Binding Judgement

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Binding Judgment.”

  1. Got a lot to get done – make a list.
  2. Not sure what steps to follow – make a list.
  3. Want people to read your post – write a list.

I am a person who likes to make and follow lists.  Lists help me stay on task, ensure nothing is forgotten, keep me organized.  Many years ago I was invited to a “Woman’s Retreat”.  I was not exactly sure what that was but I was a mom with three very young kids and the prospect of a week-end away with NO, kids, cooking or laundry sounded amazing.  Besides that I liked the woman who invited me, it sounded relaxing, it was not costing me anything, why not?

Fortunately for me, the invitation included a list!  A list of all the things I should bring to the “Retreat”.  Most of the things were pretty obvious: clothes, medications, shampoo, toothpaste, sleeping bag – oh yes, it was a camping retreat so a pillow was also on the list.  The last items on the list were a pen and notebook.  Guess they expected me to listen and take notes at some point.

The next to last item on the list made me frown – a Bible.  Now this was not unexpected since it was a “Church Women’s Retreat” but it was a problem; I did not own a Bible.  What to do?  Follow the list, go to a bookstore, acquire a Bible – easy!

The bookstore had more Bibles than I had ever seen.  Bibles with leather covers, covers in all different colors, study Bibles, different versions of the Bible (there’s more than 1 version?), paperback Bibles, large print Bibles – racks and rows of Bibles – who knew?  But, Bible was on the list, end of discussion.

I did not want to make a big investment here.  I just needed it for this week-end, I was not planning on using it much after that.  Since I am also an experienced shopper I knew that in every supermarket the cheaper items are always on the bottom shelves so I figured that would be true for the Bibles.  Score!  The bottom shelf had the “generic”, plain and cheap old Bibles; no study notes, no fancy covers, mostly black, fake leather and cardboard.

I chose one that was about $6, not too big, with a cardboard cover, plain dark brown, gold letters, Holy Bible – thats’ it.

The week-end was nice, the ladies were friendly, the food was good and the games were fun.  I returned home to the kids and husband and laundry and cooking and cleaning.  The Bible sat on the shelf.

The Bible seemed to be on the “Things to Take to Church” list so I began to carry it with me on Sunday mornings; everyone else carried one.   I took it off the shelf every Sunday morning and put it back every Sunday afternoon; my plain, cheap, brown Bible with it’s gold letters.  I started to read it but I don’t recall when, I do remember trying to figure out how the stories I heard as a teenager seemed so different from what was actually written in my Bible.  The stories I read in the Bible seemed so much more complex, deeper, full of meaning than what I remembered.  I began to read the Bible more often.  I fell in love with Jesus.

Now, many years later the cheap, brown cardboard covered Holy Bible is back on the shelf.  You probably wouldn’t even notice it there among all the other, more colorful books.  Some of the pages are falling out.   Some of the gold lettering is worn away.   Many of the pages are full of notes and markings, sections are underlined and marked with yellow and pink highlighters.  Notes, cards, names and dates are written on both the front and back flyleaf.  I don’t bring the cheap brown Bible to church any more because it is now too fragile and precious to me.

The words printed inside, on the pages of my cheap, brown Bible, and the God who wrote them, changed my life for eternity and I am eternally grateful.  You cannot judge a book by its cover.

I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.  Psalm 119:11

Your word, Lord, is eternal; it stands firm in the heavens.  Psalm 119:89

How sweet are your words to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth.  Psalm 119:103

Your word is a lamp for my feet. a light on my path.  Psalm 119:105

Binding Judgment

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Here’s Your Sign

It caught my eye.  A sign.  Lots of places have signs and I like finding those with cute or catchy sayings; some very funny signs are outside churches:

  • “Wal-mart isn’t the only saving place.”
  • “Experts made the Titanic, amateurs made the ark.”
  • “God answers knee-mail.”

You get the idea, you can find many more on the internet.  The church sign that caught my eye today was simple and to the point,

“Christians Meet Here”

My first crushing thought was, “No wonder people hate us.”  I was offended by this sign.  Is this church saying they have an exclusive club that only Christians are invited to join?  Are non-Christians not welcome to attend a service or event?  Is it an arrogant declaration that Christians are better than everyone else?  Now, I realize there is more than one way to interpret and read this sign and I am sincerely hoping that this church had the best of intentions but to me that was unclear.

Sadly, a common reason people give for NOT going to church is that they did not feel welcomed,  they felt out of place or they did not feel like they fit in.  One of the things that made me fall in love with Jesus was His ability to speak to anyone and make everyone feel like they had His undivided attention for those moments; He looked at people.  I suggest we, like Jesus, need to much more intentional when we attend our churches.

We need to be intentional in looking for someone we don’t know, especially anyone who looks confused or seems to be alone.  We need to be intentional in focusing on the person we don’t know rather than our comfortable group of friends.  We need to be intentional in not sitting in our “self-assigned”,same seat but moving around so we can greet someone we have not greeted in the past.  Oh, and just another pet peeve, I hate greeting time; if you are the “new person” it is terribly awkward when everyone else is hugging and talking and you are just standing there.  Pastors, if your church does a greeting time, keep it very short – I have been in churches where greetings went on for several minutes; I never go back to those churches.

Church is not about me and getting my needs met; that is a blessed by-product of church participation.  Church is about what I can offer to God and His people.  The only thing God wants, the most important thing to bring to church is my heart, uncertain, searching, broken, wounded, open and sometimes full.  Had that sign, Christians Meet Here, been on the church I visited years ago my unbelieving heart might still be on the outside looking in…

My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism.  For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?   James 2:1 – 4

February Book Review

I am participating in a community event organized by a fellow blogger at Weird and Wonderful

The book I am reviewing for the month of February is: The Optimists Daughter by Eudora Welty.  I chose this book because of my personal challenge to read all of the Pulitzer Prize Winners for Fiction; I have read some amazing books from this list!

Eudora Welty is considered one of America’s most admired authors.  Born in 1909 in Jackson Mississippi, her first book was published in 1941 and several others followed in quick succession. Welty then stopped publishing for several years, resuming again in 1970.  In 1972 she produced The Optimists Daughter, which was the winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1973.  Welty died in 2001 in her life-long home, Jackson Mississippi.  (Welty’s bio)

The Optimists Daughter is a short novel, less than 200 pages, and the first book by Welty that I have read.  The story itself is simple.  Laurel McKelva Hand has traveled to New Orleans to be present for Judge McKelva’s surgery, the Judge is Laurel’s father.  Laurel’s mother had died after a long illness years earlier and her father has since remarried a much younger woman named Fay.  Laurel herself is also a widow, her husband died a year after their marriage in an attack on his naval ship during WWII.  Laurel’s father never fully recovers from the surgery and dies while still in the hospital.   Laurel and Fay travel by train to escort his body back to the family home in Mississippi for the funeral.

The story packs an emotional wallop as it deals with loss and grieving.  Welty’s ability to tell the story primarily through the dialogue of each character is masterful.  Welty imparts a distinctive voice to each person which enabled me to visualize them.  Much of the story is told by the other characters, Laurel herself says very little, keeping her thoughts and feelings contained within herself as she observes and listens to the others.  Each person in the story has different reactions to Judge McKelva’s death and again, Welty portrays each one vividly with her thoughtful descriptions, pacing and word choices.

I don’t want to give too many details about the plot or characters since I, as a reader, prefer to uncover them myself but one group of characters were particularly endearing, “The Bridesmaids”.  This group of women, friends since childhood, were Laurel’s bridesmaids at her wedding and all six of them show up at the train station and several other times in the story.  I loved how faithful, protective and supportive they were to Laurel, here is an excerpt from their reunion at the train station:

Tish Bullock winked at Laurel.  It was a moment before she remembered: this was the bridesmaids automatic signal in acute joy or distress, to show solidarity.

After the funeral, Laurel remains alone in the family home with her grief, searching for meaning, memories and understanding of her past and it’s relationship to the present.  Sooner or later, and like Laurel, each of us will deal with this most common human experience  – the death and loss of people we love.  Beautifully told, full of emotion, I definitely recommend a slow, thoughtful reading of this book.

And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.” Revelation 21: 3, 4

Book Review Day

Snap Out of It!

Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things. Philippians 4:8

In one my all time favorite movies, Moonstruck,  Ronnie (Nicholas Cage) has just professed his love for his future sister-in-law, Loretta (Cher).  In this classic scene she looks him in the eye, slaps him and yells, “Snap out of it!”

We all need a good dose of “Snap Out of It!” from time to time.

  • Are you having a little pity party because you didn’t get your way?  Snap Out of It!
  • Feeling grumpy today cupcake?  Snap Out of It!
  • Just not “feeling it”  at work?  Snap Out of It!
  • Don’t want to tackle that sink full of dirty dishes?  Snap Out of It!
  • Nobody noticed you got a haircut?  Snap Out of It!
  • Angry at getting caught doing something you shouldn’t?  Snap Out of It!
  • Jealous of your friend’s cute boyfriend?  Snap Out of It!
  • Complaining about grocery shopping?  Snap Out of It!
  • Disappointed with having to shop at thrift stores?  Snap Out of It?
  • In love with a person who is wrong for you?  Snap Out of It?

We put a lot of emphasis on our feelings and emotions and we can easily mistake feelings for reality.  I never “feel” like doing the laundry but I do it every week because I like having clean clothes and cannot afford to buy new ones all the time!  Life lived on feelings and not facts is a roller coaster you don’t want to ride.

There is no question life can be disappointing and frustrating.  Many things happen that we cannot control and did not cause but we can always, ALWAYS control how we respond to disappointment, frustration, betrayal and loss.  We can choose to respond honestly. focus on the lesson learned, and turn it back to praise.  Don’t bury the emotions but don’t dwell on them or let them define or identify who you are.  Find the help and support you need, remember it is not about you, ask God to correct your thinking, pull up your big girl (or boy!) pants, pray, a lot, and move on.

Sound too simple for you?

Snap Out of It!

Silver Screen

The Precious Word

A touching reminder that we need to continually treasure the Word in our hearts and also in our hands.  I am so grateful I can carry, read, hear and speak the Word of God freely at any time.

…He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord.”  Deuteronomy 8:13

…turn up the volume for this one…

 Bibles

Travel Plans

Traveling is one of my favorite things.  I love thinking about, planning and going on trips, day trips, week-end getaways, week long vacations and I have been fortunate to have taken many different trips.  Moses and the Israelites spent quite a bit of time traveling also.  Chapter 33 of the book of Numbers includes a detailed list of the “journeys of the sons of Israel.”  But now, their 40 years of wandering in the desert were finished and they were poised to enter the Promised Land.  Sadly, those who would enter the Promised Land were the second generation of those who had left Egypt – all of the original group, except for Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Caleb had died and, in verse 38, Aaron dies.

When anyone in our family is getting ready to leave on a trip of a week or more, we call each other.  I think of these as our “just in case” calls.  Just in case some disaster or problem occurs either at home or with the travelers; it seems good to touch base, make sure we know the when’s and where’s of the trip, remind them that we will be thinking of them, praying for them and hoping they are having a wonderful time!  God had some final important instructions for Moses and the Israelites before they step into the Jordan, the last leg of their long and difficult journey.

Then the Lord spoke to Moses in the plains of Moab by the Jordan opposite Jericho, saying, “Speak to the sons of Israel and say to them, ‘When you cross over the Jordan into the land of Canaan,  then you shall drive out all the inhabitants of the land from before you, and destroy all their figured stones, and destroy all their molten images and demolish all their high places;  Numbers 33:50-52

  • Drive out the inhabitants
  • Destroy their figured stones and molten images
  • Demolish their high places

This sounds so harsh, the people currently living in the Promised Land were idol worshipper’s and God’s plan was that the Israelites were to be set apart to worship Him and Him only.  God knew their tendency to be led astray and powerfully influenced by others and we are no different. We all have one or more idols in our lives; our modern day idols are less obvious than those made of stone but are no less tempting.  Our idols can be much more subtle, things like status, financial security, physical appearance, another person.  We give our idols cute names like career advancement, investment strategy, meaningful relationships – now don’t misunderstand me; these are all good things but when they take first place in our time, energy, hearts and minds they become idols.  Driving out these “inhabitants” may mean changing the people, places and things in our lives.  Is your group of friends more interested in hitting the clubs than in encouraging your walk with God – you might need different friends.  Does getting that promotion mean eliminating family time, cutting out church – your job title could be your “molten image”.  Are you spending more time with your TV than with God and His Word – the recliner has become your “high place”.

God tells Moses what will happen if the idol-worshippers and idols are not removed…

But if you do not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you, then it shall come about that those whom you let remain of them will become as pricks in your eyes and as thorns in your sides, and they will trouble you in the land in which you live. Numbers 33:55

When we don’t eliminate the idols in our lives we can expect the same results:

Pricks in the eyes – ever get something in your eye?  It is difficult to concentrate on anything until we remove that grain of sand.  What we see affects and changes what we think.  If we focus on our idols our thinking gets twisted and confused and the idol becomes our priority; we focus on the created thing and not our awesome Creator.

Thorns in our sides – being a “workaholic”, “couch potato” or party animal all will have a serious affect on our health.  Worry will replace peace, frustration and anger will replace joy.  Science is revealing what God has always said, stress saps your strength and can definitely shorten your life.

Trouble in the land – it is impossible to serve two masters.  Worshipping power, position and money destroys families and relationships.  The idol of self-gratification results in everyone doing what is right in their own eyes, usually at the expense of others.  These earlier, idol-worshipping societies did not survive, eaten away from the inside out,  imploded on themselves.

Discovering our personal idols and then eliminating them will take prayer, discernment and discipline; it may require making some difficult changes to the people, places and things of our lives.  The Christian Life is the trip of a lifetime, worth thinking about, planning and enjoying into eternity.  Have a wonderful journey!

You Get What You Get

There was a very limited menu in the home I grew up in and my kids were raised in the same kind of home.  Meals were prepared, you sat down to eat and you ate what was served.  Most meals were planned and prepared based on Dad’s favorites, available budget and Mom’s inspirations.  As a kid, we never ate brussels sprouts, casseroles, or raw broccoli because my Dad did not like those; we did eat mashed potatoes, gravy, pot roast and roast chicken – big Dad favorites.  In my home, I do most of the meal planning and always have, in general I did it the way my mom did, I cooked what my husband and I liked and what the budget would allow.  I did try to include some kid favorites such as macaroni and cheese.  My kids never had to eat brussels sprouts either but they were expected to eat whatever was cooked and served without complaining.

I didn’t have a lot of patience for complaints about the food choices then and I still don’t have a lot of patience with complaints or complainers; it is all too easy complain and once that train gets rolling it is very difficult to stop.  The Israelites apparently complained loudly and often, there are numerous episodes of their complaining recorded in the Old Testament.

The book of Numbers, chapter 10 verse 33 tells us that the Israelites left the mount of the Lord and walked for three days, their first, organized march.  They had spent a year camped in the desert and at the end of these first 3 days they set up camp; Numbers 11 records that they immediately start complaining!

They complain about the situation they are in,

“Now the people became like those who complain of adversity in the hearing of the Lord;”

And then they complain about what they are not eating,

Who will give us meat to eat? We remember the fish which we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers and the melons and the leeks and the onions and the garlic,”.  

Next they complain about what they are eating, 

“There is nothing at all to look at except this manna.”

Moses jumps on the “Complain Train” bemoaning the difficulty of leading these baby whiners,

I alone am not able to carry all this people, because it is too burdensome for me.  So if You are going to deal thus with me, please kill me at once,”

God’s anger is kindled greatly and He has a dramatic and swift response to this chorus of complaints:

  • Warning – the Lord sends a fire that burns the outskirts of the camp.  Certainly God could have burned it all, He chose to burn just some and the fire died out when Moses interceded in prayer.  Has God given you a gentle warning?  Are your complaints becoming tiresome to those around you?
  • Mercy – God anoints 70 elders, men to assist Moses in listening to complaints and settling disputes.  There were over 600,000 adult male Israelites at this time and an unknown number of women and children, a lot of complainers and problems.  Have you considered that God may be holding back on allowing some bigger/worse problem your way?
  • Provision – God sends quail and lots of it, 36 inches deep worth of quail.  I have never eaten quail but I guess it would be a welcome change from manna.  Most people are like me, I have everything I need to survive, maybe not exactly what I want but what I truly need.  Does this describe your life?  Am I, are you, grateful for what you do have?
  • Punishment – Plague, possibly a result of all the quail, rotting since there was too much of it to collect, clean and cook.  The people were so greedy the place was renamed Kibroth-Hattaavvah, Graves of Greediness.  God is patient and long-suffering but He is also just, He will never protect us from experiencing the consequences of our choices.

I cannot be too hard on these Israelites because this sounds so like me at times.  I complain because it is too hot or too cold, my feet hurt, I’m tired, I don’t like where I am, I want to be somewhere else, I have to dust the stuff I have, I can’t afford to buy more stuff, I wish I could afford a steak, I am sick of eating salads, brussels sprouts look and smell weird, my clothes are shrinking, I have no time to exercise, exercise is too difficult, and on and on and on it goes.

Complaints are an insult to God.  Complaining sends the message that God’s gifts are just not good enough.  Philippians 4:6 tells me that I am free to ask God for whatever I want but I need to ask humbly and receive whatever He sends with gratitude.  This story makes me think of Violet Beauregarde from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  She’s the greedy girl who wants everything she sees.   She ignores Willy Wonka’s warning about his experimental chewing gum, grabs it and pops it into her mouth.  She begins to turn a delightful shade of blue and inflates, turning into a huge round blueberry.

So be careful!  You get what you get but when you get what you want it might make you sick but not to worry, no brussels sprouts served in this house!