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How Could Someone DO Something Like That?

Good_and_evil_Heart_V_2_by_TokokizoraHow could someone DO something like that?

This is what we ask ourselves when events like the recent crash of the German passenger plane happen. Or bombings at a marathon finish line. Or shootings at numerous schools. Or museums. Or places of worship.

We are faulty, we humans. But are we at fault? Can we help ourselves?

A pastor friend once remarked, the line between good and evil is drawn straight through every human heart. Yes, I feel this potential in me. Perhaps that’s why these atrocities hit “home.” Because I can see the possibility alive in me to do what I know I should not do, perhaps in a way that is permanently destructive. In this temptation toward evil, I must continuously choose good.

What if our mind is confused about which one is which? What if the truth is so veiled that all we see is evil and it is masquerading as good?

I am told  — and the Bible says — that Jesus died to save me from my sin. That I can come near the One who is completely Good because the separation between us, the cleft of sin, has been banished. But what of my heart – the one I so very well know – that is part good and part evil? How can I turn from my own faulty choice to God’s will?

The truth is, anything that turns me away from the Absolute Good is evil for me. That turning is different for each of us, because different temptations beckon. Absent this awareness and I am the pilot. I am the bomber. I am the shooter.

While none of us alive today heard Jesus speak when He walked the earth, His death and risen life made way for the Spirit of Christ to open our ears to the divine command, “This is my Son whom I have chosen. Listen to Him!”

Lord, quiet the clamor which shouts you down and the internal chatter which drowns you out. Help me to listen closely and only to You. Amen.

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The path toward right

It’s so hard to stay on track. What with everything pulling us this way and that. Attractive things. Tempting things. Necessary things. They all tug at our sleeves insisting we pay attention. Perhaps this is something of the sense Jesus had in the crowd when the woman who had suffered hemorrhages for years touched the hem of his clothes and was immediately healed. It stopped him into asking “Who touched me?” because he felt the power that had gone out of him.

I wonder about the power going out of me by all this tugging and touching and tempting. Is it dribbling and leaking? Or is it the power of healing to those whom I pass? Am I so determined to stay the course, persist in my doing, struggle through any obstacle, that I apply all of my power to my own path? Because that, I fear, is what happens when I fix my eyes on an objective and insist on getting there in my own strength.

“He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake…” Psalm 23 says. Not, he jumps me straight to the end because I am special or because I have been well-behaved or even because he chooses to. He guides me on the path toward right. The ‘not right’ in me gets me off track. People call this ‘not-rightness’ sin. The Bible calls this not-rightness sin. And we suppose it stands on the path between us and Goodness. It separates us from God, we say, and that seems so.

But what separates may not be something that stands between. It may very well be something that stands behind and calls, or stands next to and tugs, or passes near and tempts. All it takes to draw me off course is a slight misalignment. So, I must attend to my guide, moment by moment.

How many paths of righteousness are there? I don’t know. But they all lead to the foot of the cross. And from each of our vantage points that direction will look a bit different. Almost as if we each stood and looked at the shadow cast by the sun’s beams spilled on the cross itself. The way would look straight from where we are. How simple! But as we walk, the sun rises and the sun sets and the path ebbs ever so slightly. Following it requires constant attention, supreme diligence and everlasting patience when clouds descend. All character traits I expect God intends to sow in me, not to battle death or defeat sin; He has taken care of that. No, I expect they are the power of God to heal. Heal me and heal others.

So many paths.

So we can journey onward toward the foot of the cross, the gateway to the Father Himself. Same gate. Same Way. Infinite number of paths.

Funny, during Lent the path has a different feel under my feet – a sodden, squishy, slosh. And there is a beautiful reflective quality to it, a sort of darkened, deepened, glow. Almost as if the shadow is cast on a lake and I am, we are, walking on water. The cross is planted on firm ground right at water’s edge. Set there to welcome travelers who are damp from effort. “Come on in and dry off,” it seems to say.

Hey, if we are baptized into new life, surely we can be dried off into Kingdom living.

The Binary System: A Simple Guidance System

Life would be so much simpler if everything were worth one point. Every good deed (+1). Every wrong word (-1). Every worship attendance (+1). Every devotional time (+1). Every evil thought (-1). Every angry “take that” response (-1). Every exasperated “it’s about time” (-1). Every “I can’t believe he…” (-1). Every “he can’t be trusted” (-1). Every…

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be simpler, but it would be much easier to quantify and see where we stand.

A book came out in 1992 called, Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus, by John Gray. Now it has the subtitle:”The Classic Guide to Understanding the Opposite Sex.” I found it quite insightful about the different approaches men and women used as life strategies. Really quite telling about the dichotomy of the sexes. I remember reading it along with my friend Chris and she and I dumb-founded our husbands when we were in full agreement that yes, everything (they did for us) was worth one point. That was our operating principle. You get one point for giving the kids a bath. One for the dozen roses. One for nice jewelry and one for not leaving the toilet lid up. The guys had trouble with our math.

But I wonder how it works in the economy of God. It really doesn’t seem fair that “big sins,” you know the really heinous ones like murder and adultery and stealing, are in the same category with little white lies I told just to protect her feelings, and the minor theft of the office notepads that I needed to do mostly (okay, some) office work in my home office, and playing the online solitaire games and keeping up with Facebook and twitter? – that was simply a healthy distraction in my 14 hour work day over my 70 hour work week. Okay, these are transgressions, but really quite small. Give ’em a (-1), but then shouldn’t the big ones be (-100)?

Well, no. Break one – you break ’em all, according to the Bible. Everything is worth a point. Just like Chris and I agreed and applied to our husbands. Maybe we got this idea from the Big Guy. Our guys probably were just slower to get the message :). The thing is, the +1/-1 system seems like really good news if we’re guilty of “big stuff” and only receive -1’s . It’s a bit harder to swallow if we think we’ve been pretty good this year. Which is tricky because self-evaluation can be a very slippery business, especially when there’s a comparison group for validation. Hey – that’s just good science, right? Compared to the norm, I deserve the A grade.

But God doesn’t compare to the norm. Probably guffaws at the whole idea of a bell curve and a standard distribution when it comes to human behavior. We are the ones who get tangled up in the statistics. He has made it very simple. Everything is worth one point. I’m here at the Center; come to Me.

And Christ, the Binary King, graciously evens the scales when we look His way, nod in His direction, and ask His forgiveness. Look, nod and ask, all three. A ‘leaning in’ or an ‘intending to’ doesn’t get it. But the moment we voice it, we’re level at 0. New game.

We find this hard to believe because the earthly equation operates so differently: you count more. you count less. you don’t count at all.

Even if we do count by ones, we can bury ourselves by forgetting to pay attention to the signs. Was that + or -? Guess wrong and that’s a big shift in binary zone. No, we’re meant to attend to the details. Evaluating and decision-making are essential. Do we trust this? find this authoritative? does this sound right? speak truth? seem real?

But what a wise God to give us the binary system. If, in each decision, we keep checking with Him, keep confirming we have the right sign, we’re only ever one unit from center. Even when we commit the biggest mistake or are guilty of the biggest sin.

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