Church of Greed

Church of Greed

This is a little off the beaten path for me, not what I usually write about and certainly more inflammatory than I usually am, but it is something that is near and dear to my heart that I have been trying to raise awareness of amongst fellow Christians. It’s a bit of a hidden need that is coming our way that I believe all Christians should be aware of and prepared for, so indulge me if you will!

Is anybody else watching Leah Remini’s Scientology and the Aftermath? I can’t get enough of it!

I’ve had an interest in Scientology going back for decades now. I don’t know what it is about it that fascinates me but I’ve been following those guys for forever.

I’ve always known they are a cult, but only because my mom told me they were. We were riding the bus, I was maybe 10 or 11 at the time, and you know how they have advertising running all along the tops in buses? Well, there was one for the Church of Scientology, and I read it and I asked my mom, “Church of Scient-HUH?? What is THAT?”.

“Oh that?” she replied. “They’re not a church, honey, they’re a cult. Don’t pay any attention to it.”

I have no idea how she came to know it’s a cult. As far as I know, she has no first hand knowledge about the “church”, so I suspect it was just her intutition telling her so. This was back in the 70s when Scientology still had tight control over the inner workings of the group and not much was leaking out to the public. She couldn’t possibly have known about everything that’s come to light in recent years; the one thing she DID know for certain was that it had absolutely nothing to do with Christ’s Church and was to be avoided.

It was probably another 10 years before I gave them any more thought. My interest was re-piqued shortly after I got married. When we were married, my husband’s father’s side of the family didn’t attend the wedding. The came to the reception and gave us nice gifts, but they didn’t come to, you know, the important part, the wedding itself. I thought this was terribly rude and I was quite hurt (and a little bit offended) by it. And then my husband explained to me that they didn’t come to the wedding because their religion prohibited them from entering the church. This was a surprise to me because my father-in-law is Christian, as is the rest of the family.

“Well what religion are they?!?”

Some how my husband and I dated for almost 4 years without me ever finding out that his dad’s whole family (except for his dad) are Jehovah’s Witnesses! I had no frickin’ clue!

Now, it’s not like this would have been a deal-breaker for me – Your family is Jehovah’s Witness? Sorry, can’t marry you. No, it wasn’t like that…but it WAS freaky to think that a large part of my new family was in a cult.

I had concern, of course, for their spiritual well-being, and in an effort to better understand my new families beliefs and how they differed from my own, I picked up a book called Kingdom of the Cults, and I forget the author’s name…I want to say Walter Martin (or maybe Martin Walter??)…sorry, it was 30 years ago. In any case, it’s a pretty well known work – you may be familiar with it already – and it covers a bunch of the most “popular” cults, including Jehovah’s Witnesses…and Scientology.

I KNEW it!!! I totally remember thinking that.

It was hard to figure out exactly what Scientology teaches from the book. If I remember correctly, it talked about the auditing and the E-meter, but I don’t recall Xenu entering into the picture. I don’t think there was anything about the higher OT levels (where you learn the REALLY crazy stuff) although it did touch on the concept that we are all thetans (Scientology-speak for “spirits”. Over the years I’ve learned more that has filled in the gaps for me, but at the time it was pretty hard to make any sense of the stuff. It was interesting enough, but I don’t actually know any Scientologists IRL, so I didn’t put a lot of effort into unravelling it all. I was fascinated though, by how secretive the church is about their beliefs. Most churches I know are pretty upfront about their beliefs and want to share them with you! It seemed so counter-intuitive. I kept my eye open for other Scientology related info, but in those days it was pretty hard to come by.

But not too long after that, the internet happened. It won’t be a surprise to anybody who knows me that I was an early adopter of Internet technology. (No geek jokes, please!) All of a sudden there was information everywhere, at your fingertips! All you needed was a modem and a browser and poof! It’s all out there.

I don’t remember if I specifically went looking for Scientology stuff or if I just stumbled onto it while surfing, but somehow I ended up finding some anti-Scientology sites, the craziest of which was one called Operation Clambake. (It’s pretty famous, you may have heard about it.) That was where I found out about the evil Lord Xenu and body-thetans and a bunch of other insane stuff. It was so nuts that at first I didn’t believe it. I thought for sure it had to be some kind of hoax or propaganda. But it started coming up in other sources as well, and former members were starting to speak out and affirm, yeah, we believed that stuff. There seemed to be something to it after all.

It was about this time that I started hearing about this book called Barefaced Messiah, a biography of L. Ron Hubbard (the founder of Scientology) and supposedly it was composed from primary sources. I desperately wanted to get my hands on it, but the catch was, it had been long out of print and was very hard to come by.

(Years later I found a transcript of it online and I have to say if you have any interest in LRH or Scientology, this book is a must read, and the story behind the book is fascinating as well. The guy who wrote it was a Scientologist and worked FOR the church. He had access to church archives and was charged with putting the archives into order and assembling a biography of LRH from them. So, like a good little Scientologist he did what he was told, but the more he got into it, the more he was like, Guys, you really do NOT want to do this. This stuff is PROOF that LRH is a cheat, a con and a liar! You gotta feel bad for the guy, he was in an impossible situation. I guess he became completely disillusioned and if I remember correctly, he ended up sneaking the materials out (or he copied them or something, I can’t quite remember) but these documents became the source material for the book. It is meticulously researched and includes copies of the original source documents as well as interviews with personel who could verify their authenticity. In other words, the evidence he presents is beyond dispute. And the church itself provided it.)

The information in the book itself was enough to convince me that the “Church” of Scientology can be best described not as a religion but as a crime syndicate, with now-leader David Miscaviage as capo. The organization exists to defraud its members out of money through the means of fear, intimidation and mind-control disguised as a religion. It is not a religion in the legal sense of the word in that they do not perform services that contribute to the common good – When is the last time you saw Scientology out helping the poor? That’s right, never. In Scientology, the money always flows up, never down. (Just another little thing they have in common with the mob.)

In terms of their spiritual beliefs, I personally think they’re laughable, BUT – and I want to be very clear about this – I 100% affirm their right to hold them. Because I value my own right to believe what I do, I must extend my support to their right as well. They should be left alone for their beliefs. I may dispute with them over them, but I will defend their right to hold them with my dying breath. It’s THAT important to me.

It’s not their spiritual beliefs that I am speaking against, though; it is the abuses that are committed (and covered up) within the organization against its members that I object to. It would be nice to see someone held to account for the crimes but I would settle for them simply reforming their organization to end the abuse. Realistically though, I’m not sure how that would play out. Unfortunately, the “con” is baked right into their processes and without coercion and abuse, I’m not sure how they could possibly keep their existing members, let alone attract new ones. Without all the coercion and mind-control at work, people are just not that stupid!

A lot of the abuses that are just now coming to public attention have been there all along. Barefaced Messiah is decades old, but it describes the abuses within the church (in particular, the nacsent “RPF” aka Project Rehabilitation Force, basically Scientology’s version of a Maoist reconditioning camp) the details of which are horrific and hard to believe. More abuses are coming out – violent, physical punishment, forced abortions and extreme harassment are being described by former members. Momentum has been growing for the FBI to investigate them, perhaps even shut them down, while others having been making noise to have their charitable status as a religious organizations revoked. (Canada, Germany and a bunch of other countries do not recognize them as a religious organization because they fail the “public benefit” test. How they got their tax-exempt status as a religion in the US is a WHOLE other story.)

Since the advent of the Internet (funny how old Ron never saw that coming, eh?), Scientology has lost its stranglehold on the information that is made public about them. For a long time, their reputation for aggressively litigating against their detractors had a chilling effect on what people (even big news outlets) were willing to publicly say about the church. I actually had a personal experience with it once – a little incident that I now refer to as the Scientology Smackdown – when a “parishioner” intimidated me into removing something about Scientology from my own blog (!) with a strongly implied threat of legal action. This was over a decade ago, when they still had a reputation of being nasty with their critics, so I backed down immediately. Just not worth the potential hassle. What really blew me away though, was how swiftly they were able to track me down! This guy contacted me within 24 hours of posting! How do they do that?!? Being a geek, I had my suspicions and suspected they used some sort of automated system that scours the net, looking for stuff, but it still freaked me out how quickly they responded. Clearly, they were taking this stuff pretty seriously. That incident, btw, is the only time I have personally interacted with a Scientologist – I’ve never met one IRL. Everything else I am relating, I am relying on the accounts of what I consider to be credible, verified sources. So n’yaa, Scientology. Yeah, I’m still bitter, lol. What I am NOT, is afraid. Not any more.

Things have changed a lot in the last decade. The internet community (in particular, Anonymous) has changed the climate considerably. People aren’t afraid to speak out any more. The genie is out of the bottle and Scientology does not have the means to put it back. Apparently the church has a billion dollars in liquid assets so clearly they aren’t going to die out any time soon, but I suspect we are now seeing the beginning of the end for Scientology. I predict that it will disappear over the next couple of generations. I may actually celebrate! (Come after me now, Scientology. I dare you.)

No matter what I personally think of their beliefs and practices, at the end of the day what I care about most is the people who are gonna be left behind. As members begin to leave Scientology, where will they land? Even if they are lucky enough to avoid having all their family and friends disconnect from them, you have to recognize that their whole world is gonna be turned upside down. Everything they have ever believed in will be stripped away from them. It is impossible to understate the sense of loss they will experience. Everything changes. It saddens me that in many cases they have been so burned that they are cynical towards all religion. And can you blame them? It’s gonna be tough for them.

Christian friends, may I ask that you join your prayers with mine for the lost and broken lives all around us, and especially for those Scientologists who have been deceived by those whom they entrusted their spiritual well-being to? Though the number of active Scientologists is rather small now (perhaps 30,000 – 50,000 worldwide), you can be sure that in the coming years more and more of them will be rejoining the real world. Who knows, you may even meet one IRL one day, (it’s never happened to me, but it could happen) so try to be a soft place for them to land, okay? These people gonna need a lot of lovin’.

Oh, and btw, my Jehovah’s Witness relatives are still JWs. I don’t actually see them all that often – just a handful of times over the last 30 years – and that is because they are not really supposed to associate with us. My father-in-law is considered an apostate amongst his family, so maintaining a relationship with them has been tricky. If they ever decide to come out of the Watchtower, we’ll be here to catch them. In the meantime, we wait patiently and pray.

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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.

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.