70 times 7

A really good friend of mine is going through some difficulty right now with a few family members of the man she’s going to marry–one in particular. Her fiance has gone through his share of difficulty, and with God’s help, has emerged on the other side of it. He is a changed person, and that is not only due to Jesus, but also to his relationship with my friend. I believe that God, through their relationship, has grown both of them tremendously.

But this person(s) in my friend’s fiance’s family has chosen not to see that, but rather to condemn. This person was mean, and condescending, and holier-than-thou in a very Pharasiac (or Pharisitic–I don’t know) sort of way. I wonder, if Jesus were to materialize in the deep south, while this nice person was sipping a sweet tea on their porch, would they condemn him for eating with tax collectors and sinners?

Just look at what God has done in both of their lives. LOOK AT IT!! Look at Grace. Grace does not condemn. It saves, it blesses, it heals. And I believe that while scripture can be twisted to support any point of view, that is not why God gave it to us. It’s there to edify us, to teach us, and like Grace, to bless us. I’m sure if I tried hard enough, I could find a few verses to justify sticking grapes up my nose during worship on a Sunday morning. BUT THAT DOESN”T MEAN I SHOULD, or that it’s how God meant those verses to be interpreted.

Wait, did I just say interpreted? I did.

The reaction of this person reminds me of the fundamentalist movement of the 1980’s, which was almost exclusively condemnatory. And what it did was turn many, many people away from God, myself included. I think if you want people to find God, or turn to him in any sort of real way, you have to show them his love. That’s what saves us. Not anger, not hate, not condemnation for someone a person may not even really know, or a situation they aren’t even a part of.

Jesus did not come to condemn people, but to save them. Love them. Father them.

My first response to my friend’s situation was anger, lots and lots of anger. It felt justified. Feels justified, and maybe, probably is. That feeling of anger was probably reflected in my first couple of paragraphs.

But when I think about it, my condemning this unknown family member is much the same as what they did. I know this person is speaking out of their own brokenness. But that does not make it any easier for my friend. I spoke to her briefly and she said something that’s very true.

The hurt hurt, or words to that effect. Because this person was hurt themself in some way, their instinct (and pain) causes them to lash out. They may not even realize they’re doing it. But that doesn’t make it right.

Man, forgiveness is tough. It really is. It sounds like the person who lashed out and hurt my friend (I imagine her fiance as well), has a heart lacking forgiveness. This person needs to find it, and soon. That’s the key, of course.

I heard Miles McPherson say something in a sermon not long ago that just occurred to me. He said it in regard to dealing with people that he did not necessarily agree with, or have some sort of problem with, or even dislike. What he did in dealing with them was simply to remind himself that no matter how he saw the person, that person was someone Christ died for.

So when I think about this person, I need to remind myself of that very thing. Yeah, I’m angry on my friend’s behalf, and it upsets me that this person passes out judgement like a prize. In God’s name, no less. So what I’m going to try and do (no promises), is to forgive. And pray. Pray God shines his light into her heart, and heals it. Helps her to see the truth of things–His truth, not hers.

Forgiveness, man. That’s a bitch. I guess I needed to process a little. I’m going to go ahead and post this without editing out anything. It was what I thought, and think. I guess take it for what it is.

More to pray about, anyway.

Church visit

I visited a church yesterday.  I’d been there once before to hear a guest speaker (Sy Rogers), but hadn’t heard the regular pastor speak.  I did listen to a couple sermons online to get a sense of the guy, but it’s hard to tell about someone from just an audio recording.  Anyway, the short version is that it was a pretty good sermon.  Pastor Jurgen discussed the breaking of vows, which was interesting, considering the Eldredge passage I wrote about the other day.  The only thing about that place, though (Christian City Church), is that it’s a little more charismatic than I’m used to.  He did an altar call at the end, and asked people to come up if they wanted prayer, or needed to break some vows they’d made.  I saw some of the ushers kind of standing behind people, and after a moment, I realized why.  Three or four of them hit the deck after he laid hands on them.  Hadn’t seen that before.

Still, it was an interesting sermon.  And the main thing I wanted to say about it was this.  The pastor said something that really stuck in my mind.

“Unforgiveness is like taking poison and hoping the other person will die.”  Or words to that effect.

How true is that?  Lord knows I’ve spent enough time trying to forgive people.  I need to think about that some more. 

Like taking poison, and hoping the other person dies…..

 

hmmm

woke up thinking….

This morning I woke up thinking about someone who I haven’t thought about in a very long time.  She’s not in my life anymore, but she played a very significant part in helping me find Jesus again.  I don’t know where I’d be today if it weren’t for her.  And I don’t think I ever said thank you…

I met Tikva about three years after I became a Christ follower.  The honeymoon part of my relationship with Jesus was over, and the struggles had begun in earnest.  I had stopped attending church for the most part, and my devotional life was non-existent.  I didn’t talk to God, and he didn’t talk to me.  Or at least I wasn’t listening when He did.

In summer 2002, I had this part time job as a projectionist for Regal Cinemas, and one day I had a casual conversation with one of the box office girls.  The first thing I noticed about her is that she was really tall (5′ 10″), and she was also really pretty.  Blonde hair, beautiful blue eyes.  And one of the nicest people I’d ever met.  But she was young (18 at the time), and a freshman college student.  Over the course of the conversation, she happened to mention her faith–said she was a Christian.

Me, too, I replied, and didn’t think much more of it.  A few weeks after that, I was at a Padres game when they still played at Qualcomm Stadium.  After the game, some of the players that were believers on both teams gave brief testimonies.  I hadn’t known this was going to happen, but my friend and I had stayed afterward because we were trying to sober up.  I remember looking down over the railing, and seeing Tikva in the section below.  I sunk back in my seat, not wanting her to see me all wasted.  So listened to a few of the testimonies, and my friend squirmed in his seat. 

 I don’t remember feeling particularly convicted by any one of the testimonies, but seeing Tikva there and feeling embarassed made me feel more than a bit self-conscious about some of the things in my life, though I did not yet feel like I needed to change anything.  I was fine, I thought.

A few days after that, I saw Tikva at work again, and mentioned that I’d seen her at the game.  She remarked how she loved hearing the stories that had been shared, how it was nice to hear that people for whom it would be so easy to give in to the world, instead gave in to Jesus.  And then she took a long look at me and said, “you should come to church with me sometime.”

“Why do you say that?” I asked.

“You look like you need it,” she replied.  I tried not to be offended, but had to concede she was right.  How does a person look when they need church, or need God, I wondered?  I never did get around to asking.  But we exchanged numbers, and a couple weeks after that I called her (in her dorm, no less), and we went.

She attended the Rock church, back when it met in Golden Hall at SDSU, and it amazed me how quickly God began to work in my life after that.  The first thing that came back was curiousity about His word, and the deep need to have Jesus working in my life.  It came in increments, and it took a little while, but it came, and it felt awesome.  But it also became obvious the Rock was not for me, and after a short while, I began to attend a Sunday morning group at Shadow Mountain with another couple of friends, while also attending Sunday evenings at the church of my friend from college.

And Tikva and I began to spend a great deal of time together.  We were briefly involved, but nothing much ever came of it.  We did not become sexually involved at all, we just really liked each other’s company, and it was great to have someone to go to church with.  But that ended, like things sometimes do, and I eventually committed to Calvary Baptist full time, getting baptized in January of 2003. 

I kept working at the theater, and Tikva and I remained pretty good friends.  I was cruising for a while, and felt good most of the time. I’d stopped filling the gaps in my life with crap, for the most part, and I was talking to the Lord pretty regularly.  It was great.

And then I began to spend time with a young woman at the theater who was going through some difficulties in her marriage.  Her name was Kristin, and she would be another person who had a profound effect on my life, but that’s a story for another time.

For now, I’m just grateful that God sent Tikva into my life when He did.  I know Garth Brooks said it first, but I guess the Good Lord knows what he’s doin’ after all…

so thanks, Tikva.  I hope you’re well!

Agreements and lies

I’m reading this John Eldredge book right now, and it’s really interesting. It’s more or less the story of his own devotional life over a year, through all kinds of circumstances. The passage I read yesterday was talking about his “story of love.” Not his love story, as in with his wife, but rather his experience with God’s love, and the agreements he’s made about it, because of experiences throughout his own life. Or put a different way, the lies he’d come to believe about God and his love.

He talks about how one of the agreements was “love never stays.” It’s easy to imagine how this would affect your life. If, because of a personal experience, you’d come to believe that God’s love would not and does not endure, like whatever had happened in your life. Like what happened in Eldredge’s. To me, that would make it very difficult to both love, and accept love from others. At least, that’s the way it worked for me. I’m still not very good at accepting love from people. Not family, and not friends most of the time. It makes me a little uncomfortable.

My few experiences with romantic love had left me either raw and hurting, or cold. When I gave my heart to someone, they would hurt me. Therefore God would do the same. And when I added to that my experience with my parents, it left me believing that not only had they suffered my existence without really caring much about it, but that God had done the same. I believed this garbage for most of my life, even after becoming a believer. I can see that now.

And because of that belief, because I knew in my heart that love was not something that endured, that it either faded like an old pair of jeans or disappeared completely (if it was ever there at all), I lived my life accordingly. I took comfort in the short term. In things, rather than God, family, or friends. In food, in alcohol, in empty relationships. I tried and failed to fill an immense void in my heart and my life.

I did this for such a very long time. I believed it was how my life would always be.

Thankfully, I was able to open up my heart enough to God that I had the experience of letting him fill it. It wasn’t easy, and it took a long time to get there. But it finally happened. And reading that passage from Eldredge the other day made me realize that this filling needs to take place daily. I need to make that, or rather allow that to happen. Because if I don’t allow my heart, my self, to be filled with the Love and comfort of God, something else will fill it. And there is nothing the enemy would like more than for me to come to more agreements about God.

That’s the other thing. I know I have more agreements about God. I know there are lies I believe that I have not uncovered yet. I think it takes an emotional trigger to uncover them. And once uncovered, I can hold them up to God’s truth. I suppose I need to pray for triggering then, don’t I? I need light shined on the hidden places in my heart. And the cool thing about God is that he will not remove something without replacing it with something else. When I relinquish my death grip on those old lies and agreements, Jesus replaces them with truth.

Another point Eldredge makes is that we can also come to positive agreements about God.

That He will always be there.

That he loves not just us, but me.

That His love endures.

Give thanks to Lord, for He is good, His love endures forever…

That snatch of song just occurred to me. How interesting the ways God chooses to reveal truth. Through song. Poetry. A word from a friend, even.

Anyway, it’s 6:30 a.m., and I just remembered that I forgot to feed Kiki and Little Man. I remembered that I forgot. is that even possible?

….sigh…..

Better Questions

I’ve been thinking a lot about my older brother lately.  This is a man I have not had any sort of contact with since I was in my early 20’s.  He no longer lives in California, and in truth, does not associate with most of the family.  I don’t think this is really by design on his part, or on any of my sisters, but it is nonetheless how we are.  And to be honest, I don’t care if he lives in a chicken shack somewhere in Kansas–I just don’t want to see him, or really even know about him. 

So why am I thinking about him then?  Because it bothers me that I don’t care about him.  This is a person who is responsible for many of my literal and figurative scars, and many of my core woundings, and on the surface, that might even make sense–he doesn’t deserve to be cared for, right? 

I know in my heart that isn’t the truth, and I’m trying to find a way through those feelings.  I believe I’ve been through forgiveness for my brother, but I’m finding out that isn’t the same thing as love, though it is a part of it.  I don’t feel like I love Tim, and I can’t imagine right now that I ever possibly could.  How many times should I have to forgive him?  Seventy times seven, I know, I know. 

But how do I move on to love?  I want to.  It doesn’t feel right to have a vacuum in my heart when I think about a person.  And that’s exactly how it feels.  Forgiving is not forgetting, and I’d like more than anything to be able to forget and move on with things.  Should I forget?  Probably not.  Certainly not, even.  I know Jesus’ heart broke for me during the trying times, I know that in my own heart, and that truth has been part of my own healing journey with Him.  And I suppose I even know in the abstract that Jesus’ heart broke for Tim as well.

There’s a reason somewhere for the boy he was, and the man he became.  He has his own woundings, and scars, and all those things I have. We had the same parents and upbringing.  Yet he got it a little more hardcore from my parents than I did–all I got was apathy to my existence.  So what do I do? 

Obviously, I need to ask Jesus about it, and this is certainly something to bring up during therapy.  How does a man move from hate, to indifference, to forgiveness, to apathy, to love?

Do I simply try to remind myself that this person who so profoundly affected my life is also, like myself, someone Jesus died for?  I’m sure that’s part of it.  Is it OK not to love your brother?  It doesn’t feel like it.   How do I get healing for something that doesn’t really even feel like a wound most times?  Can a heart be soft in some places, and hard in others?  Have I really even forgiven?  Can I be forgiven myself?  Is there something within me that I need to ask Tim’s forgiveness for?  What does brotherly love even feel like?

So much to pray about, and talk to Jesus about.

….sigh…I have better questions, than I have answers…

Lorica

 

I’ve always been fascinated by worship music, even before I was a Christian.   I liked the contemporary style Christian music, too—there were several groups when I was growing up in the 80’s that weren’t too bad.  Well, Petra wasn’t too bad, or Barren Cross—but there were quite a few groups that were not very…well thought of. Stryper comes to mind. A great many people bought their records in droves, but most people outside of Christianity (and many within) condemned them for many things. Too hard. Too soft. Poor singing and playing. I thought they were ok, and no doubt they were successful, but…they took a lot of heat.    Where was I?  Oh, yeah.

 Worship music.

 It’s always impacted me, even when I didn’t understand it. I think maybe the first worship song I ever heard was toward the end of the movie The Color Purple, where Shug Avery is trying to lift Miss Celie’s spirits by singing to her at the neighborhood juke joint.  The scene cuts to her estranged father’s church, where the people worshipping hear the music start up at the juke (Shug’s father hasn’t spoken to her since her adolescence, when she began singing, and leading a…colorful life).  The choir huddles briefly and then begins singing God is Trying to Tell You Something.

     Shug hears the song begin, and the young soloist’s voice begin to soar, and she stops singing Miss Celie’s Blues.

“…can’t sleep and night, and you wonder why

     maybe God is trying to tell you something…”

    She closes her eyes for a moment and then begins to sing the hymn, softly at first, then with more and more power.  She leaves the juke, and begins the short walk to the church, with the juke patrons following in her wake.  She is resplendent in a yellow dress, and with her arms flung out, she walks into the church, her voice huge, powerful, feeling the words, feeling the power of the song, and getting it. 

     The young soloist steps back into the choir, recognizing that the moment is not about her; it’s about the two people before her: Pastor, and “fallen” woman, the prodigal daughter at last returned.

     Shug steps to her father, and he just looks at her for a long moment, then slowly takes her into his massive arms.  He has heard her, and finally gotten it himself.  He’s understood the most basic of truths about God; he will tell you something.  He will knock you off your high horse the moment you let him.  He will help you to forgive, and to repent.  And as Shug’s father, the fiery pastor, holds his beloved daughter, she whispers to him, “See Daddy, sinners have soul, too.”

 

     Darn! I got lost again.  Right, right. That was the first worship song I heard.  And it demonstrated to me—or allowed me to picture—the powerful changes that God can bring about in a person’s life.  That music can bring about in a person’s life.

     It’s impossible to count how many times I’ve been moved by the music since I’ve been at Canyon Viewand on the beach.  Ron is amazing, and we’re all so very lucky to have him, or any one of probably a dozen people on that worship team.  Of course, not every song will connect, but when they do, it’s truly like nothing else I’ve ever experienced.  There’ve been so many songs over the past three years, but I think the one that’s always really gotten to me the most—like God Is Trying To Tell You Something did for Shug’s father—is Be Thou My Vision.  And it isn’t just about being moved, though it is extremely moving.  Just look at some of the words:

 Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart

Naught be all else to me save that thou art

Thou my best thought by day or by night

Waking or sleeping thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, thou my true word

I ever with thee, thou with me, Lord

Thou my great Father, I thy true Son

Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise

Thou my inheritance now and always

Thou and thou only, first in my heart

High King of Heaven, my treasure thou art.

      The music is great, too—sometimes you’ll hear pipes, sometimes not—but always the same lilting melody.  Yet it’s the lyrics that get to me.  It’s just such a perfect, heartfelt expression of fealty and devotion.  It eloquently expresses the desires of probably every Christian heart:

“Thou my great Father, I thy true son

thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one…”

 

     So, like anyone in this enlightened day and age would do who wanted to know something about something he knew little about, I Googled it.  And I found out this:

    “Be Thou My Vision is a traditional Christian hymn (duh), which can be traced to Ireland but is now sung in English-Speaking churches around the world (kinda knew that part, too).

    The text (Rop tú mo baile) is often attributed to Dallan Forgaill in the 8th century; in any case, this text had been a part of Irish monastic tradition for centuries before the hymn itself was written. It is an example of a lorica, an incantation recited for protection. It was translated from Old Irish into English by Mary E. Byrne in “Eriú,” Journal of the School of Irish Learning, in 1905. The English text was first versified by Eleanor H. Hull in 1912.  ….Thus, the English translation of the hymn itself is fairly recent and the Elizabethan vocabulary and structure is somewhat an anachronism. Be Thou My Vision has become the quintessential Irish hymn in English-speaking churches and is often sung around St Patrick’s Day. Despite its traditional nature and the seemingly archaic quality of the text, Be Thou My Vision has become a popular song performed by many Contemporary Christian musicians, such as Rebecca St James and Ginny Owens.

    The tune the hymn is sung to is of Irish folk origin (from a song called Slane). It is named for a hill about ten miles from Tara hill in County Meath. It is on Slane hill, according to an account in the “Confessions of St. Patrick” that the Irish saint defied the command of the pagan king Loigaire by lighting the Pascal candle on Easter Eve. St. Patrick’s act was done in defiance of the king’s edict that no fire could be ignited before (emphasis added) the royal fire was lit by the king’s hand on Tara hill. The royal fire was kindled to celebrate the pagan Spring festival and symbolized the return of light and change of season following the darkness of winter.”

     So, St Patrick would have no other Gods before Jesus.  No small thing, considering the kind of things that would happen to people in those days if they defied kings, pagan or otherwise.  But other than that connection, the song has little to do with Slane Hill, or Irish mythology. 

     OK.  Patrick was a brave and Godly man.  But what about the guy that supposedly wrote Be Thou My Vision?

    “Saint Dallan Forgaill (Dallan Forchella; Dallan Forgaill; Dallan of Cluain Dallain; Eochaidh) was a Catholic Irish Poet. Dallan was born around 530 AD in Magh Slécht, County Cavan, Ireland, and studied so intensively that he literally became blind from writing poetry and studying. He was a first cousin of St. Mogue. Dallan was martyred in 598, when pirates broke into the island monastery of Inniskeel, Donegal, where he is buried, and was beheaded. It is also said that God reattached his head to his body after being martyred.”

    Interesting, indeed.  An Irishman, writer of obscure, Gaelic poetry, composes (or allegedly composes) a song that affects people all over the world hundreds of years later.  Shows you a thing or two about the power of God to change lives.  Also makes me think about John Newton, the Englishman (and former slave trader) who wrote Amazing Grace.  And I thought about St Patrick, the person who likely inspired Forgaill to write it through his lorica.  What’s a lorica?  Glad you asked.

    “In the Christian monastic tradition, a lorica is an incantation recited for protection. In addition to being recited by monks, loricas could also be found inscribed on the shields or armorial trappings of a knight, who might recite them before going into battle.

    Notable loricas include Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride, which in its English translation provides the text for the hymn Be Thou My Vision, and the Lorica of Saint Patrick”:

    So a lorica is something that monks would recite for protection from probably simply the world, from evil, from temptation.  And warriors would recite them before battles.  Even more interesting—brings to mind King David, singing psalms before battles (or after battles, for that matter).  But what, exactly, was the Lorica of St Patrick?

“I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation.I arise today
Through the strength of Christ’s birth and His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion and His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection and His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

 

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In obedience of angels,
In service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In preachings of the apostles,
In faiths of confessors,
In innocence of virgins,
In deeds of righteous men.

 

 

 

 

 

 


I arise today
Through the strength of heaven;
Light of the sun,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of the wind,
Depth of the sea,
Stability of the earth,
Firmness of the rock.I arise today
Through God’s strength to pilot me;
God’s might to uphold me,
God’s wisdom to guide me,
God’s eye to look before me,
God’s ear to hear me,
God’s word to speak for me,
God’s hand to guard me,
God’s way to lie before me,
God’s shield to protect me,
God’s hosts to save me
From snares of the devil,
From temptations of vices,
From every one who desires me ill,
Afar and anear,
Alone or in a mulitude.
 
 
 
 
 
 

 

I summon today all these powers between me and evil,
Against every cruel merciless power that opposes my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of women and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man’s body and soul.
Christ shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that reward may come to me in abundance.Christ with me, Christ before me, Christ behind me,
Christ in me, Christ beneath me, Christ above me,
Christ on my right, Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down, Christ when I sit down,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in the eye that sees me,
Christ in the ear that hears me.
I arise today
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through a belief in the Threeness,
Through a confession of the Oneness
Of the Creator of creation

Now look at the complete lyrics for Be Thou My Vision:
  

Be thou my vision, O Lord of my heart

Naught be all else to me save that thou art

Thou my best thought by day or by night

Waking or sleeping thy presence my light.

Be thou my wisdom, thou my true word

I ever with thee, thou with me, Lord

Thou my great Father, I thy true Son

Thou in me dwelling, and I with thee one.

 

Be thou my battle shield, sword for the fight

Be thou my dignity, thou my delight

Thou my soul’s shelter, thou my high tower

Raise thou me heavenward, O power of my power.

 

Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise

Thou mine inheritance, now and always

Thou and thou only, first in my heart

High King of heaven, my treasure thou art.

 

High King of heaven, after victory won

May I reach heaven’s joys, O bright heaven’s sun

Heart of my own heart, whatever befall

Still be my vision, O ruler of all.

 

     Let me just say that I don’t believe there’s anything wrong with expressing fealty and devotion to the Lord—we should.  And even if you only ever take Be Thou My Vision, or any other worship song or hymn we sing in that regard, it’s completely worthwhile and deserved.  But consider that all those songs, and this one in particular, are loricas, to some extent.  And while we are praising Him, and lifting our hands in worship, I think we should also be mindful that we are inscribing the words not just in our hearts, but on the insides of our shields, and we are reciting them before battle.

 

Be thou my battleshield, sword for the fight

Be thou my dignity, thou my delight

Thou my soul’s shelter, thou my high tower

Raise thou me heavenward, O power of my power

 

     I think we forget that sometimes.  And that’s a shame.  It brings to mind a scene in Return of the King, when Aragorn is trying to convince Theoden to commit the Rohirrim to aiding Gondor.  Theoden is loath to endanger his men, when he feels he was slighted by Gondor when Rohan needed aid.

     “I would not risk open war,” he says.

    “Open war is upon you, whether you would risk it or not,” replies Aragorn.

 

     I know I talk about the whole warfare angle a lot, but really, is that a bad thing?  It’s just so easy to get caught up in the somewhat misguided New Testament ideal of Jesus that so many people have—the kindly man in the robe patting little kids on the head, and sharing water with Samaritan women.  Of course, Jesus was those things, and so much more.  But that wasn’t all he was.  Yes, he wept for us, and died for us, but he also fought for us—and continues to.  And that’s the thing: I think open war is upon us, whether we would risk it or not, and whether or not we admit it to ourselves or anyone else.  I think we need to be reciting loricas, and not just asking the Lord for a good day, though I am admittedly as guilty of that as anyone.  We need to put on the armor daily.  I need to put on the armor.…

 

can’t sleep at night, and you wonder why

maybe God is trying to tell you something…”