Monday, January 25, 2010

UFC, Religion Edition

Welcome to the Ultimate Fighting Championship - Religion Edition!

Tonight we have a much-anticipated match-up!

In this corner, we have a complicated fella. He's sometimes unpredictable, he's often selfish, he's responsible for the original sin... It's... FREE WILL!!!
And in the far corner, we have the reigning champion. He's mysterious, he's confusing to tiny-brained humans everywhere, defending his title... it's Omniscience!!!

As I have been reading through the Bible in 90 Days, I have been reflecting on a serious conversation I had long ago. It was with someone who would probably describe themselves as an atheist... although don't understand how a person could be so angry at someone whom they don't even believe exists.

Anyway, this person was basically trying to talk me out of my faith. At the time I was still new to my faith (I still feel new to my faith - will I ever really feel like I have a handle on it?) and I wasn't really equipped to have these conversations. I did my best, and I think I did okay.

The topic of free will came up, and this person said:
"...but if your 'God' already knows everything that is ever going to happen, and everything you are ever going to do, then you don't really have free will, do you? You submit yourself to a God who tugs on your strings & makes you dance whenever & however He wants."

This made me think.

Well, God did harden Pharoah's heart...

And the story goes that God made the enemies of Isreal oppress His people...

And it does say that an evil spirit from God came over Saul...

And, well, to that, I'm still not sure what to say. Other than God does give us feelings in our hearts. Isn't that how He calls us to various purposes? He puts a feeling, a pulling, yearning feeling in our hearts. And we can ignore it for a while, but He grows it & grows it until we have to pay attention. But even when we pay attention to it, we can still choose not to follow it. We can choose not to follow Him. Look at all the people out there who have heard the Gospel, but still choose to turn their backs on Him. That's free will, right there.

And as for this bit about His omniscience negating our free will? That's an easy one. Allow me to answer with an analogy.

My dad loves Coca Cola. Loves it. So I always keep a couple in my fridge, just for him (because we are not Coke drinkers in my house). Whenever he comes over, I usually say something like, "Dad, can I get you something to drink? I have tea, Coke, water and juice."

Now here's the thing: I am on record as being 100% accurate in predicting that my Dad will choose a Coke. In scientific terms, that practically makes it a law of nature.

The sun is hot.
The rain is wet.
My dad will choose Coke.

But just because I already know what he will choose to drink does not mean that he cannot make his choice. I did not tell him to choose Coke. I did not force him to choose Coke. My amazing statistical accuracy does not in any way diminish his ability to choose whatever he wants.

It's the same thing with God.

Just because He has amazing statistical accuracy with knowing everything that will ever, ever happen during the whole existence of all of time does not mean that I do not really get to exercise my free will. It just means that He won't be surprised by my choice (even if I sometimes surprise myself!).

So you see, my free will & God's omniscience are not in opposite corners. His Omniscience is not the opponent of free will. It's more like the TV camera that watches over the whole thing.

Satan is the real opponent of free will. Because he manipulates it & uses it against us every chance he gets.

Just ask Adam & Eve about that.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Thank you.

Here is what I love about my readers (all 6 of them!):

My readers are truly wonderful, compassionate people. I posted a request for prayers without giving any real information about the situation. I did not intend to be secretive or cryptic, but there are some things going on that I'm not ready to share. It's just not the time yet. (And NO, I am not pregnant.)

Well, it seems that in this little corner of the blogosphere, if you ask for prayers, prayers is what you get.

No questions asked.

No details requested.

No dirt dug up.

Just beautiful, wonderful prayers. Freely given out of compassionate hearts.

And for that I am so thankful.

I believe the main question has been answered, and I know now that I need to stop arguing with Him. I need to stop telling Him the many reasons I can see that it might not be best. And that is what I am doing.

I still don't have all the answers I sought. But I now feel a certain peace in the not knowing. I feel in my heart that He will reveal the details when His time is right (and, of course, not a moment before!). He's got a plan, and I'm on a need-to-know basis. But the plan is there. The answers are there. He will share them with me when the time is ready, when the situation is ready, when I am ready.

Thank you to everyone who prayed for me.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Wanted: A Quiet Heart

I don't usually do this, but I'm going to anyway.

Dear readers (all 6 of you) will you please pray for me?

There is no crisis, no dire illness. Just a bit (okay, a lot) of confusion. Unanswered questions. The path ahead is not clear. Like a mirage, the destination appears to look one way this moment, and another way the next. And regardless of what that seemingly far off destination looks like, the path to get there seems foggy, blocked, riddled with debris. It seems my Purple Brick Road has become a confusing and noisy labrinth, and I cannot see my way out.

How do I get there from here? Am I even supposed to get there at all? What about the details? The time lines? The obstacles?

My heart is troubled. But hopeful. That God will grant me wisdom, patience, strength, and a quiet heart so that I may listen to Him. Through his loving Grace in Jesus Christ.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Life's Too Short

I saw this sign at the gas station this morning:

Now, this is ironic on may levels. First of all, I was at the gas station (filling up my car, not my belly) after my first 5:45am boot camp*. Of course, the pump I pulled up to had to have a GINORMOUS cinnamon roll hovering over it. I'm not eating that stuff anymore. But more on that in another.

*Boot Camp (noun): A 45 minute activity wherein your brother-in-law, who is also a personal trainer, subjects you to various kinds of torture in the name of "physical fitness" to such a degree that you can hardly walk and begin to wonder if he really is as nice a person you've always thought.

The obvious irony is that, if you eat crap like that, life will be too short. For a lot of great things.

But then, as I was sitting in the car wash, I realized that this is a serious trend. How many people make unhealthy, immoral, downright sinful choices because "Life is too short?" It happens all the time.

-Life is too short for spending time at the gym.
-Life is too short for skipping that trip to Vegas with your girlfriends.
-Life is too short for staying married to someone you don't feel passionate about.
-Life is too short for sacrificing sleeping in on Sunday to go to church.

But is it? Really?

And is the life we have now really the most important one we'll ever have? (I'm pretty sure there's an even better one that comes later..)

Each of us has a life that is exactly as long as God allows it to be. He gives us exactly the right amount of time to accomplish everything He wants us to accomplish, and to receive the blessings He has planned for us.

Life is too short?

Bah. Life is just right.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

#B90Days Session 2 Q&A

Here are the discussion questions for Session 2:

1. What did you have to modify this week in order to do your Bible reading?
I set a couple of rules for myself in order to stay on top of reading and avoid finishing after bedtime. The main rules are to try to get the reading done as early in the day as possible, and that I will not read any other material (except for the few blogs that inspire me) until each day's reading is done. The main things I've done less of this week are:
a) Reading other stuff - I was reading a novel, but I think I've only read a page or two lately.
b) General time wasting - I'm playing fewer games on my iPhone, I'm reading fewer
time-wasting blogs (e.g., I'm spending a lot less time on Facebook. (This all
might be a chicken vs egg thing, though, because I think it may be that spending all this
time submerged in His word has made that other stuff less desireable & fun.)
c) TV Watching (& as a consequence, knitting) - This one I'm less happy about, because TV
watching is really just an accessory to my knitting time. I've hardly knit this week, and I do
miss it. I hope to find a way to keep both the reading & the knitting in my daily routine next

2. This question has to do with when you do your reading. It was multiple choice.
On workdays, I try to use spare moments here & there to get the reading done as early as possible. I don't take up a lot of my work time for this, since my employer is not paying me to read my Bible, but if I have a minute or two before an appointment and it's not enough time to accomplish something work-related, the I'll read a passage or two. So far, I have always still had quite a bit to read in the evening. On weekends (and snow days!), I get the whole thing done during our family's quiet time (after lunch), or after the kids are in bed. This is my preferred way of reading, since I get to spend an entire hour (or more) in His word.

3. Did you complete all of your readings this week? If yes, was it easy to do? If no, what ket you from it?
I did finish all the readings this week! So far I haven't gotten behind. Genesis & the first part of Exodus were super-easy; I love the stories, and I now know them well enough to anticipate what's coming up next. I will admit that the end of Exodus was a challenge, & Leviticus was less than fun. Numbers is next, and I know from experience that it will be a bit of a struggle. I know all the parts of the Bible are important, and I try not to disrespect any of it, but tomorrow I will begin reading the census. Not exactly a page turner, but important for records of lineage & numbers of people. Also important because the book of Numbers ends with fewer people than it began... and for a really good reason.

4. Do you have suggestions for others who may be struggling with their reading?
I'm not sure I do. I just know what works for me. I read aloud to myself when the reading gets tough. It keeps me engaged & awake. (ahem.) Also, I will admit that I counted out M&M's to correspond to the exact number of chapters I had to read in Leviticus today. Each time I started a new chapter, I ate an M&M. That's called benchmarking and it works for me in almost every multi-step task I do. I also really look each day for why the scriptures I'm reading are important, and what He wants us to take from it.

5. Is the God you read about in Genesis & Exodus the God you "know?" Did you ever get m ad at Him while you were reading? If so, when? Is that OK?
I would have to say that, yes, the God I read about is the one I know. While God is not a person (human), He does have a personality. We are made in His image, so if we have a range of emotions, it stands to reason that He does too. I think in the first three books, we've seen a lot of anger, a lot of love, and a bit of feeling flabberghasted (I could almost imagine Him wanting to say, "For the love of purple, Moses, get over yourself & go out & tell the people what I said. I'm with you, so it won't be a big deal. Jeez.") I think we've also seen a lot of His patient side. He tolerated a lot from the Isrealites. (And I know there is more to come!)
I'm just thankful that He doesn't have to get so angry and pour out His wrath anymore. Thanks to the love that Jesus had for us, and the amazing thing he did for us, God doesn't do that whole fire & brimstone thing anymore.

6. Let's face it: Adam & Eve blew it. The entire struggle of humankind derives from the fact that the first couple couldn't keep away from a piece of fruit. Have you ever blown it? What was the value of that experience?
Of course I've blown it. In very big & very little ways... every single day. I try to find the value in each failure by learning something from it so perhaps I can prevent it from being repeated. It seems I still have a lot to learn, because I'm constantly screwing up, though. I mess up at home and at work, and with just about every person I know. The main thing I am trying to learn is not be so hard on myself. I'm a perfectionist by nature, so even small mistakes (e.g. burning a grilled cheese sandwich & wasting the ingredients) are things I will likely be chastising myself for hours later.

7. The last question asks the group to work together to fill in the blanks of the Ten Commandments. My 7 year old & I did a whole unit on these over the summer, so they are fresh in my mind!
1. You shall have no other gods before me.
2. You shall not make for yourself any idols.
3. You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God.
4. Remember the Sabbath by keeping it holy.
5. Honor your father and your mother.
6. You shall not commit murder.
7. You shall not steal.
8. You shall not give false testimony against your neighbor.
10. You shall not covet your neighbor's house, spouse or other possessions.

I might have mixed up # 6 & 7. But they're all in there!
I do have a few random reflections, but I'll save those for another post.
Please leave a comment, & thanks for stopping by!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Session 1 Q&A

I wanted to post a little something from the first session in the Bible in 90 Days Participant Guide.
The guide contains questions to be discussed with your group at your weekly meeting. Of course, I don't have a weekly meeting of my group because my group is scattered across the four corners of the Earth. The Monday night Tweetups will involve some of the questions, I believe, but not all. And as long as I'm pondering these questions in my own heart, I might as well share those ponderings with you.

I think Session 1 was supposed to be done before the reading began because its ponderings have little to do with this challenge and more to do with background, previous attempts, etc. I will be posting all other discussions from the book on Fridays.

So, here goes:
1. Have you ever tried to read the entire Bible before? Why or why not?
Yes. I have tried to read it. I suppose I tried before because of the same reason lots of people do: I was looking for answers. I felt that I needed something that I wasn't getting from my life. My pitiful and worldly attempts at fulfillment left me empty.

2. If you have ever tried to read the Bible in its entirety, what challenges did you face in fulfilling your desire? Where did you start? How far did you get?
I think the biggest challenge was that I tend to lack stick-to-it-iveness for commitments that last more than a few days. Life got in the way. I got busy. I got stuck in certain sections.
I always started at Genesis 1:1. Despite the fact that many people have told me over the years that you can't read it from beginning to end - you need some sort of guide or manual - I have always felt that I wanted to read it from cover to cover. If God had meant for me to read the book of Luke first, he would have started the whole thing off with that part.
The first two times, I got as far as the last part of Exodus. Of course, I was reading a King James version and that didn't help. Then I once got as far as the end of Deuteronomy. This last time, I made it through about half of the book of Ezekiel. (But that took me about 9 years, so I'm not sure it actually counts as one reading!)

3. What have you found to be difficult and what have you found to be rewarding in your attempts to read the Bible regularly?
The most difficult part for me is not feeling guilty about the "Me Time" it requires. Although my family will benefit, I am largely doing this for me. To be honest, I stink at doing anything for myself that I think might take me away from doing something for someone else. Last night my husband was kind enough to do the dishes while I read. Although I'm sure he didn't mind, I did feel terribly guilty about that.
The most rewarding part is how my entire focus has shifted. Spending this much time in His word every single day has already forced my mind and my heart into a new shape. Whether I'm singing with students at work, playing with my own kids, or doing housework... no matter what I'm doing, part of my mind is always focused on Him. And that, my friends, is an awesome feeling.

4. If you have successfully read the entire Bible before...
No need to go on. We've already established that I have tried & not succeeded before.

5. If you have started to read the Bible but have never completed your reading goal, what really kept you from finishing what you started?
In a word (and by "a word" I mean "3words"): lack of discipline.

6. What most excites you about the prospect of reading the Bible in 90days?
I'd have to say that the thing that most excites me is the idea that I will have actually read the whole thing. And the fact that it's going so quickly helps to make everything more relevant to everything else. I'm flipping back less often because what I read in Genesis is still very fresh in my mind... because I just read it 4 days ago!

7. Why do you believe it is important to read the entire Bible? What do you expect to discover in terms of practical living, spiritual growth, knowledge of history, or other areas?
Okay, what do I not expect to learn about practical living? When you think about it, the Bible is the owner's manual for life. It is the ultimate operating and trouble shooting manual.
Want to know how to be a good wife? There's a scripture for that. Have a broken heart? There's a scripture for that. Want to know how to be a good worker? There's a scripture for that. Need to know how to raise your children? There's a scripture for that, too.
You know how they say that kids don't come with owner's manuals? Well, that's a bunch of hooey. You just pick up your Bible and crack it open, because every truly important thing you need to know about turning out good, upstanding adults is right in there. Everything you ever needed to know about this thing called life is in the Bible. God wouldn't give you such a precious gift & then say, "Okay. You're on your own. Go figure it out." He gave us an owners manual. We just have to read the instructions, and we'll get tons & tons of enjoyment and fulfillment out of it!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

A few thoughts...

First of all, I would like to thank my readers (all four of them) for leaving comments on my delurking post. It's so nice to know that I'm not just writing this thing for myself. Because even though I definitely process through "stuff" on the blog, if I only wanted to keep it for me, I'd write it in a journal & stuff it under my bed. I want you to know that I always welcome and encourage your comments, thoughts, even your (gasp!) criticisms. I'm learning as I go, and feedback from others is a valuable and important part of learning anything.

So, I'm participating in reading the Bible in 90 Days. So far it's going well. It's Day 5 & I'm on track. Of course, it's only Day 5, and my stick-to-it-iveness tends to wane around the 9th or 10th day on this type of commitment. I think that part of me is still expecting failure. But I'm praying & reading through it.

There are many women (and a few men) who are participating, and it's been interesting to see how everyone is tackling this wonderful challenge. Some people are keeping daily journals. Some people are making family trees from Genesis. Some people are attacking their Bibles with highlighters. Some are making lists of things to explore further at a later date. Some people are even reading it to their children!

I congratulate every single person who has embarked on this journey. While we journey together, each of us has our own personal path to follow. If you feel inspired to make notes, or study deeper, or stand on your head and whistle dixie while you read, go for it!

I'm taking a slightly different approach. I'm not highlighting or journaling or making lists. I'm just reading. I really don't feel my usual need to make outlines and charts and keep them in a 3-ring binder. (Yes, I'm a little neurotic like that.) I don't feel any urgency to write in the margins or commit the whole thing to memory right now.

I feel strangely calm. I know I'll be back. After I've read it all, I know I will really dive into the parts that grab me. Then I'll take out my journal. Then I'll draw trees and make notes. I'll ponder every word if I'm moved to do so.

For now, I'm just letting His Word wash over me. I'm letting it cleanse my soul. Clean out the cobwebs. This is a big commitment. Why complicate it? He has lead me to this. I'm sure He will accomplish everything He wants with this experience. And He won't need a highlighter to do it.

I do, however, have a few reflections to share.
  1. That whole thing about God creating Eve to be Adam's helper didn't so much bother my feminist roots this time. On the contrary, it forced me to really examine myself and my role in my marriage, and question all that girl-power stuff we grew up with.
  2. While I may be backing away from the pillars of the modern feminist movement, I am super happy we've come really far from the early Old Testament! Women seemed to be quite a commodity back then. They were the ultimate reinforcer! Forget gold stars, if you help some girls water their father's sheep, he'll give you the oldest as a reward!
  3. Jeebus. There was some seriously disturbing incest stuff going on back then. Guys marrying their father's sisters, girls getting dear old dad drunk and... (shudders) I can't finish that sentence. Creepy.
  4. God didn't really pick men who were spectacular on their own to do His will. Adam was clearly wipped (Sorry, I know you may take that word as crude because of what it implies, but I couldn't think of a better way to put it. Please forgive me. Still learning, remember?) Noah basically became a drunk after he planted his vinyards. Abram was a bit soft. Jacob was a sneak & swindler. Moses was a doubter & seemed to whine a lot in the beginning. These guys only became great men after God got a hold of them (and even then, Moses whined about it). Gives me a little hope that I, too, might be used by the Lord.. despite my many shortcomings.
  5. Moses must have had a stutter. He repeatedly tells the Lord (as if He wasn't aware) that he was "slow of tongue," and "clumsy with words." He also had some serious issues with self esteem & social anxiety. Even the Lord's promise to give him the words to speak didn't increase his confidence. Poor guy. But, again, gives me hope.
  6. I've always thought the Lord had a sense of humor, but I only realized today that He can also be really creepy. Like, Dean Koontz & Stephen King creepy. (Cue creepy suspenseful music) Locusts? Frogs? Gnats? Water turned to blood? Flies? It's a good thing the Almighty is kind & loving, because things could have turned out much worse for us.
Alright, ya'll. I'm excited, humbled and on schedule. And I'm headed to bed. Nighty night!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Come Out, Come Out Whomever You Are!

I stole this post, almost verbatim from my dear friend. Thanks!

My first stop on the blog trail this morning was Idgie's Place, where I quickly learned it was Delurking Week! How fun!!! An entire week dedicated to simply stepping out from behind the screen and saying “Hey there, I’m reading you”.

In the spirit of delurking, I hope that anyone that is reading this silly old thing will pipe up and say howdy! Feel free to tell me about yourself and how you found my blog. Or if you’re the shy sort, just a simple “Hi, I’m with you” will do.

And in the spirit of conversation, I’m opening up the Q and A for delurking week. I’m an open book, so if there is anything you’ve ever wanted to know, now is the time to ask. Just leave your question in the comments section and I will collect them and answer them in a post later this week.

I'll also be blogging about my experience with reading the Bible in 90Days.

And in the next week or two, I'll also be posting about some other things I've been reading & listening to. I am very excited about the changes He is working in me right now. Big stuff is going on.

Friday, January 1, 2010

Day 1 of 90

See that image above? Hopefully it will be one that you'll be seeing a lot of on this blog.

That's because I'm reading the Bible in 90 Days. And I'm attempting to blog at least once a week about it.

Are you reading the Bible in 90 Days? If you are, then you probably read your first 12 pages today. I did. I had planned to read first thing in the morning... but I overslept.

The kids woke up before me, and any mom of small kids out there knows that not a lot of reading gets done while the 1st grader & the toddler are running amok. Well, reading can get done in bits & pieces, but it's usually interrupted every 6-10 sentences, and since half your brain is wondering why they are so quiet (or conversely, why the toddler - who has recently discovered the power of the blood curdling scream - is at it again), you could end up reading an entire page and not have any memory for what you just read. You know, where you are left wondering, not only what part of the story you just read, but also what book you just read. Was it that new Michael Crichton novel? That knitting book? The 1987 edition of the Southwestern Bell Yellow Pages? Who knows? I was listening for the children and wondering if that strange ripping sound followed by muffled yelps had anything to do with that missing roll of duct tape...

Needless to say, I ended up reading after the boys went to bed.

Today's reading covered the creation, the original sin, the flood, all the way up through Hagar's conversation with the Angel of the Lord. I wanted to keep reading, because I know that whole test of Abram is coming up, but I refrained from jumping ahead. The wise people at Bible in 90 Days set up a schedule for a reason. I shall do my best to stick to it.

So, how did your reading go today?