Tuesday

Take a break!

One of the keys to living an abundant life is taking time off.

We all get tired. We all need a break from the norm, so whether it's a short coffee break in your favorite spot - a ten-minute vacation, if you will - or an actual let's-leave-the-house-and-travel vacation, or somewhere in between, all are valuable to one's spiritual growth. These breaks give us a chance to back up and see life from a different perspective. Breaks give us a chance to evaluate our goals and to look at the direction in which we are heading. Breaks allow us to see if our daily activities are actually moving us toward our goals or if we have somehow strayed.

An actual vacation can also renew our spiritual vigor. It is equivalent with filling the ol' car up at the gas station and can be just as expensive!. What would happen if we were cruising down the highway on an eighth of a tank with the dummy light flashing? At some point the tank will empty and we'll be in serious trouble if we can't get off the road in time. This too can happen in our lives. There are so many activities and so many expectations we can literally run out of gas as we are cruising down the highway of life. Running out of gas may show itself through general irritation over things that don't usually bother you, emotional outbursts, a sense of dullness or melancholy, a sense of anxiety, a loss of interest in the normal activities of life, mild depression and in a worse case scenario, could result in severe depression or a mental and/or physical breakdown.

This is why I believe that taking a break is sometimes the most godly thing one can do. In college one of my psychology professors said that he changed something major in his life every seven years, whether it was his job, his location or whatever. He felt that this was crucial to his emotional health and I agree for the most part. The important thing, he emphasized, was to follow the biblical example of change that we find in the Law. Every seven years people were to pay off debt, free slaves, not grow crops, etc. Even Jesus took time off to pray.

The point is to not grow stale.

Recently, Mike and I were blessed by being able to take a vacation to North Carolina. We've been doing this for the last three years to visit his family who live on the eastern coast. This time we revisited one of our favorite spots, Shackleford Banks.

Shackleford Banks is an island off the coast near Beaufort that is approximately 10 miles long and 3/4 mile across at its widest point. And, although the National Park Service takes care of it, the island is really rustic. There's only one bathroom that I know of and there is no fresh water unless you want to dig for it. In other words, you have to pack everything in and take whatever trash you have out. People are usually pretty good about taking the trash out so the island is a rather pleasant place.

Mike and I went there on a beautiful, sun-splashed day with very low humidity. We arrived by ferry at 9 a.m. and took off walking on the sound side of the island, with our cameras, plenty of water and snacks for later. I also had an extra bag for shelling since this is an activity that the Park Service allows.

Here is a pic of the sound side that Mike took:



It was a very pleasant morning with the wind blowing in from the north. Mike and I chatted while we walked and took pictures. We saw blue crab scurrying along in the water beside us. We watched boats come in. People were fishing and swimming but we couldn't understand why they would blast their radios in all that beauty.

One guy thought he was taking a break, but I don't think he really was:



Maybe he had a good reason for talking on his cell phone, but I couldn't help wondering what the point was of surrounding oneself with beauty without leaving the world behind.

Mike and I walked up the coast for an hour or so (we ended up walking about 7.5 miles that day) before we saw three of the island's horses.

Yes. Horses.



Shackleford Banks is the home of about 100 or more horses that have descended from steeds first brought over by Spanish explorers more than 400 years ago. These horses are wild and have never done a day of work for humans in their lives. They are quite magnificent and are not afraid of people (although I would still exercise caution with them. They are wild and don't need people feeding or harassing them).

They seemed perfectly content to pose for pictures:



The harem's (that's what horse families are called) mother and I seemed to connect:



Maybe, since her child was with them, she was wondering where mine were. Who knows? I just remember feeling happy and peaceful as we looked at one another. Maybe she sensed my anxiety over my oldest son graduating from high school. Maybe God was telling me through her that kids leaving the nest is natural, to relax, to go with it.

Yeah, I think that's what it was. Do you believe that God can speak through nature? Scripture tells us in Romans 1: 20 that God makes himself known to the world by way of nature. It is a doorway through which one can hear from God if you recognize the very basic truth that he created it all - not how long it took or how he did it, just that he did it.

After we left the horses, Mike and I continued up the coast. Our goal was to walk through the interior forest of the island and then walk back to the ferry landing by way of the Atlantic Ocean side of the banks.

See how the salt spray has gnarled the oak trees?



The forest is quite dense.



Spanish moss and vines hang from the trees. Sunlight is filtered through the trees and creates interesting patterns on the forest floor that dance when the wind blows through the tree tops. The forest floor is covered with leaves and piles of horse poop.

As we were walking into the forest, the cicadas were buzzing in the tree tops. They ceased buzzing the further we walked into the forest and there was a quietness all around. I would say stillness, but that would not be correct. The forest was alive. Birds sang, the wind blew in the tree tops and occasionally I heard a horse breathe nearby; Mike caught strong whiffs of their smell but we never saw them. As we neared the edge of the forest the cicadas were back, buzzing in all their glory. We could still hear them as we headed out onto the dunes. Here is what it looked like as we left. Like I said, it was dense. I got a few scratches from tree branches, but they were worth it



Here's Mike on the dunes, just as happy as he could be:



Walking was a little slow going here. There were nettles on the ground in some spots, but there were also flowers and grass. The island is a wonderful place to bird watch as well.

As we walked on the dunes, we got whiffs of salt air and every now and then we could hear the ocean waves crashing against the shore. I couldn't wait to get there. By this time I was ready to eat something and wanted to dip my feet in the water. I was not prepared for the beauty I saw as we crested the dunes.

Here it was. To our left:



And to our right:



I've never seen anything like it. Miles of untouched beach with no people and shells so thick on the sand that we had to wear our shoes just to walk on it.

It was magnificent! I had a Psalm 19 moment.

In Psalm 19, David - I don't know if he was watching a sunset or a sunrise or what - is writing about the beauty of the sun, the perfect order of its course and it's all-encompassing scope. As he did this he began to reflect on God's word and its perfection.

David said that nature speaks about God yet it has no voice. We feel this speech in our hearts whenever we are pleased by beauty, or when we feel wonder over the complexity and perfection of plant life, insects or the beauty of a newborn child. All we have to do is recognize that God created it all in order to make that feeling complete, to fully revel in the moment.

I must confess that Mike and I were quite happy on our walk back to the ferry landing. We ate apples and then he fell asleep on the sand while waiting for the ferry, and I looked for more shells. It was very wonderful.

In the Psalm David didn't stop reflecting once he acknowledged how perfect God's law was. He then began to turn his focus inward asking God to check him out. David was so caught up in the beauty and wonder of God's world that he could only feel naturally humbled by it all. And, that is where the refreshing comes, from recognizing God's place and my place and realizing that as long as he is in control of my life everything will turn out for the good. No matter what happens. The horses on that island - who have survived hunger, thirst, storms and other disasters - are proof that life goes on. God has cared for them and will continue to do so just like he cares about us. We just have to let him.

Wednesday

Why can't we agree?

The other day I read this from a religion news feed I receive:

Resolution Affirms Biblical Doctrine of Hell

"Southern Baptists approved a resolution affirming the Bible's teaching on hell during the Wednesday morning session of their annual convention. The resolution on hell, which urges faithful proclamation of the Gospel to those who face eternal suffering, was one of six passed by unanimous or nearly unanimous votes upon recommendation of the Resolutions Committee. Baptist Press reports that the resolution on hell came as part of an ongoing response to the publication earlier this year of Michigan pastor Rob Bell's book 'Love Wins.' Bell's controversial book 'called into question the church's historic teaching on the doctrine of eternal punishment of the unregenerate,' as the resolution described it. Messengers in Phoenix affirmed 'our belief in the biblical teaching on eternal, conscious punishment of the unregenerate in Hell.' The resolution also urged Southern Baptists 'to proclaim faithfully the depth and gravity of sin against a holy God, the reality of Hell, and the salvation of sinners by God's grace alone...'"

The aforementioned book is this one:



It's on my shelf. I've read the first four chapters but then I got hooked on "Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy" and put it down.

So far, from what I see in Bell's book, he's only trying to open a conversation. Does he challenge traditional thinking on hell like the Southern Baptists claim? Yes, but I don't see anything wrong with what Bell is writing. I'm not saying that I completely agree with him because I have not reached any conclusions on the matter. I have to finish the book. For now, I will say that his book is intriguing.

To me, Bell seems to be challenging the unloving and careless attitude that a lot of Christians have about people going to hell. This was portrayed by former governor Mike Huckabee when he welcomed Osama bin Laden to hell after the terrorist was killed by Navy Seals. We think that evil people deserve to go to hell and perhaps rightfully so, but do we mourn for their souls and care for them while they are on earth?

I've also seen this in the church: People who have been going to church all their lives are upset with death bed confessions, saying that it is not fair that they had been living the for so long and suffering so much when all a person has to do is accept Jesus on his or her death bed and get in to heaven with the same benefits. That attitude reeks of a works attitude: "Dog gone it. I deserve to go to heaven! I've given up smoking, drinking and dancing and going with girls (or boys) who do and that person did everything he or she wanted."  It's almost, as  Mike says about that attitude, "Screw you buddy, I got mine ... why should you have any of it?"

But when we compare ourselves with a holy and perfect God do any of us deserve to go to heaven? It's by God's grace, not man's grace, that souls are saved. It's clearly God's decision, not ours; it's just our job to present the gospel and let the Holy Spirit do the work.

I understand what the Southern Baptists are doing. They want to make sure that their people know that they are not letting go of their doctrine of hell as being a place of eternal, conscious punishment for those who are unregenerate. They want to make sure that they do not lose the perspective that sin against a holy God is serious business. I applaud that. Sin is serious business. It ruins our lives and the lives of people around us. It keeps us from living abundantly here on earth.

The Naked Pastor had an interesting cartoon:



This is certainly not the real attitude of our loving Christ, but it seems that many Christians must think it is, otherwise they would not act in such unloving ways.

Recently, in honor of the day G.K. Chesterton went to be with the Lord, I blew the dust off his book "Orthodoxy" and read some selections. In it he talked about George Bernard Shaw, a friend of his, with whom he disagreed on almost everything. That phrase caused me to stop reading for a few minutes. He disagreed with his friend on almost everything? That's certainly not the way things are done today. Usually we are most comfortable with the people with whom we agree. It's hard for us to even respect people who disagree with us. This is one reason why Washington can't get it together and another reason why the church is not as strong as it should be. We find it very hard to live at peace with one another (Romans 12:18). You see, it's not a new problem.

On the other hand, over in 2 Corinthians 13:11, Paul encourages us to agree with one another. It seems like he's almost begging his readers to agree so that there won't be any divisions among them (1 Corinthians 1: 10). Why? Because division stops the work of Christ and ruins the communion of the saints. Can we lead others to Jesus if we are divided? Can we enjoy each others' company when we are divided?

It is a quandary. No two humans will agree on everything. If they agree on everything then one isn't necessary (I don't remember who said that but I like it).

Good debate, even disagreement sharpens and fine tunes the soul. People are better when their views are challenged. Unfortunately, however, we tend to get angry and sullen when someone disagrees with us. When this happens we waste time affirming what we already believe rather than opening our heart and concentrating on how we can be more productive.

In the church we would be better off agreeing to disagree on some subjects; have healthy debate, avoid debate when we are angry and agree on this:

Apostles' Creed


1. I believe in God the Father, Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth:
2. And in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord:
3. Who was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary:
4. Suffered under Pontius Pilate; was crucified, dead and buried: He descended into hell:
5. The third day he rose again from the dead:
6. He ascended into heaven, and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty:
7. From thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead:
8. I believe in the Holy Ghost:
9. I believe in the holy catholic* church: the communion of saints:
10. The forgiveness of sins:
1l. The resurrection of the body:
12. And the life everlasting. Amen.

*Note: this means the church universal, which includes Catholicism and Protestantism


For further reading about God's grace, check out Matthew 20: 1-16 and Ephesians 2: 8 and think about what you're reading. I'd love to hear your views in the comment section.

Friday

Abundant living

One of my favorites of Jesus' sayings is found in John 10:10b:

"I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly."

Now normally on this blog I quote the New International or the New Revised Standard Version, but for this quotation I am using the King James because I like the way it is worded and because that's how I memorized it before my church adopted the N.I.V. back around 1983, about 10 years after it was published, Speaking of which, have you ever noticed that a lot of churches run at least a decade behind? But that's a rabbit trail to another story, and that's the end of the rabbit trail, I promise. For now.

Because I love this saying, I decided to use it in the redo of my blog. I've been thinking about a redo for a while. I kept the name Yahbut because that still fits me. I'm still arguing with the way the church does things and with some of the beliefs we have that are not biblical; however, the Recovering Fundie aspect of my personality is changing. No longer am I trying to come to terms with the new things that God is showing me. I embrace them and because of this I have received a more abundant form of belief - a much happier, less legalistic version. This, I believe, is one of the things Jesus meant when he talked about abundant life. And so now on this blog I want to explore what abundant life means, and how we can go about achieving it.

Many people believe that the abundant life begins after death. They say that there is too much sin and sorrow in this world and that they cannot overcome their sinful nature so there is really no chance to have abundant life.

I respectfully disagree. We can overcome our sinful nature through the power of the Holy Spirit and we do not have to sin in word, thought and deed every day. Christ can help us overcome the temptations in our lives that lead to sin and we can be free (see 2 Corinthians 5:17 and I Corinthians 10:13).

A beautiful thought, isn't it? Or, perhaps you're thinking that I am one of those Christians who says that I've never sinned since accepting Christ. If you are, you'd be wrong. I may not sin everyday but I do slip up more often than I want. For instance, I am a worry wart. This is a weakness in my nature that I can't seem to defeat. It's like what Paul called a "thorn in my flesh" and I have to ask the Lord's forgiveness quite often. I have also asked God to remove it from me, but he seems to say that his grace is sufficient and that I'm going to have to learn from that particular trial and tribulation. Does that mean that God has not overcome worry in my life like I so boldly mentioned earlier? That's a difficult question because we all have hang ups, don't we?

In 2 Corinthians 12: 9, Paul wrote: "But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ's power may rest on me."

Scholars don't know for sure what Paul's weakness was but I know what mine are and if this verse is true God's power overcomes my weakness. I still have them, but maybe God wants me to use them to rely on him more.

For example, some people are delivered from desires right away after they accept Christ. One may be released from the desire to smoke cigarettes. Another may have to pray and use all kinds of methods to quit. They have to be disciplined and depend on God and as the desire weakens God proves his strength.

Back to worry. If this sinful behavior seems to be part of my makeup how can I overcome it? Didn't God make me that way? I don't believe he did, but somehow I have learned it over the years (maybe it's in my genes passed down through family connections!) or maybe it was modeled by so many people that I just thought it was the way things were done. Whatever the reason, it is something that I have to trust God about. Eventually it will be overcome through maturity and in the life to come. Some things just take time. To these we must trust that God is showing his power through us.

I know this post is getting long, but I just thought of an example of this. When my first husband Gordon was going through his battle with pancreatic cancer, I seemed to rise above it all in regard to worry. I just knew that God would take care of our family and he proved it over and over. It was amazing. It was the kind of thing that destroys people, yet I've never been that strong before. Or since, for that matter.

In comparison to cancer and losing a spouse, the things I worry about now seem inconsequential. I just have to keep reminding myself of that fact.

As for sinning everyday, if we are maturing in our faith why do we keep on voluntarily sinning? Doesn't the very definition of "sin" as found in the free online dictionary indicate a choice born of free will?

a. Deliberate disobedience to the known will of God.
b. A condition of estrangement from God resulting from such disobedience.
c. Something regarded as being shameful, deplorable, or utterly wrong.

The whole reason Jesus died on the cross is to save us from sin. Part of living the abundant life is getting help in overcoming sin in our lives. Sometimes we need counseling, sometimes we need to be accountable to our fellow Christians and sometimes we just need to stop when it is in our power to do so. God, in all the grace provided through Jesus, is there to help us and to light the way so that we can be free.

But what about sin committed by others and the resulting sorrow it wreaks in the world? Can we still live abundantly in the midst of it? I believe so. We may not be happy with our circumstances but we can always find something for which to be grateful - even if it's just the fact that your coffee tasted extra good that morning or maybe just because you had coffee. And there is always the gift of the day itself.

I love the story that Corrie ten Boom told in her book "The Hiding Place." Corrie and her sister Betsy were prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp which was plagued with fleas. Corrie was upset about the fleas, but Betsy helped her see that the fleas were keeping the guards out of their barracks and because of this they were able to share their faith with the other prisoners. Isn't that a good attitude? It may be a little sickening at first, but if your mind is in the right place Betsy's point makes sense. In this way she was living abundantly despite deplorable circumstances. I think many people confuse "abundant life" with an abundance of material things. But we see from Corrie ten Boom's experience, it's really an abundant spiritual life, and material things may or may not accompany that.

Right now I am reading Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy by Eric Metaxas. It is a brilliantly written biography of one of the church's greatest theologians, Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Bonhoeffer, whose life was cut short by a Nazi executioner for participating in a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler, lived an abundant life. However, I found that he also fought depression and he seemed to accept that his life's mission could end in seeming failure. Read something he wrote:

"And we simply cannot be constant with the fact that God's cause is not always the successful one, that we really could be 'unsuccessful': and yet be on the right road. But this is where we find out whether we have begun in faith or in a burst of enthusiasm."

That statement really seems to knock down the "God wants you rich" theology doesn't it? But that confidence that Bonhoeffer had of being on the "right road" seems to be connected to living the abundant life.

More about waiting

Earlier this week I wrote about awaiting the good. Here is something that I wrote in my journal a few weeks ago as I thought about Romans 8:28:

"The verse doesn't say: 'And we know that God will snap his fingers and everything will work out well for those who love him.' It says 'God works toward the good.' There's a lot of free will involved in that because I can screw up what God is working toward. God works toward, it doesn't say that God succeeds every time. It says that we should have faith in God because he is working everything out for the good. He's a behind the scenes kind of God. We can count on him even though we can't see what he's doing."

To add to this thought, the verse says to me that I need to get in step with what God is doing in my life and submit. I don't want to thwart his plans. That, my friends, is part of the abundant life.

In closing, here is a verse I read in my morning devotions:

"I call heaven and earth to witness against you today that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying him, and holding fast to him; for that means life to you and length of days, so that you may live in the land that the Lord swore to give to your ancestors, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob." *

Blessings!


*The Holy Bible : New Revised Standard Version. Nashville : Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989, S. Dt 30:19-20

Wednesday

Awaiting the good

Hi, everyone. It's me again.

I realize that I have not posted since the day after Mother's Day. The month of May was absolutely insane around here. First, my oldest son Andrew graduated from high school so there was a lot of preparation going on for company and our open house. I also did not anticipate the emotional drama that accompanies this life change. I'm afraid that I've been whacked ever since!

In spite of this whackery we managed to keep things pretty simple at the open house and I had a lot of help for which I am still grateful. I guess breaking two from-scratch cakes in half in the same day was the Lord's way of saying "Just buy one. Save this for another time, honey." I was going to be super mom and decorate the cake as well. Oh well, c'est la vie!

I have also been crafting and creating greeting cards. While we were in North Carolina last week on vacation, I sold two ten-card sets of "A Day Down East" to Kim, the owner of Davis Shore Provisions General Store. She believes that the people over there will enjoy my photographs that were transferred to card stock via a chemical process. I also hope to have some available on Etsy by the end of this week so you can see them too.

Thank you, Kim! And if any of our readers ever drive through Davis, North Carolina stop in to the store. They have wonderful products and they sell fabulous pastries and lite rolls with cheese. Yum!

Along with North Carolina pics, Mike and I are also working on cards that will feature Colorado (some will even have recipes), different birds and wildflowers. Churches will be another feature. You can find galleries of our North Carolina trip linked from posts on  "View from the Pizer."

While growing up, I watched my mom sew and after reading the "Little House" books I tried to sew my own rag doll (It really did look like a rag after I was done!) and in school we made gifts for our parents at Christmas so crafting has always been a part of my life. My grandmother and aunt also made quilts and Christmas ornaments for each of their grandchildren to use when they left home. Grandma always made sure that I received some type of crafting device for Christmas. I think she wanted me to try different things so that I could find my niche. This happened when my first piano teacher introduced me to needlepoint, I was hooked. Ever since that time creating items for gifts has always been enjoyable.

Even though I don't needlepoint anymore I still love to make things. Now I crochet and create with paper. I enjoy the altered book process as well but I've only dabbled in it.

Here are some items I have created. They are for sale on Etsy:

Bright Day Journal, $10






















Simple Journal, $10





















"From My Heart to Yours Card Set", $10





















And, "Sweet Baby Crocheted Blanket", $40














So, will writing go by the wayside? I don't want it to. This year, since I quit my job at the paper, has been a journey of discovery. It has not been easy, but it has definitely been worth the effort. Somehow, the Lord assures me, it all works together.

In the King James Version, Romans 8:28 says:

"And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose."

The Lord is showing me that this is true but it takes time. Good doesn't always happen right away but it is worth waiting for.