Saturday, April 19, 2014

God is for you

The other day in conversation the topic came up about using discipline to teach our children that they are sinful and need to repent. And I get it. I do. We don't want our children to think that wrong things are "just mistakes" or have no eternal or spiritual consequences.

But, I think it is the wrong way to go about teaching our children about God. Not that I am against using the word sin with children. But I would much rather teach them how much God loves them. Sitting around the table in conversation I said, "I have never met a person in church that did not believe in sin or that they were sinful. But I have met many who do not really believe that God loves them."

The truth of that statement surprised me.

But it is so true. We do not actually live in the reality of God's eternal love. We see it in the focus of sermons and songs. We see it in the lack of community inside our churches. We see it in how hard it is for Christians to ask for help from other Christians or struggle through life.

One of the blogs I was introduced to recently summed this up so well. What if we lived like people were for us? Check our Stephanie's blog here.

So, here I am to tell you God is for you. In fact, that is a better translation of Romans 8:28. God is always working for you. If you show up to life with God, you belong.

Meditation verse: "Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship? Or distress? Or persecution? Or famine? Or nakedness? Or peril? Or sword?

NO

in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us." Romans 8:35&37

Don't forget the prayer of release.

Did you meditate last week? Let me know how it is going.

Lastly, Christ is Risen!

Monday, April 14, 2014

To my children - the Bible



The last time I went to mom's group at my church, the discussion leader asked a really great question. She asked, "What are the most important things that you want your children to know about Christianity?" The question has really stuck with me. There are many things I want them to know. So many, that I cannot fit them into one post. This one is going to cover the Bible.
 
What I really want them to know is that it is a book about the history of God and humanity. It is not a book that provides character templates. I mean, do I really want my sons to be like David? Hunted, polygamous, murdering, worshipping David? No, not at all. Do I want them to go to God because they know God's love in the midst of their worst sins? Most definitely. Teaching them that the focus of their reading is God instead of the character they are reading about, or the three main points of the Bible story is huge on my list of things I want them to know.

I want them to know that they can never know all there is in the Bible. It is not a bunch of information to memorize. One cannot do a study on John and then "know" that book and never revisit it. I want them to know that they do not always have to be studying the Bible. They can spend time learning to meditate, or fast, or serve instead. I mean we only have so much time each week. If I teach them that they have to set aside four hours on Sunday, and then at least one or two in the rest of the week to listen to a lecture and maybe sing, then when am I going to teach them to serve? Sometimes service takes up too much time if one feels committed in those other areas too. Some acts of service are long time commitments. I think of the woman who watches my kids every Monday through this deployment. That's a serious commitment. What about mowing lawns for a shut in? Is that not also worth an hour on Sunday instead of an evening service? I realize this might seem radical, but it is what I want them to know.

I want them to know that they can read an entire Bible book and walk away not feeling any different and it is not an indicator of their spiritual growth. On the other hand, sometimes five words will carry them forward for weeks and months in their life with God.

Probably the most important thing though is that the Bible is a book. It is only alive through the Holy Spirit. God is God, not a book.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Beauty and Love

I needed some humor today. So I flipped on Carol Burnett on YouTube. One of my clips came up with a commercial from Dove. I don't buy their products because they have chemicals and I am trying to avoid those. Plus making soap and lotion is super fun - I admit to getting a little geeky about it. But their commercials are great. This one was about the beauty patch. For two weeks these women wore the patch for 12 hours a day and kept a video diary. At the end of the two weeks, they were glowing with confidence and talking about how much pretty they were. The patch was nothing more than a plain patch. The women were of course amazed and it got me thinking...

There is a woman I know. I don't know her well. I know very little more than her name. But I have heard her say a couple of derogatory things about her body. I know we all do it, but these just caught me so of guard because she seemed to mean them more than most of us do. Also, she is tall - like model tall. Thin, not model thin, but no more than a six I would guess and beautiful. Each time she has said these things I keep wanting to just look at her and say, "Love yourself."And it got me thinking...

 It was not far into my first degree that I started to realize how many problems in the church stem from disbelief. We want to believe. We say we do believe in God. And we do, as much as we can. But there are so many things we just don't really believe. Like that we are loved by God. I do not mean tolerated because of Jesus' sacrifice. I don't mean that God deigns to love us. I do not mean that his love is constantly holding back God's mighty justice and wrath from us sinful humans. I mean that God loves us. That God is joyful when he thinks of us - of you - of me. In all of our imperfections, God loves us with no qualifications.

I know the theologians (especially reformed) of you are qualifying me here - save it for later and listen.

So, how do we move from disbelief? Strangely enough it has very little to do with better preaching, or better Bible study, or more faithful attendance in Sunday school, or Wednesday nights, or at revivals. I really think it has to do with an old fashioned spiritual discipline called meditation.

Yes, Christians meditate and have for years. The biggest difference is that instead of clearing the mind to emptiness, we aim to center the mind on God. Now, let me pull all my thoughts together. If two weeks convinced these women that a patch was making them more beautiful, what would fifty-two weeks of meditating on God's love do for us?

And it is not even overwhelming. Meditation can be long, but it can also be short and as simple as this: Once a day, pause, holding your hands with fists closed and palms down. Think of your fists holding your disbelief in God's love for you. Then, when you are ready, let them open and release the disbelief. Turn them palm up and tell God you receive God's love. Then read, out loud, the meditation verse. Tack it on your fridge or coffeepot, or computer. You don't need to work at this, just be available to let God love you. I mean, don't look up the words in the original language to make sure you really understand them. Don't try to memorize it. Don't feel bad if you forget one day. Let God through the Holy Spirit love you.

Here's one to try: "But now thus says the Lord, he who created you, O Jacob, he who formed you, O Israel: Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you...Because you are precious in my sight, and honored, and I love you..." Isaiah 43: 1-2, 4.

How about you? Do you need more belief in God's love and do you think this might work? Do you have an experience or more than one where you really started to understand what it means to hear, "Jesus loves you?"





Thursday, April 3, 2014


Demi-gods

I grew up in a mountain town in the Cascade mountains. I loved it. I did not appreciate it as much as I would have had I known that I would spend most of my adult life far away from the evergreen and granite that poured so much of their strength into my life. Poetic perhaps, but if you have ever been there, you would understand.

There was this one day in the fall of my junior year. I remember the afternoon so well. The weather was chilly because I was wearing my Dad's old army coat, but I was also trying hard to live up to the gentle nudge toward fashion (for the day at least) of a friend who bought me a maxi skirt and soft sweater for my birthday. I stepped off of the bus, hoisted my bag over my shoulders and tugged my waist length blond hair out to throw behind my back. Then I set off toward work. It was a beautiful life giving afternoon. I walked quickly, as I always have, and I was grinning in pure enjoyment of life. My sister happened to drive by during this moment. She said that  I got off the bus, tossed my hair like I was in a Pantene commercial, and walked off like I owned the world. 

Her observation has always stayed with me. Mainly because in many ways she was right. I did not think that I owned the world in an arrogant sense, but that afternoon certainly was filled with that invincible life-is-grand-I-will-live-forever feeling that comes now and then, hopefully, to us all. I admit to probably having that feeling more often that I should have in my teenage years. 

I paint that afternoon for you because whenever I think of demi-god status that afternoon is what I picture in my head. Demi-god status is what I have come to call those days when we are on top of our game as humans. We are healthy, we are full emotional, mental, and physical strength. There are no major stress events happening. We find ourselves on the giving end toward many grateful people. We are like little gods. We walk like we own the earth. 

But it never lasts. As I get older, I gain demi-god status less and less often. When I do have those days they are tempered by humility because I know that I will be the recipient of love, grace, and mercy on someone else's demi-god day soon enough.

This mainly comes to my mind when I think of the evangelical church. I often feel like we try to maintain demi-god status as Christians. I totally get that we don't want, or need, to share our inner hurts and troubles with everyone. But there can be an awful sense of perfection.

This is because of the transformation that Christ does in our lives. Except sometimes we don't wait for Christ to make the transformation. Instead we try to live perfectly on our own. We don't want to take two years, or ten years, or a life time to work through false guilt, or alcoholism, or any other particular issue. We don't want a time of spiritual darkness. We race away back to where we are safe - in our doctrine, creeds, Bible studies - and keep pressing on toward getting whatever "lesson" God is teaching us. We insist on being demi-gods because we don't want the non-Christians to see how untransformed we really are. How exhausting!

 It makes my soul tired just thinking about all of the constant monitoring of oneself that goes on when we are trying to be demi-gods instead of  creations in the middle of change.

You may still see me walking off like I own the world because I am typically happy and enjoying life. But I am too old now for demi-god status. I am content to just know the one that is God.