Saturday, June 23, 2018

On Taking Offense

Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Proverbs 19:11

Good sense is rather uncommon these days, and too many people take offense too easily. Not only do they take offense, but they take it to social media where they then give offense to the person from whom they took offense.

In a day of demands for tolerance, there looms intolerance for anyone who expresses an opinion that differs. Feelings get hurt and they cry foul. The intolerant want their own opinions commended and celebrated. They shroud themselves in victim mentality and seek sympathy.

Truth is often taken as offensive, but it is never good to skirt the truth for the sake of someone's misconceptions. How we speak truth, however, can make a difference to someone who is teachable and willing to hear.

While I doubt that most of us look for ways to offend, it seems that many look for ways to take offense. They crave affirmation in their opinions and choices, and their hypersensitivity leaves little room for being criticized. Their quest for self-construction alienates them from input that could otherwise be beneficial to their own well-being and leaves them stuck where they are.

I lay much of that fault at the feet of the school environment. As a teacher, I was encouraged to lavish praise so no child would have hurt feelings and to close the achievement gap by rewarding everyone in some way just for showing up. That approach is a misstep in teaching children to take their place in a society that will inevitably disagree with them on many issues and not reward them for lack of effort. These young adults are now facing the opinions and criticism of others, and they aren't dealing with it very well. And society is suffering as a result.

This is not to say, however, that we are never to take offense when it is intentional. Some things are wrong and injurious and should rankle us. We should be offended at harm that comes to those we should protect, offended at abuse, offended at the persecution faced by those of faith around the world.

It would better society to take a closer look at what offends us and to reserve our indignity to what really matters. Too many delude themselves with their own grandeur and get offended by the wrong things. They need to take an honest analysis of why they are offended. It would do society a world of good to flick the chips off our own shoulders.

It's just plain good sense.

 Painting ~ Daniel Ridgway Knight, 1839-1924
public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Friday, June 22, 2018

  We cannot follow Jesus when we are asking him to follow us.

~ Kenneth Boa in Conformed to His Image

Image by Valiunic via Pixabay

Wednesday, May 30, 2018

Turning the Heart of the Queen

I’m between coursework that has required much of my writing time, so today I’m turning some attention back to my study of Esther and sharing a few thoughts. The book of Esther has some powerful takeaways.

As chapter two continues the story of Esther’s rise to royalty, we see more of what possibly lies ahead for her life with King Ahasuerus. History tells us how cruel he was, and, undoubtedly, Esther has heard many stories about him as she lived quietly with cousin Mordecai. I doubt that she dreamed about catching the king's eye.

In addition to his cruelty, he was repulsively immoral. Vashti had not been his only “love” (defined loosely), and now that she had rejected his directive and had been flicked away, and his battle with the Greeks lost, Ahasuerus wanted some comfort. And what a king wants, a king gets, even if he has to tear young girls away from their families and add them into his pleasure harem. Esther is about to be forced into a cesspool of defilement. Certainly not what she had dreamed a marriage would be.

Esther could have gotten out of her predicament simply by not pleasing the king. I’m not saying displeasing him because the king had murderous power, and this king was not timid about using it. But God was working out His plan for the salvation of the Jews, turning Ahasuerus’s heart toward Esther and protecting her in this horrid situation. That’s not to say that women should stay with bad men, not at all. But the king does not harm Esther. In fact, he doesn’t have much to do with her after they’re married. As she tells Mordecai later, she hadn’t talked with the king for a month. Not exactly a close relationship. Kings have queens, and so Esther was chosen.  

Because the story isn’t really about Esther, we see God’s hand throughout the account. God moves in ways that we often haven’t any idea about. God had a purpose, and He, too, chose Esther. Not only was God turning the heart of the king, He was turning the heart of the queen.

My own takeaway: I want to pay attention to my own heart, to let it be turned Godward, perhaps also being an instrument in the hand of the Redeemer. I don’t want to be passed by as Mordecai told Esther, “For if you remain silent at this time, relief and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another place and you and your father’s house will perish.” God would have his purpose fulfilled with or without Esther. He probably won't choose to work through me in such a history-changing plot as He did Esther, but she probably didn't think she'd be doing what she did, either. God has other plans and purposes that, for reasons unknown to us, He works through people to accomplish, albeit a small role He may ask us to play. If He calls us for such a role, He will also provide. He doesn't need strong and courageous people. He needs willing people. The strength is His. The courage He gives.

God’s sovereignty is seen throughout the book of Esther. Whatever He wills, He accomplishes. King Ahasuerus may have thought that was his own prerogative, but God has stepped in and reversed the plot.

Perhaps some of our own reversals in life are God-directed as well, for such a time as this.

Image ~ Reading in the Garden
Nikolay Bogdanov-Belsky, 1868-1945
public domain, via WikiCommons

Saturday, May 5, 2018

From the Sewing Room ~ Kaleidoscopes

Not much has been happening in the sewing room for awhile since I've been taking some online courses that keep me pretty busy, but I did finish a project today that I had hoped to have done earlier in the week so I could gift them. Still going to do that, just a bit belated.

These are potholders done in a kaleidoscope design. I fell in love with kaleidoscopes a few years ago when I was studying Psalm 119 and came across something that Charles Spurgeon had written. It ties together my interest in quilting and my love for God's Word. The triangle sections that form the octagon in each potholder are from the same piece of fabric, carefully planned and cut. Just as the mirrors in a kaleidoscope reflect an image, each triangle in the kaleidoscope quilt block reflects color and pattern to create a unique design. Such is Psalm 119.

Psalm 119—A Kaleidoscope of God’s Word
This psalm is a wonderful composition. It deals all along with one subject only; but although it consists of a considerable number of verses, some of which are very similar to others, yet throughout its one hundred and seventy-six stanzas the self-same thought is not repeated: there is always a shade of difference, even when the colour of the thought appears to be the same. Some have said that in it there is an absence of variety; but that is merely the observation of those who have not studied it. Its variety is that of a kaleidoscope.
In the kaleidoscope you look once, and there is a strangely beautiful form: you shift the glass a very little, and another shape, equally delicate and beautiful, is before your eyes. So it is here. What you see is the same, and yet never the same: it is the same truth, but it is always placed in a new light, put in a new connection, or in some way or other invested with freshness.
~ Charles H. Spurgeon

PS~To see a few other kaleidoscopes that I've done, just click the image above.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Needing All the Help We Can Derive
As I have already said, the Church is faulty, but that is no excuse for your not joining it, if you are the Lord’s. Nor need your own faults keep you back, for the Church is not an institution for perfect people, but a sanctuary for sinners saved by Grace, who, though they are saved, are still sinners and need all the help they can derive from the sympathy and guidance of their fellow Believers.
~ Charles Spurgeon, from his sermon, The Best Donation

Image via pixabay
by leoleobobeo

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Documentary ~ The Exodus Decoded

After a busy day of study and cleaning, I popped some popcorn and we settled in this evening to view the documentary The Exodus Decoded, which was first aired on The History Channel in 2006. Directed by Jewish-Canadian filmmaker Simcha Jacobavici, it chronicles the work of archeologists, researchers, geologists, and theologians as they examine the veracity of the biblical account of the Exodus, its time in history, its crossing of the Red or Reed Sea, the pharaoh at the time of the Exodus, the plagues, the location of Mt. Sinai, and other interesting and enlightening findings.

We had viewed a couple of other documentaries of the Exodus that corroborated some of the same findings, but what was especially intriguing to me in this one was the plagues and how God may have harnessed His natural laws to do His bidding against the Pharaoh. I've mostly thought of God's miracles as just being out of the clear blue, sort of poof! and there they are, but this documentary enlarged my understanding as to how God often uses what is at His command, which is anything and everything. The consideration of the plagues made me marvel at God's control of the physical universe. Of course, He can just wave His hand and do whatever He desires, but I found it intriguing to consider the possibilities.

We watched the documentary on Amazon Prime. You can watch the trailer here. As a caution, there's a YouTube video listed as The Exodus Decoded, but it is not the same documentary.

Friday, April 20, 2018

From the Book Shelf ~ Loss and Grief

A required reading in a biblical counseling Bereavement course that I'm taking this month is All Our Losses All Our Griefs by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson. It's one of those books that I wish I had read many years ago. It would have saved me a lot of bewilderment in my grief. I had a significant loss in the past, but I didn't recognize my feelings as grief, and it took me many years to move on. Had I recognized it for what it was, the time of grieving could have been lessened.

The book considers six types of losses that have significant influence on our lives: loss of relationship, material loss, functional loss, loss of social/familial role, systemic loss (loss of that part someone plays in a group rather than the person himself), and intrapsychic loss (death of a hope/dream/purpose/perception of oneself).

All of these losses cause us to grieve to some extent, some more than others. Grief can take on a feeling of emptiness, loneliness, or isolation and can be a sense of loss of self. Recognizing our feelings as grief is essential to being able to move forward. The authors also make the point that administration of calming medication tends to suppress the pain and its necessary expression, which often results in longer, more intense grief. The sooner grieving can begin, the less intense and lengthy it may be.

The authors emphasize the personal ministry of caring, that the Christian community is the primary source of comfort as they care for the grievers. Significant loss can often cause us to question God's goodness in our suffering, and those who come alongside, through their benevolence and words of care, bring comfort and acknowledgement of the faithfulness and goodness of God that brings hope to the bereaved to move forward in life.

Some of the book goes into some psychological explanations of the origin of loss and grief that may not be necessary to understand or agree with; however, the book has great value beyond that, and I highly recommend it. You may find yourself somewhere in the book as I did. I've ordered three more copies for family members. I know it will help them to understand their feelings a little more and strengthen their faith when they face their own times of significant loss.

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

It Makes Space for Remembrance

Freedom to grieve intensively from the onset of loss
is what makes space later
for a remembrance of Christ's suffering
a reaffirmation of the loving will of God
that seemed so strange

when the pains of grief were so acute.
~ from All Our Losses, All Our Griefs by Kenneth Mitchell and Herbert Anderson

Image ~ On the Seashore, 1879
Hanus Knochel, 1850-1927
public domain via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, April 16, 2018

Grief Exposes Our Faith

“God has not been trying an experiment on my faith or love in order to find out their quality. He knew it already. It was I who didn’t. In this trial He makes us occupy the dock, the witness box, and the bench all at once. He always knew that my temple was a house of cards. His only way of making me realize the fact was to knock it down.” 
~ C.S. Lewis, written through his grief after his wife Joy's death

We've begun a study in our women's Sunday School class on 1 Peter, and yesterday the discussion was on trials and the testing of our faith. As was pointed out, trials are varied for each of us in our own unique situations and life experiences. We each have our own. We all experience grief, sorrow, suffering at some time. It is inevitably universal.

Perhaps you can relate to the thought C.S. Lewis expressed. Sometimes suffering finds us as laws of nature unfold. There is much sorrow and suffering in our world that is also the result of its brokenness and sinfulness. Often it is not our own sinfulness, but we are sometimes the target, or we are impacted by its ricochet.

How do we respond to the suffering? What good can come from our trials and sorrows and grief? They all show us if our faith in Jesus Christ is genuine, for trials always test our faith. Even though trials may be outside of us, they test what is inside of us. God already knows whether or not our faith in Him is genuine, but the trials and sufferings of life let us know for ourselves of its certainty.

And we are thankful that He sent the Comforter when Jesus went back to heaven, for He is the one who knows how to comfort in all our trials and grief.

In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, so that the tested genuineness of your faith—more precious than gold that perishes though it is tested by fire—may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory, obtaining the outcome of your faith, the salvation of your souls (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Sunday, April 15, 2018

On Grieving A Child's Death
Our church family is mourning the death of a precious six-month-old baby boy, lost to SIDS. The grief and hurt are deep for the dear parents, the 4-year-old brother, the grandparents, and others in the extended family who had rejoiced in his birth. Only God can bind up their broken hearts, for He is the Great Comforter.

But others of us can offer comfort by our ministry of presence. What is to be said at such heartbreak? I believe the less said the better this early in the bereavement. Just being there tomorrow at the visitation, without knowing what to say, without saying much except to express the sorrow we feel for the loss that has overshadowed their lives. And to let them know that they are in our prayers.

I'm reminded of Job and his friends, of how they were a comfort to him the few days they just sat with him and said nothing. After they began to fill the air with words, he called then "miserable comforters."

When we've not experienced such heartbreaking loss, it's often difficult to know how to comfort someone who grieves. We can be advised on what may be helpful and not helpful from the heart of others who have walked through that valley. In her article What My Son's Death Taught Me About Grief, one mother shares her own perspective. One thing that was surprising is her advice to keep God out of the conversation. I've heard that before, that those who have a great loss (even believers) can sometimes feel betrayed by God. Reminding them that God will work good out of their loss is not a comfort at the moment. God still comforts, however, in His own way, for He knows the needs of the heart. We can rest assured of that, even though it might not be through our words. I found that mother's helpful article here.

Everyone grieves differently. For many, being reminded of God's love and care is very meaningful. It's a unique and personal expression of emotions, and so we wait for a sense of what may be helpful.

Another insightful article is here on Grieving the Death of a Child.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we have received from God. ~ 2 Corinthians 1:3-4

Image ~ Liebevolle Mutter, Hans Bachmann, 1881
public domain via WikiMedia Commons


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