Sunday, May 30, 2010

Qui vive?

qui vive  \kee-VEEV\ noun. Meaning: alert, lookout
The phrase comes from French sentinels who would ask those approaching a castle, "Long live who?" If you answered, "Long live the King" they'd let you in. If not, they're try to shoot you through the heart. Sometimes we're like that, killing off those unlike ourselves to protect our cherished fiefdoms.

The British Society of Psychology featured an interesting study on creativity and the human mind. Apparently "both highly creative and schizophrenic individuals habitually sample a wider range of available environmental input than do less creative individuals. In the case of the schizophrenic this involuntary widening of attention tends to have a deleterious effect on performance, while, in contrast, the highly creative individual is more able to successfully process the greater input without this incurring a performance deficit."

What looks like pure craziness to a bean counter may be the flourish of a mind that is continually open, processing potential and possibilities beyond the safety of norms. Creatives let ideas drift and swirl to create art and build new structure beyond (and within) the mundane and routine. Rather than blowing up or destroying existing formations, creatives constantly flex through organizations to reconfigure, broaden, and enhance their surroundings.

I've been in meetings where anything that did not rigidly adhere to the planner's agenda was considered negative. I've also attended meetings where we went in every direction but forward. Neither is particularly productive, especially when making decisions and plotting the future. Saying, "That's not your department so stay out of it," is as useless as "Oh, why don't we save money by asking our art classes to weave new basketball nets?"

(See.. I bet few readers have thought of that. HA HA Just a random thought which wouldn't be presented in a meeting, even if it flashed through with a hundred other cost-cutting ideas.)

Creatives view all parts of a picture through a relentlessly shifting lens. Their eyes dart from corner to center to surface. "Qui vive?" they are always asking. Creative children and their parents don't need "how-to" books to make forts from blankets and toys from Tupperware. They spend long hours thinking about the shape of clouds, the possibility of empires, and the marvels of a tree's xylem and phloem transport systems. That measuring tape? It might actually be a piece of art, a lamp (left), or a ribbon. That piece of paper? A lampshade, airplane, funnel, or dustpan. We all know what it's called, but who knows what it really is... or can be? Usability and idea flow often depends on who needs what.

Unleash a creative and we may feel like we are in the room with a schizophrenic. But, reign in our equally freakish control tendencies to let God do his work through them... and they may hand us a pearl, where we only saw an oyster.

Read more:
*Listen to advice and accept instruction, that you may gain wisdom in the future. Prov 19:20 NEV

*Two people are better off than one, for they can help each other succeed. Ecclesiastes 4:9 NLT

*We serve God whether people honor us or despise us, whether they slander us or praise us. We are honest, but they call us impostors. 2 Corinthians 6:8 NLT

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Last Christian - a good read

I get books from various publishers, but prefer to comment on the ones I enjoy. This week, I'm highlighting one by David Gregory: The Last Christian (Waterbrook, 2010). The book had a bit of a convoluted start and I had to focus on the names to keep people straight. But by the time I was into it, I was hooked. I enjoyed the author's blend of post-modern culture, sci-fi, and fiction. The characters were mostly believable, the action interesting, and the plot twists unexpected - in all, a good read.

I'd recommend it for a summer pick-up, especially for those interested in the implications of technology, science, and medicine on humans. If you've studied ethics and philosophy, you'll definitely enjoy it.

Oh yeah, and did I mention romance? Pick up a copy and enjoy!
The Last Christian: A Novel by David Gregory (Paperback - May 4, 2010)
Buy new$14.99 $10.19

4.2 out of 5 stars   (58)
Excerpt - Front Matter: "... LAST CHRISTIAN ..."Surprise me! See a random page in this book.

Friday, May 28, 2010


Juxtapose \ JUK-stuh-pohz \ verb, meaning "To place side by side."
 Example: "His expansive narrative poems juxtapose themes of melancholy and loss with a sense of elation and pure joy." (D. Savage, Sunday News [Lancaster, Penn], Apr 4, 2010)

Today is son Timothy's 26th birthday. Our oldest, Jeremy, turned 30 last week. "Seems like only yesterday," the old ladies used to say about events that had happened decades ago. I used to shrug and think, "What? That is really old news. Time has come and gone. Get with the program." Ah, the wisdom of youth.

When a child comes into a family, whether by birth or marriage, they come alongside everyone in that family. A troubled person will bring their brokenness into relationships and color every interaction. A mentally unstable person came into our family, bringing secrets, deception, and twisted reality. Truth became lies and fiction seemed real, sometimes even to the most grounded among us.

We have taught our children to vet their dates and potential spouses among their siblings. "Not only might someone from your generation pull the wool over our eyes, but your brothers/sister will have to live with your choice. Please consult them before you commit, and take their observations seriously. They want you to be happy and serving Christ." Oh yes - the troop heartily approved lovely Melissa and Rebekah, who married Timo and Jer. They gained new siblings and friends, and we embraced new daughters of the heart.

Thanks be to God for his juxtaposition of people within families and his Body, the Church. Sometimes all is peace in a tribe or congregation. Sometimes schlagen wir uns die Hoerner ab ("we mutually knock off our antlers," as the Germans say). Throughout life, we must consider how often others extend love and forgiveness to us when we need grace...and we need that kindness as much as they do. Forgiving and giving is an ongoing interchange within healthy interdependence.

"I've never been part of a perfect church," said one deacon. "At least not once I've joined it." Thanks be to God for moving us around his Body for his purposes.

Read more:
Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Let the redeemed of the LORD say so, whom He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy, and gathered out of the lands, from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south. Psalm 107:1-3 NKJV

*Surely God is my salvation; I will trust and not be afraid. The LORD, the LORD, is my strength and my song; he has become my salvation."
With joy you will draw water from the wells of salvation. In that day you will say: "Give thanks to the LORD, call on his name; make known among the nations what he has done, and proclaim that his name is exalted. Sing to the LORD, for he has done glorious things; let this be known to all the world. Shout aloud and sing for joy, people of Zion, for great is the Holy One of Israel among you." Isaiah 12:2-6   NIV

*[Jesus:] "Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives; he who seeks finds; and to him who knocks, the door will be opened."  Matthew 7:7-8 NIV  

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Riding easy

Like their Creator, humans are endlessly inventive, especially when it comes to efficiency and a new way to get the job done. Mind you, my girlfriends joke that we'd still be enjoying a leisurely chat by the stream, pounding out clothing on the rocks. The washing machine probably was invented by guys who wanted better results for less effort, whether for themselves or their wives. We have a Roomba, which may have been invented by a perfectionist bachelor who loved cleanliness and hated vacuuming. It's been upgraded to cruise from carpet to floor, never fall off the patio or over stairs, and negotiate under furniture without bumping off the finish. It starts and stops on a daily timer, so when I walk by the charging base, the bin is full of dust and lint from who knows where. A quick shake over the garbage can, and Roomba's ready to rumble again.

Another of the better inventions is the Dutch cargo bike. It starts and stops easily, and has great gearing for sloping roads. The stability of its stand means it loads and unloads without tipping. It can haul children as well as groceries and necessities like tools and supplies. Our local Dutch Bike Company sells them - and the owner has hauled his kids, big wooden sandwich-board signs, and who knows what else in his. What a superb "second car" option - or stylish "best commute" for those who need transport apart from local transit. Certainly it's cheaper to purchase and maintain than another car - and nixes those gym fees in the process.

It is high on my list of options and useful things. However, W set up fabulous electric assists for our folding mountain bikes and we love those for commuting up our hills. There's no room in our garage for another kind of bike! It's sad, but let's show some restraint please, my dear. ZZZZZZZoom - I hear the Roomba's start its circuit.

Read more:
*In the beginning, God made the heavens and the earth. Genesis 1:1

*Those who love money will never have enough. How meaningless to think that wealth brings true happiness! . . . Even so, I have noticed one thing, at least, that is good. It is good for people to eat, drink, and enjoy their work under the sun during the short life God has given them, and to accept their lot in life. And it is a good thing to receive wealth from God and the good health to enjoy it. To enjoy your work and accept your lot in life—this is indeed a gift from God. God keeps such people so busy enjoying life that they take no time to brood over the past. Ecclesiastes 5:10, 18–20 NEV

*Ah, Lord GOD!  Behold, You have made the heavens and the earth by Your great power and outstretched arm. There is nothing too hard for You. Jeremiah 32:17 NKJV

Monday, May 24, 2010

Up in smoke

One minute you're a millionaire, the next your fortune is up in smoke. Scripture says riches are fleeting, and I'm more than ever inclined to believe it after watching the big shopping center in Bangkok go up in flames.

I pity the families who scrimped and saved over a lifetime to afford shops with high-end goods and exorbitant rent in the mall. Their fellow citizens wiped them out without a thought, to express their anger and protest to the government.

What about those who actually will bear the brunt of the vandalism? Will it be the government? No, though probably a few tax dollars will be lost. Some of the wealthiest merchants may be able to write off the losses. But many shop owners and mall workers will 'go under' financially because of the wanton destruction.

Someone living in Thailand had mentioned to us the savagery that lies under the smiling face of Thai Buddhism. "They are nice to tourists because they depend on the trade. But they cut each other to shreds, value only those who are in their inner circles, and are utterly untrustworthy and untrusted. Behind their smooth masks lie hatred and violence and destruction."

I was really sad to hear that. I'm not surprised though, because in all the world religions, only Jesus promises a heart transplant. He transforms us from wicked and self-serving to being secure and forgiven in God's love so we can love others without reservation. Life "transformations" in other world religions stress rituals and religion, the external and behavioral. They leave the heart untouched.

Light a spark, and family relationships, long term friendships, business deals, political enmity, and even a shopping center, can ignite into flames. Such devastation is actually normal for those not following Christ, even for those who profess his name without surrendering their whole being to his control.

Read more:
*Teach me your way, O LORD, and I will walk in your truth; give me an undivided heart, that I may fear your name. I will praise you, O Lord my God, with all my heart; I will glorify your name forever. For great is your love toward me; you have delivered me from the depths of the grave. Psalm 86:11-13 NIV

*"Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land; but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 1:18-20 NIV

*I thank my God every time I remember you. In all my prayers for all of you, I always pray with joy because of your partnership in the gospel from the first day until now, being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus. Philippians 1:3-6 NIV

Saturday, May 22, 2010

Easy Street!

Our 33rd Anniversary is in September. But I already have my present from my husband. At least fifteen years ago, we spotted "Easy Street," by Mary Regat in an art gallery. We were just walking through, browsing, enjoying the creativity of various artists. Then we saw the bronze mouse, about 4" tip to tail, cast in a limited edition of 250.

We never forgot it. The funny cheerfulness and sense of ease stuck with us, and brought back memories of a nice time together. We've talked about it over the years, and I wished a few times that we had been able to purchase it. It disappeared into various collections, and unbeknown to me, W had made inquiries over the past few years about finding one.

This week, a package arrived from Alaska. W was grinning as he asked, "Do you want your anniversary present now or later?" Now of course! The longer to enjoy it. When I opened it, I was staggered to see the mouse nestled inside paper shavings. Not one of the edition, but one of two artist proofs! One of the gallery owners had contacted Regat on W's behalf, and she sent it to us. Thanks, darling! And thank you, Mary.

It is delightful to be surrounded by art we love. Some of my favorites:
I used to wonder if God revels more in the beauty of the universe or in the astonishing loveliness of a person living in full humanity and creative expression. This we can only do when utterly surrendered to pleasing him. I suspect he sings over us with great joy, more happy over his children than a perfectly calibrated solar system and the bursting colors of a rainbow.

Read more:*O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! You have set your glory above the heavens. From the lips of children and infants you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger.
When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings and crowned him with glory and honor. You made him ruler over the works of your hands; you put everything under his feet: all flocks and herds, and the beasts of the field, the birds of the air, and the fish of the sea, all that swim the paths of the seas. O LORD, our Lord, how majestic is your name in all the earth! Psalm 8 NIV

*Yet God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God's work from beginning to end. Ecclesiastes 3:11 NLT

*But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 NLT

Thursday, May 20, 2010

The high hills

It seems like God isn't listening. So many of us have sickness, relationship problems, and bad habits we can't seem to shake. What happened to the promises of God, that he would heal, help, and deliver?

Maybe the fault lies not with God but with us and our culture. Documented miracles are all over the pages of Pentecostal history around the world. In the middle of revival are believers with high expectation of God's intervention, fervent prayers, and disciples gathered together, pleading with God, "Anything! We will do anything for Your presence. We put ourselves under your dominion. We are willing to leave our homes, our friends, even our mother and father, for You and your glory."

In 2 Kings 14, Amaziah becomes king of Judah. He rules a small kingdom, but he's successful in significant battles and gains a firm following. He follows God's ways, mostly. But he leaves the high places of idol worship untouched. And he becomes secure and arrogant in his ability to conquer. He begins to refuse the advice of God's prophets who guided him in previous obedience and victory. And he brings back the gods of the people he conquered.

God sends a prophet who says, "What were you thinking?"

Amaziah sasses him back before he finishes God's warning, and says, "Have we appointed you an advisor to the king? Stop talking, or I'll have you struck down!"

Without God's counsel, leaning on human advisors, Amaziah challenges his neighbor to war, King Jehoash of Israel, who has 10 tribes, versus 2 in Judah. King Johoash says, "Stay home! You fighting me would be like a thistle saying to a Lebanese cedar, 'Let's have our kids marry.' I'll squash you if you ask for trouble!"

Amaziah pays no attention but keeps agitating, and Jehoash carries out his threat. He attacks the Judeans in a complete rout. Johoash kills many, takes hostages back to Samaria, breaches the Jerusalem wall for 600 feet to expose the city to other intruders, and robs the gold and silver from Solomon's temple. All because of the pride of a successful, almost-surrendered leader.

I wonder sometimes how much of our failure to live graciously within our borders, experiencing the fullness of God's blessings, lies with us and our leaders. Are we fully surrendered to God, with every high hill of idolatry and sinful habits destroyed? Have we become arrogant in our victories so that we step beyond God's call on our lives to attack where godly wisdom would advise us to stay back? We see believers - even pastors and other spiritual leaders - fall to the right and the left because of unwillingness to submit everything to God and their shouts of challenge to the world. "C'mon! We'll take you on! God is with us! We can win over your politics/ morals/ enmity to the Church (etc.)"

I'm examining my heart today to see which hills are still standing in my heart. And I'm waiting and asking God for help to plow them into fertile fields, for his glory alone.

Read more:
*2 Kings 14, 2 Chronicles 25

*As dead flies cause even a bottle of perfume to stink, so a little foolishness spoils great wisdom and honor. Ecclesiastes 10:1 NLT

*Come now, let us reason together," says the LORD. "Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool. If you are willing and obedient, you will eat the best from the land, but if you resist and rebel, you will be devoured by the sword." For the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Isaiah 1:18-20 NIV 

*This is the confidence we have in approaching God: that if we ask anything according to his will, he hears us. And if we know that he hears uswhatever we askwe know that we have what we asked of him. 1 John 5:14-15 NIV

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Not good enough

"That's not good enough," says the voice in my head.

I'm not sure my folks said that very often. They were strict rather than demanding. But our church was legalistic and explicit about God's expectations.
  • No makeup. NONE. Clear nail polish was invented for repairing pantyhose.
  • Attend every service. And every choir, band, orchestra rehearsal. If the unsaved want to get saved, they will find their way into church and appreciate our music.
  • No movies. Videos are okay, because you're not meeting where sinners go.
  • Brooches and fancy hats for women okay, but never earrings or necklaces.
  • Boys and girls sit separately in church until the day of their engagement (might as well have skipped the announcement).
  • God is pleased when we DO good. The more we do, the more pleased he is.
  • God is most pleased if we keep all the commandments and obey all the rules that keep us from distressing others, even if they immigrated from other contexts.
  • Dress is important. Looks matter a lot to God, as well as to other people - and we wouldn't want to offend other people, would we?
  • Those who read the Bible in family devotions and privately every day without fail reap more blessings than God gives to the devoted but haphazard.
  • ETC.
Even successes were analyzed for improvements. "A good meal is easy. Bringing it to the table from a kitchen that looks like no one cooked is harder." (No, ordering take-out is not an option.) Or, "That was not too bad. If we just do it this way next time, it will be more efficient" (or faster, or bigger, or better...)

Some people with an inflexible, inner legalism-monitor expect others to hear it, too. I don't mind when people evaluate man-made rules and break outdated ones that don't make sense. (i.e. "No problem to ride a donkey down the street in Pennsylvania, even if there's a law from the 1800s against it.") We certainly reap consequences for breaking God's standards, because his laws protect us from offending him and rebelling against his character. We rightly suffer when we break societal laws that protect others and ourselves from harm (speeding in school zones, taking other people's stuff, etc.)

I'm mostly happy with others' messes - at least they're not mine. Though I notice and appreciate those who dress up, I don't much mind sloppy dressers (clean, please!) I especially enjoy days when I hang around without makeup, in jeans and an old sweatshirt, or (gasp) pajamas.

On this perhaps imperfect day, rain pouring past the windows, I'm up and dressed by 7.30. I decide to make the dog take his own walk on a long leash in the front yard. We skip our long stroll to settle down together as I study. If it stops raining around 11, we might get outside and do what we should. Maybe not.

Those raised with legalism become experts at rationalization for imperfections, just to stay sane.

Read more:
*May the LORD make you increase, both you and your children. May you be blessed by the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.
The highest heavens belong to the LORD, but the earth he has given to man. It is not the dead who praise the LORD, those who go down to silence; it is we who extol the LORD, both now and forevermore. Praise the LORD. Psalm115:14-18 NIV

*But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. 
God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunishedhe did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. Romans 3:21-26 NIV

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Fulcrum

I looked around church this morning. A lot of older people at Calvary Christian have laid down their lives and resources in service to Christ and his Church over the past decades. It was heartening to see their children and grandchildren in the pews, too. "The Church of today" has always included all ages who have followed God with all their hearts.

I heard a few stories of life as a believer, and in each there were high and low points. Places where we thought lying down to die was a better option than continuing in our pain. Points of grace where we found courage and strength to continue. And we've all had mountain peak experiences where the view of God's greatness and beauty was so overwhelming that our hearts and minds couldn't fathom his care and love for us.

It's hard to remember the bad times when life is so amazing. It's difficult to balance life when we're in the middle of crisis, too. Sunshine and rain. Peace and war. Courage and cowardice. Health and disease. Life is full - and underneath are the everlasting arms, that divine Fulcrum that keeps us from tipping one way or another.

Read more:
*So refuse to worry, and keep your body healthy. But remember that youth, with a whole life before you, is meaningless. Ecclesiastes 11:10 NLT

*The reward for humility and fear of the LORD is riches and honor and life. Proverbs 22:4 NLT

*Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul. 1 Peter 2:11 NEV

*And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Colossians 3:5 NEV

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fruitful living

Word of the day: fructuous\FRUK-chuh-wus\ adjective = fruitful

Example Sentence: "The parents in our 1924 drama, like most parents past and forevermore, are praying mainly for a sound baby, with all the stuff for a long, fructuous life." (Ed Hayes, Orlando Sentinel, May 11, 2008)
Jesus talked about the naturalness of spiritual fruit. He said our connection to the vine of spiritual nourishment, God himself, brings about abundance that would feed and nurture others. Paul wrote to the churches that the Holy Spirit's fruit would be qualities we all long for: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, etc. (Galatians 5:22-23)

I'm wondering why so many of us (myself included) struggle with these characteristics. Why is it unnatural and difficult for us to realize wholesome traits, when living as a believer is supposed to result in maturity and character development? I've never seen an apple tree groaning, "Oh, if I could only figure out how to develop apples!" or a pear tree grunting, "Ah, it's so hard to make a pear." Somehow, the process of sunshine, water, air, soil, and pollination comes together: in due season fruit appears and is plucked and enjoyed.

I want God to work in me day by day, season after season, so that Jesus' words come true for the benefit of others. Let's ask for the grace and willingness to surrender to the process of fruitfulness, not for our own sakes, but for those who are starving for spiritual food.

"Oh God, let the fruit of the Spirit grow and bless those who need spiritual food and sustenance. Help us to be willing participants as you develop spiritual fruit in us, whether by sunshine or rain, by continuing in your presence. Amen."

Read more:
*Finishing is better than starting. Patience is better than pride. Ecclesiastes 7:8 NLT

*We faithfully preach the truth. God's power is working in us. We use the weapons of righteousness in the right hand for attack and the left hand for defense. . . . Our hearts ache, but we always have joy. We are poor, but we give spiritual riches to others. We own nothing, and yet we have everything." 2 Corinthians 6:7, 10 NEV

*And now, dear lady, I am not writing you a new command but one we have had from the beginning. I ask that we love one another. And this is love: that we walk in obedience to his commands. As you have heard from the beginning, his command is that you walk in love. 2 John 5-6 NIV

Monday, May 10, 2010

Next blog please

On the rare occasions that I have time to flip through blogs, I'll click "Next blog" at the top of the screen. People post all kinds of personal pictures of children, workmates, parties, homes...

Some of my favorite blogs are by grad students and scrapbooking moms. The one interests me as I'm also in the process of studying. The other group is full of ideas, saving memories of families and friends, with some very creative photography and layout. We used to sew to have something permanent at the end of the day. Moving along in technology by one generation, these young moms blog... and the results are spectacular. Colorful, beautiful, generous.

I love to browse through the lives God knows intimately. And to think he cares about each one of us. Amazing.

The life of the party

Merriam-Webster’s Word of the Day yeasty\YEE-stee\ adjective

Meaning: 1. of, relating to, or resembling yeast; 2. a) immature, unsettled; *b) marked by change;  c) full of vitality; d) frivolous

Example Sentence: "In that yeasty time in the mid-sixties when I went to work as a reporter in Paris, the world was about to pop." (Raymond Sokolov, Why We Eat What We Eat)

Some people bring life to every party. They are fun to be around, full of vitality and fun. People naturally gravitate to them. They don't have to announce themselves when they come into a room, but gradually everyone comes around for a chat and some encouragement. Their good humor and kindness make people feel safe and welcome, so they naturally draw the best out of others.

Some may hope to be the life of the party, but are just unsettling. They function without the good manners or social skills that make others feel included or affirmed. They may have power or authority within the group, and so bluster and make inappropriate remarks, with a "ha ha," of course. (The same comment would never fetch so much as a grin, but more likely a reprimand, if directed to them.) Those who retort in kind to brush off the inappropriateness are viewed as insubordinate or disrespectful. On the other hand, the weak or political climbers who are the butt of a "superior's" jokes may laugh, but they also scramble to get out of the line of fire as soon as possible. Jesus warned against such worldly domination, the forcing of one's "superiority" on others, under the guise of leadership.

The yeast of our casual conversations permeate the secrets others harbor about us. Though I might not say it aloud, I like to be around those who affirm choices that take people a different direction from their own calling. I admire those who respectfully acknowledge that God has a unique place for each of us - whether or not our salary and perks match the ambitions of others. I respect people who treat those less "important" in a job chart as equally human and worthy of attention. I seek out those secure enough in their position to boost others beyond themselves.

Not every woman can be Cinderella, the belle of the ball. Not every man is the prince who rules the country wisely. Someone has to polish the slipper and wash the scullery. Someone else mucks the stables and clips the hedges. Ambitious nobles who serve their own interests and demean those "less important" than themselves may succeed for a season. But eventually they find themselves barred from the trusted circle of court counselors, to the cheers of the "little people" they overlooked.

Jesus, who was the life of the party wherever he went, drew others to himself with humility, inclusion, and a love for the weak and helpless. He served from the bottom up, and said his true followers would do the same. One of our beloved pastors modeled such service: he cared for the poor and those who were bound by sin and suffering. He is one of the great ones in my line-up of spiritual heroes because of the way he modeled Christ's greatness to the congregation. 

Read more:
*The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; A good understanding have all those who do His commandments. His praise endures forever. Psalm 111:10 NKJV

*If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land. 2 Chronicles 7:14 NIV 

*You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. 1 John 4:4 NIV

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A woman's way

Reading through early Pentecostal history, I was struck by the pattern of how women were ousted from leadership roles, rather than praised for effective ministry. The women kept working as best they could while men fought for and hung onto titles of power and kept authority squarely between them and male colleagues.

Historians say that one way women gave away their power was by allowing the assimilation of women's organizations with male-run ministries. Women believed the male leadership's promises of ongoing partnership. However, leadership styles were very different between men and women: "The women's methods of leadership evolved in direct contrast to the authoritarian style demanded by the nature of [male] episcopal polity: hierarchical, individualistic, and dominating. In comparison, women's leadership tends to be consensus oriented, collective, and more inclusive, involving larger numbers of people in decision making." (History of Women in the Pentecostal Movement, Dr. Cheryl J. Sanders, 1996) By being inclusive, collective, and consensus oriented, women were viewed as weak and incapable of authority within religious institutions led by men.

One church leader around 1914, with a wife who was a better preacher, leader, and evangelist than he, apparently with a bee in his bonnet, remarked that women were emotional and not rational so they should be barred from ministry leadership. That was his entire "logical" and authoritative argument against having women ordained and on the board of that denomination. No proof. No examples of emotionalism. Just one noisy man's view of women as "emotional" and "incapable." (In case you're wondering, his wife was not at the meeting.)

Mr. S's irrational, emotional generalization, spoken in commanding tones that brooked no argument, shaped denominational policy that restricted women from fully realizing God's call for decades. Upon the foundation of this one male's "logical" reasoning and the herd mentality of his fellow board members, women were barred from ordination and holding leadership roles - and not only in this man's denomination. Other early Pentecostal men took note and refused women ordination or ministry posts. Women were welcome to work their fingers off (especially if there were no men to do the messy work), but only men could be given the titles to match these women's job descriptions. Often, after women had successfully pioneered a church or region, a man would be sent to officially pastor the church.

Today, watching the glowing faces of the women graduating from NU, I'm wondering if access to ministry and responsibility will ever be as equal as the New Testament offers. Plain-speaking, hard-hitting behavior from men is called "knowing your mind" and "being a visionary leader." Such direct women are usually viewed as "bossy" or "controlling," "intimidating" or "unfeminine." I heard two accolades this year, men honoring wonderful, godly women who achieved and succeeded in leadership roles. Both men said the women were "never pushy," but knew how to make their point in a quiet and gentle way. I've rarely heard male leaders described this way in a positive light.

Watching the young women cross the stage with their degrees today, I wondered if their friends, young males who will clamber up the hierarchical ladders of ministry, will allow them an equal seat at the table. Will an old-boys' network prevail, as it historically does?

I believe in politeness and good manners. But what I read about historical Pentecostals made me kinda sad. Emotional even, as I tried to discern logic behind the boardroom's ego barricade. Women historically lost their power because they worked very hard to "be nice" and share influence without making men feel uncomfortable. At some point, one or two dominant / insecure males would sway a committee of men to exclude women. It happened every time... as soon as revival died and institutionalism began to take over.

I wish for our young women an ongoing revival, not legislation of pseudo-equality, but the Spirit of Jesus that calls and empowers each of us for ministry and service. Whether male or female.

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*Our soul waits for the LORD; He is our help and our shield. For our heart shall rejoice in Him,   because we have trusted in His holy name. Let Your mercy, O LORD, be upon us, just as we hope in You. Psalm 33:20-22 NIV

*Seek the LORD while he may be found; call on him while he is near. Let the wicked forsake his way and the evil man his thoughts. Let him turn to the LORD, and he will have mercy on him, and to our God, for he will freely pardon.

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the LORD. "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. As the rain and the snow come down from heaven, and do not return to it without watering the earth and making it bud and flourish, so that it yields seed for the sower and bread for the eater, so is my word that goes out from my mouth:  It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it. Isaiah 55:6-11 NIV

*Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1

Monday, May 3, 2010

The God of all comfort

It's the end of a Monday. We're relaxing. The thunderstorms have passed and the evening is calm and wet. The kids made pancakes and the whole house smells of oil frying.

It's been a bizarre day in the news. Oil continues to pump into the Gulf off the coast of Louisiana, prompting Schwarzenegger to pull his support for CA off-shore drilling. Islamist rebels have forced pirates out of a Somali town, vowing to institute Sharia law and restore order. A student is going to jail for hacking into Sarah Palin's email. A woman stabs four people in a Target store. And a German man paid an actress to marry him to his cat, which is dying of cancer. (German law forbids marriage to animals, so he had to pay someone to "make his dream come true.")

We are barraged with onslaughts of tragedy interspersed with trivia and stupidity. After a while, it's hard to take seriously the awfulness of humanity's hurts and brokenness when real news is buried among human silliness or entertainment.

I'm so glad God keeps sorted what really matters. He pays attention to all the concerns of our lives, whether others see them as great or small, knowing what will move us toward him. He cares for us through our ups and downs, lavishing his love on his church and his children without stinginess or meanness of spirit.

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*I lift up my eyes to the hillswhere does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot sliphe who watches over you will not slumber; indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD watches over youthe LORD is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all harmhe will watch over your life; the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. Psalm 121 NIV

*No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39 NIV