Progressive Thinking

Once upon a time, a cousin and I decided to hike up the unmarked back way of the Chimney Tops in the Smoky Mountains, an off-trail hike that was – and likely still is – illegal.

Long story short: We got lost.

A 90-minute hike morphed into several hours of struggling through dense underbrush on our bellies and the like. For lack of a better idea, we kept climbing until we made it to a summit from which we could see the Chimney Tops in the distance. Relieved, we trekked across the mountaintops until we arrived, bloodied by thorns and mud-caked, at our destination.

We took the trail back down.

Modern society seems to equate the idea of making progress with improvement. However, much like the progress I made by ignoring the rules, we frequently make progress in the wrong direction.

It’s a happy accident the progress my cousin and I made revealed a glimpse of the distinctive bare-stone peak of the Chimney Tops instead of a spectacular view of similar-looking forested hills prevalent in the Great Smoky Mountains. Even happier, our progress delivered us in sight of our goal instead of in between a black bear and her cubs.

The ancient nation of Israel also made progress – 40 years of it round and round and round again until an entire generation died. And they started by progressively ignoring the commands of the Lord.

These two historical journeys spring simultaneously to mind when I hear the term Progressive Christianity. One bit of progress supposedly made by this movement is the bringing up to date of antiquated ideas and mores. It implies an improvement on the original Christianity.

Ironically, the ideals behind Progressive Christianity are not new. They are very old. Older, even, than Christianity. As old as the serpentine question, “Did God really say–?”

Make no mistake: anything – whether person, book, song, ideology, or trinket – calling itself Christian that forgets to insist on Christ as its focus has also forgotten to be Christian.

I’ve read countless “Christian” articles begun more than a few “Christian” books that had far more to do with humanism than with Christ.

Christianity aims to exalt God by belief in Christ’s atoning work – a belief which inevitably results in complete surrender to Him as Lord. In the process, loving thy neighbor and all those other things do happen. But loving God comes first.

For a genuine Christian, neighborly and charitable acts are merely the natural outpouring of a life overflowing with love and adoration for the God Who Saves. Gratitude for being forgiven prompts forgiveness. Awe at being loved despite our wretchedness prompts acts of love and sympathy towards others who are unloved.

The visible work is the building, not the foundation. The foundation is solid, immutable, eternal – the Rock of Ages. Truth is a fixed point, fixed by the One who invented it.

The definitions of right and wrong do not shift simply because we are a little older than we were a week or a decade or a century ago. The progress of time does not shift the foundation of Truth. What’s good yesterday does not become bad tomorrow any more than left becomes right on certain days of the week.

An imbecile habit has arisen in modern controversy of saying that such and such a creed can be held in one age but cannot be held in another. Some dogma, we are told, was credible in the twelfth century, but is not credible in the twentieth. You might as well say that a certain philosophy can be believed on Mondays, but cannot be believed on Tuesdays.

From Orthodoxy by G. K. Chesterton

Like it or not, truth remains true. The truth of gravity asserts itself with painful clarity when I miss a step walking downstairs even though falling down stairs is something I object to both on an intellectual and visceral level. My preferences and feelings do not cause me to levitate; gravity has its way regardless.

Just so, evil does not become good because time has passed, nor does it become less evil when there is more of it around.

God does not cease being Holy and Sovereign simply because the passage of time and the long miles of the journey have dimmed our understanding of holiness and sovereignty.

He is no less awesome because a fashionably modern fatigue has drained our ability to feel awe.

One cannot start with Truth and make progress unless one proceeds away from it.

Secretarial Duties, Leviticus, NYC, and Sabbath

You shall keep my Sabbaths and reverence my sanctuary: I am the LORD… Consecrate yourselves, therefore, and be holy, for I am the LORD your God. Keep my statutes and do them; I am the LORD who sanctifies you.
(Leviticus 19:30, 20:7-8)

Hi. It’s been a bit since I’ve written, I know. My plan was to pour all my writing effort into a book I need to finish, and so I signed off around the middle of January while in the middle of a blog writing respite.

But of course, my plans and God’s plans differ from time to time. When they do, experience has taught me it’s wiser, safer, and saner to leave my plans where they fall and follow His way.

So the last few weeks, I’ve been filling in for the lady who works the front desk at my girls’ school while she recovered from surgery. This made the first full-time job (outside the home, anyway) since the birth of our now-19-year-old son.

It was terrific fun. I love the kids at the school; loved getting to know them better, loved working with the staff, loved being there.

Still, I’ll be glad to get down to business in March and finish the book. I hope to write some short posts here, too – one a week or so. But today is just a quick check-in; a hello, still alive, before I head up to NYC with the 10th grade class.

I’d like to take this little check-in moment to fill you in on my year so far. Our church is reading through the Bible chronologically this year, and I am loving it. Many days, I’ve both read and listened to the day’s selections – an exercise which seems to press the Word into my conciousness a little more deeply.

While this is not my first time through the Word chronologically, it may as well be. That’s what I love about the Bible. I can read it over and over and over again, and there’s always some new nuance or some truth I’d previously overlooked before to greet me. It has a quality of being at once both comfortably familiar and startlingly novel that I adore.

In the last week or so, two things have been impressed on my mind.

Well, let’s be honest. There have been so many more, but to keep this brief-ish, I’m choosing to focus on two…

Foremost is Sabbath. I hope to write more about this soon, but for now let’s just say I have been astonished at how much coverage Sabbath gets in the first 3 books of the Bible.

By the time you reach the point I’m at now – Numbers 6 – you’ll have read a reference to the Sabbath or the seventh day 79 times. Sabbath is also the only one of the Ten Commandments predating the Mosaic covenant.

Hmm. Maybe it’s important.

The other is a fun fact I learned just this morning. Out of curiosity, I counted and discovered the phrase, “I am the Lord,” is repeated in Leviticus 52 times.

I firmly believe the refrain exists because we need a continual reminder that GOD is God and we are not.

What are the implications of these two small truths? Profound. Enough to prayerfully consider for the next few days.

Lord, change us and teach us that You alone are God. Show us how to live like it each and every day, amen.

Living in the Eye of the Storm: A Migraine Story

Though the fig tree should not blossom, nor fruit be on the vines, the produce of the olive fail and the fields yield no food, the flock be cut off from the fold and there be no herd in the stalls, yet I will rejoice in the LORD; I will take joy in the God of my salvation.

Habakkuk 3:17-18

Hello friends. I’ve been out for a while, and I’m afraid I’ll be out for quite some time to come. Though this may be my last entry to WordPress for many weeks, there’s plenty here to look at. Feel free to browse my archives. Look around. Explore. Even comment – I’ll answer if and when I can.

It’s been quite a few weeks here at the Davis household. This past Saturday saw an epic storm with damaging winds and a deluge which caused flooding on the already-soggy ground.

In apparent sympathy, my body decided an epic migraine was just the thing, and I partially woke in the middle of the night – enough that I was aware of pain but not enough to get up and take the appropriate meds. It wasn’t until around 9 am that I finally had the sense to add a Toradol injection to the triptan and then, ah! Sleep…

Meanwhile, my unexpected nap came in the middle of a remodeling project we began the day after Christmas. Room by room, we moved furniture, ripped out carpet, and laid new flooring upstairs. One room received a total makeover. Another got a fresh coat of paint and a few unexpected repairs. But while I remained down for the count, my house looked like this:

Ah, construction!

We still have bare subfloor in spots.

On the second day of the new decade, my poor daughter totaled a vehicle. Thank the Lord, she was unhurt but we are now down to 2 vehicles, one of which is 15 years old and leaks coolant.

The girls’ school is 30 minutes’ drive south and my husband’s job is 45 minutes’ drive north (on a mythical zero-traffic day), so our time and logistics just got interesting.

On the same day as the truck’s demise, your favorite klutz (that would be yours truly, aka me), tested gravity outside the ginormous leaky vehicle and scored spectacular bruising and scraping on her left arm and ribcage, evidently straining the intercostal muscles on the right in the process.

I’m healing up well but I still can’t sleep on my right side. Which, of course, made the waking-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night migraine thing more festive.

And all that to say… I’m doing fantastic! I’m serious. Really, truly good. I’ve had such joy, such peace, and such … I don’t even know. It’s been a few amazingly wonderful weeks. God is good. It doesn’t matter what is going on around me or even what’s going on with my poor old body. God is Majestic. Awesome. Perfect. Oh, how I love Him!

And He’s done some really great things in the midst of this mess.

  • I’ve been able to confess a parental sin and repent. You see, the teen was driving our second-most-valuable vehicle because I had originally needed the seating capacity of our clunker for cross country season. But when it was over, I pressed the matter a bit then let it slide. My bad. She should have been in the oldest car. Lesson learned.
  • My kids are getting a taste of making do and compromise.
  • The family is practicing humility and love in the midst of all of this.
  • I’m given the opportunity to read through the Bible chronologically once more, but this time with an online discussion group of friends who just can’t get together often because of schedules or distance.

And there’s so much more.

I literally feel as if I’m living in the eye of a storm. The whole world rages and fumes all around me. Destruction and chaos roar past, yet I feel calm. At peace. Joyful.

God has provided in such neat ways. As of Monday, I’ll be working full-time to fill in for the incomparable Ms. J at our school while she has back surgery. It’s temporary, but it will certainly keep me busy for a few weeks. It’s also about the only job I could take with the vehicle situation, so thanks for that, God!!

And I’m still planning on finishing my book. Tennis season starts soon. And spring play practice. The house is a mess. I’m behind on my Greek and need to be in the Word in Hebrew, too. But still I am at peace and full of joy.

You see, this isn’t my home. It’s my appointment – my position, if you will, and I will be the best steward I can of the work God gives me to do, writing, parenting, and all of it.

Ultimately, however, my Home is with Him. Someday He will call me there and I will go with great excitement. Until then, I will continue to serve Him here with near-equal excitement to see His hand at work in the good times and in the bad.

Where He calls, I will go with enthusiasm and good cheer. Even into the midst of the storm.

And he [Jesus] said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm.

Matthew 8:26

My Impatience: A Confession

Then Moses turned to the LORD and said, “O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Exodus 5:22-23

When I selected this verse in a state of sleepiness last night, my intention was to revisit an idea I wrote – and somehow lost – a few years ago. Perhaps I will try again on another day.

However…

This morning, the Lord reminded me of the verse when I said something very similar to Him as we walked and talked together.

During my study of Revelation, I’ve found my heart torn in half. Every day I read it, I am filled with excitement and wonder as well as fear – but not fear for myself.

On one hand, I long to see the coming of the great and terrible Day of the Lord. I’m eager to see Him take possession of what is properly His and destroy evil once and for all time. I cannot wait for the end of pain and suffering and horror.

And yet…

I am burdened by fear for loved ones who do not know Him; who reject Him or who know of Him but choose not to walk in His ways. I am not yet ready for the Lord to come again because I want time for these to be able to choose Him. I don’t want their time to run out, and I don’t want to see them destroyed as unbelievers, on that Day or any other.

In short, I want to see them saved, delivered from sin – from the spiritual Egypt, if you will. Most of them I know and love. Some are the loved ones of dear friends. And I have been praying for them: Nathan. Jessie. Steve. Eric. Katie. Robert. Chris. Sherry. Gail. To name just a few.

This morning, I received the tragic news that one of the names from my list is no more. A precious friend’s brother took his own life. I found myself unintentionally echoing Moses’s words: “You have not delivered these people at all.”

For still the vision awaits its appointed time; it hastens to the end—it will not lie. If it seems slow, wait for it; it will surely come; it will not delay.

Habakkuk 2:3

And He reminded me that while He is patient, waiting for all to come to repentance, I am not. I am desperately impatient, and I want to see this thing done. Now. Maybe yesterday.

The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance.

2 Peter 3:9

Still, in my heart of hearts, I know He will bring it to pass – in His way and in His time. I trust Him. So I continue to pray that He will make the stony hearts into hearts of flesh and pierce them with the Godly grief for sin which brings repentance and leads to salvation without regret.

And I will continue to pray that each of these, and many more, will come to a saving faith in Yeshua Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I also know that no matter how earnestly and desperately I may plead before the Throne of Grace on behalf of these, they each have a choice. God does not force Himself upon any of us. They have to choose for themselves whether or not they will surrender to the Lordship of Yeshua, because what He desires is for us to love Him back. And love is a choice.

So my prayers continue to rise to the Lord.

Oh Lord, let each one of these people choose You. Please turn their hearts to You. Open their eyes. Heal their hurts. Bring them into wisdom and knowledge of You, and let them taste and see that You are good. Protect them from the enemy’s schemes and from harm, and please do not allow another one to leave this earth until they have made their peace with You and been saved by Your glorious grace, amen.

And I continue to trust Him, knowing that He will work all things out for the good of those who love Him. All of them.

And I continue to love Him. No matter what.

Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.

2 Corinthians 6:1-2

Tell Me a Story

Good afternoon, Blogosphere and all my bloggy friends. Once more, I am likely to be scarce for a bit while I work on a project which just fell into my lap. It’s a bit exciting and a bit scary because it has the potential to lead into something new for me. So today’s post is a dramatic shift from normal.

I can’t say much more about the project right now, but it will definitely occupy my time. I’ll still post at least once a week, but I may be slow answering comments and will definitely be limited as to how many blogs I can read.

I have a deadline and a substantial amount of research to do before I can start writing. And you can help me with some of it!

So today, I’m asking you to tell me a story.

Specifically, I want to hear about your best ever boss. I’d love to hear as many details as you can. How did he/she do the job differently? What stood out to you? Did they communicate well? Give good feedback? How did they handle difficult situations?

That’s not all… I also want to hear about the worst boss you’ve ever had. Gimme all the dirt you want, but keep it clean dirt – no profanity, no names or identifying features, nothing you wouldn’t want done to you on social media. Just the facts, but as many facts as you’d like to share.

Plenty of information to keep me busy for a while

Thanks a ton! I’ll be seeing you, if somewhat sporadically!

Apt Words Then and Now

In the course of my life-coaching with my blonde daughter, I’ve read some of Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography. This section stood out to me as incredibly pertinent to the modern day. It also reminded me of some more ancient words penned in a letter to a young preacher named Timothy some hundreds of years ago.

“In the conduct of my newspaper, I carefully excluded all libelling [sic] and personal abuse, which is of late years become so disgraceful to our country. Whenever I was solicited to insert any thing of that kind, and the writers pleaded, as they generally did, the liberty of the press, and that a newspaper was like a stage-coach, in which any one who would pay had a right to a place, my answer was, that I would print the piece separately if desired, and the author might have as many copies as he pleased to distribute himself, but that I would not take upon me to spread his detraction; and that, having contracted with my subscribers to furnish them with what might be either useful or entertaining, I could not fill their papers with private altercation, in which they had no concern, without doing them manifest injustice. Now many of our printers make no scruple of gratifying the malice of individuals by false accusations of the fairest characters among ourselves, augmenting animosity even to the producing of duels; and are, moreover, so indiscreet as to print scurrilous reflections on the government of neighboring states, and even on the conduct of our best national allies, which may be attended with the most pernicious consequences.These things I mention as a caution to young printers, and that they may be encouraged not to pollute their presses and disgrace their profession by such infamous practices…”  –Benjamin Franklin from his autobiography

Remind them of these things, and charge them before God not to quarrel about words, which does no good, but only ruins the hearers. Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth. But avoid irreverent babble, for it will lead people into more and more ungodliness, and their talk will spread like gangrene…
(2 Timothy 2:14-17a)

 

 

The Time I Went to a Writers’ Conference and It Wasn’t About My Writing

For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
(Isaiah 55:8-9)

Last night, I returned home after attending the ACFW conference, and I can’t wait to share what God did there. It was A-MA-ZING. Really, truly amazing.

For starters, He provided the opportunity for me to go. People, that’s no small thing for a mom of five who’s writing career reports its profits in cents to make it sound bigger.  But God has always been gracious to provide all we need and more than a few of our wants, so I am grateful.

God also afforded me a chance to stay in the hotel along with the three best roommates a girl could ask for. Seriously! The four of us met for the first time on Thursday and had the equivalent of a slumber party for the next couple of nights, complete with lots of laughs and great conversation.

All three of them are writers, of course. Ann Stewart and Abbey Downey are already published authors. And I’m beyond excited for Rebecca Reed who will probably join the ranks of the published soon. I’ve linked their names with one of their social media outlets. I encourage you to check them out.

As for my own conference experience, it was… different. I confess a bit of discouragement on Friday. Of my three assigned appointments, none was with an agent or editor who worked within the genera of my novel.

At some point, I took a break to walk and talk with the Lord (which at the Gaylord Opryland Hotel is almost like outdoor walking but without the Tennessee humidity). While we communed together, I asked Him, “Lord, what am I even doing here?”

He reminded me of the passage I’d read in Acts 11 that morning, impressing on me the idea, “What do I usually have you do?”

So I asked him to direct me to people who needed prayer during the rest of the conference.

Saturday found me stalking random people for the purpose of praying for them. OK, technically I only stalked one because for some reason, the Lord put this man particularly on my heart. After I prayed for him, he told me the prayer resonated with him because his life verse was Galatians 1:10. I promised to look it up. When I did, I couldn’t suppress a giant grin. In that verse was an echo of what the Lord laid on my heart to pray.

Our God is so, so good.

Another time, I felt the familiar nudge as I was walking with a lady I’d met earlier, so I asked her if I could pray for her. When we finished, she looked at me oddly and then shared some details of her week. Once again, the words God put on my heart were apt for her.

Then there was an elevator encounter with a man who stepped off before I thought of prayer. As the door slid closed behind him, I realized I’d missed it. I asked, “Lord if you want me to pray for him, provide another chance.”

He did. So I did.

There were quite a few more but only two are really worthy of note. One of them is a pretty funny illustration of my own tendency to be oblivious of certain cultural norms. Stick with me and I’ll explain.

It happened as I walked to my next workshop Saturday afternoon. On the way, I spied a delightful speaker I’d heard earlier exiting a conference room. In her session, she’d shared how the Lord gave her joy in cancer, and I felt a desire to pray for her.

With this aim, I walked up to her with a smile. But she was talking with a man (her husband, I think) and their conversation provided no opportunity for me to break in without being rude.

The art of awkward lurking being my particular specialty, I continued to hang around and in hopes of a moment to pray with her. The man once met my eyes, but something about their body language seemed intentionally closed, so I gave it up.

The speaker was a lady named Liz Curtis Higgs who wrote a book I remember my mom and aunt talking about years ago. I guess she’s something of a Christian celebrity, so I suppose that explains the strange body language. Without a doubt, the two probably suspected me of stalking – something I find hilarious in retrospect!

Anyway, I prayed for her, just not with her.

But one of my favorite moments occurred over lunch on Saturday. Throughout the conference, one older man caught my attention, maybe because he reminded me of a friend’s dad. On Saturday, this gentleman gave his ticket to the evening’s gala to one of my roomies so she could give it to me.

After lunch, I ended up talking with him and discovered he has a neuro-degenerative disorder that’s so rare, it doesn’t even have a name. He was absolutely delightful, and I not only enjoyed hearing a bit of his story, I  also relished the privilege of praying for him.

Ironically enough, I ended up leaving before the gala anyway because I didn’t feel well. I have a sneaking suspicion the whole ticket thing occurred for the purpose of prayer.

But the most ironic bit of all is this fact: When I signed up to attend the ACFW conference, I thought I was attending to benefit my career. Instead, my Redeemer awarded me unbelievable joy in praying for others.  My Saturday experience was Psalm 16:18 made manifest as I enjoyed the company of my Father and my many brothers and sisters in Christ!

What about you? Ever had an experience you thought would go one way, but God did something you never would have guessed instead? I’d love to hear about it!