick-fil-A president and CEO Dan Cathy was quoted in an interview with a religious newspaper explaining that the company, whose stores are closed on Sundays, is run on biblical prinicples and supports family values. Apparently, when asked to clarify family values, he expressed that he started with the biblical design founded upon the marriage of a man and a woman.

For some reason, at least the way I see it, people who don't agree with and/or support and/or adhere to that viewpoint of what the Bible says took offense, and many have accused the owner of hatred and hate speech. Meanwhile, supporters of  Cathy and his stand have been just as vocal in criticizing those who would criticize  Cathy.

This troubles me, and part of why I am troubled is that the divisiveness of the uproar has torn me between joining in and staying silent.

There are two reasons I've avoided hitting "like" on Facebook posts I agree with concerning this.

First is that it seems to have just become a lot of noise, a follow-the-crowd mentality: "Maybe I can't do anything else, but I can 'like.' " Even though I do follow my share of crowds, I've noticed that I'm pretty intentional about my Facebook likes and dislikes and comments. (That's a whole other blog posting I hope to get to soon.)

The second reason is more complicated. I can't say for sure whether it's that I don't want to offend anyone or whether I don't want to defend my views or perhaps I'm just lazy.

My first thought when this came up was that I would buy food for work. But then I realized that could be construed as hate speech by some at work? So I won't.

Then I thought I'd just go eat there, alone or with my husband, to show support. But my reason I won't do that on Wednesday -- dubbed Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day by former Arkansas Gov. and former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee -- is much simpler: lack  patience, in expectation of long lines. Instead, the commitment I've made to myself is to stop in at times in the days and weeks ahead when the lines return to normal lengths.

Above all, in this and all things, I continue to pray to know and do God's will, and to trust Him to show me. And not only that, but I will renew daily prayers for God's will to be done not just in Heaven but on Earth.

Regarding some of the issues of the day, I really don't know for sure what His will is for me or the world. I'm pretty sure His will in both areas involves love and grace and forgiveness and justice and compassion. But I'm pretty sure it also involves truth: His truth. Exactly what His truth is isn't always crystal clear to me from the Bible. This is why I feel He calls us not only to pray, but also to interact and study and serve and worship with others also seeking to walk confidently in His way. And if that involves sharing a meal at (or at  least from) Chick-fil-A in the near future, that's all the better!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Can this faulty memory be Redeemed (or Saved! Saved! Saved!)?

Shortly after I posted my blog Monday, as I was headed out the door for work without time to do anything about it, I realized I had made a significant mistake based on a faulty memory.

The song I remember so vividly hearing the Southern Baptists sing in Salt Lake City and also at an Oklahoma City convention center wasn't "Redeemed" by Fanny Crosby. It was "Saved! Saved!" by Jack P. Scholfield. That makes more sense as to why I associate the song with Baptists rather than my Methodist upbringing.

But it doesn't flow nearly as well with that blog on the theme of Redeemed. It did, however, trigger a lot of thought and a little research on the relationship and differences between saving and redeeming and being saved and being redeemed. Between dictionary definitions and theological views, I'm confused enough I won't even pretend to have it figured out.

It does seem that from a Christian standpoint, you have to be redeemed (Jesus paid for our sins by dying on the cross) before you can be saved (we confess our sins and accept the Risen Christ as Lord), which is the opposite of what happens in the trading stamp process, where you have to spend money to get stamps to save and later exchange for goods.

And it's fascinating to me that God would let my memory play that trick on me, that I would write and post my blog with the concept and lyrics of "Redeemed, How I Love to Proclaim It" instead of "Saved! Saved!" and not be able to address it for two days and still not really be able to fix it. I do think there is a reason, and that it will be revealed to me when the time is right. That seems to be how God works in my life, and I am grateful that I am becoming more trusting that He is in control even when I am confused and clueless!

To conclude, here are the lyrics of the great hymn "Saved, Saved" (with this aside: one of my very important goals to accomplish by the end of this year is to learn how and start giving proper attribution/Internet links to the information I grab from online and other sources for my blog; but I'm not there yet):

I've found a Friend, Who is all to me,
His love is ever true;
I love to tell how He lifted me
And what His grace can do for you.

Saved by His power divine,
Saved to new life sublime!
Life now is sweet and my joy is complete,
For I’m saved, saved, saved!

He saves me from every sin and harm,
Secures my soul each day;
I’m leaning strong on His mighty arm;
I know He’ll guide me all the way.

Saved by His power divine ... Saved, saved, saved!

When poor and needy and all alone,
In love He said to me,
"Come unto Me and I’ll lead you home,
To live with Me eternally."

Saved by His power divine,
Saved to new life sublime!
Life now is sweet and my joy is complete,
For I’m saved, saved, saved!

Lyrics and Composer: Jack P. Scholfield, 1911

Monday, July 23, 2012

Redeemed: A whole new meaning for me

I was pretty sure today's topic was Called to Pray, but instead some notes I've been making and quotes I've been saving involving "redeemed" are pushing their way to the forefront.

I think for most of my life what came to mind when I would think of the verb "redeem" would be what you do with S&H green stamps after collecting a bunch. You would get them at grocery stores and other places, and then could exchange them for a lamp or a toaster or I don't remember what all else. I can still picture redemption center in Gainesville, Texas, on California Street, as I was growing up. But those memories seem very long ago for a 50-plus-year-old.

As an adult, my main thought has been with "Redeemed," from the concept of a hymn that I associate more with covering Oklahoma Southern Baptists during my time as religion editor than from my Methodist upbringing. "Redeemed, how I love to proclaim it! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed through His infinite mercy, His child and forever I am. Redeemed! Redeemed! Redeemed by the blood of the Lamb; Redeemed! Redeemed! His child and forever I am." I can really hear all those Baptists singing it at the Southern Baptist Convention in Salt Lake City, likely led by Oklahoma Baptists' longtime music leader Bill Green. Looking up the lyrics right now though, I see that they are by Fanny Crosby, who has a lot of hymns in the Methodist hymnals, so I'm not sure why I wasn't more familiar with this great hymn.

Anyway, the words "redeem" and "redeemed" and "redemption" have started to show up a lot recently in my Christian walk. It seems like my first real reawareness of it was with a fairly new song on K-Love Christian radio. Big Daddy Weave's "Redeemed" includes these lyrics: "Then You look at this prisoner and say to me 'Son, stop fighting a fight that's already been won.' I am redeemed. You set me free. So I'll shake off these heavy chains, Wipe away every stain now I'm not who I used to be. I am redeemed."

While that song has been capturing my spirit, resonating deep within on some continuing questions and challenges of life, I came across this on July 11 in the Denison Forum daily email I receive. I don't remember what specific new cruel tragedy he was addressing here, but it doesn't really matter. I know it opened up a new understanding to me.

Here's what Jim Denison wrote: "The next time you see a tragedy in the news, would you take a moment to pray for those involved? Ask God to redeem what He allows, and volunteer to be His healing hands in your hurting world. Your ministry make not make the evening news, but it will gladden the heart of your Father forever."

The Scripture from the Upper Room the same day included, from Psalm 31: 1-8:  "In you, O LORD, I seek refuge; do not let me ever be put to shame; in your righteousness deliver me. ... You are indeed my rock and my fortress; for your name's sake lead me and guide me,  take me out of the net that is hidden for me, for you are my refuge. Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have redeemed me, O LORD, faithful God. ... I will exult and rejoice in your steadfast love, because you have seen my affliction; you have taken heed of my adversities, and have not delivered me into the hand of the enemy; you have set my feet in a broad place."

And now, today, Denison offered this, in reflections about the tragic killings Friday in Colorado: "Like the grieving pastor, I don't know why God allowed the Aurora tragedy. But I do know that he redeems all he allows, even the horrific misuse of freedom he gave us so we could love him and each other (Matthew 22:37-39). And I know that he is grieving with his children wherever they hurt today."

As I try to draw this to a conclusion, I think of two other songs that have held meaning to me for a long time. One is from Handel's Messiah (and of course, it is from Scripture): I know that my redeemer liveth.... (I remember being surprised to learn this was in Job rather than almost anywhere else in the Bible; I realize it may be other places, too. Good thing about this informal blog is I don't have to do all that research before I publish! Maybe I'll update later, for the record!) The other is Nicole C. Mullen's "Redeemer," which she sings so majestically: "I know my Redeemer lives! I know my Redeemer lives. Let all creation testify, Let this life within my cry, I know my Redeemer lives!" (And toward the end, she sings just as powerfully: "I spoke with Him this morning," which always brings it to present reality for me.)

I guess that is how it wraps up for me today. There is a lot of what seems like confusion and inequality and injustice and just things that it seems hard to imagine how God really is in control of it all. But for today, and by faith, I know that my Redeemer lives. And thanks to some powerful recent insights from Scripture and commentators, I know that He can and will redeem and in fact is redeeming all that He allows. I lift my prayers and life to Him, that I may live to His glory, in support of his great work.

Monday, July 16, 2012

The Willingness Formula

This could be titled (or subtitled) "It Only Takes a Spark ... Part 2." I think I've written on it before. But it has stayed with me in the past week, as I've continued to make progress on praying and acting to stay out of stagnation, even as I am so aware (from constant reminders) of how easy it is to fall back into the negative patterns.

In a word, the willingness formula, for me, is prayer. "For Today," an Overeaters Anonymous daily devotion book I've been reading for more than 20 years, expresses it in a way that has continued to ring true for me: "What is the willingness formula? Prayer. When the miracle happens, I watch a defect evaporate, a task easily done, a problem solved. God does for me what I cannot do for myself."  This is the Jan. 20 reading, but it's one I often return to, any day of the year. Before giving the formula, it perfectly describes the leadup for me: "When a job or situation or personal problem seemed too hard, I used to say, 'I can't do it.' In OA, I have tapped a source of power greater than myself. All I need to start the action is willingness. Sometimes willingness comes easily, sometimes it is locked head-on with defiance. Then I feel heavy with the load."

Growing up in loving, Christian, church-going family, I've always had the power of prayer in my life, but I guess I needed a 12-step program to get the escape mechanism out of the way enough to begin learning to really seek and trust God. In the years since that journey began, the spiritual experience of church, organized religion and Christian fellowship (and family and friendship!) has blossomed amazingly.

Blossomed. Where did that word come from? Well, it brings to mind a flower bed, which I have no experience with. But I know that for the plants to blossom and flourish, they must be tended properly. The same is true of my spirit. I pray for willingness and ability to stay on this path of seeking God, trusting God, obeying God and praising God, to His glory.

Monday, July 9, 2012

It only takes a spark ....

Maybe it was all the news about the wildfires in Colorado and elsewhere. Or maybe the Fourth of July fireworks. Or possibly just the blazing heat of summer. For whatever reason, familiar song lyrics have been in my mind a lot recently, including today. "It only takes a spark, to get a fire going ....."

What's really ignited my thoughts on this is the summer slump I've been stuck in. Somewhere in June, I started to stagnate. You could see it in my blogs -- more placeholders than real posts. You could probably detect it in my Facebook posts, notably by their reduction. Typically, if I can't think of something positive to post, I avoid posting. If you have been around me, you may have noticed more of a tired look and attitude than cheerfulness, energy and optimism.

As I've prayed and meditated and still seemed stymied in knowing what action to take to reverse this, the thought "it only takes a spark" became increasingly common. One of the things I realized is that a spark can fuel a destructive force just as easily as it can lead to productive light, warmth and energy. A spark of tiredness can lead to less healthy choices, including how I spend my time (reading the Bible and praying versus watching or reading about soap operas; sitting and doing nothing rather than walking or tackling even a small chore or lying down for a nap) and what I eat. I still haven't actually watched "The Bold and The Beautiful" since before Easter, but I've found myself reading the updates online, and yesterday actually paid money for the CBS Soaps magazine! (Gene saw it when I got home and asked, WHAT IS THIS? I had to laugh (he knows I've supposedly given up soaps), and maybe that bit of personal  embarrassment/accountability will help break the obsession.) I haven't eaten things with real sugar, which for me can be like a drug, but that sugar-free Blue Bell Bunny Tracks ice cream has been on my mind every day since even before I bought some to leave at Mom's while I was there weekend before last!

Perhaps no one reading this understands what the big deal would be about wasting time on soap operas or giving in to a troublesome food (or just continual obsessive food thoughts), but I think it's just as likely most people do have their own things, large or small, that sometimes can trip them up in a big way, leading to a negative, hopeless, depressing outlook. And the question becomes: How do you put out that negative fire or harness it into a positive force?

Well, even as I continued to struggle, I knew the answer. "It only takes a spark ...." Keep praying. Keep reading the Bible and meditating. Keep being around positive people. Keep talking and listening. Keep walking and/or pedaling -- even if it seems like what I really need to do is clean off that cluttered chair, desk or table; when I know that's not going to happen, I'm better off taking a nap or walking instead of just sitting and doing nothing or surfing the Internet or getting a snack. Make a healthy choice. And keep making even the smallest healthy choices until one actually ignites the spark into a positive force for good. I also have to remember that if I don't tend the flame once it's ignited, it will go out -- or go out of control. Yes, even positive energy can become destructive. Yes, that means that even if I get tired of following my spiritual disciplines, I really do need to stay with them, because without them,  my life goes out of control.

This is a start. I do believe "It only takes a spark, to get a fire going. And soon all those around can warm up in its glowing."  And I believe this, also from the song "Pass It On," written by Kurt Kaiser some  40 years ago (and which I  learned in high school all those years ago): "That's how it is with God's love, once you've experienced it. You share His love with everyone. You want to Pass It On." 

I'm feeling a more positive already, for which I thank God.

"Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—His good, pleasing and perfect will."  (Romans 12:2)

"When you are tempted, He will also provide a way out so that you can endure it."  (1 Corinthians 10:13)

"Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you."  (1 Thessalonians 5:18 NRSV)

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A patriotic placeholder

Another placeholder? Yep, it's looking like that's what it will have to be. Unless God has a surprise waiting. A neat thing that often happens, though, is that usually even in a placeholder post, He does provide some nugget of insight that helps brighten my week. I'm writing this on Tuesday before Wednesday's blog deadline on another week that has an awry work schedule, with no sense of routine. And several things I tried to get taken care of today (Tuesday) came up short and right now just seem like I wasted my time. (Maybe the payoff will come later.) 

Now, it's Wednesday, July Fourth, Independence Day. I am at work until midnight. That means what I wrote yesterday is what we get today. I tried to come up with some patriotic insights, and even that is just not happening. If you are on Facebook, you can probably find more than enough there. I may still post a picture of the patriotic cat shirt I'm wearing. But maybe not.  I know I'm grateful to live in America and for the freedoms we have here. I am grateful for those who make sacrifices to defend our liberty and the freedom  of people around the world. I pray that God will continue to bless America and its people and leaders. I pray to know my part in that.

As for my slumping attempts to blog, I have to keep remembering, especially, Monday's great reading and Scriptures from Jesus Calling. An excerpt: Let Me show you My way for you this day. I guide you continually, so you can relax and enjoy My Presence in the present. Living well is both a discipline and an art. Concentrate on staying close to Me, the divine Artist. Discipline your thoughts to trust Me as I work My ways in your life. Pray about everything; then, leave outcomes up to Me.
The Scriptures are Psalm 5:2-3 ("Listen to my cry for help, my King and my God, for to you I pray. In the morning, O Lord, you hear my voice; in the morning I lay my requests before you and wait in expectation") and Deuteronomy 33:27.