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Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Going beyond "as we conceive Him to be"

August 14, 2013
Going beyond "as we conceive Him to be"

The other day a Jehovah's Witness lady came knocking on my door, and we had an interesting conversation.  She gave me a list of 10 Bible topics to choose from, and I chose "Jesus."  A couple interesting things happened.  For one thing, she kept trying to divert my choice of topic to other topics of her choice - and I kept hanging onto my topic and pulling the conversation back on track.

The other thing that was interesting was that I could see that she really does worship and love God ("as she understands Him to be").  We talked about how we view Father, Jesus (Son), and Holy Spirit.  And I think I convinced her that I won't be changing my viewpoint about God's essential tri-unity and essential character of love-in-relationship.  I was trying to explain it while avoiding coming across as "doctrinal platitudes" or "points."  I don't know if I succeeded at all.  Maybe I should have been more focused on "testimony" than "explanation," but explanation/ reasoning is her way of communicating.

But the thing is, over and over and over I meet people who really do seem to believe firmly, and who really do seem to love God -- perhaps "as they conceive Him to be," but in so many cases it seems to be more than just "conceiving."  There is a kind of "glowing" or something (like a pregnant woman!) that goes beyond just "mental assent" to ... well, to love, I think.  Maybe even to adoration, to worship, to certainty of God's reality and care and relationship.

That is why I have a hard time setting up "in or out" boundaries of "who is a believer."  There seemed to be so many of those boundaries in my "church experience" in the past.  And now it seems like for many, there are no boundaries, or at least very few.

I can actually see the attraction of "universalism" for so many people.  Of course, some people view it with horror or disgust because ... well, maybe because "sinners deserve to burn in hell forever" ... or just because it is hard to give up a punishment-based route to salvation-or-be-damned ... rather than God's love-based purpose for creating mankind in the first plae.

I really don't know what I think ("believe") any more about a lot of things - hell, "end time," all the different eschatological theories, heaven or earth for humans after Christ's return (or some combination thereof?), whether Genesis 1-3 is literal or metaphorical, and so on.  I find the details in the Bible to be rather undetailed on a lot of topics.  How people ever managed to set up "proof-verse" proofs for a lot of things kind of baffles me.

I'll say one thing, though.  There seems to be a lot more of GOD in approaches that go beyond just "literal" readings. Because I believe God is way beyond our limited understandings.

Not Judging Traditions

August 13, 2013
Not judging traditions

This morning at the Tuesday street breakfast, I was cutting a First Nation's guy's hair.  He asked me to save his hair so he could deal with it according to his people's traditions.  And he thanked me for understanding.

And what I realized was that "traditions" are important to people.  And it's not my place to judge other people's traditions (and rites and rituals... and systems, and programs, and such).  Or even try to convince them that my preferred ways of doing things are somehow better than theirs.  Sure, I can tell them about my ways, and listen to them as they tell me about theirs.  And maybe we'll learn from each other, and both come away a little wiser (and understanding and compassionate, and open-minded and open-hearted).

Like "church traditions," for example.  If a particular tradition is helping a person to seek after and grow in relationship with God ... even just one person ... then that "tradition" has value and is important, no matter what I might think about it.

Who am I to judge how God reaches out to people?

(And I suspect that plenty of people thing MY traditions - including things I maybe don't even realize are "traditions" - are strange or even useless ... including my journaling and blogging, I guess...)

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Coming back after a long struggle with believing

August 13, 2013

It has been nearly a year since I posted on this blog.

To be honest, I've been struggling.  With even believing.  For a long, long time I didn't even write in my journal.  Then I started to ... a bit here, a bit there.  But I couldn't post it, because I felt so lost. So helpless.

In the last little while, the Light has started to shine through.  I've begun to understand what belief isn't - and WHO IT IS.

Below, you will find some notes from the journey.

I'd love to hear your thoughts.  And I hope maybe my discoveries might help you if you are going through the kind of journey I have been on.

Theologian or Fisherman?
3 March 2013

I read 1 Peter this morning.  I can so clearly hear Peter's love for Jesus.  His tone is so full of gentleness and love and care.  There is no doubt that he had "been with Jesus." His words are deep, his theology (his knowledge of God) so wonderful - yet so clear and understandable that little children can understand it.

Paul's writings, on the other hand, seem more "difficult" ... more "theological."  And yet it seems to me that we (I, too) have vaunted them above Peter's, as if the professionally trained theologian's words are more important than those of the fisherman.  Yet it was the fisherman who physically lived with Jesus for three years, day and night, and of whom Jesus said, "On this rock I will build my church."

(Not "on this throne" though.  Yesterday on the news, when they were discussing the choosing of a new pope, the theologian they quoted spoke of "the throne of Peter."  But I'm thinking Peter would "roll over in his grave" if he heard that. In his epistle, Peter begs the elders to be shepherds, clothed with humility toward one another, and fervent in love for one another, sharing the sufferings of Christ.  Servants.  Not throne-sitters.)

The Religion Parts
3 March 2013

I have a friend who was brought up in a very "religious system" and who has turned against spiritual things.  Maybe the way I was brought up was more God-centered (as opposed to system-centered).  There was a lot of good in it, when I look back.

But I'm thinking I latched onto the "religion" parts more than to God.  I seem to have always had difficulty with "relationship," choosing "reason" and "form" over relationship -- with God, and too often with others as well.

I do want You to change my heart, dear God.  I want you to help me love like Jesus ... and Peter ... and like Paul, too, for even with all his "theology," he really did love You and love all the church, and long for all people to turn to You (so much that he was willing to give up his own salvation that others would choose You.)

I have so many ideas for my writing, and my business, and other aspects of my life - but I don't know where to start.  I want to do what God wants me to do.  I want to clearly hear His voice, see His direction, every moment, every step.  I understand that it's a journey, that you lead us step by step.  But I also know very clearly how easy it is for me to be distracted ... and to want to do what I want ... and, I suppose, to be able to "see the future" ... and want my dreams to hurry up and be fulfilled (even when I'm not at all sure they are Your purposes).

(Sometimes lately I worry that non-believers are influencing me a lot more than I'm influencing them... Help me.  Please?)

Practicing the Presence
March 10, 2013

At our gathering this morning, we were discussing Brother Lawrence's "Practice of the Presence of God."  Some things stood out to me:
- the difference between intellectual "belief" and living in the Presence of God.
- God doesn't have a set plan, a list of "how to" rules and regulations for our walk with Him. There is a danger in presenting new believers with "set ways/methods" rather than pointing them (and walking with them) into relationship with God. It's not a "how to" manual or set of procedures; it's just connection through Jesus to God.  Journey.  Process.  Organic.
- every act and attitude in our life has the potential to be - and should be - an act of worship
- our "behavior" must be heart-based rather than moral/ethics based; then circumstances, physical, emotional are taken care of.
- real relationship with God, really "practicing His Presence," becomes the driving force of your life.  Not matter what happens, it keeps coming back because it is in you.  Shaped. Constrained, as Paul put it.
- the words of the Bible are often worshiped in place of the Word Himself.

Too Much Chit-Chat?
March 16, 2013

Over the past several years, we have hosted a "drop-in" meal for any and all who want to come.  At first it was on Sundays, and more recently it has been on Wednesday evenings.  I always prayed it would be a time to just share the love of Jesus with others - how ever that "looked," different every time usually.

But I have been uncomfortable for some time now about the way things are going.  It just seems like it has devolved into a "chit-chat" session about nothing in particular - nothing "valuable" at any rate, and certainly nothing "spiritual" much of the time.  But I have been too tired and busy (and now sick) to try and figure it out.

Generally in my life, lately, I've been to tired to try and figure anything out.  To tired to pray or study the Bible or hear the Spirit.

I've been concerned about our Tuesday morning "street breakfast outreach" lately, too.  I long for both of these gatherings to be more than just food and chit-chat (though when I try to bring it up, others seem to be quite happy with the way things are going, so maybe it's just my tiredness and recent illness?).

Practicing Your Presence (or Not)
March 16, 2013

Dear God, I have not felt that I have been "practicing Your Presence" as I "should."

I am confused.  It seems like You have placed me right in the midst of non-believers in so much of my activities and business.  But I don't seem to be able to speak out for or with You.

I am confused about ideas like "theistic evolution." And like the "alternate spiritualities" so many of my friends are deeply into.  I've been involved in the "Idle No More" movement, too.  And I have been thinking about my "in-between" ("borderlands") position in so many aspects of my life: white/native, Christians/non-believers, and so on.

It seems like I am not "reaching out" to non-believers (other than being close friends and really enjoying their company and appreciating them so much) as I suppose I "should."  And at the same time I find I am not even being "Christian enough" with believers.  What's with that? Where do those "should" feelings and "not enough" feelings even come from?  And what do they mean?  Are they even "true"?  I don't know.  I don't want them to be true.  But ... what if??

I am tired, dear God. Again.  And if I am tired, does that mean I've been walking on my own, out of Your path, Your leadership.  I'm pretty sure I have.  But I can't seem to help it.  I am having such a hard time focusing on You.

It seems like all I can do to just barely keep up with the "have-to-do" stuff in my life, like work, and home responsibilities and such.  While the "want to do" things I just can't get to. And even "need to do" stuff like income tax and such.  Including focusing on You - that seems the hardest of all.  Just too tired.

Father? Father?!?!?!? (I haven't called You that - I mean, really called You that, for a long time.  But I am calling now.  Please come to me.  Please live in me.  Please make me Yours and lead me.  Please?) (4:05 am...)

Dreaming of a worthwhile, significant life
April 8, 2013

All my dreams and longings - the ones that involve You - have come flooding back. And once again I want my life to be a "worthwhile" and "significant" story FOR YOU.  (But maybe for me too? oh dear...)

And I thought of the story I told at our gathering yesterday of the amazing home for foster children, and for ministering to the poor, that You provided for our friends some years back.  I was also thinking about a book I recently read: the writer said each of us are like trees, and the real story, the important story, is about the forest, and we're each just one tree.  We need to stay humble and avoid arrogance; we need to avoid the thought that it is "my story."  But at the same time I like how the writer emphasized the pleasure You take in each of our individual  stories too.

I am quite sure You are pleased when we recognize and walk with You into the endless opportunities and adventures You offer/ provide.  I don't think it diminishes Your love for us if we don't, but for sure WE are missing out on You, and on relationship with others, and with the surprising joy that follows the pain and the risk and the adventure and the danger and the effort.

Although reading that book did reawaken my desire for "adventure" with You, maybe I'm a bit more inclined to want to keep my eyes and ears and hands and heart open to the voice of Your Spirit, and to the movement of Your breath, Your wind.  And then to "step into," (preferably unhesitatingly) whatever it is You have in mind for that moment - the "practicing of Your Presence."

More than "Just Breakfast"
April 8, 2013

I have been wanting, longing, desiring to have the "street breakfast" ministry move beyond "just breakfast" (and free hair-cuts! Thank You for the new kit).  I had an idea about collecting stories and poems and artwork from the folks who come, and post them for others to come to see "those people" in a new light.  And I long for way more intentional YOU at the breakfast gatherings.  I don't know how that might work out.  But if it is Your will, You do know how it could work, and You do "own the cattle on a thousand hills" and everything that would be needed.

Here's another thing I still dream about, that I've been dreaming for 30 or 40 years... the whole "living on a bus and following the open road" thing. Not necessarily "camping" or living the "hippy lifestyle" - but living more lightly, more simply.  I have pictured getting rid of most of our "stuff" and even renting a home rather than owning, so we can be ready to GO wherever and whenever and however Your road - YOU! - beckons.

Hiding away; not wanting to be different
April 11, 2013

I'm sitting here praying again for You to make me "bold."  And feeling terrible, hopeless, for hiding away my belief in You. (I was going to say my "trust" in You - but maybe I can't say that if I'm not bold, can I?)

But the thought came to mind (where did it come from? help me to recognize if and when it is YOUR voice) that I think maybe I'm not ashamed of You.  Rather, maybe I'm ashamed of me, of us, of people ... who say and do bizarre, even bad, nasty, evil, embarrassing things in Your name.

Lord, how do I keep You and "religion" separate?  Is it even possible? I mean, the world already mostly sees the two as one and the same.

Can you please help me separate my love for You from my embarrassment (and hurt) about "churches" and "religious people" and all?  Is that possible?  Please help me focus on YOU, Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit. Please.

Please help me "put away" the whole debacle of the last "church split" that tore my heart apart too.  Please help me "put away" to "thou shalt nots" of my childhood.  And the "fanaticisms" and "religious behaviors" of past times and places.  And even the "peculiar people" reaction of embarrassment I experienced as a teen being forced to be part of a group that - well, embarrassed me.

Dear God, I know we are to be different from the world.  Obedient to, worshiping, honoring You rather than self.  And truly loving You and our neighbors.  But what about being a "peculiar people?" "Peculiar" has such strong, such negative, connotations.  Surely it doesn't mean that? Or does it? And if I truly loved You, I shouldn't even care if it does? (But I too often do care...)

What about "doing big things for You"?
April 11, 2013

Dear God, what about that book I just read about really doing something instead of just talking about it (or just thinking about it, or just writing about it...)?

What about "doing big things" and "trusting You to supply?" How does that work - or not work?  I've seen people "trust You to supply," convinced that their big idea, their big plan is from You.  And then the whole thing just tumbles down.  And then what?  Especially when "God told me to ..."  Or "I'm doing it for the Lord, and He will provide."

And what about when all kinds of other people are dragged (or even forced) in and promised great things.  And then it all implodes (or explodes), and all those people are hurt and lose everything.

And what if a "big vision" person gets power-hungry and takes everything for him/herself.  Or if the "visionary" person loses interest as soon as everyone else "gets on board," and moves on to some new "vision" and leaves everyone else floundering?

What if? What if? What if?

What if I'm wrong about wanting to some something "significant" - even if I really do want to "do it for You."  What if really I just want to "leave MY mark?"  What if it really is "all about me?"  Most of all, what if I hurt others by my effort to "be significant?"

What does "doing something significant" really mean?

There are so many things I want to do.  Are they all "about me?"  How do I tell the difference between "about You" and "about me?"  Do I just no nothing (except eat and sleep and survive day by day), waiting for You to drop a "big plan" in my lap?

Sometimes I'd like to sell our house and rent a tiny place and live really simply, ready at the drop of a pin to jump up and follow You off on a wild adventure.  But is the "real," or it is just "novel-writing" material?

Not doing my duty?
May 1, 2013

I scribbled this on a notepaper the other day:

"Now most of my friends are non-Christians - generally ex-"church people" seeking "spirituality" or "belief" or whatever, elsewhere.  I love spending time with them.  Awesome discussions on all kinds of topics and ideas that I care about that I find most "Christians" rarely want to discuss (afraid? don't care? or??).

I love to write, to edit, to tutor, to learn together.

I love to help and encourage.

I love to discuss philosophy, God ... anything but "church" or "Christianity."

And then I feel like I'm not "doing my duty."

And I wonder if I'm even a believer anymore.

And if Jesus is ashamed of me...."

Well, I was really tired and doubting and discouraged when I wrote that. And I have asked forgiveness from You for my angry words about "churches" and for my negativity and for my anti-religion-Christianity words...

And thank You, Father; I do sense Your presence and forgiveness and love.

But I still feel so useless.  And now that I've said so many negatives things to so many people, how do I turn around?

And what ARE we required to do?  "Go and preach the gospel."  I just read an article the other day about what the gospel is, and what it means to preach the gospel.  It suggested reading the four gospels again, and finding out from You, Your own "red-letter words."  So maybe I'll start doing that...

Fears and being dug in deep
May 2, 2013

I've tried talking to a couple of people about my concerns.  But I find myself unable (or unwilling?) to express the true depth of my fears (of people scorning me), and how deeply I've dug myself in with the things I've said (which only increases my fears of telling the truth of what I really believe.  But if I really believe that, would I then go ahead and act without fear? So maybe I don't really believe? Oh dear...)

I don't know. I'm far more concerned about what people might think about what I say than about what I do.  Is that weird? Or just a result of growing up in such a word-focused society/group? Or because at various points I just went ahead and held my breath and jumped into "weird" things - or even did things just to "rebel" against what people think - but then I haven't got to that point in my speaking?  (I have a bit in my writing - but mostly in "safe" places like blogs where most readers don't know me personally.  I guess I just don't want to be "judged" - and condemned - by people I know...)

Yes, I am planning to read the four gospels again, to find out specifically what YOU really said and did - but I know my preconceptions are so firmly entrenched (not to mention, pretty "screwy" I think) - that I'll really, really, really need Your Holy Spirit directing me. (And I have not "kept on being filled" for a long time...).

I want You to guide me with Your Spirit.  And place Your "coal from the altar" on my lips - and please, cleanse my filthy heart. And please make me BOLD and IN LOVE WITH YOU (and wise - with YOUR wisdom) and NOT FEARFUL. (That is scriptural.)

Different understandings of You
May 9, 2013

Some young Mormon "missionary" guys came by the other day, and we had a really interesting discussion.  They were so enthusiastic about their beliefs.  I think they really do love God.  But is their God the same God I love?  They love Jesus, too, but their understanding of Jesus is a lot different than mine.

We did the "dance around words."  We don't mean the same thing, even with the same words...

And I was left wondering, do they love YOU?  And then I wondered even more, do I even love You?  Not enough, obviously.  How can I ever love You enough?

They talk about wanting to know You, wanting to know the truth.  About praying and asking You to reveal Yourself to them.  And I pray and ask the same thing.

And it seems we reach such different understandings of You.  Yes, based on what we've been taught, of course.  So, is one right and the other wrong?  Are we all just "on the journey," and though we all "see through a glass darkly" now, we'll one day each meet You face to face, and then we'll truly KNOW YOU.

But even then, I wonder.  I wonder how much a created being can really know his/her Creator?  Are You "big enough" for all our understandings - and misunderstandings - and lack of understandings?  Or are there limits?

And if so, where do You "cut off" those who step outside those limits? Is it a "written list of doctrinal points?"

What about peoples' hearts? People who are seeking You, who really do want to know You - even if they've been caught up in traps and errors and the enemy's lies?

You do know hearts, don't You? You've lived among us. You live in us. You know us... and You love us... and You "judge righteously."  (but... condemnation? "God sent not His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." ... I really, really hate that old "gospel of condemnation" I heard preached so often - and wow, it took me a lot of courage to come out and say that, because, well ... what if???)

Mirror
May 30, 2013

That girl who came over last night - was she an angel? (A talkative, excited one!?!).  That's almost what she seemed to me.  An angel - just excited, filled with joy, overflowing with Your Spirit - and Your word - and You, the Word.

In fact, she seemed like a mirror.  She and I are so alike in many ways. Writers, short in height, both loving You, so many shared interests and skills, both shy - but talkative when we get excited about our favorite things, especially You.

Yes, it was like looking at myself in a mirror. For a long time, when I've caught glimpses of myself, it's really been an "in a mirror darkly" kind of experience, because something - the light! - was missing.

But watching her, I saw myself WITH the light - with You, The Light.  With JOY. With Jesus first (like in the old J-O-Y song).  Like I used to be, before the depression or exhaustion or whatever it was - that hole that I have had so little success climbing up and out from.

Lord God - Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit - I want that back. I want YOU back. I want Your JOY.  I want Your Spirit, overflowing in me. I want to be excited! I want to share You. I want to sing. And even shout Your praises! I am tired of holding back.

I am tired of being "cool" and "postmodern" or whatever.  I am tired of being embarrassed about "traditional/ institutional church."  I am tired of hanging onto my hurts about past "church" experiences (though I just now realized I'm still doing that).

She was so excited.  And there I sat, trying to take the "oomph!" out of Your Word.  Arguing over small w/ large Word/word.  And how we should be careful about taking the details of Your promises "literally."  And yes, I felt hollow even as I tried to explain that to her.

Because I've become far too much "cool theologian." And lost sight of You in the process - Your glory and power and wonder and joy and miracles ... and POWER!

Yes! I have put You in a mighty small box (all the while accusing others of doing exactly that same thing).

2 Timothy 3:6-7 "...weighed down with sins, led on by various impulses ...always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth."  :-(

Oh dear God, I want to be like that girl (annoying as she seemed to me to be at some points).  I want to have back the "joy of my salvation" - and buckets and buckets more!  I want to do the things YOU have prepared for me.

That song...

"I want to tell the world
I want to tell the world
I want to tell the world
What Jesus did for me!"

Small stirring
June 10, 2013

Last night I was re-reading "Jesus Manifesto." And as I read, feeling FLAT - feeling like I had no emotion, hardly even any connection with what I was reading - or even with You, Jesus, Father, Holy Spirit (God!).

I asked you to wake and guide my heart. And this morning I felt a small stirring I have not felt in a long time.

And actually found myself looking forward to time in Your word - time with Your Word, with You! (all! One!)

Questions
June 28, 2013

It is nice to sit here looking out the bedroom window at the morning sun shining across the valley from the eastern mountain tops and casting its brightness on the western hillsides. The tree branches are waving gently in the breeze and the birds are singing many different tunes. The cool freshness drifts in the window and gently caresses my face.  Even the trucks passing on the highway assure that life does carry on.

Dear God, why oh why do You allow - even give? maybe? - people to have things like mental illness.  And what about all the children born with total debilitating physical conditions ... and those that develop them? What about those born into poverty, those born with their parents' addiction, those born to criminals or addicts or whatever?  What chance do they have - even to hear about You?

And those born under anti-religious regimes, or regimes that force/push false religions? Can You, a God of love, just toss them aside - throw them, supposedly, into a lake of fire (I keep hoping that those "scriptural references" are metaphorical or something - but even to be separated from You?

How can any of that be fair, or loving?

What about my children and the things they are going through.  Things they did not ask for.  Things that are NOT FAIR.

My poor children.

Are their problems because I haven't trusted and worshiped You and prayed to You enough?

Believing?
August 4, 2013

Over a month since I last wrote in my journal (or did hardly any "gospel study" or "prayer" or anything like that ... even though I certainly did "have time" for a change).

True, I did go through my "cold of the century" and have only been recovering very slowly.  Resulting in being VERY tired.

See, Lord, the thing is ... I DO believe in You.  I DO know You are real and that You love me. (And I do think I love You, too, at least a bit ... I'm not good at that, am I?)

So then why as I having such a hard time "sticking up for You?" And even "believing," sometimes?  Or even "doubting," really (though I do have things I sure wonder about.)

It's not that I am believing anything else, really.

But I can't seem to get all excited/emotional.  Or want to even sing.  Or pray, praise, read the Bible... I'm even having trouble reading books, even newspapers, magazines, even facebook!  It seems like I can't focus, remember, understand.  It seems like I just get confused.

Maybe it is just due to this long-hanging-on-cold, and the exhaustion and headache and sore eyes that go with it.  I feel like a need a real holiday!  Like camping, stretching out in the shade under a tree by a river or lake - or even better, by the ocean.  Probably without a computer and internet!

Okay. So brain-dead or not, I do want to think through, work through, whatever ... where I am (or am not) spiritually.

I sometimes find myself longing for the "good old days" when "everything necessary to believe" was handily listed on the back of the church bulletin, and "going to church regularly" put you on the way to heaven (along with, of course, the "sinner's prayer" and "righteous living"). And yes, hell was real - and scary.

Of course it wasn't that simple, or we'd have all stuck with it happily, I suppose.  And I still do believe lots of things on those bulletin lists (most, probably), and I still really do believe in gathering together (but maybe not so much in the "traditional/institutional" format...)

What if?
August 11/13

I have been having a hard time knowing what to "believe," or even how to believe.

I really have trouble with "relationship."

I guess I'm just so "theoretical/ reasoning/ doctrinal."

In my heart I want to be open to relationship with Jesus, and open to a wider and deeper way of knowing Him - knowing You - but at the same time I am, I think, afraid.

I have this constant "what if" thing going on in my head.  What if the things I was brought up to "believe in" really ARE right, really ARE the "one way/ right way?"  And what if I am wandering into "heresy" (and could even lose my salvation)?  (Okay, listen, I really can't imagine Your love letting me go... but really, I am afraid...)

My old church-sermon-memory- "What if you go out the church door and get hit by a car and die, and you haven't asked God for forgiveness right up to this very moment?" -fears seem to be pressing down on me after years and years of thinking that whole constant "backsliding fear" stuff was gone.  So where is it coming from?  What if it is right, and I've just been living in wishful denial?

What if I have failed so badly in following Jesus that my kids will be lost?

No! I don't believe that! I don't! And yet ... what if I do?  If I don't believe it, then where is this fear and doubt - and more fear - coming from?

Dear Jesus, where are You?

Where are You?

I mean, I know You are here. Now. In me.

But I don't feel like it. And I find it almost impossible to do anything I "should be doing."

Like I "should be boldly standing up for You."  (Like as if You need me to do that...).  (But still, that's an important, necessary, needful SHOULD for Christians... isn't it?)

Why am I not all excited, rah-rah-happy-clappy about You? Or all "worship-music-emotional" ... or something...?

Why does the Tuesday morning Street Breakfast ministry seem not to be "churchy" like it "should be?"

Why am I struggling under this whole "should" thing when I thought I'd gotten past it long ago?

Why am I so afraid because I'm NOT doing what I "should?" (Even when I try).

Making a difference - or not?
August 11, 2013

I want to do something valuable and worthwhile.  Something that would really "make a difference" - in the world - and for YOU (I think ... but what if I just want to be recognized by the world?

I guess I am disappointed that my "vision/dreams" seem to have ... just dissipated.  What happened? Why?

I guess I really "bought into" that whole "vision" thing that was being preached so much a few years back. Which, come to think of it, isn't "scriptural" ... is it?  I mean, where is that in scripture? I have to say, I don't see it.  I really don't.

On the other hand, things aren't all bad.  In fact, I've been having quite a lot of fun lately.  Been making people laugh.  So there you go - maybe I'm regaining some of my youthful humor at least.

Maybe I've just been too serious about life for too long.

Or maybe You have been planting some JOY in my heart, and I just realize it or recognize it (or recognize YOU).  Maybe it's time to "go with the flow of it," eh?

Dissolving My Beliefs
August 12, 2013

I woke this morning with certainty.  Certainty You were here with me.  And certainty that I do want to "walk this day in Your Presence" - and Your Reality.

See, that's something that has been haunting me the past month or two: the "what if?" of Your Reality.

Again, I've known You to BE.  But it seems like there has been a doubting, a wondering, maybe even a stripping away, a "lostness" perhaps, as if I'd found myself adrift on a huge shoreless sea, my life-long "safe moorings" disappeared.

As if all the "definitions" I'd once held as TRUTH were suddenly dissolving...

And I had only very vaguely begun to sense that maybe YOU were stripping those away so that I could discover YOU, THE TRUTH.  And know and cling to YOU.  Rather than to the "ideas about You" that I have held for a lifetime.  Some of which (many of which, even) are noble and even true ideas, so far as they go ... but still...

ideas, concepts - beliefs, even - that in some way have formed a box, a "temple made by human hands" - or at least by human minds - that are ABOUT TRUTH - and have contained maybe a "grain of truth" - but are too small to ever contain YOU, the REAL TRUTH.

You cannot be "contained" in "safe walls," no matter how "truthful" and "noble" and "pure" we may design them to be!

So maybe You have been dissolving my "beliefs."  And in the process, having me find myself in a space where I am even doubting "the truth about Jesus" (and then feeling guilty for not wanting to "preach Jesus" just in case it isn't as true as I thought it was).

And I've been feeling very alone and even worrying that You -- because in the midst of all this turmoil Your REALITY has stood like a solid rock beneath and all around my apparent "unbelief" (the "solid Rock in a weary land, in the wilderness" as Scripture describes) -- worrying that You will be angry at me for my "failing belief" and will disapprove of me.

But the thing is, how does one "boldly preach" what one no longer truly "believes?"  The thing is, the less I could "define my beliefs about You," the more - very deeply and even unknowingly - I have slowly started to realize that a "just slowly recognizing and knowing You" has been developing in the foundations of my being ... even as the very thick pea-soup haze of my "evaporating beliefs" was swirling around me and slowly lifting and dissipating ... even as I found myself sometimes grabbing wildly at it, afraid of losing "the truth" I had always accepted and held on to. (And even as I had kicked away many of its "trappings" and "traditions" - thinking that I was finding "pure knowledge" of You - like that of the New Testament Church, as I hoped).

Well maybe that is it, eh?  The necessity for me to become "brain-dead" in a sense, so that all those "ideas about You," wise and right as they sounded, solid and true as they seemed (and maybe even true as many of them may well be, at least as far as they go ...) -- to become brain-dead so that I could lose my hold, my desperate grip on them - on what I "believed" -- so that YOU, TRUTH incarnate, could stand in front of me, and I could finally see YOU - instead of lists of ideas about You.

Shadows to Reality
August 12, 2013

Okay, so I am pretty sure that this is only the very start of "knowing You."  I'm really kind of nervous about this - as if all my lifetime of "beliefs" were really just "shadows" (warped and stretched-out dim reflections, outlines, "not even real."
Who can catch a shadow, after all?  Even though its shade can be comforting - or, on the other hand, chilly and dark.  And it does bear a "resemblance" to that of which it is a sort of "snapshot" or "reflection."  And therefore we CAN "learn something" of the reality it outlines in its hazy and incomplete and ever-shifting (and disappearing) way, as the LIGHT moves around the real object.

But one cannot, ultimately, get a hold on, touch, live with, have solid faith in, converse with, love, know ... a shadow.

And I suspect that though You have most definitely been right here with me all along, most of that time I've been trying to "believe in" and "interact with" and "know" a - well, a mind-made shadow of YOU.

It really didn't occur to me that the "truths/beliefs we hold self-evident" about You could become "things of earth" that can totally keep our eyes, and heart, diverted from YOU.  From seeing YOU face to face.

I have known and experienced "seeing through a glass darkly" - or perhaps, viewing through the dim evidences of reality seen in the outlines of a shadow.

And I have really been coming to the place where I have wondered if it is even possible to get anything more (other than an occasional glimpse of Your reality, kind of out of the corner of my eye -- and yet, yes, thank You even for those! BUT I want MORE - Now. Here.

It has really worried me, bothered me, that I just cannot bring myself to "witness about Jesus."  It has made me "doubt that I even believe" - at least in a "real" way.

But maybe that is just the point.  Maybe You DON'T want me to preach a "shadow Jesus" or a "box/temple Jesus" or "truths about Jesus."

Maybe You want me to get rid of all that shadow truth, and just get to KNOW YOU ... and when that happens, I will have REAL GOSPEL - real good news! - to share, to announce, to be excited about.  To be able to introduce people to YOU, rather than to "beliefs about You."

I'm pretty sure that when You said, "Believe in Me," You meant something much bigger and deeper and REAL than a "we believe" or "our church believes" list of doctrinal points.

So Jesus, please take my hand.  And don't let me pull away into the shadow belief system again.  Please.

Help me know You. Love You. Follow You. Share You.  Live in and with You.  You in me, and I in You - with Father and Your Spirit.  In reality and unity.

Please.

"That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life ... manifested ... that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us; That which we have seen and heard declare we unto you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with His Son Jesus Christ.  And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full." (1 John 1:1-4).

I want to be able to say this, myself, from first-hand experience, first-hand living with, handling, seeing, touching, knowing YOU!










Sunday, September 23, 2012

Shaking my head

September 23, 2012

Warning: this is a bit of a rant.  It's political.  And "religious."  Etc.  You may not like it.   Anyway....

I am seriously shaking my head.

Reading all the "comments" to online news articles about the mid-East reactions to (apparently) the anti-Islamist film - and in particular to the $100,000 bounty offered by the Pakistani "Minister of Railways" ...

I'm just wondering...

Why are North Americans so surprised?  And shocked?  And outraged?

Do they seriously think that the film itself is the cause of the uprising (and the bounty-offer)?  Doesn't it seem a bit suspicious that the uprising started on the 9-11 date, when the film had been released long before?

Doesn't that film itself seem suspicious?  Apparently even the actors were tricked (perhaps).  Is the film itself possibly a planned act of terrorism (from people on our side of the pond, people who have their own agendas...), and of war... wrapped up in supposed "free speech."  If it is really free speech, why would the actors have to be tricked?  And why are the producers in hiding, if they really believe in it?  (And perhaps laughing with glee at how wildly successful it has been at getting such a response?)

Why are so many people talkng about how the Middle East is so "medieval" - unlike how we in North America are so "21st century... scientific ...  civilized ... democratic ... ad nauseum..."??  Are we blind about our own society?

If we're so awesome, why are our prisons so full, and our governments want to fill them more?  Why do so many of our citizens get through every day only with the help of "medications," both legal and illegal?  Why do we constantly have examples of corruption in our own governments at all levels?  Why do we still have so much racism?  Why do half or more of our democracy-loving citizens fail to vote?  Why do we have to fear letting our children play outdoors?  Why do we have to lock up everything all the time?  Why don't we get to know our neighbors?   Why do we have so many people in poverty?  Why do we have such a feeling of entitlement?

And why do we think our political and economic and religious and media (etc etc) systems are so superior and that everybody "out there" should be thrilled to make a 180 degree turn around and accept "our way"?  Especially when most of what they know about "our way" comes from living in the middle of wars we are waging supposedly for their good? (Of course not for oil, or power, or economic control...).  Oh yes, and from watching our movies and TV shows and news reports that all demonstrate what fine, moral, upright (dare I say "Christian"?) people we are in the west?

Why are people so horrified that Pakistan apparently allows one of their government ministers to make an offer like that -- in effect, out-front supporting assassination and terrorism -- when we know perfectly well that our western governments (and/or the economic and political power brokers that are behind much, if not most, of what the governments do) have always supported assassination and terrorism themselves, whenever it suits their purposes, whether it be through "secret" means like the CIA, or through so-called "just wars" that are always more about economic power and oil and whatever else suits the power-brokers at the particular moment?

And why are the commenters complaining about all the moderate Muslims who aren't standing up against the extremists/fanatics/terrorists?  As if the majority of us in the west stand up against the extremists/fanatics/terrorists in whatever societal groups we identify with?  (Not to mention that here in the west we are far less likely to lose our lives for so doing - so why don't we?)

Why do people lament about how ignorant and uneducated and poverty-stricken the majority of people in nations like Pakistan are -- and how wealthy the leaders are, and how their money must come from corruption or whatever -- and how "religion" is used by the powerful to keep themselves in power...  yet so many people in North America seem to be just as ignorant and uneducated, or at least apparently choose to blithely accept whatever they are fed by the media and government (oh yes, and by religion)?  And yes, by "science," too, and by "statistics" (egad!) and such ... doctored or dumbed-down to present whatever message those in power wish to inculcate at the present moment?  Are we really "more thoughtful citizens" than those poor, uneducated, ignorant people over there?  Especially since we have "21st century advantages" and "civilized democratic history" and all?

Why do we so easily forget the truths about our own political and religious past ... and ignore the truths of our present?  And why don't we see where that choice to forget ... and to ignore what is happening right under our very noses?  Do we really think that "radical Islamic threat infiltrating North America" would be so worrisome and powerful if we hadn't already abdicated our individual and societal responsibilities long ago, to dozens of equally dangerous threats that we don't even recognize?

Don't we realize that human beings who crave power will use whatever works for them?  Religion, political systems, science, media of all kinds, educational systems (or lack thereof), wars, terrorism, economic systems (no, capitalism is NOT "Christian" - nor is democracy nor free trade nor....), etc etc etc...

This is all nothing new.
This is human nature.

We can choose to rail against others.
Or we can open our eyes to see the truth about ourselves.  About all of us.  Humanity.

We can each choose to make small differences right where we are, that together will stand against those who would manipulate and destroy in order to attain and maintain power for themselves.

Or can we?
Will we even try?
(Some would say it's not worth it - or not possible)
(Others would deny we have any problems)
(Others would prefer to carry on the "them" blame game)
(And lots of us would prefer to just ignore the whole thing... as if ignoring will make it disappear...)
I mean, do we even care?

Do we even truly believe in what we say we believe?
Do I even truly believe in what I say I believe?
If I do, it will be enacted, worked out, lived out in my life every day.
Is that happening?
Do I really believe?
Am I making any difference at all?

And how many people would it take, I wonder, to reach "critical mass" to start to make a change?  And how long would we have to keep at it?  Could we ever relax and let go, confident things would stay the way we want them?  I doubt it.  People who really want power never give up.  What about people who want peace?  How much do they want it?  Are they willing to strive for it for the rest of their lives?  No matter what it costs?  (And yes, it costs.  Big time).

We know from human history that violence only breeds violence.  Violence is the road to power.

Violence is not the road to peace.
Are we really willing to turn the other cheek?  Carry the load the extra mile?  Hand out that cup of cold water?  Visit those in prison?  Share our food with the hungry until there no one is hungering (What would that involve?)?  Invite the homeless into our homes?  Joyfully suffer persecution for righteousness sake?
Give up our very life if it comes to that?

What does it really mean for me to follow Jesus?
What am I willing to sacrifice?
How far am I willing to follow?
Do I really, really truly believe in all that?
Do I even want to truly contemplate it?
Never mind actually live it ... for as long as it takes ...
As long as I live.
And willing to die.
Really?

Because if I'm not, then I'm part of the problem, aren't I?

(Shaking my head at myself right now...)

Sunday, September 16, 2012

faith

September 16, 2012  (really!)

So thank You for that book, and what You showed me, through it, about faith...

How faith is not something we conjure (with great effort) from within ourselves... but comes out of our realization of our total helplessness (and sinfulness...) and our need for utter dependence upon You.

Only then can we cry out to You, "Help my unbelief" ... and allow You to provide that mustard seed that allows us the faith to turn to You with our supplications: earnestly, perseveringly ... "by prayer and fasting," yes?

And consecrated to Your work... not to our ideas, our efforts, our goals...

"...can alone avail to bring the Holy Spirit's aid in the battle against principalities and powers, the rulers of the darkness of this world, and wicked spirits in high places."

Oh!  And when we allow sadness, doubt, jealousy etc to take root in our hearts, we come into a state of darkness from which we cannot battle the enemy.  (We must be on guard to not become careless...  Carelessness leads to stumbling and unbelief and lack of faith and thus of God's power... right?)

It is faith that connects us with Heaven's strength... we must constantly realize our helpless unworthiness and cast ourselves on the compassion of the Saviour...  "Look not to self, but to Christ."

Okay, thank You.  That's clearer to me, now, for sure, than my past "understanding"...

Now... to act upon it.
How?
What does it mean to understand my own weakness and cast myself at Your feet?
Is there a "method"?
Do I need to go through great difficulties and great emotions?
Have I ever been there - in truly seeking You, totally admitting and casting my weakness and unbelief at Your feet?
If I am asking that question... does it mean that the answer must be "no" ... or perhaps that I've become cold/ stone-hearted and careless... or that maybe I've known a little of it (though perhaps not in exactly the way portrayed in that passage) ... but You are calling me now to step out and go deeper with You ... into work of Yours which will require far more of Your strength than I've ever before dared think of, believe in, cry out for?

I find myself right now wanting more...

But still saying "Help my unbelief?" with a question mark... not with a desperate exclamation mark like that father in the story...

If You send along a circumstance that requires that depth of cry, am I ready to cry out to You that desperately?  I'm beginning to think I might be...

(But belief is acting, not just thinking....
Maybe it does take circumstances to find out ...  ?)

(It does seem that when things are going smoothly... or when I've had some kind of "mountain top" time...  or a prayer has been "answered" and I feel like I don't have to pray about it anymore ...  or even when "struggles" have seemed small enough that I probably can handle this myself, or at least mostly myself... that I get careless...)

(Another thing about "little struggles" is that I'm not "desperate enough" I guess...)

(But do I really want big struggles and attacks?)
(Is that You asking me that question?)

(It kind of seems like big struggles I obviously, totally can't handle seem to be about the only way I [might] let You really "get through to me" ... or let You give me the mustard seed of faith I need to believe You... which is where this started...)

(And if that's the case...
Yes.  I guess so.  Okay?)

(Am I sure?  No.  But how else can I know?  Why is it so easy for me to be careless and doubting... and so hesitant to really, really throw myself on You!!??)

Why is consecration so hard?

(Is it that hard for everyone?  Or am I especially hopeless... unbelieving...?)

Help??
Please?
(Whatever it takes...) (okay)
(help!)

emotions and feelings

September 14, 2012 (almost caught up!)

Okay, so I again am struck by how little I seem to "emotionally" react to the story of the crucifixion.

I have heard it described (often graphically) over and over in sermons, books ... and the Bible...  I have seen it portrayed on film (The Passion of the Christ, Ben Hur, The Story of Jesus, etc)... sometimes extremely graphically.

I have seen others weep - and "fall to their face at the foot of the cross, repenting of their sins."

I've seen people run out of the theatre because they couldn't bear to watch any more...

I "know" that as followers of Jesus we are to "take up our cross daily and follow Him."  I understand that refers to daily "putting to death of self" ... and sometimes also to accepting persecution and even death.

BUT... I don't "feel" the whole "terror of the cross."  Does that mean I don't "get it"?  That I have never truly experienced or accepted or understood or known the cross - and the significance of Jesus' sacrifice?

Was it driven from me by repeated sermons and pictures and Bible stories from an early age so that I became number (or possibly put up walls? or possibly mainly saw it as "just another Bible story"?  or by the firmly taught belief that we as Protestants focus - proudly? - on the resurrection, which is why our churches feature "an empty cross" (while "those Catholics" keep Jesus hanging there, crucifying Him over and over, and never moving on to His resurrection power... and to grace... )???  oh dear.

Am I just stubborn and don't want to "take up my cross daily," don't want to "suffer," don't want to "stand up and be labeled a holy roller" (yep, that traumatic episode on the first day of grade eight still shaking me up...)?  Have I bought into the "just say the sinner's prayer and you're saved and will go to heaven" message that seems to pretty much ignore the real sacrifice involved - by Jesus on the cross... and then by His disciples for the rest of their lives....?

Or am I just not as emotional as some people?  (Or maybe brought up to avoid "emotionalism" ... though we'd get "doses" of it every year at Bible camp and sometimes from "evangelists" coming into town for a week or two of "special meetings.") 

I guess what I'm asking, Lord, is if my lack of emotional, heart-broken, "throwing myself at the foot of the cross" reaction to "the cross" is a problem?  Does it mean I'm not truly following You?  Or even that I really don't understand (maybe even haven't truly accepted and followed) You? and Your gospel?

... later ...

I just realized something ... there have been times when I have wept at the realization of my sin and inadequacy and pride etc ... and at the realization of what the cross really was about ... but those times were (mainly) in "corporate" settings (with others of Your church), rather than in my "personal devotions" or whatever.

Which I have wondered about, sometimes, about if I was just giving into "group hysteria" or something.

But I think it was more that that.  We are called to spiritual life together, as You Yourself set the example, Jesus.  And as the records of the early church illustrate repeatedly. 

There are times when we reach out to You individually.  But we are, by Bible example it seems to me, called to seeking and knowing You together.

It seems like in our society, which prizes "rugged individualism," we've made our walk with You as totally "personal" as possible.  And maybe we're missing out on some things because of it.

(Of course, maybe I'm also afraid of being seen as a "fanatic")  (and then there's tradition ...)  (and fear of Your Spirit ... as if maybe You'll turn out to be a fanatic, too ...)

poor in spirit

August 12, 2012 (getting closer!)

"Blessed are the poor in spirit (not spiritually arrogant - margin) for theirs is the kingdom of heaven." (Mt 5:2)

I'm beginning to think people -- okay, me! -- can be "spiritually arrogant" not only by considering myself to be "super-righteous" or "super-religious" ... but also by priding myself on "questioning it all" and being scornful/ judgmental toward others who think they already know it all, toward others who seem to be happy to just accept other folks' interpretations without question, toward those who don't seem to worry or care about "spiritual things" much at all (be they "believers" or "unbelievers" or "agnostics" or whatever...)  :-(

I wonder if "poor" doesn't also mean "humble" - recognizing one's own lack of understanding - and one's own true inability to really understand at all without the total (!?!) direction  of Your Spirit ... ("please help me to understand better" vs "please reveal so I can understand at all" ... are You "the Revealer" ... or just a "helpful hint-er" to turn to when we find ourselves a bit puzzled?? oh dear...)

Anything else?

What about grateful and appreciative and respectful (okay, in total awe, truly worshiping, prostrated before You! for Your salvation, Presence, Spirit, Love, Truth ... all ... for being All in All .. for Being!)

All areas in which I have so, so, so far to go  :-(

Yes, being spiritually arrogant (in whatever way(s) that manifests itself) just puts up a big brick wall against any spiritual growth, development, relationship building.  Sure does.  I know that from my own personal arrogance.  (Sorry, Lord.  I've really only seen that very recently... how much of a "Pharisee" I am myself....)

So what now?  "Repent"?  ... but how?  What does that really mean?

"I'm sorry."

(I'm a good Canadian!  People make jokes about Canadians and how they are always apologizing.  Well, I'm for sure an apologizer... and hedger.  I mean, have you noticed all the "perhaps's" and "maybes" and similar hedging expressions in my writing?  "Keeping the peace."  "Not offending."  Being "reasonably tolerant"  (now isn't THAT a double-whamming hedging expression!!!).

(When my kids were teens, they'd get mad at me for my constant "I'm sorry"s everytime something happened that upset the family "peace."  They'd inform me that I really wasn't sorry...)

It seems that really being sorry demands a big change (total, turn-about, 180 degree type change).  It seems tears and "I'm sorry"s aren't enough.

So what IS repentance?  What does it mean?

Let's go back to John the Baptist's message for a minute.  What did he say?  Confess sins (really desire forgiveness!), be baptized, not just fleeing from the wrath to come but bearing good fruit here and now, sharing your extra tunic with someone who has none, same with food, not taking things by force, not falsely accusing (oops... does that include embellishing stories... and gossip...)...  yep, all major life changes for the people he was talking to....

And what happens without repentance?  Winnowing and threshing ... and the chaff burned up with unquenchable fire....

Poor in spirit?

If I want to be that, obviously my life will change.  My motivations will change.  I will turn away from my prideful, judgmental attitudes...  (I'll stop any kind of gossiping, too...) (Etc...)

But how?  Lord, please help me to see where I am NOT poor in spirit ...  Help me repent ...  Help me to depend totally on You instead of on my own self-reliance and "goodness" or whatever ...

(Do I really want all that?)
(I think so...  yes...)

How?

"Confess your sins."
List them.  Individually.  So you really see them ... and their impact.
And do it every day.
Keep your eyes, ears, heart open to see yourself... as others see.  As God sees.  (Yes, God "sees you through Jesus" and you are "no longer under condemnation" on the basis of Jesus' salvation) ... but now go on to LIVE in that ...  live as Jesus lives, live as/who you now ARE.  Be grateful, be joyful (surely you have reason to be!)...  Flee from the life of arrogance and pride you've been rescued - saved - from.  Why would you even want to stay there?  Don't!  Move on into the life Jesus has provided for you!

If you don't want to live Jesus' life ... if you "can't" ... have you really repented after all?  Do you truly believe?  Do you really "get" the wonder and awe of the gospel, of what Jesus has done for you?  Really?

ohhhhh.