“Abstain from all appearance of evil”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tj5oVh-ydiQ

I remember riding on the school bus and having that first horrible swear word directed at me.  My mother knew something was wrong the moment I stepped off the bus.  I was quite dazed and I couldn’t repeat the word to my mom, but she figured it out, and, then, she gave me a bath.  Though I had been taking my own baths for quite some time, her comforting words, her soothing voice, and the loving-kindness of my mother washed away the evil that had exposed itself to me.  Once again, I was safe in the cocoon of the godly home where I was raised.  We weren’t perfect and everyone didn’t live happily ever after, yet, but evil was watched for and it was not consciously allowed in our home.  Many popular television programs from that time were simply not permitted on our television.  My parents were on guard against evil in any form.  Satan’s grip was to be feared and my mother and father seemed to believe Proverbs 1:32 when it said, “For the waywardness of the naive will kill them and the complacency of fools destroy them.”  We, their children, were naive and they, our parents, were on constant vigil for us and they were not fools.

We can all look at our own lives and the evil we permit without my naming off all of the popular ways we are saturated by it.  The ugly word I heard on the school bus that day doesn’t even cause me to flinch, anymore.  An athlete with no honor can so easily become an icon.  Homosexuality, something I couldn’t even grasp until high school, is found, literally, in my next door neighbor.  Things that once made me weak in the knees are of no surprise.  When King David said, “Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I shall fear no evil,” he still regarded Satan as a serious adversary – the roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.  David didn’t learn to deal with evil so fearlessly because he was accustomed to it and it was longer something to be feared.  David, the man after God’s own heart, did not pitch his tent in the valley of the shadow of death, just because he had overcome his fear of the evil therein.  David recognized evil, though, and he was aware of its presence.

Now, consider Abraham’s nephew, Lot.  He was a man whose family was residing in a land so entrenched in the throes of debauchery around them that men were knocking at his door, demanding that Lot allow them to defile the very angels he was entertaining.  Can you imagine the horrors right outside Lot’s door?  Yet his family had become so entangled in their existence within those cities that burned behind them that they lost one of their own while fleeing the flames of Sodom and Gomorrah.  Be responsible for the innocent, shed complacency and refuse to be destroyed.

Supper at Grandma’s House

I was blessed to spend time with my great-grandmother in her home, though I was a very young child.  One day, I arrived at Grandma’s and upon inspection of her refrigerator and to my greatest delight, I discovered a can of Pillsbury biscuits tucked amongst the other food items. Following the early passing of my dad’s mother, canned biscuits, along with Ranch Style beans were  a staple served by my widowed grandfather to my grieving twelve-year-old dad and his older brother.  Ranch style beans and canned biscuits became forbidden foods in my dad’s house, the same way music was forbidden by the brooding father in “The Sound of Music”.  Both, the music, and the foods, dredging up a deep river of pain that two men, one with a story well-known, though he, the man, was fictional and unreal, and the other man, my dad, unknown, but very, very real who would not allow solace or healing for so many years to come.

Of course, none of these thoughts were present in my mind that day at Grandma’s.  The only thing I knew about canned biscuits was what I’d witnessed in television commercials and had only dreamt of in my wildest of dreams.  At last, I would possess that Pillsbury Doughboy.  He was no doll.  He walked, he talked – that guy was real!  I was pre-kindergarten, so I was not able to articulate my message concerning the Doughboy to my Grandma.  I told her I wanted him and she promised we could have biscuits for supper.

I had no shortage of things to think about that afternoon.  I was on cloud 9 as I dreamed and schemed all day long about my Doughboy and our life together.  I was going to take him home in my little suitcase, then I would house him in my dresser drawers beneath my pajamas.  I decided, right away, not to let either of my brothers  know about my Doughboy.  I could see myself taking him out at night, when everyone was asleep and we would play in my room, just the two of us.  I was keenly aware of the value of the Pillsbury Doughboy, even at my young age.  He was real, after all.

So, after a long afternoon, it was finally time to fix supper, which meant that Grandma would, at last, permit the Doughboy to be released from the captive cylinder where he awaited that well-placed tap on the cabinet’s edge, so that he could magically pop out and into my awaiting arms.

Of course, there was no Doughboy and canned biscuits weren’t nearly as good as my mom’s.  I tried to tell Grandma what I had expected and hoped for, but she did not understand, therefore, no explanation was forthcoming.   I was very young, but I really thought things were going to be different for me with that Doughboy by my side.

Restore to factory settings, PLEASE

Recently, during a download frenzy, I managed to render my computer totally helpless.  Fortunately, my little brother was able to assist me remotely, so that my machine could be reset to factory settings.  Wouldn’t it be great to face life from that pristine state we were in when we entered this life?  Then, I remembered the words of our Savior.  “My yoke is easy and my burden is light.”  I don’t need to worry that I’ve lost that sweet love that a daddy has for his little girl as a result of my loss of innocence, anymore.  I’m one of God’s children and He keeps me, regardless of the disappoinment my sins may bring.

Our lives have been simplified so greatly since the days of Noah and Moses.  We only have a few commandments to keep, as opposed to the hundreds of laws that burdened the lives of early man.  The command to love, first God, then our neighbors as ourselves is where we all should be expending our greatest effort.  For me, to love and to love correctly, is an exercise and a study I shall never complete.  And the concept of grace is something I never shall understand.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VquoupNiypI

Forgivenes

by Matthew West

It’s the hardest thing to give away

And the last thing on your mind today

Say you got a right to hold a grudge

It’s the whisper in your ear saying, “Set it Free”

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable

Show me how to reach the unreachable

Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness

It’ll clear the bitterness away

It can even set a prisoner free

There is no end to what its power can do

So, let it go and be amazed

By what you see through eyes of grace

The prisoner that it really frees is you

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

Show me how to love the unlovable

Show me how to reach the unreachable

Help me now to do the impossible

Forgiveness

I want to finally set it free

So, show me how to see what Your mercy sees

Help me now to give what You gave to me

Forgiveness, Forgiveness

I’ve almost wr…

Aside

I’ve almost written 3 brilliant posts, each one more fascinating than the one before, except something happened, buttons were pushed and my posts were all sent into cyberspace, never to be found again by me.  And, though my lost posts were unique and memorable, I cannot remember what on earth they said.  I have a backup post in my mind, but it has stayed in my mind, because I always struggle with the Spirit when it comes to writing it.  It’s a little heavy, but I give in and share it with you,

I once witnessed a simple thing that has left me feeling more than a little weak, more than twenty years later.  I was visiting a friend in the Dallas area while conducting business in the area.  As Stanley and I sat with other friends in his living area, a pet boa constrictor housed in a large aquarium was plainly in sight.  Stanley brought a paper carton into the room and produced a white mouse.  The imprisoned rodent seemed to be elated when Stanley tossed him into the aquarium.  I watched as the mouse, whiskers twitching, explore his new home.  He ran right over the snake to get to the front of the aquarium, then climbed back over the frozen reptile as he seemed to sing, “Tra la la la la la la, I’m a little mouse!”  Then, without any warning at all, the head of the huge snake struck at the mouse,   The attack didn’t seem to actually injure the mouse.  The strike was to let the mouse know that he was about to be injured.  It was a terriible moment,  The bowels of the mouse emptied and, though he was a mouse, his complete terror at the knowledge of his eminent death was horrifyingly evident to me.

My legs are weak as I consider how glibly I skip through life, rarely acknowledging that I am nothing more than prey, stalked day in and day out by an enemy so silent, so deceiving, so ancient and so very, very driven.  Hebrew 5:12.  But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.  I am sobered by the realization that it takes training, exercise and constant use to even be able to discern good from evil. 

Dear Lord, please show us evil and give us courage overcome it,  Amen

 

I watch old tel…

Aside

I watch old television programs.  Bonanza, Andy Griffith, Gunsmoke and others like these catch my attention as I surf through the channels.  My family crowded around these favorite shows. Watching still brings up the feelings of living on the farm with my brothers and parents.  The feelings from those days quickly rise to the surface when I view episodes that are as good as new to me – I have long forgotten any of the former story lines. This is real television.  It is not reality television, but it’s real.  Why, Hoss Cartwright is a perfect example.  I’m afraid to report that, by today’s standards, Hoss did not have a perfect set of teeth.  And Miss Kitty had frizzy hair when she let down her auburn tresses.    The old people on this earlier programming were really old.  I see people with true signs of weathering and there are actors with actual bags under their eyes. 

How often do you turn on the television and see the semblance of someone you formerly recognized?  All of a sudden that person has morphed into a catlike being with lips so big that normal speech is impossible.  Maybe it doesn’t happen that dramatically, but over the years the face of beauty is changed into something hideous in the attempt to remain youthful.

Wouldn’t it be fascinating, yet horrifying, at the same time, if we could see a glimpse of the spiritual beauty in ourselves and others?  I still can’t figure out whether or not I am being lied to for the most part.  I’m just as foolish as any of the people I point out.  At least once a day, during my contemplations, I realize and remember what a hypocrite I am.  As soon as I begin to feel the least bit humble, I proudly pat myself on the back. 

I have a sister in Christ who is morbidly obese.  In the beginning, I wasn’t very sympathetic to her cause, but reality set in and I found myself thinking differently.  What if my sin, my weakness, was so evident and so readily in view for all to see?  This woman”s lack of self control makes her sin visible to all, but my own sins, committed randomly as I go about my day, are more hidden and less visible to those I want to see me as righteous.  So, who’s kidding who?  “Open the eyes of my heart, Lord” are the words of a popular Christian song.  Show me who I am, Lord, and give me the courage to allow Your Word to correct me.  Don’t be too embarrassed to realize when you fall short of what who and what you are striving to be.  Let the great refiner do His work in me and you.

 

 

 

and we all lived happily ever after…

I did go back to Jesus First Church.  I even took another David along with me.  They fell upon my neck rejoicing.  I feel so connected to every person when the time comes for us to connect.  I made a couple of Wednesday night appearances before I could brave the Sunday morning crowd, but I never miss a service, now.  I know it was somewhat cowardly, but I grabbed up a friend I’d made at the apartment in Glendale.  This new David was ready to be reaped.  David kind of diverted the attention (I hoped) away from me.  My two amigos could not have been more understanding and welcoming to me. The new David has been added to our circle of friends and the kingdom of Heaven is being advanced.  David attends bible classes, offers his time and help and encourages others.  At  Jesus  First, we are not seeking to add numbers as our first priority, but David was home the first time he ever attended our little congregation.  I am taking liberties by stating the following theory, but I see Jesus First as a church who is being groomed to serve its own church community well and to love our neighbors as ourselves.  Grayling and I were laughing about something the other day and he said, “You know this is why they call us a cult, right?”  We do have a shepherd at Jesus First Church.  Things get uncomfortable, sometimes, as things do at church.  The pastor’s wife spoke to me today.  I’ll sum up all of what she conveyed by cutting to our parting.  She said that no matter what arises, we have to always remember that we love one another.  I remembered the first David proclaiming that our opinions and differences don’t matter, because it’s really always all about Jesus.  I should put sticky notes everywhere – “When you believe everyone else is wrong and you are the only one right, perhaps you should reconsider.”  “Melinda, you’ve already left and come back twice – don’t be so predictable.”  “You always get this way when you aren’t taking your medication.”  “This is your calling, don’t be foolish, stop alienating yourself…  “Did I mention that my mental illness works against me to separate me from anything familiar and comforting and safe when it begins to work against me?  “Oh Lord, may I always love with my heart, soul, and mind and may I know Your truths without fearing.”

unexpectedly detained

The pastor’s nephew is about 5 years older than me.  He lives at the church and is responsible for all kinds of things pertaining to (and otherwise) the church. Grayling and I became fast friends. I began volunteering for jobs.  I brought my neighbor, David, and we were the three amigos.  We cleaned, we picked up, we dropped off, we worshipped God.   Then, somewhere before some things and somewhere after some other things, I stopped taking my meds.  It was ugly. The ensuing manic episode was more than grave.  I made somewhat of a comeback, but I hadn’t completely arrived, before something else interfered in my devotion at Jesus First Church.  I fled to a church where there were more than 20 of my dad’s kinsmen.  I was embraced.  It was a family experience I had never been exposed to or aware thereof.  I was raised “in the church” and our church family was as close as family, but next of kin wasn’t to be found in West Texas where I was raised on the family farm.  “The church” in Phoenix was just like “the church” I’d grown up attending, except larger.  Anyone raised in “the church” knows exactly who and what I am refering to. “The church” brings out behaviors, often in it’s staunchest members, that can be divisive and otherwise discouraging.  It is isn’t always this way with all members, past or present.  I have wonderful new relationships with family members formerly  known, barely known and never known.  These are the Mann family, who, incidentally were not much at all like the people from Jesus First, unless you take into account the fact that the pastor and his wife were formerly members of “the church.”  A real rarity in my world – defectors of “the church”  still actively involved in evangelism.  Anyway, I attended “the church” for two years.  I gained many, many pounds.  My neighborhood became worse and worse as time passed, until I was forced to relocate.  I saw my midtown apartment early in my search, but passed it over for some reason.  When it became necessary for me to move immediately, I reconsidered the move in ready apartment that had two bedrooms and a washer/dryer.  Midtown made my numbed emotions kinds of raw with a nostalgia for the Jesus First church community I had planned to take up residence within over two years ago when I had taken a weird turn and ended up in Glendale.  Nostalgia, a state I shall surely vent about in the near future, set in.  Emotions I had not visited in more than two years came to the surface.  Pride was all that was stopping me from reclaiming my joy.  THE ENEMY, here to kill, steal, and destroy, had taken me on a ride.  My attendance had grown spotty, at best, but leaving “the church” is nothing anyone takes lightly, do they?