Humility is important, spirit led living

When uncertainty is a virtue.

Excerpt from No One Really Minds When You Criticize Others by Joshua Gibbs at Circe Institue:

However, the man who criticizes himself makes us quite nervous. St. Francis of Assisi and Simeon Stylites were perhaps the greatest self-critics who ever lived, and they are commonly accused of being mad. The man who willingly risks blindness, frostbite, and death to climb the Matterhorn is a brave hero, but the man who risks blindness to climb Mt Purgatory is delusional. We are content that a man should risk life and limb for earthly glory, but the man who submits his body to a little rigor in order to conquer his temptations is self-righteous. Our blood gets itchy when we hear of a man who hates his sin so much that he is willing to do something about it. The man who criticizes himself is criticizing me in a way I cannot easily escape.

I have angered otherwise pleasant strangers several times in the last several years, usually evangelists who accosted me while I lived in Florida and demanded to know, “Are you certain you are saved?” I replied, “I hope I am saved. I have faith I am saved. I love my salvation. But I am certain of nothing.” I argued with one such fellow for a few minutes in the produce section of a supermarket, and in the end, he angrily said, “You can go to hell,” and shoved his cart away. Ambrose Bierce was never so rude to me. [emphasis mine]

Just something I ran across which made me think. I suspect Mr. Gibbs is a kindred spirit.

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Common sense, healthy living, Humility is important, real living in a virtual world, spirit led living

An obligatory New Year’s post.

new year

New Year’s “reso-lies”, as my dad called them, provide little hits of dopamine and adrenaline. They offer another opportunity to jump on a bandwagon, discuss ad nauseam how this is going to be our best year ever (new year, new me!), to be a part of the herd; things we women tend to thrive on.

It’s exciting at the beginning and makes us feel as if we’re accomplishing more than we actually are. Before you know it, it’s June 1st and we haven’t progressed one iota. In some cases, there may even be regression. I am reminded of a Proverb:

In all labor there is profit, But mere talk leads only to poverty. Proverbs 14:23

Yesterday at church, however, I was afforded the opportunity to consider principles worth remembering as I move forward into a stage of life that is transitory in some respects, and stubbornly mundane and consistent in others.

  1. Progress is made one day, one moment even, at a time. Where I am and what I have accomplished by December 31, 2018 is the cumulative result of daily decisions. Planning some things too far down the road instills mental margins which give me cover to blow it “just this day” or “just this week”. Skipping prayer this morning, a doughnut the next, vowing to double on this or that tomorrow? It’s what happens when I forget that all I truly have is today. Right now. This moment.
  2. Time is a commodity to be invested wisely. Not every minute should be spent with my nose to the grindstone. However, there needs to be some sort of corresponding return of value on how I invest my time. Value in the form of spiritual, financial, relational, and physical evidence are all valid areas in which to look for returns on my investment.
  3. Letting go of what lies behind when it is time to do so is vitally important. This has always been a challenging thing for me because I tend to hold on to people and endeavors far more tightly than I should. I used to believe that holding on to dead relationships with a ferocious determination is always a virtue, especially in our throw away culture. However, I am evolving in the area, albeit slowly. It is impossible to press forward while looking backwards. Lot’s wife is instructive here.

Does that mean I have no plans, hopes or accomplishments I want to see come to fruition for 2018? No, not at all! I am firm believer that failing to plan is planning to fail. One of the things I have had to work diligently on in 2017 however, is addressing the way I think about things and the way my thoughts are expressed, both in word and deed.

The first day of January can be an opportunity to start afresh, but there is nothing magical about it. Every day is an opportunity to do better than the day before. It’s not as if we get a new life on January 1st to go back to the starting gate and begin again. All of the good decisions which led me to this place in some areas, along with all the bad decisions which have kept me from a better place in others, are still in effect.

The New Year is an excellent time for assessment and contemplation. If there is anything I learned through the difficulties 2017, however, it’s that principles will sustain me when life throws curve balls that derail even the best laid plans. I don’t want to be this gal:

 

resolution meme

 

 

 

Humility is important, Living with other believers, spirit led living, things that make me go hmm....

An Atypical Christmas Sermon

It’s Christmas Eve, and if anyone reading this is like us, you’re stuck somewhere between finishing touches, anticipation, and looking forward to the exhale as this holiday winds down.

As in so many things, SAM and I are a study in the attraction of opposites. He is usually full of Christmas joy, relishing every dollar spent and every stranger with whom he strikes up a temporary friendship. I am more contemplative, struggling to make sure the Savior doesn’t get lost in the shuffle and watching the budget like a hawk.

This year however, is different. We buried my FIL in October, and all of us including the children, are a bit stunned at the realization that my husband’s grandmother is the only grandparent they have left; that neither my husband or I have a living blood parent. My stepmother is great, and we love her, but there is a hole that has even sucked the wind out of the youngest and most festive Christmas celebrants in our household. Family matters, bringing me to the point of this post, which is going to be shorter than its introduction might indicate.

Our pastor went off script today, and what started out as a seemingly typical sermon on the First Messianic Family of Mary and Joseph, turned into an exposition of how God intends families to function. From here, I’ll just bullet point the highlights as I have a meal to prep:

  • God sent his son into the world as a human baby and set Him in a family that he’d spent generations preparing. The church is made up of families. The legacy of spiritual truth or apostasy is handed down through families. As the homes crumble, so do nations and the churches in them.
  • Fathers are supposed to be the primary drivers and teachers of the ways and laws of God to their children. The church can support, but too many people leave the job to their local children’s and youth church ministries. And too many of them are too concerned with cultural relevance.
  • The home is not a democracy. The father’s word is law. (He noted how hard it would be to get just about anyone in the Western world to agree to a home where the man is in really charge)
  • The Bible offers instruction and parallels over and over again -in the New as well as Old Testaments- about the importance of a man ruling his home well.
  • A large part of the reason the church is losing so many young people from one generation to the next is because rather than passing down timeless Biblical and spiritual truths, the church is allowing each generation to “express itself and its opinions” about who they thing God is to them. Included in this is the changing of the way we worship, dress, speak, all of it.
  • Instead of the older women teaching the younger women, the older women are trying to be like the younger women.
  • As 2018 comes in, our church renews a commitment to teaching men to teach their children, love their wife, and teaching women to learn to respect their husbands.
  • One of the cool things I’ve noted about our church on previous occasions is the high number of men in attendance. That is the norm, not a Christmas abberation. Not enough young men are there, but if this thing on our pastor’s heart catches fire in the pews, we might see young people with a heart for God increase in number.

There is nuance in the sermon that I don’t really have time to add. Just know that our large church is one where you’ll not find anything even slightly resembling a cult-like, controlling atmosphere. Far from it, in fact.

That our pastor had the backbone to say these things boldly and without any qualifiers was noteworthy in itself.

Merry Christmas!

For unto us a Child is born,
Unto us a Son is given;
And the government will be upon His shoulder.
And His name will be called
Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Isaiah 9:6

blogging madness, Humility is important, Uncategorized

Honestly Inconsistent.

Show me a person who is sure, certain and comfortable with everything they ever think or do and you’ll show me someone I am not particularly interested in spending very much time with.

Honesty and inconsistency are actually not strange bedfellows.

I can read two posts here on any given day and find thoughts or ideas which seem to conflict with each other. I used to be slightly alarmed by this, particularly when there were hits to a link that seemed to clash with an idea I just posted; almost as if someone was looking for it.

Once I took the time to think about it, however, the concern dissipated. It dissipated because anyone who is honestly striving, working, and occasionally stumbling on the journey of life will sometimes fall short of their ideals. The spirit is always warring against the flesh, and the flesh against the spirit. Toss in the natural *stuff* that goes on in my very feminine psyche, and if I didn’t know me, left to judge based only on posts on my own blog, I might think I was a little bonkers.

Or I would, if I hadn’t figured out that best behavior Elspeth and not-so-best behavior Elspeth are both still Elspeth. The me who is full of myself one day is the same me who is humbled the next by the love of God or my husband, or the difficulty of trying to properly educate two children with very different personalities.

I once heard this from a mostly forgettable preacher, except he said one thing was pretty unforgettable. He talked about what he called “The Four You’s”, even though he followed it by rattling off five categories. They are:

  • The you that you think you are
  • The you that others think you are
  • The you that you want to be
  • The you that others want you to be
  • The you that you really are (and whom only God really knows)

Every one of us, whether we realize or acknowledge it, are navigating our lives through the prisms of these versions of ourselves. As we grow and mature, their intersections should be frequent and the tensions should gradually fade into one another. To those in our inner circles, these are almost seamless. The farther you pan out, however, the more the distinctions emerge; sometimes out of a necessity that is good and healthy, and sometimes without us even noticing.

The things we do, the way we speak to others, the decisions we make about what we will and will not do? These behaviors should be externally consistent, and for most ethical, moral, honest people, they are. None of that however, diminishes the internal tension, the struggles, the questions, the *stuff* that we all wrestle with on the inside.

When I look back over the things I’ve written, I am at ease, for example, with the contradictions between my internal feelings of mundaneness and the oft-stated expression of others that I might be in some way extraordinary. The “me that others think I am” or the “me that others want me to be” don’t cancel out the “me that I think I am”, or the “me I want to be”.

All of those Elspeths are reflected here. These words are an outpouring of the ambiguity that is the struggle between being, doing, and finding the balance. Maturity, I am learning, requires a fairly high tolerance for ambiguity.

Despite my many imperfections, there are some things about me that others have found commendable. These are simply two parallel truths[1]. One of the great regrets of my tenure writing in this forum is my naivete regarding the ability of people (including me at times), to appreciate nuances and unspoken realities that I assumed went without saying.

There is only One Good, Perfect Being who has all His spit together, and I’m fine admitting that it ain’t me.

“…if you haven’t stood before God and been confused, you’re probably not standing before the real God”~ Steve Brown

[1] My favorite theologcal quote concerning the realty of truth in parallel lines can be found here.

This post is not a best of. It’s just something that’s been in draft for a few weeks that I decided to go ahead and post.

el's rabbit trails, healthy living, Humility is important, real living in a virtual world

Grow or stagnate.

I think about this most often in relation to the Christian faith, but it occurred to me today that it applies in most areas of life.

Life provides a wide range of  conversations, experiences, interactions, and trials. To go for years on end, never having our perspectives challenged, understanding clarified, capacity for grace expanded, conclusions honed or faith deepened, is indicative of lack of growth.

If anyone can live 5, 10, 15 or more years and not have the lens of their view in any way changed, or their reactions evolve more maturely and graciously, they’ve lived a stagnant life.

Stagnant water stinks, and the only things which live and thrive in it are bacteria and parasitic insects which transmit disease. Insects like mosquitoes, which fly around biting as many people as possible to spread the diseases they carry as quickly and as widely as possible.

I am thankful for growth, including stretching, painful growth. That I questioned suppositions I was so certain of years ago, and that my smug surety about so many things has given way to an openness about the things that don’t matter as much in the eternal paradigm. Even so, I have grown more certain than ever about other things.

This, of course, requires thought and ours is a culture in which thinking has died a painful death. Even among the supposed smart people. That’s is too bad. Without growth, what’s the point?

*I am not referring to watering down The Faith, its bedrock principles or the clearly commanded principles in Scripture that form the foundation on which the believer is to live her daily life.

 

 

healthy living, Humility is important, spirit led living, wife stuff

Damaging my self-esteem.

I often write about Grace, how important it is to be properly aware of it, and how it should influence the way we see ourselves. Namely, that if we believe the Bible as it describes our God-less state, and what we deserve as a result of that state, then we know that every good thing in our lives is a gracious gift. It is not something that we deserve, no matter how wonderful we appear from a temporal perspective.

As a result of my steadfast adherence to this principle when I write, it occurred to me recently that I must sound like a person devoid of all self-esteem, whatever that is supposed to be worth anyway. The truth is exactly the opposite, and it’s because of that I remind myself daily to be grateful; for my most excellent husband, for wonderful kids, good friends, and yes, a fair number of worldly admirable qualities.

It is not an unusual thing for me to hear something along the lines of, “I like the way your mind works”, or “Tell me how you do this or that”, “Your family is so great”, “But you’re so young [ROFL]!”, etc. etc. That’s not even counting the wonderful things I think about myself when I slip and indulge in that nonsense.

Nothing about me is more worthy of the amount of love in my life than many other women, some of whom suffer greatly in their relationships. Yet in my marriage, I am loved well, my opinions respected, my efforts acknowledged, and  there is appreciation for whatever bit of beauty I may possess. Expressions of gratitude, or even statements of “unworthiness” are not about my worth compared to my man. We are perfectly matched. The point is to view the thing in light of eternity.

The last thing I need is healthier self-esteem. There is plenty to sate my pride and feed the beast of vanity lurking inside every minute of every day. On the contrary, what is needed is to look into the mirror of the Word, to hold this flesh up to the light of Holiness. Heaping doses of humility is what I need, so that I don’t fall victim to believing my own press over God’s Truth.

It seems this little ditty would be best rounded out by a Scripture quote but for some reason, I keep hearing Dave Ramsey’s voice when callers query him about his well being:

“I’m doing better than I deserve”.

Humility is important, Living with other believers, spirit led living, wife stuff

Be appreciative rather than priggish.

Don’t you love the sound of that word; priggish? I assumes it’s where we got the word most of us are more familiar with: prick.

This is a bit of a follow up thought to a conversation my dear friend Hearthie and I have had numerous times over the past few years. This is just one instance. The issue of what she calls “survivor’s guilt” and what I have questioned as an undeserved life of an abundant amount of love.

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote:

When I considered my friend’s sincere desire that I not underestimate what I bring to the table, for a split second I wondered if perhaps my near constant desire to exalt him means I am devaluing myself. Then it hit me: No.

Appreciating and relishing being loved by one who is excellent and worthy of praise humbles us, or it should.

My father was that rare combination of unabashed confidence and unquestioned humility. My man is more a combination of unabashed confidence and unrivaled compassion. Both combinations are great examples of people who appreciate that they have worked hard for what they achieved in their lives but without a smug sense of superiority over others.

These are examples I carry close to my heart and as the Scriptures says: Out of the abundnceof the heart, the mouth speaks. When yet another friend says “Don’t discount the good choices you made to have the life you enjoy”, I appreciate those words. It’s not my intent to dismiss them as one who can’t take a compliment

It is, however, much easier for me to accept a compliment on a dress, shoes or my hair than it is to allow myself to to indulge in the thought that I deserve a good life because of my wonderfulness. To take credit for it makes me uncomfortable and opens the door to judgement an a feeling of superiority. Not to mention taking glory for myself that rightfully belongs to Another.

We Americans are addicted to taking credit. I am not immune to it, and I used to like the saying attributed to Bear Bryant: “It ain’t bragging if it’s true.” The longer I live, however, the more joy I get from giving honor to others, even if partial credit for something is genuinely mine.

That isn’t to say we are to lie about what we’ve done good or right. For me, however, the acknowledgement of the contributions of others, no matter how simple, who made it possible for me to do or be a thing is important. It also makes for a higher level of peace. I can’t even express the peace that comes with the prayer: ‘Lord, help me get over me.”

It’s absolutely true that there were times when I made choices that led to a better outcome than other choice would have yielded (sometimes the more righteous choice, even), it’s safer and closer to truth to accede that my imperfect yet often charmed life is more touched by uncommon grace and love from those better than me, than made good through my feeble efforts.

If I have to err in this, I’d rather err on the side of being appreciative rather than priggish.

Let another praise you, and not your own mouth;
    a stranger, and not your own lips. Proverbs 27:2

 

 

 

Humility is important, Living with other believers, wife stuff

True love should humble us.

When we are well loved, it humbles us. This should have not been an epiphany for me today, but it was.

I was talking to a friend, and she was encouraged by a compliment I offered about my husband: “He is the one who keeps this ship afloat”. Because we spend enough time communicating and in each others’ presence that she knows how much invest in my husband and family, she admonished me not to underestimate what I add to him.

I don’t underestimate it. I just don’t think about it,  instead directing my energy towards honoring him rather than focusing on me. He is open about his appreciation for me also and is equally likely to extol my virtues when the occasion arises.

When I considered my friend’s sincere desire that I not underestimate what I bring to the table, for a split second I wondered if perhaps my near constant desire to exalt him means I am devaluing myself. Then it hit me: No.

Appreciating and relishing being loved by one who is excellent and worthy of praise humbles us, or it should. My husband is not perfect, but he is unquestionably an excellent man whom I have no qualms categorizing as exceptional. That he loves me at the level of intensity with which he clearly does is deeply humbling. It is not something I deserve.

It made sense today, more clearly today than it has in a long time, the passage describing the marriage relationship as analogous to the relationship between Christ and His church.

This is the advantage and strength, I am learning, of developing good friendships and prioritizing time with them. It’s not all fun and games. There are some things that can only be transmitted in one on one relationships.

American identity, Humility is important, real living in a virtual world

Thoughtful commentary by thoughtful, thinking men.

I’ve been knee deep in family celebrations and get togethers for the past little bit. Perhaps there will be more on that at a later date, but I took a bit of time to catch up on some of the writers that haven’t been winnowed from my formerly way-too-long reading list. Some of these are worth sharing. Some I fully agree with and others I appreciated for the opportunity to think about the implications. In no particular order:

To say that Garvey’s Ghost has been on a roll the past few posts would be an understatement. I really enjoy this guy. He thinks, and he makes sense, and even on the rare occasion when I have a quibble (for instance, I am just not into Pan-Africanism), I click away from his stuff with something to consider that is off the left or right’s beaten path.

Next up is Doug Wilson’s thoughts on using profanity. I *get* where he coming from here. I really do, and although I battle with cussing in my head at times, it is extremely rare for a cuss word to come out of my mouth. My husband, who can be pretty incisive with his words, and is known not to pull a verbal punch, finds profanity problematic as well. The difference is that rather than it being indicative of someone’s lack of love for the Lord, he sees it as a lack of ability to think well or quickly enough to convey the depth of one’s convictions or perspective without it.

I’m not particularly moved by squeaky clean language coming from a snooty, snobby, self-righteous person. I’m so over propriety draped over feigned piety that I could spit, and someone who uses a cuss word here or there -unless the setting or situation is wholly inappropriate- doesn’t really bother me all that much. It certainly doesn’t mean they’re a Hell-bound sinner. I said Hell. Is that permissible?

Buried in the comment thread of Doug Wilson’s post was a comment tangentially related to the subject matter, but this guy’s words resonated with me so deeply that I think they bear repeating for their spiritual value. It is this very conviction which has completely overhauled the way I view people. More importantly, the way I speak to and of them:

Over the last couple of years I’ve learned a lot more about how sinful I really am. The part that scares me is not that I sin, but that I don’t fully desire to be rid of it. I do at times, but at others I make accommodations for it’s presence. I’m not sure I know the difference between personal disappointment and disgust, and real repentance.

Yes, brother, whomever you are. I know exactly what you mean. If there’s any good from it, it’s that it keeps my heart tender towards others. Saints who know they are also sinners tend to be less snobby. Or we should be.

Lastly is a C.S. Lewis piece that I was reminded of by a commentator at Zippy Catholic’s. I cannot recall which post this was buried in, but the portion from Lewis they quoted was this bit:

Where men are forbidden to honour a king they honour millionaires, athletes, or film-stars instead: even famous prostitutes or gangsters. Fur spiritual nature, like bodily nature, will be served; deny it food and it will gobble poison.

I was motivated to go re-read the entire article which I hadn’t read in at least a decade, and it was well worth the re-read. Lots of good stuff there, regardless of whether or not you agree with the thrust of Lewis’ argument:

Well, between the reading and the writing of this post, lunch break has gone way over. If I was on somebody’s job, I’d be losing money.

Enjoy the rest of your day. All 15 of ya.

 

 

 

cultural absurdity, el's rabbit trails, Humility is important, real living in a virtual world

In defense of echo chambers.

Got your attention, huh?

This really isn’t a defense of echo chambers. Perhaps it is, but not the way echo chambers are commonly referenced. After only a week of serious winnowing, I almost immediately recognized a more consistent and prolonged state of peace in my mind and heart.

This is off the cuff, and I’m not going to spend time editing it, so bear with me and use your stellar intellects to fill the things that should go without saying. I know that’s sometimes hard in 2017 America, but just try. Really hard.

It is commonly accepted as a virtue in American life to be willing to have our assumptions challenged and hear other points of view. To the extent that we are willing to do that, no matter how destructive the form in which these challenge and viewpoints are offered, we are considered “reasonable”, “tolerant”, and “open” to other points of view.

In general, I am a big fan of hearing other points of view. I think it’s good to evaluate ourselves, our actions, and our ways of thinking rather than assume that we’re all good all the time or that nothing about us needs to change. This morning, however, I had a light bulb moment and realized that it’s one thing to be open to examining other points of view. That is a good thing.

It’s an altogether different thing to engage in repeated dialogue with people who have starkly different points of view from you, who disdain your perspective and whose perspective you equally disrespect.

So for example, if I want to read a thoughtful critique of another sister’s view point on marriage and family order or birth control, it is best for me to do that with the intent to read it, walk away from it and examine it without engaging in a dialog with her about it. In other words, I can read Christian feminist Rachel Held Evans’ book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood, consider her perspective (with which I still vehemently disagree even after reading the book) and walk away with my soul unscathed by a knock down drag out debate on some Internet forum.

Perhaps I am more cognizant as I am getting older. The husband said last night, “I still can’t believe we have three kids out of college. Where did the time go?” Things like that certainly give one pause about the importance of how she spends her time. I don’t even mind acknowledging that I am getting older because I have not -for the most part anyway- wasted my life.

It is simply healthier to have the lion’s share of our discussions on love, life, and even politics, with those who will encourage us in the values we truly believe are right. Echo chambers -particularly of the Christian variety- serve a distinct purpose.

If and when I engage in dialog with someone whom I disagree for any reason other than to truly understand or offer something to think about for the purpose of trying to help that person from a place of love rather than snobby, smug superiority, I am better off not bothering. To just keep my thoughts- and my fingers- to myself.