Category Archives: spirituality

Eyes in the Mirror

I would look in the mirror year upon year.
Even as I aged I never saw me.
I saw his eyes,
And I wanted to cringe and look away.
His eyes: steel-blue and grey,
Crinkled from years of age and sun…
They flashed.
Wanted joy always replaced by anger.
Never girl enough, good enough, smart enough, right enough, perfect enough…
Never enough.

A few years back,
I softened and they changed.
They were my eyes: blue and green,
With just a hint of life.
Yet suddenly they’d become Abba’s eyes.
They’d see not good but worth His Son’s life;
Not smart but full of wisdom, understanding, counsel, and knowledge;
Not right but covered in Christ’s righteousness and full of His mercy;
Not perfect but pressing in toward the prize of Christ’s call on my life.
Abba saw me as I was and as He could make me.

It is enough in Him.

Zombie Breaking Free

Author’s Note: Insomnia bites. I don’t even remember penning this one, but it’s in my journal in my own scribbling. I suspect on some level I was watching (and interacting with) a televangelist. Enjoy!

I was a walking zombie.
I was dead in the moment–
Always suffering the past,
Fearing the future,
Rejecting the present.
I wanted supernatural faith
Without seeing the Christ moments in spreadsheets and dish pans.

I can’t change the past.
I lived dead to life.
I didn’t love the process
So I couldn’t see progress.

But I am free.
This moment is mine.
Christ lives in me.
There is no excuse.

This is the moment God placed me here.
His will is to love from the pain.
He gives super joy in the boring natural.
Jesus resurrected my faith, hope, and love.
The past is my foundation for victory in the present.
Christ owns my future, and it’s not yet mine to see.
I will never be pain-free or perfect in this life,
But it won’t kill me,
For Christ’s abundant life is more than enough.
I belong to Him, and He manages progress, not me.

Gifts — Protestant versus Catholic

If you ask a Christian about what the gifts are, you get a different answer depending on the denominational pew.

Protestants faithfully point to 1 Corinthians 12:7-11 and list word (message) of wisdom, word (message) of knowledge, faith, healing, miracles, prophecy, distinguishing (discerning) spirits, speaking in tongues, and tongues interpretation. Later, in 1 Corinthians 12:27-30, they add apostleship, teaching, and helps and again list prophecy, healing, miracles, tongues, and tongues interpretation.

Catholics on the other hand start to talk about gifts instilled in them at Baptism and further sealed at Confirmation:

  • Wisdom
  • Understanding
  • Counsel (Right Judgment)
  • Knowledge
  • Fortitude (Courage)
  • Piety (Reverence)
  • Fear of the Lord (awe and wonder in His presence)

Because of the Socratic method and something called the old Baltimore Catechism, most could answer the question but not give a Scripture reference.

I would like to suggest (thanks to a lesson by an associate pastor on something completely different) is that these gifts are Biblical and do exist… in Isaiah 11:1-5. I would suggest that you review this passage in several versions of the Bible; for my purposes, I’ve used NIV, KJV, CJB, and ICB. For argument’s sake, I’ve avoided Catholic versions like Douay-Rheims.

Wisdom: This is referenced in Isaiah 11:2a, “The Spirit gives him wisdom….” (ICB)

Understanding: Again, this is in Isaiah 11:2a, “The Spirit gives him..understanding….” (ICB)

Counsel (Right Judgment): Two different parts of this passage reference counsel or right judgment. The first is Isaiah 11:2b, “The Spirit of Adonai will rest on him, the Spirit of… counsel… .” (CJB) Also, if you accept right judgment as a form of counsel, Isaiah 11:3b-4a states: “He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth.” (NIV)

Knowledge:  Isaiah 11:2c in all versions references spirit of knowledge.

Fortitude (Courage): Fortitude and courage are not directly referenced. However, the word might at the end of Isaiah 11:3c in NIV and KJV could refer to a strength derived from fortitude or courage. The CJB and ICB both use power, which again could refer to a quality derived due to fortitude or courage.

Piety (Reverence): Again, this is not directly referenced. Three versions of Isaiah 11:3 however talk about qualities that could be argued to derive from piety or reverence. In the NIV, the phrase is “delighting in the fear of the Lord.” CJB talks about being “inspired by fearing Adonai.” ICB talks about having gladness from obeying the Lord.

Fear of the Lord (awe and wonder in His Presence): This is mentioned in Isaiah 11:2c in all versions except ICB.

Five out of seven directly referenced isn’t bad. That’s 70%, and it’s a higher accuracy than most meteorologists… or so I’m told. 🙂

Why Write?

I write my heart,
And I wonder if humans care.
Does anyone really read it?
Does my voice matter?
But maybe my focus is wrong.

Maybe I should write my heart–
To steady the moon as she rules the tides,
To fan the sun’s flames as he brings light and life,
To whisper encouragement to the wind as she cools and cleans,
To sing to the stars as they gently light the night.

Maybe my focus is still wrong.
Am I writing what Abba has allowed me to see?
Am I sharing truth to right lies and injustice?
Am I showing what I see from a different perspective?
Am I pleasing Abba and giving Him a reason to rejoice in dance?

Anger Management

A lot has been written about the importance of managing anger. Scientific studies have shown that angry people get sick easier and die younger. Blah-blah-blah-blahblah…

Because this is one of my struggles, I can quote you beautiful verses to combat anger spiritually.

  • Ephesians 4:6 — Be angry without sinning. Don’t go to bed angry. (Names of God)
  • Colossians 3:8 —  But now you must also rid yourselves of all such things as these: anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language from your lips. (New International Version)
  • James 1:19-21 — My dear brothers, always be willing to listen and slow to speak. Do not become angry easily. Anger will not help you live a good life as God wants. (International Children’s Bible)

But here’s the problem that never gets completely addressed: When does anger the emotion cross the line into anger the sin? What actions can I take to analyze and determine a proper expression of anger?

Jesus himself got very angry at times.

Example 1: The Woe “Monologue” (Matthew 23:1-36)

There was no love lost between Jesus and the religious leaders of His day (scribes, Pharisees, Sadducees). Although He loved them, He hated the way they acted. They chose to not live to the standards they held others to. So for 30+ verses, Jesus gives them the lecture of their lives. Although He said that you couldn’t call your brother a fool without risking hell, He called these leaders hypocrites, blind guides, blind fools, snakes, and broods of vipers.

Example 2: The fig tree (Mark 11:12-14, 20-21)

Jesus and His disciples were headed to Jerusalem. They walked by a fig tree that had no fruit because it wasn’t the right time of year. Jesus cursed the tree and told it to never give fruit again. When He and His disciples returned the next day, it had withered. Jesus in later verses uses it as an example of what the faith filled spoken word can do.

But I need to take a step back. I need to reverently ask a tough question. If the tree was seemingly fertile but it was the wrong time of year, why blame the tree and take away its ability to bear fruit? It seems almost too human to me to blame the tree for not having what’s needed at the wrong time of year.

Now you can search the expository writings. It is argued the tree stood in the place of hypocrites, those who teach good things but never do them.

Would this mean a real person who angers us should be ignored but we can go tear apart a pillow or destroy a room? Yes, that’s a little facetious…

The point is: Jesus got angry about actions but then expressed them in a different context, away from those who had angered Him.

Example 3: Cleansing the Temple (John 2:13-17)

Close to the Passover, Jesus and His disciples went to the Temple in Jerusalem. At some point in history, the Jewish leaders decided to collect a temple tax, buy and sell the sacrificial animals, and in general turn the holiest place in the Jewish world into a flea market. Jesus becomes highly incensed (and not with frankincense and myrrh), makes a whip for himself, and creates havoc to end the sacrilege.

Here, Jesus is directly confronting the marketplace invading the sacred space. The anger is over wrong motive and place. But he makes this shock and awe statement with a whip and two-year-old tantrum (no sacrilege intended). He physically expresses the anger in the place where the actions inciting His anger occurred.

Yes, I still have the same questions as when I began this mini-study. Yes, I’m still confused. But if you’re just as confused as I am, have no fear. Jesus is still a True and Just God. He still loves us even when we don’t understand, even when we succumb to the same sin for the “7 x 70th” time. He sees us with love, and when we accept His sacrifice, His Father sees us through the prism of Christ’s righteousness.

Irritated Flesh

…a thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. Concerning this thing I pleaded with the Lord three times that it might depart from me. And He said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  — Saul of Tarsus, Second letter to Christians in Corinth

There are thorns in my life–
Tangled complexities of sin and pain–
That tie me down, trip me up, and bind my hands.

I’ve wrestled and tangled.
I’ve chopped and torn and shredded.
Yet I’m crumpled in a tangled mess just the same.

I’ve begged the Master
To vaporize the thorns and burrs
And set me on my feet.

He just smiled and sighed,
And with a slight tear in His eyes, replied,
No, little one, I will not.

“Become as a child.
See the wonder in the knots
So you can be in my kingdom.

“Become as a silent stone.
See that the thorns silence you
So you always hear My voice.

“Become as a chick.
Be soft and gentle to others
So that they feel the warmth of My wings.

“Become still in My presence.
Let the vines bind you
So you only move if I lead.”

Let Your grace be sufficient in this moment.
Let Your strength support me in my weakness.
Be God because I am not.

A Weird Turn of Thought

Again, it’s one of those days where two seemingly disparate thoughts become intertwined in my mind. They give rise to a third idea for exploration.

Thought 1

Hospice is a powerful tool. It helps the terminal die with dignity, not by suicide or assisted suicide or homicide, but by letting the diseased body shut down naturally with some palliative support for pain. It helps those who love the terminal come to peace with the impending separation and move through the stages of grief in a healthy way.

Thought 2

Some Christians are at times unkind to those they perceive as sinners, even to those they perceive as completely spiritually dead. While rightfully so they want to guard their hearts and minds, they forget that absenting from the spiritually terminal truly ends all hope.

Synthesis

What if Christians, even only a handful, started to look at those who were really deep in sin as not yet dead, but in need of spiritual hospice? In this case, to preserve the will to live  and keep a connection with believers until it truly is too late. Is that sacrilegious?

If some Christians would commit to simply loving the sinner or those that are perceived as spiritually dead, would it make a difference?

By love, I don’t meaning telling the person that sin isn’t sin or that wrong is right. What I mean is to hang out with them and do something they enjoy that doesn’t violate the conscience of the Christian. Keep in touch, even when other Christians disappear.

Temporarily, stop measuring their worth by the actions that look Christian-like, and begin to see them as the unique creatures they really are. Find that one attribute that is radical and wild and different and praise God for the uniqueness in creation of that individual.

No, in my past I haven’t live up to this. And yes, periodically, the enemy does a most excellent job of rubbing my face in my failures.

But what if just a handful of us committed to loving just one person that was considered unworthy of love by everyone else, selected by God’s decision not the will of other frustrated Christians?

If there is hope as long as there is life and breath, could we live the kind of life that reflected Jesus so another would choose Jesus?

Our God is the God of the miraculous and the impossible. With Him all things are possible.

So, just for tonight, I will hope that the answer is, “Yes.”