Sunday, September 30, 2007


A parenting class recently started up when First Night (the Wednesday night program at our church) began a few weeks ago. It is called Parenting Your Teenager by Les and Leslie Parrott. It is a class for mothers of teens. I am sorely in need of some guidance about parenting teens. It is written from a Christian perspective...and is not simply a list of dos and don'ts . There is an emphasis on relying on God to mend and restore, to guide and instruct, to comfort and heal our broken, troubled relationships. It is not something you would find in Good Housekeeping or Woman's Day since it does not take a secular slant to things.

The first weeks lesson was a video with comments from real life teens and their real life parents. It was not fluff. It dealt with really, really difficult situations that included drug abuse, blended families etc. etc. Last week...the discussion centered around some examples of dysfunctional families in the Bible.

The story starts with Isaac and Esau.

Genesis 25:24So when her days were fulfilled for her to give birth, indeed there were twins in her womb. 25And the first came out red. He was like a hairy garment all over; so they called his name Esau. 26Afterward his brother came out, and his hand took hold of Esau's heel; so his name was called Jacob. Isaac was sixty years old when she bore them. 27So the boys grew. And Esau was a skillful hunter, a man of the field; but Jacob was a mild man, dwelling in tents. 28And Isaac loved Esau because he ate of his game, but Rebekah loved Jacob. KJV

Aaaahaaaaaa!!! There you have it....Isaac loved Esau but Rebekah loved Jacob. Think there was some favoritism going on in that house? Down to the point where there was the scheme to convince Esau to give up his birthright and to trick Abraham into giving Jacob his blessing. Perhaps it was from these sorry examples that Jacob learned his parenting skills?

Genesis 37:2 This is the account of Jacob. Joseph, a young man of seventeen, was tending the flocks with his brothers, the sons of Bilhah and the sons of Zilpah, his father's wives, and he brought their father a bad report about them. 3 Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons, because he had been born to him in his old age; and he made a richly ornamented robe for him. 4.When his brothers saw that their father loved him more than any of them, they hated him and could not speak a kind word to him. NIV

Now Israel loved Joseph more than any of his other sons....and obviously he did not keep it a secret because "they saw their father loved him more and they hated him for it." And to add insult to injury, Jacob sent Joseph back to continue to keep an eye on them...with the directive to report back to him.

14And he said to him, Go now, see whether it is well with thy brethren, and well with the flock; and bring me word again. So he sent him out of the vale of Hebron, and he came to Shechem.

Well...we know what happens on that trip. Joseph finds himself in a the hands of his brothers. This is a great example of Girard's theory of mimetic rivalry which is probably the real root of the evil of sibling rivalry. So obviously Jacob played favorites. It clearly states that he loved Joseph more than all the others. I am sure the others were not oblivious to this and that it was a major factor in their scheme to murder "the dreamer."

We also talked about King David and the absolute mess he made with his children. Amnon raped Tamar. Absolam killed Amnon. But all was not lost because eventually David seemed to get his shit together with Solomon. I know the Bible is not something that can be read only in the natural and that everything has spiritual implications yet, there is definitely the natural element as well. Sort of gives a new insight into the thought about the sins of the father.......

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Forgiven by Thomas Blackshear

Sue said: I love the print of 'Forgiveness' you have on your site. Every time I come here and look at it, it drips into my soul :)

Mwah to you.

Mwah to you too, Sue. What does that mean by the way? :)

The first time I came upon this painting by Thomas Blackshear, I was in a Christian book store in Nashville. I had not been a Christian very long at all...but the picture spoke volumes to me. I was so ignorant of scripture and theology but one does not need a thorough understanding of either to be impacted by this print. My kids, with the suggestion (and financial support) from their dad got me this picture for Mother's Day that year. A few years later, Keith, before he actually moved here and knew what artwork I had hanging on my wall, also got me the same picture for Christmas. So I have two of in my bedroom and the other in my dining room.

Thomas Blackshear Online has a lot of his work...which is not just limited to Christian art.
Check out his biography too. And also the Forgiven Video Card at DaySpring.

Truly a painting inspired from the heart of the Father and as the Amplified declares "It was God [personally present] in Christ reconcilling the world unto himself.....not imputing their trespasses against them.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

C.S. Lewis on prayer

Sue is a buddy of mine from several online forums. She provides much encouragement for me here on Mercy Not Sacrifice in the form of positive comments about some of my blog posts. Thanks Sue!! And thanks for the interesting bit of info in your comments about my C.S. Lewis post. In her comment, she refered to him by his "REAL" name. I guess I had never pondered what the C.S. was short for...but honestly, I don't think I would have ever come up with "Clive Staples"...for a million dollars...or even with a loaded gun pointed at my head. I don't think I have ever known a "Clive". Reminds me of some of the off beat names my ex wanted to bless our kids with. As a name for my son, my firstborn, he was trying to decide between Otho (his grandfather's name) or Braxton (inspired by Braxton Hicks contractions during the late stages of pregnancy). At my insistance, we settled on Matthew. He wanted to name Beth, my oldest daughter, Mornay. Her dad is a chef. Even though Mornay sounds melodic to the ear, it is still the French name for a fish sauce. For Emily, my youngest daughter, he had the name Pella in mind. Not sure about the whys of that but I think it was inspired by the window company. Pella. Uh-huh. Let's rethink about.....oh....Emily? Anyway, back to Clive. (no wonder he chose to go by C.S.!!)

I came across an article yesterday in my travels - C.S.Lewis on Prayer edited by Lyle W. Dorsett. In it he has some interesting persectives on prayer.

"Prayer is either a sheer illusion or a personal contact between embryonic, incomplete persons (ourselves) and the utterly concrete Person. Prayer in the sense of petition, asking for things, is a small part of it; confession and penitence are its threshold, adoration its sanctu­ary, the presence and vision and enjoyment of God its bread and wine. In it God shows Himself to us. That He answers prayers is a corollary—not necessarily the most important one—from that revelation. What He does is learned from what He is."

On a blog post this month at The Crescat... Carolina Cannonball posed a question in a post called His will be done? that I have pondered a hundred times and have as yet found a satisfactory answer for:

What is the point of praying if God already has a plan in mind for us? Why interject our own desires into prayers of petitions if we are expected to pray for His will to be done? If I pray for something so earnestly all my life and it is not what God has in mind for me, then I have wasted thousands of prayers in vain. What I desire may or may not be what God has in mind for me, I have no way of knowing. So I ask, why bother?

Good question, Carolina (and interesting blog by the way, which I happened upon randomly via a google search for a particular quote on prayer. Your blog definitely deserves a closer look-see)
In one of the comments on the post, one of her readers said:

.....the point of praying is not to conform God's will to yours, but to conform your will to God's. My priest told me the ultimate prayer is "Thy will be done." All the hours of prayer hopefully lead to finding out what God's will for you is and then following it. That is not to say it is easy, just that it is (in the long run, at least) worth it.

THAT was a paraphrase of the quote I was looking for.

C.S. Lewis goes on to say:

Petitionary prayer is, nonetheless, both allowed and commanded to us: “Give us our daily bread.” And no doubt it raises a theoretical problem. Can we believe that God ever really modifies His action in response to the suggestions of men? For infinite wisdom does not need telling what is best, and infinite goodness needs no urging to do it. But neither does God need any of those things that are done by finite agents, whether living or inanimate.

There is that question again....why bother to pray?

He could, if He chose, repair our bodies miraculously without food; or give us food without the aid of farmers, bakers, and butchers; or knowledge without the aid of learned men; or convert the heathen without missionaries. Instead, He allows soils and weather and animals and the muscles, minds, and wills of men to co-operate in the execution of His will. “God,” said Pascal, “instituted prayer in order to lend to His creatures the dignity of causality.” But not only prayer; whenever we act at all He lends us that dignity. It is not really stranger, nor less strange, that my prayers should affect the course of events than that my other actions should do so. They have not advised or changed God's mind—that is, His over-all purpose. But that purpose will be realized in different ways according to the actions, including the prayers, of His creatures. So at least it seems to me. But what I have offered can be, at the very best, only a mental model or symbol. All that we say on such subjects must be merely analogical and parabolic. The reality is doubtless not comprehensible by our faculties. But we can at any rate try to expel bad analogies and bad parables.

The reality is doubtless not comprehensible by our faculties. Yep....

He goes on for several more paragraphs in which he expresses his opinion that the more mature the Christian the LESS God seems to answer the prayer...and the more emphatic is the NO. I don't like that part at all. The following quote seems to wrap things up:

Prayer is not a machine. It is not magic. It is not advice offered to God. Our act, when we pray, must not, any more than all our other acts, be separated from the continuous act of God Himself, in which alone all finite causes operate.

There was a guy who used to post on some of the message boards and lists where I was a member. His name was "Whisper" and he had a profound saying that I have used many, many times as I ponder these deep, confusing, theological issues......"Dunno"

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

C.S. Lewis

I have not read any of C.S. Lewis' books. There are probably half a dozen of them in the bookcase here in the living room. They came here to live when Keith came here to live 7 years ago. They are paperbacks and the print is small...and I just have never gotten around to reading any of them. I did use a Border's gift card that I got from my girls for Christmas to purchase a daily devotional based on his writings. One day at the mall, while waiting for someone to do something somewhere (I hate the mall) I leafed through the book. Some of the quotes piqued my interest and a few weeks later I went back and spent my gift card on it. I also watched the movie "Surprised by Joy" and I took part sporadically in a Sunday School Class about Narnia. So I know a little about the man. From what I know of him, I think I like him.

It has been established that C.S. Lewis was not a universalist but he definitely had some universalist leanings. He regarded George MacDonald, who is well known as a universalist, as his mentor. A few days ago I came across a quote from Lewis that could have been made by a universalist. This morning...which is Saturday...and my day to not have to hurry off the internet to go to work, I made a few cyber stops as I cruised around the world wide web checking out stuff on C.S. Lewis. Following are two "universalist quotes." Sometimes I think Christians speak the truth of UR without even knowing. The pastor at the UM church I attend does it often, and I usually nudge Emily when there is a verse or something said that supports universalism even though we both know that the pastor does not believe in the reconciliation of all.

C.S. Lewis said, “every prayer which is sincerely made even to a false god…is accepted by the true God and“Christ saves many who do not think they know him."

Sounds like a universalist to me. And what about

"Is it not frightfully unfair that this new life [by accepting Jesus] should be confined to people who have heard of Christ and been able to believe in Him? But the truth is God has not told us what His arrangements about the other people are. We do know that a no man can be saved except through Christ; we do not know that only those who know Him can be saved through Him." That quote is from Mere Christianity.

About hell he said:

"There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end 'Thy will be done.'All that are in Hell, choose it." From The Great Divorce

"A man can't be taken to hell, or sent to hell: you can only get there on your own steam." The Dark Tower

"All the time the joke is that the word “mine” in its fully possessive sense cannot be uttered by a human being about anything. In the long run either [Satan] or [God] will say “mine” of each thing that exists, and specially of each man."
— C.S. Lewis, The Screwtape Letters

Some other interesting quotes I came across:

“all Holy Scripture is in some sense – though not all parts of it in the same sense – the word of God.”

“Naivety, error, contradiction, even (as in the cursing Psalms) wickedness are not removed. The total result is not ‘the Word of God’ in the sense that every passage, in itself, gives impeccable science or history.”

“It is Christ Himself, not the Bible, who is the true word of God.”

“whether a particular passage is rightly translated or is myth (but of course myth specially chosen by God from among countless myths to carry a spiritual truth) or history.... But we must not use the Bible (our fathers too often did) as a sort of Encyclopedia out of which texts...can be taken for use as weapons.”

Near the end of Lewis's life, in a letter to Bede Griffiths (12/20/61) he said "Even more disturbing as you [Dom] say, is the ghastly record of Christian persecution. It had begun in Our Lord's time - `Ye know not what spirit ye are of' (John of all people!) I think we must fully face the fact that when Christianity does not make a man very much better, it makes him very much worse...Conversion may make of one who was, if no better, no worse than an animal, something like a devil." The Letters of C. S. Lewis, ed., W. H. Lewis

"A man can no more diminish God's glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word, 'darkness' on the walls of his cell." From The Problem of Pain

"Be sure that the ins and outs of your individuality are no mystery to Him; and one day they will no longer be a mystery to you." The Problem of Pain

About his conversion he said:

"You must picture me alone in that room in Magdalen, night after night, feeling, whenever my mind lifted even for a second from my work, the steady, unrelenting approach of Him whom I so earnestly desired not to meet. That which I greatly feared had at last come upon me. In the Trinity Term of 1929 I gave in, and admitted that God was God, and knelt and prayed: perhaps, that night, the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England." Surprised by Joy

The Great Physician.....

Is the "great physician" really the great SURGEON....using evil and suffering, trials and challenges, difficulties and testing as a scalpel to rid us of our adamic/old man/carnal/nature? Does it seem so crude and barbaric and needlessly brutal because we do not understand the process and that it is meant ultimately to heal and not to hurt? We know surgery is careful and delicate but to someone who does not understand the concept, it still looks like mutilation. A surgeon holds a beating heart in his hands...a heart that he cut out of the chest of the patient who is bound to the table and unconscious. To someone who does not understand surgery, it looks like mutilation. Put that same scalpel in the hands of the onlooker and tell him to cut and it would be mutilation. It is only in knowing how much to cut, where to cut, if he should cut, when to stop cutting.....and WHY he is cutting in the first place that the difference is found.

We do not have all the facts of evil....we are not all knowing, all present...perhaps there are key elements we are missing and thus we can not make a fair unbiased assessment of the situation any more than someone who does not understand the concept of surgery could not make a fair unbiased assessment of the surgeon or the procedure. I experience a great deal of angst when I ponder evil and suffering and the no rhyme or reason (to my way of thinking) way it is doled out. The Great Physician....and that's truly the great contrarianism.

Pondering Evil

I was going through some old emails the other day...some posts I made to the discussion lists I was a member of then. Several were from early 2005...two years ago yet I am still pondering the same questions about evil and suffering..... although not with the same degree of torment that I was then. Evil and suffering is one of the contrariansims that has dogged me for years. John Gavazonni introduced me to the concept of a contrarianism...two sides of the SAME coin that conflict...are contrary...seemingly opposite. This contrarianism is the age old Good God/Evil and Suffering coin. If there is a good God, it does not seem that the other side of the coin could be the presence of evil and suffering in the world. Yet...there is...and that is the contrarianism. He did not really seem to provide answers to Job when he cried out for the reasons...and I do not really expect that he will answer me....but I still ponder. And as John G also believes (and has experienced).....even though the answers are not forthcoming, oftentimes God gives us peace about an issue even without the answers. I do have a tentative peace about the issue, perhaps realizing my role as the created...not the creator.

I realize that God and I are not on the same developmental plane. I cannot create worlds or maintain the universe. I do not hold the power of life and death in my hand. I cannot do miracles.....or change the course of the future.......or heal disease etc. Neither am I ever present.....all present......all knowing. So really, in my heart of hearts I know he does not have to answer to me. I expect "Because I said so" to be ample explanation for my children about certain should I not expect God to tell me the same thing sometime??? I don't think I like it any better than they do....

Sunday, September 9, 2007

More Thoughts About a Quote "from" Hell......

Samuel Hopkins said:
“This display of the divine character will be most entertaining to all who love God, will give them the highest and most ineffable pleasure. Should the fire of this eternal punishment cease, it would in a great measure obscure the light of heaven, and put an end to a great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed.

It occurs to me that we see the sentiments expressed in this quote played out in many mainstream churches within many denominations today. Not all, by any means because there are many who have a heart for the "lost", but there are others who seem to take some perverse glee in the fact that they think many are hell bound....and good riddance to them!!! "I hope they burn in hell" is something many people say....usually just as an expression, but there are others who take a more literal rendering of sentiments expressed. The "god hates fags" website comes to it Fred Phelps who is the founder of the (?) Landover Baptist Church....with his lovely daughter now following in his despicable footsteps. (A side thought here....I've heard it said that "an attack is a cry for help"?? Hard to see past the repulsion a group like this stirs up within us to acknowledge how very much they need a revelation of the love of our heavenly father....but I digress...) It is a sad, but true fact that many "Christians" are delighted there is a hell and they would like a part in handpicking a few of the inhabitants. To take away their hell is to "put an end to a great part of the happiness and glory of the blessed." On earth as they believe it will be in heaven. Oh Lord, thank you for this peek you've allowed me into your heart. Precious blessing indeed!!!!!!!!!

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Old Ponderings about Free Will

I wonder sometimes if perhaps there is something to this total sovereignty thing. While reading on a website yesterday morning, I came across something worded just a bit differently and it put things in a perspective I had not seen before. It was a total, total sovereignty know, the color of the tie is preordained. In answer to a question about God "making" us sin (or something along those lines) the author said that God does not have to make us sin. Our adamic nature sins naturally. He does not have to force us to sin. We are usually only too happy to comply. According to the teachings of "kingdom theology," there are within each of us two natures. There is the adamic man/ the carnal nature/ the flesh....and there is the christman.....the seed of God...the spirit man...... that is in all of us.

In order for the christ nature to overcome our sinful natures, we must first be made aware of the sins within us (even the hidden sins) God allows/causes us to be exposed to situations and circumstances where our sinful nature surfaces and we can see it in the daylight. (the sunlight.....or "son"light) Sometimes what is hidden is buried so deeply within us that we are not even aware that it is there. He has to expose it to us so we can see it for what it is then deal with it. Only a particular set of circumstances arranged in just the "right" way will allow this to happen. I am pondering that if perhaps if he did not arrange these circumstances when he does....exactly as he does (thus nipping this sinful trait in the bud) then it might fester and grow into something that, when, by happenstance, things occurs that brings this particular sinful quality to the surface, it might be far uglier and the consequences far more serious than it would have been if he had rooted it out in it's infancy. (How this fits in with the Hitler's of the world...and how their sins were anything but small and in their infancy I am not sure.)

We are made aware of what is within us when he exposes it (from the dark recesses of our souls) and via this awareness under his ever watchful eye....with his guidance, we can overcome and eliminate it. It must be rooted out of us. We may not even be aware it is there. Vehemently deny that it is I do when I rail on and on about him making us sin....hardening hearts, sending if we are good to begin with and he is making us bad rather than the reality which is....that we are "bad" to begin with.....or at least a combination of good and bad....and that the good must overcome the bad. I hate to say we are bad.....yet we have this sin sickness within us that causes us to do "bad" things. I have been going on the assumption that we are good......and that he forces us to be bad in order to teach us the consequences of being bad.....even though we might have never done that particular "bad" thing to begin with. Is this logical, though?

Having gotten a glimpse of the heart and nature of God, can I not assume that, in his kindness, he arranges circumstances and events that allow us to see the progress we have made as well.....when we can see that we are slowly evolving into the image of christ. We can see what he has taught us both by revelation and by experience. We can see that our christ nature is growing and evolving and the adamic flesh is having less and less of a hold on us and our actions. The goodness of God leads men to repentance. As the pastor at the conference in Berkley Springs said.....He is a GOOD God. His nature is good. His heart is good. He is love. Why would I think that he would cause/use/allow any more evil/hurt/suffering than is absolutely necessary to acheive his purposes.

Still though, how much "freedom" we have remains a big question mark for me...and there is still the hopelessness that comes from thinking everything...everything is predetermined. I am not sure if I am prepared to take the total sovereignty view that some (including....especially....Keith take) although for some I write the frame of mind I am in today, it is easier to understand and accept. Glimmers of hope and light. Glimmers of acceptance. Keith compares this life to training (training for reigning). There was a guy on the Tentmaker message board a long time ago who used to say that it was like the training of a Navy Seal. Tough, relentless, requiring every bit of our resolve, strength, wisdom and stamina. Yet, can we not drag our feet......can we not put forth less than our best effort? Can there not be a time when there truly are two equally strong influences and we are left with a tie...and we have to choose whether to go with the spirit or the flesh. We would learn from that, would we not? It seems we could learn more from that than if he caused everything, including the thoughts in our heads. Yet, if he does not give us the light we need to see the way we should go, are we not helpless to do good....and are left with only our baser nature to guide us. Oh.......the more I think the more confused it all becomes and I do not know what to think.

In my heart I believe that there is some degree of freedom allowed us otherwise the accountability and responsibility issues just do not make sense. Where he expresses his anger toward Israel...the repurcussion of their sins. How could that be said if he arranges it all....and there is no choice on the part of Isreal to do anything other than what they are doing. The potter and the clay crap. The "because I said so" line of thinking. How does that grow us into sons? My view of him was clearer before Keith taught me his theology. He says if I do not see it there is something missing.....a vital piece I am not seeing yet it leaves me hopeless and feeling helpless. I don't trust the God he proclaims. I think if I draw close to him, he will surely process me....and it will surely hurt. I do not want to hurt. It is truly the abusive parent syndrome. The God he proclaims....the God mainstream Christianity proclaims is an abusive parent. Flying off the handle, overly forgiving one moment......overly critical the next. Always ready to smote.....or soothe. And who knows which he will choose. Flip the coin. That is not a God you cuddle up to. That is a God you hide in the corner from and hope he does not take notice of you!!!!! Because surely if he takes notice of you, you're sunk. Enough musing for one day.......and as always.......I continue to ponder, and search......and hope to find an answer......