Sunday, 30 January 2011

What book has changed your life?

I belong to a local writers and publishers group in my community.  Along with our monthly gatherings, we also communicate with each other in an ongoing way through our e-group.  From time to time, folks post questions to stimulate discussion.  This is my response to a recent set of questions, which I happen to have posted a couple weeks ago.  I wrote to the e-group:

Inspired by Bob's quick response, I thought it is time I should post some thoughts of my own to these questions asked recently:

"So PWAP members.... how about you? What book or books have really changed your life? Why? Have you experienced a let down when other people don't agree with your choices? What do you do when that happens? Why do you think it happens?"

When I wrote this question originally, I admit I had already had a whole list of books and other literature in mind, myself. For example: Jane of Lantern Hill (LM Montgomery), Secret Garden (FH Burnett), CS Lewis's fiction series (Narnia; and especially his science fiction trilogy) and also some of his other non-fiction works, Pilgrim's Progress, Stone Angel (Margaret Laurence), Gulliver's Travels, Alice in Wonderland, a couple of anthologies of classic essays, my thick two-volume anthology of English Literature, my Canadian literature anthology, certain poems (Wilfred Owen's "Dulce et Decorum est", works by William Blake, Shakespeare, ee cummings, Robert Frost), ...

Actually, the list itself could fill a book, I realized. So I had to sit down and think, "What ONE book has most changed my life? And do others like it as much as I do, or do they dislike it? Would talking about that book get strong reactions, positive or negative or otherwise? What book would fill that spot?" And then I knew. So here (with a bit of trepidition, I admit) I present you my personal life-changing book.

Personally, I would have to say that the Bible has had the most influence in my life. I was brought up in a very Bible-centered-church-culture and by the time of my mid-childhood years I could, rather smugly, rattle off endless Bible stories and facts (and a certain amount of theological Q&As) very easily. I also had by that time memorized large passages from the book. I attended church-based children's clubs and had dozens of badges and awards to my credit.

I assumed I "believed" the book, though my belief at that point was mainly a rather naively unquestioning acceptance that what others told me was "true". You might say that I believed, in theory, and in the interpretation and application of the particular "culture" I was brought up in, but that it really hadn't gotten ahold of me personally in any significant way. But by the time I was about 10 or 11 years old, I was beginning to question, and that changed things for me. It has been changing things for me ever since. I could go on and on (and you can read more about it, if you are so inclined, in an article here:
and on one of my blogs, here:, but I want to get to the point here.

As I grew older, read widely, watched film, went on to university, and generally observed the world around me, I was constantly amazed at the influence this book has had on our western civilization (and on world events, for that matter). It's influence is found everywhere, often in surprising and distinctly varied ways, in literature, in music (ever really listen to lyrics from Led Zeppelin and other groups of that era?), in our laws and justice system, in history and philosophy and politics and on and on - in the past, yes, but also very much in the present, even in a supposedly scientific, secular, postmodern world.

Also, as I grew older, I came to realize more and more that not everybody agrees about the contents of this book - to put it mildly! I wonder if any other book has influenced the history of mankind, and our interactions with each other and with the world we live in, more than this book. I have also come to personally understand what this book means when it says of itself that it is a "living word." Like all truly great books, it really does influence people and change their ways of thinking and living, even thousands of years after it has been written. It has principles that transcend historical periods and distinct cultures and particular geographical places and features. Countless numbers of people have not read the book itself, and would even vehemently say they don't believe in any of it, but watch their actions, listen to what they say about life, and you will very often see its influence on them, though they do not recognize it.

More than that, though, for myself (and for many others), this book has become a truly "living word" because it has introduced me to vital, living relationship with the One who is the Living Word.

Now this line of discussion is about life-changing books, and as I have answered the first part of the question, I am going to end here. Regarding the rest of the questions, briefly, yes, I know there are a lot of people who disagree with my choice. Yes, there have been times in the past when I have been disappointed by folks' reactions, but not so much any more. I have come to the point where I am not so concerned about the book itself. I am far more interested in the relationship with the One whom it has pointed me toward.

.... Okay, your turns, PWAP members! What book(s) have changed your life?

.... And if you want to discuss my choice ... let's do it face to face! Starbucks or Timmy's or Fibonacci's anyone? :-)

Changing education - or church? - paradigms

I am pretty sure that the points made in this RSA Animate video about education, apply almost equally to churchianity.

What do you think?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The gospel according to the gospels

The other day I wrote a post "What is the gospel?"

Today I read a post that has a very helpful answer.  It summarizes a series of posts about the gospel as taught by Jesus, in the books we call the "gospels" - Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

You can read this excellent summary, Gospel in the Gospels, at Jon's Journey.  Then, of course, you'll want to go back to the previous posts in the series to read all the details.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

crisis of faith?

Do you ever have a "crisis of faith"?

Today I was reading Matthew 7:13-23 and ended up with tears rolling down my cheeks.   I think that some doubts and wonderings that I've had over the years, but buried, because 1. they scared me, and 2. I was confused about conflicting doctrinal points I've encountered, and 3... well, mostly, yes, I was scared! ... anyway, they just all suddenly burst out! 

It's an interesting chapter.  Verses 7 to 11 are so encouraging.  Father giving good gifts to His children and all.  And then verses 13-23... well, here's how they "hit me" (as I wrote in my journal):

Am I the only one who finds this passage really disturbing?  Sometimes it really worries me about ME.

First, if some Calvinists I've encountered are right, and only some are "chosen" (and others have no chance), then what if someone really WANTS to believe in and follow Jesus... and even really believes they are... but what if that person isn't among the "chosen" ones (and who can know that for sure?)... what if all that's person's longing and trusting is for naught?

Second, if some Arminians I've encountered are right, the ones that are so big on "backsliding" ... well, what if a person has maybe been misled by false prophets, and doesn't even know they have been misled?  What if they really love the Lord, and are following Him with all their might (at least they believe they are), and then they get to the judgment and find out that it was all "Lord, Lord" and they got off the track along the way?

Third, what if someone - okay, what if I! - look at myself right here, right now, and don't see evidence of "fruits" in my life?  What if, for example, I can't list off a bunch of people who I know I personally led to the Lord (seeing as that seems to be the number one "fruit" in a lot of folks' opinion).  Or if I'm not all involved (like I used to be) in a whole bunch of church activities and programs (another big time fruit, in some peoples' opinion).  Or what if I'm not "bold" at telling people the gospel?  Or I don't seem to be reaching out to my neighbors, even the ones right in my neighborhood/complex, even though I try and try (and then kind of give up because nothing happens)?  Or if I feel rejected by past "church friends" but then realize I haven't been trying very hard to reach out to them myself?  Or what if the depression I've recently gone through is really a sign of lack of faith, like some folks say? 

And what if I actually don't seem to be bearing (so far as I can see) either good or even bad fruit?  Does that mean I'm "lukewarm" (as in Revelation 3:14-22)?
Well, by the time I got to writing the last few lines, I really did have tears rolling down my cheeks.  Feeling so discouraged.  Feeling hopeless.  Even feeling like surely I have let God down! (Yes, I know, that isn't theologically sound...)

And suddenly, hubby (who did not see my tears), called to me to ask me to go to the store and get something for him.  Like I wanted to go to the store with tears rolling down my cheeks.  But it was kind of an emergency, so I went.  I got what he needed, and as I was on the way to the till, I passed a display of my absolute favorite kind of chocolate bar (which is usually hard to find around here, and is more expensive than most) on special: 3 bars for 99 cents!

And the weirdest thing happened.  Father was smiling.  I wouldn't say I "saw" Him or anything.  But I knew He was smiling.  And He kind of chuckled and said, "Remember, your Heavenly Father gives good gifts to His children!"  (Okay, so I didn't "hear" that out loud or anything ... but I heard it nevertheless.)  And so I picked up 3 bars!

I took the other stuff home to hubby, and then grabbed the camera, because today was the most totally amazing beautiful sunny winter day ever, and I went to the beach, and clicked and clicked (and nibbled on one of the bars, of course).  Heavenly sunshine!  Beautiful creation!  Mouthwatering chocolate (what? you don't think Father's gifts include chocolate?)!?! 

Even the seagulls were wheeling with joy!  And Father is smiling!  Yes!

(And then I went to the library and got some books about a project He's been gently pushing my way... and I've been hesitating because of all my wonderings and discouragement and stuff.  Onward!  Thank You, Lord!)

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

what is the gospel?

Okay, so amid my rambling questions and wonderings yesterday, I was wondering about the gospel - and about Jesus at the center of it.  And what that ends up meaning in living the life of Christ.

Today has been a day of Father sending along a lot of answers (and some challenges that make me wonder even more). 

In relation to the gospel, Lionel Woods asked "Sooo... what's the gospel again?"  He spoke of how the gospel often seems to disappear into a "a list of facts/beliefs/cognitive recognition."  Yes, oh yes, I can certainly relate to that.  Then he goes on to say this about the gospel:

Any Gospel that does not carry with it the obligation to love your neighbor as yourself (also your brother) is not a Gospel of the scriptures. Let me say that again… any Gospel that lacks the obligation to love is not a real Gospel.... The Gospel isn’t a list of facts the Gospel is a person who we are now in and now lives in us good works seems to be an essential component and the work of love the greatest of these.
(Now if you are already suffering signs of a heart attack, I don't recommend you read the rest of the post.  Or maybe you really do need to read it!  You might want to sit down first...  It kind of sounds like something from the Sermon on the Mount.  Sometimes it's a good thing to read in new words and new examples, the old words we've heard over and over, and have assumed we understand them, and believe them, and follow them.  But maybe we don't.)

By the way, one of the commenters, Hutch, added this:

... the gospel does not just come with an obligation to love, when embraced it actually imparts the internal motivation and divine enabling to love God, neighbor and enemy through the indwelling presence of the Spirit of Christ/Holy Spirit.
And Detroit added:

Articulation doesn’t mean belief.... That there has to be some power to change and cause you to love and seek what is right. If there is no power I question whether you have believed the true gospel. I believe the reformation may have brought about a denial of the power that must be associated with the gospel because of the great intellectual and theological awakening.
Yes, and yes.

(That's one thing I really love about blogs.  The body of Christ having the opportunity to edify, encourage, build up, share, discuss what Father has been teaching them.  Hopefully without flaming.  Hopefully in love... like the gospel, you know.)

Never Give up Wanting to Understand More

What a day!  Yesterday I was questioning, wondering, even being discouraged....

And today, Father sent along so many answers, encouragement, direction!

At Ceruleun Sanctum, Dan Edelen wrote about Making Sense of Confusing Christian Voices.  I'm pretty sure that if you read my posts from yesterday, you'd probably say that for sure I am one of those confusing voices :-)  Or perhaps more accurately, mine was a confused voice. :-(

Anyway, by the time I finished reading the post, I was considerably encouraged, especially to know that being confused is, well, part of the journey.  A journey that lots of other folks are on, too.

But Dan explains it way better than I do.  Here are a couple of examples; you'll absolutely want to check out the full post for yourself.

Recognize that each of us is on a journey of faith—and we have not yet arrived at journey’s end....

Your story and mine are not yet complete. The final chapter hasn’t been written, nor all the events played out. We’re still journeying through the narrative of our lives.

And that journey is being orchestrated by God Himself. ....

Since God is writing our story, since He is planning our journey, we can be at peace with incompleteness if we allow God to do His work in our lives....
Here’s a reality check: Every famous Christian you and I admire, every pastor, every teacher, every author, all of them are flawed. None are or were fully complete this side of heaven. Each was someplace along that pathway that defines the journey of faith, and the likelihood is that their stations along the way will not always align with ours....

How arrogant we can be when we judge by our standards rather than nurture by God’s!...

Make peace with paradox, mystery, and the dim mirror, but never give up wanting to understand more....

It’s okay not to know it all. God is not going to slay us if we can’t resolve some of the paradoxical or mysterious aspects of the Christian faith. He’s not going to keep us out of heaven if we don’t understand the nuances of infralapsarianism. You and I can rest assured that even if we don’t fully get it, God does, and that’s just fine....

In Romans 1 we read that men are without excuse before God because of the revelation inherent in the created order. When we look at the world around us, it speaks of God.

That should blow our minds. That it doesn’t blow the minds of some Christians is one reason why people lose their ability to wonder. And wonder is an essential part of faith that keeps us from falling into easy arguments....
I think the greatest fear in those who ask the questions that start this post is that God is somehow not good enough to protect them and keep them unto salvation and knowledge of Him.

But God does love you and me....
He will never leave us or forsake us. He is faithful when we aren’t. He loves us even when we see through a dim mirror and miss our turn on the path. He will see us through to the end.

Do we believe that? If we do, then we will not fear, even when the voices around us grow confusing....
I hope this helps.

It sure has helped me.  Thank you, Dan.  Oh, and don't forget to read the rest of the post.

Jesus at the center

In my recent posts, I've been talking about how I've been coming to a new understanding and relationship with Jesus - and how I'm also seeing Him more and more as being at the center of the church.

I'm afraid my ramblings haven't been very clear, because I'm in the midst of kind of stumbling toward this understanding.  So I was very happy to read a post by Josh at Called To Rebuild in which he writes about Christ The Key Ingredient.

You really will want to read the whole post, but here are a few key points:

You see, we can talk till we’re blue in the face about the church-what is the church, how should we do church, what makes a church, ect. (and not that I don’t think these are valid issues to consider, especially as God gives us practical light on these matters)-but in the end none of it will matter unless it is born out of an inward revelation of the greatness and preeminence of Jesus Christ.

For me, it wasn’t until I began to see Christ revealed in my heart in such ways that I’d never seen Him before-greater, more vast and all-inclusive… and not until I began to know His headship in a living way over my own life that I began to find a unity with other brothers and sisters that transcended our racial, social, and religious differences and gave birth to a living experience of the Body of Christ among us.

True love, like anything else, flows out of Christ. It’s not until a group of people begin to touch the Lord together that true love begins to well in their hearts for one another.

This isn’t something you can just teach into existence. It is born out of the mutual experience of a group of people who are pursuing and finding Christ together. Nothing else.

Yes.  That is what I am looking for, longing for. 

Thanks for the post, Josh.

encouragement: not alone!

My last few posts have running through them a sense of loneliness and wondering.

This morning I was encouraged by a post by Bobby Auner at Destructing Neverland.

Bobby wrote: "Things aren't moving along as quickly as I expected or hoped.  I have been starving for community with folks that love Jesus and thinking about joining back with the house churching families sometime soon."  I could sure relate to that!

Then he quoted Eric, who reminded him of missionaries who work for many years before seeing any conversions, but they keep trusting God, and following Him no matter what.  And he also quoted Jeff,
who spoke of those who sometimes feel "exiled" and lost and lonely, when they cannot in good conscience belong to traditional gatherings of the church.  Jeff's post speaks of how God has provided fellowship in the blogosphere, for many of us who are at that place in our journey.

That encouraged me, too, because I am following all three of these blogs, and truly they (and many others) have been an ongoing encouragement, and source of fellowship, for me.  Yes, I also find myself wishing for more face-to-face fellowship, and I know that will come.  But what a blessing you all have been meanwhile!  (And someday we will all meet face-to-face!  yes!)

Monday, 17 January 2011

One last note for today.... hearing Your voice, maybe?

I don't even know for sure, anymore, what "being a Christian" entails, as far as expectations, and what I am "supposed to do" and all.  I mean, I feel like all the old "certainties" have been pulled out from under me.  And I'm floating, wobbling, in mid-air.  Not in danger of crashing per se, because I KNOW You are with me and are holding me up.  You ARE with me.  That I KNOW.  But beyond or beside that?

Or is there any "beyond" or "beside"? 

Is that the point?

Just YOU?  Is that the point?  Stop looking for someone's framework to hold onto?  Stop trying to create my own framework (that inevitably causes me to lose sight of You, as I try to build to suit my own perceived needs and desires)?

Then where does Your family even fit in?  Do I need to let that go, too?  I mean, let go worrying about church?  Trying to build, improve, fix it.  Yes, the very idea seems, well, heretical.  Dangerous.  Very lonely.

Isn't being all involved in, committed to, actively doing church (oops...) what being a Christian is all about?  Oh.  No?

YOU are what it's all about, Jesus.  Of course.  I mean, I know that.  "The church of Jesus Christ."  I've always known it, though I've often lost sight of it.  Or maybe I've lost sight of You too often.  Maybe I just haven't really gotten sight of You...?

But without church to hold my Christianity up?  I mean, oh dear, to hold You up, Jesus Christ?  Don't You need us?  Aren't we important?  Essential?  (Central? oh oh dear).

However will the world be reached, how will morality be protected, how will we have "good government" (etc etc etc) ... without us?

What?  You don't NEED us (though You certainly love us, and choose us to be in active relationship with You, fulfilling Your purposes...)?  Really?  Are You sure You could save the world (truly save it,  a lot better than we do) without us?  How could that be?  (Yes, of course I am being sarcastic.  At myself.  For not seeing this before.  I mean, in a way I have seen before about the failures of "the church" as a general group/organization/institution ... but I really didn't see (maybe didn't want to) myself wanting to make the church succeed - in the ways that I think it should .  After all, I do want to be NEEDED (and useful.  And appreciated.  And not alone).

Maybe this recent period of feeling useless and unneeded by my biological family has been a good thing.  Coming to realize that I am still loved, am still me, still "mom" at heart ... and that's enough.  Being part of the family without having to "do" certain things, fulfill certain roles I've always believed are "mine".  Just able to be part of the family.  Participate in whatever ways come up.  Even just enjoy sitting in the grandma rocking chair, lol! 

And so with You and Your body, Your church, Your family.   Knowing that I am loved (by You - and them.  And that I can just love You and them too).  That I am part of the family.  That I can just wait and see what You are up to, where You are taking the family, and then fit in wherever and whenever You beckon. 

(Instead of trying to make everything fit my wishes and expectations)

Amen.  Thank You, Lord.

feeling lost and alone from Your family

There have been a lot of blog posts out there lately about folks wandering in the post-traditional-church wilderness.  I'm afraid I'm definitely there, myself. 

And I'm wondering, Father, if a lot of my wonderings and questionings lately, are from being often so alone.

Like... dear God, Father, how do I get to know Your Son and truly follow Him, get centered on Him?  How do I do it when I'm feeling so alone? 

Yes, of course I have You.  That's awesome!  That's wonderful!  On the one hand, I feel as though that should be enough.  More than enough!

BUT I need Your church, too.  Don't I?  Don't we need each other?

I've felt so cut off lately.  Of course partly I was unwell for a long time, and couldn't get out much.  So maybe I've been held back.  By my self, my weaknesses, my tiredness, my fears, even my stubbornness.

But maybe also by others in Your body, whom I have, well, depended on.  Depended on to do what I think the church should do for me (oh dear)? 

Father, You know how much I have loved the "street family."  I loved that I could serve by boiling eggs and baking and stuff.  Only thing is, fewer people seem to come these days (well, of course it is winter...).  And they don't seem so, well, grateful, as they once did.  (Oh dear.  Again.).  And there seem to be undercurrents of disagreements...  And we hardly ever sit down together and really spend time with You as a group, like we did before.   (Am I the only one who misses that?  What does that mean?  Oh dear, yet again.  My one pointing finger seems to have 3 fingers pointing back at me.  Maybe this is MY problem after all?)  Oh God, please help us.  Please help ME.

Father, You know all about how cut off I was feeling from my biological family.  My parents both died recently, and I lost my "daughter" role.  And my siblings are busy with their own families, and I feel pretty alone, sibling-wise (well, except for my sister, bless her !).  And my four daughters have all grown, and moved, and have families of their own, and my son, my youngest has moved out now too.  You know how terribly cut-off I felt the past while.  But You've been really helping me to adjust, I think, to my changing functions and roles in my biological family.  I'm seeing more and more that I'm still a part, still needed and loved (and useful!).  But just in different ways.  So that's good.

But I feel so lost right now from Your family.  From Your church.  Yes, from the street family, but also from the "church in this city" and, oh yes, from the "churches" that I have "attended" in the past.  I miss Your people.  In the street church, people grow in You, and move on to new things.  That's good, right?  And the folks from those "churches" in my past?  A few are still good friends (but most of them don't live close by, and even those who do, are so busy).  It does seem that if we no longer have "X church" in common, we just don't have anything in common.  Kind of like "friendships" in most jobs.  (And yes, I'm guilty of this too).  (Oh dear, oh dear).

Oh.  And I do not seem to know how to reach out and "love my neighbors" right here in my neighborhood.  It was easier in a small town where people couldn't hide from each other (though for sure that had its own challenges, lol).  But it seems like city people are so busy, busy, busy... and maybe hiding from each other, cocooning... maybe afraid... surely lonely!  So why is it so hard to reach out?

Maybe I just need to stop talking, and questioning.  Long enough to rest in You.  And hear Your still, small voice.  Dear God?

rabbit trails, the narrow way, and Jesus (the WAY)

What if I've been going down a whole lot of rabbit trails all this time?

What if the "gospel" I've been preaching (proclaiming), teaching, believing isn't even the gospel (the good news Jesus brought).  What if it isn't truth?  What if it isn't You?

I'm trying to tell myself that this is a journey, and I've just not yet experienced it all (far from it!).  But what if the road IS narrow, and I've spent more time on rabbit trails than on THE WAY (You, Jesus).

Dear Jesus, how do I center on You?  Do I, even?  What does it even mean?

You centered on Father while You spent those years here on earth among us.  And I've tried to follow Your example, while centering on Him, knowing Him, too.  But maybe I can't really know HIM until I really know YOU first?

I have been feeling lost.  Feeling separated from You, Jesus.  I have felt like I don't even know how to be connected to You.

What if I just screw up again?  Go down some other way, some other rabbit trail? 

Oh Father!  I felt so incredibly secure in Your love.  So secure, I guess, that I just kind of settled back and relaxed and, oh dear, maybe thought I'd arrived, and I'd made it.  Maybe I've started to take You and Your love.... for granted?

I don't doubt Your love, at all.  But I'm beginning to think maybe I've just started on this journey, this relationship with You.  And that I have a long, long, long way to go.  With You, all of You, each of You.

Just not sure how.

How to follow You?  (It seemed a lot easier when there were rules to follow.  And "leaders" to tell me what to do.... another post, perhaps, on that one...)

wonderings, about Jesus-at-the-center and giving up ourselves, and "beliefs"

Is it possible to be so centered on Father (or on You, Holy Spirit), to miss out on You, Jesus?  I'm guessing yes.

I mean, it's pretty easy to know a human being for a long time, even think you know them well, and then to suddenly realize there's a whole part(s) of that person that you really don't know at all, right?  (And to feel lonely, pushed away, locked out by that person, even while in a supposedly close relationship with him/her...

But You don't lock us out, do You?  Maybe we lock ourselves out though?  Maybe You are so great, so... well, GREAT... that we're afraid to take on more than a little bit of You (so we kind of create an image of You for ourselves that we feel more comfortable with.  Or we just avoid going deeper because we feel overwhelmed and it's too much work, too much effort.  And, oh yeah, maybe we don't want to lose our "selves" in the process of coming into knowing You.  Am I even afraid of myself, me, being drawn too much into You? 

In a book I read, the writer was kind of up in arms, because somewhere along the line he'd been taught that we have to give up ourselves, and he took that as meaning losing our identity.  And maybe I've been afraid of that too.  Do You want us to lose our identity?  Is that part of "dying to self?"  I'm kind of doubting that You'd want to do that, lose who we are, after creating us Yourself.  Maybe we're just called to lose the "fallen" parts of our identity (as well as our self-centeredness).  How do we know what those parts are, even?  How much would that change me?  Am I willing to be that changed?  Is that what "losing/dying to myself, and being found/rising anew in You" is about?  Or something else?

I used to be pretty sure about what I believed.  I considered myself a teacher.  I facilitated women's Bible studies, and led Sunday School and taught at a "Christian school." 

Nowadays... "I KNOW WHOM I HAVE BELIEVED" but I'm a lot less sure of a lot of details about "beliefs." 

Maybe I should just focus more on the KNOWING WHO (grow more in relationship with God!) and then the "knowing what and when and how and why" will begin to  fall in place?

Father? Jesus? Holy Spirit?

wonderings, about Jesus-at-the-center

Father, lots of people posting lately about about Jesus-at-the-center.

And from what I read, I certainly don't think I have really been centered on You, Jesus (shocking statement, eh...). 

I don't even know if the "church" I've experienced over all these years has been centered on You, either.  I mean, really centered on You.  I'm not even really sure what that really means, to be centered-on-You, Jesus.  (How could I have missed that?  How could we have missed that?  Missed YOU like that, Jesus?) 

Probably I've been centered on "church" itself quite a lot.  (Not to mention, being centered on me, first/most of all).  (And centered on theology and some stuff like that as well).

Okay, here's a really big problem for me.  I'm struggling to know how to know YOU.  You, Jesus.  Especially, where You fit in with the whole God-thing (is that a heretical statement?).  What I mean is this. 

When I was a little kid, it was "Jesus loves me."  Seemed pretty simple to me, and even happy and joyful and wonderful.  Easy to accept, without even questioning.  And even relational too. 

But I got the impression pretty early on, maybe too early on, that that was way too simple.  Too childish.  That "mature" believers believed in "God (Our Father in Heaven...)."  And obeyed Him, of course.  And studied theology a lot.  And tried to be good and do good and all, to please God.  And were mostly really serious folk who avoided being too happy and childish.  (It didn't help that by my early teens I was having relationship problems with my earthly father, and therefore was skittish of any Heavenly-Father-relationship that You sometimes tried to introduce...). 

And then, along the line, You bumped me into the Pentecostals.  And I discovered that the Holy Spirit is a Person (more than just a theological concept, you know).  I mean, that He's You, too.    And that maybe, after all, it's okay to be happy and joyful.  (Carefully, in my case.  Because I was still trying to be mature and all).  Yes, maybe it's even okay, even good, to be relational with You (kind of cautiously, in my case, but still.  Relationship.  Through the Holy Spirit, mostly.  Big step!). 

And then, quite recently, You sent along a book.  A LOT of people have told me that book is heretical; I have even pretty much lost a good friend or two over it, sad to say, because of my being so sure You sent it along to me.  I am sure, though, because through it, finally I met You, FATHER.  I mean, as more than God (Heavenly Father).   And I got a lot more comfortable with Your Holy Spirit (getting comfortable with You, less cautious, that was a big step too).  And You, Jesus, You seemed a lot more REAL to me (but... see next paragraph!).  And overall, I found out You - as a group, as God, but individually as well -  really do love me.  I experienced joy.  Happiness.  Relationship.  Relationship!  With You, Father.  And with Your family, too, because that does come with You.

But I've struggled with relationship with You,  Jesus.  I mean, I believe in it, right?  I believe in You, right? I've even experienced relationship with You, for sure.   But what's this about You at the center?  Like the blog post-ers are talking about?  I mean, You are THE WAY, of course.  But are You the destination as well?  Is "Jesus loves me" okay after all?  Maybe way more than okay?  (And then, what about Father and Holy Spirit?  The book shows You so clearly as individuals, and yet as One.  Why is it so hard for me to understand?  And what does it really mean to say that You are the center of the church, Jesus?  And how does that fit it - or does it - with Your place in/as God?  And in my relationship with You (each, and all)?

Is there something wrong with me?  Do real Christians actually have these kinds of questions?  Are we even allowed to wonder?  And struggle?  And not understand everything?  (And, worst of all, admit it?)  Or am I way off line?

Father? Jesus? Holy Spirit?

(or anyone out there who'd like to try to answer?)

Wonderings, asked kind of fearfully

To be honest, I have wondering that I'm scared to ask, Father.

But, well, ummm.... would You happen to have an answer for me?  Right now, here, today?  This moment?

I mean, well, am I maybe even special enough to You, for that? 
Or have I failed You too much, too often?
Am I even "smart enough"?
What about the fact that I am "just a woman"?

(And if woman aren't meant to really hear from You, be led by You, to teach others, or whatever...
then why do You make us with those longings?

Okay, I know, yes, it does give us something to give up, to submit to, to DIE TO... to hand over to You... to lose forever... to die to, in order to GAIN YOU!) (Is that right?) (And maybe those longings are just me? Oh dear).

Sometimes I feel like a little kid who's been given a huge birthday present, in brightly wrapped paper, with a huge ribbon.  And I've opened the box, and the gift was exactly what I've wanted and wanted.  And all my little friends are crowded around, oohing and ahhing.  And I'm so proud and happy and excited.  (I even thought it must be from You,  it's so wonderful.  But...)

And then it's like You come along (I'm told it's You), and You reach out and pull my wonderful gift away, put it behind You, out of sight.  And you stretch out Your hand, and offer me this tiny little box wrapped in ripped old newspaper, and I open it doubtfully.  And it looks just, well, empty.  And yes, I feel kind of disappointed, but You know, I'm not supposed to admit it, so I try to smile and say, thank You very much, I know I'll love it always.  And You (it is You, right?) assure me that really it is a wonderful gift.  That it's full of wonderful promises and other amazing (intangible) things.  And if I trust You enough, someday I'll see them.  "Just trust Me."  And I nod my head.  (But I'm kind of numb.  And doubtful.) (Sorry.)

So, well maybe, You know, it would be easier if I didn't have to "give up" the treasured gifts I've already received.  But (I'm told) the giving up, the dying-to, the end of clinging-to-plastic (I'm told that's all those other things really are, after all), is necessary.  (Isn't it?). 

Father, I have to tell You (though of course You already know, because Jesus came here and experienced it, right?)... it's kind of hard to do this giving up.  I mean, we live in this here-and-now.  We're so physical.  And temporal.  And "forever with You" is a strange thing for us.  Or at least for me.  It seems so impossible, intangible, untouchable, hazy, unbelieveable.  (Am I wicked for wondering?  I'm afraid probably so.  Sorry.  Again).

And yet we are born longing for it always (longing for forever with You), longing with all our being (even when we don't know that's what we're longing for). 

Maybe my thinking is too earth-bound.  (Or too doctrine-bound).  (Or?  Father?)

(Maybe I should just "praise the Lord" and all these questions will just disappear).

(The thing is, if I didn't trust You, if I didn't KNOW You, if I didn't know that YOU LOVE ME, then maybe I wouldn't even be asking these things; I mean, there wouldn't be any point, would there?) ( I'm pretty sure that is right!) (I think.)

Okay.  Deep breath.  I'm hitting the "publish" button now.

Lonely. And afraid. But hey! ...

Father, You know I've been so lonely for You.  And yet, I just seem unable to really make any serious connection.

Afraid, actually.  Afraid of anything that takes energy, I guess.  Afraid of starting anything that might end up in failure, or at least not get completed (because, You know, we MUST commit to things, and then we MUST complete them, no matter what). 

Afraid that I am too old, too tired, too out-of-date, too mommy/grandma/woman.  And that my brain won't be able to do what it takes, anymore.  And that I might be wanting, daring, wishing to do something that, You know, women aren't supposed to do. :-(

But hey!  Here I am, actually talking to You again.  Maybe nothing profound.  More like rambling, maybe.  But for sure more than I've done for a long while. 

Yes!  Talking to, speaking with, YOU.  And yes, yes, yes!  KNOWING you are here with me.  Really sensing Your Presence. 

Knowing with certainty that You are listening.  Nodding.  Smiling.  Maybe even making those little "mmm hmmm" responses that encourage me to continue.  That actually draw me to You.

Like I am sitting at Your feet, having a real conversation with You.  My Daddy!  AND I am wanting to hear You, clearly.  Really, really wanting to hear Your voice .  To be led by You.  My shepherd (my pastor!), my teacher, Father (Abba!), Brother, Counselor, Lord, King.

"And His name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace"
"... the Way, the Truth, the Life"

My God. Thank You.

questions, questions, questions

The summer I was 14 I went to my last year of CYC (Christian Youth Crusaders) kids' camp.  I guess my constant stream of questions must have been a bit of a nuisance or something, because on the last night of camp, a group of the male counselors got up and sang a special - clearly directed at me.

"Further along you'll know all about it,
Further along you'll understand why.
Cheer up, dear Norma, live in the sunshine,
You'll understand it all by and by."

They adjusted the rest of the lyrics too, much to the amusement of the rest of the 285 campers, but sadly I only remember their version of the chorus.  I did, however, look up the actual lyrics in the hymn book, and discovered that they included the following supposedly cheerful and hopeful exhortation:

"When we see Jesus, coming in glory,
When He comes from His home in the sky,
Then we shall meet Him in that bright mansion,
And we'll understand it all by and by."

Even then, I was not impressed.  I wanted answers NOW.  I didn't want to wait for "by and by." 

I kept asking questions.  Quite often they were not well received.  I was often considered to be "challenging" those who were wiser and more mature in the faith than myself; and/or considered to be "disrespectful."  (Or at least "lacking in faith.")  I was even asked to remove myself from a Bible study group at one point, because I was "undermining the faith of new believers." 

To be honest, sometimes I really was pushing peoples' buttons.  Mostly because they were so sure they were right, and maybe that bugged me, especially since I personally found being certain like that to be very difficult to attain (though I could see the potential comfort in it).  But most of the time, I really was asking honest questions. 

You'd think (or at least some folks thought) that as I "matured in the faith" I would outgrow all that foolishness.  That I'd accept and believe what was obviously right (as they believed), and that I'd just accept the difficult stuff "on faith."  Well.

Forty years plus have passed, and I'm afraid I'm still asking questions. 

This morning that chorus popped into my head, and I started singing it aloud.  Hubby said, "Only trouble with that, is that when we reach the by-and-by, maybe our questions won't matter anymore."

Hubby rarely says anything about such matters.  So I was startled.  I guess he has a lot of questions himself.  Maybe he's just wise enough not to ask them out loud.  Though he did add that he spends a lot of time asking questions of Father.  That surprised me too.

He also prayed for me, right then and there.  Wow.  Really, really... wow. 

That's a pretty awesome answer to a whole lot of questions I've been asking Father for years and years.  Maybe by-and-by starts here-and-now.  And maybe Father brings answers in ways we'd not expect, from people we'd not expect.  And even answering a lot more than we've been asking. 

You think?

(And yes, I still have some questions...)

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Top 10 of 2010!

Wow!  Today this blog - and especially the pages on street church - was selected by Dan Allen at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine as one of his list of "Top 10 of 2010" blogs.  Dan wrote:

What I love most about her blog is reading about what she calls “the street church” which is a gathering she is part of with some of the homeless in her area. The stories are very powerful and convicting and I am glad that she has shared them with the rest of us!
It is a great honor to be on Dan's list.  And as Dan mentioned, I  too have frequently commented on his blog .  Reading his posts has been encouraging, and I have learned so much about the church - the "ekklesia".  You'll see what I mean, if you check out some of my comments and responses to his posts, by entering "the ekklesia in southern maine" in the search line of this blog. 

And of course I highly recommend that you personally check out Dan's blog, The Ekklesia in Southern Maine - right now!

Thanks, Dan!