restoration

Redemption

I have a tough assignment on Monday nights this year. I am teaching a fairly large class of 3rd and 4th graders, some of whom are challenging.

Very challenging.

And exhausting.

I was tired going in last night, but I rallied.

Midway through the evening a boy approached me.

“Did you give the Bible Lesson last week?,” he asked.

“Yes, I did,” I replied.

“Well I just want to thank you. It really spoke to me. I had a really weird week and it spoke to me.”

Bless his heart.

Bless his studious little heart.

Sweet moments like that make the challenges worth it.

Last night we talked about redemption.

Today, as I began to prepare next week’s lesson, I boiled it down.

redemption

Interesting stuff in this new lesson. I’ll probably have something to say about it tomorrow.

But for now, there are towels that need folding.

Happy Tuesday night. (This is Us is on in the U.S.)

 

 

 

 

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church nonsense, Jesus

Manipulators of Men

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I read a short, encouraging article today. It reminded me of a scene from Blue Like Jazz. I hope you have a minute to read it.

It kinda’ goes along with what I was thinking about after church yesterday.

I used to be a member of a conservative church. Everyone, as far as I knew, was like-minded. So much so that I assumed all Christians were like-minded.

Because everyone was like-minded, the pastor thought nothing of inserting political commentary into his sermons. He didn’t mention anyone by name or violate tax-exempt laws in any way, he just assumed everyone agreed.

From there I began attending a politically diverse church. The pastor may have leaned liberal but the large congregation seemed to be a fairly equal mix of Democrats, Republicans, Liberals, Centrists and Conservatives. There were Independents who lean left, Independents who lean right (me) and Libertarians scattered about, too.

Discussions in the Thursday morning women’s Bible study were uplifting. Because we were aware of the diversity of viewpoints, all political comments were made carefully and with respect. As a result we were able to actually hear one another and even broaden our perspectives. It was easy to love those women – even the ones with whom I disagreed – because their respectfulness loved me back, because it was obvious that our Christian sisterhood was more important than our viewpoints. I miss them.

These days I attend a mostly liberal church.

Sitting in the pew yesterday I thought of any liberal-leaning people who may have been in the audience of that first church years ago. And as I sat in their shoes (shoes that probably walked far away) I missed the mix of the second church.

I missed being where a diversity of opinions was assumed and even appreciated. I missed knowing that at least half the congregation saw what I saw.

As I was walking the beagle the other day God reminded me that half the country sees what I see. He brought to mind the county by county map of the US I saw on election night – the one that was almost completely colored red.

When one half of the country is yelling f- you, it’s easy to feel like you’re in the minority.

When you sit in church and hear a faint f-you from the pulpit and feel a silent f-you in the pew next to you, it’s easy to wonder if you are in the wrong family.

I know the incoming administration wants to make changes to the Johnson Amendment to the tax code, but that could become a nightmare for the church.

Fishers of men could become manipulators of men.

I hope not. I think I might do a little research, weigh the pros and cons.

In the meantime my pastoral friends, a sermon that indulges in even the slightest bit of partisan commentary is a sermon that has just lost its power; a sermon that has just clogged the flow of the Spirit.

At our ritual after-church lunch my daughter shared that one of her friends resurrected his LiveJournal account back when they were in college just to post a rant about this very thing. He ended by saying how much he appreciated that his pastor back home just said what Jesus said and left it at that.

Amen.

#aconservativefishinaliberalsea

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love

All In

My daughter went to the library this afternoon to study and ended up writing instead. Thank God because I haven’t written anything for NaBloPoMo today.

So, with no ado at all, it is my pleasure to bring you a guest post, written by my daughter, a chip off her momma’s block:

It was years ago on a retreat that I was first challenged to look at the book of Genesis 3 and what it means for women in an entirely new light. In verse 16, in the aftermath of the encounter with the Serpent, God says to Eve, “Yet your desire will be for your husband, and He will rule over you.” This is part of the curse of mankind, one of the consequences of that original sin. It is often referenced as a Biblical defense for man’s authority over a woman, but maybe, just maybe, the words aren’t so much a command as they are a prophesy, a foretelling of the way things will play out for humanity. God isn’t commanding husbands to rule over their wives or men to rule over women, He’s acknowledging that the downfall of woman is her desire for man, that throughout time and generations her desperation will lead her away from God down paths of destruction. I see it all the time. I hear it in the stories of the women who come in for counseling at the practice where I intern- it’s one of the strongest and most consistent themes there is. We as women are so prone to live out the sometimes implicit sometimes explicit ideal that it is better to have any man than to not have a man at all. We make a lot of bad choices because of it. We put up with a lot of crap because of it. We open ourselves and those around us up to a world of hurt because of it. We end up in horrible situations we refuse to leave because of it. Man rules over us because we let him.

The new perspective on Genesis takes it one step further to the possibility that God didn’t actually banish Eve from the garden. Chapter 3 verse 23 says, “therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden, to cultivate the ground from which he was taken.” Verse 24 continues, “So He drove the man out; and at the east of the garden of Eden He stationed the cherubim and the flaming sword which turned over direction to guard the way to the tree of life.” Never is the woman mentioned. Never is the pronoun “them” used. No, I don’t know for sure that Eve wasn’t banished. Yes, it is possible that God intended for this curse to be all-encompassing and that His inclusion of woman either goes without saying or got lost in translation. But it seems to me that Eve may have had another option. If Eve was not specifically banished from the garden, she could have stayed with God. And if she could have stayed with God, her separation from Him was a choice. What if the only reason Eve left the garden is because she followed Adam out? I realize that Eve’s sin would have necessitated some sort of separation from God, so I’m not fully convinced that this is the way it all went down, but I think it’s a question worth considering because whether Eve left the garden by choice or not, I believe that we as women do have a choice. We have the option to stay with God, to choose him over men. But it won’t be easy.

There’s nothing wrong with men themselves. They are not the problem, here. Men are wonderful and uniquely created; loved by God and meant to reflect His image just as women are loved by God and meant to reflect His image. In fact, we need both man and woman for the full reflection. Man and woman together make up the complete image. God created man and woman for relationship with each other. He loves marriage and He loves family, so not only is there nothing wrong with men themselves, there’s nothing wrong with the desire for romantic relationships with them. A relationship between a man and a woman who are both following after Christ is a beautiful, sacred thing. But there is something undeniably wrong with consciously or subconsciously putting the desire for a man above all else, forsaking all standards for the sake of having someone to love.

This is my task for the present: not doing that exact thing. I hear God asking me over and over again to stay with Him and I want to more than anything, but it’s hard. It’s hard even for me, who constantly witnesses the disappointment that results from “any man is better than no man” mentality. It’s hard for me, who’s more passionate about standards and choosing good men and never settling than I am about a lot of things. I had an incredible man who was following after Jesus, and now I don’t. I thought the memory of my relationship with him would make it easier to not settle. I know what a good thing looks like now. And yet. Yet, I still struggle with the temptation to settle for the sake of companionship. Most men who show interest don’t phase me. But then there are the men who have something attractive about them, something that resonates with me, though they may not follow Jesus or love Him the way I do. These are the “good” men, though they’re not the godly men. They are the men who have me questioning everything, thinking “not having a partner to have my back is hard” and “maybe I’m being too picky anyway” and “perhaps having a companion is better than not having one.” Wait. No. That’s not right.

This is the mental space where I’ve been fighting and have to keep fighting. A “good” man will never be someone who can walk beside me spiritually or be my partner in ministry. He will never be about the same things, or want to live the same kind of life that I do. I will inevitably sacrifice part of who God has created and called me in joining my life with his. I will inevitably abandon some of my precious intimacy with the Lord in following him. Is it better to have a man like this than to not have one at all? I know the answer is no, but whether motivated by a desire for something as simple as a night out and physical chemistry or as big as assurance of a future that includes marriage and family, the temptation these days is to say yes to this kind of man. Sometimes that yes seems pretty harmless, but I can play the tape to the end. Those paths aren’t for me. I won’t let man rule over me. God is asking me over and over to stay with Him. He’s asking me if I trust Him; if He’s enough. He is. He’s more than enough. I just have to remember that.

#loftyideas  #Itaughthereverythingsheknows  #allin

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life

Saint and Sinner

It’s been a Robert Duvall movie-thon around here. In the last week or two we’ve watched Tender Mercies (one of my favorites), Open Range (one of the hub’s favorites), Bullit (he played the cab driver), Days of Thunder, Second Hand Lions and The Apostle.

Have you seen The Apostle?

Saint

In the opening scene Duvall’s character – Sonny – comes upon a crash, sticks his head through the car window and offers comfort and salvation to the badly injured couple inside.

We see him lead revivals.

We see the love his church has for him.

Sinner

As we get to know him we wonder whether he’s a little nuts.

We learn his eye wanders while he’s on the road.

We see his wife also stray, while he’s away.

We cover our eyes as he commits a brutal crime of passion.

Redemption

He flees, starts a new life in a new place, becomes beloved by a new community and eventually must pay his debt.

Saint and sinner all rolled into one.

Faith and flesh.

I woke up the other morning to a big ol’ “Hypocrite” emblazoned on my Facebook wall.

Not quite sure why except that I stuck up for God and for Christians and for Republicans the day before.

The unredeemed throw “hypocrite” like a ninja star.

It’s supposed to slay us, shut us up, send us cowering.

But the weapon fails.

We shrug.

They think we think we’re perfect.

We don’t.

We’re saints and sinners. Faith battling flesh.

I’m not sure what Johnny’s song has to do with anything, but it’s in my head so there it is.

Dinner date with the hub tonight.

“No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. Isaiah 54:17

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church nonsense

We Don’t Need No Nitpickin’

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I have a friend who works at the Cru HQ in Orlando. This morning he shared this on Facebook:

“Donna and I saw a pre-screening of [“The Shack”] last night (in theaters March 3). It was emotionally powerful and well-acted all around. I pray it becomes a fantastic God conversation-starter for a very long time!”

Good prayer. Great desire.

One of the brethren immediately chided him:

“That book was a theological disaster. I encourage you to read Tim Challies review before recommending the book or movie to anyone.”

He provided a link to that review.

We don’t need no theological nitpickin’.

Half of this country is in a frenzy of fear because they don’t know and/or trust God.

Right before the election, many, many, just about all of my Christian Facebook friends – Republicans and Democrats alike – posted something like this: “No matter who is in the White House, God is on the throne.”

After the election, those who hold that truth did not gloat or panic.

Those who don’t hold that truth did.

In the midst of this fear-filled frenzy, we don’t need no stinkin’ nitpickin’.

The book is a NOVEL.

Since when do novels have to have every theological i and every theological t dotted and crossed correctly?

And by whose theological standards must they be dotted and crossed?

The novel beautifully portrays the caring heart of God.

Who wouldn’t want the caring heart of God portrayed in theaters for all to see?

Fifty percent of this fear-filled country NEEDS it.

Purists.

When Campus Crusade for Christ changed its name to Cru back in 2011, the purist accused them of bowing to political correctness, of being ashamed of Christ’s name. HQ received angry phone calls, critics took to social media.

You can read about it here.

Back when Amy Grant released a pop album – one in which every single song wasn’t overtly about Jesus, or Christianity, the purists dropped her from their playlists. She was selling out, ashamed of the gospel.

OR

She was trying to reach a wider audience WITH the gospel.

Christian Purists:

Take the straight jacket off the Truth already.

Stop loading the gospel down with burdens it’s not intended to carry.

Stop guarding the truth so heavily that no one can penetrate it.

People need to come into the safe arms of Jesus and you – however loyal you think are being – might be standing in their way.

They will know we are Christians by our L.O.V.E. LOVE.

And they just might know God cares by our “theologically disastrous” songs and books and movies.

Just as the first Christians knew Jesus was the Son of God by His theologically disastrous teachings and Sabbath healings.

 

 

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faith, Jesus

We All Need Jesus.

“Do something uplifting today,” the hub said, as he smooched me and left for work.

“I am.” I pointed to the sweet video I was watching, posted by BJ of The River Walk.

He popped his head back through the door and said, “You don’t deserve this.”

“Aww, thank you honey.”

Those were the exact words my dad said, over the phone from Florida, after my first husband left me. And the hub knew it.

Vegetal words – planted 25 years ago by my beloved dad – blooming afresh this morning thanks to my thoughtful hub.

God took a beating on Facebook yesterday.

The depth of hate revealed – for God and for me – was quite troubling.

Vegetal hate, lying deep and dormant, springing up with a vengeance.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who encountered it.

I took the beagle for an uplifting walk in the sunshine and shook it off.

It’s not like God didn’t give full disclosure when I signed on:

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

Now I understand why love had to be commanded in the verse just prior:

“This is my command: Love each other.”

It’s not easy to love those who have a deep-seated hate for you. It’s especially hard when they have a deep-seated hate for God.

Last night, while we were feeding the friends, the hub summed up the reason for all the ugliness on display yesterday:

“It’s all they have.”

“Father Ken is a genius!,” I replied, as it dawned on me.

“What do you mean?,” asked the hub.

I meant the genius foresight in the prayers we’ve been praying every Sunday:

“Help us renounce dependence on our culture’s false securities; let us see them as idols in which we place our highest trust when you, Christ, are our only salvation – guns, the dollar, political parties and their leaders, stock markets, human intelligence, insurance policies, the possessions and provisions we hoard, our strong bodies, our touchscreen technologies.”

“Well, yeah,” said the hub.

It just hadn’t occurred to me that a political party is all some people have. I guess because we’ve been praying this in church – where people have God, too.

I was thinking about “us” as in those of us who were praying, not “us” as in society at large.

I can be dense.

After I walked the beagle I came across a few videos of President-elect Trump being prayed over at various churches while still a candidate. Here is one of them:

I didn’t know he had been prayed over, anointed for the task. That is quite heartening.

Excellent, in fact.

I was buoyant as I headed back outside to give the hound dog his turn.

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As we walked through the woods, I looked up and was reminded that Love always breaks through.

Which had me thinking: When no one hates us it’s only because we are not currently shining the Light into any dark places.

You can quote me on that.

Or you can quote Jesus.

“If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

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life

Heads Are Exploding.

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My daughter came home from class tonight with tales to tell.

Apparently millennial heads are exploding all over social media.

Young white people want to join hands, encircle the White House and not let Obama leave, in solidarity with their minority brethren.

Meanwhile her African American classmates shrugged their shoulders and said, “He hasn’t done anything for me.” And, “I didn’t even vote for him.”

Wrote my daughter on tumblr:

“90% of the white people I follow on social media are viciously berating anyone who didn’t vote for Hillary (all in the name of protecting minorities), meanwhile my Muslim friends voted for Gary Johnson. What a time to be alive.”

On my Facebook feed, there are lists of impending doom and it’s all the fault of Republicans/Christians. It seems “Republicans” and “Christians” are synonymous.

Except a majority of Catholics in this country are Democrats.  Plenty of Protestants are, too.

Everyone needs to simmer down.

And not bring Jesus into it.

As a sixteen year old member of the LGBT community said to my daughter today, “I’m not worried about Trump. What can he do in eight years? I don’t think people understand how our government works.”

Level-headed lad.

Wise Founding Fathers who put those checks and balances in place.

I understand thinking the world as we know it is going to end when one’s candidate is not elected.

I felt that way in 2008.

I was probably tempted to post my dismay on Facebook the next day, too.

But I didn’t.

I’m sure I didn’t because, according to my fb memories, on Nov. 5, 2008 I posted about the wonderful aroma of my squash soup.

And life went on.

Here, 8 years later I am still alive and well.

Eight years from now your exploding heads will be just fine, too.

So stop reading the fear-mongering propaganda and chill.

As President Obama said in his speech today, the sun will come up in the morning.

 

 

 

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