Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Forgetting to Remember and Remembering to Forget

Remember:  to have or keep an image or idea in your mind of something or someone from the past

Forget:  to be unable to think of or remember something

She is constantly looking for her keys.  When we remind her that she does not have her keys, that they are safe with her husband she stops looking.  For about three seconds.  Then she begins looking for her keys again.  When she is reminded, as she is trying to make her escape out the door so that she can check on her folks and feed the dog, that her parents are not home and her dog is in good care, a look comes over her face of puzzlement and disbelief and then finally accepting that what I am telling her is true.  For about three seconds.  Working with victims of dementia has taught me a few lessons on what it means to remember and what it means to forget.

There are things I struggle to remember - like what I have to do today if I don't have it written down on a piece of paper or the calendar.  There are things I struggle to forget - my not so better moments, my mistakes, what my husband does that irritates me.

What I want to remember I frequently forget.  What I want to forget I can't stop remembering.

Ugh.

In 1994 I started getting serious about reading the Bible and I made it my goal to read the entire Bible in a year and the goal was met.  As I read, there was only one thing that I kept at the forefront of the journey:

   I asked God every time I opened it up that He would teach me who he was and I wouldn't allow myself to consult any other sources to explain something I didn't understand, I would just trust Him to show me who He was.

As I read I kept a yellow highlighter next to me and whenever something surprised me or spoke to me  in a way I hadn't seen before, I would highlight it.  I couldn't sit on a verse for very long that year because of the goal so I had to keep moving.  But the highlighted verses were a way of marking something that I wanted to go back and explore later, or the words really comforted me on a particular day and I didn't want to forget where to find it.

As the years have gone on I don't make it my goal anymore to follow a reading plan because I get stuck on words so much now that the joy and excitement I once had for a complete passage or chapter is now, many times over one word!  But those yellow highlights remain and they mark the places where I began to meet my true love.

Jesus.

What's interesting to me about being in a semi sound state like you and me (well you probably more than me) and someone with dementia is that we really still have a lot in common.  Like my friends who are constantly looking for their keys or trying to go home to check on their parents, I am constantly forgetting how faithful and trustworthy God really is with my life.  Sometimes, on the good days like my friends still have, I remember quickly and hold on to that longer than three seconds.  But many days I just can't forget to forget the anxiety and fears I have that God isn't faithful and that He isn't trustworthy and he has forgotten me.

I wish I could remember to forget instead of forgetting to remember.

Like my friends, sometimes the images we remember get stuck in our minds and sit in a time warp where all we can do is think on the past.  The mistakes, the pain, the disappointments, the struggles.  We rest in those places and the longer we sit in them and entertain them the harder it is to remember that God has left our past and we should too.

Unlike my friends, I can still come back to the present and remember that God is in my present and my past has been removed as far as the east is from the west.

That's why I like my yellow highlights.  They help me to remember the things I've forgotten and they help me forget the things I don't need to remember.   Until my new mind is truly new, the struggle to balance remembering and forgetting remains.  Remembering the past so that I can be reminded of God's faithfulness and trustworthiness is necessary, but forgetting to remember Him is like my friend looking for her keys or trying to go back to parents long since gone.

God has moved on from the past.  He is doing new things everyday in new ways.  Forget - really really forget - that He is not in your past anymore, so you shouldn't be either.

Remember?

Peace,
Ronda








Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Tolerating the Intolerable

Tolerate - to allow something that is bad, unpleasant etc. to exist, happen or be done

Tolerance - the capacity to endure pain or hardship; sympathy or indulgence for beliefs or practices differing from or conflicting with one's own.

Tolerant - willing to accept feelings, habits, or beliefs that are different from your own
   synonym:  long-suffering - patiently enduring lasting offense or hardship

Intolerant - unable or unwilling to endure; not willing to allow or accept something

There are words that buzz around the outer senses of my body. I hear them on TV and radio, read them online and sometimes, depending on the context in which they are used, I sometimes cringe when I see or hear them.  I'll admit it, these words bug me. They root around up in this nest of mine called a brain and when I'd rather be thinking on and studying words that uplift and refresh, sometimes certain words just keep invading and butting in where I finally say, "ok, ok, I'll look it up!"

That happened today.

Used appropriately words can unite, they can bring healing, they can bring hope.  Used inappropriately words can divide, they can cause pain and they can birth hopelessness.

When I looked these two words up on Merriam-Webster's app my eye landed on the synonym long-suffering, which brought to mind a word that is a familiar church word from the King James Bible.
As I look and search I find that long suffering means simply to be slow to anger, to be patient.  And in many of the places I have looked so far, it is used to describe our God, the one who is perfect in being slow to anger.  Unfortunately, I don't think we in America and the rest of the world understand tolerance or what it means to tolerate under those same lights.

When someone asks me or demands of me to be tolerant of something I personally am convinced is, dare I say - wrong or even worse, a SIN - I can become a little hot, filled with anger, not the slow simmering crockpot kind, but the quick microwave kind.

Then when I say, "ok, I'll be tolerant of your behavior if you are tolerant of mine, yet I don't receive the same consideration and continue to be accused of being "intolerant" that microwave response happens again.

Maybe I'm the only one who has this problem.

But then I think of Jesus, the epitome of tolerance.  The One who does not accept or allow something bad or unpleasant to happen or exist or be done.  I can hear you arguing this point already.  "But Ronda, he does allow it because bad and unpleasant things happen."

True.

But, that does not mean he is tolerant of them.  He is not tolerant of them.  He has never been tolerant of them.  His intolerance of them sent him to a painful death.  He has never been tolerant of anything that hurts his children.  Never.  His intolerance for the effects of our deeply rooted sin is what nailed him to the cross.  His intolerance drove him from the perfection of heaven.  His intolerance put on the human suit and lived the perfect life we cannot live, with all its disease and heartache and sufferings and struggles.  His intolerance is what caused him to give his life for a world that would reject him and was intolerant of him.

It wasn't tolerance for sin like the world demands we be, but rather it is his love for his children that drives him, that makes him slow to anger.  It is that love that doesn't tolerate for tolerance's sake, but love that tolerates for Jesus' sake, in Jesus' way.

It is not that Jesus does not know what you and I are going through in our struggles, but it is the fact that he does know what we are suffering that causes him to be intolerant of the sin that has caused the struggles.   We can accuse each other for the rest of our days of being intolerant of each other, but that does not bring about the change of heart that is required for peace between two people, two parties, or two countries or an entire planet for that matter.

Jesus is the model of true tolerant, long-suffering love.  He is the complete picture of what true tolerance looks like.  He gave his life for me and for you so that you and I would never have to experience the punishment of our sins dressed up as imperfections or quirks or bad choices or just the way we are.   Because he is slow to anger, because he is patient with everyone and not wanting anyone to perish, he stood up to the intolerable because he knows the damage it has done to his creation and we his precious children.

As his slowness to anger simmers, we can learn from him the same kind of timing.  We don't need to be tolerant for tolerance's sake, but we must seek to love like he did, in his way, for His sake.  He has never tolerated the effects of what sin has done to separate us from him, and he never once compromised who he was or what he has done by loving the person tainted by the intolerable.

Tolerance for tolerance's sake is pointless.  Love for Jesus' sake, in all its messy ways, is never pointless.  Only love wins.  Only love changes hearts.  Grace is messy.  Grace is hard to give when tolerance is used as a cheap imitation.  Your cries for tolerance may be what you think you need, but my friends, what we all need is grace.   We don't need tolerance....because tolerance lies.  Tolerance covers up and disguises the truth.  Tolerance for tolerance's sake leads only to more intolerance.

But grace, God's long-suffering grace tells the truth and loves anyway.  Long-suffering Grace unveils the lies so that we can see the truth.  Long-suffering Grace wins every time.  Long suffering grace tolerates the intolerable.  Long suffering grace frees the captives.

It's not easy to pour out grace and have a slow simmering anger when our microwaves are set with the punch of a few buttons and ready to hit start on a moment's notice.  It's not easy to love instead of just tolerate.

It's not easy to be agents of grace in a world that thinks its only need is for more tolerance.  To tolerate the world's way is not love.  To tolerate without the love of Jesus is only hate dressed in a poorly made costume of love and really negates all that Jesus did.  To believe that tolerance for the intolerable is a true reflection of love is foolish and reaps no reward either for you or for the one whose behavior you feel you must tolerate or is demanding of your tolerance.

You can love without compromising truth.  You can love with tolerance in its purest form, the long-suffering kind.  The kind that is slow to anger.  The kind that has tolerated me andyou.  The kind that has loved us in all our intolerableness.

But you can't love in your own strength or by your own devices.

The only way one can truly tolerate in the long-suffering kind of way is to study and practice how Jesus did it.  The long-suffering, slow to anger, patient kind of tolerance.  He's the one who gives you what you need to be what he has called you to be.

To be tolerant never means accepting sinful behaviors just for the sake of tolerance.  True long-suffering tolerance loves first and always and comes to where your critics are crying out for tolerance.  Instead of hitting the start button on the microwave, the temperature is turned down on the crockpot and you try, once again, to see the heart behind the suffering one in front of you.  The heart Jesus gave his life for.

It's not easy, but neither was it easy for Jesus.  He did the hard part, the way is paved, the path is clearly marked.  Love is His way.  His love is the only way.  Love, not tolerance alone.


Peace,
Ronda



For further study on being slow to anger and patience:

Exodus 34:6; Numbers 14:18; Nehemiah 9:17; Psalm 86:15; 103:8; 145:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2; 

Nahum 1:3; James 1:19;  Romans 2:4; 9:22; 2 Corinthians 6:6; Galatians 5:22;

  Colossians 1:11; 3:12; 1 Timothy 1:16; 2 Timothy 3:10; Hebrews 6:12; James 5:10; 2 Peter 3:15

Monday, February 9, 2015

Not For Display Only

It happens a lot when I'm antiquing.  Maybe you've been there, too.  You see something really cute that would fit just right in a place you've been trying to fill for months and you rummage around for the price tag to see how much it costs when, lo and behold, the words "For Display Only" are written in red.

UGH.

Or, as has also happened to me when I find something that doesn't have a price tag and so I take it to the cashier to ask how much it is and they politely say, "I'm sorry, that's not for sale."

UGH.

Then the kicker of them all, and you only know the meaning behind these initials if you've done a lot of antiquing - NFS - not for sale.

UGH.

Often times I think to myself, "what good is it then if you won't sell it to me?"  Well, it's useful for the seller, but frustrating for the buyer.

There's a little word in Greek and it's only used two times in the Bible.  Once in Romans 1:20 and the other time in Ephesians 2:10.  It is the word poiema - translated "made" in the Romans verse and "workmanship" in the Ephesians verse.

I got excited about that word, but I got even more excited about the words following it in the Ephesians passage, "...created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do."

Proetoimasen is the Greek word for "prepared in advance," or prepared beforehand.  We are God's work - he made us, designed us, built us - why?  To do the good works he prepared for us to do long before he made us.

We were made with a purpose, for a purpose.  We didn't just get made because a sperm and an egg met.  Before the sperm and egg met, God had a plan and purpose, a design and a job for us to do long before the one cell began dividing and ended up being you and me.

So how does this have anything to do with how this post started?

I'm glad you asked.

Some of us, many of us, and probably most of us, wonder what our purpose is in life.  What we're here for, what in the world we could possible contribute to a world that has so many shining stars in it already.  Are we only meant to be a display case or a piece that is used to hold something else of more value?

No.

We are the valued object, we are the original masterpiece God himself created to be used for a purpose. We were created to do good works.  Good in God's economy means this -

agathos describes what originates from God and is empowered by Him in your life, through faith.

So, you don't have to wonder if that means God has your bag packed and is sending you off to the Amazon jungle or maybe to seminary.  It's much simpler than that and much more individualized - if you belong to Christ, if you trust Him as your Savior, your good works, those originating from and empowered by Him, what you are doing right now is the good work that was planned for you to do when you were just an idea in God's head.

The design for you was being worked out long before you came to be.

So, the question you may be asking is this?  How do I know if my work is the good work planned for me to do?

Great question, and the most simple answer is this, if the work you are doing originated from God you are empowered by him when you do it.

If the work you are doing originated from you or your grandma or your high school teacher and it has been a struggle from day one and it is sapping you of energy and there is no joy when you think of doing it right now, it may not be the good work God planned for you to do.  Or it may indeed be the work God has for you today but the attitude you may be working in will only see those results.

The transliteral interpretation of Ephesians 2:10 reads like this:

of him indeed we are workmanship having been created in Christ Jesus for works good which prepared beforehand God that in them we should walk.

peripateo means to walk around in a complete circuit, going full circle

When I think of walking in the good works God prepared for us to do because we are in Christ Jesus I don't think of getting out of breath when I walk.  I don't imagine this kind of walk leaving me frustrated or tired or defeated.  Walking in the good works, the works originating from God and empowered by God might leave us physically tired, but energized, like good exercise does.

Walking with God like Adam and Eve did before they were forever tainted by sin, was refreshing and comfortable and delightful.  They enjoyed their communion with God as they walked along in the cool of the day.  I wasn't there, but I like to imagine that as they walked along they visited with God and they talked to Him as He pointed out His creation and they soaked in the beauty of perfection.

We get to have those same kind of walks with God now because we are created in Christ Jesus.

So what I'm not saying and please read this carefully:

I am not saying
1.  You should quit your job today because you are exhausted and struggling.
2.  You should leave everything behind and enroll in the seminary or sign up for a mission trip.

What I am asking you is this:  Are you exhausted and struggling or dissatisfied because you know this is where God has placed you and your struggling is not caused by your job but in fact you are rebelling against what God has designed your good work to be?  Or are you exhausted and struggling and dissatisfied because you know what you are doing is not what you were designed to do but you've been too afraid to step out and be and do what he actually designed you to do?

You weren't meant for display only.  You weren't meant to be a robot either.  Whether you are a ditch digger or a doctor, a housewife or a VIP of a Fortune 500 company, if God designed beforehand what you are doing, he will be the one to empower you to do it.

You are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for you to do.

You are God's poiema (workmanship), ktisthentes (created - which applies only to God who alone can make what was "not there before") in Christ Jesus to do agathois (good) ergos (works) which God proetoimasen (prepared beforehand) that in them peripatesomen (we should walk).

Walking with God is fluid and the scenery changes as we walk along with him, coming full circle as we see how our starting place became our finish line with lots of changing scenery in between.  The word is not singular meaning only one work, but rather it is plural meaning more than one.  There are works God prepared for us to do that we won't do until next year or ten years or thirty years.  The work you are doing right now, the work designed by him and empowered by him will not necessarily be the exact work you will be doing when you're eighty.

But when we walk with God and we know and believe that we are created by him and for his good purpose we can rest while we walk, knowing that the purpose we are in today is being used as a stepping stone for the purpose he has waiting for us next year or next month or tomorrow.

If you're tired and stressed because your purpose, at least what you thought your purpose was is causing it, maybe it's time to reevaluate and ask God to open your eyes to see the purpose for where you are right now.  It's always the easiest prayer to pray to ask God to close doors that need to be closed and stay shut but to open doors that need to stay open.

His mercies are new every morning and so are his purposes for each morning we are given.

Are you the not for sale display model holding up the treasures, or are you the treasure letting yourself be used for the purpose in which you were designed?

Be brave and ask yourself these questions.  I've been mulling them over for quite sometime now and I've come to some conclusions that make me shake in my boots.  But, and this is a big but, I also know and trust that if God has made me in a unique way for a unique task than who am I to try and change his mind? Safe is the easiest way to play and holds the least amount of risk.

But what if we were never meant to play it safe?   If we were, what on earth do we need faith for then?