Thoughts on the Unity of Believers

I used to go to a church that had an orchestra playing on Sunday morning. I had a conversation with a friend the other day who had the same experience. We discussed how it was when we changed churches and the ‘new’ places don’t have what we were used to hearing. To hear only a piano and our voices really sounded different to my ears. What is neat is that not only did I adjust–I began to notice that I could hear the emotion that’s expressed in everyone’s voices as we sing. I sense our unity as we worship together. I told my friend we are really getting into it and some of these songs are 200 years old! (We also sing some that were written recently.) I always look to see who wrote what we are singing and when it was written. Yesterday, the oldest hymn we sang was written in 1561. Sometimes we sing from the Psalter and, of course, those songs are much older than our oldest hymn.

So, what’s the big deal about it being old? I like to think of all the Believers down through the centuries who have sung the same song as I’m singing it. Just think of all the folks in Europe (if it’s that old) and all the pioneers in early America and on up to now. We all are singing the same words of adoration and we are all strengthened and encouraged by them. There is a continuity and unity in that which is very comforting to me.

The same thing happens when I read a book written by a Christian who lived a long time ago. I think of all the other Christians over the years who have read and pondered the very same words. Sometimes when I read my Bible, I think of all the Christians over the centuries who have read these words in their own languages. And even at the moment I am reading and praying, there are Christians all over the world who are also reading their Bibles and we are praying to the same God; we are all part of His family.

The church is surely not a building or an organization. It is an organism that goes back to Genesis. Since the resurrection, this spiritual organism the Bible calls the Body of Christ has spread into all the world, encompassing all nations, tribes and languages–a spiritual community of believers who have been ransomed by the blood of Christ, forgiven of sin, and who are learning to walk in the ways of Jesus and look forward to seeing Him soon. And then we’ll all meet each other. What a family reunion that will be!

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The Day After Thanksgiving

Well, yesterday there were no flames or explosions so I guess Thanksgiving went well this year. One year I had marshmallows that were not just burnt but burning with flames, and yesterday I looked around just in time to see the peas boil over and completely put out the gas flame on my stove. Glad I saw it happen so we didn’t have a house full of natural gas. Kinda’ put my mom’s forgetting to take the cheesecake out of the freezer to thaw into perspective. Besides, it was probably better to let it thaw on the counter while our meal settled. Sure was good.

I know a lot of people are hitting the stores today. Black Friday is like the first day of deer season for some folks. There’s a lot of adrenaline flowing as they are on the hunt for trophies. I’ll never understand either one of them. I had good sleep and am almost finished with my shopping anyway.You may gloat along with me if you wish.

The past few weeks I’ve been sick or injured (pulled a back muscle while reaching for a cookbook that was on a bookshelf) more than I’ve been well. Yesterday was the first day I finally felt really good in quite a while. So…what to do today?

I’ve got the little stacks going here. You know how when you’ve been sick or otherwise occupied, after a few days you look around and there’s a stack of papers and stuff here and over there is another and over there …? This is also a good day to put away fall decorations and start putting the Christmas things out. I don’t think I’ll do that today though. I’d rather wait until after the stacks are tended to. It’s just more fun if the house is clean and neat.

I think what I’ll do today is head outside. While I’m full of cortisone (to cure my latest bout of the crud – crud is a medical term in Southeast Texas) would be a good time to finish building my mulch bin and clean out the weeds and add fresh mulch to the rose garden. Between cortisone and a dust mask maybe I’ll get this done without my nose going nuts. Besides, it’s a beautiful sun-shiny day. Not to work with the leaves would be a waste of cortisone and sunshine.

While I’m out I’m going to be watching for hummingbirds. I took my feeders down but still have Turk’s Cap in bloom. My friend who lives a bit north of me had a Rufous Hummingbird in her yard yesterday. I’m not giving up.

I hope you are having a good Day After Thanksgiving, too.

Addendum—added later in the day: What wuz I thinkin’? I’ve been too still for too long to do all the physical work I wanted to do today. You may laugh along with me if you wish.

Overcoming Obstacles to Being Organized

Yesterday someone saw an area of my life that is organized and she started telling me how important it is to have things in such good order, especially since this is of a medical nature.  I explained that years ago our insurance was a HMO.  Never before did I have to contact the insurance company so often. (They even got upset because I took our son to have his eyes checked to see if his glasses needed to be changed and I did it without a referral!) If I was going to keep things straight when dealing with insurance, I had to write down who I spoke with on the phone, when I spoke with them and what about, so I started a notebook. Later it occurred to me that I ought to write down what the doctor says when I see him so I put that in the notebook. Once I was filling out forms to have a test done and, oh, gee. One page asked for info on past tests and surgeries and family history. So, now I have all that in my notebook as well.

All that said, the point of this is not the notebook. The lady who admired it works in the medical field and she was telling me how important it is to have it all written down, especially what medicine I can and can’t take. Then she started telling me how unorganized she is. She has trouble remembering what she’s supposed to do when and where she’s supposed to be. Someone once gave her a little notebook to keep in her purse to help her keep up with herself but she would forget to use it. I told her that I have run out the door to the doctor’s office without my notebook so, I don’t do this perfectly!

Keeping up with our schedules and responsibilities is a matter of habit and all we have to do is change our habit. There’s a lady named Marla Cilley who calls herself Flylady. Marla says whatever we do everyday is a habit whether it’s the habit we want to have or not. So, it’s a matter of changing habits. If you aren’t familiar with Flylady and you want to build good organizational habits (she has a great way to get you through Christmas!) check out her website at http://www.flylady.net. She gets what it is to live a side-tracked life and has helped many a person (male and female) get on track with free daily email reminders. She is able to turn a lot of things that are boring – and don’t we sometimes procrastinate because it’s boring? – into a game.

One more thing to consider. I read a really good book years ago by Os Guinness, “Of Two Minds: The Dilemma of Doubt and How to Resolve It.” This book is primarily about faith, unbelief and doubt and how to work through these things but, something he said that applies to a lot of areas of life is relevant here. Our identity can get all wrapped up in our problems so that we don’t see ourselves without the problem but we see the problem as part of who we are. It’s possible that the lady I spoke with yesterday was not only telling me something about herself; she was telling me who she is. We have to be willing sometimes to want to change how we see ourselves and also deal with the change in relationship equilibrium that it causes when we do change. What if there is someone in this dear lady’s life who likes her that way? Someone who would feel threatened by her changing? Sometimes we have to be brave to change.

Well, if you would like to be more organized or, even if you just feel like you are the only person on the planet who is cleaning a house everyday and you’re tired of feeling isolated, you might like Flylady’s methods. I got her email for a few years myself and enjoyed the thought that if I was wiping down my front door (a very short, less than 10 minute chore) so were folks all over the world. I found out later that not only were the members in the US doing that little chore that day along with those in Australia, England, Spain and other countries but, so did a good friend who lives across town from me. And right now as I’m writing, I have my Holiday Control Journal (a freebie on her site), right next to me. I’ll be doing a bit of Christmas shopping today.

I Finally Got to Meet Debra Medina

We’ve got this lady named Debra Medina down here in Texas who is running for governor. I’ve read her email and her website, listened to friends who support her, found out Ron Paul supports her, got a bumper sticker and flyers and sent a few dollars to the campaign, and last night I finally got to meet Debra Medina. I wanted to observe her demeanor–to see how she carries herself and how she speaks. I’m impressed. She’s knowledgeable, authoritative, intelligent. And she’s real–nothing plastic going on there.

There was a Meet and Greet for her before a TEA Party Meeting and my husband and I went to Meet and Greet and listen to her speak. (We’re not members–just went for her part of the meeting.) Debra Medina is on the Republican ticket but I’m not holding that against her and here’s why. (After the Bush/Cheney fiasco I doubted I’d ever vote for anyone on that ticket again–unless it was Ron Paul and I’m not in his district.)

Ms. Medina believes we need to do away with property taxes. My husband and I totally agree. It always feels like we are paying yearly rent when we pay ours. How is it really our property if they can take it away if we don’t give them money? Ms. Medina recognizes that property ownership is foundational to a free and prosperous society. She has a link to the Texas Public Policy Foundation on her website which explains how the budget could be funded without property taxes.

Ms. Medina also has a great idea for right to carry law. If a person meets the criteria in Texas for carrying a gun they should be allowed to buy one, or more than one, without having to give info to the state. She said it ought to be just like buying alcohol. If you are 21 you can buy a beer without having to fill out paperwork for the government. If a person has no criminal background and would be allowed to carry a gun with a permit, then they ought to be able to show a card or something that says so and buy whatever they want with no paperwork. She said that just as the government doesn’t need to know how much alcohol we buy, it’s also none of their business what guns or how many of them a citizen owns.

She talked about the healthcare bill and asked a very good question. Where is Texas in the fight to resist this? States have been standing up to Washington lately on a variety of issues from Real ID to gun laws to medical marijuana laws. Some states are also ready to nullify any attempts by Washington to force federal healthcare on them. Last week she led the charge to get folks to contact Gov. Perry, Attorney General Abbott and their state senators and representatives and tell them we need to call a special session and be ready to legally resist.

Ms. Medina pointed out that we have 150 years of case law to overcome. The courts have been resisting the efforts of states to use the 10th Amendment for quite some time. (I think this Day and Time are different and they are not going to be able to stand up to an onslaught of resistance from states.) And she said this will take time but she believes we can push back against new unconstitutional mandates from Washington as well as undo some other things. Debra Medina said we “can’t give another inch” to Washington and also, “Either the Constitution means what it says or it doesn’t mean anything.” She pointed out something that I’ve finally figured out over the past few years. There are issues that we look at when we choose who to vote for but if we don’t elect people to office who understand how the government is supposed to work then we will–and DO–have big problems. I think we can push back against Washington, too, but it will take electing people like her. She has my vote and my husband’s as well. He told me last night that he didn’t know until he saw and heard her who he was voting for. He said will definitely vote for Debra Medina. If you want more info here’s her website: http://www.medinafortexas.com/

Spy vs. Spy (With a Nod to Mad Magazine)

Did you see 60 Minutes last night? The first story was about how vulnerable our government’s computer systems are and our utility companies and our banks. All these have been hacked into or otherwise compromised. “Otherwise” being electronic components that were installed had been embedded with code that could allow them to be controlled by someone outside the system. (Brazil has already had their power grid shut down a few times in a few different places.)

Who does this? Foreign governments and organized crime groups. During the interview, Jim Lewis, a director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, told Steve Kroft that we do the same thing. We get into the systems of other countries.  Mr. Lewis sounded sort of proud as he said “we are really good” – the “top of the league”! Oh? The US has the best hackers on the planet? Then Mr. Lewis said when Russia and China asks how we can complain about them getting into our stuff when we get into theirs, he said it was worse for them to get into our systems.  Mr. Lewis said we depend on the internet more than other countries and it is woven into our economy and military in ways that other countries haven’t done. I turned to my son who was watching this with me and said, “Look at that guy polish his halo!”  As he continued to justify and explain it dawned on me that this is Spy vs. Spy (with a nod to Mad Magazine) and this stuff has gone on probably ever since there were at least two different government entities. Unfortunately, it will continue to go on til the end of this age. This sort of thing started off with no technology – just humans getting into other humans’ government and military business for the purpose of gathering information, then it just advanced as technology advanced.  I suppose it would have moved on to interception of communications when it was just letters being carried from one person to another to use of binoculars and listening devices and wire-tapping and so on. It would be interesting to read a good book on the history of spying. The internet is just the latest technology.

As far as our power grid, Ret. Admiral Mike McConnell, who is the former director of National Intelligence, said he “would be shocked” if our power grid has not been infiltrated. He said it could be gotten into in a way that could start in one place and spread. All anyone would have to do is cause a generator to self-destruct. I think it’s nuts that those generators can’t be readily replaced. They used to be made here in this country but not anymore. Did you know they have to be ordered from overseas and it takes 3 to 4 months to get the new one? Have you ever lived without electricity? I have for a few days after a hurricane and it’s different. I’m glad I have a gas stove so I can cook and my water is also heated by gas. I have a clothesline but would have to do laundry by hand. Gas can not be pumped without electricity. Many jobs could not be carried out without electricity. I supposed retail stores would figure it out but how would food be trucked in? Would there be tanker trucks that would normally deliver gas to the gas stations parked on parking lots and selling fuel right out of the truck? That was done after one of our hurricanes. (Can’t remember which one – they all start to run together after a few of them blow through.) What really concerns me is folks in hospitals and people who have to have kidney dialysis (like a relative of mine). What would they do without electricity? Would they have to go to another part of the country to get the treatment they need? Well, I guess this is what modern warfare would be. While we wonder about ‘dirty bombs’ and missiles, our water supply could be contaminated or, our power grid or banking system could be wiped out. Yeah, someone could wipe out the records at the banks. Wouldn’t that be a mess?

But as serious as all this is, I am not so scared of the enemies of this country as I am of my own government. I’ve told as much to my senators and congressman, too. I live near ports and refineries and this would be just the place to hit if someone wanted to mess with us. I remember hearing that we were a target when we had the Cuban Missile Crisis and I was only about 6 years old. What has always concerned me more was that our government would compromise my freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, religious freedom and privacy, in a misguided effort to keep me ‘safe’. From whom? From a take-over by another country who would take away my freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom from unreasonable search and seizure, religious freedom and privacy? They have always played their spy games. But don’t go overboard and chase after US citizens. I’m just a homemaker down here in the armpit of Texas and I want to be left alone.

The Mark of a Christian

“Now may the Lord direct your hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.” (II Thessalonians 3:18) Are you a Christian? Do you read these words and sigh and think “YES”? May I be so bold as to ask if you really want this? It costs us something to love others. I’ve lost respect of folks because I’ve said we ought to approach a homosexual on the basis of love and compassion and concern for them as a fellow human being and concern for their soul. (We all bear the image of God and that should be respected.) People have rolled their eyes at me for saying such a thing. I think this was a very small price to pay myself. There are many other ways that it can cost us as well.

Two things have happened this week that have made me think about this verse. One is Katie Couric’s interview with Andre Aggasi. I’ve seen a clip; the interview will air on November 8, on 60 Minutes. In the clip, Mr. Aggasi was asked about Martina Navratilova’s reaction to his use of speed back in 1997. She had some pretty harsh criticism of him. In response, he said he didn’t think there should be no rules to be followed, but he asked for some compassion. He believes if he had some help at the time he might have behaved differently. How do we react when someone mishandles things? He was depressed when he did this. It’s been recognized that some drug users are self-medicating. Can you have compassion for someone who is hurting and is trying to fix the problem the wrong way? If you can’t be gentle with them, then you can’t help them. If you are a Christian and you have no compassion for a person’s pain, then how can you present the gospel to them? Yes, our sin causes our pain a lot of times, and Jesus died for the sins of His children. He had compassion.

The other thing is Major Nidal Malik Hassan. I’m sure you know he’s the fellow who shot all those people at Fort Hood. That was cold-blooded murder and he seems to have been motivated by his religion to do this. Whatever his motivation – if you are a Christian I’m sure you have prayed for the victims and their friends and families. Have you also prayed for Major Hassan’s soul? Have you prayed for his family? Are you shocked that I ask this? Do you believe that God can open the eyes of his heart? If not, how big is your God? If you don’t want God to do that, what kind of God do you worship? I heard on the news that someone had something to say on a website about Major Hassan rotting in Hell for what he did and they seemed glad about it. Doesn’t that attitude grieve you? If we who have experienced the graciousness and mercy of God don’t demonstrate it toward unbelievers, how will they ever believe that God is gracious and merciful? I Peter 2:3 says, “Therefore, laying aside all malice, all deceit, hypocrisy, envy and all evil speaking, as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby, if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is gracious.” “If indeed we have tasted”! Paul says. If we have, we are impressed by it! God’s mercy is amazing! And notice he mentions “malice” and “evil speaking.” We need to be careful what we say about others. By our words we’ll be justified and by our words we’ll be condemned. (Matthew 12:37) We also need to remember that Jesus said, “All that the Father gives Me will come to me, and the one who comes to me I will by no means cast out.” (John 6:37) We don’t know who God may call and we sure don’t want to be a stumbling block by our attitude, right?

What about the Apostle Paul? When he was rounding up Christians and persecuting them, (motivated by HIS religion!) I wonder who was praying for him? Surely someone did. And then later, after he became a believer, he wrote to the Christians in Thessalonica about the “love of God and…the patience of Christ.” I’ve always heard that the mark of a Christian is love. John had a lot to say about love in I John. And Jesus said we would know a Christian by their fruits. (Matthew 7:20) I looked that up once in a Greek dictionary and that word, “fruits,” is the same word that is used in Galatians 6 when Paul spoke of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. The first one he listed is love. We really need to search our hearts and make sure we aren’t looking down our noses at people who are lost. And at other Christians who struggle. We have no personal moral high ground. Isaiah says our righteousness is like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6) That means every one of us. If you have been saved from the penalty of your sin, it was the blood of Christ that saved you. You sin, my sin, put Him on the cross. We are that bad. And He is that compassionate and loving. To react in love is not our natural way, but it’s a work of God in our hearts. (Romans 7: 18-25) May God truly direct our “hearts into the love of God and into the patience of Christ.”

November 11, 2009, Addendum: Yesterday afternoon I had a conversation with a friend that caused me to wonder where I had heard that the mark of a Christian is love. I asked a couple of other friends who thought it was part of the vernacular, and didn’t know where in particular I might have picked this up. I asked my husband and he said Francis Schaeffer wrote a book about it and that is where I would have heard it originally. (I’m sure I’ve heard it many times.) The name of Dr. Schaeffer’s book is “The Mark of the Christian.” Anyway, the above is my view of how Christians are to love all men. Francis Schaeffer wrote about that, but mostly he wrote about how Christians are to love each other, and especially when they have differences. I found the book online at The Evangelical Christian Library. It takes about an hour to thoughtfully read it in its entirety. If you are interested, here is the link: http://www.ccel.us/schaeffer.html

Early November Birds and Garden

I saw my last hummingbird a few days ago. I think it was on Monday (November 3). I have a friend who lives a few miles north of me and she had three in her yard on Tuesday. I am still hoping for a Rufous Hummingbird so I’ll leave my feeders out for at least a couple more weeks. I’ve never had a Rufous in my yard but you never know. Some birds have been showing up in unusual places the past few years. We are supposed to leave those feeders out for a couple weeks after seeing the last bird anyway for the stragglers.

My friend also saw her first White-throated Sparrow of the season this week. We get those in the winter so I’ll be watching for them. There is a bird that I’ve seen a couple times lately that I have not been able to identify. I think it’s an Eastern Kingbird but I’ve not gotten a good look at the tail feathers. I need to see if it has that white bar across the bottom of the tail.

Today I heard a Catbird and a Pileated Woodpecker. I’ve also been hearing the Blue Jays. I’ll never forget the first time I heard a Catbird. I was hiking the Woodlands Trail in the Big Thicket and I’d gone off by myself. The bird was in a bush near the trail and I wasn’t sure if I was hearing a Bobcat’s kitten or not. I didn’t know whether to hang around or get out of there. Later I learned what the Catbird sounds like and I knew that was what I heard. The Pileated Woodpecker sounds like a tropical bird. I love to hear them; makes me think of tropical jungles.

Well, it was sort of like a tropical jungle in my back yard today. I was wrestling weeds while feeding mosquitoes. (Feeding: they were biting me!) It’s always mosquito season around here. It’s been worse this year because we had Hurricane Ike last year. Hurricanes bring them in from the marshes so we have marsh mosquitoes in addition to our usual swamp and field and city mosquitoes.

The frustrating thing is the mosquitoes but the neat thing is the really long garden season we have here. I planted herbs Monday. Fall is the best time to plant the herbs that like cool weather if you live in South Texas or along the coast. I planted parsley, dill, cilantro and spearmint. I’d like to make dill bread later on. And I use the parsley to help with asthma. It’s an expectorant and an anti-spasmodic; it helps me with very mild asthma. I wouldn’t use it for a bad attack! I’m looking forward to using the spearmint in tea and cilantro goes great with Mexican food.

My husband planted a Satsuma tree last winter and he got a few satsumas off it already this year. The man at the nursery told him he will get more next year and by the third year he will be giving them away. I hope to make some marmalade or something in a year or two.

I sure am looking forward to the New Heavens and the New Earth so we won’t have to wrestle with mosquitoes and weeds. In the meantime I’ll just have to keep at it and do what I can to create a bit of beauty and order around here.