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Posts Tagged ‘submission’

Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Drawing by Oldřich Kulhánek

Job did. At least, that’s what is written about him in Job 7:16 and then again in chapter 10, verse one.

I despise [loathe, hate] my life; I would not live forever.
    Let me alone; my days have no meaning. [Job 7:16, NIV]
and . . .
I loathe [hate] my very life;
    therefore I will give free rein to my complaint
    and speak out in the bitterness of my soul. [Job 10:1, NIV]

The dictionary defines “despise” as loathing and “loathing” as a feeling of disgust or intense aversion for something. If we switch over to the word “hate,” it is defined as an intense or passionate dislike, an extreme hostility toward something.

In the early weeks or months of Job’s suffering (no one knows for sure how long he suffered, but most scholars count his time in months and weeks and not years), he hated his life. His suffering was so intense, his dismay at the losses, his “why me” lament, caused him such intense feelings, that he abhorred his very existence.

And yet, he did not kill himself. He was, despite it all, somehow surrendered to God’s will.

There is so much I do not understand about Job, but I do see this: he was in terrible pain. He was distraught and hated his circumstances. He wanted it all to end. He wanted to forget, to stop feeling, to stop experiencing all that was horrible in his life. He was attacked by his own friends and he was misunderstood. Nothing new there. Job was fully human. He was no angel in his torture and so he cried out with intensity and even venom. But he remained.

Even his wife said he should “curse god and die!” She too suffered, but ultimately placed the blame fully on Job’s own shoulders. As did his friends.

Apparently, someone has to be to blame. We do it in our modern times too, don’t we? It’s the boss or the President or the Congress or the neighbor. It’s the parents or the children or the Pastor or the car in front of us. It’s the farmer or the industrialist or the millionaires on Wall Street. It’s the Muslims or the Gays or the Polygamists. It’s the Jews or the Christians or the liberals or the conservatives. They did something! Things are bad. Someone did or said something to bring this on. Right?

Or, maybe, just maybe, it’s up to us to simply stand in the midst of the storm.

Therefore put on the full armor of God, so that when the day of evil comes, you may be able to stand your ground, and after you have done everything, to stand.” [Ephesians 6:13, NIV]

When my friend, Mary, died on Mother’s Day, 2013, she endured several months of the ravages of pancreatic cancer. Her disease was inoperable and therefore, nothing could be done but to ride it out. When I visited her early in her death pilgrimmage, I will never forget her words: “I did nothing to cause this. I have been healthy all of my life; I ate well, I exercised, I took care of my body and my spirit. This is simply part of my journey and I will to experience it fully, without blame toward anyone, including Spirit.” And so she touched hundreds of lives in her final months and died with no miraculous healing or recuperation.

She did not despise her life or her God.

Hate and disdain, name-calling and blame-shifting, take up a lot of energy. They suck up valuable human resources.

No more. No more.

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Anointing His Feet 2
by Wayne Forte

Worship, in English, can mean to “declare worth.” That’s comfortable. However, in the original Greek, proskynéō means to kiss the ground while falling prostrate to a superior. When was the last time you fell to your knees before someone or something of such awesome worth or value?

Revelation 22:8b-9
I [John] fell down to worship at the feet of the angel who had been showing them [the prophecies] to me. But he said to me, “Don’t do that! I am a fellow servant with you and with your fellow prophets and with all who keep the words of this scroll. Worship God!”

The angel is saying to John, don’t fall down before me, but fall down before the One God, individually and corporately.

In some ways, the Muslim expression of worship is more in keeping with the intent of the word. Other faiths like the Orthodox denominations, Catholics, and some Eastern religions practice deep bowing and submissive movements. In recent years, some charismatic believers have found their deepest experience of prayer when it is coupled with lying prone, face down.

But most of us have lost the physicality of worship. A high church may still have kneelers (to make the submissive act more agreeable) but generally, the most common form of respect is standing up, not kneeling. Some church congretations stand to sing and some stand to pray while still others stand to hear a gospel passage spoken. There are denominations who do lots of standing up and sitting down (with a kneel or two in between) and there are denominations who have made the standing part optional, for those who find standing difficult.

And yet, for little children, the cliche for night time prayers is on the knees at the side of the bed. Perhaps even that has gone a bit out of style, I don’t really know, although figurines still abound with cherub children, hands sweetly folded, and eyes closed. It’s sweet. It’s innocent. But is it worship? Is it prayer? Is it surrender? Why do we encourage children to do this kneeling bit but not we ourselves?

In more contemporary churches, worship has come t mean the singing part of a service: a series of songs, starting with fast praise and then followed by a gradual slow down into devotional melodies and words of adoration. And repetition has become a sign of a deeper experience.

I’m not putting any of these “expressions” down. I faithfully attend a contemporary church. I’m right in there.

But, if I take any time at all to think about it, I do find most forms of Western worship to be very predictable and perhaps, if truth be told, a bit colorless and watered down. We keep boiling down the experience of worship into the most common denominator. Whether the service is a lively 60 minutes or a filibustering three to four hours, we are no closer to kissing the ground before God in adulation and acknowledgment of a divine presence.

After visiting several churches of the Middle Ages up through the Renaissance periods in Europe, I can understand why they designed them that way: they were attempting to remind us of the enormousness of God and smallness of Human. Whether sitting, standing, or kneeling, a person feels the divergence between self and the vaulted representation of all that is above and beyond. What do we have in the U.S.? Mauve chairs, blue carpet and artificial flower arrangements. Comfort, comfort, comfort, to the eye as well as the buttocks.

Everything is so controlled in our churches. Either it’s a repetitive liturgy or it’s an “order of service” that is constrained by the clock. Even those services not confined to time are confined to set rituals.

How many times have I really felt and expressed my absolute surrender to God, Spirit God, Father God, Holy God? When has my body responded spontaneously to my soul’s understanding? When did I ever put my life in danger and touch the hem of the Master’s cloak or wash His feet with tears and dry them with my hair? When did we moderns lose our ability to relinquish self to the Holy Spirit?

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Sarah? I’m to emulate Sarah, wife of Abraham, a major control freak who convinced her husband to take his servant/concubine [Hagar] to bed in order to “get on” with God’s promise already. Culture prevailed (a norm). And so it was with Peter’s women.

I Peter 3:3a, 4, 6a
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, . . . Instead, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. . . like Sarah, who obeyed Abraham and called him her master.

All right, I’m sorry, but as many of you know, most of the female to male submission passages are hard on my digestion. It’s not that I don’t want to show respect to my husband as a person, I do; I should. I certainly don’t denigrate him to others, and after almost 30 years of marriage, I think we’ve worked out a lot marriage kinks (leaving others for heaven’s explanations).

It’s also lovely to be reminded by Peter that a person’s beauty (male or female, I believe) comes from within. It has to so; otherwise, the aging process would send us all to the looney bin. Love, marriage, friendship: they all have to be rooted and grounded in the “person” who resides inside the body, who is eternally young and vital, who is not of this three dimensional world.

Since the whole idea of marriage or male & female appears to be a non-issue “in” heaven [see both Matthew 22:29-30 & Galatians 3:28], men and women are seen equally by God, doesn’t that truth balance out this very specific teaching of Peter (that same Peter who hedged and refused to eat with gentiles in the face of certain powerful Jews)?

Peter was asked constantly by God to think outside the box (creatively & innovatively). He broke several essential Jewish laws when he entered the home of Cornelius and shared both the gospel of Christ as well as a meal with gentiles. He left his wife and family to follow Jesus for months at a time. He challenged his own belief in miracles, tried walking on water, shared in the multiplication of food, and experienced the transfiguration. Everywhere he turned, Jesus stretched and pulled him away from the norm of the day. And for a long while, he allowed his beloved Master to take him there.

But Peter was also a slave to his culture. He was no different from the other disciples, mostly unidentified, who marveled and wondered at the relationships that Jesus had with women, from the woman at the well to the woman who washed his feet with her tears and hair to Mary of Magdala, one cursed and healed of seven demons.

Both the liberal view and the conservative view of women can be found in scriptures. What do I believe? Which verses will corroborate my presuppositions?

The last time I encountered the bold words of Paul and his passages on submission of wives to their husbands [Ephesians 5:21-32], I accepted their literalness but took a pass on embracing them purely on a male/female basis. Instead, I chose, instead, mutual submission, which I still believe to be more fitting. So, I do the same today.

We could all argue until we are blue in the face about these passages. It’s not worth it. Instead, I’ll opt for that gentle and quiet spirit and may it yield an unfading beauty that transcends human interpretations, mandates, and rules about being a Christian woman and wife. Selah.

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I have studied wisdom in the scriptures off and on for some years. Wisdom, as she is personified female in Proverbs, intrigues me. I had forgotten, until now, that wisdom reappears here in James. And she is freely available to me, if only . . .

James 3:17
But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.

First of all, I think it’s important, in this case, to remind myself (and you, dear reader) that the kingdom of God is within me by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. And yet, as big as God is, obviously, not all of God is within me either, just my share. But, as surely as that portion is within me, then my portion of wisdom is there as well. Both wisdom and the Holy Spirit are part of me, working in me to bring about my sanctification, my fullness in Christ, the light, released in totality, my actions a mirror of what is good and right, living through generosity, sacrificial letting go, and holiness.

These are the kernels which I have not yet appropriated from wisdom: purity (of thought, actions, motives); loving peace more than being right; being considerate of others without judgment or obligation; submitting my way to the Holy Way; offering mercy first; manifesting the good fruit of love in action; impartiality toward those who are rich or poor, sick or well, strong or weak; and above all sincerity and authenticity, plainly in view.

Wisdom is my fraternal twin who I have ignored most of my life.

What prevents our closeness, our unity? Envy and selfish ambition. These are my step-sisters. They are the ones I brought into my Christ relationship years and years ago. I hid them in the closet, believing they might still be needed one day, their personalities tempered by the Presence. Instead, when they came out, they were the same. And like Cinderella’s step-sisters, they were still cruel taskmasters, who take advantage of my every situation, point out what I am lacking, what I should have, who I could be, where I could live, if only . . .

They are the drum beat that never stops. They are the ones who taught me that what I have is never enough. They are the ones who encourage perfectionism. They are the ones who surround me like 360 degree mirror to show me all of my flaws and weaknesses and drive me to run faster, harder, longer.

Envy, Selfish Ambition, I want you to meet my other sister, Wisdom. She is going to live here now too. She is strong and knowledgeable. She is my advocate.

And she wants me to try on the glass slipper.

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Artwork by Gretchen Smith

Most of us know the short verse, “Jesus wept” [John 11:35]. We might even get a warm and fuzzy feeling at the picture of a sympathetic Christ, weeping for his friend. But how often does anyone quote this verse in Hebrews, where Jesus cries out loud and sheds tears before God?

Hebrews 5:7
During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, he offered up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

After a quick look at some of the commentaries, it’s interesting to me that most writers place all this “weeping and wailing” right before his death in the Garden of Gethsemane, as though this is the one time Jesus encountered his destiny and travailed before the Father. But I propose that the prayers and supplications of Jesus were ongoing. Think about it: how many times did Jesus miraculously escape the authorities? How many times did he suspect danger in his life, anticipate a shortened ministry, protect himself and his work by discouraging loose talk or gossip among his followers?

Jesus knew his life was forfeit but I can imagine him praying regularly, “Not yet . . . not yet. Give me a little more time.”

Jesus needed help and protection from God continually, not just in the garden, but throughout his ministry life. And in the same way that he emptied his heart and soul before God at Gethsemane, I believe he did this regularly and undoubtedly during many of those solitary prayers he sought out on the mountainsides, away from the disciples.

Lastly, I am intrigued by the idea of a noisy Christ. I mean, I don’t know about you, but a mental picture of Jesus roaring or wailing before God is difficult to wrap my mind around. And yet, why not? Isn’t it culturally appropriate? Would Jesus be “above” such behavior, such expression of need, desire, or supplication? Not at all.

I have experienced deep crying out to God and weeping but only at those times of deepest despair, betrayal, or fear. When I cried out to God at such times, I confess, it wasn’t that I put all my trust in God, I was merely bereft of hope, overwhelmed, and felt as if there was nowhere else to turn, I was “poor in spirit.” It was my last chance.

I wonder, were there circumstances and situations that Jesus did not expect to happen? Was he ever surprised (or surprised all the time)? Did he expect/hope his follower-disciples would “get it” sooner than they did (or did they get it while he was still alive at all?); was he troubled by the masses of people who easily followed him day after day for “bread and fish” but could not grasp the food of the Spirit; was he frustrated by his own inability to break through thousand-year-old traditions and beliefs? Did he cry out to God the day he called himself the “bread of life” and taught them about eating his flesh and drinking his blood–so many deserted him that day. I can imagine him saying, “Father, how do I reach them?”

And yet, each day, he submitted again and again and again to the role he was given to endure (in the order of Melchizedek); he pressed on. He woke up, he prayed, he taught, he ate, he miracled. And finally, he reached that God-ordained last day, that last supper, and that last prayer. My spirit tells me now: his garden prayers were not the first time he bled in sweat nor flooded the ground with his tears. His life in the Father was full of prayers and supplications every day.

Holy tears for me. Thanks be to God.

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I confess, I don’t like this idea in general, that God’s supernatural creativity might be, in some way, self-serving. Instead, I would like to ponder his generosity, his love, his willingness to create . . . for me!

Colossians 1:16
For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him.

Aren’t my own prayers ultimately self-serving? Help me be a better parent (for my kids is it? or for my success vs. failure as a mother?); give me favor at my work (so that the business will grow or people will love and congratulate me?); help resolve our financial situation (to show God’s power in this area or help me get out of debt so I can buy something else?).

I need to get over any kind of surprise that God, all God, all knowing, powerful and present in all things, can operate in His will and not only will it please himself, it will please me as well . . . if I let it. If I trust God, if I go with the flow of God’s spirit in and through both my invisible and visible life.

There is a story of a human who questioned God’s right to do as God wishes. His name is Job and it takes 42 chapters to get to the essence of it. God is sovereign. God is God. That’s just how it is.

I can either fight God and walk against the wind or row upstream or I can yield to God. Pretty simple really.

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If love is a type of submission, as I believe it is, then that is the best place to start with this controversial passage about wifely submission. You see, if ALL are to submit to one another, why must the “wife to husband” submission be “greater” or more submissive as some people imply?

Ephesians 5:22, 24
Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. . . . Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything.

I’m still taking baby steps when it comes to loving as Christ loved others. Here’s my theory: if I can love/submit to my husband a fraction of what Christ models for me to love/submit to everyone, we’ll have a transformed marriage.

The same habitual sins I experience with others in my daily life are magnified at home. For instance, if I judge others, even people I don’t know in the grocery line or sitting in a restaurant, is there any surprise that I judge those closest to me?

Probably, the love/submission relationship was supposed to be easier with our mates, after all, we’ve made a promise to love them, to cherish them, to stand beside them through joys and sorrows, to create families, to build a microcosm of the Church (i.e. Body of Christ). Instead, we build mini-cultures that reflect the culture in which we live. In some families, that means an environment of greed, ambition, violence, mistrust, disease, and manipulation.

I missed something along the way and forgot that my own husband is “sacred other.” He is Holy Spirit illuminated too. And that is the One to whom I am to submit within him. It is not the veiled man, but the core that is holy. And it is the core of man that is more than worthy of love and yes, even submission.

Some of his veil I caused. When two people hurt each other or become estranged in any way, the darkness covers the light within on both sides. I have been looking through two layers of sin: my own and his.

It’s a uncertain business to begin peeling the layers of “outer self” in a relationship while the other is fully clothed and protected. But I am pretty sure that “outer me” cannot love/submit to anyone in the way of Jesus.

Today, I have intention and mindfulness with love and submission for the Holy Spirit.

(FD 9)

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