Category Archives: Social Behaviors

What Kind of Schmuck Are You?!

Yesterday, I got a call from a carpenter who’s going to be updating our 30-year-old kitchen, and when he accidentally called me “Karen,” he apologized by saying, “I’m sorry! I’m really a schmuck!” I didn’t mind his forgetting my name (he hasn’t even started working for us yet), but I did find myself reactive to the idea that he made it sound like a “schmuck” is a bad thing, because I have a young friend whom I greatly admire whose last name is Schmuck. This Schmuck wants to become a minister, and he’s working his way through college by serving as a member of the maintenance department at our church. We’ve been involved in ministry together, and he is an all-around all-star guy. He also has a great sense of humor, and I’ve heard they advertised the youth group by saying, “Come, and don’t worry, because you’ll never be the only schmuck here!”  So, while we were in Nepal, I couldn’t help but notice the sign on the bathroom door where we had our much-longed-for rest stop on the Prithivi Highway. I took a photo with my cell phone to send to Zach, but then I thought better of it, just in case it might hurt his feelings. However, just a few days later, we visited the International Mountain Museum, and I noticed that there was a famous mountain climber by the name of Marcus Schmuck who led the first successful assent of Mt. Broad Peak back in 1957. It was a very difficult and lofty achievement, indeed, and one that has only been repeated a scant handful of times since.Broad Peak is the twelfth highest mountain in the world, very dangerous, and in such a remote area of Pakistan’s Karakoram Range that no one in the western world even knew it existed until 1892!So, I want to defend the name “Schmuck” and say that there are some mighty fine schmucks out there! Last summer, my young friend got married, and I know that even though he’s had to scrub a lot of toilets while working his way through college (which is not what he’s doing here; he and his wife had a foot-washing ceremony during their wedding [which is very biblical, by the way]), this young man is a true mountain climber, and I know he will also achieve some lofty goals for our Lord over the course of his lifetime.   Jesus taught: “He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted” (Matthew 23:11-12).

Jesus also set the example for us: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.” (John 13:3-10).

What’s the Relationship Between Forgiveness and Repentance?

Forgiveness and Justice: A Christian Approach was written as a tool to help victimized people work through the pain of their injury, specifically as they confront the issue of whether or not to forgive their offender, and if so—when, and on what basis. If you’ve sustained an injury in the past that is still causing emotional trauma for you today, or if you have an old injury that has never healed but you’ve dealt with by consciously refusing to ever think about it again, then this book might be helpful.

That being said, Dr. Maier’s book reads like a doctoral dissertation, so it’s primarily an academic exercise in trying to understand the nature of forgiveness and the interplay between forgiveness and justice…aimed more at the head than the heart and clearly written to provide insight for Christian clergy and health-care professionals as they minister to the spiritual and emotional needs of victims.

Maier begins by refining the definition of “forgiveness,” pointing out that “the overarching meaning of forgiveness is manifesting and sharing redemptive grace.” However, he feels that the basic concept of forgiveness as “letting go of the need for vengeance and releasing negative thoughts of bitterness and resentment,” or “giving up one’s right to hurt back” may be too simplistic, because many people have trouble actually forgiving by that definition.

After exploring the definition, boundaries, and contours of forgiveness, Maier argues that our pattern for forgiveness should be modeled after God’s manner of forgiving us, which includes: “A readiness to forgive, an other-centerd focus, a foundation in the gospel, and a requirement of repentance.”

Although I believe that Maier’s observations on how God forgives us are sound, I do not believe the Bible teaches that we are to forgive others using the way in which God forgives us as a model. In fact, I don’t think it’s even a possibility! Jesus taught us to pray, “And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us” (Luke 11:4). Do you sense the difference? Jesus teaches us to forgive on the basis of our having been forgiven, but this is not true of God. God has never sinned. God has no need of being forgiven. God does not appeal to any higher authority, because He is the highest authority in the universe! God does not offer forgiveness based on his willingness to forgive those who’ve offended him, although this is exactly the model he sets up for us when Jesus teaches us to pray.

God, as the divine judge, is required to demand justice. “The wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23). God is incomprehensibly merciful and ready to forgive. God has an other-centered focus in forgiveness because He is perfect in love and needs no healing or help for himself. God is only able to offer forgiveness and remain just based on Christ’s death as the complete payment for our sin: “Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4:10). And finally (Maier’s fourth point), God does require repentance for salvation: “For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of” (2 Corinthians 7:10).

God, as divine judge, forgives us based on our repentance, but he does not tell us that we are divine judges who must base our forgiveness on repentance. Rather, the Bible teaches, “For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you: But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses” (Matthew 6:14-15). This places the weight of forgiveness squarely on our shoulders and gives no indication that we cannot—or  even need not—forgive if our offender has not repented.

Instead, he urges us to remember that He is the judge, and he will hold each man accountable for his sin: “Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth” (Romans 14:4). Paraphrased, I believe this verse means, “Who are you (me…any of us) to judge someone else, because each person is ultimately God’s servant, not ours. God is omniscient. He knows all the facts. He alone can judge with perfect insight and wisdom.

Does that mean that we should forget about justice? No. We have every right to seek for justice, love justice, and applaud justice. We are required by God “to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God” (Micah 6:8). However, we are not to take justice into our own hands (unless we are the appropriate, responsible authority, such as in our homes and work places). God and government are ordained as the conduits for prescribing punishment for unjust behavior, and when we are mistreated, we can fight for justice (as portrayed by Esther), but we’re not supposed to take personal revenge on others: “Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord” (Romans 12:19). Like Abraham, we need to trust, “Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?” (Genesis 18:25).

In my experience, offenders have very little insight into what they’ve done wrong, and if they do repent, it usually seems shallow and inadequate. If that hasn’t been your experience, you’re very blessed! However, I’m acutely aware that this is without a doubt also true of my repentance. I have very little insight into how sinful my attitudes and conduct often are, and when I realize that I’ve been wrong, I’m sure I don’t fully realize the negative impact I’ve had on others.

Therefore, it’s easy for me to feel compassion for others when they offend me, and I often find consolation in verses like: “The heart knoweth his own bitterness; and a stranger doth not intermeddle with his joy” (Proverbs 14:10).

Well, the book has many helpful ideas and definitely made me search the scriptures to refine my own thinking, but in the final analysis, I believe God does require us to forgive: “And when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses. But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your trespasses) Mark 11:25-26. In fact, I believe God calls us to a life of forgiving: “Then came Peter to him, and said, Lord, how oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times? Jesus saith unto him, I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven (Matthew 18:21-22).

Although reconciliation definitely requires repentance on the part of the offender: “Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother” (Matthew 18:15), I truly believe that forgiveness is based on, “freely ye have received, freely give” (Matthew 10:8), and God is extremely hard on those who are unwilling to forgive: “And his lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due unto him. So likewise shall my heavenly Father do also unto you, if ye from your hearts forgive not every one his brother their trespasses” (Matthew 18:34-35).

If you find that you have no desire to forgive someone in your life who has injured you, I beg you to pray for the Holy Spirit to give you the grace to forgive and heal your soul, “Looking diligently lest any man fail of the grace of God; lest any root of bitterness springing up trouble you, and thereby many be defiled” (Hebrews 12:15). An unwillingness to forgive will keep us from experiencing the freedom that comes from releasing all our pain and sorrows to God, who alone is able to redeem, restore, and reconcile our hearts and our relationships. We don’t have to wait for our offenders to repent! If we’re believers, we can forgive based on the fact that Christ has forgiven us. Let’s leave divine justice in his capable hands. This will free us to heal, and who knows? The day may even come when we can be like the good shepherd in Luke 15, who went out seeking for a lost sheep!

What Really Happened In Charlottesville, Virginia?

Last weekend, while Alan and I were strolling beaches and climbing sand dunes along Lake Michigan, a firestorm was enveloping Emancipation Park in Charlottesville, Virginia. What started out as a protest against the removal of  the 100-year-old Robert E. Lee statue ended up as a brawl between two groups of extremists. Among the protesters were white supremacists, neo-Nazis, outlaw bikers, and KKK members (to name a few of the most egregious and radical). Among the counter protesters were Antifa, Revolutionary Communist Party, Redneck Revolt, and the Metropolitan Anarchist Coordinating Council (again, naming a few of the most egregious and radical to my way of thinking). Do you identify with either of these groups? I do not.

Who told the police to “stand down” and let it happen? I guess we won’t know until the report comes out on September 6th. But, who failed to stop the brawl isn’t the biggest question. The biggest question is: “Who’s Causing the Trouble?”

It looks to me like angry fringe groups at both ends of the spectrum are causing the trouble. This isn’t a liberal vs conservative or democrat vs republican issue; this is an issue of two conglomerations of extremists who are restless and angry. However, it looks to me like the media is having a hay day trying to turn it into a smear campaign against conservatives and Trump. Come on, Americans. We need to pull together to stabilize our nation. This should be about good vs evil, not Trump vs the liberal press!

The right for a peaceful protest is a privilege of democracies. I’ve seen men on soapboxes at the corner of Kensington Park in London speaking their minds, and I’ve walked like a salmon swimming upstream beside a massive (and scary) protest in Lisbon, Portugal. People disagree with each other the world around, and much as I disapprove of what they believe sometimes, I am thankful to live in a country where people are allowed to express their opinions.On the other hand, the more I studied the Charlottesville tragedy, the more I’ve become convinced that it isn’t just differing opinions that cause problems. Violence commences when people stop obeying the laws of civil behavior and start taking matters into their own hands, which is completely against the clear teachings of the Bible. Jesus taught that we should “turn the other cheek,” not punch people in the face. In the events last weekend, there were two groups of extremists who became so angry and agitated that they stopped obeying the laws of our country (and God). Having a 20-year-0ld student kill one woman and injure 19 more is indefensible no matter how angry he might be.

Criminals need to be prosecuted. Laws need to be respected. If we’re going to be a country that provides “liberty and justice for all,” then that includes everybody…on both sides. Racism is heinous to me. To hate anyone based on their color or ethnic background is really just hating God, because He made us each the beautifully unique creation that we are, whether we’re from Syria or Israel or Germany or the heart of Africa. But, I don’t think we should kill racists. Do you? Aren’t we supposed to “overcome evil with good”?

Wake up, America! God calls us to love everyone, not just those we find attractive and with whom we agree. In the parable about the good Samaritan, Jesus pointed out that “our neighbor” (whom we are to love) is anyone with whom we come in contact who needs rescue. It’s easy to be critical of failure; it’s really hard to love. Can we choose love over hatred and try to be a part of the rescuers rather than armchair critics?

25 And, behold, a certain lawyer stood up, and tempted him, saying, Master, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?

26 He said unto him, What is written in the law? how readest thou?

27 And he answering said, Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbour as thyself.

28 And he said unto him, Thou hast answered right: this do, and thou shalt live.

29 But he, willing to justify himself, said unto Jesus, And who is my neighbour?

30 And Jesus answering said, A certain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his raiment, and wounded him, and departed, leaving him half dead.

31 And by chance there came down a certain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 And likewise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Samaritan, as he journeyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had compassion on him,

34 And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pouring in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him.

35 And on the morrow when he departed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said unto him, Take care of him; and whatsoever thou spendest more, when I come again, I will repay thee.

36 Which now of these three, thinkest thou, was neighbour unto him that fell among the thieves?

37 And he said, He that shewed mercy on him. Then said Jesus unto him, Go, and do thou likewise. (Luke 10:25-37)

 

An Unexpected Blessing at a Mackinac Island Church

No matter where in the world we go,
Alan and I like to fellowship in some church on Sunday morning if possible.  (If not, like we’re sitting in an airport or have no clue where there’s a church where they speak English, we watch our own church’s service online.)  In most American communities, there are usually at least two churches:
the local catholic church  and the local protestant church.

We are evangelical Christians (believing that people are saved by faith in Christ rather than by having enough “good works” to outbalance our “bad works” when we come to the judgment seat of God),  and so we always look for a churchwhere we hope this “gospel” (good news) will be preached.  (However, we did go to Notre Dame the last time we were in Paris, despite not knowing French or having much of a grip on the liturgy…at least we knew where it was!)   At any rate, I always think it’s good for my soul to learn about how other congregations worship the Lord,  and I also hope to be a blessing and encouragement to others as we share our faith together in corporate worship.              On Mackinac Island, there are several beautiful, old churches.  We were at a wedding held at St. Ann’s some years ago, which still makes me glow to remember.  The last few times we’ve been on Mackinac Island, we’ve gone to the Mackinac Bible Church, which meets in the theater of Mission Point Resort. -1 We arrived a bit early and just happened to sit next to a sweet-looking couple. Moments into our chatting with them, we discovered that Nancy (the wife) and I both graduated from Bob Jones University and that her husband (a Harvard graduate) is now working in finance at Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, where our son Jonathan and his family will soon be moving. This couple was so kind! Before (the very lively) service began, we exchanged emails, and they offered their home to Jon as a base for looking for housing, etc. etc. etc. Their gracious hospitality was totally overwhelming, and just knowing that there is a mature Christian couple in Chicago as a reference for them is so comforting (because—as a huge city with a bad reputation for crime—trying to find housing in Chicago will be a bit intimidating)!  Thank you, Lord, for this very special blessing! Only You could orchestrate such an unlikely meeting, but that’s the sort of amazing God You are!(The majority of photos were taken on Mackinac Island, but I did intersperse some of cathedrals and basilicas from Europe, where we were visiting last week. I hope to start writing about that trip next week! This last amazing photo is more of Bob Hardee’s creative genius at work. God bless you!)

 

For Garlic Lovers Only

Garlic “butter” is something we had at a restaurant years ago that I thought was going to be deadly, but it turned out to taste great. However, I would suggest taking seriously the old Italian adage: “Eat garlic as a family,” because—as Alan’s nose can always discern if I’ve eaten a great garlic whatever and he hasn’t—garlic stays on the breath for a very long time. I’m thinking that’s why it keeps vampires away. 🙂

Garlic spread

Use one entire bulb of garlic per person you intend to serve. Cut the top of the bulb so that the individual cloves are exposed. Fill a pan with enough water to steam the garlic without burning it (1 cup or a little less). Flip the bulbs over so that the opened cloves are exposed. Simmer, covered, for a half an hour. Turn off the heat. You can leave them in the pan to keep warm until you’re ready to serve them. I’m sorry I forgot to take a photo of what they look like once they’re served, but I just set them on the bread plate. The cloves of garlic become soft and can be squeezed out and spread on the bread like butter. One bulb can cover several pieces of bread. You can either butter the bread first and then add the garlic, or you can use the garlic as a butter replacement, although then I think it tastes better if you sprinkle on a little salt. At any rate, it’s a simple and fun way to dress up your bread, guaranteed to please garlic lovers and keep vampires at bay!

 

We remember the fish, which we did eat in Egypt freely; the cucumbers, and the melons, and the leeks, and the onions, and the garlic: But now our soul is dried away: there is nothing at all, beside this manna, before our eyes.” (Numbers 11:5-6).  When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand why the Israelites complained about not having onions and garlic, but now I understand. Many of the things in our lives that are not essential for our health are still very “tasty!”  Oh, to learn contentment with having our needs met, even if we can’t always have our wants met! Obviously, after the Israelites arrived in the Promised Land, they could plant abundant gardens again.

I hope you can afford a garlic bulb now and then…

Happy Ninth Anniversary, Summer Setting!

April 8 marked the ninth anniversary of my blog, Summer Setting, and it’s still one of the highlights of my daily life! Although my primary goal in writing is an attempt to be faithful to the calling I feel like God has given me, it’s been super rewarding and motivating to check in on my “Stats” page every once in a while. For instance, this past week people from over 60 countries looked at blog posts, and in the last 3 days Summer Setting was accessed over 1,300 times. That sounds like a lot to me, but given that I now have close to 2,000 followers, it also seemed like a curiously small number until I learned from WordPresses’ “Happiness Engineers” that their statistics don’t include any of the followers who have asked to have my posts sent directly to their email accounts every day, since they don’t have a tracking system to know who has opened those emails.

Now, you may be alarmed that I’d notice or care about “how many” people are interested in my blog, since ultimately whatever we do should be “heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men” (Colossians 3:23). You are right, and I should not be driven by human approval. However, the reason I’m passing this along to you is because it occurred to me that you might be a lot like me…trying hard in your own way to make a positive impact on your world without getting a lot of obvious response. However, beneath the surface, every good and right thing you do will add value to our world, whether or not anyone recognizes it, and it may be that there are more people who are being positively impacted than you realize. (Which is sadly also true when we make selfish, sinful choices.) Think of us as being blood cells in a body. As individuals, we have a minuscule role, but what we do affects many to most of the other cells in the body.

Feeling discouraged? If you’re a believer, know that Jesus is our “boss,” our Lord and Savior. If He’s smiling, that’s really all that matters. However, if He’s smiling, there are probably others who are feeling warmed by the sunshine as well, whether or not you can see them.

The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: The Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: The Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Numbers 6:24-26).

In the Spirit of the Ides of February

“Blessed are the flexible, for they shall not be bent out of shape.” Maureen Churabrutus-and-the-ghost-of-caesar-public-domain-wikiMost people know about the Ides of March, March 15, which was made infamous by the assassination of Julius Caesar in 44 BC and continued in infamy by Shakespeare’s famous play, Julius Caesar, written some 1643 years later.

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

However, did you know that February 15 also has special significance historically? February 15 was the date of an ancient ritual of purification, particularly washing with water, to purify people and their city from any evil spirits, which would allow the blessings of health and fertility to flourish as the citizens prepared for spring. februar_leandro_bassano-public-domainI don’t know about you, but I find all the dissension in America deeply disturbing, and I’m wondering if we might honor today as a day of personal purification coupled with earnest prayers for the healing of ourselves and our nation. It’s so easy to be critical of others…to make ourselves and our own values  into a gold standard for the way things should be. Can we instead humble ourselves and ask God to purify our hearts and straighten our thinking, so that we can see clearly and become a positive influence for good instead of adding to the cacophony of discord? There’s an old saying that “Charity starts at home,” and I think it’s just as true that “Purity starts with me.” Are we casting stones because we’re perfect and angry, or are we throwing mud because we’re frustrated that life is unfair and things aren’t going the way we think they should? Instead of adding to the problem, let’s pray that God will make us part of the solution by purifying our hearts and the hearts of our people. We can’t change others, but by God’s grace we can change ourselves. Then, I do believe God himself will rise up and move to work all things together for good…something no amount of fighting and anger will accomplish.mourning_mingrelians_pranishnikoff_1884“Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you. Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded. Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.” (James 4:7-9)