The Accidental Pharisee

Monday, June 30, 2008

Ponder This

"Ponder this: If the Father is satisfied with His Son's full payment for sin, and we are in His son, by grace through faith, then He is satisfied with you and me."
~ The Grace Awakening, Charles R. Swindoll

If I believed that God was satisfied with me, I would be living my life differently.
Somehow, someway, somewhere along the way I decided that God was dissatisfied with me. I don't know if someone told me this--although I have a feeling a lot of someones told me this.
And I believed them.
And I also believed that I could never, ever in a million years satisfy God.
And you know what?
That's true. I never could satisfy God.
But isn't that why Jesus came and died on the cross? To satisfy the cost of my sins--and yours?
So, it's satisfied. God is satisfied.
And I don't have to satisfy him.
He is satisfied with me.
I just paused long enough to say those words out loud. The phonetics of those 6 words make it sound like one long exhale: He is satisfied with me.
Try it. Say those words out loud.
He is satisfied with me.
There's a feeling of release when I say those words.
If I will grasp the true meaning of those words such an overwhelming burden will be lifted off of me. Maybe I let someone else put it there at first. But I've allowed the burden of trying to please God to stay there.
No longer.
God is satisfied with me.

Just Thinking Out Loud: Radical thinking, this. An Accidental Pharisee has to shrug off all the shoulds and coulds and musts and realize that God is satisfied. I've heard it said many, many times: There is nothing I can do that will make God love me less. There is nothing I can do that will make God love me more.
Do I believe it?

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Thursday, June 26, 2008

Thankful Thursday #4

The doors we open and close each day decide the lives we live.
— Flora Whittemore

Thanks to Iris at Sting My Heart for hosting Thankful Thursdays!

I couldn't wait for Thankful Thursday this week! I knew what I was going to be thankful for days ago!
My husband and I, along with our caboose kiddo, went camping last weekend with another family. Our friends, Mary and Doug, also have a late-in-life child. But, where I am a repeater--i.e. I have 3 much older children and then my surprise blessing--Mary was a first-time mom at 46.
But that's another blog post.
The camping trip gave me so many reasons to be thankful. Things like:
  • falling asleep to the sound of a rushing mountain stream a few yards from our pop-up camper.

  • the sticky sweetness of melt-in-my mouth marshmellows toasted just right: lightly brown on the outside and soft and warm on the inside.

  • the joyous sound of my daughter's laughter as she caught her first fish--a 14 inch rainbow trout.

  • the comfortable friendship with Doug and Mary. No stress. No tension. Just friends camping together and enjoying each others' company. They didn't even laugh when I tried to cool the container of orange juice in the river--and the current pulled it downstream.

  • venturing into Crested Butte for lunch and regular bathrooms. I'm not a big fan of port-a-potties, which is all there was at our campsite--even if they were enclosed, lighted and had posters of birds and flowers on the walls. Oh, look! Wallpaper!

  • looking up at the sky at night and seeing hundreds of stars. Hundreds.

  • absolutely perfect weather. Blue skies. Puffy white clouds. Warm weather that wasn't too warm. And cool mountain nights that made me snuggle up with my husband in our joint sleeping bag.

  • the fun two kids can have looking for rocks and bugs and ant hills and flowers and whatever else caught their fancy.

  • a husband who is willing to do all the driving and let me doze in the passenger seat.

  • the beauty of Monarch Pass (going) and Cottonwood Pass (returning home).

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Monday, June 23, 2008

No Assembly Required

" . . . But by the grace of God I am what I am . . ." 1 Corinthians 15:10 (NASB)

Here's how my friend Mike put it tonight when we were talking about grace ("we" being our Bible study fellowship group):

"We want to attach things to grace. We think, 'It can't be that simple.'"

And then you put that kind of pharisaical thinking up against 1 Corinthians 15:10 where Paul says, "I am what I am."
And that's when you realize:
  • I don't have to try to be more
  • I don't have to pretend to be someone I'm not
  • I don't have to dress myself up in Pharsee-do-isms

I am what I am--and by grace, God accepts me.

No assembly required. I don't have to go rummaging around for any missing parts or any added spiritual doo-dads or thingamabobs to spruce myself up.

I am what I am--and by grace, God accepts me.

Just Thinking Out Loud: There's a lot of freedom for an Accidental Pharisee in 1 Corinthians 15:10. Paul was a Pharisee on purpose. A Pharisee of Pharisees. And yet he is able to say, "I am what I am"--and by grace, God accepts me.

Take that thought captive, friend--and embrace the freedom it offers.


Thursday, June 19, 2008

Thankful Thursday # 4

Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day.
— Anonymous

As I read other bloggers' reasons to be thankful, I think, "Oh, yeah! Me too! I should have said I was thankful for (fill in the blank.)" Now obviously, I don't mean I'm thankful for the specifics in other people's lives--but the "Big Beats"--that's where gratitude often intersects in the lives of believers.
Today I am thankful for:
  • the cool Colorado breeze wafting through the windows. It's so pleasant to wake up to--and I know that within a few hours, it will be displaced by 80 degree weather

  • running with my husband--and the amazing fact that I'm running faster. Not fast, mind you. Just faster than I have been. And I'm running 5 minute intervals, which is quite a jump from my 2-3 minute intervals. I feel like a runner. (I don't know what I look like to all those people in the cars driving past me, but I haven't heard anybody laughing.)

  • my writers group--all three of us. We had a wonderful session yesterday of encouragement and editing--and a time when all 3 of us were editing my article out loud at the same time and I scrambled to keep up marking changes and deletions. It was a beautiful moment to see all of us using our talents.

  • the late-night laughter my husband and I shared with our two oldest daughters. We gathered around my computer (How odd is that!?) and watched some hilarious YouTube clips. And laughed and laughed and laughed. Sure, Rob and I had work to do . . . but the time was better spent with our daughters.

  • a bit more breathing space, now that my caboose kiddo's recital is over and her swim classes are finished and the magazine I edit has gone to print. A few less things to do these days before the next round of busyness.

  • the simplicity of my relationship with God right now. I know I could take a wrong turn and start complicating things again--it tends to be what we Accidental Pharisees do. But, for now, God and I are in a good place. I savor the lack of guilt that is tainting my interaction with God.

Thank you to Iris for encouraging me--and so many others--to take time to be thankful.


Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Keeping It Simple

"The simplest things are often the truest." ~ Richard Bach, writer

I've been keeping it pretty simple between God and I lately.
No grand schemes to read through the Bible in a week or memorize all the Psalms by the end of June.
None of that.
I've just let God know that I want to be in relationship with him. That time with him is important to me. That I want to make it a priority--and that I'm sorry when I don't. And more than that, I miss him when I don't have time with him.
I'm reading in the book of Joshua right now. Why? Because I'm intrigued by the cities of refuge and you can read about them in the book of Joshua. I'm journaling what I discover along the way.
I'm praying for several friends battling cancer and one whose son is recovering from a life-threatening accident and another whose daughter is in a heartbreaking relationship.
I am praying for my husband and my children and my friends and my family. And for myself.
See? I'm keeping it simple.
And you want to know the amazing thing? I like where I am with God right now.
He knows I love him.
I know he loves me.
I know he wants to spend time with me.
He knows I want to spend time with him.
That's what you call a relationship.

Just Thinking Out Loud: I can hear Wise Guy saying, "Fascinating, isn't it?" as I explore a different relationship with God. A relationship not based on dos and don'ts--but rather, one based on wants. I want to be in relationship with God more than I want to be a performance based Accidental Pharisee.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

To Good to be True

"Grace focuses on who God is and what He has done, and takes the focus off ourselves. And yet it's so easy to think we need to do something to earn God's favor, as though God's grace is to good to be true." ~ Charles Swindoll, The Grace Awakening

I often say I don't "get" grace.
I know I've received grace.
I just don't get it.
But I've decided to not say that anymore.
Or, at least, I'm going to try and say that less.
The truth is, I can "get" grace. God did not mean for me to be eternally frustrated by his means of reconciliation, which is grace.
Sure, living out grace may seem like a foreign language to an Accidental Pharisee like me. But, if I can comprehend high school French--and I did--then I can ask God to help me understand his grace. If I can learn sign language--and I did--then I can read the Word and watch others whose lives overflow with grace and come to a better understanding of grace.
I like how Charles Swindoll says, "Grace focuses on who God is and what He has done and takes the focus off ourselves."
I think those are steps 1, 2 and 3 for learning more about grace:
1. Take the focus off me
2. Focus more on God and who He is
3. Focus on what He has done for me.

Just Thinking Out Loud: Accidental Pharisees like to make things harder than they need to be. I don't need to go back to square one and figure out who God is. I've had a relationship with him for years now. He's remained faithful to me through the good and the bad times--and the times when I've been less than faithful to him.
Who is God? He is faithful. What has he done for me? He has loved me despite my Accidental Pharisee-ism, when I've diluted his grace with my "Doesn't-this-make-me-just-a-bit-more-acceptable" efforts.

Who have you discovered God to be? What has he done for you?

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Thankful Thursday #3

" I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought; and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder. "
— G.K. Chesterton

Iris over at Sting My Heart, who hosts Thankful Thursdays, focused on Scripture verses she is thankful for. I so liked her idea, I decided to do the same. These are verses that you will find penned on the inside cover of my Bible . . . my life verses. My life preservers.

Psalm 51:6 Behold, You desire truth in the innermost being, And in the hidden part You will make me know wisdom. (NASB)

Psalm 62:11-12a One thing God has spoken, two things have I heard: that you, O God, are strong, and that you, O Lord, are loving . . . (NIV)

Isaiah 26:3 You will keep in perfect peace him whose mind is steadfast, because he trusts in you. (NIV)

Proverb 26:2 Like a fluttering sparrow or a darting swallow, an undeserved curse does not come to rest. (NIV)

Psalm 115:1 Not to us, O LORD, not to us but to your name be the glory, because of your love and faithfulness. (NIV)

Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus. (NASB)

Colossians 1:13 For He rescued us from the domain of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son . . . (NASB)

2 Corinthians 12:9 And He has said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness " Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.

And one last one:

"We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand--in the wide open spaces of God's grace..." —Romans 5:2 The Message

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Monday, June 9, 2008

Who You Doing It For?

And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.
Colossians 3:17 (NLT)

Colossians is my favorite book in the Bible. I once taught a weekend retreat on the book of Colossians.
I don't know if anyone else learned anything during that time.
I know I did.
God used all the time leading up to the retreat to prune me. To convict me of sin. To bring me to my knees and make me wonder, "Am I really supposed to get up in front of these women and try to tell them anything?"
I came across Colossians 3:17 tonight and read it through the eyes of an Accidental Pharisee on her way to retirement.
I saw the word "do" in the verse. Twice, within the first 10 words. Ah, yes. Something for a Pharisee to grab hold of. Something to do.
And then I realized the second "do" is part of a qualifying statement: do it all in the name of the Lord.
A Pharisee is all about look-at-me.
This verse says my life should be all about look-at-God-in-me. What I do should not obscure him. It should reveal him.
And at the same time, I should be thanking God.
Not focusing on me.
Focusing on God--and all reasons I should be saying thank you to him.

Just Thinking Out Loud: Colossians 3:17 doesn't say I shouldn't do anything. It acknowledges that I will be doing things. Saying things. It just instructs me to do them to honor God. I've recently made a decision to do some thing that could become all about me. Warning. Warning. Warning. I best make sure the do-ing isn't about me (How am I doing, God? Are you pleased with me? Everybody else like me?) and prayerfully submit the do-ing to honor God.

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Friday, June 6, 2008

Me, Myself and I

"It should not be hard work just to be yourself." ~Unknown

Wise Guy has lots of sayings posted up around his office. A few photos. Some cartoons, including a Calvin and Hobbes. There's a lot of wisdom in Calvin and Hobbes.
The other day I read this saying again, for probably the hundredth time:
"It should not be hard work just to be yourself."
Oh, yeah?
Says who?
There's a beautiful whisper of freedom in those 10 words.
And yet it's one of the most difficult things I've ever tried to be: myself.
Me got twisted up in mistakes I made. Mistakes other people made at the cost of me.
By the time I got around to asking the question, "Who am I?" I couldn't see the original, untarnished version of me.
I can tell you the Me I want to be.
I can tell you the Me I want you to think I am.
I can tell you the Me I wish I was.
But all of those versions of Me take a lot of effort.
I'd like to try the easier version of Me.
And I think that takes grace.

"It's in Christ that we find out who we are and what we are living for. Long before we first heard of Christ . . . he had his eye on us, had designs on us for glorious living, part of the overall purpose he is working out in everything and everyone." Ephesians 1:11 (Msg)

Just Thinking Out Loud: I hope Wise Guy leaves that saying up for a long time. This Accidental Pharisee needs to be reminded that it shouldn't be such an effort to be myself. Effort = Doing.

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Thursday, June 5, 2008

Thankful Thursday #2

"God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?" ~William A. Ward

I've been looking forward to Thankful Thursday since last week. It was fun to focus on my reasons to be grateful--and even more fun to peek into the lives of others and see their reasons to be grateful.

Today I am thankful for:
  • the chance to go running with my husband, Rob. Well, to be honest, we go walk/running. I'm a beginner at this and am still working on the whole time/distance/interval challenge. But the best part is that this is something my husband and I are doing together. And at the end of each run, we clasp hands and tell each other, "Good job!"
  • the chance to connect with each one of my 4 siblings and both of my parents this week. I live in Colorado--they all live on the east coast. So it's nice to look back and realize I had the chance to chat with all of them.
  • my health. I shouldn't take it for granted, especially since 2007 was a year of extended illness for me. And I have several close friends/family members who are struggling with health problems. When you feel good, sometimes you just take it for granted.
  • my children. They make me laugh. They make me proud. They teach me about forgiveness and courage and living life to the fullest.
  • grace. I don't "get" grace. It's too wide-open and unconditional for an Accidental Pharisee for me. But I know I need it. I desire it. I really, really don't want life to be all about Law and dos and don'ts. I am thankful that I wake up each morning and God's mercies are new--and I can start again, without the mistakes of yesterday and the day before and the day before that hanging over me.

"We throw open our doors to God and discover at the same moment that he has already thrown open his door to us. We find ourselves standing where we always hoped we might stand--in the wide open spaces of God's grace..." —Romans 5:2 The Message

Thank you, Iris, at Sting My Heart, for hosting Thankful Thursday.


Monday, June 2, 2008

Walking the Broken Road

"Every long lost dream led me to where you are
Others who broke my heart, they were just Northern stars
Pointing me on my way into your loving arms . . ." ~ Bless the Broken Road
Two of my favorite groups sing "Bless the Broken Road": Selah and Rascal Flatts. So, depending on whether you tune your radio to Christian or country, you've probably heard this song.
I realize the song's open to interpretation. Is the singer talking about the arms of a true love or the arms of God?
You tell me.
Depending on my mood, I hear the song either way.
Tonight, as I play "Bless the Broken Road" over and over again, I am thinking of God's arms.
I like to think that my heartaches--the man-made ones and the me-made ones--all pointed me to the God who loved me, who waited with wide-open arms.
I like to think that when I made wrong turns along my life's road, God didn't stomp his foot in frustration. I think He waited for me. With his arms wide open.
I like to think that when I didn't love myself--when I didn't think anyone else loved me--that God still did.
Pharisee that I am, I forget this.
And, you know what?
God still loves me.

Just Thinking Out Loud: We Accidental Pharisees like to think it's all the right things we do that get us to God. But just like everyone else, we walk a broken road. And the ones who broke our hearts can be the Northern stars that point us to God's loving arms.