Category Archives: Virtues

You Shall . . .

Try taking each one of the Ten Commandments and framing them as something to do instead of something not to do. Only two of the commandments do not use the word NOT anyway, the one about honoring the Sabbath and the one about honoring your parents. Refresh your memory on the other commandments here.

For example: “You shall not commit adultery.” What would be the DO of this commandment? If we aren’t supposed to commit adultery than what are we supposed to do? Love our spouse? Keep ourselves sexually pure? Interesting, huh? It kind of raises the stakes a little.

I think this might be part of what Jesus was doing when he said he came to fulfill the Law not abolish it. Remember, he summed up all these commandments by telling us to 1) love God and 2) love our neighbor. Do’s. Unfortunately, a lot of us think being a good Christian is more about what don’t do than about what we do. The reality is that just not murdering really isn’t enough anymore. Now Jesus expects us to love each other – even our enemies!

So what do we have to DO? Look at that list and make a new one. What will you DO today?

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Filed under General, Virtues

Romans 12: 1-2

A friend of mine is putting together a fashion show for the teenage girls she works with this week. She is using this Scripture from The Message as her theme and I think it is great spiritual food for thought today. Unpacking this passage in this translation could keep me busy for weeks! I love the Bible.

So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday, ordinary life—your sleeping, eating, going-to-work, and walking-around life—and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.

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Join the Conversation

I read with a pencil now. Taking notes in the margins while I read is a time saver: I’m already compiling notes for discussion posts and paper topics. But more than that, I have learned how to have a conversation with a book.

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A few weeks ago my husband received a book from his parents. It was an inspirational book they had already read through and thought Dan would appreciate, so they sent it his way. When he opened up the cover and flipped in to check out the print size, chapter titles, whatnot, he started laughing his loud laugh (I love this laugh; I used to listen to it before we were dating and think it sounded like the most genuine laugh I had ever heard). “Look at this!” He showed me pages with underlining in nearly every paragraph. (Underlining made by a ruler and a pen, by the way.) After certain points his Dad had even written in commentary: “Amen!” or “Yes!” or “Right on!”

“I think Dad liked this book!” More of the loud laugh.

Sometimes interaction with books isn’t positive. As a teacher, I sometimes use textbooks that other instructors have used before me. One particular instructor at our Bible College employed a complicated 4-color highlighter system that I haven’t yet decoded, but he also wrote notes in the margins. Some of my favorites are in a text whose author had a somewhat more liberal stance on Bible interpretation than this instructor. His notes more often look like this: “What?!!!” or “No Way!” or “HERESY!”

This is the kind of interaction that indicates what Oprah’s guest Dr. Robin would call “being PRESENT in your life.” It means what you see, hear, or read is not just passing through your system unfiltered. It means the people in your life are not just objects in your field of vision.

You know that feeling you get when your eyes have moved over every word on a page and yet you get to the bottom and realize you have no idea what any of it said? Yeah, don’t do that. Read with a pencil in your hand. Make notes as you go. Start a conversation with your life. That way later on someone will know you were here once.

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I Corinthians 9:27

Today Claire had to get Botox shots in the calf and hamstring muscles of her left leg. Mom tells her she is just like all the pretty girls in Hollywood! Of course, Claire’s Botox is not cosemetic, but the concept is the same. Botox is injected into muscles to weaken them, keep them from contracting. In middle-aged men and women, Botox keeps you from developing wrinkles (and any form of facial expression). In little girls with CP, Botox weakens muscles that are too strong in hopes that the weaker surrounding muscles will have a chance to catch up. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. In our minds, it is worth a try.

All of this has me thinking about virtue. (Hang on, you’ll get there too.) Early this year I posted about training our spiritual muscles in the same way we train our physical muscles. This is what ancient Christians might have called “practicing the disciplines” and it isn’t a very glamorous part of the Christian life. It is all about hard work and determination and a big dose of grace. But when we work at it to the same degree that we work with Him, we start to see changes – improvements in our character and attitude. John Ortberg describes the spiritually disciplined person as the one who does the right thing, at the right time, in the right way, to the right degree. (Just think about that for awhile …. )

So, what do you think are the too-strong muscles keeping us from becoming the spiritually disciplined people we want to be? How could we Botox the selfish muscle, the jealous muscle? Claire knew those big shots were coming at her tiny legs and still smiled at me until the first big stick. Could we face the mortification of our own flesh as bravely? Tonight at the dinner table Claire said she was thankful for “Dr. Farid and the shots he gave me because they are going to make me strong.” She meant it.

hardwork

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New Every Morning!

It is the start of a new year and yet many of us are all too aware that the world in 2009 is already stuffed with war, insecurity, poverty, and unrest. I find comfort in this passage from Lamentations 3. This lament is actually part of a carefully crafted acrostic poem – beautiful literature, especially  if you can read Hebrew! Michael Card writes about laments in his book A Sacred Sorrow.

If you struggle with the concept of suffering as a part of the Christian life you should read this book. Card explains the idea in a lyrical voice that will leave you softer and more at peace with God. The lament is a lost art in Western Christianity but Eastern Christians have understood its power for centuries. The idea is that instead of pretending you are not suffering or “claiming victory” without exploring the root of your actual feelings, you take your lament directly to God. As you pour out your honest thoughts and complaints, a natural shift will happen. Almost every lament Psalm takes this course. The path to praise is often through lament.

There is so much to this concept and I could take you through the literary structure of a lament for a really cool example of how it works, but you have parties to attend and exercise equipment to pull out of the closet. We’ll talk about it later. For now, here is a little soul food for your New Year in the form of lament!

17 I have been deprived of peace;
I have forgotten what prosperity is.

18 So I say, “My splendor is gone
and all that I had hoped from the LORD.”

19 I remember my affliction and my wandering,
the bitterness and the gall.

20 I well remember them,
and my soul is downcast within me.

21 Yet this I call to mind
and therefore I have hope:

22 Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed,
for his compassions never fail.

23 They are new every morning;
great is your faithfulness.

24 I say to myself, “The LORD is my portion;
therefore I will wait for him.”

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Filed under A Rare Find, General, Virtues

An Open House

Once a year our church invites the surrounding community to an Open House. The food service department puts together a free steak dinner, the music department organizes a short program, and everyone else sets out signs and displays that highlight our best efforts in education, health care, recovery programs, and other services. It is both exhausting and exhilerating.

Tonight I feel pretty confident about our big day tomorrow, but I wonder if I’m as prepared for an Open House in my own home?

Practice hospitality. This is one of Paul’s simple encouragements to the Christians in Rome. But I find myself reluctant to put this one into practice. It seems my bathrooms are never clean enough, my laundry never caught up enough, my cooking never interesting enough. We are always too busy or too tired.

But are these just excuses? Once when the women in my family were trading group emails concerning the endless work of house cleaning and how frantic we were to get it all done weekly, my grandma piped in with a short email scolding us all. In an effect, it said she knew she was never an immaculate housekeeper but hoped we had “felt the love” in her house anyway. Well, did we ever!

Since then I’ve tried to remember that Paul didn’t tell us to practice cleaning the house. He didn’t mention cooking gormet meals. He never even said anything about making sure our home decor was up-to-date. He just said to practice hospitality. Sure, that includes getting better at making people feel welcome (and that means having a sofa clear enough for people to sit on), but in its most basic form is just means to do it.

When I think about it, the reasons to not practice hospitality are usually selfish, usually about my pride. Yikes!

Hey, do you want to come over?!

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