My good buddy, the cow, versus her opponents

My good buddy the cow is faced with ridiculous opponents.

Rice.

Soybeans.

And almonds.

I am told that rice, soybeans, and almonds make milk, too, and they are better for me.

Now I have very strong feelings about this.  The very name “milk” in conjunction with things that cannot even wear a cowbell is insultingness to me.  If you put a pail under an almond, nothing will happen.  If you put a soybean in a pasture, it will not graze.  And I have never heard a grain of rice moo.

Rice milk and soy milk and almond milk might look like milk, but that does not mean they are milk.

Mud and gravy look similar, but I only put one on my potatoes.

I admit, I have never tasted fake milk, but I have never tasted mud on my potatoes, either.  I don’t want to.  I want my milk to come from Bessie.  I like Bessie.

My milk carton has a smiling cow jumping across the world.

A soybean milk carton does not have a happy soybean jumping across the world.

I think there is a reason for that.

Horizon milk. Notice, if you will, the happy cow, as happy as I am going to be drinking its happy milk.

I want what is real in my life.  I don’t want the fake.  And although there’s really not a thing wrong with rice or soy or almond milk, there is something wrong with drinking up a fake life.

I want my life to be real before God, not pretentious.  I don’t want to live through a TV sitcom and I don’t want to win my battles through video games.  I don’t want my prayers to be only memorized words, or my church times to be spent checking my watch and trying to pay attention when people look my way.

I want to be real-hearted for God.  I want to be out there in His world, serving people God wants to reach (that’s everybody).  And, most of all, I want to be real on the inside.  I want to love God with my whole heart, whole soul, whole mind, every bit of my strength.  I want to yearn in real prayer before Him and explode in real praise.  I want to be real, because God deserves the very best.  Not the fake stuff.

We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding so that we know the real God. We are in the one who is real, his Son Jesus Christ. This Jesus Christ is the real God and eternal life. (1 John 5:20, GW)

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Beliefs aside?

I heard recently that people who are willing to put their beliefs aside to consider the beliefs of others are more creative thinkers and better listeners.

The idea that putting my beliefs aside can make me objective, or more creative, or a better listener, seems to work at first.

If I have to go before a judge who hates skinny people, I would definitely want him/her to set aside that prejudice before taking my case.

So it seems like setting my beliefs aside could be a good thing.

But can I say it is always good to set my beliefs aside?

I’ll look at an extreme example to see if it still works.

Suppose I am sitting next to a man in the plane terminal, and he asks me if I would consider putting my beliefs about terrorism aside to take a bomb onto the plane.  Should I even consider this?  Would it be creative thinking, or destructive thinking?  Would my willingness to accept that this belief might be plausible show that I’m a good listener–or a fool?

If a theory doesn’t work in even one fair example, it doesn’t work.  I’ve given one example of a breakdown, but we could all think of a bunch more: a white supremest asking me to consider lynching an African-American, a pyromaniac asking me to burn down a house, a rapper suggesting in his song that I go kill a police officer, and so on.

There are some things I’m just not willing to set my beliefs aside to consider.

I guess that makes me intolerant.  But I want to be intolerance to someone who’s trying to convince me to do something evil.  I don’t think this makes me less creative.  Maybe it makes me a worse listener, but maybe that’s a good thing.

So is it sometimes right for me to set aside my beliefs to entertain a notion and sometimes wrong?

Going back to the original example of the judge prejudiced against skinny people–why is it good for that judge to set his/her belief aside about skinny people?  Because it’s a bad belief.

What if the judge is “prejudiced” against murder, meaning (s)he believes murder is wrong?  A judge shouldn’t set that belief aside.  Why?  Because it’s a good belief.

About a month ago, I was at a gas station trying to get my hood open.  I hadn’t probably done that since about the time I bought the car, years ago, and I couldn’t remember how to open it.  A man came up and proposed to help me.  I welcomed with open arms his belief about how to open the hood, because I didn’t know what I was doing. In that case, it was a good idea to listen to him because he had the right answer.  That was a risk I took, because I was pretty near clueless.

But what if I knew just how to open the hood, and a man came up and proposed that if I hit the windshield with a sledgehammer, the hood would come open?  That would not be a good time to set aside my beliefs and consider his.

Of course, if I did set aside my beliefs and consider his, I would (hopefully) still go back to mine.  But–is that step really necessary?  Do I really need to evaluate whether I should break my windshield in an attempt to get my hood open?

We all have beliefs about a lot of things.  We have beliefs we’re unsure about (Can bacon really be bad for you?), beliefs we’re pretty sure about (The oil in my car probably does have to be replaced, even if I would rather use the money to buy sushi), and beliefs we’re really sure about (God is in control).

For most of these beliefs, I could set aside what I think for a while to hear someone else’s opinion, especially if my belief provably wrong, like when I thought drinking soda all day would make no difference to my health.

Polite debate can, in and of itself, be an interesting way to pass the time.  I’m fascinated by logic and argument strategies, and I might could spend a few quaint hours arguing whether the sky is blue or dogs are cats.

But then there’s the beliefs we’re not willing to part with.  Ever.

Some of them are extremely important beliefs that nearly everyone assumes, like It would be wrong to murder my friends and I must feed my children.

No one is usually accused of being intolerant for holding these beliefs.  But there are exceptions.  There are a few psychopathic people who would hold extremely important beliefs like It would be right to murder my friends or I must not feed my children.

Just because a belief is extremely important doesn’t make the belief right to hold.  It goes back to good and evil.  Good beliefs are good to hold onto, whether they’re little-bitty in their importance (like how to open the car’s hood) or super important (like how to treat human life).

How do I know when I should set my beliefs aside so I can be tolerant and intelligent and creative and when I shouldn’t?

I will have no way of answering that if I don’t believe in good and evil.

And I will have no way of answering that if I don’t know which is which.

I find the backstory to my natural belief in good and evil explained in Genesis 1-3.  And I find the ability to distinguish which is which on every page in God’s Word.  I might be intolerant for thinking so, but that doesn’t actually matter at all if God is right.

So although I might win popularity by setting my beliefs aside, and although I might be accused of intolerance or stupidity or poor listening for not doing so . . . I’d rather be with the God who is right.

Righteousness and justice are the foundation of Your throne; Lovingkindness and truth go before You. (Psalm 89:14, NASB)

Misery addict

I think it’s fair to say I lived most of my life as an addict to misery.

Like a kid who grows up eating mashed potatoes with chocolate sauce and craves it ever after, I grew up thinking I was supposed to be miserable, that it was dutiful to be miserable, and that I could possibly pay a bit of my sin off if I was miserable enough.

Where I got these ideas, I don’t really know.  I mean, I know where they originally came from: Satan.  But I don’t know how they got into my head.  Satan doesn’t just start his work when we become an adult, though, and I remember from kidhood feeling “comfortable” feeling guilty.

Guilt is like an ugly house.  It doesn’t go away just because you want it to.  And if it’s the only place you have to live, well, you get used to it.  That was how it was with me.

When I realized as a grown up that God wanted to free me from my guilt, it was like an inmate who’s been on death row for 19 years finding out he’s been pardoned.  I was overjoyed.  I’d been handed a ticket to freedom and the confetti was flying around me.

Visiting the house of forgiveness was more thrilling for me than all the houses ever built on Extreme Home Makeovers put together.  The house of forgiveness was a mansion to explore.  Deep carpets, wood floors, arched doorways, glimmering mosaic tiles, vast staircases with wooden bannisters, chandeliers, built-in bookcases, skylights, stained glass windows, deep but bright basements, secret rooms, stunning lofts–the house of forgiveness is gorgeous.  In my wildest dreams, I would never have imagined I could stay here.

And then it hit me.  I’d have to leave my house of guilt for good.

It was scary.

I know the couch, chairs, and kitchen sink in the house of guilt.  I know where the stains on the ceilings are and what holes in the wall the roaches crawl in and out of.

I feel uncomfortable and very unbelonging staying in the house of freedom.  I didn’t mind visiting.  I liked looking at the handmade furniture upholstered in astonishingly beautiful fabrics.  I liked admiring the fireplaces and marble counters and exquisite painting.  I was awed walking through the never-ending array of rooms.

But I didn’t want to stay there.

And so, hesitantly, looking at God nervously out of the sides of my eyes, I politely said my thank-yous and crept away.  I slipped back in the house of guilt for a few nights.

When I needed a break from self-horror, I silently crept back over to the house of forgiveness, hoping God wouldn’t have noticed by absence.

What I didn’t realize, or didn’t want to admit to myself, is that rejecting the joy forgiveness brings to return to the misery of guilt is like taking a present, thanking the giver, and quietly putting it away in a closet to save for later.

Grace overwhelms me.  It scares me.  It feels unpredictable to me, uncertain, and, sometimes, surely like it can’t be true.  The house of guilt is dim, and I feel safer in dim light.  All the windows are boarded up.  The house of forgiveness streams with daylight and even has a floor-length mirror, and I feel frightened to look at who I am and wonder if my sin has really been taken away from me.

I desperately want God’s love . . . but I want Him to come to the house of guilt and stay there with me.  I somehow want God’s love to come through His condemnation of me, so I can feel more comfortable with myself.  I want to be able to pay Him back, in little ways, by His anger and my misery, as if this could somehow ever work.

I used to be a misery addict, all right.

–But, once you’ve been, once you’ve seen the house of forgiveness for yourself, staying away is like inviting an anvil to fall on your head.  I don’t want condemnation anymore.  I want forgiveness.

Hello.  My name is Forgiven.  And I’m a recovering misery addict.

If the Son gives you freedom, you are free! (John 8:36, CEV)

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See Copyright Page for Bible Translation information.

Scripture taken from the Contemporary English Version © 1991, 1992, 1995 by American Bible Society, Used by Permission.

Brownie points

It’s not my fault I don’t like the crust on bread, don’t eat peas, and need somebody to peel apples for me.

Okay, it is, but it made for a great headline.

I grew up as an only child, and whenceforth the only daughter of my father. I think there is some innate sneakiness in fathers that causes them to want just a few more brownie points in their daughters’ lives than the mothers earn.  So Dad wouldn’t make me eat the crust on bread.

Mom picked up on this whole brownie point underhanded shady business, and she didn’t make me eat the crust on bread, either.

So Dad peeled the crust off the bread for me.

Mom wasn’t going that far.

Dad didn’t make me eat peas.  Neither did Mom, so Dad had to do one better.  He made up a story about how peas were really watermelons and we were giants.  He got me to eat peas that way.  He was proud he got me to eat peas.  And it didn’t work when he wasn’t there to tell the story.  Dad was proud of that.  Mom tried the story, once.  I need to think of a nice way to say “abject failure”.

Dad peeled apples for me.  Mom peeled apples for me, too.  But Dad peeling apples was more special.

Sorry, Mom.

But she got it.  It was just too hard to compete against Dad.  Dad-daughter thing.  She was sure to lose all brownie points for any activity that Dad could do too.

She could have just turned in her peas and apples and bread slices.  But she didn’t.

Instead, she turned a new page on the brownie point scoreboard.

–And hosted pink tea parties for me on the sundeck.

. . . . . . . . Dad lost that one.

Sometimes parents earn brownie points to get approval from their finicky kids, but there isn’t one of us who can ever earn enough brownie points to get approval from God.  God’s not finicky.  He knows right and wrong and He’s not going to change His mind about it.  So God’s approval of sinners can only be by grace–not brownie points–grace given by His Son, to those willing to receive it as a gift.

There are a few people that God has chosen by his grace. And if he chose them by grace, it is not for the things they have done. If they could be made God’s people by what they did, God’s gift of grace would not really be a gift. (Romans 11:5b-6, NCV)

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Blogger’s note:  I try to stay very true to real life in my blogs, to give an authentic look at my life.  Occasionally I think so hard on a memory for accuracy that I wear my brain out!  But this little entry is skewed to be funny.  The events are true, but the whole competition thing . . kinda made up.  Kinda.


See Copyright Page for Bible translation information.

Fast food pies

The other day, I ate two fast food pies.

It upset my stomach, which I pretty much knew would happen.  Fast food is usually fakish food.  A lot of gobbledygook is added to real ingredients.  Fast food tastes so great, and it’s so convenient, the dismal lack of nutrition is easily drowned out by the temptation.

Even still, I don’t usually eat fast food.  But I was in a tight spot and I was hungry.  And I was just planning on getting chicken and fries, but when I saw the pies on the menu, and for so cheap . . well.  I ordered the pies.  And I ate the pies.

I pretty much knew those pies would upset my stomach, but of course in my Wistful Thinking World I had decided they wouldn’t upset my stomach.  I know I have food allergies and can’t eat fast food, and especially not fast food dessert.  So why did I do something dumb like that?

My teenager years and college life revolved around fast food.  Those pies brought back feelings of comfort, familiarity, splurging, and being young again.

But the very same pies were like garbage in my stomach.  And eating them wasn’t worth it, no matter how sweet they tasted in the moment.

Those pies remind me a lot of what it’s like for a Christian to go back to sin.

When I gave my life to God, God nailed my sin nature to the cross.  It was on display, for all to see, that Christ had died to this sin nature, my sin nature.  If anyone comes to Jesus for forgiveness, God posts their old nature for the world, the angels, Satan, the demons–everyone–to see is dead as dead can be: The sin nature of _________ is no more.

That does not mean Satan gives up.  Instead, he starts trying harder.  He is more motivated than ever to tempt us to sin, because we have aligned ourselves with his arch enemy, Jesus Christ.  (I say “arch enemy” which is true, but they certainly aren’t peers.  Jesus created all the angels, including Lucifer (who would become known as Satan), who destroyed himself with sin.)

Satan wants Christians to sin really bad.  But Satan can’t force-feed anybody sin.  It has to be our choice.  So what does he do?  He comforts us with sin.  It’s just like old times.  In other words, it’s just like Hell times.

It’s comforting to keep that grudge, he teaches us.  It’s familiar to have that jealousy.  You can splurge every once in a while and lose your temper–you deserve it.  It was more fun to be depressed all the time.  And so on.

Even with all I know about how bad food affects my health, I still like it on the same skin-deep level that I like to watch commercials or be first in line at the grocery store.  It’s an impulse towards what’s easiest–don’t think, don’t discern, don’t care about what happens.  It’s the 4-year-old in me that wants what I want with blind thinking and it doesn’t matter what happens afterwards.

Because of Jesus Christ, the sin nature in me is dead.  It can’t control me anymore.  But I can choose to sin as if I still had the same nature.  It’s the old impulse: easy, unthinking, unwise, me-centered, me-idolized.

But I can’t get away with it for long.  Like a butterfly trying to go back and eat leaves like the caterpillar did, I can’t survive on meals of sin.  It will, slowly or quickly, destroy my life and deteriorate my soul.

The very next day after eating those bad pies, would you believe that I bought more?  I had forgotten how sweet they tasted in the four or so years since I’d had one.  And I wanted more.

I wanted to eat them, all right, but I left them in the bag.  I remembered why I didn’t want to eat them.  I left them in the bag until they were cold, and I saw what they really were.

I threw them away.

I can still go back and buy more, anytime I want.  There’s fast food stops open 24/7.

I could also go through my garbage can and eat left-overs out of it anytime I want.  But I don’t want to.

I want to good food.

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. (Romans 7:18, NIV)

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2 Corinthians 5:21, NIV)

The law of Moses was unable to save us because of the weakness of our sinful nature. So God did what the law could not do. He sent his own Son in a body like the bodies we sinners have. And in that body God declared an end to sin’s control over us by giving his Son as a sacrifice for our sins. He did this so that the just requirement of the law would be fully satisfied for us, who no longer follow our sinful nature but instead follow the Spirit.

Those who are dominated by the sinful nature think about sinful things, but those who are controlled by the Holy Spirit think about things that please the Spirit. So letting your sinful nature control your mind leads to death. But letting the Spirit control your mind leads to life and peace. For the sinful nature is always hostile to God. It never did obey God’s laws, and it never will. That’s why those who are still under the control of their sinful nature can never please God.

But you are not controlled by your sinful nature. You are controlled by the Spirit if you have the Spirit of God living in you. (And remember that those who do not have the Spirit of Christ living in them do not belong to him at all.) (Romans 8:3-9, NLT)