Friday, November 30, 2012

Verdicts, Value & Validation

I've often wondered what's behind the attention grabbing antics of we mortals beyond the obvious. In various & assorted ways we make our presence known. Why? Is it narcissism? Showmanship? Ambition? Flawed character? Something else?

There's the undeniable variety- - the grand-standing, self-aggrandizement that's instantly recognizable. Then there's the lessor sort - - the stealth maneuvers that aren't quite so easy to discern.

Two year olds demonstrate all-too-well what it means to be the center of one's own universe.

Several days ago I heard someone give testimony to their need for validation. It had caused them to do something they really didn't want to do, but they did it anyway because it brought positive & powerful attention from their family.  

My antennae both heard & made note of their transparency.

Rightly or wrongly, I've concluded that the need for validation is quite likely at the root of so many attention-getting maneuvers, not to mention heartache. Who among us does not want their lives to count for something?

According to Merriam, validate means to ratify or make valid. It's to sanction, confirm, support and/or corroborate; to recognize, establish, and authenticate legitimacy. It's no small wonder that people search high & low for it, even when the altruisic is compromised in the process.  


Searching for validation oftentimes entails a scurry along the rabbit trails of life thinking IF ONLY I could accomplish THIS, or be noticed for THAT, I would feel so much better about myself. IF ONLY ...
  • I could lose 25 pounds
  • I were important; accomplished
  • I could get my book published
  • I were older/younger, taller/shorter
  • I had more money
  • I were more like my brother or sister
  • He hadn't left me
  • My parents had sent me to another school
  • I hadn't messed up
  • I wasn't so shy
... and on and on it goes - - the age-old snare of a works-infused worldview. We gravitate towards human doings/havings versus human beings. The futile & endless rigors of comparing oneself to some earth-bound standard in order to garner validation.

We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves
with some who commend themselves.
When they measure themselves by themselves
and compare themselves with themselves,
they are not wise.
~ 2 Corinthians 10:12

The truly tragic aspect of all this is that THEY (whoever THEY are) keep moving the standard - - the ever shifting, fickle whims of a world enchanted with all things sensory & visual.   

So why do we do it?

I've come to believe that people just want their personhood, goals & dreams to be authenticated.  They want their lives to have value even if - tragically - it comes at a cost they hadn't counted.  
 




I wish I could say this subject-matter is the exclusive domain of the unbeliever, or the unchurched. Sadly, God's own people (and me among them) suffer the same affliction.  The "Look at me" and its companion "Don't look at me" are born in the same soup.

It is true, as Augustine of Hippo tells us:  "You arouse us so that praising You may bring us joy, because You have made us and drawn us to Yourself, and our heart is unquiet until it rests in You." 

There, in Him, is our validation; and with it, the peace that passes all understanding.   


 
But, “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.
For it is not the one who commends himself who
is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.
~ 2 Corinthians 10:17-18

For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith
and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
not by works, so that no one can boast.
For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus
to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.
~ Ephesians 2:8-10

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Once Upon a Time

Once upon a time ...

I love those words.  To me they represent the great joy of story telling. And if anything is forever & intricately woven into the fabric of my childhood, it's story telling; when slipper-shod feet would scurry up the stairs for a nightly tuck-in & bedtime saga. 

On the heals of my scamper was my dad.  Often he'd give me a head start in order to hide (in one of my usual 3 or 4 "secret" places).  Then, with great flare & drama he would woefully call to me ... "Where is she?  Where is my Kathy?  I can't find her anywhere!"  He would then proceed to look in the most unlikely places for me - a dresser drawer, or out the window, or beneath the floor rug.   

His was a father's method for making our bedtime ritual fresh every night.  Upon discovery, he would overly fuss about having finally found me, all the while scooping me up to the sounds my giggles.  Fun as it was, I always knew the best was yet to come.

Once upon a time ...

As he nestled me into my bed covers, we'd settle down for a story - -either one he'd make up on-the-spot (with amazing antics, details & drama), or from a book of tales.  I adored Uncle Wiggily & Brer Rabbit.  In fact, I can still feel the heft of the large book that contained their stories. 

Once upon a time ... became the breathless segue to a world made vivid and real by my father's intonations - complete with facial expressions, sound effects & convincing assurances.

It has been said that I have a vivid imagination.  That is true.  On the positive side, it means I can readily envision goals, or easily craft plans & agendas & solutions to an array of challenges.  In my former business life, they called it creative problem solving.

On the negative side, it means I see bogeymen where none exist; or calculate trouble that never arrives.  I dream in color.  Mostly it's called fretting, or worry.

I suppose all of that has something to do with why I love being a mother & gandmother.  Each in turn, the babes born to our family have allowed me to practice & play out the scenes from my childhood; to utilize the vivid imagination that was - no doubt - born in the drama of my Father's storytelling.  I keep a stash of books for that very reason.  On occasion, when they're old enough to listen, I craft tales of my own design, just like my father did so long ago.  

Even today, a quiet hush comes over me when I hear those words:
Once upon a time ... far, far away ...


... God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth,
a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledged to be
married to a man named Joseph,
a descendant of David.
The virgin’s name was Mary.
The angel went to her and said,
“Greetings, you who are highly favored!
The Lord is with you.”
Mary was greatly troubled at his words and
wondered what kind of greeting this might be.
But the angel said to her,
“Do not be afraid, Mary;
you have found favor with God. 
You will conceive and give birth to a son,
and you are to call him Jesus.
He will be great and will be called
the Son of the Most High.
The Lord God will give Him the throne of
his father David, and he will reign over
Jacob’s descendants forever;
his kingdom will never end.” 
~ Luke 1:26-33

I can hardly wait for the rest of the story ...

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Let Us Give Thanks


 
Not what we say about our blessings,
but how we use them,
is the true measure of our thanksgiving. 
~W.T. Purkiser
 
For each new morning with its light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food, for love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.

~Ralph Waldo Emerson
 
I would maintain that thanks are the
highest form of thought;
and that gratitude is happiness
doubled by wonder. 
~G.K. Chesterton
 
The Pilgrims made seven times more graves
than huts.   No Americans have been
 more impoverished than these who,
nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. 
~H.U. Westermayer 
 
Thou hast given so much to me,
Give one thing more, - a grateful heart;
Not thankful when it pleaseth me,
As if Thy blessings had spare days,
But such a heart whose pulse may be Thy praise.

~George Herbert
 
 
 
Joining this chorus of grateful voices to wish you & yours a truly blessed & memorable day of Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Grocery Store Evangelism

"Should I purchase two one pound packages of Italian sausage, or the singular two pound package?"  

Back & forth I went as I conversed with myself while trying to make my decision. 

"The larger package is only a savings of 3 cents over the smaller ones; which would actually be a better size anyway.  But the larger one could be cut in thirds and frozen that way.  That might work better." 

Back and forth.  Back and forth. 

My choice needn't have been so difficult or time-consuming, but for some reason it was.  It kept me standing at the meat counter far longer than I'd intended.

"Well now; I'm done with my shopping!" came a voice from somewhere behind me. 

I glanced over my shoulder to see an elderly man standing beside me, his shopping cart neatly stacked with grocery items.  It was then that I realized he was actually speaking to me.

"That about does it.  And I got my Thanksgiving turkey, too.  It's only 28 cents a pound."

He offered all this as if we'd been friends forever, just talking about grocery shopping as BFFs might do.




I smiled politely, and gave him the Thumb's Up sign, adding:  "Good job!  What a great cost savings ... a blessing for sure."

"Not really.  Last year I only paid 19 cents a pound.  Hey ... are you religious?"

Taken back only briefly, I replied:  "I don't think so.  Mostly I believe the scriptures and what Jesus did for and in me. He changed my life."  

"That's what I thought:  religious.  I don't have anything to do with that stuff."

"Stuff?", I asked.  "Have you had a bad experience with church, or with Christians?"

"Naw ...  it's just that ... well...  er .... a long time ago I lost my son."

"I'm so sorry to hear that.  It must have been a terribly painful loss for you."

"Hey ... are those fresh green beans in your cart?  You know, my wife adds a bit of onion & some bacon, then simmers them slowly for hours.  They're the best!"

"I do that too.  My mother was a farm girl, and that's how she cooked fresh green beans."

"You don't say?!!  I've never met anyone that does them that way.  You're the first."

By now we were walking towards the dairy aisle.  My new friend kept pace with me, as if he needed dairy items too.  Hadn't he just told me he was done with his shopping?

"My brother's religious.  He's really wacky."

"Why do you say that?  Is he overly zealous?"

"No, he has Alzheimer's (me, surpressing laughter, knowing he connected Christians to Alzheimer's victims).  And he's younger than me.  Would you believe I'm 95?" 

"Wow.  You're 95?  That's amazing.  I'm sorry about your brother."

By now I'm not sure what to do with my new friend.  He was obviously in need of a conversation, never mind we were now blocking two aisles.  I could tell he was regular at this, because every store clerk that walked by he greeted with familiarity; they responded in kind. 

"Well, I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving.  God bless you."

"I thought you said you weren't religious?"

"Here's the deal ... I simply accept what Jesus did for me. If that's religious, then I'm guilty as charged."

"I don't believe in Him."

"Well, He believes in you!"

"Don't say that ... ", now quickening his pace to look me in the eye. 

"You know, I do believe in God, just not the New Testament stuff..  It's all just a bunch of stuff the Catholics put together."   (me supressing a soap box session on how much the early Church/Catholics gave us in the form of today's Canon)

"Really?  I didn't know that.  So let's just say we ignore the New Testament for a moment.  Did you know the Old Testament says the exact same thing?"

Silence.

"Who & what did God promise Adam & Eve from the git-go as the One who would ultimately defeat evil?  Who is the King/Priest that will rule mankind?  Who is Immanuel?  Who is the suffering/saving Messiah?  What were the feasts & atonement sacrifices meant to typify?"

I waited for it to sink in.

"By the way, my name's Ron.  What's yours?"

"I'm Kathleen."

"Do you know where I can find the sliced turkey; the kind you use for sandwiches?"

"You bet.  Just head back down the deli aisle and you'll see it at the very end."

"Thank you, Kathleen; you've been kind"

"God bless you, Ron."

As I walked away I found myself chuckling a bit, but also humbled - - absolutely certain that God had ordained my 20 minute visit with Ron.  I began praying silently; prayers that attended my thoughts throughout the day and continue still.  

It is true:  We just never know when a divine appointment is scheduled. 

In case you're wondering, I bought the two individual packages of Italian sausage.

 
" ... in your hearts revere Christ as Lord.
Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone
who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.
But do this with gentleness and respect ... 
~ 1 Peter 3:15



Footnote:  There are so many dots to connect to this one experience I hardly know where to begin.  I often pray:  "Lord, lead me.  Show me when & where & how to be Your hands & feet."  Equally often I am dumbfounded when He orchestrates something profound in the midst of the mundane.  God wanted Ron to know that he is loved.  In the midst of that, the Gospel was shared.  What was a routine jaunt to the store for me became a milestone of ministry.  I came away with the sense that Ron's life will never be the same.  I know mine won't. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012

To Dad, With Love

 

In the days leading up to Thanksgiving 1964, Dad was sicker than ever we'd known him to be.  He had battled leukemia for well over a year; a battle we knew was drawing near to an end.  Or did we?  In some remote regions of the heart there was that hope:  He's not REALLY going to die. 

We had just celebrated his 62nd birthday on November 17.  Surely he was simply too young for death to claim him.  Surely.

 
(Dad & Mom at his last birthday celebration.
Notice the cake's mountain & river;
mother's touch to Dad's love of nature.)



(Dad, far left, at age 7 - #5 among his 10 siblings)

Once a robust man - a lover of all things faith, family, athletics,
& outdoors - his life had been relegated to the couch in our living room.  He slept there.  He ate there (if he could even eat at all).  He watched TV there.  He witnessed the happenings of our home from that one locale.

 
(Dad, left.  Here we have
evidence of the origens of his
penchant for all things dapper.)
 
 
 
(Dad, center at age 14 - a friend among friends)

 
(Dad , center with the ball -
forever the enthusiast of basketball,
football &
Friday night's boxing matches)
 
 
 
(Dad, center - the naturalist)
 
 
(Dad, 2nd from Left - forever the classy collegiate!)
 
 
 
(Dad & Mom ... their early years; their early love)
 
 
(Dad, ever the fisherman)
 
 
(Dad the skier)
 
 
(Dad, hiker & mountain climber)

My three sisters were each married & no longer living at home.  So it was my cherished duty (and sometimes burden) to spend Saturdays by Dad's side while mother worked.  I'd prepare his lunch, change TV channels, steady him as he rose or reclined, or just sit quietly by his side while he slept.   

Each day he seemed to shrink smaller-and-smaller.

 
(Dad's last days, with Mom & his brother, Elmer)

But on Thanksgiving, this now frail man of 90 pounds made his way from the couch to the banqueting table.  There he gave thanks.  What more could he want than to be among the collection of treasures that were, ever-and-always, his joy:  His wife, daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren? 

Outside a snowy wonderland had settled upon us - - an unusual condition for Washington State, and all the more so because it was not yet Winter.  From our paned dining room windows the soft glow of snow's glory only added to the beauty of that particular Thanksgiving. 

 
(Snowfall on the family home)

Following the meal it was painfully obvious something was terribly amiss with Dad.  Mother called for help; an ambulance.  It had grown dark outside, and the muffled silence of a snow-laden world intensified the moments we waited for its arrival.  In procession, the entire family followed by car to the hospital.

For the next several days Dad slipped further & further away; his illness now made tortuous by the staff infection that was attacking his body & the pneumonia that insisted upon taking his breath away altogether.  Leukemia leaves its victims with nothing to fight off such mortal enemies.

One evening we were all summoned to Dad's bedside.  With a surge of energy and courage, he spoke of his love & bid his farewell.  He knew he must leave, but couldn't do so without these finishing & noble gestures.  Once accomplished he moved from the land of the lucid to the comatose.  Within a few short days, December 4th, he left our snowy realms to walk streets of gold.  

This Saturday is my father's birthday.  He would be 110 years old were he alive today.  And, while I prepare for & rejoice about the season upon us, I cannot do so without remembering the days of his life, and of his leaving.  It is a bittersweet tincture.  

A man larger-than-life to most of us left a huge & gaping hole where once he stood.  Today I remember, and I honor him.  

He loved the Lord and the whole of God's creation.  He gave context to the concept of grace.  He loved & served his family humbly; his church body too.  Every night of their married life, he & mother would knee beside their bed to pray - - an image my sisters and I will never forget.


(Terry & Me; the day of my Dad's funeral
 - only 16 and 2 years from being married)

As a youngster my father followed me to bed every night, where he tenderly tucked me in with a story.  He played hide-n-seek better than anyone I ever knew or have known.  He could be stern, especially if lied to or sassed.  He smelled of aftershave & Clorets gum.  His hands were broad & strong, and warm.  I loved placing my small hand inside his, then again inside his coat pocket whenever we came or went from the house.  For endless hours I could ride my trike around his basement workspace and never incur his impatience.  I loved sitting on the backside of the couch, legs draped over his shoulders, and pat his bald head.  I can still see him doing dishes in the kitchen so mother could sit, or working in our backyard garden.  

I was his Palsey Walsey, and his Beetlebom

 
(Daddy & me.  He was 46 when
I joined the family)

 
 

He was, and will always be my Daddy.

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
(Dad & me; my first communion)
 
 
 


 
 
Missing you today, Dad,
 
and wishing you a Happy Birthday.
 
 
  

 
  JAMES UVO WELLS
November 17, 1902 - December 4, 1964
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Comment from my sister Barbara (#2 daughter), who sent me a separate email that's well worth the sharing: 
 
I just read your tribute to dad, it touched my heart and brought back so many memories. How blest we were to have such an amazing example of all that is good, honorable, humble, industrious, patient, honest and oh, so many other attributes, I could go on and on. He was so special and he was our father. What a gift God gave us to be his daughters, cherished and loved beyond measure. I treasure all the memories I have of him (and of mom) and thank God every night for both of them. Oh, the joy when we meet again in the Heavenly place where there is only all things good and never ending. I can hardly wait...
Much love to the little sister he was so proud of.
Barb


Friday, November 9, 2012

Dear Mr. President

Dear Mr. President,
 
It was just four years ago that I sent you my first, and only letter.  Since then I have emailed your office on numerous occasions to express my concern about various matters of national interest. 
 
Today I am sending you my second and, most likely, last letter.
 
I've kept the promises I made to you in my earlier tome.  In the course of your first term I have given you the benefit of the doubt, defended you on occasion, and watched expectantly for the change & unity that were the hallmarks of your rhetoric.   I am deeply saddened, if not distressed that you have not kept your promises to the American people, and me among them. 
 
If any President had momentum going into office, you certainly did.  Not only was Congress and the Senate at your beck-and-call, but the American people bestowed on you Rockstar status.  Instead of utilizing that formula to full advantage in making needful changes, you squandered it.  From the git-go you blamed, and continue to blame the prior administration for your inability to keep your own campaign promises.  Your tenure has ushered in a new wave of divisiveness in the land; and your sweeping reforms have left us nearly bankrupt - - literally and spiritually.   
 
As you stand and gaze at the horizon that represents your next four years, I wonder if you will have any sense of the sadness your re-election brings to many hearts?  Yes, I realize you have a swell of support from half of the country; support which names entertainers, splinter groups and nearly the entire network of media.  It is of little import or comfort to those of us from the other half - - the 58,163,978 that did not vote for you - largely industrious, God-fearing common folk who have been paying & will continue to pay the way for a large percentage of your 61,170,408 fans.   
 
Following your last election I stood hopeful.  Today I stand offended.  It will be difficult to support a government that: 
  • Makes little & light of the now 53,000,000 abortions that have occurred in this country, including late term abortions, and abortion used as a means of birth control. 
  • Considers homosexual unions equal to traditional marriage.
  • Gives little effort to crafting a budget, much less balancing it. 
  • Moves in the direction of socialism, with little regard for the constitution.
  • Pares down U.S. military in the face of escalating global danger.
  • Panders to America's enemies.
  • Divides the country not only along the lines of liberal & conservative political views, but between races, socio-economic groups & religious worldviews.

That's my short list.  To which I add a growing concern about the seeming effort by your administration to play nice with everyone but the Christian.  Little-by-little you are marginalizing the moral.    

Mr. President, I will continue to pray for you and our country.  As offended as I am at the trajectory of your leadership, I am absolutely certain your re-installment came as no surprise to God.  In many ways and on every level you have given godly people reason to remember that His Kingdom is not of this world.  We needed that, so I thank you.    
 
In closing, I quote my first letter:

May that same God show you what to do with and for the people, Mr. President. His advice and His ways will keep you in good stead, and this country as well.

I pray you remember and take to heart, sir, that God will only bless the blessable.  I will remember likewise ... and that's a promise.

Kathleen Flanagan






The Constitution is not an instrument
for the government to restrain the people,
it is a instrument for the people to
restrain the government...
~ Patrick Henry


Human government is more or less perfect
as it approaches nearer or diverges farther
from the imitation of this perfect plan
of divine and moral government.
~ John Adams

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

In Case of Snark Attack

I could scarcely believe my eyes or ears as I sat adjacent to the warring factions.  It wasn't really much of war, mostly because there were but two combatants.  But it was definitely a Hatfield & McCoys moment - - and this between two men that love each other dearly.  Except at that moment.

It was difficult to decide which was the aggressor and which was the victim.  They dodged between roles.  I counted myself most fortunate to not have sustained a glancing blow.   

The subject?  (Were I to give you one guess I'm certain you'd get it immediately)  :  politics.

Today's Election Day.  We've already slogged our way through a particularly uncivil season of campaign faldera.  Depending on today's voting outcome, we may be in for an equally virulent season of post-election snark. 

How do we survive?

Well, this is certainly may be a wee bit facetious, but it applies.  There are ways to avoid or prevent a shark snark attack.  But what do you do if you're engaged in one?

You needn't guess.


 
What To Do If You Encounter A Shark Snark,
or if You've been Snorked
 
 
Stay Calm and still
This sounds a lot easier said than done but it is really important. Like many predators, shark can sense fear and this will only arouse their senses and attack instincts. You also need to keep cool in order to analyze the few critical seconds that you have to make the right decisions that will save your life. This is not the time to panic. If a shark is approaching, you will not be able to out swim it in open water. Instead, stay still and take the next steps. 
 
Defend yourself
Get in a position where you are able to defend your front and sides of your body. Try to avoid using your hands. Use any weapons possible and in your case it’s likely the only thing you have is your surfboard. If possible, use your board as a shield of a barrier from the shark. Strike back at the shark if you can at its most delicate areas such as their eyes, nose or gills. 
 
Get Aggressive: 
If it bites into you and drags you underneath water, playing dead will not help. Get as aggressive as you can by clawing at its eyes and gills. 
 
Stop the bleeding:  
Get out of the water as efficiently as you can. Most sharks who attack surfers think that they're prey. Once they realize that surfers are not their usual high fat meals, they usually let go. In fact, fatal shark attacks are usually due to the injury sustained from the attack and not from getting devoured. It’s critical you get out as quickly as possible and stop the bleeding.  
 
Get help: 
Find a lifeguard or anyone and get immediate medical attention.     
 
 
Just don't BE the snark.

 
This is what the LORD says:
“Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or
the strong man boast of his strength or
the rich man boast of his riches,
but let him who boasts boast about this:
 that he understands and knows Me,
that I am the LORD,
Who exercises kindness, justice and
righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,”
declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)




Real Life Survival Skills - Avoiding Shark Attacks

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Moonshine

I know.  Straightaway you've pictured a forested holler where men & their hounds fuss & fumble in their shanties to distill the whiskey concoction known as moonshine.  Funny term that it is, it derives its name from the fact that it must be done in the secret darkness of night.  Moonshine of this sort is illegal.

But that's not at all what I've got in mind this morning.  The moonshine of which I ponder is that which collects as a by-product of the sun's own light; and then goes on to display that light as if it were its own.  The moon is equipped with a unique brilliance, and for no other reason than it reflects the sun.  

We understand it best this time of year, when Harvest Moons loom large in the sky above.  It's as if, when everything on the ground below begins to enter a barren & bleak - though beautiful - season of dormancy, the moon seems even brighter & nearer than at any other time of the year. 



In the bedazzlements of the night sky, the moon is the orb that most often sparks the imagination.  Songs & poems, and even prayers attend its captivating boldness.  Lovers of all ages interpret its glow as an affirmation of affection.    

Against the backdrop of ebony, the moon has a part to play.  

Today's night sky is my classroom.  Even the darkness cannot hide God's purposes for His creation, or me.  Whether visible or invisible; whether a quarter or a full view ... my part is certain.  It is to be a reflection of His glory.  

Now the Lord is the Spirit,
and where the Spirit of the Lord is,
there is freedom.  And we all,
who with unveiled faces contemplate
the Lord’s glory, are being transformed
into his image with ever-increasing glory,
which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. 
~ 2 Corinthians 3:17-18

  The night is nearly over; the day is almost here.
So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and
put on the armor of light. ... 
clothe yourselves
with the Lord Jesus Christ ... 
~ Romans 13:12, 14
 
 
You are the light of the world.
A town built on a hill cannot be hidden.
Neither do people light a lamp and put it
under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand,
and it gives light to everyone in the house.
In the same way, let your light shine before
others, that they may see your good deeds
and glorify your Father in heaven.
~ Matthew 5:14-16

 
In him was life, and that life was the light of men.
~ John 1:4

Friday, November 2, 2012

Through the Pinholes

" ... if I obey Jesus Christ in the seemingly random
circumstances of life, they become pinholes through
which I see the face of God."
 


 
"Whoever can be trusted with very little
can also be trusted with much,
and whoever is dishonest with very little
will also be dishonest with much."
~ Luke 16:10
 
Obedience.  How I love the concept when it comes to training children or dogs.  It's not so favorable when I need a dose of it in my own life.
 
What I know is this:  If I'm to have the contentment in life God alone offers, it is inextricably linked to my obedience.  It is one tangle I wish not to be undone, yet I am known to sit for hours picking at its threads in an attempt to unravel it.
 
Obedience.  It is not for the faint of heart.  It is not for the situational saint.  It is not for the one cozied up to the world and the world's ways.  It is knit together with threads of love, of righteousness, of sacrifice, of trust, of holiness.  It is a condition, and all that follows it are conditional, not given.  In other words, certain things - like freedom - cannot be claimed until the condition of obedience has been embraced.
 
Rebellion is the antithesis of obedience; and oh how the rebellious do gag on such things as these.  I know.  Been there; done that!  It's to make it up as you go, and to eventually fall prey to one's own schemes.     
 
Like the Lord Himself, obedience is often misunderstood.  As with the former, the latter is love's guarantee. 
 
As a wise leader once told me:  Lean forward & listen up ...
  
 
As Jesus was saying these things,
a woman in the crowd called out,
“Blessed is the mother who gave
you birth and nursed you.”
He replied, “Blessed rather are those
who hear the word of God and obey it.”
~ Luke 11:27-28 
 

To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said,
If you hold to my teaching,
you are really my disciples.
Then you will know the truth,
and the truth will set you free.”
~ John 8:31-32

 
 
Jesus replied,
Anyone who loves me will
obey my teaching.
My Father will love them, and we will come
to them and make our home with them.
Anyone who does not love me
will not obey my teaching." 
~ John 14:23-24
 
 
 
 
How like God to connect a needful component like obedience to love.  He never crafts tedious religiosity or servile labor when it comes to knowing & obeying Him.  It's why the knot cannot be undone, and why the pinholes always reveal His face.
 
It's also why faithfulness in little things turn pinholes into gaping chasms. One day we will - I will - see Him as He is.