Monday, December 6, 2010

Under the Blanket

Sometimes I question the truth about God & this blanket religion (Try & think of how many denominations & belief systems fall under the blanket of "Christianity"). I feel as though in order to follow Jesus & walk heavenward with His merry band of "Christians" , I have to throw a blanket over myself too. Its heavy, hot & scratchy under here... I trip ocassionally because its hard to see where I'm going... but this is walking by faith, right?

Am I being led by faith or hearsay? Do I have faith in God or in stories & traditions passed down through countless generations? No one knows how the earth was formed. Evolution tells us organisims crawled out of the sea & eventually sprouted appengages & became cows, monkeys & men. Who was around to know? It sounds absolutely ridiculous to me... What about the Garden of Eden & Noah's Ark? Who reported the play by play? These things sound ridiculous as well. But for some reason, I believe them over evolution... Truth or hearsay? Maybe it really is relative.

Sometimes I bump into another blanket-wearer. We exchange niceties & drift somewhere else among the mob... When we talk, we talk through the blanket. When we "fellowship", its through the blanket. I don't see them, they don't see me & we don't see those around us. The outside world- those "heathens" are but voices & images in our minds... Its like listenening to the narration of a museum exhibit. We are blinded by our blankets of opinion & belief, but walk through & nod our heads... Fascinating. Riveting. Sad. And then we leave, blankets firmly fixed. They've grown heavier, as have our eyelids. We sleep. No one will know... Until someone trips over us.

I've tripped over many a sleeper on my journey... no doubt I've caused a few to stumble myself. And when I wake up, I instinctively throw off my blanket... to the horror & shame of the other blanket wearers around me. They still can't see me. They're hindered by the fabric of their faith... But they know because I ask why everyone is wearing a blanket. They mutter hearsay, they know something's different about me... I've been exposed... Some run in fear, some gather around me & try to cover me with their blankets until my own is found. I begrudgingly pull it up over my head. I let it cascasde down around me, get up off my knees & walk. Its heavy, hot & scratchy under here. I still can't see. But better to be hidden than picked off by predators or worse, than being alone...

Or so its been said... but it could just be hearsay.

Flash Card Experiment Day 4

Today's word:


A subtle expression of meaning, quality or tone. A slight degree of difference. Graduation.

Today's motivational thought:

I can grow & change.

My motivational card also reads "Caterpillars turn into butterflies, acorns into oaks, buds into flowers". The changes in each of these things are subtle... they don't transform overnight... & when each of these become something new, how many of us notice? Whos been standing around long enough to acknowledge the nuance that delivered such metamorphoses? Is the caterpillar aware hes undergone a radical transformation within the chrysalis, or does he feel like he just woke up from a power nap? Do the oak tree or the flower remember how small they once were? Are they aware of what they've become & how long their conversion took to accomplish? How much more or less might I be able to judge growth & change within my own self... I don't remember being conceived or growing in my mother's womb... I don't even remember my first breath in the outside world. But over time, this baby girl became a youngster, who became a teenager, who eventually became (& sometimes feels like shes still becoming) an adult... Someday my grey hair will win out & my body will falter... Am I aware of these changes as they happen? Not at all. I am always surprised when I notice something different. Such is the nature of nuance... and perhaps I am growing & changing even now. Somewhere down the road I may realize I became a butterfly, an oak, a flower...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Flash Card Experiment Day 3

Today's word: Pragmatic

Practical, as opposed to idealistic. Rational, realistic.

Today's Motivational thought:

I can put my worries into perspective.

Worry is easily blown out of proportion. I worry that I'm not thin enough, pretty enough, good enough, talented enough. Is this realistic? No. Who exactly am I comparing myself to afterall? Someone made of flesh & bones like me? Or perhaps the great God of the Universe is the contender in this match. Either way, I can't be perfect & won't win out... There will always be someone bigger & stronger. I worry that I will be alone the rest of my life. Maybe I won't be able to pay my bills, or won't know how to handle a high stress situation when it suddenly overtakes me... Are these worries valid? Sure. Practical? Not really. Worrying won't help me achieve long lasting relationship, financial stability or mental & emotional clarity in a time of need... But I can learn to be pragmatic about my anxiety... I can expect realistic results from realistic goals... I can start small & build my reserves. Who knows? Maybe I'll look back on all my worries someday & laugh...

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Magic Carpet 4Sale Part Deux

The Christian scriptures don't have the power to save us or heal us or make us holy enough to stand before God. Only Jesus can do that. Our faith is in Jesus, not in the church, not in signs & wonders or even in the Bible. Yes, Paul says to Timothy (depending on your preferred translation): All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NIV).

Some argue since Jesus is the very Word of God (See John 1:1), that scripture is holy. "All scripture is God breathed..." But then, I was also "God- breathed" (according to Genesis), I was even made in His image. God created the first man & woman out of dust & breathed the breath of life into them. His breath. In fact, we are all God breathed. John 1:2 says "Through Him all things were made". Does this mean everything (me, you, that rock, that tree, that chicken or cow) is holy? No. Neither does "God breathed" mean the scriptures should be considered one in the same as Jesus. I personally don't think the two are interchangeable. I do believe (despite human errors in translation, etc.) that the principles contained in the bible are inspired by God. I believe they are the testimony of the Truth. They point, they direct. The word of God can equip us to find, to know & to follow Christ with both feet on the ground, through the flood, fire & muck. It can, but does it?

"...the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart." Hebrews 4:12 NIV

Flash Card Experiment Day 2

Today's word:

Alacrity- Speed, quickness, haste. Cheerful readiness or willingness.

Today's motivational thought:

"I can say NO".

Sometimes I have trouble saying no to people- especially when they request that I do something in short order. You say "Jump!" & I'll say "How high?" But before the words complete their descent from my lips, I'm floundering like a rock climber on a rappel gone bad. I didn't really want to say "Yes" in the first place. I just wanted you to think well of me.

Sometimes I realize I've spoken abruptly, forgetting details that might genuinely prevent me from keeping my word. Sometimes I realize the consequence of my "yes" all too late & end up beating myself up or bailing out of self-preservation.

The truth is, I don't have to say "yes" to everyone. I don't have to belittle myself to justify my "no" & I don't have to be a flake. If I communicate my "no" with honesty & thoughtfulness, that could be a first step in the right direction...

Friday, December 3, 2010

Magic Carpet 4Sale

How is that we have the scriptures written in so many languages, yet some of us (me included) are so benign in our faith & witness? How is it that those who don't have the luxury of literacy or finances to possess sacred scrolls or books seem more likely to see more signs & wonders? What would have happened if each person in the pre-Gutenberg era had been able to read the Bible as we know it today? Might they have obtained the same kind of connection with their creator? Or would they have become like us?

And who is "us?"

We are the modern American church, fat with "scripture", so much so that we can't even move ourselves, let alone let the Spirit move us. We are morbidly obese... filling up on "the word", singing our songs & going to our bible studies with our friends. Maybe we busy ourselves with "God's work", prayer meetings, outreaches, community involvement... But have we ever left the comfort of our "christianity"? And what would that even mean or look like in the real world?

It seems some of us live in a kind of fantasy world, holding on to our scriptures as if they were a magic carpet with the power to take us anywhere we want to go. "Magic carpet, help us achieve whatever it is we need (or want), all for the glory of God of course!" Perhaps we believe we are impervious to scrutiny, above reproach... Justified, sanctified & oh yes, forgiven. We're safe to do whatever we want as long as we're firmly seated, holding on to the fringy corners, leaning into the turns. But merely owning a Bible, reading it or even speaking the words outloud will not protect us, make us holy or bring us closer to the living God.

To the casual observer, the Bible is the stuff of legends. There are heroes & villians, victories & failures. There is life & death, faithfulness, betrayal... There is hope & hope deferred. Its a book of heritage. And like a tattered family album passed down through generations, some pull it out for the sake of nostalgia & put it back on the shelf when they're done. For some, the bible is mere fiction... not to be taken too seriously. For others, the Bible is bread & water.

But listen to the words of Jesus. He said, “I am the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to Me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in Me will never be thirsty". John 6:35 NIV

He also said: "You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about Me, yet you refuse to come to Me to have life". John 5:39-40 NIV

Are we believing in the power of scripture or the power of Christ to move us? What's the difference?
More next time...

Flash Card Experiment Day 1

I have a couple boxes of "flash cards" that I found collecting dust on a thrift store shelf a while back. One deck is GRE vocab & the other is motivational. These cards now rest happily collecting dust on my shelf. The other day I decided it might be fun to try something... So I broke out both decks & here's what happened:

Today's word:

Deface- to mar the appearance of, vandalize, disfigure, impair, spoil.

Today's motivational thought:

"I can label life a new way".

How have I been marred or vandalized? How have I been disfigured, impaired &/or spoiled? The burdens of life have marred me, vandalized my walls, disfigured the Architect's original design & spoiled it... momentarily. What can I do about it? Perhaps the answer is in the motivation. Can I label this "marredness" in a new way? Can I see the burdens of life, the disfiguring weight that has impeded me as something beneficial? Perhaps the weight is not meant to be carried all at once, but like a body builder, I need to gradually work up to things... Perhaps I can learn to lessen the weight I carry, discipline myself to take things one thing at a time & slowly gain the strength to bear up under the load... Perhaps I need more levers, ropes & pulleys... Perhaps I need help.

And a wall is a wall, whether it has a clean coat of paint or just got tagged with graffiti. No need to destroy the wall... I can paint over a wall that's been defaced. This "mess" can be cleaned up, restored, maintained. It may take some work, but it can be done.

Anyway. I was pleasantly suprised with this experiment...