How To, Seriously

How To: Kill Your Old Man

When I was a kid, they changed something in Awana. They started making books in translations other than King James! More modern translations are easier for children to understand, right? So my parents will get us the easier to understand (and therefore learn) books, right? Oh, no, not my parents. Their kids can learn in the good ol’ KJV. I don’t honestly know what the reasoning was behind this, as I’m pretty sure the only time I asked why is when I was too sulky to hear the answer. (Mom, if you read this, care to enlighten me?) My parents had matching NASB study Bibles, so we certainly weren’t a KJV only household.

I can think of several reasons to stick to the KJV books:

  • It’s possible the books were cheaper because the alternate translation also came in books with a new design.
  • It’s possible my parents thought learning a “harder” translation would be good for us, because we were certainly smart enough and were in a highly literate family. Bear in mind my mother had me doing properly formatted bibliographies in 2nd grade, if I recall correctly (it was no later than 4th grade for sure). This is not outside the realm of possibility.
  • It’s possible my parents didn’t want to change translations because they had already helped my two older sisters and would have to relearn the verses themselves to help me. I was an Awana leader in college, and I had to really pay attention to what the book said, because it wasn’t quite how I learned it, nor in the translation I read most often. I now have sections of Scripture memorized in a what I will refer to as the New King James American English International Standard Version Bible (NKJAEISVB, you’re welcome). This makes recitation a bit awkward (not to mention trying to find verses online), but though I may have memorized the verse that says, “Thy word have I hid in my heart, that I might not sin against Thee,” in one translation, I do not believe the translation in which I am hiding God’s Word is as important as that I am hiding it in the first place. Anyway…
  • It’s possible my parents were mean. (I love you!)
  • It’s possible my parents have a sense of humor. (They do, just not sure it applies here.) KJV is rife with things that made a child of the 80s giggle. Let’s talk about one of them.

Our Old Man
Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. Romans 6:6 (KJV)

But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth.
Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds;
And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all.
Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.
Colossians 3:8-13 (KJV)

I don’t know about you, but the term “old man” as used here has always given me cause for amusement. It did one thing though: in finding it amusing, I remembered it. I don’t remember the reference to “bowels of mercies,” but I think that’s going in my mental file under the “Why I’m Glad My Parents Were Mean” category.

All that being said, the old man, the flesh, this body of death, no matter what you call it, it’s out to get you. The Bible talks a lot about transformation, which involves putting off the old man (when I entitled this “How To: Kill Your Old Man” it’s a bit misleading – you can’t, but Christ can, and already has for those who are in Christ Jesus) and putting on the new. I had the privilege to attend some of the open sessions at a pastors and leaders conference (but everybody, regardless of the role they play in the body was welcome to attend) hosted by my church Sunday and yesterday, and one of the speakers talked at length about controlling our “Adam suit.” We inherited sin from Adam, and our bodies remind us of that daily. If we want to live the life God wants us to live, we have to get our flesh under control.

At first this sounds like nothing new. I have some of those verses from Colossians written on my closet doors (alas! in a translation that does not reference bowels), and they’ve been there for two months. However, through the three messages he preached, the conviction started to kick in. He asked last night what we did during our day to get our flesh under control. I’m not sure I actually did anything consciously to fight the flesh.

How’s Your Building Program?
I liked this speaker because, like me, he believes in using humor to make a point. He’s just better at it than I am. One of the things he said was along the lines of, “Your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, but your building program could use some work.” He also said that all Christians should have an exercise routine. The Bible doesn’t talk about that because people walked everywhere they went. He said there were no fat people in the Bible, but I think he may want to revisit Judges. Where did the hilt of Ehud’s sword end up again? Then again, that was a bad guy…

I can attest to how poorly we treat our bodies, and how much it takes discipline and self-control to repair the damage we do to ourselves. If you think for one moment that it did not require me to repeatedly deny my flesh to lose that 50 pounds I lost over the last two years, think again. That was hard. It continues to be hard to eat differently than I want to, and I don’t do as well as I think I should. I’ve never been able to deny my flesh its chocolate, you see. I did, however, train myself to eat less food overall, and now avoid entire sections the grocery store, because there’s nothing there I will allow myself to eat. I do not, however, exercise. I have tried off and on, but the off usually overwhelms the on. I’m a wimp. I don’t like pain. I let the old man win.

Self-Control Is Active
For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 2 Timothy 1:17 (NASB)

Self-control gets a bad rap. Isn’t self-control about abstention? No, it’s about action. If you are going to successfully control the bad, you have to replace it with the good. If I want to put off sloth I have to put on exercise. If I want to put off lying, I have to put on truth. If I want to put off negativity, I have to put on encouragement. I would suggest that if we want to lose something, we should focus on what we want to gain instead. My work schedule changed recently, and I now set my alarm for 5 am. I don’t like waking up that early, but it forces me to choose between doing whatever it is I do that keeps me up past my bedtime and getting a good night’s rest. Sometimes what I need to get done is more important than an hour of sleep. Usually, however, it’s just a waste of time. I cannot both stay up and get the sleep I want. To gain sleep I have to lose wasted time. This seems like a no-brainer, but it can be very hard.

What Do You Want To Pick Up For Lent?
Depending on which religious calendar you follow (I’m not attending a church that follows much of one at all, so this is usually not on the radar for me), Lent starts (or started) this week. The idea of a fast is foreign to far too many of us. I think that’s a shame. Having given up certain foods, I can tell you it’s possible, and can even make you feel so much better you might never want to start eating them again. More importantly, though, having a collective mindset of the discipline fasting brings with it can only be beneficial.

What I want to do is offer an alternative to the typical “giving up for Lent” concept. What if we all picked up something we know is lacking? If you’re already active because you work in a physical job, spend your day running after, feeding and cleaning up after young children, or you have an established exercise routine, picking up exercise may not benefit you like it does me. If you’re struggling with financial control, maybe you want to pick up a budget. If you’re struggling with finding time to spend reading the Bible, maybe you want to pick up a new routine. You cannot add these things to your life without giving something else up. That time you spend exercising or reading your Bible means giving up time with the TV or internet. That budget means giving up that expensive cup of coffee, new toy, yarn you won’t be able to use for months because your projects are so backed up already, or whatever it is you spend more money on that you really have to. Something I picked back up lately, though I don’t do it as often as I should, is (very poorly) playing hymns on the keyboard. It’s a discipline that improves a skill I want to have (reading music and playing an instrument), and puts great music in my head. Above all, if I do it every day, it’s a discipline. It is self-control. And it takes away from less productive things. We all have things we need to pick up and put on in place of things we should take off and give up. Where is your old man showing up and how can you deny him with the spirit of discipline God has given us?

(The speaker referenced is Dr. Charles Lowery. He’s pretty awesome!)

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How To, Seriously

How To: Forget the Most Important Thing

As the pastor was closing out the sermon this morning and preparing to lead us in Communion, he told how he once called a wise man of God and asked what he thought Jesus meant in Gethsemane.

Then he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death; remain here, and watch with me.” And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Again, for the second time, he went away and prayed, “My Father, if this cannot pass unless I drink it, your will be done.” Matthew 26:38-39, 42 (ESV)

The man said that he thought Jesus was referring to taking on sin, even to become sin. For the sinless Son of God, taking on sin was such a terrible thought that He was sorrowful, even to death, and pleaded with His Father for a way out. Thank God there was no other way, and He drank that cup and drank it for me.

Sin or Righteousness

Peter and Paul may not have agreed on everything, but on this they agree: Christ Jesus bore our sin on the cross, and did so to remove sin from our lives and replace it with the righteousness of God.

Paul: He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)

Peter: and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 1 Peter 2:24 (NASB)

Do you not know? Have you not heard?

I did a quick calculation of how many times I’ve been to Communion services in my life so far, based on the frequency each church I’ve attended did it and how long I was at that church. It comes out to more than 375 times. Although there are some differences in the form, there’s one thing that’s very consistent in Protestant observance of the Lord’s Supper, and that is the reading of this account:

And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood. Luke 22:19-20 (ESV)

Yes, during my lifetime I have heard some form of the words Jesus said to His disciples that night no less than 375 times. Repetition is a great way to learn. It’s little wonder that as I held the cracker in my hand this morning, I kept repeating in my mind, “This is my body.” I know these words, because I’ve heard these words again and again. It struck me, though, that I somehow still manage to forget them, or at least forget what they really mean.

Lukewarm

Every time I say, “I should do this,” and I do not do it, I am have forgotten. Every time I say, “I shouldn’t do this,” and I do it, I have forgotten. “But to him who knoweth good and doeth it not, to him it is sin.” When I let it go as “no big deal,” I have forgotten that it was big enough to put my Savior on a cross. I have forgotten that it was such a big deal that Christ sweat blood in agony over the thought of bearing it for me. I have forgotten that it was such a big deal that His body was broken for it. I have forgotten that it was such a big deal that His blood was shed for it. I have grown complacent. I have grown lukewarm.

So, because you are lukewarm, and neither hot nor cold, I am going to vomit you out of My mouth. Revelation 3:16 (HCSB)

If you look at several translations, they say spit, vomit or spew (confession: spew is my favorite, better yet is “spue” from the older translations). I picked one that expresses this more strongly than “spit” because, let’s be honest, I don’t think God’s saying, “I’m going to discreetly remove you from my mouth into a napkin.” I personally think there are more unpleasant sensations than lukewarm food or drink. I mean, sure, In-N-Out fries go from amazing to kind of weird when they cool down to room temperature, but that won’t make me spit them out, let alone spew! Spew is reserved for something a little bit more revolting. Think of the worst thing you’ve ever tasted, something that may have literally made you gag. I think that’s more like what a lukewarm Christian is to God.

It’s little wonder God spews out the lukewarm. What’s more disgusting than forgetting what His Son did for us and counting the very thing that put Him on the cross as “no big deal,” or even denying that it’s sin at all?

I don’t think we have to be told how to forget. We have to be told how to remember. The good news is Jesus already told us how. “Do this in remembrance of me.”

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How To

How To: Become Crunchy

I am crunchy. What is this crunchy? I refer you to other sources for some of the specific details, but it can be boiled down to the natural way is the only way for health, pocketbook, and even the planet.

I am new to the crunchy world, but was already going that direction before I learned the term for, well, someone like me. How did it start? With taking just one crunchy step. One. I can blame my sister for tipping me over the edge. I had always liked the idea of natural products and avoiding unnecessary chemical additives, but it wasn’t a big priority.

Enter anecdotal evidence from someone you trust that major dietary changes can be life-changing in unexpected ways. When this news comes when you’ve already lost weight through diet, and your medication isn’t working the same way it used to and you want to stop taking it, what do you have to lose, other than, you know, those pills you take every day?

I started by reading labels on everything, to avoid certain ingredients in particular. Reading labels is a great way to become crunchy, because you start to see just what’s in the food you’re eating. It’s all downhill from there, and there is no going back.

Once you start dissecting product labels on food, you start looking at product labels on everything else, too. Don’t like something you see? Look up alternatives, and discover there’s a world of natural products you can use, and some of them are very inexpensive or things that might already be in the pantry, so you try it. And it works! Next thing you know, you have a jar of green beans fermenting on the counter, an Amazon shopping cart full of ingredients and supplies for homemade skin care, and peruse Etsy regularly for things to try, because you definitely think there’s merit to the idea that you don’t want to put things on your body that you wouldn’t put in your body. Okay, maybe that’s just me.

I won’t go into just how many ways I’m crunchy, but the list is growing, and I like it. I like being crunchy. It may be weird, but I don’t care. I don’t always start by making my own stuff. I tend to follow a buy it, like it, make it pattern, and only stick with things that are realistic for me. Sometimes they’re easier, cheaper, greener and/or healthier than the commercial products that fill most homes. Honestly, having less trash is a big deal for me, because I have to take the trash out less often (and it has some sort of benefit for landfills, too, I hear).  I can take pride in first knowing how to make natural products and satisfaction in using things I’ve made at home.  Go ahead and try one of those “hippie” products. You might discover that you want to be crunchy, too.

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How To

How To Become Catwoman

Once upon a time there was a woman who heard a cat mewing nearby and compassion surged through her. She walked away, but her life had changed forever.

I am a dog person. I grew up with dogs, and I love them. I’ve had my sweet Bichon Frise rescue for over 5 years now, and I love her dearly. She is my baby, my constant companion, and my best friend, and she is largely responsible for what happened in July.

I was in a pet store looking for joint supplements and poop bags for Lucy. As it happened, there was a small room right next to the dog supplies in question with some cages occupied by cats available for adoption. I heard them mewing, as if to say, “Please come say hi to me.” I entered the room, and several of the cats moved toward the front of their cages, hungry for attention, hungry for love. In that moment, my eyes were opened. Shelters are full of cats like this. They may have food and shelter, but they do not have homes.

I left the pet store that day with nothing but the items I went there to purchase. I could not give a cat a home because my apartment complex has pet leases that are for one pet per apartment. A few days later I stopped by to talk to the apartment manager about an issue in my bathroom, and I asked how firm the one pet rule was, to which she responded, “Why? Do you want a cat?” And she said I could have a cat.

Permission granted, I did some research, and made a trip to the shelter just down the road with a cat loving friend. What I found there were two large rooms filled with cats, cats, and more cats. Some of these cats had lived in the shelter for years. Some were quiet, some were shy, and some were bold and friendly. I was standing in one of the rooms, unsure of what to do. I’m a dog person, not a cat person! Then there was a handsome cat who came up to me, and rubbed against my legs. And he rubbed against them more, and I pet him, and he would not leave me alone. I have heard people say about their husband or wife that they “just knew.” Friends, I just knew. In a few minutes, this cat had stolen my heart. After a quick trip to the pet store for some basic cat supplies, I returned, and brought my Thomas home.

I am convinced that cats were meant to be with people. Yes, they are independent, but they can also be wonderful snugglers and quite affectionate. I have transformed, in a matter of a few months (okay, it was more like days), from a dog person into a dog AND cat person. If I had the space and permission, I would continue to adopt animals, because there are so many needing homes. Just last week, the shelter where I got Thomas was adopting out adult black cats for free, and other adult cats for only $25. They really make fantastic indoor pets, and now that I have a cat, I wonder why I never had one before, and think everybody should have a dog or cat or both. Mostly both.

I may be rocking custom cat hair clothes when I go out instead of tight patent leather. I may prefer solid ground to rooves of city skyscrapers. I may pay for things instead of stealing them. I have, however, had a special cat breathe on me and change my life. I opened my heart and my home, and I became Catwoman. Because that just sounds way cooler than crazy cat lady.

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How To

How To Avoid Nightmares

It is not uncommon, according to my understanding of these things, for people to have dreams in which they forgot to complete an assignment for a class and are now thrust headlong into academic failure. Naturally, of course, these dreams haunt those for whom school is just a memory. I have never suffered from such nightmares and would like to share the secret to my peaceful slumber.

My education has taken place in several school settings that include home, private elementary, public secondary, private college, and public graduate. If I ever share opinions on education, chances are I have some insight on the topic from a student’s perspective. All that aside, the setting of one’s education is not really the important part of this. These nightmares are about performance, right?

When I was in early elementary school, I scored in the 36th percentile on a standardized test for one of the math sections, because I struggled with it and was too slow to come close to finishing within the time limit. A few years later, I won second place in an ACSI math competition, and then proceeded to medal in district math competitions all three years of middle school. On various standardized tests in high school, college and beyond, I’ve always finished the math segments well under the time limit, and with much better than average results. Failure lesson number one: Failure now does not guarantee failure in the future.

One year I received a failing grade on a progress report in spelling. Failure in this case was quite simply because I could not be bothered to do my spelling homework. Please understand that I do not usually check my spelling. It bothers me to no end if a word exists and I do not know how to spell it. Being unsure of spelling is a waking nightmare, that terrible moment when the mighty fortress of language begins to crumble around me. This brings us to failure lesson number two: Failure is not always an indication of inability.

I successfully completed high school and college and then took a three year break from school, during which time I did boring adult things like working a full time job. I was quite convinced that academia was the ideal career path for me, and I found myself enrolled in graduate school, once again living the life of a full time student. I hated it. I hated living off of student loans. I hated feeling guilty every time I spent time with friends because I had homework I could be doing. I hated the negative, critical and hypocritical atmosphere in a program that heralded open-mindedness, when the only open thing I saw was mockery of any ideas with which they did not agree. I hated the thought of spending the rest of my life in such an environment, so I did the best thing I could do in such circumstances. I dropped out. I didn’t complete my assignments. I never turned in my final papers. And here we arrive at the most important lesson on failure: Choose failure, yes, even embrace failure, and it will lose the power to haunt your dreams.

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