Just A Quick Update!

First, I want to thank all of you who sent emails to check on me or requested access to the website. (I had made it “not visible” because I didn’t want anyone to leave comments, etc. that never got posted or responses, etc.)

Second, all is fine here for me and my chickens. I did receive a job offer as a temporary employee shortly before my unemployment ran out. That was a blessing, even though it only paid about $1.00 more per hour that what I received through unemployment. It DID allow me to continue paying my “big” bills and fulfilling my financial pledge to my church.

In a little over a week, I will begin a permanent job with benefits and a better hourly rate. And I won’t need to be getting up at 4AM! (That’s even before the chickens are ready to get up!)

More importantly, I have learned to be much less anxious about the future. I’ve learned that I can truly trust God to take care of me. It may not be in the way that I hope for or imagine, but He is dependable. It’s a bit embarrassing to admit that it has taken 60 years to begin to learn such a basic lesson.

Oh, and my girls would be disappointed if I didn’t let everyone know that Miss Bessie has been laying eggs for about a month now almost every day! The others aren’t quite there yet, but it shouldn’t be too much longer. Two are already eyeing the nesting box curiously and wondering what goes on in there!

Finally, I’ve removed the “not visible” from the website. Who knows, there may be some who still want to read previous posts. I just can’t guarantee any responses to comments, etc. It is likely that I will pick up posting again regularly once I’ve gotten adjusted to my new job and have better, more reliable technology.

I can’t say what any new posts will be like. There are some of the old comic characters that just don’t “speak” to me the way that they once did. I can’t “hear” their dialogue in my head any more. In other words, Laser Eyes Jesus may have zapped his last zap. But that may not be such a bad thing. When I look at the statistics for “likes,” the “Some Serious” posts really do way outnumber the “Some Funny” posts even though there are more in the “Some Funny” category.

Perhaps some of that has to do with getting older. A good deal of it has to do with being concerned about how WordPress can be used as a tool to reach “Church Outsiders.” Some of the posts here did that, I believe. But most seem to have only reached “Church Insiders.” Not that I would consider that a bad thing…it’s just that more and more I feel that the world of “Church Outsiders” has turned its back on Real Life Jesus and I want to somehow be a part of the solution.

Well, that’s about it for how. Thanks again for everyone’s kind words and prayers!


P.S. Sorry no graphic…working from the library computer!

“It’s Not About Being One Of The Best”

This post is a followup to yesterday’s post and tries to fill in a few gaps that may explain why some people become who they are.

“Jesus loves me, this I know, for the Bible tells me so…little ones to Him belong, they are weak but He is strong.”

I don’t know when we stop becoming little ones. There are times that I want to go back to being a little one, particularly on days when I feel I have absolutely no strength in myself.

I have a feeling that there are some things that we have to resolve when we are a little one, and if we don’t resolve them then, they will confound us until we do. One of those things is the love of Jesus.

Perhaps one of the strongest senses a child has is whether or not they are loved. It may be stronger than their sense of whether or not they are warm and nourished. Children gravitate to love. They want to figure out how to receive more of it. Sometimes it’s very difficult to figure out, particularly when using just outward appearances. Sometimes outward appearances appear to be what love is all about. Who always seems to have new stylish clothes? The popular new toy? Who always seems to get picked for special privileges at school and at church? Who is “The Best Boy” in my class? Who is “The Best Girl”?

God made you just the way you are.

God loves you just the way you are.

God picked out your family just for you.

But what if you don’t look like all of the other children? You have brown skin, but they don’t. You have a twisted limb, but they don’t. You wear the same thing to church every Sunday, but they always have something new. Your mom gives you cereal for dinner, but they have a hot meal. Your dad is in jail, but theirs is playing ball with them in the backyard. Maybe that’s part of what “They are weak, but He is strong” is really all about.

It’s not always easy when you’re not one of “The Favorites,” but then there is a different kind of difficulty for those who are one of “The Favorites.” Maybe that’s a different kind of weak too.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that sometimes we may have to help people figure out God’s love is not like the things we see that may accompany human love. It’s too easy to be lured away by those things as nice and as wholesome as they are. Then maybe they will realize they have been receiving God’s love all along.

“My Shield And My Reward, My Lord” or “IX-NAY On The OMANS-RAY”

This post is a result of another of my non-traditions Bible Study methods called “The Snow Globe Method.” With this method, you just need to have a lot of different Bible verses and hymn choruses and sermon notes and things your grandma told you all floating around in your mind. Get as many as you can in there! 

Then you shake them all up, wait for them to settle, and whatever is on the top, that’s what you use! The key for this to be successful is to have a lots of materials, just like how a real snow globe is more interesting if you have (1) Big Chunky Sequin Shapes and (2) Sparkly Glitter along with (3) Plenty Of Plain White Snowflakes.

So let’s see what’s in there!

Big Chunky Sequin Shapes…That’s the part about Father Abraham And The Lord’s Covenant Promise With Him. (Genesis 15)

  • The first time God told anyone “Fear not.”
  • The first time anyone called God “Adonai, Lord.”
  • The first time God shows up and makes a Promise Covenant representing both Himself and Humankind.

Sparkly Glitter…That’s the part about Our Boy Samuel Hearing From The Lord. (1 Samuel 3)

  • The first time God spoke and appeared to anyone in a really long time.
  • The first time we ever get a look at what it means to have the heart of a servant in a child.

Plenty Of Plain White Snowflakes…That’s the part about Jesus Calming The Storm. (Matthew 8; Mark 4; Luke 8)

  • A real life example of how fear of any kind can prevent us from seeing who Jesus really is, Our Lord.

“It’s Not About God’s Wonderful Plan For Your Life”

The images used in this graphic page contrast two different worlds, yet whatever the Gospel is, it must have a message for both worlds.
Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “God has a wonderful plan for your life.” I know that for some people that will sound like blasphemy, like I’m denying a Biblical fact. But I’m not. (At least, I’m not trying to do so. I just want to clarify.)

If you are familiar with “The Four Spiritual Laws,” you will know that this is the First Spiritual Law. (Who doesn’t like laws? And especially laws that say you can have a wonderful life?) And honestly, I’ve used “The Four Spiritual Laws” to share the Gospel. But the more I see of life, the less I’m inclined to want to use the words “a wonderful plan.” I want better words that tell me what God wants, not what my imagination wants.

In some respects, “God has a wonderful plan for your life” sounds like a “sales pitch,” and I don’t think that would have worked very well in the early church when being a follower of Christ meant possible imprisonment, torture, and a horrible painful death. There are still places in the world where it can mean these same things. Let’s be honest. None of those gruesome things “sell.” It almost gives me the impression of being “false advertising.” This is particularly true when you look at the perfect “truth in advertising” Jesus provided.

People are probably going to “revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.” Matthew 5:11 (NRSV)

And that’s just to start. Think about it. You have to tell yourself “No” and give up everything that’s all about you.

Then Jesus told his disciples, “If any want to become my followers, let them deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For those who want to save their life will lose it, and those who lose their life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:24-25 (NRSV)

Whatever the Gospel is…it just can’t tell a hurting child, “Yes, your Mommy is an addict who would do anything for drugs and your Daddy cooks meth in the garage, but God has a wonderful plan for your life.” Isn’t that a lot like saying, “Your parents are failures. They totally missed God’s wonderful plan for their lives.” It’s that a lot like separating a child from their only source of survival and hope for tomorrow? That’s scary.

Eventually the hurt child may even create an idea of “a wonderful plan for your life” far from the reality they experience growing up, a reality that only happens in “happily ever after.” That’s scary too, but for a different reason.

Maybe that’s why evangelism often fails with children who have grown up. (I say “children who have grown up” here because even as adults we still carry our childhood self with us.) We know that reality seldom matches what we imagined. Sometimes we do the same things our parents did, and hate ourselves and our lives all the more for it. Sometimes we experience things that feel far from being part of “a wonderful plan,” so we blame ourselves, feeling like somehow we’ve missed something.
Maybe we need to ditch our own made up imaginary “happily ever after wonderful plan for your life” ideas and see what God really offers.

In the end, I think the only guarantee we have is this.

“…And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:20 (NRSV)

Jesus Himself. He alone is a wonderful plan for your life. Sadly, we may only discover this when all of our imaginary “happily ever after wonderful plan for my life” ideas have failed us.

So maybe the message should be “God has a wonderful plan for your life and it’s all about knowing Jesus”?

“Finding Your Voice”

If you are a new reader, this “Voices From The Last Pew” series is about how past experiences may influence what we hear in a church setting or scripture reading, even when not intended. We don’t know about this place. We only know for sure what she is hearing and what she is thinking. We know some of her history that has brought her to this place.

This post has taken some time to get the pose right and fitting with the idea of finding one’s voice. Hopefully it looks as if this woman on the last pew is able to speak, ready to speak, but choosing not to because that is her choice, not anyone else’s choice for her. She has found her voice. This is so very important for anyone who has experienced any form of abuse.

The secrecy and shame that often accompany abuse can keep a person from saying that they have been harmed and can carry over into many other life areas. They may feel overwhelmed and worried about what would happen if someone knew the truth.

It bothered me at first that she said along with everyone else “Thanks be to God” after a scripture verse is read that tells her to be quiet in church because she is a woman. It almost felt to me like she was agreeing.

The next words from the speaker may be, “These words from Paul the Apostle have been used in oppressive and abusive ways, and for that, I am truly sorry. Here in this community of believers, we put more weight on these other words also from Paul: ‘there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.’ So how can we let those words give life here in our community?”

Words can give life, but words can also give death. Finding our voice, using it remove those words of death, is critical for healing, I believe. Words of death like “You are stupid and worthless” only have power when they are kept inside.

I had tried to write the “dilemma” part of this post as being about how to get around the man’s beliefs and faulty logic. It’s difficult to change the mind of anyone who argues as illogically as this: “Men are better enabled than women to understand God’s Word, and it says so in God’s Word. Therefore if a woman disagrees with that, then she has only proven this point.” It’s just lousy logic like saying “God’s Word is inspired by the same Holy Spirit that is in me, so if you don’t agree with me about what God’s Word says, you don’t have God’s Spirit in you. You’ve probably got a demon inside you instead.” Or even something as totally nonsensical as “It’s shameful for a woman to have no shame!”

Here is the dilemma that I want to write about instead.

You want to tell others what has happened. You know that this will make you feel better because you desperately need the support of family and friends. You know in your heart how someone treated you was wrong, destroying your dignity and worth. But you know that you will most likely have to answer questions like “Why did this happen?” and “Why did you let it go on for so long?” You may have been asking yourself those questions as well. There are no good answers. “Why?” is my least favorite kind of question in situations like this because even if there is an answer, it seldom makes a person feel better. It always seems to lead to another “Why?” which is likely to cause you to falsely blame yourself.

If you are like the young woman on this last pew, you have been through a great deal. Maybe like her, you fell in love at a very young age. Maybe like her, you believed that when you fell in love, it would be forever and with just the right person. God would join you together, and nothing could separate you.

So you wonder, “How could I have missed God’s will for me?” and “Why didn’t I listen to God?” and “The minister said God joined us together. How can that all fall apart? Why?”

These questions, though well-intended, end up making you feel like there was something you could have done to prevent the situation. You wonder if maybe you were blind or week or stupid. That’s not the case at all, but it can sure feel that way, particularly when there has been someone in your life who is very good at being manipulative and shifting blame onto you.

Another question, almost as harmful, is “Why did that person treat you like that?” Quite honestly, the last thing you need is to try to imagine that “Why?” because it can very quickly lead you to feeling sorry for the person who has harmed you. Dwelling on things like this can not only keep you up all night, they can take you back to the dangerous place where you were.

My best advice is to seriously avoid the “Why?” questions. Tell what happened. Tell the facts. “I was blind” is not a fact. “I was weak” is not a fact. “I was stupid” is certainly not a fact. “He told me I was possessed by a demon because I would not obey him” is a fact. It’s what he said. “He hit me across my face with the back of his hand while I was standing at the kitchen sink preparing something he didn’t want for dinner” is a fact. It’s what he did. I think that’s why this woman in the graphic looks so confident. She is stating facts.

Perhaps the better questions to ask may be, “What was learned from this?” and “How can things be done differently in the next relationship?” That’s true if you are dealing with something like this yourself in your own thought life or helping someone else to deal with it when they are sharing with you. I think that’s why this woman in the graphic looks so self-assured. She is able to say what she will do.

One final key to finding your voice, I believe, is talking aloud to Our Heavenly Father. There is a strength in doing so which comes from the Holy Spirit’s guidance in what to say. It may also come from hearing your own voice speaking aloud what fear and shame wanted you to keep silent and secret. It is amazing how prayer works.

Here is the only part that I’m putting in bold. If you can relate to this and are struggling with this or know someone who is…seek counseling. There are resources available that can help you. I’m just drawing and writing from my limited perspective. But there are professionals that can help you.

If you are in an unsafe situation, get out! Get help! There are shelters that will protect you. That is more important than anything else!

Seriously. Jesus is right there with you on the last pew. He is your Advocate and He has nothing but good things to say about you. He will help you to find your voice. Honestly.