Thursday, April 30, 2009

Naked at Church

So there was this one time when I took off all my clothes at church. Ok, that's not quite accurate. I did take off my coat, shirt, tie, shoes, socks, and yes, my pants. I did have on shorts and a ratty t-shirt underneath. I was making the point that all our righteous acts are like filthy rags. My pastor told me to do it. Why would I tell my pastor no? You really should have seen the look on people's faces when I reached for my belt and started to take off my pants. That image will forever be etched in my mind, which is probably better than the image etched in their minds of a stripping pastor.

I bring all this up because I am starting to feel naked again. Except this time it's not with clothing. This time it is my soul which is being bared for everyone to see. I'm fighting hard, going back and forth between two desires. The one pulls at me to keep it together. The other longs to take off all the exterior, which means very little anyway.

This morning I read from 1 Timothy 6:11-12. Paul had been telling Timothy to avoid going after money and fame and power, all the usual trappings. In fact, Timothy was told to run. This wasn't a casual warning to avoid some missteps. This was a frantic admonition to flee sin. And then Timothy was told to run after eternal life.

So I think this is where I am at, needing to run hard and fast in the direction God is calling me to. Come run with me. I may grow tired and sweaty along the way. It will be nice to have the company.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Ah, money...

I've been re-reading Donald Miller's book Searching For God Knows What. This means a couple of things. I've rethought whether I am a good writer. It means I've been refreshed to know, yet again, that this life is not about me and what I can possibly cram into a day, even if everything I crammed was uber-spiritual.

The most recent chapter I read talked about how we have taken the personal relationship out of the personal relationship with Christ, making Christianity more of a business transaction. It gets me excited when I think about God like this. I just hope I can treat others with the same conclusions that Donald comes to.

It makes sense when you read scripture. For instance, 1 Timothy 6:6-10 reads this way; "A devout life does bring wealth, but it's the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that's enough.
But if it's only money these leaders are after, they'll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money brings trouble and nothing but trouble. Going down that path, some lose their footing in the faith completely and live to regret it bitterly ever after."

I included the last couple of verses so that you can read Paul's total thought here, but what struck me this morning when I read this was the part about being yourself before God. See, if religion is about rules, I don't want to be myself. I want to be someone better. But since God knows the real me anyway, it's comforting to know that I can come before Him broken and frustrated and He is ready to relate with me. Where I am. As I am.

This could change everything.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Do you know any drinking songs?

I wish I knew some drinking songs. I don't drink, which is to say I don't drink alcohol. It's kind of silly that people say they don't drink. Everyone drinks something....water, coffee, Kool-Aid. Does anyone still drink Kool-Aid?

But drinking songs have always looked like fun to me. A bunch of friends swinging around their frothy mugs while loudly singing off-key. Perhaps the fact that they are inebriated while they do this makes it look like more fun, but still.

Of course, if I did know drinking songs, I'd be forced to rethink singing them when I came across this.
"Sing hymns instead of drinking songs! Sing songs from your heart to Christ. Sing praises over everything, any excuse for a song to God the Father in the name of our Master, Jesus Christ." (Ephesians 5:18-20)

I don't think this means I can't sing jubilantly while getting my milk and cookies. I could go without the song, but something about those cookies makes me want to sing. But I suppose that's the point. We should be living life so joyfully that we just want to sing.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Shall we dance?

Though I like Steven Curtis Chapman's music, I always questioned when he called God the 'Lord of the Dance'. Perhaps it's the instant imagery of men in tights high stepping all over. Maybe it's my Free Methodist roots and fear of dancing coming out. Either way, it's always makes me stop and wonder. Is God a line-dancer? Can He break dance? Would He dip a lady in a tango?

But then I come across words of the Apostle Paul like this (found in 1 Thessalonians 4:1)
We ask you—urge is more like it—that you keep on doing what we told you to do to please God, not in a dogged religious plod, but in a living, spirited dance.

It makes sense that God doesn't want dogged religious plodders. If I started a religion, I wouldn't want plodders. Soldiers, yes. Someone to cook, sure. But not plodders. The reason is simple. You can't plod without looking sad. Go ahead and try.

But dancers. I suppose this does make sense. It's hard to dance and be down. And dancers are involved with their partners. This is how we should be with Jesus. Involved, giving and taking, and yes, dancing. I guess this means I'll have to bring out my dancing shoes, do some stretching, and work on my moves. Oh boy, have I got moves. Christian girls, look out!

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Using People and Loving Things

I've been told that my young children will one day become useful to me. Cleaning rooms, washing dishes, taking care of their laundry...all these will become things they do all the time. It almost makes me want to have 3 or 4 more when I think about it. If they were organized properly, my castle could be a well-oiled, smooth-running machine. Imagine what I could accomplish once all of the mundane things are taken care of by my miniature army of pasty-white children.

Perhaps this is silly, but I sometimes think the same way with our church. I imagine what would be possible if we had more people taking care of daily tasks and even others to help dream forward. What would be possible? This isn't all bad as growth is a great thing to strive forward towards, but I wonder if I sometimes cross a line that Paul warned about.

"You can be sure that using people or religion or things just for what you can get out of them—the usual variations on idolatry—will get you nowhere, and certainly nowhere near the kingdom of Christ, the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5

On the surface, I know I want good things for God's glory. I just need to check that inner self from time to time...or everyday.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Mostly what God does...

Ephesians 5:2 (The Message) Mostly what God does is love you. Keep company with him and learn a life of love. Observe how Christ loved us. His love was not cautious but extravagant. He didn't love in order to get something from us but to give everything of himself to us. Love like that.

I spent the last couple of days at a retreat. It's a yearly required event. You wouldn't think that a retreat would have to be something that is required. But it is. This is good because if it weren't, I would not go. Most years I might be just as happy I didn't. But this year I would have missed out on something.

This year was a pleasant surprise as the speaker took us on a journey of self-exploration. And though he ma not have intended for me to get the result I did, I think God showed me that I make way too much in my life about me. I preach against this kind of thing so often that I guess I thought I was exempt. Apparently not. I needed a reminder.

That's what we have here in Ephesians 5:2; a reminder. A reminder that mostly what God does is love us and so we should spend time with Him, observing and then duplicating. I want to do that and yet, sometimes until it is forced, I don't.

I'd like to think that daily time with God is something I don't have to be forced into, but maybe when it's not, I miss out on something...time with God.