Spiritual OCD

I was scrolling down my facebook feed, and all of a sudden, I wanted to change the décor in someone’s living space. The offense was in the background of the photo, on the wall. It hit me squarely. This needs to be fixed. I am like the fictitious perfectionist, Hercule Poirot. I can’t just leave a crooked picture, even if I’m in someone else’s house. (Actually, I have left them crooked a couple of times, when there was no way to straighten without getting caught. Oh, the agony!) In this case, the offending décor was two framed pictures, one on top of the other, not centered, and no space at all between them. I want to visit that place and set it right.

Right means my idea of right, which would be centered, probably on a smaller wall, and with enough space between top and bottom frame to make them look comfortable, probably at least one and a half to two inches.

I wonder how many of us have OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) about other people’s spiritual lives. Unfortunately, I think we’re all guilty.

Did you ever:

  • Repeatedly think about someone else’s sin—however great or small—over and over in your mind?
  • Tell your friends how to improve their spiritual lives, who have exactly the same problem you have with yours?
  • Obsess about offensive words said to you?
  • Climb on a hobby horse about one spiritual issue?
  • Judge someone else by your own high, perfect standards?

We have all done these things.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but perceivest not the beam that is in thine own eye? (Luke 6:41)

My imagination goes wild with that verse. “Hey, Bro., stand still. I see this tiny little black speck in your eye.” Then, I turn around and look in the mirror. “Woah! A whole whoppin’ beam! How did that get there? I’m gonna need surgery!”

Why is it so much easier to see the mote than the beam?

We can see others’ faults way before our own. And, you know what? Probably more than 90% of the time, others’ lives and faults are none of our business. If we’re in church leadership, we may be called upon to counsel and encourage, and in that case, it is our business. But normally, the “motes” we see in others’ eyes aren’t.

What about the beam?

“That huge, heavy, railroad tie thing hanging out of my face?”

Yes, that.

“Um, surgery?”

Maybe that would help, but you’ll need to see a doctor. No way am I moving that thing—even if I could.

The doctor says, “Beam-face, what seems to be the trouble?”

I point to the beam.

“Oh, you’ve been judging others again?”

“Yes, Doctor.”

“There’s only one cure for that.”

“Cut it out?”

“No. It’s inoperable.”

“So, Doctor, what’s the cure?”

“Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye. You have to take it out yourself. Then, you’ll see just fine.”

I go home, look in the mirror of God’s Word, confess my sin of judging people through my obsessive-compulsive spiritual disorder, and I tug that huge, ugly hunk of wood out of my eye.

Voilà! I can see as clearly as if I were trying on new glasses for the first time.

“Thank you, Lord! And, help me remember this lesson.”

Straighten your own pictures. Space them the way you like. Let others hang theirs the way they want. It’s their house, after all.

We beam-faces have a lot to learn.

The ironies of life

When I was a teen, I wanted to be different. I shouldn’t have worried; each person is unique. It took me a long time to figure that out.

I went to college at age seventeen, and when I chose a major, I went over my favorite subjects, crossing out a few, and ending up with my number one interest: art. To be different, I chose “straight art” and not “art education.” I’ll explain.

Everyone in my whole family is a teacher. College chemistry, middle school math, physical education, first grade, kindergarten, grade school and middle school. Every one of them is or has taught.

So, I wouldn’t.

That’s what I thought.

No one had “art” as a profession, so I went with that one. Practical, right? How ignorant I was.

It was a fitting major for me. I minored in psychology and then changed to English—so I could graduate on time and marry my fiancé. By the way, both of those were great decisions, .

My first job after college didn’t last long. It was physically draining, and I needed something different. I found a job in art and then another, and I taught—don’t laugh—calligraphy at a local community college.

Then, my husband and I started deputation for missions in Spain.

I left my full-time job several months into deputation, when our circles around our home got too big to be back on Monday mornings.

We had a child before we moved to Spain and one after we got here, and soon, I became a homeschooling mom. You may laugh, now.

Sixteen years later and having learned grade school and high school all over again—twice—I decided that the empty nest was a great opportunity to catch up on all the things I hadn’t done while schooling the children. My life quickly filled, and then, all of a sudden, I was left with lots of free time on my hands.

I saw an ad for teaching Spanish online, talked to my husband, and applied. After an interview, I was hired, and for the last four years, I’ve been teaching homeschooling high schoolers in a virtual classroom and loving every minute.

The old saying, “what goes around comes around” is true. The girl who didn’t want to teach—ha ha—ended up teaching for twenty-three years and enjoying it.

That’s not all.

I wrote my first book, a handbook for women—the result of about fifteen years of Bible study—and published it in 2012. It’s titled His Ways, Your Walk and is available through me.

My first blog post ever was published in January 2012. (You may access and browse “In the Way” here.) I bought a personal domain, starting this new blog in January 2019.

My first novel is a work in progress. It’s been written and revised many times—and totally being rewritten at the moment. Oh, to learn today’s style and forget the old ways! But I digress.

My father was a teacher like everyone else, but almost of his life, he’s been a writer.

As it turns out, the two things I never thought I’d be are what I am.

And, I am richer for them.

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us (Ecclesiastes 1:9-10).

Live joyfully … for that is thy portion in this life, and in thy labour which thou takest under the sun. Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might (Ecclesiastes 9:9-10a).

Has your life turned out differently than you imagined?  How? Please feel free to share your story.

A tale of two women, Proverbs 9

For many years, I used the One Year Bible for my devotions. It has portions from Old and New Testaments, a Psalm (or part of one), and a few verses from the Proverbs for each day. I love my One Year Bible, and I’ll surely go back to it in the future, but a few years ago, I felt a need to change things up.

For about two years, I did quite a few guided Bible studies and thoroughly enjoyed them.

Some time ago, I began this study in Proverbs. (It’s always good to study wisdom.) As I did, I began to see the Proverbs in groups of verses, and it has provided me with a fresh appreciation of this book.

This ninth chapter is a fine example. It’s divided into two parts. The first part (verses 1-12) is the personification of Wisdom as a woman. Wisdom is described and then “she” has a divine message for all mankind. The second part (verses 13-18) describes the foolish woman.

Let’s study these two polar opposite women.

Wisdom prepares her house for guests (1-2). Then she sends out an invitation: Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Come, eat of my bread, and drink of the wine which I have mingled. Forsake the foolish, and live; and go in the way of understanding (4-6).

The theme shifts a little bit. Now she’s talking about a scorner—someone who mocks truth and will not seek wisdom. He that reproveth a scorner getteth to himself shame: and he that rebuketh a wicked man getteth himself a blot. Reprove not a scorner, lest he hate thee: rebuke a wise man, and he will love thee (7-8). To me, this is good advice for a counselor. Don’t waste your time on someone with a contrary attitude. Give good advice to someone who will listen and heed—the wise person. There’s more about teaching and students in this next verse. Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be yet wiser: teach a just man, and he will increase in learning (9).

This is the theme verse of this chapter: The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom: and the knowledge of the holy is understanding (10). It’s helpful to think of the fear of the LORD as respect for God. It isn’t exactly trembling and being afraid, but it’s the great recognition of God’s perfection and authority—and wanting to please Him.

Do you remember when you were a child and you had a fear of your parents? If they were decent parents, your respect was borne out of your position as a child. You wanted to please. You knew you needed to obey, or there might be some adverse consequences. This illustration isn’t perfect, since we are so much lower than God, but maybe it will help with an understanding of the kind of respect we are talking about when we see the phrase, the fear of the LORD.

This respect for God is the beginning—starting point—for wisdom. It’s the foundation. We build understanding upon our respect for God.

The next clause, the knowledge of the holy is understanding, is truly profound. What’s the only holy thing in the world? God. As we get to know Him, we will obtain understanding.

How can we know God? Through Jesus. And we know that the Son of God is come, and hath given us an understanding, that we may know him that is true, and we are in him that is true, even in his Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God, and eternal life (1 John 5:20).

Wisdom resumes speaking. For by me (Wisdom) thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. If thou be wise, thou shalt be wise for thyself: but if thou scornest, thou alone shalt bear it (11-12).

Now, we encounter the second woman, the foolish one. If you’ve been following our study of Proverbs, you’ll know that we have already met a strange woman. This one will sound familiar.

She is: clamorous, simple, and knoweth nothing (13).

We find her sitting at the door of her house, on a seat in the high places of the city,

To call passengers who go right on their ways (14-15). At the beginning of this chapter, Wisdom was in the high place calling people to her home. But, the foolish woman says, Whoso is simple, let him turn in hither: and as for him that wanteth understanding, she saith to him, Stolen waters are sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant (16-17).

At the end, as we’ve seen before in Proverbs, there’s a warning of the sad consequences of sin: But he knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell (18).

So, here we have two women and two outcomes. Heeding Wisdom: thy days shall be multiplied, and the years of thy life shall be increased. The person who goes in to the foolish woman knoweth not that the dead are there; and that her guests are in the depths of hell.

Forms of government in the Bible

In today’s highly charged political atmosphere, I have read all kinds of posts by Christians. Some favor one kind of government and some another. A few were outright nasty, and some were looking for an argument. It’s their right, of course, to express opinions and to differ. I personally think many could use an infusion of kindness and grace. But, that’s not what this post is about.

What does the Bible say about governments?

Which forms of government are found in the Bible? When I started brainstorming, I was surprised. Maybe you will be, too.

Theocracy = God rules. Actually, God always rules. Since the beginning, God has ordered the world. He created both the world and man and set His rules in place. Man disobeyed, but God kept ruling. When Israel was in the wilderness, ultimately God ruled. In the New Testament also, God ruled. Today, God rules. One of the most comforting concepts in my life is that God is ultimately in control. Thy kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and thy dominion endureth throughout all generations (Psalm 145:13).

Strong leader = One leader rules. Throughout history, God ordained strong leaders for His people. Some did wrong, but they led Israel. Examples include: Moses, Joshua, David, Solomon, and good and bad kings. In the New Testament, we don’t see a governmental structure like this until the millennium, when Jesus reigns (Revelation 20:1-6).

Monarchy = One family rules. The longest ruling monarchy in Israel was David’s, through sons and briefly, one mother, all the way up to the Babylonian captivity (993 BC-586 BC). Ultimately, Jesus, a descendant of David, will complete this monarchy’s rule as King of kings and Lord of lords (Revelation 19:16).

Representative = Representatives of the people rule. Moses needed helpers, and his father-in-law wisely suggested representatives for groups of people. (Exodus 18:17-22). Later, God gave judges to the people.

Direct democracy = The people vote. We don’t see this much in Scripture. Joshua asked the people to choose whether to obey God or serve idols. Their answer: And the people said unto Joshua, The LORD our God will we serve, and his voice will we obey (Joshua 24:24). Gideon had an army of 30,000 men to go against the Midianites. He told them that anyone who was afraid could leave. Twenty thousand left (Judges 7:3). In this case, God later whittled the minority down to three hundred men, and He got the glory for the miraculous victory.

Communism = Everything is shared equally. Communism was tried in Acts 2:44-45, due to great persecution and financial need in the church at Jerusalem. Christians pooled their money, food, and goods. This system didn’t work for very long because of greed. Remember Ananias and Saphira, who told the disciples they were giving everything, but they held money back for themselves? (Acts 5:1-10) Their deaths were the beginning of the end for this form of government in the Bible.

I don’t know where you live or what form of government you live under, but wherever it is, the Bible is true. Let’s read some encouraging verses about governments.

  • Hezekiah prayed, Thou art the God, even thou alone, of all the kingdoms of the earth; thou hast made heaven and earth (2 Kings 19:15b).
  • The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD, as the rivers of water: he turneth it whithersoever he will (Proverbs 21:1).
  • Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour (Romans 13:1-7).

What’s my take-away from this little study?

The Lord is in control. This doesn’t mean that we fold our arms and don’t vote or that we shouldn’t be active in political affairs. It means, rather, that God works in governments. There’s no need to panic. We can rest in His sovereignty.

God’s purposes will be done on the earth.

Sing unto God, ye kingdoms of the earth; O sing praises unto the Lord; Selah (Psalm 68:32).

And the seventh angel sounded; and there were great voices in heaven, saying, The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord, and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever (Revelation 11:15).

Our Love Story

Just recently, I read a sappy romance, breaking away from my usual preferences. Oh my! It only reminded me how unrealistic they are and why I almost always steer clear. (If you enjoy the chills and thrills, that’s your choice. I am only stating my opinion. As I confessed, I actually read that one.)

My own story of romance should probably told in capital letters, but I’ll spare you.

I always had boyfriends. They were all Christians and gentlemen. From twelve years old on, I had friends who were boys. I began dating solo on my fifteenth birthday. My date was nice, but quickly I realized he wasn’t for me. Following him were a series of young men from my church. And then, I went to college.

I attended a Christian university, which only allowed very closely chaperoned dates. We could attend lunch, church, and some concerts and functions with young men. It was fun.

At the beginning of my second year of college, I was attending a soccer game with a married couple from my home church. I happened to notice a nice-looking guy in the pep band, who sometimes turned around and seemed to be looking at me. I asked the couple who he was, but they didn’t know his name.

A week later, my husband and I met in the weirdest of circumstances—and walked off into the sunset. Literally.

This happened almost forty-five years ago. We’ve been married more than forty-one of those, and our life has been an adventure. After we were married:

  • He earned a master’s degree.
  • We were on deputation for two years.
  • Our home has been in Spain for 35 years and counting.
  • We have two beautiful children, now grown and married to terrific spouses.
  • Four cute grandchildren were born.
  • We lived in three houses in the USA before coming to Spain, where we’ve lived in five different homes.
  • We’ve traveled in several European countries and seen the airports—doubtful privilege—of a few more.

As a couple, we’ve experienced many joys, devastating sorrows, and have done lots of growing and changing. In some ways, forty-plus years of marriage has caused us to switch places. Our personalities have mellowed and morphed. Now, we just enjoy each day the Lord gives us and appreciate His blessings.

On this Valentine’s Day, fourty-four years from the one when my cute date first mentioned love to me, I am extra thankful for our unique and wonderful story.