Sunday, September 8, 2013

Not All Like That....

I came upon the N.A.L.T website today, via Facebook. N.A.L.T is the acronym for Not All Like That. It is a joint venture of Truth Wins Out  and John Shore, progressive author/blogger. It is inspired by the  It Gets Better Project.  In videos, gay affirming Christians tell why they believe the way they do. They don't want to be lumped in with the loud evangelical voices going on and on about the erosion of the family, the gay agenda, and the slippery slope that will lead to laws ensuring all kinds of perversions, including the right to marry your dog if you have a mind to. 

There are too many Christians who feel it is their right...even their duty...to defend themselves against what they perceive as Christian persecution. The gay marriage issue is one of the venues this view is heard loud and clear. The annual war against Christmas is another great example. Every year countless Christians get all worked up about trees and parades and greetings that don't specifically use the word C.H.R.I.S.T.M.A.S.

 As if Christmas was a Christian holiday to begin with...! I've written about the Christmas wars here on this blog several times.

 I commend the  folks (54 or so and counting) who've put their beliefs out there for the world to see. I communicate best in written form. I trip over my own tongue when I try to talk..out loud..about sensitive issues. I haven't been shy about proclaiming  I've got a problem with street preachers who show up at pride events to shout about hell fire and damnation or those who espouse the dog-eared cliche "love the sinner, hate the sin." I've got a problem with the "put Christ back in Christmas warriors" and with every Christian who thinks it is their right to force their beliefs and interpretation of scripture on others. I've seen it said on Facebook (so I know it has to be true) "Disagreeing with your beliefs is not persecution." 


And to those who have been hurt or bullied by mean-spirited, self righteous Christians, I can only affirm that we are "not all like that."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Like an onion…


I recently began a new Bible reading plan that I found on a website called Ransom Fellowship. (I found it via my new favorite "research" tool…Pinterest)

According to the article, the plan goes back to the time of the Puritans but it was repackaged by Margie Haack as the 


Bible Reading Program for Slackers and Shirkers


(A similar plan can be found HERE)


Basically…the plan assigns a reading from a different part of the Bible each day of the week.


Sunday - Poetry
Monday - The Pentateuch
Tuesday and Wednesday - Old Testament History
Thursday - Old Testament Prophets
Friday - New Testament History
Saturday - New Testament Epistles

There are two key benefits to this plan. 
You can see the interconnectedness of scripture. And since there are no specific dates assigned to the readings, there is not as much pressure....or guilt.....when life gets in the way and you miss a few days of reading. Missed this Monday's reading? Tomorrow is a new day....so simply move on to Tuesday's reading and pick up next Monday where you left off.

I also found a very simple bible study method (again thanks Pinterest) called the SOAP METHOD.

SCRIPTURE
OBSERVATION
APPLICATION
PRAYER

I know there are many ways to study the bible. In fact, while researching for this article (No not Pinterest this time…google) I came upon a website that talks about some of the methods with links to "worksheets" for each of the different types of study.

The Bible Study Methods

Method One – The Devotional Method
Method Two – The Chapter Summary Method
Method Three – The Character Quality Method
Method Four – The Thematic Method
Method Five – The Biographical Method
Method Six – The Topical Method
Method Seven – The Word Study Method
Method Eight – The Book Background Method
Method Nine – The Book Survey Method
Method Ten – The Chapter Analysis Method
Method Eleven – The Book Synthesis Method
Method Twelve – The Verse by Verse Method

The word study method piques my interest because I have found that, oftentimes,the English word does not really do justice to the meaning of the word in the original language. But even though the detailed worksheets appeal to the OCD aspects of my personality, for now I'm going to KISS and use the SOAP method.


So anyway...the inspiration for this entire post was a quote by Emmet Kelly that I happened upon this morning. I love the diamond mining analogy he uses. I've heard scripture compared to an onion....layer upon layer upon layer of meaning. When you "dig" a little deeper, things are not always what they appear on the surface.


The study of the Bible is not unlike the search for diamonds in South Africa. At first people found a few diamonds in the yellow clay, and they were delighted with their good fortune, even while they supposed that this was to be the full extent of their find.
 Then, upon digging deeper, they came upon the blue clay, and, to their amazement, they then found as many precious stones in a day as they had previously found in a year, and what had formerly seemed like wealth faded into insignificance beside the new riches.
In your exploration of Bible Truth, see to it that you do not rest satisfied in the yellow clay of a few spiritual discoveries, but press on to the rich blue clay underneath.
 The Bible, however, differs from the diamond field in the sublime fact that beneath the blue clay there are more and still more and richer strata, awaiting the touch of spiritual perception—on and on to Infinity. Emmet Fox

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Jesus Wept….

And one of the things I read recently  that “fills me with words” is Mike Huckabee's Twitter comment on the gay marriage rulings. The Internet is abuzz about it. Google it and you will come up with pages and pages of results. Some in support.  Some that thoughtfully disagree.  Some that poke fun.  I am no doubt one of the last bloggers to post about it..but post, I must, because it is just so....annoying.  Huckabee said:

Gov. Mike Huckabee ✔ @GovMikeHuckabee

My thoughts on the SCOTUS ruling that determined that same sex marriage is okay: "Jesus wept."

Really? You really think that?

I'm more inclined to believe that Jesus weeps over things like the torture and murder of Matthew Shepard. Or Mark Carson, the man who was shot point blank in the face in Greenwich Village this May; harassed and killed by a  stranger because he was gay. Or what about the countless lives that are wasted through suicide or years of reparative therapy....

Jesus wept about the SCOTUS ruling? Nuh-uh.

Next post….more about Jesus wept. 

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Full of…..words…

It's been a while. A long while. I'm not sure what happened, exactly, but I just stopped writing here on this blog. I didn't run out of ideas....but I seemed to run out of time.

I started a new position at work about a year ago that required a bunch of overtime. The "hum drum ho hum" day to day issues of life kept me busy, distracted.  My brain is tired after sitting in front of a computer all day...thinking.  And even though I have the best of intentions on the weekends....somehow, when Sunday night arrives, the bathrooms are clean and the carpets are vacuumed...but nothing is written.

A while ago, I came across a verse in Job that stuck with me.  Elihu has had it with Job and his miserable comforters. Being the youngest, he waited and listened to the others, no doubt biting his tongue bloody. Finally, exasperated, he declares.....

I, too will answer, yes, I will tell what I know.  For I am full of words and my spirit compels me to speak.

Sometimes, the things I read on the internet...especially Facebook ... have me biting my tongue. But Facebook is intimidating and feels a little too much like oral communication class in high school. It is so....public. Like getting up in front of a bunch of people and spouting off. But like Elihu, I have stuff to say....and my spirit compels me to speak....so I'm going to try to spout off on a more regular basis here on this blog. 

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Blessing of Growth

I happened upon an article this morning on Huffington Post…written by Shane L. Windmeyer, the founder and executive director of Campus Pride. His organization advanced the national campaign against Chick-fil-A.  The article is entitled Dan and Me: My Coming Out as a Friend of Dan Cathy and Chick-fil-A

I haven’t cared much for Dan Cathy since the firestorm a few months ago…..when Chick-fil-A became the unwitting symbol for the fight to save traditional marriage….I mean the right of free speech.  Uh-huh…... 

I was more than a bit put off by all the Christians, who stood in line for hours, called to action by Sean Hannity, to demonstrate their support for free speech by buying a Chick-Fil-A sandwich. Let’s just say, I strongly suspect that the motive of most of the people who stood in those long lines was to make an anti gay rights statement. I don’t think it was about free speech.  

So I didn’t care much for him….or his views….or his values….or his monetary contributions to what some would consider hate groups. 

So I was surprised….convicted….and then encouraged by the article this morning on Huffington Post.  It’s an example of how folks who hold almost polar opposite world views can sit down and have a civil conversation, showing each other mutual respect.  And in doing so they can actually find common ground and opportunities to grow and make the world a better place. 

Dan Cathy called it the “blessing of growth.”

There were numerous cynical, sarcastic comments in response to the article, coming from both sides of the gay rights divide. There was still mud slinging and hate; the “gay guys” didn’t want to give an inch to the “religious bigots” and visa versa.  There were charges of selling out, settling, hypocrisy. From both sides.   

Some people only want to hang on to their world view and beliefs….demonizing the other guy. As long as we are demonizing the other guy, real change and the blessing of growth is very elusive. 

I have to point out that this type of conversation only seems to work when both sides want it to work.  If the agenda is to BE understood rather than to UNDERSTAND….if the agenda is to convince, talk over, debate…..this type of conversation cannot accomplish much.

Some people do not want to understand or extend a hand in friendship. Some people simply want to be right. 

Evangelical Christians are multi dimensional creatures…..and like gay people cannot be defined through an isolated lens.

The world does not need more enemies….it needs more unlikely friendships like these two guys, more open dialogue, more understanding, less hate and intolerance.

I am reminded of the quote by Abraham Lincoln

The best way to destroy an enemy is to make him a friend.

And a bonus quote from Martin Luther King

Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into friend.


Saturday, November 17, 2012

Earth Suits, Space Suits and Blind Beggars

Keith is a skydiver.  Once a skydiver, always a skydiver...even though his interests for the past few years have veered toward staying IN the "perfectly good airplane" rather than jumping out of it.  He worked hard to become rated as a light sport pilot....with plans to move on to the next step (private pilot) when time and money are available.  Anything related to being thousands of feet above the earth is often a topic at our house. So, about a month ago, when Felix Baumgartner made his epic jump from more than 24 miles up, it was a topic of interest and conversation at the McAndrew household.  I probably wouldn't have paid much attention if I wasn't married to Keith...other than maybe a passing "wth" is this guy thinking?

And not too long after Felix's (thankfully) successful jump, I came upon an article that looked at the spiritual implications of his jump....and the similarities between his space suit and our "earth suits" (this body of flesh that houses our spirits).

The article is written by Tzvi Freeman and is entitled

"Sky Dive From Heaven - What I learned from a guy who fell to earth from the edge of outer space at the speed of sound

It begins with a discussion of how (and why) Felix totally freaked out about being in the special suit he had to wear to survive the jump.  It protected his body from the minus 70 degree temps at those high altitudes and the speed of the fall.....prevented his body fluids from becoming gasses and other unpleasant stuff.  Red Bull sponsored the jump....and they called in a psychologist who specializes in these crazy....ahhhhhh, I mean extreme and high-performance sports.  Dr. Michael Gervais, was there to help Felix cope with the multiple panic attacks he was having because of the suit. 

Then the article takes a thought provoking twist by comparing Felix's jump to our leap from heaven.  From the spiritual realm to the earthly realm.  And we needed special suits to survive the jump into this realm....thus....our earth suits.  Our physical bodies. 

There is a line of thought in the Jewish tradition (and the object of musing in other faith traditions) that the skin God clad Adam and Eve with after the fall was not that of an animal but rather the skin of our earthly bodies. Interesting thought....and I've written about it before HERE.

So let's ponder the idea that we did preexist with God before our "jump to earth." What might the consequences be?

The article goes on to say:

But we become focused on the spacesuit. Yes, it’s an ingenious spacesuit, custom design for its mission, with its own built-in intelligence, mirrors, and a wide range of flexibility. But it’s clumsy, nonetheless. The body says, “I want this. I need that. I can’t do this. I must do that.” Our entire reality becomes exlusively that of the body and its demands, while the person within, the divine soul that fell from above starts to panic, to lose control, and eventually to fall into comatose.

Interesting thoughts....interesting comparisons.

Perhaps rather than comatose, one of the consequences of this jump is the blindness....the amnesia it produces.  We forget who we are and where we came from.  Our vision is obscured. We see through a glass darkly.  We gets glimpses of the spiritual now and then....a peek "beyond the veil" and every once in a while, there are "thin places" where the spiritual breaks through into the natural realm.  The more spiritually enlightened folks among us see much clearer....but still, their vision is clouded. 

In Ode: Intimations of Immortality William Wordsworth says this
Whither is fled the visionary gleam?
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life's Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
Heaven lies about us in our infancy!
Shades of the prison-house begin to close
Upon the growing boy.

     ID-10024152

                 Picture by "nattavut" from free digital photos

And then, a few days ago, while reading in the Gospels, I came upon a few verses in both  that brings some of my scattered thoughts together.  

Bartimaeus Receives His Sight

Mark 10: 46Then they came to Jericho. And as He was leaving Jericho with His disciples and a large crowd, a blind beggar named Bartimaeus, the son of Timaeus, was sitting by the road. 47When he heard that it was Jesus the Nazarene, he began to cry out and say, “Jesus, Son of David, have mercy on me!” 48Many were sternly telling him to be quiet, but he kept crying out all the more, “Son of David, have mercy on me!” 49And Jesus stopped and said, “Call him here.” So they called the blind man, saying to him, “Take courage, stand up! He is calling for you.” 50Throwing aside his cloak, he jumped up and came to Jesus. 51And answering him, Jesus said, “What do you want Me to do for you?” And the blind man said to Him, “Rabboni, I want to regain my sight!” 52And Jesus said to him, “Go; your faith has made you well.” Immediately he regained his sight and began following Him on the road.

There are parallels. We are all blind. Christ is the source of our healing, our sight, our understanding.. 

The Bible has been described as an onion....layer upon layer of meaning. Unpeel one layer only to uncover another layer.  There is the obvious, natural meaning of the words...and oftentimes...most times?....always?....there is a deeper spiritual meaning. Looking up the meaning of the words in the original language often deciphers the deeper meaning.  Since I am by no means a Greek scholar, I depend on resources like the Strong's concordance to help peel away layers of "the onion."

In this passage, the word translated "blind" is tuphlos in the Greek.  According to Strongs, it means "blind" and "mentally blind."  Not seeing does not always involve our eyesight. 

And the meaning of the Greek word anablepo translated BOTH as regain and sight in verse 51 means "to look up" and "to recover lost sight."  It comes from two root words....

"ana"
which means "into the midst, in the midst, amidst, among, between"

"Blepo"
Blepo has several meanings...one that has to do with physical seeing, but also another that is metaphorical - to see with the mind's eye.

Notice the blind man wanted to REgain his sight. We, too, need to REgain our spiritual sight.  We need a cure for our spiritual amnesia….and to REmember who we are and where we came from….  

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Is God Equally Judge and Equally Father?

Slowly but surely, I am making my way through the list of questions I think are birthed when we believe in the God of eternal conscious torment that Chan talks about in his book Erasing Hell. 
Throughout the book, Chan emphasizes the legal/courtroom/God as judge concept when he uses phrases such as….
After Jesus looks at the evidence
He gives His verdict: Believers are awarded everlasting life, while unbelievers are awarded everlasting punishment.
But Jesus goes on to say that God’s courtroom will be much worse, for here the Judge has the power to sentence you to the “hell [gehenna] of fire”
The legal context of this statement ensures that Jesus is referring to the consequences of judgment day.
When Jesus uses stock phrases like “gehenna of fire” in legal contexts like this one, He means a literal place of punishment after judgment. He means hell.
The phrase sentenced to hell is once again reminiscent of something you would hear in a courtroom.
So…is God mainly judge or is God mainly father?
William Barclay, in I Am A Convinced Universalist explained it this way:
Further, there is only one way in which we can think of the triumph of God. If God was no more than a King or Judge, then it would be possible to speak of his triumph, if his enemies were agonizing in hell or were totally and completely obliterated and wiped out. But God is not only King and Judge, God is Father - he is indeed Father more than anything else. No father could be happy while there were members of his family for ever in agony. No father would count it a triumph to obliterate the disobedient members of his family. The only triumph a father can know is to have all his family back home. The only victory love can enjoy is the day when its offer of love is answered by the return of love. The only possible final triumph is a universe loved by and in love with God.
And John Gavazzoni, a favorite kingdom minister of mine, says it this way in his article “My Dad, God”:
One thing stands out clearly to me when I compare my father's relationship with his children to the way our Heavenly Father is presented in conventional orthodox theology. It is simply this: Lou Gavazzoni's relationship with me was paternal, not legal. Whatever factors came into play, all was built on a familial, not a forensic foundation. There may at times have been a friendship element, associate-in-business element, fellow-musician element, boss-employee element, even lord-servant element and yes, the element of judgment came up as well. But, I never stood before one who was essentially a judge, who might, after legal matters were settled, then allow himself to be fatherly.
I stood before my father who might, as necessary, act in a firm, unyielding and corrective judgment as part of his love for me. Yet, it seems clear to me, that most of Christianity assumes that a relationship with God is only possible after legal matters are settled. Our minds are so entangled with what we perceive to be legal, judicial and forensic necessities that we miss the Father-heart of God.
So is God really everyone’s father…or does he only become Father when we “pray the sinner’s prayer” and “ask Jesus to come into our heart”?
More on that….in my next post…..