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Monday, 19 September 2016

What is Your Truth?

(journaled Feb 24, 2016)

Lord God--what is your Truth? Many writers/preachers/etc. nowadays seem to have their own "take" on Truth, and seem sure that they are right and others are wrong. There seems to be a pride in "being right" . . . and not much love, care, concern toward others . . . except being concerned to show, in minutest detail, how others are wrong. We can see others' shortcomings--or outright wrongs--but not our own, it seems.

And yet, lately, I have become concerned that I have been wandering off the path, becoming too "liberal" (or neo-liberal?) in my ways of thinking, wandering from the basic teachings of scripture. So I find myself retreating to  a "back to the faith of our fathers" ... and I find I am linked to the "Protestant" tradition. Is it because of the way I was brought up?  I am also becoming more wary of the kind of Christianity that is strongly mixed up with metaphysical approaches.

I don't want to get caught up again in a fundamentalism that is cold and "doctrine/law" based, and pushes relationship with You--love of You--away. But I also don't want wishy-washy-ness. I feel scared right now, because I don't know where to turn--other than to You. I feel like I don't trust anyone other than You.

And then I worry very much that my perception of You may be just that--my perception--and I might be all wrong. O dear God, please guide me to Yourself--to You, the Way, the Truth, the Life.  I don't expect to find "pat answers" exactly, because You're far more than the "pat answers" of human understanding. I believe that. But I also believe (because You said it, Jesus) that there is a simple faith, a child-like faith, that is available to us--and that we are to use and follow as we follow You.

I really, really would like to find that core of faith in You that is clear, and straight, the narrow path that provides a clear road to You, so I'm not so easily led down other paths--or intrigued by them. I absolutely need to keep my eyes fixed on You, Jesus ... and not distracted by the approval of others (so that I listen to and absorb their ideas that are not centered on You, the Truth).

I find myself in an awkward position where I've said so many angry--and arrogant--things against "traditional church" and people who are "shallow" or "easily led" ("sheeple") and so on ... and I've prided myself on getting out, getting free ... and now I find myself wanting to pull back, to find that which is  good and true and stable in "traditional church." And fear that my whining and my questioning and my arrogance may well be responsible for leading others astray.

Oh dear God, please guide me to see where I've been wrong (but also where I'm okay), and encourage others to follow You faithfully.  Not to get so caught up in "side topics" that they lose sight of You the way I have done.

Monday, 12 September 2016

clergy and lay people

(journaled Feb 16, 2006)

I am thinking more and more that our "problem" with "leadership/clergy" is actually more a problem with "lay persons"--who have little or no role other than to turn up and agree with the leaders.

Okay, of course it is more complicated that that, but really, creating a large class of "non-ministry" church members is a big problem, because by putting the "focus" in the hands of a few, it tends to take the focus off Jesus as Lord; it discourages the "lay people" from really being involved as part of the church body, growing in faith and grace and relationship with God, from doing their part--using their gifts--for the health and edification of the church, from spreading the gospel, from loving God and others, from being valued equally as Jesus values all equally.

There is a place for "leadership" (though, oh, I have disliked the "L word") but it must be a place of humility and serving, as in "the greatest must be the least," as Jesus Himself has shown. There is no place for "human" honor and trappings, though certainly there is a place for respect and love, and yes, even obedience when the leader is walking close with Jesus (and if he/she isn't, they are no longer actually worthy of leadership).

There is also no place for those who would say, "My church," or attach their personal name to a "ministry," as that path can so easily lead to a man/woman "being in charge" rather than Jesus. It does seem there are occasional people who are very humble, and yet have their name attached to their ministry (like Billy Graham, perhaps), but there are far too many cases, especially in North American ministries with the leader's name attached, which have become far too "leader-centered" (man or woman).

Such a fine line, but I am inclining to give more value to clergy/leaders than I did a few years ago when I became so discouraged at what I saw happening in churches focusing on a human leader. At the same time, I am still wanting all members of the body of Christ to be valued, and recognized and encouraged for the roles God has called them to.

Something to think more about...

Monday, 5 September 2016

Connection to Creation

(journaled Jan 6, 2016)

"The stars sang for joy" at creation, didn't they? Why have we--at least the evangelicals I've known--focused so much on people praising the Lord, but basically ignored, or even been afraid of, thinking about how all the other aspects of creation are called upon also in scripture, to praise the Lord.

It certainly is a reminder to us that we are only a part of creation and that we are to be united with the rest of creation in the basic purpose of our creation: praising, magnifying, blessing, worshipping our Creator. Maybe it's partly our smugness, even pride, about being "a special creation," or "the pinnacle of creation," or the "only thinking/reasoning creatures" or whatever. Maybe we don't want to admit that God enjoys and is praised by the rest of creation too, each in its own way.

Scripture is actually pretty anthropomorphic about the ways it does that! Like mountains skipping and stars singing, and so on. Maybe we don't want to be humble enough to realize our position in creation isn't as exalted as we'd like to think. We are IN creation, rather than ABOVE creation, for the most part, aren't we?

Yes, our "special relationship" with God is special. But we are still created beings and we also have a very practical and real "relationship" in so many ways with the rest of creation, to which we are intimately connected, and which we literally depend upon for our very breath and life. We are "animals" in that sense--and too often, in our behavior and attitudes and such, we have to admit that we act like "lower beasts" despite our potential "special relationship" with our Creator.

I guess maybe people are also nervous about getting "off the straight and narrow" and getting caught up in "New Age" or "metaphysics" or "paganism/ druidism/ animistic" beliefs held by those who try to be more closely connected to "Mother Earth." Maybe recognizing that all of creation praises God is seen as being on the edge of a slippery slope. But nonetheless, it is scriptural. And God clearly sees all His creation is "very good" and appreciates His connection to it and its connection to, and praise of Him, its Creator.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Which is more evil?

(First journaled Dec 15, 2015)
Dec 4, 2015

It sure makes me wonder. If we would feed and care for the poor in the first place, instead of going to war against them, and then sometimes offer to help "rebuild"--if we would demonstrate love instead of war and oppression--would it not have a much more positive outcome in the end? Whatever happened to the compassion and forgiveness You lived and modeled? Where does the true evil lay?

I'm thinking: In actions designed to build and maintain empires and greedy wealth and oppressive power structures, no wonder oppressed people rush to embrace (or in fear accept) religions that use and encourage war and oppression.

What is more evil? A religion (or at least a sub-group of that religion) that claims to strive for a worldwide theocratic kingdom by having the whole world converted to it, by using warfare when necessary ... or a religion (or at least a sub-group of that religion) that calls for peace through love and non-violence and self-sacrifice and a heavenly kingdom: but then glorifies "patriotic war" and also strives for world domination, using the same methods as "the enemy" (and calls down the very "enemy" whose actions it emulates to a large degree).

At least the former religion is doing what it believes in (whether or not we consider those beliefs to be evil), but the latter religion is being totally hypocritical, saying/believing one thing and doing the opposite. And people buy into it, hoping for their piece of the pie, of the "Capitalist-Christian dream," which more and more looks to me like a total nightmare!


Tuesday, 16 August 2016

Praying properly

(Originally journaled January 18, 2015)

I should be reading my Common Prayer book and my Bible. I wonder why that seems like such a big job? And I really, really, really should pray properly! I've been doing little "arrow prayers" when I think of it--or when I feel guilty about forgetting to pray, or when people ask me to pray. But I'm afraid those prayers--tiny and short, and with bad attitude too often--aren't very "acceptable"--not a fragrant and pleasing sacrifice, as the Bible puts it. I feel I'm letting people down. Not to mention letting myself down, regarding my relationship to You. And, of course, letting You down.

But all I can think of is those hours and hours and hours I used to pray for my children and the community and the churches and lots of individual people. And I do believe You're still working in my kids' lives for sure. But I'm realizing more and more how tangled and complicated our world is and how you're dealing with the needs of over 7 billion people (never mind the needs of the earth itself)--and I'm also realizing that people really do have a free will.

I guess I was hoping that my earnest prayers would lead to "miracles" like those ones we hear about (the English guy with the orphanages; revivals here and there with bars turned into churches--and giant veggies growing and stuff like that. But with all those prayers of mine it still didn't seem like I could see much of anything happen. Yet maybe that's the point: like Hebrews 11: faith--things not seen--but still hoped for, trusting in You.

The other thing is that I don't really know what to pray, because I'm more and more convinced that a lot of our "wishes" are awfully short-sighted. And what we beg You to do might not be best at all.  Only You can see the big picture.

Scripture says "the prayer of faith (along with elders anointing with oil) will heal the sick"--but all I can think of is King Hezekiah begging for healing because he didn't have an heir. And his request was granted, and then he had a son--and that son turned out to be one of the most wicked kings ever.

So all I want to pray is "Your will be done." (And no, it doesn't have to do with "lack of faith"--it's because I'm really becoming convinced that "my will" is so often destructive and short-sighted, blind even).

I could just pray "The Lord's Prayer," I guess. That pretty much covers everything. In the Anglican Church they pray the Lord's Prayer, and a couple other sort of "general" prayers--and then they have the "prayers of the people" and they just give names, not details--and that makes a lot of sense to me because, after all, You know all those people, and You know all their needs, and most of all, You know what's best for each of them, so your people are doing the right thing (I think) by praying those people's names to You--and leaving the path and results up to You. (Right? I think ...)

What's included in the Lord's Prayer? Honoring You. Your eternal purposes (you know best). Basic human needs. Relationship with you and others, and salvation. More of Your eternal purposes and relationship with You and others. So may your purposes, your love and righteousness prevail.

Yes, that pretty much covers it.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Terrified by disapproval

(Originally journaled on February 6, 2015)

I read this morning an article that said the best writing comes out of really emotional experiences. Maybe that is true, because since I went through my "Great Depression," I've been trying to live in this smooth unruffled way, not getting overly excited or upset, avoiding things that are scary for me. And I know I've lost my drive to write in the way I used to have it.

Approval. That's a big hurdle for me. I crave it.

And I'm terrified by disapproval. This morning I wrote a highly complimentary response to an article someone shared on FB--then removed my comment when I saw another article explaining why some people hate what the first article talks about. Good grief! Why am I so scared of ruffling people's feathers?

"This little light of mine, I'm gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine."

But I don't. I hide it under a bushel till it flickers almost into nothingness.

Let it shine till Jesus comes? He's here and I'm still hiding it. When he comes physically will he deny me? Because I act--maybe I am--ashamed.

Don't let Satan blow it out. Well, I could blame him, but really--isn't it just me? Why, oh why, am I so afraid of disapproval?

All around the neighborhood ... I fail to let it shine. Only in "safe" spots where it will be approved, and even then, only shine minimally :-(

I really don't know when and where my fear of disapproval began. And I'm afraid of it from all sides. Afraid to be too "bad" ... afraid to be too "good" ... Afraid to stand up and speak out, live out what I really think. (Believe? If I really believed, would I be afraid?)

Why am I so afraid to rock the board? To be disapproved of? Lord?

"May our sitting down and our rising up contribute, Lord, to your kingdom's work."

Does mine? Maybe in some ways. "Quiet action" ways. But "speaking up"? No. More likely embarrassed back-peddling, even denial.

If only I didn't keep screwing up by trying to "keep the peace" and by "denying you."  Tears ...

"Lord, remind us that it is not always agitated uprisings and nonstop activity which leads to justice, but that change often comes through the quiet commitment of a small group of people. Help us raise our small body of people to set about quietly becoming the change we want to see in the world. Amen."

But maybe that is the key: "a small group of people."

I spend way too much time alone. I need others. Not just on Sunday morning church gathering and Tuesday morning street outreach and occasional other "events." We need to live our lives together.  Maybe there was a good reason for all the "church" we did back in the day.  Somehow, deep down inside, I miss it. I want to be part of a big family, an intentional community. I still want to be a grandma teacher-facilitator.

I need that! How? Father? Show me, please.

Psa 33:13 "The Lord looks down from heaven and beholds all the people in the world.... He fashions all the hearts of them and understands all their works."

Is that what you've been doing? Fashioning my heart? Do you "understand my works"?  Yes, I sense You do ... that this is a message from You ... that You see my heart. You know my fears, where they came from and all. You understand, and You are working in my heart. Thank You. That's a comfort. A great comfort. You still love me, don't You, Papa? Thank You. Amen.

"...Through Jesus Christ, we have become the children of peace."  Maybe all this "time-wasting" on Fb and internet hasn't been a total waste of time. Maybe you are softening my heart, driving me to long for true peace.

I know that my heart is truly in pain when I read or hear about all the horrible things that happen in our world--the war, the grabbing for power, the oppression, and cruelty. And I don't see any hope except through You!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

Reconciliation

(Originally journaled October 8, 2015)

"Forgive us, Lord, for stealing the land: Have mercy and set us free."

I don't get this--set us free? We are the ones imprisoning those we stole the land from--shouldn't we be setting them free? Inviting them back onto their land? Giving them rich, useful parts? Maybe giving up our own homes? Are we asking, in this prayer, for God to set us free from our guilt? If so, doesn't that mean we need to do more than just say, "Sorry." How can we adequately show we accept our guilt, and want to truly reconcile? Doesn't that involve restitution? And deep relationship sharing all we have, including our personal time, energy, active love ...

And how do we do that?

Maybe start on a personal level, with small steps. Ask what we can give, do, whatever.

Maybe that would be a really important Lenten practice (repentance ... leading to restoration, even to "resurrection and life"...)

Lord? How can I start? Today?

(We've taken so much more than the land--and yet that taking of the land does represent and underlie all who indigenous people are--their life, their soul.)

Chief Seattle of the Suquamish: "We know that the White Man does not understand our ways. One portion of the land is the same to him as the next, for he is a stranger who comes in the night and takes from the land whatever he needs. The earth is not his brother, but his enemy, and when he has conquered it, he moves on."

Conquering the land is conquering life--it is darkness and death.

"Lord, show us that reconciling [is] to train us more deeply in the faith that honors everything created by your hand. Help us see that reconciliation leads to deeper knowledge of you. Amen."

Wow. I guess I never saw biblical "reconciliation" quite that way before. So reconciliation with indigenous people is in a sense a picture, an example, of us being reconciled to God. What we have done to our Creator is really in significant ways similar to what we have done to indigenous peoples.

We like, I think, to focus on God's merciful grace in giving his Son. We like that He chose to take the initiative, to suffer the pain. But should that "free" us from the "pain" of truly repenting (and doesn't that mean giving up all we hold dear, putting our very life, our heart, and soul, in his hands, to do with as he wishes? That's hard--but is it not necessary? Is it not part of truly loving? He loves us--are we not to love him (and deny ourselves) in return, as he as done for us? Are we willing to do that for others we have wronged, as well? Oh my goodness.

How much are we really willing to give up to achieve reconciliation? How far are we willing to go in repentance ... and restoration? What does that really mean? Can little lessons in schools, however well-meaning, accomplish that? It's one thing to intellectually (and even emotionally) understand. But is it not another thing altogether to reconcile, whatever it might take, however long it might take, no matter how much pain and loss we might incur in our own lives (because, after all, aren't we the ones responsible for their loss and pain?).

What, I wonder, does it really mean to "walk in another person's moccasins?" How far does that go to achieve true reconciliation--with God, as well as with "them"? If we don't go there, have we really reconciled? With them? With God? Can we really expect forgiveness (I know, I know--"freely given with no expectation of anything in return except the freedom of letting it go?"--would we be willing to do that if we were in their place? I bet not ...).

"Teach us to number our days aright." We have a very limited time, so we need to do what is righteous.

Our view of land is an "ownership" view. The First Nations view is that people are part of the land--so taking the land and pushing people off and refusing to truly share is to cut a piece out of a people. (And residential schools, cutting families and communities apart, is, of course, more of the same).

So much of what any people do is about segregation--me vs you, us vs them...