Today I downloaded all the syncroblogs of others who have weighed in on the subject of Halloween.
To Halloween or to not Halloween – that is the question. I seem to have a lot of pagan-christian friends here in the blogworld because for the most part, they have all weighed in on the side of “it never hurt me and we are being hypocritical if we celebrate Christmas and Easter and not Halloween” side of things. (Actually there were very good posts about this and I don’t mean to trivialize them)
You see I used to believe that we Charismatics had actually dealt with the demonic world and so we knew better than to mess with Satan’s camp. Actually we held the keys to the real secret behind the truth of participating in Halloween. (Satan is stronger than Jesus). Therefore in allowing your children to participate in dressing up in a costume and going from door to door for candy from their neighbors the enemy would certainly get a stronghold in their little lives and they will end up doing drugs, sleeping with their boyfriend, dressing goth and rejecting the God of their parents.
But wait. I have one of those. AND SHE NEVER PARTICIPATED IN HALLOWEEN!! We actually told her that good Christian kids did not participate in an ungodly holiday. That it was wrong to put on a witches outfit and go out and get candy. That it would be better going door to door and praying for people on that night or going to a church sponsored "harvest party". We did it ALL right. We were the good Christians on the block.
So what went wrong? And here is the real question that we with children are asking ourselves. Can all the outward things that we do really shape the heart of our children? Can we pull so far away from the world that our children’s lives will not be touched by sin? Who really is stronger – Jesus or Satan?
Let me explain. I have 7 kids. 4 girls and 3 boys. They all range in ages from 25-6. With each one of them we have known both the strengths of their characters and the weaknesses by the time they turned 4 years old. You could tell which ones had a problem with lying, self confidence, or anger. You could pick out the ones who would have a problem with eating too many sweets, which one would want to hide his sin and which one would not care if you found out. You could tell who would be a giver and who would be more selfish. You could see who was more decisive, who was the musical one, who would be your greatest helper, who naturally saw what needed to be done and so on. They were all raised in the same home with the same parents and except for themselves with the same siblings. Some we home schooled, some we sent to public school.
But the thing that is so amazing to me is that you could tell what you were going to deal with in each of them as they grew up when they were 4. It had virtually nothing to do with what we did or didn’t do. It was in them. Their strengths and weakness were already bound up in their hearts. It made no difference whether we allowed them to dress up for Halloween or not. And to think that something so much outside of them will actually influence them to behavior that is not already inherent in their little beings is just somehow crazy to me now.
So if you ask me, (and you really haven’t), I say go ahead and celebrate Halloween or not. But don’t think that the celebration of it or the avoidance of it will change one thing about who your children are, because only a relationship with one Man will ever change a child’s heart from what it is, to what it can become.
If you think that anything outside of Grace will change them, then trust me, you are in for a horrible, guilt inducing trip of parenthood. And you will end up blaming yourself for celebrating (or not celebrating) Halloween some day and that is just crazy.
PS: By the way, in case you are wondering……Jesus is stronger!
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Today I downloaded all the syncroblogs of others who have weighed in on the subject of Halloween.
Tuesday, October 23, 2007
Week #1 of my effort to participate in the syncroblog of What Would Jesus Do With the Church was not, um…….stellar, in any sense of the word.
I had made the decision in my mind to stop just looking at the church and trying to discern what was wrong with it and go out and DO or BE the church instead. It sounded so noble. It sounded simple, easy.
Now I know why I did not want to leave the comfort of judging (discerning the problems) in the church. It is scary out there (here).
Yes, I had a few wonderful encounters where God said something very profound to me. I shared it with some of you who read this. But, in all honesty, that was the only thing that happened.
Now if I were God, I would have read my blog (He does read this, right?) and been so pleased with this woman writing (me) that I (God) would have planned tons of stuff for her to walk into as soon as she left the comfort of her own self. I would have had that lady at the grocery store that she helped, turn to her and ask why she was so kind, giving her an opportunity to tell her about Papa’s love for her that day. I would have had many divine connections lined up for her that week just to express to her how proud I (Papa) was of her decision. People would have been saved, healed and delivered! Surely God would not have let me just deal with the un-direction of my life while only saying a few things about seeing and separating from Him. Doesn’t He know I want to DO SOMETHING!!! That is the whole point of this month.
So by Saturday I was pretty despondent. I had even gone to the book store to find something to read and left after about an hour with nothing but a new copy of The Message. All other books, books that have been reviewed and that I had wanted to buy and read did not even begin to interest me. Me. The one who loves to read. And on top of that I could not even make eye contact with anyone in the store. They were all busy in their own worlds and did not care that I wanted to be the Church in their presence.
So I sat on my front porch. I had my laptop with me but it was sitting on the side of the swing playing music. Not even Christian music. Just a musician by the name of Ingrid Michaelson that I’m love with. Her music that is. All of a sudden my laptop stopped. I knew it was charged and so I looked over at the screen. It simply said, “Operating system cannot be found.”
I laughed. Hard. My computer was prophetic. My operating system….that which I had based my whole life off of…was no longer to be found. See, in church, I had a job. I knew what I was to be doing. Pretty much they told me what they needed and I did it. If my husband agreed, I was busy. My operating system was intact. The church gave me direction and purpose. It was my operating system.
Now I need to implement a new operating system. I want Papa to be this. I want to do what he wants me to do and be what he wants me to be. I can’t make this work off my old system. (Circuit City says they can’t either. My hard drive crashed….they think. They can’t even keep it alive long enough to test it.) The system cannot be found. The old way is dying. Or dead.
Friday, October 19, 2007
The eyes thing the other day has stuck with me. I can’t get over the feeling that I felt Papa’s pleasure in looking at a brilliant tree.
Later that day I was “future tripping.” (HT to "Willie at WindRumors) No- this did not involve drugs - just my imagination. I was imagining another person and my exchange with them. This was not really happening. But in my head it was. I do this a lot and I’m really good at it. I’m so good at it that I can really get into it before I have to pull myself back and realize that I’m not really in that world at all. My blood pressure goes up, I get mad, anxious, and annoyed or whatever the situation calls for. All this is over an imagined exchange with someone that I am not actually having!
But this time I felt something. I felt Papa pull away. I stopped and in the middle of this day dream I realized that God could not look at this person in the same way that I was looking at them. He could not join me because even though I was really mad at this person, he was “especially fond of them.” He was not mad at them and so he could not join me. I lost the feeling of being able to participate in his “being” or in his presence in the same way that I could when I looked at the tree earlier in the day.
The loss of us being able to be in agreement, was palatable. I could feel him draw away. Not out of judgment towards me but out of sadness that he could not see in the same way that I was seeing. We couldn’t agree. He couldn’t participate.
I realized that sin was just this - Him not being able to participate with me in a way that He desires to and the loss of that in my life.
Maybe in all my rules to keep myself from sin, I have missed out on the one reason that may actually change my heart -- His loving, kind presence and sheer enjoyment of sharing life with me.
Wednesday, October 17, 2007
So as I was drinking my second cup of coffee this morning in a pause between the morning rush and the deciding what is for dinner and planning for the rest of my day, I looked outside my large picture window in the front room and paused. I breathed deep taking in the vibrant yellows and orange hues that are adorning a lovely old tree across the street. In that moment I paused and asked Papa what he was doing today and could I be a part. I distinctly heard in my spirit, “I’m enjoying the sight of that beautiful tree, Isn’t it stunning?”
Wait…..God is enjoying the sight of something I am looking at? In my enjoyment I can also sense His enjoyment? He is entering into my space in time here and interacting with me over a simple beautiful tree?
Now this may sound weird to you. But I let the thought run. Ok, if Papa could enjoy what I am looking at and if I could feel, somehow, his enjoyment, then could I also do the same when I looked at a person today? Could my enjoyment of them somehow mirror his enjoyment of them? Could I sense his delight? His excitement? His frustration? (Surely he gets frustrated too.) Could my compassion somehow tap into His compassion? Could I use my eyes today to see what He sees? Can my eyes become portals through which I can find out His heart toward people or situations? Is this what Jesus was doing when he said that he only did what he saw the Father doing? Maybe Jesus saw something, knew that the Father was seeing it also and then asked the Father what he was feeling about it (or just immediately sensed it) and what, if anything was to be done.
Maybe this is basic to you. Nothing, no thought, is new. But today, this thought blasted through my world and made me change my perspective. I like walking with Papa. Especially on a beautiful Fall day.
Tuesday, October 16, 2007
I don’t plan to update this new phase (experiment) of my life (walking away from the wreck) every day. But when something happens, I will post about it.
This morning after several cups of coffee and while folding laundry I remembered that I was going to ask the Father to show me what he was doing today and if he showed me and it was something for me to act on I was willing today. So I did. But as I started to address Him, I inadvertently called him Papa. You see I had just read this excellent post by “Willie,” author of The Shack and the name for God, being Papa, what “Willie” calls God came to mind and to my lips.
Now, calling God, Father, is ok by me. I can see that. I have done that often. It is a common name for God in my head. But frankly, the name of Papa as a name for God seemed kind of hokey to me. It is ok for a novel, or for someone else like a friend that I know who is kind wild and free, but not for me.
But today, in walking away from the wreck of my life in the institutional church I found that somewhere in standing around and looking at the wreck another God had replaced the one I went into the wreck with. This God was so different that I could not even refer to Him with the same name.
I realized that I did not want to walk away from this wreck with my old God. That God was demanding and I never measured up to his expectations – nor did anyone else. My old God would have wanted a plan. A plan for today, tomorrow and don’t forget to work on the 5 year plan too. “Without vision the people perish,” or something along those lines. My chores did not change nations. I would have felt worthless and looked for something that appeared more like his “will.” Mostly, I felt that my old God loved me but was not fond of me. He just wanted me to get to work.
This new God was fond of me and when I called him Papa this morning I saw him smile gently. Not really saw it as much as sensed it. This God wanted to walk with me. He was not so concerned as to the direction we took as that we were walking together. Nothing made Him happier than for me to ask Him where we were headed and could I tag along. He was not too busy for me. He did not care if I had wash to fold, phones to answer and dinner to cook. Those chores were not substandard to doing his “will.” They were what he wanted to do with me today. He was content. My Papa was content. Wow!!........Did you read that? Can God truly be content? Can He be content with me?
Ok, so lesson #1. I have a new God to walk with. I hope He does not mind. I sure don’t.
Monday, October 15, 2007
(PLEASE NOTE #1: Right off….for those who hate the whole – What Would Jesus Do – theme, bracelets, jewelry, bumper stickers and way of thinking…..I’m right there with you. I’m smart enough to realize that I have NO idea what Jesus would do in any situation. I’m enough of a Pharisee at heart to realize that if Jesus walked through my door today he would probably shock, disturb and stretch me and if I were not careful, humble and teachable; I may eventually want to put him to death.)
That said; Let me tell you why I am participating in a syncroblog entitled; What Would Jesus Do... With The Church. Erin invited those of us who have been looking at the church to spend a month and DO some of the things that we feel the church is not doing. Go here to see the guidelines for this and please participate.
There are two other reasons I am participating.
Best Friend said something to me the other day. She reads my blog hesitantly. I say hesitantly because she is super sensitive to all the negativity that many feel during this time. See, the reason she is my best friend is because she is able to look beyond my faults and sin and annoying bits of personality and actually love me. The only problem with that is that she is able to do that to everyone. Even those who hurt her desperately. So, knowing those that I sometimes write about is a source of hurt for her if she senses that I do not love them in the same way she is able. She misunderstood something that I and another commentator said the other day and told me that, at some time, those of us who had left the church would need to get on with their lives and just live. Even though she misunderstood what I had said, I took what she said and chewed on it. Did I need to move on?
The last thing that happened was something that Wayne Jacobsen said. I was listening to his series on his website called Transitions. He was speaking of sins and those things that we are addicted to. He said that our obsession with anything other than this life in Jesus, is bondage. Our desire and involvement IN sin can be bondage but so also can our desire and involvement to be OUT of sin. Whatever ties up our hearts other than walking each day with and in the love of Father can be bondage. What I felt the Spirit saying was this - being in bondage to leaving a church system and focusing only on that is just as damaging as being in bondage to the system in the first place.
Let me explain, here is the picture I get. Last May, my family and I were in a terrible wreck. (This wreck was all that happened when we left our church.) Everyone involved, everyone, walked away with injuries. Those on each side were affected. It was a terrible wreck. Nothing is or will be the same.
I was not prepared for this wreck. I had no back-up plans. I had not decided to leave with a direction in mind. I had no other transportation ready in case of a wreck. I was left, standing on the side of the road just looking at this mess.
I hate wrecks. I hate that so many had gone before me and experienced the same things. I hated that I had looked the other way and not stopped to help them. I hated that I had blamed them for having the wreck. I hated that I was so much to blame.
I found others who had experienced wrecks just like mine. They were and are invaluable voices for me. They assured me that the injuries I had sustained were not just my own sin. They gave me hope that, in time, the memories of the wreck and those involved would fade. I was grateful.
I did leave the scene of the wreck for a while to ask some people to forgive me. But you need to understand….I had no idea what to do next. Do I look for another means of transportation for me and my family? Even if we found one, where were we to go? Could I ever trust another driver or another mode of transportation? Were we even supposed to have these contraptions that we (the church) travel in?
I started to evaluate everything. Were we supposed to be in this kind of transportation to begin with? What about those who designed the transportation that caused the wreck? Were they to be held accountable? Were there any new designs that would protect us for future wrecks? How about the big transportation companies - the ones who kept producing types of transportation for all kinds of people and the wrecks that they caused? Could we change them? Could we get them to see our point? Was it only the drivers of these vehicles or was it the vehicles themselves? Maybe it was just the direction they were traveling. Maybe if we just went another direction then the wrecks would be eliminated. What really did the original authors mean when they described the modes of transportation that they used? How about we just tweak the accessories on the transporting vehicles? Would that make it better? Maybe different tires, different windshield wipers, different brake systems, different air bags, different forms of fuel. There was so much to evaluate. I could stay here forever.
At Watchman’s View From the Wall’s on What Was That All About, I wrote in the comments last week that it is easier to look backwards and evaluate than it is to walk away into the nothingness of not knowing. In some ways, I have walked away from the wreck but I find that I have walked away backwards, with the wreck always in my sight. And in many ways, I have not walked away at all but only circled it. Kevin says at the end of this very timely article for my life that, “Change can’t occur until we get tired of staying in the same place.” Brilliant stuff huh?
So this month, and hopefully from this point on, I am going to purposely walk away. It is not that I will never look at it again. If it helps someone else to look at my wreck or theirs, I will.
But I need to walk into this nothingness and find out if Jesus, if the Church is really there.
Here is my overall, very simple commitment for the month:
I am going to ask Father at least once a day to show me what he is doing around me that day. If he shows me and if I can be involved I plan to try to act on it.
I have two concrete plans:
One is to make an effort to meet other believers. I have one that Father has urged me to ask out for coffee and I plan to do that this week. I have a few others that He as asked me to make appointments with to see what their lives are involved in now. I will call this week to make those appointments.
The other plan is to go and sit with those who want to be loved. My daughter works at a downtown, late night diner. Many of her friends, who came by our home when she lived here, work there also. They know me. I’m going to go down once a week or so and drink a cup of coffee and see if Father is doing anything among them. It will mean being out after 11:00 one night a week. But I like coffee. And I love these kids.
That is my plan. I will update the blog this month as I walk away. You are invited to read along with me and I hope to also participate.
Please let me know in the comments if you read my blog and are going to participate. I would like to also keep up with your stories.
PLEASE NOTE #2: Father has us each on our own timetable. This happened just when I needed it. Do not participate out of guilt. I could not have done this last month. You may just need to read along and be encouraged for the time when Father asks you to walk away too. The day will come.
PLEASE NOTE #3: If you feel called to look at the way we do church and evaluate it, please do not take this post as a judgment on what you are doing. I am grateful to you who are doing this. I just don't think that this is my platform for right now. There are better and brighter minds out there already working on this. They don’t really need me.
The kids at the diner do though.
Living His Life
Saturday, October 6, 2007
Last night I made my list. But you know what. As I got ready to post it this morning I realized that I don’t really know anyone who does not call themselves a Christian. I mean I could give you some names. I know people. But I don’t really know them.
I’ve explained before in this blog that in my former church I had set myself up as the one who discipled the ones who came into the church. My time and energies all went toward the new and developing Christians and fellowship with people mostly just like me. I mean, after the Sunday morning meeting and all the other meetings I attended there really wasn’t time for much else. I never belonged to an outside organization, club or group. Since I homeschooled my children (until just the past few years) I did not even have school type excuses to meet the world. I also run our own business, and while I talk on the phone, taking appointments and such, it also does not lend itself to meeting any of those “non Christian people.”
I am beginning to take some steps outside now though. I just had drinks and dinner with Best Friend and some of her co-workers last night. It was a blast. I don’t remember when I’ve had more fun. And then there is the lady who ownes the florist shop down the road who found out that I love to make cinnamon rolls and actually asked me if she could come to my house some day and have me teach her how to make them.
What I am trying to say here is:
I have only heard others like me tell me what they think of us. I have never asked them. I don’t even know them enough to really ask them.
So I made a call. I called my daughter who is living with her boyfriend. (She is the one running so hard away from religion right now that she is going to run smack into God out there) She has said that her boyfriend hates Christians. So I asked her to ask him for me. When he answers, I will get back to you and update this post.
You see, I’m no longer interested in what I think to be true. I have found that what I thought to be true even just months ago were lies of my own and others' making. I want truth. I really want to know what they think.
So, I’m going to ask them. So……more later……
Thursday, October 4, 2007
(Note: See Jon Birch's site for more comics like the one on the right)
Since we have left our church I have chewed on the idea of worship. I was disheartened because there was nothing in me that wanted return to a worship service. I was not sure I would even like it anymore. I was afraid to go back and the idea frankly made me a little sick. This disturbed me greatly because music is so important to my spirit. I know it can connect me to God, to others and to his body. I love music. Others, who I read about and listen to, seem to have not taken anything bad from their experiences in worship and seemingly it was the one thing that they missed the most from their institutional churches. So why did I not want to go back? What was up with that?
Robbymac blogged about worship leaders the other day in Whips, Flames and Morpheus the Worship Leader. Please read this. He defines the two kinds of worship leaders. Those that stress that you “perform” in worship and those that just worship and allow you to enter if you wish. After reading this and thinking on it, I may know a bit more of why I am so reluctant to go back to a worship service.
Now let me be the first to say that worship in my CLB was pretty stellar. Our leaders were impassioned people who did not carry a strong arm into the worship space. We were known for our worship. But at the same time there was this unsaid, unspoken idea (at least in my thinking) that if you were just sitting there while everyone else was outwardly worshiping that you were not “entering in” and could actually impede the work of the Holy Spirit. “True believers” worship freely. This meant that you could see them worship.
I was a leader in this church. I sat on the front row. I therefore, needed to put on a good front. People needed to see me worship so they could follow me and worship too. I did not want to impede the Holy Spirit. I became convinced that to truly look spiritual I needed to raise my hands, dance a bit when called for, look joyful for the joyful songs, somber for the repentance songs and passionate for the more passionate songs. I needed to somehow outwardly show that I was actually worshiping. I have realized in the past few days that I had made it into a production about me, my leadership, my godliness, my qualifications, my holiness, me, me, me.
No wonder it makes me sick now.
And that is what is so hard. Was this really taught at my CLB or was this just my own bent heart wanting to fit in and be recognized? I would love to take a survey of all that sat in the same services as I did. Was it just me? Was I the only one that believed this subtle, twisted message? Did everyone there who were raising their hands, kneeling or dancing really mean it or was it a show for some? Did we as leaders let people know that is wasn’t ok just to be there and not perform? What was actually said?
So many times I want to point my finger at the institution for all its problems and what it does to people but then I realize that the institution that is fundamentally and primarily flawed is my own heart.
For that I repent.
Filed under: Uncategorized — jonbirch @ 12:00 am
Tuesday, October 2, 2007
As we exited our church in May a thousand questions swirled around our heads. Questions, like, what are we going to do with our kids, worship, fellowship, teaching, giving, discipleship, baptism or the Lord’s Supper.
Slowly, bit by bit, Father has been visiting each question. He hasn’t always answered each question but there has been a time to talk with him about them. I both love and hate this part of my journey right now. . A subject will come up through a simple thought, something that happens or something I read. I remind Him that I still have questions about this topic. But you know what? Most of the time, it seems that He appears content just to listen to my question. He does not seem to be in any hurry.
But every once in a while Father gives me something substantial. Simple, but substantial. It was that way the other day as I listened to a podcast from the God Journey. It was the podcast from May 4, 2007 where Brad and Wayne were interviewing a close friend of Wayne’s named Bob Stamps.
Mr. Stamps has studied for a lifetime on the significance of the Eucharist, (we called it either the Lord’s Supper or Communion.) During his talk with Brad and Wayne he blew me away. In summary, this is what I gleaned from their talk.
When Jesus first offered this symbol to his disciples he was sitting at a dinner table. They were in the midst of doing something incredibly common. They were eating dinner together. In this setting, Jesus says to take the elements of the table, bread and wine, and He said, when you eat like this, remember me. Bob went on to say that for CENTURIES this act of remembering the Lord’s death till he came back was only done around someone’s dinner table. It was in the midst of eating together at someone’s dinner table that this remembrance was observed.
A few things stood out to me and will forever change how I view having the “Lord’s Supper.”
1) Jesus wants to meet me - not just in a building where we all come together for two hours on a Sunday morning for a ritual, drinking out of little tiny cups and a morsel of bread. He wants to meet us in the most common of settings. In my dining room. At my table. With us. Among us. In our homes. With our family. With our friends.
2) He never said, build a special table at the front of the building where you meet on Sundays, cover it with a white cloth, fill tiny cups with juice – not wine, and have special golden plates to put tiny pieces of very, very dry crackers on it. Now make sure that every knows that this table is holy. You may call it the Alter.
3). This meal we are to share is to be among people we have relationship with. There is very little relationship among those we went to church with. Oh, we were together a lot, we worked on things a lot. But in that morning that we came together for a service we barely got out hellos, how are you, how’s the kids, yeah – we are busy too…football you know…and various other “greetings” but not true fellowship. Try having those kinds of conversations around the dinner table and you see what is so crazy about the whole thing. Life gets talked about at the dinner table. Good stuff….bad stuff….laughter…tears, are all mixed in and among us as we talk. And THAT is what Jesus wants to be a part of. That is the setting he wants us to not forget him. He wanted to be surrounded with family and friends in this remembrance.
4). The meal is to be abundant. I’m not talking about lavish. But I am talking about a meal. Jesus did not say that He wanted us to come together for a sip of wine and a bite of dry cracker. He said, “When you do this……meal….remember me. I wonder if the tiny portion that we get in a typical communion allotment is somehow a tribute to the amount of grace that we feel is also poured out for our sins. This was never to be the picture. It is out of a sizeable portion – a meal – that we are to take a portion of that and remember him. From abundance we remember his abundant love, grace and provision.
4. The meal is to be shared. How much of my life have I sat with just myself – inspecting and feeling guilty for my sin and then sipped the juice and chewed on the dry cracker all by myself. Alone. Just me and God. Sometimes we would take it as a family and later in years we would sometimes celebrate it of sorts with each other or another couple. But mostly it was just me. My sin. My shame. My guilt. My repentance. (See what Mr. Stamps says about Paul's admonition to inspect our lives during communion - it is truy freeing)
5. Why did we exchange wine for juice?. A dinner with wine changes everything dynamically. It becomes a celebration. Wine makes the heart glad. Wine is a symbol of richness, lavishness, God having a party. It is a remembrance of his death but it is a remembrance of JOY for all he has done for us. He paid it for us. He is our victor. Church would have been a lot more fun if we had just come together for a dinner and served several bottles of good Shiraz. Maybe even the poor and the pagan would have wondered if they could join us.
Anyway, I encourage you to listen to the podcasts of God at Our Table and then the next one entitled, Living in the Arms of Mercy. You can access them here or on itunes buy putting Wayne Jacobsen into the search bar and clicking on the God Journey. Let me know if you get any other revelation from them.