Stumbling Through Life

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Please, God – Don’t strike me with lightning! I’m just trying to figure this world out. Sometimes I think and say things that are stupid. But sometimes, too, You tell me things that are so meaningful that I simply have to write them down. This blog is nothing more than a diary of some of these thoughts.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

The Christian argument over "the gay issue" involves holding a microscope over a few verses (about twelve). There's very little discussion over other issues nowadays, some of which appear right alongside this one. (Adultery, anyone? Pride? How about greed?)
The word "love" appears in the Bible somewhere between 500-700 times. If you put the two words in a "word cloud" expressing how many times they appear, it looks like this:

Which do you think is more important to God?
The Christian lifestyle, according to Jesus, is this: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40
Notice what He DIDN'T say: He didn't say to hate anyone, condemn anyone, or judge anyone. In fact, Matthew 7:1 says, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged." Ouch!
Christians, it's time to put away your microscopes, embrace Jesus' teachings, and love your neighbor.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

The Holy Spirit: He's Been Here All Along

Today in the liturgical calendar is Pentecost Sunday; the day that the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples, marking a new era in Christendom. Since that day, we have direct access to God through the Holy Spirit.
When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting. They saw what seemed to be tongues of fire that separated and came to rest on each of them. All of them were filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them. Acts 2:1-4
How cool is that?
I can't help wondering if we're taking full advantage of the Holy Spirit. As far as I know, only some Christians (Pentecosts, for instance), really believe in His power, and, respectfully, I think they use Him more for show than for His real intent. I think the Holy Spirit is supposed to work in our lives all the time, helping us and guiding us. The Spirit really is the forgotten part of the Trinity. We pray to God. We read Jesus' words and try to emulate Him. But do we rely on the Holy Spirit? If we did, is it possible that we would have a direct line to God?
But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. John 14:26
I think the Holy Spirit is what we might call our conscience, and picture as that little angel sitting on our shoulder, whispering the right answer in our ear. But... what if He's real? What if we really do get the answers straight from God, but we ignore them because they're not already written down, or because someone with a title -- like Father, or Pastor, or even Doctor -- didn't say so?
While I know the Spirit doesn't make us happy all the time (God never promised that!), He does help us through the hurdles of life, if we let Him… if we let Him. But we don't. Instead, we rely on the words of friends, political pundits, and yes, even opinionated pastors, thinking they know better than we do because they say so.
I think we don't take full advantage of the most incredible thing of all; God Himself, right inside us! The Triune God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is more reliable than friends and news stations; don't you think?
I'm only asking the question today. I want to look into this further.

Peace, Love, Spirit

Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Takeaway Message of the Bible

Is it possible for a set of writings as big and as varied as the Bible to have a single "takeaway message?" You'd think not. After all, it's made up of 39 (or more, depending on who you ask) books of Hebrew Scripture, 27 (or more) books in the New Testament, in three languages (Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek), written over centuries by multiple authors.

It's a good thing, then, that a lawyer asked Jesus to clarify: "Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?"
Jesus replied: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment."

But wait... Jesus didn't stop here. He kept talking:

"And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments." Matthew 22:36-40

(What was that? All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments!)

In the book of Mark, he says "There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:28-31 In the book of Luke, he says, "Do this and you will live." Luke 10:26-28

"Neighbor," as Jesus explains in the parable of the good Samaritan (Luke 10:25-37) is also understood as "enemy."

"You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you." Matthew 5:43

There's not a lot of wiggle-room here. Christians are called to love our neighbors and our enemies, no matter what we think of them. Anyone who says otherwise is disobeying God's word.

So what's the takeaway message?

For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: "Love your neighbor as yourself." Galatians 5:14

That's not too complicated, is it? Some translations say one word:


What ISN'T included in this? Let's see...

Hate isn't love.
Arguing, yelling, picketing, name-calling, belittling, bullying, killing... those aren't love either. Call them what you want, but if you're busy doing any of those things, you might not have time to do the ONE THING that God wants you to do.

Love... everyone.

Peace, Love, Neighbors

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

One Truth... or Many Truths?

"...then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." John 8:32

truth [trooth]
noun, plural truths [troothz, trooths]
1.the true  or actual state of a matter: He tried to find out the truth.
2.conformity with fact or reality; verity: the truth of a statement.
3.a verified or indisputable fact, or the like: mathematical truths.
4.the state or character of being true.
5.actuality or actual existence.

I hear the question a lot; is there one Truth-with-a-capital-T, or are there many truths? I assume what people often mean by this is, "Is this religion thing right, or do we have fudge-room to get into heaven? Will other people be there too?"

As a Christian, I feel obliged to believe there is only one truth, and it's pretty well-laid out in the my Bible: 
Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me." John 14:6

(Hmm. There's no fudge-room in this statement, is there?)

As a deep thinker (humor me here), I look around and see people following different truths: Muslims, Buddhists, Pagans, Atheists, and many, many more. I can't believe they're all going to hell because they don't understand John 14:6. It's not that I don't believe in hell, but, um, God, that's pretty harsh, isn't it? Some of these people are my friends!
As a human, I think there's one truth-with-a-small-t. Something's got to be right, and something's gotta be not-right. Unless there are parallel universes, but, well, I'm not going there today.
As a hippie wannabe, I like the "follow your truth" stuff. It's empowering. It's all warm and fuzzy and makes me want to go hug a kitten. (I like kittens. That's one of my truths.)

Out of the two possibilities, (one Truth/many truths) I see a third: 
There is ONE TRUTH.
We don't know it.
Because we're not God.

Yup. That's it. So, here's my truth, for now: I'm going to keep plodding along in the direction I'm going. It seems right to me. I believe the universe is somehow greater than the sum of its parts. There's more to life than what we can see and touch. I admit, I can't get my mind around some parts of the Bible (mostly the Old Testament), but I like the idea of a personal God. I like the stuff Jesus said. That's MY truth.

I see people following other paths, though. Do their paths lead to God? I don't know. Sometimes I like to think... and this might be wrong; I'm just thinking aloud... that Jesus is a LOT more than just a 2000 year old Jewish Carpenter, and that He speaks to people in different ways. I don't mean everyone, because not everyone is seeking Him. (Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. Matthew 7:7) But if people seek Him, and they find someone called Vishnu or Allah, and they put their hearts into following the wrong god, does the "right" God close the door? Or... does He leave it open until they see Him face-to-face, and they realize the Truth? If I see God when I die, and it turns out He has green skin and His name is Barbara, will I reject Him? Or will He say, "Too late. Go to hell."? I don't know.

I'll keep praying for more understanding. After all, I believe in God, and God knows the Truth.
Peace, Love, Truth

Friday, April 20, 2012

Does God Help Students Pass Tests?

"As long as there are tests,
there will be prayer in school."

Get it? Get it? Kids will pray for God to miraculously intervene, see, because they didn't study.

But will He? Does God intervene to help someone because they make a last-minute deal with Him? "God, I promise that if you help me with this, I'll go to church... pray more... be nice to my sister..."
Hmmm. I have a feeling God might see through that. I'm not saying He doesn't help us when we don't deserve it; I just think He's more inclined to let us experience the consequences of our actions. Test scores have borne this out. Study and you do well. Skip studying and pray as you walk in... not so much.

I do believe God answers prayer, but not (usually) in a spectacular way. Here's how it works: I pray well before the test day. I don't just pray for a list of "Stuff God should do for me." I thank him for my family, and for the rain, and I ask him to comfort my friend whose dad died, and, yeah, I pray that I'll do well in school.
Then, still in a positive state of mind, I get my books out and study. I get a good night's sleep. Oh, and I say a quick prayer again when I'm waiting for the test. It can't hurt, right? And...

A miracle!

I pass my test!

So, yes. I believe God does help students pass tests.

But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Matthew 6:33

Peace, Love, Prayer

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Holy Week: A Story of Human Frailty.

Starting with Palm Sunday, the day that Jesus rode triumphantly into Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11) and culminating in Jesus rising from the dead, the people around Jesus, even his closest companions acted like hypocrites, cowards, liars and turncoats. These were the same people who, on Sunday morning, held an impromptu parade for him, saying:

“Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
“Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David!”
“Hosanna in the highest heaven!” Mark 11:9-10

Within a few days these same people called for his death. Why?

He wasn't acting the way we wanted Him to. He wasn't saving people from their (earthly) oppressors. In fact, the first two things he did were to curse a fig tree (which I'm sure had people scratching their heads) and turn over the money-changers' table at the temple. (Hey, wait Jesus! We're the good guys. We're not the ones you're supposed to get mad at!) Then He was walking around talking a bunch of nonsense about "remembering him when he was gone." Before the week ended, he was dead... killed and denied by his own people.

Hypocrites. Cowards. Murderers.

When I feel frail and inadequate, I remind myself that I'm probably not much worse than the people that Jesus loved the most.

Peace, Love, Grace

Monday, March 19, 2012

Three Little Words...

"Climate change is real." "It's a hoax."
"Eating meat is unethical." "People were meant to eat meat."
"Gays are going to hell." "Gays were born that way."
"This recession is caused by (fill in the blank)." "No, it's not, it's cause by (-----)."

I think if we all occasionally used three little words we could end so much fighting. These words could stop the battle over gay marriage dead in its tracks. They could end the debate over creationism vs. evolution. And whether there's a hell (and who's going there). They could go far to patch up some big world issues, too.Who knows, maybe they could end wars! So, have you guessed yet? These three little words are...
I don't know.
See, by claiming to know everything about everything (which implies that people who disagree know nothing about anything) we make enemies. We build walls between "right" and "wrong." We push more and more of our friends to the other sides of those walls until we're alone in our tiny fortresses. Issues become more important than people. And we're unable to use those other three little words:
I love you.
When we do use those words, there are strings attached, and it's more like "I love you when you agree with me."
It's okay to say you don't know everything about everything. It might be hard at first, though, because you'll have to put your pride aside. You might occasionally even have to use three more little words. "I was wrong."
I'm not talking about actual decision making here. We have to learn as much as we can, so we can vote intelligently act ethically. I'm talking about endless debates and arguments, the kind you see on the internet that often end up with participants hurling insults in both directions. I'm talking about political rhetoric that ends up driving people farther to opposite side of issues until meeting in the middle is impossible.
Inability to use these words soon degenerates into pride. Sadly, pride doesn't solve problems.
If admitting you're not perfect seems hard, it gets easier. In my belief system, I have a fallback position; sort of a cushion under my tightrope, and saying "I don't know" isn't hard. I believe God knows. It's in his hands anyway, and I can sleep at night knowing I don't have to solve the world's problems.

Peace, Love, Serenity