Personal Lessons - Knowledge Based on Experience
“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” 1 John 4:18
Let’s talk about fear. I guess I am the only one doing the talking since I’m writing. <wink> That’s not a true statement. Anytime God’s word is shared, He’s talking. Well, if we let Him and if we will listen.
I’m getting sidetracked.
Fear. I’ve found it amazing over the past week just how much fear drives our thought processes and our lives. Fear for our children. Fear for our safety. Fear for our guns. <eye roll inserted>
2 Timothy 1:7 teaches, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.” Have we applied either of the verses shared in this blog when fear crept in this past week? Or have we acted and reacted in a spirit of fear pushing love aside? I don’t know about you, but I’ve mainly acted and reacted out of an attitude of frustration and anger. Sorry ‘bout that.
When we love God, we understand the depth of His love for us is unfathomable. The stronger our love for God, the more our love is perfected resulting in total and complete reliance on Him. Not reliance on our own abilities (Roni) or reliance on our government. Certainly not reliance on guns.
If we totally and completely rely on God, what could possibly cause us to fear?
I’m not saying life will be perfect. I’m not even saying that we will live life totally unafraid. I am saying that the bible says we should not allow fear to overtake us. Instead, we should allow God to fill us. The theory that God is dead, God doesn’t care, or that God is ready to zap us is foolishness.
Now, it’s your turn to talk. You can comment on this page. You can comment on the post through social media or you can email me at Words@armymom80.com. Regardless of how you speak or whether you speak at all, my friends, FEAR NOT.
What started out as a way to honor and celebrate President’s Day actually turned into my own personal experiment. I didn’t mean to use my Facebook friends as test subjects. It just kind of evolved into an awkward revelation.
I learned that most people, there were a few exceptions, do not care what is said. They care more about who says it. My presidential-quote posts over the course of a month were like ripping off a band aid to expose just how close-minded we are as a people.
It didn’t matter how inspiring or meaningful the quote may have been. What mattered was whether we liked the president saying it. Some of the greatest quotes came from historical presidents and most people scrolled right past them. However, when I put your guy up there – the “Likes” started rolling in. It also became obvious that most, again not all, would in no way “Like” anything anyone from the other party had to say or ever said.
I’ve suspected all along that we do not care about principles, people, or facts. What we seem to care about most is their party affiliation or if we voted for them. I find it interesting that we seem to want America to unite. How do you suggest we unite as a country when many of us couldn’t even unite under an inspirational or motivational saying? Oops…have I said too much?
One of my sons read a book about why God is disappearing in America. You know how the book ends? The author makes a point that God disappears when we choose to treat someone or something else as more important to our day-to-day lives than Him. Wow.
“But I have this against you, that you have left your first love. Therefore, remember from where you have fallen, and repent and do the deeds you did at first; or else I am coming to you and will remove your lampstand out of its place--unless you repent.” Revelation 2:4-5
“On the third day there was a wedding in Cana of Galilee, and the mother of Jesus was there. Jesus and his disciples had also been invited to the wedding. When the wine gave out, the mother of Jesus said to him, “They have no wine.” And Jesus said to her, “Woman, what concern is that to you and to me? My hour has not yet come.” His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.” John 2:1-5
As a lifelong church attendee, I’ve heard just about every theory on what happened in this story and the story’s purpose. I’ve been told that Mary, Jesus’ mother, ran intervention between the needs of people and Christ’s capabilities. This, not idolizing Mary, is one reason the Catholic Church believes in using Mary’s name in their prayers. They believe Mary’s role as an intercessor for human needs continues in Heaven.
I’ve also heard that Mary abused her role as Christ’s mother by taking over the situation and telling Him what to do. I find this one a little puzzling since Jesus never did what His earthly mother requested if it was outside of God’s will for Him. At one point, when He was a child, Jesus was separated from His family. Once He was discovered by His panicked parents, He simply said, “Duh.” <my paraphrase> (Luke 2:43-51) Once again in Mark 3:31-35, Jesus sets the record straight as to His key priority.
My point? Mary did not tell her son what to do as Messiah. Ever. Yes, He was her Son. However, He was also her King.
I recently heard an even more intriguing teaching of these passages. Some theologians believe Mary asked Jesus to “prove” Himself in front of a crowd to reduce the rumors that she had lied about being a virgin. She wanted Him to defend her and prove that she had been telling the truth. In doing so, He’d prove to this wedding crowd that He was the Messiah. I find this doubtful. So much time had passed and Mary hadn’t sought vindication before. Why would she start now?
I personally believe we need to take the words as they are written. There was a need. Mary saw the need. Mary approached Jesus with the need. Jesus explained to her that it was too soon to reveal His purpose. Mary showed faith. She instructed the servants to do whatever Jesus told them to do knowing He had the capabilities to solve the problem. He did it. He turned water into wine for the wedding guests.
I call this experience “the push.” The push goes both ways. Mary showed her faith in Jesus’ ability. She made a push in response to the needs of others despite His initial hesitation. Jesus, however, did His own pushing. He offered His mother the chance to search her heart and ask, “Do I believe my son is the Son of God?” Jesus and His mother revealed the beautiful dance of making our requests known to God and trusting Him to respond.
There is another experience noted in scripture where a woman approached Christ and made a heartfelt request. Jesus did not immediately respond to the woman’s pleading. The woman did not give up. She knew who Jesus was, realized His capabilities, and trusted His goodness to act. (Please read Matthew 15:21-28.)
Both stories reveal to us that prayer is not simply asking once. Prayer is a process that requires our understanding that we are prompting God to act, and He is pushing us to believe He will indeed act in our best interest.
If you were to read Philippians 3:1-6 as a stand-alone passage, you might think Paul had an ego problem. Too much ego. If we only read one part of this letter, we might not understand the point he was trying to make. It was quite the opposite of bragging. It was more of a way to say, “Here’s who I am; here’s what I’ve done; here are a list of my accomplishments, and they mean nothing unless I am obedient to Christ.”
I’m going to ask you to read the passage and keep it in mind as I share what I am going to share. If you take this blog out of context, I will sound as though I am boasting. If you determine that I am indeed boasting, like in Philippians 3:1-6, you miss the point.
Who am I? Well, I am a Caucasian, Southerner, Texan, child of a loving home, and someone who was brought up in the Baptist church. None of that means anything if I am not part of God’s kingdom. I took care of that at the age of seven, reinforced it at the age of twelve, committed to it fully at the age of nineteen, revisited it at the age of thirty, and have asked myself ever since, “What does that mean?” Just when I think I have it figured out, God teaches me something new about being part of His kingdom on earth.
I’ve worked in prenatal education, early parenting education, hospital administration, human resources, church work, women’s ministry, children’s ministry, youth ministry, and Christian Life activism. (I have to put a period here to avoid a severe run-on sentence). I've worked in outside sales, marketing, and business administration. (Another period for grammar’s sake). I wrote many grants for underserved populations, advocated for patient access to medical care for everyone, made executive decisions even when others wouldn’t (even if they disagreed), and attempted to retire from the world before God whispered, “Uh, not so fast.”
Regardless of what I’ve done personally and professionally, spiritually I am a prophet, a teacher, an exhorter, and an advocate. These aren’t jobs I’ve chosen to do; they are callings I've been assigned by God.
Does that mean everybody has to be like me, think like me, write like me, talk like me, or be me? Certainly not. What it does mean is that you must take the time to understand me before you decide to embrace me or reject me. Either way, I will not stop yielding to God’s calling for me in His kingdom work. I’m certainly not going to remain quiet when it is obvious something is out of order in God’s kingdom. And, I am almost 60. I really do not have time for crap.
I was a patient advocate for poor mothers treated through the county’s indigent healthcare system. I taught first and second year medical students during their obstetrics rotations at both Baylor College of Medicine and, eventually, UTMB. I didn’t teach them the medical side of delivering babies. I taught them the emotional side of supporting women, especially teen moms, in labor.
I’ve argued with physicians when they insisted on doing unnecessary procedures on pregnant women or scheduled a Cesarean because it was easier on them, as doctors, to do it that way.
I worked with churches that experienced trauma and tragedy in an effort to provide mental health services. It was my job to match the need with the right therapist. We handled the accidental shooting of a preschooler and the home invasion and rape of a Discipleship Weekend home group.
I advocated for women going through in-patient rehab because jobs were not available for them. I worked in a facilty that was predominantly male. Women in treatment, especially mothers, have specific needs. I helped make sure those needs were met.
I worked with sexual abuse and sexual assault survivors. Perpetrators are obvious when you have been exposed to their patterns. They are basically all the same - weak. They hide it well among people who are not paying attention to the details.
I’ve been part of pro-life rallies and carried signs in protest until a Baptist minister refused to allow a teen mother to dedicate her baby in our church. It was at that point I realized this pro-life stuff isn’t all it appears to be and certainly is two-faced.
I joined arms in the Life Chain on Center Street to unify efforts to stop abortions until I realized most of the people holding my arms had no plans to help families in anyway past the point of making sure that baby was born. They seemed to forget it would need to be housed, fed, cared for, and educated. But, man! They were so proud of their efforts to stand in a Life Chain.
I walked many picket lines. One was in Deer Park in an effort to remove porn from 7-11’s shelves. God took it one step further. 7-11 closed in Deer Park. I walked it not because my fellow Christians agreed with me, but because they didn’t. I walked it to make a statement that we’d better reconsider our stand for or against things. Words are empty. Action is everything. We had better make darn-well sure that compassion and God’s loving care are parts of our holy picture.
Before I close this blog, let me make one thing perfectly clear: I love people. All people. Despite being born white, Southern, Texan, Baptist, and middle-class, I am going to lean towards the needs of the poor, outcast, oppressed, and endangered. I’m going to do that because the bible I read tells me to do that. It also tells me that those financially better off need God just as much, they just don’t know they do or will not admit it.
If you don’t like this declaration, perhaps you need to keep scrolling. I will be hard-headed, determined, obnoxious, vocal, enlightening, and yielded until God tells me not to be any of those things any longer. It will have nothing to do with your advice for me or your opinion of me.
I'd say, "Boom!" but that sounds too much like a loaded gun and might spark debate. <wink>
The news is too much. Seeing the faces, hearing the stories – it’s simply too much. It’s at that moment I realize that the families can’t turn it off. They can’t walk away. I know moving on means letting go and accepting that with each and every shooting, we are different people; we are a different nation. We lose more and more of our humanity everytime a body hits the ground.
I got off Facebook. I turned off the TV. I put on Natalie Grant’s album. I began to write a poem. Writing comes from the heart. Writing poetry comes from the soul.
I hope I don’t confuse you too much. As I wrote the poem, this song encouraged calm. It was amazing how lines in the song came at just the right moment. I like to look at this spiritual process as Confusion – Expression – Revelation. Psalmists used the process repeatedly. After expressing it, the Lord gave me the final four lines of the poem during church yesterday.
“You’re restoring me piece by piece.”
The taste is so bitter
The bitter taste of hate
The feelings are bitter
A feeling of anger and rage
“I see shattered; You see whole.”
Despite the prayers and praise
I want to hold on and be bitter
I don’t care what people say
“There’s nothing too dirty that You can’t make worthy.”
I’m so disappointed
The bitterness surely rules
For just a moment I will be bitter
Kids are being killed in their schools
“What was dead now lives again.”
I cannot take the jokes
I cannot take the refusal to act
I am so very bitter
To see how badly Your church lacks
“And You’re helping me to believe.”
It is hard for me to tell
Just who belongs to You
I am looking through eyes of bitterness
And there’s nothing I can do
I know bitterness can be healed
When forgiveness overrules
How do I forgive those who could care less
That children are being killed in school
“I’m coming alive with joy and destiny!”
This time is different…deeper…more intense
The bitterness rises within me
I know it doesn’t make sense
It’s been a longtime building
With bitterness deep inside
I’m disillusioned by so many
To fake love would be a lie
I know Christ saw life’s ugliness
In the bitterness of others
He must have felt so all alone
Trying to teach us to love one another
I don’t want to love; I want to be bitter
I never want to forget
I know my bitterness is a sin
But, I cannot let go of it yet
“My dirty rags are purified – I am clean.”
I am physically ill
I am broken and hurt
Perhaps it would be best
If I didn’t utter a single word
“Your blood flowed red and made me white.”
This deep bitterness inside me
Doesn’t seem to go away
I am judging every person
What they think
What they say
“Nothing too dirty…”
How they cling to their guns
And grow bitter if they feel threatened
God, where are You?
Please hurry up and teach us
“You make me clean.”
What I must remember
Although all of this is true
None of it lasts very long
When my eyes are focused on YOU
By Roni Archer - February 17, 2018
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