Wednesday, June 4, 2014

love and anger

It's been a while since the last meditation, I know. But I suddenly needed some space and time. The problems of evangelical culture, as opposed to Christ and following Him, stalled me for a bit. I couldn't get my head around any other way to deal with them than just anger. This post is, hopefully, the beginning of moving past this current spiritual growth "wall."

Mostly, I blame John Wesley. When he started what became the Methodist church, but was then just a movement, he needed to carve out time to train and help people live the Christian life. This led to the development of extra meetings beyond Sunday. Class bands were formed for those really serious about spiritual formation and attendance to meetings and bands was mandatory. Not only that but it really helped people learn to follow in Jesus' footsteps.

Then, I blame Robert Raikes. He basically started Sunday school. Of course, it was a real school then. A way for children to have a day off of work and learn to read, write, and do sums. Bible was of course taught for religious instruction.

The last bit of blame goes on all the large tent meetings and evangelists of the 1800's in America. All the hell fire and brimstone messages. All the "you better be at the meeting every night the tent is up" propaganda.

Now, this is a bit tongue in cheek because all of these people in history did much more good than bad - during their time. The problem is that we are living now and we have the dross of what worked then hanging on us. We are trying to continue with what worked then in a whole different world.

I am going to do something that I tend to stay away from. I am going to show quite a bit of scripture. I tend to not do this because it is beyond easy to use scripture to push, beat, and pull people into behavior and a way of thinking that they might not actually agree with but, "if the Bible says it..."

John 5:9b, 16-18  "Now that day was a sabbath..Therefore the Jews started persecuting Jesus, because hew as doing such things on the sabbath. But Jesus answered them, 'My father is still working and I also am working.' For this reason the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because he was not only breaking the sabbath, but was also calling God his own Father, thereby making himself equal to God."

The Jewish people, mainly their version of our pastors, had developed many rules and guidelines to keeping the sabbath. This was due, in large part, to the exile the endured during 500 BCE. They were disobedient to God and God exiled them from their holy land. They did not want to repeat this (who can blame them? not I), so Sabbath rules were sacred and not to be broken. Until Christ...

And another, "He left that place and entered a synagogue; a man was there with a withered hand, and they asked him, 'Is it lawful to cure on the sabbath?' so that they might accuse him. He said to them, 'Suppose one of you has only one sheep and it falls into a pit on the sabbath; will you not lay hold of it and lift it out? How much more valuable is a human being than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the sabbath.' Then he said to the man, 'Stretch out your hand.' He stretched it out, and it was restored , as sound as the other. But the Pharisees (pastors, evangelical culture) went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him." Matthew 12: 9-14

Drawing this all together, here is my point: we need to look to our culture and see what we are doing in the name of Christianity that is the same as the Pharisees fussing about Christ breaking the sabbath. Here is the top thing on my list - Sunday night service.

It started out as a good thing, Sunday night, weekly meetings on Wednesday. It started out as food for people's souls. But...

We have come a long way from that. We now have fast busy lives. People work 50, 60, or 70 hours a week. They get two small days off. One of which is usually devoted to house chores or family time. The other which is for church. Church should feed the soul, but sometimes the rushing effort to get there, the song/lecture format that does not reach to everybody's learning style. The lack of spiritual formation exercises, the inability to form community out of a group of people that see each other on Sundays only (because our mobile lifestyle means we pick and choose more than ever instead of living with those around us). Church does not always feed the soul. Or maybe it does in the morning, but then the effort to quickly get home, eat, rest, and get back to church knocks the soul-rest right out of us because then we are rushing home to get ready for another work week.

Christ said, "The sabbath was made for humankind, and not humankind for the sabbath..." Mark 2: 27b. This means we need to do that which meets the requirements for filling out soul with God. These are not the same things that we might feel evangelical culture "expects" of us. Like being at church every time the doors are open (unless that is filling your soul, then GO!).

But if you find you are exhausted heading into and out of church. That, if you were really honest with yourself, the idea of going to church makes you want to just hide in bed, or wish you had a cold that day, you may want to look again at what it means to take a sabbath (Richard Foster's book The Celebration of Discipline has a great section on this.)

To those promoting the "standard" of evangelical culture - pastors and lay leaders alike I say this: Feed your sheep. If they are coming, but starving you are doing something wrong. Make the culture of your church one where people come and go and say, "Indeed Christ meant it when he said, "Come to me all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30

Use that section as your meditation this week. Only one who loves could want that kind of ease and safety for you.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

God is for you

The other day in conversation the topic came up about using discipline to teach our children that they are sinful and need to repent. And I get it. I do. We don't want our children to think that wrong things are "just mistakes" or have no eternal or spiritual consequences.

But, I think it is the wrong way to go about teaching our children about God. Not that I am against using the word sin with children. But I would much rather teach them how much God loves them. Sitting around the table in conversation I said, "I have never met a person in church that did not believe in sin or that they were sinful. But I have met many who do not really believe that God loves them."

The truth of that statement surprised me.

But it is so true. We do not actually live in the reality of God's eternal love. We see it in the focus of sermons and songs. We see it in the lack of community inside our churches. We see it in how hard it is for Christians to ask for help from other Christians or struggle through life.

One of the blogs I was introduced to recently summed this up so well. What if we lived like people were for us? Check our Stephanie's blog here.

So, here I am to tell you God is for you. In fact, that is a better translation of Romans 8:28. God is always working for you. If you show up to life with God, you belong.

Meditation verse: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship? Or distress? Or persecution? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or peril? Or sword?

NO

in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:35&37

Don't forget the prayer of release.

Did you meditate last week? Let me know how it is going.

Lastly, Christ is Risen!

Monday, April 14, 2014

To my children - the Bible



The last time I went to mom's group at my church, the discussion leader asked a really great question. She asked, "What are the most important things that you want your children to know about Christianity?" The question has really stuck with me. There are many things I want them to know. So many, that I cannot fit them into one post. This one is going to cover the Bible.
 
What I really want them to know is that it is a book about the history of God and humanity. It is not a book that provides character templates. I mean, do I really want my sons to be like David? Hunted, polygamous, murdering, worshipping David? No, not at all. Do I want them to go to God because they know God's love in the midst of their worst sins? Most definitely. Teaching them that the focus of their reading is God instead of the character they are reading about, or the three main points of the Bible story is huge on my list of things I want them to know.

I want them to know that they can never know all there is in the Bible. It is not a bunch of information to memorize. One cannot do a study on John and then "know" that book and never revisit it. I want them to know that they do not always have to be studying the Bible. They can spend time learning to meditate, or fast, or serve instead. I mean we only have so much time each week. If I teach them that they have to set aside four hours on Sunday, and then at least one or two in the rest of the week to listen to a lecture and maybe sing, then when am I going to teach them to serve? Sometimes service takes up too much time if one feels committed in those other areas too. Some acts of service are long time commitments. I think of the woman who watches my kids every Monday through this deployment. That's a serious commitment. What about mowing lawns for a shut in? Is that not also worth an hour on Sunday instead of an evening service? I realize this might seem radical, but it is what I want them to know.

I want them to know that they can read an entire Bible book and walk away not feeling any different and it is not an indicator of their spiritual growth. On the other hand, sometimes five words will carry them forward for weeks and months in their life with God.

Probably the most important thing though is that the Bible is a book. It is only alive through the Holy Spirit. God is God, not a book.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Beauty and Love

I needed some humor today. So I flipped on Carol Burnett on YouTube. One of my clips came up with a commercial from Dove. I don't buy their products because they have chemicals and I am trying to avoid those. Plus making soap and lotion is super fun - I admit to getting a little geeky about it. But their commercials are great. This one was about the beauty patch. For two weeks these women wore the patch for 12 hours a day and kept a video diary. At the end of the two weeks, they were glowing with confidence and talking about how much pretty they were. The patch was nothing more than a plain patch. The women were of course amazed and it got me thinking...

There is a woman I know. I don't know her well. I know very little more than her name. But I have heard her say a couple of derogatory things about her body. I know we all do it, but these just caught me so of guard because she seemed to mean them more than most of us do. Also, she is tall - like model tall. Thin, not model thin, but no more than a six I would guess and beautiful. Each time she has said these things I keep wanting to just look at her and say, "Love yourself."And it got me thinking...

 It was not far into my first degree that I started to realize how many problems in the church stem from disbelief. We want to believe. We say we do believe in God. And we do, as much as we can. But there are so many things we just don't really believe. Like that we are loved by God. I do not mean tolerated because of Jesus' sacrifice. I don't mean that God deigns to love us. I do not mean that his love is constantly holding back God's mighty justice and wrath from us sinful humans. I mean that God loves us. That God is joyful when he thinks of us - of you - of me. In all of our imperfections, God loves us with no qualifications.

I know the theologians (especially reformed) of you are qualifying me here - save it for later and listen.

So, how do we move from disbelief? Strangely enough it has very little to do with better preaching, or better Bible study, or more faithful attendance in Sunday school, or Wednesday nights, or at revivals. I really think it has to do with an old fashioned spiritual discipline called meditation.

Yes, Christians meditate and have for years. The biggest difference is that instead of clearing the mind to emptiness, we aim to center the mind on God. Now, let me pull all my thoughts together. If two weeks convinced these women that a patch was making them more beautiful, what would fifty-two weeks of meditating on God's love do for us?

And it is not even overwhelming. Meditation can be long, but it can also be short and as simple as this: Once a day, pause, holding your hands with fists closed and palms down. Think of your fists holding your disbelief in God's love for you. Then, when you are ready, let them open and release the disbelief. Turn them palm up and tell God you receive God's love. Then read, out loud, the meditation verse. Tack it on your fridge or coffeepot, or computer. You don't need to work at this, just be available to let God love you. I mean, don't look up the words in the original language to make sure you really understand them. Don't try to memorize it. Don't feel bad if you forget one day. Let God through the Holy Spirit love you.

Here's one to try: "But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you..." Isaiah 43: 1-2, 4.

How about you? Do you need more belief in God's love and do you think this might work? Do you have an experience or more than one where you really started to understand what it means to hear, "Jesus loves you?"





Thursday, April 3, 2014


Demi-gods

I grew up in a mountain town in the Cascade mountains. I loved it. I did not appreciate it as much as I would have had I known that I would spend most of my adult life far away from the evergreen and granite that poured so much of their strength into my life. Poetic perhaps, but if you have ever been there, you would understand.

There was this one day in the fall of my junior year. I remember the afternoon so well. The weather was chilly because I was wearing my Dad's old army coat, but I was also trying hard to live up to the gentle nudge toward fashion (for the day at least) of a friend who bought me a maxi skirt and soft sweater for my birthday. I stepped off of the bus, hoisted my bag over my shoulders and tugged my waist length blond hair out to throw behind my back. Then I set off toward work. It was a beautiful life giving afternoon. I walked quickly, as I always have, and I was grinning in pure enjoyment of life. My sister happened to drive by during this moment. She said that  I got off the bus, tossed my hair like I was in a Pantene commercial, and walked off like I owned the world. 

Her observation has always stayed with me. Mainly because in many ways she was right. I did not think that I owned the world in an arrogant sense, but that afternoon certainly was filled with that invincible life-is-grand-I-will-live-forever feeling that comes now and then, hopefully, to us all. I admit to probably having that feeling more often that I should have in my teenage years. 

I paint that afternoon for you because whenever I think of demi-god status that afternoon is what I picture in my head. Demi-god status is what I have come to call those days when we are on top of our game as humans. We are healthy, we are full emotional, mental, and physical strength. There are no major stress events happening. We find ourselves on the giving end toward many grateful people. We are like little gods. We walk like we own the earth. 

But it never lasts. As I get older, I gain demi-god status less and less often. When I do have those days they are tempered by humility because I know that I will be the recipient of love, grace, and mercy on someone else's demi-god day soon enough.

This mainly comes to my mind when I think of the evangelical church. I often feel like we try to maintain demi-god status as Christians. I totally get that we don't want, or need, to share our inner hurts and troubles with everyone. But there can be an awful sense of perfection.

This is because of the transformation that Christ does in our lives. Except sometimes we don't wait for Christ to make the transformation. Instead we try to live perfectly on our own. We don't want to take two years, or ten years, or a life time to work through false guilt, or alcoholism, or any other particular issue. We don't want a time of spiritual darkness. We race away back to where we are safe - in our doctrine, creeds, Bible studies - and keep pressing on toward getting whatever "lesson" God is teaching us. We insist on being demi-gods because we don't want the non-Christians to see how untransformed we really are. How exhausting!

 It makes my soul tired just thinking about all of the constant monitoring of oneself that goes on when we are trying to be demi-gods instead of  creations in the middle of change.

You may still see me walking off like I own the world because I am typically happy and enjoying life. But I am too old now for demi-god status. I am content to just know the one that is God.


Thursday, July 26, 2012

Contempt

Nobody faint. That is if I have anyone still following this old blog of mine. I know it has been months and months since my last real blog post. I am not calling this a lesson. My dislike of that word, founded this summer, is a revelation for another post. I did gain a new understanding of the need not to condemn or hold people in contempt today. I have been meditating that as I read through Dallas Willard's book The Divine Conspiracy. This excellent book works through the Sermon on the Mount as it applies to the Kingdom of God and our lives as Christians. If you don't have it, get it and read it. 

We have been here for about 6 weeks. I came with one suitcase for various reasons. This means we had one outfit to wear, one outfit in the wash, and one extra, or half of one. However, I did not figure on how much wear the clothes would come under being washed every other or every third day for a total of two months. Neither did I bring enough clothes for my growing baby, so he is really skinny on the wardrobe right now. However, we only have two weeks left and there are plenty of clothes at home. I know this, so I do not worry about how we look. As I left the Pharmacy today I realized that all of this information is not plastered on my forehead. The cashier probably had much different thoughts as she helped me in my worn and stained yoga pants (my only clean ones today) and X in his shirt and diaper combo (because it is hot and I do not have hot weather clothes for him). She probably thought that we were poor, or possibly that I was a bad mother who wouldn't even dress my baby correctly. Maybe she didn't think of us at all (likely). But it did help me see one reason why we should not condemn people or hold them in contempt. In all reality there is a plausible and acceptable explanation for what may appear to someone as "low" or "less than" behavior or situations. This was a wonderful way to have the idea of love instead of contempt sink deeper into my being.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Jesus Loves


My oldest son. Man, it still blows me away that I have duplicates of any gender much less two boys. My oldest son is very willful. This is going to be a great asset to him as an adult.

At least it will be if we can harness willful behavior into strong willed behavior. The difference, as Charlotte Mason explains so well in her books, is that willful behavior is doing what he wants when he wants it,or throwing a fit. Strong willed behavior is doing what is necessary even when he wants to do something else. In other words, it is when he uses his will to control his desires. Being a strong willed person will help him in life. It will allow him to conquer challenges and overcome problems.

We just have to get there first.

Things are getting better. Slowly. But we have made a minor change in our morning routine. After a 90 minute complete loss of self control, I decided something needed to change. I am used to long tantrums from this child. But this one was horrendous. Nothing, not tv, food, a car ride, time in his crib, hugs, NOTHING helped him get a grip. 90 minutes of tantrum was brutal - for both of us.

The next morning I picked him up from his crib, sat him on my lap and prayed with him.Very simply we say something like, "Dear Jesus, please help Ian be nice with his hands, and keep his self-control. Jesus loves Ian. Mommy loves Ian. Amen."

While I do not believe in a push button God, I do believe that prayer helps all of us. If nothing else, we were remembering where to go when we need help. And boy did we need help!

Jesus has helped us as I have noticed incremental progress in this area. But the biggest confirmation came just the other day. My husband found an Advent ornament that Hallmark is putting out right now. Every day you turn the bottom and a verse or two of scripture play. Beth was looking at it and said, "it's baby Jesus." because the ornament has a nativity scene on it. Ian came running shouting, "Jesus! Jesus!" Our prayer time of "Jesus loves Ian" has created in him the sense that Jesus love him. I cannot think of a better introduction between my son and his savior than this. I understand anew the power of Jesus' love.