Thanksgiving Isn’t Over

Woman's Head Profile embossedJohn and I may have finished the leftovers today, but we both believe in giving thanks to the Lord throughout the year. Indeed, He deserves to be thanked, praised and worshiped constantly.

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth!
    Serve the Lord with gladness!
    Come into his presence with singing!

Know that the Lord, he is God!
    It is he who made us, and we are his;
    we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture.

Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
    and his courts with praise!
    Give thanks to him; bless his name!

For the Lord is good;
    his steadfast love endures forever,
    and his faithfulness to all generations. ~~Psalm 100 (ESV)

Thankfulness  comes easily to me now, but I remember (with wincing) a time when thanking God was the last thing I wanted to do! Over 30 years ago, a pastor in my church challenged us to list all our reasons to give thanks. At the time, I was so bitter about being single that I couldn’t think of even one blessing God had given me. Isn’t that a slap in His face? In reality, He had done so much for me, but I refused to recognize His bounty. Sad, huh? I must have grieved His heart!

So let me list some of the things (and people) I’m thankful for now. This is only a partial list, but hopefully it will bless some of you.

I’m thankful for:

My salvation through the shed blood of Jesus Christ. Left to myself, I would deserve eternity in hell, but God has graciously paid for my sin. If He’d done nothing else for me, this one blessing alone would be more than I could ever ask! That is my highest joy!

My husband, who is all I ever hoped for in a husband, only better! His godliness inspires me to live in ways that please the Lord. His example inspires me to show  consideration to other people.

My mom, who  passed away in June of 2014 at the age of 98. She was incredible, and I praise God for all she did to make sure I was born and then make sure that I would lead a normal and full life.

My college education.

All the friends I’ve had from different times, places and situations.

My power wheelchair, which gives me so much independence. The term “confined to a wheelchair” baffles me, especially when John and I wheel around downtown Boston without getting winded. Not many couples in their 60’s can do what we do!

My headstick and computer, both of which open so many doors for me.

Living at a time when disabled people have so many opportunities and support systems. I am amazed that John and I, both so severely disabled, can live independently and contribute to society.

Our Personal Care Attendants.

My sister, her two daughters and her three grandchildren.

Our third floor apartment with the view of the woods. I love watching summer sunsets and the first snowfall of the season.

Living so close to Boston, where I can visit so many historical sites, museums and places to eat cannolis. I have never loved a  city as much as I love Boston. How wonderful of the Lord to bring me here!

The men and women who, beginning with the Boston Massacre and continuing right through this war on terror, sacrifice themselves for American freedom.

Food in our kitchen and clothes on our backs.

Health. John survived colon cancer and a heart attack in 2012, making me so thankful for each day we have together.

Our church, that preaches God’s Word and supports a wide variety of ministry organizations and missionaries, and opens its arms to us.

This blog, which allows me to proclaim the Gospel, teach women from the Scriptures and bring honor to Christ the King.

Power As Perspective

As humans, we easily worry. Okay, I’ll be more honest by saying that,  because I still battle my stinking, rebellious flesh, I commit the sin of worry often enough to confess it in my daily prayers. I suspect that most Christians share my struggle.

It helps me, in combating the sin of worry, to remember God’s sovereign power. He reigns over all circumstances, helpless over none of them. His very creation demonstrates both His awesome might and His concern for the smallest of details. This hymn brings my mind back to His sovereign power in my life so that I see the folly of worry.

The Lesser Known World Changer

It has been nearly a month since Reformation Day, and this blog has taken other directions. I don’t regret those directions, but neither do I want to neglect writing about the Reformation.The topic is too important.

Present day evangelicals have forgotten how that point in history liberated Christians from the abuses of medieval Roman Catholicism, choosing to return to Biblical illiteracy. This choice  violently insults those brave men (and women) of the 16th Century who willingly gave their lives so that people would have full access to Scripture and therefore to Christ Himself.

I had planned to write about John Calvin, since his formulation of doctrine provides so much of Reformed theology’s structure. And I still intend to do so in the next few months, Lord willing. After all, a blog called The Outspoken TULIP can hardly ignore Calvin!

But the Lord, in His providence, has directed my attention to a lesser known Reformer who arguably has had an even greater impact on Christianity than Calvin. William Tyndale defied King Henry VIII and Cardinal Woolsey  by  producing an English translation of the Bible.

While I look forward to writing about Tyndale myself. I’ve decided to introduce him with this 33 minute video by Steven J. Lawson. If you’re rolling your eyes, thinking nothing could bore you more than a lecture on history, this powerful video just might surprise you.

Autobiography With Purpose: My Dirty Little Heart And Grace

Young Lady 01He had thick golden hair that sunlight would dance in. 45 years later, I can’t recall anything else about him, but at the time the slightest bit of attention from him produced exciting (and frightening) sensations that my 17-year-old body had never experienced. Thankfully, the severity of my disability held me back from making myself sexually available to him in the weeks before his deployment to Vietnam.

I fantasized that he’d get me pregnant so that he’d have to marry  me when he returned from the war. As you might guess, however, he made no advances toward me. But 17-year-olds rarely live in reality, and so I clung to hope that I could have the sexual encounter when he came  back to San Rafael. Once he wrote that first letter, providing me with his address, I could surely write letters that would make me irresistible! Couldn’t I?

After he shipped out, I still wanted to know 1) if my feelings indicated true love and 2) if he’d marry me when he came back from the war. (Why wasn’t he writing to me like he promised he would?) Of course, I eagerly read my horoscopes during that time. On a church youth group ski trip, the pastor’s daughter read people’s palms, but I didn’t have a chance to consult with her.

That semester at Terra Linda High, I had made friends with a couple of the “Jesus Freaks” on  campus. One girl in particular spent a lot of time with me, and accepted the responsibility to walk me to the 12:00 van that took me back to the “school for the orthopedically handicapped.” She and I talked endlessly about our  romantic frustrations (though I didn’t disclose my sexual fantasies), but we also talked about Jesus and the Bible.

My friendship with her and acquaintance with the other “Jesus Freaks” influenced me to read my Bible often. I had, since receiving it just before I turned ten, read it more than most children might, but usually I focused on the Psalms or Luke. Being around this group of kids, however, increased my interest in Scripture. I hoped that God’s Word,  combined with astrology and other occult practices,  would help me determine if I really loved my blond sailor. Undaunted by the inconvenient fact that two months had passed without a letter, I randomly opened my Revised Standard Version Bible. What I read did address my question, but in a way that troubled me:

Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down his disciples came to him. And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. ~~Matthew 5:1-9 (RSV)

Verse 8 filled me with sorrow. Would my impure desires for “my” sailor exclude me from going to heaven and seeing God? I hoped I’d been mistaken. At that point, I remembered that my friend at school had called 1 Corinthians 13 “the love chapter,” so I eagerly turned to it.

Love is patient and kind; love is not jealous or boastful; it is not arrogant or rude. Love does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrong, but rejoices in the right. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. ~~1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (RSV)

Oh no! That description was certainly a far cry from the “love” that I felt for the young man in Vietnam! Furthermore, these two passages showed me that God has a standard of love far higher than anything I could ever reach. After reading them, I knew I had no hope of ever going to heaven…which could only mean that I would spend eternity in hell.

After youth group one night, I told my pastor that I feared an eternity in hell (although I avoided the specifics of my sexual intentions). Shocked, he looked at me and told me that I was a good girl who had no need to worry about such things. I shook my head, thinking that he had no idea of the sinfulness that resided inside of me. For two weeks after that I silently struggled with my fears of eternal damnation, but knew I couldn’t tell anybody.

At the end of that period, my friend and I sat talking excitedly about her boyfriend, who had become a Christian just a week earlier. Our conversation was interrupted when another girl joined us. This third girl, smiling broadly, announced that a pastor had just come to talk to her psychology class. Much to her relief, the pastor had declared that people of all religions would go to heaven. In the two weeks since my discussion with my pastor, I had drawn the same conclusion, so I welcomed the confirmation.

My friend rose to walk me to my 12:00 van, but her continence had totally changed. She sighed, “I had so much hope for that girl!”

“What do you mean?” I probed. “Isn’t she right? Buddhists have their way, atheists have their way, and we Christians have our way. We will all get there in the end.”

My friend shook her head, explaining that if everyone was saved, then Jesus died in vain. Then she quoted John 3:16 “For God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.”

Although she didn’t really explain the Gospel, she said enough for me to understand that Jesus paid for my sin when He died on the cross. I have no idea how I made that connection! Obviously, the Holy Spirit gave me the ability to understand that Jesus had paid for my sins of selfishness and sexual impurity. Without saying anything aloud, I vowed to give my life to the Lord Who gave His life for me.

After that, the sailor no longer mattered to me. I was busy reading the Bible and learning more and more about Jesus. But we will talk about those early days of my Christian experience next time we come to this autobiography. For now, let’s just enjoy the wonder of how God worked my lust and disappointment to lead me into a saving faith in Him.


The Discomfort Of Thanksgiving

Years ago, a friend of mine sent me an email, listing her reasons for being thankful. I noticed that, in her abundance of thanksgiving, however, a certain aimlessness to her gratitude. Yes, she offered thanks, and offered it with a joy and intensity that few people possess. But, despite the unmistakable genuineness of her thankfulness, the focus was on the gratefulness itself, with no object.

To what, or whom, was she thankful? God? What sort of “God” did she thank? My guess is, she embraced a hybrid “God” composed of the more agreeable attributes of the Christian God mixed with more Eastern ideas of benign cosmic energy. (I could be wrong, which would be nice.) She never mentioned any form of God, however; she merely exulted in her thankfulness.

Around this time each year, I think about that email, feeling sad that my friend exemplified such a generic gratitude. Thanks, however, must be directed to an actual benefactor. It cannot simply be flung out to an impersonal universe that had very little to do with the blessings we enjoy. Someone with a personality, as well as a personal interest in us, bestowed those blessings as an expression of His kindness.

Abraham Lincoln had a very specific benefactor in mind when, in 1863, he proclaimed that the fourth Thursday of November be a national day of “Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens.” Look at the complete text:

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.
The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.
Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

Whether Lincoln truly was a biblically defined Christian or not, his proclamation leaves little doubt that he intended this holiday to focus on the Christian God, even to the point of national repentance. To him, that God was the necessary object of thanksgiving.

Bringing the Lord into thanksgiving, especially a Lord that both deals with us in anger for our sins and remembers mercy, causes us considerable discomfort. We’d much prefer to thank a mindless universe than acknowledge how indebted we are to an actual Person! If we are in His debt, it follows that He has some type of authority over us. And none of us, if we’re honest, embraces that idea!

The implications of true thanksgiving challenge our increasingly secular culture, compelling Americans to make the day about food, family and football, to be followed by Black Friday bargain hunting. If we must talk about thankfulness, we prefer to keep that aspect minimal, emphasizing our blessings over the God Who blesses us. In short, we insulate ourselves from our debt to Him. And that insulation is incredibly sad.cropped-cropped-img_4654.jpg

Displaying The Pearl

All humans love the idea that we have something inherent in ourselves that pleases God. We firmly believe we bring something to the salvation table. In dealing with the presumption that we can contribute to our salvation, I’d like you to think of Jesus as a perfect Pearl. (I love pearls.) That image, of course, should remain limited to the analogy I present here–I don’t mean to start a new teaching about Jesus being a Pearl! But consider, for this moment, how your life would best show off His beauty. What about you best displays Him?

Perhaps you might immediately think of your good deeds. You’ve given to charitable causes, worked in Christian ministry, raised relatively well-behaved kids, driven elderly neighbors to doctor appointments, sent Christmas cards every year, all while maintaining good health habits to show everyone that you know your body is the temple of the Lord. Your organization and efficiency dazzles everybody. How much you do for Him.

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Or maybe He’s given you talents, such as a good singing voice or the ability to paint beautiful landscapes. Your blog has over 500 followers, most of whom gush endlessly over your knack for “turning a phrase.” Your signature cherry pie is always requested at church potlucks, or people flock to the women’s Bible Study you lead because your sense of humor is legendary. How creative you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but you compete with Him for attention.

Ah, but it’s possible that your piety impresses Him. You were a virgin until your wedding night, and would never flirt with anyone but your husband. You have filters on your computer, you refuse to be alone (even in an elevator) with a member of the opposite sex, and you don’t buy underwear at Victoria’s Secret. Furthermore, you avoid products that exploit workers in Third World sweat-shops, you never drink so much as a glass of wine, and you would  never dream of jay-walking…even in downtown Boston. How moral you are for Him!

Against such a backdrop, the Pearl can be seen, but He barely shows up against your image of purity. Consequently, His glory becomes almost indistinguishable from your own. Once again, you compete with Him for attention.

Actually, I see my own attention-grabbing attitudes in all three of these pictures. Hopefully, you see yourself as well. If we choose these backdrops of self-righteousness, we may convince ourselves that we best display the Pearl, but the reality demonstrates otherwise. As long as we claim anything good about ourselves, we minimize the Lord’s role as Savior.

Jesus is a Pearl, not because our “goodness” displays Him, but because He turns our wickedness into a backdrop for His mercy, grace and love.

Mizou And The Speech Of Christians

ProtestFifty years ago, college students rioted to demand an end to the war in  Vietnam, racial equality and free speech. The Free Speech Movement  began when students at UC Berkley protested the university’s  ban against political activities on campus.

Isn’t it ironic, then, that the current protests at the University of  Missouri and Yale in part demands censorship of “offensive” speech. The very right their grandparents fought for all those years ago now threatens them, making them (dare I say it?) intolerant of words and ideas that  challenge their liberal values. Free speech, in their minds, must restrict itself to liberal ideologies…it must not permit the open exchange of viewpoints.

Yes, I understand that they also protest other issues, and perhaps they have legitimate concerns (having grown up so near Berkley during the 1960s, I have a degree of empathy for these kids). Certainly, I deplore racial slurs, and agree that members of minority groups should be treated with respect. How many times have I endured people calling me “cripple,” “retard” and “spaz,” especially during my childhood?

But I want to risk over-simplifying matters because I see elements in their demands that threaten the freedom of speech for Biblical Christians. The world, largely led by academia and secular media, naturally hates Christ (see Galatians 5:17). As a result, it can’t help but hate Christians who uncompromisingly stand for His Word.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. ~~John 15:18-19 (ESV)

We must understand that Bible-believing Christians have very little time left in which we can legally proclaim the Gospel in the public square. And, even though obedience to the Lord will necessitate rebelling against those who would command us to be silent (Acts 4:18-20), we must prepare our minds for such limitations.

As it stands now, the Constitution of the United States guarantees both the freedom of speech and the freedom of religion. The call to penalize “hate speech” will most likely nullify those freedoms, particularly for those of us who take Scripture seriously. But rather than fighting to preserve rights that our government gave us and may revoke, let’s simply serve the Lord faithfully, regardless of man-made laws.

All Glory To His Name

Thanksgiving sets our minds of family gatherings…and food! John has a big family, so our Thanksgiving dinners feed over forty people. His cousin has remodeled her house twice to accommodate everyone!

But often, in our increasingly secularized society, we forget that we set aside the fourth Thursday of November to offer thanks to the Lord. “We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing…” But do we really? Are we humble and childlike enough to acknowledge our complete dependence on Him and His kind provision toward us? As you enjoy today’s hymn, sung by sweet children, please remember that Thanksgiving gatherings should honor our Lord Jesus Christ.

Whom Do We Thank?

Window View Lace CurtainsThis time of year, people traditionally list things/people/circumstances for which they give thanks. And that’s good. Perhaps our country would better better off if we dispensed with our entitlement mentality and realized that everything we enjoy (down to the very air we breathe) is a gift to us, not a fundamental right that we can claim. I believe I’m a more mature person as a result of shifting my focus from what I don’t have (and would like) to the abundance of blessings that flood in, around and through my life. Being thankful has, in short, counteracted my dissatisfaction with life. I feel less entitled to things.

But aimless thankfulness still misses the mark, it seems to me. Thankfulness requires a benefactor. Someone is responsible for providing these blessings.


Well, yes. But can we define our terms? Is God an undefined spiritual energy which conforms to whatever spiritual expression suits a given person? From my observation of American culture, particularly in the last 50 years, that certainly appears to be the prevailing attitude, even among professing Christians. This all-inclusive entity makes no personal demands, and can be conveniently fashioned into whatever image fits our ideals and lifestyles, so that he/she/it exists for our benefit. It’s all very comfortable to thank such a well-mannered God. He/she/it is wonderfully tame, and doesn’t much interfere in our lives (bothering us with such nuisances as values and–gasp–commands) unless we invite his/her/its intervention.

Of course, the true God is a definite Person Who reveals Himself in the Bible. He lived in Israel for 33 years in the early First Century, and died for our sins, only to be raised three days later as evidence that the Father accepted His sacrifice. Having accepted the punishment for sins that we committed, He rightfully claims authority over us. Those who willingly yield to His authority easily recognize how abundantly He bestows His blessings, knowing how little we deserve anything good. How thankful I am!

14 For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15 from whom every family in heaven and on earth is named, 16 that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17 so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18 may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19 and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ~~Ephesians 3:14-19 (ESV)

Autobiography With Purpose: The Enigma Of Daddy

According to my mom, I was the apple of Daddy’s eye. This photograph from my third birthday assuredly bears that out, don’t you think? I have to depend largely on what3rd Birthday with Daddy Mom told me and the few photos I have of him and me together because I don’t have   many first-hand memories of him.

My father worked as the manager of the Concordia-Argonaut, which at that time was an exclusive men’s club in San Francisco.  (It still maintains private membership, but it now admits women.) He frequently worked evenings and weekends, though probably not as frequently as it seems to me. All the same, I have very few memories, and Mom seldom told us much about him.

I praise the Lord that, despite knowing very little about Daddy, I have never doubted his love for me. Everything else about him seems as wispy as the smoke from his ever-present cigarettes, making it difficult for me to figure out his influence on my life. I have an even harder time determining what, if any, role he played in my understanding of the Lord.

My sister and I both remember going to church with Mom while Daddy stayed home to work on the yard. We’ve both been puzzled, therefore, to learn that he served as church treasurer. Well, yeah…he was a CPA and taught accounting at City College of San Francisco, so he definitely had the skills to be church treasurer. It just makes  me question the validity of my other memories of him. It also causes me to wonder what he may have taught me about Christianity.

Did Daddy’s September 26, 1963 death, just four days prior to my tenth birthday, affect my spiritual development? I’ve been asking myself that question this week, but I can’t come up with a nice, neat answer.

From a writer’s standpoint, it would be handy if I could say that his death left a huge void that caused me to search for solace in God the Father. Perhaps it did, but I have no such recollection. And even if I did, could I trust such a memory, given my inaccurate memories of his church involvements? Rather than claiming a narrative that might make for a tighter plot line, I prefer to be honest and say  that I simply don’t know.

Daddy’s death certainly serves as a watershed moment in my childhood, though not exactly as you might imagine. Keep in mind that I turned ten that very week. Did my heightened awareness of life come from losing my father or simply from entering a new decade in life? There’s really no answer. That next few years saw so much upheaval, beginning with President Kennedy’s assassination two months after Daddy died, that it’s difficult to say anything more than that Daddy’s death defines a turning point in my life.

But amid all the questions and mystery connected with my daddy, I have absolute certainty that he loved me. As a result, I’ve never struggled to see God as a loving Father. Maybe that’s all I need to know.