Tag Archives: Faith

We Don’t Need Words

worship

He turns his face toward the sun, relishing the heat. He dances in the rain with squeals of excitement. He lays facedown on the rocks, feeling the texture beneath his cheeks. He savours life. He doesn’t need words.

She belts out her very own version of the song. She sings a loud monotone, “YAAAAAAAAAH YAAAAAAYAAAAAYAAAAH!” She shimmies and boogies and wiggles her bum. She makes a joyful noise in church. She doesn’t need words.

She zooms in on details I walk by without thought. She fills up the memory card with hundreds of pictures. She notices the delicate curve of an icicle and the ray of sun on a spider web. She sees art and beauty through her lens. She doesn’t need words.

She feels the melody in her bones. She lets it flow out of her in extensions and jumps and studied movements with french names. She puts music into action. She captures emotions and meaning and spirit through dance. She doesn’t need words.

He chews on complex ideas for years. He contemplates and reads and researches and contemplates some more. He explores theological movements and concepts and arguments in his own mind. He focuses his intellect on understanding. He doesn’t need words.

I watch each of them and am amazed. I roll words and phrases and snippets of insight around in my head. I pull them out and arrange them carefully until something coherent emerges. I tell the stories. And I see You in them. And in me.

I don’t need words to worship, but it doesn’t hurt.

So here’s my Five Minute Friday contribution – WORSHIP.

5minutefridayFeel free to join this “flash mob” writing group here:

http://www.incourage.me/2013/08/a-five-minute-friday-free-write-on-the-word-worship.html

Advertisements

The Writing on my Arm

Once upon a time, before the advent of the smart phone (gasp of shock and horror… yes kids, there was life before the iPhone), busy women, like myself, were forced to rely on their own over-burdened memory to get things done. Appointments. Phone numbers. Grocery lists.

It was all too much for this daydream-y, flustered brain to recall. Writing myself a note was only half the battle. Far too often I would proceed to misplace the paper, along with the ever-so-crucial piece of information I needed to remember. So discouraging when the worn shredded scrap was found at the bottom of a purse or pocket or diaper bag days after it was needed.

I learned to write my important notes somewhere impossible to lose: my own arm.

At the peak of busyness, my skin was a criss-cross of inky blue impressions. The tribal markings of a suburban soccer mom. Appointments. Phone numbers. Grocery lists.

I don’t write on my arm anymore.

Until this weekend.

I decided to revive my old tradition – with a twist. This important reminder is permanently inked on my left wrist… where I will see it frequently… so I will never forget.

tattoo

B’Tzelem Elohim

in Hebrew

Meaning:

Made in the Image of God

Because I forget this about myself all the time.

About my family and friends.

About the people I meet everyday.

The ones who I barely notice. The ones who cut me off in traffic. The ones who inspire me. The ones who irritate me. The ones we write songs and speeches and made-for-tv movies about. The ones in prison and rehab and reality tv. The ones who are just like me. The ones who live a world away.

Every single person is one of us. There is no them. We all have something in us that resembles the One who made us.

If I remember this… If I look for it… If I call it forward… in myself and in others. Maybe then, I will love and live the way I’m meant to.

God spoke: “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature

 So they can be responsible for the fish in the sea, the birds in the air, the cattle,

And, yes, Earth itself, and every animal that moves on the face of Earth.”

God created human beings; he created them godlike,

Reflecting God’s nature.

Genesis 1:26-27 (MSG)

So here’s me, and to preemptively answer the most frequent question about getting a tattoo: YES, it hurts, a lot. But it’s worth it to me.


Why Lent is a Good Idea for Everyone

lentIt was the pancakes. That’s what caught my attention. Shrove Tuesday – a sacred day of pancake eating. How awesome is that?

There wasn’t much talk of liturgical calanders in my Evangelical upbringing. Just cautionary tales and the whispered suggestion that they might, POSSIBLY be Real Christians, but just barely. Poor, meaningless automotans with their empty rituals. And then there’s the Catholics. A superstitious bunch, I was taught, barely discernable from the heathens; who prayed to statues, and for some reason, like to eat fish on Friday.

We weren’t very comfortable with anyone who wasn’t Us. Like the Pentecostals. And the United Church. And the Mormons. And the Agnostics. And the very scariest creatures of all: the Atheists (word is, they have an “Agenda” and we should watch out for that).

My world didn’t stay that small. Most Evangelical circles have opened up somewhat in the past decade (or two… or okay fine… three) since I was a child. The popular Mitford book series opened up the strange world of Episcopalians to many. These days, it’s not unusual to hear a discussion on Lectio Divina in a Baptist bible study. Or a more casual Stations of the Cross set up in the local community church.

As I got to know (and love and be related to) actual people who followed liturgical tradition, I began to see the unique beauty of it (and not just the pancakes). It may not be the style of worship I’m used to, but it is deeply meaningful and steeped in history. Ancient traditions so much more powerful that the latest born-again fad at the local Blessings bookstore. Maybe WE are the ones who have been missing out.

Which brings me back to the pancakes. Yesterday was Shrove Tuesday, the day before Lent. When you get your house in order both figuratively with confession and literally (by using up rich foods like sugar, dairy and eggs) before a period of fasting or plain eating. Enter: hallowed consumption of pancakes.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent. These 40 days (not counting Sundays) are a time for the faithful to prepare themselves for the celebration of Easter Sunday. It is a period of fasting or self denial, prayer, contemplation, examining oneself, and starting over.

For most of us from an Evangelical tradition, or no tradition at all, it is known as: Another-Wednesday-Just-Like-Any-Other. But who’s to say we can’t make it more? Lent is a good idea for EVERYONE and here’s why:

Be part of history.

Hundreds of years ago there was a tired, middle-aged (though still hip and young-at-heart) Mom just like me, who set apart these six weeks to live simply and refocus spiritually. That I might walk alongside her and the women who came before her and women who came after and the women who will come after me is something amazing. The Church (big C) is more than the congregation of my home church or other people in my country who may check the “Christian” box of a questionnaire; it is a family of faith that encircles the globe and stretches back throughout history. When we worship through Lent, we worship together.

We have so much.

More than any people who have ever lived. More than any who celebrated Lent before us. We are a culture and a generation of so much. So much to do. So much to see. So much to know. So much to eat. So much to distract and burden and overwhelm. We need Lent more than ever.

It’s a prelude to the feast.

Lent is not about asceticism (a harsh mentality where deprivation is the ultimate spiritual virtue). It’s preperation for the ultimate celebration. For those of us who worship Jesus, Easter is more than another stat holiday. It’s more than chocolate eggs and pretty dresses and church choirs. But if we don’t put the time and effort into preparing ourselves, even an inspiring sermon and touching music will not soak soul deep.

Lent is a good idea for everyone. The Evangelicals, and the Catholics, and the Pentecostals… and the Agnostics, and even the Athiests. We could ALL use a Spiritual Detox.

Make Lent your own this year.

So here’s me, fasting every night from 7 pm until 7 am (which doesn’t seem like it should be a big deal, but for me it really is).

lentbookLent Resources:

This year I’ll be reading through Show Me the Way by Henri Nouwen

Lent and Dying to Yourself (video with Diana Butler Bass)

Why Evangelicals Need Lent by Tim Suttle

Get Lent by Andrew Santella


The Answer

It is the best, and sometimes hardest, answer to give.

As a parent. As a person of faith. As a person of science. As a human being.

Sure, there are those who use it as a cop-out. Shrugging their shoulders as they go with the flow. They hand it out liberally: a get-out-of-responsibility-free card, an excuse to stay on the sidelines, a reason to stay in lock-step with the group. Might as well leave the thinking to someone else.

But for those who honestly struggle. Those who want to know. Those who are willing to change. Those who will be inconvenienced by truth.

For those who teach. Those who inspire and motivate. Those who take responsibility to lead.

For those…

It is brave. It is sincere. It is humbling.

Sometimes it is the place where certainty and faith intersect.

Sometimes it is where Mom becomes a mere mortal.

Sometimes it is the only right answer.

Because life is full of mystery. And the Universe is infinite. And God is bigger than our minds can comprehend. And we are only human after all.

There are times when the only answer we can give is:

I don’t know.

So here’s me, grappling with questions about afterlife and how to deal with after school tantrums and whether my 12-year-old is mature enough to read Hunger Games.


Hellbound?

There of some us out here for whom “Hell” is more than just a plot point in the latest episode of Supernatural. More than a video game catchphrase: “Burn in hell, suckers!” More than a slightly-less-sinful curse word.

Whether you were raised with it or jumped in later in life, the Christian concept of hell is by turns horrific, disconcerting and yet, to some, comforting.

“The Bible is clear.” It’s something I heard all my life. From the pulpit. From Sunday School teachers. From my own parents. It’s a sentence I’ve thrown around myself in years past.

And there are topics which the bible is clear and straightforward on.

Hell is not one of them.

Today I did something different. I paid full price to see a documentary in a movie theater. I bypassed Bruce Willis’ journey back in time to kill his younger self. I forsook serious Ben Affleck. I didn’t even give the quirky teen drama a second thought.

Hellbound? explores the surprisingly vast spectrum of beliefs within Christianity about Hell. Writer and Director Kevin Miller interviews pastors, authors, scholars and even death metal musicians as he navigates us through the issues. From uber-conservative Mark Driscoll to emergent thinker Brian McClaren, from those with absolute certainty to those “living in the mystery”, everyone contributes a verse.

There are three classic positions on hell: those who believe it is a literal place of eternal conscious torment, those who believe it is simply the end of a soul’s existence (annihilationism) and those who believe that is either a temporary or metaphorical condition from which all people will ultimately be redeemed (universalism). What many do not realize is that there is scriptural and historical support for all three sides of the debate. The answers are not simple.

There is something to offend everyone in this film, whether it is a death metal rocker positing that religion is simply a money-making business, or the hateful vitriol of the Westboro Baptist church member who insists that God hates almost everyone. My favourite part is when this 50-year-old woman refers to the interviewer as a pussy. Very godly.

This is not a cheesy church-umentary to be played in church basements and used for neighbourhood outreach. It is a fascinating look at a complex and contentious issue.

The release of Rob Bell’s “Love Wins” rocked the evangelical community last year. There are many who believe we are better off NOT to broach the discussion at all. But these are the questions people are asking. And I have to agree with Gregory Boyd who said “the truth shouldn’t have anything to fear.”

So here’s me, not a bible scholar, or pastor, or theologian; just a regular Jo. And this movie was made for us too. Choose it – Bruce Willis will be killing someone else next month.


I May Be Biased But…

In the mid 90’s, researchers conducted a study on the connection between sugar and hyperactivity in children… at least that’s what they told the parents they were studying. All the children were given a drink, then parents were asked to rate their behavior. Half the parents were told that their children had been given a high dose of sugar. These parents rated their children as much more hyper than the parents in the control group. Of course, both groups of children had been given the same sugar-free drink.

Expectation alters perception. Those parents were convinced that their children were all hopped up on sugar, so that is what they saw. We almost always see what we expect to see. Everywhere we look, we find evidence to support our existing beliefs.

Tony Campolo once said that ultimately people believe what they want to believe. It’s something I can readily accept about other people, but somehow I prefer to think of myself in another category. Others may be prone to delusion, but I only believe what is true and right and sure.

So, in the spirit of this post and the Christmas season, I decided to debunk some of my own false beliefs. I googled “Christmas myths” and sure enough, I found a few surprises.

Pointsettas are dangerously poisonous, especially to young children. This has been proven false. At worst, they are mildly toxic, causing irritation of the mouth and some vomiting, but 9/10 people experience no negative effects. So chow down, there’s nothing to fear! After years of obsessively moving these flowers up high (even at other people’s houses) I can finally relax.

The suicide rate increases significantly during the Christmas season. Also not true… in fact, it is spring and summer that are most dangerous. That said, I realize that the holidays are a difficult time for many. All those family gatherings can be a huge stress, both for those who are alone and for those who wish they were. Which brings me to the Christmas homicide rate… I wonder?

The abbreviation X-mas is a plot by evil secularists to take “Christ” out of Christmas and a sign of “the times” <-this must be said in a deep, foreboding tone of voice. Now this isn’t a conspiracy I have ever subscribed to, but some in my family do. The truth is, the Greek word for Christ (you know, like in the New Testament, which wasn’t actually written in english btw) starts with an X and has been used as an abbreviation for Christ for centuries.

These are fairly silly beliefs, nothing life-changing, but what about the big things? How can we know anything when our own preconceptions colour how we interpret everything? Lately I’ve realized that I’m living in a world that is a lot less black and white than I once thought it was. Some of these biases I have are not holding up to scrutiny. Faith is a little harder, a little riskier, but I’m convinced it is still worth it. It isn’t supposed to be easy anyway.

Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we cannot see. (Hebrews 11:1)

I think I like Eugene Peterson’s paraphrase the best: “The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see.” So maybe I’m wrong about some things… okay, definitely – no one tell my kids (or my husband). And maybe I don’t have it all figured out, but I’m trusting in a God who does. That’s what I believe… perhaps because that’s what I want to believe.

So here’s me, eating a big helping of humble pie (with a pointsetta garnish).

Whether it is silly or life altering, have you confronted a personal bias lately? Have you ever?


%d bloggers like this: