July 3, 2010

Allegiances

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , , at 6:08 pm by Mo Dardinger

It is harder to live the Christian life than we are living. We have cozied up to the world.

A few weeks ago, my pastor ended his message with this sobering thought.

What he meant is that too often we do not think things through. We let the culture around us dictate our beliefs and practices. It should be difficult to live for God, not easy. We should find ourselves fighting the current all the time, swimming upstream. Not that we would do this unaided. The help of the Spirit is promised to those who do God’s will. The Lord Yeshua Himself said, “My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” But He never claimed that we could plow in one direction while He plows in another and receive this “easy yoke” benefit. There are two oxen in the one yoke. One is our Savior, and the other is me — or you. The two harnessed together in the yoke must pull together. They must set off in the same direction. The Lord Yeshua (Jesus) is already headed the right way — and unlikely to turn around at our whim!

What must change? Today, for me, I find this to repent of: that I value my own spiritual and emotional growth more than I value my brothers’ obedience to the Lord. I may say that I want good things for others, such as the never-ending rewards they will reap for following the clear guidance of Scripture. But when push comes to shove, I truly desire my own freedom and my own spiritual and emotional growth. Their growth and blessing is fine — up to the point where it interferes with my growth. I want to be selfish like the culture I grew up in tells me to be, like my flesh encourages me to be, like my mother taught me to be. I want to be free and happy more than I want my brothers to be holy.

My spiritual director recently pointed out what I didn’t see. There had been for some months a time each week that was special to me and to my friends. More special to me than to them, I’m sure. It was a delight to have a “space” each week where the real, undeveloped me could come out and play. Where I was welcome to be gregarious, boisterous, and loud — qualities that were not appreciated in my childhood home. Where I belonged, knew what to expect, and knew I was “family.”

But that space has gone away now. So soon after I saw how much it benefits me, it’s gone. Because of the obedience of others to the Lord — which obedience I should support, not oppose.

My Father will have to provide another way that I can be healed and can grow, if He desires this outcome. He must want wholeness for me, mustn’t He? I certainly want it for myself, and He is said to love us better even than we love ourselves.

There might be other priorities on His infinitely brilliant mind, though. And if there are, that needs to be okay with me. Not all healing will take place this year, or even on this old, corrupted Earth at all. Some of it will wait until we are freed from our bodies of sin and death — freed either by our own deaths or by the rapture of the Church. Some healing may even continue afterward, on the New Earth, the perfected Earth, where righteousness dwells. Who is to say we will not learn, grow, and expand our healthiness year by year and millennium by millennium?

The main point is that we will, if yielded to our generous and loving Father, be healed and whole eventually. And that’s a truly encouraging thought.

June 29, 2010

Heaven On Earth

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 7:38 pm by Mo Dardinger

While we were flying away to Seattle for our vacation three weeks ago, I meditated on the Kingdom of Heaven:

The Kingdom of Heaven — it’s not just about the eternal and extreme rewards we will receive. It’s about experiencing joy now and about spreading that joy. By sharing our abundance with others. Whether that abundance is finances, a great sense of humor, passionate prayer, or a kind word.

June 26, 2010

This Foolish Tourist

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 2:18 pm by Mo Dardinger

My parents used to watch the evening news on the CBS network. For a long time, Walter Cronkite was the newscaster. He signed off each evening with, “And that’s the way it is.” Until one night when he leaned too far back in his anchor chair, lost his balance, and almost fell backwards. That evening, he signed off with, “And that’s the way it could have been.” It’s one of those “could have been” moments in my life that forms the subject of this blogpost.

When my dear Dave and I signeddeer up for a cruise to Alaska — my second and his first — neither of us realized what a life-changing adventure it would be. We just tGreat Horned Owlhought we’d study some, since learning to use Logos 4 software was part and parcel of our particular cruise package. We thought we’d observe and photograph immense beauty. We thought we’d have good fellowship and good food. We thought we’d get close to some birds we don’t see where we live. We thought Dave would collect his last three states, would have visited all 50 states in his lifetime. All this we did, but so very much more we did — or maybe the right way to say it is that it was done to us!

Our cruise was 80% pleasurable, 10% boring, and 10% frightening and painful. We studied Logos all day Sunday and Monday until noon. Then we visited Juneau on Monday afternoon, Skagway on Tuesday, and Glacier Bay on Wednesday.

On Thursday, we visited Ketchikan. In Seattle, we’d seen deer up close and a great horned owl. We’d witnessed humpback whales engaged in “bubble net” group feeding outside of Juneau, which is a rare and exciting sight. We’d seen harbor seals and various gulls in Glacier Bay. Now we were hoping to see bald eagles up close and other birds and animals, perhaps even a bear.

Our first stop on the Ketchikan bus tour was uneventful. We saw a salmon ladder, though it wasn’t yet the time for salmon to be leaping upstream. I shot tons of photos, as always. (You’re more likely to get at least a few good ones if you shoot lots. And with digital photography, there’s practically no cost to shooting lots — unlike with the film cameras we grew up with.)

Then we arrived! There were both adult and juvenile bald eagles near enough to get some great pictures of them. Some even flew around in groups. (Do eagles flock?)Bald Eagle

On to our next stop. I snapped a few pictures. A couple of people from our tour were looking at something on the front left side of the parking area. So I wandered over to see what it was. Maybe another eagle, even closer? I never found out. For when I reached the spot, stepping onto the muddy ground for a closer look, my feet slipped out from under me.

I expected to plop on my backside, then get up. But to my surprise, I kept sliding. Next I expected that I would soon get hung up on a bush. But I kept sliding. It was a long slope. How would I stop sliding? What would await me at the bottom? Lots of pain, broken bones, maybe even death.

Realizing my danger at last, I began to roll over, arms facing the slope, to try to grab at bushes or trees. As I turned, I said out loud, “Lord, help me.” I am not a great saint, but the God of the Bible is a great God, full of mercy. He was certainly the only one who could help me at this point. All the folks on our tour were too far off to do me any good. A small plant appeared on my left, and I grabbed for it, but it slipped away.

area where this foolish tourist fell

area where this foolish tourist fell

Then, as I completed my desperate prayer and completed my turn, I saw a rope to my right. I grabbed it. It held. My fall was stopped. The Lord had heard and answered my prayer.

The rope was an inch or more thick and quite sturdy. The tree it was tied to had an 8-inch diameter. Strong enough to hold me as I got my feet under me and started climbing back up.

Someone called down from above to ask how I was. Though I was shaken and bruised, my arms and legs worked. And I was alive! So I called back that I was okay.

I climbed up using the rope and my legs. A strong young man reached down to help me. I asked him if he was secure, as I didn’t want to pull him down the muddy slope, too.

My legs could no longer find any purchase. Nor could my knees. The muddy ground just gave way beneath them. And I’d reached the top of the rope. Now it was up to the young man and his helpers to pull me up the rest of the way.

chief human rescuer

my chief human rescuer (in red t-shirt)

There were many involved in my rescue: Dave from my right, the young man and those holding him from straight ahead, and many angels from on high dispatched to care for this foolish tourist. Praise God for sending so many to help me. Where would I have been without them? Dead or severely injured.

We finished the tour without further excitement. Though why I can’t tell. I should have been, you would think, jumping up and down for joy, even with hurt knees. I should have collected the names and addresses of those who helped me. I should have told everyone how desperately I had prayed and how quickly God’s answer came. But I didn’t. Dave and I are passive, often too passive. And we process things slowly.

I could tell I’d have a great story to tell back home. And I knew my knees were hurt, so I should take it easy, get some prayer, and possibly seek medical attention.

My gratitude to God is real, though, just not expressed quickly or loudly. My gratitude includes the fact that the iPhone in my pocket didn’t slip out or get broken. The camera around my neck was still okay. The purse around my neck and shoulder stayed shut. My new passport in the purse was okay. I think I lost two tissues and a lipstick from my pockets — nothing huge, nothing hard to replace.

Muddy Mo

Muddy Mo at Saxman Totem Village

Back on our ship, we ate lunch and sent an email to three friends in our small group to get some prayer going. Then we had our stateroom steward bring some ice, and I rested my knees. Dave went off to do laundry while I re-watched “The Young Victoria,” a film about Queen Victoria’s youth and first year or two on the throne. My aches and pains became more evident as the afternoon wore on. It reached the point where I could no longer stand without lots on pain, particularly in my right knee. Dave had to help me hobble to the head in our stateroom. We paged our steward for a wheelchair, waited for the medical clinic to re-open, and paid them a visit.

Dave taking good care of Mo

Dave takes good care of Mo

It took a long time to get seen as there were a slew of crew members and other passengers also seeking attention. But we received excellent care from the doctor and nurses from South Africa. The x-rays showed no broken bones. They treated both knees with Deep Heat, gave me an injection for the pain and swelling, and supplied me with two kinds of pills. My left knee got a urethane brace, while my right knee was heavily bandaged. I was told to sleep with a pillow between my knees and to let Dave wheel me around as much as possible.

By evening the next day, I was greatly improved. I could walk on my own some, though with some pain. We kept using the wheelchair until we left the ship and at the airports on the way back.

Getting up from a sitting position is still more of a bother than it used to be. Soon I’ll see my primary care physician for her take on my injuries and what else may need to be done. Also soon, I hope and pray, I’ll come to a greater realization of just what “might have been” versus what “was and is” — and praise and thank the Lord more fervently for His protection of this foolish tourist.

May 20, 2010

On Elegant Sufficiency

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , , at 7:08 pm by Mo Dardinger

Today at lunch, I quoted my father to my girlfriends. I don’t quote him often. He didn’t teach me much. I wasn’t open to instruction, and he wasn’t particularly communicative.

My father was, though, a good man in lots of ways. He recognized and opposed pride. He supported his wife and children, then later his second wife and me, his last child.

He had supported his mother and younger siblings, too, when his alcoholic father abandoned the family. He’d had to drop out of school in the fourth grade to earn a living for them. But he didn’t boast, and he didn’t complain.

He worked as a baker, eventually owning his own large bakery. Later he worked for others, mostly as a pastry chef.

For recreation, he went deer hunting with his buddies or gambled at the local dog track. He was a hard-working, responsible fellow. He drank, but not to excess.

Dad smoked, but he quit cold turkey one day and never looked back. I’ve always been proud of him for that.

My father made friends easily with those he worked with and for. He enjoyed a good laugh.

After a meal with friends, at their place or ours, he would often proclaim, “I have had an elegant sufficiency.” Isn’t that a choice phrase? “An elegant sufficiency.” It says, “I’m satisfied. I’ve eaten enough. I don’t need any more, thanks.”

More than that, it states that what is “sufficient” is all that is needful. One ought to be satisfied with “enough,” with that which is “sufficient.” That which is enough is elegant by virtue of being the proper amount, that which is fitting, that which is needful.

If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content. ~ 1 Timothy 6:8 (NASB) ~

The apostle Paul promotes the correct attitude in this verse, doesn’t he? Who says we need to stuff ourselves until we can’t hold another morsel? Who says we in the developed world have a God-given right to feast every day while the rest of the world scratches for a living? God Himself would be the first to deny such a “right” exists and to call for a limit to our self-indulgence and greed.

Believe me, I have been living well, eating well, and not engaging in self-denial on behalf of the poor or anyone else. All this while working for a charity that serves the poor, while reading the Bible regularly, and while associating with others who love the Lord. Sometimes the blinders we wear are invisible to us, and sometimes we excuse our own behavior too readily. At least, I do. But I see the need to change, and today I took a baby step in a new direction.

For lunch out with my friends today, I ordered just a bowl of soup. It cost a bit less than the sandwiches or the salads. It came with bread and made for a delicious, satisfying, filling meal. Thus my quotation of my father to my friends: “As my father used to say, ‘I have had an elegant sufficiency.'”

May it become a common phrase on my lips, and may more of my father’s goodness and kindness influence my heart and mind in the months and years to come.

May 13, 2010

Those Were the Days, My Friend: Lingering in the Antechamber to Joy

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , at 8:56 pm by Mo Dardinger

One of the songs that I liked back when was a song about “the good old days.” I was too young at the time to have shared the experience elucidated in the verses, but I liked it all the same. It rang true. It told the tale of a group of friends who were sure, as young adults, that the good times they shared together would never end: “We’d sing and dance forever and a day.” They also experienced (and expected to go on experiencing) victory of some sort: “We’d fight and never lose,” the line went.

This song always drew for me a mental picture. Friends gathered in a wood-paneled restaurant or bar. They chatted, joked good-naturedly, lavished their free time on one another. I craved that depth of friendship and fellowship. But I always saw myself as on the outside of the good times, as someone on the other side of the window, out in the street, gazing in longingly.

Then one Sunday morning our worship leader (who was also our senior pastor) heard a word for someone in the congregation. A word from the Lord. (This happens a lot in charismatic congregations, but not so much in the more staid churches that I’ve belonged to since then.) It was something about a wagon wheel and being on the outside looking in. It reminded me of the song, but that’s all. It took my friend Karen to point out to me (after the service had ended) that this was an image I had of myself, and that I should go “claim” the word.

So we approached my pastor, and he and Karen prayed for me. As they prayed, an image came to me. This rare occurrence is what believers usually call “a vision,” as in “your old men will dream dreams, and your young men see visions” (Joel 2:28). The image was of being in the gathering place, enjoying the fellowship of friends. Then the curtain across the back doorway moved aside to reveal a gigantic meeting place, a large auditorium. It was brightly lit, especially in the center. Concentric circles of worshipers joyfully adored the Being in the center.

This was where I belonged. This was what I should have longed for, in addition to friendship. This was true friendship, true fellowship, with all eyes fixed upon the Most Lovely, the One who dwarfs all others, the One who loves incomparably better than the best of us.

“You and I were made to worship,” another song I like proclaims. That truth was brought home to me through this vision. I had been longing for mere earthly friendship. True joy was offered to me (and to all who will come and join in).

Our relationships with our husbands, wives, co-workers, friends — they’re great, sometimes. But they’re out of kilter if worship of the true and living God is not the center of our lives.

The happy gathering place with chattering buddies has its place in our lives. (Grieving with those have suffered loss has its place, too, certainly.) But we must remember that human fellowship is merely the anteroom to heaven, not the main event. The Lord’s love draws us in to a delight that surpasses our happy, youthful, zestful moments. The worshipers in the circle of light enjoy one another’s company, but they don’t make that particular enjoyment their chief aim. They delight in the Lord’s infinite goodness. Other joys are appreciated, received with gratitude from our heavenly suitor, but not sought as the purpose or goal.

Since the day of the vision, I have often lingering on the outside looking in. And I have sometimes participated in true friendship. But we are offered a much greater joy, and I plan to cling to this vision and pursue that joy. I have lingered too long in the antechamber to joy.

April 26, 2010

Why Joy?

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , at 6:36 pm by Mo Dardinger

Joy is hard. Hard for me to get to. Hard for me to maintain.

Couldn’t the Almighty One require something simpler of us?

How about this for a commandment: chuckle a little every day. I could handle that. I’d just IM one of my fun friends or hunt for jokes online. Funny stuff comes in book form, too. And on DVD. It would be a simple commandment to obey. A cinch.

Or try this commandment on for size: Once a week, do something nice for someone you don’t like. I could do that, too. Maybe not without grumbling a little, but it’s in the realm of what I can handle.

Why did He have to pick joy??? And why does it have to be all the time, without any “time off”?

Always rejoice, constantly pray,  in everything give thanks. For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus (1 Thess. 5:16-18, NET).

Rejoice. Give thanks. Always, not just from time to time.

Joy is not easy. I can’t manufacture it. It’s an imported item, not something that my mind and heart naturally produce.

It’s mid-year-review time at my office, and that makes me keenly aware of my inadequacies (not that they are ever far from me). When I focus on my failures and needs, though, I’m not obeying the commandment to rejoice. This is a major clue, I think. The only way to consistently obey the Father’s command to rejoice is to get our eyes off ourselves.

If you’re proud and blind, like I’ve been most of my life, then you may be happy about where you are, pleased with whom you are. I was for years on end, silly Mo. But most of us who truly know the One who made the space-time continuum know that cannot rejoice in ourselves. To find joy, we must focus on Him, on the Giver. He gave us life. He gives us joy. When we come to Him for it. When we bend our wills to follow His will. When we give up our worries and trust Him.

That may be the key right there. When joy is required, the Giver of Joy is needed.

So if we are successfully rejoicing all the time, then we are going to have to be focused on God and His goodness all the time. There just isn’t any substitute. The Giver of Joy wants us thinking about positive, profitable things — which mostly means thinking about Him, about what He has done for us, and about what His great and good plans for His redeemed are.

Go forth, then, and rejoice!

 

Scripture and/or notes quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C.  All rights reserved.

April 16, 2010

Crazy Love

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged at 1:23 am by Mo Dardinger

Yesterday was rough, most all day. This morning was rough, too, initially. I couldn’t get back to sleep, so got up to read or pray or just go on crying.

When a friend’s birthday rolled around last month, I had hunted all over Amazon for the right gift. Nothing seemed to click. So, as the time was getting short, I visited a brick-and-mortar bookstore. Nothing immediately struck me as a good gift there, either. So I found a clerk. I described my friend as a solid believer, mentioned a book he liked, and asked for help. The clerk suggested one of their best sellers, a red paperback called “Crazy Love: Overwhelmed by a Relentless God.”

My friend hasn’t said whether he likes it or not. But I picked up a copy for myself, too, and this morning I dipped into it. It’s going to be my favorite book for a long while, I think. It’s deep. It’s special. It’s calling me to step out of the boat and walk on the water. I want to. I really, really want to. If I can just stop being self-centered long enough, I will. Dry eyes and wet feet. And plenty of faith and generosity. That’s the new Mo.

April 11, 2010

No Kit Kats, and That’s That

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , at 5:06 am by Mo Dardinger

My husband Dave and I have been studying the Feasts of the Lord. We even taught an adult class about them a couple of years ago.

The spring feasts all serve as prophecies for the Messiah’s first coming. Passover was fulfilled in the Lord Yeshua’s sacrificial atoning death, while Firstfruits was fulfilled in his miraculous resurrection. The gift of the Holy Spirit at Shavuot (Pentecost) fulfilled that prophesied feast. The fall feasts will, in like manner, be fulfilled in every detail when the Lord Yeshua returns to take back Israel and the earth from the forces of darkness.

When I arrived home from the office on Wednesday, after a longer-than-normal day, I was surprised to find Dave rushing about gathering up and throwing out all the leavened products — crackers, bread, stuffing. We hadn’t talked about doing the “hunt for the leaven” — though since I am the Clue Hunter, you’d think I might have had a clue. I joined in, eating the half a hamburger (with leavened bun) that I’d brought home from lunch, then tossing, tossing, tossing.

We did it. We managed to haul out all of the trash bags before sundown. (Some of the other contents of the refrigerator were cleaned out as well, and the advertising magazines from our mail went, too.) All the leaven, which represents sin in the Bible, was gone. *whew*

After sunset, we enjoyed a wonderful meal and watched a Zola Levitt video about the Passover seder (the service accompanying the meal). He claims the Last Supper was a seder, which others dispute, but that’s not the point for now.

The next day, we discovered a Kit Kat candy bar on the sideboard where we had lots of other candy. Oops. The crackers in the Kit Kat bars contained yeast. Contraband. Leaven.

Then we found a half-eaten bag of crackers that had yeast. They had been on the kitchen counter and were lost among all the bags and boxes Dave had sifted through. More leaven.

When we were treated to dinner by our nephew and his family a few days later, we shared this story with them. It’s so typical of our lives. We can hunt and hunt for the sin that lurks inside us. But we will always miss some. It can be small, it can be easily overlooked, it can be an attitude that everyone around us shares with us. But it has to go. No excuses. No compromises. No Kit Kats, and that’s that.

Rightly Aligned with the Universe

Posted in Spiritual Life tagged , , , , at 4:36 am by Mo Dardinger

Once I had a friend named Dean. He didn’t believe in God — or tried to convince us that he didn’t. I wasn’t the most persuasive advocate for the Lord. But when I made a concerted effort to root out the sin in my life, to confess it, to make everything right with God . . . WOW! I found great joy and peace. I was much happier and more content than normal.

My friends noticed, especially Dean. My explanation intrigued him, too. I told him that by forgiving everyone who had hurt me, I was now rightly aligned with the Universe. And so I was. And so he could have been. And so we all can be. For to agree with God about our sins and to stop holding others at fault for their sins, this brings us into alignment with the Almighty, and thus with the Universe that He has created.

April 2, 2010

Hello world!

Posted in Uncategorized at 1:50 am by Mo Dardinger

Well, it’s about time I made my debut on WordPress.com. So many ideas, so few live people around to share them with!

This blog will mainly be whatever I find interesting at the moment. That’s the plan, at any rate. Perhaps other blogs will spin off eventually as an expression of particular lines of research or delight. For now, it all falls here. That’s what the Categories are for, Mo thinks. To separate the posts into their own nice niches. (And if a niche isn’t nice, it hardly belongs on a Mo blog.)

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