Archive for the 'Christianity' Category

01
Mar
11

History’s Quandary…Choosing Sides

The Middle East is History’s quandary. Today’s dubious friendships are the bloody enemies of tomorrow. The enemies of today are the benefactors of our tomorrows. As the Middle East slides into even greater chaos, I am suspect of anyone claiming to have a thorough understanding of the situation. I am even less trusting of someone who claims to know what should be done. This is uncharted territory for me. I like to choose sides, and I like to know enough to choose the right side. I don’t know if there is a right side in this situation.

This could be the moment that millions stand on the crumbling wall that has held them captive for so many years. Or, it could be the moment that millions stand on a crumbling ground and fall deeper into turmoil. Historically, revolutions have not been good for the people. Think of Cuba, France, Russia, Germany…The list goes on. In fact, I cannot think of a people’s revolution that can match the one staged on our behalf. The success of 1776 and the long-term implications defy human nature. It is difficult to look at the American Revolution and the foundations it laid, however bloody, and not acknowledge divine intervention. This is a cautious statement, for I believe that every revolutionary at some time called upon the name of his god, and the results were not necessarily benevolent. But consider the success of our great nation – luck? Extreme wisdom? Favorable conditions? Good weather and a great corn crop? No need to be cheeky, but is there any explanation other than the foresight and wisdom of great leaders? There have been few such leaders in history, yet we had seven of them in our time of need. It’s inhuman when one considers the frailty of our race.

As for the Middle East, we should hope for no less, and we should pray. There is no courage in a refusal to believe our prayer will be heard. War is bloody, and there is evil committed in the name of God every day, but the name of God is invoked by the ego, by the self-aggrandizement that is counter to all God stands for. The evil in the world, particularly in a leader gunning down his own unarmed citizens, should serve to force the hand of the atheist, to deny that the will of man gets to rule this Earth. Pray. Pray for the freedom of Mideastern wives, daughters, sons, brothers, and husbands. Pray that this bloodshed we see is actually the birth of a legacy, that newborn cries of freedom will be heard throughout the Earth and the mountains will shudder against this power that is free will ordained by a Loving God.

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31
Dec
10

Magic on Ice

As the year comes to a close, so does our holiday season. This year, the season settled in with disillusion. I resented the materialism and mourned the childhoods of my daughters, all the while seeking a spiritual connection that went missing some time in September. It was difficult to stave off cynicism, particularly after a Black-Friday all-nighter that left me feeling used and exploited like a night at a frat house caveman party.

Then I took Berlin ice skating.

Ice skating is like mainlining childhood for me. Growing up in Minnesota, I spent many weekends on the lake. If it got dark, my dad would turn on the Nova’s headlights and I would circle the lake, getting more and more bruised as I pursued a doomed Olympic career. The minute my feet are captivated by little white boots with metallic blades, I am eight again, and everything is possible.

So mother and daughter circled the ice, together in childish spirit, chatting about the latest pop stars and admiring our icy grace as we twirled around dodged wobbly grown ups and slow beginners. Most of these obstacles belonged to the same group. When we got cold, we left the ice to sit by the fire and we stopped talking long enough to notice these people. It was a family, reunited from lives that took them all over the country. Grandpa and grandma were there with thermoses of hot chocolate for the brothers and sisters they had borne. The cousins were scattered around the ice and the fire pit, according to age, and they chatted feverishly, distracted only by the effort of gliding around the ice. Remember that? The anticipation, the travel, the arrival, the hiding away with those so dear and precious for their absence?

Magic. I nearly fell off my skates. The season IS magical, there is no denying it. It is the only time we step back from living to make love a deliberate part of our routine. We have parties and gather, but even as we are alone in our daily routines, we think of others. We think of their needs rather than their demands…What to gift, whom to gift, charity, life changes as we catch up through Christmas letters and admire growing families. This season, despite the guerrilla tactics of retailers, exemplifies humanity at its best. I believe that love is our greatest emotion wrought with a power we cannot understand. The media has undermined love with manipulation and lust, but deep, platonic love is the closest we can come to a God who is Love. Perhaps the retailers are stealing Christmas from the Christians as we stole it from the Pagans, but there is a reason it is so sought after. It exemplifies the best of us and that is a perfect reason to hold on to it. There is a movement among Christians to give up the materialism and commercialism of the holiday and while I agree that these things are distracting, I think that the cost of letting them go is too great. Our material prowess is the result of a human spirit set free, and we ave a right to embrace it. If we do not, it becomes a controlling force and embraces us. We are commissioned to act as the Lord’s Hands and Feet, serving humanity. This means many things, but giving is a large part of it, the easy part. The rest comes in time as we learn to express love untarnished by a fallen mankind. We need to practice. We need this season. We need this magic that is really a miracle.

22
Oct
10

Was Huey Lewis Right?

Tell me, just how powerful IS love? This question surfaces every. single. day. Love is what legends are made of. For centuries, there have been sonnets, poems, songs, novels, epics, and movies written about love. If the passing twitterpation didn’t do some damage, then surely the novelty would have worn off, right? I am not a romantic. If I happen to watch a romcom, it is simply because I was alone and tired of watching things blow up. If I happen to watch an epic romance, it is likely because of the leading eye candy or because of an interesting historical setting. The

    Titanic

brand of quickie gimme-72-hours-and-I’ll-die-for-you romance, however, makes me want to kick puppies and I am a pretty big fan of puppies.

As I (gasp) age, I am noticing certain truths about life. Mainly, love is powerful stuff. Our culture has made excellent progress in destroying this, weakening the power by obstructing the source, but still it prevails. It drives the human race. We live to achieve love, however misguided our efforts. It may manifest in our work, dress, knowledge, physique, or simple materialism, but love drives our society. The problem is, we strive for that which is undefined. We don’t even admit to looking for love, rather a “hook-up” or even “soul mate,” allowing the fates to intervene, but it is love we seek.

The media has taken full advantage of this definitive failure and lures us into a trap of pleasure and instant gratification. We fall victim to this at younger and younger ages, generation by generation. The media has sold us a confusing substitute for love – lust. I could easily argue that lust is even more powerful than love itself. Lust takes governors and presidents from their honored posts to darkened offices and hallways full of scandal. Lust misguides teens and leaves them huddled against their broken dreams. Lust divides families and sells hundreds of thousands of daughters into submission. Particularly tragic – lust takes a teen girls heart and mind and plays a dangerous game of keepaway, telling her who to be and how to act until she forgets that she started with a plan, a goal.

Love, on the other hand, doesn’t leave anybody wanting more. Instead, it leaves us able to give more. This is amazing, all we can share when we walk in the comfort of true love. True love can come from a parent, a friend network, even a spouse or significant other, though I believe that offers nearly insurmountable challenge. Love is divine. The Bible says that God is Love. When we truly contemplate the transforming power of love, it stands to reason that it is supernatural. Yet, in the world we live in, love is hindered by human frailty. While we look to spouses for this deep, committed, emotion, we fail to admit that the person we look to is limited by his own frailty. Particularly a spouse, who would look to me for the same validation. I think this is exactly why God says to love Him first, with all my heart with all my soul. God’s love, once realized is everlasting and unfailing. God will never shut me out because of a bad day. He will always love me and treat me objectively in that very love relationship. My spouse may try, but realistically, the world is going to impede his ability to do so. If I hold God in the highest esteem, though, and love Him first, what is reflected in my soul is eternal and divine and my love ceases to fail.

Eternal, unfailing love. It moves the world. Nations go to war. Nations come in peace. The addict finds healing. The abused are transformed. We need the fortitude to love without condition, without self-interest. We truly need the power of love.

26
Apr
10

My Crisis of Faith – From Seed to Blooming Tree

It started in church one Sunday. There was a technical difficulty during worship, a missing piece. The worship pastor asked us all to bow our heads in a prayer he eloquently led. Amen, heads up, eyes open, order restored on the stage.

It was a seed.

How often are we led in prayers that are less of a plea to the Lord than they are curtains for a very human pastoral staff to rally behind? I began to wonder about the humanity, the efforts they made for the appearance of seamless perfection. It is not the imperfection of that humanity that nurtured this seed. It was the effort to cover it up. Mistrust began to grow from my church’s inability to admit imperfection.

I love my church, and the pastoral staff has always exhibited the utmost wisdom and integrity, so it’s possible that this little plant rooted in such shallow soil could have quickly died, but then Pat Robertson spoke. If you remember, he blamed the Haitians for their sorrow after the earthquake, saying that it was God’s judgement. My little plant sprouted so fast, the economy turned green with envy. Then missionaries went to Haiti and stole children, assuming they were better fit to raise them, apparently. More leaves on my little plant.

Then I watched a debate unfold over a Super Bowl ad. Christians fired off in support of Focus on the Family, decrying everything that had ever stood in their way. I love the American Family, but it’s time to take note that married parents, 2.5 kids, and a golden retriever is not realistic for most Americans. Though the ad itself was positive and not controversial, the message was lost in the debate. Both sides were cruel, but there is a real problem when Christians are cruel in the name of the Lord. My little plant leafed out all over the place.

Then it grew a branch. The Catholic Church chose to stand with those priests accused of the most heinous crimes of pedophilia. What cruelty from an institution that should be based on hope and love? Jesus Himself said that the punishment for a man who leads His flock astray is beyond that which anyone else will experience. If the Church stands behind these “men” in the name of forgiveness, I appreciate that. But forgiveness and trust are very different. Forgiveness does not imply restoration, as illustrated by the way this same church treats divorcees, homosexuals, and those of other faiths. To allow these priests to continue to represent what is right and holy uncovers gross dishonesty that I simply cannot abide. It has become nearly impossible for me to watch a public display of religion without skepticism. The branches are in the way.

Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches,“ but I’m pretty sure he meant something entirely different. He meant that we should feed from Him and grow like Him, strong and fruitful. But an interesting thing happens when a person accepts Jesus as his Savior. Nothing. Loved ones still get sick. There still isn’t enough money. Tragedies still headline the nightly news. When we hear of salvation, the message is confusing. It is disheartening and discourages real growth in faith. We have fed from soil polluted by humanity and grown into weak hybrids. Then, we have taken it upon ourselves to save the world, to fuse it to our hybrid trees. Since we recognized that the tree didn’t look right, we tried to coerce everyone into being like us. We forgot about the branch entirely as we promised our own cross-bred salvation borne of judgement. This judgement and coercion is coming back to us now as our great nation dies from within, suffering from the fatal wounds of deep division.

Jesus promise of salvation is simply to save us from ourselves, a need we don’t always recognize. When God created us, he granted us the greatest gift, far greater than anything He gave even to the angels who dwell with Him in Heaven – Free Will. But, like anything great, it is this gift that leads to our demise. Within free will rests ego, greed, self, and everything else that divides the human from the divine. Thus, it is that very free will that Jesus asks us to lay down for Him in obedience. Not a popular pulpit message, bu to be free from the trappings of humanity is a gift, indeed. What we do with it is where our free will lies. Do we continue to live the same lives, resting on the laurels of this forgiveness? Or do we accept the brevity of our salvation and walk alongside others, trudging through the furrows of humanity?

20
Dec
09

Midnight Clear

I think the point was lost in all my thoughts yesterday. The point is, the gifts of Christmas are grace, unconditional love, hope, and forgiveness. Unfortunately, these gifts are not ours to give. We have instead found what we can give, thus depending on retailers for Christmas joy. In our best intentions, we substituted material giving for the true blessings bestowed by a relationship with Jesus. Being steeped in the uncertainty of recession, coupled with having everything under the sun, has forced us to look deeper for meaning this year. I think it started last year, but everyone was reeling as the markets crashed around us and banks closed at a rate not seen since the Great Depression. This year, we’ve had an opportunity to adjust and regroup.

Now I have found some clarity in this season. As we boycott retailers that refuse to say “Merry Christmas” and argue amongst ourselves over the origin of tradition, we leave behind the truest Christmas gifts. There is no grace in a retail boycott. Unconditional love? We have taught our children that they are only worthy of gifts if they behave. Redemption has disappeared in the holiday shuffle as we strive for perfection in an effort to impress.

The Christmas season offers us so many opportunities, more than any other, to show the world the love of Christ. We, though, are guilty of being caught up in worldly trappings, pointing fingers and bickering over verbiage while around the world, people still starve and suffer oppression. Not having our holiday recognized by the government is not oppression, slavery and unfair caste systems are oppression, this is where we should bare our teeth. Giving gifts is lovely. It is a wonderful expression of love, but as I said yesterday, we must check our motivation. The shopping part of Christmas is far removed from the birth of Jesus part of Christmas. Shopping is not ordained in the Bible as part of any celebration. Yet we have tried to turn the shopping part of Christmas into the holiday itself.

Our fight for Christmas is a dangerous and slippery slope. The struggle over a nativity scene on the courthouse steps can easily keep the world from seeing that very child who lay in the manger, even if the struggle is “won.”

20
Dec
09

What Happened to that Silent Night?

We are living in unprecedented times. In the last year, I think we have all seen our priorities change. When priorities begin to change, we are forced to re-think. We cannot change our motives without taking a serious look deep into our lives. Now, even as we find ourselves standing among the ruins of our lives, time moves on. Ready or not, Christmas is here.

This year, I had no hope for the season. Nothing is as it should be and I’m still reeling from the last year’s mini-breakdown in the Barbie aisle at Target – the sad moment when I realized BOTH my daughters had outgrown not just Barbie, but pretty much any toy that doesn’t recharge. There was curiosity in my despondence, though, as I anticipated something miraculous. My lottery tickets did not pan out. BUT, as I shuttled two breathless girls from party to party, I had the opportunity to watch them, so grown and beautiful, as they foster these relationships and fill their lives with beloved friends. They are making their own Christmas magic and it has a lot less to do with me than it used to. Thankfully, it has nothing to do with toys and presents and everything to do with the people they care about.

While I miss Barbie and baby dolls, I am happy to usher in a much less materialistic phase. Christmas is complicated. Spending is monitored. We worry about leaving people out and hurt feelings. We worry about gifts without reciprocation. We worry about overspending. I was listening to a discussion about this on the radio and I wondered why churches don’t help us out with the gift giving dilemmas. Pastors make efforts to be relevant, but gift-giving among feuding families goes untouched year after year.

Oh wait – that’s easy. CHRISTMAS GIFT GIVING IS NOT BIBLICAL!!!! This was a dangerous thought. It made me reconsider our Christmas traditions and the very tradition we call Christmas. First, I love Christmas. I love to celebrate the birth of Divinity on Earth. I love to give gifts, and I love the traditions. It is worth considering, though, what we lose in this holiday melange. Worrying about which neighbors to gift and if the office gossip should be invited to our Christmas cocktail party completely saps the meaning from the season. It is ironic that selfless giving is the gist of the season, yet it is also the great distraction. I submit that the distraction comes from motive. As we worry through this season, we are truly worrying about reputation and there is nothing Biblical about that.

In fact, Christmas could be the time of year Christians behave the worst. We fight for Christmas then brag about what we’ve done. I myself have written letters to retailers begging them to keep “Christmas” in place of “holidays.” But Christmas 2009 finds me in a different place. Now I fear that Christians aren’t fighting for Christmas, they are using it as a weapon to fight with. The Roman Catholics “declared” Christmas in the first place to distract from pagan celebrations. Now we expect the masses to use the word “Christmas” in marketing, greeting, and relating. It doesn’t make sense to expect a person who is not celebrating the actual birth of Christ to acknowledge it. In fact, it lessens the impact. When we do this, it makes me wonder if even we Christians are celebrating the birth of Christ, or our personal triumph at being in a majority that has some political clout.

This year, I am celebrating the birth of Christ, a miracle too great to be turned over to retailers and caterers. I am not interested in leveraging my beliefs into retail dollars. I am even less interested in asking someone who does not hold this season dear to go through the empty verbal exchange just to salve my sensitivities. I am thrilled to celebrate the Santa season with everyone who cares to partake, but the Christmas part is much more personal. This day, this entire season, actually, is sacred to me and I want to celebrate Christmas with Christians who want to rejoice with me. This celebration could never be measured on a Black Friday balance sheet.

14
Dec
09

Don’t Forget the Sunscreen!

I call it the Blaze of Glory. It happens when one does not simply transgress, but actually fails so miserably in an aspect of life that he is forever changed. Not just him, but those around him and those who know of him. Such is the life of Tiger Woods right now. I don’t want to pick on Tiger because any of us could find ourselves in such a predicament. He is simply a good example of what we all are capable of. Though I generally dislike celebrities, Tiger was on my good list. Watching him play and interact with fans and press was reassuring, that good people can make it and stay good.

Then he was found in the street next to his SUV and everything changed – Blaze of Glory. His just keeps on blazing, too, brighter and brighter with each porn star that flares up.

So is Tiger really a bad man? Near the end of Matthew 7, the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus gives some of the most famous Biblical advice. He says that a wise man builds his house on a rock so it can withstand the wind, the rain, and the flood. The fool, he says, builds his house on sands that shift and it will not survive. Of course, this is good advice. With 2000+ years of construction technology under our belts, it is common sense. We all know to come in from the rain. Our houses are built on the rock and churches are full of hurting people who have come home to escape the storm. A few chapters later, James goes so far as to say that a trial is an opportunity for real joy. He is right. This is when we grow, when we learn, and when we live under a certain restraint.

What Jesus failed to mention, though, is our love of fun in the sun. When life is good, we leave the shelter of home and we go to the beach. We settle into the sand, taking advantage of its shiftiness to install a flimsy umbrella, then we bask in the goodness of it all. The trouble with the beach is, if a sun bather falls asleep, her toes will be wet as the tide changes. She will probably be burned, too, unless she used good sunscreen. In these good times, it is easy to forget the Lord, and there is real danger in the sand that shifts beneath us. When times are difficult, we retreat to him. We pray. We ask for guidance and wisdom, and I would be willing to say that the wise take steps to avoid temptation. When things improve, though, we venture out, forgetting our prayers, feeling wise in our own right, and lacking any guidance. We go to play in the sun and it feels so good. It is far too easy in these good times to find ourselves lost, burned, and maybe even regretting foolishness. Funny that the trials James speaks of can bring joy into our lives and these easy times can burn us. So much better if we could just remember that even if we stray from the Rock itself, we should still remember the sunscreen.




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