Friday, July 24, 2015

Radical Rules

It has been nearly a month since I have begun my experiment in "Radical" living.  I absolutely, 100% believe and stand by everything I wrote in Rules For Radicals.  It's the carrying out this Radical Christianity that has befuddled me.

In the past month I have jumped into the middle of every Internet fray I could find.  I called total strangers to repent and believe the Gospel.  I engaged all sorts of people, from Universal Unitarians to Atheists and Agnostics, in brisk dialogue as to why they were wrong and headed to hell.

All in the very nicest way possible.

They still got mad.

I have had other, more positive encounters.  Most of these were in a personal setting where I could actually see the person I was speaking with.  Or, I had something positive to say to a random stranger.

This has all got me thinking.  What does God want me to do?  Am I doing things with the right heart, but in the wrong way?  I am just as determined as ever to use my freedom of speech to glorify God, but could there be some rules or guidelines that would help me be more effective?

The truth is, I wore myself out.  I felt like I was literally taking on hell with a water pistol.  I was getting into things way over my head and losing my peace.  My family was feeling neglected.  These are all huge signs that I'm on the wrong path.

When my friend, Brother Sam Pitrone posted a favorite scripture verse, I felt this wave of longing wash over me.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Yes, I have been laboring in my own strength.  I am heavy laden and wearied by the results.  I have need of this rest that Jesus promises to those that come.

I have fond remembrances of Bro. Sam and the Evangelism conference he preached at my home church when I was just a teenager.  I figured he might have some wisdom for me.  This is what he said:
"I try and focus on what God is doing in the people I know, not on what he is NOT doing in others."

That makes a lot of sense.  We know that God is Sovereign.  The results of Evangelism are up to Him.  And I'm so thankful!  I would be a basket case if I thought someone's eternity was resting on my tact or debating skills.  I would be a basket case if I thought that their eternity was resting on their own free will to choose or reject the Gospel.  The truth is, we are all dead in our sins.  As dead men we cannot stir ourselves up to cry out or to take the first step.  Jesus has to impart life first before we can even begin to respond.  Lazarus did not realize he was in a tomb until Jesus called his name.  As he opened his eyes, realization of his state took hold and he said, "Yikes! Get me out of here!" (A loose paraphrase.)  He obeyed his Master's call and stumbled towards the light.  His neighbors in the surrounding tombs slumbered on.  Why?  Because they had not been called.  They were not glancing longingly at Lazarus and wishing they too could leave the abode of the dead.  They were insensible to their condition.

So, what does this mean for Christ followers who take the Great Commission seriously?

What do you do when you want to stand against evil in high places and call the world to repentance?

How shall we then live?

Here are a few principles with scriptures that came to my mind this week.  I am already feeling more peace about my feeble, free-speech-as-evangelism efforts.

1. Don't be shocked by how wicked America or the world in general is.  The majority of Americans are no longer born again believers.  The natural man is at war with God.
"Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution.  But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived." 2 Timothy 3:12-13 

2. Don't be discouraged.  You may think it over the top that there are so many verses about suffering tribulation.  Thanks to my dealings with a couple of Atheists, my eyes have been opened.  They really do hate me.  It's because they hate God.  And really, if haters of God all loved me, I would be concerned.  But still, I had never experienced someone's literal hatred of me before.  Looks like I better get used to it, though.
"These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation: but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world!" John 16:33  

3. Don't get all high and mighty with your "martyr status". There's a fair amount of pride and rebellion in me that gets all stirred up when I see injustice in the world.  I love to champion the underdog and the Lost Causes.  My inner pugilist is just dying for a fight.  But this is not my fight.  I represent Christ and He certainly does not need me throwing my weight around to accomplish His purposes.  Paul reminds us:
"Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves." Philippians 2:3

4. Don't go looking for trouble.  This is a tough one for me.  My modus operandi was to speak to anyone that crossed my path (in the real world or on the Net) about Christ and how they need a Saviour.  While that may be true, I am not necessarily the best person to reach them.  Unless they reach out to me with a comment or question (a true sign of Providence), I probably should not be waylaying friends of friends.
"He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears." Proverbs 26:17

5. Pray without ceasing!  This might should be number one.  I just finished reading Unplanned, by Abby Johnson.  Her story of God's dealings with her is a prime example of the power of prayer and kindness.  Throughout her entire tenure at Planned Parenthood, she was surrounded, literally, by prayer warriors.  These people prayed for her by name.  They built a relationship of mutual trust and respect.  When the time came for Abby's delusions to crash down around her ears, it was smack dab in the middle of a 40 day prayer vigil.  She ran out the door of the abortion clinic and around the corner to the door of the Coalition For Life clinic.  It was the one place where she knew she was unconditionally loved for exactly who she was.  So, how should we be praying?  Paul gives us a handy list:
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men; For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty.  For this is good acceptable in the sight of God our Savior . . . I will therefore that men pray every where, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting." 1 Timothy 2:1-2 

6. Kill them with kindness.  Abby stresses time and again that Planned Parenthood has no defense against kindness and openness.  They depend on a victimhood status to get sympathy and to get funding.  Whenever a crime is perpetrated against an abortion clinic or abortion worker, it strengthens the martyr narrative. (Besides being terribly wrong and against Christ!)  And so it is for every evil cause and movement.  Peter tells us how to demolish this tactic:
"For so is the will of God that with well doing ye may put to silence the ignorance of foolish men: As free, and not using your liberty for a cloak of maliciousness, but as the servants of God.  Honor all men.  Love the brotherhood.  Fear God.  Honor the king." 1 Peter 2:15-17 

7. Do speak up.  Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary, use words!  People aren't going to telepathically look at us and figure out by our lifestyle what they must do to be saved.  They might look at us and wonder why we live the way we do.  Hopefully they will feel drawn to come ask us questions.  Be ready!
"But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." 1 Peter 3:15

8. Be thankful!  "In everything give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you." 1 Thessalonians 5:18  

Something that surprised me this month has been the opportunities to be outspoken in thanking others.  I am convinced that a large part of standing up and speaking out needs to be positive recognition of those who are doing well.

Thank a veteran, who gave the best years of his life and watched his brothers give their lives for our freedoms.

Thank a friend of a friend on Facebook who has gone the extra mile to respond with grace to hateful comments.

Thank a friendly cashier or the young man that carries out your bags and tries his best not to squish the bread.

Thank your Congressman who is taking fire for standing for his constituents convictions.

Thank your Pastor.

Thank your Mom.

Thank the best friend that has always been there for you.

 It is in this way, living the life God has given us in the best way possible, day in, day out.  Being faithful in prayer and in love.  Being respectful and thankful.  This is how God will work to touch the lives you invest in every day.  The people you witness to, in word and in deed, may not ever come to faith in Christ.

Or they might!

Either way, God is glorified.

And that is whole purpose of man!

Friday, July 17, 2015

The Painter's Gospel

Well, isn't this a cozy room?

Deep burgundy with white crown molding and wainscoting.  A generous, ten foot ceiling.  Tasteful homemade decorations.  A couple of framed pictures.

Any guest could be comfortable here. 

True, it won't ever rise to grace the cover of Home Beautiful.

But still, it is a very comfortable and if I might say, pretty room.  A room you could definitely live with.

As long as you looked no closer . . .

If you peer beyond the distraction of our ornate table with seven matching chairs (and one folding chair!), you might see several holes in the drywall.

If you glanced beneath the large painting, you would find greasy fingerprints and hardened food that no amount of scrubbing will ever remove.

If you took all the pictures down, then you would see things as they really are.

My naked wall.

You would discover two large nails spikes lodged behind the custom framed work of art.  They won't budge.  You can't pull them out.  Any attempt to do so also pulls on the stud and causes cracks and bulges in the drywall six inches above.  You can't pound them in.  They bend either upward or downward, making ever larger gashes.

So, you just hang a pretty picture over them and do your best to forget.

 Until one day, you can't live with it any longer.

Wait a minute.  Are we still talking about interior design?  Cause, for a moment there, it almost sounded like my life.

You see, I was a "good girl".  Lots of distracting, ornamental features.  Didn't get into trouble.  At least not much.  As good as most, maybe better than some.

Until you start stripping away the homeschool decorations, the "church girl" artwork, the fancy table and the lone folding chair that showcases I'm still humble.

And then you are left with holes and stains and stubborn sins that just won't budge.

And that color!  Can anything cover this dreadful, bleeding burgundy?!

"Though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool." Isaiah 1:18

This is the stage of Salvation known as Conviction.

You move out of the "I Can Live With This" era into the "Something Must Change" mind frame.

And so you start tearing things down and researching.  Maybe you check out self help books at the library.

This is where things get critical.  Every single person that has ever lived must come to this place.  The place where you realize you are in over your head.  The place where you give up.  The place where you call for help.

And I don't mean Ace Hardware.

The religions of this world are basically arranged like aisle's at your favorite home improvement store.  Let's call this store Self-Way.  Every tool for self improvement is at your disposal.  There are texts you are expected to follow to the letter.  There's paint and sand paper and gadgets.  Oh, and baubles!  Tons of baubles and doodads designed to cover up and distract.

But there's just one problem.  The best paint in the world is no match for that bleeding burgundy.  The patches gloss over the holes, only to sink into them a month later.  And no wire cutter can ever cut through those two stubborn spikes still lodged behind the art.

I need the Carpenter from Nazareth.

"Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Matthew 11:28

Jesus doesn't cover over holes.  He fills them.

Most of the holes in my wall are from nails that I pounded in myself.  First you have to pull the nails out.  Every sin, no matter how small, leaves a hole.

Some of these holes, however, are wounds, inflicted by others or by circumstances, compounded by my own bitterness and anger.  Just watch my six year old pull out the chairs so that he can sweep under the table.  A thoughtless yank and Whack!  There's another six inch gouge.

Jesus fills these injuries with special care.

"A bruised reed shall he not break . . . He shall not fail nor be discouraged, till he have set judgment in the earth." Isaiah 42:3,4    

Jesus, along with his Father and the Holy Spirit, handle all the preparation.  I can add nothing to this work.  If I tried to help, I would only get in the way and smudge it all.  All I can do is stand back and let God do His work.

Finally, it's time to get rid this awful color.

"My sins are blotted out I know!"
 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.  If we say that we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us." 1 John 1:9-10

Christ's atonement is two fold.  First he takes our sins and he pays them all himself.  I go from being in debt by a gazillion trillion times infinity, to "paid up".  This is like applying the primer.  It covers everything.

" . . . without the shedding of blood is no remission {of sin} . . . and their sins and iniquities will I remember no more." Hebrews 9:22,  10:17

But, he doesn't just leave us with a zero balance.  As my brother warned me, primer is very fragile.  It scuffs and picks up dirt quite easily.  I was amazed to find dirt stuck in my primer, way up by the ceiling.  No, having the sin covered is wonderful.  But it's not nearly enough.

"For I say unto you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven." Matthew 5:20

"Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy he saved us, by the washing of regeneration and the renewing of the Holy Ghost." Titus 3:5

Jesus covers us with his own impeccable righteousness.  When God the Father looks at us, all He sees is His precious Son.  We are accepted, not because my drywall is better than my neighbor's drywall.  It's because my drywall is covered by the blood of Jesus Christ and His right-ness has been applied over it.

"Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.  Blessed is the man unto whom the Lord imputeth not iniquity." Psalm 32:1-2

So, where am I now?  I have been stripped bare, sanded down, patched, primed and painted.  It doesn't even look like the same room anymore.  But for what purpose?  So that I can stand around and admire the walls?  An empty room meant only to be gazed at belongs in a museum.  You can look, but you don't dare touch.

Jesus has a much higher purpose in mind than simple decoration.

"What?  Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?  For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God's."  1 Corinthians 6:19-20

Jesus, Lord of all, came not to be served, but as a servant.  Even so must we not expect to be served and catered to, but to be an instrument of service.

"And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:  Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:27-28

You would expect a Dining Room to be filled with Dinners and Diners.  And guess who promises to be our guest?!

"Behold, I stand at the door and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." Revelation 3:20

This is it.

This is the purpose of life. 

The reason I was created!

Jesus bought all the supplies, he made every preparation, he accomplished the work, just so that we can sit together in fellowship, (sharing a cup of coffee, if you will)  for all of eternity. 

Thank you, Master!

P. S.  I rehung my pictures yesterday.  I know I made a few mistakes that are going to leave holes.  The kids have whacked the corners a few times already.  But there is a can of touch up paint in the garage.

"For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day." 2 Corinthians 4:16

Did I mention this is scrubbable paint?  'Cause we're going to need it!  

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Painting Your Dining Room - For Dummies

Painting Your Dining Room – For Dummies

Step 1 – Don’t do it.  Either call a professional or learn to live with it.

You’re still here.

Why are you still here?

Oh, I see.  You have already started painting and are just now Google-ing  for help.

Yeah, that’s where I’m at right now too.

Here is an outline of the process I have used to bring about complete dining room destruction, I mean, transformation.

Monday Morning: Awake, refreshed from the long weekend thinking, “Good gravy!  I really can’t stand my nasty, greasy, pockmarked, flat finished, mulberry colored walls one second longer.”  Thereby resolve to spend the next day or two painting.  In preparation I remove the pictures.  I have to Google how to remove the blinds.  This is my first official piece of research. 

Monday Evening: Leave the house clean and organized for my two hour karate class.  Swing by Walmart at 9:30 p.m. to pick up a few essentials.  Like, everything.  I don’t even know if we own a paint brush, other than the 35 watercolor brushes that congregate underneath the couch.  After an hour of agonizing deliberation I buy a gallon of white primer, a painter’s starter kit, an extension pole, a paint stirrer, a putty knife, spackling, sandpaper, a big-ol’-hole-in-the-wall repair kit and a box of latex gloves.  Why the gloves?  Well, the picture on the –big-ol’-hole-in-the-wall repair kit featured one gloved hand wielding a putty knife as it repairs a big ol’ hole in the wall.  That’s why.
I retired to bed at the reasonable hour of 12:30, wanting to be sure and awake on the morn refreshed and ready to paint some wall.

Tuesday Morning:  I drag my carcass out of bed around 0830.  I spend the next four hours filling in holes, gashes and gouges with the spackling.   
I dust the walls with a rag taped to my extension pole.  
I sand the petrified food off from behind the high chair.   
I conduct frantic Google searches.
I get behind on the laundry.
I take a phone call.  “Do you want to come over and hang out awhile?” queried my good friend Rebecca.  “Absolutely!”  I was ready to get out of the house for awhile. 

 The rest of the afternoon the kids played with their friend and swam in the rain.  When we left, it was time for supper before we headed over to singing lessons.  It just so happens that Tuesday was the anniversary celebration for the Global Domicile of Flapjacks.  (GDOF)   

GDOF was advertising 57 cent pancakes.  Just the perfect meal for a cool, rainy evening.  So thought everyone else in Tulsa.  There were 57 people squished in the waiting area.  “How long is the wait?” I asked.  “Not long at all, just 10, maybe 20 minutes.
 Hmm, let’s do some math.  I have an hour and a half before our next appointment.  There are 57 people in line to be seated, at the rate of 3 people every 15 minutes.  Add the time it takes for me to argue over the menu with four kids who don’t understand the concept of 57 cent short stacks, order and wait for our order to arrive, plus the time it takes to mop up the syrup that gets spilled 18 times, plus the time it takes to pay our server and drag five sticky children through the crowd and the total time spent is approximately 2 weeks. 

We walked next door to Wendy’s.
 To avoid a riot, I promised to make homemade pancakes for breakfast tomorrow.

Tuesday Evening:  After we finish our Family Singing Lessons, I put the more destructive members of the family to bed.  I spackle some more.  I sand some more.   I dust some more.  I employ the big-ol’-hole-in-the-wall repair kit.  Latex gloves be hanged!  I start taping the trim. 
I tape. 
And I tape. 
And I tape. 
We are in possession of way more trim than I ever realized.
I finally give in and go to bed at the more reasonable hour of 11:30.

Wednesday Morning: Awake in a cold sweat.  I promised to make them pancakes. 
“Hey, does anyone want French Toast?  Anyone? ”  Nope.  No one.
 I make pancakes.
After breakfast I commence to taping in earnest.  I haven’t showered.  I’m still in my tie-dyed T-shirt and yoga pants that I wear as pajamas. 
I spackle some more.
I sand some more.
I tape even more.
The house disintegrates into a black hole of chaos while I steadfastly tape a little bit more.
It is important to note that the most essential part of any home repair task is to have plenty of help.  You need at least four children under the age of 10 to pick up and walk off with important tools.  You could probably use three who are floating sanders.  They will sand every surface in the house and each other.  And don’t forget a screaming toddler who can throw cups of water, eat spackle globs and scrub the toilet with your toothbrush!

Wednesday Afternoon: I am almost finished with the taping, spackling and sanding.  I finally got my shower.  The clean and orderly home on Monday is long gone.  The kids are one their second video of the day.  But you know what?  I feel really good.  If Pa Ingalls can hew his own logs and Ma can spin her own cloth, surely I, Mary On The Banks Of Indian Springs, armed with a Smart Phone can Google my way through painting the dining room.

I hope.  Because professional help is really expensive.

 We have to leave for the Chiropractor appointment, run by the library and go to church.  But, when I get back, I might, just maybe start rolling the primer.  Or maybe I’ll just continue to tape and spackle indefinitely.

Stay tuned for more helpful hints.

On second thought, you better look elsewhere for helpful hints.  But if it’s humorous horror stories you need, I’m your gal!