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.

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.

If the trumpet gives a muffled sound, who will prepare for battle?

I was once an avid reader of the Lighthouse Trails blog. Particularly after a friend or family member heartily recommended (or gifted) the latest popular Christian book or movement or minister’s podcast. Which inevitably gave me (yet another) spirit check.

Thankfully, while carefully researching whatever friend or family member had encouraged me to jump blindly into, the Lighthouse Trails writers had almost always already sounded a clear alarm regarding said podcast, book, movement, author, or ministry. And the concerns they raised usually lined up (for the most part) with my own discernment. I found the mere presence of such a resource to be comforting. I felt ‘less lonely’ and ‘less crazy’. Seeing other discerning believers was helpful. It fortified me to resist the pressure to conform and compromise.

Granted, there’d be a few niggling things here and there with which I didn’t fully agree with the Lighthouse Trails writers. Some of that was likely me and my own issues though. Overall–the LT blog was a welcoming place of refuge for me. WAS being the key word there.

The latest guest post on the Lighthouse Trails Blog is shocking for its loudly muffled noise.

The sheer blindness to simple truth, which is on display in this post has me re-considering how much I still want to trust any of what Lighthouse Trails has to share. It seems their affinity for Trump has been costly to their ability to give a clear warning cry. And sadly this is the case with more and more ministries I once followed for encouragement and information.

I feel like an eaglet whose soft padded nest has worn through to the barbed thorns beneath it — time to fly away, as so many of the places I once went to for refuge are now thorny places of danger.

In case you don’t want to read the full article, here are the paraphrased highlights: Trump is responsible for developing the Covid Vaccine! BUT Pfizer hid the completion of their vaccine from the public until November 9th–when it was too late to impact the election in Trump’s favor. When the vaccine was ready for distribution, Pfizer alerted Biden first, not Trump, which was also wrong of them. This article is not the only one giving Trump credit for the vaccine. Even as they claim voter fraud cost Trump the election (voter fraud was also mentioned in the linked LT article) and even as those who voted for Trump are inevitably also the demographic which is the most vaccine hesitant — those same Trumpers still want to make sure he gets credit for making it? I find that so confusing. Muffled Trumpets indeed.

And, even though the vaccine is GOOD– the pandemic itself is actually totally overblown (YET they say YAY to Trump for making a vaccine at warp speed!!??).

If all that muffled noise made sense to you — you might want to stop reading here. We are clearly going to disagree.

Simple logic tells me that IF the pandemic and its associated risks is/are overblown, then that would make the one person (TRUMP) now taking the most public responsibility for a very rushed vaccine: downright EVIL. It simply can’t be both a false pandemic AND a vaccine to end the ‘false’ pandemic also being a major accomplishment. Because if the pandemic is overblown then there is no need for a vaccine. Let alone one that was rushed and has many Christians and others hesitant and outright questioning its safety. No? Does your logic agree or disagree with mine on this?

The linked article above also states that Chemical abortion is on the rise. As is transgender agendas in schools. This after four years of Trump in office–because, well, of course: liberal leftists are to blame for that.

And that Middle East peace deal. What an achievement for Trump!

When I first began to study the end times, Obama was in office and writers and websites and prophesy watchers all told me to watch the Middle East and watch for a peace deal to be brokered as after a peace treaty between Israel and the Arabs is signed, that is when everything would ‘begin’ in earnest. As it will be the antichrist who will ‘confirm a covenant with many’ (Daniel 9:27). Furthermore: when people declare peace and safety–that is when sudden destruction will come on them (1 Thessalonians 5:3)

Had a ‘leftist’ like Obama or Biden been behind the Abraham Accord signed Sept. 15, 2020–would it be seen as a major accomplishment by this same author? Or does biblical discernment change based on which political party is brokering a historic Middle East peace deal?

I won’t even get into the pre-tribulation rapture peeps like JD Faraq, someone else I used to follow avidly and took much comfort from. The vaccine is also bad news to most of them (but Trump, who is behind the vaccine, is still considered a ‘good guy’ to a lot of Pre-Trib peeps)… but yet, JD Faraq insists that a vaccine can’t be the mark of the beast… as we have no beast…YET.

Trump’s big peace treaty was commemorated by a coin with his signature on it. Indeed, Trump likes to take credit for many things, like the pouring out of millions of warp speeded vials (a coincidence which reminds THIS AUTHOR–ME–entirely too much of Revelation’s bowls being poured out…) into humans…yes, Trump really likes to stamp his name (image?) wherever he can…including on a coin which has Saturn and Jupiter aligning on it and quotes the Koran as well as Jeremiah 14:13–‘I will give you lasting peace in this place’

Jeremiah 14:13, in context, is anything but declaring peace. It’s actually quoting the words of false prophets–conclusions made through divinations, idolatry, and delusions of the mind.

Jeremiah 14:13-14

But I said, “Alas, Sovereign Lord! The prophets keep telling them, ‘You will not see the sword or suffer famine. Indeed, I will give you lasting peace in this place.’”

Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions, divinations,idolatries and the delusions of their own minds.”

I quoted The Berean Study Bible version of 1 Corinthians 14:8 in the title of this post. That was intentional. Because communicating through masks results in a muffled sound. And there is more than one way to wear a mask, or a veil as the Bible calls it. But for those who are aware of what an unmasked person looks like and sounds like, in this age of masking up, double mindedness and massive deception, it isn’t that hard to know who can be trusted and who it is best to avoid.

The way I see it: any Christian endorsing any political candidate right now is suspect and double minded.

Full disclosure of my own beliefs: I am NOT political, and haven’t voted for a presidential candidate since 2008. I have no idea when the rapture will occur–I hope it’s ASAP, though. But I’m not counting on a rapture, just trusting in Jesus’ plan whatever it looks like. I think we could actually be in the midst of the tribulation, and I do believe the rapture will happen sometime before the wrath of God fully destroys the world.

I think this virus is real, yet the way it has been handled seems very strange and suspicious to me. I am uncomfortable seeing masked people everywhere. I wonder if we are living in times of massive, massive deception and double minded posturing, people hiding their real intentions behind ‘veils.’.

Time will tell just how evil the days we live in really are, or are not. Wisdom is proven by her children/actions. In the meantime, I do not trust anyone holding a high level of political office in the world, right now. I don’t know what to think of the millennium but IF there isn’t a literal millennium, then it sure seems as if the devil has been let off his chain to deceive the nations…but I don’t know.

I also am not even sure that I should be sharing what I really believe and think about all of this, anywhere, as it also seems like the time to ‘sound trumpets’ may now be at a close. If people didn’t love God enough to hear the warning blasts, which I and others have been hearing for years — chances are they won’t hear my trumpet blast either. Therefore me trumpeting out what I see as the truth might only serve to get me in all sorts of trouble that I don’t exactly need. Nevertheless, I will share this bare faced and as open as I can be to the few people who might share my frame of heart and mind and might find it and receive some encouragement or exhortation if needed:

And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into His image with intensifying glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 2 Corinthians 3:18

Jesus told us several important things- which stick out to me-in Matthew 24 – do not be alarmed and do not be deceived. AND: many will turn away from the faith. But the one who stands firm to the end will be saved.

All of my former soft comforting nests seem to be disappearing now and so I pray that I can keep clinging to the firm rock of Jesus.

Maranatha!

By Faith; And in Holy Fear

Hebrews 11:7 By faith Noah, when warned about things not yet seen, in holy fear built an ark to save his family. By his faith he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness that comes by faith.

This verse really struck me yesterday and I am returning to it today.

By Faith

In Holy Fear

Things not yet seen.

By his faith he condemned the world.

There is a LOT to chew on in Hebrews 11:7.

In a time when we are told fear is akin to sin for a Christian, and popular preachers like Rick Warren imply and sometimes outright say that Christians shouldn’t study end times and ‘things not yet seen’ (although it seems many of these unseen things are now becoming pretty clear to me)–the Bible tells us that it was through faith in things NOT YET SEEN, and in holy fear, that Noah built the ark to save his family.

In a time when we are told not to be judgmental or condemning, that the future is full of promise: the Bible tells us that Noah, by his faith in things not yet seen, condemned the whole world.

Even more to chew on when one considers Jesus’ words: As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:37

What would Noah do today?

Would he line up for a vaccine?

Or would he stay hidden and busy working, trusting God to save him, in some landlocked place–where the whole world thought it foolish to build a giant boat?

Whatever your hand finds to do…

Do it with all your might, for in the realm of the dead, where you are going, there is neither working nor planning nor knowledge nor wisdom. Ecclesiastes 9:10.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, Colossians 3:23

I’ve always loved those two Bible verses. The latter more than the first. Ecclesiastes can be a bleak book–it reflects King Solomon’s (if Solomon is actually its author) ultimate falling away from God.

Therefore, I feel it too often reads more like the life of an unbeliever (‘meaningless’!). Which can be a wonderful example and lesson of ‘what not to do’ (and believe). In comparison to someone who relies fully on God and knows that all we do for the Lord is NOT futile and pointless, but will last and/or be rewarded in the life to come, if not this one.

Ecclesiastes captivated me in my youth. These days I prefer the philosophy and life lessons in the ‘study to show yourself approved’, ‘let us not grow weary of doing good’, ‘I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength’ ‘take captive every thought to the obedience of Christ’…. ‘Jesus is coming soon and so is your reward’ (that one was paraphrased!) messages scattered throughout the New Testament Epistles.

Since the pandemic hit last March, I’ve added the following verse, also about ‘work’, to my list of favorites:

Make it your goal to live a quiet life, minding your own business and working with your hands, just as we instructed you before. Then people who are not believers will respect the way you live, and you will not need to depend on others. 1 Thessalonians 4:12.

This verse was reflective of the vocational climate in my childhood. Were it not for the rampant emotional and physical abuse, the pornography exposures, and the whitewashed Christian veneer hiding the sexual abuse in my family, it would have been a great childhood. Honestly.

I grew up with a strong Middle American work ethic at a time when farm folks still had a measure of real economic independence. As Thessalonians encourages, most farmers I knew did NOT depend on others. They were self sufficient and admired for their character traits. Though they were often broke and/or in debt–they frequently helped one another out with their work –and they didn’t have the current yokes and collusions with government and big agri-business, on which they have now become quite dependent.

Therefore I grew up like everyone around me: suspicious of government interventions and corporate America. I stayed busy doing chores, working with my hands, learning my way around a pigpen, a cattle yard, an equipment shop, and a grain field. And I had plenty of time to read challenging things which were far above my young head (our Television was fuzzy and rarely on). We were also, for the most part, a great deal poorer than people living and working on the Corporate America Coasts.

I eyed visitors who came from the cities, with their fancy cars and clothes, with awe and curiosity. As well as a painful awareness that I was poor and backwards, with bad clothing and shoes.

The farm programs, government interventions, and involvement of Con-Agra, which swept in in the 1990’s, brought a decline in work ethic, the removal of the general wariness of government and corporations, and much nicer clothes and cars to the farmsteads around my childhood home.

Just the way I see it. Others might disagree.

These days we have oodles of thriving boutiques and home decor stores in my Middle American mid-sized town. Much of the style borders on the boujee to me. Nevertheless, when traveling or receiving visitors from elsewhere, it’s obvious that the middle income Midwesterner enjoys what once only belonged on the coasts, and now is hard to find there. Unfortunately: that old midwestern work ethic and wariness of government seems to be disappearing along with the poverty.

I suspect the rise of internet, cable/ satellite TV, video games, and smart phones also took a ding to the once prevalent: we-are-poor-but-at-least-we-know-how-to-work culture.

We do retain some ethical holdover from former eras though. I suspect that is why big companies will still ‘head hunt’ for young adults from the Midwest.

I didn’t always enjoy the hard work parts of my childhood. In part because too many of the good formative experiences were sandwiched between abusive and unhealthy behaviors.

Plus, that level of physical work is an acquired taste. The current popularity of gym memberships shows how many people do realize the value of sweat equity and physical activity. And God bless you if you just love the gym. I don’t love it. Plus, I would rather NOT pay someone else to vacuum my house and scrub my floors while I pay a gym to use a machine on which I’m not accomplishing a single thing at all… when my arms won’t really know the difference between that machine or a mop handle and then at the end of the day I can see that I actually did something productive…there’s my childhood talking again.

At one time I ran as far from my past as I could. Except then God stuck me right back in a very similar place to that in which I was born. I did the human thing and just rebelled against the place itself, in my own heart and mind.

It was easy to label all the hard workers around me as ‘workaholics’. People with energy were often just a reminder of how bleak things were for me as a child. And since I knew that being poor sucked, what was wrong with taking some government stimulus and bailout and disaster relief program money anyway? It’s better than remaining in poverty for the sake of dignity. Poverty is traumatic in and of itself and lacks any kind of dignity — I think I have written posts on that somewhere on this blog; they may be set to private now though.

I ventured into all the world’s wisdom, and the pointlessness of life and the downsides of hard work, more than once. When I got physically and emotionally sick, I also pretty much checked out of my social and my work life as well. I even tried being lazy, intentionally, to try and heal from my own presumed workaholism and stress effects.

I judged others who retained their hard work ethics. Ducking out of my former hard work lifestyle seemed to help me physically so maybe everyone just needed more vacation and meditative time… Until I woke up one day and realized I was too young to act like I’m eighty.

Turns out my brain remained as active as my body always wanted to be. And that even when my body is in pain; not moving it at all will only make the pain worse.

So now that I have worked through much of the child abuse, I am sifting out a distaste for the ‘place’ and personality in which it occurred from the actual abuse itself. In so doing, and by pushing myself physically far more than I am even comfortable doing some days–I am also now feeling my body heal to the point of being able to be very active again.

Perhaps that is a factor in why and how I have returned to an appreciation of many aspects of my own trauma filled childhood.

I am glad that I was raised amongst mostly-poor farm folk where the barns for the animals were often nicer and more costly than the farmhouse. Oh and barns used to trigger me, too. They were actually the ‘stuff of nightmares’ for most of my life.

But enjoyment and appreciation of the place, and the landscape is being restored to me now. I haven’t had a scary barn dream in a few years. I find myself eyeing the old barns and farmsteads with love; when we go for long country drives. I stop to take photos often.

Though it took me a while to reconcile it all, I am realizing that people who work extra hard and/or who truly enjoy their work are not automatically ‘workaholics’, and should not be labeled and judged as such.

Now that I’m more active again myself: I’m once again in danger of judging others as being lazy, though. There’s always some sin crouching at the door…

The way I see it, those who have stayed active even in the midst of health and other crises are probably going to be the same personality types who will continue to spread the gospel and hold steadfast to Jesus; even in times of great peril, confusion, temptation, and persecution. Therefore, getting one’s work ethic back in order is pretty important.

Since I no longer spend hours a day in therapy work, navel gazing and trying to heal from past trauma, my brain is once again picking up on what’s happening around me and trying to grasp many things which remain ‘far above my head’. Meanwhile, my yard and home and business is showing the recent influx of care and work. I am able to sleep soundly and restoratively at night, after a day spent working with my hands–just as I did growing up.

Now for the real point of this essay: as I have personally gotten back in touch with the childhood work ethic of my past in 2020: I have been noticing and grappling with the ironic and nonsensical system of beliefs rising up within my still-calls-itself-hardworking, ‘Trump country’ community; during Covid19.

We’ve had the opposite of an economic fall out, here, it seems–and that boon started long before 2020. A lot of farm people are restoring those old barns mentioned above, which now sit empty of animals; next to their fully loaded million dollar equipment sheds. A lot of the hard work does go on, even amidst the wealth, though. Therefore, it’s the source of the wealth which troubles me most.

I want to believe that our local economic escape in 2020 was from a good work ethic combined with our spread out and sparse population, a different, self-responsible attitude about risk and one’s own health, and many businesses courageously remaining open throughout the chaos. However, I suspect that our booming economy is actually far more from a combination of the socialistic actions of the government pouring money into our economy and our own greed in making sure we get our own share of that American Pie. As well as general self-interest and a stubborn refusal to conform, or truly care about, one’s neighbor above one’s self.

The government has poured out money into Agriculture-based hands for several decades now. Yet in the last several elections Socialism was frequently used as a pejorative by those same folks. And the idea was touted, (from both sides), that we had to get involved in politics to ‘save our democracy.’ As if democracy and capitalism and that kind of freedom is even a thing anymore?

To quote and to paraphrase some very wise and prescient things I read somewhere else (and am feeling too lazy to go search for it-how’s that for work ethic-LOL?)

It’s only socialism when someone else is receiving free government handouts. When I’m receiving it; it’s still capitalism!

Government handouts are now labeled ‘stimulus packages’ or ‘disaster payments’ or ‘relief packages’ in order to hide the fact that they are, in essence, socialism.

So let’s take a look at the socialistic things which swept into America under other names and let’s also note who was in charge when it happened.

The second George Bush signed the law which bailed out banks and big industry BEFORE Obama took office. Which was one of the many reasons I was able to easily remove myself from ‘being political’ after I felt the Lord chastening me for my heart and mind (and literal) involvement in that corrupted and worldly realm–back in 2008-2009.

This year, while he was still president (and by the way some of my friends think he IS going to actually remain president too) ‘Capitalism Loving’ (?) Trump signed into law and then extended the PPP Small Business Administration program and oversaw what came to be known as CoronaCash (for farmers) and that’s not even mentioning the stimulus package where everyone under a certain income level received a check ‘from the government.’

Still think Bernie Sanders is the only Socialist in Washington? Even he is taking some heat for voting for the PPP program by his own supporters; since it’s proven to be so corrupt.

BUT these things were all good, and needed, right?

No one wants to see a small business fail, right?

Or, perhaps hiding behind a cry of ‘we have to help the small businesses’ is a clever cover for more corruption?

And perhaps behind the socialism lies something with an even harder bite to it.

I don’t know the answers to the above questions. I just know that it seems few are even asking the questions, or pausing to think what we are really colluding with and accepting when taking ‘free money’ from the government. Perhaps we are all too busy to think—busy shopping and filling our barns and homes with more things; all thanks to the influx of Corona Cash. Meanwhile Revelation urges us to come out of her my people so that you do not partake of her sins or share in her plagues.

When a nearby farmer, who got both corona cash and a PPP loan… complained about the young adults voting for Biden because they just wanted their student loans forgiven… Can you believe their sense of entitlement? Don’t they understand that socialism doesn’t work! Without capitalism, our country will be toast! — I tried not to snort out loud as he drove away in a shiny new pickup with a Trump bumper sticker.

I realize I have a super power nose that often picks up scents before others can smell them.

But at what point is everyone else going to smell America’s toast burning?

The Evolution of a Necklace

This soliloquy is something I wrote over a decade ago and which rings more and more true every year that passes–it is about the undoing of what I knew of faith; in order to find real faith. It seems especially prescient now– as I watch what in many ways was a scary summer for all of us– turn into a fall that holds just as many unknowns. The urge to know as much as I can and help as much as I can is tempered by old lessons from those furious cycles of my past wherein I tried to figure it all out and came up short. Every. Single. Time.

It still seems a bit crazy, selfish, and callous– to be at rest, and even to dare to laugh when the whole world seems to be burning down around us. But then I look back and I remember it’s been this way for a while. And that God already showed me what to do once before in times like this. And when He gave me those revelations– I usually put them down on paper–or into a file in my computer– for later use — if nothing else just to be able to minister again to my own self. Knowing how to be your own minister, especially when you were abused for forty years by a minister–is one of the greatest gifts–and I am thankful God gave it to me.

The Evolution of a Necklace

In bed with Montezuma’s flu,

late in the morning,

when I turned thirty-two—

twisting my head on the pillows

I thought I saw

a tiny container of woven straw.

 

Under the round Caribbean lid,

a bit of turquoise tissue hid—

Dominican blue

Larimar stone

set into a simple silver cross.

 

Its clean lines,

a contrast from the frilly amber

set in golden lacy designs,

had stood out in the lighted glass display

the evening we roamed the street

pretending not to be looking

for my birthday treat.

 

That hazy morning I found it,

head spinning—

tongue tasting bile—

The joy of discovering the hidden gift

made a trip turned miserable—worthwhile.

 

At home it matched every outfit,

from casual and messy to dressy—

the bright color of sky lit up my eyes.

Forget the jewelry in the box,

I thought that necklace the best looking

piece ever formed into a cross.

 

But everything changed as thirty-three

was revealed to me.

 

Many things were found.

 

Others went missing…

 

Perhaps it had stuck itself into a sweater,

fell through a pocket,

or slipped into the washer for a whirl.

I scoured the floor, and every drawer…

It was stolen, I halfway decided,

since so very many had admired it.

 

Days passed, and a few sleepless nights—

I saw that I had been wrong,

and done wrong, while doing the very things

I’d thought were good; and right.

 

I’d always known that the Savior had died for me—

and I had worn His symbol with pride—

rejoiced in what it did to my eyes—

held it up to the light—

like some sort of prize.

 

That cross was a gift given

in a different season.

And was lost, when it was,

for a good reason.

 

In time the sting of its loss went away.

I no longer needed

to put Him into a symbol.

He dwelt in my heart, where He belonged.

 

…sincerity, prosperity, generosity, and charity—

Theology, idolatry, prophecy, and eschatology…

I tried to find a balance in all the Y’s.

Back and forth I went,

As more and more things

to which I used to cling

just up and left my head—

or got kicked out of my heart.

 

Sometime after thirty-four,

I knew there had to be more

than living in the extreme,

seeing ‘Pagan’ in everything,

having to walk so slow,

when you’d rather skip and run…

 

On my knees yielding a wet rag like a sword,

head stuck deep, in the bathroom cupboard

cleaning crannies I hadn’t touched in eons—

I found it inside a bag full of tampons—

an irony which caused a smile,

and a burst of laughter too.

The joy of re-discovering the hidden gift

made a trip suddenly turned miserable—worthwhile.

 

Holding it gingerly in my grasp,

I opened the clasp with dirty scuffed fingers,

stood from creaking knees,

and watched in the mirror

as the cross settled down

above my heart.

 

Returning the bag

to its place on the shelf

I thought to myself—

He’d simply been waiting

for me to see that He doesn’t bless

in ways understood by the world.

Even if made of expensive stone—

a symbol has no worth.

Just as nothing we do, or own, or give,

realize, theorize, or give permission to plagiarize

…means all that much after all.

 

Yet, with Him involved; it can.

 

That second time around,

after finding the gift unexpectedly

under the sink—

I didn’t even pause to think.

 

I slipped it on without hesitation,

fully aware of my humble station—

a past partaker in the debate

over graven images; works done in vain;

and many other truths that can set us free—

or steal our joy.

 

The evolution of the necklace

wasn’t about finding

some deep hidden meaning,

discerning all the rights

from all the wrongs…

it was about laughter, and peace,

Him letting me know He’s

taking great care of me,

and smiling upstairs,

wanting me to smile too

while my heart is repaired.

 

When He put that pretty stone ’round my neck again,

the journey, quite frankly, became much more fun.

The Accepted Idolatry of Spouse & Family

Much has been said already in the blogs and youtube videos I follow- about how God has allowed for ‘the removal of our idols’. Sports, entertainment, leisure, restaurants, nonessential shopping…few mention church fellowship ties, or family ties, and how they can also become an idol before God.

If you’ve read my recent posts, you will see my insistence that we can still have church in our own homes ‘wherever one or two are gathered.’

Now I feel led to add an addendum to what I’ve already shared:

As humans we are very good at making other people into idols in our lives. With social distancing, it seems even that insidious idol has been revealed (for those with eyes to see and ears to hear). In many cases it has even been physically removed or threatened, as well.

We see horrible stories of infected people dying alone without family or spouse by their side. And I keep seeing news reports and stories of how spouses are willingly living separately and keeping their distance from one another to prevent spread of sickness. Particularly if they work in healthcare or had been traveling. Famous examples are in the news too. It was reported that Prince Charles stayed away from his wife during his illness. Oprah Winfrey insisted her long time partner stay in her guest house for fourteen days after he returned from travel.

This is, indeed, a very strange time. But I think there is meaning in what is coming through our news channels as well. I think these rich details, much like the rich details in scripture, are being put into the world for a deeper reason — for those who are willing to ponder it and pray about it.

In my own life the Lord has revealed my idolatry toward my spouse, toward my children and even toward those family members who once abused me in unconscionable ways. That last one took me a long while to see; as I was already keeping my distance! But idols grow in our hearts and physical distance is not always enough to knock them down. I also came to believe that one of the horrible effects of such acts of evil is to leave behind a type of bondage to the victim; which must be brought before God in order to be broken. And therefore I’m not convinced that we love and adore all our idols; sometimes we are fixated on an idol in ways we can’t even comprehend and need help untangling from. In this way we allow it to control us long after it’s initial evil attempt to control us!

It is our attitudes and beliefs which need to change, a turning BACK to God in full repentance and wholeheartedness of faith and love for Him, and trust that He will free us from whatever has us bound if we ask and seek that from Him–in this way I feel idols can easily be destroyed before God; through His power to save and sanctify us.

It was still a painful discovery, though, every time He showed me an idol I had made from another person. And inevitably, once I knocked it down, I healed a great deal. Other times my troubled relationship with that person I had made into an idol (particularly my spouse and children) then grew and improved. Because I was no longer trying to control their every move–as we tend to do with idols. Think of the super fan in the stadium or before the television. It is as if he can will his favorite team to a victory through his screams and clenched jaw and strong desire to control their performance.

Do we do similar controlling measures with our spouse, children, family members, church family?

I have certainly been guilty of that in the past!

1 John 5: 21 Dear children, keep yourself from idols.

Luke 9:59-60 He said to another man, “Follow me.” But he replied, “Lord, first let me go and bury my father.” Jesus said to him, “Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”

Luke 11:27-28 As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, “Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.” He replied, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.”

1 Corinthians 7:32-34 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs–how he can please the Lord. But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world–how he can please his wife–and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world–how she can please her husband.

Luke 14:26  If anyone comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters—yes, even their own life—such a person cannot be my disciple.

Right now the world is telling us we must be prepared to separate from a sick family member and die alone; in order to stop the spread of a sickness and, in essence, be able to live (to die another day).

God’s word has always been clear that real disciples are willing to lose everything, including parents, children, spouse, in order to gain Him.

Is eternity in His presence enough of a reason to separate our hearts from our idols; even  the idols we make of other people– which can seem so blessed and holy and not like idols at all?

Or will we choose to cling to our life here on earth– for who knows how long?

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oh church, where have you gone?

silver imac near white ceramic kettle
Photo by MockupEditor.com on Pexels.com

You may have noticed my tag line by now – clergy abuse survivor. I hesitated to identify myself as such. It can be limiting. Plus it might open me up for presumptions and false judgements.

But by readily admitting something key (and ugly) that molded me and my faith — those of similar belief as I hold might give me more credit; not less.

Being a clergy abuse survivor means that I saw directly into the nest of at least one of the (evil) birds Jesus said would roost in that yeast-inflated mustard tree. I realize I just mixed parables there–but yeast represents sin, and I personally believe that Jesus’ mustard tree parable was more along the lines of the church growing through unnatural inflation; than it was a sign of robustness and good health.

I think that’s why I am a little disturbed by this new way of ‘doing church’ — where we sit in front of a screen and tune in to a sermon or a pared down Sunday service and think that we’ve just had church together. And I’ve actually felt this same disturbed feeling in my heart before– it’s actually brewing for at least a decade. Back when it first started, I sensed we were ill prepared for what lie ahead. And now I see just how right I was to feel that way.

About five years ago, a minister friend and I were chatting. He was sharing some of the burden he felt for the congregants under his care. I recall saying to him, some of what I had felt stirring my heart, which went something like this:

“If something causes the church to go underground, into hiding, is your congregation ready and prepared, do they know how to have church themselves in their own homes–alone or with one or two or three? Because the way I see it, the task of every minister should be teaching every person and family and home they serve how to survive and keep being and doing church when there is no longer a church building to go to. And I do feel that someday churches will be hit with something, and our only option might be our own homes.”

My friend went silent at that curveball which he hadn’t seen coming. Then he slowly nodded. I was not sure if he fully got my sense of urgency; so I continued explaining how at our house, we had been doing just that. We’d been practicing ourselves, confessing sins, praising in songs, doing our own communions, praying more, skipping church services so that we could figure out what it meant to be the church in our own home. That way, if and when the time came; we knew how to do it on our own if needed.

I’ve been out of touch with my minister friend since this virus hit, and last I heard he had moved to a new, small congregation from the one he was serving back when I shared an urgency I had felt so strongly on my heart. So I have no idea if he began implementing some changes to prepare others for a time like this. Or if he fell back into the same old routine; where the minister holds court at the front and most everyone else participates simply by showing up.

Unfortunately: I had lost touch with my own strong feeling, and had slipped back into the easy participation of sitting and listening, being polite and withholding, instead of fully participating, diving full in, to a church gathering of two or more. So when our small fellowship stopped meeting recently, my husband and I tuned in to an online sermon and church service the next Sunday morning.

And we sat in silence and listened. Speaking to one another a little bit, later, about what we’d heard.

But that isn’t church.

There is no intentional coming together of the living body, in watching a screen.

The following week everything inside of me seemed to go awry. I was irritable and unkind. Finally, the dam broke and I found myself crying out, though I tried not to yell,  — we are doing this all wrong; we need to have church ourselves! A time where we sputter and wing it and bake some bread to break just for us and cry out in prayers–and it’s awkward and messy and beautiful just the same. Because this thing we did last Sunday where we sit passive and listen is no different than watching Netflix or the news. That is NOT church. And my spirit needs church more than ever right now…

Not to say there isn’t value in listening to online sermons. There is. I am ever thankful for the internet connecting us to one another and the ready information we can still seek and share (it may not always be the case). And if someone is truly alone with no ‘two or more’ to gather with, then online fellowship has to suffice in this hour. But a screen in place of a person isn’t church. If we don’t physically gather, we are in danger of hardening our hearts. For it is all too easy to become passive watchers; rather than active partakers in worship and study. If by and large most of us tune in to a screen, and tune out the urgings of our own hearts for real contact, what does that say about the church in this hour?

Zoom and Skype may bring us closer to that real connecting point; much more like face to face. Which is important. Even the apostle Paul knew the value of meeting face to face thousands of years ago.

If we have two or more people in a home — we can still do church and we can still be church. Gather together. Open the Bible and study and expound, the Holy Spirit will be the teacher. Enter into the initial discomfort of singing worship without a worship leader’s guidance, and saying humble unplanned prayers together. For Jesus has promised us He is there wherever two (or more) are gathered. Believe it. Don’t forget it.

The reason I forgot all that once burned in my heart about how to ‘be the church in my own home’ is quite simple. It was some mixture of laziness and complacency and a yearning for an easy sense of comfort rather than temporary discomforts which bring a more lasting satisfaction.

Laziness, complacency, and seeking momentary comforts are a dangerous combination in this hour.

So this week the two of us muddled through our own thing. Coming together quite simply.

My week, so far, has gone about the same as last; lots of curveballs and weirdness and a few health scares too. There is no magic fairy dust exemption of reality; merely from gathering as a church. But my heart is much more settled now that I know we still have a true gathering church after all; and it meets with Jesus at my own table.