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Surprise birthday cake

“Oh wow, a surprise birthday party. I can’t believe it.”

“Chocolate cake too?”

“I wasn’t expecting chocolate cake or a party.”

Let’s stop here for a second, and look at this mentally.

Does the cake need to be eaten?

Is eating the cake expected?

Is eating the cake a requirement?

Probably not. Probably. And, no.

Now, exchange cake for pain.

When pain surprises us, do we react with disbelief or nonchalance?

Do we eat up what is served to us, whether it’s in the form of arthritis or plantar fascia?

Basically, self-control and wisdom are impersonal. They apply to cake and pain.

As our expression of self-control and wisdom becomes more secure as we turn down cake, and pain, we don’t need or want.

From Eccl. 11

“Rejoice, O young man, in your youth, and let your heart cheer you in the days of your youth. Walk in the ways of your heart and the sight of your eyes. But know that for all these things God will bring you into judgment. Remove vexation from your heart, and put away pain from your body, for youth and the dawn of life are vanity.”

From 21st Century Science and Health, “If thinking doesn’t shift out of the vicious cycle of believing in a temporal life, life is very disheartening and we feel cursed. Error hides behind a lie and excuses guilt, but can’t be concealed forever. Even the attitude that tries to justify or hide guilt is punished. People who avoid justice and deny truth tend to perpetuate sin, bring on crime, jeopardize self-control, and mock divine mercy.”

Gal. 5

“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.



Spiritual Cultures

Doug and I were headed out the door to attend another Petersen birthday party. We’d only been married a year and I’d gone to more birthday parties than necessary. All this celebrating was foreign to me. Mom would barely remember our birthdays when we were growing up. Dad? Forget it. Dad was too busy working to pay for food and shelter for his family of 7 to be bothered with birthdays. Although after getting married, I did attempt for a few months to conform to the Petersen birthday hullabaloo, I eventually just gave up. Every year after, I went to town and purchased a fist full of toothbrushes and proceeded to divvy them out to each birthday recipient.

Doug’s brothers, sister, nieces, and nephews were a bit surprised when they first got a toothbrush for their birthday, but after 7 years, well, they looked forward to it, wondering what color of brush they would get next.

Cultural differences can be bridged. I may have not been hip to celebrate birthdays, but I did celebrate. The book of Ruth in the Bible offers an example of how cultures don’t need to interfere with one another or life.

The book of Ruth is short, sweet, and powerful. The book begins with Naomi and her husband who move to Moab with their 2 sons to escape a famine in the land of Israel. Both sons marry women of Moab. The respective wives were Orpah and Ruth. Oddly, all 3 men die. No details are given on their deaths but Naomi decides to move back to Israel. She tells the girls to go back to their families.

Orpah returns to her Moab family but Ruth digs in her heels and says she is moving with Naomi, “Where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God my God.” (Ruth 1:16, ESV)

Over the last 30 years, I’ve come up with a menagerie of reasons why Ruth insisted on going with Naomi. Interestingly, these reasons correspond to my life experiences.

As a girl, I figured Ruth was like me. She had discovered something about Naomi’s God that she could agree with. For example, when in Sunday School, I discovered God as Father/Mother, not just Father, and went with it with my whole heart.

Later, in my 20’s, and as one who followed a strong gut instinct that led me to meet my future husband, Doug, I figured Ruth might have had a gut instinct about Boaz.

Then, when I was a foster mother, with eyes forced open to see a world of dysfunctional abusive families, I figured maybe, just maybe Ruth’s previous home life was something she wanted dearly to get away from.

For whatever reason, Ruth went with Naomi and helped her mother-in-law. Ruth met Boaz, and they later married. Ruth became the mother of Obed and great-grandmother of King David, in the lineage of Christ Jesus.

Ruth is quite a woman. She stood strong with her conviction, not that she was different from others, but that God expresses integrity, unity, foresight, courage, and dedication in any culture. That’s worth celebrating!

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