Faith, Hope and Charity

This week we break from our theme of Interruptible for an insight from Terry Sheldon...

As a child growing up I romanticized the Cascade mountains. Oregon's volcanic peaks were different than the Rockies’ smooth and sparkly granite, and they weren't clustered together en-masse. Each Cascade peak was a craggy sentinel, and although formed with ancient violence, now stood sleeping. And beckoning.

I looked to them for inspiration and dreamed of climbing their dizzying heights. I was most captivated by the ones closest to Eugene, the Three Sisters. Also known by our settlers as Faith, Hope, and Charity.

We believers know these three descriptors as signs of strong emotional and spiritual health, wonderfully described in the Bible’s love chapter, Corinthians 13. It all seemed to fit together for me as I took up backpacking and mountain climbing in my youth, and as I attempted to learn the lessons of faith, hope and charity in my Christian walk. Both parallel journeys have been rocky and challenging, but rewarding in their own ways.

Awhile back it occurred to me that Corinthians’ lovely three sisters were chronological in our spiritual lives. Faith (North Sister) is a formidable peak. I can compare it to my first realization of the magnitude of my sin. Accepting the Lord requires us to stand up to fear and take a giant leap (of faith). Although I never did attempt North, my spiritual climb has been arduous. A start yes, but with a Doubting Thomas heart. I really hoped for more - the perfecting of my faith.

I grew up admiring my father’s mountain climbing exploits and waited to go with him one day. My chance finally came as a teen, on Hope (Middle Sister). The climb was rough. We were on the wrong side of a ridge and got lost. We triggered a small rock slide, resulting in a smashed finger. Then clouds shrouded the mountain by mid-afternoon and we were forced to turn back. My summit hopes were unfulfilled, but they would remain.

I would eventually reach the summit of Hope in my early twenties. It was glorious, but not without hard lessons along the way. My climbing buddy and I overcame poor planning, running out of water, sunburns and having to navigate the forest by moonlight after our flashlights died. In life, our day-to-day hope is always out there in front of us, as it should be. Without it we would lack motivation for what’s ahead. And without going forth, we would not grow and learn. But hope is not the endgame.

The faith, hope and charity progression seems tougher as it goes along. Learning to love and to be loved WELL is an inevitable struggle, and one of life’s hardest lessons. A few years later, my Charity (South Sister) experience was equal in its struggle, and its payoff. What started out to be a misty and cold hike through Charity’s lower reaches became a wickedly windy and wet slog up its southern ridge. Four of our seven-person team had turned around earlier, my father included. He was not happy, but trusted my judgement. The three of us who remained continued on, not at all sure how it would end.

But a glimmer in my imagination urged me on, as I sensed a unique mountain-top experience ahead. My fellow climbers had a similar expectation. We were a band of brothers, and we bonded in our struggle. Then it happened. Blue sky finally peeked out between the swirling curtain of clouds. As we reached Charity’s top under clear cobalt blue skies, we gazed out in astonishment across a flat cloud floor below us. It was almost 360 degrees of brilliant white, with all the Cascade peaks jutting up and out, North to South. I was on top of the world, and it was a sight and experience I will never forget.

Learning to love God and people is similar. It starts with youthful naiveté, then comes struggles with people that challenge our self-esteem, and hard events that can shake us to the core. But if we hang together and press ahead, and stay open and committed and humble, our love is purified and enhanced. True love (God's love) is indeed breathtaking. Personally, I believe I've just scratched the surface.

Let’s continue the climb, with courageous faith, with constant hope and with relentless love.


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About the Author

Terry is a man in constant motion to explore new horizons. He has a thirst for new places and faces, and a deep love for the natural world - with a weakness for waterfalls and sunsets. All of this venturing out helps to both ground and inspire him, because it opens him up to people, with their vast, collective array of experiences, outlooks and responses.

He finds all of this fascinating and sees that it has encouraged the growth of something crucial in his Christian development: empathy and compassion toward his brothers and sisters on this planet.

 

“Creation Contrasts”

Devotional originally posted December 28, 2016

On my long backpacking trip in the Wallowa Wilderness last summer, I was struck by the contrasting extremes of the natural world surrounding me. The terrain was either harsh or beautiful, life-sustainingly useful or life-threatening - and frequently both, side by side. The extremes were not just noticeable, they seemed at times contradictory. Really Lord, mosquitoes in this drop-dead gorgeous lake valley?

Abrasive and unyielding granite rocks next to delicate and colorful wildflowers. Freezing cold ice and snow draining into refreshing, gurgling streams, which of course sustain wildflowers, animals and humans. High and steep mountain barriers that make passage extremely hard, dotted with delicate fir trees to enrich our oxygen, provide shade and campfire fuel.

Then the absolute delicious feeling of living life in its euphoric fullness, walking in lock-step with a realization of possible physical peril. Would my next step be misplaced, casting me down a rocky cliff? Would my stomach violently reject all the lightweight but inhumane freeze-dried food I was consuming? Would I encounter a bear at the worst time by surprising her with cubs nearby?

Yes, the wilderness was extreme, but also for me, a photo-collage metaphor of everyday life back in Comfortville. There are plenty of emotional contrasts in our 9 to 5 as well. We say we take the good with the bad, but do we handle both well? We crave security, love and comfort, but we also get insecurity, heartache, and anxiety.

Success and failure, to borrow that word pair, are complete opposites, right? But are they really? Does failure amount to a terrible and permanent ending? And does success equal happiness and contentment, as some sort of moral achievement? Or are there hidden components of each for us to get to know, aspects more useful or dangerous than we might assume?

Success can satisfy and reward us for our efforts, but it can also produce arrogance and buffer us from Godly compassion. Failure can plunge us deep into self-absorbed despair, or it can make us rich, deep-pool people who find a way to “win” in a more subtle and rewarding way. Am I suggesting failure is the better result? Not necessarily, but perhaps with both contrasts, it's important to experience each in its mature fullness, and that we treat both with much care.

The Art of Deception

We all encounter the enemy of our souls and his coercive attempts on our lives. We get cues from scripture about “powers and principalities” and “fiery darts”. It's powerful language but I have to admit it sometimes seems grandiose and hard to process. Quoting scripture at the enemy is certainly a worthy tool, and we are shown how to put on the full Armor of God. I am not always good at dressing myself, but lately because of some interpersonal challenges, I have been understanding all of this in a more specific way.

We all know the devil is a liar and it occurred to me that lies are most effective when they are not shouted, but instead whispered in a moment of weakness. And they are not simply random and incorrect, “sterile” theological statements (we typically fear being wrong, don’t we?), but rather they come at us in cleverly strategic moments - wrapped in relational context.

More to the point - because we are such social creatures, these malicious mistruths hit us the hardest when we are in conflict with people. Sad to say, but the devil’s exaggerations get inadvertently delivered to us by those we are closest to, and when we feel the most vulnerable. Yep, he's the jerk starting the fire, then watching us burn.

Now please don’t get me wrong here, I am not about casting relational blame, because most of the time our good-intentioned loved ones are just perhaps being a bit clumsy. Plus we're all inherently out for our own self-interest, right? I think the enemy loves hijacking a less than perfect situation and using others as unintentional pawns, to twist and to inflame. The delivery vehicle is our inherent weakness to quickly agree with fear, and apply personal shame.

Whether it’s a friendship going sour, a stressful job relationship, or a marriage in crisis, we all too often blame others instead of focusing on what the Lord might really be saying to us, and about us. He carries an alternative message that is life enriching, with important personal course correction. He then circles around and helps us better deal with these difficult situations next time.

When the quiet personal attacks come, they are powerful, because our perception is powerful. So how do we deal with them? For me, I’ve learned that things are seldom what they seem in the heat of the moment. Lies are mixed with truth and often I get too emotionally lazy and fearful to really talk things through with the person I am in conflict with. Or the other extreme - I mouth off and make things worse. Arrogance and ignorance are two lethal extremes to avoid.

I have always loved Dusty’s phrase: “Practice generous assumptions.” A wise person once said that in the absence of genuine communication, the void is filled with false assumptions. That means lies! Sounds like a perfect toxic breeding ground for the enemy’s weeds. Yuck!

I have found that God's course correction for me means:

  1. Take a deep breath
  2. View things with His broad perspective
  3. Stay humble
  4. Talk openly with people
  5. Realize empathy towards others (generous assumptions!)
  6. Practice self-acceptance (no shame)

 

“Not Good Enough” by Terry Sheldon

We all know the feeling, right? You do your best. You pour your heart and efforts into something, and there seems to be an elephant in the room. It’s that dreaded feeling that follows you – close, but not close enough. I’ve noticed this even when I’m getting good feedback from others, be they authorities or my friends, family or workmates. Why in the world are we so sabotaged this way? Sometimes the harder we try, the worse it seems to get.

We are all conditioned by our experiences and, as Brené Brown alludes to, our past shame. And I believe the biggest thing that trips us up is the evil we don’t talk about – comparison. You may be doing a good job, but here come those thoughts, “Just look at them. I will NEVER be as gifted or creative.” We make those awful assumptions, but we don’t see their failures or the hidden back stories. And, the irony is, they are probably secretly making the same assumptions about you. Yes, others are likely admiring YOU for your talents and efforts. They just haven’t told you yet.

I look at the members of CitySalt Church, and I see an amazing group of people. I greatly admire all of you for what you bring to us City Saltines. By just being the way you are, you teach us all so many things – how to be compassionate, to hold back our snap judgements, to focus on people first, and issues second. And how to love. So many unique points of view, so many ways of showing us God.

Please, let’s practice being the body of Christ that God needs us to be, each with our own amazing gifts to share. If the Enneagram has taught me anything, it’s that every one of us has our own perfect and unique value. Do not let the enemy lie to you about your identity and your efforts. You are not merely good enough, you are personally stellar.

Let’s all take stock in what we bring, exhale and move about comfortably in that. It would be such a shame to withhold our gifts.

"Creation Contrasts" by Terry Sheldon

On my long backpacking trip in the Wallowa Wilderness last summer, I was struck by the contrasting extremes of the natural world surrounding me. The terrain was either harsh or beautiful, life-sustaining useful or life-threatening - and frequently both, side by side. The extremes were not just noticeable, they seemed at times contradictory. Really Lord, mosquitoes in this drop-dead gorgeous lake valley?

Abrasive and unyielding granite rocks next to delicate and colorful wildflowers. Freezing cold ice and snow draining into refreshing, gurgling streams, which of course sustain wildflowers, animals and humans. High and steep mountain barriers that make passage extremely hard, dotted with delicate fir trees to enrich our oxygen, provide shade and campfire fuel.

Then the absolute delicious feeling of living life in its euphoric fullness, walking in lock-step with a realization of possible physical peril. Would my next step be misplaced, casting me down a rocky cliff? Would my stomach violently reject all the lightweight but inhumane freeze-dried food I was consuming? Would I encounter a bear at the worst time by surprising her with cubs nearby?

Yes the wilderness was extreme, but also for me, a photo-collage metaphor of everyday life back in Comfortville. There are plenty of emotional contrasts in our 9 to 5 as well. We say we take the good with the bad, but do we handle both well? We crave security, love and comfort, but we also get insecurity, heartache, and anxiety.

Success and failure, to borrow that word pair, are complete opposites, right? But are they really? Does failure amount to a terrible and permanent ending? And does success equal happiness and contentment, as some sort of moral achievement? Or are there hidden components of each for us to get to know, aspects more useful or dangerous than we might assume?

Success can satisfy and reward us for our efforts, but it can also produce arrogance and buffer us from Godly compassion. Failure can plunge us deep into self-absorbed despair, or it can make us rich, deep-pool people who find a way to "win" in a more subtle and rewarding way. Am I suggesting failure is the better result? Not necessarily, but perhaps with both contrasts, it's important to experience each in its mature fullness, and that we treat both with much care.

"God Our Dad" by Terry Sheldon

I recently had a conversation with my Dad. No, my Heavenly Dad. Does that wording sound strange? Did it take you by surprise? Interesting, isn't it?

Ok maybe you are perfectly comfortable thinking and talking about our God in that way, with that language, but I have to admit I'm not so much. With me, "Heavenly Father" is as close as I get. Maybe it's simply about respect. But I suspect for me, it's more than that.

This all started on my Wallowa Mountains backpacking trip in July. On this particular day I was by myself exploring the other side of a lake. I set my tired body down, and my stuff. I removed my glasses to relax my eyes. I noticed an amazing creek across the way with abundant wildflowers and went to investigate. It was so beautiful and I was quickly lost in my typical wilderness rapture. And you know, when the emotions are in hyper drive, the brain sometimes shuts off. I went back to retrieve my belongings, but left my glasses behind.

Later I returned to get them but they were not where I thought I left them! These were not only my close-up reading glasses, but my sunglasses as well. It was TWO big problems I didn't need with 20 more miles to go on our bright and sunny trip, not to mention an expense upon my return home.

So I reacted in typical fashion - I yelled for God. I perceived Him near because I was in crisis and went LOOKING for Him (just like teenagers, huh?). "God can you PLEASE help me find my glasses?!" No response. Then comes "the pact", right? (I won't tell you what was promised). Still nothing. Then I distinctly heard Him answer "I'm your Dad. I care about you." Soon I found my glasses, but I have not forgotten about the interaction.

As I have since processed this, I've noticed that in all our worship, the emphasis is all towards God (as it should be). But how often do we really feel Him "worship" us back? Ok, likely too strong a word, but can't it sometimes be a bit too easy to avoid intimacy with someone we look up to, by focusing all on them? Or we too easily put ourselves down and diminish our good points? Is it possible that there could be some "false humility" here, by staying on a "formal name basis" with our Heavenly Dad? I'm just poking here, but it has me thinking.

Certainly we have all heard that God is relational, and relational is always a two-way street. I remember the father of the prodigal son running out to not only greet, but hug and kiss his son. Then came the big bash. This is the same son who squandered his father's money, took him for granted, even distain, and attempted to ruin his life and the family name. Money, ego, and social status could have easily come between them both, but the father made sure that didn't happen. He was still Dad, and his son was still his son.

What a powerful picture, and the scriptures are full of so many more.

 

"Christian Geography" by Terry Sheldon

I've been looking at a lot of maps lately. It's always been an interest of mine. My inner nerd comes out when the topic of exploration comes up in conversation, especially here in our beautiful Oregon playground. Yes I really do know where Wagontire Oregon is. Want to stump the master? Go ahead and try. Really.

My fixation lately has been on the Wallowas - 350,000 acres of glaciated valleys, granite peaks and sublime high lakes in Northeastern Oregon. As you read this, I should be pushing my fifty-something body and a backpack up relentless dusty inclines, and for what? The payoff is incredible, or so Google Images show.

For me, part of the fun is just the imagining, the planning - to a point, of course. Maps are a 2-D counterfeit of a 3-D reality. Good for figuring out where you want to go, or where you are once you're there. But they certainly don't capture the aesthetic romance, the emotion of the evening sun peaking over the ridge before it retires for the day, or the dainty loveliness of Indian Paintbrush.

And technical notes like shown distances and topographic lines cannot capture how hard a trail really is, or how your tired body will respond. Or the mood you'll be in at that moment when you've "hit the wall", exhausted and spent like the wadded up Cliff Bar wrapper in your pocket.

I find the same similarities to the Bible, and our assumptions about things we think we know "on paper", versus the times we actually go there. Something in our life pushes us from "volunteer" to "professional", to being forced to practice what has been preached.

Usually they are changes, or challenges anyway that come up. We are forced onto the path. It's our time to learn, to experience, to PROVE something. We want to go back to the security of "the map", where it feels good to just dream. But instead there's no turning back, and we have a job to do.

I am greatly anticipating my trip. But a small part of me is apprehensive. I am not a young man anymore, and the uncertainty of how I will do is a nagging thought. But I am sure God will be speaking to me along the way. For me, He typically speaks best to me, or rather, I LISTEN best, when I am in motion. Hiking is a metaphor for a number of things, and I'm sure we will have many great conversations.

So let's not just think about God and learn about Him. Let's walk with him. Everyday.

"Who We Are" by Terry Sheldon

There has been a lot to chew on lately but so much of it seems to hinge on behavior - my not-so-stellar. Ok, ahem, partially kidding here. What I am learning is the difference between what we do (behavior) and who we are (our identity). So much of our Christian teaching and overall interactions with others concern how we act. Call them the branches of a tree. But if we stop there and don't address the tree's root, the behavior will unlikely change, or we'll attempt change for the wrong reasons.

What God has been telling me lately is this: WHO I am is more important than WHAT I do. Or better, who I BELIEVE I am will ultimately effect what I do. Now I am certainly not saying our actions don't produce a reliable cause and effect. I am no math expert but in my world: Misbehaving + Denial = Extreme Pain. If only I could come up with a great alternative algorithm.

Back to the root of the matter: our identity. In one of His first serious interactions with Peter, after Peter acknowledged who Jesus is (Christ, Messiah, Son of the Living God), Jesus turned the tables and affirmed Peter's own identity:

"And now I’m going to tell you who you are, really are. You are Peter, a rock. This is the rock on which I will put together my church, a church so expansive with energy that not even the gates of hell will be able to keep it out."

Wow, that's not just a compliment. Notice that Jesus did not mention anything about behavior, given Peter's long history of saying and doing stupid things. He didn't say, "Well Peter, IF you remain in my good graces, we're going to give you a pretty important job with the church." Remember, this is the same poor fella who would later deny Jesus three times when he needed a friend the most.

And of course, the Rock deal wasn't off, as Peter went on to be just that. God knew all along, huh? We should remember this when we short-change ourselves by doubting something God has said about us.

Consider this: If you are frustrated with someone, you want to point out their offensive action. But if you really want to stick it to them, you attack their character - who they are. "You're totally worthless" is a long ways from "I struggle when you act that way towards me". It's behavior vs. identity.

So what about my seemingly endless behavior loops? Here is what God is showing me:

First, if you're the recipient of bad behavior, be forgiving and release your friend in Christ from the loop. Even though we battle people, it's mostly not our fight. Compassion always!

Second, the two R's (sorry, I really can't stop the behavior, ha ha). Respond instead of React. Reacting is a fight or flight mechanism, based in insecurity. But responding is what a loving God does with us. Our God is a relational one, and we are secure in Him. We need to care for our brothers and sisters in the Lord in that same way, with both identities secure.

"Getting to Know God" by Terry Sheldon

I am titling this Getting to Know God with purpose, not just because it fits, but because I want to bounce off the cliché essence of the phrase, in our Christian circles. Yes, we serve a relational God, and in my experience, that's what it's all about.

As my long suffering wife knows, I am not so much a "rule follower" by nature. Not that I don't try to adhere to essential edicts that keep me (and us) safe and smart with what God has given us to steward, but let's just say I tend to be, ahem, "creative" at finding ways to apply them. "Whatever Terry,” I hear Colby saying somewhere behind me.

For me, I have a hard time buying into a rigid religious system. A REALLY hard time. Typically, it has produced cynicism, frustration, loneliness, and a separation from the heart of God. I can honestly say it's only been the last several years that I've finally come to realize, in my heart of hearts, that God truly LOVES me. Not in the biblical "Christian Code of Conduct" sense, but one on one, father to son, friend to friend.

Why did it take me so long to open up to him? I'm not sure. Yes we all have on blinders, at many, many points along our spiritual journeys. But for someone who has grown up on this road of faith, I would have thought I'd arrive here many years ago. Sometimes I am a bit ashamed, quite frankly, that it's taken me so long.

About 6 years ago I found myself trying to enter in during a worship time at CitySalt. I just couldn't. No words, no melody, just quiet tears. This scenario lasted for months. I remembered back to so many instances before that when I viewed worship as kind of emotional fluff. Ya ya, let's move on and get to the real MEAT of the service. Pastor, give me something good here. My attempts at worship seemed forced. The emotional gap between me and God seemed vast, and in retrospect, emotional closeness to God through worship was painful. Thinking holy thoughts about God through theology was easy. We gravitate towards easy, don't we?

A portion of all this (yes too much) was tied to my circumstances, and of course, that whole is-sue is a double-edged sword. I heard that God, as any father would, wanted to bless me in my personal need. But I also knew I didn't want to base my relationship to God on whether or not I achieved some sort of comfort, position, or security. That felt inauthentic, like a distant relative fighting over a deceased patriarch's will. I craved the real thing, a connection to the heart of God, regardless of my circumstances.

Getting to know God is like getting to know your spouse, or anyone in your life you deeply care about. It takes time. It takes effort. But at its core, it's about true connection. We can't know God without really KNOWING him. "Knowledge about" isn't the end game. It's knowledge plus shared acts of kindness plus forgiveness received plus history together and lessons learned. The result = getting to know the REAL God. And getting to know our true selves in the process.

"The Two Me's" by Terry Sheldon

Note: Dusty's message on our work was great, and timely. I've been thinking lately about my two selves. Yes, I split roughly down the middle, it seems. Is it a split personality disorder? Hmmm, I have to channel the "right me" before I answer. You see, I jokingly call them my evil twins - Expectations-Me and Comfortable-Me. I have them both operating full time, but then again so do we all, I am guessing. They fight like cats and dogs, and it's a constant struggle to see who wins out.

Expectations-Me is the tough guy, and is not just born out of a professional work environment and the closest of relationships - family, spouses and our kids. It also comes at us from impersonal sources too - our youth and gender based society and the massive media/mass marketing machine. We want to, need to, HAVE TO please, so we perform. We compare ourselves with others and take our cues from them (and commercials). We put on a happy face, smile, shake hands, and above all else, "don't let 'em see you sweat.”

If someone is upset with us, or if we THINK they are, we shift into overdrive to step up our game. This constant set of lofty expectations and pressure bears down on us like an oncoming freight train. That motivation isn't necessarily a bad thing because it promotes productivity, but it can also produce a sense of disconnect with who we really are. But who we want people to see and who they likely see anyway can be two different things. Most of us get pretty skilled at being inauthentic - hiding the real person inside.

On the other side is E-Me's more genteel version. Comfortable-Me shows up more when the pressure is off. He loves to make gentle conversation, laugh, and float on life's lake in a kayak, basking in the warm day's gentle breeze. Certainly there is that sense of "this is the way every day should be" - little stress and pressure, the freedom of being yourself and producing good works without being constantly analyzed and evaluated.

Now I know what you're thinking. If we could all be retired right now with a healthy pension and a kayak, we could all be happy Comfortable-Me every day. Yep, already there. It doesn't cost anything but time to daydream, but then POW, that pesky train rudely awakens. I remember noticing how much my father changed after he retired. He smiled more, laughed more. But the value of retirement is not my point here.

What I am suggesting is we learn to straddle the two personalities because they both have value. Going through life's meat-grinder while practicing the act of returning to our real source of calm and security - our Lord's quiet presence is the absolute, don't-miss-it KEY to effective living. What emerges is not only grace under fire, patience, and all other fruits of the spirit, but our true identity, that sense of "real me" we crave.

Doing Expectations-Me without abiding in God's presence tends to drive us to excess, make us shallow personalities, alienate our loved ones, and produce a grotesque fear and success-based caricature.

Equally sad, avoiding pressure by only wearing Comfortable-Me can produce a kind of fantasy-based wimp - untouched, unchallenged, a shallow person bereft of deep Godly character. 

Let's all practice abiding! Seeking his face in quiet moments. We have to be proactive and purposeful about this. In our society, it does take practice.

"Salting for Good Taste" by Terry Sheldon

As we are deep into saltiness right now, I wanted to sprinkle on top of what Dusty spoke about - adding flavor to our city. As it was pointed out, light seems to be the more "glamorous" from Jesus's salt and light proclamation. Light is bold, dynamic, and really gets our attention, whether from the exquisite beauty of a sunset creation or the ominous warning of that oncoming train we best take heed of. 

But salt is, well, just SALT. It's like blue-collar’s younger brother, not flashy but quietly essential, and content with toiling in the background. As Dusty spoke, I was struck with how being salty in this city seemed to be a "good fit" for us Christians. What do I mean by this? Read on. 

Salt is a noun. Jesus didn't begin by saying "go sprinkle people with salt". He said we ARE salt. Yes the implication is that salt will be useful and used, as are we in the cities and situations of our daily lives, but he started the conversation by speaking to our identity - by naming us. Rubbing shoulders with Eugene, we will by default sprinkle on people. It's up to us to learn the nuances - to cooperate with the Holy Spirit and follow his lead with when, where, and how much salt our situations need. 

In cooking, salt contributes to taste, but it is not THE taste. If you taste the salt, you've used too much. Here are the ways not to use salt: First, it would be foolish to salt most food in the very beginning. You need to wait until the elements and flavors come together under heat, and start to meld. The spiritual implication is this - you can't influence someone for the gospel without first being in relationship with them. 

Secondly, you don't salt at the end because the crystals will just sit on top of the food. You'll taste its salty harshness, plus you've missed the opportunity to allow the salt to do what it does best - become an agent of change that brings together and enhances the diverse flavors of the raw foods. Salt dynamically changes things, and along with the heat, causes the ingredients to - together - become more than the sum of their parts. The implications? We don't drop in, dump on people, then expect change. Cooking takes an investment of time. It's a process. 

So how do you salt? Usually, it's as you are most the way through the heating process, after the ingredients have melded together. You salt a little, and taste. Salt a little more, and taste. Just like Goldylocks, not too little, not too much - JUST RIGHT. Perfect salting takes great care - and LOVE. 

All of this seemed like a good fit to me because all too often when we think of evangelizing our world, we think of being pushy and loud, debating politics, and winning arguments. For most of us, that's not comfortable, and I'm not at all convinced we should be behaving that way even if our personality allows it. But I think any of us can just be salt, under the loving care of our Supreme Chef. We are to sip with people at our round tables and quietly do our job, adding his good flavor to the food our city desperately needs.

"All Things New" by Terry Sheldon

I know some of us don't like change, but there is one type that I think everyone can agree is good - change for the better. There is a spiritual, mental and psychological health available to us all as we allow the Lord to occupy new areas in our battle-weary temples. But sometimes - no, frequently - it seems like one step forward, two steps back, when the most common phrase from the Lord seems to be "Ok, let's try that again". Will I ever change? Glory to glory seems to be an infinite distance to travel. 

According to science, you and I are brand new every 5 years - in terms of our cells, that is. At that basic core level our bodies, in a constant flux of jettisoning old and dividing anew, purges and begins again. So if true, why can't I get out of bed in the morning without feeling like I'd spent the night being drug behind a truck? Surely after my 20,440 or so nights on this earth, prying myself up from the sheets should be old hat, right? 

But all too often, my spirit feels the same as my 6:30 am body - sore and lifeless, and the bad habits I've been working on all these years don't go away just because I sing soulful songs at SouthHills. Why is that? The Apostle Paul said as much in Romans 7 in his classic description of the epic struggle of spirit vs. flesh. His lament: "I do what I don't want to do, and I don't do as I should.” Sound familiar? 

I am no psychologist, but it seems to be an issue of both our willingness and our readiness for change. At first glance these brothers seem like twins, but although similar, they are not the same. They work in tandem and must come together at the same time. Sometimes I am willing to change, but not ready. Other times the reverse is true. I think I am ready - tired of the pain, but not willing to do what it takes to step away. 

It's been said that there is a certain safety in our emotional pain. I think we settle for less because it's common, easy, and known. But the good hard work of spiritual change is the opposite - uncommon, hard, and risky (what if I fail?). Like getting out of a warm and cozy bed, it takes work, but it also takes a readiness. I think our Lord understands this. I hear him whispering "Are you ready now?" and "Are you willing to put in the work?"