Swearing and Theology

Swearing and Theology

Come, little children, and gather around. I will tell you a story about swearing. In days long ago there were two main swear words which would guarantee parental disapproval, often emphasized with a soap bar mouth washing. The first was “damn,” a word I heard from my mother’s mouth only once. Never was it seen in the newspaper, or in literature. If a man should accidentally let it slip in a woman’s hearing he would apologize immediately – “I beg your pardon, ma’am!” for no woman was to have her ears offended by crassness or profanity.

For those more extreme situations when a simple damn did not do the job of conveying the emotion of the moment, men would move on to the more serious “goddamn” or “goddamnit!” Then came the uttermost: “Goddamnit to hell!”

This “hell” introduces the second primary swear word that was off limits to children and women, and never seen in print except for Biblical messages warning of a fiery destination for the wicked.

Of course, people have always encountered frustrations when a simple “aw shucks” just seems too inadequate. Work-arounds and substitutions arose in their place. “Darn” was allowed in polite society, as was “Hades” the Greek god of the underworld. On occasion we would use H E double toothpicks, an oh-so-clever way to avoid the forbidden word.

The use of “damn” was so controlled by polite and public society that Clark Gable’s use of it in the movie Gone With the Wind was a shocker, making news and furor across the country. Grandmothers and preachers alike fretted about “what has our country come to!”

Few have stopped to consider what damn means. Its definition is to bring condemnation on, or to doom to eternal punishment or hell. It is ultimately a God function. Therefore, a seriously uttered “goddamnit to hell” is a declaration or prayer that the person or offending thing be consigned to the flames.

Years have passed. Those two words have almost disappeared. In their place has arisen an extensive vocabulary of swear words all of which focus on body parts and sexual function. There is no longer any such thing as polite society, with norms for speech. The words are part of print, news and literature, and every day conversation. Some people are unable to get through a sentence without using one or more of them, betraying a limited ability to communicate.

It also reveals the removal of God and God consciousness in the public square. Without God, damn and hell have no meaning. Without Him, we are left with only ourselves at our uncreative, physical worst.

It does matter, after all, what you believe even down to the way you swear.

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Fretting vs. Trust

When we are fretful our behavior seldom exhibits peace. We do not act as if we are formed to the image of Christ. Think about it: does Jesus ever fret?

To fret is to be anxious about the outcome. It is low-grade worry. Things won’t happen according to my timetable, my plan, my program.  MY.  MY way. This is a hidden way to say I want to be god.  In charge.  Doesn’t this smell sulfurous?  Genesis 3, again.

Jesus does not fret because he knows the beginning from the end. There are no surprises coming his way. He knows his father’s plans and designs will come to pass. There is no doubt in him  because he knows his father. Therefore, when we fret we are saying that in one particular area of our lives we do not know the Father. We are not confident in him to handle the situation aright.

Jesus does not fret because he is God, Lord of time and Lord of circumstances. He is at peace with the outcome.

The antidote to fretting is TRUST. Not in ourselves, but in God who is our ground, our source, our goal. That only comes from knowing Him. We are to know him as Jesus knows him. Since the veil has been torn, we can know him. Then our plans become yielded to his plans and His plans always succeed.

As we know the Father and are known, there is a continuing process of being formed in Jesus’ image. And that is nothing to fret about.

fretting

Godless?

“The godless in heart harbor resentment; even when he fetters them, they do not cry for help.” Job 36:13

“The godless in heart harbor resentment.” This says those who have not had their hearts converted to and by the Lord harbor or hold on to resentment. It would appear from this statement that it is a given: godless = heart full of resentment. The question then is this true when turned around? Is it accurate to say that those who harbor resentment and bitterness are godless? Does resentment shut the door to God’s presence?

Resentment and its companion bitterness, two ugly attitudes of heart, are the seedbed for others as well. Left to flourish like weeds, they grow into hatred, desire for revenge, and murder. Self pity grows up like thorns in the flower garden, causing pain to those who come near. Bitterness poisons the soul soil so that joy cannot take root and its fragrance is lost to mankind. Resentment is the seed of division; true love and friendship wither in the presence of judgment and condemnation.

Is it possible for someone to love God, and proclaim to be a follower of Jesus, and at the same time have a deep root of bitterness within? Or are these proclamations hollow, without reality, because the two cannot coexist?

Coming close to faith in Christ, we learn about the reality of His Kingdom and our inclusion in it. He assures the would-be believer that accepting His offer of himself means that He, Father and Spirit all will come and make their home within. John 14:23; 17:23. Thus “en-godded,” people take on a new identity, new world view, a new way of living and loving.

But there is no space in the Spirit-filled life for the weeds. The reverse is true; the weeds choke out the life Jesus wants to live in each individual. We become godless to the degree we harbor, hang on to, nourish and dwell upon our resentment and bitterness. These attitudes have no place in heaven or earth.

Therefore, it is wise to get rid of them.

Resentment and bitterness can only be eradicated by the willingness to forgive and release the offender and situation. Hanging on to unforgiveness “because they deserve it,” destroys you, your flower garden, your future, making you become godless.

Jesus has a better idea. Let it go, and let Him in.

The River or the Canal?

God said He wants to do a new thing, a new way of showing himself, or expressing Christianity in the world. He showed me a river which was freely moving, forming bends and twists as it went. There was life everywhere the river flowed.

In contrast was the canal – straight, with concrete walls and with no life along its edges. Life forms could not access the water because of the impenetrable concrete walls which were man made. There was some water in the canal, but it was rather murky and moving very slowly, if at all.

As I thought about this, it became clear He wants to take each of us, as a unique drop of water, where He wills. In so doing He can flow through each, bringing freshness and life wherever the water touches. Spontaneity, effectiveness and at the same time, freedom from stress are the hallmarks of this move.

Many expressions of Christianity have become canals, man made structures, unaware the water in them has become stagnant.

One thing that keeps people in the canal rather than in the river flow is fear. The unpredictability of going where He moves us on any given day is unsettling to most. We rather like the comfort of the familiar. Therefore we trade freedom and adventure with the Lord for the safety of the known, picking up boredom as part of the package. This keeps the people of the world away from the little bit of water we do have.

It is our choice: living in abandonment to God, bringing freshness and life everywhere we go, or staying in the security of the canal, colorlessly inching our way through life. The Lord has made it clear that His way of expressing himself on the earth is superior to ours, and He will have His way. Only then will the world be attracted to his life-giving water.

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Remembering

A song for my Lord? A paean of praise? Let me count the ways, to echo the poet.*

Somewhere I have a list of events which are markers of His presence in my life. The challenge has been to write of them, recording for posterity, or at least my own understanding, His care and love. We all long for assurances that our lives are worthy of notice, or at least have not been forgotten by the God of all. Significance, that is what we hope for. Yet in forgetting the many ways The Lord has blessed, I have overlooked the very thing I searched for.

“When up to your clavicles fighting alligators, you forget that your original purpose was to drain the swamp.”

Quickly we forget His benefits and blessings, often saying “But what have you done for me lately?” My friends were directed to put a stone in a “blessing bowl” on the table each time they received a blessing that was an obvious gift from the Lord. We are not talking about yes, I woke up this morning, or the sun is shining outside kind of blessings. After several months the bowl was overflowing with stones. When asked what do these stones mean, they could remember only a few. All the others had faded away out of the memory.

So it is with us. We receive, and then forget, easily falling into the mindset of God doesn’t love me like He does everyone else. Totally missing the flow coming our way, we also miss the opportunity for gratitude, and gratitude always leads to more blessings.

Gratitude is foundational to healthy living. It is essential to a strong spiritual relationship with the Lord. Rooted in an awareness of our incompleteness, it declares our need for others, our inter-relatedness. It rejects, by its very nature, the idea of self-sufficiency, of being our own god. Gratitude and narcissism are therefore polar opposites. Coming to a realization that we cannot “do” life on our own is taking a big step toward maturity. For which we can be thankful.Stones of remembrance

“On my bed I remember you; I think of you through the watches of the night.” Ps. 63:6
* Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Musing on Tension

n38307511_31163642_738Musing on Tension
There is within me a shapeless, unformed stirring. Care, concern, burden? Idea? Perhaps the exercise of writing will help midwife this “thing” and bring to birth a form which can be dealt with, looked at, pondered over.

So, God help me. You alone know the hidden thoughts of the inner man. You alone know your purposes and plans for me. Let us haul to light this gestation to see if there is life in it.

Tension comes from two opposites or a split (dichotomy) in what was once one. I see the world in such a tension. The physical world, divinely created and ordered, is a masterpiece that beggars description. Much of our libraries, much of our accumulated wisdom, much of the efforts of our educational institutions is exploration and explanation of the world we inhabit. Of the accumulating of knowledge there is no end. Often we “liberated,” educated 21st Century scholars are no farther along in understanding than Adam who, at the beginning, was given the job of naming things. We name things thinking erroneously that in the naming is the explanation. To say the grass is green because it has chlorophyll tells us nothing about why grass is green.

In effect, we are trying to describe the totality of the earth and everything visible and invisible connected with it. But it is too much for the human mind either singly or collectively. The complexity, balance, beauty, design and even sheer numbers of things to be found in this world speak clearly of a Designer Mind far greater than any human can attempt to realize. We are in and of the world, yet it is beyond our comprehension. It is a spectacular, amazing world. From whirling electrons to whirling galaxies, hummingbirds to ostriches, delicate ferns to towering pines creation surrounds us with variety to delight the heart and stretch the mind.One Bead

In recent years the many scientific “truths” taught as almost absolutes have crashed in ruins as new discoveries, new technologies surface. Scientists have even been quoted as calling some findings “puzzling,” which generally translates as not fitting in with their firmly held mechanistic or atheistic beliefs. Tension has developed between science absolutists and Designer absolutists, each side sure of its position while certain of the folly of the others.

Tension itself enhances life. Breezes seem more gentle after a wild storm, the body self-destructs without pain to guard and warn, mountains without valleys are not mountains at all. Shadow and sunlight, freeze and thaw are counterpoised and yet help define one another. What is youth without age, joy without sorrow?

The world is full of examples of stress and tension that are beneficial: the hatching chick must peck his own shell, or die; the tree that is wind-tossed develops deeper roots. Tension in fact is part of the variety to be examined as part of the grand Design even if only partly understood. Studying the dynamics of “what makes the world go round” can only give rise to awe.  The two opposing views of this world, its source and meaning are both needed to give understanding to the other.

Outside the Bubble

My life is lived in a bubble of God-focused principles, with reading and teaching Scripture a daily activity. I delight in helping those who have encountered evil in their past and now want freedom from their defilement. My friends also are people who love God and righteous living. Even though neither they nor I are perfect we are aware when we stumble; turning to God in confession, forgiveness and cleansing, we receive a fresh start.

The bubble is not opaque. I see the tragedies of life splashed across the news; I read the in-depth articles of conniving, corruption, cruelty, crassness. I have experienced harm from the disturbance of mental illness, seen far too many pictures of mass murders, genocide, slaughter of the innocents. I notice the almost weekly obits of the twenty-somethings whose lives were destroyed by drugs. And I weep. I see pictures of children abused to the point of death by those who bore them, and I weep some more.

Before my life became God-focused, I was of two minds about abortion: I wasn’t too sure I could do it, but it was fine for you. With my life orientation change, this thinking changed, too. Life became a valuable entity, not to be trifled with, and certainly not murdered. Yet, I knew there are some cases or situations that fall outside of the norm, where an abortion is the lesser of two evils. You might say I was a pro-lifer 99% of the time.

It seemed to me that abortion was, for the most art, a selfish act by those who wanted to play without paying the piper. Having tossed God out of their lives, there were no restrictions now on sexual behavior, and oops, well let’s just dispose of this inconvenience. So the abortion industry arose to meet the need. Laws were adjusted to conform to the new morality. Inside my bubble I saw it all as a sign of our growing separation from God’s standards. It was an evil bigger than any of my preaching or disapproval could change.

But recent revelations of behind the scenes at Planned Parenthood have revealed an evil that is even deeper and darker than any I could have imagined. Yes, taking innocent lives is evil. Late term abortions more evil. Deliberate killing of the newly born, also known as infanticide, more evil still. Those evils I knew of. The utter bottom of the pit, however, had not penetrated my thinking until now. Destroying life to harvest body parts? Merchandising organs, glands and tissues?

Wherever a business arises, it is to meet a demand. What and who are the powers that utilize these sacrificed children to their betterment? Is a mad pursuit of longevity, pushing back the inevitability of physical death, driving this demand? Is a fear of entering eternity pushing the “need” for tissues grown in vivo, as it were? Is it a sense of complete disdain for any life but one’s own? How is this different from cannibalism which feeds on human flesh for survival?image

Trafficking in baby body parts can have only one result: turning human hearts to hearts of stone. Driven by greed, wanting to live forever, the people behind this horror have reached a depth beyond knowing. And I weep.