Saturday, June 30, 2012

Verse that jumped out to me this morning: Boldness

1 Timothy 3:13 For they that have used the office of a deacon well purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus.
1 Timothy 3:12-14

Wow!!! So...faithfulness in being a deacon brings the spiritual gift of boldness!!!!! Wow!!! Is that why Stephen was so bold in preaching!

Is that why we see so few manifestations of spiritual gifts nowadays?

The Bible teaches us in many ways how to increase in boldness in faith and in witnessing. It says faith comes by hearing. (Which is good. It's not as if one can never get better faith. We are told that faith cometh. So we can increase our faith by hearing.)

But here it says we can also get the spiritual gift of boldness by doing the physical human earthly thing of being good deacons.

Ecclesiastes 8:1 Who is as the wise man? and who knoweth the interpretation of a thing? a man's wisdom maketh his face to shine, and the boldness of his face shall be changed.

Acts 4:13 Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

Acts 4:29 And now, Lord, behold their threatenings: and grant unto thy servants, that with all boldness they may speak thy word,

Philippians 1:20 According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.

Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus,
Hebrews 10:18-20

1 John 4:17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Sexuality in Fantasy

This month's Travelling Fantasy round table topic is Sexuality in Fantasy. 

As a writer of Christian fantasy, I have hurdles to jump over when it comes to writing about sex. First, there are the moral rules I have to follow. Rules dictated within the Bible and rules followed by Christians outside the Bible which may or may not be Biblical but which fall into the category of "acceptable for Christian readers."

So far, I have not had a homosexual character appear to me wanting a story to be written about him. I have however had characters who engaged in sexual acts that did not quite fit in with what a Christian fantasy reader would accept. 

I have, for instance, created one graphic sex scene and one rape scene.  In Wind Follower, I wrote six small sex scenes and got several rebukes from Christian readers for writing them, although there is no way those sex scenes could have been described as titillating because there was so much woundedness, cruelty, and evil involved. 

I did create a mini-harem of sorts in Wind Follower: a man with a wife and a concubine. No one was really bothered by that sexual situation because Christian and/or western readers are used to stories where men have wives and concubines. In Constant Tower, my novel which will be published by Wildside Press, I create a world where women have two husbands each. I am not sure how that will go over with some folks. The main characters in that "marriage" are teenagers so I had to be careful about being too sexual because although ancient times were different and youngsters married earlier, in our modern times sex between teenagers is taboo. 

I think my biggest issue when showing sexuality, other than always worrying about my Christian audience, and trying not to affirm any kind of sexuality forbidden by my religion, is the problem of showing wounded sexuality. I tend to think that all humans are wounded and that this woundedness affects our sexuality. I also think we are confused sometimes and there are people who fall into our lovemaps and folks who fall into our lustmaps. In Wind Follower, my main character Satha probably loved her husband Loic, but I suspected she was more sexually-attracted to her husband's father Taer, and she was probably somewhat sexually attracted to the villain, Noam, even if she hated him. (Ah, if they had met at another time without that pesky family vendetta!)

From what I have seen in many Christian fiction, many characters have majorly sane healthy sex. I don't think that is true in real life. My characters tend to be sickly and often are battling self-loathing, depression, and other mental or physical issues. Sex gets complicated and the joyous blissful perfect combined orgasm is not something one is gonna find in a Carole McDonnell book. This is not to say that I do not understand that a book often carries the writer's wish-fulfillment character. In stories such as A Knight in Shining Armour, by Jude Devereaux and in the Korean drama, Queen In Hyeon's Man, the perfect man of a character's dream (and the reader's perfect man as well) pops up and love and lustmap match perfectly. However, as a writer of Christian fantasy, and as someone who has been ill and someone dedicated to truth (although truth is often merged with wish-fulfillment), I don't think I could ever write a book with joyous unwounded sexuality.  - Carole McDonnell

For more on this blog tour on Sexuality in Fantasy, go on over to: http://deborahjross.blogspot.com/ 


Theresa Crater has published two contemporary fantasies, Beneath the Hallowed Hill & Under the Stone Paw and several short stories, most recently “White Moon” in Riding the Moon and “Bringing the Waters” in The Aether Age:  Helios. She’s also published poetry and a baker’s dozen of literary criticism. Currently, she teaches writing and British lit in Denver. Born in North Carolina, she now lives in Colorado with her Egyptologist partner and their two cats. Visit her website athttp://theresacrater.com 

Andrea K Höst was born in Sweden but raised in Australia.  She writes fantasy and science fantasy, and enjoys creating stories which give her female characters something more to do than wait for rescue.  See: www.andreakhost.com

Warren Rochelle has taught English at the University of Mary Washington since 2000. His short story, "The Golden Boy” (published in The Silver Gryphon) was a Finalist for the 2004 Gaylactic Spectrum Award for Best Short Story and his novels include The Wild Boy (2001), Harvest of Changelings (2007), and The Called (2010. He also published a critical work on Le Guin and has academic articles in various journals and essay collections.
http://warrenrochelle.com

 I began writing professionally in 1982 as Deborah Wheeler with JAYDIUM and NORTHLIGHT, and short stories in ASIMOV'S, F & SF, REALMS OF FANTASY and STAR WARS: TALES FROM JABBA'S PALACE. Now under my birth name, Ross, I am continuing the" Darkover" series of the late Marion Zimmer Bradley, as well as original work, including the fantasy trilogy THE SEVEN-PETALED SHIELD. I'm a member of Book View Cafe. I've lived in France, worked for a cardiologist, studied Hebrew, yoga and kung fu, and am active in the local Jewish and Quaker communities.
 http://deborahjross.blogspot.com/

Chris Howard's a fairly creative guy with a pen and a paint brush, author of Seaborn (Juno Books) and half a shelf-full of other books.  His short stories have appeared in a bunch of zines, latest is "Lost Dogs and Fireplace Archeology" in Fantasy Magazine.  In 2007, his story "Hammers and Snails" was a Robert A. Heinlein Centennial Short Fiction Contest winner.  He writes and illustrates the comic, Saltwater Witch. His ink work and digital illos have appeared in Shimmer, BuzzyMag, various RPGs, and on the pages of other books, blogs, and places. Last year he painted a 9 x 12 foot Steampunk Map of New York for a cafe in Brooklyn. Find out everything at http://www.SaltwaterWitch.com


Sylvia Kelso lives in North Queensland, Australia. She writes fantasy and SF set in analogue or alternate Australian settings. She has published six fantasy novels, two of which were finalists for best fantasy novel of the year in the Australian Aurealis genre fiction awards, and some short stories in Australian and US anthologies. 

Carole McDonnell is a writer of ethnic fiction, speculative fiction, and Christian fiction. Her works have appeared in many anthologies and at various online sites. Her novel, Wind Follower, was published by Wildeside Books. Her forthcoming novel is called The Constant Tower.
 http://carolemcdonnell.blogspot.com/  

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Loving Philip -- the non-prejudiced disciple

One of my favorite disciples is Philip. I just love this guy. I mean, Peter even had racial issues AFTER he received the holy spirit, after he had the vision of the sheet dropping down to heaven. His prejudice against gentiles and non-Jews is soooo ingrained that even in chapter seven of ACTS he buckles when some of the Jewish disciples like James saw him eating with gentile believers. Once a wimpy reed always a wimpy reed even if Jesus named him Rock it just didn't take.

But Philip, sweet wonderful Philip is totally different. During Jesus' disciple, Philip brought some Greek believers to speak to him. Philip also was the one who spoke to the eunuch of the Candace of Egypt. But especially, Philip was wonderful to the Samaritans.

The Samaritans were a group of people whom the Jews rejected. Basically what happened was that the Jews were taken out of their land by the conquering folks. 2 Kings 17. A few of them remained and then the conquering folks put strangers --non-Jews-- in the Jesus land to repopulate the land. The Jewish religion there and the Jewish people there got all mixed up. When the Jews returned to the land t0 build the temple, the Samaritans offered to help to build the temple but the returning Jews rejected them because they were mixed "Get your unholy hands off our temple."

Incidentally, beginning with Abraham the Jews had a history of rejecting folks they just didn't consider holy enough. Both Abraham and Isaac didn't believe that the gentiles they encountered were even decent enough to acknowledge God or marriage. It's the problem with a spiritual vision of being a great people, I think. And folks in the United States have it too. Heck, Joseph (Jacob's son) had the same problem. If you have a great vision, you just belittle everyone else around you. And Jacob's sons killed Shechem (the prince who got involved with Dinah) because they didn't think he was good enough.

Anyways, the Samaritans got rejected and built their own temple to God since the Jews didn't want to include them as God's people. But Jesus accepted the Samaritans.

Andn so did Philip. He was so accepting that he even had Simon "Magus" in his ranks and accepted him before Peter gave Simon a talking to. So whenever I think of Philip, I think what an open-minded lover of different cultures he was. It's been said by some that the book of ACTS was written by the evangelist Luke in order to make Jewish disciples see that God was doing mighty acts through Paul among the gentiles. Hey, we know Philip didn't need the book of ACTS to tell him that God loved the gentiles -- and even the hated Samaritans. He had the loving knowledge in him all along.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Critiquing and the Curse of Insightfulness

Ever had a situation occur where you're critiquing someone's story or reviewing a novel and you get this really weird vibe?

I'm not talking about a vibe the writer intentionally put into the story. Something about the writer's own issues. I'm talking about the old phrase: "A bad novel tells about its author." Heck, even a great story can tell too much about its author.

Sometimes you -- the critiquer-- sense that something is not quite right. Others may not sense it -- which makes you look like a total nut-case.

It happens in various ways.

Consider a short story written by a friend of mine. I will only describe this friend as "light-skinned."
In her story, she wrote about how the way her neighborhood changed. Apparently, all was well in this great black and white integrated neighborhood, then some dark-skinned Caribbeans (or might have been Jamaicans) came and ruined the neighborhoods, getting their dark hands -- like monkeys-- into everything. Okay, so I said, "I understand this story is written from the main character's POV but this doesn't work for me. Not that I have a problem with a prejudice protagonist. But there is a certain passion and anger here that --yes, although the MC is angry-- feels odd to me."


The author's response: "It's the MC's pov."


Well, whatever... But I will state that this type of character shows up way too much in this writer's work.


Then there is the black Christian writer friend -- dark-skinned like me-- whose non-fiction piece was about how bad blacks were ruining it for good blacks...and whose EVERY novel has a black woman with green eyes. If this woman has written a story about a tragic mulatto once, she has written it a zillion times. Oh, she doesn't come out and say "tragic mulatto" but she always has ignorant dark-skinned black characters set up against good green-eyed black character. Is this self-loathing or what?


Okay, so I'm talking about a certain consistency. That's because I don't want to be wrong or unfair. Why assume a guy is bigoted against religious folks or Jewish folks or Blacks or Asians or Mexicans only because of one story? 

But sometimes....ONE story is often what one needs. Because when one challenges some aspect of the story, the writer's reaction is a bit over-the-top. This is because the story is too close to the author's heart. And when they challenge you on why you have challenged them, it feels like they're trying to convince everyone of the nobility of their character's choice and behavior when in fact what is going on is quite atrocious -- the way the story is written.  


The thing is... I can deal with any kind of plot in a story. Seriously. I have a terrible honesty. A true witness delivers souls, as the Bible says. So I tend to go all honest in my stories. If someone comes up to me and says, "this or that about this story seems to be about your situation," I will probably say yes. Or if someone thinks I've created a character in a "bad light" and they therefore feel they cannot like a particular character, I will probably say, "Yes, I've created her in a bad light purposely. I am being honest. The character is like me. If you don't like her, that's too bad. Do you judge everyone based on their horrible character traits? Are you so perfect?" Yeah, I'd probably say that.


But when there is something terribly dishonest and veiled in the way the narrator has presented certain characters or situations to the reader, well, I have to scream foul, because something feels inherently dishonest.. Yep, dishonest. Because there is something vaguely self-serving and unreliable about the POV, about the narration, about the rationalizations, about the whole set-up. Why can't the character simply come out and say or do the wrong thing? Why must the character be seen as right (and the story has to go through a zillion hoops to prove the rightness of the character)? Why can't the character simply be someone who is wrong, has made the wrong choice, and the author is gonna let it stand, bare before us with no rationalizations? Because the write is not being honest....and this is the hardest story to critique because you're up against a writer who either knows she is wrong (but will defend it to the death) or who believes she (oops, her character) is right and will close her eyes to any kind of truth you throw at her?


Obviously stories like these are nestled high on a point in the writers' own life and it almost makes the critiquer wonder if the writer or someone she knows has done this kind of thing and rationalized it away in a similar way. It screams of a writer who is trying to pretend that there is not an issue when there is and unfortunately those stories are the most aggravating to read...


The story as it is presented will give readers two different reactions. Some might see the story the way the reader wants everyone to see it (I so will not say what I want to say about readers who encourage writers in their delusions) and some will really dislike the main character and wonder about the author. The scary thing is that a few years after the story is published, if the writer is sane and has matured....the writer will re-read the story, and they will understand exactly what the critiquer meant to say and will be surprised at their own dishonesty. (I won't even talk about the writers who didn't grow or mature.) By then, of course, the writer will have lost a friend because A) the writer didn't want to acknowledge she had allowed her neuroses to create a false story or B) the critiquer will have lost all patience with the writers' dishonesty. The curse of insightfulness alas is that the critiquer often never quite realizes she is about to step into the mire...so it's difficult to stop one's self until after the writer has thrown a hissy fit and gone into full-blown victim mode.. 


Just saying. 

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Fasting -- how i hate it

Well, it's been eight days in a row of absolutely no sleep. What an annoyance! Sometimes I manage to get an hour or even four hours. But this stretch!!! Not good. Especially when you have to get up in the morning to take care of a non-verbal child labelled autistic who seems to have been in pain for every day of his life...and who also sometimes doesn't sleep. Am in a great deal of pain at present, plus tired, and antzy.

Will be reviewing my ebuddy's book So Many ways to Sleep Badly. He also has fibromyalgia but he manages to get around. Gonna be interesting, reviewing his novel. Me a born-againer and he a transgendered person in the sex industry. But ever since he accepted my essay in the collection, Nobody Passes, I've had a real love for him. That sleeplessness bond. Plus the sex abuse bond.

In Wind Follower, I gave Satha my sleeplessness but I didn't follow through on it. Cause I didn't want it to take over the novel. Just waiting to see what Mattilda does with sleeplessness in his novel.

Church was fun yesterday. One of those fiestas we all love. Which reminds me:

What would have happened to me, Lord, if it weren't for your grace and your love?


Made a really intense and good catch in my novel a couple of days ago. Okay, I am all too well aware that my stories and novels generally have folks in interracial relationships. And I am aware that I tend to have light skin men doing the conquerinr and dark-skinned women in the women in distress mode. But there I was writing Constant Tower when - 202 pages into the story, mind you-- it dawns on me that AAARGH the good guys are the light skinned Wheel Clan and the bad guys are the shifty conniving dark-skinned clan. I had gone so overboard in depicting the rational of the main characters -- the light-skinned tribe-- that I pretty much made them saints who were merely avenging themselves. What a turmoil that put me in! What to do? Do I go back and turn the entire thin on its head and make the good tribe dark-skinned? (But then the woman who suffers in the beginning of the story would be a light-skinned woman suffering at the hand of a dark-skinned man. Not exactly historical.) Or should I make the light-skinned tribe not so light skinned? Like the Doreni..a kind of mixed tribe. And forget white-skinned folks entirely? That's kinda what i did in Wind Follower. But then a brilliant suggestion came to this brain o mine. I was overjoyed when it came. So am leaving everything as it is....and really bringing in a subtext I had not seen clearly: that of large multinationals taking over the resources of third world places. Not that two wrongs make a right but at least both tribes are equally greedy and shiftless. Except that the larger tribe is so used to using up 70% of the resources of their planet they don't really realize they're selfish. So it works. Nice.

I really have to fast though. I have to get some wisdom or some breakthrough in our family's life. Twenty years of this kind of continual suffering and pain just has to stop. I'm not saying, "I am going to fast because it's the right thing to do." I'm fasting cause I simply have no desire to eat...being so sleepy and nauseous from this long stretch of utter sleeplessness. Wish me luck.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

The Great Exchange...Putting on Christ

The GREAT Exchange is a concept that is familiar to many Christians.


3Know ye not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of hisresurrection: 6Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. 7For he that is dead is freed from sin.8Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with him: Romans 6:3-8

We are commanded in the Bible to "put on Christ"


But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires. Romans 13:14


For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.   Galatians 3:27


Because Jesus has shed his blood and given his life for us, we are able to take what He earned through His perfect life, death, resurrection, and Lordship. This is the difference between Biblical Christians and New Agers or believers in Unity. New Agers and Unity believers tend to believe that there is a kind of free-floating Christ-consciousness that we can sorta get and attain to in a gnosticky, eastern kind of way. But we can only put on Christ if we have accepted that He died for our sins. It's not we have to earn Christ-Consciousness, but we have to acknowledge the power of His shed blood, and that the Holy Mediator who came in the Flesh died for us. Through Christ, we have the mind of Christ, the peace that passes all understanding, and "all things." It is not true that Christians "mature" into Christ. God's blessings are not given to the "mature"..it is given to those who receive them and walk in them and put on Christ.



This morning I used the transformation prayer. I realize I tend to be very impatient with people who haven't suffered and yet who get good things. And I asked God to go to that root time when it all began, the time where I felt someone got something without deserving it. I put aside (which is what forgiveness means) that old thinking as part of the old man. And I put on the new man of Christ and declared that from now on I'm filled with the power of God and I now rejoice with those who rejoice and weep with those who weep. So now I no longer require good to happen only to good people but that God's favor and mercy can fall on anyone, even those who might be considered deserving. For if I cage my world in such a way that good can only happen to those who deserve it, then good can only happen to me if I deserve it. So am free from that emotion. Trying to keep track of all the thoughts that come and taking them captive to all that is Christ and putting on Christ. So I've cleaned my soul of some crap this morning. Will see.

We have so many difficult and contradictory stuff going on in our spirits. The Holy Spirit was sent to give us light to show us these contradictions. He came "that the thoughts of many shall be revealed" and He also came that we may see the GREAT LIGHT, the kind of Life God has given us through His Son, Jesus Christ.

We have to do our part. God has done His. Our part is the receiving of TRUTH and LIFE and the putting on of Christ. One does not grow in holiness in the worldly way. In Christianity, one dies more and more to self so that Christ can life in you and through you. So you have to put on Christ and put away "the old man." (The old man is not only about sin. The old man is how the world does things. Even the desire to be very holy and good and to use our righteousness is still part of the "old man's" ways.

Hard to get a prayer answered when a part of you is battling against getting that very prayer answered. Having a philosophy that treats others one way but treating one's self differently. Iniquity. Inequity. We know the truth in our minds and we aim to love in truth mentally but if we are to live in a whole kinda way, in spirit and in truth, all our heart has to be unified and must bow to what our minds know. Trying. God bless and keep you.


11It is a faithful saying: For if we be dead with him, we shall also live with him:
12If we suffer, we shall also reign with him: if we deny him, he also will deny us:
13If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself. 2 Timothy 2:11-13

In the same way that we put off sin and put on Christ's holiness (by faith, and by committment), we also put off sickness and put on Christ's health. Because God sent His word and Healed us. 


4Surely he took up our infirmities
and carried our sorrows,
yet we considered him stricken by God,
smitten by him, and afflicted.
5But he was pierced for our transgressions,
he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was upon him,
and by his wounds we are healed. Isaiah 53:4,5

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Whoever has seen me has seen the Father

John 14:8-10
“...Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (v.9)”

We understand some spiritual truths the minute we hear them. But others take more time for us to truly understand. The writers of the Bible often declare many truths about God, Jesus, and the nature of the world that confuse us. When Philip is told that he has already seen the Father, he naturally doubts Jesus’ words. As far as he’s concerned, he hasn’t seen God. God usually appears surrounded by lightning and angels. Philip would’ve remembered that. For Philip, Jesus’ words are confusing at best and untrue at worse.

Many of Jesus’s disciples forsook him when he spoke “hard sayings” such as this. But Philip continued as a disciple because he knew that Jesus had the words of life. (John 6:67,68)

In time, Philip and the rest of the disciples would understand that Jesus was the image of the invisible God (Col 1:15), the Word of God made flesh and living among humans, (I John 1:14) the prophesied God-With-Us. (Matt 1:23) They would understand too that they had indeed seen the Father.

Jesus, thank you for coming to earth to help me to understand, know, and love the Father. Amen.

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Praise for Faith and Hope

There are three levels of hope. They can be summed up in these three sentences:

First: What would I do if I got...?
Second: What will I do when I get...?
Third: What am I going to do now that I have received...?

Whenever a believer is praying and hoping and having faith for something, the prayer falls into one of those three categories. The thing is to walk by faith. Jesus asked Mary and Martha, "Didn't I tell you that if you would believe you would see?"

To believe we have received ...before we have seen the answer to the prayer is to have a child's faith. It takes a great deal of inner strength. It takes focusing. It takes trusting that God exists and is very aware of you and that He is rewarding your faith. It takes trusting that the seed of prayer that you planted is really growing down there in the ground. Even if you don't see anything above ground. This is how the world works, according to Jesus. And blessed are those who can see the kingdom of God even when other guys can't see it. Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not unto your own understanding. In all your ways, acknowledge
Him and He is directing your path. Praise ye the Lord

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Approve what is excellent

When you look at the various translations of Philippians 1:10, (if you don't have all these Bibles, you can always compare verses on www.biblegateway.com ) you see a subtle problem. The verses seem to say different things depending on what translation you're reading. Actually, it's only a problem if one is really legalistic about stuff. The problem is that the Greek word DOKIMAZO means to "approve after distinguishing and discerning." It was often used by the ancient Greeks to mean distinguishing between metals. Once one has approved/proved that something is a true metal, or a true gold, one would be silly indeed to willfully throw it away. So it can be translated as "things that differ" or "approve things that are excellent" (after you prove how the dross differs from true gold and you prove how the bad differs from the excellent.) Not a problem really because many English words present the same problem to non-English speakers. Think of the words keep (it can mean to guard or to protect or to safeguard) or minister (which originally means to serve but to some minds means the big leader in a church.)

So, linguistics aside, what exactly does this verse mean?

First we are to learn to distinguish between good theology and bad theology so that we can understand and show to others what the excellent gospel is.

Second, by understanding what good theology is and what the gospel really is, we know what God wants us to do in this world.

Thirdly, when we understand good theology is and what the real gospel is and what God wants us to do in this world, we can show forth the glory of God.

Fourthly, As Rom 14:22 says, if you accept and approve something and you don't judge yourself when you approve it, then you are blessed. Loose translation: if you feel it's theologically all right to do something and you don't feel guilty doing it, then you are blessed. But if you have even a faint glimmer of self-doubt in what you are allowing yourself to do, then don't do it. You really don't have faith in it. Of course, if one has had proof that one's theology is true but one does not care about such proof, then one is quite free to toss even the good proof away. This is where St Paul says, (when talking about eating certain kinds of meat or wish day to worship) there is nothing good or bad in itself but it's all about faith. And Shakespeare later says in Othello, "There's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so." So if someone thinks it's a sin to go to church on Sunday, then let them be fully persuaded in their own hearts.

Consider, for instance, if my personal theology of the gospel is that God wants his people to be morally good but I don't really think about miracles, then the excellency I will probe to the world will be a morally good life. Think of those holy people and saints who have been really holy but who didn't believe in miracles.

But if my personal interpretation of the gospel is that God wants his people to be holy, healers of the sick, caster out of devils, helpers of the poor and that God is one's protector...then one will approve excellence in these areas...if one commits to it.

Let each man be fully persuaded in his own heart. As St Paul says. And once you are fully persuaded and are not limiting God and are committed to being a Christian as you think God wants you to be, then go for it. Show the world your light by being living examples.
Philippians 1:10 (King James Version)
"That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ."

Philippians 1:10 (New International Version)
"so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,"

Philippians 1:10 (Contemporary English Version)
"how to make the right choices. Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns"

Philippians 1:10 (Young's Literal Translation)
"for your proving the things that differ, that ye may be pure and offenceless -- to a day of Christ,"

Philippians 1:10 (Worldwide English (New Testament))
"When I talk to God I ask that you may have more and more love. I ask him that you will also know and understand, so that you will be able to see what things are right. I want you to be clean with nothing wrong in you when Jesus Christ comes back."

Tuesday, June 05, 2012

When you give a feast



There's a story Jesus tells in which he says that when you give a party, invite the poor and those who can't repay you. I always thought that was a very mean thing to do to the poor. Invite them to a feast at a rich man's house???? But then I realized that sometimes the poor have forgotten how to dream or how real folks live. And maybe they need to have great things past before their eyes to stir them to a passion to get themselves out of the gutter?


Of course, Jesus wanted to make sure the poor were fed and remembered. I know He wanted us to think in terms of visiting in prisons and hospitals, etc. Part of the job is love and the other part hope. 


But that is a given. That goes without saying. Generous people are always giving to the poor..but they never feed the poor in their own houses. (Okay, so we have to be careful of murderous and thieving homeless people...but bear with me.)


But the poor can be so poor and downtrodden for so long that they forget how to dream and they forget all the other stuff that is "normal." The poor and the depressed and the imprisoned and the hospitalized should definitely be taken care of but their minds must be renewed as well and their minds fed with memories of what their life could be. Sometimes they need to see the good in life. Many a drug addict has gone off drug because they saw a glimpse of the life they left behind. That's what I meant...not the obvious of feeding and remembering them. Folks aren't put on the earth to only receive our goods, they are put on earth to do great things as well. So they have to be taught to reimagine a good life, after they have been ill for a long time. 


To see someone running or dancing might be enough to make me want to lose weight. Normalcy -- good normalcy-- stretches the mind. Seeing the riches of this life can push the poor to perhaps hope and dream that they themselves could get all that. Isn't envy a good thing? Isn't angry competitiveness a good thing for those who have lost all their energy because life treats them badly? Just pondering. IT is not because the poor are dreamless that they end up poor. But after one has been poor or sick or grieving or hanging around bad folks...perhaps one should be surrounded by things that spur you on to become equal to the rich man. 


There is a certain arrogance to saying we should feed the poor. Of course we should feed the poor. But being able to bring them out of despair and to make those who have no hope and no image or imagination of good have imagination again...some folks are very into us being noble feeders of the poor, as if the bible is only about morality and kindness to the downtrodden. In their weird gray and black and white minds, they can't understand that and they think you are "blaming" the poor.




I feel that if a businessman who has become homeless lived in a house with a toilet that flushes for more than a day he would not be able to return to his homeless shelter in despair. He would become angry and envious and an image of good would rise again in his heart. Jesus' words weren't only about being good to others but was about the psychology of humanity. He knows people. And there is a healing power to taking someone into one's house as a friend...as opposed to making them objects of pity who are to receive from us as if we are lords of their lives. So much of what the Bible says is very deeply psychological. Yes, I'm thinking image and imagination should be fed and that perhaps envy and greed are things that can help push the negative images from the minds of those who have no image of good. After eating at a plush dinner table with tons of food...and sitting for half the day at a great feast....perhaps...perhaps... there is a lot to the phrase "provoke to jealousy." We use that to mean spiritual provocation and wanting to be good but if God made jealousy (and all emotions are good if used with the right mind) perhaps jealousy is a good thing. Yes, yes, some folks can't see God as creating all emotions...yet God himself is jealous because our minds are not imagining or envisioning Him properly.


Again, just thinking. 

Monday, June 04, 2012

Parable of the Sower

Okay, this is the parable of the Sower and Jesus interpretation of it:


While a large crowd was gathering and people were coming to Jesus from town after town, he told this parable: 5"A farmer went out to sow his seed. As he was scattering the seed, some fell along the path; it was trampled on, and the birds of the air ate it up. 6Some fell on rock, and when it came up, the plants withered because they had no moisture. 7Other seed fell among thorns, which grew up with it and choked the plants. 8Still other seed fell on good soil. It came up and yielded a crop, a hundred times more than was sown."
When he said this, he called out, "He who has ears to hear, let him hear."

9His disciples asked him what this parable meant.

11"This is the meaning of the parable: The seed is the word of God. 12Those along the path are the ones who hear, and then the devil comes and takes away the word from their hearts, so that they may not believe and be saved. 13Those on the rock are the ones who receive the word with joy when they hear it, but they have no root. They believe for a while, but in the time of testing they fall away. 14The seed that fell among thorns stands for those who hear, but as they go on their way they are choked by life's worries, riches and pleasures, and they do not mature. 15But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

A Lamp on a Stand
16"No one lights a lamp and hides it in a jar or puts it under a bed. Instead, he puts it on a stand, so that those who come in can see the light. 17For there is nothing hidden that will not be disclosed, and nothing concealed that will not be known or brought out into the open. 18Therefore consider carefully how you listen. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what he thinks he has will be taken from him."


The annoying thing about all these Bible folks is that they are so in the spiritual worlds that they make these gigantic leaps of thought and the shallow carnal mind -- like ahem, yours truly-- finds itself asking, "Okay, why did he just say that? Why'd he leap from this topic to that topic? I don't quite follow the thread of his thinking."

Well yesterday there I was.

I get the first part. The seed is the word of God. The parable is about how the word is alive and yet it needs to be planted in good ground: the heart. The parable is also about faith in a good heart and our endurance.

Then Jesus jumps to the lamp under the jar.
Okay, I got that. (With the help of a minister, so I can't take credit for actually knowing how to understand this thread.) The lamp is our faith. We have to use it. What use is faith if it's not used? We have the word. What use is the word if we don't use it? This is like the parable where Jesus asks, "which of you has a servant and doesn't use it?" So I get it. And I see it's connection to the parable of the sower...and to faith, enduring, and using of resources. Cause so many of these parables are about how resources are used.

Then Jesus jumps to a comment about stuff that is hidden.
Well, I get that also. Took a while but I sat there and then the Holy Spirit kinda helped me to see. Once again it's talking about the heart. It's the old "As a man thinks in his heart so is he" verse. It's the idea that what is unseen in the heart will manifest in some ways at some time and will be seen. Evil or unbelief or assumptions in the heart will bear fruit in our lives. So if in the core of one's heart one simply does not believe that good will ever come to one's life....sooner or later "truth will out."

Then Jesus jumps to watching how one hears. And by this time I'm like thinking, "Why does he collapse all this wisdom so close to each other? Why can't he explain everything he means instead of dropping one deep bomb after another?" But I get it. One must guard the faith and the beliefs and the hopes in one's heart. VERY CAREFULLY. Faith comes by hearing and loss of faith comes by hearing.

Then Jesus jumps to another comment, the old line that's in Billy Holliday's "God bless the child." Basically he says, "Then that's got shall get, them that's not shall lose." And again, I'm like... "Lord Jesus! Please! I'm not following you."
But then I get it. If you have little faith, and you don't watch out to preserve the purity of your faith you are going to diminish it by unbelief. It's not a case of the amount of faith because God has given to each the measure of faith and we all have the same one talent. (Okay, there are two parables about talents. One with folks being given equal amounts and another parable with folks being given equal amounts. But the basic teaching is the same: Do not waste your faith, do not take the easy road of not investing your faith. Do not allow your faith to dwindle.

Upshot, although many seeds are sown and many hear the spiritual truth about faith...there are few folks out there who actually get wonderful return on their faith. Of the folks who actually get some kind of good plant from their seeds -- folks who avoided the hard rock, the weeds, the wayside-- there are some who only get 30 fold, and seventyfold.

As Jesus said we bear fruit -- and get results from our faith in sowing God's word in our life-- through having an honest and good heart and through patient endurance.

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