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April 7 Handcuffed by heart

Today’s story is not about today, but rather about people in general, about human life as we live it. I happened to walk into my kitchen today to see the sun glinting off this set of handcuffs, and the image looked interesting so I grabbed the camera to capture it. While I was grabbing the camera, the wearer stood up and the sun went behind the clouds. This picture is as close as I could come to re-creating the moment, and it’s a fail. But when I was cropping it, which I usually don’t do to my Project 365 pics (oooh, did you catch that? We are 365ing again!!), I realized it was a great image to go with the post I warned you was coming a few days ago, the one about sinning and why we do it.

handcuffed by heart

Recently, I had an intense experience with God’s mercy and grace. I’ve been saved a long time, since I was a young child, but I finally “got it”. I’ve spent most of my adult life trying to earn love. God’s love, men’s love, my parent’s love, people’s love. And I have failed, and failed miserably at it most of the time. The other night, I came face to face with God’s free grace and boundless love, a love that remains no matter what. I can’t earn it, because it’s already mine. It can’t be lessened by my actions because my actions have nothing to do with it. God loves me because I exist. He brought me into existence and He loves me. He loves me when I do what He wants me to do, and He loves me when I don’t. And nothing I do will ever change that. Do you realize how powerful that is?

Now, let’s explore that sin thing. I said the other day that we sin because we are sinners, and not the other way around. Mortal man can no more avoid sin that he can avoid breathing. Somehow, everyday, we will sin: we’ll become angry for no good reason, we’ll covet, we’ll think badly of someone, we’ll be selfish or unkind, we will do that which displeases God. Pastor has lately been saying that man could not keep the rules when there was only one (don’t eat from that tree), and how much less can we keep them now, when there are so many??? Now, that isn’t to say we should not try to avoid sin, but just that when we do fail, we don’t lose God’s love. Since we didn’t merit to begin with, we don’t lose it.

God’s free salvation is for everyone. Even for me, wretch that I am. Even for you. Free means free, even for me. He loves me. He loves me. He loves me. No matter what. As my bff Ang. said, think about that book that you read to your babies Love You Forever, and that’s how God feels about you. Right now. Yesterday. Tomorrow and all the tomorrows after that, forever and ever and ever. He loves you.

Now then, you probably noticed the list I mentioned way up there had a lot more than God’s love on it. I thought I was going to be able to tell that story today as part of this one, but I find I cannot yet do that. Those handcuffs really go with that other, still untold story, but I am leaving them because…I don’t have another picture for today, and because this one is a powerful reminder of where I have been.

Pray Like You Mean It

I got this in an email a while ago, and I sent it right to the trashcan. I just hate those been-forwarded-98-times emails, don’t you? And then, I started thinking about it. Go ahead and read it, and I’ll share my thoughts below.

In a small mid-western conservative town, a new bar/tavern started a building to open up their business. The local United Methodist Church started a campaign to block the bar from opening with petitions and prayers.

Work progressed, however right up till the week before opening, when a lightning strike hit the bar and it burned to the ground.

The church folks were rather smug in their outlook after that, until the bar owner sued the church on the grounds that the church was ultimately responsible for the demise of his building, either through direct or indirect actions or means.

The church vehemently denied all responsibility or any connection to the buildings demise in its reply to the court.

As the case made it’s way into court, the judge looked over the paperwork at the hearing and commented, “I don’t know how I’m going to decide this, but as it appears from the paperwork, we have a bar owner who believes in the power of prayer, and an entire church congregation who doesn’t!”

How often are we like this church congregation? We’ll pray and pray and pray and then when God acts on our behalf we’ll say “t’aint so”. We deny the power of the very God we pray to! How crazy is that?

Or what about when we pray for a thing, open our eyes and say “God’s never going to do that.”? We make our prayer of no effect through our own unbelief. That’s crazy, too. We should pray like we mean it, and like we believe God is able. How much could and would God do if we always prayed like that?

Decisions Best Made in Advance

Those of you who follow me on twitter, and if you don’t you should, because I am clever and witty and bitingly sarcastic, and totally transparent, unlike my secretive and transcendent friend, Pete, who still has not approved my comment, might have noticed this little gem

can you hear that roaring sound? It is the vacuum created by the current suckage of my day/week/month/year. /end covering pathos w/ humor. 10:43 AM Oct 17th from TwitterFox

and then I have had a recent conversation with Ang., who doesn’t even moderate my comments at all, where she wondered if perhaps Satan was beginning to win the war within me. I was in a very bad place, and I frankly still am, and I mentioned to her that I could not see God anywhere.

Folks, this has been the hardest year of my life. Harder than the year I got divorced. Harder in some ways than the year I lost custody of my first born child. And it’s because there has just been so. much. fecal. matter. to deal with. Wave upon smelly wave.

When I got back from Vegas last year, I entered what can only be described as the pit of despond.

First, I gave my husband the checkbook, and I told him I was done with it. I was more than tired of the financial train wreck that had become the norm. I figured if I kept out of it, maybe he could get it back under control. Then there was the RankSpank, and my income dropped to just about pitiable levels.

And then, before I could take a breath, Mama called me and told me Grandmother had quit eating and was getting ready to die. And then she did. And I honestly do not know how I kept my grip on sanity during that time. I look back at the self portraits I took during the 10 days she took to die, and I do not even know that person in them. Those haunted eyes cannot be mine, because surely no one can look like that and live to tell the tale. I made it through her funeral stunned and shocked and clutching her picture to my chest on the way to the church and the cemetery. I remember the pull of my husband’s hand on mine, pulling me back as I was walking up the aisle of the church after the eulogy way too fast, trying to get away. I remember than same hand attached to mine and pulling me forward when my legs stalled and my knees locked as I made my way across the cemetery. (And you should know that I am typing this through tears even now). I do not know how I made it except by the grace of God, and if He had not been wise enough to make breathing an involuntary reflex, I might not have.

And then it was Christmas, and busy, busy, busy. And then it was April, and my Papa was dead, too. I had known he was sick, but my mind just refused to do the math involved with the phrase “stage 4 lymphoma”, and I still thought I had plenty of time.

And then, in June, we buried Grandma, too.

And the finances aren’t any better, and my husband quit his job, which did indeed suck, but it was a job, and I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that my marriage is shakier than it has ever been, and that I am angry with him every

The world's first gigacoaster, the 310 ft tall...
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day. The disconnect letters keep coming, the creditors keep calling and here we are. This is not the life I dreamed of. I wanted to be Cinderella when I grew up, and instead life is handing me one full chamberpot after another!

Can you see what I meant up above? It’s bad in here where I am. I feel like I have been cut off at the knees, and people, I am not very tall to begin with! There has not been time to grieve, because there hasn’t even been time to breathe, and the situation just looks pretty desperate and I so want to run away from all of it. I wake up every morning thinking “if I have to ride this roller coaster today, I am going to throw up”, and I get in and buckled up, and off we go, and yet I barf not.

So, here’s what I shared with Ang. the other day:

[10:11:51 AM] CassKnits says: yk, settling long ago that God was real and the Bible was true, it has made such a difference in my life
[10:12:02 AM] CassKnits says: I think back, this past year
[10:12:18 AM] CassKnits says: my life since Vegas has been one suck after another
[10:12:49 AM] CassKnits says: seriously, and the only reason I have not completely thrown in the towel is because I know that I know that I know God is real
[10:13:09 AM] CassKnits says: I can’t give up, because He won’t

I can’t quit because the God of the Universe believes in me. He knows I can go on, if I just continue to hold on to Him. He’s the one buckling the roller coaster’s seat belt for me, so I don’t fall out. But if I had not made up my mind decades ago that God was real, then I would panic because I cannot see Him now. It’s still scary, but I know the fault is lies with my human eyes, and not God. Trusting Him to see me through is absolutely the best “decision in advance” I have ever made. Some things it’s just better not to have to try to do during times of duress, or when the fog is thick and the path overgrown and littered with chamber pots, and the roller coaster is making that horrid clicky tick tick tick sound that always precedes the sudden scary drop.

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Oh, Be Careful Little Mouth, What You Say

Martyrdom of St. Ignatius, bishop of Antioch a...
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Now, I had intended last week to write on that Proverbs series every Monday. I thought it would just be good if ya’ll could count on hat being here for you sometime on Monday. And it would encourage me to develop the habit of writing on that once per week, too, so it’s not just that I am thinking only of you. But over the weekend something happened that is really weighing on my heart. Actually, several things happened, including me violating ever statement I made when I wrote last Monday, but that’s not what I need to discuss today. Just know that I fail and fail frequently, and that for most of those types of posts, I am just the secretary taking dictation from Higher Quarters. And now, the world’s longest ever introduction to a blog post is over.

This weekend, a board I serve on was asked to intervene in a situation, and we did. Now, the whole board knows that I am a Christian, or at least I hope they do. The thing did not go down well at all, and there were a lot of hot tempers and ruffled feathers, and threats and ugly words. And do you know what almost made me cry? Every member of the board looked at me at different times and said “That man is a pastor”. Oh, I wanted to weep. The man is a pastor in this community, and he has destroyed his witness. How many people will never embrace the cross of Christ because of what they saw and heard this weekend?

And here is the flip side. As bad as I feel for those who are lost and will remain lost, because of the spectacle this weekend, I also feel for that man. I know the burden of guilt he will carry when he realizes the cost of losing his temper in public that way. It is so hard to be a public Christian today. We literally live under a microscope, and any human failing we have is magnified and held up as an example of how Christians “really are”. That makes me so very sad, because Christians are just people. We aren’t perfect, just redeemed. And we are often just as sinful as non-Christians. The difference is that we are forgiven, and that we try to do better. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we fail in really big, and really public ways. Praise God, He loves us anyway.

The title of this post comes from that little song we teach the little children. It goes like this:
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
Oh be careful little eyes what you see
For the Father up above is looking down in love
Oh be careful little eyes what you see

And then it’s Oh be careful little ears what you hear and
Oh be careful little mouth what you say.

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Crowning or Shaming?

It’s time to continue our series on the Proverbs woman. Please know that the lack of posts on this subject has much less to do with the practicality and efficacy of God’s Written Word than it does with my poor time management techniques. I’m a work in progress like everyone else, and sometimes I’m making more progress than others times, yk?

Proverbs 12:4

An excellent wife is the crown of her husband, But she who causes shame is like rottenness in his bones.

When I read this verse again this morning, because it had indeed been sometime since I read it, I found myself thinking about different ways we shame our husbands. Are you like me, that it’s a lot easier to voice what not to do that it is to figure out what we ought to do sometimes? I mean, I know what an excellent wife is, and I think most of us do, but she just encompasses so much that it’s hard to put it in words. There’s a lot that she doesn’t do, too, right? For today let’s focus on how we shame our husbands, so that we can focus on being crowns instead.

Before we do that, let’s just clarify one thing. Can a man stand if his bones are rotten? No? Ok, then, moving on.

How then, do we best shame our husbands? We can:

argue with him over petty things
disregard his simplest requests
contradict or correct him in front of others
talk over him in public
speak for him instead of letting him speak
question his intentions and motives frequently
fail to keep the home tidy so he can’t bring guests over
fail to keep his children clean and combed
frequently outspending his earnings
deny his advances
not take care of our physical appearance (basic self care, hygiene, etc)
ignore the priorities he sets for our time

Most of these are little things that we may do without thinking, and maybe one incident alone isn’t that big a deal, but a consistent pattern of these behaviors can be really damaging to our husbands’ spirits. I’m just as guilty over this list as any other woman. I get busy, I get focused, I get sidetracked, and I forget that my primary purpose is to be a “beck and call girl”. My friend giggles when I say that, but look back at Genesis. Why was Eve created? Because God thought it wasn’t good for Adam to be by himself, and he needed a companion to help him. Look here at Genesis 2:18

Painting of a Biblical scene
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And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him.”

That’s right. There it is: like it, lump it, or be indifferent to it. Our job is helper. We are tasked to carry out our husband’s wishes in his absence. We have to lay aside our own ideas of “how it ought to be”, and do as he requests. Not that we can’t calmly and respectfully try to change his mind, of course, but in the end, it’s to be his call.

Ladies, and I am talking to myself here, that isn’t as big a burden as it sounds. There is a great weight lifted there, because if we are faithfully carrying out instructions, then we are not responsible for the outcome. Our responsibility ends when we carry out the instructions. Do you ever feel overwhelmed? Like you have too much to do and not enough time or resources to do it? If you have a husband, give that load right on back to him. It’s not your weight, it’s his! That is most likely what that passage about women being weaker vessels (1 Peter 3:7) means. We just are not made to carry all that. It’s not a failure on our part when we can’t, either. It’s just the way we are made. And accepting that, and letting him be the protector and covering he is intended to be and thriving within our God-given role is one more way we can be a crown to our husband.

One final thing, and it’s probably the hardest part of this whole post. If your husband fails to step up and do what he ought, try, try, try to not step in and fill his roles. That junk about “women have to do because men won’t” is one of the biggest and best lies Satan has thrown at our families and society since he told Eve that fruit sure looked good. I really, really believe that often times men don’t act because bossy, brassy women step into their shoes while they are planning what action to take. I’ve seen it over and over in my own marriage. If I wait on dh to render a decision, even if it takes more than the 30 seconds I allot him, then things go well. If I plunge ahead because I get aggravated that he’s taking time to think, then I am back tracking and trying to put out fires that I cause by my own pig-headedness.

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Momentary lapse of reason

Image of skeeterbess from Twitter

Image of skeeterbess

My friend Skeet had an interesting tweet tonight. Seems she was offered $4800 per month to take a porn link. Man alive. Four thousand eight hundred bucks, ya’ll! Wow. That’s like …. one sixth of our total income for last year.

That’s like, enough to bring our mortgage current and get a second car and that would just be for the first month. The second month, I could get the rest of what the kids need as far as clothes and shoes for the winter, and do some serious home repairs that we just haven’t been able to cover.

Fortyeighthundredbucks. I am ashamed to admit it, but I said I would consider it for such a price. I let some situational ethics come into play. How embarrassing is that? The fact of the matter is that no matter what my temporary circumstance, my situation remains constant. I’m a Child of the King, and I can’t do that. It would grieve my Father.

Image of zoo_ninja from Twitter

Image of zoo_ninja

You know what snapped me out of my delusion? zoo_ninja tweeted up and said
@cassknits OMG you said WHAT?
@cassknits it would be to the @skeeterbess offer that all those I thought were pure, are referring to :)
and then, even as I was writing this post he said
@cassknits it’s a scam I get them all the time. Stay true to your principles and good things will come.

Turns out, it’s pretty much a scam. You have to not only host the link, but spam a gazillion people a day to try to get then to take the link as well. But still. Lord have mercy, what was I possibly thinking? How could I ever look my kids in the eye again? How could I ever explain such a thing to the youth I have charge over? There is no amount of money that could possibly make that offer worth taking.

However, if you can think of a way for me to make that much money and still hold my head up, I’m listening.

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Gracious and discrete

Proverbs 11:16a A gracious woman retains honor.
Proverbs 11:22 As a ring of gold in a swine’s snout, so is a lovely woman who lacks discretion.

I think it’s pretty clear here that we want to be gracious and have discretion, right? I spent a few minutes reading commentaries and differing translations, only to discover that these verses mean basically what they say. The key is understanding the full definition of the words gracious and discretion, so let’s just head over to dictionary.com and check that out.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) -–adjective
1. pleasantly kind, benevolent, and courteous.
2. characterized by good taste, comfort, ease, or luxury: gracious suburban living; a gracious home.
3. indulgent or beneficent in a pleasantly condescending way, esp. to inferiors.
4. merciful or compassionate: our gracious king.

Will you look how big a word that is? I think we cheat ourselves sometimes when we ignore how big words are. We use just a tiny part of their full meaning, and forget the largeness of them. (Look at that definition again, and then think how often we read of God’s graciousness. Indulgent! Beneficent! Did you see that?) The thing about this definition is that it isn’t hard to do. We can be kind, we can be merciful, we just have to think about it. We have to pay attention to being gracious.

Discretion means the quality of being discreet, so that leaves me wondering about the larger meaning of discreet.

Dictionary.com Unabridged (v 1.1) –adjective
1. judicious in one’s conduct or speech, esp. with regard to respecting privacy or maintaining silence about something of a delicate nature; prudent; circumspect.
2. showing prudence and circumspection; decorous: a discreet silence.
3. modestly unobtrusive; unostentatious: a discreet, finely wrought gold necklace.

Judicious in conduct and speech. Un-huh. Vigorous head nod. Let’s tie that Proverbs 31 where we read that a virtuous woman will do her husband good and not evil all the days of HER life. Not his, HERS. You know what the biggest pitfall is for most of us, right? We’ll talk about our husband’s supposed shortcomings to anyone who will listen. We tell tales out of school, that’s what. I daresay that is an even more prevalent issue than what most of think of when we read this verse: sexual immorality. We need to guard our mouth as rigidly as we guard our sex.

There are bigger problems

Okay, I just posted a post that was basically whining about my current weight. The fact is that I have weighed what I weigh now for over a decade, and it’s my normal adult wight, and I am trying to change what appears to be set in stone. But in the grand scheme of things, my 10 pounds is small potatoes, because I am still in control of what I put in my mouth. I eat because I am physically hungry, but that’s where it stops. Unlike those who are addicted to alcohol or drugs, I’m not needing an intervention over my food choices. Well, mostly, LOL.

Not that I couldn’t use a 12-step program for other issues in my life. Anger, resentment, pity parties, bitterness, LAZINESS. Oops, did I say that? The truth is that there is no visible drug detoxification plan for those things, but they can do just as much damage to our emotional and spiritual lives as drug abuse does to our physical lives. Think about that. Imagine the druggiest drug-out druggie you know or can think of. Maybe the one you saw on tv, living in rags under the bridge with horrible teeth and scabby arms. Yeah, that one. Now imagine your spirit, your inner man, looking like that. That’s quite the mental image isn’t it? yeah, and if that’s you, it ought to be scaring you, because I will admit that when I look in the mirror, that’s sometimes what I see. And that is why the current series I am running on women in Proverbs won’t be the last such series you’ll see here.

But back to the subject at hand which started out as drug rehab, specifically Chapman House, before I got derailed. Chapman House uses a 12 step program to help folks overcome physical addictions. You ought to know from reading this blog that I am all for a program that points people to God, even if they add the phrase “as we perceive Him//her to be”. Admitting that there is a Higher Power is the first step in meeting the Real One, after all.

They also offer professional interventions for folks who just haven’t come to terms yet with the fact that they need a little help to overcome their issues. Just like a lot of life, that first step is the hardest one. Chapman accepts insurance, and they are CARF accredited, so you know they are among the absolute best.