Blessed To Be A Blessing

Blessed To Be A Blessing

It’s a good thing I like children 😊

This neighbourhood reminds me of what it was like when I was growing up…kids roaming around, playing road hockey in the street, skipping rope on the sidewalk, playing tag from backyard to backyard. Little boys making roads in the sandbox to push their Hot Wheels around on, while their sisters play with Barbies under the cool of the front porch. Bicycle races. Sharing drippy popsicle and secrets. You know, kid stuff.

My own kids did not have that in the well-to-do neighbourhood they grew up in, and that now seems to have become the norm. The only time you see hordes of kids playing together now is in the…ahem…less desirable areas, probably because they’re the ones whose parents can’t afford to put them in karate and dance class, or send them to summer camp or go away on vacation. They are more or less left to keep themselves entertained.

A shocking number of kids in our complex are growing up without adequate guidance and supervision. You can see it in the way they interact with each other and with those in authority over them. Some of them have learned to be manipulative to get their way; others are out and out defiant.

Please let me be clear, except for one obviously neglectful single mom (and don’t get me started on her because, frankly, I have a hard time finding the “best construction” for her actions, so let’s just not go there) all the other parents I encounter around here are decent, hard working people who care about their children. It’s just that life sometimes gets in the way of their making good parenting choices.

They have good intentions. You can see they want to raise up their children to be well-behaved and respectful towards others, but many of them simply don’t know how to go about it; they are products of their own dysfunctional upbringings.

Far more commonly though, these young moms and dads are simply tired.

See, you don’t live in a place like this if you have any other options. Most of these families are on the poor-ish side; the working poor. They have barely enough financial resources to keep them afloat week-by-week let alone cope with a minor catastrophe such as an emergency car repair, an illness requiring an absence from work, an unexpectedly high heating bill after a cold winter – you know, life.

They are weary and worn down by the day-to-day struggle of simply getting by. No, money can’t buy you happiness, but it can buy you groceries. It gives the impression that you are insulated from some of the more mundane crises that life tends to throw at everyone. When you have enough money, there is no having to choose between whether the rent goes unpaid or the kids go unfed because life has decided to play nasty. This is just reality for the working poor and don’t be fooled – it takes a toll on us all.

There is a community resource center here within the complex. They have quite a variety of regular programs geared towards supporting and strengthening the family and children, as well as ESL classes for new Canadians, community meals and food distribution (ie. mini food bank) Every Thursday morning, over seventy families from the community take advantage of the food distribution program – that’s roughly one-third of the residents in the area.

Sidebar: The people in my neighbourhood don’t know this, but I pioneered the food distribution program. Yup, true story. Well over 20 years ago, I became acquainted with the need here, and because my church was (at the time) closest in proximity to this neighbourhood, I brought the need to my fellow church members who responded enthusiastically. Food donations began pouring in; enough that we could put together, on average, six or so emergency food hampers each week, which I then brought down to the community centre where they distributed them at their discretion. From there it just kind of grew; other churches in the area became involved in collecting and donating food to the program and then the city brought the program under its Social Services division. It continues to be funded mostly by donations and volunteer hours, with the city providing paid staff to administer it under their Income Support umbrella. Although the program now technically falls under the purview of “big government” it is still largely a community based program, directed by community need and carried out by community members. It’s kind of the best of both worlds. Government assistance has provided a stability to the program that we simply could not have achieved relying solely on volunteer labour.

It’s been years since I was actively involved with the program so I really had no idea how big the scope of the program had become until we moved here to live a couple years back. I was kinda shocked and saddened that the need had grown to the extent it did, but at the same time I’m glad that the program has been able to successfully scale to meet the growing need. It’s not the same program it was all those years ago; it has evolved to meet the ever growing need. I can’t lie, in a strange way I find it gratifying that the foundation we put in place was strong enough to support growth. Bittersweet.

Anyhoo…this neighbourhood is definitely the most challenged one I have ever lived in, but it by far has the strongest sense of community I’ve ever experienced.

It’s hard to explain, but there’s this sense of we’re-all-in-this-together here within the community.

Here, it is still the norm for neighbourhood children to play together instead of isolating themselves in front of an electronic screen. Here, moms still congregate together for coffee on the front stoops in the morning. Here, neighbours still go next door to borrow a cup of sugar.

We babysit each other’s children so parents can go to work.

We share our bounty with each other; I love to bake and pass out cookies to the kiddos, while another mom shares out thick slices of fresh watermelon from her garden. Yet another mom stocks up on freezies and hands them out liberally to anyone who asks.

The former hairdresser who lives across from me does my hair, and in exchange I do her nails.

We swap outgrown toys and children’s clothes with each other rather than put them into an anonymous donation box – there’s always someone here who could make use of them.

A fair number of families – roughly a third, I’d say – don’t have a dad in the home, but the ones who are step up nicely for the fatherless ones. Dave down the block scavenges old bikes and fixes them up for the neighbour kids. Sergio, who has 5 boys of his own, is always willing to include other kids, inviting them to play ball or play in the pool or whatever. He helps out another neighbour by walking her older children to school each day so she doesn’t have to drag the little ones along with her.

I could go on and on here, but the point is, in this neighbourhood where financial resources are always in short supply, we act as resources for each other.

We’re all in this together.

My own place in this neighbourhood has become that of “neighbourhood Granny”.

My friends and neighbours call me The Child Whisperer. I’m not making this up. For whatever reason, kids listen to me, lol! Don’t ask me to explain it…they just do. I suppose having raised three of my own and now having nine grandchildren that I am semi-parenting, I’ve developed some skillz. I am much more patient today than I ever was with my own kids. Plus, I have an excellent role model in my own mother, the Original Child-Whisperer, who relates to children with a perfect blend of love and firmness. *shrugs*. I just emulate her and it works.

Now, I should make it clear that I do not intervene unless I am asked to – I would never presume to usurp parental authority – instead, I prefer to quietly model effective discipline with my own grandkids as an example for other moms and dads. If they ask me – and sometimes they do – How do you get your grandkids to do as they’re told without shouting, threatening or spanking??? – well, then we can have a conversation. It pleases me to be a resource for my neighbours, to assist them in the job of raising their kids. Isn’t that what grannies do? We are done raising our own kids but we have wisdom to share with those who are in the trenches, raising their own. We stand back, observing, assisting, encouraging the next generation of parents.

It doesn’t “take a village” to raise a child, but it does take a family. I am blessed to have a pretty functional family – I am close to both my immediate family as well as extended kin. We stick together and take care of one another – we’re all in this together – but I recognize that not everybody has that.

When your own family is – for whatever reason – not available to you for support, it’s natural to want to surround yourself with surrogates, to find some support and encouragement from others. I have so much support and encouragement from my own family that I can well afford to invest in others, equipping them to be able to turn around and invest in their own families. I know I can’t “fix” all the problems in this community, nor should I. That’s not my job. My job is to love them, one small act of mercy at a time. And there is more than enough here to keep me busy with that.

I mentioned in a recent post that at one time I desired to be a deaconess, a full-time church worker who serves others through acts of mercy, in Christ. I have never lost that desire. Though I do not have a call from the church to serve in this way, in my heart, I AM a “deaconess”, one who shows Christ’s mercy; I am simply serving my wider community as opposed to a church community. A servant-at-large, if you will.

I don’t work, I don’t have many obligations on my time beyond a couple hours at the Breakfast Club each morning. My days are wide open and unending before me – what else should I do with my time?? I can think of nothing better than serving my neighbour, literally.

I’m blessed to be in this position, I know. How many wives have husbands who are willing to support them financially so they can stay at home and hang out with the neighbours all day?

Mine does.

He works so I don’t have to – this is his contribution to our neighbourhood. If I worked, I wouldn’t have the time to do this. Further, if I worked, we wouldn’t HAVE to live here. It’s rundown, it’s noisy with kids running around everywhere, there’s way less privacy than hubby is comfortable with – it’s all the things he hates. Yet he sacrifices his comfort for me, and ultimately for this neighbourhood which I have become such a part of. That’s a pretty significant contribution. I recognize what my husband does as the blessing that it is, and I admire the heck out of him for it.

I did not think of living here as “a blessing” when I first moved here. In truth, if I had had any other better option, I would have taken it. I tried not to think of it as a defeat, to just accept it for what it was, but it was hard to shake the sense of loss I had in having to move here. I had lost my home, many of my belongings, and most of the wealth we had accumulated over the years.

Before I moved here, that’s what blessed looked like to me. In our blessing, we could afford to be generous to others, and indeed we were. It was a thoughtless kind of generosity, though. We had so much it didn’t really hurt to give. Generous, yes. Sacrificial? Not so much…

Our circumstances are much different now, and we have had to exercise some creativity in finding new ways to be generous, to bless others out of our abundance. What once was so abundant – $CASH$ – is now in short supply. I can’t just throw money at problems anymore.

That, too, has been a blessing. It’s really challenged me to “think outside the box” and find creative ways to love my neighbour, to ask myself, What is my duty, according to my vocation of neighbour, to this person in front of me? What do they need right now, and how can I best serve them in it?

By centering my creativity on what I know God would have me do, it takes away all ambiguity and frees me up to boldly do it.

It has been a blessing to get my eyes off of poor l’il me and onto the needs of my neighbour, whose needs are no greater, nor any lesser than my own. We’re all in this together, right? This is not just how God created us – to serve one another out of the abundance of Christ’s love – it’s how he takes care of us as well. God daily cares for me through the hands of others. How then can I refuse to do the same? If I ignore His prompting to serve others, I am quite literally staying God’s Hand, preventing it from distributing his blessings to those who are in need of them. Just how wicked do you think I am, lol. No, I am blessed so that others may be blessed.

God’s greatest blessings to us often come disguised as the humblest of gifts.

The manger looks pretty humble, but in it lays the Saviour of All Nations.

The Cross doesn’t look like a gift at all, yet hidden within it is the one Gift we all truly need.

So it is with the good gifts He gives us; within humble adversity He hides even greater blessings.

I say “hides” because to the unbelieving world adversity does not equal blessing; it is only through the eyes of faith that the blessing is revealed.

Look, I’m not suggesting y’all go out and seek adversity, okay?

This is not a “thing” to “be done”. That’s missing the point.

Seek adversity for God’s blessings; check.

No.

Adversity will come, of that we can be sure. We need not seek it out as if that were a sign of righteousness.

This is about standing firm in God’s promises, that under any circumstances, it’s ALL blessing. Eyes of faith cannot help but reveal this, if only we would not avert our eyes from it. Eyes of faith see past the outward circumstance and remain firmly fixed on the promises of Christ.

I have called you and placed you within My Body and promised that I would never leave you, never forsake you. My promises remain sure, so expect to be blessed – just try not to be too surprised in how the blessings come. Often, my richest blessings come in the nastiest packages. Don’t worry about what it looks like, just trust that I am blessing you in it. If you need it, I will also reveal some signs to you so that you may know it is my blessing – though those too may come in a way and at a time you may not expect. The point is, no matter what it looks like, you can trust Me. I will find a way to keep you in Me so that I can keep blessing you. O my child, don’t you know that this is what I long to do for you? To lavish you with my love and shower upon you gifts, the greatest of which is my Son, through faith in Whom I promise to keep you until the end?

When adversity came calling it left me shellshocked and bewildered. I won’t lie, it really threw me for a loop, so much so that I questioned a lot of my core assumptions.

But I am still here.

I am still standing, miraculously, in faith. The devil fought hard; Jesus fought harder.

There is still adversity in my life, but faith remains. Faith that assures me I lack nothing, in this life or the next, and frees me to go forth and do what He has made me to do – love and trust Him and love and serve my neighbour – trusting that He is able to use it all.

So here I am, neighbourhood Granny, deaconess without a call. Faith insists it’s all blessing.

I can live with that.

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When JWs Come Knocking

When JWs Come Knocking

So, I have begun a relationship with a lovely couple who are Jehovah’s Witnesses. The came proselytizing about a month ago and we struck up a conversation. Super nice people, and I enjoyed our discussion. They, of course, wanted to know if they could leave some Watchtower literature with me.

Normally, when a JW offers me the latest issue of Awake! I politely decline it. I tell them, as kindly as I can, that I have examined their beliefs and have rejected them as unbiblical.

That’s harsh, I know. I do tell them as gently and as kindly as I can, but firmly; for though I do not wish to be harsh, I must be honest. This is not a kid’s game. This is life or death stuff, and they know it. It’s the whole reason they come knocking in the first place – they believe souls are at stake. And they’re not wrong. Souls are at stake – their souls – and somebody has to love them enough to be honest about it and warn them. I don’t know how effective it is – I seriously doubt anybody has left my door and thought, Wow, she thinks what I believe is unbiblical…maybe I better look into that! But it is better than lying to them, blowing them off to get rid of them and leaving them in lost in their deception. Now that would be harsh. Better to confront their unbelief and declare the Gospel to them – for all I know, it may be the only time the actually ever hear it.

But in this case, for whatever reason, I did not decline their offer. I took their magazine and promised to read it and invited them to stop back for a chat the next time they are around.

And I did read it. It was garbage, of course – little bits of truth woven into the lies until the whole thing is practically unrecognizable. The Gospel promise was certainly no where to be found amongst the pages. Sad.

This past Saturday, my new friends came by again. I had been thinking about them just a couple of days prior, wondering if they would come back and what I might say to them if they did. For in truth, I really didn’t know what I would say to them if they asked me about what I had read. Where to start?? Their truth and lies are so tangled up together it’s impossible to tell which thread to pull first…

So when they stopped in Saturday morning, I was not prepared for them – and in fact, it wasn’t really a good time for me, I was still in my pajama bottoms and an old hoodie, cleaning out the dust bunnies from under my bed when they arrived.

My friends chuckled a bit as I arrived to the door. “Did we catch you at a bad time?”

I admitted I was in the middle of some housecleaning, but I had some coffee on if they wanted to join me for a short break.

“No, no, we don’t want to keep you,” they demurred. “We just wanted to see if you had had a chance to read the articles we left with you…?”

“Yes, I did…” I said, and left it hanging. Thankfully they did not ask me what I thought of the articles. I don’t know what I would have said.

But they didn’t push it any further and simply asked if I would be interested in another article to read.

“This one is about God’s angels,” my visitor enthused. “I know you are a spiritual person (her word, not mine) and I thought you might be interested.”

Honestly, I have no desire to read another Watchtower, but I didn’t want to make a big deal of it, so I accepted the tract and thanked them for thinking of me. The tract got folded in half and stuffed it into the pocket of my hoodie.

We chatted for a few more minutes before they made their goodbyes.

“Be sure to stop by again next time you’re around,” I invited. “Maybe you’ll have time to come in for a coffee.”

They agreed that sounded lovely and they were looking forward to it, and then they were off.

I headed back inside to finish off the dust bunnies and I didn’t give a thought to the tract in my pocket until later that afternoon as I prepared to take a shower.

Emptying my pockets before I undressed, my hand came across the tract and I almost tossed it right into the trash without another thought…and then I hesitated.

Though I hadn’t meant it, I had said I would read it. And I had invited them back; surely they would want to discuss it on their next visit.

I’m gonna have to read this, I realized. Shit.

I haven’t read it yet. The article she wanted me to read is on angels, supposedly from a Biblical perspective.

Fair enough. I will take them at their word – I will study what the Bible has to say about angels and then I will read the article to see if what it says lines up with Scripture.

The problem is, I don’t really know all that much about angels. I could really use some help with this, and that’s my purpose for writing .

I know that angels are created beings. I’m less clear on whether they have a corporeal form – in some instances they seem to have human form (Joseph wrestles with an angel, right? and Daniel (I think) sees one “having the form of a man” in a vision), but they are also supposed to be hanging around here, unseen, (or is that something I just picked up from the culture?) so I don’t know.

I know that whenever people do see them, they fall down in abject terror. You do not want to come face-to-face with one of these Messengers of the Lord.

I know that at least three of the angels are named; the fallen one, Lucifer, the “bringer of light”; the archangel Michael, “chief of the angels”; and Gabriel. There is also an angel mentioned in the intertestimental stuff, Raphael – I’m not sure how much weight to give that. Not enough to be dogmatic about it either way.

I know that angels worship God and that angels are not to be worshiped; I know they are messengers; I know that an angel refused to rebuke Satan by his own authority lest he blaspheme God but did so under God’s authority which He was given to wield. I’m fuzzy on how I know this. From Scripture? From something I’ve heard? Probably some of both.

As I’ve been pondering what (I think) I know about angels, I’ve kinda picked up that Michael seems to be associated with the person and work of Christ (for example, John sees Michael slay the dragon) and Gabriel with the person and work of the Holy Spirit (he announces and precedes the coming of the Christ). It makes me wonder…and this is just total speculation, but am I crazy in thinking is Lucifer maybe the Father’s angel?? Again, speculation, and even if it were so, what then would it tell us about God and His angels? Not even sure it matters…maybe that’s just a big empty rabbit hole.

As you can see, I know appalling little about angels, lol, and what I think I do know about them is pretty sketch.

I’m familiar with the most famous appearances angels make in the Scriptures and probably quite a few lesser ones as well, but the truth is, when angels pop up, I hardly ever pay attention to them. I’ve considered them a minor matter – and maybe that’s true in the bigger scheme of things – but as I do a little bit more than merely scratch the surface, interesting stuff starts to emerge. Perhaps the accounts of angels have something to teach us about the nature of the unseen world? At the very least, I should learn something new about the Creation, no?

Now that I have decided that angels are worthy of my study (kidding/not kidding) I’m pumped to do it…but I realize I have no idea where to start.

If you’re so inclined, help a girl out, would ya?

I’m looking for suggestions. Any good places for me to start? Where in the Bible can I find the clearest passages regarding angels? Aside from my crazy speculations, where am I getting it wrong?

Any input/discussion is greatly appreciated!

Grappling: The First Commandment

Grappling: The First Commandment

Finally!

You shall have no other God.

Sounds pretty simple.

I’m a Christian; Christians worship the true God and no other, so I got this, right?

I suspect that’s the approach that most Christians take towards the first commandment. At face value, it makes sense – I worship the true God, I don’t bow down to any idols, I must be keeping this one. Check, done. Don’t have to worry about that one any more.

Keeping the first commandment though, is more than simply picking the “right god” and sticking with him.

At the heart of this commandment is TRUST. Who, or what, do you put your trust in above all things? Which then begs the question, what does it mean to trust?

Luther, as always, provides some keen insights!

Shall we begin?

Sidebar – Understanding Christian Vocation

Sidebar – Understanding Christian Vocation

Poor Wally is tired, I bet.

He was lamenting a bit that his various vocations kept him pretty busy this week and were preventing him from carrying out his vocation of Christian Blogger Extraordinaire 😉 I can relate.

There was a time when I desired (uh-oh!) to enter into full-time church work. I was so involved in the various ministries of our church that I began to desire to be able to devote myself to it full time. I thought of it as my real work, far more important than my normal 9 to 5 desk job. I wanted to be a deaconess! I enrolled in Concordia Seminary to study and was ready to go, but in the end I didn’t. That’s a whole other long story, but what it basically came down to was God saidno” to my plans.

I struggled with that for a long time. I was truly heartbroken by it. Lord, I want to serve you! Are you rejecting me? Am I not fit to serve?

I had been so sure that the desire in my heart was a holy one! That God Himself had created the desire to serve Him in this way. And realizing that He didn’t really threw me for a loop. If I couldn’t trust what I thought to be a God-given desire, what could I trust?? How could I have been so wrong? And if I couldn’t trust any of this, how could I ever figure out what God’s plan for me, personally, would be? I felt lost.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that this was a traumatic event in my life. I can’t explain why it affected me so deeply, but it did. It took me a couple of years to mourn and come to terms with it. Until my husband had his affair, it was the single most traumatic event in my life and the sense of loss was hard to accept.

Towards the end of my “mourning period”, I happened to be doing a lot of study on Luther’s theology of the Cross, which is closely connected to – of all things – his doctrine of Christian vocation.

Just as a side note, the “theology of the Cross” and the doctrine of vocation are probably the two teachings that have most influenced my thinking on the Christian life. I continue to draw heavily on the insights I learned from them, but coming across the stuff on vocation in my time of mourning/questioning did more than all the other healing combined, in helping me come to terms with “my loss”. I think it’s fair to say that meditating on Luther’s understanding of vocation – he has some wonderful, little known insights – was instrumental in finally healing my pain and doubts. He beautifully unfolded God’s word for me in a way that helped me make sense of my life again.

You know that saying, “once you see it, you can’t unsee it”? That’s what it’s like. The insights I drew from these teaching profoundly affected how I understand the Christian life; they have become the “lens” through which I approach the Scriptures and Christian piety.

But as important as it has become to me, I’ve never been able to articulate it well. I’ve tried to write about it at least a half a dozen or so times, but everything I’ve started has either ended up in the trash folder or is currently sitting unfinished in my drafts folder. 😕

Looking online for some inspiration, I came across this helpful summary of the doctrine of vocation and, rather than re-summarize it for you, I thought I’d simply just share it. He explains it much better than I ever could.

If you have 20 minutes to spare, give it a look. I guarantee you will look at your vocation in a whole new light!

Grappling – Desire…The Root of Sin

Grappling – Desire…The Root of Sin

What do you desire?  Plenty, am I right?  

Desire, in and of itself, is not sinful, but not all desires are right desires.  Often, it is when desire turns inward toward the self that our desires become false desires, and when we’re chasing down false desires it stands in the way of us seeking right desires.

Take, for example, Esau, who traded away his birthright for a bowl of stew to calm the desires of his hungry belly.  Dude traded away the promises of God for lunch!  Much later, he realises his error, but it is too late. The promises that were intended to be his, as first born, passed to his sneaky brother instead.  We tend to look at Esau and think, What a dumbass! I would NEVER do that!  

Think again.  If you don’t see yourself in Esau, look harder.  We ARE Esau, trading away right desires for false ones, exchanging God’s good promises for the momentary desires that reside within our hearts.  

I’m not sure why we are so inclined to trust the desires of our heart – the Bible is clear that the heart of man is deceitful and wicked above all things, that our desires are in opposition to God’s.  Follow your heart is horrible, horrible advice.  

In his Commandments, God encompasses for us what right desires ought to look like – a guidebook, if you will, to bring our desires into alignment with His own – but this conversion of our desires is only and and ever begun, never fully completed in this life.  Converting our hearts of stone into hearts of flesh is a lifelong process – we are ever in need of restraining the flesh –  therefore meditating on the Commandments and their meaning ought to be a lifelong habit as well.

This is the last video (or maybe second-to-last, I can’t remember for sure) of the “Introduction to the Commandments” in this series; then we’ll be moving onto looking at the text of the Commandments and their meanings.  Lots of insightful stuff, so stay tuned!

**If you haven’t seen the earlier videos, or you want to review them before moving on to the nitty gritty of the text, you can find them here.

Breakdown

Breakdown

Something I haven’t shared with many people is that my daughter, our youngest child, is very mentally ill.  I could tell you stories about her that would curl your hair – crazy stuff you wouldn’t believe – but I don’t feel right sharing it all…its her story, not mine, and I feel an obligation to protect her privacy.  

At the same time, though, her illness, or at least the crazy behaviours that manifest when she’s symptomatic, take a very heavy toll on me.  If you’ve ever noticed that sometimes I kinda disappear for a few weeks, it’s probably because I am busy dealing with and/or recovering from my daughters shenanigans.

Let me show you what my daughter is like:

 https://youtu.be/xDmH_OMsjdc

Watching this video (which I just stumbled upon) is like seeing my daughter.  Actually, my daughter is even scarier than this girl, but what’s really eerie is that so many of the distorted cognitions she displays are identical to my daughter’s – You don’t love me, You would never do this to ______ (a sibling), You never hear me.  I don’t know what’s wrong with the girl in this video, but I can tell you that she is highly emotionally disregulated.  

We don’t quite know what is wrong g with our daughter.  She has been diagnosed with depression and anxiety stemming from PTSD as well as Bipolar Disorder, but none of those diagnoses accounts for the high degree of emotional disregulation that she experiences; I suspect that something else is going on here as well, perhaps Borderline Personality Disorder (which her dad has) or perhaps Complex PTSD which manifests in similar ways.  

This has been going on for years, since her mid-teens.  I used to say that my daughter was an emotional terrorist – that she terrorized us with her frightening emotional outbursts in order to get her way.  I know this sounds rather extreme, but the truth is that over the years, my daughter has traumatized me with her behaviour.  It can take me a couple of weeks to recover from one of her outbursts.

My daughter has three lovely children, my beloved grandchildren, whose well-being I am concerned for.  Recently my daughter has become very unstable and I had to remove the children from her care.  This is not the first time I’ve had to do this, but this time I was compelled to get Family and Children’s Services involved.  Our preference would be to deal with this as a family without having to get social services involved but the reality is, we need outside resources and support to help her.  We simply aren’t equipped to deal with this all on our own.

Right now I am the devil – I took away her children and called the authorities for help – proof that I am evil and don’t love her.  In her delusional state, she is unable to see that it was necessary; she can’t even see that her children are suffering and intervention was needed to protect them from further harm.  It was hard for me to do, because I knew that once she found out she would punish me for it.  

The psychiatric care my daughter is receiving has been spotty at best – this is a medically underserviced area and the the few p-docs we have are over burdened. There simply aren’t enough psychiatrists to go around.  Family and Children’s Services has ordered a thorough psych exam for her so I am hopeful that she may finally get a solid diagnosis and the help she needs.

I don’t know why I decided to share this – I guess I just needed to get it out.  If you are inclined, prayers for our family would be greatly appreciated.

Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law 

Grappling: The Two Tables of the Law 

“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”

Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’  This is the first and greatest commandment.  And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’  All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

The Pharisees come up and ask Jesus Which commandment is the greatest? and Jesus’ answer is interesting.  He doesn’t point to any one commandment – in fact, he doesn’t quote any single commandment at all; rather, he gives a summary of all the Commandments – love God and love people.  

His answer is instructive – the heart of the Commandments is to love; not as an emotional abstraction (“all we need is love!”) but that in the Commandments we find very specific, concrete principles of what love for God and neighbour ought to look like.  

God’s high, holy standard for us is encompassed within the Commandments as a whole.  You can’t pick out just one and elevate it above all the others – they are designed to work together as a complete ethical system, each commandment flowing out from the previous one all the way back to the first, and summarized into two tables – love for God (the first table) and love for neighbour (the second table).

Jesus also points out that our love for God and neighbour is never finished.  Love your God with ALL your heart and ALL your soul and ALL your mind.  How’s that working out for ya?  If we’re being honest with ourselves, we’ll find that under the Law there is always more to do.

When we confess our sins before God, we confess this very thing – We have not loved You with our whole hearts; we have not loved our neighbour as ourselves.  We have sinned against God and neighbour in thought, word and deed; by what we have done, and by what we have left undone. 

Thanks be to God that we are covered by the blood of the Lamb, who left nothing undone; who is the beginning and end of love! His grace is sufficient and in Him all things are made complete.  

Grappling: The Ten Commandments As Virtues

Grappling: The Ten Commandments As Virtues

For me, this is where the study of the Commandments really starts to get interesting 😀

I know I’m going against the grain here, but I happen to believe that one can know what one should or should not do at any given moment and under all circumstances according to the Ten Commandments.  That is to say, we can confidently find God’s will for our entire lives in them.  (That provocative enough for ya?)   

If you object to this idea, it’s ok, I get it…just hang with me for a bit, alright?

If you’ve been following along, you’ll recall we looked at the Law as the primary means by which God confronts us with our unpayable debt of sin, and our desparate need for a Saviour who will rescue us from it.  The Law, however, shows us more than just what we ought not to do, it also shows us the virtues that we ought to strive after as Christians. Not virtues for the sake of our virtuousness (for we are already wholly righteous before God, in Christ) but virtues that reflect who we are under God, and how we are to live in service to one another.  Remember, the Commandments still apply, but our motivation for keeping them under Christ is radically shifted.  We no longer keep them out of fear for our own condemnation – because that has already been taken care of, dealt with at the Cross.  Now we keep them because in them we find who God created us to be.

In the Creation, God told us what man’s job is – to care for all of Creation.  And because God saw that it was not good that man should be alone, He created woman and then, in His wisdom, He allowed us to become participants in creation through the joining of man and woman together to create offspring.  In a very real sense, Creation was not fully completed until the first child was born.  We were created to create, and to care for the created.

We were originally created to know how to do that – the Law that is written on the hearts of all testifies to this – but sin has obscured our view.  We can no longer clearly see how it is that God created us to live in community together, under Him, caring for one another.  God said it is not good for man to be alone, and that is true for us too.  We’re all in this together. It’s not good for us to live in isolation of one another, nor to live as if we were, caring only for ourselves without regard for others.  

Jesus Himself told us how we ought to live in relation to one another – the first shall be last – and if we knew how to do that, we wouldn’t need the Commandments to tell us, would we?

There’s this lovely description of what the life of the faithful looks like from the prophet Micah:

He has told you, O man, what is good;
    and what does the Lord require of you

but to do justice, and love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?

He has told you what is good…  

God has informed the heart of every man that which is good, and when that was not enough, He spoke it to us as well; commanded that it be written down, preserved, and taught to all generations. Not for the sake of our own righteousness, but so that God’s righteousness – which looks very much like servanthood, like the first shall be last, like Jesus – may be made visible in the world.

He has told you what is good – and am I wrong to think that the “good” referred to here is God’s Word?  I don’t think so…God is good, and none other.  His Word, including His Commandments are the good that He has told us.  

The more I study the Commandments the more I am convinced that they are instructions for daily life; the broad principles by which we are to relate to God and to each other.  The first shall be last and the last shall be first?  Love your enemies?  I wouldn’t know how to do that, how to put “skin” on those exhortations and live them out apart from the Commandments.