Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Good Behavior

This being the latest pin-sweep, I've seen it nearly every day lately and I do, in fact, get it and understand the point it's making.  But there's an iggling in my brain that compels me to question the principle so I'll just put this out here, not for contention but for consideration.

Ephesians 2:8-9 says, "God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it." (NLT) 

So actually, my behavior does not make me a better person.  My belief (in the right thing) does, in fact, make me better, make me well - it saves me, in fact.  My behavior should demonstrate that.

The book of James, chapter two, has much to say about the relationship between behavior and faith.  My behavior will perfect my belief, as James essentially puts it.  It's not that we're done once we've made the claim.  It's just that - I humbly submit - we should be careful not to develop a works-based faith through our good behavior.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Live Free or Die

First of all, I thought this would be titled "Grateful" until I actually sat down to write it. This new title makes total sense to me now and I hope both will make sense to you when I’m done.

Second - and this is important - the stuff that I’m about to lay out here is a reflection on my own experience and is not intended as any sort of finger-pointing. I’ve tried always to be clear and forthcoming about my own inward reflection and would not have thought such a thing necessary to say except that I’ve seen much "out there" lately (reaction wise) to indicate a possible otherwise.

So now, three years ago at about this time, my husband had a heart attack, the kind commonly referred to as the widow-maker. Without making this whole thing about that experience entirely, I’ll share only this part: when the doctor who was performing the heart catheter came out to tell me that what was supposed to be a fifteen minute procedure resulting in the installation of a stint was turning out to be much more serious - "dangerous" was the word he used - and that they’d had to call in an open-heart surgeon just in case my husband’s artery blew out which would require emergency bypass surgery, and he allowed me to see my husband for just a moment before the surgeon arrived and they continued with the procedure...well, it was my husband who prayed for us. I could barely even breathe through my tears. Need I tell you how grateful I am for him?

As soon after his recovery as he was able to climb stairs again, we went away for the weekend to celebrate simply the fact that we still had such opportunity. How grateful we both were that weekend at the beach back in ‘09! How grateful we’ve tried very hard to be on every day since then. It’s a trick sometimes. I’m assuming you know what I mean. So it’s an anniversary now, an annual practice for us to spend a weekend away celebrating the life that God has given us.

This year, we threw in a couples’ massage - at 7:30, Saturday morning! (Really??!!) Later on, we would ask each other questions such as, "Are we being frivolous?" "Do we really deserve anything?" Etc., but that’s not what this is about. At least, not exactly. I’m not sure if it was the shortage of morning coffee, if it was an endorphin thing, or if it was just part of the enlightenment process but I found myself reflecting on some very unexpected things that morning.

I’ll start with massage as that’s as logical as any other place. I can’t remember the last time I had one before this time, but I used to have them regularly, and not the therapeutic kind. The indulgent, stupidly-expensive kind. I also had pedicures - either frequently or slightly less frequently. And manicures too, of course. But these were my indulgences (vanity-wise.) I had regulars too. I saw a hairdresser ev-er-y six weeks for cut, color, highlights, Coiffure (read with french accent, please.) I saw an aesthetician every five weeks because, after all, "you brush your teeth every day but still see the dentist every six months."

When looking back at my former self, I wonder how it is that all that high maintenance didn’t yield a better-looking product. That is where I find my Dorian Gray. You can paint a canvas over and over again, but the oily ugly* will eventually seep through. Thank God I have been freed from such a prison as that.

Nowadays...I "run up the road" when I have twenty minutes to spare and my (new) hairdresser can work me in for a "super-trim." I color my own hair from a box. Occasionally, I pin in highlights (but they’re usually pink.) Way less than frequently, I’ll spend an afternoon giving myself a pedicure - employing my dremel tool when necessary. I make my own facial pastes with things such as aspirin or vinegar. (Pinterest, anyone?)

How much God has changed me. How much more work He will do in me. How grateful I am.

"For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death." Romans 7:5

"O wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? I thank God - through Jesus Christ our Lord!" Romans 7:24-25

"Today I have given you the choice between life and death" Deuteronomy 30:19a

I have chosen to live free in Christ rather than die in my sin. Thank God that He loves me enough to make this possible.



*As I lay there reflecting on my wasteful past, other indulgences came naturally to mind, my various addictions through the years. Alcohol, cigarettes, prescriptions, shopping, to name the doozies. Shopping has been my last and hardest addiction to beat. I say again, addiction manifests itself in all manner of ways and I do not disregard my susceptibility to establishing new addictions / addictive patterns. 

"I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me." Galatians 2:20, daily.

Or in other words, to live free I must also die to my selfish, indulgent will.  Daily.  Thank God that Jesus made the way for me.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Faith Like A Potato Seed

(December 2010)

What seems like a really long time ago, though it was probably no more than two years now, a very good friend strongly urged Terry, my husband, to watch a movie called Faith Like Potatoes. At the time, he was trudging through some difficulty and she seemed certain that the movie would have a relative message for him. Since then, we have considered it many times but we’ve always settled on something else.


Yesterday - (it’s occurred to me that the "years ago"s and "yesterday"s will always be applicable time frames as God’s words for us are always relevant) after church, we stopped at the movie store. As we started to browse, Terry informed me that we had to choose carefully because he was in a state of prayerful consideration of something and didn’t want to be distracted. Truthfully, this irritated me because I totally Wanted to be distracted and this would limit my choices significantly.


We wandered apart and each of us chose a couple of movies that we’d been wanting to see for some time. As I reached the end of the ‘new releases’ and Terry was catching up to me and we were both ready to go, all of a sudden Faith Like Potatoes came to mind. Truthfully again, I hesitated to even mention it - not because I didn’t want to see it but because it didn’t seem to fit my agenda at that moment. But I did inform Terry that it was THE movie that he needed to see. It would speak to what he was dealing with. I was certain of it.


Now. I am in a Celebrate Recovery 12-Step program. I don’t like it but I’ve continued to "not like it" till I’m about halfway through. I’ve wondered many times, though, if I would reach the point that I could go no further. This last step has been that step for me - the one I can’t take. Repeatedly, I’ve stared at the latest assignment in my workbook but haven’t been able to complete it.


My Sunday routine is to go to church first and then to my CR group. During the message yesterday, my mind kept wandering off to the fact that I was about to have to tell my group that I couldn’t finish. And then I realized how specifically the message was speaking to me. Reverend Ausley was talking about miracles and the fact that NOTHING is impossible with God. He listed some things that people typically deem impossible. I heard, "a healed heart," and "a changed life" among other things.


So I went to group and said different things than I’d thought I would. I explained that I’d thought I’d finally reached that point of dropping out but that the message had just informed me differently. Further in, I stated - without really even meaning to, by the way - what I have sensed to be the great "Impossibilities" in my life. Underline "impossibilities." It was a very, very, very heart-stirring time for me. It was hard and it was why I’d wanted to be distracted later on.


So later on, we watched Faith Like Potatoes. There were many themes that were relevant and personal to me but near the end, Agnus Buchan says, "The condition for a miracle is difficulty. The condition for a Great Miracle is IMPOSSIBILITY."


Nearly two years ago, someone planted a [potato] seed in my mind. Today - TODAY - it brought harvest.



"For with God, all things are possible." Mark 10:27b