Tag Archive: God


Relationships are funny (as in funny = peculiar, not as in funny, haha!) things. They come in a huge variety. Marriage, family, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances all generate relationships. So do enemies. A relationship doesn’t have to be good in order to qualify as a relationship. 😛 It just requires some commonality, which conflict can provide. Relationships can also be extremely casual or brief, like people sharing public transportation or a checkout line in a supermarket. We aren’t limited to relationships with other people, either. We have relationships with things like political parties, churches, governments, and even food. To be clear, for the purposes of this post, I’m thinking about people.

Not only do relationships have a huge diversity in their external structure, they present us with all kinds of diversity in the effects they have on our lives. A single relationship can, throughout its course, be enough to send a person on a trip through every emotion possessed by humanity! They can have a very powerful effect on us, affecting how we feel, what we think, our expectations, and even what we believe about ourselves and those around us.

It makes me think about the purpose or maybe the consequences of relationships. I suspect that much of the time, people are so accustomed to relationships that they’re more or less invisible, kind of like oxygen or gravity. Relationships help form part of the, oh, foundation of human experience. Why on earth would God do that to us? I’ve certainly wondered that. Often enough, it’s been followed by, “Didn’t He think about the kind of vulnerability that would give us? Or the power?” I’ve certainly had some… er… negative encounters that caused me damage, and I’ve doubted my own trustworthiness with any sort of power. I’m not exactly a saint, hey?

I don’t s’pose damage and pain was really His idea, though. What did Jesus say? “I am the Vine. You are the branches.” Sounds like a relationship to me, so I’d guess it’s safe to say that the original Idea was for us to have a relationship with God, and that the painful bits are a consequence of humanity’s own, not-so-bright ideas and subsequent fall.

As for why God would give us relationships with each other, I think part of the answer can be found in Hebrews 10:24 – 25. Hebrews 10:25 is a verse often used when a pastor wants to remind people that they ought to be showing up at church on Sundays, but I’m quite sure it has broader applications. I first learned it in the good, ol’ King James (classic Awana), so I think that’s how I’ll share it.

Hebrews 10:23-25

23Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; (for he is faithful that promised;)

24And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works:

25Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

I forgot. Verse 23 is also great, so I had to add it. Let’s see what we have here.

Bekah’s perspective on Hebrews 10:23-25

23) God is trustworthy, so let’s trust Him. Duh!

24) Be deliberate and considerate. Look for opportunities to promote love and good works in the people around you.

25) Don’t shun community. Don’t be a chicken livered coward who flees redemptive relationship or one who is foolish enough to underestimate its value. Time is short. We are to be here for each other to, if nothing else, earnestly remind and even goad one another into living like we believe that God is trustworthy.

Verse 23 makes me laugh, I do have to say. Writing all that out like that was pretty fun, and it seems pretty clear, too. I think one good reason to be in relationships with other Christians who are also determined to love God is because we are intended to help each other along the way.

One last thought occurred to me. I said that we’re intended to help each other out. It’s not just be helped. Nobody is so pathetic, so broken, so useless that they’ve nothing to offer, not even me. I am not saying that I’m worthless, but I have certainly gone round and round with it at times. We have something to offer to each other. We’re told to “consider…how to provoke unto love and good works.” God doesn’t break legs and then tell us to walk. He doesn’t demand the impossible without making a way, so if He’s telling us to do something, we can do it. I find that so encouraging. It’s not merely a command, a responsibility, a duty to discharge. It’s a privilege. What’s more, it’s often an opportunity for God to strengthen my own faith and trust as I see Him make yet another way for me to “exhort” another. Makes sense, though. Branches don’t stand up well by themselves. They need the support of the Vine.

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day. It’s an American holiday set up to provide us with an opportunity to remember how blessed we are. I suspect in practice people get more excited about the food, the shopping, and the holiday movie debuts than giving thanks, but I could be wrong about that.

Myself? I tend not to get too excited about Thanksgiving Day. Many years finds me working, as I should be doing tomorrow. I do think it’s one good way to spend the day. It’s a practical way to demonstrate gratitude and a great way to give back some of what I’ve been given.

As a matter of fact, I was getting ready for work this evening when a random iTunes choice reminded me of one thing for which I am profoundly grateful. iTunes plucked Barlow Girls’ “I Need You to Love Me” out of the thousands of songs it had available. I stopped in my tracks and just about cried. I don’t have words to explain how grateful I am that God does love me. It’s amazing, you know?

“For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent His Son not to condemn the world; but that the world through Him might be saved.” John 3:16, 17

Not condemned, but saved to life everlasting, because “God so loved.” Let me take a deep breath and sit with that for a moment. Can you imagine what kind of love that must be? How vast, how deep, how unchanging, how… incomprehensible… unfathomable… It’s beyond my ability to grasp, which might be why I find it overwhelming. I don’t really have any thing that I can relate to it.

You know, I’ll never have to sit with a flower, plucking petals and intoning, “He loves me.” A petal falls, and the next is plucked. “He loves me not.” He always loves me. His love is unwavering and certain. I’ll never be handed a stone with which to sate my hunger instead of bread. His love doesn’t play games. He may provide for my need in some unexpected fashion, but the provision will be ample. I’ll never be able to escape or be so stinking rotten that my stench will frighten off any loving advance. His love is always present no matter the height, the depth, the time, or the opposition. I’ll never be so broken that I’m disqualified. His love can find the smallest fragment and fuse a person whole. I’ll never not be worth His time or effort. I’ll never be too much work for Him. His love is everlastingly patient and kind. His love bears, believes, hopes, and endures. His love never gives up on me.

To make imagining a likeness even more impossible, I am not the only person whom He loves like this. He loves the whole world. He loves YOU.

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope you have a great day.

Owie

That’s what my back tells me these days. I got injured a few weeks ago on the job, tried to tough it out for a while, and then realized tough was not improving things. After seeing my MD for help, I got meds and a five pound lifting restriction. It’s made for a groggy, grumpy week. I greatly dislike feeling helplessness. Thanks to the pain, the meds, and the lifting and movement restrictions prescribed by my doc, I’ve been fairly helpless, and I’ve chafed over it. I’ve been angry and afraid.

That chafing has been enlightening. I don’t think I really have the brain power to process it today, but I have this suspicion that it’s telling me that I don’t rely on God quite as much as I’d like to think I do. I keep thinking about Hebrews 11. People in there went through really horrible things in there, and they maintained their faith in God. What about James? “Consider it all joy,” right, when we encounter trials and persecutions? How we sing out from jail? The pain and confusion I’m experiencing is nothing that hasn’t been felt before by others who kept faith and saw God’s provision. That others have persevered doesn’t make what I feel irrelevant. On the contrary, it’s encouragement to press on and seek God here, to learn anew of His faithfulness and His kindness and His peace, to live a life of faithfulness and keep my hopes set on Him instead of my circumstances.

May God bless your day,

Bekah

Layers

Marching along from my previous post, which is fun to do sometimes, I want to talk about layers. I’d borrowed a line from “Shrek” about ogres, onions, and layers and said that people are like that, too. I think people have layers.

One reason I say that is because of I Samuel 16:7b. It says:

man looks on the outward appearance,(L) but the LORD looks on the heart.

That’s pretty plain, isn’t it? God is telling Samuel that there are things about people that aren’t immediately apparent. We get all busy looking at how tall somebody is (or isn’t, in my case), what they’re wearing, and so on, and so forth, but all that is hardly the sum of a person. There’s more to them, like hearts.

Another reason I’d say people have layers is life experience. I’ve certainly lived long enough (I don’t think you have to live very long to run into this, actually) to have experience a misjudging based on outward appearance. For instance, I didn’t like my hair to be long (it wrapped itself into huge snarls) when I was in grade school, and I loved to wear jeans and climb trees. Silly people who didn’t know me often thought I was a boy. Another example would be my age. I’ve never looked it! At 15, I was being given menus for 11 year old children, at 18, people wouldn’t believe I was legally an adult, and now that I’m in my 30’s, I still occasionally have to resort to showing people my driver’s license to convince them that I’m not in my 20’s. This misunderstanding has never been based on my behavior (no, I didn’t act like an 11 year old when I was 15 :-P), but solely on how I looked at the time.

Beyond physical appearance, it’s easy enough to misjudge what someone is saying or doing. I heard a great story about this at work yesterday. A lady was telling me about a large group out camping together with a little boy who went boohooing back through the camp. When he was asked why he was so upset, he told folks that a woman “put her hands on me and told me no!” That was true enough, too. Some lady who cared about that kid’s life did do put her hands on him and tell him no, because he was about to grab a baby rattlesnake! Fortunately the lady telling me the story was able to explain that to the boy’s mother before the mother got too protective. Without knowing about the snake, the top layer didn’t look too good. It’s amazing how that works, how the whole story can look so different than a little part of it.

Personally, I think that people don’t stop at misjudging and misunderstanding each other. I think we get confused about ourselves, too. I know that when I look at myself, I don’t always go beyond the top layer, and that has definitely caused me some trouble. There’s another great verse, Jeremiah 17:9. Here’s the ESV version of it:

9The heart is deceitful above all things,
and desperately sick;
who can understand it?

This verse can be used as a guilt trip ticket or yet another nail in the heart’s coffin, but, man, I think that’s overkill. So God says that the heart is sick and deceitful – fine. That doesn’t mean beat the poor thing and blame it for all your problems. I’ve tried a variation of that, and it doesn’t work so well. What’s interesting to me is the question. “Who can understand it?” or, as the old King James said, “Who can know it?” It’s taken me a while to really accept that I’m not the person best equipped to understand or know my own heart. It’s been sick, and I’m too easily fooled. What’s kinda funny about it is that I knew, like my head knew, that I wasn’t getting my heart. I would get frustrated over my inability to understand what was going on with my heart – with my emotion and motivation and mood and attitude and desires. It was that whole thing Paul had going on where he knew what he should do and couldn’t figure why he couldn’t do it! So I knew, but I didn’t accept that I didn’t understand myself. I kept trying to make what worked parts like my head work for my heart.

“Who can know it?” Surprise, surprise – the next verse tells us.

10(R) “I the LORD search the heart
(S) and test the mind,[b]
(T) to give every man according to his ways,
according to the fruit of his deeds.

It’s God, of course. In fact, we already knew that because of I Samuel. God is the one looking at our hearts. At times, that’s been enough to just make me shiver in fear. I expected an Almighty guilt trip, something crushingly powerful. Actually, that’s probably why I fought so hard against accepting that I couldn’t be the best judge of my own heart. I didn’t treat it well, thought it was bad, and I expected God to do the same except worse! More power, right?

I’ve changed a bit since then. For one thing, it didn’t make any sense to me that I should love God with all my heart if the thing was just rotten. Another is that Ransomed Heart Ministries did me a favor by pointing out a couple of passages in the Bible (Ezekiel 11:19 and 36:26 are good ones) where God talks about giving us new hearts. Yet another is Psalm 139. It was written by David, a man after God’s own heart. At the end, David writes:

23Search me, O God, and know my heart!
(AG) Try me and know my thoughts![c]
24And see if there be any grievous way in me,
and(AH) lead me in(AI) the way everlasting![d]

For him, the point of being searched and known was to be able to follow God in the way everlasting. It wasn’t about fear or guilt or shame. He didn’t let those things stay lurking in his heart and keep him from following God, and God helped him. That gives me hope.

Integrity

Let’s take a look at integrity today, shall we? It’s one of my favorite words in a long list of words I like, and it’s one I’ve spent some time absorbing. Integrity is something I very much want to have present in my life. Like most everything in life, its presence has been something of a process.

An important part of this process has been asking questions. As I began to ask them, an unpalatable realization emerged. I was not as honest a person as I’d thought I was. I’d been fooled, I was fooling myself, and since I was doing that, I wasn’t telling other people the truth, either. This hurt. I’d prided (can you tell what got hurt?) myself on being an honest person, and I’d had nothing but contempt for liars. To find this discrepancy in myself was indeed painful.

Unfortunately, in some ways,I didn’t help myself very well in dealing with my own lies, but that’s another story. What I think that I did do well is to search for understanding of what honesty means. Along the way I learned that there is a difference between behaving honestly (what I’d been attempting to achieve) and being an honest person.

Being an honest person is much more demanding. You can’t settle for a mask or the appearance of honesty. Instead it requires some soul searching to see if the honesty goes any deeper than the surface. You have to look at uncomfortable things like motivation. Honesty is a good thing, but there are bad reasons to pursue it, like pride in one’s good behavior. I can tell you firsthand that pride in one’s honesty can give a person an unwarranted sense of superiority.

I was trying to move past the mask. I did the soul searching and got very angry about what a crappy person I was. That, by the way, would have been me and not God piling on the blame and hate. He doesn’t operate like that. Anyway, I also dragged out a concordance and started looking up references containing honesty. I pulled out dictionaries and found definitions of honesty. I even got into the thesaurus and found synonyms for honesty and repeated the process with some of the synonyms.

Not surprisingly, integrity was listed as a synonym. Honesty and integrity go hand in hand. At the time, all I knew about integrity was that it could be used instead of honesty, and it would mean the same thing. It was a synonym, right? Well, that is true, but as I dug some more, I had a beautiful insight.

Here’s the Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of integrity:

1 : firm adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values : incorruptibility
2 : an unimpaired condition : soundness
3 : the quality or state of being complete or undivided : completeness

Let’s compare this to honesty, shall we?

1 obsolete : chastity
2 a : fairness and straightforwardness of conduct b : adherence to the facts : sincerity
3 : any of a genus (Lunaria) of European herbs of the mustard family with toothed leaves and flat disk-shaped siliques

We’ll skip the obsolete meaning and the one about the mustard family, because we’re talking about people, and focus on door #2. Honesty, the “fairness and straighforwardness of conduct,” could be fairly mistaken as a behavioral measurement, could it not? You do this, this, and this, and you’re considered honest. Yay! You look good. However, let’s go back to integrity and pick out a couple  of words, like “condition” and “state.” Those go a little deeper than “conduct.” You start talking about the state or condition of something, and you’re talking about what it’s like. You might even be talking about its essence, that elusive element that makes it what it actually is. Interesting, no?

Let’s look at another dictionary’s definition of integrity, which is what I did to reach that insight. I looked things up all over the place, because I was trying hard to understand what I was reading and not be writing my own mistaken ideas into it. Integrity is:

1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.
3. a sound, unimpaired, or perfect condition: the integrity of a ship’s hull.

Look at that. Isn’t it beautiful? Whole, entire, undiminished, sound, unimpaired, perfect – I don’t know about your heart, but that’s exactly what mine was straining toward. God says things in the Bible about how His people will be a “new creation”, that we’ll be born again and have eternal life, and that the life we have will be “to the full.” If you go snooping about the Bible, you can find all kinds of good things God says about the people He calls His. You can even find some references regarding integrity. I like I Kings 9:4-5 and the ones in Proverbs, personally, except for 29:10. But, yeah, beautiful!

There I was with a disconnect between who I was and who I wanted to be, between who I was and who I should have been, and there’s integrity, a word meaning wholeness, perfection, and unimpaired condition. Now, remember that my goal in life is and was already at that point to love God with my heart and mind, soul and strength. How do ya’ do that without integrity? How do you do that without wholeness or soundness? How does a person who is diminished or impaired or broken all to pieces even try to love God with their whole being? Got me! I don’t even want to try. I don’t think it’s possible, and I started asking God specifically for integrity.

For myself, honesty alone doesn’t cut it. I need something more than “straightforwardness of conduct” to – well – keep me honest. Integrity, however, seems to fit admirably. It’s got more depth and, to me, more hope to it. It’s about being honest all the way through. It’s about wholeness and soundness and being a person who actually might be able to love God with all that they are.

I even hear that God likes it! See?

I Chronicles 29:17a

I know, my God, that you test the heart and are pleased with integrity.

Catch you later!