Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Safe Place with Ruth Graham

Lance Armstrong

posted by Ruth Graham

Earlier this week I wrote about the desire that we all want to be fully known and understood. It was prompted by Jodie Foster’s comment at the Golden Globes.

Many of us live in fear that if we are known people will not love us. We protect our innermost selves at all costs. Lance Armstrong is such a person. And before we are critical of him, we are all like that – maybe not to that extreem but we still protect our own image – sometimes at great cost.

I don’t think anyone was surprised by his admission that he doped during his cycling career. His athletic feats were just too amazing. (He is a remarkable athlete even without the dope. Anyone to beat cancer and ride in the Tour de France is a remarkable athlete. And I give him credit.) I think what was shocking was his lies. The vehemence with which he protected his lies – even to the point of destroying others. We have seen that before in leaders.

It seems that the first response is denial – to lie and see if we can get away with it. Lying always compounds the problem. Perhaps the only one Lance really fooled was himself. And he is the one who will bear the consequences.

I am reminded of what Tiger Woods said, “I stopped living by the core values that I was taught to believe in. I knew my actions were wrong, but I convinced myself that normal rules didn’t apply. I never thought about who I was hurting. Instead, I thought only of myself. I thought I could get away with whatever I wanted to. I felt that I had worked hard my entire life and deserved to enjoy all the temptations around me.”

Two great athletes with bright futures. Two huge falls and world-wide disgrace. Those kinds of stories have been repeated throughout history. Flawed leaders – great drama comes from such tragedies. We all have our own tragedies and dramas so we dare not stand in judgment. We are all sinners saved by grace. But we can take heed. Proverbs 16:18 says, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before stumbling.”

Let us examine our own lives and where we are lying to ourselves or others, let’s begin to tell the truth. It will come out eventually. I admire folks who can come right out and own something rather than try to weasel around it. They just look like weasels!

 

To Be Known

posted by Ruth Graham

Jodie Foster made this  statement last night at the Golden Globes, “I want to be seen, to be understood deeply and to be not so very lonely.”

Deep down we all long to be authentic and have authentic relationships. Yet so many of us are living a life behind masks because we are not the same on the inside as what we project on the outside. We project an image to suit the crowd we are with. We live in fear that someone will see the real “us” and won’t like what they see. Simon Tugwell in his book, The Beatitudes: Soundings in Christian Tradition, writes: “We hide behind pretty faces which we put on for the benefit of our public. And in time we may even forget that we are hiding, and think that our assumed face is what we really look like.”

Yet deep down there is the hunger to be fully known. Understood.  Accepted. Loved. Valued.   We were created for that. God created humans in His image – both male and female. Unified. Complete.

God created the man out of the dust and provided a perfect environment and purpose for the man. He had everything he needed. God looked at the situation  and did not think it was good for the man to be alone so created a partner for him.  She was literally part of him  – there was intimacy from the beginning. We in Genesis read, “And the man and woman were both naked and were not ashamed.” Why would they be ashamed? They were part of the other. I am not sure naked is limited to flesh – as in no clothes – but in intimacy of soul and spirit

What does it mane to be Naked? Without protection, no covering, defenseless.

They were totally free with each other. Adam and Eve didn’t feel the need to be defensive. No one was judging them hence there was no shame. Theirs was not a complicated complicated relationship they were living in perfect unity with each other and with God. There were no longings, no injuries, no wounds, no fear, no worries. They were complete as He created them.

Can you try to imagine such a time…I wonder what it was like…

To be totally free, unashamed, content, joyful in living and purpose. Our original design was wholeness, completeness. We were created completely whole. We lacked nothing.

When Eve was tempted by Satan he made them think there was more than wholeness. When he said, “You surely shall not die! For God knows that in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God knowing good and evil.” (Genesis 3:5-5 NAS) He made them believe God was holding out on them.

The question he planted created a longing…they began to think they were not whole, complete. Was there something more? They wanted it.

When they disobeyed God and yielded to the temptation to be more than God created them to be, they lost their wholeness; they became broken.

Satan lied to them and they bought it.

And through them we are all fundamentally broken. We have searched for wholeness ever since – it is a lifelong quest to fill up the hole left by their sin.

Some seek to fill it with money, success, fame, sex, activity, relationships - there is no end to the ways we seek to meet the longing for completeness.

M. Robert Mulholland Jr. in  Invitation to a Journey writes: “The most profound yearning of the human spirit, which we try to fill with all sorts of inadequate substitutes, is the yearning for our completeness in the image of Christ.” We are fully known and fully loved. We are complete in Him.

It took a broken body, blood poured out to reverse Adam and Eve’s brokenness. It was Jesus’ death that brings hope to a person like Jodie Foster – to broken people like you and me!

 

Gun Control

posted by Ruth Graham

BeliefNet has posted a discussion about gun control on their homepage. They asked me to contribute a statement which I did. But I’d like to develop my thoughts here…

Let me make this disclaimer: I do not own a gun. I do not know how to hold one much less shoot one. I have family members that are serious gun collectors. I have other family members who seem to enjoy shooting – just because they can. In the area I live, people hunt to put food on their table. And I have precious friends who are big game hunters. I can appreciate their interest – it just doesn’t interest me.

These days you cannot pick up a newspaper, watch a TV news show, listen to the radio or people talking without hearing something about guns or gun control. It seems after each mass shooting the discussion ramps up. The Sandy Hook massacre certainly followed that pattern. The gun issue is front and center once again. The Vice President is studying the issue and making recommendation to the President. So this issue is gaining attention at the highest level of our government.

But a gun control law would not have prevented the Sandy Hook killings

The troubled young man took the guns that were legally purchased and registered to his mother. The school had all the right procedures in place to prevent this man from entering the building. But he did – he shot his way in. The young man in this case and, in most, was mentally unstable and in need of help. Laws don’t address that.

As a nation of 311.5 million people, we have the Constitutional  right to “bear arms”. This country has 270 million guns. And we add 16 million per year. Guns are in the warp and woof of our nation.  People are flocking to gun shows and the number of background checks are increasing. We are armed and continue to arm ourselves. Why? Fear. Fear that our right will be taken from us. Fear that we will need to protect our homes and families one day. I used to think of myself as almost a pacifist – until I had a baby. Then I knew I could and would kill to protect my child.

We have a culture of violence. We wean our children on violent and graphic video games. I used to be close to some young boys that were allowed to play – almost continuously – violent video games. I sat to watch one day and was appalled by the graphic nature of the game. A steady diet of such things desensitizes the mind, emotion and I believe, shrivels the soul. Our TV shows and movies are saturated in blood and sex. The envelope is being pushed further and further. Parents use the TV to babysit their children without monitoring what they are viewing. We are reaping as a society what we have and continue to sow. Sin brings its own judgment.

If we want to make laws we must address the mental health and culture of violence in this nation. But all of that are just symptom. Symptom of a much deeper more sinister problem. Sin.  Laws can’t address that. The Bible says the heart is “deceitful and desperately wicked”. We can see the obviousness of that. The real issue is not guns, mental health or violent videos and movies. No. The real issue is the heart of humankind.

We desperately need a new heart. The ancient prophet, Ezekiel told us that God can change the heart of man: “And I shall give them one heart, and shall put a new spirit within them. And I shall take the heart of stone out of their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, that they may walk in My statutes and keep my ordinances, and do them. Then they will be My people, and I shall be their God.”

 

 

 

2013

posted by Ruth Graham

Another year.

But what did I do with the last one?

Will this one be as difficult? Am I destined to be on this treadmill forever?

Everyone is in a festive mood. But me. They are excited about a new year…I am depressed. Am I to repeat the past? How do I truly begin again?

So many drink to forget. Overeat. Shop. View porn. Escape. Or get angry at the ones they are supposed to love. For many it is a difficult time of year.

I have never put much stock in New Years. December to January is like February to March but a lot more hype. What’s the big deal? A new beginning.

Really? Am I really a different person at 12:01 PM on January 1st as I was at 11:59 on December 31st. Not likely.

But I like to think I can turn a new page. Start anew.

We all have things we which we could undo. Forget. Decisions we could make differently. We may have covered them over with busyness and denial. But they haunt us in our quiet, private moments. How could we have been so stupid? What got into us?

We beat ourselves up. Or at least I do. That’s fruitless.

What I have decided to do this New Years is to invite God into the process. My own resolutions are mainly about me – what I will do. How I will try to reform. How I will form new habits. But that is so egocentric. That’s all about me.

One thing God has tried to get into my head this year is that is’s not about me. If it is, that’s idolatry! Yikes!

No, I don’t bow to a little statue. Or burn incense to a little god. No. But don’t I? When my first thought is about me? When everything is about me? How I feel? How others are treating me?

Let me give you a personal illustration:

I recently went to a large conference. I was not the speaker. I was an attendee. It was a great conference. I was by myself. Everyone else was part of a church staff. I sat by myself. I inroduced myself to those seated near me. I asked them questions about their ministry. They didn’t ask me about mine. In my mind I thought, “If they only knew who they were sitting near…” (arrogance!) At lunch time I asked an usher to introduce me to the two main speakers. I just knew they would be delighted to meet me and be interested in my work.  When I was introduced they looked at me as if I had dropped in from space!

I was miserable. Why had I come? The knot in my stomach grew.

I had tried.

As I got in my car to go home I asked God what had happened. Not in an audible voice, but the answer came back in a booming voice: “It’s not about you!”. Wow! I was so concerned about me that I missed so much of the message of the conference. My self importance – seeming self importance – got in the way of God’s blessing at that event.

So…no resolutions. Instead, I am simply making plans to give God more time. I am starting a reading plan with my church to read through the Bible in The Daily Walk Bible. I am asking God to transform me through His Word. I want to be more in love with Him each month. (Not daily. I don’t change that fast. It may be just this year – or  the rest of my lifetime – God is patient.)

I encourage you to forget your self-effort resolutions and ask God to transform you. That’s His speciality.

Happy New Year. Not because you are turning a new leaf but because you are asking God for grace to follow Him more nearly. He will do it.

 

 

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