Jeremiah 29:11: For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, "plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you a hope and a future."

Friday, December 31, 2010

Spiritual Snickers Bars

I'm still thinking about intimacy with God and that chapter from Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver.

One of the concepts that she writes about that I'm thinking on is what she refers to as "spiritual Snickers Bars". She relates how a friend of hers once planned a small dinner party. Her friend spent the entire day cleaning the house and preparing special foods because she wanted this dinner to be a delightful experience for her guests. But around 4PM her friend realized that she'd not taken time to eat and she was ravenous. Her friend thought it was lucky that she kept a secret stash of Snickers bars and she helped herself to two bars from her stash while she took a much deserved break. But that night when her friend sat down to dinner she discovered a problem; there was the wonderful dinner she'd worked hard to prepare, but she no longer had any appetite.

Weaver relates that her friend said that God spoke to her heart that: "we often fill our lives with spiritual Snickers bars - things like friends, books, and shopping. They may be good things, completely innocent things - but not when they take the edge off our hunger for God". Weaver goes on to pose the question of what we turn to fill up our hunger for God.

I've been pondering this question the last couple of days. I see TV, food, and day dreams as my current appetite killers. In the past business was on the list too but my husband John and I have sought during these last few years to simplify and declutter our lives so that now business isn't really a problem. I'm praying for God to empower me to be aware when these innocent things in my life are killing my appetite for Him. I'm also praying that He'd help me come up with creative ways to change my lifestyle and create new habits that sustain my appetite for Him.

What about you, have you noticed any "Spiritual Snickers Bars" that you've been eating lately?

What's God up to?

As I'm here for a few moment on New Year's Eve, I'm thinking about the change in perspective that has come about for me this year.

In the past I've been a person who always had a plan, really into goal setting. While I still find that there's something to be appreciated about the mentality, I've loosened up a lot. It's like I told a friend recently, I've come to the place where I'm much less invested in praying and striving for my specific outcomes. Repeatedly I've seen that God works in ways that I would have never figured, does things that surprise me. Yet His ways are always ultimately best (even though I can't always see this at the time). It's as if I've come to be more interested to trying to figure out what God is doing, and to join in with His work. I find myself asking - what's God up to?

I'm like everybody else, I've got some trying situations in my life. One of my sisters is a paranoid schizophrenic who refuses to take medication and who frequently mis perceives situtations and make corresponding bad decisions that put her in danger or make life difficult. My other sister lives with my mother and does not treat my mother right, and is extremely irresponsible with money so I'm constantly needing to help them out financially; I have concerns for my neice in that whole situation. My middle son appears spiritually uninterested. My youngest son seems to seek to spend the least amount of time possible around me, as if my very presence is a source of annoyance. I'm working at a job where I'm coming to admire, like, and appreciate the people with whom I work, but that is beneath my abilities, credentials, and training. The job also pays significantly less than I've made in any position in the past ten years and involves a long commute which I do not relish. Yet I know that God says in Jeremiah 29:11 that He has a plan for my life, a plan to give me a hope and a future.

Repeatedly in the past I've seen God take situations that seemed wretched or hopeless, in my own life or in the lives of others, and bring good outcomes. I'm reminded of a verse in Ephesians 3:20 that says that God is able to do beyond what I can even imagine. So as I look at these difficult situations in my life, I approach this new year expectantly, interested to see how God is going to work in these situations. I also desire to learn to pray more (more effectively, frequently...I'm not sure exactly how to say it...only just that I want more in my life with regard to prayer). I want to be able to hear His voice better and to have my way of thinking to change to come more into line with His way of thinking. I want to see more of His power manifest in my life. These are the things I'm looking to for this upcoming year.

What about you, what's on your heart as you approach 2011?

Thursday, December 30, 2010

What was one of your favorite things this Christmas?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are sharing about something we enjoyed most this Christmas. I'm sharing a bit today about my family's great experience with our advent wreath devotions.

What was one of your favorite things this Christmas?

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How comfortable are you with intimacy?

Every 2nd and 4th Tuesday I look forward to our small group. We've been reading a chapter from a book entitled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World by Joanna Weaver prior to each meeting and then going through a corresponding Bible study at the back of the book when we meet.

As I'm looking forward to our time together tonight I'm reflecting on the chapter for this week; it's about intimacy with God. I approached this chapter with some trepidation because the truth of the matter is that, although I long for intimacy with God, I'm not at all good at being close to God or to people either. I'm one of those people who it takes a really long time before I'm comfortable around others. If I'm totally candid, the truth is that just as I don't know what to say when I'm around people (aside from those very few with whom I've become totally comfortable), it frequently feels awkward unless there's some specific agenda that is to take place (as in work relationships).

In the past I've frequently approached God much the same way. Comfortable to use the passage from Matthew 6:9-13 as an outline, or to work my way through a specific Bible study curriculum, or even to just read the Bible. What I'm not particularly comfortable with is being quiet, being "with" God, or to take out more than 20 minutes for prayer.

Because of this deficit in me, I approached this chapter eager to learn. I'm sure grateful that we have a Heavenly Father who accepts us as we are, yet works with us to change and grow and become better.

What about you, are you, how would you rate your intimacy with God? Do you feel close to God? Do you know you're living in connection with Him and experiencing the outgrowth of that connection in your life, work, and relationships?

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas time musings

Everything has just seemed so extra amped up lately; all the usual PLUS kind of thing. Today I'll be attending my fourth Christmas party connected to my job; there've been so many because of the various types of staff with whom I work and there have been parties to cater to each group. So I've had that plus most of the regular duties. But I find myself continually grateful that I work with such good and kind people, I really like them.

Last night as I drove back into our mountain town I was greeted by a light dusting of snow. My heart rejoiced. Not only in the beauty of the snow, but also in the release from the downpour of rain that has been upon us this week; it's felt as if buckets of water were being continually poured. We need the water in California but the volume was more than could be absorbed.

As I'm leaving for work today I'm thinking about how grateful I am for all Christmas represents for me. Grateful that God chose to leave His glory, majesty, and power and come here to earth in human flesh - grateful for Jesus.

My prayer for myself and all of my brothers and sisters in Christ is that we would experience His great love in a fresh new way, and in doing so, be able to pass that love along today to the people in our lives this day.

Friday, December 17, 2010

A different kind of investment group

I was thinking today about a group that I belong to and how it's a different kind of investment group.

Instead of keeping each other informed about stocks and bonds and investment opportunities, we keep each other informed about our lives. Instead of investing our money, we're investing our time into one another.

Currently there are four of us women and we meet together twice each month. When we meet we talk and laugh a lot. Three of us have teenagers and we share our struggles and triumphs with our kids. We talk about the challenges in our lives. We pray for one another. We share in each other's victories. We study the Bible together. One of the ladies plays the guitar, and she always plays a few songs of praise, adoration and worship that we sing together.

We've been meeting together for close to two years. I'm so grateful that I had these friends when I went through a bunch of terrible stuff at my old job, and when I even lost my job. That was totally devasting and it made such a difference to not have to go through that alone. Sometimes when something really good happens to me, I look forward to getting to share with these ladies all about it. Mostly I just look forward to getting to "let down my hair", to talk and laugh with these ladies. My sons and husband have always been amazed in general with how much women have to talk about when they get together. To me it's just one of the things I adore about women.

I couldn't resist posting this picture because I think it depicts that type of connection that can happen among women. That silly, fun, sisterhood kind of thing.

What about you, do you have a group in your life that makes all the difference for you?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are sharing about Christmas. My post today is about some fond Christmas memories.

What are some of your favorite Christmas memories?

Thursday, December 9, 2010

What new beginnings have you experienced?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are celebrating the the fact that Tony C and his wife just had a baby! In honor of the event we're posting about new life. My post today is about new beginnings with God.

What new beginnings have you experienced?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

'Tis the Season

I don't know about you, but Christmas kind of slipped up on me this year. It was as if all of the sudden I turned around and Thanksgiving was over, and I was hearing Christmas music everywhere and hadn't had any time to get going on all the Christmas stuff.

I'm sure grateful that our Tuesday small group has been doing a Bible study along with a companion book that's entitled Having a Mary Heart in a Martha World. One of the points that the book's author, Joanna Weaver, makes in the book is that there are many good things that you can do, worthy and wonderful causes to which you can comit, but that you'll end up burned out if these are not the things to which God is specifically calling you. She refers to one of my favorite scriptures from Matthew 11:27-29 where Jesus asks if the people are burned out and encourages them that if they follow Him, they don't have to live that way. Weaver makes the point that sometimes we end up burned out and frustrated because we load ourselves down with good things that God isn't calling us to, and that if we'd just take the time to follow what He has for us, that we'll be able to live in His peace.

So, as this Christmas season is beginning, I've been mulling around the question of what's God calling me to this Christmas? How does He want me to lead my family?

I don't know that I have the entire answer yet, but God has spoken a few things to my heart. He's spoken to my heart the need for traditions that keep Jesus center, the need for service and giving, the need to recognize that as my children grow some of the things we've always done won't continue to be relevant, and the need to recognize that the "perfect Christmas" is NOT what it's all about.

So as we're starting the season I've been making some changes to the usual "perfect Christmas" stuff that I do that always leaves me so tired. Like decorating the house. Over the years I've collected many wonderful gifts, things my sons have made, and even some things I've purchased myself, that I use to decorate. In the past we've literally removed boxes of books, framed photos, wall art, and other home decorations to make room for all the Christmas things. All that takes a lot of work. This year we chose instead to only remove a few things and put out our two large nativity sets, put up a live tree with white lights (which we'll eventually decorate), have our advent wreath on the dining table, and a "Celebrate Jesus" banner outside. For this year, we're simplifying and doing without the rest.

As I've recognized that my 2 sons still at home are now practically adults, I realize that they have no desire to particpate in many of the things such as the Christmas chain, 7 presents for Jesus box opening, etc. that we've done in the past. So the only tradition we've kept from those is the advent wreath which we started tonight (I know, our family's time line has never followed with the rest of the liturgical world, and we've always done the dates a bit different. My sons have never noticed because we've always attended churches that have little to no liturgy). Even tonight the boys seemed a bit resistant, but I persevered to keep the priority of what really matters. For us this time of candle lighting, scripture reading, and reflection on our Hope, Joy, Love, and Peace in Christ, keeps the season in perspective. I'd mentioned earlier in the week that we'd be starting the advent wreath tonight, then today I checked with everybody to set a time to get together. But as that time advanced there were two schools friends at the house and the boys didn't want to do the advent wreath. I explained that I'm not asking a lot, but that this 15 minute time together is priority and that their friends were welcome to either join us or stay downstairs playing some Madden football video game in which I'd found them all engaged. Although I recognize that a more spiritual person than I would have somehow managed to get the friends engaged too, I was simply grateful that my own boys came to the advent table; that this did not become an issue of contention. I think that keeping to just this one thing that we all do together increased their willingness (of course the fact that this is the one time in a year that I have egg nog avaible doesn't hurt either). I was grateful that as we each took turns reading the script, scriptures, and prayers, that everyone got into the message.

I'm still praying about what God would have us specifically do this year with reguard to giving and serving. There have been some awesome projects which we've been involved with in the past that we could do again,...or maybe God's calling us to a new thing this year. We'll see.

What about you, how's the Christmas season starting out for you this year? What are some things that you do to make Christmas meaningful for you?

Thursday, December 2, 2010

What has God taught you this past year?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are celebrating the first anniversary of the Blog by each sharing about something God has taught us this past year.

I'd be interested to know, either here, or over there, what's something God's taught you this past year?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Warning: Rant Post

My youngest two sons, ages 18 & 16 are driving me nuts!

OK, so I may very well have already been nuts even before they came along, or for sure by the time they became teens. But still, they really are getting to me.

Great marytr that I am, I feel like I do a lot for them. Feel like I go out of my way to pack them great lunches and ensure we have nutritious dinners together. Plan my schedule around their events. Go to any sporting event in which they particpate, even if it is a 2hr drive after a work day followed by a 1 1/2 hour drive to get home. Try to foster a home life that involves prayer and seeking after God. get the idea.

But their perception of me and my perception are not at all the same. According to them there seems nothing that I do right. Life is a never ending litany of hearing how I didn't do this or that, or did such and such wrong, or that I'm too negative, or that I should do this or that for them.

Agggghhhh, I'm letting these guys really get to me!

Any other parents of teenagers out there? Do your kids ever act entitled and unappreciative? (Although the Bible is clear that we're not to compare ourselves to others I'm here trying to find others who feel the same so I won't feel like quite such a failure. So I can say, see so and so is someone who I really like and he has the same challenges that I do with my teens)

Friday, November 26, 2010

It's not easy forgiveness that's the problem, it's denial

For my new job I have to drive quite a distance, and for some time due to traffic, so I've taken to checking books on CD out from the local county library. Recently I've been listening to a trilogy The Seasons of Grace by Beverly Lewis. These books have got me thinking on some things.

I've been thinking about various relgious groups' approach to sin in the life of their followers. I've never been comfortable with how some groups require their members to do actions, a pentance of some kind, as part of the process of forgiveness. I think of Bible passages such as Titus 3:4-6, 2 Corinthians 5:15-17, Psalm 130:3-5, 1 John 1:4-10 that show God's forgiveness. I see that God is gracious to give us forgiveness based on His character, not on the basis of our deeds or worthiness.

However, I think the concern for many is that if we offer an “easy forgiveness”, that sin and it’s results will be neglected. In retrospect I think that the Christian tradition I’ve lived much of my life around has somewhat done that very thing; or more certainly, I can see how in the past, in my eagerness to emphasize the forgiveness of God, I’ve not always fully dealt with the sin.

The problem with that is that the sin itself does have repercussions. The reason God considers some actions as sin is because they harm ourselves or others. So, even though we can live in His forgiveness and without guilt, we still need to deal with our sin so we can be healthy and mature. We need to look at what went wrong and why, at who all it affected and if there are actions we need to take to make amends to those we’ve hurt by our sin, or if there are changes we need to make in our life to avoid this sin in the future. Sometimes even though forgiveness is given instantly, it may take time for the people whom we have hurt to process through their own emotions before we can re-establish relationships.

All of this takes time and is a process. Yet we live in an instant, micro wave, society. But I can tell you that as I look back on my life and those with whom I’m close, that we never grow and have the kind of life and relationships that we want unless we go ahead and engage in this process; it’s one of those things that must happen sooner or later.

What about you, do you ever struggle with achieving the balance between forgiveness and dealing with sin?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

A special Sunday

As I've mentioned here before, I have to work to refrain from being negative, critical and a complainer. It is only as I spend time in the Word, letting the Holy Spirit change the way I think, that I can choose to live differently.

By Saturday night I'd just about lost my will to even try; I was feeling discouraged and negative. As I went to bed I promised myself that I would refrain from the temptation to lick my wounds in private, to isolate, and instead I would make myself go to church the following morning. I mean, after all here I was praying that God would empower me to change my attitude, who knows that He might not use the service to do that very thing?

This morning I woke up to the phone ringing, a fact which I totally ignored. Then my cell phone rang with my son's ring tone (need I mention that this was the son whose been giving me all kinds of grief lately?!) I answered the phone to find out that he was on Hwy 2 and his friend could drive him no further since his friend did not have chains for his car; my groggy, sleep laden, brain was slowly grasping that this must mean that it snowed last night. I assured him that I'd be right there to pick him up. I quickly dressed and went outside to see that beautiful sight of first snow. The world dusted with that pristine whiteness. How could even my morning crabby self not rejoice in such beauty and splendor!

Church was really something. It reminded me of why I love belonging to a local group of Believers.

Unfortunately the pastor fainted between the two services and had to leave via ambulance. A fact of which, since I arrived to the second service just a few minutes late, I was unaware. The music worship time was, as always, a time when I felt brought into the presence of God. When I felt privileged to get to praise His great and awesome name. Then one of the leaders got up and explained about the pastor and, since the pastor was not there to preach, this man shared from his own heart what God has been teaching him.

This leader who shared is not a public speaker kind of guy. He's a recently retired CPA. But he's a man who has a genuine relationship with the savior, and in whose life God is working; so of course he has something to share. He gave a good word for about 6 or 7 minutes. It blessed me to see how God works in everyone's heart and life who is open; this brother's word that God's been working in his life validated that truth. Then he said that since it's the week of Thanksgiving, he wanted to open it up for anyone to share with the group what they are thankful concerning.

As I heard my brothers and sisters share, my heart just overflowed. I felt so grateful to be part of this group, so grateful to get to have each of them in my life. There were a couple of men there who I knew had lost jobs this past year during this time of economic trouble, yet there they were expressing words of gratitude for God's goodness and faithfulness. There was a woman rejoicing in the pain she'd encountered as a youngster growing up in a home where fighting and bad feelings had existed between her parents that had made her own life troublesome, yet here she was giving thanks because she appreciated so deeply the wonderful husband, children, and family she enjoys today. A woman who I greatly admire was transparently admitting that she's sought to avoid calls from a woman who was an incredibly time demanding and difficult person, who suffers from debilitating anxiety, but that just the night before God has used her to take the woman to the ER and minister to her through prayer and His Word. Repeatedly as people shared, my heart was blessed by their humility, openness, and grateful attitudes. It is indeed wonderful to be a part of a local family in Christ!

What about you, has God blessed you recently through your church?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Choosing to Believe

This morning as I was spending time reading the Bible the following words from 1 Peter 4:19B caught my attention:

"trust yourself to God who made you, for He will never fail you."

The context of these words was that Peter was writing to Christians who were undergoing persecution for being Christians. In the preceding verses Peter had talked about how if you suffer for doing wrong, it's not to your credit, but that you should count yourself blessed if you suffer for following Christ's ways.

I'm not being persecuted for being a Christian. But there are certainly things in my life which, through no actual fault of my own, do not go well for me. There are things with which I'm struggling. There is stuff about which I'm frustrated. There are some situations that I do not know how to make what would feel "right" to me.

So today I'm choosing to remind myself of these few words.

I think trusting myself to God means that even when I don't see what I think I should be seeing, I choose to believe good about God. Choose to believe that He really does have it all in control and is working things for my good in terms of the big picture scheme of things. Today I'm choosing to trust myself to my creator and to remind myself that no matter how things may seem, the truth is that He will never fail me.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Growing in God

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we are each sharing about something God has changed our mind about.

I'd be interested to know, either here, or over there, what's something God's changed your mind about?

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Always an Arnold fan

The other night Arnold Schwarzenegger was interviewed on Jay Leno and my husband John recorded it so we could watch the interview together. While I was watching the interview, I remembered why I've always liked the man and appreciated his term as governor of California.

He wouldn't talk about who he voted for as the new governor, or how he felt about who won, but he repeatedly insisted that we've got to get past party politics, learn to compromise, and move ahead in California. As always, I appreciated both his tact and his humor. My ever frugal husband John adored when he heard that Arnold makes his family stick to 5 minute showers since we have issues with having enough water in California!

It's been hard times in both California and the rest of the country these past few years and I hate that it's all been blamed on Arnold here in California. I want to take a few moments to note some of the wonderful things Arnold did manage to do while in office:
  • As a person who ran a business, I was over the top delighted with the workers compensation reform that's taken place.
  • Then there's the endless list of environmental laws, of reducing greenhouse gases and of having our energy come from 33 percent renewables
  • He pushed though proposition 49, referred to as "The After School Education and Safety Program Act of 2002."
  • He pushed through propositions 57 & 58, both of which were not popular but were necessary. They were a valid attempt to help solve some of the state's financial problems. But, obviously, they did not solve the problems. He's had to make a lot of unpopular cuts but what else could he do given the state's economic crunch?
  • He's always been supportive of gay rights and civil unions but has not supported same sex marriages. A fact that I've appreciated and for which he's been highly criticized.
  • I don't know that it has helped California per say, but I've always appreciated his wife and his involvement to the Special Olympics which are a cause near and dear to my heart since I've spent many years working with Developmentally Disabled adults.
I appreciated the comment he made during the Leno interview that:

"You can't go around and declare victory about all of the things we have done when, in fact, too many people are out of work, too many people suffering and too many people have no homes or losing their homes,"

There's definitely still a lot to be done in California.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Happy Birthday to Dylan

Today is my middle son's 18th Birthday.

These last couple of years we've experienced some pretty intense tension between us. I think part of that has been due to the very fact that he is becoming a man and becoming his own person.

As I contemplate his step into official "adulthood" today I find myself thinking back to the child he once was, the vision God spoke to my heart about Dylan's destiny, and my gratitude for the person who is Dylan.

There are a few images that will always remain vivid for me regarding Dylan as a boy. When he was 3 & 4 yrs old and the puzzle king; he always wanted to do new and more difficult puzzles. The time after his father had taken him to the circus when he was about 7 yrs old and he was fully delighted with clowns; he wore that top part of a clown head around the house for days giggling as he thought back to the silly clowns. The time he came home from a camp where he spent a week with a counselor and other boys in a tepee; he got off the bus wearing the exact same clothes that he had worn when he left (and I later found all the clean clothes still in his suitcase), a fake coon skin cap on his head, and a huge grin on his face. When he was in 5th grade and liked some girl at school so he bought her an imitation rose at the corner 7-11 store and took it to her at school; I don't think she received it so well since I never heard another thing about it.

Several years ago God gave me a Word about Dylan's destiny and I wrote it out on paper and framed it and put it on his wall. The gist in what God showed me at that time was that God created Dylan to be someone who would make friends easily, and that God would use that to cause Dylan to have a wide sphere of influence. That God would use Dylan to impact the people around him, to lead many people into relationship with God through Christ. Also that God would develop Dylan to be a true and faithful friend.

I'm grateful that Dylan is my son. Grateful for his big heart and unashamed ability to shower affection on those around him. Grateful that he is a person who is moved with compassion for the needs of others. Grateful that he knows how to work hard when he chooses. Grateful that he wants to do something with his life and recognizes that money is not everything.

So here's to Dylan on the big 18.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Sometimes even my dog is smarter than me

Our dog's name is Jake. We got him from the pound about 4ys ago, when he was close to 5 months old. He's a black, mostly lab with some pit thrown in, dog. He's a real sweet heart who adds a lot of love and joy to our family.

I've often noticed that it doesn't matter where he is, he always finds it exciting when I call to him to come with me to some new location. Even when I'm just getting him to leave the house and go into the back yard. He perks up and seems all excited about the new things to come. He always assumes some new, good, thing or experience is coming his way.

I was thinking about this today and wondering why. I think it's because he just loves and trusts me so much, he's happy and secure knowing I'll only ever do him good.

I'm a good pet owner, but certainly not a perfect one. Yet God is perfect. But I don't always show positive enthusiasm for changes that God allows in my life. It's like I say I trust Him, BUT...

What about you, do you react to change with positive expectancy?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Waiting on the blessing

Sometimes there are truths that I know, but about which I still need to be reminded.

Such was the case in our pastor's sermon today. He's been preaching through the book of 1 Peter on Sundays, and I especially appreciated today's message. He was looking at 1 Peter 3:13-17 and how God can bring blessing through suffering.

I've mentioned both over on Kingdom Bloggers and here about how "The plan" didn't turn out how it was supposed to with regard to my work. That after being unemployed for close to 18 months, I'm now working an hour commute from home for 58% less than I previously made at the company for which I'd worked for 9 years. In one sense of the word, I see this as suffering.

The pastor used an analogy to which I could relate. He talked about how in a kid's mind his parents are being good to him if they give the kid everything the kid wants, when he wants it. But we all know that parents who do that cause their children to become lazy, entitled, and less appealing human beings. As good parents, we don't always give our child everything he wants, but we do make sure to give him everything he needs. The pastor pointed out that this is how God is with us. That sometimes there are situations in our lives that are not what we want, but may very well be what we need.

He talked about how sometimes God will use some situations that are tough for us, to bring truth to others. Or how He will sometimes use tough times in our lives to develop us into better people. How ultimately God does want our best and how we can continue to wait on Him until we see the blessing in situations. He made a statement about how he chooses to be the kind of person who will wait on God until God either changes the circumstances, or until God changes him.

I want to be that kind of person too.

What about you, do you have any circumstances in your life right now where you're in a tough situation and waiting on God to see what He wants to do through this situation?

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Praying Through

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we've been sharing something each of us is in the midst of praying through concerning.

I'd be interested to know, weather you'd like to share here or over there, what are you praying for? How long have you been praying about this? What's your experience been ?

Saturday, October 30, 2010

How do you look at celebrating Halloween?

Have you ever noticed that we're not all the same?

There really can be things that two people of Faith feel differently regarding.

The apostle Paul addressed this whole issue in
1 Corinthians 8:4-15. Specifically, in this passage Paul is referring to meal offered to idols. In that time people sacrificed animals to specific idols and people could later purchase that meat to use for eating. Some Believers felt it was wrong to eat that meat because they felt like it would be worshiping those idols. Other Believers thought that since they were not eating the meat for the purpose of anything other than food, it was fine to go ahead and eat it. Paul tells the Believers that of course the meat means nothing and pointed out in the end of verse 8 that:

"We don’t lose anything if we don’t eat it, and we don’t gain anything if we do."

Then Paul goes on to say that we need to be careful as people of Faith to look out not only for ourselves, but also for others. If a Believer, by eating that meat that was sacrificed to idols, would cause another Believer to stumble, even though there was really nothing wrong with doing it, than it should be avoided. In verse 9 Paul says:

"But you must be careful so that your freedom does not cause others with a weaker conscience to stumble."

I find similarities in this situation to many of the current festive celebrations that we have today that had pagan roots - such as Halloween.

Although Halloween's origins were pagan, just like the meat sacrificed to idols, that is not what I see being celebrated by most Americans today. For most of us, Halloween is about young children getting to wear fun costumes and get candy. I do not see celebrating Halloween as harmful to my faith. But I know some very wonderful Christian brothers and sisters that do.

In an attempt to address this issue in the same kind of spirit that Paul describes in the 1 Corinthians 8:4-15 passage, many Christian churches try to provide alternate, fun, child centered activities close to the day of Halloween. You'll see an abundance of things titled "Harvest Festival", "Fall Fun Days", etc. at this time of year at many Christian churches. The church that I attended when I used to live in a large, urban, area used to have a huge fall carnival on Halloween night every year. Children could dress up if they chose, and there were lots of fun booths that were manned by volunteers. I volunteered at that carnival, and my sons attended it, most of the years I lived in that area and it was a lot of fun. Hundreds of local people enjoyed the fun and safety for their little ones.

What about you, do you think it's OK for Christians to celebrate Halloween? Why or Why not?

Friday, October 29, 2010

It's here again

I've never liked Daylight Savings Time.

So I'm not looking forward to the change this Saturday night.

At the risk of exposing my truly grumpy self I'll explain my thought process:
Mornings are not that great any way (I'm so NOT a morning person), so who cares if they're dark. You're either lucky and get to sleep, or you have to get up and do stuff any way; since we are blessed to have electricity, it's no problem turning on lights. But to lose that hour of light in the afternoon, now that's a real loss. It makes it feel like the day is over by the time you get home from work. It makes it way less appealing to get out for a walk or bike ride or whatever other get-some-exercise-outdoors kind of thing you like to do.

Since I have this thought process going on anyway I found this article on Yahoo news entitled Extending daylight could boost health, help planet somewhat gratifying. So why don't we just leave the clocks alone. However, since the rest of my state will be setting back the clock this Saturday night, I've got to as well so I can be in sync.

How about you, do you like Daylight Savings time? Why?

Thursday, October 28, 2010

What's God put in your spirit?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we've been talking about God's paths for each of us and how He has miraculously worked in our lives.

I'd be interested to know, weather you'd like to share here or over there, What's God put in your spirit? Where's your passion?

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Have you ever noticed?

I want it to be that Christians are the best. I want it to be that Christians are the most kind, loving, approachable, and quality performing people.

During my life I've been blessed to meet some awesome Christians; Believers in whom you can feel Christ's presence from the moment you meet them. But I find that it just isn't always that way.

I started a new job two weeks ago. I work for a small subsidiary of a large company. In this subsidiary there are 5 people who have the same job as me, and another person who used to have this job and now is the quality manager for this job. Two of the 7 of us are very openly, one might even say blatantly, Christian.

Unfortunately, these are the 2 least appealing people out of the 7 of us.

One of the "blatant Christians" is rather loud in speech, organized and into delegating (which can both be good things in the correct context), and somewhat self obsessed. She spends quite a bit of time talking about her life, church, Bible studies, and her mission work (hence the reference to blatant Christian). She does not come across as particularly interested in others. She used to run the 3 sites that I now run and, I have no knowledge as to how she did her job, but I can tell you what happened when I brought the staff from the 3 sites together for a meeting. During the beginning of that meeting I had each staff present tell me their name, what site they worked at, and how long they'd worked for this company. Then, when I spent a few moments explaining who I am as a supervisor and what they can expect from me, they cheered. They cheered when I said that 2 words that can describe me are consistency and respect. Their reaction leads me to think that this woman was not perceived by them to be fair or respectful.

The other "blatant Christian" is odd. He's one of those individuals who does not seem to have learned those basic social skills that the rest of us take for granted. He also talks a lot about his faith and wanting to minister/be a minister. He has a reputation for bringing in Bible verses.

To be candid, I do not find myself drawn to either of these people.

Interestingly enough, I find myself very drawn to the quality manager. She's happy, friendly, laughs a lot, and is totally about the clients. Our clients are developmentally disabled adults and she has an excellent rapport with these people. I'm not getting the vibe from the time I've spent with this woman that she's a Christian. But here she is, the most appealing and caring person out of the group.

Is it just me, or is there something wrong with this picture?

On the good side, this definitely brings me to prayer. I pray for these 2 blatant Christians and pray that I would be a good sister in the Lord to them. I pray for myself. I pray that I would be open to the Holy Spirit and be aware of the people around me. That each and every day God would use me in this work place. I also pray that I'd do my job with excellence.

What about you, do you ever find yourself disappointed with the Christians that you meet?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Sometimes our minds just need cracking open

This morning I made some time to read for fun. The book I had been on the waiting list for from the library came in at long last, and I was excited to finally be able to sit down and start reading. This book, Tattoos on the Heart by Gregory Boyle, was recommended to me by Deborah Ann over at Heavenly Humor. While reading, I came across this quote from Denise Levertove that particularly stirred me:

"It's when we face for a moment the worst our kind can do, and shudder to know the taint in our own selves, that awe cracks the mind's shell and enters the heart."

Have you ever had that kind of experience? Have you ever seen another human being do something wretched only to realize that you weren't exempt, that some bit of that same poison existed in you as well? Did that awareness crack open your mind and enter your heart? What affect did that have?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Did "The plan" turn out differently than you expected?

I never cease to be amazed at the relevance of the Bible. Each time I read a particular portion of it, I see different things. The Holy Spirit is always faithful to make the written Word real to my heart, and to help me see ways I can apply the words to my current life situations.

As I'm continuing to slowly make my way through Genesis, today I read Genesis 47. This passage is about when Joseph's family (Jacob and his other sons and their families) accepted Joseph's invitation and came to Egypt and settled in Goshen. As I was reading this passage I was wondering how Jacob felt.

I'm sure he was grateful that he and his sons and their families could all come to Egypt where they could be safe from the famine. I'll bet he was ecstatic to be with his son Joseph again. But I can't help but think he was far from being pleased about being in Egypt. Genesis 43:32 provides a glimpse into the racial prejudice that was common in Egypt; the Egyptians found the Hebrews so detestable that they would not even eat at the same table . Then there's the fact that God had cut covenant with Jacob's grandfather Abraham and had promised to make his decendents a mighty nation, yet here Jacob and his family were in Eygpt, far away from their promised land. I wonder if he was confused about why God was doing things that way?

I was captivated by Genesis 47:27 as I read it this morning:

Now the Israelites settled in Egypt in the region of Goshen. They acquired property there and were fruitful and increased greatly in number.

As I read those words today it was as if the Holy Spirit spoke to my heart the fact that God can cause His children to prosper in the midst of terrible circumstances far from their Canaan. I was encouraged to see that God blessed the Israelites in Egypt because He sent them there to fulfill His good purposes; I thought about how, once His purposes were accomplished, God provoked circumstances to move them.

This was especially encouraging to me today because of some situations I'm currently encountering. Not long ago, over on Kingdom Bloggers, I posted about some of my struggles with regard to my job and career. After being out of work for close to 18 months, I went ahead and accepted a job that is a "step down" from what I've done for the past 11 years, makes 58% less than I was making, and that is an hour (in decent traffic) commute from my home. To be candid, I'm struggling with this situation on an emotional level.

I wish I could tell you that I knew, that I knew, that I knew that it was God's will that I accept this job. But, due to my own intense emotions regarding the entire situation, I found it difficult to hear God's voice. So I prayed for as long as possible, and then "gave it my best shot". I think God wanted me to accept the job. Now that I am working there, I know that God wants me to give my absolute best each and every day and to be faithful right where I am at.

I don't really know why God would want me to go backwards in my career and to deal with all this, but I know that God has plans for my life. I am confident in the fact that He will use every situation to bring about good in my life.

I was encouraged by those words in Genesis 47:27 this morning, that God can cause me to prosper right where I am.

What about you, has God spoken anything to your heart recently through His word? Has God has put you someplace that doesn't seem to be part of the plan that you expected?

Are mentally ill people "worth" our compassion?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we're talking about compassion.

In my post today I share a bit about compassion. Then I end with a question that I'd adore to hear your feedback regarding, weather you'd care to answer them here, or over there:

What have your encounters with mentally ill people been like?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Is it too simplistic of me to think that you should back up accusations with facts?

Here in California there's been a new Democratic ad running on TV that basically accuses the U.S. Chamber of Commerce of using foreign funds to secretly back Republican congressional candidates. The following two comments are actually said in the ads:

"It appears they're even taking secret foreign money to influence our elections,"

"It's incredible, Republicans benefiting from secret foreign money."

To me this ad seems to echo President Obama's comments last week:

"Just this week, we learned that one of the largest groups paying for these ad regularly takes in money from foreign corporations. So groups that receive foreign money are spending huge sums to influence American elections. And they won’t tell you where the money for the ads come from."

White House adviser, David Axelrod, appeared on CBS "Face the Nation" and was questioned by correspondent Bob Schieffe regarding these allegations. Scheiffe asserted that when the New York Times investigated the foreign financial contributions to the US Chamber of Commerce, they found the amount of money to be a nominal part of their entire operating expenses for campaign ads. When Scheiffe asked Axelrod if he could offer any evidence to demonstrate that these contributions are significant, Axelrod responded:

"Well, do you have any evidence that it's not, Bob?"

Is it just me, or is it irresponsible journalism to be making these type of insinuations without collaborating evidence to back them up?

Chamber officials have been reported as stating that, out of the chamber's $200 million annual budget, it receives $100,000 from American business interests abroad. It is reported that the money from American interests abroad is used to help finance the chamber's international programs; that none of this money is used for U.S. political activities.

The senior chamber vice president, Tom Collamore, said in a written statement that the Democratic charges show the party trying to change the subject and said the ad is "ridiculous and false."

Collamore also said: "The U.S. Chamber will continue to support candidates from both political parties who support a pro-jobs, pro-growth agenda".

Have you seen these ads? If so, what's your take on them?

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Why do you blog?

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we're talking about why we blog.

If you like, you can read why I blog in my post over there.

But what about you, why do you blog?

Thursday, September 30, 2010

A peculair and exquisite experience of Faith

Over at Kingdom Bloggers this week we're talking about questions we have of God.

In my post today I share about my struggle over the past 17 months in regard to my job, work, and my career. Then I end with some questions that I'd adore to hear your feedback regarding, weather you'd care to answer them here, or over there:

Do you have any unanswered questions and requests before God right now? How's the Holy Spirit encouraging your heart? What's God teaching you during this time?

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What's God's plan for the church?

As a follow up to my post about What makes Church relevant?, I want to hear your thoughts on what is God's plan for the church?

I'll start by sharing my thoughts, then you can share yours.

When I think about God's plan for the church, there are 2 scriptures that come to my mind:

The first one is Matthew 28:18-20:

18 Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age."

Before He left this earth, Jesus gave His disciples some direction as to what he wanted from them. It's often referred to as "the Great Commission". I see Jesus telling His disciples to do 4 things:

Go (to all nations)
Make disciples of all nations
Baptize these disciples in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit
Teach these disciples to obey everything Jesus commanded of His followers

What's the "Go" about?
I think the big deal here is that Jesus was saying that the gospel is for all (Luke 24:47, Galatians 3:28)-so they will want to go tell everyone about it. Prior to Jesus, there was the Law of Moses that had been given just to the Jews. Even during the personal ministry of Jesus, the focus was always on "the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matthew 10:5,6). But both the Law and the ministry of Jesus were preparing mankind for the universal gospel (John 10:16, Isaiah 56:6-8). The Law had showed mankind their need for a Savior but was, in a sense, a barrier to gospel. But through Jesus' work on the cross, the Law was removed (Ephesians 2:13-18). The prophet Isaiah told in advance how it would be when he said: "And all the nations shall stream into it." (Isaiah 2:2). Jesus, in the "Great Commission," announced that the time of which Isaiah had spoken seven centuries before had now arrived (Acts 10:34,35, Colossians 1:23).

What is it that we're going to all nations with?
I think it's safe to conclude that the implication is that we are to go to all nations, or to every place, with the gospel. I think it's important to recognize in this discussion that there are many other gospels, but to preach them makes us enemies of God (Galatians 1:6-9). The gospel's message is not pop culture, or psychology, left or right wing social and/or political agendas; it is about convicting of sin, and leading people to embrace Jesus as their Savior and put Him first in their life (Romans 3:22-24,Matthew 16:24-25). It means proclaiming the love and grace of God by which we were redeemed. It means a call to repentance and obedience.

What's a disciple?
Putting one's trust in what Jesus did on the cross and letting Him pay for our sins, and choosing to follow after Jesus, is only the beginning. A disciple is one who follows after another; so as disciples of Jesus, we are people who both believe in Him and follow after Him. Both believing and following require learning some things , experiencing some things, and doing some things. Jesus instructed His disciples to help others in this process of learning, experiencing, and doing.

I almost don't want to touch this one because there's so much disagreement regarding this in today's church. I'll just make it simple; Jesus was baptized (Luke 3:21-22) and God said He was pleased. When Jesus was baptized it looks to me like He was consecrating Himself for His ministry. Then in this Matthew 28:18-20 passage He tells His disciples to go baptize others. I do not see where it says that baptism is necessary to enter into salvation, but that it's part of being a disciple, a follower after Jesus. It's a public proclamation of the fact that a person is choosing to die to himself and his sin (symbolized by the going under water) and rise up (symbolized by the coming out of the water) to a new life in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:1-10 ).

Now we're back to the whole process of learning, experiencing, and doing. We're even given the curriculum - everything Jesus commanded of His followers. Because of this I see the main thrust of disciple-making to be to teach about Jesus, who He is and what He did, what He commands of His followers, and to engage in what we see Jesus doing.

The second scripture about what is God's plan for the church 1 Corinthians 12:1-26:, specifically verses 7, 12, & 26:

7 - Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.

12 - The body is a unit, though it is made up of many parts; and though all its parts are many, they form one body. So it is with Christ.

26 - If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.

I find this scripture passage significant because it emphasizes inter-connectedness. That Christ's disciples are to be in the process of following Christ together. That God gives each of them gifts that will be for the group's good. That we hurt and rejoice with one another.

These 2 scriptures, Matthew 28:18-20 and 1 Corinthians 12:1-26 lead me to conclude that God's plan for the church is for His followers to be going out telling others the gospel, baptizing those who embrace the gospel, teaching those who accept the gospel how to be disciples, and participating in life together, helping one another out and sharing in one another's sorrows and joys.

These are just my thoughts on what I see in scripture, what about you - What do you believe is God's plan for the church?

Friday, September 24, 2010

What makes church relevant?

I love the church. I love Christians. I even have a fondness for the foibles of both the church and Christians.

Because I've found that when I really love someone or something I love all of it, the good and the bad; it's just that I always want what is better for the object of my love. My heart cries out to see the church thrive, expand, and be all that she can be in this world. I want to see Jesus lifted up, and His cause advanced.

I'm not blind to the fact that there's much disillusionment with the church today. There have been times when I've been discouraged by what I've seen and experienced in the church. I've read several thoughtful posts out here in Blog land on this very topic; some of my favorite posts being from Matt at The church of no people, David at Fire and Grace, and Bill at Thin edge.

Today I read a promo for a book entitled Hipster Christianity: Where Church and Cool Collide by Brett McCracken that's got me thinking about this whole topic again. McCracken's book is supposedly an in-depth journalistic look at this phenomenon of cool Christianity in the 21st century. Chuck Colson gave this book a good enough review in an article entitled Wannabe Cool Christianity to have me wanting to read the book for myself.

But it's also got me asking those same questions that have been on my heart for these last few years: What exactly is the church? What does the Bible indicate is God's plan for the church? How can we carry that plan out? How can I be a more effective part of this whole process?

These questions don't produce simple answers that are always cut and dried. But today I'll give you a few of my thoughts on the first of these issues, and then I'd like to hear yours. So that any one post isn't too long, over several days next week I'll give you my thoughts on one or more of these questions and then illicit your feedback.

What exactly is the church?

The word "church" comes from the Greek word ekklesia. Ekklesia is a compound world meaning "ek" out of, and "klesis", a calling. (W.E. Vine, vol. 1, pg 83). When I think about Jesus' earthly ministry as recorded in the gospels, he came advancing God's Kingdom here on earth. God's way of life. He was calling people to Himself.

In Matthew 16:13-20 we've got that famous passage where Jesus is asking who are people saying that He is, and then He asked Peter who Peter thinks He is, and Peter declares that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God. Jesus responds by saying that upon this rock He'll build His church. There's a lot of debate about if the King James translators got it right by using the word "church" here, and I've heard Catholics say that Jesus spoke here about the formation of a religious organization, that became the Catholic church or belief system. To be candid, neither of these interest me. What interests me here is that Jesus indicates that there are those who are going to follow after Him (call them "church" or however else you wish to say it) and that He, Jesus, is the foundation for these followers - this I find significant! From Genesis to Revelation it's all about Jesus.

I see three metaphors used in the New Testament to describe the church. There is the "Bride of Christ" (John 3:22-26 2 Corinthians 11:1-3, Ephesians 5:22-33, Revelation 18:21-25, Revelation 22:10 - 20) which refers to universal, invisible, mystical body of Christ made up of all of the redeemed from the time of Christ until the rapture. There is the "Body of Christ" (1 Corinthians 12:7-26 ). There is the "Building of Christ" (1 Corinthians 3:9, Ephesians 2:19-22 ). Many believe that both the body and bride of Christ references refer also to that same invisible, mystical group of all saints throughout time. Others believe that these two metaphors refer to the the local, visible, organized gathering of followers of Christ. I've read and can see the merits of both schools of thought regarding these two metaphors (Great discussions as to why these two can be seen as the local or universal church can be read here, as well as here, and here). Personally, I see the body of Christ as referring to the local, organized, gathering of a group of Believers because of the 1 Corinthians 12:7-26 passage that describes how God has set it up so that His followers can meet together, and use gifts He's given them, to benefit one another.

So I see in the Bible two types of "church". That universal, invisible, mystical body of Christ made up of all of the redeemed from the time of Christ until the rapture. The group of followers who meets in one location to benefit the group.

What do you think "church" is?

Thursday, September 23, 2010

It really is a choice

This week at Kingdom Bloggers we're all sharing something we've found helpful in our marriages.

You can check out what I have to say and answer my question over there, or just answer the question here. I've heard that Abraham Lincoln once said that a person is about as happy as he chooses to be. I think that's true. I think that thought applies so well to marriage, we're as happy with our spouse as we choose to be. It's up to me if I want to focus on what may annoy me, or I may think is missing, or on my husband's imperfections, or I can focus on his strengths and how God has blessed me with him. Having done so many things wrong in the past, I'm grateful that today I can live choosing to enjoy the good things.

What about you, what do you choose?

Monday, September 20, 2010

The burqa can symbolize a lot of things

The new French Burqa law was announced this week.

The law requires that people who wear burqas or nigab, two versions of the full-body, face covering, robe worn by some Muslim women, will pay a fine of €150 (about $190) and may also require that they attend a course on "republican values".

The burqa is a garment worn by religious Muslim women that covers the entire body. It is worn as a symbol of physical modesty. It was mandatory under the Taliban in Afghanistan. To my way of thinking, the fact that women in fundamentalist Muslim communities are required to wear the burqa, makes the burqa a product of cultural submission that reflects the subordinate status — in a real sense, the chattel status — to which women are consigned in Islamist ideology. But it would seem that Freedom in Islam is seen as perfect submission to Allah. That is the only life choice the voluntarily shrouded woman makes, and the burqa is emblematic of all the doctrinal subjugation that necessarily follows.

I think that as Americans we find outlawing a religious symbol to be wrong thinking. Although we may hate what the burka symbolizes in terms of how women are being treated, we tend to respect the right of others to choose their religion. But I read an interesting article over at The Wall Street Journal entitled To ban the burqa - or not , where one of the authors, Bret Stephenson, pointed out that the US is not as free as we like to think. Stephenson point out how America banns and prosecutes polygamy (no matter what a group's religion believes), because we believe it's inherently abusive to women and families. Stephenson also pointed out that every culture has social norms and uses as an example that in America we would not allow a nudist to walk down the street in nothing but his sneakers, that we only allow a certain latitude in individual choice. Stephenson makes the point that "Plainly the French overwhelmingly believe wearing the burqa/niqab crosses the line."

My son Devon directed me to an interesting article recently over at NRO, There Oughtn't be a Law. As I read the article I found the way the author, Andy McCarthy, used the burqua as a dual symbol fascinating.

McCarthy reminds the reader of many events from the last couple of years, five of which are:

Derek Fenton being fired from his job with the Jersey Transit Authority. (Remember, he's the pastor from Florida, who burned pages from the Koran to protest the Ground Zero mosque. Don't get me wrong; what Fenton did disgusts me. But in America we allow people to say all manner of things, to even burn the American flag if they so choose. People protesting prop 8 in California, the vote about the legalization of Gay marriage, were allowed to burn Bibles on the steps of Mormon churches. So why was Fenton fired for something that he did in his free time that did not result in being charged for any crime?)

The Obama administration joining the Organization of the Islamic Conference in a UN resolution designed to make blasphemy against Islam illegal.

Yale University press refusal to publish Jayette Klausen's book entitled "The Cartoons that Shook the World" until the over cartoon depictions of Mohammed were purged from the book.

A New Jersey judge's refusal of a protective order to a woman being serially raped by a Muslim man she was trying to divorce — after all, the jurist reasoned, the man was simply following his religious principles, under which his wife was no more than a vessel, bereft of any right to say no.

Uniformed police in Deerborn, Michigan arresting Christian Evangelists for handing out gospels of John. This was said to be a "crackdown on disturbing the peace" because Deerborn is a heavily Muslim populated area.

After the reminders McCarthy makes these comments utilzing the burqa as a symbol that I find fascinating:

"It is the ethos of self-loathing. That is our burqa: our feebleness, our lack of cultural confidence. To shed it, we will have to rediscover why the principles it cloaks are superior and worth fighting for. If we don’t, the law won’t save us any more than it will save France."

What do you think, has America succumbed to preemptive capitulation to the point where we now have our own burqa of lack of cultural confidence?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Can we trust them to God?

This week at Kingdom Bloggers is back to school week. I've posted about what's significant about school starting for me this year.

I'm also asking a couple of questions that you can answer over there or here:

Do you ever struggle with trusting your kids' future to God? Do you experience anxiety about your children's choices, or are you at peace in the knowledge that God's in control?

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Can't we all just get along?

Have you seen that bumper sticker, or heard the sentiment elsewhere, Can't we all just get along?

Whenever I see this bumper sticker I think to myself that the answer is no. We can't always just all get along.

While I believe that we can work to overlook differences, and tolerance is often a good thing, and respect is necessary, there ARE things worth fighting for.

Recently my son Devon shared this quote from Ehud Olmert that I adore:

"We will not hesitate, we will not apologize and we will not back off...This anarchy is over. You can condemn us, you can boycott us, you can stop visiting us and, if necessary, we will stop visiting you...Never again will we wait for salvation that never arrives...[we] are now capable of standing up to those who seek [our]des...truction - those people will no longer be able to hide behind women and children. They will no longer be able to evade their responsibility... You are welcome to judge us, to ostracize us, to boycott us and to vilify us. But to kill us? Absolutely not."

This is a man who knows what he believes is worth fighting for.

How about you, is there anything you think is worth fighting for?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Are we guaranteed that God in us attracts people?

Our pastor definitely has me thinking.

While I enjoyed today's sermon, I was uncomfortable with something the pastor said. It's not a huge issue, and it's even something I've said myself in the past; but at this point in my life I see it as a "Christian myth".

I'd like to tell you the "myth", explain why I don't believe it, and then hear your thoughts on it.

The Myth: If you really love God, and are really following His will for your life, then people will be so attracted to the Jesus in you that they will be approaching you and asking about God and so, you'll frequently be sharing your faith and leading people to God. Now the myth does not ignore the fact that many will be adverse to the gospel in general, it just affirms that if you're really loving God and living all out for Him, then many others (those who aren't adverse to the gospel) will be drawn to you.

Is it just me, or does this sound rather similar to the old faith healer myth about how if you don't receive your healing, then it's your fault because you must not really believe?

Just off the top of my head I have 5 concerns with this whole kind of thinking:

1. The emphasis is on what I do, when I think the emphasis should be on what God does.
Don't get me wrong, I fully recognize that we have our part in this life of faith. One of my favorite Bible passages is Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV) :

12Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you to will and to act according to his good purpose.

I think this passages shows that balance; we obey and engage in actions, but it's God's power that's enables us to do so.

2. It borders on being a formula - If you do your part, then God will do His, in just this way.
The older I get, the more I don't believe we can box God in. He's God and He does things His way. Frequently it doesn't end up being the way I had things figured. Sure there are principles that I can count on, but I have no guarantee how God is going to manifest those principles.

3. It has not been my experience.
While my experience is not everything, it is something. I have been a Christian for just under 4 decades and can count on one hand the times someone has come up to me and told me that they see something different in me and would I please tell them what it is. So while this has happened to me, it's obviously not been the norm. So, does this mean I don't love God enough? That I'm not obedient enough? Well, the truth is that the answer to both these questions is absolutely YES. I want and need to constantly be growing in my love for God, constantly becoming more aware and changing the way I live so that I can be more fully His. But my experience is that as imperfect as I am, God in His mercy, grace, love and goodness, because of who He is, chooses to bless me and use me anyway. It's just not about me.

4. It seems to have an underlying assumption that numbers count.
If you really love God, and are really living for Him, then you'll be constantly bringing people to Him. I sincerely believe this may or may not be true. I do not think God has the exact same plan for everyone. Some people greatly impact just a few people, while others impact masses.

5. Does this smack of guilt?
Is it just me or could this myth make some shy, obedient, loving, Believer feel like they're doing something wrong just because people aren't walking up to them all the time and asking they why they are different?

To be candid, I'm just thinking aloud on this issue. I'd welcome your input.

Do you believe that the common Christian thought that
If you really love God, and are really following His will for your life, then people will be so attracted to the Jesus in you that they will be approaching you and asking about God and so, you'll frequently be sharing your faith and leading people to God, is Truth or Myth? Why?

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Thinking about the Cordoba Initiative

Writing helps me process.

So I'm here writing about the proposed Cordoba initiative (Islamic cultural and community center planned for downtown New York commonly referred to as the ‘Ground Zero Mosque’) to help me sift through the huge amounts of information and focus my own thoughts on the issues. I've put into bold italics here those questions that my research has caused me to ask myself. I don't know that I have anything new or more to add to the discussion, but I am interested to hear your thoughts. Because, although I have access to plenty of people's thoughts on this issue, I haven't heard most of yours.

First off, if you click over to the Cordoba initiative website you will read right up front that the "Cordoba initiative seeks to actively promote engagement through a myriad of programs, by reinforcing similarities and addressing differences". That sounds good to me.

On the site there's a link to commonly asked questions and, after a bit of looking I found their answer to the first question on my mind - why build a Mosque so close to the location of ground zero? Their answer:

"Strictly speaking, it will not be a “mosque,” although it would have a prayer space on one of its 15 floors. At the beginning, no one considered the fact that Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf Abdul Rauf’s current mosque is 12 blocks from the Ground Zero site, while the Park51 Community Center location is only 2 and one-half blocks away. We never discussed wanting to be close to Ground Zero; our goal was to find a good real estate opportunity for a community center. 51 Park seemed to fit the bill."

"We were always close to the World Trade Center. Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf has been the Imam of a mosque twelve blocks from the Twin Towers for the last 27 years. American Muslims have been peacefully living, working and worshipping in this neighborhood all along and were also terribly affected by the horrific events of 9/11. We wanted to build a community center in our old neighborhood, and the Park51 location became available. (In our part of lower Manhattan, it’s hard not to be close to Ground Zero)."

So, I find myself sincerely asking these questions:
Could this group really have been so oblivious of the location and the of the site's proximity to Ground Zero and the emotions this would evoke?
Was this location for building for "Muslim New Yorkers something similar to a YMCA" chosen simply because of real estate availability?
Let's say that the location was chosen simply due to availability of real estate, doe this make the fact that the Islamic Community center will over look Ground Zero irrelevant?

If the goal of this center is indeed to "promote engagement" and bridge differences, would it be much wiser to wait for availability of real estate that will not cause so much pain for many, and appear to many to be rubbing salt in the wound?

Danielle Parker wrote a moving article espousing her views on the pain the location engenders that you can read on the Huffington Post September 9 edition. Her article expresses what she thinks the Mosque means from both the victims and a historical perspective. From a victims perspective Parker thinks that the location of the Mosque is akin to rubbing salt into the victims wound; she says that many suffer from PTSD, and as such, visual reminders trigger painful emotions. Parkers sees the location of the proposed Mosque as a visual reminder. As I read this I did have to ask if the Ground Zero memorials are also a visual reminder and do those trigger PTSD emotions? Or is that different because it's showing remembrance in a positive light? Historically, she believes that the Mosque in Cordoba Spain signified the Islamic supremacy over the Christians in the conquest of this territory.

Robert Sharp (this is not the Independent Features writer Robert Sharp. This man is a Campaigns manager at English PEN and writes for several political blogs ) wrote an article in defense of the Mosque that you can check out here. He believes that although the proposed Islamic Community Center is near Ground Zero it is not on it and that there already exist many Mosques in the downtown area so he doesn't see why all the fuss. He says:

"This controversy has clearly been manufactured by those who seek to polarise American political debate. It is depressing and astonishing that the arguments against the centre have gained any traction at all. One might expect this in Europe, with its muddled and inconsistent relationship with secular ideals. Or in theocracies like Saudi Arabia and Iran, with their blanket intolerance of other faiths. But for a country which explicitly enshrines human rights such as free expression and freedom of religion in its constitution, it is bizarre that the debate has advanced so far. "

Perhaps one of the most interesting articles I've read on this issue was an article from The Economist August 19 that looked at Arab reactions to the Cordoba Mosque. These ranged from those who thought this entire debate just underscores "rising Islamophobia" in America, to those who think that in the face of so much public resentment, it might be better to build the mosque elsewhere.

Another question on my mind that the Cordoba initiative website addresses is - why the name Cordoba? The site states: "The name Cordoba was chosen carefully to reflect a period of time during which Islam played a monumental role in the enrichment of human civilization and knowledge".

Since my history knowledge is admittedly lacking, I did some research into Cordoba. Wikipedia is frequently a nice starting point, and there I learned that Cordoba is a large mosque in Spain that was built on the site of a conquered Visogothic church. It's really interesting when you think about it because the Visogoths were a member of the western group of Goths who sacked Rome and created a kingdom in present-day Spain, and then we see the Umayyad Moores conquering them and taking over their church and making it a Mosque. Currently the Cordoba mosque is a well known sight seeing attraction attraction and is considered one of the World’s most unique monuments and a masterpiece in Islamic art.

So, I ask myself:
Was the name Cordoba chosen because it's one of the most well known and beautiful existing examples of Islamic art and religion, or because it's the site of a conquered Christian church?
Am I paranoid for even asking this question?
I tend to think that questions are OK, it's assumptions that cause problems.

But, as I mention above, I'd like to hear your thoughts in reference to the bold and italic questions that I'm asking myself. I welcome your insights and the fact that you'll help me clarify my own thoughts.

Stepping out of my comfort zone into God's blessing

This week over at Kingdom Bloggers we're sharing about ways God has blessed us recently. If you want to read how God challenged me to move out of my comfort zone and then He blessed me when I finally obeyed, you can check out my post over there.

My question for you that you can answer here or over at Kingdom Bloggers is: Can you think of a time when God seemed to be prompting you to serve in a way that was totally not your personality, that was outside of your comfort zone? What happened?
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