Monday, October 31, 2011

Journey without the Moses Moment

Spent some time today, not really facing a writer’s block, but a bit of a writer’s speed bump.

I offered to submit a story for my church’s annual Advent devotional.

This year’s them is Awakened and the gist was to collect stories of transformational faith experiences.  

I was wide awake, and alertly drawing a blank.

Awoke to my daughter’s orthodontist appointment this morning and I shared with her this theme and the concept of a transformational experience for this devotional, while we waited for her to be fitted for a zebra striped retainer.

Sally replied, “Oh yeah, I get it. I call those Moses moments. I don’t really have those.”

Apples don’t fall far.

God stirs me in everyday, ordinary moments that don’t make for one captivating story but it’s like a good recipe that builds layers of flavor.

I can read almost anything by Philip Yancey, or spend some somber time in prayer over requests from friends in my study class and be moved by both the power and presence of God.

I look at my rapidly growing girls, my kind and funny husband, my church that I love and I am struck by the overflowing blessing of love and relationships. I delight and give thanks for those gifts.

I am learning more and more about faithful responses in times of trial, and in time of tranquility. I am learning from God how to hold all of this loosely, to be in a posture to give and to receive from him.

“Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long. “ Psalm 25:5

Father, I want to learn to love, honor and know you with all I have. I pray that it shows in what I think, what I say and what I do. I thank and praise you for the mercy and grace you pour out to me. I pray that you find me cooperative with your purpose. I ask and seek this in Christ’s name. Amen.

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Words

Words.  I love words.  I love speaking them, listening to them, reading them and writing them.  I just re-read my last post and thought about the line, "words can easily hurt but can rarely heal."   It just hit me what a strong statement I wrote, even in context.

Is it true?  I spent some time this morning using words to persuade one of my daughters to study more effectively.  I even asked her to consider what else might motivate her because the many words I was using involving consequence, implication and application--none of it was resonating.

I teach Bible studies because I know the truth in Scripture (inspired words) leads to a more confident, more honest, more impactful faith walk. 

What started this wordy tome on words, you ask (good question).  This bottle of lotion on my desk.  I don't need much to launch. 

If you can't read it, let me translate.  This lotion will, "melt away stress and help you unwind and feel at ease."  WOW.  Who knew? 

I realize that in the United States advertising and marketing writers are required to exaggerate, stretch and entice.  However, this reaches beyond the limit of a good pitch.

Is this harmless, just a far fetched use of words to attract my attention away from the 1,253 other lotions with the same sort of smell? 

Does it point to a greater issue that we so misuse words that we communicate and create empty meaning?

I am reading for a review a book about the spirituality of Oprah Winfrey.  Not a huge fan of this book or Oprah for that matter, thus the my plodding approach to the assignment.  However, the book is full incredible exaggeration that passes for inspiration or revelation.  Like the lotion bottle. 

Has our careless hyperbole created a problem in our ability to wisely communicate or are we just silly?

I don't know, I revisit my words to a friend about the power of words to hurt someone and the rare occasion when words really help.  I wonder if our misuse adds fuel to that dilemma?

Takeaway:  use words with care.

Also:  this lotion does smell good and makes one's skin soft.  Period.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tough Question

I really only have one friend who asks me for advice.  I have more than one friend (I am pretty sure about that) but one who calls or e-mails me with pointed questions, wanting an answer.  I have not posted for a while, so I will post her question and my answer.  A Dear Abby of sorts.  Perhaps you will read it and conclude one advice seeking friend is one too many. 

Question from my friend:

This was sent to me by my friend, regarding her mom. The suffering is great. What to say to help? 
And here is what her friend had written to her...
I'm a little tired of all the church signs that intimate God answers all prayers. I must be praying for the wrong thing......And I was not even asking for the miracle.

My answer:

I don’t understand prayer. I really don’t “get it”.
I do think that church signs in general, even the charming or warm ones are mistake. Completely wrong vehicle to communicate anything beyond name, time.

As to your friend. I don’t know what to say to her because there are no words that will comfort. Words can easily hurt but they rarely can heal.

As to "answered prayer": 2 things happen when I pray. The first is I start to reflect Christ in that I care about others in a way that I really believes he does. Prayer puts me in a posture to focus on others, want the best for others, forgive others, show compassion and mercy to others. 

The other thing that happens when I pray is I am in a posture to be moved. The quote I keep in my prayer journal: the nature of your prayers are the description of your duty.

It occurs to me just a God/me moment is not the end game. I need to look for way to minister/love/act. It also moves my mind to consider a healthier, more faithful perspective.

If I am in prayer about someone or something that hurts, I start to consider a longer view than my normal default position. In other words, the Spirit starts to show me things beyond my little world.

Not sure, in fact I would suspect neither of those answers will “help” your friend. The truth is, her mom, whom she loves, is dying in a cruel way. It’s out of everyone’s control except God and there is not much evidence that he will interfere in the course of events to change the direction of this insidious disease.

It points to the truth that we all—faithful and people of no faith feel—how can a God who is described as being the essence of love allow that, when he has the power to change it?

We as parents would, as an act of love, protect our children from such horror-- if it were in our power. Why does God not protect us from the horror, pain, anguish, suffering of most death? Good and fair questions. I don’t know the answer.

There is ZERO comfort or satisfaction in this kind of pain to the reality of God’s mystery sovereign nature and the reality of broken world. It adds to the pain when we try and give someone a condescending theological pat on the back as she watches her mom die.

I always pray for healing because I think God wants me to want that for others. And I do want that for her mom and for her broken heart. I am so grateful when healing comes to people.

As a person of faith, I do believe that complete healing and wholeness won’t come on this earth—everything both good and bad is temporary and partial.

I am so sorry that the church signs add pain —Christians mess this and other things up all the time. In our limitations we corrupt sharing the love and good news too often so it’s neither loving nor is it good news.

I don’t thinks of prayers as ASK and ANSWERED—I don’t have that kind of clarity on God’s providence. I lift up people and circumstances and seek to care, to faithfully respond to both. I hope for things, give thanks for things, express negative and positive—tell God what I want, but not with an ask/answer loop in mind.

However, as I said before, I don’t really get prayer. I do it because I know it is a faithful response and it helps move me in right directions.

I am so sorry for you, your friend and her mom. It’s devastating. I hope your friendship overshadows the pain these insipid church signs cause and she feels and trusts in your love and care.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Stringing Pearls: Learning From Another

Steve Jobs passed away--have you heard?  The words legacy, visionary, icon, greatest, most, once in a generation are free flowing as his life and work are remembered and honored. 


Andy Crouch of Christianity Today wrote an article capturing some unique reflections on this complex man here.   One of the observations of Crouch is that Jobs put, "the fruits of insanely complex engineering into accessible form."  That Jobs made this technology both, "safe and cool for ordinary people."  What is interesting is Crouch calls this Jobs' gospel. That Jobs was a messenger of good news and hope on a secular platform. 


I don’t know if Steve Jobs’ believed in Christ.  In his famous Stanford graduation address Jobs said:  “in connecting dots you have to trust in something:  your gut, destiny, life, Karma, whatever…but follow you heart.”  Not the typical expression of a Christian,  but Jobs life and work bless us and move us in positive way. 

Can Christians --the church learn from Jobs' brilliance?  Can we take the real good news and real hope and put it on a platform that is accessible and exciting and relevant?  Are the ways I express faith "safe and cool for ordinary people"? 

I think some of the hallmarks of Jobs' life and work leave much for us to learn. He still is an effective teacher.

My takeaway.  Launching from what is now said about Jobs/Apple, I challenge myself to learn from Jobs/Apple and engage life and work,  people and programs with four dimensions:
  • Creativity: Are the thoughts words and deeds inspiring, interesting? Too often the message of faith is over simplified, insipid platitudes (see prosperity teaching) or burdened hyper intellectual pretense that moves to hostile debate (see reaction to Rob Bell). Neither tone reflects the creative connection Christ, Paul or even Deuteronomy—yes Deuteronomy—to know and grow as a Christ follower.
  • Simplicity: Is my work and words following the straight path of my faith? We are broken. We need healing. There is hope to move from one to the other through Christ.
  • Relevance: We should ask ourselves, what difference does this truth make in my relationships, my circumstances, my work, my dreams and ambitions? It should move us in obvious, everyday ways. The inspired should infect the ordinary.
  • Honesty: It is true? Faith is not an abstract set of ideas, it’s not philosophy. It’s God moving into the human heart to receive grace and release grace.
I give thanks for Steve Jobs life. 

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Roswell, GA
Loves to find the answers to three questions of a sound Bible study: what does it say, what does it mean, what difference does it make?