In John 10:10 Jesus promises His followers abundant life. This blog is about my life as His follower.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Do we need a larger Army?

There are tons of news articles that deal with the difficulty of counterinsurgency wars such as the one America is prosecuting in Afghanistan. I keep hearing from both politicians on the TV, and people around me, that we should abandon this war. But what I don't hear from those same people advocating quitting the war is how we should withdraw, how to deal with the fallout from our withdrawl, or what to do if the terrorists reconstitute their safe havens in Afghanistan once the United States leaves.

There's a lot out there being written about how there needs to be an Afghan government that the people can respect and trust. While this is true, I'm not sure that deals with the safety issues that the Afghan people face. How can Afghan people be expected to support their government if their villages are not safe against terrorists?

Obviously the war is straining the resources of the military. Would the overall effect be easier, and our current efforts more effective, if we had a larger Army?

Jim Talent, over at The National Review Online, points out that:

"When America fought Desert Storm, the active-duty Army had 18 divisions, or about 800,000 soldiers. Then, in the early 1990s, that figure was reduced to ten undermanned divisions, with an end strength of fewer than 500,000 men, in order to save money. The thinking then was that for the foreseeable future, the United States would not need to put large numbers of “boots on the ground” for sustained periods. That was two years before the Bosnian conflict and less than ten years before the Iraqi and Afghanistan operations, both of which — everyone now agrees — require, first and foremost, the presence of “boots on the ground” in large numbers for a long time."

I'm not so sure that we would not have spend less money, saved more military personnel lives, and had shorter wars during the past 20 years if we'd simply had a larger Army. Thomas Donnelly and Fredrick W. Kagen wrote an article that first appeared in The Washington Post on May 23, 2008 that discusses the need to grow the size of the Army.

Decisions made today will affect the Army America has ten years from now. Our current administration wants to save money on military, this is one of the areas where they are not in favor of spending increases. My concern is that we are focusing on short-term budget concerns and not thinking strategically.

What about you, do you think we need to budget and plan to expand the size of the US Army?

Friday, June 25, 2010

It's not about being the "right" age or perfect - It's about God

As I'm studying the life of Abraham during my morning times with God, I'm so encouraged by two things I notice - neither youth nor perfection were required for God to work in Abraham's life and use Abraham in incredible ways.

When I read Genesis 12:1-5 I see that Abraham was 75 years old when God first called Him to this great thing God wanted to do through him. I don't know about you but I find that encouraging. I've been struggling with feeling discouraged because I lost my job and I'm 50 years old and haven't found what I'm supposed to be doing. Because of all the emphasis our culture places on youth, it would be easy for me to figure that I'm past my prime. But God's been graciously and repeatedly showing me that He uses people at every age and stage.

The other thing that really strikes me about God coming to Abraham and choosing Abraham is that Abraham was not some perfect guy; he did not come from a culture that was saturated in following God, and sometimes he acted like a jerk and a coward. Yet Abraham was the man God chose to be the father of a great nation through whom the whole world would be blessed.

Prior to God coming to Abraham, he had lived in Ur and Haran. Anthropologists tell us that the culture in those areas at that time were polytheistic. Nanna, the moon god, was the city of Ur's patron. The scripture is silent concerning Abram and his family's religious practices. Victor Hamilton, in his book entitled The Book of Genesis, says that several sources suggest that Terah (Abraham's father), Sarai (Abraham's wife), and Haran (Abraham's brother) were named after the moon god or his associates. So Abraham came out of a culture steeped with worshiping all kinds of gods; Abraham did not have a distinguished, God-following pedigree. Yet God chose to reveal himself as THE God to Abraham. It appears that God chose to do this just because He chose to, not based on anything specifically about Abraham.

Then in Genesis 12:10-20 Abraham is shown telling his wife to lie and say she's his sister so that not one will hurt him. The Egyptian pharaoh even took Sarah for his wife (the Bible is unclear what all this entailed) and Abraham let him. Sarah got out of that situation only because God sent plagues onto pharaoh for his actions so he released Sarah. Definitely not commendable actions on Abraham's part. But God chose to use Abraham.

I don't know about you, but I relate much better to people who aren't perfect. So the fact that God chose to use Abraham just because God wanted to encourages me. It encourages me that even when I mess up, all is not lost. God will still get done what God wants to do.

What about you, do you ever struggle with thinking that your age or past mistakes make you ineligible for God to do great things through?

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Holding on and letting Go

I've been studying the life of Abraham in my morning times. What really hit me today was the role of separation in Abraham's life.

In Genesis 12:1 God asks Him to leave his country, his people, & his father's household to go to the land that God would show him. Then in Genesis 13:5-17, right after Abraham separates from his nephew with whom he had originally left his homeland, God gives Abraham another statement of His promise to Abraham. Then in Genesis 22:1-18 when Abraham showed himself willing to separate from his beloved son, to give His son as a sacrifice, God again spoke of His promises to Abraham.

It seems that that Abraham could not experience the blessings of God if he chose to hold onto his old life. He had to let go and move forward with God to experience God's blessings.

I'm trying to figure out what God wants me to do with regard to my work situation. If I should go back to school for my MBA, if God wants to continue to bless me in my current type of work, or if He wants me to step out into something completely different. I'm having difficulty hearing what God wants me to do.

So I'm wondering if it's because I'm holding on too tightly to my former way of life, if there's something different God wants me to be embracing. I'm praying that I'll be sensitive to what He wants to show me.

How about you, are you holding onto anything in your life with such a tight grip that it's keeping you from experiencing the blessings God wants to give you?

The Wardrobe of Forbearance

This week over at Kingdom Bloggers we've been talking about getting along with others in the body of Christ. Today I'm taking a look at the wardrobe God prescribes for daily life in the body of Christ. I'd be interested if others in the body ever irritate you, and what you do about it.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Keep me from trying to take over

Can you think of anything better than God's Word as He reveals it to your heart?

I know I can't.

Just this morning these words from Psalm 19:11-14 delighted me as I read them from The Message paraphrase:

There's more: God's Word warns us of danger
and directs us to hidden treasure.

Otherwise how will we find our way?
Or know when we play the fool?

Clean the slate, God, so we can start the day fresh!

Keep me from stupid sins,
from thinking I can take over your work;
Then I can start this day sun-washed,
















scrubbed clean of the grime of sin.

These are the words in my mouth;
these are what I chew on and pray.
Accept them when I place them
on the morning altar,
O God, my Altar-Rock,
God, Priest-of-My-Altar.

I adore that phrase "keep me from stupid sins, from thinking I can take over your work". I can relate to it.

Just recently I was praying very specifically over some situations with my middle and youngest teen aged sons. I wanted God to do things the way I saw best. But then I thought about something that Victor from Time for Reflections had reminded me about, that I needed to be able to trust God with my sons.

The fact of the matter is that there are things that seem right to me, ways I want things to go - and then there's God's way. He's got the big picture, the overview that I can't see, and His ways ultimately always turn out best. Though sometimes the path to where He has for me to go isn't an easy one, His destination is always better than I could have imagined.

What about you, do you ever try to take over God's work?


Thursday, June 17, 2010

Friendship

What comes to your mind when you think about friendship? That's my question today in my post over at Kingdom Bloggers. Drop on by and let me know your thoughts.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Does law enforcement count in that presumed innocent until proven guilty?

Today I've been reading at Yahoo News about the 15 year old male fatally shot at the Texas border this past Monday and a cell phone video of this event.

There's a lot of people upset at the border patrol agents. These folks are saying that the youth who was shot was on Mexico's side of the border, that he had not been part of the group throwing "rocks" at the border patrol agents. Reports are that this was a good kid, a straight A student. Some are even saying that the youths involved just appeared to be playing some sort of cat and mouse game with the agents, trying to get across the border, but that they did not throw anything and had no weapons.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection spokesman Mark Qualia told CNN Thursday that "The 15-year-old Mexican youth who was shot and killed by a Border Patrol agent had a history of involvement with human smuggling and was on a list of repeat juvenile offenders". Rock-throwing can be considered a dangerous assault, Qualia said: "They're not chunking pebbles." T.J. Bonner, president of the National Border Patrol Council, an advocacy organization for agents, was previously attacked by people from Mexico with rocks, said it has become the most common way in which agents are assaulted. The El Paso Times reports that Border Patrol agency statistics show that there have been 29 rock-throwing attacks on Boarder Patrol officers in El Paso since October.
Because the patrol officer who fired the shot was on American soil, and the youth killed was on Mexico soil, both the FBI and Mexican authorities are investigating. In the FBI's account, the teens surrounded the agent and continued to throw rocks at him after he told them to stop and retreat — and at that point, the feds say, he used his gun.
I watched the cell phone video that I've got linked at the top here that some people are saying proves the officer was in the wrong for shooting. I can not tell a thing from this specific video.
My heart goes out to the parents of this 15 year old boy. Be he a wonderful kid and straight A student, or a human smuggler, or both, it's a tragedy any way you slice it.
But I frequently find myself wishing that law enforcement agents would be given the benefit of the doubt. That they would be afforded the same respect of innocent until proven guilty as everyone else. I really see the men and women who choose to be police or deputies or border patrol agents, or any other kind of law enforcement jobs, as there to serve us. While there are some bad ones, and I believe those should receive the legal consequences of their actions, I believe most are good people who keep the rest of us safe. The strongest feelings I have toward law enforcement officers are ones of gratitude.
What about you, what's your take on Monday's shooting? Or on how law enforcement officers are treated when they have to shoot in the line of duty?

Prayer

Today I'm over at Kingdom Bloggers and the topic this week is Prayer. I'm specifically sharing about how God has used prayer in my marriage. I'd relish hearing some ways God has worked through prayer in your marriage.

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Sister Circle

Have you ever noticed a character defect/sin/issue with which you frequently struggle? Something that you're working on letting the Lord control in your life, but that's easy for you to fall into? One of those things for me is being critical. It's easy for me to see the part of something that is done incorrectly or inadequately. I have to be conscious and seek to speak words of positive encouragement, or I can fall into being critical really easy.

Perhaps it's my own awareness of my struggle that made me appreciate the fiction book I read this weekend. One of the themes in the book is learning to be patient and bear with one another in love as the Bible speaks about in Ephesians 4:1-3 . The book is The Sister Circle by Vonette Bright & Nancy Moser. If you're a woman who enjoys reading fiction for fun, but want the read to be worthwhile, this is definitely a book I can recommend. It's about a woman who doesn't know God who finds herself in financial straights, and how God works in her life. It's a book about relationships among women.

When I checked the book out of the library I didn't realize that it was written by the wife of the late Bill Bright, for some reason I just didn't make the connection. I was captivated by one of the other themes of the book; one of growing faith. Throughout the book you come to "know" women in various stages of their relationship with God. I was delighted by watching how some of the women were totally separate from God and then came to Him slowly in various ways, one bit at a time. It was a beautiful depiction of how until someone is ready, the gospel message is meaningless. A depiction of how God works in our lives through people and circumstances to cultivate the soil of our hearts.

What about you, read any good books lately?

Friday, June 4, 2010

Why I love the Church

During my prayer time this morning I felt led to write a note to my youngest son Daniel. He's 16 years old and really remarkable. Unfortunately he's not a fan of mine currently, in fact he thinks I'm rather terrible. A lot of this has to do with the negative influence of his biological father who consistently makes subtle, negative comments to Daniel about me. Plus, Daniel is 16 and going through that whole individuation, separation thing. What I felt led to do was to write him a short note letting him know some of the things that I admire and respect about him. One of those things was that he participates in the church community. He isn't particularly involved in the youth group, but he serves in music, is frequently lending a hand to others serving on Sunday mornings, and he has relationships and invests into the lives of others in the church who do not appear similar to himself - I really like this about Daniel. As I finished writing the note to Daniel I found myself thinking about how much I love the church.

Just for clarification, when I say "church" here I'm referring to a local gathering of Christians. In my mind it could be a traditional church, a small group Bible study, or any other kind of consistent meeting of a group of Christians to encourage one another in their faith and God's Word.

I've read a ton of negative posts concerning the church on the internet. I honestly can not say that I totally disagree with the ones I've read. But, for me, it's like I responded to one wonderful brother in Christ on his blog, the church is still the best gig around.

It seems to me that the reason we're told in Hebrews 10:23-25 to not stop meeting regularly together is because God knew that we need each other. I've noticed in both my own life, as well as others, that when I stop participating in church it's easy for me to drift away from God in other areas of my life, a bit at a time.

I love this whole thing of community in the church. Of being a part of the group, of being very much like a family. Knowing each other, being interested in what's going on in one another's lives, wanting good for each other's lives, praying for one another, encouraging one another. For those of you who we read and comment regularly on what each other has to say, you know that I'm shy. It's not easy for me to come into community. It probably takes me longer than the average person. But throughout my life I've moved a few times because of work, so I've participated in several churches, and I can tell you that community has always eventually "happened" for me. I've currently lived in this town for almost 4 years and I can honestly say that I'm now experiencing community in our church. I love these people and know that I'm loved in return.

Another thing I love about church is that these relationships challenge me and make me better. I'm reminded of how in Ephesians 4:1-3 and Colssians 3:12-14 we're told to bear with one another, to overlook offenses, and be kind. I sure like this aspect of the church community because I need it; the older I get the more I realize that I mess up frequently, that I can be an annoying human being, and that I'm grateful for a lifestyle of forgiveness. Fragile human that I am, I am challenged by the annoying behaviors of others, people sometimes irritate me. I'm grateful that God set up the church so that we are to love each other through our petty annoyances and so become better for the relationships.

I love how the faith of others in church encourages and grows my own faith. There's something about being in an environment that's focused on God, where we're studying His Word and choosing to believe what He says, that nourishes my soul. This kind of environment causes that small amount of faith inside me to grow. I find myself encouraged to face whatever challenges are before me.

I love getting to sing and worship God in that way together with other people. As I write this I think about a small group that I get to be a part of that meets every other week. There are only four of us women who've met for this past year together. One of us is talented with the guitar and she brings it every time so we can sing together. Words can not express the joy this activity brings me, there's such a sweetness in it. Although I routinely spend time in the mornings or during my day singing to God, there's something so special about joining with others to sing and praise God. One of my favorite parts of Sunday morning service is to sing with others in a congregational service.

The church is like me in that it's not perfect. There are a lot of things wrong with it. But I still love the church.

What about you, what are some things that you love about church?

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Remembrances

This week over on Kingdom Bloggers the theme is about Memorials and Remembering. On my post over there today I'm asking what are some specific ways that you commemorate the things God has done for you? Please check out my post and let me know some of the things that you do, because I think my repertoire could use increasing.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Spirit verses Flesh


I've been reading in Galatians during my morning times with God lately. This morning I was especially captivated by the way Galatians 5:16 - 35 reads in The Message paraphrase. There were a few things that just really spoke to my heart.

The first was that I appreciated these words of Peterson that, for me, sum up the war between the spirit and the flesh that's described in Galatians 5:16-18:

there is a root of sinful self-interest in us that is at odds with a free spirit, just as the free spirit is incompatible with selfishness.

Yep, I can totally relate to this. God's spirit in me, my transformed spirit, wars with my simple, self-pleasing, flesh. Situations come up every day that underscore this truth.

The second was the way that Peterson paraphrased verses 19-21, what Christians commonly refer to as the "works of the flesh". I relate more clearly to the way Peterson paraphrased these then I typically do in other translations, I see these as a description of much of American culture:

It is obvious what kind of life develops out of trying to get your own way all the time: repetitive, loveless, cheap sex; a stinking accumulation of mental and emotional garbage; frenzied and joyless grabs for happiness; trinket gods; magic-show religion; paranoid loneliness; cutthroat competition; all-consuming-yet-never-satisfied wants; a brutal temper; an impotence to love or be loved; divided homes and divided lives; small-minded and lopsided pursuits; the vicious habit of depersonalizing everyone into a rival; uncontrolled and uncontrollable addictions; ugly parodies of community. I could go on.

Unfortunately some of these are a description of me sometimes.

I'm encouraged by verses 22-23 that explain the fruit of the spirit. I think because I've read these so many times in the KVJ or NIV, that I'm captivated by Peterson's paraphrase of these:

what happens when we live God's way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.

What continues to blow my mind and captivate my interest is how I can experience these gifts, or fruit. Weather I read Peterson's paraphrase of the beginning of verse 22 above where it says "He brings gifts into our lives" or stick with the traditional NIV "the fruit of the Spirit"-either way, it's God who brings these into our lives. I can not manipulate, or produce these things in my life. To be candid it's a relief that I'm not expected to, because one look at this list and I know I can't live like that on my own.

The question for me then, is always how to do as NIV translates verses 23-25:

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit


Peterson's paraphrase of these verses sheds some more light for me:

Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way. Among those who belong to Christ, everything connected with getting our own way and mindlessly responding to what everyone else calls necessities is killed off for good—crucified. Since this is the kind of life we have chosen, the life of the Spirit, let us make sure that we do not just hold it as an idea in our heads or a sentiment in our hearts, but work out its implications in every detail of our lives.

There's always this balance in scriptures, isn't there? This truth that it is ONLY through God that we can experience what He has for us, that it's not something we produce by following rules or the law on our own, contrasted with the fact that there are actions on our part. Weather I choose to say it as NIV: let us keep in step with the Spirit or Peterson's The Message: work out its implications in every detail of our lives. Either way, there is a part we play. I can't just expect God to zap me with this changed life.

So, the question for me then, is how do I experience these gifts, or fruit, of the Spirit in my life? What are those actions that help me keep in step with the Spirit or work out the implications of living in Christ?

I certainly don't have all the answers.

I do know that for me, having a time set apart first thing in the day to pray, listen, and read the Word helps. Talking with other Believers, reading blogs or inspirational books during my free time instead of TV or other light reading helps. Memorizing Bible verses seems to help my mind be open to God and His work; sometimes those verses will come back to me just when I need that specific word in my life. Choosing to be conscious of all I have to be thankful for, to have an attitude of gratitude, seems to help me be more conscious of God. Hearing the experiences and thoughts of others' sharpens my own thought process and experience.

What about you, what do you find helps you experience the fruit of the Spirit in your life?
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