A Cloud of Oppression

I was lost in a dark cloud one day years ago. As I thought of the future, the scene looked so bleak. I thought of my brothers and sisters in the Lord – and of myself as well – how full of faults we all tended to be. Yes, we wanted to follow Jesus’ teachings, but temptations came and we so often had to confess that we’d entertained thoughts, said words, done things a Christian shouldn’t. If our lives up to this point had been so full of failings, how could the future hold any hope for better things?

I had many ideals of Christian life and behaviour that I couldn’t seem to live up to — and neither could others. But lowering my standards didn’t feel like the right answer, either. God does hold us to a perfect standard. We can’t say, “If we’re mostly good, the rest will get by.” I couldn’t pass off my failings with, “Oh, well, I’m just human.” The Lord asks us to obey his direction. When we don’t, we are doing wrong.

But I am so human! We all are. Often we don’t fail a little, either; we fail Big Time. Someone does something that irritates us and we tell that person off in no uncertain terms. We forget that “Charity is patient and is kind, thinks no evil, hopes all things, endures all things…”

We want — may even take — things that aren’t ours and violate the “Thou shalt not covet.” The Apostle John wrote, “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world…” Next thing I know, here I am, wanting stuff again. I see my Christian sisters wanting stuff, too. God says “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” and here I am skirting around the truth to avoid criticism for something I said or did.

That day, as I viewed my own past track record – and that of others in our church – the dark cloud towered over me, suffocating me in despair.

My husband and I were driving to a neighbouring town to do some business so I began to tell him how I was feeling. As I was explaining, a little voice dropped a clear thought into my mind: “Your problem isn’t with the past, it’s with an evil spirit.”

One of those falling diamonds from heaven that clunks you on the head when it lands — and makes perfect sense when you examine it. This thought pierced that dark cloud like a laser beam, blasting it to pieces.

I immediately repeated the thought to my husband and something amazing happened. It’s like my eyes were opened and I could see it so clearly. This “blue mood” was actually a tormenting spirit. It would come to me every time my thoughts went back to the past, and it highlighted all my imperfections. It shadowed every thing I’d done with dark tones of failure – which was why I had a hard time thinking about the past at all without getting depressed.

As soon as I recognized it for what it was, it was gone! That whole dark shadow was gone and I could look at the past in a brighter light. Things were not nearly as bad as I had been seeing them. Why, we had all behaved as normal people! Sure, we had failed, but the blood of Christ covers all our failings. God forgives us, not because we’re improving with time, but because His Son paid the price to redeem us.

I can’t tell you how many times over the years I’ve wandered into that same dark cloud and felt that oppression. I’ve heard again that voice lamenting the blackness of my sins and/or the errors of other Christians. I’ve tried to fight it myself, to pull myself out of that mood, but positive thinking never gets me very far. Thankfully the voice of the Holy Spirit reminds me that I can be forgiven; I don’t have to let myself be browbeaten by those accusations.

Over time the only effective solution I’ve found is to cry out to God for help. “This spirit is tormenting me again, Lord. Please make it go away.” It’s amazing how those dark tones can be zapped and life can become bright and cheerful again. So many times He sends me a thought, a verse, a song, that lifts me out of the sea of despair and sets me on the right path again. Praise the Lord!

“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God…”
I John 4:1

“For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.”
Ephesians 6:12

“Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Hebrews 4:14-16

A Carful of Puzzles

A Bit of Local News

This week, just for fun, I planned a Puzzle Exchange evening at Silverwood Villa retirement home. Spring isn’t the best time for jigsaw puzzle exchanges, with folks starting to think of yard work, but the event gave the residents a chance to enjoy some evening company. I had a number of jigsaw puzzles I wanted to give away and I knew quite a few have been collecting at the Villa, done and put in storage. So I planned the event for yesterday evening and invited everyone who wanted to come.

The invitation was to bring puzzles to exchange, to give away, or just come and get free puzzles. I took a few of my African violets to give away as well. (They seem to multiply so rapidly at my house.) To top off the affair nicely, my books finally came.

On Jan 26th I ordered the first twelve print copies of Silver Morning Song, from Amazon. They were shipped — and never arrived. After a month of eager waiting, I wrote to the company and they said, “Sorry about that. We’ll send replacements.” So they shipped twelve more — and THEY never arrived.

I was getting rather discouraged and beginning to wonder if I should just abandon the project. I notified the company again and they were very good about it. They refunded my purchase price and the agent also instructed me to order again, requesting the fastest shipping, and he’d waive the extra charge for that. So I ordered forty books at the beginning of April — and was beginning to wonder why these weren’t coming, either.

I had an answer on Monday: they hadn’t been shipped yet. On Monday Amazon notified me that they’d shipped my books from Baltimore, using the DHL shipping company. They arrived in four days — pretty fast! So now I can tell the world, my book is AVAILABLE in a print edition and I have copies to sell. 🙂

Or you can order a copy of Silver Morning Song from Amazon.com, and e-books from either Amazon or Kobo.

Back to the puzzle exchange. I brought my puzzles; some other folks brought theirs; one Villa resident’s family contributed forty-some that he’s already done. We had the dining room whole table full, stacked several deep! But there wasn’t a large turnout; three local couples, three ladies, three Villa residents, plus ourselves.

Several people took home a few puzzles each and about half a dozen stayed at the Villa. As to the rest, we have about six boxes and a couple of bags in our car at the moment. I have an appointment in the city today, so will drop these off at Value Village. In addition I sold six books and five of my African violets found new homes.

A good visit was had by all who attended. 🙂

Personal Note:

For the past while I’ve been thinking of giving up blogging — maybe even giving up writing — for a time. Lately I’ve been drowning in a sea of recriminations. It’s taken me awhile to even identify what I’m feeling, but this is how I can best explain it. And I realize it’s nothing new; maybe it just goes with the terrain of OCD my mind is so often bouncing over?

Feels like being crushed under an mountainous “To-Do” list — or rather a mountain of “This should have been done last week, last month, last year, and wasn’t. How undisciplined! Never accomplish anything!” I’m supposed to be editing my book for teens, but stalled after Chapter 4. For sure I have no time to waste writing, so much other stuff must be finished first. Yet that doesn’t happen, either, when you’re feeling suffocated. Do any of you other readers have spells like that?

Anyway, I decided to just do simple blog posts until this dark cloud passes. I trust it will in time. First thing this morning I was contemplating all my failings in general when the line of a song came to me. “Jesus paid it all…” ALL can be forgiven. Precious thought! Like a lifesaver to a drowning person. I grabbed that thought and want to hang onto it. 🙂

Theories Can Crash and Burn

What Is Truth?

The two neatly dressed young men stood on my doorstep, ready to discuss various problems of society and offer their solution. They were well versed on issues of eternal consequence as well. Had I been open to instruction they’d have no doubt produced their Book of Mormon, ready to enlighten me.

Over the years I’ve observed a few things about human nature and beliefs, right and wrong. We talked a bit and I told them, “I believe if we really love the Truth above all — if we love it so much we’re willing to let truth delete all our pet theories and reasoning — God will show us what is true and we’ll make it to Heaven someday.”

One of my young listeners spoke up and quite sincerely agreed with me.

So there we stood, the Mennonite and the Mormons, totally disagreed on doctrine yet agreed on something vital. The power of God. The ability and willingness of God to enlighten seeking humans. Our ability to grasp it — if we let go of our own formulations.

Having just come through Easter season, we’ve been reminded of Jesus standing in Pilate’s Judgement Hall. Again we hear Pilate’s question, “What is truth?”

He didn’t ask this because he really wanted to know. If you read the account you realize that Pilate knew full well what the facts were in this case. His question was really a sigh of frustration. a wish that truth would be more convenient for the situation he was facing.

This question has replayed through all ages, all issues, all human minds. Where in all this muddle of logic, feelings, rhetoric, and examples, do I find the truth?

Logic, Passion, Rhetoric, Reality

I’ve been pondering a variety of issues in the past few days, choosing certain avenues and exploring the adjoining side streets. What started this process was seeing a recently-published book on the Prohibition years in North America. In fact I bought it and am eager to read this writer’s take on the great experiment. A theory that should have worked — but instead crashed and burned.

Twenty-odd years back I did a study of the Women’s Movement both here and in Britain, mainly because of a friend who was really enthused about the subject. What we call the Women’s Movement today built up momentum in the late 1800s with a demand that the right to vote be extended to women. One arm of this movement, the Women’s Christian Temperance Movement (WCTM), threw their weight behind this demand and gave the movement a lot of its rhetoric. They did not give the movement its ultimate direction.

Once women gained the right to vote, the WCTM focussed on pushing through Prohibition laws. As my friend explained, “Their hearts were in the right place.” They saw how many women and children were victims of poverty and abuse because the father, the family breadwinner, was at the mercy of his “thirst.” The WCTU wanted to rescue destitute families and relieve suffering caused by alcoholism. Yes, their hearts were in the right place. And they used some powerful, logical rhetoric.

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,
Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;
But over its terrible edge there had slipped
A duke and full many a peasant.
So the people said something would have to be done,
But their projects did not at all tally;
Some said, “Put a fence ’round the edge of the cliff,”
Some, “An ambulance down in the valley.”
Etc.
From “The Ambulance Down in the Valley”
by Joseph Malins (1895)

Pondering the obvious failure of Prohibition started me thinking about the difference between Theory, Rhetoric, and Fact. Why so some things work so well in theory and not in fact? Skillful use of rhetoric fires people up, seemingly everyone gets on board, this is going to work — then what goes wrong?

To be continued.

Wishing You A Blessed Easter

Crosses.jpg

Who Is This?

by William Walsham How
1823 – 1897

Who is this so weak and helpless,
child of lowly Hebrew maid,
rudely in a stable sheltered,
coldly in a manger laid?
This the Lord of all creation,
who this wondrous path hath trod;
He is God from everlasting
and to everlasting God.

Who is this, a Man of Sorrows,
walking sadly life’s hard way,
homeless, weary, sighing, weeping,
over sin and Satan’s sway?
This our God, our glorious Saviour,
who above the starry sky
now for us a place prepareth,
where no tear can dim the eye.

Who is this? Behold him shedding
drops of blood upon the ground!
Who is this, despised, rejected,
mocked, insulted, beaten, bound?
‘Tis our God, who gifts and graces
on his Church now poureth down;
who shall smite in righteous judgement
all his foes beneath his throne.

Who is this that hangeth dying
while the rude world scoffs and scorns,
numbered with the malefactors,
torn with nails and crowned with thorns?
‘Tis our God, who ever liveth
‘mid the shining ones on high,
in the glorious golden city,
reigning everlastingly.

Set to music by John Ambrose Lloyd the elder.

These Small Things

By Helen Welshimer
1902–1954; American journalist, writer and poet

He did not have a house where He could go
when it was night; when other men went down
small streets where children watched with eager eyes,
each one assured of shelter in the town,
The Christ sought refuge anywhere at all–
a house, an inn, the roadside, or a stall!

He borrowed the boat in which He rode that day
He talked to throngs along the eastern lake;
it was a rented room to which He called
the chosen twelve the night He bid them break
the loaf with Him, and He rode, unafraid,
another’s colt in that triumph-parade.

A man from Arimathea had a tomb
where Christ was placed when nails had done their deed.
Not ever in the crowded days He knew
did He have coins to satisfy a need.
They should not matter – these small things I crave –
make me forget them, Father, and be brave.

One Little Patch

“And whether one member suffer, all the members suffer with it; or one member be honoured, all the members rejoice with it.” I Corinthians 12:26

The Apostle Paul is telling us that when one member of the body suffers, the whole body will feel it. I learned this first-hand one day when my tympani, or eardrum, received a tiny patch. A few hours after the deed was done my whole head was suffering with that little spot.

When I was in my thirties I had tubes put in my ear drums so I wouldn’t have to live with tympani-rupturing infections. The tubes remained for years until one by one they fell out, leaving little holes. My ear specialist deemed it wise to patch these holes, one at a time.

Into the operating room I went. He snipped a bit of skin from the back of my ear and tacked it over the hole, then he packed something into the outer ear canal to hold the patch in place.

This procedure called for a general anesthetic, which meant my whole body had to bear with the little member. I couldn’t eat or drink before surgery; my stomach grumbled about that. Coming out of the anesthetic after surgery my stomach felt queasy and my head felt fuzzy and unbalanced. My feet had extra work to keep my woozy body upright when the nurse insisted I take a short walk around the room. Later in the evening I suffered with a cross between a headache and an earache. All because of one microscopic piece of skin.

Thankfully the operation was successful, the site’s healed nicely and I no longer have a hole in that eardrum.

The Apostle Paul was speaking of the Church, referred to as the earthly body of Jesus Christ. As we become members of that holy body of believers, “knit together in love,” when one suffers everyone feels it. Every member has a place to fill, a work to do in the body, and if one is weak or AWOL others have to make corrections for him or her. I appreciate how much my fellow Christians bear with my faults.

We all have some weaknesses and irritating habits others need to bear with. Some Christians are recovering from past emotional damage. They may be fearful and suspicious. We’ve all been scarred by the consequences of temptations we’ve yielded to. And we’re not surrounded by people who always speak kind, edifying words. Gossip and harsh words from family, neighbours and co-workers may wound us. Plus, the Bible warns us that our enemy hurls “fiery darts” our way and some of them hit tender spots.

Unlike medical men, God makes repairs without knocking the his children out. If we are willing and obedient to follow directions, He brings us into situations that strengthen our weak areas and gives us courage in spite of our shortcomings. We can be serving Him to the best of our ability, still He constantly performs those small surgeries necessary to cure our hurts, fears, frustrations. Over time He skillfully removes our “baggage” without crippling after-effects.

This healing, straightening process is called sanctification. Like “Be patient; God isn’t finished with me yet.”

I’m glad the doctor is finished with my ears. I’d be absolutely delighted to never need any more repairs, big or small. But I trust the Lord will keep on operating on me, so I can be an effective member of His Church.

“So we, being many, are one body in Christ, and every one members one of another.” Romans 12:5

What DO Feminists Hate?

Monday Morning Musing

I was going about my morning as usual when I happened to check my SPAM queue and saw a title that caught my eye:

“If Feminists Hate This, It Must Be Good”

I didn’t open the e-mail, but I must admit the title IS thought-provoking. My mind immediately brought up various responses:
If feminists hate war, then war must be good?
If feminists hate child-abuse, then child abuse must be good?
If feminists hate drug-trafficking, and the sex slavery that often goes with it, then drug use must be good?
If feminists hate SPAM, then…

Ah, but… So much meaning hinges on the word THIS. Since I never read the message — which is undoubtedly an ad of some kind — I have no idea what “this” refers to. I just jumped on the title and thought, “Wait a minute. This is a false assumption!”

Rather than getting the complete picture, aren’t we sometimes inclined, as listeners or readers, to catch a few significant words and build our rebuttal on that?
“You said this, and it isn’t true.”
“She wrote thus and thus, and it makes no sense.”
“He carelessly asked for a dozen when he should have asked for precisely twelve!”

Looking back I blush to think of times where I’ve pounced on some short phrase and shook it like a rat, not listening for — or deliberately ignoring — the real meaning behind the statement. Yes, “Guilty as charged.” The speaker may have had a valid point but I’ve allowed one sentence to negate it.

Conversely, haven’t we all seen a child pick the part they wanted to hear and go from there?
Mother: “I don’t think you really should go along with them, but if you feel you have to do that I won’t order you stay home.”
Child to friends: “Mom says I can go.”

Another phrase comes to my mind. Over the years people have seized on this statement and taken it literally without ever exploring the context for the complete meaning.
Jesus said, “Judge not that ye be not judged.” (Matt 7:1)

These words from the Bible are frequently quoted, in fact they’ve become a motto for our times. They’re used to excuse a LOT of bad behaviour, to prove innocence of a sort. Usually comparatively speaking, like:

“Sure, I’m smoking pot, but who are you to judge me? You have a social drink now and then. Remember, the Bible says, ‘Judge not that ye be not judged’.”

Years ago I worked for a boss who smoked. Her sister nagged her about the danger of getting lung cancer. Then studies revealed that women who dyed their hair had a higher incidence of cancer. (It was slight, if I recall correctly.)

Well, the sister dyed her hair, so my boss justified her smoking with this ‘you’re just as wrong as I am’ approach: “My sister criticizes me for smoking, but she’s dyeing her hair. So who is she to judge?” Her argument didn’t affect her chance of getting lung cancer in the least, but it got her off the hook with her nagging sister.

In John 7:24 Jesus says, “Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgement.” Sadly, this sentence has never gotten equal billing with the “Judge not” line of thought.

In Matt 5:48 He tells his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”

Now wait a minute! What’s this about PERFECT? Who can ever be perfect?

The only way to find out what Jesus meant by this statement is to read the book of Matthew.

Just like the only way I’ll ever find out what “feminists hate” and why it’s so good is to read the e-mail. But I’ve deleted it. I really don’t want to know; the answer is not important to my life.