Coming About

I have been feeling and expressing all kinds of frustration and anger over the past few days because my Gmail accounts were hacked…as well as all of the accounts which my Google browser held passwords for.   I was not thinking about the truth of what I said in How to Win the War.  In fact, it took anger at my blessed neighbor to come to grips; she has been doing very poorly lately but got herself out of her chair to yell out her front door at me that my dog was “doing dookie” in the yard.  Really?

I struggled with my reaction to that…and everything else…last night.  (I have had 3 credit card companies reduce my credit limit to at or BELOW my credit balance because of a credit report pulled last December…when I couldn’t make house payments, moved here, and put the house up for sale.  One card had this month’s minimum payment set at $792.00…the minimum due… and reported my status as OVER LIMIT.  My credit score is now 551 primarily because of my credit allowance to credit balance ratio.)

Okay, I got that out.

Time for my sailing analogy.  It is time for me to make a course adjustment.  I have been sailing off-course for about a week.  I have been focusing on spiritual battles and race-war distractions.  (I am not implying that inequities in the laws governing the treatment of blacks is not an issue.  It is.  These laws must be changed…NOW.)  But, the REAL enemy is drawing us off course and is pitting blacks against whites and blacks against police and protesters against military and protesters against police and ….  We are distracted by these confrontations and the evil one and his minions and those who believe his propaganda are the ones perpetrating these evil deeds and as long as we don’t recognize this as a distraction from the real war, it appears to the world that they are winning…but they do not…have not…and won’t.  Remember who the enemy is.  Remember Who has won.

“Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.”  That is from Isaiah.

Back to my sailing analogy.  The appropriate action which one should take to make a course adjustment, depends on how far off-course you are.  Sometimes you just move the tiller a bit to the left or right.  The tiller (your mind or the thoughts you focus on) moves the rudder…which is underwater, therefore hidden.  The rudder would equate to your sub-conscious or perhaps your spirit or soul.  You can make subtle adjustments to your tiller (thoughts or focus) by reading scripture that refers to God’ goodness, Jesus’s commandments, and the strength and protection of the Holy Spirit.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable–if anything is excellent or praiseworthy–think about such things.”  That is from Philippians.

If it is not enough to just change your focus or thinking, then you may need to ‘come about.’  Tacking is another word for ‘coming about;’ what you must do is switch which side of the boat your sail is leaning toward.  It requires a major shift of the tiller (and, therefore, the rudder) and causes a change in how the wind affects the sail.  What may be required is a major change in what you are focusing on.

Think of the wind as everything that affects you emotionally or spiritually.  That would include the news, events around the world, what’s going on in your family, your city, your country.   That also includes the Holy Spirit, prayer, and scripture.

Your sail, responding to the wind, is what propels you and gets you where you are going.  If your sail is picking up ‘bad’ or ‘foul’ wind, which means it is wind influenced by something (like another boat or bad teaching that you are following or ‘bad’ news, or fear, or hate,….), then coming about and making a major course change can move you into better wind and will greatly improve your journey.  The best wind is the Holy Spirit.

To get out of a ‘foul’ wind,  pray:  present to Jesus all of those issues fouling your life (hates, grievances, injuries, resentments, abuses, fear, guilt, …) and ask to have your sails filled back up with the good pure wind of His Spirit.

(Aside on how to present those issues to Jesus:  imagine a hamper or a bucket….like one you would bail with.  Imagine or list all the crap that you can think of and a few you aren’t aware of …Jesus will know…imagine putting all that stuff in the hamper or bucket and laying it at the feet of Jesus.  Imagine putting it at the base of the tree from which He was crucified, if that helps.  Then back away.  Do Not pick it back up.  Then pray that the space opened up by the releasing all of that junk…that that space be filled up with good, clean, pure Spirit from God.)

When you are sailing under a good wind, you can make progress in your journey and do constructive things to improve the world, as well as your own life and your eternity.  Good wind comes from your own relationship with God…your creator.  Good wind does not come through your church membership.  Good wind does not come from just reading the Bible.  Good wind is the Spirit of the Lord which comes to you Directly…not filtered…not translated…not through association with others.  It is directly to you…directly from God.

If you are unable to connect directly with God, your creator, ask for His help.  He will give it.  He will bring to mind those things which are fouling your wind, and when He does, immediately put them at Jesus’ feet; do not dwell on them or relive old injuries.  Give them immediately to Jesus.  And when residual stuff comes up, and it will, give that to Him, too…over and over.

You are not fouled….your wind is.  You are a sturdy, well-built, little craft.  Get out of the foul wind and sail on.

I’m heading next door to apologize for my dog’s having gone “dookie” in my neighbor’s yard and to see how she is doing.

(Thank you, God, for this deliverance.  To You be the Glory.)

(Yes, that is a picture of me hoisting a sail …many years ago.  I have stopped stealing images from the internet and that photo is the only one of my own that I could find quickly that had anything to do with sailing, sails, and wind.)

 

 

An Enlightening Article

“the Nixon administration “had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people…We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black [sic], but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. ” – John Ehrlichman

Reading this Time magazine article made me uncomfortable but discomfort is often a good thing…a God thing; for me, it means I am disrupting my comfortable and familiar views and stretching my awareness.  I may not alter my course or I may have to make a mid-course correction.  I may accelerate my pace…or I may have to do an about face, altogether.  Opening one’s eyes is always good and one can discern truth from propaganda by asking for enlightenment from the Holy Spirit.

Confession:  I now know one meaning, the possible origin, of the term ‘institutionalized.’  I did not know about this history before and my previous post reflects that ignorance.

I strongly recommend this Time magazine article and allowing a little discomfort…

The GOP Can Lead on Criminal Justice Reform—If We Admit Inequality Exists

“the true state of race relations in the country–improving slowly, painfully but surely” – Time Magazine

“What if we are not “falling apart” as a nation? What if we are, in fact, doing what democracies are supposed to do–gradually learning, through experience, how to solve our most vexing problems?”

Please read the entire article:

After Baton Rouge, Minneapolis and Dallas, Signs of Passionate Sanity

2 Commandments

For those not inclined to “Love Jesus” right off the bat (because of current beliefs, views, background, and/or upbringing), “Love God.” In time, you will be introduced to the person of Jesus and you will love His person, and love others through Him, as well.

filosopete

There are supposedly just ten commandments in the Bible.

Then, ten more, almost similar.

Plus five that fall in between.

Mosaic Law ends up with 613, in total.

New Testament, not really given as commandments, suggest 1050. A staggering number.

Jesus said we should keep these.

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An Appropriate and Powerful Response

Do you remember how you responded after the shock of 9/11 waned enough for you to stand up and walk again?  If you were like me, you went out and found an American flag and taped it to your car window.  I put a tiny flag on my desk and looked up the rules for the proper displaying of the flag.  I made sure the flag I flew in front of my house never got wet in the rain, was put up at sunrise and came down at sunset.

I was just like most Americans in that there was not much else I could do besides pray for our safety, to show the terrorists that we were not afraid and we would not give in to their threats and their show of hatred toward America.

But that was all I could do.

That was then.  THIS IS NOW.

We have a much more tangible way to respond to the displays of anger, hatred, and evil in the world around us.  And this is what I am going to do:

In response to racial anger and resentment, I will demonstrate to every person I meet, REGARDLESS OF THEIR RACE:

kindness,

patience,

concern,

charity,

and the Grace which I have received from God in abundance.

In response to stories and accusations of bias, injustice, unfair practices, hype, and propaganda, I will remind everyone who will listen, that we are all to blame and the only correct course of action is to STOP.  Stop, turn around, and do the opposite:  I will continue to be an ambassador for Christ and demonstrate 1) Love of God and 2) Love of Everyone.

An appropriate response to this assault on humanity is to show that WE WILL NOT DO LIKEWISE.

The buck stops here.  The hate stops at my door.  The attacks, accusations, lies, and slander stop at my mouth.

I will not spread or return anything but love, kindness, charity, compassion, understanding, and a whole shit-load of patience and forgiveness…so help me God.

(And I mean that, God…You’re going to have to help me.)

Make it Real – Going Public

Have you ever noticed how when you mention God in conversation (no, not that way…), that things suddenly become real?

I was having a difficult time finding funds for gas.  I had funds on a card the gas station didn’t take.  I did a work around through my phone by doing a funds transfer from the unacceptable card to another card and then, again through my phone, from that card to my refillable gas gift card.  The attendant swiped the gift card; …nothing.  I murmured, “Come on, God, help me…”  Another attendant looked up along with a customer.  I swiped again.  It went through and I murmured, “God is good.”  When I looked up, everyone was smiling.  Some were smiling to themselves.  Many were nodding.

Why is it when people pray out loud, they sound as if they are speaking for your benefit or for the benefit of the room and not as if they really are speaking to someone?  Have you ever heard anyone say out loud, particularly in church, “Okay God, let me ask you this…”   or even, “God, I want you to know something…”  It’s always in a ‘recite the creed’ tone of voice.  If you don’t sound like you believe in God, how is anyone else going to believe in God ….or even believe that YOU believe in God?

A friend of mine has been battling dark forces for years.  She’s good at it.  She is a prayer warrior.  She advised me to speak ‘out loud’ when commanding the evil ones to get away from me, in the Name of Jesus, etc.  I will explain why I believe speaking ‘out loud’ makes a difference:

There have been many times when I thought I was going to do something but didn’t.  In ‘psychiatry/psychology-speak’ this is often referred to as ideation, such as in ‘suicidal ideation,’ a rather derogatory term meaning you’re a wimp and you haven’t got the nerve to do it.  (I don’t want to think about how many people have gone through with suicide just to prove ‘friends,’ family members, and doctors wrong.)

There have been times when I thought I was going to cross over into on-coming traffic…but didn’t.  There have been times when I thought I was going to jump off of something high…but didn’t. There were times when I thought I was going to take bottles of pills…but didn’t.  It wasn’t out of fear that I did not do it, because there have been times that I have done it.  More benignly, there have been times I told myself I was not going to go into a store…but did; furthermore, I told myself I was not going to buy books…but did.  I confess…and digress…

My point is this: taking it out of the mind of intention and into the verbal makes it more real for me.  My imagination and mind of intention are not trustworthy.  And I don’t think I am alone in this.  I read an article yesterday that mentioned cognitive behavioral therapy…or ‘talk’ therapy.  Talking about how one thinks about things, situations, and life; and how one behaves as a result of one’s thoughts; and talking about making changes (not just thinking about making changes) gives it more oomph.  Verbalizing affirmations is what gives them power, not just the present tense of the verb.

It is similar to what the Apostle John says about “In the beginning was The Word…” how at creation there was a difference between when there was just the Mind of God and when there was Christ: the Logos or the Word.
The Word.
God uttering Christ made Him real.  God uttered Christ into being.
I’ve read and heard a great deal about how naming a fear gives you power over it.
God calls us by name.

I believe the invocation of a prayer…the speaking of the prayer…makes it manifest…or maybe just more likely to be manifest.

Am I making any sense?  Talk to me…

 

(The image above is borrowed from the internet.  I did an internet search for “making it real;” don’t do that.  just don’t.)

 

Dealing with Race in America

Keith is truly a man of God and a man of guts and integrity. He pointed out correctly that the problem is one of perceptions and degrees. White people…and while I want to say “MOST white people” I will just say “many white people” are pushing in the correct direction…but there is so much farther to push….so much so that from the black perspective, we’ve hardly moved at all. The black perspective is accurate.

My only defense for white people is that for MANY white people, they’ve made a 180 degree turn from that of their parents and grandparents and, from personal experience, that was not easy. Many many times I heard from my father, “Why can’t you be like the rest of us?”. I am truly sorry that we have not made more progress. I do not know what more can be done in one lifetime than to make a complete about face, push against the tide, and do what I can to convince those around me to consider turning around, too. I ask for forgiveness (from Keith, from my other black friends, and from God) for not having done more or enough to matter.

Please refer to previous posts Generalizations are Generally Wrong and In the Name of the Father.

Christ’s Embassy – some of the Best Practices

” We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

I am not implying that these are the best practices of these denominations or that these are the only good practices.  What I am implying is that these are practices that should be adopted by all of the other denominations…and any BiaFoC Collectives established from here, forward:

  • Spend some time on your knees.  (From the Episcopalians).  That is a good posture to get used to and familiar with.  It is difficult to cop an attitude while on your knees, except with God and He is the Only one Who will let you say everything you want to say without interrupting.
  • Silent prayer.  (The Presbyterians and, similarly, the Quakers). The more time you spend in silence, the better.  Try to spend half the time silently talking and the other half silently listening.  Consider a quiet bell to mark the dividing line…and to wake up the older men.
  • Confession.  (The Catholics).  I would suggest this twist on the conventional approach:  have slips of paper and pencils at the door.  BiaFoCs can write down their demons (illnesses, resentments, hates, fears, prides, addictions, vanities, generational abuses,…) as well as their gratitudes and intercessions.  The pieces of paper go in a bucket.  The bucket of confessions is prayed over then burned; the issues go up in smoke.  (More of an Episcopal thing.). You can call it “checking your demons at the door.”. Make it clear that you can not dig in the ashes to take your issues back home with you.
  • Stephen Ministry (multi-denominational, I think) where a seasoned with experience in adversity, spiritual warfare, personal demons, and faith walks beside a new BioFoC or a BiaFoC who is struggling.
  • Healing Ministry (the Order of St. Luke, which is multi-denominational.) with regular weekly ‘Soaking Prayer’ and “Generational Healing’ services.
  • Sponsors, ‘seasoned believers’ to walk along side of the new members to introduce them to the faith warriors in the Collective, the various services like the different ministries, and to help them find their best Collective Subset.  The sponsor should be confident enough to talk candidly about God, their relationship with God, and their faith.  I address how sponsors can help new believers in my article about the BiaFoCs Inverted U.  When someone who ‘gets it’ walks along beside someone who doesn’t yet, the connection to God is clarified and faith is strengthened…for both of them.
  • Prayer Ministers, Prayer Chains and Prayer Request boxes.  Many churches have these.  Many don’t.   In God Loves You. No Exceptions. I relate how street corner preachers were ‘augmented’ by an humble booth at a street fair which housed a table with a shoe box labelled “Prayer Requests”, scrap paper, and pencils.  Prayer Ministers were on hand for requests for immediate intervention and supplication.
  • Walk through Practicing the Presence of God during the service, and talk about it. (Nobody does this.)  Talk to God as if you really believe He really is there…and not with the “Apostle’s Creed” tone of voice.  Creeds are fine; Creeds are good. But demonstrate what Practicing the Presence looks like…what it sounds like.  Ask God a question and wait for an answer.  Someone may hear it.  If you, who believe, don’t act like you believe, how is anyone else going to believe?  Or believe that you believe.

If you are a pastor or church leader, look into adding these to your offerings at church.  If you are not a pastor or church leader, consider taking these ‘best practices’ to them.  Look into becoming trained as a Stephen Minister or joining the Order of St. Luke , if you feel led to.

If your faith could be stronger, try taking on more adversity; suggestion: help shoulder someone else’s.

 

 

 

Christ’s Embassy – the BiaFoCs Inverted U

” We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

(Much of this information about the Inverted U, while basic data analysis, is borrowed from Malcolm Gladwell’s book David and Goliath – Underdog, Misfits, and The Art of Battling Giants.  How this data depiction applies to faith and connection to God was revealed to me while reading Gladwell’s application of it to class size and wealth.)

The Inverted U describes situations that improve as a factor (like time, money, or class size) increase..up to a point.  After that point, the situation stays the same for a bit and then gets less good and eventually is as bad as when you started…if not worse.  An example Gladwell gives is the quality of life as your income increases.  Gladwell’s book was published in 2013.  In it he states that, “scholars who research happiness suggest that more money stops making people happier at a family income of around seventy-five thousand dollars a year.”  Beyond that and the returns are diminished.  (Again, I will leave it up to you to read the research further.)

I would suggest that a similar graph will describe the relationship between hardship and faith, if the practice and application of one’s faith is applied to lessen one’s adversities.  Before I get into examples, an aside was offered in Gladwell’s book on the 4 Phases of the Inverted U or, as I translate it, the 4 Phases of the Hardship/Faith Relationship:

  1. Establishing the Footing (as in a foundation):  Becoming a believer: desire, repentance, baptism,…
  2. Flagging:  Too much stress and hardship (financial instability, illness, toxic relationships, abuse, neglect, poverty, poor nutrition and self-care) Believer needs help; Believer turns to God; Life improves,…
  3. Flat (The Optimum State): Tolerable stress balanced with strong connection to God
  4. Falling:  Too many blessings; Not enough Stress and Hardship; A lessened sense that one needs God

As Gladwell states:  “All positive traits, states, and experiences have costs that at high levels may begin to outweigh their benefits.”

I would add, likewise, all adversities have potential benefits that, if utilized, can mitigate those adversities. Over time, however, with the decrease in adversity, the appeal and perceived value of those benefits also decreases.  The benefits of adversity CAN be faith, hope, confessed dependence on (and frequent communication with) God, honed problem solving skills, stamina, desire to persevere, …

The key is to maintain the Flat: The Optimum State: retain the desire for the Presence of God, and the need and appreciation of blessings, when hardships decrease and life gets easier.

How? Increase your need for God.

How? By giving more of yourself (time and money); by helping shoulder some of the hardships of others… which, in turn, presents more need for divine assistance and continued connection to God…for your own strength and for wisdom concerning the other.  For example, growing a prayer list of other fellow BiaFoCs who need God…and praying for the mitigation of their hardships will keep you busy.

It’s a delicate balance.  Demons must be released which opens up connection to God; as demons revisit, they must be released again, and one’s attention must return to God.  Note, blessings can carry demons with them such as pride of accomplishment, ‘free’ time spent dwelling on things that are detrimental to our connection to God, financial prosperity, …

A while back I wrote on keeping busy.  That is how I deal with demons and keep focusing on God.  If my deeds are validated, I give that validation to Jesus.  If I am thwarted and I get discouraged, I give that discouragement to Jesus.  At this point in my life, it is a constant dance to keep my demons at bay and to turn my attention back to God…but every time I do, it is more automatic and a stronger, clearer connection.

(Addendum:  Tonight I am a bit thwarted; I am trying too hard and failing to get these ideas across as clearly and convincingly as they were presented to me.  And I wonder what the point is.  What difference is any of this going to make?  In many respects, it feels as though it is too late.  (Here, Lord.  I don’t like giving this discouragement to you but I don’t know what else to do with it.  I’m confused, uncertain, and vulnerable.  I need protection now, please.  You’re the only One I can talk to…the only One Who understands.)

Christ’s Embassy – Critical Mass

“We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.”

Many of my ideas are applications of research and findings documented in a work by Malcolm Gladwell titled David and Goliath – Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants.  Jesus directed me to that book when I was wanting advice on protecting myself from evil influences.  The first chapter, which was about playing aggressive defense, gave me some good pointers.

The next chapter, however, addresses an issue of a different nature: misconceptions about the correlation between class size and education quality.  (In fact, the book is more about misconceptions than it is about battling giants.)  What Gladwell says about class size sheds amazing light on why certain churches are successful (truly helpful; facilitating the inspiration of the Holy Spirit; and directing people toward an ever-closer relationship with God)…and why others are not.  Maxwell’s research revealed that despite the common misconception that the smaller the class, the more effective the educational experience, there is actually a critical mass necessary for a successful class of adolescent to teen-age students.  (I will leave as an exercise for the student to look up why.)  I will suggest that the same is true for effective BiaFoC Collectives (Believers in and Followers of Christ in Collective).

Mega-churches, by definition, are so big that for logistics sake, the people are separated into groups.  Those groups are usually defined by common characteristics:  age, marital status, with family (or not).  The issues addressed within those groups naturally pertain to (read: are of interest for) those groups.  For example, adolescent-age groups often address  bullying; high school groups address peer-pressure, sexual morality, movies, music, etc. but bullying, not so much.  Single mothers address child support, discipline, parent-teacher conferences, child psychology.  Elderly couples address wellness, senility, travel, living on a fixed income, and death..  Young families address balancing work and family, budgeting, finding time for faith, finding time for each other.

In a mega-church, such groups (which I will call “Collective Subsets”) can have a critical mass of BiaFoCs which engenders good back-and-forth discussion, ‘teaching and learning,’ and moral support.  In a smaller church, typically all adults are lumped into one class and half are bored; the other half are asleep.   If not, there are so few BiaFoCs in the group that no one speaks up…or only one, and that was usually me.  I am sure to you pastors and Christian educators, this is not news.  But I have a solution for those of you interested in starting fresh or willing to try something innovative:  Divide and Pair Up.

Divide into the Collective Subsets and then Pair Up, on occasion.  For example, every month or so, have the Senior men meet with the Young Professionals to help with advice on starting a business, integrity, and finding time for God.  Have the Mature or Retired Couples meet with the Young Families to help them manage budgets, DIY projects, prepare for parenting and discipline challenges, and occasionally take the kids for an afternoon.   Have the Elderly Couples meet with Teenagers to discuss morality issues, spiritual development and challenges, education and career choices, or plan trips together.  (Teenagers can usually talk with their Grandparents when they cannot talk with their parents.)  Young singles can meet with the Elderly Singles to see if they can join forces in running errands, making small repairs, going to plays and concerts, putting together a foursome for bridge.  The Teenagers can run a free Summer Day Care for Young Families and Single Mothers to take advantage of.  Grandmothers can pair off with Single Mothers to give parenting advice, emotional support (proof that one does not die of single parenting), and a shoulder to cry on.

In the typical medium sized church, there is usually one or two single moms who are going under for the third time; no one notices when they stop coming to church. The Elderly feel irrelevant…in spite of their wealth of wisdom and experience; they have a knowledge of spirituality unimagined by the Teenagers.  Mainline denominations probably have rules against combining congregations to facilitate a critical mass.  Would one Collective consider focusing on only two or three Subsets and the Collective on the other side of town focusing on another two or three?  How about a Collective for the Single Mothers of a community or town?

These are just some thoughts….

Next time, I will present the BiaFoC Inverted U…or finding and keeping the right balance of hardships and blessings.

 

(Note: some feel it is too late for fixing churches.  In case it is not, I will continue to pass along what I have been shown. I would like to add that the main reason for critical masses and like-situated groups of people is that the Struggling Christian needs to be with enough people with the same questions, wrestling with the same issues, and worrying about the same things so tht they do not feel isolated and alone…to know that they are normal.)