Saturday, May 31, 2008

Five years ago tonight...

Five years ago tonight I met John for the first time. Most of you know the story. I was a 44 year old junior in college, recently single. And I thought it would be fun to explore the world of Internet dating on Match.com. I kept my profile hidden so nobody could even see that I was there. And I just shopped profiles for the fun of it. It was a nice diversion while writing papers and studying for exams. Occasionally, I would see a profile that looked interesting to me and I would send an email. I could share my profile privately if I chose to. I just didn't put it out there for public viewing. If I emailed someone, I sent my profile.

I went on more than a few lunch dates. I met for coffee at Starbucks. I went to see a movie or two. I made a lot of email friends and talked to some of them on the phone. I never met anyone who was crazy or unusual. Just met a lot of nice people. I never had the feeling that any of these dates would go anywhere. I did not expect to find someone I would spend my life with on the Internet. I just thought that this would be a nice distraction and a way to make some new friends. I thought this would be a great way to deal with the lonely feelings one has to deal with after being part of a couple their whole life. I didn't know how to BE single.

This short process turned out to be a very good thing for me. It helped me shed the fear that I would be alone for the rest of my life and realize how many other people were in my same circumstances. It took very little time for me to recognize that I would definitely be in a relationship again. And being single wasn't really all that bad. I was having a good time and feeling more self-confident. I decided to enjoy the good things about being single until God brought the right person into my life and just stop worrying about the future.

Just about that time, I saw John's profile. I thought he sounded too good to be true. And I thought he was really cute. So I emailed him. This was on a Thursday. I shared my profile. Ironically, a friend had talked him into creating a profile. But he said it really wasn't like him to do something like that and once he did it, he kind of forgot about it. Unlike myself, he did not read other people's profiles or make the first contact. He just waited for someone to email him. And when they did, a lot of times he didn't even feel to respond. He would think, "Why am I doing this?" But he said there was something about my profile that was different from any of the others. He responded immediately.

We talked on the phone the next night. He said, "I guess we should meet in person at some point. What do you think?" He told me later that he expected me to say we should wait a week or two. But I said, "What are you doing tomorrow night?" And so we made plans to meet at Famous Dave's for dinner. That was Saturday, May 31, 2003.

We had fun. We talked easily. We told our stories. I'll never forget the way he listened to me. He held eye contact and paid attention to every word I said (and I talk a lot). He seemed so interested and engaged with the conversation. I never got the feeling he wanted to talk about himself. I had to ask questions to get him to tell me about himself. He had a great sense of humor and I liked that. I felt like I'd known him forever.

I headed home that night thinking I had met someone who would be a lifelong friend. I just knew we would get along and hang out. I didn't have any romantic inclinations that night. I just liked him a lot and thought he seemed like a great guy. I wasn't desperate to be involved with someone. Actually, he told me later that he could tell I was really enjoying dating and he figured that if he got attached to me, he might have to wait for me to get that out of my system (since I had been married all my adult life). Little did he know, I am not the "play the field" type. He had nothing to worry about there. What he was feeling from me was just that I wasn't feeling desperate to be attached to someone anymore. I truly believe God had to get me to that place emotionally before John and I could meet.

I had no idea what a turning point in my life that night would become. I had no idea I had just met the man I would spend my life with. I just knew he would be a dear friend forever. And I was right. The friendship came first and is still the most important part of our relationship. He wrote me the sweetest email that night after our date. I read it first thing the next morning.

We talked on the phone and emailed every day after that. And the following weekend, he took me on the most memorable second date I could possibly imagine. He invited me, Cheryl and Chris to see The Eagles in concert in Memphis. He didn't want anyone in my family to have any concerns about his intentions (since the concert was in Memphis) or my safety. The family member who was most worried about me during this time, of course, was Danny. I know he and Rebecca prayed many prayers for me during this critical time in my life. And I've told John so many times that we may very well be together because of all those prayers.

Chris and Cheryl instantly liked and approved of John. You don't have to be around him more than ten minutes to know he's a great guy. He gets along with everyone. He's kind. He's funny. He's warm and caring. He has no ego issues. Most of all, he's just so genuine and such a good man. There is no pretense about him. Danny was prepared not to like him (protective son and all). But after spending twenty minutes with him, he stopped worrying about his mom. He just knew I would be taken care of. He said he could tell by the way John looked at me.

The rest is history. We were married January 4, 2004. And I tell John all the time, "I still think you're too good to be true."

Friday, May 30, 2008

Silent Reflux (officially diagnosed)

You may remember me talking about silent reflux a while back. My regular doctor thought my symptoms indicated this and gave me some samples of Nexium and other similar products. I took them for a couple of weeks with short breaks in between. And when I did not improve, I started to wonder if reflux wasn't really the problem.

Well, today I went to see an ENT because the throat irritation has never cleared up. He scoped my throat. Diagnosis: Severe LPR, more commonly known as Silent Reflux. He said my throat is very red and inflamed. So now I will be on Prevacid for at least several months. He said I didn't get relief from the other products because I didn't take them long enough. I'm wondering if this problem has been brought on by stress. I have had a stressful year in some respects and had a mild case of shingles in November, which is also when these throat symptoms began (after a case of laryngitis over Thanksgiving).

I also have a perforated septum from a surgery about ten years ago to remove a benign growth. It really bothers me because it whistles at night. It's not bad enough that I snore like a truck driver. No, I have to whistle like a tea pot as well! Poor John. I don't know how he gets the little sleep he does with me in the room. (But he won't let me sleep elsewhere.)

I've wondered for a long time if there was anything that could be done to plug that little hole. But I've never made an appt. to get it checked out. Turns out that there is an out patient surgery that can be done to repair the perforation. It is most successful when the hole is very small, like mine. Some people have very large perforations (which susprised me) from surgeries or, gasp, cocaine! I didn't know that and told him, "Well, I have never done that! I don't even like to use nasal sprays because they're addictive!" He cracked up.

The only down side to having the surgery is that it is not always successful. And if it fails, the hole will be bigger. But the up side to that is, if it's a little bigger, it won't whistle. But I hate the idea of a bigger hole in my head than what is already there! (Okay, I'm going for humor as much as possible with all this. My stress level has been pretty high lately and I need to laugh!)

The doctor said he thinks I would have success with the repair surgery. He doesn't even do the surgery when he can't expect good results. So I plan to have that done in late July. John has some medical stuff to deal with over the next eight weeks. And I first want to focus on him. He is a bit of a privacy freak (does not like ANY attention brought to himself), so I don't talk about it in any detail on my blog (although I often wish I could). Some of you close to me know what I'm referring to, but whether you do or not, I would like to ask you to pray for John primarily, and also for me, especially at this time. I'm an emotional little creature and it seems like I have so much anxiety to deal with lately! For me, anxiety manifests itself in tears. And I'm getting tired of being on the verge of tears all the time!

I'm thankful for the reassurance of scripture that all things work together for good to those who love God... (Romans 8:28). I am looking for what He wants to teach me through every new challenge I face. I trust Him for every outcome. I pray for His will and for the grace I need to accept His will, even when it isn't mine. I may have more days of anxiety ahead of me. But I have Jesus standing beside me.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Tears and Anger

I think I have cried, at some point, every day for the last week and a half. I woke up this morning feeling like my emotions have finally leveled out. But I know there will be more tears.

I am always checking myself when it comes to anger. And sometimes I have to be reminded that there are things that should make me feel anger. In my head, I know it's okay to be angry about injustice. But there is this involuntary reflex within me that tells me I need to constantly apologize for what I feel. That in itself has contributed to a lot of inner turmoil the last week or so.

I heard yesterday that someone was asked to wear pants and big hoop earrings to the home school graduation so that the church would look more normal to the community and media. I heard that there were a lot of women in attendance wearing pants. (That would not normally be the case.) Just a few months prior to this media attention, this same person was asked not to wear pants or earrings and to try to blend in at a church event. I wasn't there, so I don't know if this representation is accurate. But if it is, it's just more manipulation and lack of integrity.

A friend in another state (who also grew up in this group) wrote this to me yesterday:

"They really believe that this is persecution. The funny thing is that all my life I was taught that someday, no matter how hard it was to stand for the truth, you would have to do it or be judged by God. There would come a time when you would have to choose the right way no matter what. Now, faced with that, they lie about what they believe and teach and how they live? Are they ashamed of what they believe? I know they will rationalize and justify it with one swoop that the outside world just would not understand...

They are sellouts. When the tough gets going they cave, instead of being steadfast in their truth and beliefs. It makes me ashamed and embarrassed that I ever bought into it (not that we had a choice since we were born into it). It has affected so much of my life and life decisions..."

I wish those who are still there could have the vantage point of those of us who have left for even one day. Everything takes on new clarity once you get out of "the village" and can look at the actions and priorities without having to protect and defend everything. But at the same time, I remember protecting and defending and wanting to be loyal.

Oh, how I wish the leadership could have responded in love and compassion to the victims and openly acknowledged the sins of the past. If only there had been no attempt to protect an image or legacy. If there had only been love and repentance and no attempt to dismiss wrong by comparing it to putting butter on a burn. If only there had been love and concern for my friend's little girl a few short years ago instead of indifference and contempt for her mommy. If anyone had bothered to dig deeper and know the truth of that situation...

But nobody cared about the truth. And it doesn't seem like anybody there cares about truth now. It appears that image is still what matters. Otherwise, people would not be saying the things they are saying in interviews. Those of us who grew up there know the truth of how we were raised. I don't know if the church will succeed in convincing the community that they have been wrongly portrayed. But I do know they cannot erase people's memories who spent their lives there.

I continue to hope that at least some will have their eyes opened as a result of all this.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day

I wanted to wish all my friends a happy holiday today. I hope everyone has a relaxing day with family and/or friends. I'm looking forward to spending the day with mine.

The last two weeks have been stressful. I've had a lot of anxiety. Some of it may be physical given my age (49). But I know the stress only intensifies that. I've gotten some much needed therapy and distraction the last couple of days by working on my patio and flower pots. We have a large patio that stretches across the back of the house with French doors in every room and many windows. The patio is a lot of work to keep clean. My mother-in-law was helping me yesterday and she said, "This patio is like another house." I agree. But on days like today, it's really worth the trouble.

All that to say, I've never planted so many flowers as since we bought this house. I have more than thirty pots of different shapes and sizes, plus a big, round flower bed filled with Vincas. If you'd ever told me that I would one day enjoy digging in the dirt, I would have laughed. But it has happened. I have procrastinated this year because I haven't been feeling very energetic and it's a big task. But as of this weekend I have all but nine small pots done. The patio and furniture are all spotlessly clean. I so enjoyed going out bright and early to water this morning. By the end of summer, I'm tired of the daily watering. But at this point in the season, it's a pleasure.

I also finished the last two chapters of "The Discipline of Grace" this weekend. These chapters are about the discipline of watching and the discipline of adversity. Many of you reading are feeling pain from a variety of sources. I have pain and stress in my life that I have not even discussed on my blog in addition to the stresses I have shared. Just prior to reading this last chapter yesterday, I was thinking about adversity in the lives of others who were heavy on my mind. The question I was struggling with was "Does God send tragedies?" Some people believe He does and others reject that notion. The author writes about that question and explains that the Bible teaches us that God, being our loving Father, disciplines us through hardship. He disciplines those He loves.

Consequently, we should realize that God's discipline, which comes to us in the form of adversity or hardship, is an indication of His loving care, not a token of His disfavor.

Bridges explains that the Bible warns us against "two opposite improper reactions to God's discipline. One is to make light of, or despise, the Lord's discipline; the other is to lose heart under it...[and] one way we do this is when we count His discipline of little value -- as something only to be endured rather than as something for our profit." He goes on to say:

We also despise God's discipline of adversity when we fail to see God's hand in the hardships we encounter. Instead of acknowledging them as from God, we tend to view adversities as chance occurrences, and again, as something to be endured and passed through as quickly as possible. We do not seek God's purpose in the discipline. Instead we focus entirely on finding a way of relief.

The Scriptures tell us, however, that adversities are not chance occurrences, that they, as well as our so-called blessings, all come from the hand of God. This truth is scattered throughout the Bible, but four Old Testament scriptures will help us see the Bible's teaching:

Consider what God has done:

Who can straighten what he has made crooked? When times are good, be happy; but when times are bad, consider: God has made the one as well as the other. Therefore, a man cannot discover anything about his future. (Ecclesiastes 7:13-14)

"I form the light and create darkness, I bring prosperity and create disaster; I, the LORD, do all these things." (Isaiah 45:7)

Who can speak and have it happen if the Lord has not decreed it? Is it not from the mouth of the Most High that both calamities and good things come? (Lamentations 3:37-38)

When disaster comes to a city, has not the LORD caused it? (Amos 3:6)

Some Christians have difficulty with this truth and even deny it, because they cannot believe that a "God of love" is responsible for either the individual or public disasters that come to us. But the clear testimony of Scripture stands against all our protestations. So we need to recognize the hand of God in all the adversities we encounter and not make light of His discipline.

...So in times of adversity, do not despise it by refusing to acknowledge God's hand in it, and do not lose heart under it by failing to see His love in it.

Bridges writes, and I agree from my own life's experiences, that "all pain has a purpose in the mind of God" even if that purpose is often -- or usually -- hidden from us.

When we are unable to make any sense of our circumstances, we need to come back to the assurance in Hebrews 12:7: "God is treating you as sons." Remember, He is the one in charge of sanctification in our lives. He knows exactly what and how much adversity will develop more Christlikeness in us and He will not bring, nor allow to come into our lives, any more than is needful for His purpose.

We are told in Hebrews 12:10 that "God disciplines us for our good, that we may share in his holiness." In Romans 8:28 we have this assurance: "And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him..."

All pain we experience is intended to move us closer to the goal of being holy as He is holy.

Knowing this does not remove the pain of suffering adversity, but it comforts my troubled heart when I anticipate events that I fear I cannot bear. I know deep in my heart that in everything God allows me to suffer, He is using it in some way for my ultimate good and His glory. Nothing that comes into my life is without purpose. As my pastor so frequently reminds our congregation: "God is faithful. We can trust Him."

Have a beautiful day today. Take a moment to remember the sacrifices so many have made and the hardships they have suffered for us to have beautiful days of freedom like today. In spite of whatever we are going through, we are some of the most blessed people on the planet.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

The Discipline of Conviction

I have been wanting to get back to my blog, but needing to let my emotions settle down. I don't want to use my blog for an agenda. I'm trying to control my impulses to protect and defend. It would be so easy to share everything I'm hearing and thinking on my own blog. But I don't want to do that. I want God to give me wisdom in how to respond to all the chaos around me. I've made enough blunders in my life. Sometimes the best response is no response. But that is not my nature or my personality.

I picked up the book I have been reading this morning and started to read about the discipline of convictions. I'd like to share a passage from this chapter:

We can not develop Bible-based convictions merely by storing up Bible knowledge in our heads. We do not even develop them by personal Bible study and Scripture memorization, though those practices certainly help us get started. As we begin to meditate on Scripture consistently we come closer. But convictions are really developed when we begin to apply the teachings of Scripture to real-life situations.

My wife and I recently went shopping for a coffee table. We had agreed on the style we wanted and very quickly found one at a price within our range. I am the type of person who is ready to buy as soon as I find what I like, but my wife is a 'shopper.' She likes to look at everything in the store. Sure enough, she soon came upon her 'dream' coffee table, a rather uncommon design that she had dreamed about for years but never thought she would own. But as you might guess -- and as is always the case -- it was more expensive.

I started talking about being good stewards of the money God has given us, but God started 'talking' to me (through the convicting work of His Spirit) about husbands loving their wives, just as Christ loved the Church (Ephesians 5:25). As I worked through that situation, I realized one of the concrete ways I was to love my wife was to be more sensitive to her dreams and desires. In that situation God was desirous that I know more about what it means for husbands to love their wives than that I be a good steward of His resources. But the point of my story is this: I knew Ephesians 5:25. I believed it, had memorized it, and meditated on it. But through the application of it in a real-life situation, I deepened my conviction about it. I have found since that incident that I am more sensitive to what it means in a practical way for me to love my wife as Christ loved the Church in a sacrificial, self-giving way.

So it is through knowledge, plus meditation, plus application of the Scriptures to concrete situations in our daily lives that we develoop Bible-based convictions. And, as we develop those convictions, we will be transformed by the Holy Spirit more and more into the likeness of Christ.

The above passage is from the book, The Discipline of Grace by Jerry Bridges.

I could truly relate to this. The other night I allowed myself to be emotionally overwhelmed by the chaos swirling around me. I'm an emotional person by nature. But I have been caught up in such an emotionally charged set of circumstances with so many layers that it's been hard to disengage my thoughts for even a few minutes. In so doing, I have emotionally disengaged from my own life (including my husband). My husband said something to me in concern and I reacted defensively -- transferring and misdirecting all of that emotion. I wasn't mean to him. We have a very loving, harmonious relationship. I was just overly sensitive to a comment he really didn't mean to be as critical as I interpreted it. And the next morning, as we talked about how we were both feeling, he pointed out to me how all of this impacts me emotionally and even changes my interaction with him.

After I stopped being defensive, I started to think about how absorbed I had let myself become in my own pain, my own emotions, my own need to be understood. I had been so focused on my own feelings that I'd forgotten some of the major things my husband is dealing with right now and how kind he always is to me no matter how he's feeling or what he's going through. And he has some pretty big things on his plate right now -- even health-wise. We ended our conversation with the promise not to let external stress become internal stress. I later wrote him an email telling him how sorry I was for letting my own emotions come first.

As my heart became convicted once again of its selfishness, I was so thankful for the Gospel. As much as I am motivated by the desire to be a devoted and unselfish wife to John, it is my desire to stand transparent before God and have all my selfish motives revealed that truly convicts my heart and motivates me to reveal what I see in myself.

Friday, May 16, 2008

PS to my post: Just read another great quote!

"Someone has observed that a belief is what you hold, but a conviction is what holds you. You may live contrary to what you believe, but you cannot live contrary to your convictions. (This doesn't mean you never act contrary to your convictions, but that you do not consistently violate them.) So the discipline we are talking about is the development of convictions, not mere beliefs. Convictions, of course, can be good or bad, so we want to make sure our convictions are Bible-based, that they are derived from our personal interaction with the Scriptures."

The Discipline of Grace, Jerry Bridges

Compulsive

I can't resist sharing this picture that came in an email to me the other day. It's timely. And I bet all of you reading could use a laugh. I don't want to exercise poor taste, but in all honesty, this is a pretty good illustration of my life the last few days (just ask my husband): I have been trying to break free of my recent message board compulsion. Not doing too well, in case you want a progress report. I am daily reminded of what a miserable failure I am when it comes to my spiritual performance.

Trying to focus my attention on something more constructive this afternoon, I went and got the book I had been reading just prior to this week's events. I realized I hadn't picked it up in several days. I began reading the chapter on The Discipline of Commitment (chapter 9 of The Discipline of Grace). I was hoping I would read something that would inspire a post. And I read these words:

"People will help you compromise your integrity if you have not already made a commitment to be absolutely honest..."

Wow. If you know anything about today's developments, you know this has an application I don't need to explain.

Maybe I'm supposed to write about this. Maybe not. I am an imperfect vessel and I don't always know when God is prompting me or when I am prompting myself. But it does seem strange that I would read these words tonight. There have been so many times when my reading just seemed to coincide with an event. And I don't believe in random coincidences anymore.

An article will appear in the Tennessean tomorrow morning about the lawsuits I've mentioned. The pastor of CGT was interviewed and it has been reported that he made certain statements that, if he truly did make them, are blatantly false. I was blown away when I heard it. I still can't wrap my mind around the reality that he said it. (I am adding this on Saturday morning: the statement was not in the article as reported. It was said to be a misquote and was taken out.)

I cannot begin to tell you how much it breaks my heart to witness what is happening. I keep hoping to see integrity in this man that I once so respected. I don't understand what's happened to him. Being very, very close to this situation, I can say with absolute certainty that if there had ever been genuine repentance and open acknowledgment of past wrongs, if there had been accountability and a concern for victims demonstrated by the leadership of CGT, there never would have been any lawsuits filed nor any media attention to these injustices. All these victims ever wanted was acknowledgment of wrong and the opportunity to forgive through sincere repentance for the crimes committed against them. God has provided so many opportunities (for repentance). But that never happened.

I keep praying for repentance to come. With every new development it seems less likely. But God is so big. And I know that He will do whatever it takes to save us and to bring us to repentance. I believe with all my heart that that's what all of this is about. God is trying to open the eyes of those He loves and bring all to repentance through the Cross of Jesus Christ. He wants to set captives free. He wants to replace false doctrine with the true Gospel. He wants to deliver us from bondage. And He wants to replace our arrogance with humility. He wants us to see ourselves as the wretches we truly are. We can't be saved until we recognize our condition.

I will never forget a professor I had my senior year at Lipscomb. He silently walked up to the chalk board and wrote two words. The first word was "humble" and the second was "exalt." He just stood there for a few minutes and let us look at the words. Most of the students were just embarking on their adult life. I was the only one who had already been taught this lesson by life. After a brief pause, he said these words: "In life, you will be faced with many opportunities to either exalt yourself or humble yourself. I just want to remind you of one thing. Whichever one you choose, God will take care of the other."

I have never forgotten his words. Like I said, I already knew the principle and had read it in the Bible. But just the way he said it made such a lasting impression on me. I would rather humble myself than for God to have to do it for me. I am going to keep on praying for God's mercy along with God's will as all of these events unfold.

What is happening right now is hard on families. Part of my family is committed to CGT. Another member of my family is suing CGT. I support my sister-in-law in the justice she is seeking. I believe God has given her the resolve and the courage to see this through. I have told her many times that I don't believe I would be brave enough to do what she's doing. I'm such a wimp. I'm so easily devastated by people's condemnation of me. I was in tears this morning because I'm so torn between my convictions and the compassion I feel for those who are still in deception. Because of the stand I have taken with regard to CGT, I feel like part of my family has probably written me off. (They may feel the same way about me.) I don't say this to put blame anywhere. I'm just pouring my heart out on my blog. It hurts. I love my family. Not one of them is disposable to me. But I am committed to suffer any personal consequences I have to in order to be true to my strong conviction about what is right and what is wrong. I pray that God will restore what feels lost. He has already done that in other areas of my life and I know He is able to do it in this. But when push comes to shove, their souls matter more to me than how much any of them like me.

I have come to believe that God has a much larger purpose than merely bringing justice for these victims. I believe this is God's love in action for those who have chosen to exalt rather than to humble themselves. I do not say that in judgment or condemnation. I am guilty. God has had to humble me many times and it's never pleasant. But I'm so thankful He loves me enough to humble me. And I have tried to embrace whatever means He has to use to bring that humility to my life. Because I want to be humbled before Him more than anything and I know I can't always do it for myself. The spirit is willing, but the flesh is SO weak. I don't want to just talk about it. I want to cultivate humility into every part of my life. I'm not where I want to be. Please don't read this as though I consider myself an authority on this. I just long for that true spiritual fruit to be evident in my life.

My prayer is that a miracle will happen through all of this. I so desire to see redemption and restoration.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Why I haven't been posting

I have been writing a lot the last week or so in other places. So I have neglected my blog. But the truth is, I can only think of one thing right now: the abuses of power in my former church and the people who have been harmed. I don't consider that a particularly uplifting subject, so I haven't wanted to post much while my mind has been so engaged with this situation.

If you saw the news last night, there were stories on channels 4 and 5 about sexual abuse and cover-ups in the church I grew up in. Since the story broke, there have been comments posted on the channel 5 website almost continuously. Here is a link to those comments if you're interested. There are two threads of comments for the same story because it was posted twice; the first time in print only and the second time with video of the story that aired on the 10:00 broadcast. This is the first thread:

News Channel Five Forum

I am so thankful for the people who have posted their experiences (in support of the victims) who have nothing to do with the lawsuits. They just care. I'm very close to several victims and my heart has been torn apart for them as they have struggled to find God's will and do the right thing for the right reasons. One of the victims is my sister-in-law, whom I love like a sister.

I have expressed my thoughts and emotions at length the past few days, on a message board and on the channel five forum. I am emotionally drained. I care so deeply and have felt such outrage for so many years. This week has brought a lot of emotion and a lot of anger to the surface for me. It's impossible to explain to a normal person what it's like to be raised in a place like this and have your concept of God and salvation so contaminated.

I think this is just the beginning of some major exposure for this group. I have no doubt you will be seeing more media coverage on TV and in the newspapers. Please pray for these victims and all the people who are lashing out at them in ignorance of the truth.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

From Today's "Daily Thought" Subscription: Truth and Error

Langham Partnership Daily Thought
A Service of Langham Partnership International & John Stott Ministries

13 May 2008
Truth and Error (cont’d.)

269. Christian discernment
Jesus warned his disciples of false prophets. So did Paul and Peter. Still today there are many voices clamouring for our attention, and many cults gaining widespread popular support. Some of them claim a special revelation or inspiration to authenticate their particular doctrine. There is need for Christian discernment. For many are too gullible, and exhibit a naive readiness to credit messages and teachings which purport to come from the spirit-world. There is such a thing, however, as a misguided tolerance of false doctrine. Unbelief (*do not believe every spirit*, 1 Jn. 4:1) can be as much a mark of spiritual maturity as belief. We should avoid both extremes, the superstition which believes everything and suspicion which believes nothing.--

From "The Letters of John" (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries: rev. edn. Leicester: IVP; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1988), p. 156.

Friday, May 9, 2008

It's time

I haven't posted much this week. I have been feeling compelled to share something; a dream. And I have a lot of inner turmoil about this dream. The dream was told to me many years ago and I have never been able to stop thinking about it. God seems to just keep bringing it to my mind over and over again. Since it was not my own dream, my struggle has been whether or not it is my place or responsibility to share it. Up to this point, I have chosen not to openly share it, although I have shared it with a few people privately. But I think the time has come for me to share it openly. I don't know if the dream was from God. But if it was, one cannot deny the interpretation or significance of current events.

I think most of you will understand my conflicting emotions. The person who had the dream was once a very close friend of mine. She is still in CGT. At the time of the dream, she didn't want anyone to know about it. And I never told anybody for a long time. At that time, I told her I wouldn't. But I keep asking myself if I have an obligation to share it. Is this a secret God wants me to keep? Maybe I will never have a clear answer to that question.

For those of you who are still there and are reading my blog, I feel that I owe it to you to tell the dream. I now believe it was a warning. And I believe God wanted me to hear and remember the dream. I don't think it was just an unfortunate coincidence that this person, once a dear friend, chose to share the dream with me. Neither of us, at that time, could have foreseen that I would ever leave the church or that the things that are happening today would ever happen. It would have seemed stranger than fiction. But God knew.

I believe this is a crucial time. If you believe that God gives spiritual dreams, it's hard to dismiss this dream. If you are conflicted and trying to make sense of the things that are transpiring, this dream may speak to your heart. My telling it will probably make a lot of people mad. But I can no longer keep it to myself.

To my former friend who confided this dream in me, if you're reading, I love you more than you will ever believe. I have always loved you and I always will love you. I don't want to betray your confidence. I don't want to hurt you. But if this dream was from God (as you and I believed it was at the time), it is significant for many people's lives. Not just ours. Not just Steve's. Perhaps you have already shared this dream openly. And in that case, maybe it won't be a big deal that I'm sharing it. If I were still there, I would want to know about this dream. And I have always wondered if God had a purpose in my knowing about it.

The person who had the dream told me this dream took place during a time of transition. She knew this because she was living in a certain house (in the dream) where she had lived during a prior transitional time in our church. She and her husband went to an apartment where many other church members had lived. I believe she said they were going there to visit someone. When they opened the door, they saw a bloody scene of death and destruction. Everywhere they looked, it appeared as though a massacre had taken place. There was nothing but blood and human flesh everywhere, as though someone had come in with a machine gun on a killing rampage.

There were only two living men in this scene. One was Steve Farmer. He was walking around putting bloody body parts in a trash bag. The other man was sitting on a couch. In the dream, he reached into the cushions and pulled out a bloody, dismembered hand. That was the end of the dream.

This person asked me if I thought she should tell Steve the dream. I told her that she absolutely had to tell him the dream because I thought, at the time, this meant that Steve was the appointed man to clean up what I then thought of as the mess left by the former pastor. How could she not tell him? I urged her to tell him and tell him right then.

She wrote the dream down and gave it to Steve. I don't remember if we ever talked about it again. This was long before I left the church. At that time, my thinking (regarding the dream) was, "Poor Steve. What a mess." But I really had no idea. The mess was so much bigger than I knew back then.

I have now been gone for over five years. Many things have come to light that I did not know at that time. I can't begin to tell you how many times I have reflected on this dream and wondered why I know about it. And then one day, I saw something in the dream I'd never thought about previously. I'd thought Steve was going to be the man to clean everything up, heal the wounds of the past, deal with the blood that was on someone else's hands. And then it dawned on me that there was no healing in the dream. There was no restoration. There was no life. Only death and destruction and a man putting bloody parts in a bag while another man watched.

I don't know if there is any significance in the man sitting on the couch. He was just sitting there. He was once a trustee, but is not now. I wouldn't exactly describe him as having a leadership position. But part of me wonders if I should let him know he was in this dream. If I had been in a dream like this, I would want to know. What if the significance was that he was just sitting there observing, doing nothing?

This dream is too striking and disturbing for me to disregard. The dream has haunted me for years. I am still conflicted about me being the one to tell it. But I can't get rid of the feeling that I am supposed to tell the dream no matter how hard I try. So maybe God wants someone to hear it who is reading. The thing is, I have no idea who reads my blog. But God does.

Sunday, May 4, 2008

What makes me angry?

Danny was asked to teach an adult Sunday School class at Covenant this morning and he invited John and me to come. Tomorrow is my birthday and we had already planned to spend the afternoon with Danny, Rebecca and the boys at our house. But when he told us he was teaching this morning and invited us to come if we didn't mind the drive, we decided to go out there instead. I'm so glad we did. We had a wonderful day. And I got to hear Danny teach an adult class for the first time. He spoke about anger and sin. If you also read his blog, you know that he has shared a few quotes this week on the subject. (http://abundantredemption.blogspot.com/)

We all know the scripture, "Be angry and sin not." He spoke about that and covered a number of aspects of anger and sin. But the part that made the strongest impression on me was where he began. He began with our hearts. He asked all of us in the class this question; "What makes you angry?" And he shared some of the things that make him angry.

Stop and think about it if you have a moment. You don't have to share your mental list with anyone else. Just think realistically about some of the things that really make you angry, things that get a response out of you. If we can be painfully honest with ourselves, the exercise will give us a glimpse into our hearts.

Danny talked about how angry he would understandably and rightfully be if someone broke into his house and were threatening to harm his family. He wouldn't be a good dad or husband if a violation of his family did not anger him. And it would be necessary for him to put his anger into action to protect those he loved.

He also talked about some of the other things that make him angry. Trivial things; like some old guy pulling out in front of him and going well below the speed limit when he's already running late or when his favorite basketball team loses. Most of our anger is sinful and selfish, reflecting our own personal expectations and desires (like the trivial examples), our pride, our ego, someone not showing respect for us or for our time like we feel they should, etc.

Are we more likely to be angry about these kinds of things than we are in response to injustices done to others? Does the injustice have to happen to us to warrant anger and a response?

Danny used a handful of examples to show how anger is the result of us protecting something we love from being threatened or violated. Therefore, we can reflect on what makes us angry (and what doesn't) and discover what we truly love most. Do we truly love others or do we just love ourselves? Our "list" will provide the real answers.

I don't think I have to give all the examples in my head right now to illustrate this point. We can all think of our own skewed priorities when we honestly reflect on what provokes our anger and what doesn't. We are all guilty. We all need God to show us our hearts.

This thought about "protecting" something brought back another heart-examining tool I was given a long time ago by a Christian counselor. I told him something someone said to me and he asked the question, "Did you feel defensive when this was said?" In this particular instance we were discussing, I said, "Actually, I didn't. The accusation was ridiculous and completely baseless. And that's how I felt about it -- like it wasn't even worth defending." I had no idea why he was asking me that question. But here's what he said. "Good. Because any time you feel defensive, you're protecting something. When there's nothing to protect, you won't feel your defenses coming up. But when you go into a defensive stance, it's because there is at least some truth to what is being said and you have to protect yourself from light being shown on that truth." Wow. What a powerful tool he gave me that day.

I have never forgotten those words. From that day until this, I have used that tool to expose (to myself) what I'm trying to protect. It can be big or small. I remember one time when John came home earlier than I expected him. We were going out of town and he'd told me he wasn't going to work a full day. But he, like most men, doesn't like to be pinned down to a specific time. His business is unpredictable and sometimes he just cannot leave when he wants to. I understand that. So I just didn't ask. I can't remember the exact details, but it seems like he had mentioned a time he wanted to be home by and I knew he had to pack before we could leave. So I was taking my time and piddling around as usual. I think I wasted some time on the computer and talking on the phone. And then he showed up much sooner than I had planned for and said that he'd meant he wanted to be on the road by that time. I got very defensive and went into this long dissertation about that not being what he'd SAID and how I would have been ready if he'd only told me but I didn't want to make him feel locked into a time so I hadn't asked, yadda yadda yadda. I mounted a vigorous defense of my justified "unreadiness" (if that's a word).

I'll never forget the look on his face or how he responded. He looked at me kind of puzzled and said, "I don't care when we leave. I didn't complain that you weren't ready. Why are you getting so defensive? It's no big deal. You sound like you think I'm going to jump all over you. Have I ever done that?" No, he truthfully never has. And I immediately thought about Floyd's words a few years prior.

I realized I was defensive because I felt guilty that I was going to be the one holding us up. I'd had all day and piddled it away. So from my own self-inflicted guilt, I had to present a case in my defense in order for ME to deal with my own guilt. And I had to laugh at myself (and repent to my husband). Fortunately, I am married to man who just does not react to things in a negative way. It's really easy to humble down and apologize when someone is always kind to you -- even in your worst moments as a human being.

That's how our relationship with God should be. We don't need to get defensive and "represent" ourselves with a well-orchestrated defense. We just need to accept His graciousness and kindness to us and ask forgiveness rather than deceiving ourselves that we are not guilty. I have found my defensiveness to be a very good guilt barometer.

Jesus took our guilt and shame upon Himself. He became sin for us. If we will only accept what He has done for us and stop trying to convince others and ourselves that we are blameless, we can have forgiveness and all our transgressions blotted out. How often do we choose, instead, to convince ourselves we don't need forgiveness. How often do we convince ourselves that we are loving others when we are really just loving ourselves?

The answers to these questions are often not pretty. They reveal a heart we want to live in denial of. But to receive God's mercy, we must first be broken. We must acknowledge our condition before we can truly understand our desperate need of a Savior. We never stop desperately needing our Savior.

At the conclusion of Danny's class, he talked about how much we want to be angry about the things that make God angry and how much we want to stop getting angry over selfish and petty things. But we're human and we're fallen and we can't always do the things we long to do. We don't measure up. And still we so often deceive ourselves.

We deserve death every day because of our sin against our Holy God. But God offers us life, mercy and forgiveness through faith in His Son. He not only bore our sin and God's wrath on the Cross, but He lived the life of perfect obedience that we cannot. God provided the sacrifice for our sin and our inadequacies. He was wounded for our transgressions. We must simply acknowledge our sin, repent and be covered by the blood of Jesus. HE is our righteousness.

I left Sunday School this morning with a new tool for monitoring my heart. I need to start keeping a mental list of what makes me angry and what doesn't, along with what makes me defensive. I love it when God gives me a new tool.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

"A million thoughts in your head..."

The title of this post is a line taken from the lyrics of "Somebody's Watching You" that I shared yesterday. It best describes my own state of mind this morning. There is so much I could write and so much I probably shouldn't write. Where to start? Where to end? Like I said, a million thoughts in my head. A million conflicting emotions in my heart, as well.

I don't think I have a lot of readers who don't know me and my testimony. I'm pretty sure anyone reading my blog is connected to me personally in some way; either through the present or through the past. Some of you reading this blog love me deeply. Some of you can't stand me and believe I am attacking you (so you read to see what I will say next). Some of you may love me and dislike me. However, I doubt anyone is reading who is completely ambivalent toward me because if that were the case, you'd have no interest in reading. You may either love me or feel contempt for me, but either way you know my story by now and are probably well aware of the current events I allude to without my being specific.

If I could write about every detail I personally know that has led me to take the stand I've taken, a lot more people would understand me. But I can't. They are not my stories to tell. If I could openly share a dream a close friend had years ago that has literally come to pass before my very eyes, it would at the very least give you pause. But it's not my dream to tell. I wonder almost daily if the person who had the dream has forgotten or simply refuses to face the events foretold in the dream. I won't share the dream publicly out of respect for this person. But there was no life in the dream and no healing. In recent years, I believe God has impressed upon me that that was the message of the dream. I have now seen the "scene" played out in real life. I know this person, whom I was once so close to, probably regrets telling me the dream -- having no idea I would someday become an outsider and their perceived enemy.

It hurts very deeply to know you are viewed as an enemy by people you will love till the day you die. But in spite of the pain and loss I will continue to feel, I do not regret for one moment the stand I have taken. I see the deception of my past. I see that what I was taught about salvation, and many other things, was wrong. And I see the devastation of lives that has resulted from the wrong priorities and lack of genuine repentance. I cannot be silent. My conscience will not allow it. So I will have to live with the personal consequences.

It's not about me; who likes me or who doesn't. And I have to continually remind myself of that.

I was reading this morning about the pursuit of holiness in "The Discipline of Grace." Bridges writes...

We need to work at ensuring that our commitment to holiness is a commitment to God, not to our own self-esteem. Frederick W. Faber, a nineteenth-century British writer, showed great insight into this tendency. Again, for the sake of clarity I will paraphrase:

"When we sin we are more vexed at the lowering of our self-esteem than we are grieved at God's dishonor. We are surprised and irritated at our own lack of self-control in subjecting ourselves to unworthy habits...The first cause of this is self-love, which is unable to stand the disappointment of not seeing ourselves in time of trial come out beautiful, erect, and admirable."

These words spoke to my heart this morning. I feel such an intense self-loathing when I hurt other people, when I disappoint other people and let them down, when I don't handle everything in exactly the right way or respond with exactly the right words. When I am made freshly aware that someone has intensely negative feelings toward me, even if I already knew it in my heart, just the reminder of it can bring a heaviness to my heart that outweighs all my joy for the rest of the day or several days. But that is just as self-absorbed as the person who delights in themselves. I am making it about me and it's not about me.

God, help me to be committed to You and not to my own feelings of self-worth or pride or the value I'm given (or not given) by others. Please make me an instrument of Your righteousness. Please give me pure motives and a clean heart. Help me take my "self" entirely out of the picture, that I might do Your will in all things with no concern for how I am perceived either way. I long to reflect Your beauty and not my own.

Friday, May 2, 2008

Somebody's Watching You (Chris Rice lyrics)

Another night slips away
As the events of the day
Keep burning deep in your mind
Why can’t you leave them behind
And there’s no one there in the dark
To share the ache in your heart
But no matter where you are
You’re not really alone

Somebody’s watchin’ that lonely heart inside
Somebody’s watchin’, ain’t missed a tear you’ve cried
Somebody’s watchin’, even the dark can’t hide you
Somebody’s watchin’ you, you know that
Somebody’s watchin’ you

A million thoughts in your head
Toss you around in your bed
As the night drags on
Without a warning you’re drawn
Into a childhood memory
Of a God Who never sleeps
Is He still lookin’ down on me?
Does He really care?

Somebody’s watchin’ that lonely heart inside
Somebody’s watchin’, ain’t missed a tear you’ve cried
Somebody’s watchin’, even the dark can’t hide you
Somebody’s watchin’ you, you know that
Somebody’s watchin’ you

Through the darkest night
His love can reach
Into the secret place of your heart
Somebody’s watchin’ that lonely heart inside
Somebody’s watchin’, ain’t missed a tear you’ve cried
Somebody’s watchin’, even the dark can’t hide you
Somebody’s watchin’ you, you know that
Somebody’s watchin’ you