All posts by Andra M.

Ill Will

I normally don’t hold grudges. It’s not in my nature. Doing so doesn’t necessarily hurt the person I’m angry at, but it always hurts me. Holding on to anger is akin to living in the past, preventing me from enjoying the present and looking forward to the future.

Yet that’s exactly what I’m doing. I mentioned a few months back about some people I work with acting in an unprofessional manner, made worse by the fact I still have to work with them and still be professional when I want to be anything but.

I can’t wait for the day I no longer have to interact or work with any of them. Ever. Again.

In short, while I may never outwardly show my contempt as much as may want to, I look forward to, at the very least, giving them my indifference.

As of now, though, my attitude is so sour, I find myself wishing—praying even—for them to fail at everything they do. I want others to see what I see and abandon them. I want their reputation to take such a spectacular nose-dive, no one else will ever want to work with them, either.

I know what you’re thinking: That’s not very Christ-like of me. After all, does not God love them as much as he loves me? Does God hold his mercy and grace back simply because this piddly little human is angry? The idea is utter foolishness when seen from that perspective, isn’t it?

While my heart is a rabid animal gnawing at the bars of its cage, growling to be let loose to rip apart and devour those who hurt me, my brain is holding the door closed, whispering calm. Reminding my heart that grace, mercy, and forgiveness are always the best roads to travel.

God never wishes me ill will no matter what I’ve done, so I can do no less.

Nor am I supposed to wait until I no longer have to deal with someone in order to do so. God wants us to forgive when it matters most, because he forgives us when it matters most.

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” ~ Ephesians 4:29-32

For the Love of…

I can’t say I truly love language. If I did, I would have spent a lifetime studying more than my native tongue and digging deeper into its intricacies. If anything, when I write, I do so largely by instinct. I can define few of its rules such as “dangling participle” without having to look it up first.

I can, however, say I love the idea of it. I love how it can be used as a weapon as easily as it can heal. It brings people together, encourages creativity. It also causes wars and strife.

God loves language. He created the universe by speaking it into existence (Genesis 1:1-31 & Ps. 33:6). One of Jesus’ names is the Word of God (John 1). Scripture warns us of its power to destroy as well as create (see Proverbs 11:9, 15:4, 16:24 & 18:21).

Yesterday while perusing Netflix, I saw the description of the movie (based on the book by the same name), “The Professor and the Madman” (2019): “Completing the first dictionary will take a bit of smarts and a bit of madness. The words will come eventually,” I was of course intrigued. It’s about how the Oxford Dictionary was first written, the challenges of such a massive endeavor, and how it nearly failed without the help of a criminally insane murderer who alone submitted over 10,000 words.

Mel Gibson plays the professor and Sean Penn plays the madman. Incredibly acted by both, and the dialog alone is fantastic. One quote in particular stuck with me:

“… for every word in action becomes beautiful in the light of its own meaning.”

Words matter; their definitions equally so. Because without their definitions including their etymology (origin), they become flat if not ultimately meaningless—a bunch of letters strung together and nothing else.

Which is why I get particularly grumpy when people (especially our government and other powers that be—including the current Oxford Dictionary publisher, ironically enough) try to erase or ban words, or change their meaning to either make them meaningless or the direct opposite of their origin.

We must protect words and their definition/origins as we would anything else we hold dear, because without language, we can no longer call ourselves human.

I Am Stone

I see people on fire for the Lord. They spread the Good News like flames surging through dry brush during a summer drought.

While I stand on the edge of the field. Watching. Silent.

Envious.

I am not fire. I am stone. Hard and heavy. Immovable.

Yet that is my gift. Because God can use stones to spread the Good News, too.

How, do you ask?

Stones provide strength, a firmer foundation on otherwise shaky ground, such as a beach where sand gives sway to the waves and wind.

Why God chose to make me a rock over a flame, I don’t know. Perhaps I will. Someday. Then again, it’s not a question that deserves an answer. What matters is I remain that rock and depend on God to make me stronger.

All who get fatigued need a place to rest, and be certain that where they rest will be steady. Immovable. And yes, even silent, because sometimes it’s in the silences that we hear God’s voice the clearest.

So while those on fire will find the ones who need to be set aflame themselves, I will watch and wait, not with envy, but with anticipation for those who need a rock to stand on or rest upon. Perhaps, God willing, so they can hear God’s voice in the silence.

“Well Done, Good and Faithful Servant.”

Anyone who’s read my blog and comments will be familiar with one of my most loyal readers, Arnie Fleck.

He didn’t always agree with me, and he was also never afraid to say so. Our discussions were often lively yet always respectful—with some humor thrown in now and then.

Whenever I wrote an entry, especially with regard to Jesus, scripture, or religion in general, I always thought of him and tried to anticipate his reaction. Doing so always helped me make certain I made my stance clear so as not to awaken the dragon who learned how to argue in law school.

I tease, but his love of Jesus, scripture, and law, and to always look deeper has always inspired me.

He passed away on April 1, 2021 at the age of 63.

I will miss him, his words, his encouragement, and, yes, his almost eager willingness to disagree, but I also look forward to the same lively discussions when I, too, reach beyond this mortal veil.

God speed, my friend.

Abandoned?

Last night I watched Episode 2, Season 2 of The Chosen, and it undid me. I bet I blubbered for five minutes after the show ended.

In one scene, the character, Nathanial, cried out to God when a building he designed failed, and how could he fail when everything he did was for God’s glory? At one point he even asked, “Why have you turned your face from me?”

Later he meets Jesus, and one of the first things Jesus said was, “I could not turn my face from you.”

I can’t count how many times I felt as though Jesus has turned away, that all I do—or at least attempt to do—to glorify him is nothing but ash, meaningless, without purpose, a waste of time.

Yet Jesus has not turned away from me, or any of us who seeks him out. We just have to be patient and understand that how we’re using our talents/skills today may take an entirely different turn tomorrow. That our failure may instead be a new opportunity, and Jesus is ever present, ever aware, and will never turn his face away.

A Walking Eyeball?

The instructor for my Wednesday Bible study could be described with one word: evangelist. Her heart and soul is filled with desire to bring others to Christ, to the point of overflowing. She sincerely loves Jesus like few I’ve ever seen.

I am simultaneously inspired, envious, and saddened at my own lack of the same.

Unlike her, I don’t feel the same pull to evangelize to non-believers. As such, I can’t help but ask why. Am I lacking in my own faith? Am I not focused enough on his voice and his word, so in the end he has no (or little) use of me?

Some of you will be rolling your eyes at me, I’m sure. Me questioning my strength and faith is nothing new, and some of you have expressed (for years), that I’m silly to doubt my faith.

Let me assure you that I don’t doubt my faith. My questions derive from my need to strengthen it. How can I do that if I don’t ask questions and seek out where I’m weak?

So back to my question. Am I lacking in something, because I have neither the gift nor desire to win lost souls to Jesus?

Or do I have neither, because Jesus has other plans for me?

One thing I love about both Jesus and Paul are their surgically sharp use of exaggeration and rhetoric to make a point.

In this case, how Paul describes the Body of Christ in 1 Corinthians 12:12-31. Because of its imagery, verse 17 in particularly has always stuck with me: “If the whole body were an eye, where would be the sense of hearing? If the whole body were an ear, where would be the sense of smell?” The first part makes me think of Mike Wazowski in Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.”

Silly imagery aside, it’s the perfect vehicle to make a point, or as Rush Limbaugh used to say, “Being absurd to illustrate absurdity.”

Paul was illustrating the absurd notion that all our gifts should be the same.

Thus proving my own absurdity for believing I (and my gifts) are lacking, simply because my life, gifts and desires don’t mirror others.

So what then are my gifts? What does Jesus intend for me to do if it’s not to evangelize to the lost?

All I can do is ask where my passions point toward instead of where they don’t.

In the simplest terms, I love the Bible, God’s Word. And what I hate is when people (Christians especially) twist scripture to mean the exact opposite of what it says, or when they ignore certain passages in favor of others in order to give themselves license to act a certain way.

That’s not to say I shouldn’t point the lost to Jesus. Quite the contrary. That is the ultimate goal of all within the Body of Christ—of which I’m a part. I’m simply not an evangelist whereby that’s my main and singular goal. Perhaps my job instead is to encourage and help those who do.

So does my passion make me an apologist instead, perhaps even a critic?

I’ll be the first to tell you I don’t know ten percent of what I should about scripture… I know just enough to be dangerous. Yet lately I’ve been in a studious mood both with the Bible study as well as reading non-fiction by those far more knowledgeable about scripture than me.

Or maybe I’m not an apologist so much (at least not yet) as I am a student. Either way, that’s where I belong in the Body as of now (because that could always change). And who am I to argue with God that I’m an ear instead of an eye—figuratively speaking?

Keeping It Professional

I believe that one must always be professional when at work. To let our emotions get the best of us not only tarnishes our reputation, it lessens people’s respect.

That’s not to say it’s always easy, because one can get blindsided by the unprofessional behavior of fellow employees and/or clients.

Such an incident happened to me on Monday with several at my work, and I’ve been struggling ever since.

With clients, the more unprofessional/indignant/belligerent they get, the nicer I act toward them. It works, too. More than once, said rude client has called me back to apologize.

When people I have worked alongside for years break my trust, yet I still must work with them, it takes almost all my willpower to not get passive-aggressive at least and be downright rude and/or think of ways sabotage their own work until their last day. Yet I must set aside my anger, because the work as well as our clients are what matter. They’re certainly not going to care about my bruised feelings if the quality of our product suffers.

So I silently seethe, and internally wish them ill will now and in the future even as I smile and treat them as if nothing’s changed. To be professional regardless of the circumstances. I know, not very “Christian” to curse them—even in my head—but I also have to be honest before I can work past it.

I also think of Proverbs 25:21-22: “If your enemy is hungry, give him bread to eat, and if he is thirsty, give him water to drink, for you will heap burning coals on his head, and the Lord will reward you.”

Emotions are fleeting, and a person’s bad behavior will always come back around to bite them eventually. As long as I keep my professionalism, I won’t have to worry about the same.

The New Heroism

Warning: unpopular opinion ahead.

A few days ago, I engaged in a Facebook discussion (I know, a contradiction in terms). A person complained at how boycotting businesses for a thing-that-shall-not-be-named could potentially hurt her job. I jumped in as I’m often wont to do. As expected, she was a bit offended, and basically said my life was likely unaffected by said thing-that-shall-not-be-named—unlike hers.

I started to respond with my own hardships, but stopped halfway through. I ended up deleting it. This wasn’t a contest about who’s the bigger victim. For me, it’s always about truth, facts, and consequences, and as Ben Shapiro likes to say, “Facts don’t care about your feelings.” Nor does truth or consequences. At the beginning of my last comment, I instead wrote, “Read my comments with the head, not the heart.”

That little exchange is an example of where we are as a society. Not that we approach everything based on our feelings (although that’s part of it), but we’ve chosen to treat some victims as heroes.

Oprah’s interview with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle is another example. I only saw excerpts, but what I did see was nothing but a “woe-is-me” session, and an expectation that Meghan deserves our adoration and respect because royal life is apparently harder than she expected.

Let me add something before I go any further. This is not to minimize or mock anyone’s pain or true victimization. Victims do need their voices heard, especially in a court of law, so the perpetrator of those crimes will be stripped of their ability to victimize others.

This isn’t about victims, either, but how society demands that in order to be heard, a person must be a victim.

The Facebook conversation above highlights that tendency: my opponent tried to silence me by basically saying, “You’re not a victim of the thing-that-shall-not-be-named, so you have no right to speak about it.”

One need not be a victim of an injustice or crime to opine on it. We all have a conscience, and most have an innate knowledge of right and wrong, good and evil. We not only have the right to say something, but the duty.

Being a victim does not make one an expert on a particular subject. It’d be like me saying that since I lost a tire hitting a pothole while crossing a bridge, I’m now an expert on road and bridge engineering.

I applaud everyone who’s risen above their hardships with grace and determination—and humility. What I won’t do is bow before them (figuratively or literally), or be expected to shut up because I’ve not faced the same hardship.

And neither should you or anyone else.

Brain Food

Everyone approaches Jesus a little bit differently. Some approach him with the heart, others with the head. Many of us use a combination of both, which is important, I think. The most important part of God’s law, after all, can be summed up with “Love God with all your heart, all your soul and all your mind.”

I can appreciate those who search for and find Jesus with their heart. I, however, am not one of those. That’s not to say I’ve never felt God’s presence, or that he’s never comforted my heart when I needed it. He most certainly has. Yet I still seek him with my head first. I long to know him as much as I enjoy feeling his presence. I want him to teach me all about himself, and for him to show me all of his creation and how it works.

So when I saw the book at my church by Lee Strobel called “The Case for the Real Jesus,” (Zondervan, 2007) how could I, in my insatiable intellectual curiosity, not pick it up?

This one addresses five attacks on Christ’s identity, namely that the resurrection never happened, Jesus never considered himself the Messiah, the early church suppressed other, equally valid and important gospels, that scribes tampered with the Bible, and how Jesus dying on the cross for our sins is a “barbaric concept that would make God guilty of cosmic child abuse.”

I’m on page fifty-three so far, and it’s feeding my brain. Hence the title of this entry. Lee Strobel, like me, approaches God with logic, rational arguments and digs for concrete, verifyable evidence for Jesus. His approach is similar to Dennis Prager, another one of my favorite biblical/religious scholars, but that’s a side topic…

Strobel takes nothing on faith alone. Everything he believes—or chooses to believe—must be verifiable. Like his other books, he brings us along on his journey of discovery, to ask the difficult questions knowing that such a journey could end up changing all his notions of who God is. That’s a hard road to travel, because few people want their beliefs—especially long-held beliefs—to be proved false.

It’s often a matter of pride, that fear. Who likes to admit they’re wrong or perhaps been deceived? I know I don’t.

Yet I also know, like Strobel, and even in Matt Walsh’s book I discussed in a previous entry, the truth matters more than anything. It does not change or become a lie simply because we chose to ignore or disbelieve it.

So do any of the above attacks against Jesus and Christianity have merit? You’ll have to take that journey of discovery yourself. As of now, for me, my brain is full. It’ll be hungry for more in the morning, I’m sure. Luckily, unlike real food, brain food doesn’t add literal fatty pounds to my belly.