Monday, February 27, 2006

Does God see in black and white?

Kids. They're always watching you. You have a really bad day and let some %&#@ slip and there you have it. " said ___". Or how about "The speed limit says 30. You're going 40". You think when they move out that it will stop. Wrong. Especially if you blog and they read it. And there they are....calling you on the carpet once again. Such was the job of my youngest today who read my post on Virtues/Fruits and took issue with my saying that the opposite of those positive traits should be credited to non-Christians. OK, I said. Post your comment...that's what blogs are for. But, reluctant to appear more serious than her happy-go-lucky demeanor is comfortable with, she declined. So, I'll take up the argument for you Em.

You're right. It was a gross over simplification...over-generalization. And yes, I'm aware that there are people, non-christian people, who exhibit some sterling qualities. And I'm aware that there are christian people who are real ____, you fill in the blank. 'Twas always so and always yet will be. But, that clouds the issue. The point being that I think you're either with God or you're not. You've either accepted the atonement offered for you or you haven't.

Hence, the title of this post. Are there just 2 categories? Christian and non-Christian. God's and not-God's. Forget all the adjectives that can be applied (erring Christian, moral non-Christian, etc.). Does everyone fall in these 2 categories? I'm a very black and white person. I hate to admit that because nowadays it seems not to be politically correct. I grew up with lots of black and whites. You're in the Church of Christ--you're going to heaven. You're not in the Church of Christ--you're going to hell. Pretty clear-cut. Wrong...but clear. Nice girls don't dance--bad girls do. Everyone probably has a list like that. But, what I want to know is...does God view humans like that? Christian or non-Christian. In or out. Or are people in varying degrees? And if so, how does that work? What's the criteria for each category?

It seems like there are some clear-cut lines in scripture. And that's where I want to go, to scripture. My husband says there's some theological line of thinking that everyone will be matter what. It's probably got some unpronounceable name like so many schools of thinking do, but that seems a bit bizarre, and counter to scripture. There is a lot in the good book that refers to good and evil. You're with me or against me. Those that have sinned (long list) and those that haven't (extremely short list). Very black and white talk in the broadest sense. It's when we get to the details that the proverbial gray starts to creep in. My question about the gray is, "Is it really gray?" or is it just gray to us, but black and white to God? What if we really had the mind of Christ? Would we always make the right decision (the white decision)? Is gray OK because we're human, and not to get too worked up about, or is there cause for looking further?

"The Man without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him, and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually discerned. The spiritual man makes judgement about all things, but he himself is not subject to any man's judgment...but we have the mind of Christ". I Corinthians 2:14

Hebrews says that if we are maturing, then we will by constant use of our faith, train ourselves to distinguish good from evil. (5:14) Which leads me to think that finding the black and white at the very least will take training...and maturing. So, that's where I am on this question. If someone doesn't have God's spirit within him, certain things make no sense. Gray prevails. And even those of us who do have God's spirit within us, have to really train ourselves to see good and bad. I just want to be compassionate while I search for it.


My oldest daughter was (and is) always very verbal. From the time she was itty-bitty, she was a talker, albeit a slow talker, but a talker none the less. This developed into a voracious appetite for reading. Which then developed into the skillful art of writing and expressing her thoughts. This caused me no end of grief when she was a teenager for she could talk circles around me. Her arguments (usually misguided) always seemed plausible because she could argue and reason with the best. I found the only way to overcome this and keep my sanity (even though I was usually right) was just to refuse to argue and send her to her dad who was a more worthy opponent in the arguing and reasoning venue. I kept telling myself that this was a good thing, a good characteristic...that one day this irritating trait would prove to be of great value. After all, I imagine Paul to be that way as a teenager! I prayed many prayers on her behalf, imploring God to use her and her unique abilities for Him. And I'm here to say that God does indeed answer prayer.

She has just penned a sermon on the transfiguration, which I happen to think is tremendous. Go to to read it. I believe you'll be glad you did.

And parents, when you are totally exasperated with your children for whatever traits that God has placed in them, just remember that it's those very traits that he can use to his glory. Don't give up and don't stop praying. Take it from one who knows.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Units 4 and 5: Virtures of Godly Wisdom/Fruits of the Spirit

These 2 units of study were similar in nature so I thought I'd address them together. They both focused on Christ's lifestyle...the way he lived out what God wanted him to do. The scriptures involved are James 3:17 and Galatians 5:22-23. These lessons I found particularly difficult because they were so word oriented. I consider myself somewhat of a "word" person, but when you throw out 17 tends to boggle the mind. There are 8 virtues mentioned in the James passage and 9 fruit mentioned in Galatians. Our task was to consider all these in relation to ourselves and pick out the one (or ones) that we particularly find difficult.

I did like the approach that the author took in giving many synonyms for each word. Then contrasting the virtue with the opposite...and finally giving what he calls a "perversion" of the virtues. We decided for clarity's sake that the virtue itself would be what we would be striving for, the opposite would be what a non-Christian might exhibit, and the perversion would be what Christians so often do, which is take the good and tweak it into something that God never intended to have happen.

The 8 virtues mentioned in James are adjectives...the 9 aspects of fruit of the Spirit are nouns. I don't know that it has any significance, but I had never noticed it before. I'm going to list the words in question just so anyone reading who isn't doing this study can sort of see where this was going.

Opposite----- 8 Virtues in James (NIV)----- Perversions
Lustful----- --------Pure----- ---------------------Puritanical
Fussy----- -------Peaceable (peaceloving)-------- Compromising
Harsh ------------Gentle (Considerate) ----------Unkind restraint
Unapproachable --Entreatable (Submissive) --------Yes -person
Merciless ---------Merciful (full of mercy) ----------Indulgent
Fruitless ----------Fruitful (good fruit) -----------Fruit-obsessed
Wavering----- ----Steadfast (impartial) ------------Inflexible
Lying -------------Honest (sincere) -----------------Brutal
Opposite -----9 Fruit of the Spirit -----Perversions
Hate, fear------------ Love -------------Possessive, permissive
Pain----- -------------Joy ---------------------Frenzy
War -----------------Peace --------------------Neutral
Impatient -----Longsuffering (patience)----- --Lenient
Hard -----------Gentleness (kindness)----- -----Soft
Badness ----------Goodness ---------------Self-righteous
Unbelief ---------Faithfulness --------------Presumption
Arrogance -------Meekness (gentleness) -----Weakness
Undisciplined ---Temperance (self-control) ---Fleshly effort
Suppose that God had created the Bible in a sort of "Book of Lists" stories, no examples, no people. Just lists. A giant "To Do" book for living life the way he wants us to. There would be the 10 commandments, the Beatitudes, these qualities listed above, but no one to flesh them out for us. The "don't do this" lists and the "do this" lists. That would be difficult. I think that's why these lessons were a little hard for me. I need to watch someone live this out so that I can see, "Oh, that's what that looks like". So, one of the things I tasked the group to do was to pick a fruit, and then think of a person that they know personally that embodies that characteristic. I heard some wonderful stories of people some of us all knew, and some that were new to us. Think about it. Who do you know that is a great example of ___.? You fill in the blank. Watch them...learn from them. Like Paul's admonition to follow him as he follows Christ, see how they manage to live it out in the day to day. Then, pray for God to strengthen you in those areas in which you are weak. He wants so badly to help us walk with greater strength and faithfulness in this life. Sometimes we just need to realize we need the help...and ask for it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

Thweatt Rolls

OK, are the slightly famous Thweatt rolls. So named because I made them up.

1 cup shortening (Crisco of course)
1/2 cup sugar
2 t. salt
1 cup boiling water
Mix these 4 things in a large mixing bowl. The crisco will almost melt completely. Blend and cool. Add 2 beaten eggs.
In another small bowl, mix the following:
1) 1 cup warm water (this is the tricky part. Warm means hotter than a baby bottle (i.e. body temp.) , but not so hot that you can't hold your hand under the water.)
2) 2 pkgs. dry yeast
3) a little sugar (1 t. or so...not so important...just throw some in)
If your yeast is good, it should start to bubble and foam in a minute or two. Now, add this yeast mixture to the big bowl. Add: 3 c. white flour and 3 c. whole wheat flour. Add these flours a bit at a time and mix well. Cover the bowl and put in frig for at least 4 hours. A good Tupperware bowl with a tight lid works well. You can leave this overnight.
Before using, roll into desired shapes. Be creative...use your other cookbooks for ideas. Me...I just use a biscuit cutter and fold them over. Place in a greased pan and let rise until double (this varies with the temp in your kitchen....usually 2-3 hours since the dough is chilled). If you are in a hurry, you can turn on the oven to 250. When it heats up, cut it off. Boil some water, put it in a shallow pan; stick it on the bottom rack of the oven. Stick the rolls in there and that forces them to rise faster.
Bake at 425 for 12-15 minutes. These make really good cinnamon rolls too.
Hope you like them. As you can see, they are a family favorite.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Unit 3: Free Indeed

For those of you who aren't following along with this study, the titles with Unit in them are referring to a particular topic we are on. These titles will hopefully make it easier for those that are following along with blog comments on the study of "The Mind of Christ" about list-making! A bit over-whelming we all agreed. The author broke the list areas down into 2 categories: Neutral areas and Damaging areas. I wasn't sure about that, so I threw that out for discussion. First, we started with defining the areas. I want to share these definitions as I think they are helpful as you begin inventory of the mind. I asked that the definitions be to the point and understandable for say....a 10-year-old.

Neutral Areas:
1) habits - things you do without thinking
2) loyalties - special bond with someone or something
3) relationships - interaction between people
4) prejudices - to decide something without full knowledge
5) ambitions - wanting something enough to work toward it
6) duties - something you feel like you have to do, whether you want to or not
7) debts - owing something to someone
8) possessions - things you feel that you own

Damaging Areas:
1) fears - things that make you afraid
2) weaknesses - things you aren't very good at; things that you cannot overcome; things you have a certain fondness for (like chocolate!)
3) hurts - emotional wounds; spiritual wounds; damage that adversely affects you

We decided that guilt and shame should be added to the damaging areas topics. The group that worked on this said that there was a difference between guilt and shame. I can't remember exactly what was said but something to the effect that shame is more an emotional response to wrong-doing. Any comments on the difference between the two?

Then, after all this, I tasked them to find a positive and a negative example for the neutral areas. I wasn't sure about a "positive" example of prejudice. The author stated that he thought that the damaging areas were always negative. I disagreed so I asked the same question. Find examples of positive and negative in the Damaging Areas list. And, we were able to.

We felt that this discussion was helpful in clarifying our overwhelming task of making these lists. And, list-making (mental inventory) can't happen overnight. This is something we are going to work on all through the study. Some of us are finding that we have to pray specifically for God to reveal to us our problem areas. This is a risky prayer. We don't like to be told (even from God) where we fall short, even though in theory we know he knows. Somehow I feel if I just ignore it long enough, maybe oh maybe, it will go away.

Freedom....we fight wars in the name of it. But the greatest war, I believe, is within us to release control of the things we hold onto that are bad for us and to learn to truly desire a better way. May God help us in this task.

Monday, February 13, 2006


Four Jobs I’ve Had:
1) doing bookkeeping at Palmer Foods (does it count if it was my dad's business??)
2) working at Belk's Department Store
3) working at a teacher's supply store
4) teaching Physical Science, Biology, and Chemistry

Movies I Could Watch Over and Over:
1) Lord of the Rings trilogy
2) Major Payne
3) Napoleon Dynamite
4) Dead Poet's Society

Four Books I Could Read Over and Over:
1) Chronicles of Narnia
2) Harry Potter
3) The Mitford books
4) Bible

Four Places I've Lived:
1) Murfreesboro, TN
2) Albuquerque, NM
3) Rocky Mt., NC
4) Enumclaw, WA

Four TV Shows I Watch
1) CSI
3) Law and Order
4) British Comedy

Four Places I've Been On Vacation
1) Sanibel Island, FL
2) Mexico Beach, FL
3) Taipei, Taiwan
4) Europe

Four Favorite Foods:
1) Thweatt rolls
2) Brent's mexican food
3) my mom's cobblers
4) chinese food

Four Places I'd Like to Be Right Now:
1) San Marcos de Colon, Honduras
2) Princeton, NJ
3) Murfreesboro, TN
4) Australia
(P.S. these are in no particular order!...although the grandchild factor does have an influence, I must admit)

Four Blogs I visit (semi)regularly:
1) Rude Truth
2) Demasiada
3) Emily and Elliott
4) Whacking Brasco

Monday, February 06, 2006

Unit 2: Making a list...checking it twice

I'm a list-maker. I make a list before I go to the grocery store. Before I do that, I make a list of my menus for the week, so I'll know what goes on the grocery store list. I make a to-do list when I drive into town...lest I forget what I came for when I arrive there. Maybe the older you get, the more you need these lists.

Anyway, our study group was tasked with making a list this past week. It was a list of our desires and wants. Seems easy enough, but to tell the truth, we all found it difficult. First of all was the decision of what goes on this list. Lofty ideals, or petty wants or both. And what constitutes a petty want? The fact that I want to be able to visit my children in Honduras, New Jersey, and Tennessee doesn't seem all that petty to me. Seems rather noble. And so, the issue presents itself. In this list-making exercise, we had to be brutally honest and then examine the list to see if any items were in conflict. This to me was the hard part, the point being that often times our spiritual desires and our physical desires clash. Sometimes they don't, but I suspect if we are being honest we will find some that do. The eye-opening part of this to me was that I didn't realize that some of my desires and wants were in conflict. They all seemed perfectly legit to me. I had to really examine them closely and we don't often take the time to do that.

Relating this to the mind of Christ works like this. Christ was man and Christ was God. I don't think for a minute that he had a "God-mind" and a "human-mind". I think he had a fully integrated mind that operated without the dissonance between the spiritual and the physical. This produced a great peacefulness within him. I remember a time in the garden when he was under great stress, where he really felt the strain of fear pulling at what he knew to be his fate. I believe he could have backed out. I don't guess he was so peaceful at that point. But, when he remembered his focus and then acted on that focus, I think his peacefulness was restored.

I challenge you to make a list. If not written down, at least in your head. Think about what you really want. Then see if it all fits together like it should. It's one more little step toward developing the mind of Christ.