Me, My Self, and I

Doing the “Right Things”

Recently, in a discussion, someone said they didn’t understand why they had this constant struggle as a Christian to do the right things. “I guess I am a bad Christian,” they said. Usually, there are the pat answers given to this statement. “You’re not praying enough. You don’t have enough faith or you haven’t given it to God.” I say these are pat answers since they seem to be all too common in Christian circles.

Now, before you feel I am being too harsh here to those who have said these things in response, know that I have said them many times myself and to myself. But I have come to realize that is where the problem lies: with the Self.

I am attempting to complete a devotional book that stemmed from me texting my children bible quotes and a little explanation as to what they meant and what I felt God was saying to me through those scriptures. They would send these to their friends and others would also begin to join the text list. Before I knew it I would spend fifteen to twenty minutes each time typing in the phone numbers for all the people who were following the texts. I would end the little devotion with the phrase: It’s a choice.

Hear Me Out

man wearing suit jacket sitting on chair in front of woman wearing eyeglasses

Doing the “right thing” is a choice. Please hear me out. It’s not always an easy choice, but it is a choice. A choice, a decision that you make. Each and every time. We are faced with thousands of choices every day and how we choose determines our results. I have heard it said, “You are where you are because of the choices you made.” Immediately, I can hear someone say “I didn’t choose for my parents to die…” or fill in any tragedy. True, but you choose how you respond and how you respond will determine where you will be. What about instinctive reactions?

Let me break it down like I did recently to a person who made something similar to my opening statement. That is, look at the Me, My Self, and I. Me is the combined Self and I working in unison. The “Self” is the body, the flesh, as the Apostle Paul put it. The “I” is the conscious thought or personality of the Person within the Self. Also called the Spirit. (Not to be confused with the Holy Spirit). The “I” cannot always control the Self, because the Self will do whatever comes naturally to the Self. Ah, but the “I” or the Spirit can train the Self.

Self and Spirit

gray and white short coated cat on brown wooden table top

Let’s say we could take the “I” or Spirit portion out of a human and put it in a cat, which, by-the-way spends two-thirds of its life sleeping. There may be a symbiotic relationship developed over time, but the cat is going to do what cats do. Ever try to control a cat? The Spirit could train the cat eventually, but it will always be a cat and will probably behave like a cat even when the Spirit works feverishly to train the cat. The first part of learning to train the cat would be for the Spirit to learn about cats and then work with the cat to a desired end, knowing all along that the cat will still sometimes act out of instinct.

Now, look at the human being in the same light. You have a depraved, fallen human who, though created in the image of God, acts like a depraved fallen human and in many respects as an animal. (See Galatians 5:19-21) This is the Self. Think of these phrases in this light:

  • I lost control of my Self.
  • I couldn’t help my Self.
  • I have really let my Self go.
  • Get a hold of your Self.
  • Would you look at your Self?
  • Get your Self some rest.
  • Get your Self something to eat.

Who lost control of the Self? The Spirit. The situation is even worse. Inside the Self resides a fallen, depraved, darkened, blinded Spirit. The Spirit inside the Self, which is a spark of the Divine, is dead, and the Self is only operating off training and instinct. Autopilot if you will. Subsequently, the Self will continue to act and behave like the depraved, fallen creature that it is. It should not surprise Christians when non-believers act the way they do. They are acting according to their nature and they cannot control nor help their Selves. They are slaves to this nature.

What is one to do?

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

The Spirit within must be reborn. That spark of the Divine within must be quickened, as the Bible calls it. It must be exposed to the light of the transforming power of Jesus. It must be made alive. Jesus didn’t come to earth to make bad people good. No, He came to earth to make Spiritually dead people, alive. This is the only way the Self can be tamed and trained. And with the help of the Holy Spirit that now will be there within to help get the Self under control.

In this new state, the Spirit takes on the “new creation”, but the Self is still depraved and fallen. Yet, control can be exerted. Granted, the Self will still act up and do things that leave the Spirit wondering “what just happened or why did I say or do that?” However, the Spirit under the direction, leadership, and power of the Holy Spirit can take control. That is why it says in Galatians that one of the fruits of the (Holy) Spirit is “self-control.”

Summary – What Now?

Here are summary statements that I have found helpful.

  • You’re not going to get it right all the time. Even the Apostle Paul stated that he (the super saint) still did things that he did not want to. His Self still acted out. That’s why he said he buffeted his body. He was still struggling with his fallen Self even with a redeemed Spirit. Thank you, Jesus, for I John 1:9.
  • Seek to understand your Self with all its quirks, tendencies, traits, likes and dislikes. Your Self is unique and you have to understand the basic human first and then understand the Self in which you reside.
  • Cut your Self some slack. God does. That doesn’t mean you are to give the Self a pass. It means keep moving toward maturity under the direction of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t expect you to be perfect, but he does expect you to head in that direction.
  • When you fall, and you will, pick your Self back up and go again. Proverbs says a righteous man will fall seven times and get back up again. Don’t wallow in Self pity and feel sorry for your Self. You are a child of the King of the Universe.
  • Don’t beat your Self up for being its Self. You don’t beat your cat or dog for being a cat or a dog. You train them. Train your Self. It takes patience, time, and the help of the Holy Spirit Trainer to train your Self. Read the training manual used by the Trainer. It’s called the Bible and that is why it is there.
  • Love your Self. See your Self as God sees your Self. Worthy of loving and investing in. He sent His Son to reconcile you back to Him.

If you have not come to a place where you know for sure that your Spirit is made new. You can. God waits to renew your Spirit. Click here for more information.

How Did They Feel?

My Thoughts

Ever have one of those phrases get stuck in your head and wonder how it got there and why? I do. I have come to see it as the Holy Spirit speaking to mine to remind me of something or to teach me something. The phrase that has occupied my thoughts this week is: “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” Of course, I had to wonder why this was haunting my thoughts. I couldn’t remember who said it or where I heard it.

Seasons of Life

back bus education school

As I am sure you know, life has seasons. Each culture seems to have these defined according to what is going on in that society. Currently, we are in the “back to school” season. We have had our share of this with four children through high school and college, but this year was a little different as our oldest daughter’s “back to school” would actually to be as the teacher.

Usually, my summers are consumed with work and working around the house to make repairs. There are a few trips to the beach with my wife and mini vacations. I might even have some sort of garden. This summer a good portion of my summer was spent helping my oldest daughter move from college to our house and then from our house to the new house for her to be on her own.

Children coming back home with all the stuff they have with them, in this case, to include two cats, can be challenging. To be honest, it has worn us out and taxed our patience. It was a break from our routine. I am a routine type of person, and I was definitely out of my routine this summer. Looking back though, it was a good summer.

This last weekend, we traveled one more time to help my daughter get established in her new home and role as teacher. She asked for help getting things to her classroom and setting things up. I could tell she was anxious about getting things ready. Today is her first day as teacher.

My wife and I were in the classroom waiting to assist where needed. We cut out wall hangings, sharpened pencils, moved furniture, but we also just sat there at times watching our grown-up daughter work through her paperwork for her students. Proud? Very.

During one of my tasks, I looked up and saw a small poster my daughter had hung near her desk. It read, “They may forget what you said, but they will never forget how you made them feel. – Carl W. Buechner.” I took a picture and wondered, how have I made my daughter feel this summer? I hope she felt encouraged, loved, appreciated, valued, and accepted.

20180730_180712At the end of my life, when folks gather around my graveside, I hope they remember good things of how being associated with me made them feel. That doesn’t mean life is all rainbows and unicorn cookies, holding hands and singing kumbaya. It does mean, even in challenging and difficult times and just doing life, we can, as the Apostle Paul says, carry each other burdens. That is, we can let people know that we cared enough to care how they feel.

Isn’t that how God deals with us? He cares for us during the ups and downs of life, through the hills and valleys, the good, the bad, and the ugly. Life is messy, and even in the messiness of life, people need to know you care. It is important to wonder, “How did I make them feel?” I pray I make people feel and know I care.

Go Deeper

We are all much deeper than the layers of our skin,

Too often we judge by the outside, only by what we see.

Judging the book by the cover, assuming how things might be.

Will you choose to go deeper to know what goes on within?

 

How can we know the struggles, buried deep inside?

How can we know the depression or the mental wars?

How can we see the heartache and battle-weary scars?

How can we know the brokenness or tears of late nights cried?

 

We are all surely broken. It started at our birth,

But God so loved He sent His Son to heal, save, and set free.

He came and willingly chose to die, in place of you and me.

We are all broken, but can you understand our worth?

 

We often forget we’re a child of God, even as we struggle on.

We often get it wrong, hoping, believing in an instant cure.

We say, “Just pray enough, believe enough, it’ll work for sure.”

Child of God, the battles continue, it’s the war that’s been won.

 

Remember, you’re His child, remember He’s your Lord.

Especially in your brokenness, you are called to stand.

You’re not called to surrender, but to the battle at hand.

When you take your last breath, then lay down my sword.

 

Praise be to God, we are not alone in the stormy night.

Life will be a struggle as we head toward our home.

Truth is we are all on the journey, we are not alone.

We have His Spirit who is constantly with us in the fight.

 

Embrace the brokenness, embrace the clashes deep within,

Listen, heed the voice of God should you choose to hear it.

There is peace in the midst brought only by the Spirit.

Life struggles are to point us to trust and lean on Him.

Forgiveness – A Fruit of the Spirit?

The Question

portrait of white pigeon

In the book of Galatians, (Gal. 5:22-23) the Apostle Paul lists out nine proofs or fruits of the Spirit. These fruit show the presence of the Holy Spirit in the believer who possesses these qualities. I have wondered why forgiveness is not listed here. Can one truly have the Spirit of God present in their lives without this one trait or asset? After all, it is one of the heavy hitters in the Christian walk and is sometimes mentioned more than some of the fruit.

The Simplest Answer

The most obvious and simplest answer is the list is not an exhaustive one, and forgiveness could be added. Just because it was not listed doesn’t mean that it is not a proof or a fruit of the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit has at least three lists in the Bible. Those three lists do not contain all the gifts, and it is argued that there are more gifts than those listed. So it would be for forgiveness. For example, other concepts like mercy, justice, humbleness, etc. are not listed either. It could be argued that these are fruits of the Spirit as well. But I believe there is more to it.

In-depth Answer

 

The more complicated and comprehensive answer when looking at a particular scripture is to look at the context of the speaker. What was said before and after the scripture on the fruit of the Spirit? Also, what is said in the Bible as a whole? Paul was using an opposite comparison when he listed the fruit. Before this section, he listed the “works of the flesh” which are in opposition to the fruit. One is physically focused, and the other is spiritual. One is natural and the other is supernatural.

woman putting red apple on green shopping basket

Paul tells us to separate the fruit from the works. This is a choice and must be practiced. The Spirit is the teacher, the mentor. This choice is simple, not always easy, but simple. We have to choose the Spirit to be able to cultivate and exhibit the fruit. There is a difference between the work of the Spirit and the work of the flesh. The flesh work comes naturally. Just let yourself go. Live the lowest level, almost animalistic life. That is not only simple but easy and guess what you will get? Natural, animalistic results.

clouds countryside daylight environment

However, if you choose and walk with the Spirit, you also choose the higher road. This road is not easy. Jesus said that this road is narrow and there are very few who not only find it but travel it. The Spirit is the teacher, comforter, and mentor. The Teacher uses the Bible as His textbook and life as His laboratory. It’s is just like being in school or college. You spend time in the classroom and then you get to spend time in the practicum. If you don’t attend either of these you fail the course. Too many Christians treat the Christian life as if it is party time at college rather than time to learn and grow. Then they wonder why their life as a Christian isn’t working. They have failed the course and too often blame the teacher for their failure. Paul calls this spiritual immaturity.

Forgiveness is not a fruit

So, what has this got to do with forgiveness as a fruit of the Spirit? Forgiveness is a course in the curriculum in the School of the Spirit. I believe it is an exercise in the laboratory of life. It is an instruction given in the classroom. It is practiced in the laboratory. You have to accept the assignment and if you fail the test, you get to take it again. If you fail the course, you get held back. Thank God for I John 1:9, and thank you Spirit for your patience and mentoring, because I cannot count how many times I have failed.

Endangered Christianity

The Statement

black microphone

I have heard it said by more than one person that “Christianity is only one generation away from being extinct.” Usually, the one speaking is trying to get across to their audience the necessity to reach out and share the good news of Jesus or Christianity will be gone. It’s a combination of a fear factor and a warning. The audience, I have been one, nods in agreement as the message sinks in. We had all better get busy winning souls or there will be no one left to carry on after we are gone.

Question Everything

ask blackboard chalk board chalkboard

Even though it sounds good, there seems to be a lingering thought somewhere on the periphery that tugs on the brain. It asks if the statement is true. Are things that desperate? I believe the statement is one of “truthiness,” as I have heard one public speaker call it. “Truthiness” is something that sounds true and logical, but when examined further, it doesn’t pass the litmus test.

Incorrect Presumptions

To accept the statement of “endangered Christianity” at face value is to agree to several basic, incorrect presumptions:

  1. It presumes the continuance of Christianity rest solely on the shoulders of the present generation, and without the evangelistic actions of that generation, Christianity is doomed. Yes, we are commanded to reach, teach, and disciple, but we plant the seed. God waters. The thinking that it all rests exclusively with man leaves God totally out the equation, which leads to the second presumption.
  2. The statement presumes God is not capable of sustaining the Christian faith. This is not biblical. Even in the darkest of times in history, God had a remnant of believers. Case in point is when Elisha ran from Jezebel and begged God to die. He complained that he was the only one in all of the land that followed God. God responded that He had 7,000 followers who did not bow to the state-sponsored religion. God is quite capable of maintaining a following. Further, even in the darkest times yet to come as spoken of in the book of Revelation, and during the Tribulation times, God will still maintain a remnant of followers.
  3. Another presumption is one that would be shared with the devil himself: somehow God can be defeated. This thought process leaves the Christian believing they are fighting a losing battle. They wring their hands while looking to the eastern sky chanting “Even so, come Lord Jesus.” They live a life of someone who is waiting to be rescued from a sinking ship rather than manning their battle stations on a spiritual destroyer.

There is, however, a danger to going to the opposite extreme. We can smugly sit around, not doing anything, “because Jesus has won the victory, therefore I do not need to fight at all.” This too is not biblical. We are commanded to act. In many places, we are ordered to reach the world around us – proclaiming the good news.

In the book of Jude, we are told to “snatch” the perishing as one would a stick from a fire. Paul said “blessed” are the feet of those who proclaim the message of salvation. In another spot, he says faith comes by hearing the Word of God, and hearing by someone telling. Jesus gave us the Great Commission in the 28th chapter of Mathew, to go into all the world. We, as the church, are expected to be obedient to the commands and calls.

The Conclusion

Truly, it is a joint venture with God and His church to continue what Jesus started. There will always be someone who responds to the love of Christ and then will be obedient to tell others, who then respond. There is no danger of the Church going anywhere. It might get lazy. It might get beat down. It might dwindle. It might even lose power, but the Bride of Christ will continue on until He says it’s the end of the age.

More Enjoyable Stories

Last month I featured several stories I enjoyed from new-to-me writers. I would like to introduce to you more new-to-me writers and some of their work. Some of their short stories are listed below along with the website links to the author and the story. I have given you a little taste of the story line. I hope you enjoy these as I did.

First Class – David Rae

Ruth took out her compact mirror and inspected her appearance. She was pretty enough for sure and her make-up was immaculate. Her hat was slightly shabby but decent. She could easily pass for a school teacher or perhaps the wife of a tradesman rather than a pregnant housemaid, who had been curtly dismissed and sent home in disgrace. Continue reading…

David Rae’s Website Homepage – http://davidrae-stories.com/

The Writer – Lorraine Johnston

The key slid into the lock. Richard entered his apartment, carrying his mail and his briefcase. He felt the stress leave his body as he crossed the threshold. He loved his apartment, even though it was much smaller than the house he had shared with his now ex-wife. He had his writing room. That’s all that counted. Continue reading…

Lorraine Johnston’s Website Homepage – http://lorrainejohnston.com/

The Diplomat’s Wife – Selma Writes

Patting and humming, Victoria paced the floor, burping her baby. She rubbed his back gently.

Why does it take longer for you to burp and fall asleep with me than you do when daddy rubs your back? Perhaps he’s a better back rubber than I. Oh, I cannot wait for him to return.

With heavy eyelids, she glanced over at the clock. Five thirty. She stifled a yawn and hummed quietly.

Patting and humming, patting and humming.

It’s not your fault that I’m sleep deprived, it’s not your fault. But these four nights without daddy’s help has turned me into a real zombie. I cannot wait for him to come back to us.

She sighed, caressing her baby’s head gently. His golden curls latched around her fingers. She paced the parquet floor. Continue reading…

Selma Writes’ Website Homepage – https://www.selmawrites.com/

A Letter To My Daughter’s Mother – M.E. Cooper

You don’t know me, but because of you, I am a mom. Because you made the choice to leave her, your newborn baby, where someone was sure to find her, she has had a love filled life.

I can’t begin to know or imagine the thoughts and hardships you faced when you made this decision. I don’t know if you wanted her and couldn’t keep her, or if you just couldn’t handle the prospect of being a mother at that time. I do know the policy of your country made boys more favored than girls. Maybe this is what influenced your decision. But whatever the reason, the question of why you did what you did, is one that will always remain a mystery to me. Continue reading…

M.E. Cooper’s Website Homepage – https://me-cooper.net/

Sharing My Day

This is a blog I started to write last year but did not post it then. I found it again as I was going through some other unfinished posts. I thought it amusing, so I wanted to share.

I don’t usually blog about my day since they are usually so mundane, but it seems like God throws one in there just to liven things up a bit. Like the time I boarded a plane to Denver, and I walked past Dr. James and Shirley Dobson. He is one of my spiritual heroes, and I couldn’t believe I saw him. Then I got to speak to him. That is another story.

Encounter Number One

adults airport architecture blur

I thought things were going well when I arrived at the airport an hour early. A few times I have been late and once I missed my flight. I checked my bag and went to the TSA line. I always take off my shoes before actually getting to the bin line and scoot them along on the floor as I take my laptop out of the case. This time I reached for my shoe to find cat manure on the bottom. Really? I am about to board a plane.

I quickly dismiss myself from the line and make a quick trip to the lawn out in front of the airport. I can only imagine what anyone who saw me was thinking. Don’t know if you have ever been blessed to have this happen. If you have, you know it doesn’t all come off. I did the best I could and then got back in line. I took off my shoes and put them in the bin and went through the metal detector. The detector where I went through gave out a ding. I paused.

“Oh,” said the all too happy TSA agent. “That was a random alarm. We need to check your shoes.” I began to laugh.

“Ok. Just thought I should let you know I had to just wipe cat crap off the bottom. So, I am sorry about that.”

“No worries,” she said. “I won’t touch them with my hands.” She swabbed them when they rode by. Knowing ammonia is a key chemical in some bomb-making; I was a little worried she would discover too much cat ammonia. My shoes passed.

As I gathered my things, I thought this has got to be a start to a very interesting trip. I had seen this general scenario played out before. I smiled as I made my way, shoes, and belongings in hand, to my seat to get readjusted. After a few minutes, we were allowed to board. I am not sure how, but I had lost my Silver Medallion status, and I was in Zone 2 even though I was scheduled to sit in A5 toward the front of the plane.

Encounter Number Two

white hat in woman s face

When I boarded, I noticed a small Asian man in my seat and next to him, in the aisle seat a small Asian woman. I had been through this scenario before. They could not get a seat together so one of them got in my seat and would hope I was an understanding passenger that would trade with them. I danced with them.

“You are in my seat,” I said waiting for the reply. He didn’t speak up. She did. In broken English with an Asian accent.

“You sit there. Okay. Okay. You sit there.” Hmm. She didn’t ask; she told me to sit there. In the in the interest of not causing an international scene, I relented and sat down next to a gentleman who took up his seat and part of mine. No, this not okay I thought in an Asian accent; me cannot move. Has your brain operated strangely before you had time to stop it? Yeah, that happened. I repented. The flight was uneventful except for the fact the Asian lady spoke in her native tongue to her companion, which was kind of cool. Except I don’t think she took a breath the entire flight and I don’t think he got in much more than fifty words in the interchange.

Encounter Number Three

appetizer close up cucumber cuisine

With less than forty-five minutes before my next flight and my stomach growling at me, I stopped at my usual eatery and got a Greek salad, complete with Taziki sauce. Midway through the salad, my phones start annoying me to charge them. I finished my salad and dutifully sought out a changing station near my gate. I found a charging station several spots down. Plugged them up and sat in the nearest chair which also happened to be in front of the trash cans. Hey, it was near the walkway, so I began to watch the people around; wondering where they were going and what their story was. A nicely dressed lady walked by, and I heard her say “You shot what?” Of course, it is not hunting season, so that kind of piqued my curiosity. A pretty blonde in high heels walked by, and I smiled as I watched every male eye, young and old follow her.

Five minutes into the charging and people watching a gentleman came by me and threw his gum into the recycle container instead of the garbage can. It caught my eye since I have done this several times myself when I could not get past people to get to the trash can. I looked at his face and instantly realized that I knew him, but I couldn’t place where from where I knew him. He walked away and went into to a newsstand store across from me when it hit me: that was Sammy Kershaw. Those who know anything about Country music from the 90’s knows who he is. He was on top of his game then. Not only was I amazed that I saw him, but I was also amazed I recognized him. Some things you just never seem to forget.

Encounter Number Four

Well, I thought, I have met Dr. Dobson, saw Buzz Aldrin the astronaut and now was within two feet of Sammy Kershaw. Too bad I took so long to recognize him. I could have had a great conversation with him I bet. In the middle of my thoughts, the gate agent requested us to board our plane. I was on a little earlier than some this time and got to my seat before anyone else did. I sat down and buckled up. A young lady sat down in the seat next to me and shoved a purple overnight bag under the seat in front of her. Let’s call her Sherry. Sherry had room in the overhead bin but elected to put it under the seat instead.

selective focus photography of white dog

We began to converse in which I learned the purple tote was a pet carrier with a little dog in it. It wasn’t uncommon for people to carry their pets on flights. They have to pay extra unless they are a service animal, which I found out “Pumpkin” the dog was. She looked like a cross between a poodle and a terrier. Pumpkin, I was told had to be sedated for the flight from Texas to Atlanta and it seemed the medication was wearing off which was evident by the clawing and chewing on the cloth carrier. Sherry asked if I thought it would be okay for her to hold Pumpkin until the plane took off. I shrugged.

Pumpkin, the comfort dog, was a little agitated even though she had that partially sedated look in her eyes. When we began our push back from the gate, Pumpkin was returned to her cage. She came back out when we got to cruising altitude.

Pumpkin and I became friends, which I think endeared me to her owner. I say this because she started to give me her life history and the history of Pumpkin and her other two dogs. All seemed well until Pumpkin started to growl at the flight attendant as she passed. Perhaps the sedative was wearing off faster, which defeated the purpose of being a comfort dog because Sherry was also becoming unsettled. It was quite interesting to watch the interaction. Pumpkin thought it would be okay to growl even louder at the flight attendants as they got closer, which seemed to upset Sherry even more.

Then it happened. The attendant got a little too close with her cart for Pumpkin. Pumpkin started to bark, and Sherry panicked. She peck-type kissed Pumpkin on her mouth in an attempt to keep her quiet, all the while telling her that it was “okay” and “mommy” wanted her to stop. I was waiting for Pumpkin to bite Sherry on the lips. Realizing the tactic wasn’t working, Sherry put Pumpkin back in the carrier and slid her under the seat with an apology and promise to get her out as soon as she could. I think Sherry needed sedating now. She sat there in stunned silence the rest of the flight.

I put in my earbuds and turned on my music. I have to admit. You can’t make this stuff up, and people can really be entertaining.