Monday, March 13, 2017

Keening




Keening is usually associated with professional mourners - people (usually women) who are actually paid to publicly express the sorrow the family can't or won't express at a funeral. In ancient times, it was traditional practice and showed respect for the person who died. Weird, huh? In the Middle East, they were the wailing women, and you'll find them in the Bible in several places, like Jeremiah 9:17-18:

Thus says the Lord of hosts:

“Consider and call for the mourning women,
That they may come;
And send for skillful wailing women,
That they may come.
 Let them make haste
And take up a wailing for us,
That our eyes may run with tears,
And our eyelids gush with water.

In Ireland, they were the keeners, and the sound they made was called "keening." It was a wail, yes, but more than that - it was a sound unlike any other kind of weeping. 

Keening, when it comes naturally, comes from a broken heart. It is beyond words - or perhaps in place of words -  that won't or can't come. It flows from sorrow so deep that there are no words to express it. You hold it in, because once started, it is so hard to stop that it leaves you panting for air. It is usually utterly private, something you try never to do in front of others. 

The Holy Spirit is actually very like a keener at times, who expresses to God, to our Abba Father, what we have no words for:

Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses.
For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought,
but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us
with groanings which cannot be uttered.
Romans 8:26
 
  It is no accident that Romans goes on to say in the next two verses:

Now He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, 
because He makes intercession for the saints according to the will of God.
 
And we know that all things work together for good
to those who love God,
to those who are the called according to His purpose. 

"All things work together for good to those who love God, who are called according to His purpose." Not some things. Not even most things. All things. Including those which may cause spontaneous keening. All things work together for good. Our Abba Father knows the end from the beginning. He knows far better than us what needs to happen in order for His purpose to be accomplished. This world, our world - our lives in this world - are the barest blip in comparison with eternity with Him. It doesn't have to make sense to us. It usually WON'T make sense to us. But all things work together for good, if you are among God's children. Somehow they do - in a way that we probably don't understand at the moment. 

When Jesus washed Peter's feet, He said, (John 13:7)

“You don’t understand now what I am doing, but someday you will.”

That is true of far more than washing Peter's feet. It's true for me, today. It's true for you, too. Trust is not a feeling. Trust is a decision you make based on all that God is and all that He has promised to you in His word. That trust comes from your head and your will. Your heart will catch up eventually.  

Edit to add:  Sometimes the greatest disappointments in our lives come not from the events themselves but from thinking we knew what God was about and finding out we were wrong. Those "God is God and we are not" lessons can be painful, and yes, sometimes (at first) may result in spontaneous keening. It's basically disappointment with God, not with people or events. And knowing, then, that you are on the wrong side of God's will is a hard thing. We're talking big time wrestling with God, and something you need to deal with if you are going to keep your faith intact. Do you trust God or not? Do you believe His word or not? Is He working for good or not? These are major "make it or break it" faith testers.  And, just writing that, I can see why He might allow such a thing to happen. As hard as it is to go through, our faith needs to be tested.
 

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Be still


Stop fighting. Stop trying to do it all yourself. Stop worrying; stop fretting; stop striving so hard. Be still. Calm. Patient. Trusting - and KNOWING that God is God - and you are not. Be still - He is in control. He has been. He will continue to be. He did not blink. He is not late. He is God.

This is not a mindless thing, not blanking yourself out. It doesn't mean clearing your mind of all thoughts, and it is not some new way to know God. It's not that when you are a blank, empty slate, that a new "knowing" of God will come upon you. No. It means stop everything that you are trying to do in your own strength. It means to stop despairing. Stop giving up. Stop letting Satan win. 


Just. Be. Still. Let GOD be God, because you are not and never will be. Know who He is. Know what He has done for you. "He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?" (Romans 8:32)

A "commentary" on this verse is in Psalm 37:5-8 -

Commit your way to the Lord,
Trust also in Him,
And He shall bring it to pass.
He shall bring forth your righteousness as the light,
And your justice as the noonday.
Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him;
Do not fret because of him who prospers in his way,
Because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass.
Cease from anger, and forsake wrath;
Do not fret—it only causes harm.

The New Living Translation says this in verse 7, which is very much a parallel to Psalm 46:10:
Be still in the presence of the Lord,
and wait patiently for Him to act.


Today, if events in your life seem to be spiraling out of your control, be still. Know that nothing is out of God's control. He's not only fully on top of the situation, but has it all planned out to work for your good. He is God. You are not. It's not your job to figure everything out. Nothing is impossible for God. Let HIM work it out.


Living in a 3D world


 This post has little spiritual insight, but it is so amazing to me that I have to share it. Did you realize that God designed your eyes to see depth? It is probably so common to you that your reaction to that statement is "Yeah, so?"

Think about it, though. With all our technology, we can't really capture what our eyes do on their own. The images we record with technology are flat. The only real way to see depth in a recorded image, currently (that I'm aware of, at least), is to wear special glasses. Or look through a  Viewmaster. Maybe virtual reality is totally 3D, but that's still with glasses on.

Your eyes do that all on their own, because that is how God made them.

I've worn contacts since I was 15. As I am currently 56, that's a very, very long time. I just had an eye appointment a couple of weeks ago, and the eye doctor (new to me) was astonished that I still wear contacts all day most days. I am lucky in that I do not have dry eyes at all. In fact, you can ask my friends, and they will attest that my eyes are pretty leaky. A subject for a different post.

My contacts are still comfortable for me, and that's great. However, the biggest reason I wear them is so that I can see well. My prescription is very strong, and that has a lot of drawbacks for glasses. Without any correction, I wouldn't even recognize you as human from across a room. That means, for me, there is no peripheral vision with my glasses. And that whole "near, far and in between" that you are supposed to be able to get with the right glasses? Doesn't work so well with me, probably because of my astigmatism. It's fine as long as my head is perfectly still, but as soon as I move, it's like being on the deck of a moving ship. Makes me sea sick as everything around me becomes a blur until I'm still again. Hard to walk that way.

So, I wear contacts (corrected for astigmatism) - but, like many people with a strong near-sighted prescription, that means I can't see close up. To compensate, I've had monovision since I was 35. One eye is powered to see in the distance and one eye is vastly underpowered to see close up. Many people's brains just can't handle that, but I've been lucky. I sew and make jewelry and just about any other craft you can think of, and seeing up close is important. Over the years, as my near-sighted prescription for my right eye has had to get stronger, the prescription for my left eye has had to get weaker for it to still work. Counter-intuitive, I know.

The drawback has been depth perception. To actually see depth, your eyes have to work together, and that is fairly impossible with eyes so unequally powered. But, your brain uses a lot of ways to determine depth. It's kind of like adding depth to a painting. Perspective, lighting, detail all work together to make some things "near" and other things "far." That's the way I've been seeing depth for so many years, that for me, it's just normal. I really hadn't noticed that my world had become flat.

Well, back to the eye appointment. This year, for the first time, I failed the depth perception test miserably. So much so that the eye doctor didn't think I was able to drive safely. I am fine driving, seriously (see the paragraph above), but I let him talk me into a pair of driving glasses that would undo my monovision. I'd wear them on top of my contacts, and really only in the car.

I picked them up a couple days ago, and OH. MY. GOODNESS. My world is 3D again! It's like living inside a Viewmaster! I came home from errands a few minutes ago, and it's like a whole new world opened up for me. I pulled into my driveway and couldn't stop staring at my crabapple tree and how the branches crisscrossed  each other. I could see the depth. Astonishing.

Makes me wonder how many other of God's gifts that we just take for granted in any given day. And, how much more will open up to us in resurrected bodies? I can't wait!

Thank, you, Lord, for the eyes that you created to see your world. 

Edit to add - hologram, I know. We can record a hologram. Still not as good as our own eyes, though. 


Monday, August 8, 2016

Days in Dry Dock

Do you know the difference between "flounder" and "founder?" Here is one definition:

To flounder is (1) to struggle or move with difficulty, as in mud; or (2) to behave awkwardly or make mistakes. One who flounders does not fail completely but merely struggles. To founder is (1) to cave in, (2) to sink below the water, (3) to fail utterly, or (4) to go lame. While to flounder is merely to struggle, foundering usually involves utter failure.

A ship can flounder - struggle - and still make it safely to shore to get repairs. A ship that has foundered has sunk entirely, and the only hope for it is salvage. A good captain will not allow his ship to continue to flounder or foundering will be the eventual result.

This past May, my husband took me to Door County (the "thumb" part of Wisconsin and very beautiful) for Mother's Day weekend. Mother's Day is difficult for me these past years, and he thought a distraction was in order. Every year, the shipyards in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin open for one day to the public. Since we were going to be in town, of course we had to go.

One of the things they do there in Sturgeon Bay is to do maintenance and repairs for large ships, to allow them to continue to haul ore safely or whatever.




Those ships are huge, and to my eyes, must weigh a zillion pounds. You may have seen them in action on one of the Great Lakes.




You don't just pull them out of the water like you do your fishing boat. Instead, they use a dry dock like this:



One end is open to the Bay, and the ship floats right in. There are supports there that the ship settles into. Once it's safely in place, the water is pumped out, and there the ship is, all dry and ready to be worked on. When the repairs have been made, and the ship is sea worthy again, the dock is flooded, and the ship floats back out into the Bay and from there into Lake Michigan.

Here is someone else's picture, that shows how it works a little better:



A ship is not designed to be in dry dock. It's designed to be out there working on the Great Lakes or the oceans. Yet, those days out of the water are absolutely essential or the ship might wind up under the water instead of on top of it.

We are not designed to be in dry dock. As believers, we are meant to be in service, working for the good of God's kingdom, doing the things that God means for us to do. And, most of the time, if you stay in God's word and connected to Jesus and other believers, that's the way it is. Every life has storms, and with God's help, we weather them just fine. Most of the time, at least.

My vacations lately have had connections to ore boats, for whatever reason. In Two Harbors, MN, we saw the Presque Isle being loaded with ore. And, of course, as I stood there watching, I've got "The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" running through my head.



If you remember the song, the ship sunk in Lake Superior and all 29 men on board lost their lives. It may even have been right there at Two Harbors before leaving "fully loaded for Cleveland." That ship foundered. Could some time in dry dock have prevented it splitting up? Who knows?

My thought is - there will be storms. There will be waves that try to sweep over us. Some of that is Satan coming against us, and some is just life. With God's help, we weather them most of the time.

Lately, though, I've been floundering. Not foundering, sinking entirely - but floundering - struggling. Everybody struggles, including believers. Sometimes we struggle with life, and sometimes we struggle with God Himself (remember Jacob?). The struggles with God grow us and make us stronger. The struggles with life make us stronger, too. Most of the time.

Sometimes the floundering feels more like drowning, and no matter how often we remind ourselves to stand on the solid rock, the waves keep coming and knock our feet out from under us. And there we are again, treading water, trying to keep our heads up. Floundering.

In church yesterday, I realized that's what I've been doing, and my mind drifted back (while I should have been listening to the sermon) to this spring and those dry docks. I knew that I needed for God to bring me in to a safe dock, where I could settle in to His supports and have Him make me sea worthy again.

This morning, that's exactly what I prayed. "Lord, please bring me to your safe dock and scrape off my barnacles and whatever else you need to do. I want to serve you in any way you'd have me do, but I'm floundering, Lord. It feels like drowning. I think I need some time in your dry dock."

I pictured spending time alone with Him, getting refreshed - and while I certainly plan to do that, almost immediately after my prayer, He did almost the exact opposite. Seriously, the last thing I wanted to do was to spend time with other people this morning. Being an introvert by nature, I usually get refreshed by being alone. But, almost immediately after my prayer, He brought me to a group of women, and amazingly, more than half of us were going through nearly the same thing. (Not the floundering part, but what had lead to that).

And, thinking about it, it makes sense. If you are alone and drowning, what happens? You drown. It requires others to pull you out of the water. The ship in dry dock doesn't fix itself.

Instead of being alone, like I thought I needed, God brought others around me this morning - others who would understand. How amazing is that?

By holding onto others, telling my story and hearing theirs, I got my feet under me again. Maybe in dry dock terms, I settled into those supports that will hold me upright while the repairs are made. 

How faithful our God is, to "dock" me so quickly.

Carry each other’s burdens,
and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.
Galatians 6:2

He who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.
Philippians 1:6




Thursday, April 14, 2016

Consistency & Random thoughts on a Thursday

Being consistent - without being overwhelmed - is one of my biggest challenges. I am an empty nester and only work from home, so you'd think this wouldn't be an issue. But, I'm sure in your own life, the same thing happens. Reality intrudes and the days slip by. People need you, things need cleaning, gardens need planting, food needs to be prepared, your mother winds up in the hospital again - and the days pass by. And, if you're like me, clear thinking just isn't what it used to be!

All that said, in my last post, I said I was starting to write Bible studies again. Admittedly, what I say in person to my ladies and what is actually written down can be two different things - and it's hard for me to even guess if those who only read what's written "get" what I'm trying to say. But, it is what it is, and with God's help, I'm doing the best that I can. If you'd like to follow along, this is how far we are as of today: The Gospel of Matthew. (the one without the link is the one I'm supposed to be writing right now, instead of doing this blog post).

Let me ramble for just a second. This is a blog, after all, right?

I like to explore in lots of areas, and that means I read and listen to things that most people don't, (So, perhaps this isn't as prevalent to most Christians as it seems to me) and I've seen some things lately that are worrisome. Christianity as a whole - the visible church (those that call themselves Christians, whether they truly are or not) is being fractured into little groups more than ever. On the left are the liberal "Christians", the ones that are looking more and more like the world, who pick and choose which parts of the Bible, if any, they believe. I'll save that subject for another day.

Here are the ones that disturb me more - the true Christians who are taking off on a track into such deep "fundamentalism" (for temporary lack of a better word) that they are dragging less mature Christians with them and shipwrecking their faith. I think it's possible that those who have truly studied and have chosen this path are perhaps fine in their faith - but those they are dragging in their wake are not.

I'm talking about the "Hebrew Roots Movement" and within that camp, the "Sacred Name" folks. It would take a book to really get into this, but the short version is that, in their eyes, the name "Jesus" is pagan - and saying "God" is pagan, and actually refers to Baal. Only the true Hebrew names are correct - and in their eyes, "calling" on Jesus or God is to call on an evil spirit - not the true Lord of the universe. Now, if they actually know the true pronunciation of our savior's and God the father's names, and can believe that only those names are correct and still keep their faith intact, fine - but they are harming the faith of others with their doctrine.

The first - and biggest problem - in my mind is that their version of God is way, way too small. Do you not acknowledge your child if he can't say your name right? Good grief - of course not! If my children needed me for any reason whatsoever, I would respond to ANY version of my name they could get out, or even no name at all! If they were calling me for help, I would RUN to them. Is the creator of the universe going to do less than me, a poor, pitiful human mother?

And, yet, this whole "Sacred Name" thing is exploding all over the Internet. What in the world is that all about? Can they not see that this is a deception of Satan?

I know this post is not an explanation, not a help to those seeking information. At this moment, it is just a small rant of my frustration with some of my fellow Christians, who seem to be willingly becoming blinded to the fact that their "doctrine" is harming others.

OK - enough for now. Back to work on this week's Bible study. ♥

#SacredName #SacredNameMovement #HebrewRootsMovement


Friday, January 15, 2016

Beginning a new Bible study

For the first time in a very long time, I'm going to attempt to write a new Bible study. Ten years ago, I had thought to write a study on the Gospel of Matthew, but did the Gospel of John instead. Now, it is finally time to write the study of Matthew. As you can see, even keeping up with this blog has been a challenge, so if this happens, it will only be with God's help and direction.

You can find my Berean Bible studies here. The studies in Matthew will be here. And my opening statement/welcome is here. If things go according to plan, the first study will be posted by January 18.

I'd really appreciate your prayers. Thanks!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Lessons from the garden: baby marigolds

Today, I went outside while it was relatively cool to plant the marigolds I'd picked up. The bed right next to the driveway gets very hot, and many things languish there - except marigolds. And weeds. Weeks ago, I had cleaned out all the weeds and planted marigold seeds. It was even a little too early in the season to be growing marigolds, but I figured by the time they poked their leaves through the soil, it would be warmer.

Well, life went on, as it tends to do. I neglected the bed next to the driveway. Every once in a while, I'd check for baby marigolds, but I didn't see any. So, while I was grocery shopping, I also picked up some marigolds that were already blooming - ones that someone else had planted and watered and cared for. I was going to plunk those down in my little strip next to the driveway, and that would be that.

Well, I even neglected THOSE marigolds. There they sat, in their little plastic cells, day after day. I didn't even water them. They were still alive, but their blooms faded. Last night, when my husband came in from work, he said, "Do you know you have flowers you haven't planted? They've been sitting there for a while now."

So, this morning, I went out early, determined to take care of it. It was wet from the rain last night, and the mosquitoes were annoying, so I wanted to do it fast. The driveway bed was full of weeds - thick and lush. They would have to go before I could plant my "pre-grown" marigolds.

I got down on my knees, and started pulling weeds out quickly and roughly. It didn't matter - they were weeds! Just messy weeds. Pull! Toss! Pull! Toss! Wow - that was satisfying, to just clear that space and make it ready for my purchased marigolds.

Then, I happened to glance at my weed pile, and there on top was a baby marigold. I couldn't even save it, because I had ripped it to pieces. In my thoughtless weed pulling, I had killed the very thing I'd planted.

I got closer to the ground and pulled the weeds aside. There, in the dirt, struggling for sunshine, tiny and fragile, were dozens of baby marigolds.



It's my fault they were buried in weeds. When I didn't see them as fast as I thought they ought to be there, I stopped looking. I let the weeds grow. I could have been out there, tending that little bed, pulling the weeds out as they appeared, and waiting more patiently for the baby flowers to appear. It's my fault those little marigolds were so overwhelmed with weeds that no one could see them.

Yet, they they were. Sure, I had planted the seeds, but when they didn't grow in my time frame, I went about my other business. My busy-ness. But, despite the weeds and lack of watering from me, they grew anyway.

I still pulled the weeds this morning. I still planted the marigolds I'd purchased. But, I had learned my lesson. Those baby marigolds, while they're tiny, can look a lot like weeds. They are not. They are simply flowers who haven't grown up yet. With a little care, a little water, a little sunshine, a little (very, very careful) weeding - they will bloom, too. No - not as fast as the mature ones in the little packs that are blooming when you buy them. And, yeah, because they came from seeds I collected from last year's plants, they might not all grow up looking exactly like their parents. But, they will flower in their own time, and each bloom will be a smile from God.



And, no - this is not really about marigolds.