Saturday, November 20, 2010

A Nice Place to Visit

Many amazing people have come and gone in my life. People that (whether they like it or not) will always hold some real estate in my heart. I'm sure it is no surprise that those I treasure most are also those I've lived and worked with. Living in community, for better or worse, accelerates all kinds of antics and attachments. Such is the nature of sharing all things in common. Unfortunately this is not an entry about the fun times that living in community brings. The topic at hand is bit heavier.

My faith journey began fourteen years ago and sadly, I have seen many of the friends I alluded to above leave faith in the Biblical Jesus. The same Jesus they once knelt to in weeping prayer and devotion is not the one they follow today. Every Christian is vulnerable to this but still I wonder, how does this happen? Why do they leave? Maybe the harder question is, how do any of us stay? I've asked myself these questions over and over. Sometimes I lay awake thinking, "how can I help bring them back? Will my efforts, for whatever reason, only drive them further away?"

Jesus, wisely addressed this problem. His is clearly the best take on it and is found in Matthew 13:1-9 and 13:18-23. This is the parable of the sower. To summarize (for those aren't familiar with the passage) this parable explains how and why some remain rooted in Christianity while others take the more common road. The seed planted by the sower represents the gospel and the earth/soil represents the state of our hearts as we process what it means to follow Christ. Jesus illustrates four types of audiences.

Christ describes the seed that falls on rocky soil. These hear the gospel and quickly get excited about God and a spiritual life, yet these are easily uprooted during hardships and sacrifices connected to Faith. They, for a variety of reasons, will not be transformed by the Lordship of Christ. They may visit church and claim a loyalty to Jesus but there is little evidence of true conversion in their lives. The next group of hearers described don't make it quite that far. Either poor examples of Christianity or misguided attempts at intellectualism keep them far from church doors. Their ears are trained to equate the gospel with myth and superstition of no more value than Goldie Locks and the Three Bears. Jesus explains that, in this kind of listener, the seeds of the gospel are quickly eaten by the birds.

Jesus goes on to depict yet another kind of audience. She is the one who listens to the gospel. It takes root, deep in the heart. She is the person that despite death of loved ones, doubt, disillusionment, temptation and various seductions remains loyal to Christ. Granted, she may stumble... a lot... she may fail tragically, but she has the kind of loyalty that will not relent. God has His omnipotent grip on her and she grasps back, in sickness and in health, for better or worse, she is rooted in good soil.

Finally there is the type of hearer that I love deeply. Maybe my attachment to this next group reveals more about me than I'd like to admit. I can relate to their plight all too well. These beloved people are choked out of the faith because of the cares of this world. Many hear the gospel and devote their lives to following Christ. They stay in the faith for years and even decades, but eventually, through a variety of anxieties, temptations, disillusionment's and counter Christ belief systems leave faith in Jesus of the Bible. Commonly, their new Jesus is tamed, one who only promotes love, tolerance and peace. Of course love, tolerance and peace are all things Jesus embraces but the meaning of these words morph under this docile Christ. The new meanings condemn parts of scripture that draw lines between right and wrong. Many cannot accept that Jesus is the only way to salvation and it would seem that the pages of the Bible are cut into paper dolls removed in the image of the new belief system. This cut out only includes the truth claims that the new world view can endorse.

I want to be very careful here in the way I describe these things. Much of what I am detailing are beliefs held by people I love and respect, and to be quite honest, many of them are much brighter and more loving than me. To be fair, many "loyal" Christians also morph Jesus into their own image. I would even say that many Christians are guilty of this very often. Proof is everywhere. Some groups of Church goers dress Jesus in an American flag, consider Him a Republican or fill His mouth with hateful rhetoric. This is a much more sinister poison in the church today, and is a topic for another post. The people in particular that I'm speaking of are the ones that have consciously walked away from the foundational truths of Christianity, the same truths they thought they would never forsake.

Partial blame for this "falling away" can be placed on a misguided understanding of our identity as Christians. Forgive me, as this may seem like somewhat of a stretch, but from my experience the two are connected. Misunderstanding our nature leads to numbers of Christians remaining trapped in addictions, while others (as I have stated above) simply leave the faith all together, in part because of a false view of the self. Christians who feel trapped in habitual sins commonly do one of two things. They run to legalism and become ultra religious and self-righteous or they go to the opposite extreme and create a version of Christianity that allows them to indulge in their particular cravings or life styles. Our Path is a narrow one, but real liberty and empowered living are there alone. I struggle to walk this fine line often, but the more I understand what it means to be "born again", the easier it becomes. The key is understanding our new identity and divorcing ourselves from defeated mindsets.

An unfortunate approach to humility in the church today is to give our psyche a home in the reality of our sin nature. Early in my Christian life I was taught about the depth of my depravity. That is, I was taught that apart from Christ I am a wretched sinner, hopelessly enslaved to wrong doing. Either through my own twisted thinking or bad teaching this truth morphed into an idea quite poisonous to my spiritual health. The idea was this, that with or without Jesus the depth of my sin perverted me to the core. I was, without hope, defined by my wretched fallen nature. Unconsciously, I began to live as if Jesus Himself couldn't reach as deep as my sin dwelt. I know I am not alone in having believed this, which is why I write. Too many people of faith find a false identity in this twisted doctrine in its various forms. Too many walk away from Christianity because they think their "forbidden desires" (over-indulgence in alcohol, drugs, food, homosexuality, pornography and an infinite number of other cravings) define them and they resign to the notion that their final identity is the sin nature. Some resort to legalism to ease the guilt, hoping that rigid rule following and contrived good works will somehow change them or at least distract from temptation.

Others make Romans 7 a home for their defeated psyche. A false relationship with these scriptures can be crippling. It's best just to read Paul's words to see where some have gone wrong in the application of this portion of scripture. I recommend reading Romans 7:14-25 to get a clearer picture, but here is a glimpse of scripture that is commonly misunderstood:

"21 I have discovered this principle of life—that when I want to do what is right, I inevitably do what is wrong. 22 I love God’s law with all my heart. 23 But there is another power within me that is at war with my mind. This power makes me a slave to the sin that is still within me. 24 Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? 25 Thank God! The answer is in Jesus Christ our Lord. So you see how it is: In my mind I really want to obey God’s law, but because of my sinful nature I am a slave to sin." Romans 7:21-25 NLT

Paul uses powerful wording here. It's no wonder so many believers have interpreted this passage as a permanent definition of themselves. My purpose in this particular blog is to remind us that we are also called NEW CREATIONS! We are being transformed more and more into the image of our Father each moment we accept Him doing so. Each time we show love to our children, appreciate others and cheerfully give of ourselves the reality that we are created in the image of God is proven. All the while taking an honest inventory of our own sin, seeking forgiveness and pursuing repentance. Clearly, we still struggle with imperfections and maybe at times we're overwhelmed by sin in both thought and deed. I am in no way denying that we still have a sinful nature. This is painfully true. My grief lies in the reality that too many of us stop there. Not only do we stop there but we live there, soaking in our depravity until it's all we can see, engulfed in the sin of self hatred. Many often, then approach God in groveling self-loathing or confused hostility, rather than grateful sons and daughters.

Unfortunately some turn their hatred towards God or the church and despise them for "making them feel guilty for who they are". I've seen this too many times and I've lost too many friends to this way of thinking. So this is a call to wake up! We are God's beloved children, "the joy set before Him", and the reason He died. Parents get a special glimpse into this kind of love. We love our children, naughty or nice. Most of us would still give our lives for them on any given day, because to us, they are immeasurably valuable. Fortunately for us, we have a unconditionally loving Parent who has called us the apple of His eye. That's the identity we ought to live out of, the new-creation-image-bearers of the one true God kind of identity. After all..."As a man thinks, so he is". Proverbs 23:7.

I think Romans 7 was meant to be a note of empathy towards us. Proof that even the most prominent apostle struggled with unrelenting sin, a reminder that we are not alone, even in our failings. Which is why Romans 7 is a nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there. This is also true of many of the Psalms. It's good to know that even the great King David, a man after God's own heart struggled with depression and hopelessness at times but clearly his feelings are not recorded so that we learn to be depressed and hopeless. We've got to be wise in how we apply what we read. Doing so in the wrong way can lead us directly out of our narrow path.

One key encouragment in all this is that we have a major part to play in becoming the type of hearer that thrives in spiritual life. God gives us an active role and blessed responsibility regarding the kind of soil our hearts offer Him. Our job is to seek Him, wait on Him, rest in the knowledge that we are His child and not our own project and then wait some more. Soft, open hearted patience is a mighty aid in the creation and maintanance of good soil.

Sow righteousness for yourselves,
reap the fruit of unfailing love,
and break up your unplowed ground;
for it is time to seek the LORD,
until he comes
and showers his righteousness on you. Hosea 10:12 (NIV)


The parable of the sower serves as a warning, a self check tool that reminds us that we can be choked out of our faith if our minds dwell in the wrong place. Living in a defeated mentality will inevitably lead us to defeat. If we're going to go the long haul with Christ without resorting to legalism or indulgence then our only option is to believe the Bible when it tells us that we are not only sinners but saints. A wise teacher once said "sinners are saints in progress."

By the grace of God we've been given the proper dwelling for our minds. My new home is found in this:

Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 2 Cor. 5:17 (KJV)

Friday, August 27, 2010

Props to the Catholics

There has been so much on my mind lately... stuff I would love to fling out onto this blog, like a pulpit for my outrage on various issues. But alas, I have decided to share some positive words instead. Positive words that is, about my Catholic brothers and sisters.

I was raised Catholic. I made my First Holy Communion and participated in the Eucharist. Every Sunday my grandfather and I sat at the back of the church playing 25 games of tic tac toe on the bulletin (insert grandma's disapproving looks here). To be honest I was super bored. It's only recently I have begun to understand the significance of these early spiritually formative years. There was so much I didn't understand. There was so much that went over my head. But I learned that God was present and that Jesus was amazing... the ground of my heart was prepared for my future salvation.

People dump truck loads of criticism on this Church. I have hurled my own judgement on the institution in years past. And yes, some of it is deserved. I have no intention of puffing up the Catholic Church as if it were a poor misunderstood martyr, the victim of bad press. Yet, in the big picture Catholics have contributed a rich quality of Saints to this world. Two of whom God used to help inspire me to keep enduring with Him in the midst of extremely difficult times. Mother Teresa and Saint John of the Cross are individuals whose marks on the world will surely live on, comforting and inspiring others for decades to come. There are also devoted Catholics continuing in the foot steps of these spiritual giants that have impacted me.

In college I spent a lot of time with Benedictine Monks. They graciously allowed me to sit with them during lunches that were eaten silently. From the front a monk would read an excerpt from a book. I found one of these excerpts especially interesting. If my memory serves me correctly the reading was a critique of protestantism. I must say it was a fair and gracious critique and deeply challenged my perception of the protestant reformation. The basic idea framed the pre-reformational church as a group of individuals in a sense "married". The reading portrayed protestants as the discontent spouse who refused to "work it out" and instead chose divorce. The article went on to propose that this may be why there are so many divisions and factions in the protestant church to this day. Perhaps the mentality is, if you don't like your church then leave and make your own or try on another. The challenge of the article was clearly pressing on a weak spot in protestantism, an inability to suffer through disagreements with community in tact.

Before my protestant friends get too frustrated with me, let me explain further. I'm not suggesting that Luther was wrong to launch a reformation. I think he was right to do so in light of the corruption that soaked the church during that time in history. In an ideal world the pope would have seen Luther as a prophet calling his church to repent, but that's all said and done now.

My real message here is that we protestants have missed out on some beautiful teaching, examples, mentorship and fellowship with our Catholic brothers and sisters because of the anti-catholic propaganda we read. I challenge you to ask a priest if he worships Mary and prays to idols. I challenge you to do a google search of convents in your area and ask a nun why she confesses to a priest. I have been blessed to have opportunities like these and I have gotten some very reassuring answers. Part of the problem is that we read biased regurgitated materials rather than discussing differences and misunderstandings in person with devoted catholics, or least researching the topic for ourselves from the original sources.

Granted, there are some very legitimate differences between the two sects but none that I believe should keep us far removed from one another. As protestants we are missing out on thousands of years of wisdom and wise counsel from a whole section of the body of Christ because we think we know what they believe. A whole new world of understanding was opened to me in an extremely vulnerable time of my faith because I softened my heart to Catholic authors such as Henri Nouwen. My hope is that this post will encourage those who feel stale in their faith to dare to look at Jesus afresh. Another perspective may open up a whole new world of spiritual growth.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Chase n the Weeks'

Josiah's first slow dance with little Emmy Weeks.
These guys are such cute little friends. They fight like brother's and sisters, or is that cats and dogs? Anyways, there's a lot more love floating around any way ya slice it... bunch a sweeties! Just some summer sprinkler time.


Rose's pig tails fell out but it's so funny how her hair held its shape... and that famous smile!






Another strangely gloomy summer day. Rose doesn't seem to mind though.










































A Little Video

video

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Losing My Religion: Phase 3 It Was A Good Death

(Important: This is the third entry of a three part article. I recommend going back to the first phase of the series found in this blog for the sake of understanding the context. Thanks.)

Well, hopefully I haven't scared you all off with my intensity. I realize this whole "Losing My Religion" section is very heavy and may even sound depressing to some. But for me it is a story of immense hope. It is my proof that God has amazing 'keeping' power. It reminds me that all the friends I've seen walk away from their faith are being pursued by the same Person who was able to anchor me in my storms.


With that hope in mind I feel more capable of sharing my dying process. One purpose of my long winter was to kill off immaturity, in other words, it was a purification process. Bare with me for a quick side note. Regarding immaturity, I'm not convinced that it can be considered inherently wrong in every situation. A five year old will be immature. It's just the nature of being a child. In the same way, our own spiritual immaturity is to be expected. Immaturity is only dysfunctional if we never grow past our various child like expectations. To keep the faith and innocence of a child is a beautiful thing, but to remain needy and naive like a toddler is just sad.

When I first became a Christian I was soaked with emotional rewards for choosing Jesus. I could easily compare it to the euphoria associated with alcohol or drugs. Since I had just left the party scene I think God allowed similar feelings of euphoria because He knew as a young Christian I would need a lot of emotional motivation to keep me close. As incredibly corny as it sounds I really felt 'high' on Jesus, weird. When those feelings were withdrawn I was beside myself with grief. This was God weaning me from the bottle. He could have allowed me to keep those amazing feelings for the rest of my life, and He does allow some. But for me, this was milk. It was time for move on to solid food. (Hebrews 5:12)


In a recent Bible Study we studied the story of Joseph. If you're not familiar with the story you should go read it in the book of Genesis or else this next part may not make sense. I picture my Dark Night something like the image I envision when Joseph's brothers sell him off to be a slave. God allowed him to be tossed deep into a dark pit so that Joseph "the mommas boy" could die and "Joseph the man" could emerge. I picture myself taking that same death dive deep into real spiritual transformation. Jesus says it best in John 12:24, I tell you the truth, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies it remains alone, but if it dies, it bears much fruit.

My Dark Night began in 1998 and a very slow dawn has been sneaking up on me since the birth of my son Josiah in December of 2006. Now, in retrospect, I can look back at the past four years and see that His light has been warming me and luring me from a cowering posture back to a safe, open faced rest. I can look back and say, I suffered real spiritual torment. But I cannot say I am scarred from the process. On the contrary, I am healed.







p.s. There are few things comparable to the "Dark Night of the Soul". If you are going through something like this there is a book out there with this very title by an old sixteenth century Catholic Spanish mystic named St. John of the Cross. The book was one of the few life lines I had and I highly recommend it, be careful to get a good translation though. If you are in a season like this be encouraged, you are in good company. It's just proof that He is committed to maturing you.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Some Adorables

Uh, hello corny GAP commercial pic, it's still so cute though... shouldn't there be a bat involved with this situation. Where's the props guy when you need him!

I'll eat you up I love you so...


Josiah conquers the Grand Canyon!




Rosie's first smoke with her proud daddy





that face says it all!


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Losing My Religion: Phase 2 Waiting is Hard

http//www.youtube.com/watch?v=AbG4KwjPEdE (This link is a perfect picture of what I believe God was trying to teach in me in my "Dark Night").

If you're just joining the conversation it would be a good idea to go back and read the blog before this for the sake of context, for the rest of us, I'll just jump right in.

In phase 1 of Losing My Religion I realized that God orchestrated the seasons of my life and that I could not often control my spiritual climate. The hardest part about all this for me was the waiting! My dry season lasted for more than eight years! Keep in mind that throughout all this I was still very active in ministry. I taught Bible studies, I co-lead a women's ministry, I was a missionary and I helped to plant a church. I did all this feeling about as much emotional connection to God as I felt towards a stranger on the street. I was tormented by thoughts that Christianity was a a big lie and I was the sucker that got dooped. At times I entertained ideas of divorcing my faith all together but, strangely, it was these thoughts that tethered me back in to God. The thought of leaving Him somehow tugged at a deep part of my heart that was irreversibly welded to Christ. Even though I felt incredibly far removed from Him the thought of abandoning my faith only proved to me that He was real and He was closer than I thought. My thoughts of apostasy, for some reason, evoked an even deeper sense of loyalty to Jesus. But the waiting was killing me! I wanted to know why my "Dark Night" was so long and why it hurt so much. I wanted to know the reason for it.

Sometimes the long wait proved to be too much for me and my sense of hope would run out. It was during these times that I wondered if I was a Christian at all. I thought that maybe I was destined for hell and that's why God was ignoring me. Again, it was in the lowest place that I learned the greatest lesson. I remember thinking "Even if I burn in hell for eternity it is still worth it to live my life for God". I realized then, at that moment, that I belonged to Him. He was stuck with me for good and better than that, He actually did love me. It was that love that tethered me in my many weak moments, and it's why I can understand, if only a little, Jobs statement "Though He slay me, yet I will trust Him". Part of the reason for my dark night was to begin to kill me. That is, to kill the parts of me that kept me from offering deep compassion to others, yet expecting comfort and consolation from God for myself. I am still very much in this process and still have a loooooong way to go. I have so many more thoughts on the subject, but I'll share this for now and hope you join me for phase 3 of Losing My Religion to be completed at some other insomniatic hour in the future. Peace. One last word though...

...a quick commercial for my favorite nun because her example helped me through this tough time!

If ever tempted to pity myself I think of Mother Teresa. She experienced her "Dark Night of the Soul" for forty years! This woman spent those years serving the poorest of the poor, the sickest of the sick all with no sense of God's presence sustaining her. She writes in her journals of deep loneliness and aching for God's comfort in her life. As far as I know in what her journals record, she died with this feeling of emptiness. What amazing loyalty and devotion to God. Most others would've abandoned their posts or worse in the face of this kind of pain. But Mother Teresa waited, she waited and suffered loneliness and deep sadness. It has been said that God never wastes a tear and that all of our pain will be used for good in the end. I believe Mother Teresa is in heaven today reaping all the rewards of her loyalty. Glory to God.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Losing My Religion: Phase 1 I Can't Fix It

My faith journey began a lot more like a love story than a conversion. I'd say I quite literally fell in love with God as a new Christian. I felt His comfort, direction and care in a way that rivaled that of any tangible person in my life. From the day I was reborn God surrounded me with mentors, friends and family that all pushed me closer and closer to my new Divine Friend. The thrill I got from partying couldn't compare with Who I found to take it's place, so I happily dropped it. After high school I went on to attend Bible College because I knew that as a new Christian I would need an environment that would support my choice to follow God. I feared that without this support I would forget Christianity or worse, lose the new Love of my life. Neither of these fears were realized, but a crisis was waiting just outside the reach of my foresight.
I remember it so distinctly, like a switch was shut off in the heavens and the feeling of God's presence was gone. The intensity of the emptiness and sense of abandonment I felt at that time is difficult for me to describe. Let's just say I was overcome with disillusionment. I went to various church leaders for help and spiritual guidance. They all told me the same thing, "You must be in sin". Maybe they were mentored by Jobs friend Bildad in Chapter 18 ;) . I readily accepted this explanation and begged God to show me what I was doing wrong, so I could repent. Thus began the witch hunt for my mystery sin. I played the guessing game with God, like a pathetic game of charades. "Sounds like..., am I getting warmer?" This went on for about three years until I became frustrated with God. I was desperately trying to repent of whatever it was that caused Him to withdraw the sense of His presence. I began to see God as an aloof mocker of my efforts to love, honor and seek Him. I didn't realize that in trying to discover my secret sin I had committed a much worse error, I was really trying to "God" myself. I somehow thought that self-hatred, self condemnation and a merciless self examination would get me back into the Lord's good graces. With a deep sense of grief I can clearly see I was wrong. I finally came to the conclusion that the wild goose could not be caught. There was no habitual, willful sin in my life that God had clearly asked me to turn from. There were plenty of imperfections, mistakes and ways I fell short, as there still are, believe me! But I could have sworn that's what Jesus died for, willful sinning included! On this earth we will always live with shortcomings and flaws. Then the light bulb turned on. IT WASN'T MY FAULT!
Within a week of my light bulb moment I gained a deeper insight into what it was that was happening to me. I saw a picture of a tree in the winter. There was a clouded sky in the background giving only that special kind of glow that an overcast day can give. The silhouette of the dead looking tree, strangely, gave me a deep sense of hope. We all go through seasons. We cannot control the seasons, they are in the hand of God alone. The tree couldn't help that it was winter. It just was. The tree couldn't make the sun come out, or grow leaves. All it could do was wait. All I could do was wait. Anyone out there a fan of waiting? My spiritual winter had little to do with me and my performance, but everything to do with God's plan to prune and mature me. This realization helped to correct my anger and confusion at Him. I knew my emptiness had a purpose and I believe it was this sense of purpose that empowered me to wait another five years, when my long winter finally started to show signs of letting up...
There will be more to come in my story of losing my religion and for the sake of clarity, I am referring to the type of religion that is an ugly contradiction of true spirituality. That is, the religion that demands to be in control and dominate through performance, laying guilt trips on its disciples. I look forward to sharing more of this story with you. My winter season created a depth of compassion for others and loyalty to God that I am sure I wouldn't have learned without it. Phase 2 of this story will come another day. I know there is a handful of people who keep up with this blog. Love you guys.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Stay At Home Mom-ness

I've heard it said that the love a mother has for her children is the deepest type of human love one can experience on this earth. I would have to say, as far as I know, that's true. At least for me. It's worth all the garbage women have to endure in this world.
In the spirit of loving my kiddies I'd like to write a little about each of them. Let's start with my Rose. She turned one May 31st and I would say the words that best describe her would be intuitive, happy and tenacious. This is mine and Rose's honeymoon phase. We giggle and play and sure she bites me from time to time but then she shoots me that three toothed, wrinkled nose, shoulder shrugging grin and amnesia sets in. She is not a huge fan of large groups, loud overbearing greetings or strangers. In the absence of these things there is nothing to quench the beauty that illuminates her jack-o-lantern smile.

Next, Josiah. He is pretty much one of the coolest cats I have ever known. He is a natural charmer although he is still experimenting with what is charming and winsome and what is just annoying and rude. He figures it out pretty quickly in most situations, proof laying in the fact that at today's gathering he was the husband of about 3 of his female cohorts. He loves to be the hero but is also, hands down, the most compassionate three year old I have ever known. If someone could be an emotional genius I think it would be him. Now, I can't get too carried away here. He still has his tantrums and various discipline issues but even in the midst of those he is regularly asking for forgiveness and offering empathy to his discipliners... weird. My real challenge with him comes in the form of a little boy, energy, wiggles and roughness at the wrong places, with the wrong people at the wrong times. He is incredibly energetic and talkative. I honestly cannot keep up with this part of him. But I am learning and he is growing in self-control, so thankfully we are both on a journey to make life a little easier for one another.
While I do look forward to the day I start my career out there in the big world, I would rather die than swap these precious years with my kiddos. Eventually, when the time is right, I'll get myself back into school to pursue my doctorate in psychology, but until that day I will be present in this moment, enjoying Rose and Josiah.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Fine Art of Unbusyness

I recently read an excellent book called the Contemplative Pastor by Eugene Peterson. I found it put words to the many feelings and impressions that had been stewing in my mind over the last year or so. I felt so refreshed by his words and hope to share some of these pearls in the next paragraph or so. That is, pearls integrated with some of my own musings on Peterson's wisdom.
Each chapter in this book wrinkled my brain in new and lovely ways but this blog will zero in on Peterson's chapter entitled The Unbusy Pastor. Just to be clear I do not consider myself to be a pastor in the traditional meaning of the word but I do know we are all called to lead and teach something to someone, sometime in our lives, so arguably, in this small we way all share in the work of shepherding to some capacity. It was in this spirit that I applied this book to myself. Ok, enough with the disclaimer and onto the juicy stuff.
Our culture is plagued with busyness. It is one of the ways we measure our importance and I would even dare to say it is a subversive way of saying to others "I matter! I'm important! I'm busy! People need me!" These proclamations are not necessarily wrong but I wonder if we realize the potential danger in constantly filling our schedules with "stuff". One cost to the 'rat race' life style is community. One may argue that they are busy doing things with their communities and to that I would say, good. Maybe you are busy about the right things. But too often our busyness is not about community. It is about making more money, people pleasing, building a false sense of self importance and avoiding the real problems in our lives that have gone undealt with for too long. My words may sound a bit strong here but they are meant to.
Sadly I have seen this type of dangerous ambition creep into the church and nearly crush the wind pipe of many Christians under its yoke, myself included. A Christian group I helped to start built it's foundations on the premise that the cost of leadership involved this kind of full calender type of ministry. My leader at the time actually discouraged me from taking a sabbath because he did not believe the New Testament supported this kind of regular rest, Hebrews 4:12 disagrees however. I get tired even remembering this season in my life and pray that you have been spared this incorrect doctrine. The ending was very sad for the original leaders that helped to found this group. A disproportionate amount of attention was given to task and programs. Inevitably, the better part was forgotten, relationship (Luke 10:41-42). Our relationships were destroyed, marriages strained and broken, friendships ended. But God is faithful and the group continues on in health, minus the original leaders. It was unfortunate and unnecessary that there were so many causalities along the way. I count this as a valuable lesson in my life. A full calender does not necessarily equate to a full ministry. It may equate to more of a red flag. Extreme busyness can sometimes be indicative of immaturity because I have observed that it is the younger folk that are seduced.
As we grow in our faith we begin to trust in the soveriegnty of God more. We begin to see Him faithfully bringing people in and out of various seasons of life with or without our involvement, yet we are blessed and called to be a part of the process. Not because it can't happen without us, but because the Lord wants it to happen with us. Resting in this truth has brought an unparalleled peace to my spirit and refreshed enthusiasm in my attitude towards service. I sense my burdens lightening even in the rememberance of these things.
Do not misunderstand what I am saying here. I am not advocating that we go to the other end of the spectrum, throw our calenders in the trash, quit our jobs and all earthly commitments and stare at one another in sweet community all day. Clearly we are not called to be a bunch of slackers sipping coffee with one another. Work is good. Commitments are good. The question is this. Are our schedules God directed, or are they directed by our culture of self-importance? Or here's another way of putting it. Does our desire to achieve override our desire to relate? Your calender will tell you.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Mystery

I love the Bible. I love that God has given us clear boundaries to live within and I don't find His boundaries a drudgery to honor. They make sense. I have heard that a life without boundaries can be compared to a freeway overpass with no railings, it is not more freeing, it is only more scary and more dangerous.
Here's when the tension comes in. The Bible I believe in says of itself that it could not contain all the things that Jesus said and did (John 21:25). In other words the Bible is true but not exhaustive. The apostle Paul says that for now (that is on earth) we only see through a glass darkly, meaning we won't have total clarity in many areas until we're in heaven. I just happen to love that God left us with so many muddled areas in this life. This leaves room for so much diversity within the body of Christ and gives us even more incentive to talk to God on a regular basis. Utter brilliance... only let us see through a glass darkly. This makes it so difficult to judge others or turn our Savior into a formula. The mysteries of God remind me how big He really is, and gray areas force me to prayerfully discern the finer points of truth. This push to think has made me a better a listener and a more patient friend to my King.
The mysteries of God are some of the very reasons I am so intrigued by Christianity. I am captivated by this God-Man called Jesus that has enraptured the hearts of so many for so long. How does He do it? There's only one reason. He answers back to the emptiness in our hearts and says "I can satisfy you, when nothing else does". Human hearts ache for compassion and answers. This collective heart begs for something it cannot always name. But He has name. That, I know.

First Things First

For those of you who don't know me very well I just wanted to include a brief story of how I came to be where I am today. One name sums it up. Jesus. I firmly believe that God divinely intervened on my behalf in the 17th year of my life. To be more correct, I see how He was drawing me to Himself all my life. If you're reading this and you're not "churchy" don't give up on me yet. This will be short and sweet. When I was 17 God figuratively grabbed me by the shoulders and shook me awake into His invitation to walk with Him. I accepted and although my walk has at times looked more like a crawl it has never stopped. With God I have been elated, confused, angry, in love and just plain beside myself with awe and gratefulness. I love Him dearly and He's got a firm grasp on me.

My First Real Blog!

First off I must confess I feel a bit hypocritical starting a blog when I, in fact, literally never read blogs. Well, that's not completely true there are two friends whose blogs I read from time to time but that's because I find them a bit mysterious and it is my humble attempt to understand them better. I suppose this blog of mine is my humble attempt to be understood. I have recently re-entered my home land of southern California after living overseas, out of state and just simply out of sight for the past 13 years. It has been a strange re-entering in that I have been welcomed home with open arms but confused faces that seem to be asking "Is this the desi I once new?" The truth is some things never change. I am still a thinker-introvert-evangelist-goofball. I'm sure anyone could think of ways in which we all stay the same. But the truth is God has also done a lot of work with me and I do return home changed from His dealings. To be quite honest it feels a little gross to write about myself. I have never enjoyed the spotlight and quickly divert it when it happens to fall on me. Unfortunately this discomfort with attention has also caused me problems. I have been called mysterious, intimidating and stand offish. I guess this blog is my attempt to grow out of these characteristics, or at least grow through them. This may end up my public journal that only I read, but it is my attempt to mature and hopefully shed some of the intimidating stand offish ways I unintentionally learned along the way. I hope to do this through sharing some thoughts on God and love and life, and not venting my feelings or focusing directly on myself. I think one of the best ways to get to know someone is to understand what really wakes them up from the routine of the day, so that is what I intend to share here on a somewhat regular basis. I would love to discuss these things with those of you who read, so leave comments... the good the bad and the ugly.