Monday, October 13, 2008

Practicing Peace

I'm an anxious person.

If I could have three wishes from a genie in a bottle, one of them would be to POOF, take away my anxiety. The other two wishes would have to do with cottage living on a lake and poverty. Really. I mean that about ending poverty. Even if three wishes from a genie are meant for frivolous things.

But I digress.

I'm the kind of anxious that produces nail-biting and leg hopping. There could be absolutely nothing anxiety producing going on in my life and I'll still walk around with a bit of an edge to me. A bubbling group of butterflies batting away at my stomach.

I'm sick of it.

Every which way I turn these days, I have been hit over the head with these words:

"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Finally, brothers, 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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me-put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you."

Easy peasy, right?

Not for me. I can admit that I need some work in this particular (and many other) area(s). It seems like a simple equation:

Stop yourself when you start to worry + Pray + Think on lovely things = Peace.

So straight-forward.

This may not come easy for me, but I believe that it works.

I am an excellent example of a work in progress. Because it will take some time and faith to re-train this anxious brain. It's easy for me to fall back on worry, to listen to the little red guy on my shoulder, whispering his negative messages, his lies.

But I would like to silence him, until he is bored and moves on. I would like to stop when I notice that I'm about to start chewing my nails and staring off into space, thinking hard about all that isn't good. I would like to stop and say,

"I am good. Maybe even lovely. I have this man in my life who thinks I am good. I have these children. They are pure joy, and that is excellent. I have these parents that I admire. I see someone hurting and I want to help and do what is right. There is a God who loves me, and I know that is true. He is more than praiseworthy."

I want to stop and speak truth. I want to do what these verses say and calm my anxious heart. I want that peace that passes all human understanding. I want to stop biting my nails over lies.

Sometimes I want it to be miraculously simple. Like that genie in a bottle. But then I realize that most of the time, change comes a little slower, by putting a new way of thinking into practice.

I have met my "genie in a bottle," and I'm so thankful that He still speaks, bringing me peace when I didn't think it was possible.

Monday, October 6, 2008

The Line in the Sand

To clarify the previous post...

We really rockin', ultra-cool Bible Study Ladies were talking about names people had called us over time that affected who we are now. Someone brought into the discussion that a family member of hers had been offended by being called "conservative right." A discussion ensued about whether "conservative right" and "liberal left" are derogatory terms. It seems that it mostly depends on context. In some situations these labels are offensive and in some situations they aren't. (So, for those of you who were hoping for an answer, my apologies.)

The end part of the unheated discussion went something like this:

The Other Lady (TOL): Jesus was conservative right.

Me (MidnightCafe or MC): Well, next week I'll have to wear the t-shirt that reads "Jesus is a Liberal." [this was teasing, but also to provoke some thought]

TOL: I don't think so [that Jesus was a Liberal]. Jesus drew a line in the sand.

MC: I do, too. That doesn't mean I have to vote Republican.

TOL: [something I don't remember]

MC: I have really big feelings about this.

Ok, so here's how I, personally, understood the line in the sand comment. I did not associate it with the story where Jesus drew a line in the sand. I associated it with the idea of having boundaries, morals & values. defines "draw a line in the sand" as a figure of speech meaning:

"to set a limit; allow to go up to a point but no further."

As in, "I have lines that I will not cross." I'm not totally sure, but I'm thinking that's what TOL was talking about.

James Dunigan at Park Hill Church of Christ said it this way:

When the lines of compromise are drawn we cannot cross it. We cannot swap sides back and forth. We as God’s people must have the courage and strength of character to remain faithful to God’s word no matter who dares us to cross over their lines drawn in the sand and join their side. Whatever line is drawn before you make sure you always step to the side God is on!

But I wanted to talk for a minute about another way that "drew a line in the sand" can be interpreted, and where in scripture the idea comes from. John 8:3-8 says this:

3The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group 4and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. 5In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" 6They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.

But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. 7When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." 8Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground.

I can't think of a better way to express the sentiment of this passage than Pastor John Frye in his blog at: Jesus The Radical Pastor:

The time that Jesus drew a line in the sand
The scandalous woman lived; sent away forgiven
While blood stones lay unused on the ground,
Once held by self-confessed sinners.

What is our line in the sand?
Does it heal, forgive, give hope and life?
Is it a life line or a line of dark challenge,
signaling separation, judgment and death?

Go click on the blog & read the rest of what he wrote. It's beautiful.

So, Jesus' writing in the sand wasn't about morals and values at all. It was about forgiveness. It isn't even clear that what he wrote in the sand was a line. Maybe He was writing words:


I don't know. Maybe it was just a line. In any case, I'm not crossing it.

Whatever line it is, whether it's about having some morals and values I will not compromise or whether it's about crossing the line into judgment, I'm staying on this side.

And I don't think the conservative right has the corner on the market. Not on morals and not on forgiveness. To be clear, I don't think the liberal left does, either. More often, though, I hear the conservative right claiming that corner and casting judgment stones at the liberal left.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Political Feelings, Big and Small

You know, the thing about politics is that they are so political.

I know. Can you believe it? We get done with the whole church conversation and I bring up politics! I can't help it! There was a debate last night and a little something else happened at Bible Study that I'm really interested in discussing.

Both Midnight Cafe and I attend the same women's Bible Study every Wednesday morning. Now before you go picturing us sitting around in a circle, our heads bowed reverently with a bunch of gray-haired ladies, I want to say that our little group of women is totally cool. I love them. They're good people. We drink coffee and eat naughty things and then learn a little something from a little known lady named Beth Moore.

Anyway. A couple of Wednesdays ago, a political discussion reared it's ugly head in an otherwise mild conversation. I overheard parts of it and had to ask Midnight Cafe about what was said afterward, because she was sitting with the women who were discussing liberals and conservatives.

Now. Midnight Cafe may have to correct me if I get any of this wrong, but in short, someone was offended by the term "conservative right," or "religious right." They then said that it's a slur and that liberal people are also offended by the term, "liberal left." I was a bit confused by that alone. I guess if I feel strongly one way or the other, left or right, I might even consider it a compliment to be labeled as such. But an unheated argument came after these remarks, questions being asked and a bit of a non-conclusion resulted. Since that's how it goes with politics.

But then the thing that got me the most was one woman's response to being conservative herself. She said, and I paraphrase, that Jesus would be considered a conservative...a conservative falling very hard to the right. Someone asked a question and the response was "well, He drew a line in the sand."

Then Midnight Cafe could be heard saying, "I have really big feelings about this." Which gave me a chuckle.

I don't claim to have a clue what Jesus really thinks about Republicans. Or Democrats for that matter. I do know what He preached about justice, mercy and service to the poor. But I won't pretend that these beliefs answer all the questions.

I'm just curious. What do you think Jesus was saying by "drawing a line in the sand?" And does it make him part of the religious right of today? A lot of people think so. I admit that I do not. But I'm always willing to see another's point of view and try hard to understand. Do you have big feelings about this? Or are you just plain tired of the whole conversation?
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