Friday, January 30, 2009

The Best of the Songs

Solomon wrote much of Proverbs.
He also wrote a lot of poetry and sayings.
From what I understand, only a very small part of all that Solomon wrote ended up in the Bible.

The first verse goes like this:

Song of Solomon 1:1 The song of songs, which is Solomon's.

In Hebrew, the saying, song of songs, is like saying the best of songs. Just as in Isaiah 6, the angels didn't just cry out, "holy is the Lord." They cried out "holy, holy, holy is the LORD God Almighty." One holy simply was not enough. God most certainly is three times holy. So saying that Song of Solomon is just a song, is not enough. It is the Song of Songs. It is the best.

Now, I don't know if SOS (Song of Solomon) is the best song written by Solomon, or if it is the best song written in it's day, or if it is the best song written ever. But at the very least, we should get that this was/is one awesome song, even if we don't understand every part of it.

Funny thing about this best of songs.
It was banned by certain Puritan groups in at least one of the original 13 colonies. Seems SOS wasn't just a bit racy for this 21st century gal. It was also a bit much for some of our earlier settlers.

And I had also heard that some Jewish sects did not allow their members to study SOS until they turned 30. They also thought it was a bit much, at least for the younger generation.

So it is safe to say that SOS is a controversial book.
Yet we must never forget that it is the Best of Songs and is worthy of our attention.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

A Book in the Bible I Used to Avoid

In my Christian travels I spent a few years in a Word of Faith church back in the mid 80s. Yeah, you know, the name it and claim it bunch. Those blab it and grab it type people like Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin. You get the idea.
Well, with all that was wrong with that movement I can honestly tell you that I was glad for the time I spent in that church because of one very important thing. Their love for the word. This is not to say that other groups don't love the word, they do. But it was the right church for me at the right time.
Before I attended that Word of Faith church reading the Bible was something like reading the phone book. It was hard going and I didn't have a daily reading habit.
But in that Word of Faith church had a prayer line. They prayed for whoever came up front that they would have a hunger for the Word. I went up for prayer and it was wonderful after that. The Bible opened up to me and it was never like reading the phone book again.....

.....Except for one time after that.....

There was a time when I felt the Lord tell me specifically to start reading the Song of Solomon.

I didn't want to. And at first I didn't. My excuse?
"God, I don't want to read that book. It's too racy for this small town Midwestern girl. It's all about sex and it embarrasses me. It has verses like 'We have a little sister and she has no breasts'. What the heck am I supposed to do with that? Songs may have passed for poetry back in the Bible days but nowadays it's just weird to my Western Civilization ears."
(The reason I thought is was all about sex is because that is what all the sermons and books I'd ever seen and heard on it said it was about. BTW, I could probably count on one hand how many sermons and books I ever saw or read on Songs)
So I wouldn't read it. I refused.

But guess what happened.
The rest of the Bible was shut up to me so that it became like reading a phone book again. I could no longer draw spiritual life from all my old favorite verses. No matter where I read, it was flat. It made intellectual sense but did nothing for my spirit except one little ol' verse in the Psalms.

Psalm 2:12 Kiss the Son, lest He become angry with you, and you perish in the way.
For His wrath may soon be kindled. How blesses are all who take refuge in Him!

This verse jumped off the page at me. It was like firecrackers whereas the rest of the Bible was like wet wood or stone.

Some translations start off as -- Do homage to the Son, rather than Kiss the Son. And I heard at least one preacher say that the original Hebrew there for Kiss and Do homage have to do with worship, somehow.

So anyway, since reading this little ol' Psalm 2 verse made my spirit happy for reasons I couldn't explain, I decided it might be better if I go ahead and study Song of Solomon. What would it hurt?
Who, but God, knew how much the Songs would eventually mean to me.
If I ever write a non-fiction book about studying the Bible, I'll call it "Scriptures I Used to Avoid and How God Blessed Me With Them Anyway."

Just for those of you who don't know. Songs 1:2 goes like this:

"May he kiss me with the kisses of his mouth! For your love is better than wine."

And I found that the words contained in that book really were better than wine.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Do You Believe in Dreams? part 3

These dreams I am relating all occurred around the same time. I cannot tell you for sure which one came first or over what length of time passed between them (weeks? months? years?), but to the best of my remembering they happened roughly in the order given.

In the third dream I saw an apple tree in a yard. The apples were ripe and falling into the yard and onto the street. But it appeared that no one gathered them. Some of the apples sat in the grass only slightly bruised from the fall. Others were rotting and some nearly completely spoiled.
The apples that fell on the road and sidewalk hit harder and bruised worse. And some of these apples were completely smashed from being stepped on or run over by cars.
My thoughts in the dream ran along the lines of this: "What a waste. These apples could be put to good use. Even the half rotten apples have a good part left to them. The bad could be cut off and the good could be used for apple sauce or apple butter."
But then I looked at the house in the yard. I knew who lived there. It was a former pastor of mine who was spiritually abusive. I knew that if I went up and asked permission to gather the apples that he would refuse. He wouldn't just tell me no. He'd shame me for ever thinking that I had any right to those apples.
In the dream I went away sad.

When I woke, I remembered the dream with remorse for the loss of the fruit and the hardness of heart of the owner. As I meditated on it, some thoughts came to me.
First, why didn't I go ask the pastor anyway about the apples? I didn't even try.
My internal response was that I knew the owner, I knew his response, and I wasn't up for the battering that would follow.
Next the thought came to me, Who said he was the owner? Just because he lived there, that didn't mean he owned the house, the yard, the tree, or the fruit. I didn't even question.
I had no answer for this. I just assumed that since he lived there, he owned it.
The next thought was this: Just because he set himself up as the land owner does not make him the land owner. The house, the yard, the tree, the fruit all belong to God. And the former pastor was being a bad steward of the fruit falling from the tree. I needed to find out from God what he wanted done with the fruit, not someone who raises himself up as an authority based on bullying, and power posturing.

As a result, I gained a new sadness. A sadness over my attitude that resulted in further neglect of the apples. Fortunately it became a turning point. I began to see things differently.

Of the three dreams I have gotten more mileage out of this one than the other two, though I needed all three together, each for it's own purpose.
I've related the neglected apples to children both in and outside the church.
I've also related the apples to people's talents being neglected because of false teaching by those who have set themselves up as leadership/landowners.
But as one man said about dreams. Usually the dream is to the dreamer, about the dreamer.
God wanted me to see that I have neglected my own giftings and talents due to false teachings. Some of them are gender related. Others were for different reasons, all based on the leaderships' desire to control and limit.

I needed to start seeing that God wanted more from me than the limitations places on me by others. But what? Where do I start?

Lord willing, I hope to start again with scripture. Around the same time of the dreams I felt impressed to study scripture that I avoided before. The funny thing about it is at that I didn't see the connection between the dreams and the scriptures until later.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Do you Believe in Dreams? part 2

I had another dream around the same time period of the White Washed Tomb dream back in the 90s.

In the dream I picked up a little plastic toy. It was from a barnyard set, kinda like those little green army men, except instead of being army green it was closer to Crayola crayon green. It was a little sheep. It stood on three of its feet while one of the front legs was lifted slightly so that the hoof didn't touch the ground.
In the dream I didn't think much about the sheep and was ready to put it down. But a voice asked me, "What is it?"
"A sheep," I said and again wanted to put it down.
But the voice persisted. "What color is it?"
"Green," I answered. I tired of with what seemed like a kindergarten lesson and the dream ended.

Later, when I thought about the dream I realized the lesson in it.
When I first gave my heart to Jesus back in the early 80s, the group that led me to the Lord was concerned about people worshiping a real Jesus and not a plastic one. In fact, a woman in that church had a dream about Jesus coming to visit a Bible Study. He went about shaking people's hands. When he came to her she saw a seam up through his face and realized that he was plastic. She then understood that the people in her dream worshiped a molded form of the Messiah rather than knowing Him personally.
Then I realized that this little barn yard sheep symbolized a plastic Christian. The voice asked about the color so that I would remember it later. Green, especially in those days, symbolized to me life and growth. But green plastic is not alive and growing. It just makes a show that it is. It pretends
Just as people make Jesus out to be what they want rather than who He is, so do people make themselves out to what they think Jesus and the Church wants them to be. And they pressure each other to fill out a mold after their own ideal. It is a false growth and a false walk. The plastic sheep stood frozen in a stance like it was about to take a step. But it wasn't going anywhere.

Eventually I understood that this dream was not just about other people. It was about me. Because of my position as pastor's wife, and my position as a woman married to a high maintenance man with undiagnosed ADHD, I was pressed into a form that looked the part but was really false. It was not true. I even had a relationship with the Lord. But because of the bitterness I hid, even from myself, part of me was playacting the happy pastor's wife instead of dealing with the real issues in my marriage.

I had my meltdown sometime after that. Actually, I've had more than one meltdown. But that's okay. I hope each meltdown melts more of the plastic parts off of me. And if I need more meltdowns to rid myself of the green plastic syndrome, I will embrace them. Going through the fire doesn't scare me as much as it used to.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Do You Believe in Dreams? part 1

I don't mean dreams for the future. I mean dreams while you are sleeping. Do you believe that your dreams can tell you something about yourself you didn't know? Some people believe that God can talk to them through dreams. Others prefer to think of it as their subconscious busy figuring things out.

Long before I knew I had bitterness in my heart I had a dream.
This was during a time when my husband pastored a church and worked full time and I home schooled. I enjoyed homeschooling and at least one gal in the church told me that she wished that she had my kind of life.
But I never knew when my husband came home, what kind of mood he was in. He didn't like his job and when he was angry about something at work, he brought it home to me. And I stuffed it away. Over and over. working to keep everything smooth and running at home and in the church.

The dream went something like this.
I saw what looked like the inside of a bright white room. Soon I realized that I was inside of a well lite, clean tomb or mausoleum. The main feature of the room was an ornate box large enough to encase a good size coffin. The box was ornate with white relief sculpture of leaves or flowers or flowing ribbons or something. Very beautiful. Everything white. Everything clean. Everything in place except for...
On the side of the box, on the end where either the head or feet of the corpse would be, there was a hole. And from the hole black thick, sludge or oil flowed out leaving a dark pool on the floor.

I had no idea what that dream meant. I was clueless that it was about me. I don't remember how long it took me to make the connection between my dream and the Words of Jesus about whitewashed sepulchres. All I knew was that dream made a big enough impression on me that I drew a picture of it in my prayer journal. If I could find that prayer journal, I could give you a date on the dream. I had this dream several years ago. Most likely in the 90s.

Anyway, one day I was in the bathroom putting my makeup on as I was getting ready to go somewhere. I had on one of my newer T-shirts and noticed that there was a grease stain on it. And I lost it. All over the grease stain. Things had piled up on me, not just from my husband's unhappiness, but also problems in the church and other relationships. And I had stuffed everything away for so long that all it took was one little grease stain on one of my better shirts and I couldn't take another thing. I had a meltdown.

Then sometime after these two events I put two and two together. The box was me. I was a white washed sepulcher. No, I wasn't a religious leader looking down my nose at Jesus or the masses. But I harbored bitterness in my heart and hid it so well that I didn't even know it was there. And I had reached my limit. Something had to give. The bad feelings inside me could not be hidden anymore. They were oozing out of my soul like sludge.
It was time to do something.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

What May Have Made Me Bitter

In my travels through the blog world I have noted that there are women who blog about difficult situations in their lives. They do it to log their journey of coping and healing.

Two that I can think of are:

The first one, Betty's Rambling Blog, is Betty dealing with her husband's Multiple Personality Disorder.
The second, A Wife's Submission, is Charis/Gem chronicling her struggle of coming to terms with her husband's bad behavior, possibly caused by Narcissistic Personality Disorder.

Why do I bring this up?
It's because I relate. I have had to learn how to deal with my husband's Adult ADHD.

Betty asks herself on her blog how she could be married to a man for 25 years and not know he had Multiple Personality Disorder.

My husband and I struggled for close to 17 years before he was diagnosed.
We both knew something was wrong but we didn't know what. My husband used to blame me for things I couldn't help. Unwittingly, he subject me to verbal and emotional abuse because his ADHD messed with his mind, made him frustrated and he turned on the one closest to him. Me.

Now we both know what was going on. But we are still recovering from our former ignorance. He presently is not going to church and doesn't have a lot of good things to say about church or Christians in general. He plays music with a band in bars instead of leading praise and worship in church like he used to. He drinks and smokes too much and my children and I are concerned for his health.

But the good news is that we both understand his disorder better. He's not so quick to blame me. He's better at saying that, yes he is very frustrated but it's not my fault.

One might ask, how can you live with a man for 17 years and not know he has Adult ADHD? And that is a very good question that I don't have an easy answer for.

However, since the name of this blog is From Bitter Waters to Sweet, a better question might be: "Why didn't I know that I was bitter about it?"

It seems that as a brain or personality disorder can fly just below the radar, so can bitterness. And I imagine that I'm not the only woman who has been in denial about bitterness in this world.
I am very glad that God was not content to let me stay in my denied bitterness. I'm glad He saw fit to show me that it existed even though I fought so hard not to see it. And this is what I want to blog about. Not my husband's ADHD, but my journey out of bitterness.

Monday, January 5, 2009

A Word or Two From Job on Bitterness

~Job 9:18 [God] will not allow me to get my breath, But saturates me with bitterness.

~Job 10:1 I loath my own life; I will give full vent to my complaint; I will speak in the bitterness of my soul.

~Job 13:26 For Thou dost write bitter things against me. And dost make me to inherit the iniquities of my youth.

~Job 27:2 As God lives, who has taken away my right, And the Almighty, who has embittered my soul.

Note that Job said that he would speak in the bitterness of his soul. Bitter things happened to him and he felt confident enough that he could confess his bitterness. Even in the face of well-meaning but misguided friends, he did not hold in his bitterness. He gave full vent to his complaint. Something was terribly wrong and the answer was not to just paint on a smile and pretend his world wasn't falling apart.

Too many abused women in the church have been told to paint on a smile and bury their bitterness. Too many abused women have not been allowed to speak about their bitterness. Too many abused women in the church have been surrounded by "Job's comforters" in their times of deep need. Internally they were bleeding and dying on the Jericho road and needed someone to pour in the oil and the wine. Instead, they were sent away with a, "Be filled, Be comforted" message, or worse, a "What did you do to bring this upon yourself?" message.

My prayer for 2009 is that the church will stop this madness of ignoring and enabling abuse and to face it head on. And this goes for abused men as well as women.