Saturday, August 28, 2010

Ignorance Is Bliss by Tami Gilman

My people are destroyed from lack of knowledge.
Hosea 4:6

I am still processing the information from a documentary I watched called “Food Inc.” It exposes disturbing facts regarding the food industry. There is corruption, deception and greed from corporations to various levels of government, which affect the food source for the United States and the world. I don’t believe the realization of chemically engineered or unhealthy food is a new concept, but choosing to ignore the knowledge of what we consume is irresponsible.

Let’s face it, ignorance is bliss. It really is because when you know the truth about something, you are responsible for what you do with that truth. And who wants to be responsible anyway?

Right now I have a choice to make. I now have knowledge of how food is processed, enhanced and altered to be appealing and affordable. What am I going to do with this information? Today, I am going hungry because I am so disturbed by this newfound knowledge. Tomorrow I intend to change my eating habits. I will also share this with my friends and it will be their choice as to what to do with it. I am not responsible for their choices and I will not force my opinions on them. What I am responsible for is sharing the knowledge I have and allowing them to respond or not.

Everyone is responsible for their own choices. Often, we make choices without considering the consequences of our actions. Honestly, I think most of us want to do what we want and expect grace in return. Then, we may get mad at God for not changing our circumstances. I have been guilty of this and I believe most people are to some extent. It’s easy to excuse ourselves by saying, “Well, I didn’t know that” or “Nobody told me.” That way, you shift the blame off yourself. Who is “nobody” anyway?

I suspect many Christians don’t really dig in to reading the Bible because they are afraid of the truth. If we really knew what the Bible says, we would be responsible for applying it to our lives and be accountable for our actions. I am guilty of this too. I have even taken it one step further and not asked God specific questions about the direction of my life. I figure I’m not being rebellious by intentionally disobeying God because I’m not asking. That in itself is being intentionally rebellious and I am manipulating my relationship with Him. This is something I have to continually be aware of and change.

My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6) applies to every area of our lives. If we don’t learn proper nutrition, we become unhealthy. If we think frivolous spending is our right, we become overwhelmed with debt. If we think spiritual warfare doesn’t exist, we can be physically, emotionally and spiritually destroyed and will look to a pill to correct it.

I believe the same can be said for salvation. For some people, it is not accepted for lack of knowledge, for others it’s a lack of obedience. Our responsibility as Christians is to speak biblical truth and live our lives in a way that models that truth. The rest is up to the individual and the work of the Holy Spirit. Let’s not be blissfully ignorant, but joyfully informed.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Life as a Process by Serena Haneline

Process: “A natural phenomenon marked by gradual changes that lead toward a particular result.” Such is my life. Seems no matter how much I would love for things to just “happen,” more times than not, that’s not the way things work for me. I have to go through the long, tedious journey called the “process.”

I don’t know about you, but I am not too fond of pain. And to me, a process may be a “natural phenomenon,” but those “gradual changes” usually bring with them some form of pain. It’s hard even to submit to a process. Seems by our very nature, we are creatures wanting instant gratification.

Take the process of weight loss. Now it doesn’t take too long to pack on the extra pounds. Eat a few Mickey D cheeseburgers and you’ve gained at least 10 pounds somewhere in your middle regions – or lower. But losing those extra pounds (and for me it’s quite a few extra pounds), is not a sudden experience, however much I wish it were.

I resisted joining in on this process for most of my 34 years. Don’t know if I was secretly wishing I could lose the weight magically just like I put it on, or what. I suppose I finally realized that if I ever wish to be a thin person, I must submit to the dreaded “process.” So I have thus submitted and joined Weight Watchers, mingling with other like-minded people in their weight loss quest.

And believe it or not, it’s not quite as painful as I thought it would be. Yes, it definitely is a process. The weight comes off very slowly, but I am realizing that it’s going to be worth the wait. As I’ve united with others going through the same process, I am discovering things I need to change, like basically what I put into my mouth and do with my body. It’s not about dieting, but about making smarter choices. It’s not even so much about exercising, but moving more. And so goes my weight loss “process.”

Another process I’ve been going through most of my life is that of a spiritual nature. Now this area was one in which I definitely desired instant change. Who wouldn’t want the miraculous change found so many times in the New Testament? Like the instantaneous salvation that Paul experienced as he fell off his horse or the blind man who was “blind but now I see.”

No, mine has been more like Peter’s crazy process from a bumbling idiot to a bold man of God. I don’t know how many times I went to a Christian retreat or conference craving an instant spiritual enlightening and coming away immensely disappointed. I didn’t realize until recently that that was what I was doing. And it was an insane expectation.

Because I am also realizing that usually God doesn’t work like that. It is a rare instance when someone is changed suddenly and drastically. Those are the precious few. The majority of us have to suffer through the long process. That is what I am doing and it is a slow and tedious one.

And even though I am still not too fond of pain, I understand that with pain and suffering comes greater faith, which only makes me stronger. And with that pain also comes a great experience that I can share with someone else who suffers the same way.

Life has been and will always be, for me, a process. I believe that is the way God intended it to be. So if you’ve been expecting sudden changes, check your expectations at the front door. God is probably doing a process in your life. And if I were you, I would just submit to that process. It’s easier than wishing for instantaneous change.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

What Time Is It? by Kim Jackson

My father worked at an oil refinery, but sometimes I wonder if he aspired to be a philosopher. As a child I remember asking him, “Daddy, what time is it?” to which he would reply, “What time do you want it to be?”

“Daaaaddy! What time is it, really?”

“Kimmie, it’s later than it’s ever been.”


Those verbal volleys would continue until Dad would finally say, “4:15” which was sort of a letdown after all that word play.

But recently I was reminded of my Dad’s philosophy on time. Week before last, I went for a routine medical procedure. On Monday, much to my surprise, I received a call telling me that the test revealed something requiring a follow-up procedure. The earliest they could get me in was Thursday.

Isn’t it fascinating how time flies by in some situations, and crawls ever so slowly in others? Thursday finally arrived, just not as fast as some weeks. After checking in, I waited in the…..waiting room. Tick…tick…tick…. Next I waited in the dressing room. I looked at the clock on the wall: tick…tick…tick…

The procedure was repeated and I could see what had caused their concern. I agreed: I don’t think those two spots belong in my body.

The technician asked me to wait in the dressing room. The hands on the clock had moved several minutes since I’d last watched it, but the tune was the same: tick…tick…tick…

The door opened. “The doctor would like you to have an ultrasound.”

“Oh my….”

I followed her to the next room….and waited. Tick…tick….tick… The technician began her hunt. Why is it taking so long?

When she finished, she said, “Either I’ll come back and tell you what the doctor said, or he will come in and tell you himself. But you will know something before you leave.”

So I lay there…waiting. Tick…tick…tick…

My mind strayed. I may be really sick. What will happen? How bad is it? I tried to rein my thoughts back to reality. But my reality might be changing dramatically in the next few minutes.

The door opened. The technician and the doctor walked in. I was sure they had come to deliver bad news. If it’s going to take both of them to tell me what they discovered, I’m dead! I’m out of time!

The doctor asked a question that has to be one of the top five most ridiculous things to say to someone lying on her back next to an ultrasound machine.

“How are you today?”

“I think I’m fine…but I guess you would know better than I do.”

He paused, then smiled. “I agree…you are fine.”

Just like that. In those few seconds, with those simple words, everything was all right again. I have time left.

I looked at my watch as I walked out the door. The whole drama had taken less than an hour.

As I’ve been pondering that 52-minute scenario, I remembered the song: “Does Anybody Really Know What Time It Is?” Contrary to what the lyrics would lead you to believe, the answer is “yes.” Someone does know. But it’s none of us. It’s our Father.

“Father, what time is it?”

“Child, it’s later than it’s ever been.”

“I understand that more today than I did yesterday, Father. My times are in Your hands (Psalm 31:15). Will you please teach me to realize the brevity of life so that I may grow in wisdom? (Psalm 90:12). And Father, thank You for the precious gift of life.”


Sunday, August 8, 2010

Growing Older by Jan Darnell

“Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be.”
Robert Browning

Have you ever heard someone say, “I really enjoy growing older?” Probably not. Particularly disturbing are the wrinkles that furrow spontaneously overnight and body aches forecasting your retirement, or even worse, a forthcoming expiration date. And what about the escalating memory challenges, “Who am I again?” And the degenerative hearing, “What did you say?” These deficits speak merely to a few of the by-products of aging.

For instance, on several occasions, I realized that I was searching for my cell phone while talking on it. Another time, I attempted to turn a night light on while holding it my hand. After replacing the bulb, I moved the switch to ON, but the light remained OFF. God, in His mercy, sent an angel to suggest, “Try plugging it in.” Oh. I hope that only one angel was privy to that revelation.

Lately, I have begun to carry a note pad with me to keep from forgetting where I am supposed to be, when I am to be there and what I am expected to do. Of course, keeping up with the notes necessitates remembering where they are.

So, what does Robert Browning mean when he says, “Grow old along with me. The best is yet to be”?

I don’t think Mr. Browning was talking about the wrinkles, arthritis, dementia and proliferation of notes beginning to clutter my desk. Neither do I think he had the senior discounts and free coffee in mind. By the way, I think that free coffee is intended to keep seniors awake behind the wheel. Not a bad idea.

Browning, however, might be referring to the simpler lifestyle that is consequential to aging. Life does have a way of streamlining as age increases. Yes, I would say there are definite advantages to juggling a handful of tasks rather than a plethora of schedules requiring complicated charts and timeline grids that highlight pending deadlines. Micromanaging gradually fades.

More opportunities then present themselves to notice God’s creation, such as the birds and butterflies, beautiful sunsets, and gentle breezes that reposition your hair while relaxing on the back porch. You become more aware and poised to thank God for life’s blessings, the beauty of simplicity and absence of stress. Sound good? It is.

Gardening now appeals to me: the orchestrating of flowers, seasonal colors and spreading of perennials across my yard. Like a painter balancing her canvas portrait, I have begun to add hardscapes that bring character to our vegetable and flower beds. We have an old farmer’s plow and water pump sitting by the vegetable garden and towering bird houses guarding the flowers.

Our friendly North Carolina birds also enjoy a brown ceramic birdbath to refresh themselves in when they come to dine. We have selected several feeders for them to choose from depending on the type of seed they prefer. It is sort of a bird paradise, a haven of rest.

We also have a scientific book that identifies these fascinating visitors. Our entire family enjoys viewing and recognizing them by names that no one attempts to pronounce. Recently, a black bird flew in, marked by bright yellow and red stripes on its wings. It appeared tropical to me at first, but our book of ornithological information identified it as the “red wing black bird,” (common name) a local species. I had hoped it was a rare exotic bird that heard about our bird paradise and flew across the ocean to become acquainted. I guess not.

We have identified many other birds, such as doves, house finches, yellow finches, Carolina finches, cardinals, sparrows and brown thrashers. The thrashers dig into the ground like they haven’t eaten for weeks, throwing pieces of mulch to the left and right until food is discovered. What a hilarious sight!

Now, I know that gardening, bird watching and relaxing may sound old and outdated. If so, then you are probably too young to relate, which is fine. Enjoy your youthfulness. Yet, regardless of how young you are, you are growing older every day. That is fine too. That’s the point. God is good. Life is good, regardless of our age.

But I think when Browning says, “Grow old with me. The best is yet to be,” he is referring to the things in life we ignore when we are young. They are discovered when growing older.