September 14, 2008
I haven’t “gone to church” today.
Partly because when hubby went to sleep he gave me instructions on what to tell the hospital staffing people if they call… oh, that reminds me, I also looked at house sale and rental costs/ possibilities on Craigslist for where we want to move to, and job possibilities for hubby there and even teaching possibilities, Christian Schools or whatever, for me… the latter of which gives me a stomach ache just to think of it.
Also because I just kind of dread going “to church”. I miss a few people when I don’t go. Sometimes I even miss You in a … group gathering kind of way. Though You and I are together all the time, thank You! But I… I don’t know, I just am so confused… and I feel like even if I go, I’m being a traitor or something for not being all enthusiastic and committed to the whole church “program” thing. (And I used to be “righteously indignant” about people who weren’t “committed!”) .
I feel cold (chilled) to the pit of my stomach sitting here… yes, the air is a bit cooler, fall weather. But it’s also that chilled, almost sick feeling one gets when one is feeling lost, anxious, nervous… I almost feel as if I’m on the edge of stepping off into an unknown, wanting to take the stop (of no return?) but scared.
When I was looking at Craigslist and stuff I felt like, let’s just pack up and go!
I looked at Craigslist for here; there’s this totally cute cabin available for rent cheap in a vineyard nearby… maybe I just want to escape for awhile…
But at the same time I am feeling guilty for not “doing something useful” with my life. I can’t even think what to blog about.
Well, today is Sunday, and I just want to rest… or at least not have to record everything I do… I feel like I’ve been recording stuff to prove to myself that I’m not “wasting time” or should “get a job” or something. Sometimes I wonder if I’m still feeling guilty about quitting teaching.
I want to write… but I don’t want to “market myself” … I’m maybe afraid of rejection or something.
I have a mile-long list of “to-do’s” … and I am getting at them, in fact I’ve done a lot of them since I got back – even the camera last night and phone this morning… but still feel afraid… of something…
Like church… maybe if we moved I wouldn’t keep feeling so “guilty” for how I feel about “our church” here… could make a new start… funny, looking back at the 2002 journals, I had such great hopes,.. and wanted so much to be involved… and then when I did get involved there were so many disappointments…
And what about my “vision”? I’ve clung to it… keep thinking “someday”… but what if it is “just me” after all?
Sometimes I wonder (yes, I do..) if so much of what I’ve “believed” has been, well… bogus.. You know, I know that You, God, are real. I know I have a relationship with You. I love reading Your Word and getting to know You more (and even praying, talking to You, even when it’s hard)…
But the thing is, all those things through the years that churches and preachers have taught and insisted are true… and some of it so extreme, even wacky… and when I have tried to follow it, it just comes to nothing. The “leadership” stuff, and “binding” and even all my “prayers for transformation” of my communities based on those Transformation videos, and stuff like “finding your spiritual gift” by drawing up resumes or taking on-line survey/ quizzes and stuff… and man, oh, man those “revivals” like that recent one in Florida, and those “televangelists” … they just leave me cold… and scared, because sometimes it seems to me that they are, in one way or another, serving the enemy rather than You.
Even my own “senses/ feelings/ hearing Your voice/ recording Your messages? Etc… what if they are wrong? What if I am deceived or deluded or just wishful – or maybe crazy (sometimes I really, really feel like maybe I am, for a minute or two).
The thing is, I know You. Father, Jesus, Spirit! All/One. I trust You. But I don’t trust my own “sense” of what You might be telling me (well sometimes I’m SURE… but other times I’m not sure… or even sure not… You know…)
And I more and more don’t trust books or preaching or song lyrics or “church doctrine”…
Okay, for example, just about every book I read (or preacher I listen to, or whatever) is pumping a “method” that they guarantee is the right method for whatever… like that book on finances that said tithe everything, every penny, even gifts or found money – and I tried that, and I was constantly feeling under guilt if I forgot to put one cent in the plate when I picked up a dime on the road…
Or “methods” on “how to pray”… and if you don’t do it “their way” you’re not “there”… or any number of other “methods” or “structures” that apparently happened to “work” for someone… so I guess they got excited and wanted to share it… but maybe it isn’t meant to be the “only way”…
You know me, dear God. You know my heart. You know I don’t doubt Your existence – and I don’t doubt Your reality and relationship – and salvation – in my life.
I’m just tired of, all my life, having people – of all stripes – whether they believe in You or not – tell me that their “method” of believing (or not believing) is right, the only right way, and that I’m deluded, deceived, lost if I don’t “do it” according to “their methods”… But You aren’t a system, with attendant methods (unless of course we count Jesus as a “method” … but He sure isn’t in the same class as the methods I’m talking about!). You are a Person, who wants a relationship with those You have created for that purpose, Your purpose.
Yes, that relationship obviously has to develop within the parameters of Who You Are – Your Being, Your Character – and those parameters obviously apply to us, as created in Your Image. And You have revealed so much of that in Your Word.. and it becomes real in our lives when we truly choose to enter into relationship with You, as You have created the Way for us to turn back to You from the independent path we have chosen… Your Son Jesus did do that work and His Spirit lives in us if we accept that…
But it seems to me that we have to be awfully careful to separate that in Your Word which has come about as a result of choosing to not be Your friends, and that which is really, finally, about being friends with You, loving You with all our heart because You have loved us first… and as a result, loving others also with the love with which You love us. Which is, clearly, a process, as all relationships are… (and, I hope, allows us to come to You with our honest questions, and even doubts (I’m not doubting You, really… just how You have been interpreted by well-meaning people…) and seek Your honest response, Your Truth…). Maybe I’m way off-track here with some of the things I’ve said… but I have come to know You enough to know You’ll love me anyway… and I can trust You to teach me Your Truth (whatever that might take in my life… and in our relationship…) Okay! Thank You!
…. And then I prayed and asked You to answer me from Your Word… and of course You have:
1. Oh LORD, You have searched me and known me. 2. You know my sitting and my rising; You understand my thoughts from afar. 3. You scrutinize (winnow!) my path (journeying) and my lying down, And are intimately acquainted with all my ways. 4. Ever before there is a word on my tongue, Behold, O LORD, You know it all. 5. You have enclosed me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. 6. Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain to it. 7. Where can I go from your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? … 9. If I take the wings of the dawn, If I dwell in the remotest part of the sea, 10. Even there your hand will lead me, And Your right hand will lay hold of me… 23. Search me, O God, and know my heart; Try me and know my anxious thoughts; 24. And see if there be any way of pain (hurtful way) in me, And lead me in the everlasting way.
Amen. Thank You, Lord.
(I can see why You called David Your friend, even with all his shortcomings. I long to also be Your friend… lead me in Your way…). Amen.
(I had an interesting dream this morning. I was at a church meeting of some kind. It was an attempt, I think, to be free-flowing and to allow different people to take part and so on. Still, there was a man, up on a platform behind a podium, kind of running the meeting... at least announcing a general outline or agenda. It was his first time to do this, and he goofed! He missed some events that the woman who usually was "in charge" included, and she stopped him and loudly reminded him of what he was leaving out, insisting that these things happen immediately. However, the people who normally "led" these things weren't prepared for whatever reason, so everyone in the audience was sitting there figgeting while those folks tried to organize themselves. So of course You-know-know (yes, me!) got up and made some "suggestions" to get things organized and back-on-the-road again. Oh dear. Lord, are You telling me something???)
When it comes to this whole conversation about "church," it is not so difficult to SAY "we need to change," or even, "We need to focus on Jesus instead of on our programs" (or instead of on our vision or our mission statement, or even on the vision of the senior pastor or board or whatever).... but it is not to easy to CAST ASIDE things that we've previously accepted, committed to, participated in (possibly enthusiastically), encouraged (or pushed) others to participate and commit to... things we have even "believed in."
By the way, is there a difference between all those attitudes and actions, and actual, personal, "believing in?" Is it possible to actually "believe in" an organization/program/idea... or can we really only "believe in" a person? What or who is the object of our belief? Does that thing or idea or person have enough of what it takes, that we can "put our faith in" it or him/her, and be truly satisfied, and truly be able to trust that object of our belief no matter what?
It comes down to the fact that human beings, no matter how wonderful, can never, in the end, fulfill those expectations and needs, which we seem to have been created with, and without which we are left floundering and lost. And the same thing applies to human institutions and constructs of any kind, be they organizations, ideas, programs, theories, buildings, liturgies, whatever.
Which really does bring us back to our very deep-rooted need for the supernatural - for God. Not "a god" or even "gods" or "Gaia" or "a higher power," but The God, our Creator and the root of our Purpose, and our Way, our Life... the Truth.
"Now unto the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only true God, be honor and glory forever and ever, Amen" (I Timothy 1:17).
Our problem seems to be that we want to place God into, well, into a box of our own making; to redesign Him or even create our own God whom we can understand and control.
We can't, of course.
But when we try - when we try to "download" Him into a man-made program, firstly we leave most of Him behind because He just won't fit into our narrow parameters; and secondly, our programs, not matter how wonderful, seem always to be in beta state, with endless glitches... and crashes.
What to do? We are human. And we can't comprehend all that He Is. It seems inevitable that we need some kind of structure, some kinds of metaphors, that help us to relate to, yes, to be in relationship with, our unlimited God, Who is, clearly, very Personally Relational, and yet, in so many ways is also incomprehensible to us with our limitations.
And in reality, that is a good part of the purpose of "the church" - which of course He Himself designed. The problem for us seems to be that we want to take something very beautiful, very workable, elegantly simple, really, despite it's inherent mystery, this church with our God as its focus, and with all of us who believe in Him, in unity with and under Him, and with each other in Him; and then we want to add endless complexities, that in the end put the focus on us. (Because we truly do want to be in control ourselves: it seems to be our number one human drive... and our number one failing in relation to our created purpose to know and worship our Creator).
We, His church, are to gather together; that is clear. But how do we keep the church being His church, and not our/my church?
Yes, we have to be in relationship with Him. He calls each of us personally to be sons/daughters/children of the Father, brothers/sisters of Jesus, inhabited and taught/guided by/infilled by the Holy Spirit... but He also clearly calls us to be many fruit-producing branches all connected together and drawing our sustenance from One Vine... to be all the multitudinous parts of one body, with every part of great value and all parts working together, under One Head... to be one flock, going in and out together, feeding together, obedient to and under the care of One Shepherd.
The one church of Jesus Christ, under Father God over all, and led by His Spirit, has One Vision and One Shepherd (senior pastor?!?).
In its human form, there are leadership roles, but they are roles of teaching and caring and servant-hood, and they are roles that are meant to be taught, shared, passed on to others, and from them to still others, and so on. How can any "church" then be "under the vision of the senior pastor" (or under the vision/kingship of any single human being, or even human committee)? Carried to its logical outcome, that church then has a very strong chance of becoming "our church" (opposed to "those other churches"), or worse, "my church" - and no longer the "church of Jesus Christ."
We cannot solve this problem ourselves, obviously. Our human bent is always to take control, ourselves. So we have to keep focusing on, submitting to, obeying, trusting, worshiping Him. And yes, we need to truly believe in Him, and be moment-by-moment under the control of His Spirit - individually of course; but we also need each other, encouraging one another, keeping each other focused on Him, realizing that each of us has something unique and essential to contribute and no one of us is so all-sufficient as to warrant being truly "in charge," and therefore, we need to be sharing together so we don't fall into our self-controlling bent, individually or even as a group. He Himself designed His church that way. He is Relational. He is Love. And that is to be, in the end, the sign of His church, His people, His family, His body.
"This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us." (I John 3:23)
They'll know we are Christians by our - by His - Love. They'll know we are His church by our - by His - love.
So profoundly simple. Isn't it? But impossible unless He is truly at the helm, and we are truly His church.