Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Obsession doesn't heal desperation or fill its lack

Because the Bible tells about events that happened, not everything that we see people do in the Bible has God's stamp of approval. Not even everything we see those who He calls His people. Not very different from everyday life, is it?

As I'm going through Genesis in my morning time with God, today I came to one of those yucky passages where I really don't like what I see people doing. Today I was studying in Genesis 29:14 - 30:24; this is when Jacob has gone to his uncle Laban's house (to escape the revenge of his brother Esau for stealing his birthright and blessing). Jacob falls in love with Laban's daughter Rachael, so Laban and Jacob agree for Jacob to work for 7 years for the privilege of marrying Rachael. After the 7 years Laban tricks him and Jacob gets the older daughter, Leah. Then he gets Rachael as a second wife if he'll work 7 more years.

That's when the trouble really kicks in. You've got Leah feeling unloved and unwanted and desperate for her husband's love. She starts having sons (which in that culture is considered one of the best things a wife can do) and Rachael isn't having any children. Rachael becomes desperate to have children (which she finally does but not until later in this account). It's as if Rachael and Leah get into this "son race" and are so into it that they even end up having Jacob sleep with their personal maids and count the children conceived this way as their own. For some weird reason everybody only has sons and they end up with 12 of them.

There is so much stuff in this passage. But what really hit me today was the desperation that I see in both Rachael and Leah. I always hate this story because I feel so bad for Leah. Who wants to be the unwanted and unloved wife? Not to mention who wants to be the anything but only wife (but that's a whole other issue). Seems to me as I read the story that Leah is desperate for her husband's love. It seems like it becomes her all consuming desire; as if she can not be happy unless she gains this one thing. As I read the account I see an obsessed woman; she wants Jacob's love and sees having sons as the way to obtain it. After her third son she even comes to the point in Genesis 29:34 where she appears to have decided that if she can't exactly have his love, she'll settle for attachment.

Can you at all relate? I know I sure can. There have definitely been times in my life when I felt like I had to have some one specific thing, that obtaining that would bring happiness. Heck, there was even a time in my life when I thought I had to have my (now ex) husband love me. I've learned the hard way that obsession, when it involves people, drives those people away; or at least makes the relationship difficult at best, and sick at worst. It's so easy to get into the thought process that if I has such and such, then I could be happy. In my own experience, whenever I've obtained the such and such, it hasn't made any difference - I was still me. I still had to deal with life.

In my own life I've come to the place where instead of being desperate, I choose to be passionate. Passionate for my relationship with Jesus. That's the only place I've experienced the love, acceptance, power, peace, and wholeness that allows me to rest in God, regardless of the circumstances. I can choose a positive attitude, can choose to rejoice in the good stuff that is present (instead of pining after that one thing that I think I have to have), and can trust that God has everything under control - even when I don't like what's happening. I don't have to always understand all the details, in fact, I rarely ever do.

But I still need passages like this one in Genesis to remind me of the fact that when there's an empty spot, some unfilled need/perceived need, I don't have to become desperate. I can choose instead to dive more deeply into God and let Him fill my heart and heal those wounds that make me needy. Because, even though I know these truths, it's easy to become involved in life and drift away from truth.

What about you, have you ever, or do you, struggle with being desperate?

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kabul Beauty School

One of my favorite times of the day is after we have dinner in the evenings. I tell everyone to just leave the dinner clean up and I put away only those things that would spoil, then I slip out onto our back deck. There I sit up among the pine trees and read until it becomes too dark to continue. Then I'll go back inside and do the dinner clean up.

I just finished reading the book Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez. It's definitely worth reading, especially if you're a woman. The main gist is that Debbie is a cosmetologist who opened a cosmetology school in Kabul, Afghanistan around 2002; this book is her story. I adore the accounts she shares in the book about the lives of the Afghan women she meets.

My heart aches for these women, while at the same time I admire their strength and hope in the face of incredible difficulties. I find myself praying about if there is anything I can do.

It's very difficult for any kind of charities in Afghanistan, especially if they are Christian charities. Even those Christian charities who are not proselytizing but are providing humanitarian aide. If you remember it was just 18 days ago that Karen Woo and her 9 co-workers were killed by Taliban who claim that the victims were spying for the US and trying to convert Muslims to Christianity. Karen Woo was a general surgeon from Britain who gave up a comfortable life in London to promote maternal health care in remote regions. They worked for International Assistance Mission (IAM), which is an openly Christian charity that has operated in Afghanistan for 44 years. During those years IAM has negotiated with the Soviets, the mujahedeen government, and then the Taliban for permission to continue its work assisting people in need of care. IAM has said it will continue its work in Afghanistan.

You can find out more about what IAM does as well as ways to support IAM on IAM's website.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Being on the look out for those random moments

It hit me once again today how random my opportunities to talk with my teen sons seem. It is very rare indeed that a time I set up to officially "talk" with them ever turns out to be a real time of communication between us.

The only thing I've found those official talks effective for at this stage in their lives is when I'm clearly communicating the guidelines and potential consequences or talking about everyone's activities agendas and transportation; the business of livings kinds of issues. But for issues of the heart, the real communication always takes place during unexpected, unplanned, times that seem to just randomly occur.

So I've determined to be on the look out for these times so I won't miss out on my chances. I've decided to start praying for these times and for what God wants me to share with them.

I just decided this today after God blessed me with an opportunity for a deep discussion regarding the existence of evil when we have an all loving God. That discussion led into one about the fact that bad things happen in this world; that we need to have an approach to life that will expect the potential of terrible stuff, instead of just expecting only good things to come our way. To see that hardship is inevitable but how we respond to hardship is our choice. It was a great discussion.

What about you, what have you learned about talking with your teens? Or, what do you remember about relevant talks with your parents when you were a teen?

Thursday, August 19, 2010

I'm not the best informed person

I hate to admit it but the truth of the matter is that I'm not particularly well informed as to what is going on in the world. In fact, I'm actually poorly informed. I hate TV news, and it's so easy for me to get caught up in day to day life, and not make the time to keep up with what is going on in the world. It's something I'm working on, but just a bit.

However, my 86 year old mother is another situation all together. For as long as I can remember, she's always kept up with what was going on in the world. The last two times I've visited her she's mentioned her concerns about all the "money we owe to China, and Japan's not far behind". Being the uninformed individual that I am, I had no idea as to what she was talking about.

So today I took a few moments to bring myself up to speed on what most of you already know. But for those of you who are as caught up in daily life as to miss things like I do, I figured I'd share my findings with you.

Remember back in high school economics when they talked about "Debt Held by the Public"( U.S. Treasury securities held by institutions outside the United States Government) and GDP(gross domestic product, or official economic output)? Well, when I looked into it today I realized that, as of July 2010, our Debt Held by the Public comprises 60% of the GDP. It's estimated that China and Japan hold 44% of the foreign-owned debt. So I guess my 86-year old mother is correctly informed.

Except, should the fact that China owns a huge amount of our debt concern me? Or should I say concern me any more than the fact that our country is in huge debt and has doubled the amount of foreign-debt since 1988. Here's what some more informed people than I have to say on this topic:

"China is debt free and way ahead of the United States in commerce. China is fast becoming the world's new super power. They have the financial and economic resources. They also have a growing military. If China was to slow down the purchasing of United States debt the United States would end up at the mercy and control of China without them firing a shot." - Norma Lawrence

"Following the $6.4 billion U.S. arms sale to Taiwan in January, some members of the Chinese military have advocated using China's considerable U.S. Treasury bond holdings as a weapon to retaliate against America." - Bruce Watson

"Despite all the alarm about U.S. government debt loads, then, investors need to put the American position in a broader perspective. And as the rally in the dollar and yen amid European jitters show, the situation here isn't all that terrifying when those factors are taken into account." - Vishesh Kumar

"According to Dominic Wilson, global economic analyst for Goldman Sachs, the Chinese "have no great interest in destabilizing either the U.S. bond market or the U.S. economy. This is a major export market. For China, it is the largest."

But isn't there something worrisome about Communist China financing the U.S. government? Wilson acknowledged some concern. "It is a situation that makes the U.S. more vulnerable to decisions of overseas governments and the decisions of overseas investors," he said. "That is not a situation that, over the long run, you want to be in." - William Schneider

"Belgium is politically weak because of the linguistic divide; Italy is politically weak because it’s Italy. If these countries can run up debts of more than 100 percent of GDP without being destroyed by bond vigilantes, so can we." - Paul Krugman

"Economists and politicians sometimes dispute what would happen if these investors suddenly cashed in their investments. Theoretically it could harm the value of the U.S. dollar, require higher interest rates to attract new investors, lead to high inflation and drive up the cost of consumer goods for Americans..

But that could hurt the value of their investments in a sell-off. And a weaker American dollar would make American goods more affordable overseas while foreign goods got more expensive here. That’s not what countries selling to American consumers want, economists say.

That doesn’t mean the current level of debt is insignificant, and the subject consumes a great deal of this year’s political debate. The foreign-ownership component leaves a number if "what-ifs" on which people disagree." - The Truth-O-Meter

What about you, do you see the large amount of money the US owes China as a problem? Why?

Monday, August 16, 2010

Can consoling yourself be a bad thing?

While Christ's forgiveness sets me free, my choice to live in forgiveness toward others helps me stay free.

I thought of this truth again as I was studying in Genesis 27:41-46 during my time with God yesterday morning. These verses describe Esau's response to Jacob's stealing his blessings from his father. What really struck me was the wording of the 42nd verse in NIV:

"When Rebekah was told what her older son Esau had said, she sent for her younger son Jacob and said to him, "Your brother Esau is consoling himself with the thought of killing you."

That whole idea of Esau consoling himself with his grudge and with the thought of killing his brother really hit me and has kept on in the back of my mind for the last couple of days. Although I've never wanted to actually kill someone, I have to admit that I have consoled myself in negative ways before in my life. There's a kind of sick delight, a pity party type mentality, that I can get caught up in when someone really does me wrong.

There's even this really funny country song that came out not too long ago, that I crack up laughing every time I hear, where the song writer is doing just that - consoling himself with thoughts of harm coming to the one who has hurt him.

While this song is definitely amusing, and we can all relate to the feelings, the results of unforgivenss are not funny.

Have you ever met a really bitter person? I have, and I bet you have as well. Those people who have had some terrible thing happen in their lives, usually at the hands of someone else, and they refuse to let it go, they refuse to move on past it. They are consumed with that bad event and it negatively affects their daily lives and the person they become. When I've been around people like that, the experience hasn't been a pleasant one. I've met enough of such people that years ago I vowed I would never let myself become one.

That's why 10 years ago when I had someone I loved and trusted do me wrong in ways that negatively impacted my life in ways over which I had little control, I chose to forgive him. I forgave him simply for myself, because I did not want to become a horrible, bitter, unhappy person. That forgiveness didn't come easy for me. Things would continue to come up because of this person's actions and I had to keep forgiving. There were days when I had to fight against the depression that comes when someone you love and trust betrays you. But through it all, by the power and grace God gave me, I continued in the choice of forgiveness. I want to emphasize that I did not make the choice to forgive because I was very spiritual or good, I made that choice because I didn't want to end up like those bitter people I had met.

Sometimes in daily life things will come up, not big things like that situation 10 years ago, but smaller situations, where people will either willfully or unknowingly do me wrong. Whenever those situations arise I try to go right away to God in prayer. Because I don't want even the smallest bit of unforgiveness to ferret its way into my heart or life. I'm mindful of the passage in Hebrews 12:14-16, especially the 15th verse:

"See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many."

I just don't want to let bitterness get into my life. I don't want to become one of those bitter people I've encountered.

Currently in my life I have a young man and a young woman, both of whom are under 25 years old. Both of these young people are very near and dear to my heart. I pray for both of them and long for each of them to be blessed and used by God. Both are very gifted and hard working individuals who experience lots of success in their lives. To meet either one of them is to note that he/she is one of those really exceptional people. But each of them harbors unforgiveness, and I can see it's negative impact on both of their lives. Each of them are wonderful people, and because they are still so young, they do not have that bitter person persona yet. But I can still see the outcomes in their lives from their unforgiveness in subtle ways. Both have reasons to be hurt, both could be "justified" in their unforgiveness, but the person it is hurting is themselves. Neither are people with whom I have yet received a release to discuss this issue. I pray frequently for both of them regarding the unforgiveness they each harbor, and my heart aches for the pain I recognize they are each experiencing.

What about you, do you have someone who has deeply wronged you toward whom you are harboring unforgiveness? Do you console yourself with negative thoughts toward that person? Or is there someone you deeply care about that you are watching console themselves with unforgiveness?

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Not everything that you say can be taken back

I never cease to be amazed at the power of words.

I've been slowly working my way through the book of Genesis in my morning times with God, today I was looking at Genesis 21:1-40. That's the account of when Issac was getting old and wanted to give his oldest son, Esau, his blessing. But the younger son, Jacob, conspired with his mother, Rebekah, and stole the blessing.

Every single time I read this account I always wonder about what the big deal is. Why couldn't Issac just say something like: my bad, it was a mistake what I said was really meant for Esau so now I'll do it again for him and give him the blessing.

Verses 35-38 seem to indicate that oral statements are binding and irrevocable. But, why?

So I spent some time today finding out what other people have to say on this topic. Here's the two comments I found most interesting:

John Calvin - "Moses does not in vain pause over this narrative as a most serious matter, we must first observe, that when Jacob received the blessing from his father, this token confirmed to him the oracle by which the Lord had preferred him to his brother. For the benediction here spoken of was not a mere prayer but a legitimate sanction, divinely interposed, to make manifest the grace of election. God had promised to the holy fathers that he would be a God to their seed for ever. They, when at the point of death, in order that the succession might be secured to their posterity, put them in possession, as if they would deliver, from hand to hand, the favour which they had received from God. So Abraham, in blessing his son Isaac, constituted him the heir of spiritual life with a solemn rite. With the same design, Isaac now, being worn down with age, imagines himself to be shortly about to depart this life, and wishes to bless his firstborn son, in order that the everlasting covenant of God may remain in his own family. The Patriarchs did not take this upon themselves rashly, or on their own private account, but were public and divinely ordained witnesses."

I find these comments of Calvin interesting because he's one of the few I could find that explain why this blessing was irrevocable, what was it's origin and importance. The whole idea was that Issac learned from his dad, Abraham, that the blessing God had given Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 13:14-17, Genesis 15:1-6, Genesis 15:1-6) was both through Issac and to Issac (Genesis 17:19, Genesis 22:15-18) . Before his death Issac apparently wanted to pass on this blessing to his son.

Beth Moore - "I don't think we Gentiles have no clue what a true Hebrew blessing entailed. God's ancient people were taught by His Word and example to mean what they said and never to speak or take a blessing lightly. Words are powerful. If the ancients ever erred in assuming fraud wasn't ground for retraction, we moderns tend to err dramatically in the opposite extreme. We speak words hastily and think we can simply take them back at a moment's notice without consequences. Sometimes there are simply no "take backs"."

This all hit me today because sometimes I say things that would be better left unsaid. Words are important. I'm reminded of a favorite Bible verse in Psalm 141:3(NLT):

Take control of what I say, O Lord,
and guard my lips.

May this verse from Psalms be my prayer today and every day.

What about you, do you ever struggle with your words? Have you ever said things that you wish you could take back?

Saturday, August 7, 2010

What do you know about Elena Kagan ?

Today Elena Kagan was sworn in as the 112th justice of the Supreme Court.

She's replacing John Paul Stevens; Stevens politics tended toward the liberal. She's the fourth woman to be on the court, and just for that, I want to like her. But I hate to admit to the fact that I know very little about her. So today I'm on a fact finding mission and figure I'll share my findings with you:
  • She's 50 years old
  • She's a former Harvard Law School dean-These are some things I found out about her activities whole at Harvard:
  • She encouraged Harvard Law students to get involved in homosexual activist legal work. She considered this public interest law and encouraged students to become involved so they could gain clinical experience. The Harvard Law School established the LGBT Law Clinic during this time.
  • She recruited a former ACLU lawyer William Rubenstein to teach "queer" legal theory. Rubenstein described one of his courses as taking up of "newer identities (bisexualty, trans, gender[f_ _ k])." as well as involving "polygamy, S&M [sadomasochism], the sexuality of minors."
  • She was actively involved in advocacy opposing "Don't ask Don't Tell". She agreed to ban military recruiters from campus.
  • She spearheaded the “Islamic Finance Project,” a program aimed at mainstreaming Sharia-compliant finance in America.
  • She condoned the acceptance of $20 to fund programs on Islam. This money came from Saudi prince Alwaleed bin Talal; Talal was known for his statements to the fact that the attacks of 9/11 were a result of American foreign policy.
  • She awarded the Harvard Medal of Freedom to Iftikhar Chaudhry, the chief justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. Many say Chaudhry is a is a promoter of Sharia.
  • From 1995 to 1999, Kagan served as President Bill Clinton's Associate White House Counsel and Deputy Assistant to the President for Domestic Policy and Deputy Director of theDomestic Policy Council. While in this position she did the following:
  • In a 1996 White House document, Kagan grouped the National Rifle Organization together with the Ku Klux Klan as bad guy organizations.
  • Engaged in several pro-late-term abortion pursuits.
As I read though this list I feel sad. I feel like I see the world quite differently than Elena Kagan; and the ways are things I feel passionately concerning. I'm reminded of a verse in 1 Peter 2:10 - 12 where Peter was talking to those who are following after God and declares that they are strangers and aliens living in this world.

Although there are some who feel that Christians should refrain from politics I've never understood this train of thought. To my mind, politics are very much the business of living. It's recorded in Matthew 5:13-15 that Jesus told His followers that they are to live in this world but are to portray His Kingdom through their lives.

But as I'm here thinking about this there are two questions that come to my mind; do I really oppose Kagan's politics because I'm a Christian, and how can I act like a Christian toward those with whom I disagree. I want to briefly give a few thoughts on those questions and then I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts.

Another way to state my first question is to ask if Christians can be pro late term abortion, pro Sharia law, pro the Gay and Lesbian political agenda, and lump the National Rifle Association (NRA) with the Ku Klux Klan (KKK). Obviously, I am personally extremely conservative in my political views. I am a Christian and I hold these views, however, I suppose another Christian could hold different views than my own. Especially with regard to the Gay and Lesbian agenda; a Christian could state that we should love everyone and let everyone practice their own life style. While I agree with that, I am still concerned about this group's continual efforts to promote their lifestyle in the public education arena. I'd rather the public school arena leave these sorts of issues with the family. I think lumping the NRA in with the KKK is way too extreme to be intelligent, although not distinctively non-Christian. I have a much more difficult time with defending the pro late term abortions and Sharia law from a Christian Perspective.

The second question seems to me to boil down to the issue of respect. I believe I can disagree with someone and still behave respectfully toward them. I'm reminded of how in Philippians 4:4-5 Christ's followers are encouraged to live a lifestyle in which they make it clear to those with whom they come in contact that they are on their side. I do not believe that this is in any way saying that we are to be agreement with everybody; rather, that we are to be pro-people. I see scripture teaching that we are to love, and be helpful toward people, want the best for people, even when we do not agree with them.

What about you, how do you see these issues? Can a Christian be committed to the "liberal agenda"? How can you behave in a Christian manner toward those with whose politics you vehemently disagree?

FYI - My sources of information:
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