Joshua’s ultimatum was given to the church; not the world

“Now fear the Lord and serve him with all faithfulness. Throw away the gods your ancestors worshiped beyond the Euphrates River and in Egypt, and serve the Lord. But if serving the Lord seems undesirable to you, then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, whether the gods your ancestors served beyond the Euphrates, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land you are living. But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”

Joshua 24:14-15 NIV

But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord is one of those mic drop Bible verses that has since made its way onto t-shirts and Bible covers and wall decor.

As someone with a drawer full of Bible verse t-shirts myself, I see a problem in the way we might approach this verse. If we use this verse as an us against the world battle cry (which we tend to do with a lot of Bible verses), we fail to see it’s real value. It is meant to be an urgent call to examine ourselves, not the world, and to be willing to get rid of what evils and idols we cling to ourselves. Even if that means we will need to separate from our beloved church friends, who may not, themselves, be willing to put down whatever old evils and beloved idols or prior sins they once drug in to camp too.

Lyrics to the gospel song, ‘I have decided to follow Jesus. Though none go with me, I still will follow.’ also come to mind when I read this verse.

As a clergy abuse survivor, I see how our general acceptance of idolatry and false gods and dangerous spirits, some of those harkening back to Egypt; remains a problem within the modern church. One that then opened the gate for all manner of predators to come in and get by with abusing children right inside the very walls of the church, too. The world has nothing much to do with all that. It’s the church’s refusal to parse out its own self; that caused that issue.

If we read Joshua’s covenant from God in its entirety, see Joshua 24, we see that he is talking to Israel, (which in modern correlation would be like a sermon given to the entire assembly of professing believers). He was not lecturing the nearby Amorites or the far away Egyptians, just to be overheard by the Israelites who would then find that edifying and affirming that they were ‘separate’. Not even close. He was parsing and exhorting Israel herself! He drew a line in the sand, ‘come clean NOW, or go back to Egypt where you came from!’

In a modern sense, we would say Joshua was talking TO THE CHURCH, and entirely about the problems he was seeing therein. Sins and evil that people, not willing to fully convert and wholeheartedly follow God; had brought into the fellowship willingly. He was not so much urging the church to remain separate from the fallen world, as much as he was urging the church to examine itself and then kick out all the worldly bits. Idols and beliefs and ways of living to which they were still clinging, in spite of all the ways God kept delivering them from those very things!

I am going to go ahead and make the leap here and say the following. The ultimatum, therefore, choose this day whom you will serve, was given to the church, still applies to the church today, and therefore remains all about the church’s own collusion with evil, with idolatry, with sin. Not about its inherent separation from the world. Which is actually a laughable concept, given the apostate state of things today.

What does that mean to us, today?

It means that when I know or see that another Christian in my own circle or camp, allowing or partaking something which I can clearly see harkens back to Egypt, whether that is a book written by a New Age spiritualist, or a diet plan promoted by someone who channels spirits, or more alarmingly: siding with an abuser: I try to speak up about it. Or, at the very least, if no door opens for exhortation: I just resist whatever it is, myself. And when the opportunity arises, I share that as for me I don’t do Yoga, or read books like that one, or burn sage sticks, give space for a wolf in the sanctuary, or what have you, because I am a dedicated Jesus follower and that stuff doesn’t jive with following Him.

And taking Joshua 24:15 seriously also means that when I disclosed my own abuse at the hands of a Protestant minister, I knew it would cost me my family. In time I saw that I would never quite fit in again, either, with a lot of the brothers and sisters in the modern church world.

In the absence of any visible Joshua’s, I am, myself, speaking up more and more when I notice things the church at large is tolerating and passing off as just one more thing covered by grace.

And that’s ok. Because as I wait for more of the church to decide whom to follow, on our collective way to the Promised Land, I stay quite busy purging my own tent clean of all that I once drug into it myself.

“our contemporary obsession with creativity” – And how I try to avoid that obsession entirely.

Calling one’s self ‘A Creative’ is a big part of our modern obsession with individuality and uniqueness and our quest for our fifteen minutes of fame too. We all want to be autonomous to the nth degree even as we are, ironically, being herded into more and more sameness and oneness by the spiritual realm which seeks to resurrect the tower of babel and man’s ultimate rebellion against God…

And so those who refer to themselves, or others, as ‘A Creative’ or ‘Creatives’, raise my suspicions. Creative is best used as it was meant to be used: as an adjective to flesh out a noun; not a noun to flesh out a better-than label we seek to put upon ourselves and others. But that’s not the only word that raises my inner word-nerd flags.

Others have pigeonholed me as an artist. As my life, and the (sometimes dumb) things I do with it, is kinda, well, colorful at best and downright weird and self destructive at worst. Stereotypical artist’s way there. But, honestly, I’m good with just being known in my real world life: as a writer. Since writing is my favorite thing to do with my fingers. To me, being labeled as an artist seems like I should be tossing pottery from a wheel or setting up a fresh blank canvas on an easel in my living room.

Nevertheless, a professional woman in my town once caught me off guard when she said to me, ‘I wish I could get away with dressing like you do’. I looked down and realized my hot pink skirt had a dirt stain from tending the vegetable garden. My hands went to my head where I remembered that I hadn’t combed my hair since showering, and could only imagine how bad all that was looking mid-day.

Well, you know, you’re an artist. She explained. It suits you.

Therefore I guess I can get away with uncombed hair and stains on my skirt.

And so, that is exactly why I put the words ‘A Creative’ in air quotes in the opening sentence. Because I think we crossed some threshold now, where the word artist, and all the other labels that have sprung from it, are overused. To the point of it now being a cliche. Just like artists getting away with dressing a certain way is well on its way to being a cliche as well. One that I, as a writer, now use intentionally in order to bring forth certain traits in a fictional or real character. That way the reader can see just how much that character enjoys her place in that artist world. In short: someone who is entirely too proud of being a creative, and/or wearing the artist label.

Just as the modern art world doesn’t exactly jive with Biblical Christianity: pride doesn’t jive so good with following Jesus, either.

Yes, I know, the word well would have been proper grammar, but I used good intentionally to make a point. Because a part of me can still hear my high school English teacher correcting someone in class who asked to leave school early, with an, ‘I don’t feel good’ declaration. To which we all received another grammar lesson: I think you meant to say, ‘I don’t feel well’-so go to the office and call home then.

Sometimes, to make a greater point, a writer needs to dim the voice of old English teachers who are married to grammar. As those types are not always so aware of the overall effect which too much high-brow, perfected language can do to a piece. Therefore, I break some rules. I suggest other writers do as well.

I also view many of the popular habits of writing and writers themselves, with hesitation. Writer’s groups can easily make it too much about the writer instead of the work. Creating all these categories to explain ourselves which have become so overused now as to become cliches of their own. And so I throw in some bad grammar on purpose and I don’t always clean up these blog posts all the best either. In order to keep myself off the writer’s high horse.

Because most horses scare me. Especially tall ones. And because God’s gift to me isn’t so much about me as it is bringing glory to Him. I could convince myself that me doing my very best is what brings Him glory. But the educated Apostle Paul intentionally made himself common and lowly, trembling and hesitant. And all throughout the Old Testament the soldiers were being told to go into battle on foot, with sticks and stones and other things: against those enemy riders yielding swords on horses and chariots. Therein is how God works miracles through His people.

Artists who don’t get their insecurities met in Jesus will end up trying to write or create their way there instead; and that is futile.

When I first started this blog, I would sometimes include posts ‘about writing’. I can still see the ‘writing and publishing’ ‘blogging’ categories I once created, in my categories tab on the back end of things. A lot of those posts are now set to private.

When I began feeling like I had crossed a major threshold of healing, I revamped this blog, sometime in late 2019. And I’m still deciding what to do with it all, if anything. But lately I am drawn again to the writing and publishing side of being a writer. I ducked out of most of that when I got sick, as it was too overwhelming and because my abusers were frequent readers of the content I was publishing, too. As I heal further, I’m feeling more ready to put content into the world in those old fashioned ways again: even, perhaps, with my real name attached to it. All of which has me revisiting the very craft and art form of writing itself.

Pre-healing, I viewed that world of writing one way; and somehow God protected me supernaturally from a lot of its pitfalls. Post-healing, I am taking a critical look at that creative world which so much of the greater world wants to label me right into. I am also realizing just how much God once protected me when I was in the thick of it. And how much no part of me wants to identify with some of it, again.

It’s important to note that while a lot of bloggers, and writers in general, seem to share pretty freely about their lives: we only ever see but a fraction of an author’s complexity. So it is with me and what I share on this anonymous blog. In my real life, things are far more complex than this anonymous peek into it can show.

For instance, I have published some things both the old fashioned way (where I got paid for it) as well as the modern way of self-publishing where I assumed the cost of putting content into the world, myself, for various reasons (having a blog is self-publishing and most anyone can do that easily enough, and pretty cheaply, these days).

And, back when I first did all that, and began to be known as a writer, it garnered a lot of response from the people I knew in my real life. As well as some letters and emails and feedback from total strangers.

One thing I heard a lot, when I first started trying to ‘be a serious writer’, was a reference to a certain book. And had I read it, yet? Had it changed my whole life, yet? And what was I waiting for, because it’s a must read! Most of the people telling me about this book, were Christians. On the conservative bent, too. I heard so much about this one book that every writer just had to read, that over a decade after I first felt the pressure to read it… I can still remember the title as if I’m hearing people urging me toward it all over again.

And therein is the uncommon grace of God. Because no part of me felt compelled to pay that book any real attention years ago. Even though so many people suggested it, Christian people I admired and trusted too, that it’s shocking to me that I was never even curious enough to look into it, let alone that I didn’t rush out and buy it and read it immediately. All I remember is feeling a turning in my gut and a turn off in my mind every time another well meaning person labeled me an artist and wanted me to read the famous book that had gone around all the church and social circles like a bad head cold.

The book I am referring to is ‘The Artist’s Way’ by Julia Cameron. There is absolutely nothing Christian about this book, that I can tell, based on this interview with it’s author. It seems incredibly new age and self-interested. However, I am suddenly curious about this. As I love to study religion and the ramifications which happen when we pass something around the Christian church which was chock full of falsehoods.

I think I am healed enough now and ready to read this book. Which is why I have a used copy coming and will share my thoughts after I dive into it. But I’m not delving to learn what to do, it will be more as a what not to do lesson and I am assuming it will give me a revealing look into what the church in my lifetime has been more than willing to tolerate; as well. Because it sure seems to me that ‘our contemporary obsession with creativity’ as outlined in this interview with the author of The Artist’s Way is a big part of why we are so thoroughly given over to that which was first put forth in 2 Timothy 3:2.

And, honestly, it likely won’t even make a dent or a ruffle or even raise a single eyebrow. Because I’m an artist. We get away with such things.

“I saw great faith”

I saw great faith among the Nazi’s during the war, but it was in the wrong person.

Corrie TenBoom, from the book Plenty For Everyone

I’ve been reading Corrie TenBoom’s books over the winter. I am seeing many parallels between what she lived through and our current times. Learning how other followers of Jesus endured through hard times is inspiring to me.

When I got sick with PTSD and went through CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy) to heal, one of the basic tenants was to examine my fears. I first had to determine whether or not those fear thoughts were rational or irrational. Many times my fears were not based on any rational thing and were easy enough to refute (2 Corinthians 10:5 We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.). So I took the thought captive and dismissed it.

For those times when a fear proved to be rational, then the refuting process is a bit different. It often involved coming up with a plan of action.

And so part of my plan of action, as I saw what was unfolding before me the past year of Covid lockdowns etc., (wherein I saw that there were many valid, rational ‘concerns’) in order to better prepare myself for this hour I am now living in: was to be in prayer and word of course. In addition, I felt a desire to study what other Christians had done in the past, when living through troubling times. That is how I ended up with a slew of Corrie TenBoom’s books on my table.

It has proven very fruitful to do that. I highly recommend reading about the faith of believers, like Corrie TenBoom, who have gone through very real times of persecution in the past.

For it seems we are once again in a time where people around us are displaying great faith, but in the wrong person (or people, or things, including IMO: vaccines).

…And there was no longer any sea

At one time Revelation 21:1 disturbed me. I couldn’t reconcile that the new earth will not have an ocean to gaze at or beaches to stroll upon at sunset and sunrise. (Seems there won’t be a sunrise or sunset either in the new earth…) As you can probably tell by the photo on my blog header, I’m a big fan of the sea. Some commentaries assure me that biblical mentions of ‘the sea’ are referring to multitudes and nations and wicked/evil things in general; not the literal ocean which may actually be part of the new earth after all.

But I wasn’t convinced.

Then I came across this excellent video by critical issues commentary in which he explains how the Jews viewed the sea (beginning at six minutes in). Paraphrasing: “They saw the sea as the abyss, where the devil and demons were. They weren’t like us, building condos right next to it, they tried to stay away from it. They were afraid to die at sea as if the body couldn’t have a proper burial they felt they had no hope.” All of which also adds a much deeper layer as to why the disciples were so very scared and upset, as Jesus slept, when the storm came upon their boat at sea.

Understanding how those living in Bible times viewed the ocean (something to be avoided), compared to how we tend to view it today (something to attain to, beaches and locales to put on our bucket lists), also gave deeper meaning to one of my favorite Bible verses, James 1: 6

But when you ask, you must believe and not doubt, because the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea, blown and tossed by the wind

James 1:6 NIV

Knowing that the sea represented the abyss and the place where demons and the devil dwell, to the original writers of the Bible, gives this verse a much deeper meaning as well.

At one time I saw the ocean, and it’s waves, as a very powerful thing that deeply symbolized our need to ask/pray to God in faith not doubting. Since anyone who has waded into the waves in the ocean, knows how easily you can get blown and tossed about by the current.

But if I approach this verse with the understanding of the sea as a very real representation of evil…it adds another layer to an already powerful understanding. When we pray and ask God, in faith, without doubting (in Him and His dominion over evil), then even the very forces of evil, the devil himself, cannot shake us. It will be as if we were anchored so tight to the Rock of God that no strong wave or current will ever be able to move us.

But, if we do not ask in faith, if we doubt God’s power and dominion over evil, that is when evil will easily be able to toss us about, as a wave of the sea tosses the sand beneath it.

Understanding that the sea represents evil, makes this verse entirely about God and His power in the face of the very representation of ‘the abyss’, and the subsequent trust we choose to put in that power because we know how absolute it is; not about me and my ability to stand strong or swim my way out of a riptide…

An added irony in all of this: is that many people I know are getting vaccinated, and some are even willing to overcome their vaccine hesitancy: specifically to be able to travel again.

One of the top travel destinations remains: ‘the beach’ and ‘the ocean’.

As I pondered that, I also grieved that I myself may not be returning to the ocean again, especially if it requires getting a vaccination.

But I am choosing to trust God as I make my peace with it all–that whatever plan He has for the future, when the new heaven and new earth appear, that the beauty and wonder of that new creation will be such that I will not even think to miss the beautiful oceans of this present age. That hope in what is to come steels me to remain in the faith, clinging to Him, and withholding on those earthly temptations, the checking off of ‘bucket lists’ and such, things which once so readily sucked me off balance- like waves of the sea.

I can do all things through Christ Jesus who gives me strength (even 1 Corinthians 5:11?)

First Corinthians chapter five was one segment of the Bible that I really camped out on, when I decided to disclose to others, the ‘case of incest’ that had happened against me, within my own family. A disclosure which then led me to separate myself from my abusers; as well as those who ‘sheltered’ said abusers. At the time, I couldn’t decide what the word proud was actually getting at; in 1 Corinthians 5:2 And you are proud! Shouldn’t you rather have gone into mourning and have put out of your fellowship the man who has been doing this?

I concluded that if I were to share my thoughts on this chapter of scripture, I would be sure to include the two theories I had found regarding the meaning of proud. Most commentators felt that the church at Corinth was proud in a covering sense, and thereby seeking to ‘look perfect to others’ (as we often do in our pride and arrogance). And so they were eagerly covering up the sin in their midst instead of bringing it to light, openly dealing with it, and rebuking the brother who was willfully sinning in such an egregious manner, for his sake, that he could possibly be saved eternally. Doing so would likely have meant suffering a pretty public stain on their reputation. Therefore it is presumed they ‘covered it up’ in their pride, wanting to keep it quiet so they looked better to outsiders and other churches. This makes good sense, to me, and rang quite true. At least in terms of my own family members, all of them professing Christians: I became the problem for talking about the problem. In their pride they definitely wanted to just keep this sin quiet and unknown.

However, I also came across an alternative ‘take’ which rang true as well, that proud was used in a more open sense. Some believed that the church in Corinth may have actually been openly proud about how licentious they were able to be, as if that denoted they had a greater measure of faith or love. Today we would call that kind of thing grace-based and trusting fully in Jesus work on the cross to cover us, rather than our own works to save us — to the point that they were so tolerant of sexual sins that they saw that tolerance they were displaying as a reason to be proud. This take isn’t as popular as the first one. Yet I think it also has merit, especially given what is happening today with the general acceptance of, and seeming loving Christian behaviors, in the face of so many forms of sexual sins being openly practiced and embraced.

Both of those examples fit the range of what I personally encountered, after I disclosed that I was abused as a child by a member of my family, who was also a member of the clergy. Again: my own family was proud of our good name and that we had a member of the clergy within our rank. How dare I threaten that?

Others I shared this with did not seem ready or willing to confront evil in our midst and more than eager to ‘give extra grace and love’ to the perpetrator… to be open to my story, only to then just want to cover it all up again. I’m not sure if that was pride, or simple naivety about how often the New Testament urges us to confront and separate from evil. But I do know that in time I became very careful about with whom I shared my story. As, by and large, most Christians want to believe that the church is a safe place, and that ministers, by nature of being church leaders, could almost always be trusted. Except for those few evil ones already in prison… but those were/are obvious (or something?) and not our current minister…no not ours…

It is, almost always, to such Christians, the world which is the problem. Most Christians I know simply do not speak or behave or pray; as if the church is, or even might be, the problem. Even though a quick read of 1 Corinthian 5 & 6 makes it very clear that we are not to judge the world or be surprised to see evil there; but instead to actually hone in on– with ready exhortations and a willingness to kick out or separate ourselves from– our brothers and sisters within the church–rooting out all forms of sin and evil there, so that we may be spared eternally. That is love. That is grace. That is truth. I have not heard of this happening in a helpful way. Instead, I’ve heard horror stories of abuse victims being rooted out of churches.

Others I told my story to heard me and seemed to believe me, but they also expressed little to no outrage at the evil occurring in our midst, or concern that this person might perpetrate on others; and instead were urging me to forgive it. All were welcome there. So long as those sinned against were willing to forgive anything.

I was not urged to share openly, in order that others in the church may be spared from abuse, or in order that my perpetrator might descend further into evil and therein might actually be saved himself. Nor did I sense that I would get any support from any church body at large, were I to have tried to do that in a more public way than I ended up doing. And so it was, in encountering those reactions, that I came to believe that being proud about how tolerant we Christians can be, in the midst of sexual sins committed by professing brothers, is also a very real phenomena–at least it is so today (whether or not that was also what was going on in Corinth at the time of Paul’s letters, I simply cannot say).

And so, it is with this mindset of seeing that I was more right then, than I may be now, as I go back and re-visit my early recovery: that I have been re-reading the New Testament letters. Because I am not sure I have pleased God or really displayed love, to my own abusers, in letting down some boundaries I had once kept very firm, as I first healed. As I read the New Testament, I am astounded how often evil is pointed out within the branches of the church itself, and how often we modern Christians just point blank leave those verses out in the things we repeat, pray about, encourage one another with, and put on our beloved wall plaques and t shirts and bumper stickers, too. Everyone has seen 1 Philippians 4:13 blazened across clothing and social media sites. But is anyone putting Philippians 3:2 on their wall?

Wherein Paul tells us to watch out for dogs, for evil doers within the church?

And what about 1 Corinthians 5:11? But now I am writing to you that you must not associate with anyone who claims to be a brother or sister but is sexually immoral or greedy, an idolateror or slanderer, a drunkard or swindler. Do not even eat with such people.

If I can truly ‘do all things’ through Christ who gives me strength, then why do I have such a hard time separating myself from willful sinners in my life, who readily call themselves Christians? Why am I not content with the incredibly small, yet salty and willing to separate from evil, fellowship that I already have… (I should note that the meaning, in context, of 1 Philippians 4:13 has more to do with finances and being content with either little OR much in terms of material possessions)

I think the culprit there is pride. Which leads to idolatry. Wherein we want to be part of God’s church just as we think it ought to be (and that kind of thing is an idol); we don’t actually want God; or the church He is actually forming on earth. I am guilty of this idolatry myself. I too want to be part of something much bigger, more impressive, more powerful– than this tiny remnant of but one or two who keep seeking other Christians for strengthening– only to be disappointed time and again with how willing so many are to collude with the kind of sins and sinners we are warned, over and over again, to come out and be separate from.

Separating from the world is easy enough, and we can find lots of support for that kind of thing within Christian circles. Separating out from the professing Christians who are idolaters? Greedy? Drunkards? Slanderers? Swindlers? Who partake of, or else openly tolerate, sexual immorality (and abuse)?

If I put 1 Corinthians 5:11 on my wall, and followed it as diligently as I follow all the other Bible verses…would I have anyone left with whom to have Christian fellowship?

Come, Lord Jesus

“Her Clothing is Fine Linen & Purple”…(Do Abuse Victims Prefer Black?)

I try and keep my forays into social media ‘fun’ and ‘light’. Especially since what I read and write here on WordPress, is usually on the heavier side of things.

One of the Christian accounts I follow on social media is an image consultant. She ‘remakes people’s closets’ for them, first finding all the ‘keepers’ from their existing clothing, not merely adding new pieces. This is great fun for me to watch. Though sometimes it convicts me, and makes me think deeper, too. For instance, some time ago this professional image consultant shared that very few women actually look good in black.

Shocking, right? Since ‘does it come in black’ is pretty much the most frequent question all women ask when shopping for clothes. Plus, everyone knows black takes off ‘pounds’ too, right? Having turned my own closet, over recent years, into a kaleidoscope of muted colors with loads of grey and black, I was a bit concerned about this claim…however, not being one to just take another’s word for anything: I searched the internet to see if this ‘no one looks good in black’ thing was really true.

Turns out, it is a well-known fact that most women look far worse in black; not better. Black washes out most skin tones, wrinkles and blemishes become more pronounced, one’s personality will come across as severe, aloof, and lacking joy. The perfect little black dress revenge theory works simply because the woman is often trying to look haughty, unapproachable, cold, and powerful.

I think of the tendency for people who follow religious sects to wear a lot of black or muted clothing (The Amish, The Hutterites, Nuns, Monks, the standard black shirt and pants outfit of a Catholic priest when he goes out and about during the week), and it all fits. Black is also a way to show we are in mourning or fasting or making some kind of strong statement:

Well, you wonder why I always dress in black
Why you never see bright colors on my back
And why does my appearance seem to have a somber tone
Well, there’s a reason for the things that I have on

I wear the black for the poor and the beaten down
Living in the hopeless, hungry side of town
I wear it for the prisoner who has long paid for his crime
But is there because he’s a victim of the time

I wear the black for those who’ve never read
Or listened to the words that Jesus said
About the road to happiness through love and charity
Why, you’d think He’s talking straight to you and me

Well, we’re doing mighty fine, I do suppose
In our streak of lightning cars and fancy clothes
But just so we’re reminded of the ones who are held back
Up front there ought to be a man in black

I wear it for the sick and lonely old
For the reckless ones whose bad trip left them cold
I wear the black in mourning for the lives that could have been
Each week we lose a hundred fine young men

And I wear it for the thousands who have died
Believing that the Lord was on their side
I wear it for another hundred thousand who have died
Believing that we all were on their side

Well, there’s things that never will be right I know
And things need changing everywhere you go
But ’til we start to make a move to make a few things right
You’ll never see me wear a suit of white

Ah, I’d love to wear a rainbow every day
And tell the world that everything’s okay
But I’ll try to carry off a little darkness on my back
‘Til things are brighter, I’m the Man In Black

Johnny Cash, Lyrics to ‘Man in Black’

Holy Week is one time I can find myself missing parts of the Protestant tradition, in which I was raised. Maundy Thursday and Good Friday services were such moving events. We had communion together on Thursday evening of Holy Week, and then at the end of the service, with dusk darkening the stained glass windows, women of the church would go forward, somberly removing the elements, taking down all the colorful banners, and wordlessly covering the gold cross on the altar and the lecterns in shrouds of black fabric. Ushers turned off the lights in the church, one by one, and when the de-coloring/darkening process was finished the congregants led themselves out one by one, in silence.

To leave a darkened church in mourning and grief and somber reflection of sins, and come back again early on Easter Sunday with great joy and anticipation, seeing the sanctuary completely washed in bright color and sunlight: purples, golds, greens, and lots of whites, the sun rising brightly again through the stained glass windows–with the scent of Easter lilies and the drift of strong coffee and iced cinnamon rolls from the basement–was enlivening to the senses. The yearly tradition: of first shrouding in black, followed by a burst of colors, was enriching to my childhood faith, in part because I could see Jesus’ death and resurrection unfold through rich representations of color.

All of which made Jesus’ death, suffering, and resurrection even more real to me. The black was as needed a reminder in that regeneration process as the bright colors of Easter Morning.

I was never a big fan of the color black growing up, or in my younger years. I had friends who just loved black sports cars and black leather jackets. I wanted mine in red! Or yellow or pink…I simply preferred fun colors. Considering what I went through, mid-life, in finally walking through the cloud of childhood abuse and it’s long recovery (made longer since it came without any real support from my birth family), I can see why I willingly turned my own closet into a Maundy Thursday church service. Wherein I was drawn to black, grey, and muted shades; as I grieved and lived with the full damage and effects of buried pain.

In adulthood, it was a slow but steady de-coloring process as reality unfolded. Many childhood friends moved to ‘the city’ and I stayed put in Middle America, seemingly stuck here. I remember feeling a very real clash ‘of color’ at times. Before my visit to a big city on the West Coast, my hosting friend warned, ‘Just wear muted clothes. Locals always spot the tourists from the Midwest because they show up in such bright, colorful clothes.’

My closet, at the time, was full of bright colors! I didn’t want to look like I didn’t belong somewhere, like a clueless midwesterner, and I dutifully shopped for muted accessories, packing all the taupe, brown, and muted pink tones I had at the time.

But now?

Now I laugh at myself for ever trying to fit in; in a city. Why would I want to look like a city dweller? Black denotes suffering, in the Bible. Indeed, it is suffering, for me, to be in a city now. I no longer enjoy even short visits there, where I can feel the oppressive ‘sameness’ literally making me depressed and feel like I’ve landed in a dystopian nightmare.

I have little hope or joy, when I am in the city. In part because I see the endless grey and black everywhere and it affects my mood. And not surprisingly, the most popular cloth face mask…in the city…seems to be black.

I want to avoid the city these days; all the while I subsequently turn my hidden closet in the country into Easter Sunday.

I want to be the giant kid at heart that the joy of Jesus can restore again. Or, as Proverbs 31: 22 says: the woman who clothes myself in fine linen and purple. And so I mean no disrespect here to Johnny Cash, but Jesus already won; so I think that means we CAN wear colors. I mean, I ‘get it’, why some wear black, and likely always will. I went through a black phase too, and so I plan to keep the black bits in my closet, even as I add more color to it. But I fear that to ‘stay there’, muted and washed out and suffering, past the point of the needed time spent in abuse recovery, would be to fall for the devil’s lies. Because it is the One, and the ones, robed in white/riding white horses who is/are victorious.

In Middle America a lot of people have big, joy-filled, colorful personalities and often wear clothing to match their unique character; too. The vast green fields which surround me, denote blooming where one is planted, growth and fruitfulness in Jesus, as well as peacefulness and tranquility

For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, Which spreads out its roots by the river, And will not fear when heat comes; But its leaf will be green, And will not be anxious in the year of drought, Nor will cease from yielding fruit.

Jeremiah 17:8 KJV

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters. He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Psalm 23:2-3 KJV

The unobstructed blue of our prairie sky represents the nearness of God Himself as well as the heavenly realm. While the bright yellow sun, brings joy and also testifies to the purity and refinement of solid gold, of God Himself.

And so begins my personal renewal process of turning my closet back into the Easter morning church services I so loved as a kid. With being happy with the place, the family, and the life which God has given me; instead of viewing it as some punishment with which I am stuck.

As noted already: I will keep the grey and black, of course. Because resurrection and new life is far more meaningful and powerful when one has first gone through, and still remembers now and then, the death and grieving process, the suffering and weeping which lasted for a night, before the joy came in the morning.

Thankfully it is not about me at all here, or my closet… It is Jesus who turns our mourning into the bright colors of Resurrection Morning!

Footnote: The biblical color references used in this post were taken from the following post about color in the Bible, at the Reasons For Hope Jesus website.

Leprosy, Baptism, and Being Healed as We Go

A local church is planning to do baptisms this Easter Sunday. Seems a good time for it. The weeks and days prior to Passover, and Holy Week itself, are a sobering time for self-reflection, confession of sin, and repentance, culminating in great hope and renewal as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus.

Historians theorize that it was the Jewish religious tradition of deep cleaning, wiping every cupboard and cranny of potential leaven (leaven or yeast represents sin), prior to passover/feast of unleavened bread, that led to the widely adapted practice of ‘spring cleaning.’

A thorough house cleaning sums up baptism too: making our faith public by undergoing a literal, though symbolic, purifying/cleansing act of bathing. ‘Dying’ to sin, as we go under that water, thereby renouncing and putting to death the old man: the world, the flesh and the devil, and then coming up from that temporary burial a new person: cleansed and trusting Jesus entirely for new life, for eternal life and the ultimate bodily resurrection to come.

I hear Bill Randles mention this detail frequently in sermons: Jesus had water gush from His side when He died on the cross; and there is always water involved in a birth process too. Water is a very important element in a baptism, and in our new life in Jesus.

I have been reflecting back on my own desire to be baptized by immersion, which, as I may have already shared here on this blog, was the crux point which began the total unraveling of my former life. The former life wherein I wrote nice sounding Christian-ese things and covered up any bits of ugly.

Then I entered, haltingly and messily, and not always very Christ-like, into a new life wherein I could no longer cover up truth, hide abuse, and still retain any peace in my heart. I found that post-baptism I needed, instead, to call the truth to light, in order to keep my internal peace. And I didn’t like doing that as it caused issues with others, and I liked to ‘keep the peace’; even at the cost of personal peace. But doing so was also costing me my own right standing with God. I had to change that.

To paraphrase something I think Anne Lamott wrote (not a recommendation or an endorsement of her, as I find her too new age for my tastes): if people wanted me to write nice things about them, then they ought to have behaved better…I didn’t fully understand such statements prior to being baptized. I once thought it WAS Christian to cover up other people’s sins. Not to reveal them. If you don’t have something nice to say: don’t say anything at all. Which I cannot find in the Bible even though it sounded Christian to me. Actually, I made it sound Christian in my head since that helped me justify why I was so willing to avoid conflict; and willing to live in a state of learned helplessness, where I just let ongoing pain happen to me and no longer attempted to move out of its way.

Being baptized is what ultimately empowered me to own up to the truth of my own past abuse, to feel and grieve the true cost of victimhood to myself and others: my spouse, my children, my in laws, many friends I’d burned–there was a lot of damage done, and not just to me, but through me and by me too. Sexual abuse of a child is never a single bullet sniper attack on the victim. It’s more like a mass shooting with many casualties and injuries of varying degrees.

I had to also acknowledge the personal sin pattern my childhood had set me on (and for that part: I was fully responsible). In time I was no longer afraid to openly admit my status as a clergy abuse survivor, and therein I think I finally could walk as a restored child of God, accepting that while it wasn’t my fault that what had happened to me had happened…it was, nonetheless, my own responsibility to break bad habits and to try and make right the collateral damage I had caused on my own, too.

Or rather, I should say, to let God right it for me as I continued to just confess and repent of my own indwelling sin–of which I knew I had no excuse. I was beginning to see that even if I had a valid excuse, making an excuse instead of promptly confessing my real state of sinfulness, would just keep me from walking in the light of Jesus, myself.

Baptism, quite literally, changed everything for me. Seemingly for the worse, at first, and then ultimately: likely being the very thing to keep me in God’s protection and power, through an ensuing fiery trial.

I was sprinkled as a baby, per the Protestant tradition I was born into. For a long while I felt that baby baptism sufficed, and also protected me somehow or other, and I didn’t question it. Until I came to fully believe that a baby baptism didn’t mean anything. I even suspected that my sprinkling as an infant may actually have been damaging to me, keeping me from something better, in some way I couldn’t fully understand at the time. That part was fuzzy for years. Eventually I saw how damaging it had been to have no real choice in such an intimate and life changing event, like deciding to follow Jesus for my own self, as our free will choice toward baptism testifies.

However, one part of it all was very clear. Prior to my baptism, I yearned, with all my being, to be dunked in water in the way the Bible exemplifies.

I was besotted with such a strong desire for it, that it was hard to wait for warm enough weather or a proper setting in order to do just that. Once those details were worked out, God put a particular Bible story in my heart that I am still reflecting on years later.

That Bible story involved a sick man dipping into some muddy water, just as the water I felt called to for my own immersion was pretty muddy. There were certainly cleaner lakes than the one to which I was so drawn…but that muddy water part certainly matched the story I was pondering in the Bible, which was a story of a physical healing taking place in a muddy river, and therein the even greater miracle: the finding of real faith in the true God. And so I came to believe that my own adult baptism would eventually lead to some kind of a physical healing for me, as well as become a representation of my own death to sin and new life in Jesus. (I should note that I was rapidly descending into chronic illness and pain, at the time of my baptism and therefore I was also seeking God’s healing.)

It was the Old Testament account of Naaman being healed of leprosy that was so strongly on my heart during those weeks preceding my baptism. Naaman was a Syrian army commander who came down with leprosy. A slave girl in his household told Naaman’s wife that if only her master were in Israel, (where the slave girl had come from), there was a prophet of God there who could heal him. (Takeaway: an unnamed slave girl’s boldness in giving glory to God, is what led someone to God. Be bold. Share your faith!!).

Naaman heard that she’d said this, went to see the King of Israel, and ultimately ended up at the house of Elisha, the prophet. Where he was met at the door and was promptly instructed, by a mere messenger “Go, wash yourself seven times in the Jordan, and your flesh will be restored and you will be cleansed.” Naaman was offended, felt there were far cleaner rivers in his own homeland that he could go wash himself in, and almost didn’t even listen. (take away: do NOT question the direct instructions of God; rather, obey them, and when we obey, then is when we will receive healing).

Naaman consented and was instantly healed, and his conversion to God, which seemed to coincide with his healing, was solid and real. Like yeast/leaven, leprosy also represented sin, (as well as the ritual uncleanness that comes from our descent into sin/evil), in the Bible. Getting rid of his leprosy denoted something had also been cleansed in him in a spiritual sense, as well. As is evidenced by Naaman’s immediate understanding that it would be very wrong to ever again offer sacrifices to other gods. He then asks for permission to still be able to help his aging king, whom he served, kneel in the temple before the god Rimmon. To do so Naaman would end up kneeling in reverence, himself.

But, after his life altering dips in the Jordan, and thereby seeing the God of Israel AS God, Naaman now knew that to kneel in a false gods temple would be idolatrous and adulterous behavior. And since he was himself but a servant of an earthly king, he wanted to make sure it was ok to have an allowance there. Clearly, after his conversion/healing: his heart belonged to Elisha’s God, no longer to the false gods of his home country.

Elisha responded by telling him to go in peace, and I’m assuming that meant he was given an allowance to help his master kneel in the temple without compromising his own newfound faith to the one true God.

Where it all gets interesting, to me, is Naaman’s request to load up two mules– with dirt from Israel. He wanted to take some of God’s holy ground back home with him!

In my own baptism one detail I remember is how muddy the lake bottom was when I entered it, squishing between my toes and sinking nearly to my ankles. Whereas, when I exited the water again after being dipped under: the ground had seemed almost unnaturally hard and smooth under my feet, as if it had somehow turned to stone instead.

While water signifies birth and new life in Jesus, perhaps dirt, and/or standing on the holy ground of God, is what represents healing? I think of how Jesus mixed dirt with spit and healed the blind man. Or of how Jesus didn’t even touch, but merely sent the ten lepers, who’d come near Him seeking healing, away again on a walk–to go show themselves to the priest. Those lepers were healed on their way (see Luke 17). I’m not sure if it was them seeking Jesus, or their obedience to Jesus instructions, which healed them. Likely both.

Another leper was healed by Jesus touch (Matthew 8), and then was told to tell no one but go and show himself to the priest and offer the gift Moses had commanded; as a testimony to them. I’m also not sure why we are given that detail. Why would a priest of God need to be shown a testimony about God?

Perhaps for a similar reason as to why the minister who abused me also needs to see the testimony of my own changed life, and my new found ability to walk in truth and confront him for his actions against me, and thereby truly show myself as I really am, once badly damaged by sin and evil, held silent by shame, but healed again too and no longer bound by shame. My life is now able to be as a testimony to others; of the power of God. What other chance might some have, themselves, to repent and follow God– if they are not also called to account for their own hidden sins when they see the testimony that is someone’s formerly incurable and unclean condition, like leprosy (or the sexual abuse of a child?) just up and leaving them by Jesus’s power?

Another rich detail of Naaman’s story is how Elisha’s duplicitous servant, Gehazi, went out and collected payment from Naaman. Elisha had refused Naaman’s offers of a gift. And so Elisha confronted Gehazi, “Is this the time to take money or to accept clothes—or olive groves and vineyards, or flocks and herds, or male and female slaves? Naaman’s leprosy will cling to you and to your descendants forever.” Then Gehazi went from Elisha’s presence and his skin was leprous—it had become as white as snow. (2 Kings 5: 26- 27)

When I ponder that part of the story: I can see how many of my own physical and spiritual ailments are now lifted, just like Naaman’s leprosy. And how those who attempted to profit in any way, from my own healing process, brought injury to themselves. On a spiritual level, I am far less likely to cover my real self up in shame, like a lepor, outcast from the camp. While those on the peripheral of my story, went into hiding; as if they are leprous.

Others come close sometimes, but seem to just want in on the good stuff of God, the money and clothes, olive groves and flocks…and slaves to do their bidding… yet they shirk from the whole counsel of God, fail to grasp the full gospel (grace AND truth), and do not stand firm when it comes to the ongoing problem of workers of God profiting from other people’s sickness and miraculous healings. It’s no wonder why so many of us who profess Jesus are not well, or remain bound to shame, failing to walk in real life changing power.

Only one leper, of the ten who were healed ‘as they went’ (on their way to show themselves to the priest), returned to Jesus giving thanks to Him and praising Him for the healing. Perhaps that one desired another experience of standing on the Holy Ground that emanated from Jesus’ presence here on earth? Similar as to how Naaman wanted to take two mules full of dirt with him?

If so, then Jesus question to the one thankful leper is even more profound: where are the other nine lepers who were also healed? Perhaps they did not realize, as the Samaritan Leper had, that Jesus, not the priests, or the temple, is the Holy Ground which had healed them. And so perhaps the two mule fulls of dirt that Naaman took home represented Jesus Himself and the desire of a new convert to return to Him again and again for another healing and life changing experience of standing on Holy Ground.

If we are willing to be cleansed by the water of God, and we are also willing to sink our bare toes down into that holy ground of God, to not shy from the mud and the mess which is the ongoing sanctification process — then surely there is great blessing to be had in these acts of obedience. Because it sure seems that ‘dirt’ which Jesus makes holy, can change one’s life too, just as can the clean water of baptism: the healing water which flows from Jesus, poured out for our behalf.

Whether or not my take on ‘holy ground’ and why Naaman loaded up two mules with dirt and only one leper returned to thank Jesus is proper biblical exegesis or not…

Showing ourselves as we really are, to others, as a testimony to God, is a very good thing. As is giving all praise for a changed and/or a healed life right back to Jesus, and refusing to accept earthly rewards, nor to put up with others willing to accept that kind of thing, when God heals another in our midst. These seem to be solid takeaways, both as we ponder our own baptism, and as we also reflect on Jesus’ death and resurrection.

Dumb and Dumber Faith

Lloyd Christmas, the hopeless romantic/eternal optimist (and inspiration for our Christian faith during dark times?)

I shared in my last post the reason why I’ve been reading Revelation frequently in the past few months.

The apocalyptical prophesy writings in the Bible almost always unsettle me, lead me to self-examination, repentance, fear of what still lies ahead, and then ultimately fill me with great hope that I will make it through it all and eventually out of here through Jesus Christ, thanks only to Him and not my own works. Turning that sense of defeat and fear and dread into great joy and relief and HOPE at the end.

My heart process as I ponder these hard truths in God’s word is much like Lloyd’s reactions in the above encounter with Mary, with whom he was so thoroughly besotted. When hard reality begins to settle in, he deflates visibly. But he doesn’t stay there long. As hope rebuilds and his great love remains, he simply can’t see anything BUT the slim chance he was given–as just that, a chance. That’s all he needed to remain hopelessly in love.

I have loosely followed along with various ministers and writers, all professing Christians, who are giving voice to what many others might call ‘conspiracy theories’. There is also a popular meme floating around about watching the news to ‘see which chapter of Revelation we are on today.’ It is only funny because it rings so true.

I am not a scientist and so I won’t get into the various theories going around about why 2021 and beyond could make 2020 look like we were on a paradise vacation. See ‘science with Dr. Doug’ if interested in a professing Christian scientist who seems relatively sound (that is NOT an endorsement, though).

In terms of ministers-I am once again getting quite a bit of help and hope from Bill Randles recent blog posts and sermons. Although he seems to continue to ‘see’ Trump as something very different than I see Trump.

Having now examined many other Christian sites and self professed ‘watchmen’ I once avidly followed, it seems few of them leave the reader with a sense of hope in the love of God, and the love of God alone. It’s a lot of: sounding of alarms as well as ‘avoid and wait’ (for the rapture) talk instead, to me. Others may disagree.

What I am is a believer in Jesus Christ, and that is what I can speak to; and will. My aim in life is to be as hopelessly besotted with Him– as Jim Carrey’s character, Lloyd, was with Mary. But I need encouragement from others to stay in that kind of hope. Those I once turned to for that encouragement are increasingly camped out on ‘warnings’ and this IS what it is ‘predictions’ of what lies ahead. (Oh, the unease such definitive statements bring me! Contrasted with the comfort AND the conviction to be found in Christians who simply say: I don’t know for sure but I can see how this might be…

And so to follow up on my last post, I want to share something that I believe He gave me during a troubled time of prayer where I was struggling with great fears and a sense of pending doom, in part because I had returned to some of these Christian pools from which I once drank freely and in seeming safety.

As I looked ahead to the future and began fearing greatly for my children, I didn’t see much hope at all.

That is when that scene from Dumb and Dumber came into my head and my heart grabbed onto it with a deep understanding, and a chuckle, of course… I knew that navigating my today and my tomorrow would involve grasping onto ‘dumb and dumber’ kind of faith. No matter what comes at me/us in the year and years to come–there is always, always, always HOPE in Jesus Christ. He can restore all the devil planned for evil and preserve what does remain and keep us from all the horror that may or may not come in our lifetimes.

Casting the pre-tribulation rapture and all those resulting arguments aside: The worldly odds of surviving the ‘pictures’ we are given of the actual apocalypse seem to give us a one in a million chance of mere survival, let alone making it out of here with eternal life intact. Yet there are a great throng of tribulation saints shown in Heaven who DO make it out of the end with their faith in tact.

God shows us what is to happen, sure, but He also makes it very clear that we ‘have a chance’. Those who remain in their love of Jesus above all else cannot be, and will not be, shaken by anything.

In the midst of so much which can be visibly seen as scary and dangerous and dark: the world might call those of us who retain unshakable hope in the unseen dumb and dumber.

I believe our Heavenly Father calls it precious! Jesus encourages us to be as children in our faith and in our love of Him. And we love because He first loved us.

As the World Turns; the Young and the Restless are having the Days of Our Lives.

This morning I read through Revelation. I’ve been doing that a lot lately. Because a loved one of mine is currently enamored with preterist eschatology. And so we have had many discussions about it and I’ve gone to the scriptures many times to see if what is being said has merit. I understand the appeal : I studied preterist viewpoints in the past, still look at it now and then, and find parts of it intriguing myself.

I also understand that the speculative leaps many ‘internet prophesy interpreters’ are making right now (and which I have also made myself here and there) might lead many disgruntled believers to preterism –with its concrete assertion to ‘stop speculating and obsessing over promises which are now DONE!’

See: Preterists believe that, in terms of End Time Bible prophesies, ‘everything already happened'(in 70 AD and shortly thereafter). Futurists believe nothing has happened yet (in terms of the ‘end times’ and second coming prophesies, not the messianic fulfillments of Jesus first coming). Historicists believe in some mixture of past, present, and future fulfillment. There are also those who believe in things like dual fulfillment of prophesy.

I am reluctant to put myself in any of the known eschatological categories. (The above explanations are my quick takeaway/paraphrasing of what I’ve studied–I encourage curious readers to research these categories for themselves for more detailed information! I didn’t want to make that the main aim of this post).

But, in the aim of full disclosure, I will say that I align ‘the most’ with the historicist viewpoint and I also see how dual or multiple fulfillments (as well as a combination of both a literal; plus a spiritual fulfillment) often seems to be a part of Bible prophesy as well. Just where I am ‘now’. That could always change.

However, I also think it’s important to understand the spirit of prophesy or the main purpose of prophesy in the first place- and to not lose sight of that. Otherwise we might see something or other as fulfilled by, say, Nero, when the greater point of the prophesy is/was to lead people to repentance and fully identifying themselves with Jesus — not leading us to identifying long dead Nero, or some present or future villain who comes to life, as the Antichrist.

If prophesy were truly about that and only THAT, than anyone who can figure out a riddle could somehow be spared– as if we just need to ‘use our own brains’ and think it through and thus save ourselves…whereas the way I see it: only those of us who approach mysterious and alarming prophetic revelations of God, by casting our selves on our knees in front of Jesus, worshipping Him alone and calling on Him for the forgiveness of our sins and trusting in His mercy and His status AS the Son of God, the WAY, the truth and the life!!–only those of us who take that posture of humility and worship and proper understanding of Jesus AS GOD–the only one who CAN save us — will be spared from the wrath of God.

(Whether or not we understood some hidden ‘riddle’ of times and dates and people and places — which may or may not have been written into the text…our posture before Him and our understanding of WHO He is; is what matters in terms of salvation and escaping God’s wrath.)

The way I see it: the spirit of prophesy points us to the denial of the self, repentance, and a return to Jesus as our first love, in this way the church is built up and edified. Read 1 Corinthians 14 . Pay attention to verses 24 and 25. (Paraphrasing:) “When an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted and called to account and the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you.” That, (not predicting the future! Nor proclaiming that those future predictions are all in the past now) is the aim of prophesy (the way I see it anyway). That worshipping of God (and thereby coming out of worldly and empire worship) is what The Book of Revelation is about, to me. Which makes it far less about predicting the future and far more about preparing my own individual heart for meeting Jesus face to face someday.

In regard to what still could be coming to the earth: I prefer to take a ‘wait and see how it all pans out approach.’ I don’t need everything to be wrapped up in a bow already– one and done– OR: not unfolding until after Jesus jets me outta here– to have a sense of peace. I just need to know that I am forgiven in Jesus to feel at peace. Marked by His seal on my forehead (therefore the mark of the beast, whatever that is or already was– WON’T be received on my forehead).

I also prefer to prepare my heart, so as not to be caught unaware, for a sudden return of Jesus, or meeting Him if sudden disaster strikes me–as it seems that that was the historical position most believers TOOK– in terms of the second coming, and/0r being prepared to meet Him through death. The blessed hope is certainly: life after death through Jesus Christ our Lord. As well as these words from the Apostle Paul (verses 51-53) Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality.

One thing which grieved me greatly, when I left my particular brand of protestantism, was that it did not focus on the blessed hope of Jesus’ return, or that the day of death is better than the day of birth either. Perhaps some protestant streams do — the one I was in: did not. The thing that grieves me about the modern evangelical world I then explored– is that it does not seem to focus on the blessed hope of Jesus’ return either–at least not to save us from our sinful state and set the world right again.

Too many evangelicals seem to focus on the blessed hope of the rapture coming BEFORE the great tribulation so that they can escape…which is a bit different than being eager for Jesus to come so that we can finally live free of sin and evil; or soberly recognizing that to die in Christ is gain- hating even our very lives (as they constantly tempt us into sin). And vastly different from casting ourselves in worship before Jesus so that He seals us; and therefore we do not need to worry about getting the other mark …because we know that if we remain walking in the Spirit, He will tell us the things we need to know in order to avoid evil.

Furthermore: I do not want to be locked into some way of thinking that might hinder what God reveals to me, both personally, and in unfolding events I can witness with my own two eyes. The danger in following these various eschatological streams is that I might stop following Him and His daily guidance and put man’s opinions above the maturing work of the Holy Spirit.

I also don’t want to break, or damage, fellowship with those who align strongly with any of these eschatological viewpoints–another reason why I’m wary of labeling myself or dialing down too hard into one way of thinking about the dim glass/(mirror) which is biblical prophesy. (read all of the chapter for context and pay attention to 1 Corinthians 13:8-12).

Meanwhile, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry about how many brothers and sisters in Christ that I know (personally, as well as what I’ve seen on online forums/blogs/etc.) who didn’t think the last inauguration would ‘actually happen.’ Some because they felt God was still with Trump and America — others because Trump is ‘clearly the antichrist’ and needs to stay in power to bring on the end of the final end, the fatal wound of one head of the beast ‘being healed’ through Trump retaining power. I admit, that thought that Trump could stay in power had occurred to me as well– as I saw what was happening. Thinking it to myself, and even running thoughts and possibilities by others privately, versus proclaiming loudly, on the internet, that that was going to be the way it WAS going to go down – however- are two very different things.

For these reasons and others: this morning I had a good laugh. Because I remembered the days when I was a teenager and loved watching ‘stories’ — daytime television soap operas. A friend recorded fuzzy episodes daily (VCR taping over previously recorded tapes often made it fuzzy) and we’d watch them together at her house after school with a shared bag of Doritos and separate Cokes.

Later, when I was staying at home with small children, my boredom and desire for junk food had me once again following along–this time with a bag of cheddar cheese and sour cream Ruffles and a Pepsi.

The junk food switch was about the biggest change, too. If you’ve ever watched soap operas: not much changes. You can pick up YEARS later and quickly recognize the characters and plot lines unfolding the same as prior. There is a lot of dramatic hype within each ‘new’ episode for the future episodes–many of these coming things would be ‘prophesied’ as the viewer would always know ‘major things’ were coming SOON. But the actual coming of these foreshadowed events drug on. And on.

The stage was ALWAYS ‘being set’ for what was next.

And so when I first studied the End Times a decade ago, I did so with an almond milk/ spinach-and enough fruit to cover the spinach taste-smoothie in hand. It didn’t seem like I was indulging in junk food or falling into prior bad habits. I’d definitely changed and matured since my youthful days. I had no desire to watch soap operas anymore!

But there it was, as I dove into the End Times streams, I found that there was junk food galore, tempting me to lose focus on healthy communion with God — and every stream the same: let me show you how to DECODE the prophesy by keeping up on current events. Use your head with me as we reason through the prophesies (and don’t worry about making your HEART right with Jesus…).

Because the stage is being set for something big–just look at this news clip and examine that world leader!

Or: don’t worry about the future, the past is where it’s all at! Let me show you all the ways that you can decode the fulfilled prophesies by studying history, and then you can be at ease again.

And so, even though I took a break for a few years, when I went back in and started watching the ‘stories’ coming out of the various prophesy streams (and the preterist views ARE also a prophesy stream!), I found all the same storylines as prior. Nothing much was new. They are again saying the same thing: the antichrist isn’t here yet, because the rapture hasn’t happened yet, but the stage is being set for something big to happen SOON.

And the preterists are still on the opposite side with almond-milk-spinach-fruit smoothies avoiding any NEW soap operas as they assure me not to worry about a thing, lets just watch the taped soap operas that already ended. They want to hit replay on history show me how it ALL actually went down. Because the story is over and those following any newly unfolding stories are just being tricked or foolish or something. As if only the Preterists have the healthy foods all figured out. Umm, ok?

But, isn’t the entire book of Revelation actually like a big exclamation point urging me to purify my WORSHIP to Jesus so I don’t get caught up worshipping the world, fall for satan’s tricks, and get ensnared by worldly empire? If it all already happened than the people who did escape it, were doing just that — purifying their worship of Jesus. Not viewing prophesy like a crystal ball.

And almond milk and spinach is a big part of what made me SICK. It’s not health food, but just cleverly marketed junk food. But that’s a bunny trail for another day.

The big thing has already happened. I’ll agree with the preterist points on that. It’s high time to behave as if it has happened and walk in the real power that comes with Jesus’ resurrection. Jesus came once. I also believe He is, literally, coming back but no one knows the day or the hour of THAT. Focus on Him, not the details we are told we cannot know anyway. It is the young and the restless who focus on such details from current OR past events. The mature in Christ, focus on Him, and Him alone. We tremble and try to purify our worship of Him; when we read Revelation and then He calms us all over again with the knowledge of His work on the cross. We don’t say ‘phew, thankfully we don’t need to worry about all of that because it happened.’ We say PHEW, Jesus saved us from the coming wrath…

One final thing, about the vaccine. Notice I didn’t write vc or VX or any of the other things anti-vaccine people now do to ‘avoid censorship’.

I’ve now wasted many hours examining what supposed experts on both sides are saying about the vaccine. I have heard many popular ministers claim unfolding prophesy in regard to the vaccine and others insist it is ‘bad’ but NOT the mark of the beast. I’ve also heard new age, antichrist in spirit, doctors cherry pick verses from the Bible to proclaim it IS the mark of the beast, as in the next breath they tell people to ‘draw on their higher power’ whether that is Jesus or whoever. Talk about confusing times we live in.

Which is why it also grieves me– given how confusing it is to find any information one might actually trust–how many Christians continue to base major life and theology decisions on head logic, scientific arguments, and things they read online somewhere or heard from others. Instead of using wholehearted faith and prayer as much as they use the (seeming) logic of their own minds.

After praying about it, what did He tell you to do or not do? Because of course every mature Christian would shut out the noise of expert debates, theology teachers, and even the advice of trusted doctors, hunker down in humility and awareness of our fallen condition, take a prostrate position before God, and fully take that one to prayer. Wouldn’t they?

How many of us are just fearfully avoiding something because an online minister or blogger told his listeners to do so?

On the other hand, how many of us are blindly taking or allowing something, trusting what others are telling us to do; is the right thing to do?

And how many of us are using our logic and our brains and trusting in that over and above Him?

Oh, how young and restless we still are; substituting junk food and milk for meat; again and again. Others of us believing we have all the answers and aren’t eating junk food– but edifying food.

Church, please take Revelation seriously, no matter your eschatological leanings. It’s a call to purify ourselves again, to return to Him as first love, to lay down all the extra stuff we hold dear, including our notions of intellect, and to become instead: humble and faithful servants who obey His call; no matter if it makes clear sense to us or not. No matter if it costs us our very lives.

The temple veil was rent in two, we all can approach the throne boldly to get answers to our questions. The reason why we are not doing that likely has something to do with our fascination of watching the wicked turnings of the world; instead of obeying the One who turns the world. This is what keeps us immature. This leads to us needing more and more newsfeeds and proof and evidence of whatever viewpoint we have camped out on.

Take it to prayer. Ask. And then listen.

A brother to one who destroys

Proverbs 18:9 (NIV) One who is slack in his work is a brother to one who destroys.

So in other words: lazy people don’t necessarily destroy outright, they are just intimately related to those who DO destroy…this concept is also displayed in the idiom ‘idle hands are the devil’s workshop’.

I haven’t had much time to ponder and write as December and January are busy times for my line of work (that is– my outside-the-home work, which is in addition to home and yard; family and community ‘work’). This year circumstances beyond my control have made this season ‘at work’ even busier for me.

However, because I’ve been working more than usual, I have had lots of time to observe the work habits, and sometimes the lack thereof, of others around me. As well as how one worker’s laziness then creates a damaging and reverberating effect on the surroundings – both coworker and client or customer deeply feeling and having to deal with the consequences of these effects.

So I thought I’d take a few minutes before heading into the office, to flesh out some thoughts I’ve been having about all of that.

To be fair: I have also noticed my own gut and heart revolting and straining over the tedium that is part and parcel of my job duties. I feel myself struggling to recover from what, in all honesty, I need to just call what it actually is: Laziness. There are any number of tasks that I just ‘do myself’ at work rather than watch a coworker half-heartedly complete them or complete them sub-standard to what I wanted. These are often tasks that I find myself groaning inwardly about doing myself. My lazy heart not wanting to do them anymore than anyone else wanted to, but the realization that part of my duties as a Christian is to take joy in these things, regardless, is often what spurs me onward. And so I put that lazy part of me ‘to death’ for another day. Lazy-me will undoubtedly resurrect sooner or later, though, so don’t go thinking I’m all that. (I’m not).

When I was in therapy for diagnosed PTSD and anxiety disorder, I eagerly went down the blame-it-all-on-workaholism-and-perfectionism-trail of ‘you worked way too much for too long, you set way too high of expectations, and that’s how you ended up needing therapy for stress and anxiety.’

That ‘workaholic’ trail is wide and well traveled. Followed closely by the ‘perfectionism’ trail, which seems equally wide and well traveled. Many self-help (Christian and other) books have been published to get us to recover from things like perfectionism, workaholism, and stress. One therapist, and one minister I visited with, introduced themselves to me as ‘recovering perfectionists.’

Many of those ‘Christian’ books and programs I bought, or bought into, included things that were way too close to contemplative prayer, eastern breathing practices, meditation, and yoga for me to actually FIND relaxing and restful. (And if you’ve been reading this blog prior then you pretty much know that I had to throw that detail in. Otherwise — there’s an X in the upper right corner if you believe such things are compatible with Biblical Christianity–as I do not.)

Now that I’m several years out of the therapy processes that were helpful in some ways (particularly in recovery from sexual abuse)–but which I then found that I had to process back out of again as I didn’t like what certain aspects had done to my belief system– I see several points where I was led astray, and other points which raised a whole lot of questions for which I do not have any clear answers.

For instance: do sloth like, gluttonous, lazy folks really need to recover from working too much? Do they really need to be told over and over again that ‘God wants us to rest.’ Clearly: taking a day a week off is one entire commandment, of a mere ten. What about the other six days though? If we truly had found ‘balance’, then shouldn’t there be just as many self-help books being written about how to be diligent, self-denying, hard workers who overcome our sinful lazy natures and do not cheat our earthly bosses (or God) out of the time we owe them or Him?

When I read the letters to the churches in Revelation for a fresh time, my experience in organized Americanized churches and ministries– usually has me seeing American Christians as being exceedingly: ‘laodicean’. We sure seem ineffectual, lacking passion, lukewarm…and, well, lazy. Lovers of pleasure, not sacrifice. Believers in wealth and self-esteem and learning to let God love us better; not prostrate on our knees with broken and contrite hearts before God confessing how poor we actually are in the midst of all our filthy mammon (a broken and contrite heart IS the sacrifice He desires).

I glanced longingly at my office bookshelf the other day — realizing it would be a while until I got to a point at work where I could settle into some winter ‘free time’ to read–and as I ran my eyes over the book spines, I noticed how many titles there were about ‘rest’ and ‘relaxing’. And how few books I had about ‘doing things’. Save for some business, marketing, gardening and homesteading how to books (some of which are all about being lazy, LOL, and others which seem to have ulterior motives of saving and remaking the world by our own merits).

All of which convicted me further. I have entire bookshelves of waste that only feeds into my own laziness and desire for money and means I didn’t earn honestly.

I think a great deal of why the world, and the church, seems to be harvesting the fruit of our sins — can be summed up by Paul’s words to Timothy: For people will love only themselves and their money. They will be boastful and proud, scoffing at God, disobedient to their parents, and ungrateful. They will consider nothing sacred. (2 Timothy 3:2 NLT)

Many Christians I talk with have been trying to find their purpose or figure out their calling. Indeed: seeking our purpose and finding our calling seem to slip right by these words in 2 Timothy. As it seems like we want to turn our lives over to God, like we are being self-denying and God seeking; not materialistic lovers of self and mammon. But reading today’s (January 14th) Oswald Chamber’s daily devotion gave me pause. To quote Chambers:

God doesn’t single out someone and say, “Now, you go.” He did not force His will on Isaiah. Isaiah was in the presence of God, and he overheard the call. His response, performed in complete freedom, could only be to say, “Here am I! Send me.”

Remove the thought from your mind of expecting God to come to force you or to plead with you. When our Lord called His disciples, He did it without irresistible pressure from the outside. The quiet, yet passionate, insistence of His “Follow Me” was spoken to men whose every sense was receptive (Matthew 4:19). If we will allow the Holy Spirit to bring us face to face with God, we too will hear what Isaiah heard— “the voice of the Lord.” In perfect freedom we too will say, “Here am I! Send me.”

What if our ‘sending’ is more like quietly sticking with a job or the task at hand and going through the tedium of service wherein God opens doors constantly for us to ‘share the reason for our joy.’ A work and calling that mostly goes unnoticed by the ministry organizations of today, work which seems to have little effect, but nevertheless which pleases the Lord and makes great contribution to those around us.

When we think of ministry or a calling of God, do we immediately think of the person washing the dinner dishes, or the public toilets at a small business with a gospel song and a word of encouragement or Godly correction always ready on their lips. As for me, too often when I heard the word ‘ministry’ or ‘work of God’ I would think of the writers and speakers and front of the room people leading the sheep. But is that type of thing the best way to tend to the sheep? Or does it reinforce the idea that the chosen ones are those who have the ‘obvious’ ministries and the rest of us just haven’t surrendered yet or we’d be there too, on those platforms or working in some ‘actual’ ministry role — (playing on the construct that Jesus set forth when He said many are called but few are chosen).

What if the chosen prove to be the believers who listened to a call which has them in some wilderness places, away from the spotlights and platforms, fighting back against laziness and selfishness by their very witness and life examples, and knowing that in so doing they are being a brother and sister to those who sanctify and preserve what is left. Rather than being a brother to those who destroy.

Could responding to a call from God be as simple as: stop being lazy?