Posts Tagged ‘relationships’

Two things: from the beginning, it was always God’s intention that humans should work. I never noticed it before, that “Adam” was put in the garden of Eden to tend it, his first real job. The last garden I tried to create showed me how much real work goes into sowing and growing. And secondly, “Adam” (or man … or human) was lonely without someone else of his kind (human) to do this work. That tells me that relationships are important to people. We do better together.

Genesis 2:15; 18a
The Lord God took the man [human] and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. . . The Lord God said, “It is not good for the man [human] to be alone. . .

Just like the Karate Kid, I’m guessing that Adam’s gardening gig held many unexpected byproducts of learning. Gardening teaches the cycle of life, patience, diligence, perceptiveness, creativity, consequences, and so forth. I know just enough about gardening to know how little I know. It’s one of those things I’ve always thought should have an apprentice program for those who really want to learn it. Oh, I suppose I could read a book about it, and over time, I’d learn by trial and error. But to have a master gardener next door who would be able to show and explain along the way, season by season, now that would be awesome.

The alternative, I suppose, would be to have a gardening buddy. Even if we were both novices, we would be tackling it together, discussing possibilities, sharing the workload, being encouraged, celebrating successes or mourning losses. In either case, two can learn, both from the experience as well as from one another.

The way of Christ is the same. Any spiritual way yields more fruit with a partner. I have neglected this aspect of walk for some time. I have tried to go it alone, thinking no one would be interested in cultivating what I wanted to cultivate. But maybe that’s the point, maybe it’s ok for me to want to plant perennials while another plants annuals. Or maybe I want to plant watermelons that spread out everywhere and my garden friend wants to plant potatoes deep in the earth. Isn’t the garden enhanced by both? As long as the dirt is good and nutrition filled, as long as there is water and sunlight, many different things can grow together.

I need to stop being a “spiritual snob.”


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Joseph was pretty clear on what to do about the “Mary problem.” Basically a nice guy (apparently), he would divorce her quietly and she could deal with the fall-out on her own. After all, it really wasn’t his mess. But God had another plan. So, how does God get through to us after we have already made up our minds?

Matthew 1:19
Because Joseph her husband was faithful to the law, and yet did not want to expose her to public disgrace, he had in mind to divorce her quietly.

I would like to say that I have a list of experiences where I wanted to go one way and God wanted me to go the other way and I had a convenient dream (that I remembered) and then realized, “Oh, God is speaking,” so I changed my mind. There’s a laugh.

I am stubborn and bull headed. Once I decide (and I mean really decide) to do something, it’s like pushing a boulder up a hill to get me to change. In some cases, that persistence has been a good thing. The adoption of our daughter was a two-hear slog and only our dogged faith got us through. We had plenty of people try to change our minds. After all, everything was going wrong. So, in this case, we believed God was actually in the midst of it all.

But, I know, there are many more pigheaded decisions I have made that kept the angels busy trying to break through my iron resistance. Or maybe it wasn’t even those stubborn things but the impulsive ones that caused the most complications and mistakes. I’d get something in my mind: sell the old house and get a new (debt, debt, debt); buy a new car; send the boys to private school; go on a long vacations; accept another pet (and another and another and another); or simply say something hurtful. . . because it seemed right in the moment.

Looking back, I’m sure there was a lot of wing flapping and microphone testing (“Can you hear me now?”).

So, what is the point? My decisions (or mind gripped ideas) should be given time and space to hear from God. The Holy Spirit is wondrously creative and can help work out a lot of dicey situations.

At least I didn’t purchase one of those time shares in Timbuktu.

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The bride or the “body” of Christ is also the New Jerusalem, a city. Jerusalem of old was selected to be the place of the Temple where God would dwell among the people. It was a place of connection and interaction, devotion and sacrifice, symbolism and authority. And now, we are looking to the New Way.

Revelation 21:9b-10
“Come, I [the angel] will show you the bride, the wife of the Lamb.” And he carried me [John] away in the Spirit to a mountain great and high, and showed me the Holy City, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God.

The New Jerusalem, although described as an object with gates and walls and jewel-like appearance, it is clearly John’s effort to describe the indescribable. It’s still a dwelling place, but different.

I am always reminded of one of the best sermons I ever heard on the resurrected Christ, that He was the same and yet different, in the form of a human, but with traits that exceeded anything observable as human: appearing and disappearing, solid but not solid, not confined to time and space. If the resurrected Jesus would be so different, doesn’t it make sense that the “bride” would be equally different.

In my mind, there is a foolishness to any attempts to truly understand the supernatural relationship between God and human. This binding is unique. And we can choose to be bound or be loosed from God.

Am I a spirit being or not? Is my essence within or not? I cannot convince another person of that reality through words alone because it’s not a “word” kind of thing.

Have you ever tried to remember something and seems to literally dance around the edges of your consciousness? This is how I think about the Spirit self. It’s there and not there. It’s tangible and not tangible. It’s the ultimate paradox.

And perhaps, whether it’s hard to imagine, there is something important to the otherness of Christ uniting with human. I think about the symbolism of Christ as male and the bride as female. There’s something in this oppositeness that changes the equation, that creates something new, that “New Jerusalem.” Marriages of today are experiencing a stretch beyond anything we could have imagined. Sexuality is also reaching past comfort boundaries of the past. But does that change the relationship of the Christ and the bride?

In Galations 3:28, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” These human differences do not exist in the Spirit realm, the ultimate relationship. So, despite the fact that it’s nice to have the symbolism of the traditional couple, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s necessary for the ultimate union. Just saying.

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We live in a society of relativism. And this relativism gives permission for a wide range of beliefs and behaviors. On the other hand, there are groups of people who believe they have Truth and find nothing ironic in those truths colliding, creating wars, prejudice, and hate. Where is Truth in that?

Isaiah 45:19
I have not spoken in secret, from somewhere in a land of darkness; I have not said to Jacob’s descendants, ‘Seek me in vain.’ I, the LORD, speak the truth; I declare what is right.

God’s truth is constantly being manipulated by Human. The Bible, in all of its truth, has been written by human beings, interpreted, and applied conveniently. And really, so have all of the sacred texts, from Qur’an to the Bhagavad Gita. We can all claim divine inspiration, God speaking through the hands that wrote the words down, but, in the end, truth may still elude us.

“God is Spirit and his worshipers must worship God in spirit and in truth.” [John 4:24]

All faiths, in the end, must do the same for this Spirit.

To seek God is to seek Truth and it’s bigger than a single belief, a single banner, a single slogan. It is broad and it is narrow. Truth is the ultimate paradox, encompassing all and nothing. Truth exists with or without me because God is.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.” [I Corinthians 13:12]

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Oh sure, be holy. That directive is right up there with “be skinny” or “be successful.” These states of being take a lot of work and commitment. I’m pretty sure holiness is no cakewalk either.

I Peter 1:15-16
But just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written: “Be holy, because I am holy. [Leviticus 11:44]”

I understand there’s a lot of grace involved in holiness (certainly a lot more than I have ever found in exercise or dieting). And yet, there are disciplines that must be part of the equation. If we just model holiness after Christ, there are keys to follow: sacrificial living, prayer, purity, authenticity, transparency, study, relationships with God and others, and paradoxical behaviors (as I’ve mentioned many times before).

We don’t come to these things naturally. Practice.

If I could just pick any one of these processes and focus on it, I’m pretty sure I would make more progress. But, unfortunately, I bounce around from one big idea to another, one practice to another. It’s an A.D.D. kind of thing. It’s a “Jill of all trades” kind of thing. For those of you familiar with the enneagram, it’s a “seven” kind of thing.

On the refrigerator, a well meaning friend posted a magnetic plaque that reads: “From your lips right to your hips.” Would it help me to put a little reminder on my computer: “Holiness begins with mindfulness and is watered with grace.”

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One thing that Jesus had going that Paul did not: lack of expectations. In these verses, I hear Paul’s own disappointment and frustration. “What more can I do for you?” He’s human. . . just like me.

II Corinthians 6:11-13
We have spoken freely to you, Corinthians, and opened wide our hearts to you. We are not withholding our affection from you, but you are withholding yours from us. As a fair exchange—I speak as to my children—open wide your hearts also.

How many women get frustrated at their children and mates for a lack of appreciation of the sacrifices? Periodically there are rather humorous stories of women going on strike to “wake up” their families. “Look what I’m doing here!!!!” Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Relationships often suffer from these inequalities.

Unfortunately, love has no such guarantees. We can do and love and serve but we cannot limit our doing and loving and serving to the degree of reciprocity. We’ll always be disappointed.

Oh, if I could really get this truth into my heart. If I could stop looking out for evidence of their love for me. It’s not my job to measure. Help me this day to love without fear.

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I was going to review some of the current exegesis on hair & head coverings for women and/or men and how it’s applicable today. Forget that. It’s massive and contradictory. So what is my “take away” today? Where is the nugget that will have meaning and application for me?

I Corinthians 11:2, 7
Now I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the woman is man, and the head of Christ is God . . . A man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

With just a little reading about these passages, it’s clear to me that a great number of the verses are grounded in the culture of the day. There are modern day examples of coverings like the burqas of the Middle East, the “caps” worn by Mennonite and Amish women, or the veils worn by women in various high church services and masses. Some of these traditions have morphed into the custom of wearing hats in church, a practice still prevalent among many African American churches or seasonally in a variety of churches, like Easter Sunday.

But here’s the truth of it: I don’t wear head coverings. I don’t wear them to church (unless I am visiting a church where this is expected) and I don’t wear them to pray, sing, or worship. About the only time I wear a hat is to shield my face from the sun at the beach.

If I weigh the controversy over head coverings with the Jesus Creed, to love the Lord my God with all my heart, soul & strength and to love my neighbor as myself, could it possibly matter? Does God love me less? Do I cut myself off from the blessings of God?

Now, what about the sister verses that are slipped in between the head covering ones? That “man” is the image & glory of God while woman is the glory of man or that Christ is the head of man while man is the head of woman. Hiccup. Hiccup. I need to take a breath here.

All right, I can work through the headship scenario: since Christ is the head of man, well, then Christ is ultimately the head of woman too (If A=B and B=C, then A=C). That was easy.

But what about the glory piece? Am I the light of “man?” Do I, woman, reflect the character of “man” by who I am, what I do, and what I say? Do the men I know reflect the character of God in Christ?

If my previous post about the default of glory being both male and female believers reflecting the glory of God, then, wouldn’t we be the glory for one another, whether male or female. It’s about relationships, to God and to each other. If I am not in community with men and women, there is no reflecting going on anyway. I cannot be the glory for any person without being in relationship with him or her. I cannot sustain the light of Christ if I am not in relationship there either.

I’m sure there is plenty of room for debate about these verses and the “roles” of men and women, but I’m not going to spend more time trying to justify my stance. If I can be the light and glory of Christ in the world, then the rest will work out the way it is supposed to work out. If I love as Christ loved, then glory abounds. If I learn and practice authentic humility, then both man and woman are lifted up. This I believe.

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