All posts by Andra M.

Banish the Dark

I’ve always said our life is built in the moments. We are to live in those moments. We need to avoid dwelling on or live in the past, because it can’t be changed. Nor should we worry about the future, because we can’t control or predict it.

We should also avoid getting so caught up in the moment we’re not doing what we need to do to make that moment better.

For instance, it’s easy to wake up to a dark and cloudy morning and not look for or see the sun peek through a break in those clouds.

I took the above picture this morning as I walked into a coffee shop. If not for the bright orange ball reflected off the store window, I would have missed it by the time I bought my coffee and headed back to my car.

One of the first lessons I learned on my faith journey is that darkness can never banish the light.

I too often wallow in my daily frustrations—this morning being no exception. Yet watching that beautiful sun inevitably rise reminded me that it still rises to banish the dark—in spite of the clouds—-and God is still sovereign.

Put Up or Shut Up

I often like to write (usually on social media) that if we’re unhappy about something, it’s our duty to do what we can to change it. Sitting behind a computer complaining on social media accomplishes next to nothing. After all, how often have we changed someone’s mind from a Facebook or Twitter rant?

Everyone has a hill they’re willing to die on. Sometimes we don’t know what that hill is until we’re standing on it. That happened to me, and I was honestly surprised that ended up being my hill. What is that hill you wonder? Mask mandates. Yep, that’s my hill.

Before I continue, I want to assure you this isn’t a post about the efficacy (or lack thereof) of wearing masks. I’m sure you’ve heard it all anyway and have already made up your mind.

With more cities and counties now considering mandating masks within their city/county limits for all businesses and in public settings, I was faced with a choice. Do I continue to sit behind my computer, send out emails to all city/county commissioners and leave it at that, or do I show myself and everyone else that I am indeed willing to die on this hill by showing up at public meetings whenever and wherever possible?

First I did a little research, sent off my emails, and spent the next three days writing and polishing a speech should the county commission open up the meeting for public comments. And praying. Lots and lots of praying.

I could barely sleep, because the idea of speaking in front of people stresses me out. The first speech I ever gave was a speech class in ninth grade. I was picked first and was so nervous, I got a muscle spasm in my top lip. I looked like I was mimicking Billy Idol’s snarl as I talked about the solar system (or whatever my speech was about). Thankfully that only happened once. Still, I can’t help but think, “What sort of spasm or tick will my body do this time?”

We arrived at the courthouse (my hubby willingly and lovingly gave up the last day of trap shooting for the season to join me for moral support. Because he’s awesome like that). We had to walk through a metal detector and have our temperature taken. I held out my wrist and she took my temperature. Or tried to. It kept saying “Lo.” She tried it on herself and it worked, so she tried again on me. It still wouldn’t read so she placed her wrist on mine. “Wow, you are cold,” she said. She then set the gun down and said, “You obviously don’t have a fever.”

I was only slightly surprised the gauge wouldn’t read, because my hands get frigid when I’m nervous. I didn’t realize that it affected my arms as well.

So we sat through the normal agenda and listened to the health department give their presentation and officially ask the commission to pass a county-wide mask mandate. Although a bit out of the norm (because the agenda didn’t call for a public hearing, something that needs to be announced thirty days prior to the meeting), since so many showed up, the commission did open the floor for public comment.

I looked around the room to see if someone wanted to speak first. After the third, no one stood. I took my speech from my notebook which for some reason decided to fly out of my hand and drop to the floor–rather loudly. All eyes turned toward me, so I stood and said, “Well, I guess that means it’s my turn.”

Because previous speakers had already mentioned some of the points I wanted to make, I used only the last few paragraphs. No spasms or twitches, no Billy Idol snarls, and I even looked up at the commissioners once in a while instead of burying my nose in my paper. I stuttered and stumbled a few times, but I also wasn’t alone in that as most everyone else who spoke did the same.

Once done, I sat and thought, “Finally. I stood up for something I believe strongly in. I didn’t die on this hill (figuratively or literally), but I at least showed (myself if no one else) this time that I’m not all words and no action with regard to my willingness to do so.”

And not to be too braggadocios, a reporter for a local newspaper thought some of my words were good enough to mention in an article about the meeting.

Labor Day 2020

I wrote this on Labor Day back in 2014:

From the US Department of Labor website:

“Labor Day, the first Monday in September, is a creation of the labor movement and is dedicated to the social and economic achievements of American workers. It constitutes a yearly national tribute to the contributions workers have made to the strength, prosperity, and well-being of our country.”

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr also said of labor:

“We must set out to do a good job, irrespective of race, and do it so well that nobody could do it better.

“Whatever your life’s work is, do it well. Even if it does not fall in the category of one of the so-called big professions, do it well. As one college president said, “A man should do his job so well that the living, the dead, and the unborn could do it no better.” If it falls your lot to be a street sweeper, sweep streets like Michelangelo painted pictures, like Shakespeare wrote poetry, like Beethoven composed music; sweep streets so well that all the host of Heaven and earth will have to pause and say, “Here lived a great street sweeper, who swept his job well.”

Today is the day we celebrate a job well done. It’s important to not only take pride in how well we do our job, but resolve to do it better; to become indispensable. Even if (or especially if) that job is considered “below” other jobs.

Because if we were all doctors and lawyers, who would pick up the trash, or clean our sewers?

Even better, perhaps we should use this day to thank others for doing those so-called thankless jobs.

I, for one, thank you.

——————————————————————————————

I would like to add a few other observations:

This year has been difficult (to put it mildly) to endure with regard to labor. Many have been told their jobs are “inessential,” to the point they’ve permanently lost them. Some have been working under extreme conditions to the point they’ve been yelled at, attacked, even killed. Just because they were doing their jobs.

Slight aside: Because I can’t wear a mask, shopping even in places where masks are not required, I feel uncomfortable. I often get glares from those wearing masks. I still try to put on a smile for them, mostly to disarm and let them know, “I understand you, so please understand me.” I smile more broadly for others who don’t to encourage. To let them know they’re not alone.

The employees I am even more kind to, because none of them have a choice to wear a mask or not, and must enforce company policy whether they like it or not—if they want to remain employed. They are in an untenable position I do not envy, and nor do I blame them. So I hope, regardless of your position on masks (or any other company policy you disagree with), we treat every employee with kindness and gratitude, and above all, as though they are essential. Because they are.

A Spiritual Competition

In reading Leviticus, I’ve discovered some of it is about what’s not said. For example, see previous entry about sacrifice. Since then, I’ve been noticing other things that are never said, or in this case, what God will never say.

I’m reading a bible study on the book of Romans, and one chapter talks about comparing ourselves to others, whether it’s in our professional, personal and/or professional lives. It’s understandable, since so much of what we do and and are is based on competition: competition for food, land, and other resources. It’s how we survive and thrive as a species.

One way to win any competition is to study our competitors and see if we are better or worse than them. Perhaps plan accordingly so we can win against them. Too often, though, when a competitor (real or imagined) exceeds our abilities, we become disillusioned instead of motivated to improve. Again, understandable, but not wise.

All of that, especially disillusion, should never affect our spiritual life. To God, the grace, mercy, blessings, and yes, even conviction, he extends to us are not dependent on anyone else. That’s the definition of relationship. For instance, I treat my husband different from my son different from my friends. To tell my son he needs to be exactly like my co-worker would be silly and more than a little weird.

Since God seeks to build a relationship with each one of us, he never has and never will say, “you lose, because so-and-so prays, and/or works better than you.” Because God’s resources–gifts if you will–are abundant. They’ll never run out, so we need to quit acting and believing as though they will.

An Upside-Down World

The seven deadly sins are: pride, greed, lust, envy, gluttony, wrath, and sloth.

Contrast those with the seven corresponding virtues: humility, charity, chastity, gratitude, temperance, patience, and diligence.

Whenever I see a “celebrate [specific] pride month” declaration (and they seem to get more numerous every year), I cringe. I have to fight my own pride on a daily basis so it doesn’t get the best of me, because I know first hand the damage it can do.

Isaiah warns us in 5:20: “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!”

He continues with, “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and shrewd in their own sight!” (Vs. 21)

The rest of the chapter goes on with what the Lord of Hosts will do to those who rejected him and his law.

Similar warnings are repeated in 2 Timothy 3:1-4: “But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of difficulty. For people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God,”

I wouldn’t be surprised if this passage is where the seven deadly sins originated.

I also found that not only are people embracing pride, gluttony, sloth, etc., they’ve been vilifying anyone who embraces the seven virtues such as humility, chastity, and diligence.

It’s easy to get angry, scared, or depressed in watching the warnings written from six to two thousand years ago unfold before our eyes. I’ve been silently screaming at the sky like Grandpa Simpson for months now, because my own warnings seem to make little difference. The only ones who hear are those who already agree. Sometimes I wonder why I keep trying to plant seeds on what is obviously infertile ground.

I can already hear the thoughts of some of you. Your fingers are itching to respond, to tell me what I appear to be missing:

God himself. The power of the Holy Spirit working in our heart and in the world. Yes, we are being warned, and things do appear to be falling apart. Yet God himself is not deterred, broken, or swayed, so neither should we be deterred, broken, or swayed. Just because the ground looks hard and infertile, it could merely be parched, awaiting for me to toss out a few seeds so God’s Spirit can sprinkle a little rain that’ll allow that seed to take root and grow.

Yes, we live in an upside-down world, but God is still working. Diligently and without pause—even if we don’t often see the results.

He still expects us to do our part, and not by focusing on the seven deadly sins so much as making sure we’re living instead by the seven virtues.

Is Baptism Necessary for Salvation?

That’s a question people have been debating for centuries. Those on each side of the argument are adamant their point of view is correct, and they each have the scripture to back it up.

On the side of baptism being a requirement:

Matthew 3:13-15: “Then Jesus went from Galilee to the Jordan River to be baptized by John. But John tried to talk him out of it. ‘I am the one who needs to be baptized by you,’ he said, ‘so why are you coming to me?’

“But Jesus said, ‘It should be done, for we must carry out all that God requires.’ So John agreed to baptize him.”

Mark 16: 16: “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

Acts 2:38: “Peter replied, “Each of you must repent of your sins and turn to God, and be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. Then you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”

Acts 13:24: “Before [Jesus] came, John the Baptist preached that all the people of Israel needed to repent of their sins and turn to God and be baptized.”

Colossians 2:12: “For you were buried with Christ when you were baptized. And with him you were raised to new life because you trusted the mighty power of God, who raised Christ from the dead.”

On the side of baptism being unnecessary:

Mark 1:4; “This messenger was John the Baptist. He was in the wilderness and preached that people should be baptized to show that they had repented of their sins and turned to God to be forgiven.”

Aside: This could be used to prove both sides of the argument, because notice the word should instead of must. Also, it states that baptism shows they had repented, not that baptism was required for forgiveness.

Mark 16: 16: “Anyone who believes and is baptized will be saved. But anyone who refuses to believe will be condemned.”

Aside: You may wonder why I use this scripture for both. Simple. The last sentence does not say anyone who refuses to believe and be baptized will be condemned.

Luke 3:16: “John answered their questions by saying, ‘I baptize you with [Or in] water; but someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not even worthy to be his slave and untie the straps of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. [Or in the Holy Spirit and in fire].’”

Acts 8:14-17: “When the apostles in Jerusalem heard that the people of Samaria had accepted God’s message, they sent Peter and John there. As soon as they arrived, they prayed for these new believers to receive the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit had not yet come upon any of them, for they had only been baptized in the name of the Lord Jesus. Then Peter and John laid their hands upon these believers, and they received the Holy Spirit.”

Aside: Another example that can be used to prove both sides of the argument. However, Peter didn’t baptize the believers with water, but laid hands on them instead.

So which is it? Must I be baptized with water in order to receive salvation?

Since there are scriptural references going both ways, I turn to what I know about the nature of God.

There are many churches such as the Salvation Army that don’t believe water baptism is a requirement. Does that mean every member of the Salvation Army is doomed to Hell?

What about the countless children who didn’t live long enough to be baptized? Does God send them directly to the fires as well?

Since God is love, I don’t believe so, any more than my parents would permanently turn their backs on me because I refuse to shower.

I also have never been baptized (that I know of), nor do I anticipate ever doing so. Is my soul in jeopardy although I’ve given it and my life to God, and asked forgiveness of my sins through the blood of Jesus Christ? If I am to die without a minister or preacher pouring water over me, is my entire life a waste?

I acknowledge that perhaps I test God by not being baptized, but I also trust in God’s love enough that he won’t hold it against me. As Mark 1:4 said, baptism is an outward expression that we have repented of our sins. It comes after we accept salvation, not before, or even during. I show through my other actions I have accepted Jesus as my savior.

Baptism of the Holy Spirit is what matters.

Why then did we baptize our son when he was a baby? Does that make me a hypocrite, or at least uncertain as to my belief, willing to jeopardize my soul, but not my son’s?

No. As Mark 1:4 said, baptism is an outward expression of what’s already taken place in the heart and soul. My husband and I wish to show our friends and family that we will teach our son about and (hopefully) accept Jesus as his savior for himself someday.

In the end, like accepting Jesus for yourself, the same holds true for baptism. If you find it necessary, by all means get baptized. If you don’t think it’s necessary, that’s okay, too–as long as your faith is sincere in both cases.

The Mighty Pen

A few days ago, my hubby and I met with some friends at a restaurant. Most of the conversation circled around firearms, but then it turned toward other subjects such as the riots, and other issues and controversies of the day.

Soon the conversation turned toward social media.

One mentioned how he doesn’t always agree with what I write on Facebook. He considers responding, but ends up leaving no comment. He said my posts are so well written, anything he adds would look stupid by comparison. “I simply don’t know how to write with as good of grammar as you do.”

Aside and disclaimer: this is not meant as a braggadocios post, but something else, which I will explain further.

I quirked by head at him and said, “Huh. I never thought of using good grammar as a weapon before.”

“That’s exactly what it is,” he said. “A weapon.”

Another piped up with, “The pen is mightier than the sword after all.”

The problem with some cliches is they often become so common, they take on a certain abstraction with no real-world value people can use in their daily life. I’ve used the pen versus sword phrase before in previous posts, usually to say that we need to ever be aware of every word we speak or write. They can tear people down as easily as they can uplift.

Yet I still never considered writing well (having good grammar) as a weapon to the point people wouldn’t want to engage—feeling inadequate to the task.

in some ways I was gratified by the comment, but it also made me sad. I never want to intimidate anyone with my skills. I want them to be inviting and informative so people will engage, even if they disagree. Sometimes especially if they disagree. I would rather look like a fool for a moment than a fool forever because I didn’t take the time to listen and learn something new.

I get it though.

I like to sing, and love to belt out tunes while in my car or alone in the house. I may even be fairly good at it. I also don’t know how to read a single note of music. I couldn’t distinguish a B from an A to save my life.

If a professional singer asked me to do a duet, however, I would have to politely decline. I’m simply not skilled enough—feeling inadequate to the task. ‘Tis better to sit in the corner and not engage.

At the same time, by not taking up the invitation, I deny myself the benefit of the singer’s skills to possibly improve my own.

Sure, in some instances I like the idea of wielding my grammar skills as a weapon, but I prefer to wield them to teach and edify, but mostly as an invitation to discuss ideas and learn from others.

A Harsh Rebuke

Mark 8:33: “But turning and seeing his disciples, he rebuked Peter and said, ‘Get behind me Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (ESV)

I often wonder what Jesus felt at that moment. Knowing his life would soon end, was Satan tempting him to stay? Was the rebuke as much for himself as for Peter?

Curiosity aside, when God does something that goes contrary to everything I want or think I need, I argue with him. I beg him to change his mind. Intellectually I know God will always do what’s best, and that I will never, ever win an argument with him. Still, I continue to try. He doesn’t rebuke me as harshly as Jesus did Peter, but I wonder if perhaps he should.

Or, maybe it’s not God who needs to rebuke me, but me who needs to rebuke myself and Satan for muddling my heart and my mind with the things of man to the point I can’t focus on the things of God.

It’s easy to do. We are finite creatures on this earth. We have our daily struggles and distractions that to focus on God’s long, eternal view can be near impossible. We lose sight of our trust and faith—whether it’s due to our worries, our doubts, or our pride. Perhaps a combination of all three. We have to remember that even when we get lost, God never does, and he never loses sight of us or what he wants to accomplish through us.

When we feel lost, we have to remember and speak Jesus’ own words: “Get behind me Satan, for my mind will not be set on the things of man, but on the things of God.”

What Would Jesus Do?

That was a popular question few decades ago, further popularized by the acronym WWJD. It was a simple way to get people to think before they act, and with the hope they’d make the right decisions. It fell away rather quickly for many reasons, one of which is, can we really know what Jesus would do in any given circumstance?

That said, if I created a poll that asked: If Jesus were alive on earth today, would he wear a mask? I’ll bet the results would be an even 50/50.

The fact that our opinions would be split on the question means we’re asking the wrong question, and our motives for asking are improper. It’s placing Jesus in the middle of an argument and asking him to take sides so we can point to the opposition and say, “See? You’re wrong!”

Sure, no one that I know of has asked this particular question, but they’ve asked others (such as would Jesus be a Republican or a Democrat; would he approve of turning people away at the border; etc.). I also wouldn’t be surprised if people have thought of this question and just haven’t asked it outright yet.

Regardless, Jesus won’t take sides, because this is a human question, not a godly one.

Some might at this point say, “Aren’t you assuming to know the mind of God here? How do you know he won’t take sides? This is an important question!”

Sure, for us. Not for Jesus. Whether or not people wear a mask does not determine the health of their soul. Jesus won’t assume that someone wearing a mask knows and follows him anymore than someone not wearing a mask doesn’t know or follow him. Eternally speaking, the question is irrelevant. He will, in the end, ask, “Is your mind, body, and soul right with me?”

So what’s the point of this entry? Is it about masks, what Jesus would do or not do, or something else?

We’ve been in a frenzy about a virus to the point of obsession for the last four months. No matter where we go or what we do, it’s literally in our face. We can’t escape it from the news, from social media, and at every gathering (online or in person), it’s too often the main subject of discussion.

I think we need to stop and return (or keep) our focus to Jesus, because no matter what—whether it’s a hurricane, earthquake, virus, or disease that’s about to destroy our body, he’s still in control and—both figuratively and literally—has our soul well in hand.

Set your minds on the things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. ~ Colossians 3:2-3 (ESV)

Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect, but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own. Brothers, I do not consider that I have made it my own. But one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. ~ Philippians 3:12-14 (ESV)

Heavenly Treasures

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” ~ Matthew 6:19-21 (ESV)

I’m a technophile. I am always looking for the newest gadget. A while back at lunch I drooled (figuratively speaking) over a fellow restaurant patron showing off a gadget that turned his phone into a projector. He caught me staring, but I didn’t care. It was cool!

When Christmas season gears up (no pun intended), we are flooded with advertisements of the newest gadgets and toys that no one can live without.

And I am tempted. I don’t need any of it, but I excel at convincing myself otherwise. The purchase might satisfy me for a while, but then what? If I die, all those gadgets will end up at a second-hand store, given away, or tossed in the trash.

We like to think we’ve evolved, but we’re no wiser than those who came before. We simply have better tools (and toys). Like those Jesus preached to in Matthew, I’m so busy collecting worldly treasures, I’m not collecting heavenly ones.

What do heavenly treasures look like, anyway?

It could be giving money we would otherwise spend on toys to more useful causes, or using our talents to glorify God more—to name a few. It boils down to what we choose focus on: the shiny stuff of this world, or God and his will.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” ~ Matthew 6:33 (ESV)