Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Chill in the Air

30°F Partly Cloudy

Feels Like: 22°F Humidity: 80% Wind: N 9 mph

Driving to work today I was struck again by the glorious colors of fall. The trees are various shades of green, red, yellow, gold and grown, outshining the splendor of the gardens that are putting forth a great show just now. Lately snapdragons have been showy, the mums are in full bloom and my roses have gone into full bloom again amid the drying stocks of other earlier bloomers. My raspberry bushes are covered in unripe berries and the lavendar has put out a few late blooming stalks, high above the bushy silver-green leaves. All of this is out-shown by the rich colors of the trees.

I love fall. I love the nip in the air, the feeling that you should be pulling out your sweaters, and already I have lit the first log in the fireplace. Still, this year I am kind of sad because I feel like I missed the summer altogether. I was so busy and working so much that I didn't enjoy the garden in full bloom, never got the weeds taken care of, rarely sat out in the lawn chairs taking in the beauty of the day. I didn't sit beside a stream or lake or river even once during June, July or August. Even September slid by virtually unnoticed.

I need to make a concerted effort to enjoy being outside for as long as I can, before I feel trapped rather than cozy being inside on bitter winter days. While the nip is in the air and before snow comes, I'm going to go for a walk. Yes I will be in my heavy coat, and yes I have not one but two sweaters on today, but that should make it even more pleasant, don't you think?

A House Divided

Some may wonder why it is a big deal to live with a spouse who does not believe as you do, or isn't devoted to following after God and his commands in the way that you are. As I was reading Deut. 6: 4-9 I was struck by how hard it is to talk about God's commandments and his truths all throughout the day when the one you are with is a skeptic, a gnostic, or antagonistic. How easy it is to talk about the things of God with those who are like-minded. Does the conversation ever get stilted? Is your joy increased or diminished in such company? How empty and shallow the conversation must be when minds and hearts are not in tune.

I would ask those of you who do not know what it is like to walk a lonely road like this to imagine for a moment that your deepest thoughts, the deepest revelations of God into your soul are unwelcome, unwanted, misunderstood, or simply unappreciated. Imagine what a gulf--a divide--exists in this kind of marriage. What a loneliness there must be when you cannot share the thoughts that take up your days. Can you imagine? Even where there is no open hostility, it would be like talking all day to someone who doesn't even speak the same language.

I feel this way to a lesser extent when I get around people who love baseball. To me, baseball is like watching paint dry. I don't get the fascination. I don't understand the excitement. As far as I can tell, the only interesting positions are catcher, pitcher and the guy at bat. The batter seems to fail more than he succeeds, a "perfect" game is where nothing happens. The pitcher throws the ball, and inning after inning it lands in the catcher's mitt. Wake me when it's over.

I suspect this is what it's like to listen to the conversation of people who are excited about God, about what he's doing, and about what they are learning in scripture if you aren't a believer. Even if you are friendly toward those people, their excitement baffles you.

How then do we, in effect, show our team spirit and wear the jersey, put the pennant on the wall, plaster the car with bumper stickers, and carry on the never ending conversation about batting statistics, league scores, the injured list, etc., when the other person falls into a stupor within seconds of the start of conversation? The fact is, we don't. We mention the game. We smile broadly when there is a win. And we spend time with those who "get it".

At home, however, the conversation about this important area of life is minimal. The one we love does not love what we love, does not love who we love, is not interested in what interests us.

Oh, it can't help but show. After all, a girl in love with the Rockies is going to wind up with black and purple ribbons in her hair, or wearing the t-shirt to bed, and a woman or a man in love with Christ is going to have their Bible around, may have a special verse taped to the bathroom mirror, or may wear a shirt from their church or a Third Day concert, but a lot of what goes on in their heart and head will stay inside until they are with others who also believe.

So, if you have one of those marriages where you can talk about God as you walk, as you sit, as you work, and can share your deepest thoughts, rejoice, but don't be so quick to leave the church service where the guy or gal who shows up without their spouse seems to want to linger and talk. Don't shut them out. They need to share with like-minded folks.

Monday, October 13, 2008

When we are faithless...

I have been on a roller coaster of sorts lately, sometimes filled with faith, sometimes with worry. At times the storm (layoffs, financial worries, wrecked car, health concerns) seems to be all I see. Other times, I am completely confident that God will take care of me. I've probably said this before, but it happens when I take my eyes of the Creator and start looking at the choppy seas that he created.

"When we are faithless he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself." II Tim. 2:13

Isn't that a comfort? That God sees my weakness and that his care is not dependant on my faith, but that he is faithful because it is who he is. He is God in heaven above and on the earth below. There is no other. (Deut. 4:39) I must take this to heart. I must grasp this. He IS God. He is God over the heavens and the earth. There is no one else that can take his place. There is no one else faithful. There is no one else that can be relied upon. There is no one who IS God.

So, faith without works is dead, since our faith is revealed by our works, but for me, at this point, faith is work. Faith is work. Faith is work. Faith means reminding myself of God's past faithfulness, of his character, of his utter dependability. Faith means dragging my eyes off of the waves and onto the Creator of the waves. Faith is asking God to increase that which is so small and weak in me.

How is your faith?

Walk it and talk it

I have been asked to expand on the things mentioned in my last blog, so I will try without revealing private confidences and someone else's story. First let me say that even though I don't believe that divorce is ever a good thing, I do understand that there are times when it is or seems almost inevitable. I don't believe that a person that has another lover is owed the comfort and protection of marriage, though I know healing and restoration happens at times. There are certain circumstances that put a whole family at risk, however and I understand that. Unrepentant drug and alcohol abuse, habitual affairs, physical abuse, spouse's homosexuality (although I would place that under the category of unfaithfulness), are all things that can break a marriage. I don't believe divorce is prescribed in those circumstances, but I certainly understand. It is the unrepentant part that sets things apart.

What stands out for me are those who see divorce as an option for extreme unhappiness. Unhappiness is a temporary condition, until we allow it to become a habitual one. I know what I'm talking about here. I was so unhappy at one point that I wasn't sure I could live through it. I considered divorce, but the fact is that it was not justified. "For better or worse" I had promised. What good is my promise if it only means as long as I'm happy. As long as I'm happy.

I was expecting my husband to be things for me that he can never be. I was expecting him to heal painful places in me that only God can heal, to be to me what God should be. I was so focused on my own misery that I wasn't taking care of my husband. I wasn't caring for him. I truly believe love is action that brings about emotion, not an emotion that brings action. The action must be loving even when the heart is not.

Thinking through I Corinthians 13, I am struck by the actions in the so-called Love chapter. What does love do? It bears, believes, it is patient, is kind, it protects, hopes, perseveres. Love keeps no record of wrongs, is not rude, is not easily angered, is not self-seeking, does not envy, is not proud. What does that mean? Is there one word about what love feels? We have it so wrong in our feeling driven society. I was raised on the whole fantasy of a Prince Charming who showed up, fell in love with me at first sight and then lived happily ever after. Stupid romance novels showed me men who anticipated wants and needs, brought flowers, made grand romantic gestures and swept a woman off her feet. What a load to put on a man! He is supposed to be strong, silent, except that when he speaks it is to say the right thing; he is supposed to romance me without ever messing up the budget, is supposed to have oddles of money to spend on get-aways and grand gestures while providing a fabulous house, wonderful car and an extravagent lifestyle, and yet isn't to be too involved in his career.

What happens when we find a good man who isn't very ambitious? We are impractical about what that will mean for our financial future. What about a man who is a great provider? We don't appreciate all his hard work and time away, but complain about that instead. We show so little mercy and forgiveness for the flaws and humanity of these men! We want a girlfriend with a six-figure income in a rugged handsome body. Truth be told, there was a time when I was embarrassed by my husband. I had it in my head that there was something disgraceful in the fact that he was in construction. I wanted a guy who put on a suit and had the respect of everyone he sees.

I'm ashamed of that today. I look at the men I admire, and many of them are godly men who work with their hands to provide for their families. They are hard-working, honorable men who should be respected by their community, but often their community looks at them as less-than. Some of the finest men of God I know aren't guys who sit in their studies all day searching the scriptures, but are men who study before heading off to swing a hammer or turn a wrench all day, striving to live out their faith in a world which despises what they stand for. They speak truth when their churches are ready to fall for the latest fad Christian philosophy of stupidity.

Some men that I respect have the respect of their families, and others, I'm not so sure. All I can say is that while some of us may think the man is in charge of the home, it is my belief that the woman sets the tone. If I have a bad attitude, I can set the whole household on its ear within minutes. If I am angry, I can bring about a fight. I can accept that my husband's idea of romance is to bring me a cup of coffee, or I can lament that he isn't a chocolates, flowers and nights spent dancing beneath the stars kind of guy.

What I choose is to put chocolate in my coffee, plant flowers in my garden and dance beneath the stars if I feel like it, and to appreciate the cup of coffee. This has not been easy, and my husband had to live through a lot of years where I acted like a petulant child.

I hate seeing my friends in pain, but I hate even more that someone is ready to call it quits because they are unhappy.

Anyway, that's part of the picture. The other part of the picture is that a friend was telling me about praying for God to show her what she needed to work on, to show her what area in her life he wants to concentrate on, to show her what lesson he wants to teach her. I won't say what she told me, that is her personal story, but I related to what God had revealed to her and how she had envisioned what God was doing in that area of her life. It is a beautiful thing when God takes our ugliness and washes it in the blood of Jesus and brings us through spotless. It isn't that we are without sin, but to begin to see our sins as he does and to be aware of the pain and suffering I cost him is humbling and makes me want to turn from my sin. It also makes me so grateful that he paid the price in his own body on the tree.

Have a blessed day.