Monday, April 23, 2018

Redeemed to be God's children, not slaves

I just hung up from talking with my husband. He called me from Africa on his cell phone. It wasn’t a very satisfying conversation. We couldn’t hear each other a lot of the time and even had to hang up and try again a couple of minutes into the first attempt. Then the second time we got cut off. Then when he tried again for the third time he still couldn’t make out what I was saying. We finally agreed to hang up and try again another time. I’m thankful he is usually here so we can talk more easily!

It’s a good thing we don’t have to depend on cell phones to talk to God.

Then again, God may think differently about that. He has to depend on us.

Our "self-phones" don’t always work very well. At least mine doesn’t. I don’t always hear when he "rings" for one thing.

So he has to wait for me to "ring" him. When I do I don’t always stay on the "phone" very long—just long enough to say what I want to say, then "hang up" as soon as I’m done talking because I assume that he doesn’t have anything to say to me. At least I don’t wait to find out.

I know a lady who actually stops and asks God what he wants to say to her and then she even waits and listens to see what he says.

She encouraged me to try that too. I tried a couple of times. But mostly I don’t think of it. Now that I think of it, I would like to try that again.

Frequently I get distracted and wander off and do something else in the middle of the conversation and leave Him hanging. At least my thoughts wander off, which is about the same thing.

I’m so glad God is patient.

But two-way communication is essential in a relationship. So why don’t I try harder to talk and listen in my relationship with God?

I suspect I still mainly see him as a disapproving task master. I am trying to get free from that image. But lately I am realizing how little I know about how to relate to him as anything else but that. I don’t really fully grasp that he wants a relationship with me for anything but to tell me the next task or to tell me how I am messing up. In fact that is one reason I hesitate to ask him what he wants to say to me. I assume it will be negative and heavy. That I won’t be able to handle it and then I will get “in trouble” for messing up.

Galatians 4 really grabbed me this week from my ladies small group study. It says that I am no longer a slave, I am God’s child. That is why he redeemed me!

So why do I think and act like I am a slave sometimes?

I could point to various reasons. Conditional, seeming, love from parents and wrong teaching from other Christians come to mind as contributing factors.

But bottom line, the basic reason, I believe, is that I have an enemy who wants me to stay in bondage. Satan doesn’t want me to understand or experience what it means to be God’s child.

Jesus said if we know the truth it will set us free. I believe that the more I learn and stand on the truth of Scripture the more I will be able to walk in the freedom Christ purchased for me on the cross.

Galatians 4:6 says that because I am God’s child, he “sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child.”

“Abba” is like a little child calling her father, “Dada.” A friend once said she didn’t want to call God “Abba” because she thought it was disrespectful. But it is no more disrespectful than a little child calling her father “Dada.” In fact that is what we are meant to be, a little child calling out to our loving Heavenly Father because we love and trust him and want to be with him.

As adults we usually carry baggage because of the ways our earthly fathers failed us. But the little child who calls “Dada” doesn’t have that baggage yet. She doesn’t know how frail her earthly father is. She trusts him completely. We have a Heavenly Father who will never fail us. He is not frail or fallible. We must set aside the baggage from the past and become as little children again with our Heavenly Father.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fed up with Facebook

I’m getting fed up with all the clutter and junk on Facebook. Ever since I heard that Cambridge Analytica hoovered up personal info from 87 million facebook users by getting them to take a personality survey I’ve become more aware of how much similar stuff there is there.

Some of it is just one question like: “How many years have you and your spouse been together this year? Or, “What was the first concert you went to?” or, “If you got a life time supply of the last thing you bought, what would you now have forever?” Sometimes they are games like, think of the name of a country for each of the letters in your first name. They are often cute or funny. It’s hard not to get pulled into it sometimes. I confess I did answer the one about the first concert.

What’s it all about? Are they legit?

Yesterday I did a little research on-line.

I found several articles on how to advertise on facebook. They encourage advertisers to use *memes,*  those cute, inspiring or funny pictures with funny or clever quotes on them. They say that getting people to *like* something is a good first step for beginning advertisers. That way it makes them look popular so they will get even more people to *like* them. And this quote really got me, “Ask questions! Facebook users love to get their voices out and feel heard. Try incorporating questions or surveys into your posts for engagement. Keep the questions simple though…”**

So, we fall right into their trap when we engage with those cute questions!

I’m not against legitimate advertising. It can be annoying, but if someone has a product or service then they need to get the word out to make a living at it. But I haven’t detected any obvious product or service attached to a lot of the stuff I've seen.

So I looked up the facebook page for the concert question I answered. It was from something calling itself, “Grew up in the 70s and 80s.” It says it is a Social Media Agency. The only team member listed was someone named Nino Rostomashvili. Their contact email is: Their address was shown as: 26 Nadikvari St, Telavi, Kakheti, Georgia. And no that is not the US state of Georgia. It is the former Soviet country of Georgia. I looked it up.

There is no sign of a product or service being sold to facebook users. I suspect that we are the product! Like so many flies bumbling into a spider’s web, we are getting caught in their web and our juicy morsels of information are being quietly packaged up and sold to whoever wants to buy them.

I reported them as a *fake* page to facebook. That was the only thing that fit in Facebook’s reporting scheme. I don’t know what facebook means by a *fake* page. There is clearly something there. But it isn’t providing anything useful to us. It also didn’t appear to fit any of the other criteria for removal, such as purveying hate speech or obscenities.

I also blocked them so they wouldn’t be able to send me anymore junk. Or so I thought.

This morning I looked on facebook and there was a post on my *feed* from a group that had a similar name, something about the olden days. I wish I had written it down. But I did click on the name of the organization and guess what? It had the same contact person: Nino Rostomashvili with the same email.

I just tried to go back to their other page and either some of their info has been removed or they are now blocking me from seeing it--maybe because I blocked them. Weird.

Trying to weed out the junk from the legitimate posts by real friends is getting harder. If we would all take a break from liking, sharing or engaging in facebook posts that are not created by people we actually know that would be really eye opening. It might help us see how much of what we are reading on facebook is at best time-wasting fluff and could help us keep from getting duped into inadvertently giving away our information to bad actors.

We might even be able to get through our news feeds and see more posts from real friends. And if it was a slow night and not many people were posting we could have more real face time with friends and family!

** quote from:

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Celebrating Easter

Celebrating Easter with my brother and several friends

Brownies with Peeps having an Easter egg hunt :-)
We did a lot of celebrating this Easter. More than usual. On Friday we went to a Good Friday service at our local Episcopal church. Then Saturday friends had us over for a Christian ‘Passover’ meal. Sunday morning we went to our church where there was a drama and special music. After church we had several friends and my brother over to our house for Sunday lunch. They stayed for several hours. We had a great time.

I guess all that preparation and remembering ahead of time got me even more in tune with the Holy-day. I don’t always feel as much joy on Easter. But Sunday morning as we sang joyfully about Jesus’ sacrifice and resurrection I wondered why don’t I feel this happy every day? After all Jesus has been risen from the dead for the last 2000 years. I don’t have to wait until Easter each year for it to be true.

Then I thought of the disciples. As joyful as I felt they must have felt ten time more joyful! Their joy was so profound and surprising it must have taken days to absorb. Some of them didn’t even believe it at first. It was just too amazing, impossible even.

Just before that they were devastated, crushed and traumatized. They saw their leader and teacher and friend, Jesus, violently murdered in front of them. They thought he was the Messiah from God. They thought he would save them from the Romans, but with his death all their hope for the future was gone. Maybe they thought God had tricked them. They believed, really believed, in Jesus but look where it had gotten them. They were bereft. They were also afraid that they would be next. Jesus was killed as a traitor. They were his followers so they may have expected to be hunted down as his co-conspirators.

But all that suddenly changed when Jesus rose from the grave! He was victorious over death! It was impossible! But it true! He really did die but then he really did come back to life! He beat the Romans and the religious leaders and the rabble that wanted him crucified. He conquered them all!! Life went from being hopeless to being the best day ever! It is hard to fully grasp the amazing joy they must have felt. They probably felt like dancing. Maybe they did dance. They probably shed tears of joy and relief. Maybe even laughed hilariously. And shouted. That kind of joy just can’t be contained sedately inside. And it doesn’t need to be.

They had Jesus back! Against all odds!!!

I wonder if they had any inkling how different life would be after that? They may have expected everything to go back to normal, only better. Like maybe Jesus would finally conquer the Romans and set up his kingdom and show everyone that he really was the Messiah. Then they could have comfortable positions in his kingdom.

I doubt if they were prepared to see Jesus leave again in 40 days. I wish we had a record of all the things he said and did during those 40 days, of course some of it was probably included in their later writings that we now have in the New Testament.

Some things they didn’t understand immediately. I’m thinking particularly about the Gentiles, that’s us, being included when Jesus said go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature. It also seems to have taken a while for them to understand what being in the new covenant was all about.

Some still don’t. I read last week that some people are even now teaching that only “Torah observant” believers in Jesus will be saved. But in Acts 15 when some of the Jewish believers said that, Peter made it clear that salvation is through faith in Jesus alone and not by following the law of Moses. (Paul also taught about that at length in Galatians and Hebrews.)

We are under a new covenant. Jesus began it with his blood. He announced it at their last Passover meal together. It is a new and living way. It was promised to them long before but maybe it seemed too good to be true. But it is true. Now we can, "draw near to God in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful." Hebrews 10.

If you put your faith in Jesus you can be included in it too.

Monday, March 26, 2018

To-do list angst

Despite all my gains in understanding grace and getting free from trying to meet everyone’s expectations I still find myself getting too uptight about all the things I need to do. And when something goes wrong and it seems time has been wasted I still sometimes go ballistic. I feel driven most of the time. I realized yesterday that I am acting like a cruel tyrannical employer toward myself. Of course that quickly leads to my then feeling like a demoralized employee.

My To-Do list has an annoying number of things that seem stuck there, like so many burs. I was pleasantly surprised yesterday when I looked at the completed items in my To-do list app (Wunderlist). It was an encouragingly large number. And that is only part of the things I have accomplished since I started using that app, as I still mostly put reminders about to-do items on the kitchen table. Then, when we work on whatever jigsaw puzzle we have going they get cleared off, usually by my husband who puts them in various seemingly random places. It is a wonder I don’t forget more things. Anyway, the point is I really do get most things done that really have to get done. And of course there are dozens of things that never make it on any to-do list. Things like: cook, exercise, make the bed, take care of my husband’s needs ;-), tidy, wash dishes, laundry…

So why do I feel so stressed?

Why can’t I give myself more positive feedback.

I have been getting more done in recent months and am generally happier, but I still find myself slipping into the same old patterns of being driven by fear and anxiety.

Would it help to celebrate my accomplishments more? Mothers give kids stickers and make a big deal when their kids accomplish things. At least I’ve heard that’s what they do. My Mom never did. Maybe that’s what’s wrong with me! Maybe I should give myself stickers--well not really stickers, but some sort of positive feedback when I do something.

The Wunderlist app I’m using makes a pleasant little ping when I check something off. That’s always a nice feeling. But I’m not likely to put everything I do on my to-do list first just so I can check it off: have lunch, check- ping; put away food, check- ping; clear table, check- ping; wipe crumbs off table, check… I don’t think so!!

So what is the answer? Maybe I could try checking in with God throughout my day more often. I could pray and thank him for helping me to accomplish the last thing and ask him what he wants me to do next. Sometimes I could just spend a little extra time basking in his presence until I move on to the next thing. Sounds wonderful. Almost luxuriant. Just the thought of it makes me feel more relaxed already.

Sounds a little like Brother Lawrence in The Practice of the Presence of God. Maybe I could add re-reading that to my to-do list!

Really though, I think part of the idea was that he saw everything as sacred. Someone said somewhere we should do everything as unto the Lord. I remember trying that at one particularly stressful job many years ago. It helped for the first few minutes but then I got caught up in the craziness of the moment again and forgot. But now I am not working for a demanding boss nor do I have customers breathing down my neck for their print jobs. So I should be able to do it at least sometimes. When I remember that is.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Celebrating Spring

I bought these flowers a couple of days ago to celebrate the start of Spring (here in the Northern Hemisphere that is). I also bought a large sugar cookie for John that had a cute picture in bright yellow icing of a baby chick. He ate it before I could get a photo. He said that if I want to photograph cookies that I plan to give him, I need to take the photo before I actually give him the cookie! Well you can use your imagination.

This morning I practiced my flower photography on them. So, Happy Spring!

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Happiness Report

The United Nations’ 2018 World Happiness Report came out last week.

I read a little of it.

Got unhappy.

Maybe it was because I skipped ahead to Chapter six which is titled, Happiness in Latin America Has Social Foundations by Mariana Rojas. It tells how despite all the problems in Latin America there is a surprising level of happiness in those countries south of us. The study said, “it is explained by the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships.…Happiness research has shown that relationships are important for people’s happiness; and that positive relationships are abundant in Latin America.” It seems that having a lot of strong relationships helps buffer them from the stress of the problems around them. Perhaps having a more relaxed view about life helps too!

I mentally compared our American society with Latin American society. We're less family oriented and more task and money oriented. Driven is another way to put it.

I suspect that American society actually encourages dissatisfaction. (We ranked 18th in the study.) We seem to idolize "progress" and feel we have to constantly “improve” everything and “get ahead” no matter what. Contentment is almost seen as un-American. The Apostle Paul said godliness with contentment is great gain. I don’t think many American Christians really believe that. We brush that verse aside fairly quickly.

Although we did rank higher than most of the Latin American countries in the happiness scale, I think we could learn some things from our Latin neighbors. (from Aussies too—they ranked 10th!)

Of course you may be thinking they, the Latin Americans that is, need to learn a few things from us too. Yes, undoubtedly.

Chapter six also says they are not as task oriented and that they are more concerned with living within existing conditions rather than changing things. Of course they don’t all feel that way which may explain why some of them come here where, as one Mexican said to me once “everything works.” (meaning things like the lights, water, roads. You know, all that infrastructure stuff we take for granted!)

But I think that God is more relationship oriented than task oriented. And we would do well to learn to be also.

Anyway I got depressed. Felt lonely. We don’t have much family in our area. And I haven’t managed to produce any children to bless our parents in their old age, or our old age either.

Church should be like family. But it’s not really the same. It falls short. I fall short. I don't reach out enough. Mostly, I guess, from fear of rejection. (which I am aiming to overcome!). And everyone’s so busy. We’re busy too.

I can’t change where our relatives live. Nor can I single-handedly change society.

By Sunday morning I was starting to see reality more clearly. I realized one thing I can change is how warmly I express my relational feelings toward others. So I made it a point to initiate a few more hugs during greeting time at church than I usually do. It was surprising how warmly they were received and how much better I felt too.

I also remembered the verse that says it is not wise to compare ourselves with others. Of course I also have heard plenty of stories of how bad things are in Latin America so that also tempered what I had read in the WHR.

It helped too to remember studies show that focusing a lot of attention on being happy can lead to the opposite feeling.

I didn’t detect any mention of how religious faith fits into a person’s level of happiness in the WHR. Being that it is produced by the UN I suspect that they are trying to substitute secular ideas of well-being because they may not believe in anything else. 

To paraphrase Jesus, what good is it for a person to be very happy but lose his own soul?

The study does have a variety of other interesting information such as how generosity and being welcoming of immigrants makes everyone in the society happier.

Also, Chapter seven looks at how the serious conditions of: obesity, substance abuse, and depression are affecting American society. The author of that chapter, Jeffrey Sachs, believes those help explain the fact that although income per capita has more than doubled in America since 1972, happiness has remained the same or even declined.

Think about it!

I think the rise of social media and increasing fragmentation of society could also explain some of that in recent years. And 1972 is also infamous for being when abortion was legalized. How could we really be happy with so much innocent blood on our hands?

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

More photos from Loyd Park

Here are more pictures from our week at Loyd Park (see yesterday's post for more info):

We were in site 62 which is next to the lake. It was a lovely view.

More of the lake while standing in the same spot.

John and I are mere shadows of our selves in this one.

We were close enough to home that I was able to follow behind in our car. We still hope to get a tow car but for now it was nice to have this one with us.
Previous weeks of rain had the lake levels up. It was too cold to swim anyway!
We were the only people out picnicking that day. It was lovely!
Spring has sprung! It was amazing the difference a few days made. When we arrived nothing was blooming. But all the white trees started blooming out while we were there. I've not noticed how many white blooming trees there are in our area until this year.
More ducks in their peaceful slow disguise :-)

I especially liked how the green coloring on the mallard's head showed up in the sun when he turned his head just right.

This photo I planned ahead for. I knew the birds were there. So when I saw the boat coming I focused on the birds and waited for the boat to come into view. Notice the freeway bridge in the background. It often felt like we were a long way from anywhere but we really were quite close to "civilization."

It really is Springtime but this picture looks more like Fall still

Yes it is the same little flowers as yesterday's post. I like the background especially in this shot. It seems more artsy and interesting. Almost Van Gohg-ish