Grievances

Lately I have been feeling aggravated and grieved by people who teach the wrong things. Specifically I have been frustrated at people who teach false doctrine to faithful souls. In conversation with friends I have found them to be struggling with similar frustrations. At the beginning I was annoyed at pastors and church groups who teach that women are second-class and are only useful in the home. I then became frustrated at people who think they understand the gospel and yet exemplify or teach little or no practical grace to the people they minister among, but instead deal in judgment and legalism, as if they are somehow better than anyone else. I then became frustrated at people who are part of the visible church who are involved in abuse, or exploitation, or tangles of lies. What kind of witness is this to the world? And to the people of God?

All these things, and many more like them, have been bothering me because they are so counter to the beauty of the Gospel. This blog post has taken many forms in my mind over the past weeks as I imagined how I could best revile these people; how I could make them see the error of their ways, how I could best say to them – how dare you? How dare you trample up on these little ones of Christ? How can you who claim redemption treat people in this way – people who trust  you?

But then I realized what I really needed to say, and it hasn’t turned out to be a rant against injustice, liars, and ignorance – in fact it’s quite different. It’s a word towards the victims of these things, the confused, the hopeless, the violated, the guilt-ridden, and the fearful. The God who has redeemed you has not left you without hope or help – He is here, and He is working. He has not placed a law of rules and regulation upon your shoulders; His yoke is easy and His burden is light. He will not leave you drowning in the confusion of this dark world but will someday lift the veil from your eyes so that you can see in full. He has not left you in despair, but will wipe every tear from your eyes. The work of Satan is not winning any battles in our world, Christ Himself is waging war – and the gates of Hell will not prevail against Him.

So, although sin abounds, even in the church of Christ, grace abounds all the more. So do not lose hope. Do not give up, burdened ones, run ever to Jesus – he will carry the little lambs in his arms – and cling to Him. He alone is just. He alone is forgiving. He alone is pure. He alone is faithful.

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On Writing

Here are some of my favorite quotes about writing:

 “We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.” ― Anais Nin

“You can make anything by writing.” ― C.S. Lewis

“Cut out all these exclamation points. An exclamation point is like laughing at your own joke.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

“You can’t wait for inspiration. You have to go after it with a club.” ― Jack London

“Grand. There’s a word I really hate. It’s a phony. I could puke every time I hear it.” ― J.D. Salinger

“Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.” ― T.S. Eliot

“Writing a novel is a terrible experience, during which the hair often falls out and the teeth decay. I’m always irritated by people who imply that writing fiction is an escape from reality. It is a plunge into reality and it’s very shocking to the system.” ― Flannery O’Connor

“Writers aren’t people exactly. Or, if they’re any good, they’re a whole lot of people trying so hard to be one person.” ― F. Scott Fitzgerald

 

 

Virtually Friends

Reach out and poke someone.  Be more than a virtual friend, do not be satisfied with virtual friendship.  It is not my intention  to slam social networking groups such as Facebook and Twitter, but I want to look at real friendship.

Just last night I was online, I wasn’t really doing anything, I was just looking around on Facebook. Suddenly, while writing on my friend’s wall, I noticed that the person who had written on her wall before me was someone whom I had met and spoken to once or twice.  At least I was pretty sure I recognized them from their picture.  I instantly clicked on the “friend” button next to their name.  Good, another person to add to my list of “friends” that I don’t know!

I have virtual friends.  So do you.  They are virtually friends.  I suppose that means they are almost friends – almost, but not quite.  That’s what the word virtual means.  Or we could say they are electronic friends, e-friends.

Something has happened to the word “friend.”  Something has happened to friendship.  The word “friend” is now not only a noun, but a verb.  We do not simply have friends, we “friend them.”   A true friend is defined by the New Age Elizabethan Reference Dictionary as “One attached to another by affection . . . an adherent  . . . a promoter . . . anything that helps one, especially in an emergency.”

Today I want to inspire you not to be caught up in what are merely virtual friendships, but to cultivate and value what is true, our real friends.  I don’t know about the rest of you, but when I am online I sometimes find myself talking to random people.  I just talk to them because they are there.

A friend is not defined by how many times a week you “poke” them, or how frequently they “like” your status.  Ben Johnson said, “True friendship consists not in the multitude of friends, but in their worth and value.”  Commenting on someone’s latest photo-tag, or following their witty tweets, may be fun, but it is trivial.  Mindless.  Frivolous.  There is little engagement of the mind.  There is no proving of worth and value in the living of real life.  There is only amusement.  And amusement is not friendship.  It is a subtle form of exploitation.  It is selfish.  In July 2007 MySpace booted out of its system 29,000 sex offenders who had signed up for memberships using their real names. There is no way of knowing how many sex offenders registered onto Facebook or MySpace under fake names.  Real friendship swirls around real values.

What is the value and worth in a friend when the most you know about them is that they are looking for “random play?”  Henri Nouwen writes:

“When we honestly ask ourselves which person in our lives means the most to us, we often find that it is those who, instead of giving much advice, solutions, or cures, have chosen rather to share our pain and touch our wounds with a gentle and tender hand.  The friend who can be silent with us in a moment of despair or confusion, who can stay with us in an hour of grief and bereavement, who can tolerate not knowing, not curing, not healing and face with us the reality of our powerlessness, that is a friend who cares.”

I ask you today, are you a friend like this one?  Are you willing to share the pain, sorrow, and confusions of the people that you care about?  Can you be that kind of friend?  Or are you satisfied with compiling a list of “top friends” and “liking” their Facebook status every now and again?

A few months ago I read an essay, published by “The New Atlantis Journal” called Virtual Friendship and the New Narcissism.  One of the major points that the author, Christine Rosen, brought out was that social networking is the new form of self portraits.  Our online identity is a digital self-portrait.  Perhaps that is really me or perhaps that is what I want you to think.  Perhaps we are not really being friends as much as we are tweaking our online portrait and gazing at our own reflection in a pool.

I am, of course, not saying that there is anything wrong with social networking, but I am inspiring you towards something more powerful, a real friendship.  A good friend will bring you up when you think too lowly of yourself.  A good friend will bring you down when you think too highly of yourself and threaten to fly away.  A good friend is present in your life, there when you need them, a virtual friend is, by nature, an absent friend.  A good friend is a precious gift from God Himself, and ought not to be treated lightly, but with respect and love.  Ecclesiastes 6:14 says,  “A faithful friend is a strong defense: and he that hath found such an one hath found a treasure.”  I encourage you to be such a friend as this, and to seek out friends who are like this.  Reach out and poke someone – go on, see what happens.

Common?

I really like weather. It’s one of those things that can never be called common. No one ever rolls their eyes at a sunset, or is nonchalant at the sight of the fresh-fallen snow on the fence-posts. But why not? Doesn’t weather happen every day? True, it often seems a bit different, but after a while one snowstorm looks pretty much like the last one. So why isn’t weather considered kind of boring in its repetitions?

Weather, along with other things like food, comfort, rest, family, friends, health, intelligence, desires, and many other things are all the same – common. We all either have, or at least appreciate, these things. What is it about them that makes them special? Aren’t they just common, ordinary things?

Well, yes. These things are simply common, but there’s nothing simple about them. They are common graces and, as such, they are the things that we are created to enjoy – they are, in fact, some of the things that help make us human. God has given these things to us and we enjoy them because we find our greatest fulfillment in enjoying Him. His common grace, or the grace that He has bestowed upon all people in common, is the grace that gives us life, comprehension, and all of the aforementioned blessings.

If the enjoyment of these things is the natural reaction we have to the common grace of God; how much more so should be our response to God in gratitude for the special and specific grace that he has given to His children through His Son. Christ, when He came to earth as a human gave up all of His heavenly glory. Then, at the crucifixion, he gave up even the most basic of the common graces as well – his own life. Christ gave up all of these things so that he could offer to His children so much more – the special grace of redemption that comes through his death and resurrection. This covenant grace is never common, indeed it is always new, always renewing, and always special.

So. Next time you see the waves crashing on the rocky coastline, the trees flowering in the spring, or the sun setting in a fiery blaze, don’t just thank God for this common grace – thank Him for His special grace, the gift of His Son who is altogether more beautiful, more powerful, and more transfixing than the most stunning of thunderstorms, the most romantic of sunsets, and the most delicate of flowers.