Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Faith and Fandom

I am both a Chicago Bears' and a St. Louis Cardinals' fan. I have been a Bears' fan and a Cardinals' fan for a very long time and there's nothing that will ever happen to change that. I didn't become a Bears' fan because they wiped out the Patriots in Superbowl XX, not am I a Cardinals' fan because Albert Pujols may end up being the best hitter in MLB history, without the benefits of steroids. Of course I'm very proud of the things "my" teams have done, but that's not why I love them. I love them without rhyme or reason. Some years (maybe most years?) it doesn't seem a rational or reasonable thing to do, to root for the Bears and the Cardinals, but I do it anyway. I wouldn't bet against them even if they were on a Detroit Lions-sized losing streak. No way, no how will anyone ever be able to turn me from my love of the Bears and the Cardinals.
My Christian faith is similar, but very, very different. No way, no how will anyone ever be able to turn me from my love of Jesus Christ, but my faith is a rational, proven thing while my fandom is strictly visceral. My family has long been Cardinals' fans so I would have taken it in with my mother's milk, except I had to drink goat's milk instead (go figure!). I first liked the Bears in high school when I read Gayle Sayers' book, I Am Third, then Brian Piccolo: A Short Season. When I started watching the Bears play, it was a no-brainer that I would love them. (That D is da bomb! Too bad we have so much trouble with the offense.) I can tell you why I'm a fan of the Cardinals and the Bears, and though I'll argue with a Cubs' fan or a Packers' fan till we both blow blood vessels, neither love is a rational one. My love for God is.
I have taken the time to test the faith of my fathers. I have discovered that the bible is the most reliable ancient document that exists today. I have read not just the bible, but also the criticism of it. I have researched other faiths, even atheism (whose adherents strangely claim to have no faith). What I have discovered is that Christianity is the most logical, rational decision anyone can make, but it goes beyond the rational and gives me an even better emotional charge than even a Superbowl win gives!
I can't prove the above statement in one blog, or even in twenty, because it's taken me thirty years to get to the place I am now, but if you check back every now and then, you just might find a note or two about the decision that's both logical and emotional.
God bless.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Sex and the Single Christian

I'll confess a deep, dark, not-so-secret. I like "Numb3rs"! My husband and I are renting the DVDs and watching the previous seasons; we're on season four right now. One thing I do not like about the series (and just about every other show I've seen in recent years) is it's cavalier attitude about sex. It's not just that everyone's "doing it" (except Granger so far. Hang in there buddy!), it's also that no one is even debating the rightness or wrongness of sex outside of marriage anymore!
You may find it interesting that the central characters in my "Shepherd Series" don't debate the wrongness or rightness either. They already know that sex outside of marriage is wrong and they have every intention of following God's plan for sex. They even help each other remain sexually pure through practical application of accountability.
It is not just possible to remain a virgin until you marry, it's also preferable! As Christians, we need to not just be talking about abstinence, we need to be talking about how to do it! Let's talk about both the practical and the spiritual benefits. And let's do it as parents; don't leave it to an abstinence program offered through the youth group. Tell you children early and often how right it is to wait. And while you're at it, model a life that makes them want to follow your advice!
God bless,
Cheryl

Monday, March 15, 2010

Time Stewardship

Time is one of the most precious resources God has given us. One of the things that's so cool about time is that it is the easiest resource to get under control and you see the quickest results.
We have nine areas of stewardship: Time, body, mind, relationships, talents, words, finances, the natural world and ministry. In all other areas of stewardship, it takes time to see real results if we've lost control. If you've gained twenty extra pounds, it's probably going to take you twenty months to lose that, if you lose it at all. If you have let your mind fall into traps of what my friend calls "stinkin' thinkin'," it takes years of counseling and concerted effort to change the way you think. But time, once you decide to get it under control -and really decide, not the I'm-going-to-quit-smoking-because-everyone-tells-me-how-bad-it-is type quitting, but the honest I-want-to-be-free-from-the-bondage-of-smoking quitting that really works. Once you decide to get your time under control, you can see the results in less than a month. Much easier than getting your finances back under control.
I'm sure you probably doubt me, but it's true. If you want to be free of the bondage of worrying about time, you've already got half the battle licked. Now all you need to do is learn two thing - what your priorities are and how to say "no." Once you do the first, the second is so much easier. For example, I now know that my worth is not defined by how many things I can juggle at once. My worth comes from one thing - the blood of the Lamb that has cleansed me and made me worthy in God's eyes, even if man doesn't see me as worthy. God's opinion is the one I value, so if I have to tell man "no" to get a you're-on-the-right-track nod from God, I'm going to tell man "no"!
Here's the thing about mankind - everyone thinks their project is the most worthwhile project out there. If they didn't, they wouldn't be doing it. And almost everyone you know, and a few dozen people whom you don't personally know, wants you to be involved in their project with your time, talents or money, probably all three. You can't do it all. You have to know what your God given priorities are and you have to explore every demand on your time based upon those priorities. If they don't fit, say no.
Here's a big hint - quit giving excuses for your no. It only encourages people to convince you that you're wrong. If you simply say "no" and refuse to engage in a dialogue about your no, it's so much easier to stick to your guns.
On the other hand, if you've already committed to something and now have realized that you shouldn't be doing it, don't just disappear from the project/team. Explain to your leader what your situation is and work out a reasonable plan that gets you out from under that burden without putting a burden on the project leader. Don't neglect or injure your relationships, an area of stewardship, to get time under control. You have to see all stewardship as interconnected. Once you do, you'll get much better at stewarding.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Daylight "Savings" Time

This past week, I got an email from some business telling me about their Daylight Savings Sale. My first thought was, Oh man, now they're using that as an excuse! Then I thought, Oh no! Where did the month go! Did I Rip Van Winkle? I checked my calendar and sure enough, it's the middle of March. Why is it Daylight Savings Time already? Hawaii doesn't do DST, so I've missed out on whatever the reasoning for most of the rest of the country to enter this exercise in futility three weeks early.
Yes it is an exercise in futility. I remember when I was a wee tiny babe back in the seventies, there was one year that we went to DST during the winter. Even then I couldn't see the logic. I didn't see any "saving" going on. In fact, all it meant was that when my sisters and I got on the school bus at oh-dark-thirty, it was oh-darker-thirty and seemed to be twenty degrees colder! Sure the sun was up longer after I got home from school, but not much longer. I didn't see, have never seen, how DST gave me any benefit at all. In fact, I think a better term for it would be DPT - Daylight Procrastination Time!
We cannot "save" time. We can move our clocks around all we want, but the sun isn't going to be effected by it at all. It's still going to march relentlessly, the days becoming a few minutes longer each day until June 20/21. Then they're going to go right back the other way, gradually becoming shorter and shorter until December 20/21. The cycle continues just as it has for eons, well before the clock was even invented.
All DST gives us is the illusion that we have more time in the day. It encourages us to put off things because we now have "more time." That's procrastination, and it doesn't work. I know because I have a very strong tendency to procrastinate. But since I quit wearing a watch, I'm much better at doing what needs to be done now rather than putting it off for another time.
I originally quit wearing a watch while I was still in the army. There were two reasons for it: I didn't like the white wrist thing, so when I realized how annoying it was to talk to someone who kept looking at their watch, I took mine off. For a while I kept it in my pocket, now I don't even know where it is. Yes, I do have a clock on my cell phone, but since half the time I can't read it because I don't have my reading glasses, it doesn't really help me to be on time.
The interesting thing is that since I quit watching the clock, I am rarely late for things. I'm more likely to be early, but that's okay because knowing I often find myself with spare time, I almost always have something to work on or a book to read. I also have discovered that I get more done, primarily because I listen to my internal "clock" to know when to switch to something else.
You may be utterly fascinated, but right now, my internal clock is telling me I need to take a break from my computer. Hopefully I won't ignore my next Outlook reminder and I'll tell you the rest of the story in the next day or too. Until then, try not to procrastinate too much!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Time and the Fear of God

Obviously Outlook reminders are only as good as the person choosing to dismiss or snooze! Eventually I'm going to get my life back in control and get better at blogging at least every other day.
Right now you're probably rolling your eyes and thinking, "Yeah right! That's what we all say." But it really is possible to have more control over your life. God doesn't put us in a constant state of crisis, always overwhelmed by too many things. We do that to ourselves. Anything we do to ourselves, at least time wise, can be "undone." We can gain control over our time, at least most of the time. Sure there will be crises, but we'll have a strength of character to deal with them if we normally live proactively rather than reactively. When we can plan out most of our days and stick to the plan, we have greater reserves to draw on when something unexpected happens. All you need to do is learn to say "no."
There are so many good things to do in life, and everyone thinks their project is the best one. They want a piece of you and they can't understand why you wouldn't jump at the chance to get on board with them. Rarely do they (we. all of us do it to others too) stop to think about the fifty other people who have asked for your help this week. If God gave them a mission, then shouldn't everyone be on board with it?
When I get my focus on God and what my personal mission is from him, I can begin to get more control over everything else. God created me to be a writer and I firmly believe he wants me to use my talent for his glory. I must write. Above all else -the women's ministry, the marriage ministry, the prison ministry, the divorce ministry, the Island Christian Guide ministry, and every other ministry that calls for my attention - I have to first be true to that which God created me to do. No matter what I want to do, love to do, I need to obey God first.
That's what fear of the Lord is. It's being way more concerned about letting God down, disobeying him than we are about letting down anyone else. How many times have I said, 'yeah, I'll do it,' knowing that if I do what I'm committing to, something else will have to slide? If I let the leader of a ministry, a business contact or even my husband dictate to me what is most important, I risk setting them up as an idol in my life. Sure I need to listen, get their input, but when it comes down to it, sometimes I have to say "No, God is giving me a different mission. I gotta go that way." I have to work with others because God intends for all of us to be in relationship, but the bottom line is, I'm directly responsible to God for what I have done with my life. He's the one I'm going to have to answer to one of these days. No matter how hard my husband frowns at me, I've got to fear God's frown even more!