Monday 28 February 2011

you can't start a church

From Josh at Called to Rebuild, a post called "The organic nature of the church."    In which he says:

The local, corporate expression of Jesus Christ must be born, just as the individual Christian must be born, of the Spirit. Contrary to all the talk you hear from men about “starting a church”, you cannot start a church anymore than you can start a Christian. Both must be born, for they are not mechanical things but living organisms. This takes time and travail, not to mention one heck of a revelation of Jesus Christ. And that revelation must be a sustained revelation… it must be continuous, on-going. It must be kept fresh and up-to-date-a living, daily experience of Jesus Christ-or else whatever experience and expression of the church there is will fade away and die.

Wow.  Well said.

Read the rest of the post, too.  And the comments.  Great conversation!

wanting answers to your "why" questions?

So many "whys" in life.  So much that doesn't make sense.  So many wonderings about the purpose (or not) of events.  So much wishing for easier understanding.  So many unanswered questions.

God, why don't you answer my whys?  How many times I have asked that!

Jeff McQ at Losing My Religion has explored this in an excellent post called "God doesn't have to explain Himself."

A couple of points that really resonate with me:

I think sometimes that's why God doesn't always answer right away--because we asked a question for which we had no grid to appreciate the answer, and He must first grow us to a point where we can handle the answer.

God doesn't seem to be in a hurry to answer those who demand an explanation, but He does seem to be willing to reveal more of Himself when He sees a heart that truly longs for Him.
Not a list of "easy answers" to the "why" question...  but some helpful and encouraging direction.  Read the whole article here.

Contradictions and paradoxes and other confusing things

Again on the topic of what we believe, Roger Olsen has written an intriguing post called "Is it possible to believe a paradox?"

I know that when a lot of people hear the word "paradox" their eyes kind of glaze over, and they instantly want to change the subject, because they feel like anything paradoxical is totally confusing.  The same thing happens when someone brings up apparent "contradictions" found in the Bible.   I've been there myself, and sometimes I'm still there.

If you're feeling that way, I highly recommend reading this post.  In it, Roger Olsen starts out by defining "paradox" in relation to Christian beliefs.  He gives examples.  And he goes on to discuss paradoxes and contradictions and mystery and analogy and proposition.  Are your eyes glazing over yet?  Don't hit the delete button just yet.  Read the article .  You may not agree with the writer's theological position on each example he gives, but you will come away with a clearer understanding about these various terms.  Which will certainly help to keep your vision clearer the next time they come up!  :-)

why do you believe what you believe?

We all believe certain things about God.  But have you ever wondered where you got the beliefs you believe?  Are you sure about your theology?   Dan Allen at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine has listed some questions worth asking when you are trying to understand and interpret the Bible.  Briefly, he lists the following: 

Are there other views on the subject?
Does my understanding depend on culture and current events?
Do I believe it because it is or is not popular currently or throughout history?
Do you believe it because your theological heroes or favorite pastor believes it?
Are you looking to the Spirit to teach you?
I know for myself that I have often felt confused because many very intelligent people throughout the history of the church have held some quite different viewpoints about what we as followers of Jesus believe.  I have wondered how I can know what to believe when these "great saints" can't agree. 

Why not read this article by Dan to see what he says about each of these questions.  What do you think?  Have you believed things for reasons that you maybe need to re-examine?  What (or Who!) is the source of Truth for you?

becoming a child, even a baby

At Losing My Religion, Jeff McQ writes a post Coming as Babies in which he describes in detail about the stripping-away in his life that God has been doing.  Jeff says:

Jesus came as a man--but not as a grown man. He didn't launch His mission as the self-proclaimed expert of all things spiritual. He came into this world the same way we all do--as a baby. A helpless, vulnerable, non-potty-trained baby. He didn't come with all the answers--that came later....

On a personal level, I think I've struggled for a long time with my deconstruction. Although I've definitely been thankful for the sense of freedom (and wouldn't ever want to go back into bondage), I also have felt such a sense of loss because at the very least I had a strong sense of direction, and when things dismantled, I felt there was nothing to replace what I'd had. I think I'm finally going to be okay with that now. I think I can fully embrace this time and place, knowing that the previous stripping was necessary in order to step into this mission in the right way.

Jesus came to us as a baby, and He changed the world. I believe that if I embrace the same idea, enter this mission as a baby, and have patience with the process, I can at least make a positive difference. 
I can really relate to this.  I spent so many years in "religion,"  feeling quite confident that I was a "good Christian."  After all, I was deeply involved in all kinds of programs, and enjoyed plenty of pats-on-my-back.  I was confident about my knowledge about the Bible.  I was confident about my training and "success" as a teacher.  And on and on.

In the past few years, my confidence has been battered down.  Stomped on in the mud.  At first, I felt that I was being moved from a "Martha" position to a "Mary" position.  Probably I was pretty proud of that :-( ... But in the past while, that's been stripped away from me too.  I have been brought into a place where for the most part I have really felt like  "a helpless, vulnerable, non-potty-trained baby."  And no, I haven't enjoyed it all that much.  Lost my answers, lost my sense of direction, lost my self-confidence.

But I think Jeff has it right.  This is where I need to be.  Not Martha rushing around serving.  Not Mary sitting at Jesus' feet.  Not even a child sitting on Jesus' lap.  But a baby.  Totally dependant on Jesus. 

And yes, permanently dependent :-)

(Now, go read the rest of Jeff's post!)

It's not about my ability at all! What a relief!

Quote from Surprised by the Voice of God by Jack Deere:
“So humble people put their confidence in the Holy Spirit’s ability to speak, not in their ability to hear, and in Christ’s ability to lead, not in their ability to follow.”
Wow.  That is such a relief!  It's not about my ability at all.

(Check out some other great quotes and books worth reading here at Mary Demuth's blog.)

struggling with and questioning God

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I do a fair amount of questioning, wondering, arguing, struggling with God.  Sometimes I feel kind of guilty about that.  But today I read a blog post that posits that having some "chutzpa" in our relationship with God is actually a sign of active faith and relationship - and, in fact, God does a fair bit of struggling with us, too.

At Leaving Salem, Ronnie McBrayer writes:

More times than we care to admit, our relationship with
God is not a Harlequin romance, wrapped in a tidy package
with a bow on top. It is more like a game of tug-o-war.
God speaks and pulls and we pull back. He yanks again and
we curse and shout across the mud pit at him. He shouts
back. It goes on like this for a long time – most of our
lives even – and sometimes God wins and sometimes we do.
Why is it this way? Because God isn’t after blind,
robotic faith, we behaving as androids receiving signals
from above transmitted to our spiritual antenna. No, God
is after a relationship with us, for us to genuinely know
him. And sometimes to know this God we must wrestle with
When we give up on listening, struggling, wrestling, and
protesting – when we lose our chutzpah – we have given up
on faith, and the only thing left is atheism or cynicism;
hardness toward God or disbelief in him. The struggle
means the relationship is very much alive.
What about you?  Have you and God been struggling lately?

Saturday 26 February 2011

please pray for our street church family

This morning a boarding house which is one of the only places in our community that will take in street people, burned to the ground.  A good number of the 18 residents who have lost their home are regular attenders at our street church breakfast and other gatherings.  Here is a report from Pastor Peter of the Another Chance Street Ministry:

The Pine lodge was gutted by fire today every one is ok ,but everything was destroyed . Most jumped out of bed and got out Monty had no shoes same as others . All was lost , but the fire dept. emergency relief helped everyone about 20 mostly our street family or those on the edge have lodging till Monday morning at the Sandman Inn. Tineka and I found all the coats and clothing we could and also went to wall-mart for means and women's underwear , razors ,socks shoes , brushes etc. I will be back there after Church in the morning to see what else , they are all very upset and have no idea what is next . Please pray there is a lot of needs to be met and I have no idea exactly what they will be or how they will be met.

Pastor Peter

There is a news story on this item here.

Friday 25 February 2011

dining with Jesus

Jesus, I have been thirsty and hungry in a dry and barren land.

I don't just need "Your written word" important as it is. If that's all I seek, it becomes, even the "red letter" parts, a "law" of its own.

I need You. THE WORD. I need You, Your Spirit, to interpret, to make alive, Your written word. Without You, without Your Spirit, the Spirit of Christ, even the red letter words in the written word, are as dead, finally, as the law.

And sadly, we seem to think that once we have "received You," we can depend on our intellect and study, and on our good works and efforts (inevitably, the ones WE choose) to keep us going.

Like white bread fills the stomach and provides a short-term carbohydrate energy fix. But doesn't nourish and lead to healthy growth because the wholeness of the grain has been removed.

You are the Bread of Life. The wholeness, the fullness. I long to have You present at every meal. The main course, and the accompaniments, too.

And I long to have You present at every drink along the way. Many sips, and deep draughts, too, constantly along the journey, along Your path, the walk of Life. You, the source of Living water, always present and ready, longing for us to drink from You often.

To drink from You the very moment thirst starts to build. Instead of waiting until we have keeled over, "dying of thirst." Instead of substituting all manner of sugary, chemical laden, fake flavored, diuretic, non nourishing "beverages." I long rather to reach regularly, always, for Your simple, always fresh, always Life giving water: Yourself. The Life. The Way, The Truth.

In a well-watered and lush land. Your promised land. The green pastures and still waters of You, the Good Shepherd. The Abundant Life.

You have been waiting patiently at the dinner table, calling, with the food ready and the glasses filled. But so often I have failed to hear, to answer, to join You. But here I am now. Ready, eager, to receive, to dine with (on!)You, at Your table.

Thursday 24 February 2011


It's all over on the blogs I subscribe to. The message of freedom! Check out some examples, from today alone:

On Internet Monk, "Monkshank Redemption,"  Jeff Dunn writes:

In grace alone are we enabled to truly follow Jesus. It is not a case of, “Well, now you’re free so you had better not screw up again.” Or as I heard often growing up, “Your life is God’s gift to you. What you do with it is your gift back to God.” Sorry. God has given me a museum masterpiece, and I return to him a clay ashtray? No, I don’t think so. In grace we are free to receive God’s masterpiece he has for us and live in that without trying to impress him with our less-than-great efforts.
It’s your choice. You can spend your life in jail, telling yourself just how good you are doing in your efforts to obey the Bible and be a good person. Or you can follow Jesus. The Jesus portrayed in the Bible, from Genesis thru maps, is not one who keeps score of how well you do. He has already won the game.
At On the Journey, "Free,"  co_heir writes:

Sin is no longer the defining force in my life. I still sin, but I also have a Savior that has freed me. When I do sin, it's not because sin is controlling me. It's life. It's part of being a man who is still learning how to follow Jesus and live in God's grace. Fortunately, my Father doesn't condemn me, he is not disappointed with me. He sees me as his beloved son. He teaches me and leads me, and continues to fill me with his love.
Earlier in the day, again at Internet Monk, "Jail Break," Jeff Dunn also writes:

It never ends. The only way to stop the madness is to die. Die to your identity as a sinner. Stop embracing the idea that you are still in sin. Instead, embrace the notion that God has forgiven you totally: Your sins of yesterday, your sins of today, your sins of tomorrow. It really is true, you know. The Lamb is slain from the foundation of the world. We were forgiven from the start. The prison doors are unlocked. The only thing keeping you behind bars is your refusal to see yourself as dead to your sins and alive to Christ.
(Oh, and by the way, you will totally want to watch and listen to the Johnny Cash video he's posted!)

At Cerulean Sanctum, "True Freedom in Christ: Breaking The Bonds of Legalism," Dan Edelen writes:

Freedom in Christ is letting everything else go, letting it die, so that we can live by the Spirit.
And when our physical bodies finally wear out, we won’t be judged by God for how much we know or for how well we applied “godly principles” and rules to life. As Jesus Himself said, it will all come down to whether we lived a life that showed we loved Him and loved other people.
That’s true freedom.
Maybe I got so excited about all this, because Father has been teaching me about freedom too - especially about the freedom that is found in Jesus, His Son.  Earlier today, in my post "How do we so easily become indifferent to Jesus?," I asked:

And why would people want to accept Jesus and get through the gate, and then spend the rest of their lives "trying to stay" by their own righteousness, in whatever form they think that involves?
And a day or two ago, in "Trying to find fulfillment in things 'related to' Jesus," I mused:

I am missing You, dear Jesus. Only You can fill this emptiness, this feeling of loss that has been dogging me. I've tried to fill it in church. Not just the church "systems," the "doing church" which I was deeply involved in for years, but found in the end that that just didn't fill me. But also in "being part of the church" which I was surprised to find hasn't done it either. You have not allowed me to find the joy or fulfillment I've been hoping for, even there, even though it was so much "better" than the former "doing." You have kept me wandering in this empty wilderness. For a purpose, I am beginning to see.
I've seen a lot of other blog posts recently focusing on the freedom we have in Jesus. When the Spirit speaks to many different people in different places about the same thing, seems to me that maybe we should tune in and listen carefully. And turn our eyes fully on Jesus' face, the one to whom the Spirit always points.

How do we so easily become indifferent to Jesus?

I wonder. Is it easier for those who have never before known how to enter, to accept the Good News, than for those who have heard the Good News but have latched onto (often from childhood, because that's when they were taught it) an incomplete or warped or even false version of it that still requires good works, or following "the Law" or whatever?

And why would people want to accept Jesus and get through the gate, and then spend the rest of their lives "trying to stay" by their own righteousness, in whatever form they think that involves?

There is a world of difference between doing good works because you love Jesus and love others with His love that is in you and flows out of you; and doing good works to try and keep your place in the Kingdom, as if what Jesus has done is really not sufficient.

How is it that we so quickly and easily become indifferent to Jesus? And turn to the Law and/or other substitutes to try to maintain our salvation and/or increase our righteousness? Or how can we just smugly accept our salvation, take it for granted, and then "get on with life" now that we feel safe in our fire insurance policy, or whatever? And not even be concerned about the safety of others?

So simple: Yes, Jesus loves me!

(This is post 12 in a series that started here).

When I was a little child, I very simply accepted that Jesus loves me. "Yes Jesus loves me, the Bible tells me so."

And when I prayed, I started my prayers with, "Dear Jesus."

It was so simple and uncomplicated. Of course Jesus is real. Of course Jesus is active in my life. Of course Jesus loves me. I'm His little child. I'm His little lamb.

There! Look at the Bible story picture of Jesus with the children on His lap and standing around Him. Look at the picture of Jesus the Good Shepherd carrying the little lamb. Look at the picture of Him stretching out over the dangerous ravine to reach and save the little lamb that tumbled over the edge and is hanging there caught precariously in a thorn bush. Look at the picture on the wall of Jesus reaching out to protect small children crossing a bridge over a raging creek in a terrible storm. Listen again to the story, picture again the scene, of Jesus hanging on the cross, His arms outstretched, offering His salvation to any child who will say, "Dear Jesus..." 

I'm much older now, and I've spent many years trying to make it more complicated. But really, it isn't. Thank You for revealing Yourself to me again, dear Jesus. Simply. Again.

Yes, Jesus loves me. Nothing has changed. I guess I just got in the way, let other things get in the way. Forgot the pictures, or thought that I'm too mature and deep for them now.

But I'm back.

Dear Jesus. Thank You for loving me. I love You, too. Amen. :-)

Wednesday 23 February 2011

Jesus is more than I've imagined!

(This is post 11 in a series that starts here).

But Jesus is more than the path to God. More than the door to salvation. More than "just" God's Son. More than "just" our mediator before the Father. More than "just" our High Priest.

(Yes, the Protestant tradition I was raised in had, I'm afraid, a rather strong antipathy, even fear, of anything that might involve the "priest" word, anything that might thereby smack of papacy and all that supposedly goes with it. Sometimes I wonder if that isn't part of the reason that we avoided too much talk about Jesus' role, other than salvation and loving little children. Hm.)

So like Paul says in Colossians 1, Jesus Christ is "first in everything, for God in all his fulness was pleased to live in Christ." And "Christ is the visible image of the invisible God." Paul preached Christ. Christ was Paul's gospel. Father sent His Son to reveal God; and to bring His fallen creatures back into relationship. As John writes, "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God... No one has ever seen God. But his only Son, who is himself God, is near to the Father's heart and he has told us about him."

Everything points to Jesus Christ. He is what I have been missing, what I've been circling around, but not fully connecting to. You, Jesus, in Your fullness, are Who I have been missing.

Dear Jesus, please fill me. Please be ALL to me and in me. Dear Jesus, please reveal Yourself to me. Please be the Center, for me, and for Your church.

Holy Spirit, please "turn my eyes upon Jesus, look full in His wonderful face." Please let all the other things grow dim to my eyes so that I clearly see Jesus' glory and grace. Thank You, Spirit, for pointing always straight to Jesus, when I've only wanted to see what's "around" Him. And thank You, Father, for showing me Yourself in Your Son.

Where Jesus fits into the story

(This is post 10 in a series that starts here).

I've wondered and wondered exactly where Jesus fits into the story. I've experienced the wonder of Father. And of the Holy Spirit. But strange as it may seem, I've often been puzzled and lost when it comes to Jesus.

Oh yes, when I was young, I learned all the stories. I understood the doctrine and theology. I "asked Jesus into my heart": several times actually. Hesitantly at first, following the "ABC rules of salvation", and yet still unsure, numerous times fearing I'd "lost my salvation by backsliding." And then, finally, permanently, and with great relief and even joy, a few months after my first child was born. Following that, I was baptized, too, in the name of the Father, and Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. And I have always prayed "in Jesus' name." Even, when I was young, prayed TO Jesus. Until someone taught me that we pray to the Father through the name of Jesus.

So I thought Jesus was for little children, and for adults in order to become Christians, and maybe for awhile in their walk when they were still baby Christians. But I was taught, led to believe, that mature Christians went on to "deeper things," to "maturity," and in the process went on to, well, experiencing the Holy Spirit, or to studying the Word in depth, or on to focusing on The Father, or to lots of involvement in the church, or... (fill-in-the-blank,depending on whose doctrine you hear. And I've been taught all of these at one time or another).

And yet, all along I've always been hounded by the question, "What about Jesus?"

And I've always longed for MORE, in my walk with God.

Lately, more and more, I've heard people saying that we need to be more Christ-centric. To be fully centered on Christ.

This morning I started reading the "red words" in Matthew. Of course I've read them dozens of times before, but this time I had a special focus and purpose. I was looking for Jesus. Really searching.

I read where Jesus says, "God blesses those who realize their need for Him [the poor in spirit] for the kingdom of Heaven is given to them." (Matthew 5:1 NLT). And I realized this need I've had to really know God cannot be filled with (heretical as this may sound) only by knowing and walking with Father and the Holy Spirit (aided by church involvement and Bible study of course). I must know and walk with Jesus, too.  Centrally.

Jesus fulfills the "Trinity." Jesus is Himself God: "the fulness of the Godhead bodily." The God we can see, touch, feel, hear, know. The God Who meets us in our humanness.

I've known the words, the theory, the doctrine, the theology. But...

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Wanting something solid, tangible, to hang on to

(This is post 9 in a series that starts here).

Yes, when I realized and accepted Father's love, I thought I had it made. I thought I'd be full of joy forever. I thought my relationship with God was awesome now.

But. Things happened in my life. My dad died suddenly of cancer. My mom slowly left us, fading year by year into the foggy world of dementia, and finally left us completely one day. I hardly mourned my dad's passing, because I was just so relieved that he didn't have to watch his beloved slip away from him day by day. I barely mourned at all when my mom passed on; in fact, I actually (guiltily) sighed with relief, because I knew she had gone home to dad and Jesus, totally renewed. At the same time, sitting by her day by day, year by year as she drifted away, I had become terrified that one day the same end might happen to me too. And so with mom's passing, I quickly buried my fears and tried not to think of them - or her. Which only brought more guilt.

While this was happening, my five children were growing up, and one by one they left home. My greatest self-identity of the past 25 years, that of a mother, seemed to be stripped away, leaving me feeling empty, useless, unnecessary. Through unexpected circumstances, another important source of self-identity, that of being a teacher, also evaporated. And as I watched a much-beloved church family disintegrate around me in bitterness and pain and disillusionment, my years of busy, enthusiastic participation in church as I'd always known it, also disintegrated. I looked for substitutes, dreaming of moving to an island cottage, getting a good job, finding a nice little house church to join.

Even as those difficult life experiences happened, I still knew that Father loved me. He continued to show His love in so many ways. His Presence was always sure. He gave me a street church family to gather together with. He gave my husband and I the funds to make a downpayment on a sweet little townhouse. He gave hubby a new education and career, something he'd dreamed of doing all his life, that would also provide for our needs. He gave us lots of beautiful grandchildren!

But somehow I still needed something solid, tangible, to hang onto. Even though I was sliding into dark days of depression, I never stopped loving Father, never stopped knowing His love. But I was still missing something. Or Someone. Someone I could "grasp." Someone who could be seen and held. Someone "real." Human. But more than human, too, more dependable, more loving, more sure.

I believed in God, for sure. I could with certainty say that I was in relationship with God. But somehow I wanted, needed, to SEE Him. Like the disciples. "Show us the Father." And then Jesus answers, "If you have seen me, You have seen the Father." Jesus, the human, physical, historical, God-in-the-flesh man. God incarnate.

Oh.  Oh!

Trying to find fulfillment in things "related to" Jesus

(This is post 8 in a series that starts here)

A couple months ago, on the advice of a friend, bought the book, Jesus Manifesto. I started reading it, two or three times, but just couldn't get into it. So I put it aside. But with all the struggles I've been going through in relation to my walk with Jesus, I thought it might be worth a try looking at it again. I started again at the beginning and read the first couple chapters.

This time I am mesmerized. I must finish it. Jesus, reading this book totally confirms what I've been realizing: You are what I've been missing. You are Who I am longing for. You ARE the center! Of all things! You are the center for Your church - and You are the center of and for me. Yes You are!

The other morning, I woke again with that sadly familiar feeling of emptiness, lostness, almost of confusion. Even felt sick to my tummy. And then it flashed on me: I am missing You, dear Jesus. Only You can fill this emptiness, this feeling of loss that has been dogging me. I've tried to fill it in church. Not just the church "systems," the "doing church" which I was deeply involved in for years, but found in the end that that just didn't fill me. But also in "being part of the church" which I was surprised to find hasn't done it either. You have not allowed me to find the joy or fulfillment I've been hoping for, even there, even though it was so much "better" than the former "doing." You have kept me wandering in this empty wilderness.  For a purpose, I am beginning to see.

When I started reading Jesus Manifesto over again, this time it made sense to me. You, Jesus, are the center of everything. The whole Bible points to You. Creation points to You. Your church points to You. Your Spirit points to You alone.

I have so often prayed, "Holy Spirit, please guide me in my walk today. Please show me what God would have me do. Please help me walk in Jesus' footsteps. Please give me people to minister to, to serve. Please help me understand the Scriptures. Please help me, please help my children, please help others. Please guide me into fellowship with Your church." And while I have received many answers to these prayers, there has still been this emptiness.

And now I know why. It is because Your Spirit, Jesus, doesn't point to this or that or the other thing that is "related to" You. He doesn't point to me and my walk or journey. He doesn't help me understand the scriptures so that I will be a "better" Christian.

Father, it was an absolutely amazing, wonderful, joyful, guilt-relieving, freeing revelation a few short years ago, that I realized that You really do love me. I have reveled in that. I have thought that now that I know and have experienced Your Father love, and have been able to accept my place as Your child, that all will be perfectly awesome forever.


Monday 21 February 2011

the One who has had the greatest impact on me

At my Conversations, Reflections and Meditations blog, I have been writing posts for a challenge called, "30 days of me."  Today's challenge was "someone or something that has the biggest impact on you."  Here is what I wrote:

30 days of me: day 7: someone or something that has the biggest impact on you.

I love my husband. I love my children and their spouses. I love my friends and my relatives, present and past. I respect and honor past teachers, pastors, employers, and others. I can honestly say that many, many of these people have impacted me in a variety of ways. Some of them have impacted me greatly. (You can discover more specific details about the impacts of some of them on me, if you look through the things I've written on my Conversations, Reflections and Meditations website).

I have also been impacted by writers and filmmakers, poets and artists, and others I haven't met personally, but whose works have had a deep influence on my life. I have no doubt that some of the people who will read this post are included in my long list of people who have impacted my life!

I have been impacted by experiences, by places I've been, and things I've seen. The wonders of creation. Observing animals and other creatures. Miracles. Small things that contain the seeds of great ideas. I have always experienced life as an adventure, an exploration, as lifelong learning and growing and changing.

But beneath and around and above and within all these things is the One who has impacted me the most. The One who is the source and the final fulfillment of everything. For a very long time I beheld this one in a "knowledge about" kind of way. But as my life has moved along, I have found my knowing about is moving more and more into relationship, into real knowing. It hasn't been an easy journey.

As an explorer, learner, adventurer, I tend to ask questions, doubt what I am told, look for the truth. Unwilling, often unable, to easily accept what others tell me I should believe, or what they say is the truth. I'm a child of the twentieth century, of a time of belief and trust in scientific thought, of rationalism and progress. But too often its promises seem to fail. Too often it feels empty despite all its intellectual wonder.

And into these cracks, into these empty spaces, has moved this One who promises to fill in the emptiness and disappointment, who offers Truth and Life that goes beyond the promises of the world I have grown up in. I have struggled with Him, questioned, wondered, sought. I am still on that path, and always will be to some degree.

But I am knowing Him more and more. I know Him as Truth and Life, as the Way I have been seeking. I am learning to focus more and more on Him, and less and less on the things that people have claimed about Him and built around Him.

A couple of millenia ago, one of His followers created a word picture describing Him. I have read those words over and over, pondered that picture, wondering what it might really mean. And the longer and the more I am coming to know Him, the more I am understanding the immensity and wonder of who He is, as these words describe Him:

"He is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before God made anything at all and is supreme over [is the firstborn of ] all creation. He is the one through whom God created everything in heaven and earth.... Everything has been created through him and for him. He existed before everything else began and he holds all creation together...

For God in all his fulness was pleased to live in Christ, and by him God reconciled everything to himself. He made peace with everything in heaven and on earth by means of his blood on the cross... in his own human body. As a result, he has brought you into the very presence of God, and you are holy and blameless as you stand before him without a single fault...

God's secret plan... is Christ himself. In him lie hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge... For in Christ the fulness of God lives in a human body, and you are complete through your union with Christ."

He has, above all people and all things, had the biggest impact on me. Will you let Him impact you? Ask Him. He will.

Finding the church in ways and places I didn't expect

(This is post 7 in a series that starts here).

The days have been whizzing by, again. I still haven't found a church-gathering-type-group that reflects my image, I suppose, of what the church should be. But I'm less alone. Some days I even
wish for some alone time again.

A friend landed in hospital for almost two weeks, and I visited her often. And then I helped her and her hubby move and set up their new place.

Another friend had an operation, and I've been over to visit a few times while he's on the mend.

Another friend is lonely, and had to sell her car because of financial difficulties, so I've given her a couple rides, and visited her and played scrabble together, and we listen to worship music
and gaze out at the beautiful mountains from her windows, and praise God together.

And I'm healthy enough now to go to the street breakfast church gathering for the full time, and flip pancakes and cut hair and stuff. Joy! And this past Sunday the sun shone, and we sat outside in lawnchairs and spent focused time together with Jesus and each other. And I took lots of pictures. And worked on the website and blog, and even set up a facebook page.

A couple of friends have dropped by my house, feeling lonely, and I've had such a good time visiting, encouraging and being encouraged, and experiencing Jesus in our midst. Where two or three...

I've met a wonderful new friend on facebook, and we've discovered that God has given both of us a heart for the same things and people, though we live a couple thousand miles apart.

And a young lady I know was short of cash, and I was able to help her start up a little business. And buy some things, and tell others about it.

I've spent awesome time with my daughter and grandchildren, as they have called. And had a wonderful 30th valentines day with my hubby.

My mind is clearing day by day, and I've been able to start writing again on my blogs and websites. Attend groups I'm involved with. Help a friend set up his blogsite, and teach him the basics of
Adsense and linking and such.

I've actually gotten up a few mornings in a row when Father has called. And we've had some amazing times together.

I was looking for gatherings of Jesus and His church as I've imagined it should be. And I have had a bit of that at street church, especially this past Sunday. After a long period of time when it seemed to me like we weren't doing it "right." At least not the way I have expected. I've been looking for a revelation of Jesus Himself, too. As, I guess, I've also imagined that should happen.

Mostly, I haven't found church, or Jesus either, as I have imagined or expected. And I have been getting discouraged. And impatient. But maybe my eyes just haven't been open.

That is starting to change. I'm starting to see more clearly.  Thank goodness. Thank YOU, Lord.

Without doing all the things I am supposed to do?

(This is post 6 in a series that started here).

I don't even know for sure, anymore, what "being a Christian" really entails.

I feel as though all the old certainties have been pulled out from under my feet. And as though I am floundering in mid air. Not in danger of sinking and drowning, per se, because I know You are with me and are holding me up. I mean, You ARE with me. That I KNOW. But beyond that...?

Or is there even any "beyond" or "besides"? Is that the point?

JUST YOU? Is that the point? Stop looking for the framework? Stop trying to create a framework (that only ends up making me lose sight of You. Again.)?

Then where does Your family even fit in? Do I need to let that go too? Stop worrying about church? You know, that very idea seems, well, heretical? dangerous? lonely! Isn't church what it's all about?

Oh. No. YOU are what it's all about. Of course. I know that. I've always known it, somehow. But without church to hold it - to hold You - up?

You? Alone?

Don't You need us? Aren't we important? How would the world be reached, how would morality be protected (etc etc etc), without us? You don't "need us"? Really? Are You sure? How could that be?

Okay, now I am being a bit sarcastic: at myself, for not seeing it before. I mean, in a way I saw it before, in terms of the church as a group. But I didn't see it (maybe didn't want to) as the church that involves me. I want to be needed. And useful.

Maybe this feeling useless and unneeded by my biological family, by my children who are now independent adults with families of their own, maybe this experience has been a good thing after all. Because I have been coming to realize that I am still loved by them, I am still me, still "mom." And realizing that that is enough. Without having to "do all the things moms are supposed to do." Just able to be here, loving them still and knowing they still love me, being ready to help if they call, but just relaxing in our mutual love meanwhile. Sure takes off the pressure.

Maybe it's something like that, my relationship with You and Your church. Just being me. Loving and being loved. Helping when I'm needed. And resting in our mutual love. Without pressure. Without big expectations and responsibilities and all. Leaving the calling up to You, and then walking and working through things with You.

Easy to say. Probably easy to be. So why so hard for me to understand and accept?

Sunday 20 February 2011

Feeling lost in a wandering place

(This is post 5 in a series that started here).

Oh Father! I have felt so secure in Your love, since You revealed to me so clearly that You really do love me. But what about Your Son? Dear God, Father, how do I get to know Your Son and follow Him? How do I do it all alone? Yes, I need You. Yes, I need the Spirit, to show me Jesus.

I feel so held back. By my self, by my weaknesses and infirmities; by my tiredness, by my fears, by my stubborness. But also by others whom I have supposed to be Your church. I feel cut off from Your family. So lost. I can't make church happen.

I want to be part of Your body. Not just part of a club or system of programs or an institution. And Father, You have released me from that. But now I feel like I'm wandering around alone. I don't know how to be part of the church without all those supporting structures I've been used to. Oh, I know the theory. And I do experience You and Your family sometimes, in surprising ways. And yes, thank You for that!

But so few people seem to understand where I am at. And the more I am in this wandering place, the more I suspect that there must be, after all, a structure to the church. Something that holds it together and gives it meaning. It has to be Jesus, right? Jesus, the Center, the Head, the One who creates and then holds all things together.

Oh Jesus, I do want to know You. I want to know You and be centered on You for myself, of course. But more, I want to know You as the foundation, the ground, the shepherd, the head of Your church, Your family, Your body. I believe it is possible. But I can't make it happen. And I feel so alone. And useless.

I really do want to be an active, integral, useful part of Your church, Your family, Your body. But without getting all caught up again in religious frameworks and "business" and stuff. Your church is not a business. I cannot go there again.

There's a tear tricking down my cheek as I write this. Maybe it's just because it's early morning and my eyes are tired and kind of sore. But maybe it's really because my heart is sore.

I am sad. I am feeling the last few days as though the great sadness I've gone through the past while, which I was so sure You've been healing me from, is creeping back over me. And I am scared. I don't want more meds, Lord. I just want YOU. Whatever that means and whatever it entails.

I just want to take a little nap. Maybe stop talking long enough to rest in You. And maybe even hear Your still small voice a bit? Dear God? Father, Jesus, Holy Spirit? Whichever? Or all? Or?

Saturday 19 February 2011

I don't know how to be connected to You, Jesus

(This is post 4 in a series that started here).

So I was just wondering, "Is it possible to become so centered on Father (and/or on Your Spirit) that one can kind of miss out on Jesus?"

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

But You don't lock us out, do You? Maybe we lock ourselves out? Maybe we feel that You are so great that we are 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 maybe we just avoid going deeper because we think it will take too much effort. Maybe we don't want to lose ourselves in the process of coming into knowing You, and coming into oneness with You. Maybe we are just confused, with all the things we've been taught about You over the years by different people, and it seems impossible and exhausting to really get to know You, love You, obey You, follow You.

What if I've been going down rabbit tracks all this time? What if the "gospel" I've been believing and teaching isn't the true gospel. What if it isn't You? I'm trying to tell myself that it's a journey, and I've just not experienced all of it yet. But what if the road is narrow, and either I've not found it (You - the Way) at all?

Dear Jesus, how do I center on You? Do I, even? What does it mean? You centered on Father. And I've tried to follow Your example, by centering on, knowing, Him too. But maybe I can't really know Him until I know You? Didn't you say that, or something like that?

I feel lost. I feel separated from You, Jesus. I don't even know how to be connected to You. What if I just screw up again?

Jesus calls me. To Himself, the center. But?

(This is post 3 in a series that started here).

So I asked to be awakened early, if that's what God wanted. To be with Jesus. To get to the Living Answer. To even be changed by Him (oh I wish).

And yes, He has been waking me. I don't wake up full of energy like that woman in the story. Very often I wake very tired. My body and mind protest. I yawn. I groan and pull the blankets around me and wish to go back to sleep. Sometimes - far too often - I do. But again and again He calls me. Gently. Fills me with longing for Him. One day I wrote, "I am talking to, speaking with, You. And yes, knowing You are here with me. Really sensing Your Presence. Knowing You are listening. Nodding. Smiling. Encouraging me to continue. You draw me to You. Like I'm sitting at Your feet, having a real conversation with You."

"I want to hear from You. Clearly. Really, really wanting. To hear Your voice. To be led by You. My shepherd, pastor, teacher, Lord, King, Elder Brother, Counselor. Father, Holy Spirit, Jesus. My God."

"To be honest, I am scared to ask, but, do You have a word just for me, right now, here, today, this moment? (Am I even special enough for that? Have I failed You too much, too often? Am I even smart enough? What about that I am 'just a woman' thing?)"

And I hear His voice. "My child, I love you. Come all the way to Me. Give up everything else. Trust My Love. That's all."

I want to. It sounds so simple. So wonderful. Jesus at the center. It must be what I've been missing out on.

But. Isn't Jesus for children? (Well, okay, and for grown-up people too, to "get saved." But then aren't we supposed to go on to "deeper things?" Aren't we?)

Oh. I am a child, right? God's child. So okay. But children need tough love, don't they? Children are self-centered, right? I know I'm self-centered, for sure. You have been working on my "self" for years. But still, have I really "died to my self"? I don't know. I certainly don't think I have been centered on Jesus. More likely I've been centered on things like theology and churchianity. And on me.

Okay, listen. I have really encountered Father recently. And Your Spirit, too. But I'm not so sure about You, Jesus. I've been astounded by Father's love (amazing, after years of fearing the whole father image). So. I'm also wondering: is it possible to become so centered on Father (and/or on Your Spirit) that one can kind of miss out on Jesus?

30 days of me

I've taken up the "30 days of me" challenge over at my Conversations, Reflections and Meditations blog.  Check out today's post (day 5) here, and while you're there, learn more about me by checking out the other posts and pictures.  And be sure to check out the rest of the website, too!

Here are a couple hints about today's post!

Friday 18 February 2011

Jesus the living answer. But still lacking connection.

(This is post 2 in a series that started here)
So one day I was reading Joshua 1:8, about meditating on "this book of the Law" and doing "all that is written in it." And then thinking about how in Galatians Paul tells us Jesus fulfilled the law and freed us from it. And I wrote, "If the law was completely fulfilled in Jesus, we really are in a totally new way. Jesus Himself - the Way, the Truth, the Life." But then I got befuddled again. "I know, Father, that You are with me wherever I go, and never forsake me. But is it because of Jesus' sacrifice? Or because You are love? Or because I meditate on Your Law?" I wrote and wrote. Questions. Puzzlement. Intellectualizing, again. And then, strangely enough, a quote from The Shack popped into my mind. Something Jesus says, in the story. "Mack, you don't need to have it all figured out. Just be with me."

So I looked in that book again. (The one some of my dearest friends tell me is heresy. Well, it's a book. And being written by a human, no doubt it has its problems. Don't we all? Still, God speaks in unexpected ways. Best to be careful about our labels). And I read where Sarayu (Holy Spirit, the One who points us to Jesus) says, "The Bible... is a picture of Jesus. While words may tell you what God is like and even what he may want from you... Life and living is in him and in no other... rules will never give you answers to the deep questions of the heart and they will never love you... religion is about having the right answers, and some of the answers are right. But I am about the process that takes you to the living answer and once you get to him, he will change you from the inside." That got me excited.

But life whizzed by. A month plus later, I wrote, "I've been so lonely for You. And yet, just seem unable to really make any serious connection. Afraid actually. Afraid of starting and ending in failure. Afraid that I am too old, too tired, too out-of-date, too mommy/ grandma/ woman." Then I read a blog post. The writer, a woman, said she wanted time alone with Jesus. But no matter how she tried, she couldn't find time. A friend told her, "Just ask." She did. She thought the only practical time would be early morning, but that she'd be too tired. So she prayed, asking Jesus to wake her if He wanted. And He did. And gave her the energy. For the past 25 years. So I thought, "Well, it wouldn't hurt for me to ask." So I did.

What about Jesus? Wanting more.

Yes, I know "the facts," historical and doctrinal. Yes, I have believed in Jesus, accepted Him. Yes, I love Him. But despite years of being able to say those things, I have always felt something is missing. Like I have been longing for something to do with Him, but not sure what it is. And lately, that longing has been growing.

In October, I wrote in my journal: "Maybe Father is stripping, burning away, things in our lives that we have gotten so focused upon that they come between us and Him. I really have thought I have been centering on Jesus - or at least on Father. I'm still having a bit of confusion about how the Father-Jesus-Spirit Godhead works out in relationship with Him/Them. I have also had a long-held presupposition that "being a good Christian" equals being an intellectual Christian. I know that walking with Jesus in relationship, which includes reasoning but is so much more, is key. But I still have this fear that if I'm not primarily an "intellectual Christian" I won't be a "good Christian" and won't be useful, or approved either, to God."

A bit later, I wrote, "Oh, please dear God, help me to walk where You walk, see what You see, do as You do. Please. I want to hear You, speak to You, do Your will for me, share with and live with Your family, be a servant like Jesus. I want to "practice Your Presence." I want to know You, love You, obey You, serve You. I love You, Lord. Thank You for loving and forgiving me. Thank You, Jesus, for dying for my sins." And yes, I mean that. But.

Another day, I wrote, "Father, I do need to sing with others. And pray with others. And share You with others. And "break bread" with others. And share my life, my walk with You, with others in (and out) of Your family. Daily." I thought for a moment that maybe what I need is to be part of a new, different, "better" church group. But there is something more, something deeper and wider and more foundational that I am somehow missing. Something my dreams and wishes, and organizing my projects and getting busy on them, and even real participation in the church of Jesus can't fill up.

A couple weeks later I wrote, "I'm getting less interested in doctrinal "issues," and more and more longing to just know Jesus, know Father, hear and flow with the Holy Spirit. I've been discouraged by the pettiness and infighting I see on so many fronts (Arminianism/Calvinism, church structures and non-structures, postmodernism/traditionalism). Today, in the comments following a blog posting today by a guy who just said he wants to really KNOW God, there developed a huge flaming, by some readers, about Christ's deity. I, like him, was sad to see that. I do not want to get caught up in all that other STUFF."

(More, later).

Monday 14 February 2011

what I am up to

I haven't been posting much here (but I am working on a new "pages" section of the blog entitled "My Church Journey - being the church."  You can check it out by clicking on the link at the top of the blog.  More to come, but it's definitely started.)

I am working a lot more on a couple other sites.  I have pretty much "gutted" my Pen and Paper Mama site, and though you probably can't tell by just looking, I've been doing a lot of background work on it.

At my Conversations, Reflections, and Meditations site, I have added a blog.  Since the site is especially about my family (and our Haida connection), and also my stories and writing, starting today and for the next month, I will be doing the "30 days of me" blog challenge.  Today of course is day one.  Do feel free to check it out.

Over at the Another Chance Street Ministry site, I've continued to work on changes, and updates.  Yesterday I took a whole slew of pictures, so keep an eye on the site and on the blog to see what we're up to.

I have actually written a couple of new "church journey" posts for this site, but they are queued up for editing first.  I am seriously trying to keep my posts short and concise.

Friday 11 February 2011

Christian cussing!

Over at The Ekklesia in Southern Maine, Dan Allen has launched a Christian cuss word contest.  The questions he asks are:

Do you have fond memories of your first car? Did it inspire you to cuss up a storm (Christian or otherwise)?
Well, I started to answer in the comments, but as usual, my storytelling got away on me, and my answer was much too long for a simple comment.  So I've just left a teaser over there, and directed folks to come here for the rest of the story.  Here it is.  Enjoy!

When I was in grade 12 (1973), our province initiated "scholarship exams" in which those students who chose to do so, could write special final exams in grade 12 academic subjects, and if they got high enough marks, they would be awarded a $200 scholarship cheque.

Of course they were assuming we'd use it for our higher education, but when I got my cheque, I bought my first car, a sweet, pure, white 1964 slant-six Valiant.  That little vehicle could go and go and go.  Gas was 50 cents a gallon, and I spent $2 a week on gas, and $10 a year on insurance.  Other than oil changes, which I did myself, and a set of new tires, the only other money I spent on her was $4 for a used gas tank from the wrecker after her gas tank rusted out.  She took myself and my friends everywhere, on- and off-road (we called her a tank in disguise).

My only problem was that my brother hated to ride in the passenger seat while his sister drove.  Very hard on his manly dignity, especially when the car was packed with all his buddies.  And packed it often was, as there were no seat-belt laws.  So whenever he got the chance, he'd twist my arm to let him drive.

Anyway, as we were a fairly "Christianly" group, unused to cussing, my little Valiant had been pretty much spared choking on blue air. One particular night, we all piled into her, and drove down the valley to a "Christian coffee house" (very popular in the early 70s) in another community.  We hung out there until midnight or so, and then piled back in her to head home.  My brother had begged to drive, till I finally gave in. 

Now that he was the man, in the driver's seat, the power went to his head, and he started to show off, driving like a maniac.  All his buddies were howling and cheering him on.  We came to a major intersection, deserted at that time of night, and my brother took my poor little car into the center of that intersection and spun her round and round, her tires smoking, rubber sticking to the road.  Finally she squealed to a halt.

I flung open the passenger door, leaped out, and stared with dismay at my poor little car's now much balder tires.  I ran around to the driver's side, flung the door open, and ordered my brother out.  He refused.  I grabbed him and pulled with all my might.  He stumbled out of the car, and we stood there in the disapating blue smoke of the tires.  I yelled at him.  He yelled at me. The guys in the car hooted. I demanded the keys.  He glared at me, then stretched out his arm, and flung the keys far off into the darkness. 

And then he started cussing at the top of his voice.  Not just the minor little Christian-youth-group slang we sometimes daringly tossed around, but real, nasty, scary swear words.  They poured out, one after another, finally culminating in the *f* word.  The air was blue, blue, blue!

And suddenly there was silence.  No one spoke.  Everyone held their breath.  My poor little car quivered in pain.  Head hanging down, my brother eventually slunk around to the passenger door and got in.  I searched around in the darkness and finally found the keys.  Getting in the driver's seat, I gently started her engine, and pulled carefully out of the intersection, and drove my poor baby home.  No one spoke a word the entire way.  And we never mentioned the incident.

Years later, when my brother had become a youth pastor, and his kids were in their late teens, and drivers themselves, I told them the story.  They thought it was hilarious.  My brother, however, was not amused.  But that's another story for another day.