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A Matter of Some Integrity – Unfortunately, Not My Own

After hearing a sermon on ‘The Integrity of Joseph’ at church last Sunday and then my meeting up with a dude this week who demonstrated ethics and/or integrity that superseded my own, I hereby feel it is my solemn duty declare myself an abuser of God’s grace.

What I mean is that even at the best of times I know my goodness doesn’t add up to a hill of holy beans. I live with that – maybe a bit too comfortably – because I’m ‘covered’ by Christ’s work on the cross to ‘save a wretch like me’. But when I encounter a fellow who hasn’t declared himself to be of any notable faith-based disposition/persuasion behaving or acting better than I do, I am bugged. My spirit becomes irritated because it’s then I realize how badly I’ve been using God’s grace as a free pass to write off my less-than-perfect attitudes, behaviours or actions; labelling them ‘growth areas’ or things that ‘God’s still working on’. Cop-out!

So THIS is what the Holy Spirit’s job is then – to ‘convict me of short-comings’ and ‘guide me into all truth’. What better way to do this than to show me up with a man who displays integrity in an area I do not. It’s like I’m being told, “Martin! You see that? That’s what you should be doing but you ain’t. What are we going to do about that?”

Being put in one’s place by a person who hasn’t professed any religious affiliations is like my considering myself a pro-ball player, only to have a guy who specializes in making doughnuts step up to the plate and hit a home run first time at bat. That kind of thing catches you off guard because you think YOU’RE the one with experience and know-how and then boom – you’re blown away by the contrast created by a single, remarkable act performed by someone you’re not expecting it from.

The day before I met up with ‘Mr. Integrity’, I had been reading in the Bible about the story of a particular individual Christ encountered in his travels way back when.* It’s a sure bet that the ‘people of the promise’ (those of the Jewish faith) who began to comprehend that their Messiah was among them thought that they were the most blessed and holiest people, had the right God, were full of all the right beliefs etc.. Then Jesus meets a Roman official – a nobody as far as the Jews were concerned – but of whom Jesus remarked, “In all of Israel I haven’t found faith like this” … all because he did the right thing at the right time with the right Man watching. As the story goes, the Roman official had a sick servant he cared about and whom he wanted to see healthy again. No biggie: go find this Jesus guy because he’s known to have a one-hundred per cent success rate with miracles and because He’s a no-nonsense authority on lots of things. Because our Roman friend believed in such a matter-of-fact way, Jesus healed the servant from an untold distance – a first as far as we know with respect to the wonders done by the Messiah. I wonder how many of the Jewish folks standing around hearing Jesus remarking about the Roman official’s unique, exemplary faith, looked down at their feet at that moment feeling somewhat teed off with either Jesus or themselves?

This past Sunday, pastor G. opened his sermon with, “Integrity is the kind of thing you expect from other people“. How true: we often want to see authenticity in others first before we offer it ourselves. But that will not do for this believer. It’s not a pride thing that drives me to better myself or to shoot for a higher standard, but the desire to be more Christ-like and to be, as Paul the apostle said, “above reproach” in the sight of believers and non-believers alike.

Who’s with me? Who wants to shine a little brighter in the light of the Son? Time to get out the polish (God’s word) and also to learn from every example of goodness we see that sets the stage for changes toward the better in our own lives.

© 2013 Martin D. of Flagrant Regard

* Matthew 8:5-13

1 Tim 3:1-13
If anyone wants to provide leadership in the church, good! But there are preconditions: A leader must be well-thought-of, committed to his wife, cool and collected, accessible, and hospitable. He must know what he’s talking about, not be overfond of wine, not pushy but gentle, not thin-skinned, not money-hungry. He must handle his own affairs well, attentive to his own children and having their respect. For if someone is unable to handle his own affairs, how can he take care of God’s church? He must not be a new believer, lest the position go to his head and the Devil trip him up. Outsiders must think well of him, or else the Devil will figure out a way to lure him into his trap. The same goes for those who want to be servants in the church: serious, not deceitful, not too free with the bottle, not in it for what they can get out of it. They must be reverent before the mystery of the faith, not using their position to try to run things. Let them prove themselves first. If they show they can do it, take them on. No exceptions are to be made for women — same qualifications: serious, dependable, not sharp-tongued, not overfond of wine. Servants in the church are to be committed to their spouses, attentive to their own children, and diligent in looking after their own affairs. Those who do this servant work will come to be highly respected, a real credit to this Jesus-faith.
(from THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language © 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson. All rights reserved.)

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Categories: Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Integrity, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

My Nose Can See!

It was about 12:30am when I, chronic nighthawk that I am, decided to burn off my remaining energy and go for a long walk; a fairly recent habit I’ve gotten into since moving back to Uxbridge.

As I stepped out into the still night and mused over the beauty of the cheddar-tinted half-moon that hovered over the southern back half of the town, I began to stroll the many neighbourhoods that make up this wonderful little town and which my wife had once dubbed “Sweetville” shortly after our settling here the first time.

Halfway into my walk, I began to close my eyes and inhale deeply, saying a few prayers as I ambled along.  As I did so, I became electrically aware of something I’d never really experienced before.  My nose could see!  I mean, I know it’s always been able to smell stuff.  But I’d never actually accessed its lavish abilities.  I learned that when you really give it full reign, you can actually use your nose to assess where you are, what your eyes may or may not be perceiving and even what’s up ahead in your travels.  The olfactory proboscis bounces back information to your brain like a radar device and you find your self saying to yourself, “That’s a maple tree!” … “Oh, and that’s water – I smell the falls coming off the pond!” … “Apple blossoms are up ahead!” … “Must be recycle day – smell all of that card-board!”.

I got to thinking that a living and vibrant faith, once it’s been handed to us by the Creator above, creates within us the same kind of powerful awakening that would ensue upon our receiving say, a new set of eyes with which to view things, or in my case, a very awake nose with which I could identify my surroundings!

Unconventional thinking is how lives are changed.  If we always see things the same way, we can never grow or properly identify the world around us.  Faith is unconventional, and oft thought as being futile and ‘blind’.  But the faith Christ gives us is not that at all.  Faith in God is learning to see through His senses.  What was mundane to us due to our limited scope or that which might have been completely ignored by us before is gradually (or sometimes rapidly) thought of quite differently.  We begin to hurt over things that hurt our Lord.  We are enthralled by things that enthrall the Spirit of the Kingdom we become new citizens of.  Real faith changes our outlook and bridges the gap between what we’ve always known, and what we have yet to know about the familiar things in our lives.

If we learn to fully access the portion of faith God lovingly gives us, we’ll realize that it isn’t so much about our moving mountains as it is our allowing the mountains to move us.

1. “Be Thou my Vision, O Lord of my heart;
Naught be all else to me, save that Thou art.
Thou my best Thought, by day or by night,
Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light.”

© 2011 Flagrant Regard

1. Words: Attributed to Dallan Forgaill, 8th Century (Rob tu mo bhoile, a Comdi cride); translated from ancient Irish to English by Mary E. Byrne, in “Eriú,” Journal of the School of Irish Learning, 1905, and versed by Eleanor H. Hull, 1912, alt.

NOTE:  This blog-post was from last summer (2011).  We’ve since moved from ‘Sweetville’ to just north of the G.T.A. where nature and beauty still surround us.  We are so truly blessed!

Categories: Apologetics, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Boxing Day Musings on ‘Staying Grand’

In the course of my business day, I hear the latest and trendiest of corporate jargon (phrases such as ‘let’s consider the optics of that‘ and ‘let’s get alignment on this‘ and ‘let’s drill down‘ and ‘let’s unpack this‘).  We are definitely corporate cool when it comes to language. So much so that my uber-swank workplace even calls a Powerpoint file a ‘deck‘ which I personally consider a lexicon-fail because the word continually yanks my brain back to the gruesomely analog 70s where I sit on a floor subjected to watching an endless array of slides of my aunt and uncle’s seemingly incessant vacations, the horrible photography made worse by the excruciating clatter of 35 mm slides as they drop and pop and more-often-than-not stick as the deck turns. But I digress. The above highlighted snippets of pretentious vocabulary are my top nominations for 2012 Newspeak … or they were until Christmas Eve.

On Christmas Eve, my husband and I attended a soiree after our church’s first annual (and incident-free) candle-lighting service at which the better half of FR sang a song he wrote some 30 years ago accompanied only by his adept guitar playing. It is a truly beautiful song which puts forward the notion that, between partying and socializing and gifting and re-gifting, it’s okay to say ‘happy birthday’ to Jesus at this time of year.

The church, which we have been attending since last August, is full of many wonderful, mostly retired people, including a nonagenarian general practitioner and his wife, whom I shall call TB and BB. We had the privilege of sitting with them at the after party, munching and chatting (as we had done once before at a local Tim Horton’s after church) and, when it was time to mingle, and we stood up to leave the table, TB told my husband to “stay grand” … huh? What was that? Stay grand? I must say it took some time for my ear-to-brain mechanism to reconcile what he said and what he meant.

By telling someone to ‘stay grand’, it means, in your eyes, they have achieved a level of grandness. Grand is not a word flashed about in normal conversation in 2012, or even in the last few decades for that matter, and is an adjective describing what is “impressive in size, appearance, or general effect; stately, majestic, or dignified in front of an audience; highly ambitious or idealistic; magnificent or splendid; and noble or revered.”

I always knew my husband was something special and indescribable in many ways. It has always taken me a myriad of words to describe all his wonderful attributes (as evidenced by his Christmas card that I crafted about this time yesterday) but TB considered the optics, drilled down, and unpacked that my husband is, in a word, grand. That is the word I’ve been searching for … for 14 years! Grand … it seems to me that using that word to describe someone can only come from one who really, really knows your heart and nature. How could TB, who has only met my husband twice, both times over coffee, come to such a conclusion that I couldn’t grasp myself in our years together? The Bible says we never know when we are entertaining angels and I’m starting to have a funny feeling about TB …

Now that I officially live in the shadow of bona fide grandness on a daily basis (and I do have my tongue firmly planted in cheek), albeit that he oftentimes goes around in sweats, unshaven and wearing his hair in a ponytail, I feel it incumbent upon myself to rise to the calling and stay grand myself. Jesus said in John 15:5, “… for without Me, you can do nothing”. So I cannot be grand … we cannot stay grand … without Him. As the song my husband sang on Christmas Eve boldly asks, “how ’bout you”?

Happy Birthday Jesus and Merry New Year to all!

Link to A Christmas Song here.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The God Who ‘Sticks His Neck Out’

There was once a man who went for a walk in the fields near his home in the early springtime. As he began to make his way upon familiar paths, he eventually came up to a pond that he had passed by many times on his previous sojourns.

The winter had not been a heavy one and the pond was shallow enough for the man to see many rocks sticking partway out of the pond; some round, some more rough and angular.

The man decided to venture a little closer to the pond’s edge and noted that one of the rounder rocks in the water had a different sheen on it than the other ones. Not having the greatest vision, the man put on his glasses and was soon able to confirm that the rock indeed looked different from the others in the pond. Though mildly curious, he concluded nothing further and was certainly not about to waste his time getting his feet wet in order to determine why this particular rock was different.

He was about to tread up the hill away from the pond to resume his strolling through the fields when suddenly the sun came out from behind the clouds and the rock that he thought was an inert hunk of rounded stone moved!

A head, followed by a long neck slowly began to extend itself outward from one end of the semi-circular ‘rock’, eventually stretching its way out and above the surface of the pond and into the blazing light of day.

The man laughed at himself and said, “I should have known! That was no rock, it was a turtle all along! I guess if I’d made the effort to wade near the pond’s edge the creature might have stirred and I’d have known it was a turtle sooner. Heck, I could have picked up one of the long sticks that lay along the banks of the pond and reached out to prod the ‘rock’. Then I would certainly have known it was not a rock at all.”

Only the man didn’t.

However, the turtle did what turtles do: at just the opportune moment, the creature made his move – stretching out his head with eyes a’blinking – in order to bask in, absorb and reflect the light of the life-giving sun. Through this one act, the turtle revealed his true identity as a living being to a man who might otherwise have gone on his way thinking that he had simply seen a slightly different looking rock sticking out of a pond on a warm spring day.”

———————————————————————————————————————-

Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, in one of his famous detective stories, once stated, “the world is full of obvious things which nobody by any chance ever observes”. How true! We can often pass by a familiar object and not see any further significance in the object, other than the fact that it is there. A bit more investigation, if we’re interested enough, may reveal that the object we’ve thought as being one thing is in fact another thing entirely. Have you ever had a moment where it finally hit you that you’ve been seeing things wrong (or have maybe been oblivious to what’s directly in front of you)? That photograph you’ve walked by every day at the office, suddenly it’s, “Hey, that’s no photo, that’s a painting!” Or mom’s ‘fake’ plant in the corner of the living room – it turns out to be real (usually, right after you’ve accidentally ripped off one of its leaves in a careless moment). It’s times like these we realize that our perceived world is not always grounded in reality.

When it comes to our knowing what’s what regarding anything, we must agree that the goal of all humanity is to grow in knowledge in order to further benefit our existence and not to run on mere instincts. (When humanity does operate from primal or base desires, it often results successfully in filling up jail cells. Though correctional officers and police benefit from this via employment, no sane person would consider the situation utopian.) Growth in the area perception is one of those things that makes us truly human. With perception changes occurring as we mature, our creeds and philosophies are born and affect/frame our whole lives. However, there comes a point where we seem to settle in our ways and it’s at that stage where most of us are extremely disinterested in ‘re-perceiving’ our world or our views, religious or otherwise. We’ll look at things through the lens of our prejudices or from our set of perspectives and then comment on one issue or another (in attempts to find balance), often with tepid sayings like, “It’s all the same when you look at it,” or “To each his own,” or “A rose by any other name is still a rose”. But things are not all the same and there is an incredible amount one could learn about roses if they care to!

Is it possible your view of God is something like this? Maybe for years you’ve seen God in one way and one way only. Maybe you’ve always seen Him as an ‘amorphous blob’, having no definite shape, form or identity. Or maybe you view God as being like ‘the Force’ – a good or bad power as per George Lucas’ concept in Star Wars (and which was borrowed heavily from Eastern religions). Or conversely, you’ve always thought of God (or have been made to think of God) as the very opposite of ‘unknowable’ – that in fact, he’s very knowable: as an overarching, dominating being who arbitrarily picks and chooses who lives or dies, who’s saved or damned, and who is incapable of showing anything ‘humane’ or something akin to benevolent love to his creation? There are so many views of God that it would be next to impossible to list them all.

The only way we can become ‘unstuck’ regarding our view of God is through His Spirit (that personal extension of His very being) shining a light into our hearts so that we can clearly see that God is far more incredible, involved and interested than we think He is.  This applies to the unbelieving, the skeptical and even at times the religious-minded! If we’d only take (or make) time to wait for a ‘parting of the clouds’ – that moment when God reveals His true self to us – how much further along would we be? God has done this in the past for those who looked for truth and reality concerning Him and He can do this for us now. We so want God to ‘show up’ in this world and ‘do something’, but what if He already has (or still does) and some of us just haven’t grasped that?

Maybe you’re like Christ’s disciple, Philip, who in John’s Gospel, asks Jesus a ‘simple’ favour: “Show us (me and the rest of the disciples here) the Father (the God of Israel) and that will be enough for us!”

Jesus hands Philip ‘God on a platter’, so to speak, with the words, “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.”

These words of Jesus should encourage some serious investigation, if in fact they’re true. For me, Jesus’ claims have spawned such investigation and thanks to superb authors such as Phillip Yancey, N.T. Wright, C.S. Lewis, Francis Schaeffer and a host of others who’ve delved deeply into the Christian scriptures that hail back to the first century, I believe that one does get to know God by knowing Jesus Christ as he is revealed to us via the Gospels and other New Testament documents. But I also maintain that it had to have been God who shined down his light into my mind in order for me to ‘get it’ or understand the significance of Christ’s words and life. And if this Christ of the New Testament is truly true, as I believe He is, then He did more than just stick His neck out; He gave his very life-blood for the this broken world – for you – so that you could have a unique relationship with God unlike anything else this world and its many other religions offer.

For anyone willing to ‘stand on the banks’ and wait patiently, God will reveal Himself once His powerful light illuminates those priceless and pure realities that are found only in Him. It wouldn’t hurt to do a little prodding into things and step out into the mysterious waters of faith; that is true. But ultimately, it will be an intelligent, loving and amazing God who shows His true self to you and propels you into wanting to know more and more about Him with every passing day.

May that wonderful and superbly enlightening moment be yours soon, I pray,

© Flagrant Regard, 2012

“… the reality, however, is found in Christ.”
Paul’s letter to the church at Colosse, Chapter 2, verse 17

“And we have the word of the prophets made more certain, and you will do well to pay attention to it, as to a light shining in a dark place,
until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts.”

Peter’s 1st letter, Chapter 1, verse 19

Categories: Apologetics, Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shortest Christian Blog Post EVER!

“When words are many, sin is not absent, but he who holds his tongue is wise.”
Proverbs 10:19

… Yup.

© Flagrant Regard, 2012


Categories: Bible Knowledge, Christianity, Creative Writing, Didactic, Illustration, Religion, Spiritual, Theology, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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