Saturday, February 17, 2007

Confessions of a Control-Freak

"Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, 'Let me take the speck out of your eye,' when all the time there is a plank in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye."

Jesus in Matthew 7:1-5

How many times have I read this, but suddenly reading this yesterday, it made new sense.

As a control-freak, I must confess that judgment is the first leg of the journey to control. First you look at what someone else is doing with a critical eye. You see how they could do it so much better (your way, of course!) and then you try to figure out how you can convince them (read: control them) to doing it your better way. For their own good, of course.

As an aggressive control freak, I am up front and in your face about it. I have friends however (and of course, I love you dearly!) who are much more subtle about it. I call them, (affectionately!) passive-aggressive. I love my mother-in-law's middle of the road technique. She starts those conversations with "I don't want to tell you what to do, but..." You just have to giggle because she is just cute.

Here, our Beloved Jesus tells us not to judge, but He implies that you can help someone else, but only after you have been through it yourself.

Having teenagers is like that. It is easy to watch a friend struggling with a rebellious teen and say "You should do ..." as long as all your own kids are in grade school. Or if none of your own kids developed a rebellious streak in their teens. If you have really suffered through this yourself, you would be much more likely to listen to your troubled friends while you are hugging and weeping over them and then pray earnestly for them.

First take the plank out of your own eye.

When you have finally seen your own plank, when you have experienced how difficult it is to get it out and keep it out, how much you must depend on Christ to do it, then and only then, can you be of any real service to your sister who has a speck in her eye. If you have not experienced it yourself, you just have NO IDEA. Really.

Jesus, Beloved, forgive me for so often judging. You tell us that Your yoke is easy and that means for us control-freaks that You only will be judging us for us, not for them. Your easy yoke does not include fixing them, only ourselves. And then only with Your divine help!

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

23 Minutes in Hell - A book report

There is something singularly compelling about a personal account. And that is what is so intriguing about this book by Bill Weise. And whether or not we choose to believe his experience, we cannot discount the scriptures that support his story, and there are many.

But it is his personal story that will make your hair stand on end. Hell is not something we like to think about, much less talk about. It is a negative reason to choose Christ when there are so many positive reasons. In a culture where it is wrong to suggest that anything is absolutely wrong, the concepts of judgment and punishment are not popular.

Unfortunately, they are also true.

And so I present to you my thoughts of this book.

Bill, a newlywed and a believer at the time, was taken from his bed in the middle of the night and spent 23 minutes in the depth of hell, afterwards was rescued by Christ Himself and instructed to tell his story to a world where his story would not be popular. It was not just hot there. Bill was left naked, was beaten by huge demons, tortured by heat, noise and smells that made him yearn for death, but it could never come. There was no escape, no respite from the terror and loneliness. He was protected from some of its pain and some of it was removed from his memory because no one could experience such torment and live.

Hell is a place devoid of the love and mercy of God, because it is God Himself who is love and mercy. Hell is a place devoid of comfort and peace and beauty because God Himself is comfort and peace and beauty.

People have a choice. God desires only our true love and there can be no truth to love without free choice. So He leaves us free to choose Him. Or not.

When we choose God, we go to live in His house. Heaven is our true home. I was recounting to Al yesterday why I studied the Bible for 7 years before I accepted Christ as Lord and Savior. It was like I was willing to date Jesus, but I didn't want to marry Him. To visit with Him on occasion was ok for me, but I wasn't ready to commit myself totally, all my life to Him. It was only when I said Yes to Jesus, that I was able to receive His Holy Spirit and become a citizen of Heaven. It is only the Bride of Christ that can return to the home of her Beloved.

When others reject God , they can only spend eternity where God is not. And that is hell. And I am thinking that the only reason why hell is like that is because it is totally devoid of God and His Spirit and His people.

While reading Bill's book, I found myself thinking of The Great Divorce by C.S. Lewis. I liked Bill's description of hell better. While The Great Divorce's hell seemed vague and only mildly uncomfortable, Bill's count was franker, harsher certainly, but more realistic and unfortunately, accurate to the scriptures if incredible to be believed.

What do we do with this? Should we run and tell our families and friends..."you need to repent or you will go to hell and it's a really bad place?" Well, maybe not.

Certainly though, it was an urgent reminder that evangelism is urgently important.

Sunday, February 11, 2007

The Haunted Look, the Smile of Grace

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin. (Hebrews 4:15)

I looked in your eyes today and I knew you needed help. Last week you looked that way, and today, only more so. That haunted look, I know so well. I see it in the mirror.

You did not know, but our Beloved sent you to me, because He knows my struggles and my sins. He knew I would understand and that by hearing my thoughts come from your mouth, that I would see this in a different way, as He does.

Sharing your sorrow and your tears, I see I am not alone.

Can it be possible, Beloved, that You too struggled with this particular sin as You walked on the earth? It seems impossible, yet does not scripture tell us You were tempted in every way?

We do not want this temptation, but it is the burden You have given us to bear. This temptation may indeed be the thorn in our flesh You give us to make us humble and You intend to never take it away.

But we can still smile, and it is not phony, because You will hold us in Your hand, You will forgive us when we wander to close to the edge, and You will not let us fall. We smile because You are with us and we trust You. And no matter what, You love us. No matter what.

Thank you for bringing us together this morning and allowing us to see we are not alone. And to help me recall, You are with us too.

Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Hebrews 4:16)

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Hand over the machete

The winds have changed and suddenly, I am not longer the leader.

I never wanted to be the leader. Not really. I just kept turning around and all these lost-looking people were behind me. Maybe it was my gift of helps that made me decide to be what they needed. Sheep without a shepherd.

Being a leader was like having a bunch of people following you in the jungle. You are the one in front, with the machete, cutting through the undergrowth. There are no maps, only branches smacking you in the face and you slice into the brush, praying that you are leading these others in the right direction.

I was the spiritual leader in my home, a leader in women's ministries and often I would find myself as the senior person in the church building with the others looking at me for direction--as if I had any. I often thought I ended up in that position because everyone else had taken a step back.

Now, I find myself trailing more to the back of the crowd. I am ready to hand over my machete. My husband now ready to take over the spiritual headship of our home, the others in church moving up to the front of the line, or maybe it's just me being tired and older and moving towards the back.

Following Al reminds me of our younger days when we would ride his motor cycle. I would ride with him in front, me behind, arms around his waist, leaning my head on his back, watching the scenery pass, safe from the wind. All I had to do was the lean in the direction he leaned, and not pull in the opposite direction. No matter where we went or how fast the scenery passed me, I always felt safe, because I trusted Al.

That's what I want to do now, Lord. Lean in towards the way You are leaning. I want to be protected from the wind. I want to hand over my machete. I want to trust You.

I never asked to be the leader, Father. You thrust it upon me and now You have taken it away. It's all ok with me.

Maybe this time of following is a preparation for a later time of leadership for me. Maybe the time of leadership I experienced was preparation for this time of following. Whatever way it will become, I trust You, Lord to have great and wonderful plans.

Have Your way with us.

Friday, February 02, 2007


Secrets.  Even You have them, Father.  You hide eternity 
in Your hand and then release it, day by day.

The ones that I know now, I am so glad they were hidden.  
Worlds turned upside down--but You always knew.  
You knew yet in Your mercy kept it secret.

And yet there are more to reveal, next week, next month, 
next year, even tomorrow.  
We can only count on Your constant love.

And so we too must love constant.  We must cover each 
other's sins with a multitude of love.  
Forgive, forget, move on.

It will never be the way it was.  
But we have yet to see what it will be.

It is a secret, hidden in Your hand that You release 
day by day.

Not yet, You say.  Stay by Me.  
It looks like the end but it is not yet.  
It will be as clear as the light across the heavens.  
You will not miss it.

Stay close by Me.  Don't rush ahead. 

humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God

that He might exalt you in due time

casting all your cares on Him

because He cares for you...1 Peter 5:6-7

you got a problem with ME?

Jesus said... "If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times comes back to you and says, 'I repent,' forgive him."

Luke 17:3-4

I have a friend who periodically has melancholy moods. This used to bother me but eventually I started to ask my friend the question..."do I need to appologize for something today?"

The response was always no. Actually my friend was good at telling me right away when I did or said something hurtful. Eventually I stopped asking, confident that if what was wrong was about me, my friend would have told me.

How freeing this is!

I tend toward introspection. Something said in passing conversation can make me wonder about my relationship with a friend. Sometimes, all it takes is a look.

But does the instruction of Matthew 18:15 (If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you.) work in reverse? If my brother does not tell me my fault, does that mean that I can assume there is none? If my brother is truely my brother in Christ, can I not trust that he will forgive me?

When he does not forgive me, that is his burden and not mine. I mean, after I have confessed and repented, is there more I need to do?

Beloved, I have done my best to heal this and reconcile, and whatever they have now in their heart, must be dealt with by You.

The burden of unforgiven sin is great. A favorite counselor of ours said in a recent teaching, "When you are angry and you bury it, you bury it alive." How true! And after a while, it leaks.

Beloved, I must rest that if I do right from now on in these areas, You will deal with the hearts of others.

You are mighty, You love me, You love them and I trust You.