Saturday, December 31, 2005

Ready or Not, Here Comes 2006

I'm not going to make any New Years resolutions except to renew my resolve to follow the two greatest commandments as Jesus stated when the Pharisee's tried to corner him and trip him up. This is from Dr. Marcellino D'Ambrosio's website, The Crossroads Initiative. He is a Catholic, but also a Christian. I found this one time while searching the internet. I saved it on my computer and now is a perfect time to reflect on this again. It keeps my resolve simple when I tend to make everything complicated.

"They are at it again. They enlist a Pharisee to do what lawyers do best- ask a question designed to put a person on the hot seat. “Which commandment of the law is the greatest?” (Mat 22:34-40). If the law were only the Ten Commandments, this would be tough enough. But the written “Torah” included many more moral, ceremonial, and dietary prescriptions.

Jesus, of course, is a radical. A “radical” is one who goes to the “radix” or root of the issue. The root problem was that these Pharisees majored in the minors. They loved to strain out gnats and swallow camels. They missed the forest for the trees, going to great lengths to observe the letter of the law while totally missing its spirit.

So Jesus fires a broadside. Splicing together two passages from the Torah, he sinks them. “You shall love the Lord your God with your whole heart, with your whole soul, and with all your mind” (Deut 6:5). “This is the greatest and first commandment. The second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ (Lev 19:18).”

This sinks them for a couple of reasons. First it brilliantly sums up the entire law because every single precept is an expression of these two commandments. Read the Ten Commandments (Ex 20:1-17) and you’ll see that the first three are about loving God and the other seven are about loving your neighbor. If you read every line of the Bible, you’d be able to put each command in column A (love God) or column B (love your neighbor). So these two commandments are indeed the root of them all.

But the other reason his answer sinks them is that these two root commandments are precisely the ones the Pharisees keep breaking. Observance of the law for them is not an act of divine worship but rather of self-promotion. Rather than their observance of the law leading to love of neighbor, it leads to scorn of neighbors who fail to live up to their standards (see how they treat the blind man in John 9:24-34). Note what Paul, the converted Pharisee, says: “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal (1 Cor 13:1).” Paul knew this from experience–he spent years as a gong. On the positive side, St. Augustine says “love and do what you will.”

Yet Jesus did not say just to love. He said we must love the Lord with our WHOLE heart and soul and with ALL our mind and strength. I made a discernment retreat at the Trappist Abbey of Gethsemane when, at age 21, I felt torn between a desire for religious life and marriage. As I walked into the retreat house, I shuddered to see this phrase inscribed in the stone over the entryway: “God Alone.”

Does wholehearted love of God leave no room in your heart for a spouse or children?

If that were the case, there would be no second great commandment in this story. In fact Jesus says the second commandment is like the first. That’s because the kind of wholehearted love Jesus is talking about is charity (agape), which means loving God for his own sake and all others for his sake, and doing so not by human strength, but with the divine love that is poured into our heart by the Holy Spirit (Ro 5:5) When we love others with charity, we are loving God through them. Our every loving act towards them becomes an expression of our love for God.

So at bottom, the two great commandments are just two sides of the same coin. Jesus says to render to Caesar what is Caesars and render to God what is God’s. The two-sided coin of charity is the only legal tender we can use to pay the obligation that’s even more important than taxes–the one owed to the Creator."

How simple is that? I'd like to carry that coin in my pocket all the time. The Lord has blessed me with family and friends who love and support me (and sometimes make me nuts). But really, it's me who makes me nuts, by not keeping it simple. I wind up things in my mind until they are so complicated that I can't see my blessings. I am blessed to have a husband who loves me, a home that's paid for, a new car to drive, clothes to wear, food to eat and 2 little doggies to play with. I have a computer and the internet. I have a cellphone. Puhleeeez! I should never feel depressed and deprived. I probably complicated my life with the accumulation of too much in the way of worldly possessions.

Over the 50+ years of my life I have pack-ratted many "things". I hold on to fond memories of people and places by keeping things. When I look at or touch those things, I experience a pleasant memory. Too many of things clog up my mind so that all I have are past memories. It seems that I don't have space for new memories without letting go of some of the old ones. I want to make room for the new blessings so I guess I need to clean house. I need to honor important new memories by making room for them instead of holding on to the past.

Lord, guide me in your ways to open myself to new memories and blessings!

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Things Are Back to Normal?

What's normal, anyway? Are things back to normal because my hubby is speaking to me? Or that he's no longer looking at me with those angry eyes? I have been praying for forgivness and treating him like he is the dearest thing in this world to me..... which he is. I thank the Lord for the counsel of good Christian women so that I could see where I was wrong and apologize to my spouse in sincerity.

It has been pointed out to me that I had a basic misconception concerning my marriage. I thought I could say anything.....and what that led to was saying just about anything that pops into my mind, with utter disregard for my spouse's feelings. I love him, so I thought that love trumped all my misspoken words. I became lazy in my long marriage and didn't put the effort to it that I was putting into friendships. I forgot that marriage is my closest friendship. Instead, I argued for the sake of argument, I insulted to get my way, I didn't pay attention to things he said to me as unimportant because I thought that was how he was treating me. I tried to get the first strike in. It became a contentious relationship. Let's see who can get the first dig in! Tit for tat. You ignore me I ignore you. The thing is, I am better at that game than he is. I'm not bragging--that's nothing to brag about. I am ashamed of it. I say things that I regret the minute they come out of my mouth, when I am trying to make my point and win the argument. But win what? The prize for being the best debater? The prize for doing that will be the death of love. I don't want that. He is a caring man who loves me, but I can push him away and hurt him with my words. My prayer today is that I can pause before speaking and think about what I am about to say. Will it be kind and loving or will it be cruel and hurtful?

Lord Jesus, I praise you for revealing these insights to me. Help me today and all days to be the person you meant me to be. Let me think before speaking. Let me think of you and listen to the Holy Spirit in that still, small voice before I speak. Help me to show my love through you.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Random ramblings and thoughts

Everybody else has these pictures on their blogs and links to other blogs, etc...... Not me! I downloaded that "Hello" thingy from Picaza or whatever it's called and I have tried for a couple of times now to figure out how to use it to put pictures but it's not working. Blogger doesn't tell me how to do it and I am getting frustrated. Oh well, maybe I don't need pictures on my blog.......

Have you been noticing lately, or is it just me..... There has been some inaccurate, as well as deliberatly misleading(in my opinion) stuff in the media about Jesus. First, the lady who used to write about Vampires and Witches and other occult stories has now written a novel about the childhood of Jesus. Puh-leez!

There was a major network primetime newshow before Christmas about Jesus and whether the bible is accurate or just fables. For instance, they claim that Jesus was not born in Bethlehem--that the writers of the gospels just said that because that's what was prophesied. The reporter said that Jesus of Nazareth was born in Nazareth, that's why they called him that instead of Jesus of Bethlehem. Then I came across a program series called Armageddon in which they speak about the Antichrist in Bible prophecy and try to prove that there will be no such thing or that he already came and went in the 1st century. They spoke about the book of Revelation as if it was hallucination. There was a big article in Time magazine about Mormons that dealt with that cult as if it were the true way to heaven. But when they talk about Christians who believe in salvation by the blood of Jesus, they make us out to be kooks. They speak of a God that would accept all believers, regardless of belief or non belief in Jesus.

What I am thinking, is that we are definitely in the end times. Mass media is the perfect tool of the Antichrist. I feel the urgency to get the message to as many as I can, that Jesus is the way, the truth and the light. I include a long list of family and friends in my daily prayers, I hope to see that they are saved before the Rapture.

But I feel so inadequate, when my own husband can remind me of my actions as "unchristian". I struggle daily, well, actually, hourly with my own perfectionism and anger (frustration and impatience explode into an outburst). I know that when I am weak, the Lord is strong.

Lord, Jesus, I pray for your strength to control my impulses. Before I speak, let me take a moment to listen to the Holy Spirit so that I don't blurt out something inappropriate or hurtful. Let me become more kind and loving in my thought, word and deed. For Your honor and glory, Precious Lord.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Men and Mourning......The Mistakes I Have Made

My thoughts are jumbled today and I am trying very hard to sort them out. I knew my spouse was mourning the death of our friend, Julie, who died suddenly and unexpectedly on Dec. 2nd. What I didn't realize until today is how deeply it has affected him. It took and incident early Christmas morning to open the door of my understanding just how the loss is affecting him. You see, what I thought was something else altogether affecting his mood--basically, the Christmas season. I thought he was over Julie's passing, because he seemed to go back to normal in a few days. Usually, Christmas is difficult for him because some bad memories happened during the season. He has been estranged from his son for many years. Another close friend died suddenly and unexpectedly a few years ago on December 18th. His closest friend died a couple of years ago suddenly. I think that Julie's death, brought all those others back to him and the postponed grief has now hit him full force.

Yesterday, Christmas day, I made a comment to him(in front of my mother and sister) that he had not bathed in 4 days. True as it was, I had struck a sword thru him with that comment. I often babble on to him without thinking of what I am saying. He was embarrassed by my remark and immediately started packing to leave for home(a 4 hour drive). Right then, I knew that I had really blown it! I followed him out to the car, apologizing and asking him to stay. He was not to be dissuaded by anything I was saying. He said that I could not take it back and what was worse I had said it in front of my sister and mother. What I had said to him was unkind and brutal in his depressed state of mind. I spoke at length with him, begging him to stay, since we were about to celebrate Christmas with breakfast and exchanging of gifts. Finally, after a long time of talking, he decided he would stay, but would not come back into the house because of the embarrassment. My sister went out to speak with him and he did talk to her. Between her and my mother, they eventually convinced him to come in the house.

The family ate breakfast and opened gifts. We left for home immediately afterward. There was no conversation in the car for the 4 and 1/2 hours home. We went to our friend's house to take them their presents and visit with them. Christmas was very hard for them without a wife and mother. They had presents that Julie had purchased before her death that were to be opened and viewed with sadness. We stayed until the kids went to bed and then we came home, once again in utter silence.

This morning I was able to speak to my sister and really see how badly Julie's death has affected my husband. When Julie died on December 2nd, I cried and grieved and eventually moved on to a different stage of grief. My husband is still stuck in the grief because "men don't cry" and so it's all bottled up.

I was also able to see that I am jealous that he is grieving over Julie and the special bond that they had. As a result of that jealousy, I have been unkind in the things I say to him and also the way I say them. I have not been givng my husband a safe place to grieve. So all that's left for him to do is be depressed. When you're depressed, you don't take care of yourself. So not bathing and shaving and eating too much, previously, such a mystery to me, became clear as I spoke with my sister. I made the mistake of thinking my husband was tough and could make it through anything. He and Julie had a special bond forged during the time she and Chris lived in Yorba Linda and Phil was over there every day helping them to prepare the property(should I say junk yard?) that Chris inherited from his parents. Phil and Julie continued their special friendship when both families moved to Arizona. When he would run errands, he would stop and drop Harry, our dog, off with Julie to dog-sit. Then, at the end of the day, stop back by to pick him up and have a long chat with her. I underestimated their relationship and how much the loss of her would affect him.

So now, I need to repair the damage I have done. (I do realize that his depression is not my fault and that I may not be able to help him) I know this will be a long and difficult road. But I must, with the Lord's help, rebuild the love and trust between us. He may be a long time in forgiving me. When I extend my hand, it may be slapped away. When I offer love and care, it may be rebuffed. I need to pray and be willing, that's all. Be willing and be kind. Give him a soft place to fall. I need Jesus' strength to go the distance.

Jesus, Lord help me, be my strength and let Your love flow through me to my husband. Use me, Lord and I give all the glory to you.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

My first blog

I am enjoying reading blogs written by Christian women. They delight and inspire me. I am one who was saved during the so called "Jesus" movement in the 60's. My life was forever changed. Instead of despair, I had hope. Instead of wondering, "Is that all there is?" my life had purpose. Instead of being a fearful sinner, I had Jesus, the shepherd who gave me hinds feet to go to the high places. I was forgiven, washed white in the blood of my Savior.

Today, I struggle with myself. You see, I am unequally yoked with a non-believing spouse. I chose to marry him, knowing that he did not even believe in the existance of God. I thought that over time, I could, through prayer and example, change him, save him. Instead, for a time, early in the marriage, the union caused me to backslide. There was always something to do on a Sunday.....there was always something to do in the evenings. One day, many years ago, I realized that I hadn't prayed or attended church or spoken to anyone about the Lord. I was unhappy and depresssed and wondering why.....

Praise the Lord, He shook me up and woke me up. I returned to the Lord, full force. My commitment to Jesus is total, since then. Yes, I still struggle with the desire for perfection, patience, anger, volitility, discipline, gossiping and I am sure many more sins that stain my robes. But as I come to Jesus, daily, confess and accept grace and forgiveness, those robes are washed white.

These blogs that I read let me see that other Christian women struggle also. They are not perfect, just forgiven, as I am. When I listen to the songs of Keith Green, in the 70's on vinyl, in the 80-90's on tape and now on CD, it helps me to realize that someone who loved the Lord, mightly, as King David, still had doubts, fears and bad moments. That's the journey here on planet Earth. We walk through it. Sometimes we fall off the path; sometimes we stumble; sometimes we cannot find our way, but we call out to the Great Shepherd and He gathers us up into His arms. He clears our eyes so we can see the path; He sets us back on the path and we follow Him.

Lord, make my life a prayer to you. For your glory.