Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Listening for God's voice


Today has been a day of resignations and losses.  I never saw it coming, and yet it still came. One after the other, things started falling apart.  And, I was tempted to get down. I was saying that I was not affected. I was noting that people make choices and that I could not change any of those choices. I was doing a good job of putting on the mask of "whatever". 

But, on the inside I was torn. I was hurt. I was sad. I was mad. I was mad at people for doing what they did. I was mad at people for hurting others to the point of sadness. I was mad at myself for not listening to friends and just staying where we were with the family that we had and the peace that was ours. I was retracing my actions and trying to figure out where I made my fatal error.  What was I doing on this mountain? Why was I subjecting the people that I loved to this? Why was I subjecting my children to this? Maybe they were right; this is too much for any one person to do. I was praying for a Machine de Grace, and secretly hoping for a Coup de Grace. And, then I was really hurt. I remembered that it was God that directed me to this point. It was God that told me to stand on this mountain. Really!? I was not in a good place.

And so this morning I prayed to my God, and this is what happened.  The earth shook as one of my friends said they were done with the ministry. And, the voice of God was not in the shaking of the earth. The fire rung loudly with a phone call that another member was leaving our family. And, the voice of God was not in the fire.  The wind of hatred blew at my soul as another friend claimed I was no friend at all and that I had hurt them and their children. And, the voice of God was not in the wind.  I was almost ready to give up. I was standing in the cave of my own discontent staring into the "stuff" that is the service of God. And, all I could think of was how comfortable it was "before we took on this venture", and how easy it would be to find a nice dark spot in the cave and hide. It was at that moment (literally) that there was a still small voice speaking.

Sara, thank you for your note. Thank you for including me in that note. Thank you for reminding me that the service we do is important and it is worth whatever price we have to pay. God is everything. I will not abandon that which has been set before me. I will not give up. I will not give in. For, today God has again assured me that He neither slumbers nor sleeps. And so, as God spoke through Sara's still small voice, I heard what I need to hear. No! It was not a great proclamation that all was going to immediately get better. No! It was not a notification that everything was going to immediately right itself and we would sail off into the sunset of "easy" church. It was not even an affirmation that all I had did was correct and I therefore could rest in knowing that at least I was "right." It was none of these things.  Instead, I heard God ask the question "Jesse, what are you doing standing here?".
I heard God's gentle reminder that I need to get back to "running with a purpose". The race is not given to the swift, nor to the strong, but to the one who endures until the end.

I love you Sara. I am praying for you. Thank you for being the voice of God this morning.

Now, each of you go out and run for the purpose that you have been given. I love each of you.


Monday, July 9, 2012

50 Shades of Christianity


First, I need to apologize for being away from my blog for such a long time. I truly have missed sharing with you and I promise to do better. So, in a way, I am glad that this recent "episode" occurred.  It, at the very least, forced me away from the brevity that is my Facebook posts back to my blog.  

So, a great many of the women in my family and circle of friends have been reading E.L. James' 50 Shades of Grey. I have not read the book and have only been privy to a couple of veiled conversational references to it made by an assortment of these women.  However, several days ago I asked a friend what the allure was. After hearing what she thought, I started thinking about the book. I reflected on the global theme of the book and I read about 50 pages of the book. I found it "unappealing". But, that was all I thought of it. However, as I thought more about it, I wondered if the book was about more than just sexual submission. I wondered if Grey was not also submitting to Anastasia; the name does literally mean "she who shall rise up again". I just started thinking. And, in the thinking, I wondered if it would be worth looking at the writing from both a literary and religious perspective.  50 Shades of Grey: an Introspective Examination of Why God Intended for Men and Women to Submit to One Another.   I thought it would get a lot of women into a class and allow them to revisit a writing that most of them had already read. I thought it would be a challenge to examine the writing from a theological perspective. I thought it would illustrate the fact that church and God is life, and doesn't have to be limited to just Sunday morning and bible readings. And, even though I was literally dreading the thought that I would have to actually read the books in order to discuss them, I was prepared to do that.  Besides, this was just the product of my insomnia. It  was just one Facebook post. It was a budding thought that would probably die on page of my overly cluttered writing list.

Sunday came, and during the announcements at my 8:45 service, I mentioned that I wanted some feedback on this budding idea. And, the feedback was immediate. One parishioner contorted her face in what was clear disapproval of the idea. Another friend volunteered to send me more information on the book so that I would have a better understanding of the novel. Both agreed that "we should not discuss this in church."  As the day went on, more friends chimed in. (And, I am being neither contentious nor facetious when I refer to them as friends.)  One gently invited me to participate in a book study that was already established. One friend who was concerned that I would upset the apple cart too early in the life of my new church family, warned that I might want to not attempt such an edgy endeavor. Others could not see how there would be any "Christian" use for such a book or book study. And others wondered why I was seeking to be ousted from the church as a whole. People sent me Facebook posts and inbox messages. It was clear. This was not a good idea. The book was off limits. I heard them all. But, I would like to offer some observations before I lay this ill-planned venture to rest.

 The book is too raunchy to be discussed by good Christians in a church setting. According to my unscientific calculations over 70% of the women in my church, between the ages of 26 and 60, have read the book. They are all Christians. At the same time, less than 30% of my total membership, on any given Sunday, can raise their hand to affirm that they read the bible once during the previous week. This however, may make sense when you consider the fact that there are more than four times the references to illicit sexual acts in the bible than in E.L. James' writing. So, maybe Christians really don't like reading or studying books that reference sexuality. Or, maybe people just have not really read the bible and therefore have no idea as to how much "shady" stuff goes on in it. Either way, I worry that this is further indication that as Christians we seek to put on one face inside the sanctuary and another when we exit.  This does, however, make it difficult for others to know what mask they should wear when they come to visit with and investigate us.  Whatever you think about this issue, one thing is clear.  Being a Christian is neither natural nor easy. And, how we go about doing that is not as black and white as we would have the world believe.  In fact, one might even argue that figuring out how we help others understand our in the world but not of the world existence is a matter of navigating the grey areas of our lives.  

I love you,