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

Saturday, March 3, 2012

I Gave Up Chocolate. So what?

In my church, people give something up for lent (chocolate, coffee, french fries) or do something we wouldn't ordinarily do, such as helping at a local soup kitchen. I gave up chocolate and I'm involving myself in extra activities at church.

But why chocolate? I'm not hungry, as I would be if I went on a "real" fast. I'm not really suffering. (I'm not. I'm not!) And I'm not doing a whole lot of good. I'm not even helping the Girl Scouts out by buying their Samoas and Thin Mints. (Curse their bad timing! Or is this intentional temptation?) I do put a little extra money, the cost of a month's worth of chocolate, in the tithe. That's something, right?

Christians aren't commanded to fast, though the Bible says it's good to do. Jesus' own disciples didn't fast (Luke 5:33) but the book of Acts mentions disciples fasting.
The point of fasting should not be for any worldly gain for myself, so when I "brag" about going a month without chocolate, I'm probably detracting from the intended point of the exercise. I'm not getting any brownie points there. (Mmm... brownies...)

I can't help but dwell on the fact that, compared to this puny act, Jesus' sacrifice was HUUUGE. "Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." John 15:13 And I'm gently nudged to do a little more... and a little more... to help my own fellow humans.

The reason to fast is to devote time to prayer. So whenever I think about going for a chocolate bar, or a bowl of ice cream, I stop and pray. And I think about chocolate a lot. so... This month I'm praying a lot.

Peace, love, choco... I mean prayer.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Perfect Like God

Today is "Leap Day." Every four years we add a day to our calendar. Why? Because the calendar can't quite be coordinated with the astronomical year. It takes 365.24219 days for the earth to get around the sun. So... since we can't have a quarter-day, we're forced to add a day ever four years. A lunar year is different yet, about 357.37 days, which is why the moon cycle doesn't last a month.
So, if God is perfect, why did he make such an imperfect year? He could have made it 364 days long: divisible by four. There. Nice and neat.

But he didn't. Hey, I don't have to understand it. I just have live my life.

And not only that, but He made people with different colored skin, and people who believe different things, and people who dress differently... and He told us all to love one another.

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” John 13:34-35

That's not so complicated, is it?

Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. John 14:27

Peace, Love, Perfection

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

God Wants You

Yet even now, says the Lord,
Return to me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and with mourning;
Rend your hearts and not your clothing.
Return to the Lord, your God,
for he is gracious and merciful,
slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love,
and relents from punishing.
Who knows whether he will not turn and relent,
and leave a blessing behind him,
a grain-offering and a drink-offering
for the Lord, your God?
Joel 2:12-14

Friday, February 10, 2012

What I’d like to say to the people of Westboro Baptist Church:

“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, that you may be children of your Father in heaven. He causes his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.” Matthew 5:43...

But they wouldn't listen anyway. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love." 1 John 4:8

God is love.

God IS love.

God is LOVE!

Peace, Love, Coexist

Sunday, January 29, 2012

My Head Hurts

Recently, in trying to research what I believe (that sounds a bit absurd already) I've had all these new terms thrown at me... Emerging Christians (or is it emergent?) neo-charismatic, radical center (I kind of like that one), substitutionary atonement... My head is spinning.
While I really admire theologians for all their hard brain-work, I'm not a theologian; I'm a pretty simple-minded human. Sometimes I just want to curl up under the sheets and forget about it all.
Meanwhile, I'll just do the best I can: love God and love my neighbor, as the Bible says to do. (Luke 10:27) Some days that's all I can do.
Am I wrong? Will I go to hell if I don't understand the nature of the Trinity? I don't think so. I don't think God expects us to fully understand Him. After all, He's bigger than we are.

Peace, Love, Hope

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Q. Does God answer Tebow's Prayers?

A. Yes. He says, "I'm not that much of a football fan. I'm into baseball. Go Angels!"

If you don't know who Tim Tebow is, you're probably not a football fan. (I'm not, so I had to look him up.) He's a football player who's known for praying on one knee before and during football games, and for pointing up at "God" when things go well on the field.

I'm indifferent to over-the-top grandstanding. It might attract positive attention to God, but it will more likely attract negative attention. Here's why: Tebow prays. Tebow wins games. Christians attribute his wins to his prayer, not to his natural abilities, (not to mention the abilities of the other people on the team!) When the team wins, God wins! Yay! When the team loses (as they did last night...)
Was God watching another game?
Was He mad at Tebow?
Does He even EXIST?
Or... maybe God doesn't work that way at all. Prayer is great, and I'm all for it, but this kind of "Look at me, I'm praying" is dangerous, especially when mixed with frenzied fans. No one questions a player wearing lucky socks if he or she loses, but if a Christian loses, that's fodder for those who are looking for us to fall.
The moral: Tebow; keep praying, and keep practicing. God wants you to have faith in Him. He just might not care if you win the game.

Peace, Love, Touchdown!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Third View on the "Gay Issue."

I've decided it’s time for me to come out of the closet. This is really hard, because I haven't spoken to another person with my problem. (I feel so alone.)
See… I'm gay-neutral. There, I said it. I just don't think my opinion of gays really matters. It seems like every other person on this earth feels the need to LOUDLY voice his or her personal opinion. I don't. My opinion about your personal life (Is it a sin? Is it a choice?) doesn't matter.
I'm afraid that by my silence I've given the wrong impression. Because I'm an environmentalist, people might think I'm ultra-liberal and therefore pro-gay.
Because I'm a Christian, People might think I'm ultra conservative and anti-gay.
I'm neither. I'm pro-love.
Since I'm gay-neutral, I am in favor of legalizing gay marriage. It’s not up to me to decide if two people who love each other should be married. Why should I decide?
Look around. Some of these couples have been together for decades. They're living their lives, keeping jobs, sometimes raising children, whether I acknowledge it or not. Anti-gay laws do nothing whatsoever to promote my "family values." In the state where I live, legal gay marriage has flip-flopped from illegal to legal back to illegal, and in my house I couldn't tell the difference.
I do have one thing to say, though:
I am passionately, vehemently, anti-hate, anti-bullying, anti-holier-than-thou.
Some people would say this isn’t the Christian way to believe. Wrong. I believe this way BECAUSE I am a Christian. Jesus, when He said "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone" (John 8:7) meant that no one should bully another person. No one should oppress another person. Ever. For any reason.
This is an issue I am not neutral on!