Coming Clean Pt.2

Coming Clean Pt.2

One of the directives or topics in Scripture that is often overlooked, or skipped as not relevant is holiness. Over time, and with misuse it has become almost tainted. “Holier than thou!” is a pejorative phrase no one wants to hear. It reeks of superiority and pride. The Holiness Movement, which began as an earnest attempt to apply the principles of the Word, soon devolved into outward actions to keep up appearances. In that, it became identified with the Pharisees of old. One could be make-up free, with hair in a bun, but still have unresolved anger and bitterness within. Broken relationships? Well, surely the Lord would understand since they hurt me so! Go apologize to someone on the other side of the church? What? They should be coming over here to me! As Jesus remarked, one could wash the outside of the dish, but it still be filled with all kinds of uncleanness.

We do not fully grasp how much the bitterness and unforgiveness we harbor contaminate our whole being and keep us from true holiness. Rancor and the eventual hatred to which it leads are serious soul defilers, making us unclean like the lepers of old.

We like to proclaim that the work of Jesus on the cross has taken care of all our sin. That is a real feel-good statement. What we choose to ignore often is that our current defilements do two things: they interrupt our fellowship with Father, and the uncleanness darkens a part of our being so that His light does not shine there.

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Coming Clean

Coming Clean

Children bouncing up and down on a teeter totter picture well the differing expressions of those who live the Christian life.

On the upside of the teeter totter are those who proclaim the “Come to Jesus and get saved so you can go to heaven” belief. To them, a ticket to eternal heavenly bliss is all that matters. In the meanwhile, let’s just live the way we used to, partying it up and following the self-centered desires of our hearts. We are “In,” so it doesn’t matter if we wear our neckline low and hemline high. Everyone else is forgetting those prudish, Victorian beliefs of staying apart until marriage. What nonsense! What difference does it make if we sleep with someone first? Really, now. How old-fashioned!

On the downside of that teeter totter are the persons who believe that being a Christian means religiously following the established regulations and moral code, of doing “right,” whatever their particular congregation espouses as right behavior. Nothing is as insufferable as the uptight, prudish Christian with his long nose in everyone’s business, while telling us of all the laws and rules we must now follow. His family is “perfect,” his children well behaved. He knows the ways things should be done in the church, the home, the nation.

Yet, he knows nothing of the freedom of spirit, the joy of full acceptance. “This is the way; walk ye in it,” is his byword. He may have at one time known and experienced the love of God, but following the rule book grew into a serious pursuit until it became all he knows. The proper outward actions became synonymous with the central truth of the faith – and was sufficient for life.

In between the rather joy-less rule follower and the hedonist on the other end of the balancing board are the ones sitting in the middle: persons who proclaim “Freedom! We have been forgiven of all our sin guilt so now we are free. Therefore, relax.” They try to avoid both extremes as they begin to learn more through Bible Study and church attendance. They will enjoy the ball games, an occasional glass of wine and take in a concert on occasion even if it means wearing ear plugs. They clean up their act a bit. The swearing goes and those who have lived together find their way to the altar. They begin to pick up some of the rules, seeing them in a new light, but reject some others which do not fit their interpretation of Freedom!

None of the three can understand why his witness has been unsuccessful. He certainly can see why the other two groups do not represent the faith well, but his own inability puzzles him. Something is wrong here, yes.

Part 1


Odd

The waitress for our table was extolling a shrimp dish they offered. “O, no thanks,” I said, looking like I didn’t want to be poisoned. “You can’t eat shrimp?”  Her expression indicated she thought I was very odd. “Too bad. I’m so sorry!” Although I assured her I had lived many happy and satisfying years without shrimp, she walked away shaking her head, unconvinced.

In the same way, when I say that I have not turned on the TV in months, I am looked at as being really odd. I don’t fit the norm. How can I live or enjoy life without chillin’ in front of the tube? Odd, indeed. I know there are those who have the set on almost 24/7, who eat, sleep, baby sit the children and make love by its flickering light. But five minutes of its noise, its subliminal message, is all it takes to jangle my nerves and put me on edge.

Being outside the norm in today’s society immediately makes me suspect. And a bit scary.  We all like to sort people into known groups, things we can understand. Anyone who falls outside our classification system is therefore an unknown, and the unknown makes us nervous.

Since the advent of the television era, we have been captivated by watching stories or drama, whether fictional or news events, unfold before our eyes. Over time it became possible to tell stories with fewer and fewer words, creating and resolving an issue in a 30 second commercial. Gradually, our community attention span has dropped down from reasoned essays to short sound bites. Now if a video clip is longer than five minutes, we tend to skim right by. Too much trouble. Reading fell by the wayside as TV has consumed more of our time. “Read through three paragraphs describing the Norwegian countryside? Don’t have time. Just show me a picture.”

Much more is lost by the fall-off in reading than simply less library usage. Being acclimated to the picture story, we don’t have to think; the thinking has been done for us by those who filmed and directed the camera or drawing board. As an author paints a scene with his word brush, readers engage his or her mind with their own imaginations, developing their own ideas along the way. When I read about a fish breaking the pond surface in pursuit of a fly, I bring my own experiences and history to bear, seeing in mind’s eye something that may be a blend of two different locales, something I have co-created with the writer. But when we watch it on TV we don’t have to think; the pond is there before us. In effect, having a steady flow of pictorial input removes all need to exercise the mind or process ideas. 

Spoon fed pictures and input lead in short time to a habit of no thinking. There is no exercising of process needed. We become accustomed to the lazy mind, taking in without realizing it the thoughts and beliefs of those who prepare the input. In no time “they” have become the controllers, and we, the unwashed, conditioned public, are the controlled. A society so conditioned is then easily led like lemmings to the nearest cliff.

I would rather be odd, thank you.

Relaxed Confidence

God requires a protocol to approach Him. The trick is how to follow that protocol without it becoming rote or religious. To maintain a freshness in our relationship with God without becoming flippant and casual is a challenge to the church and gatherings of believers everywhere.

Balance is needed, always balance between Awe of the transcendent God, and Joy of intimate connection with the Father through the resurrected Christ. This is God Almighty, the Creator of all, and the one who went to the utter end to rescue and then live within us. We need to consider frequently His enormity and otherness, and at the same time walk in everlasting gratefulness of His drawing near. This brings us to a place of relaxed confidence and trust.

Relaxed confidence. That is a position unrealized by far too many in the Body of Christ. If we are relaxed, it means we are not up tight about our position in relation to God, worried that we are standing on the edge of a steep sliding board, at risk any moment of plunging down and away. Striving to attain good standing in His sight is past; we have come to know we are securely in His care and keeping.

But how do those who know come to that place of confidence? The knee-jerk answer is they have faith.  For the not-yet-convinced, or unbeliever, that just sounds like religious talk which has no reality in their lives. They respond with human arguments and atheistic beliefs heard in the past. Faith? Isn’t that just believing something you have heard because you want it to be so? A hope so, maybe so thought? A belief drummed up by the weak and needy?

Well, no, it is much more than that, completely different, yet difficult to describe in worldly, earthly terms because it is a spiritual reality which connects earth with heaven, bringing heaven to earth. Believing what you have heard about God’s rescue plan in Christ is the beginning step, but is not faith. Responding by personalizing it for yourself is the reaching out which instantly becomes faith, opening a whole spiritual world to you and giving substance to something that was not real to you just moments before. As the scripture says, “Faith is the substance of things not seen.”

With faith now in operation, you know that God is true, His word is true, and you can rest in confidence of His eternal care for you. 

This then brings a response of awe and gratitude for the unspeakable gift that He is and has given to us. No room for flippancy here, just a natural outflow of praise and thanksgiving.

Top Ten Things re: Manly Men

With the recent flood of revelations about men’s unwanted advances, it is obvious that women are tired of being groped and objectified. So as an add-on to my post on Manly Men, I offer my list of Top Ten Things Women Find Attractive in Men.

Considerate of, but not dependent on parents
Thoughtful of others
Attends to personal hygiene
Aware of and not intrusive of personal boundaries
Interests beyond sex and sports
Understands and uses manners and dress appropriate to the occasion
Has wider emotional expression than angry and not angry
Is true to his word
Good sense of humor – never at other’s expense
Protective, but not controlling.

Gals, if you find such a gem, take him home to meet your parents.

Manly Men

I like men. As my mother used to say, “They are the best opposite sex there is!” Which is why I am disturbed by what I see happening to them in today’s culture. As a woman with a fair number of years behind me, I believe it must be difficult for boys to sort out what it means to be a man today.

What does it mean to be a manly man? Is it the chest thumping “Me, Tarzan, your Jane,” brute? Newspapers stories of wife-beating, baby-abusing, cursing louts are common. Too common. The self-gratifying narcissist, seldom seen years ago, is now warned against in social media. It is only a matter of degrees between the cold-hearted, woman-destroying narcissist and the self-centered man interested in his “woman” only for sexual gratification.  And maybe her cooking.

Another version of the chest-thumper is the idea that being a man means beer drinking, being pot bellied, semi-unkempt, and rough talking. Wearing his cap at the table, burping vigorously, he eschews manners as effeminate. Any sign of gentleness is considered a weakness.

In contrast to the self-absorbed sex machines, or perhaps in response to them, culture has tried in the last 50 years to emasculate men, convincing them that being touchy feely like a girl is the way to go. The idea seems to be to remove men far from their past roles of bringing home the deer kill for the family. The man’s hunting, bread-winning prowess provided food; his strength provided protection. And the woman did everything else needed. People somewhere decided the original plan needed to be changed. Now we have a generation of men who do not know who they are or why they are here.

As part of this trend, fashion designers are bringing out clothing lines which make men look like they are ready to be clowns in a vaudeville show. All of this is attempting to remove the identity of a man as a man.  In the confusion that follows, homosexuality naturally seems to make more sense.

Perhaps all the above is a distortion of what a man is truly designed to be.

But what is a manly man? Does it mean it is a given that their interest in sex means that making passes at women is natural and comes with the territory? That to expect otherwise is foolish? Is it possible to be strong and kind, masculine and safe? Creative, productive, reliable? And have their sexual urges under control? I believe it is possible, and we need such men to step up as role models for the young teen boys who are entering a time of seeking who they are to be.

There should then be more positive news about men and hopefully less daily revelations of male lewd behavior. What the country needs is manly men of strength, honor and integrity. There are some, I know; may their tribe increase.

Stuff

 

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Inventories and taking the census raise mixed emotions.  We are sorters and counters at heart. At the same time we have some more important things to do right now like catching the latest show on TV.  So classifying, enumerating, and sorting just have to wait until… you can’t find that thing you know you have someplace.

Do you know just what you have?  Do you even know where it is?  Do you care?

Being orderly of mind and stuff is for some an inbuilt character trait. Watch for the child who carefully arranges his blocks with all the animals on one side facing outward.  There is a budding accountant, a future enumerator, a bean counter who will drive his spouse crazy with his attention to detail.  The boy who sorts and re-sorts his baseball card collection is an incipient museum curator. For the rest of mankind orderliness is or has to be imposed from without.

Why the reluctance to dig in and make lists of the household contents?  We long to be organized; books are written on how to bring order out of chaos in our lives, beginning with our ‘stuff.’  Most people have a junk drawer; for some, that describes every drawer.   Because of the unwillingness to dig in and inventory, untold hours are spent in archaeological digs in drawer and closet hunting for that elusive, faintly remembered item.

Once we bite the bullet and decide to dig in, itemizing each object and recording its location, we tend to respond in different ways.

Way no.1—Turn and flee to a favorite distraction.  The Procrastinator Route.

Way no.2—Immediately find a treasured item which side tracks the project while you go down memory lane.  The Historical Route.

Way no.3—Get note pads.  Sharpen pencils.  Draw straight lines (where’s the ruler?) to make orderly columns.  Puzzle over how many columns of information you need.  Redraw the columns.  Find that it is too late now to start since you spent so much time getting everything ready.  Start dinner, instead.   The Well Charted Route.

Way no. 4–Dig in and begin.  Stay with the project even if it takes days, weeks.  Read those books on organization.    Spend a little money on notebooks, or files, or boxes or drawers that will be needed to get the job done.  The Efficient, Orderly Route.

There are only a few, unique individuals who ever find their way to Way no. 4.  They recognize that ordering their affairs is essential to save countless hours in the future.  Three years hence when the dishwasher breaks they will be able to answer the questions of warranty, place purchased and cost without turning the household on its ear.  Knowing where the files are kept, and when the kids had their DPT shots, and the number for that good plumber they had a few years back can save much aggravation.   But there is an investment to be made in order to reap the desired state of unruffled tempers and time saved in that future day.  It is giving a NOW time to the sorting, tossing, recording.  Sacrificing the present day pleasure of fun and games, loafing and lounging, for the unknown that lies ahead is seldom appealing, but that is the required investment to assure a good return.

Just consider: what would the universe be like if it were as orderly as your junk drawer?