Posts Tagged ‘relationship’

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Infantile Romance

February 12, 2011

It’s Valentine’s Weekend- the “official” weekend to celebrate love and that significant other you have found (or for those who until this year were in the same position I was, a weekend to grumble and complain about all the lovey dovey stuff going on around you). Today marks exactly 2 weeks that my girlfriend and I have been dating. It’s crazy to look back and realize it’s only been two weeks, it feels like a different lifetime. But as I rev up for our “big” celebration I realize that while I’m not big on Valentine’s day, or any of the commercialization surrounding it, I do want to show L. how I feel, and so there’s a lot of pressure. But, what’s more I am realizing how major a change this is in my life.

I used to talk with my other “single” friends about how frustrating and irritating it was that once someone started dating they suddenly disappeared. I always swore that would never be me, and yet, it is incredibly hard to not be that person. I don’t really want to give up a night with L. to go have dinner with friends. I don’t want to give up an afternoon with L. to have coffee. I don’t want to give up a single second that could be spent with her to spend time with my friends- who I still like a lot, but who just can’t fill the desires that L. does.

I feel safe. I feel comfortable. I feel challenged. I find myself expanding. I am becoming more aware of what I want, and at the same time becoming more aware of what she wants. I love the feel of her hand in mine, the smell of her as we sit watching a movie, the sound of her laughter, and the way her face looks when I say or do something that she finds humerus. I feel pain when she is sad, I worry when she worries, my heart breaks a little when I see her hurting.

So why say this here? Why do I feel the need to share this with you all? It’s because to me this is the point of celebrating Valentine’s day. It’s a silly holiday, it should be completely unnecessary. But when a relationship is no longer new I think we forget about celebrating these remarkable things. When time has passed we become comfortable and complacent and we need to have occasions that remind us of the joy and beauty to be found in a relationship. Much like we have holidays in the church calendar to remind us of what’s important, we need holidays and momentous occasions to remind us what’s important in a relationship.

Get past the cheesiness of this holiday and remember the joy you first had in your relationship. Remind yourself and your loved one just what a treasure your relationship is. And if you can’t do that, take the time to figure out how you can get that back.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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The Infallible Word

January 24, 2011

The Bible is the basis of so much of the Christian faith. We establish our beliefs and practices based more on what the Bible says than any other tradition or cultural factors. And while I don’t disagree with this, I do wonder if perhaps we place too much importance on the precise words of the Bible.

Over 2000 years ago stories were gathered and recorded. Stories from the Israelites. There’s a lot of good stories gathered, and a lot of really important stories for learning about and recognizing God’s presence in the world. But what’s missing? What stories got lost before being recorded? What stories were deemed unimportant by those writing down the history and traditions of the Israelites? We don’t know, and we won’t ever know probably. Do they matter? Do they change who God is? Do they change how we relate to God? I am going to say absolutely not. If they did then they would be there. God is all knowing and all powerful and if there was some essential piece to understanding who God is missing from our only tool for learning about him then I have no doubt it would never have been missing.

In the New Testament we have all sorts of references to other letters written by Paul and other Epistle writers. We know there is at least one other “Gospel book” and probably many more. Why aren’t they included? What did these letters and recordings of Jesus’ ministry while on earth have that those included in the Bible don’t? What didn’t we get passed on that might help us better understand Jesus and therefore God? I don’t know, and we probably won’t ever know.

What’s my point? It’s really rather simple. When we view the Bible, these 66 “books” that have survived the years to be passed along to us thousands of years later, we need to recognize not only that they were written for a specific people in a specific time and specific place, but also that we don’t have the whole story. I think there’s a reason for that too. Beyond the reality of losing things over the span of thousands and thousands of years. I think God doesn’t want us to have all the stories and letters and records. Because although I believe in the complete infallibility of the Bible I do not believe that the writers themselves were infallible. In other words- Paul might have given bad advice to someone, probably many times. Paul might have misinterpreted something, Peter might have written a letter in hasty response and said something he didn’t mean to say. The message of the Bible is beyond questioning, but those who wrote it, those who contributed their words to the Word, were not, are not.

I think that the problem we face today is based in fear. We fear that if we admit that something might be a little bit wrong. If we admit that Paul might have given a bad sermon on occassion, or that Peter had a temper, or that stories from the Old Testament might not tell the whole story; then we are saying the Bible might not be completely true. Then we face the problem of defending our belief and trust and faith in the God of the Bible, YHWH.

But that’s the thing. It’s scary to think about, but faith isn’t based on proof or science or lack of science or solid foundation. Faith is the trust that God is who he says he is. And we learn who he is through the message of the Bible, but we also learn who he is through his revelation in our lives today. I don’t think saying that the Bible isn’t literally, 100% word for word, beyond error takes away from the complete infallibility of the Word. In fact, I would argue that admitting that fallible human beings are responsible for the written form of God’s revelation actually strengthen faith rather than weaken it. The Bible was never intended to be the final word on faith. It was never intended to be the ultimate means to relationship with God.

The Bible is intended to reveal to us the nature of God. It serves to show us who God is so that we can recognize his presence in our lives here and now. The Bible gives us the basis for relationship, but it does not ultimately give us that relationship. The living, breathing, real presence of God in our lives and world today does that.

 

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A Lesson from Bones

December 7, 2009

I watch the TV show “Bones”.  Throughout the years it’s been on I’ve noticed that whenever there is a faith/science issue they do a fair job of representing the “faith” side of things, which often is not the case in media. There have also been some very definite undertones in story lines that deal with these issues in less obvious ways.  While I am quite certain it was not their intention, the end of the episode last week really struck me as a great example of how we should live as Christ followers.

Booth and Bones are talking about why the father did what he did. Booth says to Bones something about how when someone breaks your kids heart your own heart breaks and you rise up to protect/defend them. Bones says that the kid in question didn’t have a broken heart, and Booth responds that then the father’s love was twice as great. The part that struck me as a great example of how we should respond to God was in response to this Bones says “I don’t understand your number system, but it works”.

I think that’s how we need to respond to God. So often I don’t understand why God is asking me to do what he is. So often things I read or hear or feel don’t jive with what I want or what I can understand. But the way I show my love for God is by saying “I don’t get your system, but I know you do so I will trust that it works”. The way we truly show we love and trust God is by obeying him even when it doesn’t make sense to us.

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Forsaken

August 24, 2009

I have heard many heart breaking stories recently but two struck particularly close to home and have me asking “What can we do better?”

The cook at my dad’s work had a serious liver disease, I don’t really know what was wrong, it wasn’t from alcohol but other than that all I know is that he needed a liver transplant but for a long time he wasn’t “sick” enough to get on the list. Finally he got sick enough and a shortly after that he got a liver. The transplant went perfect- the doctors said he was the poster boy for transplants it went so well. He was home 6 days later. Less than 24 hours after that he died. He had a blood clot. The doctors said it wouldn’t have mattered if he had been in the hospital still either way they wouldn’t have been able to save him. He and his family hadn’t been to church in years and his wife made a comment like “I don’t think I want anything to do with a God that lets this happen”.

My church growing up didn’t have very “youth”. But for the first two years of high school we had a lot of kids in youth group- they were mostly kids who spent all their free time at the skating rink. They were disruptive and said things that made the few of us who had grown up in church a bit uncomfortable. But there were some who were truly seeking a relationship with God. Katie was one of them. She was a senior when I was a freshmen so the only time we talked to each other was at youth group. When she graduated she slowly fell away from the church, but not so much from God- at least not from the few times I talked to her. Amy had a baby boy about a year ago. He was born really sick and spent the first 6 months of his life in the hospital. Even when they finally got to take him home he was often in and out of the hospital and needed a lot of special care. About 2 months ago, 3 months before his first birthday he died. I heard from a mutual friend that Amy basically has turned her back on God.

Neither of these people was connected with a church community when they dealt with these things, and I doubt that a connection to a church community would change their feelings about God right now. But I want to know what we as the church can do to connect with these people before it gets to the extreme.

I wonder if we reached out to them instead of waiting for them to reach out to us if we could be a support network as they struggle with this cruel loss.

I wonder if we would be supportive as they turned away from God for a time.

I wonder if we could be a lifeline that could keep them in some way connected to God even as they struggle with these feelings of hurt and anger.

I wonder if it’s too late for the church to reach these people.

I wonder what Jesus would do.

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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.

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Apathy

January 15, 2009

If I were to sum up the biggest problem we in the church face today I would say it is apathy. I am reminded of Revelation when it says that because the church in Laodecia is neither hot nor cold God will spit them out. I have heard a fair number of sermons on this passage- it’s one of the more popular passages from Revelation to preach on in my experience. But for some reason we aren’t taking it to heart. We are apathetic in our desire to grow, we are apathetic in our caring about justice, we are apathetic about building community, apathetic about following the rules God has given, apathetic about morals, apathetic about correction, apathetic about politics, and on and on.

It seems that we fool ourselves into believing we aren’t apathetic because we are busy. We have tricked ourselves into mixing up being busy with caring. At LCRC when there is a sign up for PADS few people sign up (I am at least as guilty as the next person having never done it myself). When there is a fellowship event maybe 20 people come out- and it’s the same 20 pretty much every time. Families rearrange their schedules for sports, but when it comes to church activities if something else was planned church gets cut. Putting money in the offering plate isn’t supporting the work of the church. Praying for the homeless isn’t the same as taking action to help them. Saying you care about something is not the same as caring about.

We have to stop fooling ourselves into believing this lie. We are the church at Laodecia. We are the ones who are neither hot nor cold. The fire is smoldering, the ashes are warm. Until we start to care, until we stop being lukewarm we are not going to grow. And lack of growth means only one thing- death. The only things not growing are things dying. If we don’t want the church to die we need to start by caring. We need to stop being apathetic, we need to stop lying to ourselves. We need to start caring- caring about one another, caring about justice, caring about obedience, about God. There is no room for apathy in love.

I want to get up and shout with passion and conviction. I want to feel on fire for God, for anything. I need to stop talking about acting and act, I need to stop thinking about what it means to seek justice and act justly. I can’t wait for everyone to be on board, I need to do it now for me, for God, because that is what it means to be a child of God. I cannot be lukewarm. Lukewarm is dying, and death is not good.

But it’s hard to step out on my own. I’m not sure I have the strength. God help me, I’m tired of apathy.

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A Growing Feeling

January 13, 2009

One of the things I most remember being taught during high school is something I am beginning to question a bit. I was always told that if you asked God to have a stronger relationship with him, he would grant your request. I don’t really doubt this part of it, but the assumption between the lines is that ask and you will receive immediately. Actually, it’s one of the things I most clearly remember- one of the leaders said that God sometimes doesn’t answer our prayers immediately, but that this is one he always answered right away. We won’t get into the poor theology behind that right now, but it’s stuck with me and I think I have fallen into that immediate gratitude trap. I expect that the moment I ask God to strengthen our relationship I should fell more “in love” with him and closer to him. But that’s not how it works, is it? I don’t think God ignores any prayers, I don’t think God puts any requests on the back burner. But, sometimes it takes longer to see his answer than other times, and sometimes we may never truly see and/or understand his answer. I think this is true for our relationship with God as well. I can ask God to make our relationship better, stronger, more vibrant. And he answers, but often his answer isn’t to give me a more intimate feeling of being with him, or a broader understanding, or a stronger desire to study the Word or pray. Sometimes, his answer is so quiet or so surprising I don’t see it. And I’m trying to teach myself that this is a good thing- that this is normal and okay and God-ordained. But it’s hard, because we live in a world of instant gratification, and today I don’t feel like my relationship with God is stronger or better than it was yesterday, or a week ago, or even a month ago. But when I look back on the really long grand scheme I see how he has shaped me, how he has formed me, and that gives me hope in this moment that my prayer is being answered. But today I don’t really feel like studying the Word, I don’t feel like praying, or meditating, or worshipping. And that makes me feel like I’m not growing closer to God. I guess that’s why we call them spiritual disciplines instead of spiritual desires. I just wish it was easier to see/feel the growth.