Archive for the ‘Spiritual Growth’ Category

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Truly Unconditional Love

August 19, 2014

Hello friends,

It’s been a while. As in more than 3 years a while. If anyone bothers to visit when I publish this post I’ll be amazed. But I have something to say. I might have several somethings to say, we’ll have to see. Today it comes from the story of Vicky Beeching’s coming out. Yup, I’m going there.

There has been a lot of discussion around this. I think it shakes people in ways other Christians who have come out didn’t because she has been a part of so many different people’s regular worship. And this means that her coming out is personal for a lot of people because worship is so personal for so many people.

The backlash is incredible. So much hate masquerading as concern for her soul, her relationship with God. It hurts me. It hurts me more than if it were directed at me, I think. My cousin, who I will say is a liberal conservative Christian responded to a rather disheartening post with an incredibly profound comment. She said:

         “I have been wrong about so many things i was convinced i was right on in my life. Then i felt like God spoke to me pretty clearly that He really didn’t care too much about all the things i was wrong about, because more than likely, I’m still way off. He told me that He loved that i spent time being with Him and talking to Him; that relationship is the ENTIRE reason he sent Jesus. At this point, I would rather be wrong about what the Bible says on homosexuality, knowing that I have put every ounce of my effort into loving people with no strings attached. So if I felt that God spoke that to me, why would His desire for relationship with Vicky Beeching be any different? I think maybe He is a little less concerned about what she is getting right, and more rejoicing over her continued relationship with Him. I realize many opinions differ from mine, that is just where I am currently at.”

I love this. It’s exactly where I am at, although at the end of the day we may end up with different theologies the premise is identical. I can only speak to the relationship I know I have with God. I value the Bible. I value God’s Word. When I came out to myself, a weird idea to be sure, my relationship with God became stronger, better, more intimate than it had ever been before. I truly believe my realizing I am gay, my accepting my sexuality, was the direct result of God interceding on my behalf. I was blind, I was in such deep denial that he had to push his way through. And when he got through he wrapped me up in such intense love, such insane acceptance, that there wasn’t room for me to doubt myself. There was so much love from God for me that I could not have hated myself, nor could anyone else’s hate pierce that love. 

Over the years I have grown to truly believe that homosexuality does not go against God’s will. But more importantly because of the journey I took I am absolutely, positively, certain that God does not call us to judge for him. Our job, no matter what the “sin” may be, is to love. Love without question. Love without hesitation. Love with everything we have, even if we are utterly convinced that a person is wrong. 

God loves us all. Yes, God desires we grow closer to him. He desires that we do our best to live in such a way that we are living according to his will. But God desires relationship with us above all else. Who am I to judge another person and what relationship they have with God? I cannot know what is going on between you and God. I cannot know how the supposed “sin” in your life is affecting that relationship. It isn’t my place. It’s God’s. This doesn’t mean that we are changing what we view as sin. It doesn’t mean I am compromising on any of the things I believe. It means that I am loving. It means that I am letting God do his job, and I will do mine. It means that I refuse to be the person who tries to get in the way of the relationship another person has with God.

If there is one thing I can ask of a Christian it is this. I don’t ask, nor do I want, you to change your theology. I ask that you trust your relationship with God. I ask that you trust my relationship with God. He’s a good guy. He knows what he’s doing. If someday he convicts me that I am wrong, I hope that I will listen. But until that day I know that he loves and accepts me for who I am. You cannot change this, and I am certain he does not want you to. Love. It isn’t compromising your beliefs, it is trusting your almighty God to do his part and you do yours. 

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Oops,

September 6, 2010

It’s interesting. For the past month I have had a lot of free time and have frequently found myself bored. I read quite a bit, fiction and non-fiction alike. I have read quite a bit about God this past month. But I realized this morning that I haven’t read my Bible in a long time. I talk to God a lot, I read a lot about God, I read a lot about how to have a better relationship with God, what right theology is, I listen to Christian music, I even look up verses fairly regularly. But not having a schedule has lead to me not having a time with God routine which has lead to a serious defecit in Bible reading.

I am thankfully going to be back in a routine/schedule later this week and should be able to easily get back in the habit. It’s not that I don’t want to do it, but rather that I fail to think about it. But it got me wondering: what are some things we can do to help us remember that our relationship with God is more than simply prayer and talking to God? And on the opposite side, what can we do to help us remember it’s not just about reading the Bible?

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Faith

May 1, 2010

I sit and wait to hear him speak.

Silence.

I wonder how long will I have to wait.

Silence.

He took too long, time to move on.

Silence.

My life’s a mess, where are you God?

Silence.

TALK TO ME!

Silence.

The pages rustle, my heart is not in it.

Silence.

A yearning to commune with God.

Silence.

I hear nothing, but somehow he has pulled me back.

Silence.

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The Bible’s Over-used (kind of)

January 8, 2010

I have always gone to a Calvinist church. My entire life has been spent in the Reformed denomination and one of the things that is empasized especially strongly is the Word. It is central to everything we do, and I have always been taught that our daily times with God should be spent in the Word. I’m beginning to disagree.

I have found so much joy and relationship in letting go of this primacy. I’m not saying that the Word is any less important to me now than before, truthfully I think the Bible is more important than ever because it is the roots. But I don’t think it’s what I need to spend the majority of my time studying.

I didn’t stop reading the Bible and replace it with something else. Rather as things have gone I have slowly found that I am increasingly aware of God’s presence in other areas, and enter into conversation with him when I notice them. A song comes on and I’m struck by a line and it opens a whole conversation with God. I’m reading a book and something strikes me so I pause to really digest it and what it might mean. TV shows, movies, even random articles on the internet. I spend a lot of time writing and I’m amazed how much God meets me there.

I find more vibrance and life and connection to God in these times than in reading the Bible. And I think that’s okay. I think not long ago I would have been worried. But I think that the Bible is a tool that allows us to get to that relationship with God. I don’t think I’ll ever not need to read the Bible, I’m far too human and failable to rely on my own understanding’s and interpretations and connections. But I do think we put too much emphasis on the role the Bible plays in our relationship with God.

I wonder if perhaps the Bible isn’t more like a person filling out a section “about me”- we learn all we need to know about that person- who they are, how they work, what makes them happy and sad, etc. But it’s only when we actually engage with that person that our relationship begins. The Bible gives us the basis for the engagement in relationship with God, but it only comes to life when we go beyond that.

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Stuck

September 8, 2009

When I was in high school I met weekly with a mentor. This woman had a significant impact on my life primarily because she taught me it’s okay, even good, to challenge what you have been taught to believe. One particular conversation that I often find myself coming back to is a discussion about devotions/ quiet time/ whatever you call your daily time with God.

I told her I hated doing it. I don’t know if I actually hated doing it, sometimes I think teenagers exaggerate. Whatever the case, the only reason I was doing it was because I was supposed to. I knew that. But I struggled to make it 15 minutes focused. I asked her what I should do. She said to stop. Stop reading your Bible, stop forcing yourself to spend that time each day. So I did, eventually. It took a while, I tend to be a people pleaser, and I think this often applies to my relationship with God as well. I don’t want to disappoint him. But finally I just quit. I stopped reading my Bible, I stopped making myself spend that time every day alone. I still went to church, youth group, and Bible study. I wasn’t quitting faith, just my devotion time.

Eventually I resumed it, and didn’t look at it quite as negatively as I had before. But since that first time I have quit several times. Not always for the right reasons. Other things sometimes take priority. This summer I felt like I hit a brick wall. I just wasn’t connecting with God, at all. I felt like I was reading a text book when I opened my Bible. When I tried Taize I almost fell asleep. When I read from a devotional book I found myself picking at the little things that irritated me or that I disagreed with and missing the point. So I quit. I planned to quit for a week. It’s been a bit longer- more like a month. I’ve done things here and there, but it’s been a month since I really spent time regularly in personal devotion.

In the past I’m eager to open my Bible again. The last time I stopped with my devotions for a bit I spent hours each day for a while just loving spending time focusing on God. But now I open my Bible again and I feel overwhelmed. I feel like I’m stuck and can’t get past something blocking the way to the something more that’s there. And it’s made me realize two things: quitting devotions is a double edged sword it can serve a great purpose but it can also just as easily make things worse rather than better, and I need a study group that I can figure out scripture with so that when I get stuck I have something to get me looking at it a little differently.

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Selfish Service

July 28, 2009

10 years ago I took my first trip to NYC with my high school youth group. We loaded up two big vans with people and stuff and drove 12 hours to Staten Island, NY. Staten Island is the forgotten burro of NYC. We spent the week working in a soup kitchen, food pantry, women/children shelter, and more. I remember this trip but not all the details of our time serving.

Last week I took my second trip to Staten Island. This time leading a group of 16 youth in a week of serving. We did the same sort of work, soup kitchen, food pantry, family shelter, half way housing (not the drug/alcohol kind, but the homeless to independent living kind) and more. I don’t know if it’s because I’m older now or what the reason is but this time around I feel like I am walking away with a much greater understanding of homelessness.

I don’t know if I could do it. The people we served were so grateful and kind even as they had to come into a soup kitchen for a hot meal or the food pantry to get enough food to feed their family for the month. They looked at us like we were giving up something to go and work there, when really what did we give up? Not much.

We were sleeping on fairly comfortable mats in a highly air conditioned room (the AC was on b/c people wanted to sleep in their sleeping bags not just under sheets). We were showering in a nice shower stall even though we had to share one shower with 20 people. We had plenty of food, and good food at that. No one really had to pay much money at all for the trip due to fundraising and most of the kids preferred to be in NYC serving for the week than working their normal summer jobs. We had money in our pockets for buying whatever we wanted (italian ice every night, anyone?) and many had bought new outfits just before leaving for the week to wear into Manhatten when we went sight seeing. Sacrifice- not really.

This isn’t to say that we didn’t do something worthwhile during our time. The work we did was truly needed. They would have been very shorthanded and crazy busy if we weren’t there to help out for the week. We did a lot of good work helping serve food and painting buildings that needed a fresh breath of life. We engaged with children and brought a great spirit to every activity we did. But we didn’t sacrifice. I don’t know what it would take for me to be willing to walk through the door to the soup kitchen. To do that you have to be willing to admit you need help. You have to admit you cannot make it on your own. You have to humble yourself and ask for someone to take care of your needs. I think we all could benefit from a time of need, but there is no way I would ever willingly go there. When you need you learn that in reality we can’t provide for ourselves. Even you and me who are well fed and able to buy our own food and have a comfortable place to go home to at night are reliant on God. When in need you truly understand this. I don’t think I totally get it right now.

What am I saying? I don’t know that I am even willing to do this, but I think if we are truly going to be servants then when we go for a week to serve we need to sacrifice. We need to say I’m going to give up some comforts in order to truly serve. Maybe I’m going to go without italian ice every night and instead use that money to buy food for the food pantry. Maybe I’m going to forget about buying a new outfit for myself and instead buy a new outfit for someone who actually needs it. Maybe I’m going to go without air conditioning and give my sleeping bag to someone who is sleeping on the ground. These are things I look back upon and wonder why we didn’t do something more while we were there. Why didn’t I skip italian ice and give needed food to the pantry? Why didn’t I offer my blanket to someone who needed it more than me? Why did I walk right past the buckets collecting money for the homeless in Manhatten without even giving a quarter? It’s because I am too self-focused. It wasn’t until I was back at home comfortable that I realized how little I had actually given up. It wasn’t until I was home that I was willing to allow myself to see how much more I could have given if I had only been willing to sacrifice. I hope next time I will make myself see how selfish I am being in my serving. And I hope that now I will be more generous to those around me every day. I hope.

By the way, if you are looking for a great affordable service option you should definitely check out Project Hospitality, we had a wonderful experience working with them.

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Over Correction

June 9, 2009

I am sure anyone having driven a fair amount will have encountered that time when you realize you are drifting the wrong way- perhaps you are drifting into the lane next to you occupied by another car, or perhaps you are driving down the highway and hit those loud bumps in the road alerting you to the fact you have driven onto the shoulder. What do you do? The majority of people respond by jerking the wheel the opposite way, too much, too fast- over correcting. We do this in culture as well. And we do this in the church.

Currently it seems we have gotten it into our heads that God is a loving being whose only desire is to have a relationship with us. That we aren’t expected to really change because we can’t. This idea is in response to the previous teachings and ideas that we need to do everything in our power to live a Godly life and that all God cares about is us becoming better Christians. Where’s the balance?

We cannot live believing that God cares only about the relationship. God desires to see us grow and change and become more Christ-like.  It is not okay for us to say we are in a relationship with God and that’s that. Relationship includes change and growth. In human relationships both parties must work to grow and change in order for the relationship to work. But with God only one party must grow. God is already perfect. He has reached out to us and now it is our responsibility to grow and become more like him. If we do not the relationship will die. We need to find that middle ground.

Relationship is the basis. Relationship is vital. In our world of technology and disconnection the focus on relationship is not a bad thing. However, we need to be honest about what relationship looks like and means. Relationship can never mean we stay how we are because change isn’t possible. There are no true relationships that exist without the growth and development of the people involved. There is a need to change and grow and become more Christ-like in order to maintain the relationship. There is a need for church discipline and active renunciation of sin. There is a need for good deeds and service. These are not “nice additions” or ideal things we should strive for- these are essential parts of the relationship.

God and me aren’t buddies. I don’t want God to be my buddy because the people I would call my “buddies” are people who come and go from my life fairly easily. I want a deeper relationship and in order to have that I must go through the painful process of growth and letting go of things that prevent the relationship from continuing to develop.

When driving and swerving to the soldier I tend to over-correct and swerve the other way. But shortly after that I get it straightened out and drive down the center of the lane as I should. We need to do this in the church. We need to find the middle of the road back and stop swerving from side to side.