Archive for the ‘they say Jesus will find you wherever you go’ Category

Just for the record, I’m not an Obama supporter at all. At all. Yet for some strange reason I find myself defending him more often than not.

I saw the headlines late yesterday trumpeting Obama’s resignation from the church he’s attended for years. I was immediately horrified.

Yes, I know that reports are of some questionable things being said in that pulpit, but I’ll be honest. From what I’ve glimpsed on the fringe of this election cycle, this race has been so very nasty that people will do and say anything to discredit their opponents. That leaves me taking all reports of “he said she said” with several grains of salt. I don’t know–nor does it much matter to me–whether or not Obama’s pastor said those things.

What does matter to me is that a man is giving up his church home under extreme outside pressure of a political nature. This, as an American, sickens me beyond belief. We have allowed politics to interfere with a man’s free exercise of religion. Some of us are even happy about it. Happy! About an America where we can coerce someone into going or not going to a church because we don’t agree with the message of that church.

Think about it, then go vomit and then come back and read the rest of this if you like.

I hear the arguments against my point and they’re all valid to a degree. Yes, Obama made the final choice (under extreme duress). Yes, Obama chose to run for office–against a Clinton, no less–and is not in any way a naif. Yes, the things this pastor is reported to have said can be offensive.

Well, I’ve gone to plenty of churches where what is said from the pulpit is offensive to someone. I’ve gone to churches that actively preach against divorce, alcoholism, obesity, homosexuality, gambling, drug addiction, cheating on your taxes, driving over the speed limit, women working outside the home, women in the pulpit…the list is endless. Even now my pastor says things from time to time with which I take issue. There have been a few things about which we have to agree to disagree. For instance, as a libertarian I’m offended by having our children forced to say the Pledge Of Allegiance in VBS. But I’m not leaving my church because of it.

The free exercise of religion is the reason for this country. It’s the first thing we put in the Bill Of Rights–before we even get to talking about guns or voting or soldiers living in the basement.

And we’re happy about a man being coerced into changing his religious habits?! I’m sorry. It’s just not my America.

Hat Tip: Aunt B.

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At the end (when it finally got there) of Indiana Jones there was some discussion about how the real treasure is knowledge.

I couldn’t help but think of snakes tiptoeing* around curious naked girls and promising them…knowledge. That was the fruit which tempted Eve, of course, and so the Church has for so long had deeply entrenched pockets of anti-intellectualism. I understand why that is, but I’ve got more in common with Eve in that I want to know things. I like knowing, just for knowing’s sake.

That’s the best thing about mysticism, really. People–when they really want to be bored–ask me why I refer to myself as a mystic and the short answer would be that I do so because Mystery is the seat of wisdom. Knowledge is a grand thing, and seeking knowledge is a worthwhile pursuit. But you have to be satisfied with the basic truth of knowledge, which is that you will never have all of it.

I chuckle when I hear people reduce the force that is God to something small. There is always our desire in humanity to reduce God to a thing we can know, hoping that in doing so we can then understand God. Justice. Love. Grace. All of these are tiny shards of the full scope of God, yet so often I see people discard mystery, reduce God to one of the components of God and then venerate the piece instead of the whole. It’s sort of like loving your parents only because they drive you to the mall, while forgetting the many other things that they do for you and also forgetting they are people who exist outside of your experience of them and should be loved on those terms.

Our God is the phenomenon of the Knowable Mystery. We can commune with God because of the blood price paid by Jesus. While we exist in this human form, however, we cannot know all of God and must be content with Mystery. That is the birth of the wise.

It is also the vexation of the skeptic. But that’s a story for another time.

*Yes, snakes once had feet.

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I’ve missed a lot of church lately. (Whether it’s missed me or not is another story.)

But today the strangest thing happened–something that hasn’t happened to me in a church service in about 10 years. I actually felt a call to do a specific thing. You could have bowled me over.

Now I will say that God speaks to me a lot. I’d be a poor Christian Mystic if I didn’t believe that. But God rarely speaks to me directly, with instructions to do a specific thing, while in church. It’s kind of neat when it happens, I will say that much.

And I’m kind of nervous about the next steps. But I will say that when God calls you to do a specific thing there is a peace about the eventual doing of it.

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I’ve had this argument before, most memorably with Jason and again with Aunt B.. I generally think that outside of an epic novel context, it’s a bit strange to have people apologising on behalf of someone else to someone who accepts the apology on behalf of yet another person. Sure, it makes for good storytelling when you’ve got Peter Smith apologising to Paul Jones for Peter’s grandfather taking Paul’s grandfather’s land back in chapter six.

In real life, though, I think it’s an arrogant thing to do. Because if you are apologising on behalf of another person, what you are really doing is saying “look at how bad that fellow is, and how good I am instead! Why, I’ve got such a finely-honed sense of honor that I will apologise on behalf of THAT guy over there! Aren’t I something?”

I bring all of this up again because my fellow Mennonites are just tickled pink over an apology they received from the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America. When I first read the headline–“Mennonite Church USA accepts Lutheran Apology”–I thought there was some interesting skullduggery involving a co-opted pavilion and dueling carry-in dinners. But no. It’s the Lutherans (in America) apologising to the the Mennonites (in America) for the persecution of Anabaptists (in Germany and Switzerland about 400 years ago.)

Even more appalling is that

From 2002 to 2004 a liaison committee with four individuals from each denomination met five times, charged in part with the task of seeking ways to heal the memories of 16th century conflict.

Please. Just please. We’re all supposed to be Christians. Frankly, I’m embarrassed at the thought of other Mennonites who are still dwelling on the Martyrs instead of forgiving in Grace those who persecuted us in the past. I’m embarrassed at the thought of there being an actual COMMITTEE who sits around and ponders these things. But most of all, I’m embarrassed that there may be people on both sides of the issue who think that they personally can right the wrongs which are four centuries old. That they need to continually look backward and inward instead of looking outward to heal our present communities.

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I haven’t read Shaun Groves in awhile because I am not able to correctly operate my feedreader, it seems. But then I had people coming over here from Shaun’s (Hi! People from Shaun’s!) and so I ambled back over to check it out again.

And I see that Shaun is asking about the ethics of buying an iPhone.

No, buying a $600 non-neccessity like an iPhone is not the best decision for a Christian to make when considering how many needs that cash could meet. But, yes, I make the same sort of bad decision every day.

Is this Christians Judging Christians Week? Did I miss something? I guess even if Matthew Stark gets his way and the Church “gets her voice back”, She probably shouldn’t use that voice to talk on an iPhone.

I’ve read Rich Christians In An Age Of Hunger, so this whole concept of financial guilt is not new to me. Hey, I’m a Mennonite. We’re a shirts-off-our-backs kind of people. But I’m not here to give some sort of Holiness Resume where I talk about recycling my plastic grocery bags and knitting sweaters out of dog hair.

I’m here to talk about how easy it is for someone to say “how you earn and spend your money is not necessary, but how I earn and spend my money is essential to the kingdom.”

Shaun is a professional minister. He gets his money from ministry. He makes Christian music and sells it. He is, in effect, in the Jesus Business. I know a lot of people in the Jesus Business, and I’m glad that they were called to that work. I’ve written about this before and I’ll write about it again, I’m sure. Because it’s important. VERY IMPORTANT.
Dear People In the Jesus Business:
There is One Body with Many Parts. Not all of us are called to the Jesus Business. We earn and spend our money and time in different ways. And that’s okay with the Lord. So it had better be okay with you.

I make my money in marketing. It’s my job to convince people to buy books without words in them. For a long time I thought that was the least necessary item in the world. Then I became a manager in a company that made those books. I saw artists get checks for the pictures they drew which graced the covers of the books. My boss went to China and talked about the thousands of Chinese who no longer lived in poverty because they worked at the factory that made those books. I saw 75 people at my company have jobs paid for by those books. I saw people pay their tithe, their children’s tuition to DCA and even buy Shaun Groves CDs with money they earned at that job. I also saw people use those blank books to take sermon notes preached by their pastors and to write their daily prayer devotions.

I tried to tell Shaun that for every product made, there are at least four people employed globally. He responded to me thusly:

1.ME: iPhones are made by people. People in Taiwan who need jobs. If we don’t buy an iPhone for $600 dollars a lot of people in Taiwan won’t be able to feed their families.

Johns have sex with women in the red light district of Amsterdam 24 hours a day…legally. If they don’t these women won’t have jobs. Porshe employs tens of thousands of people, if we stop buying their 100K SUV those people will lose their jobs. Joel Osteen employees dozens (if not hundreds), so if we stop buying his theologically erroneous books and watching his tv show those people will lose jobs. I understand the point, but the logic breaks down when applied everywhere. (Note: I’m not saying iPhones are equivalent to tricks, luxury cars or bad theology.)

Well, I say let’s not apply the logic everywhere. The iPhone is not a hooker. (Although I can see how one might be confused by use of the term “call girl”.)

Products themselves are not good or bad. That is a form of idolatry.

The fact of the matter is that those of us not directly in the Jesus Business find other ways to make our money. We fund our own ministries with secular jobs, and also fund the ministries of those who work directly in church-related business. It just so happens that for many years the bulk of my family’s money has come directly from the cell-phone business. Here’s the thing: I won’t complain about the non-necessity of Christian Music CDs if you don’t complain about the non-necessity of expensive phones.

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***Angry Vent Ahead. Read With Caution***

I’m a Christian. I’ve been one since I was four years old. Being a Christian isn’t easy, because not only do you have to be a human being in the hard world, you are also supposed to live holy. Set apart. It’s a process and a struggle. I wouldn’t have it any other way, of course, because I love God above all else. I’m very plain about that.

That’s why this Pure Life Revolution stuff is really bugging me today. I’ll be honest. I hadn’t heard about it until yesterday, when it came to my attention as I blogged for Nashville Is Talking. At the time it didn’t sound like any big deal. I’m used to churchish things where groups of us get together to pray for this or that. I think of these deals as mostly exercises for us to have fellowship with some of the other billion people on the planet who believe in Jesus Christ. They’re kind of like family reunions with Rich Mullins songs instead of potato salad.

But here’s what gets me about this Pure Life Revolution. It seems to be founded by a guy who lives here in Nashville called Matthew Stark. If you read his Bio, there’s great detail in there about how he spent many years as a drug-running thug with all kinds of addictions and rap sheets and whathaveyou. He apparently took a break from his heathen ways to get a TV Production degree from Oral Roberts University. Funnily enough, his heatheny ways continued as he persisted in cussin’ and drinkin’ and druggin’ and runnin’ round with wimmin until he found Jesus amen.

Now, I’ll just ignore how much of this bio sounds like A Million Little Pieces (For Jesus) [Come off it, dude. Seriously. The MAFIA??!? Just. Please.] and go right into what is bugging me enough to bang out a blog post on a holiday.

Mr. Stark claims that

The Church must have her voice back, and Matthew is purposed in seeing this happen.

See. This is where we have a problem. I AM THE CHURCH. So is my husband. So are my parents, siblings and the millions of believers who worship alongside us in pews and chairs. The Church is in prison in China. The Church is John Carney on his mission trip. The Church is Erin H. working for the Peace Corps in South America. (Forgive me, guys, I’ll add links in later. I’m writing fervidly.) The Church is a bunch of people who are trying hard to make a difference. Who are not capitalising off tantilising tales of temptation in order to have a ministry that has a fully-designed website with a “click here to donate” button. The Church is several hundred million people getting out of bed one day at a time, taking up their crosses daily and loving others as Jesus commanded. It isn’t perfect, but it is a living, breathing organism.

I know that the dramatic testimonies have always been the stuff of revival meetings. I know that The Baptism of Jesse Taylor style of personal redemption where Satan loses “a good right arm” are stirring in their drama. They make better stories for bored church attendees than the dull “I was saved at VBS when I was six, went to Christian School and became a pastor. But I did drink a beer this one time….”

But you know what gripes me? When dudes like Stark who (may or may not have actually) run with the mob, drink, and have sex with hookers get all saved at the last minute and then come back to the Church to tell us how we all need to be better Christians. Christians like them–on bright shiny fire for Jesus.

Give me a break. While you were out prodigal son-ing it up and down the free countryside some of us have been hopelessly devoted to this cause and labouring away in a world without drugs and porn. Look, I’m glad you’re back in the fold and all, but don’t come in a nippin’ at the other sheep. We’re ALL here under the eye of the shepherd, thanks. And He ain’t you.

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May is the month of my birthday, so I normally love it. HOWEVER, a few years ago it also became the month our car tags expire, and therefore, the month we have to put up with the endless aggravation and expense of passing MARTA to get them renewed.

From time to time I fantasise about having a brand-new car and just sailing through MARTA, no questions asked because I hate the whole experience.  It’s like having your car taken to the principal’s office. And now, with our current, ah, situation I have to admit that I’ve been dreading the Car Tag Renewal Dance with an extra-intense passion. There was no way we had the $500-$900 it has taken in the past three years to get the car in shape to pass inspection.

Guess what? It took $200 TOTAL for the repairs and the new tags.
And…coincidentally ( 🙂 ) guess what some church friends sent us in the mail four days ago?
Yep. $200 accompanied by a note which said “This is repayment from us to some friends who helped us out when we were unemployed.”
So, thanks to the Grace of God and the generousity of friends, one of the biggest stressors in my life was taken care of today.

I realise this kind of stuff sounds really corny, but I have to testify to the greatness of God.

ETA: Whoops. The original post was about my first visit to Hooters and so I was gonna make some remark about the love which flows from the Bosom of God to tie the two posts together, but I forgot. So, anyway, there you go. I made good on my “mammaries” portion of the post, anyway.

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It’s silly to let your life be rocked by little things, perhaps, but oh well.  That’s who I am and that isn’t gonna change.  Eat the last Pop-Tart and it’ll make me cry (just a little).   Cancel my tv program and I’ll be miffed for two days.

So how do you think I’m handling the news that my Sunday School teachers have quit and our little class is being disbanded?  Not well, I’ll tell you that.   I’ve seen this day coming for about six months now, and I’ve not been happy about it.   I like our teacher and his wife.  He’s very good and I’ve learned a lot from him.  What I don’t understand is why this means we must disband our little class.

Southern Baptists (over)use a phrase for church involvement:  Plugged-In.   It bothers me because it’s jargon-y.  Like “out of pocket” and “tipping point”, it’s one of those phrases that communicates “We all read the latest Management Technique Book!”    When a person comes to church, much is made about getting that person “plugged in”–choir, helping in the nursery, going to Sunday School.   My email last night said that they hoped we’d all find a new class we’d like to “plug into”.    It makes me feel as though we’ve shorted out a circuit-breaker or some such thing.   There were only a few of us, to be sure, but we are plugged in.

Oh well.  Someone has unscrewed the outlet from the wall, I guess.   Time for me to find a new socket.

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So here we are having conversations–good conversations–about Christianity, Mysticism, the saving grace of the Blood of Christ and other little faith items.

Then God has to go and provide a little test case.

Jerry Falwell’s train made it’s final stop today. Some people are sad, some are happy.

I didn’t like Jerry Falwell. I think he had a lot of wrongheaded ideas that caused a lot of people deep and lasting pain.

But Jesus died for Falwell as painfully and sorrowfully as he died for every other person on this planet. You don’t have to believe in Jesus. But I do and Falwell did, too. And here’s where I believe that I must let God be God and let God’s redeeming love take care of Falwell. Jesus asked us to love our neighbour. Falwell was my neighbour, and I love him on Jesus’ command.

Jerry Falwell is now in the land where there is no sorrow nor death, neither crying nor pain. He is made new.

I’d love for the legacy of hate he ignited to die with him, and that includes all the expression of those who ‘hate him back’. Your anger and bitterness is justified. But if you let love transcend that you will have a truer earthly peace than Falwell most probably ever knew.

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Jeffrey started this conversation over at his blog, not knowing that he’d strike at least three of my nerves simultaneously. How can I ignore any conversation that deals with

  1. The heresy of the “health and wealth”/”name it and claim it” false teachers
  2. The death of mysticism in the Christian Church
  3. The complete misunderstanding of the nature and practice of Wicca and paganism

do you have any insight as to where the idea that if we “all pray together”, “pray enough times”, etc, about something that those things somehow have an affect on whether God honors that prayer or not?

Ohh boy. Don’t get me started on a tirade that will go into why I think Frank Peretti’s “This Present Darkness” is a hideous malformation of Christianity [1] or why so many Christians mistake God for a cosmic vending machine that just occasionally eats your change.

The modern church has managed to be both far more pagan and far less spiritual than it should be. In our rush to sanitise the Church from being sullied by any actual religious experience we’ve turned it into a cultural ghetto.

Our relationship with God is intended to be just that. A relationship. Paul talks of Jesus being our High Priest. Those aren’t just words. Jesus’ death created a mystic bridge whereby we humans can engage directly in a communication with the Divine; hence some of Satan’s anger with us. He strove to be like God and failed. We, ironically, have a closer communication with God than Satan ever could.

Unfortunately in our rush to strip all mysticism out of the Church, we’ve also stripped most of the power out of our relationship with God. We’ve turned God from a mystical communicant into a sort of sugar-daddy.

Prayer always gives us answers, but mostly by opening our minds to that bridge of communication with the divine. We aren’t to be praying toward humanly-directed outcomes. “Ask and it shall be given” is often misunderstood to mean that if you ask hard enough, long enough or loud enough for a car or a pony or a baby or a new job you will get those things–and if you don’t get them, well, you just didn’t do your best askin’!!!

That’s wrong. Very wrong. The act of asking is an act of engaging God. In talking WITH God (as opposed to yelling AT God) you achieve an understanding about what He wants for you. You may not get the car or the pony or the baby or the new job, but you will see how your life is a better one for you than what you thought you wanted.

Many of the “health and wealth” teachers of this present false age have seized upon this heresy. As a devout Christian with chronic illness I’m convinced by God that one of the very purposes of my illness is to act in testament against the false teachings of those who would say that you are only sick because you didn’t pray hard enough. Or that you are only poor because you didn’t ask God for money.

Our prayers are not about acheiving OUR desired outcome. They are about remaining in constant communication with God. God then gives us the eyes with which we can see Divine Wisdom play out in our earthly circumstance.

[1] Why I Hate This Present Darkness:


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