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Archive for February, 2014

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“Choke up.”

“Keep your eye on the ball.”

“Follow through.”

I could not begin to count the times Daddy said these words to his baseball lovin’ wanna-be baby boy, yours truly.  Why did I always forget?  Were they really that hard to remember?

When the world was big and life was small, the countless hours spent in that old field behind our house proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that I was the apple of Daddy’s eye.  I was the one holding that bat bought for big brother, albeit far too low.  I was the one swinging at (and missing) every pitch Daddy threw.  I was the one making contact and forgetting to drive that ball on through once I did hit it.  Daddy saw me.  Daddy knew me.  Daddy loved me.  Daddy corrected me.

His wisdom?

“Choke up.”  Daddy wasn’t talking about clearing my throat.  That big ‘ol bat was just too heavy for my string bean, seven year old arms.  He wanted me to move my hands up higher and let that Louisville Slugger bear and balance some of its own weight.  Could I be so amnesic as to forget his good counsel today?  When the plank protruding from my eye is breaking my back, there is no way I can swing straight on.  I’m gonna miss the mark every single time lest I loosen my grip, take my hands off that sticky base (that tape just never seemed to stay right), re-position myself, and find the balance that will help bear my load.

“Keep your eye on the ball.”  I learned, not so quickly, that I could not be thinking about swinging when the pitcher let go of that ball.  Swinging the bat had to be second nature.  Technique and timing had to be reflexive.  Slugger stance had to be natural.  I couldn’t daydream – my favorite Loriland pastime.  I couldn’t zone out, unless, of course, I didn’t mind a baseball to the belly.  My eyes had to be fixed upon the trajectory of the ball at all times.  That ball had to be the sole and primary focus of my attention when I was up to bat.  Nothing should have been able to break in on the business between my big green eyes and that ball Daddy first bought for my brother.

But it did.  Oh, how many swing and miss struggling times it did!  So distracted.  So unprepared.  So forgetful.  Why couldn’t I just look at the darn ball?  And why don’t I remember to look at my Savior when life has me in the 50-consecutive-fast-pitch batting cages?   Focus.  Without it, I get annihilated by hard balls that really hurt.  I strike out when it really counts every single time.

“Follow through.”  My boxing coach began to school me on following through with my punches the other day.  That’s what brought me back to backyard bouts of baseball in the first place.  I heard Daddy’s voice echo in coach’s constant correction.  I guess following through has always been problematic for me.  Even after all the practice on how to swing, how to stand, how to keep my eye on the ball, and how to hit it, I still failed to drive that rogue home.  Even after all the training on how to stand, how to move, and how to hit, I’ve got yet another skill to try and master.

Follow through – without which none of the others much matter even if all are mastered.  Making contact will be of non-importance if my opponent doesn’t feel impact.  No runs get batted in and no points show up on the scoreboard when the ball barely makes it out of the batter’s box.  Every skill learned builds to this.  It is the climax of all that’s been poured into me.  This is it.  Follow through is the last step.  Follow through is, dare I say, the most important step.  Daddy knew nothing else he’d taught mattered if I failed to follow through.  That’s why he never stopped saying it – over, and over, and over again.

With that I ask for your prayers.  I often still forget to choke up.  The load is far too heavy and I end up with the weight of the world on my back.  I constantly take my eyes off of my Savior and strike out when it really counts.  I ever fail to follow through and I waste what he’s poured so much effort into with me right at the very end.

I just want to make it home.  I don’t care if I get dirty.  Truth is, I actually prefer that.  At least then everyone will know I played the game.  Clean or dirty, the hours spent learning, trying, failing, and falling in love with my Father prove to me beyond the shadow of any devil-induced doubt that I really am the apple of his very eye.  Lord, may your words ever echo in my ears and give me grace to cross the final plate.

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In conclusion in his letter to the Galatians, Paul gives his last and final warning regarding false teachers there.

See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. ~Galatians 6:11-15

Paul again sites the men who were trying to lead and sway the church toward their own selfish interests and ideas.  He again describes them as externally focused, cowardly, hypocritical, and full of boasting.  Let’s consider those ugly attributes for just a moment.

Externally focused.  You’ve met leaders like this.  They are the ones obsessed with counting attendance; crunching numbers; building bigger.  They love talking about all the work they are doing and telling you about all the work you ought to be doing for God.  (‘Cause what Jesus called you to do just ain’t good ’nuff bro.)  They like publicity.  They like pats on the back.  They’re the ones telling everyone besides their elite carbon copies that they are likely outside of grace lest they all conform and work diligently on…you guessed it…their vision.  Beware, says Paul, teachers whose emphasis is on work, duty, and things such as numerical growth from the brethren above grace, mercy, and love of the brethren.

Cowardly. These men did not want to suffer for the gospel.  Let’s face it, no one likes to suffer, but, these guys were willing to compromise anything and everything necessary as far as truth goes in order to stay “safe.”  They loved their reputations.  They loved their positions.  They loved their names, their titles, and their social statuses.  Therefore, they had to compromise the truth in order to please men, look righteous, and play both sides of the fence.  Anyone who would challenge the validity or veracity of their false teachings or practices became their enemy.  Hence, the attitude of social and spiritual exclusion.  

Hypocritical.  These are the guys who point out every letter in the law for every single soul but themselves.  “Do this.  Don’t do that.  If you do; if you don’t, you are demonic and damnable…”  They not only fail to recognize humanity for who we are (Christian or not), but also fail to recognize the darkness and deceit of their very own hearts as well.  There is no grace.  There is no hope.  There is only judgement, disgust, and self-righteous condescension towards those they claim to seek to lead.  Oh, the damage done by men so blind and barbaric!  Jesus saves sinners.  It is the sick that he heals.

Boastful.  These men used their external works and rule-keeping logs as a badge of honor and boasting in the church.  They never sinned…publicly.  They never admitted their own failures.  They never confessed.  They only kept lists of all the great things they did according to their own rule-books.  The whole point of encouraging others to follow was for the sake of their own pride and boasting over more of the same works, not for the glory of Jesus Christ or the gospel. 

You know what Paul says about their externally focused, cowardly, hypocritical, boastful religious works??? You know what he says about his own works?  

For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation.

They count for NOTHING! Nothing!  Paul wants his brothers and sisters to see who they are in Christ, not who someone else that clearly doesn’t even love them at all expects them to be.  Funny, he doesn’t mention anything about their outward condition.  No.  But he calls them new.  Bought and owned by a God of peace; of mercy; of grace.  Instead of telling them how they ought to suffer, he encourages them with his own suffering.  He offers a farewell bent on grace and love.  

For a guy who was thoroughly troubled and frustrated with his church, this is a remarkable sort of love letter.  Thanks to the Holy Spirit, Paul has truly given us a work of grace in this short epistle to the Galatian church.  Amen.

 

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Paul has written a letter to the Galatian church with a heavy heart.  He has corrected and admonished them regarding exclusion, works-based religion, and the danger of following the arrogant leaders who teach such things calling them the gospel.  He’s given instructions on how to restore an erring brother (little wonder why!) and brings his letter to a close with a final exhortation and warning.

Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches. 7 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8 For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. 9 And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. 10 So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith. ~Galatians 6:6-10

Paul has three things left to say in his effort to summarize his instructions here.  Give back, don’t give up, and do good.

Give back.  How many times were we taught the gospel before we embraced it?  How much love were we shown by God’s people?  How many served us?  Every believer owes a debt of love to Christ and to his people.  As we have received, we must so give.

Do not give up.  Paul says do not grow weary.  He tells the Christians that they will only benefit if they don’t give up.  For some of us, that seems like quite an enormous “if.”  This is the crippling fear of every martyr and every saint who is under fire, pressed by temptation, and bearing great burdens for the gospel’s sake.  Doubtless, an instruction like this implies our great tendency and ability to do so.  But to whom shall we go?  And to what?  We’ve only two options in this world: spiritual life or carnal life; living for Christ or living for self.  And isn’t it just like us to believe we can sow to our flesh yet still reap good to our soul?  Oh!  How deceived we so often are!  Otherwise, we’d haven’t need for Paul to write, “Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, of whatever one sows, that will he also reap.”

In times when the darkness seems so dark and the masquerader seems so much like our saving angel of light, we must pine to remember Paul’s true words.  

Do not be deceived!  Do not grow weary!  Do not give up!  Do good!

Finally, do good.  Do good to everyone, but especially those who believe.  Where the Judiazers in Galatia sought to exclude, Paul includes.  We cannot do good to people if we have grown weary of them.  We cannot do good if we give up.  We cannot do good to those we exclude, ostracize, or alienate.  We cannot do good if we are sowing to please our flesh.  We cannot do good if we allow favoritism, cliques, superiority, or stereotypes to infringe upon on Christianity.  We’ve no business being involved in such things.  Our business is only to do good to everyone.  

Give back.  Do not grow weary.  Do not give up.  Do not give up.  Do not give up.  Do good to everyone.

God, help me hear Paul’s words today.  

 

 

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Roll with the punches.  As an obsessive runner/ home school facilitator/ family business bookkeeper/ mom of three/ caregiver of one, you’d think I would understand this concept by now.  I’m forever forced to improvise, make due, makeshift, and man up.  But, no.  Boxing has proven otherwise.

I love structure.  I love security.  I want to know the next ten moves, the revised itinerary, the game plans from A-Z, and the three alternate fire escape routes.  I often speculate on whether God placed me in my positions as a lab-rat gone bad experiment or just felt unusually comical the day he planned out my steps.

I cannot go one day without having numerous infringements upon my time, my schedule, my plans, and my chosen path.  But are any of those things even mine to begin with?  Not really.  They (and I) belong to a sovereign God who have given them to me only to manage, not to own.  I am not the deed holder on any of the above.

Many who talk to me about home schooling say they do not “have the patience” to do such things.  My reply is always the same, “Neither do I!”  And neither do I have the patience for bookkeeping or parenting or cooking or cleaning or doing anything contrary to that which my insatiable flesh desires.  I want to live outside and write books and ride my motorcycle, my dirt bike, and swim and shadowbox and run and explore – preferably alone  every single day for goodness sake!  Help me!

Hello, my name is Lori and I am a selfaholic.

When I first starting living into these various I-did-not-sign-up-for-these callings, I was poindexter at the dance; Saint Susie at the saloon; a lineman trying to limbo.  I felt like a rigid, stiff, stick figure without any joints.  I simply could not move.  I was much more married to structure than I am now – more than a decade later.  I guess I am at least starting to roll.

Still, somewhere along the line I always seem to get into trouble in the ring.  The fight is fierce for that which I do not feel like fanning into.  When the punches start to fly at me with full-on fury and faster than a five foot female fighter’s hell-fire, I guard up, but I do not get out.  I duck, but I do not drive on.  Coach says I’m only half-committed to my damage control defense and my fight back formulas.  I get the first move and then I set my opponent up to blast me with my incorrect second, third, and fourth moves.  He says that when I am under attack, I have to fully commit – either to roll out or fire back.  Do both and I’m toast.  A knockout is certain to befall me if I fail to find my focus.  If I’m half committed – either offensively or defensively, I’m in trouble.

So, I either have to beat ’em to the punch or fix my feet to be quite fancy.  If my hit drives me back, it’s the wrong move altogether.  I have to learn to stop the rigidity and roll with the punches.

To learn that physically will doubtless help me improve it practically.  Whatever happens, I must learn to commit fully.  Half commitments, half-hearted hits, and hurried deviations will land me life-down on the canvas and my calling.

And your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way, walk in it,” when you turn to the right or when you turn to the left. ~Isaiah 30:21

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It’s Friday at 5 p.m.  You’ve just walked out the door from your workplace.  In the time it takes to walk from the entrance to your car, you hear a loud noise come from inside the building.  What do you do?

If you’re Colton Hobaugh, you go back inside and check to make sure everything is ok.  You find your boss lying unconscious covered in blood and motor oil.  You call 911 and hold him in your arms as he bleeds out all over you.  When he comes to you try to talk to him and reassure him that everything is ok even though you think he’s really on his way out this time.  You hand him over to the paramedics and you call his wife.  You calmly explain the situation.  You make sure everything that goes along with closing down the building is done after the trauma is over.  You assume responsibility for all that your boss holds dear.  You continuously check on him and his family even though the horrific scene is so fresh in your mind that you can barely stand to think of it.

It’s Friday at 5:30 p.m.   If you’re Ricky Teets, there is no doubt you’re fixin’ to get with the guys and start raisin’ some hell.  But you hear that your friend’s name has just read over the scanner.  You head straight to the hospital and arrive there before anyone else.  You tell his wife not to worry because you will work at the shop and take care of the business as long as he’s unable to wrench.  You – big, burly, wild Ricky – draw a basin of soap and water and gently wipe the dried up oil and blood which is still covering your buddy’s entire head, face, and arms off meticulously.  You reminisce about all the stupid things you’ve done together.  Seeing that his have been destoyed and cut off, you offer your own clothes and shoes to him.  You escort him to the bathroom.  You stand at his bed side – over seven hours – until he is discharged.  You escort his wife in the frozen parking lot and find her car.  You get him ready to leave and you walk him out the hospital doors.  You send a text an hour later offering more help if needed.  

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All I can say is, Bravo.  I – the ever discontent, critical-eyed cynic – am thoroughly impressed.  Two men with nothing to profit served my husband like bosses the other night.  I’m thankful for them and for all the support of countless others throughout Tim’s accident.  I guess you never realize how much people care until you qualify for a helicopter ride.  From the bottom of my family’s heart, thank all of you.  May God bless you in the same way you’ve blessed us.

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Just after he lists the works of the flesh and the works of the Spirit, Paul gives an exhortation regarding how Christians ought to deal with one another when we fail or see someone else failing.

Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted. 2 Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if anyone thinks he is something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself. 4 But let each one test his own work, and then his reason to boast will be in himself alone and not in his neighbor.5 For each will have to bear his own load. ~Galatians 6:1-5

An exhortation like this gives great insight into our two biggest temptations: carnality and self-righteousness.  It assumes that 1. we will be tempted and commit sin, at the very least, transiently, 2. we will need to correct and be corrected about sin transiently, and 3. our natural inclination is to think ourselves better than we are – whether we are the one in sin or the one correcting the sin of another.

Paul’s instructions are simple.  They come on the heels of the harsh, wrongful “correction” and exclusion administered by self-righteous men within the church.  Paul is sifting through the collateral damage done by puffed up leaders.  He is firmly reinstating proper restoration methods in the face of the rancid, loveless correction and competition that has been going on in Galatia.

“…you who are spiritual…”

His advice?  First, you must qualify.  Before you ever even think about correcting another sinner, examine yourself.  Are you spiritual?  If not, cease and desist.  Give it up.  You are in no place to correct anyone if you are not in tune with the Holy Spirit.  If you are, however, walking in line with the Spirit, then, and only then, proceed with great caution.  Then, if you see your brother sinning, be gentle with him.  Restore him.

Restore: to bring back to an original condition; to put someone back in a former position.

Restore.  Not reprimand.  Not reject.  Not ridicule.  Not label reprobate.  Restore.

Restoration is not retaliation.  It is not meant to wound, embarrass, injure, or shame.  Restoration is built on brotherly love.  It assumes that the transgressor is acting out of character.  It implies that the sinner was formerly in right standing with God.  The teachers in Galatia instead, assumed just the opposite.  They considered men unlike themselves (preferentially speaking) to be men of a different kind altogether – a worse, despicable, derelict kind who had no place at all within their great kingdom.  Little wonder why Paul emphasizes the importance of addressing sin properly here.  He knows that there are only sinners in the church who will be correcting sinners in the church.

His next warning?  Be careful.  When you go to one who is in sin, you will likely be tempted to sin right along with them.  Know why?  Because you are just like him.  You are a sinner, too.  Got it?  Remember it well or you will fall by either sinning with him or sinning by self-righteously thinking you are better than he.

You wanna obey the law?  Jesus’ law?  Bear your brother’s burdens.  Befriend him.  Talk to him.  Sit with him.  Know him.  Pray with him.  Love him.  Lead him.  You cannot bear what you do not know.  You cannot know a man in his darkest place lest you are, at the very least, willing to know him in his better state.  He simply will not let you.  Should he?  Clearly not.  We do not trust those whom we do not know.

Paul repeats himself pointing to the “correctors” back to his own need for great humility.  He reminds these guys that they are no better than the men they are seeking to correct.  He says, “Remember guys, you are nothing.  I am nothing.  Jesus is the only one who is something.  He is everything.  The second you think you are something great and quite possibly are God’s gift to the poor, erring, sinful people of the world, you lie.  You lie to yourself.  You are deceived, brother, and now in need of correction yourself.  Instead of thinking you’re doing God a favor by pointing out everyone else’s sin for them, test your own work.  Bear your own load.  Then you will be able to bear another’s.”

“This represents as the duty of every man; instead of being forward to judge and censure others, it would much more become us to search and try our own ways; our business lies more at home than abroad, with ourselves than with other men, for what business have we to judge another man’s servant?” ~Matthew Henry

Lord, give us grace.  Let us not reject, ridicule, reprimand or retaliate against even the reprobate.  Help us learn how to restore one another rightly.

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I drive a Ford Focus.  I have exactly three children and a mother who are usually traveling with me.  Sardines, anyone?

I’m not complaining.  Just describing.  (I love my car!  I picked this honey-of-a-one-owner out myself!)  I, however, used to drive a Ford Expedition.  I noticed that when we drove the larger vehicle, the kids fought less frequently.  I guess there’s just something about personal space that signals peace.

Keeping that fresh in mind, let me invite you on a recent trip we took to the girls’ favorite place (Michael’s craft store.)  With less than a quarter mile to go, they began to fight.  The stress level in my car went from zero to suffocating gas chamber in 1.2 seconds.  Yelling, name calling, hair pulling, and crying seemed to fall like dominoes and bellow throughout the backseat.  We almost made it, I thought to myself.

This scenario is not an uncommon occurrence for trips in my sardine mobile, however, it, in my honest opinion, is only one of the two most frequent, unfavorable outcomes we generally settle for regarding sibling relationships on the road.  The other improper circumstance is that which we experienced in the Expedition.  The other is the one I, all too often, am guilty of allowing and personally entertaining because it is easier and it appears, at least on the surface,  more proper.  This: autonomy.  Be it mom-threatening induced or digital device induced, autonomy is just as bad (if not worse!) as baby boxing in the backseat.  Herein, no one interacts with anyone.  We’ve no conflict because we’ve no conversation.  We’ve no realness because we’ve no relationship.

The truth is that having messy relationships is much more necessary than having superficial relationships – especially when we’re all headed in the same direction and packed into a particular place like sardines.

I am a thinker.  Well, that is, I suppose, a kind term for my condition.  Others might use the label “space cadet” or “left fielder.”  I enjoy quiet.  I like being alone.  Whenever it is not and I am not, I still have an amazing capacity to block out noise, confusion, conflict, and even all out war waging right in front of my face.  I just focus on faraway.  I fly to freedom on the wings of distraction, disinterest, and die-hard daydreaming.

What I’ve found, with a house full of needy people who have learned to need my input less and less, is that autonomy creates false peace.  It’s the flip-side extreme of wild, full on fighting.  Neither make for relational growth.  Both detract severely from true peace and healthy relationships.  I am painfully guilty on both counts.

As humans, it is extremely easy for us to swing between these two unprofitable ends of the pendulum and never find the necessary balance we need to develop good relationships – with all people, but particularly with people we do not prefer.  I know how true it is of myself as I notice how little my excessively independent children (whom I do prefer!) ever ask for my assistance anymore.  They don’t want to interrupt mommy’s internal dialogue.  They recognize when I’m clinging to my self-proclaimed right to personal space.  They fear my fidgety feedback.  They read my ready-to-read-a-riot-act red face and know when to stay away.  Hard truths to face when you know you are the problem.

As I made the last turn toward the craft store, I pointed.  Over the loud fighting I exclaimed even more loudly, “Look, girls!  It’s right there!  Aren’t you excited?!  Stop fighting!”

Lord!  If I, and my brothers and sisters, could just see the beauty of where we’re headed!  It’s so close!  We’ve no need to fight.  We’ve no need to isolate.  God gave us each other!  How desperately we must learn to love one another honestly.  No pride.  No policing.  No pretense.  No pandering for perpetual personal space.  Let there be peace on earth.  Let it begin with me.

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