Monday, September 29, 2008

Wow. The Lord has a way of smacking me on the head

I was reading in my devotions this morning from Spiritual Classics. There is an essay by Catherine Marshall entitled A fasting from criticalness that is well worth reading. I have reprinted it here for you:

A Fasting on Criticalness

by Catherine Marshall

The Lord continues to deal with me about my critical spirit, convicting me that I have been wrong to judge any person or situation: “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Matt. 7:1-2; NIV)

One morning last week He gave me an assignment: for one day I was to go on a “fast” from criticism. I was not to criticize anybody about anything.

Into my mind crowded all the usual objections. “But then what happens to value judgments? You Yourself, Lord, spoke of ‘righteous judgment.’ How could society operate without standards and limits?”

All such resistance was brushed aside. “Just obey Me without questioning: an absolute fast on any critical statements for this day.”

As I pondered this assignment, I realized there was an even humorous side to this kind of fast. What did the Lord want to show me?

The Experiment

For the first half of the day, I simply felt a void, almost as if I had been wiped out as a person. This was especially true at lunch with my husband, Len, my mother, son Jeff, and my secretary Jeanne Sevigny, present. Several topics came up (school prayer, abortion, the ERA amendment) about which I had definite opinions. I listened to the others and kept silent. Barbed comments on the tip of my tongue about certain world leaders were suppressed. In our talkative family no one seemed to notice.

Bemused, I noticed that my comments were not missed. The federal government, the judicial system, and the institutional church could apparently get along fine without my penetrating observations. But still I didn’t see what this fast on criticism was accomplishing—until mid-afternoon.

For several years I had been praying for one talented young man whose life had gotten sidetracked. Perhaps my prayers for him had been too negative. That afternoon, a specific, positive vision for this life was dropped into my mind with God’s unmistakable hallmark on it—joy.

Ideas began to flow in a way I had not experienced in years. Now it was apparent what the Lord wanted me to see. My critical nature had not corrected a single one of the multitudinous things I found fault with. What it had done was to stifle my own creativity—in prayer, in relationships, perhaps even in writing—ideas that He wanted to give me.

Last Sunday night in a Bible study group, I told of my Day’s Fast experiment. The response was startling. Many admitted that criticalness was the chief problem in their offices, or in their marriages, or with their teenage children.

The Result

My own character flaw here is not going to be corrected overnight. But in thinking this problem through the past few days, I find the most solid Scriptural basis possible for dealing with it. (The Greek word translated “judge” in King James, becomes “criticize” in Moffat.) All through the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus sets Himself squarely against our seeing other people and life situations through this negative lens. What He is showing me so far can be summed up as follows:

  1. A critical spirit focuses us on ourselves and makes us unhappy. We lose perspective and humor.
  2. A critical spirit blocks the positive creative thoughts God longs to give us.
  3. A critical spirit can prevent good relationships between individuals and often produces retaliatory criticalness.
  4. Criticalness blocks the work of the Spirit of God: love, good will, mercy.
  5. Whenever we see something genuinely wrong in another person’s behavior, rather than criticize him or her directly, or – far worse – gripe about him behind his back, we should ask the Spirit of God to do the correction needed.

Convicted of the true destructiveness of a critical mind-set, on my knees I am repeating this prayer: “Lord, I repent of this sin of judgment. I am deeply sorry for having committed so gross an offense against You and against myself so continually. I claim Your promise of forgiveness and seek a new beginning.”

Does that ring your bell? It certainly did mine. I'm a basically optimistic person, but I do have a critical spirit at times. I lose the ability to see the good in people and situations and only see that which I consider to be wrong. And it takes me into a dark place where the Spirit of God is hard to find.

Can I ask each of you to fast one day each week from criticalness? Can we agree to each take one day where we do not disparage anyone, anything or any situation? I think if we did that, we can expect that God will rearrange many of our thoughts and allow us to go places with Him that we have not been in some time. I know that I need to do this, and I pray that you will join me.

The following scripture follows this thought quite nicely:

Isaiah 58:3-9

3 'Why have we fasted,' they say,
'and you have not seen it?
Why have we humbled ourselves,
and you have not noticed?'
"Yet on the day of your fasting, you do as you please
and exploit all your workers.

4 Your fasting ends in quarreling and strife,
and in striking each other with wicked fists.
You cannot fast as you do today
and expect your voice to be heard on high.

5 Is this the kind of fast I have chosen,
only a day for a man to humble himself?
Is it only for bowing one's head like a reed
and for lying on sackcloth and ashes?
Is that what you call a fast,
a day acceptable to the LORD ?

6 "Is not this the kind of fasting I have chosen:
to loose the chains of injustice
and untie the cords of the yoke,
to set the oppressed free
and break every yoke?

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry
and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter—
when you see the naked, to clothe him,
and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood?

8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn,
and your healing will quickly appear;
then your righteousness [a] will go before you,
and the glory of the LORD will be your rear guard.

9 Then you will call, and the LORD will answer;
you will cry for help, and he will say: Here am I.
"If you do away with the yoke of oppression,
with the pointing finger and malicious talk,

Friday, September 26, 2008

I wonder if Jim Leyland tried this?

With all of the pitching problems the Tigers had this year, it might have been worth a shot.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

I just cannot resist

Read this headline and chuckle. The town is near where I grew up.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

There may be hope

Bill Ford Jr., son of the Lions hapless owner, sounds off. This is the first time I can remember him directly opposing his father's decision.

The photos below are courtesy of Sean Baligian at WDFN.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A promise that I cling to

On this day when we commemorate one of the saddest days in our nation's history, this song came to mind. It is my fervent hope and prayer that God will make everything glorious in this mess of a world. My hope is not wishful thinking, but rather confidence that the Creator of Universe will do what he said and redeem this planet and everything on it. That process began with Christ's death at Calvary and creation continues to groan awaiting its redeemer. This song clip expresses the thought pretty well.

Come Lord Jesus, Come.

A sad anniversary

It was a morning like this seven years ago when the world changed. Clear blue skies, cool weather, just a glorious day. I was on my way to work after a Dr. appt when I first heard of the attacks on the World Trade Center. By the time I arrived at work, the Pentagon had been hit and President Bush had issued his statement from the elementary school in Florida.

Watch the video clip and offer your prayers for those whose lives were forever changed. The actions of 19 men and their trainers set in motion a catastrophic series of events that continues to this day.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008


No Mas! No Mas! Please stop!

All of you well-intentioned souls out there who are sending me email breathlessly spouting "Obama is a closet Muslim" or "Palin is a racist" allegations. Please stop. I really don't care and I throw them away. Most any email I receive that has more than one FW: in it is automatically discarded. I've come to realize that most of them (90+%) are factually inaccurate if not downright slanderous.

This article leads to a site you can use to check your political rumors before you share them. This particular article is about Ms. Palin, but there are links to the Obama rumors as well. It bears a very poor witness on us as Christians if we are knowingly spreading slanderous and/or untrue information about someone. It seems to be breaking the Commandment about bearing false witness against our neighbor, at least to me.

So I ask that you at a minimum remove me from your list. I would encourage you to examine your heart/motives/facts before you send them. It is the Christian thing to do.

A thought on Meditation

I recently picked up Spiritual Classics - Selected readings for Individuals and Groups on the Twelve Spiritual Disciplines, to assist me with my devotional life. Those of you that know me know that I am a restless soul, and the inward disciplines of meditation and solitude don't come naturally to me. The one I read today is one I want to share with you.

It is from St. Thomas More, and it is a wonderful contemplative, meditative prayer written in the 16th Century:

Give me Thy grace, good Lord
to set the world at nought;

To set my mind fast upon Thee,
and not to hang upon the blast of men’s mouths;

To be content to be solitary,
not to long for worldly company;

Little by little utterly to cast off the world,
and rid my mind of all the business thereof;

Not to long to hear of any worldly things,
but that the hearing of worldly phantasies may be to me unpleasant;

Gladly to be thinking of thee,
piteously to call for thy help;

To lean unto the comfort of thee,
busily to labor to love You;

To know my own vileness and wretchedness,
to be humble and meeken myself under the mighty hand of God;

To bewail my sins passed,
for the purging of them patiently to suffer adversity;

Gladly to bear my purgatory here,
to be joyful of tribulations;

To walk the narrow way that leads to life,
to bear the cross with Christ;

To have the last thing in remembrance,
to have ever before my eye my death that is ever at hand;

To make death no stranger to me,
to foresee and consider the everlasting fire of hell;

To pray for pardon before the Judge come,
to have continually in mind the passion that Christ suffered for me;

For His benefits unceasingly to give Him thanks,
to buy the time again that I before have lost;

To abstain from vain conversations,
to eschew light foolish mirth and gladness;

Recreations not necessary to cut off,
of worldly substance, friends, liberty, life and all, to set the loss as nothing
for the winning of Christ;

To think my greatest enemies my best friends,
for the brethren of Joseph could never have done him so much good
with their love and favor as they did him with their malice and hatred.

Give me the grace so to spend my life,
that when the day of my death shall come,

though I may feel pain in my body,
I may feel comfort in soul;

and with faithful hope in thy mercy,
in due love towards thee
and charity towards the world,

I may, through thy grace,
part hence into thy glory.

Pray that prayer and let the Lord work in you with it. I'd love to hear where it takes you

Monday, September 08, 2008

Greatest threat to Marriage?

Read this post and let me know what you think. The author is reacting to a recent publication from our denomination re: Gay marriage.

The author makes a very salient point during all of this discussion over subverting the institution of marriage.

Yes indeed there is a biblical standard for marriage however it does not seem that as human beings let alone the most fundamentalist of Christians that it matters much or that we have set the practical standard that high. It only makes sense to me that Homosexuals would want to take a crack at being married, especially when we don't tend to do any better at it as a whole than society at large. I agree with the letter, the American family is being subverted; not by the efforts of a very small minority, but by the actions of a plank-eyed plurality. The single greatest threat to the sacrament of marriage in America is the rampant and wanton abuse of divorce by heterosexual Christians. The next greatest threat to the sacrament of marriage in America is rampant and wanton abuse of sex in all it's forms by heterosexual Christians.

I'm going to spend some time praying about that thought. I think he is on to something. Not that it means that homosexual marriage is right. But heterosexuals have so devalued marriage that it does seem a bit hypocritical to scream about protecting something we don't really seem to value.

We in the church need to make a concerted effort to show that we value marriage. That may mean that we go to great lengths to keep marriages from falling apart in our congregations. We need a radical type of community where people know each other well enough to sense these things before the wheels come off the train. How that works, I'm not sure. But we do need to end this epidemic of disposable marriage that is rampant in the church.

Lord help us.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

When God moves in

Sometimes in the midst of all of our doing, God moves in and does something that just grabs your attention. Our church has had an evangelist here since Saturday for revival services. We've been praying for months for these services and the Lord is honoring our prayers.

Last night we anointed people for healing. You know my disdain for the charlatans of the world who are out there duping people for money with their healing act. But I witnessed with my own eyes a man awaiting knee surgery lose the pain and gain the ability to jump up and down, when he could not walk without pain prior to that. I also witnessed a woman who was barely able to sit up be healed and was bouncing around the sanctuary after the service. I know both of these people and believe that what they are feeling is real.

Thank you Lord for bursting in on our lives when we need it. It is awesome to watch.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

This bears repeating

I am not so vain as to try to repeat myself because I am so brilliant (we all know that is not true). Rather, I know that some of you out there are going through a very rough patch in the body of Christ. I grieve with you for the hurt that is in you, and pray with you that God will redeem the situation and build his kingdom from it. To that end, I encourage you, if you are in this category, to read this post and meditate on the thought that it contains.

I know it is painful right now, but God is a big God and he can and will protect his church, including all of the members of the body of Christ.

Take heart, pray hard, and trust God. Lean on the truth of the words God spoke to Joshua “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not tremble or be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”

New American Standard Bible : 1995 Update. LaHabra, CA : The Lockman Foundation, 1995, S. Jos 1:9

My prayers go with you.

Pray for this church

I recently returned from 2 weeks on campus at Nazarene Theological Seminary for my next round of module classes. I'm nearly 1/2 done. Woo Hoo! While I was there the Lord impressed upon me the need to pray for each other, especially for those who are already in ministry. So I asked my classmates to share any requests that they may have with me and I would post them here.

Jeremy Smallwood is one of my classmates and he is on staff at the Selinsgrove Church of the Nazarene in Pennsylvania. He asked that we pray for the following:

Pray for our witness to students from Susquehanna University, who are returning and beginning classes this week. Ministry to transient college students is hard, but we have an obligation to them due to our close proximity. Pray for God to give wisdom to the pastoral staff and church participants in taking advantage of opportunities to reach out.

Will you join me in praying for Jeremy, his congregation and his mission field? They have a tough assignment, but one that God can see them through. Our prayers will provide them with power, guidance and a clear field as they advance the kingdom of God.