It was never going to work between me and Bose…

It was never going to work between me and Bose. I was a contract seasonal-support person-in-training – my first week on the job. What a great opportunity! Relatively good pay, a pathway to full-time employment with the company instead of the temp agency.

But I’ve never been one to pay luxury prices for anything, especially not $300+ for a bedside alarm clock. There just should not be such a thing, y’know? (Later on, perhaps we can discuss my latent socialistic tendencies.)

So, there I was, during my first week of training. I wise-cracked, and poked fun at a product they’d discontinued shortly after introduction. (IOW, it failed big-time, right?) I got plenty of laughs – even from the two Bose instructors. I also got asked not to come back for the second week. “Too confrontational.” I thought I was just being entertaining, but I imagine they didn’t see that my attitude would go over too well with their customer base (especially the ones who were late because their $300 alarm didn’t go off.)

Like I said, it was never going to work.

Looking back on it, it was a lesson on relativity – one that I completely missed. I wasn’t ready for it, even though I was a year or two into my own journey of transformation. At that time, I just couldn’t take seriously the complaints of some one who could afford to spend – who would want to spend – $300 on a clock radio.

I hadn’t yet learned that a problem is a problem, a sin is a sin, and that some people can handle huge messes with complete capability while others get flustered by a broken nail. – Wait, that’s sexist. “While others get floored by something much less complicated.” Is that PC enough? The things which cause us great trouble can seem trivial to others.

And it’s how we, as “good and wise” people treat any of them – those cool, calm, and collected or stressed-out to the max – that shows who we truly are, and is the lesson of today’s verse:

Proverbs 10:8 The wise accept instruction, but fools argue and bring trouble on themselves.
Or verse :14 Wise people are quiet and learn new things, but fools talk and bring trouble on themselves.

My trouble was continued unemployment. But, hey, I’ve got to run. The alarm on my $600 iPhone is going off.

Chosen? Or Choosing?

(Originally posted on 3/24/16)

Chosen? Or choosing? Yes!

Did God choose us or Do we choose God? Yes!

These days, I get to watch my child becoming a parent. I know what he’s going through. I hope for what he will learn. I pray. I expect he will succeed. I’m pretty sure he will be a ‘good parent’, before this is all over. So, ya, I ‘know’ how it’s going to turn out, in a way. Still, the new parents will make their own choices.

So, God, omniscient and far greater than I, can certainly know what we, His children, will do, and yet, we will choose for ourselves.

Romans 8:29 God knew [His children] before He made the world. And He decided they would be like His Son. Then Jesus would be the firstborn of many brothers and sisters.

God, not restricted to linear experience, sees how we will turn out, but also simply “knows like a parent” what we we will decide to do, and when. He waits patiently for us to learn our way, our way. He doesn’t force or dictate. (He almost doesn’t need to?) Some things can be learned only from experience – more accurately: can be taught only by experience.

Can we, as parents, teach our child to crawl, walk, run? But can we know that they will learn these things? (Yes, I know there can be exceptions.) Can we then know that, in the end, they will understand “the hard way and the easy way” (which, as it will turn out, are really the easy way and the hard way?) Do we not rant and rave at them with words about what they “should” do, then have to watch – nearly helpless – while they touch the hot stove anyway?

Do we not pray for them. Does God pray for us? Yes!

:26 Also, the Spirit helps us… speaks to God for us… with feelings too deep for words… :27 in the way that agrees with what God wants.

Can we be certain that God will help us along the way? I choose to!

:28 We know that in everything God works for the good of those who love him.

It’s not wise to obey the law

(Originally posted on 3/21/16)

It’s not wise to obey the law.

That headline ought to get your attention! But I don’t mean that we should simply go about breaking the law. I mean “It’s not wise to simply obey the law.” Simply obeying the law is simply being law-abiding. It’s doing something simply because some one said so. “Because it says so” is not a wise reason to follow any rule, unless the some one stating the rule is simply bigger than you are – because they intentionally use being bigger than you as the legitimacy for the law. There are other words to describe someone who does that: “bully” and “parent” are two that I can think of quickly.

Yes, parent. Some parents. Simple parents. Lazy parents. Tired parents. Parents who go through the list of all the names (including the pets’) when flustered beyond reason – you all know what I mean, from one side and/or the other. Parenting is tough. It’s a more-than-full-time-job. If one is raising children (or pets, smiley-face), one is never not “on the clock.” Unless one is not relying on “because I said so (and I’m bigger than you are),” and instead is teaching understanding of why I say so. Another word for that is “thinking”. Thinking for yourself. Wisdom, being wise, is thinking and understanding the why behind the law. (“Actually, they’re more like guidelines, argh”.)

And these days, that’s a skill that’s simply not being taught so much. (IMHO, of course.)

Case in point: myself. And I love my parents. I miss them. We just passed the 8th anniversary of my mom’s passing. I believe they did their best, but kids are tough on parents, especially the kids who always have to know why. Why? Because. Why? You’ll understand later – when you’re older. But why!? Because I Said So! I’m one such kid. Still.

Because I think we never got around to the “later”. Maybe it was my mom’s tragic flaw, to be over-protective and controlling. To be a “because I said so” parent. Literally, it’s only been since her passing that I started truly living in an understanding way.

I remember being mad at her once, so I bought my first pack of cigarettes. (Note, I was old enough to buy a pack of cigarettes = ~18?) I remember sitting on the front steps, smoking, when my friend, Larry, came by; ‘what’s new?’ And I remember showing him the smoke like, ‘look what she’s made me do!’ And that attitude/behavior didn’t stop for 30+ years. It took that long for me to work up the courage to act out what I really felt that day: “if you’re going to control my life – if I’ve been so trained to let you control, to simply, blindly follow what you say are the rules – even though those rules might be right and good – then I don’t want to live and I’m going to destroy myself by obsessively looking for good feelings and simply not getting caught breaking the rules.” My mom passed away in March, 2008. Months later I tried to follow her.

What could have been different, you ask? (Note: you’re asking because this is the whole point of today’s post.) What if, instead of that simply self-destructive, rebellious attitude towards what I perceived as simply “her way”, I had been taught to think “x, y, z, is the right way because of ____”? What if, instead of “don’t do this, because I said so”, I’d been taught to think “doing this is right because ____”? What if I’d been taught reading, writing, ‘rithmetic, and rightness? How?

Who knows what I’m going to say next?

If you knew “The Bible” is the answer, you win and get to skip the rest of the article. (But please keep reading!)

Proverbs 4:1 Children, listen to your Father’s teaching. Pay attention and you will learn how to learn.

:4 My Father taught me this: “Pay attention to what I say. Obey my commands and you will have  good life.”

The proverb doesn’t end there! But I think that’s where my mom’s instruction stopped.

:5 Try to get wisdom and understanding… :7 The first step to becoming wise is to look for wisdom, so use everything you have to get understanding.

IOW, to know to look for the why – and to know how to look. It’s not an intuitive skill. At least, it wasn’t for me. Dare I say, it doesn’t seem to be common sense for many of us humans? (You know I do so dare.)

[Insert rant about today’s educational priorities, which constantly and consistently seek to remove Western Civilization’s moral and ethical foundation.] All that to say, “The Bible – apart from explaining the Creator’s law – teaches us to think for ourselves – if we actually read it, study it. Even if we go to church (which I did), Sunday school (is that like CCD? which I did), and hear the Bible (which I did), I never read the whole thing until a year or two ago, and I certainly never studied it like I studied (any subject in public school or even Catholic high school); like I study it these days. Every day. For at least 30 minutes.

Romans 6:11 In the same way you should see yourselves as being dead to the power of sin and alive for God through Christ Jesus.

Knowing this verse then, might’ve kept me from buying those cigarettes.

It’s 3:42 am, and I’m still bleeding

(Originally posted 3/20/16)

It’s 3:42 am, and I’m still bleeding.

Mornings after dialysis, I carefully peel off the taped-on gauze from the (at least) two 15-gauge needle holes in my left forearm. On the good days, there’ll be minimal oozing; a bad day is when I have to re-gauze-and-tape, meaning my INR is probably on the high side. INR is the indicator of how thin my blood is. My blood has to stay thinner because of the metal mechanical valve in my heart.

All that to say I have to judge.

But before I go on on that subject, how was that for an opening paragraph? Did my opening line “go boom” and make you, my dear reader, want to read on? As a growing writer, I’m pray I am learning to entertain as well as to inform you. Of what, you might ask? Nothing more than my opinion? My belief? Actually, my semi-rock-solid faith in God. I want to be able to tell God’s story in my life in such a way that He can work as mightily in yours.

All that to say: please share the heck out of my posts, so my audience grows along with me. And, yes, so I can eventually actually earn a living doing this crazy writing thing I enjoy.

But where was I? Well, it’s now 4:25 am, and I just judged it was time to tape on more gauze. It’s hard to type with one hand holding the gauze on. (It’s even harder to type with a kitty sitting on the keyboard, but that’ll have to be ‘the post for another time.’ Why do they have to sit right in front of you when you’re doing something?)

Anyway, I was studying in 1 John 1 this morning:

:5 We heard the true teaching of God, now we tell it to you: God is light, and in Him there is no darkness. :7 …the blood sacrifice of Jesus, God’s son, washes away every sin and makes us clean. :9 But if we confess our sins, God will forgive us. We can trust God to do this. … He will make us clean from all the wrong things we have done.

Emphasis: God will forgive every confessed sin, all wrong things. That’s what it says.

I don’t know about the infallibility of God’s Word – those are some fantastical stories, for sure. I won’t know if they ever actually happened until later. But I do fully want to believe God IS, that miraculous things can and do happen, and that His Word speaks Truth into my life. (Which is why my #1 message to you is to read the Bible daily for yourself.)

But today, it occurred to me: As strongly and completely as I believe God IS, then so as strongly and completely must I believe He forgives. Anything. Anything? Anything! This was a comfort to me, because I’ve done and confessed some sinful things, yet I’ve had a hard time feeling forgiven about them. Forgiving myself. I realized that, if I believe in God, then I have to equally believe He has forgiven me for these things – that I am “clean” from them. “As white as snow.” “As good as new.” “Innocent.” Innocent? Does it say that? Having lost our innocence, can we ever be innocent again? Can innocence be ‘found’? Can my past ever not define who I’ve become today? I certainly am who I am today because of who I was in the past; yet I am nothing like who I was then.

2 Corinthians 5:17 Anyone who belongs to Christ is a new person. The past is forgotten, and everything is new.

Literally, I am not the person I was. The person I am now does not do – can not do – the things that other me did. I have been made new by Christ. And this is what strengthens me and prevents me from making those bad choices again, especially as I know I still have the capability to fall.

And then I thought about the Lord’s Prayer, and this line in particular:

“And forgive us our sins, as we forgive those who sin against us”.

If I am forgiven and made new, then so others can be forgiven. Yes, I’ve been sinned against, and I’ve had a hard time feeling forgiveness towards those who hurt me. But I am re-assured: what God forgives (anything) is what I can forgive.

These thoughts led me to some deep questions:

– Is not judging the same as forgiving?

– Is being forgiven the same as being innocent?

– Why does Little Grey Cat have to sit right on my notes?

– If I can’t forgive, how can I not judge?

– And just when did “judge” become a negative thing?

But it’s 6:34 am, and I have to change a bandage… more to come.

If I shall, should you?

Ho there, it’s me again, spending my priceless time pondering the English language and how I can use it to express my faith. This morning, I was reading Psalm 103. Verse :22 reads, “Everything the Lord has made SHOULD praise Him.” And that got me thinking, about “shall” versus “should”.

Officially (if one can ever say that about the ever-evolving spoken word), should is simply the past tense of shall – so the two words should mean relatively the same thing, right? Upon further review, however, there is quite a difference.

‘Shall’ is more legal. After all, laws are written “it shall be unlawful”, not “it should be unlawful”. Shall is command. It’s mandatory. Shall is also more definite, more inevitable: something that “shall come to pass”, does. It’s expected to happen. It’s logical consequence. Shall, will.

‘Should’, however, is much less definite. Should is conditional, maybe, only probable, tensely futuristic (not even past tense). Should expresses a request in a polite manner. It’s nice. Should, may. It’s a choice. Our choice.

When I considered the present and past tenses of other verbs, the difference was even more startling. Take run/ran, for example. ‘Ran’ can actually imply a complete opposite of run. A ceasing of action – that we ran in the past but no longer. Considering the condition of the world today, that verse rings too true: everything used to praise the Lord, but not so much anymore.

Where did these words come from? Perhaps you shall (or should) find it surprising that they appear to come from different, but related words, etymologically. Shall is from an Old High German word scal meaning ought to, must. It’s akin to a Lithuanian word meaning ‘debt.’ (Every once in a word or so, dictionaries throw in ‘Lithuanian’ as if it were one of the major source languages.) Should derives from an Old English word sceolde meaning owed, was obliged to, or ought to.

I looked up “ought to”. Would you believe that ought comes from a word meaning BOTH ‘own’ and ‘owe’? You can’t get much more opposite than that! To own is to have as property. To owe indicates something not owned – yet. (Hence, the Lithuanian “debt”.) But, one can also “own a debt”, see? (You shall – er, should see?) This meaning of ‘own’ is ‘to admit that something is true’.

Heavens, this is confusing. Shall/should we? Will we or might we?

I think, though, when we all get to the bottom of it, what I own as true is that I can know I shall, but I can only suggest and urge that you should. (Because the code is more like guidelines, of course.)

Ecclesiastes 8:9 “I saw all this. I thought very hard about the things that happen in this world. I saw that people always struggle FOR THE POWER TO RULE OTHERS, and this is bad for them.” (“Them” meaning everyone.)

Obey is OK

Isaiah 48:18 If you had obeyed me,
                     Then peace would have come to you like a full-flowing river.
                    Good things would have come to you again and again,
                     Like the waves of the sea.

How did “obey” come to have a negative connotation? I mean, it’s from a Latin combination of ob + audire, which simply means “toward” + “to hear”, which is akin to a Greek word meaning “to perceive”, and a Sanskrit word meaning “evidently”. None of that background implies or infers badness, right?

Obey is defined as “to comply with or follow the commands, restrictions, wishes, or instructions of”; “to follow commands or GUIDANCE of”. (see my post on “the code is more like guidelines.” (https://www.blogger.com/blogger.g?blogID=3715581761516286684#editor/target=post;postID=6787976082952746996;onPublishedMenu=allposts;onClosedMenu=allposts;postNum=3;src=postname) (Wow, it feels cool including a link to something I’ve previously written.) Guidance isn’t bad, is it? Maybe it’s the “to do what someone tells you to do, or what a rule, law, etc says you MUST do” definition that is the cause of this negativity. We don’t like being told what to do. I know I don’t. Still.

I know for sure I didn’t when I was young and head-strong. These days, I’m much more willing to be heart-strong. Or I should say, to let myself be heart-strong. Because that’s where disobedience comes from, isn’t it? We let our head – our own thoughts or understanding on how something should go – over-rule what we know in our heart to be right? Well, I’ve learned the hard way that disobedience usually is the harder way; the longer road to the same end.

I think, that if I had obeyed all along, I would still be where I am today. There’d be some differences, of course, but there’d be a lot of similarities, too. i.e. I still would have married Barb (we met at my sister’s wedding). My recent health probably would have been the same (the heart valve was genetic). And I’d be a worship musician and writer. The main difference would be that I would have started this career a lot sooner. I wouldn’t have been side-tracked by trying to be secular. A rock-star. I would’ve obeyed God’s call, and gone right to worship musician.

This morning, I considered all the ways I lost my way between that altar call at age 10-12, when The Spurr Family evangelicals came to our church, and young adulthood and it’s rock-star dreams and eventual compromise (aka detour) to nicely-paid career doing the next-best thing (creating with computers).

Definitely, it was the worldly distractions, especially the shiny ones. It was pleasures and parties (drinking and sex, oh yeah). It was forced forgetfulness, avoidance, and procrastination of the continuous tugging on and of my heart-strings (I never, after all, gave up on my love of playing that darn guitar.) It was fear of what others would think of me. And there was a good bit of envy and jealousy of others’ rewards and talents, o yes there was. And an inability or an unwillingness to see the miraculous all around me.

Maybe it was that blindness that was the biggest factor – or rather, it was my mis-understanding that obedience meant “blind obedience”. I just googled that phrase: “the unquestioning adherence to inherently imprecise rules, even in the face of silly or adverse consequences; more simply, essentially doing something BECAUSE you are told to, adhering to the rules BECAUSE they are the rules.” Instead of doing what is right (having actually thought about it), it being coincidentally something someone has suggested you do or something that has legal consequences. In other words, again, not thinking about it for myself. I refused to learn. I refused the easy way.

Isaiah 48:17 The Lord [says]
                      “I am the Lord you God.
                      I teach you for your own good.
                      I lead you in the way you should go.